Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a stun, not exceeding £8,560,339, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1925, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Labour and Subordinate Departments, including the Contributions to the Unemployment Fund, and to Special Schemes, and Payments to Associations and Local Education Authorities for administration under the Unemployment Insurance Acts; Expenditure in connection with the Training of Demobilised Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men, and Nurses; Grants for Resettlement in Civil Life; and the Expenses of the Industrial Court; also Expenses in connection with the International Labour Organisation (League of Nations) including a Grant-in-Aid."—[Note: £5,500,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. HOARE
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I rise to move this reduction in respect of the salary of the Minister of Labour, and also to make one or two definite proposals with reference to the recent Tube strike in London. I rise principally as a London Member. London, during the last six months, has suffered the inconvenience and loss resulting from three great strikes. I think I shall be able to show in the course of my remarks that, although the last strike, the Tube strike, principally affected London, none the less every other great city in the land has a very real interest in the solution of the problems to which it gave rise. It seems to me that as industry becomes more organised, as one trade grows more interlocked with another trade, and as the intensity of organisation becomes greater in an industrial country like ours, so the danger grows of great services of public utility being held up, it may be by quite 636 a few people, and the whole life of the country being put out of gear. The recent Tube strike is a very good illustration of the truth of what I have just said. That, hon. Members will remember, was the case, not of a great Labour movement organised by the accredited trade unions, but a movement of quite a few practically unknown individuals. The strike committee, I understand, was composed of nine men, men unknown, so I am informed, in the Labour movement generally, men with no large strike fund behind them, and men acting in the teeth of the Labour leaders and of the Government. Yet this very small, unofficial, discredited movement none the less put London to a great measure of inconvenience and loss, and it looked at one time as though it were going to spread much further and hold up altogether the life of the capital of the Empire.
The strike had certain special features connected with it. As I say, it was not an authorised strike. It was not an ordinary labour dispute between the union leaders on the one side and the employers on the other. The labour leaders from the very first, I understand, condemned it. No one could have condemned it in stronger language. Let me remind hon. Members of the words that were used by Mr. Cramp, the Secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen, the union mainly concerned—This"—said Mr. Cramp—is a fight between order and mob law. It is only one manifestution of an underground movement taut has been going on for a considerable time. Almost every large union in the country has been afflicted by this foul disease. Wherever it has temporarily established a hold, disaster to the workers has invariably followed. So far as I am concerned, I will neither compromise with nor bow down to a handful of people who are conducting this wretched business. It seems to me that what is needed"—and here I draw the attention of hon. Members particularly to the words of Mr. Cramp—in the British Labour movement at the present time is greater courage in dealing with all these disruptive elements.In view of that condemnation by one of the most influential labour leaders, I think that I need not say anything more to emphasise what I have said, that this was a strike, not between the unions and the employers, but between various ele- 637 ments in certain of the unions concerned. There was another peculiar feature in this dispute. I am quite aware that wage grievances entered into it to some extent, but, in following the details of the dispute, the fact that strikes me is that these wage grievances affected, so I understand, the whole body of railway shopmen and not the shopmen and the power department men of the London electric railways only. That being so, I ask myself, why was it, when this was a common grievances of the great body of railway workers, the Underground Railway and the power station in my own constituency at Lots Road were picked out? I can come to no other conclusion than that the Underground Railway and the London power stations were regarded as very vulnerable key points which it was easy—particularly easy—for the extremists to attack. Be that as it may, the fact remains that a small number of unknown individuals, in the teeth of both their leaders and the Government, were able to embarrass London life and to put many thousands of Londoners to great inconvenience, and it looked at one time as if they would hold up the life of the capital of the Empire altogether. In view of that we ought to have more information than we have yet received from the Minister of Labour as to the origin and nature of this dispute.
The first request I desire to make is that there should be set up at once a special inquiry—whether it be by some impartial individual or by a Select Committee, or by the Department chiefly concerned, into the origin of this very remarkable and significant dispute. We want to know what was its origin. Was it simply an ordinary wage dispute? I think I have said enough to show it was not. Was it due to internecine battles between various unions and various labour leaders? If it were, I think the public ought to know. I cannot myself see why the public should be sacrificed to the internecine battles going on within the Labour movement. Was it, on the other hand, due to what is known as the minority movement in the Labour movement? The minority movement, it seems to me, standing as I do outside the Labour movement, is one of the greatest dangers to organised labour in this country. If the dispute was due to that, the public surely ought to know. In the 638 last generation labour negotiations have proceeded upon the basis of collective bargaining, and it has been assumed that the labour leaders are entitled to speak for the men behind them. If the minority movement is going to smash that organisation, it will make collective bargaining altogether impossible.
If I wanted any confirmation of what I am saying, I need not go further than refer to the words used by Mr. Bramley in an article in the "Daily Herald" this morning, in which he says very much what I am saying—in much worse language no doubt. He said that no trade union official should meet employers without a definite assurance that the members of the union would remain loyal to the policy and principles which he was authorised to act upon. Ii this strike is the first conspicuous example of the success and strength of the minority movement which will step by step undermine the whole organised labour movement, Members of this House ought to know the facts, and the public outside should also be told them.
Again, was the strike due to Communist propaganda? I have always taken the view that sooner or later the British working man would regard Communist propaganda as a despicable foreign, imported agitation, and accordingly as he understood it better he would less and less allow it to influence him. But I own that when I read certain answers of the Home Secretary to two questions put to him last week my confidence was somewhat shaken, and I wondered whether there was not more Communism in this dispute than I had at first imagined. The right hon. Gentleman, it will be remembered, was asked first of all whether Communist activities had entered into the labour disputes that were going on. His answer was "Yes." He was asked further whether foreign money was still being used to foster those activities. The answer was "Yes." In view of these admissions by the Home Secretary—the Minister directly responsible for intelligence of this kind—I say there is every reason to suspect that there was Communist influence behind these disputes, and that the public has a right to know what it was. Further, if I needed confirmation of that suspicion I could point to the Press communiques made by the Labour party during the strike, in which 639 it was expressly stated that the strike was dominated by Communist influence. That being so, and in view of the very serious features connected with the strike to which I have drawn attention, I make my first demand, namely, that the Minister of Labour should at once institute a special inquiry—whatever may be its form—into the origin of this very significant dispute.
That brings me to the second proposition that I have to put before the Committee. The inquiry which I have just asked for deals with the past. It deals with the origin of the strike. But it seems to me the features of that strike are so significant that it is incumbent both on the Government and on the Members of the Houses of Parliament to take some steps with reference to the future. The strike seemed to show how easy it is for a few people to hold up the whole life—a very few people, whether it be employers or employed; I am not weighting the scales one way or the other—for a very few people in a highly developed industrial State to hold up the whole life of the community. For a time the main danger to the State came from armed rebellion. In my view, that danger has passed. The danger to-day is not from any armed rebellion, but it is the holding up of one of the utility services of the community by a few people. The Tube strike was an instance of what I mean. There it dealt with the power stations—one of the key positions of industrial society in the chief city of the country I say that the time has come when the Government of the day, whatever that Government may be, ought to have more information than I believe it has at its disposal at the present time. It ought also to have a more definite policy than it has at present. Again let me take this case as my example.
I have listened to all the observations of the right hon. Gentleman apposite, I have followed the course of his attitude towards this dispute, and I say, quite candidly, I really do not know what the policy of the Minister of Labour is towards the stopping of one of these great public utility services. I remember that on one occasion he said very boldly he was going to protect labour and to ensure the maintenance of these services, and then, 640 almost in the same breath, he declared that until the railways were nationalised he had very little interest in the conduct of them. Then, again, he condemned, as I understood him, the unofficial strike, but on the same clay he put his Ministry at the disposal of the strikers to act as a medium between them and the union that had hitherto refused to recognise them or to have anything to do with them! In view of this uncertainty and obscurity, I think we ought to have some much more definite statement from the right hon. Gentleman as to what he is going to do when a strike of this kind breaks out again, as well it may.
I think he should go even further, and I am going to put before the Committee my second proposal, namely, that the time has now come for a comprehensive inquiry—whether it be by Royal Commission or by Select Committee, or whatever form of Committee may be desirable—into the whole problem of the protection of the community against the holding up of the public services, on which it depends for its employment and existence.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, several distinct proposals have already been made for dealing with the problem. There is the proposal, for instance, into which I would not be in order in going into in detail, now contained in Lord Askwith's Bill, namely, that there should be a compulsory inquiry in the case of certain scheduled industries into disputes before a strike takes place. I understand that the Government are not prepared at present to take up that Bill. If that be so, it makes it more incumbent on them to consider other alternatives for dealing with this very urgent problem. There is the proposal for compulsory arbitration. To that proposal obviously many objections may be urged. Then there are proposals connected with the administration of the Conspiracy Act, 1875. There, again, I can see many objections to proceeding by means of an Act of that kind. Obviously, the great thing is to try and obtain agreement, and it may well be that the putting into motion of obsolete powers under an Act of 20 or 30 years ago might do much more harm than good. Then there is the possibility, to which I think hon. Members must give attention, of treating the key men in certain sections of public utility services in some special way, giving them a certain definite status, and, 641 as a return for that, ensuring that any sudden strike of this kind is made impossible. I say, quite frankly, that with the information at my disposal I am not prepared to dogmatise or to say which of these particular lines of approach is the best one to follow, but I do say, in view of the lessons that are to be drawn from the Tube strike, in view of the fact that it has been proved how easy it is for a few key men to hold up the whole life of the country, and how possible it is that attempts of this kind may be frequently repeated, and repeated with far greater danger to the community, that the time has come for a full inquiry into this question, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to-day to say, before the Debate closes, that the Government realise the gravity of this problem and are prepared to give an inquiry on the lines that I have suggested.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) has envisaged a very serious condition of affairs, and he appears to think that the Government in some respects were remiss in what they had done. He proceeded to state that sundry solutions had been put forward to deal with events of this kind, and then, as he advanced each of those solutions, he said that to it there were insuperable objections. So the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to urge upon the Government a definite policy, but to reject any definite policy of any kind himself. The only one to which he at all inclined was that certain key men in these industries should be put in a special position, should, presumably, not be allowed to sir should be compulsorily levied, should be reduced, in fact, to the condition of slaves.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
A Conservative proposal, supported, apparently by the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Lieut.-Colonel J. Ward), who, in his special pleadings for the Conservative party, usually advances solutions which are sometimes applied to the present condition of Russia, as two extremes often meet. Personally, I am not an authority on Russia, but the hon and gallant Member for Stoke-on-Trent interfered so freely in the affairs of that country, at so great a cost to the Government of his own country, that 642 possibly by now he is a greater authority upon Russia than I can claim to be. The right hon. Member for Chelsea advanced the usual Conservative idea that behind any protest against conditions which may be intolerable—and, I think, in this respect the conditions of many of these men were very bad—there cannot possibly be a legitimate wage grievance, there cannot be a striving to raise the standard of life, but there must be some dark and sinister conspiracy, financed by money from abroad. That is the eternal Conservative and reactionary idea. It is not a new conception at all. It is not one which, for the first time, has been advanced in this particular respect when we find a handful of men, unauthorised by the great trade unions, taking action on their own account. It is a Conservative argument which has been advanced against the right of labour to strike for better conditions under every conceivable circumstance. It was one which was put forward by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) during the great railway strike of 1919. On that occasion, in the struggle of that great union against the battering down of their wages, they were headed by their accredited leader, that wild revolutionary who now sits at the Colonial Office, and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs put forward exactly the same kind of plea as was advanced by the right hon. Gentleman opposite this afternoon. He promptly telegraphed off to his constituency in these terms:The Government has reason to believe that it [the strike] has been engineered for some time by a small hut active body of men who wrought tirelessly and insidiously to exploit the labour organisations of this country for subversive ends. I am convinced that the vast majority of the trade unions of this country are opposed to this anarchist conspiracy.That was a conspiracy headed by the right hon. Gentleman who is at present the Colonial Secretary; and so you find, all through the history of trade unionism and labour organisation in this country, the same plea advanced from the reactionary benches. I, for one, would strongly deplore isolated action of this kind, which tends to break up, or may tend to impair, the great union organisation by which such infinite benefit has been achieved for the whole Labour movement. I am not one who would like to see that kind 643 of action taken, but, at the same time, I challenge any hon. Gentleman on the opposite benches to say by what method any Government can interfere with the right of a man to withdraw his labour. What other method can they impose upon this country, except that advocated, apparently, by the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke-on-Trent, namely, compulsory labour?
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD
I never have advocated conscript labour, and the reason why I interjected a moment ago was this, that the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) is a great admirer of the Soviet power in Russia, who do conscript labour, and who refuse to allow any workmen to strike under any conditions whatever.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
I do not know on what grounds the hon. and gallant Member says I am an admirer of the Soviet power. I say that methods of this kind may or may not have been employed in Russia—I do not know—but the reason why emergency measures were there taken was because the hon. and gallant Member and his friends were organising attacks upon that Government, and at the expenditure of millions of money on the part of this country, which occasioned that Government in the early stages of the revolution to fight and to struggle for their existence. If I may come away from the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke, and back to the point, the right hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to think that in some way the Government of this country were to blame. He did not say so in so many words, but it has been said in his Press and from those benches, that the handling of industrial disputes by this Government has been extremely bad.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
I hear that sentiment applauded. Then how do hon. Members opposite account for the fact that during the first five months of this year, when a Labour Government has been in office, the number of working hours lost in industrial disputes has amounted to only 2,963,000? If this rate is preserved throughout the year, that is to say, about 7,000,000 working hours will be lost during this year owing to industrial disputes. Let us take preceding years, with Con- 644 servatives and their friends in power. In the year 1919, not just under 3,000,000, but nearly 35,000,000 working hours were lost through industrial disputes. At a time when the methods of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs were being pursued, when inflammatory telegrams denouncing trade union leaders were being despatched about the country, some five times the number of working hours were lost through industrial disputes. In 1920 some 26,000,000 hours were lost, in 1921 about 85,000,000 hours were lost, and in 1922 some 19,000,000 hours, while in the last year of pure Conservative Government over 10,000,000 hours were lost owing to industrial disputes. From those simple comparisons, taken from official returns, it could at least appear that the members of the Labour Government were more successful than those of their predecessors. A Conservative always thinks that there is only one solution for an industrial dispute, and that is a display of force. Since Labour came in we have found another solution, a display of reason. [Laughter.] Well, it has worked.
The result of it is that, despite the great legacy of industrial disputes left by the systematic attack upon wages delivered from those benches for years past, there have in -fait been far less working hours lost than under any preceding Government since the War, and now the right hon. Gentleman comes forward with his assertions and ideas and suggestions of foreign money, and Bolshevists and revolutionaries working subversively in this country. We have had before that kind of suggestion. The Conservative Government was so inspired by those ideas last year that being convinced that 110 British subjects were engaged in revolutionary performances, they, on the advice of their Attorney-General, deported them to Ireland. The Attorney-General was defeated by the laws of the land, of which he had displayed himself sublimely ignorant, those men were restored to their freedom, and, a subsequent action in a legal form being taken, only two out of the 110 were found guilty. Now, when we find the Conservative party coming forward with similar assertions of revolutions and Bolshevism and all the rest of it, are we not entitled to deduct at least 98 per cent. from the validity of those statements? Ninety-eight per cent. exactly was the margin of error into 645 which the Attorney-General wandered last year, a wide margin of error even for a well-paid lawyer.
The hon. Member cannot go into that question. It would be quite out of order, and he has already made his point.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
My point, though I will not further develop it, was that it is always the custom of the Conservative benches, when they find any conditions of unrest or even of political agitation, to ascribe the origin of them to Bolshevist and subversive motives which are financed from foreign sources, and I was endeavouring to point out that people who, in such calculations, have proved themselves so far wide of the mark in the past cannot be trusted to make a very correct diagnosis under present conditions. In fact, to come back to the practical issue, as I have pointed out, during the power of the party opposite far more hours were wasted in these matters than are at present, as a direct result of the inflammatory and provocative methods pursued by their Government. Instead of a Government stepping in, intervening with conciliation and with reason, bringing the parties together for a quiet discussion of their differences, you saw Hyde Park lined with lorries, Mr. Churchill assuming Napoleonic attitudes, every sort of mountebankery and absurdity being pursued in face of our own fellow-countrymen as if we were in face of foreign enemies, and during all that period when they were licking the boots of M. Poincaré they were shaking a truncheon at their own fellow-countrymen. The result of it all has been to prolong and accentuate industrial unrest, and to leave to this Government a heritage of trouble with which they have grappled in a manner that was never rivalled by their predecessors. I trust that the Minister of Labour will continue his present methods of conciliation, and will never revert to the provocative policy of his predecessors.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
We are engaged in the usual Thursday afternoon amusement of the Conservative party of attempting to reduce the hard-earned salary of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. Every Thursday afternoon an attempt is made to reduce 646 the salary of the Minister by £100, and every Thursday it is either withdrawn or defeated in the Lobby. Apparently they are now getting rather tired of the amusement, judging by the state of the benches opposite. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) spoke as a London Member I see very few Members for London on the benches opposite.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
This is a Conservative day. The Liberals have not complained against the Government in this matter, and I must say, when the right hon. Baronet puts on his most impressive manner—and it is very impressive, indeed, if he will allow me to say so—and talks of this great affront to the corporate life of London, where are the serried ranks of his supporters? On the Terrace! The right hon. Baronet is a most accomplished debater, and, knowing that he had an extremely weak case, he was sufficiently wise to employ very moderate terms, but the inspiration came from the more sensational newspapers and the sort of statements made up and down the country on Conservative platforms and faithfully dealt with by the hon. Member who has just spoken. I can imagine a secret session of the inner council of the Third International at Moscow, and I can understand the high functionaries taking their emissaries to task for having accomplished so little in the bourgeois countries with the money supplied, and I can understand the emissaries quoting the statements of the right hon. Baronet and his friends, and the statements in the newspapers about the agitators who came into this country with forged passports, and being responsible for 3,000,000 hours of lost labour under this Government and for 35,000,000 hours under the other Government. These gentlemen, on their trial in the inner circle of the sanctuary of the Third International at Moscow, will be able to quote the right hon. Baronet as their witness for the defence of the very poor results they have, as a matter of fact, produced in this country and other so-called bourgeois countries.
What is all the fuss about? It is very inconvenient to have the Tubes stopped, and I daresay many people were put to 647 a grave loss of time, and so forth. But, so far as I can learn—and I live in London, and am inconvenienced in the same way—the crowd, when they knew that the men were striking in order to get a week's holiday a year on full pay, when the First Division of the Civil Service get at least six weeks a year on full pay, when the naval ratings and officers get a fortnight and more, and when skilled engineers are striking for a minimum of £3 10s. a week, when the price of living is rising, I think the masses of people thought they were not unreasonable, and, I think, refused to believe the stories about the Bolshevist conspiracy, and all the rest of it, which the right hon. Gentleman pointed out. I say there is nothing to complain of at all. When we consider the conditions of this country, the contrasts between the excessive expenditure and extravagance of a certain class, and the poor conditions in which so many of our countrymen live, I think it is very surprising that there are not more industrial disputes.
The Government have powers at the present time to deal with all these matters. I believe I am right in saying that. All they have to do is to come to this House, and ask for a state of emergency to be declared, and they have full powers to run any services required by the public. If that be the case, and they have the power to take over the railways, the trams, and the electric power stations, and to run them if this House approve of their doing it, I do not see why this special inquiry, for which the right hon. Baronet asks, is needed. I think they would be very foolish, without taking over the whole system by the constitutional method I have described, to adopt the suggestion of using the Air Force or naval ratings to try and break a strike in that way, as it would bring out other sections, and make things worse. We hear very little complaint about lock-outs from the other side. I thought the right hon. Baronet would have had something to say about the threatened stoppage in the building trade. He did not suggest any foreign money or foreign agents in regard to building capitalists. They were only exercising their right not to employ men if they so wished, and I do not think he can ask us to interfere with working 648 men in determining to withhold their labour. Next time I would like to see Government have a trial trip, and taking over the great concerns, as they are entitled to do constitutionally, by an Act which a former Government put on the Statute Book.
In connection with that, I would ask my right hon. Friend to act very quickly when the Final Report of Sir Donald Maclean's Committee is produced in connection with casual labour at the docks. I did not hear anything from the right hon. Baronet about the devastating stoppage recently at the docks, to the very great detriment and loss of the whole body politic. Those strikes are caused, I am afraid, by the shocking conditions under which clock labour is employed in this country. The casualisation of dock labour is a wicked disgrace to the present system of co-called civilisation we enjoy in this country. We have had an Interim Report from Sir Donald Maclean's Committee, and I hope my right hon. Friend has been advised in advance what is to be proposed in the Final Report, and has a Bill ready to introduce into this House for the decasualisation of dock labour. If he will do that, it will be a most practical means of preventing one of the most fruitful causes of stoppage of work.
The right hon. Baronet also referred to the danger of these hold-ups by key men. What did he mean in that connection by his reference to armed rebellion? Did he mean armed rebellion by the strikers? Was he thinking of the threatened rebellion on the Ulster question supported passively by his party before the War? That was the last threat of armed rebellion here of which I have heard. Was he thinking about that? I think we might have had something a little more concrete from the right hon. Baronet. These generalities may be of some comfort in other countries who do not wish our system of society too much good. Our communists and agitators or revolutionists and those from abroad will always try to-stir up trouble. Their success will depend on the state of mind of the workers. If the workers are satisfied, and are given a fair chance, if they think the goods produced by the work of all are fairly distributed, then the efforts of those agitators will be unavailing; but if you have manifest injustices on the part of great masses of men, as in the case of these skilled men with regard to the grant of wages, 649 holidays and so on, they are, of course, ready to listen to suggestions of withholding their labour and penalising the whole community.
I think I am not misrepresenting Liberal opinion when I say our cure for these things is to remove the causes, not to ask for these special inquiries, and that if these strikes do take place, before they reach the magnitude which would call for a special emergency inquiry, I must say I think the only function of a Government, apart from trying to settle matters by agreement, as my right hon. Friend has tried to do, not without success, is to keep order and to hold the ring. Men have the power to withhold their labour, and if volunteers wish to work on the railways, I think they must be protected, but that is quite different from organised strike-breaking. I hope the Conservative party will press their reduction to a Division, and I hope it will be as soundly beaten as on previous occasions.
§ Sir K. WOOD
We have just had two characteristic speeches from two hon. Members opposite, such as we might expect from them in their present circumstances. The hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley), I hope, has now genuinely satisfied his new comrades that he is one of them, and I am sure the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.- Commander Kenworthy) has also satisfied them that there is no need for a Labour candidate in the Central Hull Division. With those matters, I hope, satisfactorily disposed of, I would venture to remind the Committee that London is by no means satisfied, and does not regard the experience it has recently undergone with anything of the satisfaction which the two hon. Gentlemen appear to indicate.
Perhaps memories are short, and, certainly, people in this country are very patient and will put up with a good deal, but I venture to remind the Committee that only a short time ago London, for no discovered reason, was held up, as my right hon. Friend has already indicated to the House, by eight or nine men, and very serious discomfort, inconvenience and loss was inflicted, mainly, upon the working class of this capital city. I am amazed to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are supposed to associate themselves with the, interests of the people, saying 650 that their rights and their position can be disregarded on a matter of this kind. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Bull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) indicated some grievances which, he stated, the men who were concerned in this lightning strike had put forward. I venture to suggest that he should leave these grievances to the proper trade unions who have to look after them. If he consults the executive of the trade unions of the men affected, I venture to say that they will not thank him for suggesting to the Committee this afternoon that they are not competent to deal with the interests of these men. I have sufficient faith in trade unionism to think that if there were any circumstances of a kind such as the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull has indicated, the trade union concerned—a particularly powerful one and thoroughly efficient—is well able to look after the interests of these people. It is, therefore, idle to put before the Committee the suggestion that anything of this kind was concerned in the unfortunate, dispute that has just happened.
I speak strongly on the matter, because this strike was not only aimed at the working people of London, but at the trade unions themselves. Anyone who pretends—I do not say this offensively—that there was some great issue at stake is serving a bad turn, indeed, to the trade unionists of this country. The hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) and the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull said they did not know anything about Communism being at work, or operating. I can forgive the hon. Member for Harrow not knowing much of what has been said by hon. Members of the present Government, because he has only just joined them, but the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull is a very observant Member of the House. Let me remind him of what has been said by hon. Members of the Government, in the House, during the past few lays. The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Sir W. de Frece) put a question on the 19th of this month, asking the Home Secretary whether his Department had received any reportsindicating that the recent and existing irresponsible labour troubles are connected with efforts to spread Communist and kindred doctrines; and whether he will make inquiries to see if this is the case.What did the Home Secretary reply? He did not reply in the sort of fashion that 651 hon. Gentlemen have indicated this afternoon, and say, "There is nothing in This is all a bugbear." He said in his reply, which took the form of a very carefully written answer—The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative.That was as to whether his Department had received any reports indicating that the Labour troubles were connected with efforts to spread Communist and kindred doctrines. Then, he said, so satisfied was he with the reports:I do not think that it is supplement the sources of already at my disposal by inquiry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th, June, 1924; col. 2339, Vol. 174.]How can any hon. Member who is supposed to have any friendly leanings to the present Government question this statement of the Home Secretary? There was another hon. Member, belonging to the same party as the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull. I refer to the hon. Member for Newcastle East (Sir Robert Aske), who asked the Prime MinisterWhether the Government is in possession of information showing that Communist organisations in this country are in receipt of, or have received money grants from foreign revolutionary societies; and, if so, whether he will state the sources from which the money emanated.The House will recollect that five minutes ago both hon. Members were laughing and scoffing at suggestions of that kind, as though all the money was expended long ago, that it was given to the "Daily Herald." This is+ the reply given by the Home Secretary on the question of money. The other was on the question of the efforts of the Communists. The Home Secretary made a complete admission that so far as he was concerned in the responsible office he is now occupying, that he was in possession of this information. He said:It would not conduce to the public interest to disclose such information as we possess on the particular point to which the lion. Member adverts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1924; col. 2360, Vol. 174.]As the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull knows, when a Minister takes up an attitude of that kind, he does not say that he is not going to give the information because it is trivial information, or because it is of no account. He 652 says that obviously, having regard, I suppose, to the extent of his information, he does not propose to give it in the interests of the public. I can understand that, because only to-day there is reported in the Press—[An HON. MEMBER "Which?"] I will give it in a minute. There is reported in the Press a meeting of the Third International. [An HON. MEMBER: "Which newspaper?"] From the "Daily Express," I think it is. Hon. Members will not question this. This is what is reported at a meeting of the Third International now being held in Moscow where, I understand, a British delegate attended, a Mr. Murphy. A Reuter telegram says:Mr. Murphy stated that the British Communist party was small, but growing as serious force. For instance, he added that the recent strike of railway workers broke out on the initiative of Communists and without the sanction of the trade union.In another connection, and on the same occasion, some gentleman who will be known better to the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull than to myself—Zinovieff or someone, made the following references to Britain:England is now the chief task of the next International. If we succeed in creating a mass Communist party there, half the European victory will have been achieved. We must not see too low a value on what is going on in England. We must organise a daily Communist party and create a left flank of grade unions. We must set to work in the British Colonies.Hon. Members laugh at that but I may remind them that certain questions on this same matter were up only a few days ago, and confirm all these statements made by these gentlemen here. Certain questions were also put 17o the Prime Minister, and he made an extraordinary reply. He was asked whether he had got evidence of what was bringing about all these serious troubles in this country. The reply he made was this, that he had got no positive proof. Well, I suppose very few have positive proofs of most things in life. Generally, things have to he sifted, but there is no doubt that from the reply of the Prime Minister, this can be said, I think, without contradiction by the Minister of Labour, that there is sufficient prima facie evidence in the possession of the Government to warrant an inquiry into this matter, and it is upon this that my right hon. Friend has based his application 653 to the House this afternoon. This is not an ordinary trade dispute. There is un- doubtedly, from the evidence I have given to the Committee, a sufficient prima facie case for this matter to be investigated. Why should it not be investigated? Why should not the public know? Why should not hon. Members of the London constituencies, and, for the matter of that, other places affected by the strike, know? Why should nut they know what has brought this about? Why is the Labour Government taking up this attitude of secrecy? The Minister of Labour was asked the day before yesterday whether he would cause an investigation to be made into the matter, and he declined. What can be the possible reason? What reasonable position can be put forward by the Minister of Labour why this investigation should not take place? If it is going on, it is far better for the people of the country to know it. If it is of the trivial character that the hon. Member for Harrow indicates, let them know that, too. To anyone who can put on one side any party feelings or political prejudice, there is undoubtedly a prima facie case for an investigation into this disastrous dispute.
An hon. Gentleman opposite—I forget which enthusiastic person it was—on behalf of the Minister of Labour, asked what we had to complain about in regard to the particular conduct of this strike. I will allude to the stupid statement he made at the beginning of the strike, namely, thatas the railways are not nationalised, it is certainly not our business yet to maintain these services.I think there is reason for complaint. He started with a wrong conception of this strike. At that time he was apparently ignorant of what was happening. I observe that the "Daily Herald "did say on the day the strike took place that they repeatedly warned their leaders who, I hope, include the Minister of Labour, that this outbreak was going to take place. The right hon. Gentleman said:If it had occurred in Glasgow, Birmingham, Leeds, or Manchester, very little would have been beard of it. It never would have come before this House.
§ Sir K. WOOD
An hon. Gentleman still agrees with him. The very reason 654 why this strike took place on the London railways was owing to the fact that it was in the heart of a capital city. Let me say there was no more reason, from the point of view of merits, why a strike should have broken out on the London Electric Railways than on any other line. Why was this particular railway centred upon? Because a few men operate quickly. That was the sole reason. Everybody here interested in these strikes will agree with me that that undoubtedly was the reason. Yet the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour starts off OR his illustrious career in connection with this strike, thinking it was sonic sort of affair that might have broken out in Glasgow, Birmingham, or elsewhere! Therefore, I say in that he began wrong. When this matter was raised in the House on the day of the Adjournment, he said it was impossible to recognise a body—that was tile irregular strikers—which neither the trade unions nor the railway companies would recognise, and that the Government would not recognise anybody except that body which was capable of negotiating a settlement. What did the right hon. Gentleman do You would have thought, after those brave words, he would have stuck to his guns, not on his own account particularly, but for the sake of standing by the trade union leaders who declined to recognise these men, and who refused to recognise them right up to the end of the strike. The right hon. Gentleman's heart gave way. What did he do? He actually allowed this unofficial body which was not recognised by the trade unions themselves—
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
If the trade union leaders had recognised the strike, would the hon. Gentleman have considered the strike just?
§ Sir K. WOOD
I was saying that the Minister of Labour remarked to my hon. Friend here that he would have nothing to do with these people. It was very necessary that he should maintain that attitude. That was the last speech that he made in the House. Yet about the middle of the strike he issued this official communication from the Ministry of Labour:At the request of the Unofficial Committee conveyed by Mr. Akehurst and Mr. Creed, Sir David Shackleton met the Committee this evening and heard their statement.655 What right, having regard to the undertaking which the right hon. Gentleman had given the House, had he to take that line'? The communication went on—this is part of the official communication which was issued by the Minister of Labour—They expressed a desire to meet the Executive Committee of the National Union of Railwaymen and asked Sir David Shackleton to convey that request to the officials of the union.The statement ends:Sir David agreed to do this, it being clearly understood that the Executive Committee of the National Union of Railwaymen were free to deal with the request as they chose.Why did not the right hon. Gentleman, if these people wanted to convey a message to the trade union leaders, say to them: "Go yourselves, take your own message"? Why did he use an official of the Ministry of Labour to act as a messenger boy between these men who had caused the strike, and the trade union leader who refused to have anything to do with them? I venture to say that the reason the strike ended was not due to any particular effort of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It was due largely to the courageous attitude adopted by the trade union leaders themselves. It was largely due to the common sense of the railway workers who took the union's advice in the end: and it was also due—quite contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman opposite has said—to the fact that the whole of the public opinion of this country was against the strikers. Whenever you have these three things happen you will find strikes will end. I myself cannot congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his efforts in connection with this matter.
I think, if I may say so quite respectfully to him, he took up much the attitude of his supporter who spoke in a previous Debate, the hon. Member for South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor). On that occasion the hon. Member said:In this case on the tube railways we have a dispute that is unwise, that has not the support of the union executive. It is a most difficult situation. When we see two men fighting in the street if we try to separate them when they are in the full flush of their anger we find that neither one nor the other is prepared to break away; but if you give them a little time 656 and let one get a little the better of the other, intervention would then be much more likely to succeed.I suppose the hon. Gentleman was apparently assuming the London public to one of the combatants, who, at any rate, was not getting the best of it at the moment. But I do say that, so far as Parliament is concerned. We have got very little to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon this afternoon. Therefore, in conclusion, I say, speaking on behalf of a very large number of people in London and on behalf of an important London constituency, we have a right to demand an inquiry into this matter, not because it is an ordinary trade dispute—it is not that; but because there are features about it, and there is evidence in the possession of the Government—they themselves admit it is prima facie evidence—that it would be in the interest of good government, and for the future convenience and safety, not only of the people of London, but the whole of the industrial community, that we should have an inquiry. I very respectfully support the demand which has been made by my right hon. Friend. It is a just demand, and a demand which no Government, having regard to the functions of good government in this country, should deny.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I do not propose to say a word about the recent dispute. My right hon. Friend will deal with that and the various statements made. But perhaps I may be allowed to say that "a little learning is a dangerous thing," and in regard to industrial dispute. I can also say, as an old Minister of Labour, that a little knowledge is absolutely fatal. I want to take up a another part of the speech of my right hon. Friend who alluded to the future, and made some comments up what we ought to do in regard to the disputes generally. I want to claim the attention of the Committee for a very, very short time. In the first place, whether it has any connection with what has keen said or not, there is bound to be a lot of unrest to-day. Of course there is! The War left untold hardships, anxieties and dislocations on every hand, and the working classes have not been immune from these things any more than have any other class. As a matter of fact I rather think that they have had it a bit harder, because the cost 657 of living has been 176 per cent. above pre-War. It is still 71 per cent. above pre-War. With the exception of the last two months, since last May, it has been going up again.
Unemployment has been more persistent than at any period in our long industrial history. Look at the lack of housing accommodation at suitable rents, which is making the lives of thousands of these people intolerable! Look at the wage cuts! The hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) took the wage cuts during 1921 in many of the organised unions, but not in those alone. The wages of over 7,000,000 workpeople were cut by about £6,000,000 per week. In 1922, in a good many cases, there was another cut of about 4⅓ millions of money per week. In 1923 there were cuts of another half a million. Do hon. Members think there is not going to be unrest when these things are taking place? The hon. Member for Harrow called attention to the loss on working hours in 1924, and put it down to greater skill, and to the cleverness of the present Government. It is not a matter that the Government can take credit for, if I may say so. In 1924 wages have shown, so far, a slightly upward tendency, although the cost of living, with the exception of two months, has been steadily going up since last May. This has been suggested as the reason, the happy reason, that there has been less justification for disputes, because there has been less loss of working hours in 1924—not the reason given by my right hon. Friend.
As regards these cuts I do not say they were not inevitable. I do not discuss that. What I know is this: that you will not make a disagreeable thing more pleasant by telling the people that it is inevitable. Do not let us ever forget, wherever we sit, that a 5 per cent. cut on a £2,000 a year income may mean an alteration of future plans; it will have an effect upon the savings; it may affect projected holidays and indulgences of that sort; but 5 per cent. on £200 a year—that is a real readjustment in the standard of living, a standard which is very often itself rather perilously near the subsistence level. With worries and anxieties on all hands, can industrial unrest be wondered at? I hope I may be allowed to say this too, that the unrest is certainy not assuaged—quite the contrary— 658 by the teaching day after day of the extreme Socialist. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!" and "Question!"] I am not asking questions. I am making a statement, and I hope I may be allowed to say that in its campaign for the abolition of private interest, the extreme Socialist manages to work in some pretty bitter things about the capitalist employer. He manages to work in day after day pretty scornful and pretty indignant things about the condition of the class which he terms the wage-slave class. His definite purpose—I hope I do not misrepresent him—is, so far as I can gather, to embitter—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] and to worsen the relations between employers and employed.
Upon my soul, Mr. Young, when I think of some of the things that are pumped into the working men day after day, I wonder they do any work at all: I wonder, I say, they do any work at all for the class which is presented to them as their natural-born enemies. It is, I say, in favour of good British sense that no little of it is accounted hot air. It goes off their backs like water off the back of a duck. [An HON. MEMBER: "But hot air does not go down one's back!"] That observation does not cook my goose! There may never be a Socialist Government in power in this country. [An HON. MEMBER "It is inevitable!"] My hon. Friends may think so, still, where there is this teaching day after day it is undoubtedly creating a very serious prejudice to industrial efficiency, and the extreme Socialist has a pretty effective ally in the employer who says to the workmen: "Here you are, here is your wage, take it, go away, nothing else concerns you." How can anybody expect in the year 1924, after 54 years of compulsory education, to keep workmen in blinkers in that way? That is the situation, and I hope I have stated it quite clearly. Unless we can infuse this thing with a new spirit we are going to come down very badly. In any case, our task will be heavy. We have to find work for one million more people than before the War. We have to meet new rivals with a heavy load of debt, and with taxation which has prevented us equipping ourselves for the new conditions and competition in the way our trade rivals have done. Look at these appalling facts. Take the five years since the Armistice. The total number 659 of working days lost during those five years by strikes or lockouts was 177,900,000, or, at an average wage of 10s. a day, a loss of purchasing power of £88,950,000. You do not need to he an economist to see the effect of that on other trades not concerned in the industrial dispute. What are we going to do? There are two things we shall lot get. You will not get compulsory arbitration, and it really does not help to go on clamouring for it, and it has not been proved to us that it has in any way been successful to any appreciable extent.
The second thing is that you will not get the British working man to undertake, under no circumstances, never to down tools. What you can do, and what you ought to do, is to create a spirit or an atmosphere in which conciliation and negotiation, as against conflict and strife, will be the overwhelming impulse. That means you have to replace suspicion and distrust by goodwill and confidence. You have to establish an identity of interest between employer and employed. The greatest thing that has been done in this direction has been accomplished by the development of the Whitley conception, the round table habit, between employer and employed. My experience of life is that most people improve on acquaintance, and why not let these two sets of people improve on acquaintance, and get to know each other? I was delighted when the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Murrell) succeeded in carrying the Second Reading of his Industrial Councils Bill. I know that my hon. Friends above the Gangway rather pooh-pooh that Measure, and it is not a system upon which the hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division would pronounce a benediction.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
However much the hon. Member might pronounce a benediction upon any system, it would be useless unless there is good will behind it. There is another point I wish to raise that the workmen will have to be given greater security. In our time any amount has been done to exorcise the haunting shadow which dogs the footsteps of every self-respecting man, the fear of the day of accident, sickness and unemployment, and the fear of living in 660 an impoverished old age. The last word has not been said about these things, and we are on the way to make them more complete. Everybody is agreed in this House that if you want security for capital, you must have security for labour. I want to deal for a few moments with the existing machinery for dealing with industrial disputes. I wish to refer to the Industrial Relations Department of the Ministry of Labour, and that most admirable instrument the Industrial Court.
With regard to the Industrial Relations Department, I could not very well over-estimate or over-state the value of its efforts. It consists of a very small number of highly tactful, diplomatic third-party negotiators, sonic at Montagu House and some in the large industrial centres. I am quite sure that not one person in ten thousand has any idea of the valuable contribution which this little band has been making, and is making, in the cause of industrial peace. But when their efforts break down, the headlines in the newspapers get busy, and the unfortunate Londoner, going home with his newspaper, says, "Another strike," and throws h s arms up in despair. I can say, and so can the Minister of Labour, that for every single case where this has happened, we could disclose a dozen, if not a score of cases, where tactful, diplomatic third-party intervention has moved the difficulty away, and has anticipated and set aside the possiblity of a strike. With reference to this Industrial Relations Department, the Geddes Committee reported:With the knowledge that in the end there will be Government intervention neither side will have the same incentive to make the final proposals which might lead to a settlement of the dispute, and we suggest that the discontinuance of this branch of activity should be considered by the Government.I always thought that that finding was a great mistake. If you take the work done by this Department on the narrow ground of finance alone this little band have saved their salaries a hundred times over by the loss which they have obviated by their efforts. I hope we shall hear no more of the, discontinuation of the Industrial Relations branch which, under the pressure of the rather unworthy and very shortsighted anti-waste campaign, was severely cut down almost to a nucleus crew basis. I appeal to the Minister on this point, 661 and I may say I expressed the same view when I was responsible for this Department. Perhaps the Minister of Labour will tell us exactly how that Department stands now, and whether his policy will not be to encourage it and strengthen it where necessary.
I want to say a few words about the administration of the Industrial Courts Act. For the purposes of industrial disputes that Act furnishes a standing Industrial Court to which the disputants, if they agree, whether the dispute has started or not, may have recourse. It provides alternative methods of arbitration, and although its decisions are not legally enforceable, they have a formidable moral force, and are invariably loyally carried out by both sides. If one or the other of the parties decline to go to that Court, then the Minister of Labour has another string to his bow, and he coil order a. Court of inquiry whether the dispute has actually broken out or not, or whether the parties desire to have an inquiry or not. The Court of Inquiry is, in fact, a recognition of the public interest as the third party in the dispute. Here it is that. I think, in connection with Part II of the Industrial Courts Act, there is room for a review of policy. Naturally, the negotiator, when contemplating whether he shall apply Part holds out as long as he can in the hope that the parties will settle the matter themselves. Be shares the British prejudice in favour of people settling their own affairs, more especially when he comes from Lancashire, as the Minister of Labour does. In the bulk of cases it follows that you have the Court of Inquiry, after the strike or lock-out has taken place.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
You refused to do that, and now you are asking somebody else to do a thing which you have refused to do.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I said there was quite a natural prejudice in favour of people settling their own affairs. Sometimes we are landed into a dispute before the Court of Inquiry has taken place. Sometimes prejudice has been introduced before the Court of Inquiry has started, and when the Report of the Court is issued, it exercises a profound influence, anti it is not always anti-labour. Where the public interest is involved, I think the interval might be used so that the public 662 might get, through the medium of a Court of Inquiry, some authoritative statement—
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
My hon. Friend is mistaken. Under Part I of the Act they must agree, but that is not the case under Part II, and therefore the Minister of Labour has another string to his bow. He may order a Court of Inquiry whether they like it or not, although they may both disagree. The findings of the Court are not legally enforceable, but it is a great tribute to the British people to be able to say that, without exception, they are accepted.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Yes, hut the point is that Part II can be applied whether the disputants like it or not. All I am putting is, where the public interest is manifestly going to be involved, cannot we use the time prior to the outbreak of the dispute in putting into the hands of the public an impartial statement of the facts and merits of the case, before the public interest has in fact begun to be prejudiced? I am not preaching compulsory arbitration, which we certainly shall not get. I am not asking the British workman to give up his right to down tools, but I am asking that the public, the third-party interest, should have the facts before its interest has begun to be prejudiced. I have lived with this problem for two and a half years, and that is my only apology for stating to the Committee in this short time the experiences I have had and the lessons I have learned.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Mr. Shaw)
I have listened to a discussion that has been very courteously conducted, with the exception of two statements made by the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood), one of which was that I was stupid in my actions, and the other that I was in ignorance of what was going on. Ordinarily I should decline to trouble myself with gratuitous impertinences of this kind, but as it is not the first time this has occurred, it might be taken as a mark of weakness if I passed them by. I am going to leave 663 the matter now, and give the hon. Gentleman a chance to come back, and then—
§ Mr. SHAW
Then I will deal with these matters of controversy when he is here. Let me turn to the case that has been made out for the reduction of my salary, apparently based, as it must be based, on the assumption that in some way the Minister has neglected his opportunities, for, certainly, it is scarcely likely that a Minister's salary would be reduced unless there was a claim that his duty had been neglected. I am going to deal with that as regards the five months of this year, beginning with two strikes that were inevitable—the railway strike, in which negotiations of one kind and another had been going on for two or three years, and the dock strike, in which a grave issue had been raised by a certain answer. In spite of the fact that this legacy was left to us, fewer days were lost in disputes during those five months than in the corresponding five months of last year, so that the accusation that I have been negligent in my duty comes badly from Members of a Government which, without the complications I had, actually had a greater loss in the same time last year than I have had this year. I should like the right hon. Gentleman, next time he moves a reduction of a Minister's salary, at any rate to move it after having made inquiries as to what the record of his own Government was. It comes very badly indeed from a Government with a legacy of over 3,000,000 days lost in the corresponding period last year, to accuse the Minister and want to reduce his salary because he has only lost 2,900,000.
I hope I have made that position fairly clear. Whoever else has a reason to move a reduction of my salary with regard to strikes, the last Government certainly does not possess that reason, for its record is worse than ray own, and, if I may say so with due respect, the record of the last five months, if repeated during the remainder of the 12 months, will be a better record than that of any year in recent history. That is the work of the present Government. I challenge contradiction when I say that, based on 664 those five months, and taking the number of days lost, it is a record better than that of any year in recent history. I will now pass from the record of the Government to the gratuitous impertinence of the hon. Member for West Woolwich, who, with an air of solemnity, intended, I suppose, to be Napoleonic—but which certainly reminded me of the gravity of a stuffed owl—
§ Viscount WOLMER
On a point of Order. Is the right hon. Gentleman entitled to compare an bon. Member of this House to "a stuffed owl"?
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Robert Young)
I do not know whether the hon. Member takes exception to that expression.
§ Mr. SHAW
I will compare the hon. Gentleman to something else. I will quote Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice"—There are a sort of men, whose visages Do cream and mantle like a standing pond; And do a wilful stillness entertain, With purpose to be dress'd in an opinion Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit; As who should say, "I am Sir Oracle, And when I ope my lips let no dog bark.'What is the hon. Gentleman's record on this matter? Before the strike had lasted 24 hours, he wanted to know if the Government were going to run the services. Twenty-four hours afterwards he said he did not mean it, and when I asked, "What do you mean "he said, "I mean what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said several weeks or months ago in an American paper." When I asked him a plain question, he occupied a column of the OFFICIAL. REPORT reading extracts from American papers that had no more to do with the strike about which he was talking Shan they had to do with the differential calculus. That is the hon. Gentleman's method of conducting a controversy. I prefer to deal, as I did on the last occasion with the noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon), who said what he wanted, and with the right hon. Gentleman, who also said what he wanted, than with the politicians who talk of stupidity and ridiculousness and the rest of it without, apparently, knowing what they mean.
§ Mr. SHAW
Let me refer to the strikes that have taken place, about which the right hon. Gentleman began to speak. I have already dealt with two of them, and have shown that, whatever else we could be accused of, we certainly could not be accused of responsibility for either the railway strike or the dock strike. That was before we came into power at all. We were very successful in getting them settled. That was our responsibility, and we did it, and the result of our efforts is shown in the figures. The most successful year, or part of a year, in recent years, from the point of view of loss of work, is the year in which we are now. I am told that as industry becomes organised, the danger of public services being stopped increases. I am not prepared to accept that contention, and the results of the last few years' work do not justify it. As organisation has increased during the last few years, stoppages have been fewer in number and conciliation has been used oftener. The facts are against the contention.
§ Sir S. HOARE
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, I should like to make clear what I meant. I am afraid did not. I did not mean organised labour when I said that: meant industry generally—the actual physical side of industry, apart from the human side.
§ Mr. SHAW
The facts do not justify that assumption. The facts show that there is more conciliation now, and more settlement now, so that the facts are against the assumption that in some way highly organised industry means greater calamities than before. There is just one thing that I ought to say on this point about the public. I have stated in this House over and over again that the public has a right to know what are the circumstances in any dispute that is a serious inconvenience to it. I do not retract one word from that statement, but I want the public itself to remember one little thing. I have had something to do with negotiations in regard to strikes, and in one case—I am not particularising, because I do not want names To he guessed—I said to the leader of the workers, "Just remember what this means to the public." He said, "Do you think I do not know what it means to the public as well as you do? We cannot move without inconveniencing the 666 public, but here is the position: What does the public think about our wages or our conditions so long as it is served? Let the public remember us, let the public show a friendly interest in our conditions and wages, and then it will be time for us to arrange our work on the lines of the public interest." Whatever one may think about that declaration, it is a declaration that is worth considering. The public will never get working men to consider it first and foremost until it shows that it is prepared to consider what the working man is doing, and what his conditions are, first and foremost, as well. Working men who are running national services owe a duty to the public, and the public owes a duty to the working men. When both sides carry out their duty there will be no danger of public services being stopped.
Now let me turn to the strike that has been described, and on which we are asked for an inquiry. I do not think it is necessary that an inquiry should be held on this dispute, because, as a matter of fact, we know pretty well what the dispute was about, how it began and how it ended, and, in our opinion, there are no concealed facts. The fact of the matter is that certain craftsmen were brought some time ago under what is known in the railway world as Award 728, and in London there were what the men alleged to ho grievances of a serious and substantial character in the way in which this award was applied. When the award was made, the London Electric Railways were not included in it, and had nothing to do with it, but they applied it, and certainly there has been a measure of dissatisfaction ever since in the railway shops. Some of the men alleged that the companies had used this award to down-grade the men and to pay them less than their craftsmanship and skill entitled them to receive. I am not taking sides in the matter; I am merely giving the facts as they were presented to me, without arguing either on one side or the other. The Lots Road men, of whom the right hon. Gentleman has spoken, also believed that they had grievances which ought to be remedied. Then, suddenly, an unofficial movement sprang up, led by two men named Akehurst and Cressey. Both of these men are trade unionists, and they led the unofficial strike that was so violently condemned by 667> the secretary of the railwaymen's union. We have no proof whatever that Akehurst and Cressey are. Communists. We have no proof whatever that the committee was Communist. We have no evidence to show that this strike was the outcome of -Communism at all. Consequently, knowing that we have no proof, it would be folly to come before the House and say that in our opinion this is a Communist strike. But there was a complication in this strike. The Electrical Trades Union had a grievance for their men at Lots Road. They met the company in a perfectly constitutional way. The railway company replied that they would not come to a decision until they had seen the other railway companies, and you got the strange conglomeration, so to speak, of an unofficial strike with an official strike tacked on. In that emergency the Government was asked what its position was, and its position was quite plainly stated. The House was told we had no sympathy with this unofficial strike and that all the resources of the Government would be used to prevent the four essential services—light, water, food and power—from being stopped. These facts were known to the strikers and to everyone else, and the result was that the strike died away with a minimum of inconvenience, ordinary negotiations were reinstated and we got easily out of a difficulty that at one time threatened not only to stop the railways in London, but to stop the power of London. That is the Government's record in this strike—easily, quietly, without any sensational manoeuvres just working to get the strike stopped. I told the House in response to a question, that it was impossible to tell them the moves which had been adopted by the Government, because that would imply the giving away of certain private conversations that took place between certain representative men. Does the House really expect that a Minister who in his work calls for the advice of representative men from all classes is going to say, "What we did was to talk over matters with So-and-So, then to go to So-and-So as the result and discuss with him." I decline, House or no House, to give away private conversations. I ask the Committee to take the result and to believe me when I say it is impossible for me to tell them exactly the procedure 668 which was adopted without giving away certain private conversations which took place, which is an absolute impossibility on my part.
We are asked why were the underground railway and Lois Road picked out. Here again I want to make a plain and categorical declaration. I want to say quietly, but none the less firmly, that the Government believe this type of strike which is being referred to is not only dangerous and inconvenient to the public but is just as dangerous to the trade union movement. We had neither part nor lot in it, nor had we any sympathy with it, and certainly sporadic outbursts of this kind, against custom and against agreement, that threaten national services, will find us in the same position we were in in this strike, and if necessity arises we shall remember that we are the guardians of the public interests amongst which most strongly in our mind is the trade union interest itself. I do not doubt that these men thought they could get their grievances remedied by a lightning strike. I believe they made a profound mistake and that was the worst way of ever getting their grievances, remedied and that it would be infinitely better calmly to negotiate, and if the employers had wasted time to have made their case known to the public. Do not assume that, it is always the workers who are at fault. I have never yet heard a word from the other side in condemnation of the employers. It is always the workers. Is it a strike? Then it is wrong. No inquiry as to the conditions or wages. That will never bring peace in the industrial arena. The only way to bring peace is to non both eyes and look at both sides, and when you begin to do that and take the whole question out of party politics we shall be able to get nearer a solution. I cannot agree to a Committee of Inquiry into this strike because I believe we know already what the strike arose out of. We know there is no evidence that there was any sinister movement of a foreign character behind it, and we are also of the opinion that continually to advertise the, Communist movement is to give it an asset which I am surprised hon. Members opposite will insist on giving it. If they would let it alone, if they would cease to advertise it, it would die of inanition. There are some things 669 which help the Communist movement tremendously. An ordinary Communist expression is "a shivering bourgeois." I have used it before, and the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) put on the cap. It was not intended for him at all. If the Communists believe they are frightening the public, that is one of their aims in life, and surely we ought to have a sufficient sense of our dignity and sufficient calmness and common sense not to continually give these advertisements when the circumstances really do not demand it. It is true that the strike was Clue to what is ordinarily known as a minority movements. It is perfectly true that these minority movements are not helpful to the big trade unions. It is not true, S6 far as we have the facts, that it was a Communist agitation. Let me call attention to a very serious fact. In English law it is no crime to have an opinion. If a man is, as I think, foolish enough to have Communist ideas, he is no more foolish, in my opinion, than he is if he has Conservative ideas. We all look at things through our own spectacles and from our own angle. How can a Conservative ever understand why a man is a Labour man? How can a Labour man ever understand why a man is a Conservative—a radical difference of opinion which is, I suppose, due to our brain cells being formed in different convolutions. But there it is, and it is no crime to hold an opinion. The Government will not under any circumstances attempt to suppress opinion, but the Government certainly will take action at all times to prevent violence arising from opinions, and will do its best to stifle violent movements at their birth.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
Violence against the general public in the form of a general strike?
§ Mr. SHAW
I have already dealt fairly extensively with the general public and I am sorry I cannot go back. We cannot give these investigations, because we do not consider them necessary. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not know what we had been doing. We went out of our way, certainly, to make plain what we were going to do—that we were going to stand behind the public. He asked me what are we going to do if another strike of this kind breaks out. That is a purely hypothetical question and the only answer I can give him 670 is that we will do the best we can, and if it is as good as last time it means a very early ending to a difficult dispute. We are asked what is our idea with regard to compulsory arbitration. We shall not submit a proposal to the House for compulsory arbitration. We are asked what we will do with regard to Lord Askwith's Bill. Under that Bill the penalty imposed for a working man is a minimum of £2 a day and a maximum of £10. I leave it at that. It is quite evident that we shall not support Lord Askwith's Bill so long as it contains Clauses of that description. We do not hold that the time has come for any full inquiry. There are no abnormal circumstances except the abnormally low amount of days lost by strikes, which is all to the good. Does the right hon. Gentleman who smiled at that doubt my word? If he does I will read him the figures.
§ Mr. SHAW
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) asked us to give emergency powers to run the railway services. He agrees there with the hon. Member for West Woolwich. When the strike had been on for 24 hours he wanted us to start running the services, but it is not so easy to do, and I doubt whether the combined genius of the hon. Member for Central Hull and the hon. Member for West Woolwich would be able to run them, and we, being merely practical, everyday men, would never dream of intervening when it could not be done by gentlemen of the type T have named. We are asked to put on one side party feeling in this matter. I wish we could. It is a matter of the most vital importance that, whatever else should be considered outside the atmosphere of party feeling, this question of strikes should be. I am going to try to describe exactly the machinery that is at the disposal of the Government. Short of compulsory arbitration itself I think we possess every power that is necessary. From the Conciliation Act, 1896, to the Industrial Courts Act, 1919, we have various powers. If a trade dispute exists or is apprehended, the Minister may take any steps to promote a settlement. I stated in answer to a question to-day that if a deadlock exists 671 in the building trade and apparently neither side is prepared to approach the other, I can ask both sides to meet me. That, in my opinion, is the first and the best work of the Labour Ministry, the work of conciliation, the work of coming in when the two sides have failed to agree, and getting them to talk together again with a view to coming to a settlement, and if necessary to make a suggestion when a deadlock comes which will overcome the difficulty. Since this Government came into office, at least one dispute has been settled on a suggestion made by the Minister, and what is true of myself I suppose is true of every Minister who has ever held the position. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North - West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), who made an exceedingly helpful speech, called attention to the fact that for every dispute that broke out no one could calculate the number of disputes which have been settled without a strike, and what he said is in my own experience perfectly and absolutely true. There are a number of disputes which are settled by the Department, but which otherwise would inevitably have ended in strikes or lock-outs.
We were asked by the right hon. Gentleman to try to get a different atmosphere. We try by every means in our power, and we have succeeded to a fairly considerable extent. We have introduced counsel when previously counsel had broken down. We have been instrumental in settling disputes that were ending in strikes. When it comes to the point of giving information to the public, when in the history of the Labour Ministry has that been done to the extent which it has been done during the last five months? Let me give the House an idea of what has taken place. Prom 1e1e to the end of 1923 there were five Courts of Inquiry. Since this Government came into office there have been the docks dispute, the London tramways dispute the railway shopmen's dispute, the coal mining dispute, and a dispute at Leith. All these disputes have formed the subjects of Courts of Inquiry. We have clone as much, and have given evidence of it, in five months as has been done by other Governments in five years, and then we are told, "Take £100 off your salary: you have not done enough! "Apparently, if the Labour Government do not do more 672 in five months than other Governments have done in five years, they are not doing their duty. A very tine compliment to pay the Minister of Labour! An unintended, but nevertheless a fine compliment! "You are not doing your duty unless you do a tremendous lot more than we did." I am satisfied with that unintended compliment.
May I quote a few words about an authority that will be received with respect on the other side If I may give a word of advice, I would ask hon. Members opposite to read the "Morning Post" of 28th April last, and they will get more solid argument, and more solid knowledge as to the position of working-class conditions and the possibilities of working-class peace than they will ever get by attempting to make attacks on the salaries of Ministers. I quote this authority because I know it will be admitted to be perfectly sound on the other side. My hon. Friends on this side are acquainted with journalism rf a different type.
Coming down to what the Americans call "brass tacks," what are the facts? This Motion is to reduce my salary, apparently, because I have not done my duty in regard to strikes. I say that our record is better than that of any Government in the last 10 years. As far as publicity is concerned, we have clone more than any other Government. As far as putting the public service into a safe position is concerned, we have gore further than any Government in the lo years. We intend to continue in that way. We are not going to ask for at necessary powers. We have powers sufficient to reduce disputes to a minimum. We have been told that if we followed the Canadian method we should get an Improvement. Bad as our record is, taking population into account, our record as infinitely better than the Canadian record.
Taken all round, I stand here with absolute confidence, and I say that while I may be guilty, taken in comparison with other people who have occupied this office, and taken in comparison with the late Government, whose friends wish to reduce my salary, I have no reason to be ashamed.
§ Mr. SHAW
That was the result of a settlement brought about under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour, an agreement being entered into between the two sides to go into the question of the decasualisation of dock labour, with the serious view of coming to an arrangement. I asked a right hon. Gentleman who was formerly a Member of this House, Sir D. Maclean, to take the Chair at that Committee. The Committee have presented an interim Report. In introducing the Unemployment Insurance Bill I told the House that I made a reservation with regard to special schemes, and that I hoped the House would make a reservation, with regard to decasualisation at the docks. If this Committee is able to suggest a scheme that would help towards decasualisation of labour at the docks, it can be taken for granted that this Government will help in that direction. In fact, any Government will help to remove what is one of the greatest dangers not only to industrial peace but to the lives of the workers in the industry. We are prepared to do that, without distinction of party.
The one thing we have to do is to prove to the working man that his case is getting real and adequate consideration. It is no use the public foaming at the mouth when it feels inconvenience, unless it is prepared to consider the position of the man who causes the inconvenience. You cannot expect the tram driver or the train driver to pay a too scrupulous regard to the public if they never take any interest in his conditions, and yet when he is driven to strike they growl at him. Unless we open both our eyes and try to look at the workman as a proposition that is human, and as a person who ought to have good conditions, and unless we recognise that the men who work in public services ought to he treated in such a way as to make it unlikely that they should want to strike, we cannot hope to avoid strikes.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
With regard to dock labour, can we have the assurance that we are not going to rise until a Bill has been introduced for decasualisation?
§ Mr. SHAW
I cannot say anything about the Bill for decasualisation. The Committee has not finally reported, and we do not, know whether they will report in favour of such a Bill. If the industry 674 is able to settle the matter by a supplementary scheme, which is in my view, the best way, no Bill will be required. We could then secure the object we desire without the necessity for a formal Bill. I welcome the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North-West. Camberwell that we need a different atmosphere. Those of us who are taking part in the Government have no sympathy with these sporadic lightning strikes, and we desire, as far as we can, without infringing the liberty of the subject, to do what we can to prevent them: but we will not attempt to interfere with the fundamental liberties of the subjects to hold their own opinions and to withdraw their labour if they so desire.
We are not prepared to use the Army and the Navy indiscriminately in trade disputes, but we are prepared to do all that we can by conciliation in every possible way to help things along, and we are, above and beyond all things in disputes of this kind, ready to give all the essential facts to the public. If those facts cannot be got without special inquiry, we will give an inquiry. There is no need for a special inquiry at the present time. On broad, general grounds there is nothing that needs a special inquiry. There is nothing that needs a special departure. There is no specific phenomenon different from what has existed in the past years, and we decline to give an inquiry, not out of discourtesy, but simply because that we do not believe an inquiry is necessary.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I want to say a few words from a slightly different angle from Chat of my right hon. Friend. As I understand the proposition that has been laid before the Committee to-day by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare), it is that the strike which took place on the London tubes was not approved by the trade unions of this country, that it had for its purpose some other object than the immediate avowed object of improving the working conditions of the men, and that, therefore, an inquiry into the whole of the circumstances is necessary, because there is a suspicion that this lightning: strike was fomented and organised by Communists, and that that Communist effort was financed from foreign sources.
675 I suggest that that is a very wrong principle to introduce into this House. One or two interrupters have referred to the projected lock-out by the employer in the building trade. I have as much justification for the suspicion that this lock-out in the building trade has something more behind it than the immediate excuse that the employers in the building industry are giving, and I have as much right to suspect that there is as much evidence in support of my suspicion of the motives underlying this threatened lockout as hon. Gentlemen opposite have for their suspicion in the present case. I have a right to suspect that this threatened lock-out is a political scheme to destroy the very fine housing arrangement that has been come to by the Minister of Health. Is that unfair? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"]
§ Mr. MAXTON
The Noble Lady asks whether I believe the Communist leaders. The three principal officers of the Communist party of Great Britain have been my close, intimate, personal friends foe 20 years, and I have less reason to doubt the high motives, the absolute unselfishness and the great courage of these men in the service of the common people than I have to doubt the same qualities of the Noble Lady in the service of her class.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The chairman of the Communist party of Great Britain has been in this House on several occasions with me. He is a constituent of the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). Could anyone desire a greater testimonial of respectability than that? Whatever motives you may search for in this matter, you need not waste your time searching for the motive that these Communist activities are carried out and developed by men who are for personal financial gain or for the sake of any low motives of one description or another. I do not make the suggestion that the employers' 676 threatened lock-out in the building trade is due to the activities of right hon. and hon. Members opposite, and I do not make the suggestion to my right hon. Friend that he should investigate the matter and hold an inquiry into the affairs of the party opposite and find out the source of their funds, or that detectives from Scotland Yard should be told off to conceal themselves below the platform at the conferences of the party opposite, in order to find out the desperate plots that are being hatched.
One would gather from the speeches which have been made in several quarters of the Committee that hon. and right hon. Gentleman have all been wildly enthusiastic in their endeavours to build up official trade unionism, and that they always welcomed a strike where it was properly carried by a majority vote. I am not a very old man, but I can remember when practically every trade union which is now established in a state of respectability in this country was being hounded about from pillar to post in the same way as those who are at the back of the unofficial strike. There are Many hon. Members on the benches with me who, because they attempted to form a branch of a trade an in the factory or workshop in which they were engaged were turned out by their employers, and not only that but the fiery cross was sent round to all the employers in the districts, warning them against, employing these men because they dared to form an association for the uplifting of themselves and their fellow-workmen. You are not, going to make me believe, whatever you may do with the Minister of Labour, that you are now anxious to encourage the development of trade unions, and to bless their strike when they have it, but nut when these other men come out on strike.
I have brought several men out on strike unofficially. When you bring men out on strike under the aegis of a great trade union, after a majority vote, you can say to those men. "As long as you are out on strike we w ill try to give you week by week at least a subsistence allowance," but if you bring a body of men out on strike unofficially you have got to say to them: "Here is your grievance. Is it so substantial as to justify you in walking out of the shop, in giving up your whole means of livelihood? You will get nothing from your trade union 677 or from the Employment Exchange, and nothing from any public sources. Is your grievance sufficiently great to justify you in coming out?" You may take it that it is a very serious substantial grievance that will compel a man to risk his all, and the health and comfort of his dependants, by coming out on strike against unfair conditions. I can see an argument for the abolition of the official strike. The great big, powerful trade union has usually got sufficient mass power, sufficient agents of publicity, sufficient political influence to get its claims not only ventilated in a constitutional and wide way, so that there is not any very serious danger for great organisations like the railwaymen, the miners, or the transport workers to enter into agreements for conciliation and settlement of wages, but it is different for the smaller sections who are ignored. Just as the small national section of which I am a member in this House tends to be ignored in the wider interests of the great English nation, so the small workers are apt to be ignored, and they must retain in their hands the right to say: "The conditions in which I am asked to serve are degrading and undignified, and I am going to come out on strike against them."
Every hon. and right hon. Member in this House retains the right to strike, to refuse to do a thing which he believes to be degrading. The late Attorney-General. I am sure, time and time again in the course of his professional career has said to persons who came to him asking him to do work, "No, the job is not right. The conditions are intolerable. I could not find it in keeping with my dignity as a decent man to take your job and therefore I refuse it." Other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in the investment of their capital go on strike every week. I understand that that is how the biggest incomes are made. They are made by knowing when to go on strike in the making of investments, and I am going, so far as I can, in this House of Commons, to stand tin for the same right for any workman who withholds his labour as for any capitalist who withholds the use of his capital from the service of the community.
I have been accused very often by right hon. Gentlemen opposite of making errors of the head more than of the heart, and my heart is always touched when I am told about strikes against the community, 678 but I wonder who this mystical community is? When the miners go on strike, it is everybody else except the miners. When the railwaymen go on strike, it is everyone except the railwaymen. When the transport workers go on strike, it is everyone else except the transport workers. Do you think that these men are a collection of fools? When you have got the miners, the railwaymen, the transport workers, the textile workers, the agricultural workers, the shipbuilders and the engineers, you have got a very small amount of public opinion left. You have a very small amount of general public, and each one of these groups, which I have mentioned, understands quite well what the other fellows are fighting for when they are out on strike, and on every occasion they have the moral and very often the financial support of these men.
With reference to Communist men. I am not a Communist. These men who lead this party in this country are my personal friends. I understand them. I know what their political fear is. It, is that this system, under which the industries of this country and other countries are carried on, cannot persist. They see flaunting wealth all round about, and alongside it is abject poverty, and they hear hon. Members opposite always saying that nothing better can be expected for them, but that the workers have got to work harder and lay more bricks per day, and be longer at work, that they have got to speed up and have better organisation, and no new hope for the working class in the future is ever to be allowed by hon. Members below the Gangway or on the other side. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
§ Mr. MAXTON
if I followed the Debate on Imperial Preference correctly the other night hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite had some suggestion for protecting the standard of life of the working class of this country. It was a silly suggestion, but they had a suggestion, but the one argument of hon. Members below the Gangway was "allow free world competition to operate and then there will be an abundance of cheap food, and what does it matter supposing that those who belong to the working classes 679 have no money with which to cheap food?"
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am not going to take any responsibility. These men say that the working class will not go on tolerating this indefinitely. They see that, with the production of the world steadily increasing every year. Even in the bad times they see the Super-tax payments mounting up. Even in the presence of these international financial troubles the great trouble with which very many seem to be faced is the increase of wealth. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) went to America to try to make a decent settlement of the American Debt they said, "Do not send us all our debt all at once. Try to find some means of sending a small amount of goods each year for the next 60 years, because we have got so much wealth here already that any more which you send us will only hamper us." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), speaking with reference to the reparation proposals contained in the Dawes Report, made exactly the same appeal. He said that if Germany gets on to her feet she has so developed her equipment and her potential capacity for work production that when she once gets going ahead she will simply snow under this country and every other other country with the abundance of goods which she will produce.
These men who inspire these unofficial strikes—if they do inspire them, I do not blame them—think that one of the greatest assets which this nation has is that its men are not merely a collection of dumb driven cattle. They have got the fighting spirit, the spirit to fight about the things that matter around them, and the greatest asset that any nation can have is this genuine pluck and courage among the working classes. These men say that the working classes will not tolerate this starvation in the midst of plenty. All these schemes which are put forward may appeal to benevolent-minded peope like the right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) and myself—we are kindly-disposed people, notwithstanding appearances to the contrary— 680 who are comfortably housed day by day, but these other people are not, and they say, "If we have got to starve and lead a life of degradation let us fight it out, without letting the crash come, as soon as possible and get it over."
We on these benches differ from that point of view in this that, unlike them, we think that the crash which they think is inevitable may be avoided if all sections of this House rise to a sense of that ideal, and are able to say not merely that they have sympathy, but that they can produce year by year tangible evidence, to the common people, that as the increase of wealth continues in this country so the standard of life in every direction will improve and that there will be better houses, better wages, more leisure and a less arduous day, and not merely say that they always have sympathy with the working man. But unless this House can actually produce the goods hon. Members opposite are wrong believing that, if they discredit the Minister of Labour and the Labour Government in various directions, then following the old principle of the swing of the pendulum either Liberals or Conservatives will come back, I tell them that they will not do anything of the kind. These people are giving this House of Commons and political action its last chance.
An hon. Friend reminds me of Kelvin-grove. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to regard the retention of that seat as a wonderful victory, but do they realise what it means, that in that constituency in the city of Glasgow, a fairly mixed constituency, which was placed in 1918 by myself, as political organiser for the city of Glasgow Labour movement, in the 13th place from the Labour point of view among the 15 divisions of Glasgow, a few weeks ago there were 11,000 men and women, who were not Communists, but who had this point of view that they were prepared to cast their vote for a mart who said: "The House of Commons is no use to you. The House of Lords is no use to you. The Monarch is no use to yen. The existing system is no use to you. The sooner you smash it up and build up a new one the better." When so many people in a constituency of that kind say such a thing, it is a matter to which it is worth while to give serious attention. We want to join with every well-disposed 681 person in this House who is prepared to avoid this crash by giving these people a life which they can tolerate and which we can justify.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
The points which I wish to raise in this Debate are of an non-controversial character, and I hope I shall not have the same effect upon the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour as my hon. Friend the. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) seems to have upon the Minister of Labour. Apparently the hon. Member acts upon the Minister of Labour like a red rag on a bull. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley), in the very animated speech which he delivered, said the Conservative party only pursued a policy of repression. As a Conservative of long standing, I differ entirely from that point of view. I bold that the only way to prevent strikes and industrial unrest and to safeguard the institutions of this country is to identify those institutions with the happiness and welfare of the people. That is a sound Conservative doctrine, shared in. I am sure, by every hon. Member on this side. If we are to fight Communism, we must see that wages and conditions of labour in our industries are such as will commend those industries to the people of the country. We must remove injustices and hardships.
It is from that point of view that I, as a Conservative, wish to bring to the notice of the Ministry of Labour what I think is a scandal to this country, namely, the conditions prevailing in the catering trade. I do not mean to say that the catering trade is seething with Communism or that the young ladies who wait upon us at tea are in alliance with Trotsky, but the conditions under which a very large section of them have to work constitute a scandal and a disgrace. What is also a scandal and a disgrace is that those conditions have been known to the Labour Ministry for three or four years. As long ago as 1919 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir B. Horne) caused an inquiry to be made into conditions in the catering trade, and in 1920 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara, after a conference, issued draft. Orders, but unfortunately he only issued those Orders in a tentative manner. Four Orders were issued, one dealing with 682 workers in the light refreshment and dining-room trade: a second with hotels, boarding houses and restaurants; a third with public-houses, and a fourth with fried-fish shops. Those draft Orders were issued some three years ago, yet, though we have now had a Labour Government in office for some time, these Trade Boards have never been set up.
Why does the Labour Ministry hesitate? Is it contended there has been any improvement in the conditions in the catering trade since the inquiry to which I refer? If so, I have ample evidence to the contrary. I have here the results of a most careful investigation into the conditions of the workers in the catering trade. I am not able to give my authority publicly or give the names of the shops or even of the towns in which these cases occur, but I can communicate them privately to the Ministry or to anybody who doubts their accuracy. Let me give the case of a worker who works from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on one day per week has two hours off. Her wages as a kitchen hand are 7s. 6d. a week. In another similar case the wages are 6s. a week. Three meals are allowed per day—bread and margarine. There is another case of four young girls, ages varying from 14 to 19, working in a kitchen underground from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. They get out at 10.20 p.m., carrying in a newspaper parcel what they have been given for supper. I do not wish to weary the House, but I should like to give one or two other cases. Here is one where the hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the wages are 6s. per week, and this worker sends 3s. out of her 6s. to a widowed mother. In another case from North London the hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the wages 7s. per week plus food. The work is very hard, but the worker finds it difficult to get other work. In another case the hours are 7.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the wages 12s. per week, and the worker sometimes assists in the shop. In another case the hours are 7.30 a.m. to 6 p.m., the wages 10s. per week, two meals a day, and tips amounting to about 3s., and, in addition to waiting, the worker scrubs floors. Here is ample evidence that there is a crying need for the setting up of these trade boards, and I urge upon my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to set about this business at once. The hon. Member who spoke last inveighed 683 against the industrial system of the country, but the industrial system is quite capable of improvement if only we get the proper spirit in the Government of the day.
With the permission of the House I desire to raise another non-controversial subject namely the unemployment which exists among highly disabled ex-soldiers. We had an interesting Debate the other day and what I hope will prove a useful Bill was introduced, but no matter how many Bills we pass making it compulsory for employers to employ disabled ex-soldiers, we cannot compel any employer to employ a thoroughly unemployable man. I am afraid there are many utterly unemployable highly disabled ex-soldiers in this country. There are 600 highly disabled ex-soldiers in my own constituency. They are not all unemployable. If trade were good, some are capable of working at their own trades, and others might be transferred to other trades, but there are over 100 who are utterly unemployable, and as pensions are not fixed upon earning capacity, they have not enough on which to live. I do not think you can force these men upon industry. A Committee under the Chairmanship of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir J. Davidson) came to the conclusion that it was undesirable to put pressure upon industry, but suggested that special provision should be made for the employment of these ex-soldiers. The Committee went on to say that there were institutions in this country which ought to be encouraged, enlarged and multiplied, and they recommended the encouragement of institutions such as the Lord Roberts Workshops, and the construction of factories on private lines.
The Government grant for institutions to give employment to ex-soldiers is on the whole fairly generous. The Government make up one-half of any loss, and give a fairly good training grant, and allows a certain small sum of money to be advanced on mortgage for the starting of these institutions. Would it not be possible to get other institutions started if a more generous grant were given for the initiation of schemes? I have in mind the fact that in my own constituency the King's Roll Committee is contemplating the possibility of starting a factory for the employment of these highly disabled 684 soldiers, but the difficulty is to get enough money together to start the factory, purchase machinery and so forth. I ask the Labour Ministry to give a more generous grant for the initiation of these schemes. It is a scandal that we should have thousands of highly disabled soldiers, eating their hearts out, with no employment and not sufficient sympathy. We ought to do the right thing by them. As I say, I do not believe in trying to force them into industry, but we should set up industries for them. They fought for the community, and it is the duty of the community to do the right thing by them. I know the Labour Minister is sympathetic towards the ex-service men. I have evidence of that, and I hope I have not appealed to him on this question in vain.
§ Mr. CHARLETON
I do not usually intervene in these Debates, and am rather content to stay in the background, but on this occasion I feel I ought to say something as a member of the Executive of the National Union of Railwaymen. I know a little about this strike and about the men who were on strike, and had I not known that there was a tail-end to the Amendment moved by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) I should have treated the whole thing as a comedy. One would imagine that these strikes did not happen very often. I am on a committee attending to these matters every week, and sometimes we have three or four unofficial strikes going on at once. This London tube strike happened to be rather spectacular, an-I it has afforded a peg on which to hang attacks on the working-class movement gene Billy. The right hon. Baronet said that the unofficial strike committee consisted of nine men and he proceeded to set up the hypothesis that these nine men were running the movement. As a matter of fact, the movement represented by these nine men is what we call the unofficial shopmen's movement which has been in existence for several years.
We of the executive of the National Union of Railwaymen have been trying to co-ordinate all these efforts and direct them on common-sense lines, but these men have been driven to desperation. On the Great Central Railway a few months ago men who were putting in a full week's work were also going to the guardians for 685 a subsistence wage. One can imagine the feelings of the men when I tell the House that there are labourers getting 35s. a week, and fitters getting £2 10s. and £2 15s. They cannot live decently on these wages. Can hon. Members wonder that in these circumstances the men sometimes kick over the traces. The right hon. Baronet (Sir S. Hoare) suggests that Communism is at the back of this movement. The whole thing is absurd. These men are friends of mine; they are younger men than I am and more full of boyish, animal spirits. These men see visions, as all our young men must do. The young men at Oxford have their "rags," but in their case it is put down to boyish spirit. When men strike on behalf of their wives and children you call them hooligans and Communists, and all that sort of thing. The right hon. Baronet said that we were holding up the life of the community Just imagine the stopping of a few tube trains holding up the life of the community! In summer-time people often walk, and it is a good thing to make them walk now and then, it is much better for their livers. The right hon. Baronet also paid a tribute to my friend Mr. Cramp. It is not long ago that most Members on the other side of the House were cursing Mr. Cramp. Let me tell the House that the National Union of Railwaymen is launching an all-grade movement, and, if the railway companies do not give us a fair deal, we shall be compelled to stop the railways of the whole country again, and then I am inclined to think you will be cursing my friend Mr. Cramp again.
The origin of this movement was due to the fact that the railway company have played fast and loose with our men. Let me take the London and North Eastern Railway Company. There are three or four ways of paying men who are doing the same job on that railway. We have been asking for nearly two years that the company should co-ordinate the railways and pay the fitters and labourers and others in the same way all over. What are they doing? They are refusing to pay them in the same way, with the result that they play one group off against another. The right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) suggested that we ought to have more goodwill. I quite agree, but let us 686 examine what goodwill has been in the past as far as the railway companies and their employés are concerned. My father was an engine driver and became a foreman. He was knocked down and lost his leg and could not work for 15 months, and, after having a job of many pounds a week, they gave him 24s. a week when he resumed after 15 months.
I am not a very rabid fire-eater, hut what did the railway companies do to me simply for my trade union activity, especially during the 1911 dispute? They victimised me, and, when the Board of Trade set up an inquiry and proved that I had been victimised, the company did not, even then, do the fair thing and admit it. They did not even give me hack my engine, but gave it to a man whom they called loyal. Goodwill is all right, but we must have it all round. Another friend of mine was injured between London and Southend driving an engine which was over 15 years old. He is walking about paralysed to-day, and he gets about half the amount of his wages. We, his fellow workers, are keeping him. He was injured through a worn-out engine which ought to have been scrapped years ago. Yes, let us have goodwill, but it must be on both sides Hon. Members opposite always look round for some way of suppressing the worker when he becomes a little powerful. I was recently looking at some records in the Record Office, when I was doing a little study in industrial and economic history, and I found that the Duke of Wellington and others in his day were nervous that they had not enough soldiers to keep off any rising. The right hon. Baronet, I believe, said we might do something for the key-men. Does he mean bribe them to betray the rest of their fellows? Does he mean to pay more to the men at Lots Road in order that they may let the others down?
§ Mr. CHARLETON
Let me remind the Noble Lady and the Committee that that was what the railway companies tried to do in 1919. I took part in those negotiations. They asked the locomotive men and the signalmen, who were key-men, to remain in their jobs while they attempted to crush the other men, but, owing to the loyalty of the signalmen and the drivers and the locomotive men, that attempt failed.
My point is, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) was not defending the railway companies.
§ Mr. CHARLETON
But he condemned the men. The Noble Lady, when she gives us her periodical lectures, always talks about good will, but I say that good will should be on both sides. The right hon. Baronet referred to rebellions, and the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) alluded to the Irish Rebellion and another one. But he did not mention the other one which is going on, and which inscribes on its banners "B. F." I do not know whether he is in favour of that or not. I would say, in conclusion, that I, as a member of the National Executive of the National Union of Railwaymen, would welcome an inquiry into this last dispute, and the men who took part in it would do so, also. But I am afraid this Amendment is based upon the cry of "Bogey, bogey!" I am quite sure that hon. Members opposite know that changes have got to be made, and I suppose they will agree with Tennyson, when he said in his immortal poemOur little systems have their day, They have their day, and cease to be.Marcus Aurelius also said, in his "Meditations"Society is in a state of flux.I remember, when the Snowden Resolution, as we call it, was being discussed, that Sir Alfred Mond said that Socialism had been tried in China some centuries ago and had failed, but he did not say—
§ Mr. CHARLETON
I was trying to justify my criticism of the references to Communism. What I was going to say was that Sir Alfred Mond did not say that all other systems had been tried and had failed. All the great systems have been tried and have gone to decay or have grown Phoenix-like into new systems, and so will this system. It seems to me that hon. Members opposite want to uphold this system by force. That is impossible. These men who took part in this unofficial strike are good men who were driven to desperation by the condition of their wives and families. Not one of the men 688 has in him a touch of Communism at all. What I believe you are doing is to give the Communists an advertisement which they do not deserve. If you will get down to the real case put up by these railway shopmen, if you will have an inquiry into that and bring pressure to bear on the railway companies to give these men a living wage, you will hear no mare of these unofficial strikes.
§ Sir DOUGLAS HOGG
After listening with interest to the speeches which have come from the benches opposite, I want, if I may, to ask the Committee to return to the matter which my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) brought before the Committee when he moved this Reduction. In a speech which I think both sides will admit was a speech of studied moderation my right hon. Friend made two requests. First of all, he asked for a special inquiry into the causes of the late strike which affected our tubes and, secondly, he asked for some impartial body to be set up which would investigate the methods of avoiding strikes in what are called the key industries, and the very grave public inconvenience and loss which such strikes necessarily entail. I confess that the reception which the Minister of Labour gave to bet ft those requests leaves me with a feeling of profound disappointment, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will press this Reduction to a Division. Let me take the two requests separately. First of all, there was the request that we shall have an inquiry into the causes of the late tube strike. I venture, to submit to the Committee that if ever it case was proved out of the arguments adopted against it this case has been so proved. The Minister for Labour tells the Committee that it has not been proved that this strike was due to Communist influence. He tells the Committee, further, that it is not proved that the strike was fomented by funds sent by any foreign organisation. Yes, bet will the Minister tell the House that is were proved that that is not the case? If it, were proved that that were the cause of the to strike, or that that was the method by which the strike was financed, the right hon. Gentleman might fairly say that there was no need for inquiry because he knew the facts. But when he admits that it is not proved, and yet at the same time his colleague 689 the Home Secretary tells us that he has information that this was the cause, and that was the method of finance—
§ Sir D. HOGG
The right hon. Gentleman has not followed me: probably it is my fault. I did not suggest that he said this was proved. What I said was that the Home Secretary said, in answer to a question, that he had information to that effect. Let me read the answer to the question that was asked the Home Secretary on the 19th June. The right hon. Gentleman was askedWhether his Department had received any reports indicating that the recent and existing irresponsible labour troubles are connected with efforts to spread Communist and kindred doctrines; and whether he will make inquiries to see if this is the case?The answer of the Home Secretary was:The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1924; col. 2339, Vol. 174.]Does the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw) wish to quarrel with that answer of the Home Secretary? Does he accede to it, or does he recede from it? If he accepts it, then we have two responsible Members of the Government, one telling us that there is information in the possession of His Majesty's Government that these irresponsible labour troubles are connected with efforts to spread Communist doctrines, and the other telling us that it is not proved that they are so connected. Could there be a clearer case for an inquiry as to the origin of the strike? But let me pass from the Home Secretary, and look at what the Labour Press Service, edited by the hon. Member for Enfield (Mr. W. Henderson), said about this strike. Mind you, there is no doubt about what he was referring to, and this is what he said on the 5th June, in his communique:The unofficial strike in the railway shops of the London Electric and Great Western Railways threatens to take effect this week.690 We know, unhappily, that it did. The communique goes on—It has been fomented by an unofficial committee dominated by Communistic influences.Was that true or was it false? If, when the Labour Press Service told the public that this strike had been fomented by an unofficial committee dominated by Communistic influences they were telling the public what they did not believe to be true, was it not a shocking betrayal of their duty to the public? If they did believe it to be true, and if the right hon. Gentleman merely says it is not proved whether it is true, could there be a stronger ground for inquiry? On the 21st Juno there was published a paper probably more familiar to hon. Members opposite than it happens to be to me, a paper called "Forward," and this is what it said about that strike last Saturday:There is no doubt that the strike was openly and without hesitation fomented and encouraged not so much to raise the railway shopmen's wages as to harass and weaken and finally destroy trade unionism.Then the article went on to say:These assaults are directed by foreign secret service money. That is a serious thing to say, but alas, there are serious grounds for saying it.It is not the Tory Press who are telling these tales of Russian money financing the strikes, and when the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley), with all the zeal of a newly-created pervert, gets up in this Committee and denounces the statement as to foreign secret service money as Tory reactionary lies, he might have taken the trouble to study the organ of his own new party. The hon. Member who spoke last (Mr. Charleton) told us this was a strike caused by men suffering from a sense of intolerable grievance against the railway companies which employ them, and he referred to his friend Mr. Cramp. But Mr. Cramp does not seem to describe the strike quite in that way, for this is what he said on the 12th June:This is a fight between order and mob law. It is only one manifestation of an underground movement which has been going on for a considerable time. Almost every large union in the country has been afflicted by this foul disease and where it has established itself disaster to the workers has invariably followed.Does the hon. Gentleman think that Mr. Cramp was treating this strike as a strike of workers against an intolerable 691 grievance, when he speaks of it as "a foul disease" and "an underground movement going on for a considerable time." We have got some outside information in regard to this underground movement. Only a month ago the "Pravda," the organ of the Russians to whom "Forward' referred in the article I quoted, report Trotsky as saying:You must maintain ties with the work of the Communist International, particularly with the struggle in Britain, where slowly—more slowly than many of us wish—but irresistibly the Communist mole in Britain is burrowing under MacDonald's stronghold.Can even the Minister of Labour, with all his affection for similes borrowed from natural history, find a more apt description of the underground movement? We on this side of the House like to ascertain the facts by an impartial inquiry. [An HON. MEMBER: "On Irish matters?"] Certainly, on Irish and other matters, and the hon. Gentleman who interrupted me knows the facts were ascertained in regard to Irish matters. This Reduction is, in effect, a Motion asking for an inquiry into the facts. Neither my right hon. Friend who moved it nor myself when asking for that inquiry are going to assume that the facts are as stated in the Socialist Press or as stated in the Communist Press from the Russian side. Rut when these assertions are made, when the Minister for Labour tells us that they are not proved, surely it is about time we had an inquiry as to whether or not they are true. I do not want to take up too much time. I have dwelt so far with the first of the two requests which my right hon. Friend has put forward, and I say that on the statements which have been made in the House this evening, the case for an inquiry is made out with overwhelming force. It is no good for the Minister for Labour to say that our sense of dignity and our common sense ought to prevent us from inquiring into these things. The ostrich may be a very ornamental bird, but it is not a very wise one.
I pass from the request for a special inquiry to the second object of my right hon. Friend's Resolution, and that is a request for a general committee, or some small impartial body, to investigate whether or not it is possible to prevent strikes in key industries which cause so much inconvenience to the public. An 692 hon. Member asks, "Why key industries? "May I tell him I am referring specially to those industries the paralysis of which particularly affect London as a whole. It is a melancholy spectacle to see how entirely the Minister for Labour, whose duty it is, in (air view, to safeguard the interests of the public, seems to regard the public as an entirely secondary consideration. With an air of profound self-satisfaction, I will not say like a stuffed owl but rather perhaps like a peacock, the right hon. Gentleman claimed that he is a most wonderful Labour Minister, because in his time, after he left out two of the five most important strikes that had taken place, there had been fewer hours lost by strikes than in the corresponding period a year ago.
§ Sir D. HOGG
I accept the correction, of course, but the point I am making remains. I can only suggest that the right hon. Gentleman's self-satisfaction is even greater than I had imagined. He said that in all the strikes during the last five months the number of hours lost was less than during the corresponding five months of last year. The right hon. Gentleman had already heard the explanation given in advance by the right hon. Member for North Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) that last year there were still, unfortunately, going on, re-adjustments of wages arising out of the first War boom and the slump that followed, and it is natural that workers should be more inclined to strike when wages are being reduced than at other times. The observations of the right hon. Gentleman entirely missed the criticism of my right hon. Friend. The point which my right hon. Friend made was not as to the total number of hours lost by strikes, but as to the damage done to the public by this particular kind of strike. It is all very well to say there are only forsooth 3,000,000 hours lost by strikes in five months, but how many hours have been lost by men and women in my constituency and in the constituency of my right bon. Friend who have been prevented from getting to and from their work by the strikes which have wholly disorganised the transport service 693 of London? It is the character of the strike which we regard as a serious matter urgently requiring inquiry.
The right hon. Gentleman tells us he is ready to concede that the public have a right to know the circumstances of the strike. It is an unhappy thing for the public if their selected champion and guardian thinks that is the only right which they possess. But even if he thinks that is their right he does not seem inclined to allow them to exercise it in practice, because, when we ask for an inquiry, he tells us he will not give us one because it happens that the charges made have not been proved. Therefore this right which he concedes they have but which he will not allow them to exercise is not a very satisfactory or complete vindication of the position. The public right is not merely to be informed of the circumstances of a strike, but it is to be protected against that strike by the Minister of Labour. [An. HON. MEMBER: "What about the building trade?"] The building trade at present, in spite of every encouragement from the Minister of Health, has not begun to strike, and, therefore, I do not think that that interruption is of much value to the case of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Let us deal with the strikes which have taken place, and let us see what the position is with regard to them. It is said, and it is rightly and truly said, that the British workman will not give up, and ought not to be asked to give up, his right to strike. Nobody suggests that he should. Equally, it is true, I think, that the British workman ought to be protected in his right to give his labour when he wants to, and I am not quite sure that hon. Members opposite are quite such ardent champions of that right, although it is just as important. Granted, as it is, that the British working man has a right to withhold or to give his labour as he pleases, it is also a fact that when, as is to-day the case, the whole public convenience and the whole public industry of this country are dependent on the smooth working of certain industries, the public have a right to be assured that every possible step is taken to prevent the smooth working of those industries being interfered with, interfered with, of course, by either side. I am not throwing all the blame, and I do not think I shall be misunderstood as 694 doing so, on one side or the other. In some cases it may be one side, and in some cases it may be the other, but the party that is not at fault, and the party that suffers for the fault, is the public, and it is the public interest that I am championing this evening, it is the public interest which induces my right hon. Friend to press for this inquiry which the right hon. Gentleman opposite so contemptuously brushes aside.
The right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara) said truly that the real cure for strikes 'is probably to be found in goodwill on both sides. I think there is great truth in that observation, but, if it be true, that is a very good reason why the present Government of all others are least capable of dealing with strikes. How can we expect them to promote goodwill on both sides when their own individual records have consistently been records of stirring up strife and ill-will. [HON. MEMBERS "Oh!"] I hear protests, and, of course, the Committee has a right to challenge me to give any evidence in support of that charge. I shall give it at once.
§ Sir D. HOGG
Let me take, first of all, the Independent Labour party, to which most of the leaders of the Government belong, and let me refer to a Conference, at which no less a person than the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was in the Chair. This is a resolution which was passed in 1920 by the Independent Labour party conference:It therefore condemns all attempts to bring about any rapprochement between Labour and Capitalism, or any method of compromise aimed at arriving at a more amicable relation between Labour and Capitalism short of the total abolition of the capitalist system.
§ Sir D. HOGG
Does the Committee think that that resolution breathes a spirit of encouraging goodwill between Labour and Capital? [An HON MEMBER: "Capitalism, not Capital."] Does the hon. Member really think that a party which "condemns all attempts to bring about any rapprochement between Labour and Capitalism"—he may have as many "isms" as he likes—"or any 695 mode of compromise aimed at arriving at a more amicable relation between Labour and Capitalism" is a party which is encouraging goodwill between employers and employed? The Committee will judge. Let us now pass to something more recent. In May of last year there was an International Congress at Hamburg, and I see that among the delegates from this country were the present Prime Minister, the present President of the Board of Trade, the present Home Secretary, the present Secretary of State for the Colonies, the present Minister of Transport, and I know not how many other Ministers, hon. and right hon. [An HON. MEMBER: "And Shaw."] I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I did not leave him out by intention.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I wish to correct the right hon. Gentleman in one particular, and that is that the present Prime Minister was not present at the Conference at Hamburg. He can take that from me.
§ Sir D. HOGG
I accept at once, but the report stated that he was there. It is, however, no doubt mistaken, and I apologise to the Prime Minister, but I think I have a fairly representative lot without him, and we will put in the Minister of Labour as a worthy substitute. This is what happened as the first resolution at that Conference:The Labour and Socialist International…is a union of such parties as accept the principle a the economic emancipation of the workers from capitalist domination and the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth is their object, and the class struggle which finds its expression in the independent political and industrial action of the workers' organisations as a means of realising that object.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman is not even ashamed of it now. How can one wonder that a party which acclaims ideals such as that is incompetent to create or foster a spirit of goodwill? I have a whole series of quotations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read them!"] I think at least I have given enough to make the point clear. That is the reason, why we, on this side, view with profound distrust the efforts of this Government, not because they want strikes—I am not suggesting that—but because they have incapacitated them- 696 selves from dealing with them in the only practical way. The right hon. Member for North-West Camberwell told us the right principles upon which to go, and I am asking, and my right hon. Friend is asking, that we shall have a Committee set up to find out how best to effect that way. The right hon. Gentleman again was quite satisfied and said: "I do not want any Committee have ample powers to deal with the situation, and I need no others." The right hon. Gentleman is condemned out of his own mouth. Either he has powers which are adequate to prevent this inconvenience to the public and he did not use them—because nobody can doubt that the public were inconvenienced—or else he did not have the powers, and then he will not even let us have a Committee to find out how to get them. I care not on which horn of the dilemma he impales himself: off neither of them will he be able to wriggle.
We say that we believe that the last possible point has not been reached in improving the conditions between Capital and Labour and in protecting the public interest in these grave industrial disputes. We believe that sonic of the various methods which have been adumbrated, some of them in another place, some of them in the daily Pres!;, some of them in articles and discussions in which many of us take an interest, might provide some practical means of protecting the public, whose interest we regard as paramount. [An HON. MEMBER: "The working class."] Does the hon. Member not realise that the working class are part of the public? It is the old fallacy of splitting the community up into separate sections and setting there all against one another, which is doing more than anything else to ruin the industrial welfare of this country. It is that spirit that we want to stamp out. It is the sense of co-operation that we want to encourage, a real method of preventing these disputes between employers and employed reaching the last desperate method of what is really industrial warfare, namely, the strike or the lock-out, and thereby wreaking their harm not only on the employers and on the employed, but on the public, whose interests are affected, but who have had no voice in creating the dispute. It is because we wish to deal with that problem that we beg of the Minister of Labour even now to give way upon this 697 vital point, to treat it, not as a party question—indeed, it ought not to be—but to treat it as a question in which there may at least be some hope for the better well-being of the community at large, if only he will have search made to find out, and I am sure, if he will co-operate with us in seeking it, he will not find us slow to second his efforts to achieve the success which we all desire.
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
I doubt whether the Communist movement has ever had such a magnificent advertisement as in the speech of the right hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir a Hogg), who has just sat down. If this underground movement has been going on for a long time, why did not the late Government tackle it? If it be true that the Communist mole is burrowing under the MacDonald stronghold, and succeeds in the effects of that burrowing, where is there going to be more rejoicing than on the benches opposite? The Lord Chancellor in a late Government said, some few months ago, that they had seen more strikes since the Socialist Government came into office than they had ever seen in any similar period. At that time, according to the "Labour Gazette," there were 159 disputes going on, but during the years when he was Lord Chancellor, during the same period, there were, in 1921, 163; in 1922, 196; and in 1923, 165, so that he was entirely wrong in that statement.
On this whole question of disputes, I should like to compare the position during the first five months that the late Government was in office with the position during the first five months that the present Government has beer in office. In the first period, in 1922–23, there were 9,100 workpeople who, at the commencement of that period, were involved in disputes, and during those five months that number rose to 86,000. During the five months of the present. Government, in the first month there were 82,000 involved in disputes, and that number was reduced to 36,200. As regards the aggregate working days lost, during the first period they rose from 68,000 to 834,000, and during the present period, the last five months, the working days lost have been reduced from 629,000 to 398,000. In the first period, under the policy of "tranquility," for every 100 workpeople involved in disputes at the commencement of the period, there were 940 at the 698 end, and for every 100 working days lost at the beginning of the period, there were 1,226 during the last month of that, period: whilst under this policy of so-called "unrest," for every 100 workpeople involved in disputes at the beginning of the period, there were only 44 during the last month of the period, and for every 100 working days lost at the beginning, there have only been 63 lost during the remainder of the period.
It may be suggested that it is not quite fair to take the first five months which do not quite correspond, and, therefore I will take the first five months in each of the last three years, and the disputes for the first five months in each year were: 231 in 1922, 247 in 1923, and 254 in 1924. So that there was a more rapid increase in the disputes in the five months of last year than there has been in the corresponding period this year. While it is true that the number of workpeople involved last year in all disputes was not so large, when we come to the number of days lost, we find that in 1922 the average was 38, in 1923 the average was 14, and this year it is only an average of Therefore, whatever comparison we choose to make, it is all to the advantage of the last five months. What are the causes of these disputes referred to in the "Labour Gazette"? Reduction in wages in the first five months of 1922 accounted for 131. In 1923, it dropped down to 84, and in 1924 to 20. The disputes due to applications for advance in wages were none in 1922, 9 in 1923, and 77 in 1924. Therefore, the position is that, comparing 1923 with 1924, while the disputes arose in 1923 in regard to reductions in wages, in 1924 a great number have arisen in consequence of applications for advance in wages. That, I venture to suggest, is due to there being an entirely new outlook, and the realisation on the part of those to whom these disputes more particularly refer that then, is a stronger position now than in 1923. Tranquility has meant something else than reduction. Tranquility meant 43 disputes on questions of trade unionism for the five months in 1923, whereas, during the last five months, there have only been six disputes on those questions. Again, I venture to suggest, that is because of the entirely new atmosphere and outlook in the whole of these industrial matters.
699 Reference has been made to some of the disputes which have gone on during the last few months. There was a dispute is January this year in connection with railway enginemen. Negotiations were taken in hand by the General Council of the Trade Union Congress. I am not aware that the last Government ever had the advantage of suggesting, or being involved in, negotiations with the General Council of the Trade Union Congress. There was a strike of dock workers in February of this year. A court of inquiry was set up, and the result was that it came to an abrupt termination, because the case that had been put up, not in the precise form in which the men's demand was made, but in a very similar form, was granted as the result of that court of inquiry. In March there was a coal mines dispute, and again a court of inquiry was set up. With regard to the tramway and omnibus strike recently, we have to remember that it was in December, 1923, that notice was given to the employers of a desire for an increase in wages. A strike did not at once take place. The strike took place because it appeared there was going to be no proper dealing with the men's request. It involved 16,000 tramway men and 20,000 omnibus men, and undoubtedly caused a considerable amount of inconvenience, but the complaints from the public were not strong, because they recognised the justice of the men's demands. There was a court of inquiry set up. These are the words of the first paragraph of that Report:Throughout the inquiry the merits of the claim on behalf of the workers for an increase of wages were not seriously questioned.Surely if the matter had been faced in the way in which it ought to have been faced, the public ought not to have been inconvenienced with the justice of the demand. Going back a little further than this year, again and again there were disputes threatened, and disputes actually taking place, and the Minister of Labour then repeatedly used the same expression—"I am keeping in touch." There was no inquiry suggested in regard to them. When inquiry was suggested by us from the benches opposite, the matter was brushed aside altogether. There were two disputes which might have developed very seriously indeed. There was the building trade dispute 700 and the dispute with regard to agricultural wages. Who came in and settled those disputes? Not the Ministry of Labour, but the present Prime Minister. Requests were repeatedly made for inquiries in regard to those disputes, and they were not granted, but if ever there was a display of goodwill, if ever there was a desire for a real expression of goodwill, it was with regard to the action the present Prime Minister took in those two disputes. We have got to recognise that there are always two sides to every dispute. Our desire to ascertain the causes for the unrest has been repeatedly refused by the hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is our duty to endeavour to find out what those causes are and remove them, but it never was clone until to-day. Instead, there has been every attempt made, not to improve conditions but to create unrest, and while it may be excellent tactics from a particular point of view, we expect something better from statesmanship.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
I listened with considerable interest to an hon. Member on the other side drawing a distinction between capital and capitalism. Is this a sign of dawning intelligence on the part of hon. Members opposite, or are they getting ready for the time when capitalism, as they are pleased to call it, is destroyed, and drawing that distinction, they will then be allowed to keep their capital? The question of the underground strike, and the inquiry for which we are asking, is being laughed out of court by hon. Members opposite, because they say that we on this side have a sort of bee in our bonnet on the subject. We have heard that often before. I rather think the first speech I made in this House was on the subject of industrial disputes, and I then called attention to the activities of the Communists in the Labour party and in the labour organisation. The idea was treated with some amusement by, I think, the Lord Privy Seal, but I was not at all surprised when the Labour party's own Press informed us that this strike which we are discussing to-night was caused by Communist influence. Everybody knows this influence exists. No doubt the Government, and no doubt some hon. Members opposite, have seen a document which is known as the thesis of the Third International. I have quoted it at some length, 701 and I do not want to quote it again, but the methods that are advocated in that document are the very methods which we have seen in operation. Here is a definition of Communism:Communism seeks the overthrow of Capitalism, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and of an International Soviet Republic.8.0 P.m.
The Minister of Labour thinks, apparently, that any opinion may be held in this country, but I would ask him whether it does not go rather further than holding opinions if you belong to an organisation which, on its own showing, is out to establish in this country an International Soviet Republic? Does the Minister of Labour take that as the aim of Communism? There is no answer. Everybody knows that is the object of the Communist organisation in this country, and it may interest the Minister of Labour to know that the United States of America, when they were considering the question of the recognition of Russia, appointed a Committee to go into the question, and here is their report. It is an official White Book of the American Government. No doubt the Cabinet, before recognising Russia, read this book, because it is extremely interesting from that point, of view, and it gives the reason why America very wisely did not recognise her. I wish to read a section. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it all!"] I should be glad to read it all if hon. Members would like me to do so.It is believed that the evidence presented by the Department of State at this hearing has conclusively established three facts: First, the essential unity of the Bolshevik organisation known as the Communist Party, so-called Soviet Government, and the Communist International, all of which are controlled by a small group of individuals, technically known as the Political Bureau of the Russian Communist Party; second, the spiritual and organic connection between this Moscow group and its agent in this country—the American Communist Party, and its legal counterpart the Workers' Party. Not only are these organisations the creation of Moscow, but the latter have also elaborated their program and controlled and supervised their activities. While there may have existed in the United States individuals, and even groups, imbued with Marxist doctrines prior to the advent of the Communist International, the existence of a disciplined party equipped with a program aiming at the overthrow of the institutions of this country by force and violence, is due to the intervention of the Bolshevik 702 organisations into the domestic political life of the United States. The essential fact is the existence of an organisation in the United States created by and completely subservient to a foreign organisation striving to overthrow the existing social and political order of this country.I maintain that the Communist party in this country are in exactly the same position, and that every word I have read out of the findings of this American Commission can be applied word for word to the Communist party in this country. This is an international revolutionary organisation. [Laughter] It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen to laugh. They know it quite well. We are not fools on this side. I am not saying that this organisation is very large, but I do say that it is very well organised, and it is supported by foreign money. I should like to quote the Colonial Secretary on this subject. It is very interesting. Here is a, quotation from the "Morning Post "of 20th February, 1922. It is a very excellent paper, and it is only a report of what the Colonial Secretary said—of what Mr. J. H. Thomas, now Colonial Secretary, said at Sheffield, at a railwaymen's demonstration. He said:Mr. Thomas went on to speak of the action for libel he took against a certain journal and repeated that these people were acting under the influence of Russia, and were paid by Russian money. 'Not only can I prove that Russian money is behind it,' he declared, 'that it has come into the country and is being used, hut I am going to say that regardless of all the consequences the British public shall have the details in public which I have had before me in private.'I ask the Colonial Secretary to come down to the House to give us these details.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
I was not in this House at the time. If I had been in the House, and if information had been available, I should have made strong representations on the matter, but I cannot be responsible for my party before I entered it. There is another quotation from the Colonial Secretary. He gave an interview to the "Evening 703 Standard, "which was quoted in the "Morning Post" of 5th August, 1922, and this is what he said:The 'Evening Standard' states that when yesterday he was asked to tell the story of how the damages were paid, Mr. Thomas said, 'You know how 'The Communist' vilified me, how I vindicated myself, how they declared I would never get a brass farthing, and how I made them bankrupt. The pinch came then. I was able to take the important step of examining their pass-books for the whole period covered by the libel, and a public examination was about to be made by the Receiver in Bankruptcy, when an announcement was made that my costs and damages had been paid.'You say that you examined their passbooks,' observed the interviewer. 'Can you tell me what you discovered?' 'Oh, that, is another story,' Mr. Thomas replied. 'It will be a gem.'I always like the Colonial Secretary's "gems," and I hope he will come down before the Debate closes and give us this information, for which the public are still waiting. There is no doubt whatever of the existence of this organisation. The Minister of Labour is not able to deny in this House that that organisation was responsible for this last strike. All we ask is that there may be inquiries and that the public may know the facts. Nobody would be more delighted to find that the Communist organisation is not in strength in this country, but I think there is considerable evidence to show that they are very active, and that they are well supplied with funds. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) threw derision on the idea that the Communist party in this country was worth considering, and the Minister of Labour took the same view. I thought it was only right that the Committee and the public should hear this very interesting document read, for after all, this is an official publication of a friendly country, the United States of America, and these conclusions were arrived at after hearing a very large amount of evidence. I am perfectly certain that what applies to the Communist party in America applies equally to the Communist party here, and therefore, it is absurd to ignore the question altogether. Surely, if it is as the Labour Minister said, and there is no danger in the activities of this party, it would be better if we had this inquiry, so that we might settle it once and for all. Why not let 704 the public know about this party—and it is a revolutionary party I Why not let the public know if it is really a thing we can ignore altogether? I beg to support.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The Conservative party without a bogey would be a sight for the gods. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last talked about the Communist party being a revolutionary party. It is not the only party in this country that has been called "revolutionary" by the party opposite. Long ago the Syndicalist was the bogey, and long before that the Socialist party itself was one, and the party I belong to myself, the Independent Labour Party, has always been regarded as a particularly bad bogey. One has succeeded the other with sickening regularity, and hon. Gentlemen have now the fear in their hearts of the last bogey, the Communists. One would gather that their great fear is that the Communist party is undoing the trade union movement, whose interest hon. Members opposite have at heart. They are afraid that the Communist party will take away the trust in the trade union leaders, whom they all admire now so explicitly. It is not so long since hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite were the biggest opponents of trade unions in the country. If there has been opposition to the present trade union movement, it has come from the forces represented on the benches opposite. The trade union movement of the country has got to where it is, not because of any help which hon. Members opposite have given to it.
§ Mr. DENNIS HERBERT
It is the hon. Gentlemen to whom the hon. Member refers who first allowed trade unions and passed a Measure, which made them legal.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I know why they did it. The old two parties in the past always opposed every Measure of progress till they were compelled to pass it by the pressure of public opinion. Then they played the game, in Disraeli's words, of "dishing one another." and gave a measure of reform which they hoped would stave off the larger issues. The attitude towards trade unions on the part of wealth, power, position, the platform, the pulpit and the Press has been one of bitter opposition and they have all combined together to light the forces to which they now do homage, and which 705 they are now afraid; may be broken by the intrusion of the Communist party. That brings me to the point made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Marylebone (Sir D. Hogg) when he spoke of what he called the "class struggle." We never made the class struggle. It has been our task to explain what we found already existing. When the working people of this country became disgusted with the antics of the old political parties, and strove to form their own political party, and levied themselves for the purpose of paying a paltry salary of £200 a year, who was it forbade them to spend their own money to pay their own men to come here and represent them on the Floor of the House? The forces of the hon. Gentlemen opposite! When the working classes of this country were disgusted with the Press of the country because the Press always opposed them, and because, in time of stress, they never found a friend in it, and when they decided to found their own newspaper, hon. Gentlemen opposite invoked the law to prevent them from establishing such newspaper. These are specific instances of what we call class trouble!
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
So the representatives of hon. Gentlemen on those benches below the Gangway tried to smash the "Daily Citizen." These are historical facts. There is no need to discuss them. These are two contemporary instances—an expression of that struggle which hon. Gentlemen opposite now so loudly deplore. We did not make the class struggle. Of course there is a class struggle!. In modern society now, what you have is two classes of persons struggling for the possession of the larger share of the balance remaining after administrative expenses and wages have been paid. On the one side you have the holders of capital; on the other side the wage earners. One wants to get as large a profit as he can out of the matter: the other wants to get as large a payment for his services as he can. So long as that remains, we shall have this eternal struggle as to who shall have the largest proportion of the surplus. It is not a question of good-will on one side or the other, or of good-will all round. It is a stern economic battle that 706 cannot be disregarded. Those who do disregard it are disregarding one of the salient features of modern industrial life. It does not matter how the thing is talked about. We shall never get anything different to what we are getting now.
There has been a great deal of talk of a fundamental change in the methods of wealth production. Hon. Members who have spoken have talked about ways of handling strikes, and have condemned the methods of the present Government. They have talked about the proper way of dealing with strikes and strikers. There have been strikes during the time the present Government have been in office. There is also this to be said: that there has not been a display of force used in any single struggle or lock-out since the present Government came into office—
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Why should the hon. Member he so alarmed at that? Force ought not to be used if reason can prevail. A strike is a method for an immediate purpose, and to meet some present need. I remember a strike amongst the railway men in, I believe, the year 1913. I was a resident of Manchester, where the strike was. The Lord Mayor and those connected with the civic administration of Manchester did not want the presence of the military in the city. They came to an arrangement with the leaders of the men on strike, and the latter said: "We will guarantee that there shall be no disorder of any kind whatever: we will guarantee that the strike shall be conducted along properly constituted and constitutional lines." In spite, however, of the protests of the local authorities, in spite of the protests of the men themselves, I believe it was Mr. Winston Churchill, who then occupied the place my right hon. Friend now occupies, who insisted on sending troops and guns into Manchester for the purpose of cowing the men into submission. That is one instance. If hon. Members opposite think that is the proper way of handling strikes, I tall them that they will always have trouble, and they will deserve to find it, because that is what they are looking for. There is the case of Tonypandy. There is the case of Llanelly, where there was shooting, and innocent men were killed. It was nothing more than legalised murder in 707 view of the conditions obtaining at that time. When hon. Gentlemen opposite plead for a proper handling of strikes, and seem to think little of the methods of the present Government, again I say that under these methods there has not been an armed man on the streets, nor a policeman who has drawn his truncheon, and these strikes have been settled without the use of force in any way whatever.
Just one word or two about the question of special conditions for or getting together, a superior class of workmen to be engaged in key industries. As far as the tubes are concerned that is a key industry. Electricity is regarded as a key industry. But mining also is a key industry. If, therefore, you are proposing to put certain workmen into a superior position you have to consider one or two other things. Reference has been made here to-night that the people thus placed in control of key industries are not to do this, that, or the other. I represent a mining division. I have in my constituency men working at the pithead for 28s. and 30s. a week. I have skilled men working underground there, and when they have put in a whole week's work laborious, distasteful, dangerous work—their week's earnings will come to about £2 5s. What is the use of talking in such a case about good will? These men will never submit to what Gentlemen opposite wish to impose upon them. They should not, and I shall back them up in the struggle they are making. If it be said that industry can not pay, I reply: "What is that to them? "They see the picture newspapers. They can read them—can they not? Do they not see the newspapers that hon. Gentlemen publish? Do they not see pictures of Monte Carlo? Do they not know of the wealth that is spent week after week and month after month in this country of ours? Are they not told in the figures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and they can read it for themselves day by day—and when they, in spite of their poverty, are asked to suffer a further reduction of wages, does it seem an acceptable thing? They read day by day of the enormous masses of wealth left behind by certain individuals. You cannot have a man die and leave a fortune of £5,000,000, £4,000,000, or £3,000,000 as known to poverty-stricken 708 men, toiling night and day for a miserable pittance, and expect that you are going to have order in your society! You ought not to have order. You ought not to be allowed to have rest, or to have corn fort of soul when these things continue to exist. You talk about the proper way of dealing with disputes. You prate about goodwill. We desire these things, but some of us are here as the mouthpiece of the people who are inarticulate, and they have sent us here to say what we do. I hope that this struggle that is going on will go on until they receive the treatment that they deserve.
What a curious thing it is that in this key industry of mining a bucket of coal to-day is, metaphorically, worth a ton of coal 50 years ago! Coal is one of those valuable products which society handles and modern science deals with, and although this valuable product becomes more valuable day by day the men who get it cannot obtain a living. When you tell them that your industries do not pay, it leaves them cold. Your profits are nothing to them, and when you place your inability to make profits on one side of the scale and their inability to feed their families and obtain a decent living on the other side of the scale, it dips down in their favour every time. I hope the Committee will say what it really thinks about this matter. You can only get rid of the difficulty that troubles you by means of a fair and square deal with the working people, and only by this means will you be able to rid yourselves of the fear that will continually dog your footsteps.
Hon. Members opposite should try to understand far more than they do about the movement which sends us on to these benches instead of making trivial interjections and talking about capital versus labour. There is not a man on these benches who does not thoroughly understand what capitalism means. Outside these walls there are millions of men and women ready to tell you that when you say Socialist experiments have failed elsewhere it leaves them very cold indeed. The bulk of the people are not afraid of what Socialism may have in store for them, but they are afraid of the thing they know and of the thing which surrounds their life from day to day. I hope the vote to be taken to-night will 709 show that, as far as this House is concerned, it refuses to embark upon the holding of inquiries, the, necessity for which has not been shown, and the demand for which could be obviated at once if hon. Members opposite would put into operation a little bit of that good will which they are always asking other people to exercise.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Miss Bondfield)
The first point I wish to deal with is in connection with the catering trade, which was raised by the Noble Lord, the Member for Nottingham South (Lord H. Cavendish Bentinck). The history of this matter is exceedingly unsatisfactory. The first negotiations, with a view to establishing several trade boards, took place in 1920–21, and there seemed to be at that time, as regards light refreshment trade, an exceedingly good case for setting up a trade board. Then came the general slump with the general economy campaign, and the whole matter went into the melting pot once more. I want to appeal to a larger public upon this question. The present difficulty is, that although we have received requests from various bodies to take up the matter again, we have not got sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case for an inquiry. We know from specific instances here and there that this is one of the most sweated trades, but we cannot get the evidence, and the reason why we cannot get it is, I fear, largely, because the workers are afraid of stating the facts of the case. Consequently, we are in a very difficult position with regard to the next step. I would remind all those organisations interested in securing an inquiry that the first step they should take is to send us on specific cases, and I can promise that we shall, as soon as we can justify it, most certainly enter into an inquiry and follow it up with other steps.
With regard to ex-servicemen who are severely disabled, here again I may say that the matter raised by the Noble Lard (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) was very carefully considered with the King's Roll Committee when the present working arrangement was entered into. They did definitely discuss whether it would be better to give relief in the form of a capital grant or whether it would be better to come in with a larger deficiency 710 grant, and they came down in favour of the latter grant. There is no complaint about the way in which those grants are being administered. Consequently, I do not feel that it is possible to accept the suggestion that we should reconsider this question of a capital grant for initial outlay. On this subject I am afraid it is not possible to go much further.
I want to say a word or two in reply to the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Marylebone (Sir D. Hogg). I want to say in reply to the statement that the Minister was not definite, that I think the sense of the House may be taken to show that the Minister quite definitely and categorically stated that there was no connection between the Communist movement and the tube strike. That was a very specific statement to make, and it is hardly playing the game to say that the Minister did not reply specifically to that point. The subsequent remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, especially his references to the Minister himself, appeared to me to be rather Pickwickian, and reminded me of the old saying, "When you have no case, abuse the plaintiff." The greater part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech went to show that he needed an inquiry to examine the faith of right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, and his speech seemed to be very laboured and extremely unconvincing in support of the Resolution moved earlier in the evening. I will quote a question which was put to the Home Secretary on this subject—Sir W. DE FRECE asked the Home Secretary whether his Department has received any reports indicating that the recent and existing irresponsible labour troubles are connected with efforts to spread Communist and kindred doctrines; and whether he will make inquiries to see if this is the case?Mr. HENDERSON: The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. I do not think that it is necessary to supplement the sources of information already at my disposal by any special inquiry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1924; col. 2339. Vol. 174.]That statement clearly laid it down that in the opinion of the Home Secretary there was no case for a special inquiry.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
And the information in his possession was merely to the 711 effect that efforts were being made to spread Communist and kindred doctrines. No one denies that.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
Not at all. The two things are not necessarily connected at all. There is not a word about strikes, either in the question or in the answer. The term that is used is "Labour unrest," and I suggest that that term may be quite properly defined by this article in the "Morning Post," by Professor Hearnshaw, in which he considers the real grievances which underlie the restlessness of the workers. Tie goes on, in several paragraphs, to explain this unrest that exists throughout the whole industrial world, and, amongst other things, he gives four heads which he regards as the fundamental reasons for this unrest. The first is "insecurity," in regard to which he says:The wage-earner, living and supporting his family on a weekly income, liable to dismissal at short notice, and subject to fluctuations of trade over which he has no control, is haunted by a constant sense of insecurity which prevents him from enjoying life or from realising in tranquillity any of its higher possibilities;and so on. The next head is "inadequate remuneration," and the third is "inhuman conditions." This writer in the "Morning Post" goes further than I would venture to go in claiming freedom for the worker in 20th century conditions. He says:Man is by nature an outdoor animal. He needs the fresh air, the sunshine, and, above all, the occasional solitude of the country and the sea.That is compulsory holidays, I suppose. He goes on:'Life in crowded factories, thickly peopled streets, bloated towns, is eminently unnatural and unhealthy. It breeds a vague discomfort, a gnawing discontent, a sense that the constitution of things is wrong. A man cannot avoid quarrelling with people from whom he can never get away.He goes on to say that a condition of affairs like that is a very prolific soil for any sort of doctrines of a disruptive nature that may come along. That is precisely what we say from these benches; we do not attribute it to the imaginary danger of Communist propaganda. The fourth item is "insufficient control." 712 The writer points out that man in his normal and more primitive conditions was accustomed to a varied kind of life, with spells of hard work alternating with spells of idleness, with a general sense of being able to do what he liked in his own time. From that period he has passed to a period where his ancestral country-existence has disappeared—Efficiency requires punctuality, regularity, steady unremitting labour, strict regimentation, prompt obedience, coordination of effort, subordination of personal initiative to central control. Hence once more a revolt of the 'hand' against his loss of freedom, and it natural desire to recover control of his own activities.I would suggest to hon. Members that, instead of pretending to be alarmed—because, frankly, the tone of the discussion to-day has given me a sense of complete unreality in regard to any real feeling on the part of hon. Members opposite that this Communist propaganda is really dangerous—instead of dealing with unreal dangers of that kind, they would do well to tackle the real dangers of insecurity and of lack, on the part of the workers, of any power of control over their own lives. It is such real dangers to which His Majesty's Government desire to do something to put an end. The whole tone of the remedies suggested by speeches from the other side is, roughly speaking, summed up in Lord Askwith's Bill. What does it mean in effect? It means that you are coming down on the side of coercion, of conscription of labour, of the denial of freedom on the part of any workman to withhold his labour. Are you going to go a step further, and deny the employer the right to dispense with any labour—because that is the natural corollary? I would like to know what employers are going to say to you if you try that game on. It is absolutely impossible, in the social development of this country, to go back to the idea of such coercion, either amongst workers or amongst employers.
I am quite satisfied that this Government, at any rate, have an advantage which many Members en the opposite benches do not share. They have the advantage of a knowledge of the psychology of employers and employed, through years of negotiating experience, through years of work in industry in day-to-day contact with the development, not merely material but sociological, which Las been going on. That puts them in an 713 exceptionally favourable position to deal with industrial disputes. It puts them in the position of being able to go straight to the root of the trouble, because they know where to look for it. I venture to assert that the experience in regard to dealing with these disputes in the five months during which the Government has been in office has proved that right up to the hilt. I ask the Committee to let us have the Vote now. This discussion, as far as I can see, has gone on long enough to explode whatever may have been regarded as the basis of the Amendment moved from the Front Opposition Bench, and I hope we may come to a decision now without further delay.
§ Sir GERALD HOHLER
I desire to address this Committee on this matter and to expose what has been going on. There was a bargain made through the usual channels that this Vote was to be taken at 8 o'clock or a little earlier. Then the Labour Members rose in their numbers and continued the Debate, and, as I have sat here, I have seen notes passed up to the hon. Lady who has just spoken, to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, and to the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead) to cease his speech.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
There has been a most grievous breach of faith. I am entitled to say these things, and it cannot be denied. Hon. Members have been guilty of such a thing as that, and that is what is called honourable treatment.
§ Mr. B. SMITH
On a point of Order. Is the discussion to continue on the Ministry of Labour Vote, or are we to listen to a diatribe about matters that have been passing from one bench to another? I submit that the whole matter is entirely irrelevant to the subject under discussion, and I ask you, Sir, for a ruling. I understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman is protesting about a breach of faith on account of the Debate being carried on beyond 8 o'clock, because of another matter that is arising.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Sir Croydon Marks)
That did not reach me. If it had, it would have been distinctly out of order.
§ Mr. TURNER-SAMUELS
Is there any point in a speaker referring to the passage from the Front Bench to the benches behind of a note the contents of which he does not know, and to which he is merely applying an imputation?
Sir G. HOMER
I thought I should bring sonic of them to their feet. It has served my purpose, and I challenge them to get up and deny it. Now I am going to turn even more closely, though that was close enough, to the Debate. All we ask is to reduce the right hon. Gentleman's salary by a matter of £100. We know he will not be any the worse off and we know that if we do reduce it by £100 you will not treat it as a vote of confidence and you will still go on. I wonder, in these circumstances, why the Minister of Labour in such boisterous and hectoring tones described someone else as a stuffed owl? I want to know why he did not address himself a little more to this question of why we are not allowed to have this Committee of Inquiry. His case is that there is no ground for it, and there is no Communism. I have no doubt he says it in perfect good faith. How easy to grant the inquiry. I would not say anything offensive to the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not think he is possessed of all the wisdom in the world on this matter. That being the position, this Debate has been full of interest. The real inner reason why he would not grant the inquiry is to be found among his supporters behind him. They were all kept quiet for a bit, but by degrees their feelings emerged. The truth is, in my view, that there are any number of hon. Members on that side of the House who hold Communistic views. I should like to ask the hon. Member for Merthyr whether he is the R. C. Wallhead who is referred to in a publication of the Independent Labour party of 20th March? I should like to know whether he is the gentleman who had the celebrated conversation with Lenin, and when one of his companions asked him what he could do to help Russia, according to the hon. Member he replied:Go home and have a revolution,To which the hon. Member answered,I think we have done enough to help you already by the strikes we have promoted and encouraged.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I should like to correct the hon. and learned Gentleman. I do not think I said to Lenin that we would help strikes and lock-outs, because at that time there were no strikes going on at all.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
My memory is very clear. I have carried that book about. Unfortunately I have not got it to-day. This was in interview in 1919. The hon. Member was referring to those anxious stages of the War through which we had gone. He said:I think we have already done great things to help you by the strikes and the industrial disorder we have encouraged,or words to that effect.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Really, I must correct the hon. and learned Gentleman again. As a matter of fact, at that time I was exceedingly opposed to British intervention in Russia and I did what I could to oppose it. I would have brought men out on strike if I could, but I am not connected with the industrial movement and never was. We were not supposed to be at war with Russia, yet we were shedding British blood in Russia.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
Of course I will accept any statement that an hon. Member of this House makes. All I have to say is that the statement is to be found in print in the report of a conference of the Independent Labour Party, held at Southport, in March, 1920, and I will lend a copy to the right hon. Gentleman. Of course, when you become a Minister of the Crown your memory fades. Mine would fade, too.
§ Dr. HADEN GUEST
I happen to have been in Russia as secretary to that delegation, and I was present at the interview and was taking notes. The hon. and learned Gentleman may like to refer to an article of mine on the subject. Nothing of the kind he is now stating was said about the support of strikes.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
I will take an opportunity of acquainting these gentlemen of that which appears in print, circulated by the Independent Labour Party and purporting to be a report signed by the hon. Member for Merthyr. Now we have it that the Minister of Labour was there too. We know what the history of this party is. What did the Home Secretary say the other night He was repudiating his responsibilities. He said they were irresponsible utterances. We should really examine what this point and for the purpose of examining it it is very desirable to expose a little of their past—their political past. It never suggested itself to my mind when I rose that the right hon. Gentleman would so easily tumble into my net. It is wonderful what admissions you get as you go along. The right hon. Gentleman gets up and makes a speech and denies there is any foundation for it. At a time when we need to rehabilitate this country and when a great exhibition is in operation, and London is full of visitors in connection with that exhibition, we know that a lightning strike took place. By this lightning strike these men sought to take advantage of the situation, and they hoped to have everybody at their knees. They tried to get various branches of workers out, and sought to close down the power stations. Under these unparalleled and unexampled circumstances we are refused this inquiry. I am inclined to the opinion that the reason why the Minister of Labour has refused this inquiry is the tone of the speeches from the benches behind him. I refer particularly to the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr. He would encourage strikes and other things that would destroy our existing system. That is what we say communism wishes to do, and they do not mind how violently it is brought about. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), speaking to his supporters, said he deplored that they did not rise. He said:If one of you will only break the window of the Labour Exchange, I should rejoice. We should be marching on.Hon. Members opposite may disguise facts as much as they possibly can, but the statements and the quarrels of Members of their party get noised abroad, and we realise what they are about.
717 We say that this strike was Communistic. The Minister of Labour tells us that he had certain conversations but that he could not give us information with regard to them. He could not tell us with whom those conversations took place. Did he talk with the Communists on the subject? We hear a great deal from hon. Members opposite against capital, and the sufferings of labour. There is suffering in this world, and we all regret it, but the suffering will be worse under Socialism than anything the world has ever seen. We are told about the miners and their sufferings. We are always told that the fault lies with the capitalists. We are told that a man who employs his brains and his ability to such an extent that he, is able to find employment for others is really an incompetent man, and we are told that the whole of our present system is wrong.
If hon. Members opposite are so anxious about the sufferings of people and about redressing grievances, why did not the Parliamentary Secretary respond to the appeal of the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck). The Noble Lord raised a very important point as to the sweating conditions under which waiters and waitresses work. The Parliamentary Secretary did not say that she would do anything definite to improve their lot. She said. "We have not enough evidence before us yet." The Noble Lord offered to give her the information privately. When we on this side try to ameliorate the conditions of the people we are met with a point-blank refusal. The Noble Lord also introduced the question as to the unfortunate ex-soldiers who are so broken clown that they are incapable of work. Did his appeal find a response from the party opposite? Suppose we did make a grant of money for these men and suppose we did run an industry at a loss for their benefit, did not this House the other day vote £77,000 a year for travelling expenses for Members of Parliament? Could not we do something for these poor men, who are so injured that they are practically past work in their industry? If the Government will introduce a Vote for that purpose we shall not object to it.
I would press for this Committee of Inquiry. It would give great confidence to the public, which is greatly concerned 718 about these things. They want to know what were the grievances in this strike, and how it was promoted. We were given the names of two men who were said to have brought out the other men. I do not believe that they came out without money behind them. Who provided it? We want a Committee of Inquiry to find out where the truth is. People go home at night, and find that they cannot get back to work the following morning because in the interval there has been a strike. Everybody is disorganised, and the damage clone oh very great. These men who went on strike did not cooperate with their own union, and it was believed that, acting in this Communist manner, they could break down the Underground organisation of London, but they failed. We ought to have an inquiry, and I press strongly for it.
§ Mr. KEDWARD
I think it desirable that some reply should be made to the most inflammatory speech which was delivered by the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead). It was a direct incitement to violence. Whether the hon. Member meant- that I do not know, but it is the effect of his speech. It, came rather strangely from a member of the Independent Labour party, who are always preaching the gospel of brotherhood, but the hon. Member has preached the gospel of brotherhood in language of hatred, envy, spite, malice and uncharitableness. I was wondering whether he was making that frantic appeal to his own constituents when he was talking about the flaunting of wealth. There is some measure of truth in it. But when the hon. Member deals with that point he should bear in mind that there is at present a Labour Government in office, and I wonder what the poor men NV h o are getting £2 a week, and fighting ha-rd for it, thought when hon. Members above the Gangway voted to increase the salary of the Lord Privy Seal from £2,500 to £5,000 a year. [Interruption.] If you are going to deal with this question with the langauge of class hatred, then you must apply your principle all round.
There is no use in challenging men who happen to belong to the capitalist class and possess wealth, and at the same time vote wealth to men who are leaders of the Labour movement in this country. If you really believe the things you say in this House you should set an example. [HON. 719 MEMBERS: "What about yourself?"] I am dealing with arguments that are put forward here, and supposed to be listened to, and I am drawing attention to the inconsistency between the fine flamboyant speeches made from the benches above the, Gangway and the action of hon. Members on the front Government Bench. I shall believe more solemnly in this better distribution of wealth when some of the hon. Members make a beginning, and when we have a gesture of a very real sort. I cannot leave this inflammatory speech without making my protest. These men again and again condemn cupidity in the rich, and appeal to precisely the same feelings in the poor. That kind of thing will not advance the Labour movement or any movement. It only means that you take one lot down from the top and put up another lot animated with the same desire. I want to refer to the elaborate promises that were made to broken and disappointed men during the last General Election. [HON. MEMBERS "What about the Liberals?"] I am dealing with the promises made by the Labour party to thousands of these men who are out of work. These promises looked very attractive, and these men find to-day that they have got the things for which they sold themselves in the same way as that in which the mouse gets the cheese—in the trap. You find that you cannot realise any of these beautiful dreams, these promises which lie like a kind of a halo around the head of impotence. I was talking to-day to some ex-service men who, at any rate, were attracted by the promises of what the Labour Government would do. They put their names down for training under the scheme of the Ministry, and they selected training for the building industry, only to wait and wait and get no scheme for training, and now they are told that it is too late to be trained, and they say—
§ Mr. HUDSON
On a point of Order. Is it in order on this Motion, which deals with the Vote for the salary of the Minister of Labour, to raise the question of the training of ex-service men?
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member is going rather wide of the subject, and perhaps he could keep a little closer.
§ Sir S. HOARE
The reduction which has been moved refers to the salary of the Minister of Labour, and it is perfectly open to hon. Members to raise any question whatever on matters which come within the administration of the Minister of Labour, including the training of ex-service men.
§ Mr. B. SMITH
I understand that the Debate has followed a certain specific line, and has dealt with something which is called Communism. Is it not out of order for the hon. Member to travel wide of that subject?
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
I find that this Vote involves matters connected with the training of demobilised officers, and therefore I think the hon. Member is in order.
§ Mr. KEDWARD
I had to tell these ex-service men that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour stood at that Box and said it was a very unfortunate thing, but as far as ex-service men were concerned, their muscles were set, and it was almost impossible to train them for the building industry. When I told these two young fellows that because their muscles were set they could not be trained and that that was the view of the Labour Government, they looked at me in blank astonishment. [Interruption.] I would like to ask whether it is in order for any hon. Member to say I am not speaking the truth?
§ Mr. KEDWARD
I went to the front with boys who were 17. These men were from 22 to 27 years of age and they are told that they cannot be trained. They gave the years of their life, when they might have been trained and might have been apprenticed to a trade, to defending this country. Some of them were broken in defending it and now you say that nothing can be done for them. There was a saying once. "Too old at 40." Now they are too old at 25 to be trained in the building industry. It should go out to all the ex-service men of this country that men are treated like this. Their muscles were not set when it was a question of carrying a rifle, and it is adding insult to injury for a prominent Minister of the Crown to stand 721 at that Box and tell the thousands of men who were broken in that conflict and who lost the opportunity of appreticeship, that they cannot be trained now. I think it was a very grave statement to make. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard it, but I looked up the OFFICIAL REPORT next day and found that was really the excuse offered why a vast number of ex-service men could not be brought into the building industry in order to build houses and relieve the people who are sweltering in the slums of this country.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
May I ask what has happened to the ex-service men who were trained, by the Government as bricklayers and in other branches of the building trade during 1920? Are not every one of them on the streets to-day? [HON. MEMBERS: "Ask the unions!" and "Ask the employers!"]
§ Mr. KEDWARD
The hon. Member says every one of these men is on the streets. I was speaking to an employer to-day who has a man trained under that scheme, and I will give the hon. Member the name of the employer if he desires. This man knew nothing about the trade before his training, and now that -employer tells me he is the leading hand and the best bricklayer in his employment. That is what has happened to one of them and that is, what would happen to scores more of them, but the Labour party are afraid to take the necessary steps. They encourage trusts on the one hand and close corporations on the other, and in the meantime the people who suffer most are the un-employed and- the people who have been looking in vain for houses.
§ Mr. BECKER
This is a question which should be discussed, and there is ample time at our disposal in which to discuss it, and I decline to be rushed in what I am going to say. I have not had the pleasure of listening to the whole of this Debate, but I heard the Minister's statement, and I was greatly moved by the pathetic way in which he appealed to the Committee not to reduce his salary by £100. His chief theme was that this Government in five months of office had proved a better Government than any other 722 Government for the last 10 years. I do not know why he confined himself to 10 years; he might as well have said 100 years or for that matter 1,000 years, the fact being that the Government have done absolutely nothing.
§ Mr. BECKER
Yes, the work at the Wash is their one monument so far, and I hope they will find some of the jewels which one of the kings lost there. The question has been raised in this Debate as to why the Minister will not institute an inquiry into the recent disastrous strike. We are told that these strikes are inevitable, and that three strikes a year should not be regarded as an overdose. We have only had two up to now as far as transport services are concerned. It is perfectly true that the people of the country, the ordinary citizens, should receive a certain amount of consideration, but hon. Members on the other side seem to take the view that the workers are entitled to more consideration than the general public. The last strike was waged by several different and contending parties, and undoubtedly there was a Communist element among them. I do not say that trade unions are Communistic in their attitude or methods, but there is a strong Communist movement within the unions, and some distinguished Members on the other side have said so, and it has been said that the movement even threatens the security of the unions. We were told during the strike that it was a strike against the unions, that the unions did not want it, but that men who were a menace to the security of trade unionism were bringing out the workers. I think the Communist has a certain amount of reason on his side when he seeks to attack the trade unions. I do not think the Labour party can go to the country and say, "Look at this perfectly good union, which is not calling a strike, and look at these horrible men who are trying to break the union. You must stand behind us, strengthen the unions, and help us to support them." I rather sympathise with the Communist in this matter. I do not sympathise with his views, but, I ask, why should union leaders who, once they are elected, seem to hold their positions for life, be the only people who can call a strike?
§ Mr. KIRKW00D
The hon. Member knows perfectly well that what he is stating is not true, and that the trade union leaders cannot call a strike.
§ Mr. BECKER
I am sorry I could not understand what the hon. Gentleman said, so I cannot reply to him. But I see no reason why anyone should not call a strike if he has the power to do it. If I were a workman—[Interruption]—I suppose the hon. Members opposite probably have not seen one for a long time—if I were a working man, and worked in a section of the shop which was vital to the factory, if I had power among 10, 20 or 30 men, and said, "Look here, we are going to have certain conditions and better wages. Stand by me: we are going to strike." Why am I not entitled to do so as well as some of the big, pompous individuals, who come down to address the men? That is what is happening. That is the tendency. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The tendency at the moment among Communists is to show the men that some of the trade union leaders who call them selves Socialists do not know anything about it. Now I am coming to the point. The reason I advance why the Minister will not make an inquiry into this matter is because it would disrupt the Government. There are two distinct parties on the Front Bench. You have the real Socialist, who is respected and admired, and the trade unionist. What is going to be the effect of the inquiry? One side of the party, the Socialist side, if they were real Socialists, would not tolerate strikes. Then what would the inquiry do? It would set up a distinct breach in this Parliamentary party. The Socialist and trade unionist interests are two different things: that is why I submit hon. Members opposite do not want an inquiry.
I think hon. Members will agree there are two distinct trains of thought in the Labour party. I quite understand the outlook of the Socialists, and that it is quite a logical thing to be a Socialist. But I do not see how you can have a party one thing and have the vested interests another. You cannot have an inquiry with vested interests, people who are absolutely dictators, in a way. They cling on to their jobs. On the other side, you have theorists who spend their lives in quite humble living and great thought.
724 I do not see how this Government will ever have an inquiry into strikes for similar reasons. I feel certain that, unless the attitude of the Government is going to be a proper Socialistic attitude, instead of a half-and-half three-legged-sort-of-a-dog attitude, we shall have no chance of getting this inquiry, or an opportunity of really finding out and getting at the bottom of this perpetual unrest, and perpetual strikes, and perpetual hold-ups of the people. It is not done for better money, better conditions, but to replace one leader with another, or to superimpose one influence on another. That is what is going on, and unless there is some inquiry so that a finger can be put on the spot, these strikes, one after another, will go on until in the end they will disrupt the delicate organisation with which we built up our trade, that is, our transport.
Transport is the life blood of this country. It should never be allowed to stop. It does not matter who goes in to stop the transport. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not increase wages, if that is so?"] I am coming to that. I do not see how gentlemen earning something like £3,000 a year can go to these men and say they are earning a starvation wage. The man who can talk about it is the man who is living on it. I myself am only too anxious to see people have good wages. It is disgraceful for a man to be kept on the starvation line all the time and without any other prospect. This country is developing into an old man's country. The young man has very little opportunity. I appreciate this point, and I should like the younger man to have more chance. But how is lie going to do it when he has this octopus on his back and he is told that the minimum wage is so much and the maximum wage so much. How can a country like Great Britain, with 45,000,000 people in. an extraordinary small area, survive without adequate means of transport? I quite agree that the men must be paid a decent wage, but how are the employers going to pay it if there are continual strikes which make them lose money? How can they pay more wages. There should be proper negotiations through the proper channels. There are channels through which agreements are made and they should be stuck to. It is not fair that the agreements should not be stuck to because the men who make them have not 725 the power to make the men stick to them. As they go on they will lose their power more and more until they will lose it altogether and this disorganisation, which is so obvious to any onlooker, will get to such a pitch that you will render the whole country prostrate. We shall then have to get a Conservative Minister to rescue the country from the mess into which it has fallen. We shall have someone to go in and make an inquiry in a proper businessike way.
What the right hon. Gentleman is saying is, "I am the finest Minister in the finest Government that has been produced for 10 years, because I am doing nothing. Therefore do not reduce my salary by the £100." As he is doing nothing, he might as well do it on less money. The time will come when this question will have to be look at from a national, sensible point of view, not from the narrow, vested interest point of view of the trade unionists, with people in high office drawing large money and having big motor cars to go to see the men on strike. The time is coming when that has got to stop. You are taking the contributions from the workers, but for what? You are doing exactly the same thing as is said in the arguments put up against the idle rich. Something has got to be done in the very near future, for I am informed that Communism is making vast strides in trade unionism. I am not very anxious to see these people too strong. I want to stop the rot setting in, because until something more convenient can be substituted for trades unions, we want to keep them in being until they can be finally smashed, but we do not want them smashed until there is some better scheme to take their place.
I suggest such a scheme will be found in proper craft unions, possibly, on Russian lines, but without any vestige of these everlasting class politics in them. I do not want to see unions specially set up for political purposes. Neither do we want to see these flimsy structures replaced by Communists. I ask the Minister, for his own sake, to institute an inquiry into the operations of those Communists. They are a grave menace and a growing danger to this country. Some of them get money from abroad in order to try and disrupt authority, and they start by trying to disrupt the 726 weakest authority, which is the political trade union, and, after that, they will try to wreck the whole country. If the Minister wishes to keep his full salary, let him change his mind and order this impartial inquiry. I look on this as a very serious matter. I regard Communism as a sign of rot and cancer in the body politic of this country. Hon. Members opposite should themselves have the courage to support such an inquiry as I am asking for, so that they may squash this bad thing under heel. Let the right hon. Gentleman give way for once. I have never known him give way before, but I think he is a man of honour, and, seeing that the whole safety of the country is at stake, as well as the safety of trade unionism, on which he and his supporters are dependent, let him order an inquiry into this Communist agitation.
§ Viscount CURZON
As one who at the last election and the election before was faced by Communists, and as one who represents one of the four Red boroughs left in London, I am glad to have an opportunity of intervening in this Debate. My constituency is one of those which are called "dormitory "constituencies. A great many of the people resident in it work on the other side of the river or "up West," as they call it. They have seen on no fewer than three occasions this year their means of getting to their work impeded by people who have declared more or less unauthorised strikes, and have endeavoured to hold up the transport system of London. This is done with a great object; it is part of a great scheme. I should like the House to realise that these lightning unauthorised strikes are not really spasmodic evidence of dissatisfaction with wages or conditions of labour. If they were the grievances would be represented through the ordinary recognised trade union channels. But these strikes are really part of a great scheme which is aimed at what I may call the vital industries of this country. The promoters of the strikes believe that if they can hold up industries vital to the well-being and welfare of the public they will add to the general sum of misery and discontent.
Most hon. Members opposite, as well as the Government, are members of the Socialist party. Socialism is a creed of 727 despair. It is founded on the misery and discontent of the people. The more misery and the more discontent you find amongst the people generally the more support you will get for the Socialist party and for the more extreme Radical party. I live sufficiently close to my opponents in South Battersea to know what they are after. I refer, of course, to my Red opponents in Battersea, who get their support mainly from Ireland, but who have other resources which they prefer to keep as far as possible in the dark. They have sources of income of which I well know. Hon. Members opposite may think this is a chimera on my part; it is an actual fact. When I find people going about in South Battersea, or just across the border in North Battersea, people who are not in affluent circumstances, when I see them going into public-houses, when they are known to be in possession of large sums of money, it becomes a significant fact, and it should give hon. Members opposite some idea of the power there is behind this Communist movement. I believe hon. Members opposite, who speak honestly, will not venture to deny that there is a definite plot against this country. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) laughs. He has disclaimed, I know, any association with the Communist party. But there are some of us here who doubt his disclaimer. He represents, as I do, one of the few Red Boroughs in London and we know perfectly well that he is in close association with even if he does not belong to the Communist party. We know, too, that whenever any question comes up which touches the Communist party or their interests, he will be on his feet to defend them. I judge people as I find them, and I judge Communists very largely by their friends. I know if I attack any interest with which the Communist party is associated I shall find the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley jumping up and either speaking or interrupting me. I anticipate that, and he should not hesitate to interrupt me.
§ Viscount CURZON
I will invite the hon. Member in his own interest to be a little careful. Some of us on this side 728 make a very careful study of him, not only here but outside the House too, and we know that if he does not actually belong to the Communist party, there is nothing that happens ill the trade union world, in the Socialist world, or in the Communist world in the East End of London that he does not know every single thing about. He might not be associated, but he knows all about it, and I say that the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley is quite one of the most dangerous people in this country.
§ Viscount CURZON
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burgh (Mr. Kirkwood) interrupts me. He owes his seat here to the activities of the Red Irish in Glasgow, and of course he interrupts me. To return to my point, here is a definite plot aimed at the life of the great community of London. If the Communists get their way, they will hold up transport and all the essential services London. I have met members of the Communist party as have most Members of this House, and they have been quite open and frank. In fact, I respect those members of the Communist party whom I have met, for their extreme frankness. They are definitely aiming at the destruction of what we would call the Kerenskvs of Labour, what they call the "duds" of the Labour party, and the "duds" of the Labour party comprise most of the people who sit on the Front Government Bench. I put a question yesterday in this House to the Prime Minister, asking whether the Government had definite information with regard to the Communist party. The Colonial Secretary ha: told us on a previous occasion, when there was a great suit in which he was engaged, that he had definite evidence with regard to Communist activities in this country, and the expenditure of money. I do not know whether he has intervened, or whether he intends to intervene, in this Debate, but I cannot imagine a more suitable occasion for his intervention and for him to tell us definitely what grounds he had for making that statement. I know he had grounds, and I cannot imagine a better platform for him to choose than the present occasion. I am perfectly convinced of this, that the Communist party comprise some of the most able and virile elements amongst the supporters of hon. Members opposite. They 729 support them, not because they like them, most of them, but because they think it is a very good way of getting power into their hauls. The public in this case have a right to be considered. It is not a question of employer or employed, of fair wages or of unfair wages, of hours or anything of that sort. The public of London, as I know them, only want just one thing, and that is that labour should get a fair remuneration for its services. They would like to sec general agreement reached. The average member of the public is not in the least concerned with our, so to speak, very petty squabbles in this House.
All that the general public wish to see is a fair arrangement, fair to the worker and employer alike. They want to see that labour is contented and getting its proper remuneration, but they do resent, and will resent at the succeeding election, when one may come, as I hope it will at a not far distant date., the fact that the Government Front Bench, who have the knowledge, as they have admitted—as the right hon. Member for Derby and the Home Secretary have admitted—who know all these things, and apparently, so far as the general public are concerned, they do not lift one little finger to protect or to help them. The public are absolutely helpless in this matter. If the Government continue in their policy of inaction, if Members behind them continue to support them in this, I can tell them that at the last Election and at the Election before I came across many supporters of hon. Members opposite, and if there was one thing that impressed me it was this, that they smelt castor oil round every corner. We have heard a lot about the initials "B.F." Those initials stand for British Fascisti, and if hon. Members want a Fascisti movement to succeed in this country, they cannot do better than submit to the policy advocated from the Front Bench to-day, namely, Do nothing. If the Front Bench continues not to lift hand or foot to protect the public in this country, the public, and the British public of all publics, will not be slow to take measures to protect itself.
§ Viscount CURZON
If a Fascisti movement comes into being in this country, you will have it on your slop-chits, as we say in the Navy. It will be 730 the inaction of the Government that may bring it into being. I do not want to see a Fascisti movement here. I do not believe it is necessary, but personally I would join it if I were convinced that the Government did not mean to deal with this situation as they ought to deal with it.
The public have a right to be protected, and will insist on being protected. I will go to my constituency, and I will be able to hold successful meetings there on that one point alone, if on no other, as a Tory member opposed to Socialism. I would invite the Government not hastily to turn down the plea which has been put forward from the Front Opposition Bench. You look at it from a party point of view. You are thinking all the time from a party point of view. May I urge, may I even plead, with hon. Members opposite, to take the reasonable and common-sense view? Let the country know the facts. If they do, the country will judge fairly. I say this, that no strike has the slightest chance of succeeding unless it has the public behind it. Let us know the facts. If labour in London, if railway workers or any other transport workers in London, are badly paid, if they work hours that are too long, let the public have a chance to decide for itself what the right solution should be, but, at any rate, let us have a fair and impartial inquiry, which will let us know exactly where we are, instead of wild statements from the Government. Bench, some saying that they know all about these funds and these secret organisations, and others, like the right hon. Gentleman whose Vote is under discussion, pooh-poohing the whole thing. He knows better than anybody that he is on very thin ice when he does it. He knows better than anyone else on the Government Bench, probably, where these funds come from, what is the organisation behind them, and what their objects are, and I invite hire, in his own interest, to take a long view, because his future is as involved in it as mine is, perhaps, not to turn down hastily the plea which has been brought forward, and to grant the public of London the inquiry for which they have asked. At any rate, let there be action and a promise of action, which they have a right to expect from the Government.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount 731 Curzon) has on several occasions in this House—and I do not complain—made attacks on me in connection with the Communist party, and I should like to state exactly where I stand in this matter. It happens that I am a person who believes in communal ownership of the means of life, to be used by the people for the service of the people, and to that extent I am a Communist. I have never joined the Communist party for two simple reasons. I do not believe in the dictatorship of the proletariat, or the dictatorship of monopolies, or the dictatorship of anyone. I believe in democracy, pure and simple. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) always rebukes us when we interrupt her, and r would be very much obliged if she would hold her tongue just for a minute. I said that I believed in communal ownership, and that I believe in democracy. The Communist party believe that you can only secure Socialism or Communism by violent methods. I dissent from that entirely, and I have given hostages to that point of view at three Elections when jingoism has been rife, and I have gone down.
I have never complained about going down. I stood for what I believe, and I was beaten, but no man—not even the Noble Lord—has a right to charge me with insincerity, and not standing for what I believe. At any rate, the Noble Lord said he was watching me very carefully. I simply say that my record in public life is as clear as his is, and over and over again I have fought elections, and have gone down, on matters of principle. I have done what I wanted to do, and I do not complain. When a man does that, he has no right to complain if people do not agree with him, or if he is beaten in the fight. I have never given it up, and the reason I speak here now is to declare my faith that neither the violence of Communists nor the violence of Imperialists will ever make the world one scrap better than it is. Then the Noble Lord said that in the East End of London I knew everything that was going on, and he inferred that that is a place where the Communist party are strong. It happens that there is not a single Communist branch in Bow and Bromley or Poplar. The Noble Lord said he knows, and has been watching.
732 He has been watching to such an extent that he does not know there is not a single Communist branch in the two constituencies that make up the Borough of Poplar.
§ Viscount CURZON
May I ask the hon. Gentleman one question? Would he deny that the majority on the Poplar Borough Council are Communists?
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Certainly I deny it. Entirely I deny it, and the Noble Lord is talking sheer, undiluted nonsense, and showing complete ignorance when he says that. The Noble Lord has posed as an authority, as one who knows, and yet he knows nothing about the very simplest elementary truth. That shows the value of the sort of speech to which we have just listened. Further, if the Noble Lord knows anything, he must know perfectly well that the men who organised the late strike wrote to the newspapers, and deliberately repudiated any association with the Communist party. They are not members of the Communist party; they are simply members of the National Union of Railwaymen. He makes statements about Poplar, and he knows nothing about it. He knows nothing about the genesis of the late strike, or he would know that that strike was stared, whatever happened afterwards, out of the fact that for months and years men were suffering under grievances that were not being redressed at all, and their patience was exhausted. The appeal to-night is for an inquiry. As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. Becker), when we asked him why this investigation was not set on foot during the late Government's term of office, or that of the Government before, he did not give us an answer. The real reason is that every Home Secretary knows just as well as I know that the Communist party, from the point of view of violent revolution, is absolutely and completely inept. It could not bring off a revolution even in Richmond.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Richmond does not really count. The fact is that all this talk of a red peril is sheer, undiluted nonsense. There is no red peril. The British workman, as the Committee were told to-night, in language which, if hon. Members can only understand it, gave the clear truth about this. If this House does its job properly in regard to social and 733 industrial affairs, there is no possibility of red peril, or red revolution or anything of the kind. It is true what the Committee were told, that this place is on its trial, and I would like to say this to hon. and right hon. Members. We are here occupying the places that men have occupied for centuries, of men who legislated on entirely different questions, and in an entirely different manner from that which is needed to-day. You could not possibly give votes to all the millions of men and women to whom you have given them to-day, you could not educate the people as you are educating them to-day, without this House being called upon to make great changes in the social conditions of the people. It is useless to think that things can remain as they are.
I will tell you what helped to make me a Socialist. I formerly belonged, in my unregenerate days, to the Liberal party, and I was as enthusiastic then as I hope I am now, and I went canvassing night after night during the period when you had to put people on the register. I went to a door in one of the worst streets in Bromley-by-Bow. I knocked at it, and a woman dressed in a sack came to that door. This was 35 years ago, and the street is just as foul now as it was then. That woman came to the door in a sack in which were holes cut out for her arms to go through, and a hole for her head to go through. She asked me what I wanted. I said, "I want to speak to your husband." She said, "He is not in. What do you want with him?" I said, "I want to know if he is on the register. I want to get him his vote." She swore, and said, "What is the good of the vote to me?" I went home and thought about that, and now I say to you, What is the good of a vote to the poor of this country, if it is not going to be used to alter the conditions of life? Landlords have occupied these benches, and have legislated for their class. Capitalists have occupied them, and they have used their powers to make laws to enable commerce to go free.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
What you have to face now is that the common people who have got the vote are clamouring at the door for you to deal with the problems of life that come home to them every day. 734 If you fail, then the Communists must have their chance. If we are not able to deal with the social problem, then the Communists will have their way with the ordinary people, and they deserve to have their way, and we shall deserve anything that happens to us. I would like to join with my colleague who made a speech earlier in the night. I am sure that everyone who listened to it must have felt in their hearts that he was speaking truth. I would like to appeal to the Committee as to whether it is not time that we gave up this talk about a small handful of men, a small group of men, many of whom I am proud to think of as friends. After all, I am not ashamed to say you are my friends. Why should I not? These men believe in the thing for which they are fighting. They are only a handful. Instead of trying to hound them out of public life, try to understand them, and try also to understand just this, that we are dominated by party policy.
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Masterman) Member for one of the divisions of Manchester is continually appealing to us to put housing and unemployment out of the region of party. Why should we not settle down to these questions and argue them out without party bias? We are not prepared to do this because we know our reasoning and our facts will compel you to vote with us and do the things we want done. We are not afraid of a Round Table sort of business to deal with social problems. The last thing I want to say is that you are not the people to complain when other people take up arms. You are not the people to cry shame on those who arm and those who believe in violence and destruction. I sat in this House when Lord Carson, Mr. F. E. Smith, and other men advocated violent, bloody revolution, and organised for it. I tell you hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, you are the people who first started this business of reliance on force; you are the people who told the nation that you had a right to arm when this House was going to pass a law of which you disapproved. What these people do, what the Communists have done, is simply child's play to what you actually did. You raised and drilled an army and broke your oaths. Your Privy Council oaths, the oath you took at the Table. You did it all.
735 What for? Not to lift people up; not to lift the load of care from women and children. You know perfectly well that you did it merely because you were opposed to political change. You taught the British people. The late Lord Roberts taught the soldiers, when their conscience told them not to do a certain thing, they had the right to say they would not do it. You told the British people that when a law was passed they disagreed with, they would have an armed rebellion against it. You are reaping what you have sown, but 01.1r people are too intelligent. The ordinary—
§ Sir H. CROFT
On a point of Order. Are hon. Members on this side of the Committee to be permitted to go into this question? I ask your ruling, Sir, whether we are entitled to introduce a large discussion on questions which arose many years ago.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Entwistle)
The discussion has been pretty wide, but at the same time I think the hon. Member was coming to his peroration.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I have heard so many stupid statements made that, although I did not intend to make a speech, I could not sit still any longer, and we have roamed from Paris to Peru. We have been charged with every crime under the Decalogue. What I will say is, that the British people, some of whom we represent, and the ordinary common workman, have too much intelligence to follow the example of Galloper Smith, Lord Carson, Lord Londonderry, Lord Balfour and the other men who once sat on these benches, yes—and the Duke of Northumberland too. We are going to use the forms of this House, we are going to alter the forms of this House, and are going to use representative institutions in order fundamentally to change the social and economic conditions of our time. I stand here as a Socialist, one who believes in the communal ownership of the land, the minerals and all the means of life. I would not sit hereamoment to cloak the means with which we hope to attain our ends. We shall get control of the Government and use the Government machinery. I do not mean the control of this or that Government, but we shall be absolutely in power in 736 the majority, for the purpose of making laws, as your classes made them in the past,. We shall make them not for the interests of a class but in the interest of the community. I deny that we represent a class. We claim to represent the workers. Later on, we shall represent them in the majority. When you take the workers who work by hand or brain, who is it that counts? We want to see on these benches people representing the majority of the workers, who will use their power, use this House, use this Parliament far the purpose of getting control of the land and all the means of life. Yon represent capitalism, you represent landlordism.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member has taken rather longer over his peroration than I expected. He is going a little bit wide of the point. We are discussing strikes.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
This is all right. I have told you already, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, that I did not come to the House to speak, but I mean to speak now.
§ Lord APSLEY
I only wish to ask the hon. Gentleman if he will explain exactly what he does mean—whether Communism, State control, Government ownership, or does he mean some form of co-operative organisation?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We are discussing strikes and the origin of strikes, and I have been endeavouring to explain exactly what I mean. I say that I want industry organised on a basis of service, co-operative service, so that whenever the good things of life are produced those who produce them shall use and share them. That is all. I said just now that hon. Gentlemen opposite belong to the capitalist class, and the simple proof of that is—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I was saying also just now that whenever we get anything we do not earn ourselves we get it at the expense of those who do earn it. There is no way of getting rich by writing bits 737 of paper. The railwayman works. The man at the docks works. Other classes of workers work; and they have got to carry hon. Members on both sides of the House, and myself, too, on their backs all the time. I want to see that those men who build good houses live in good houses; that those who grow food shall be able to eat what they need of it, and that those who do these various things shall enjoy the results of their labour which, in effect means that all the good things of life which are socially produced shall be socially shared by all those who do the necessary work of the nation—[Interruption and HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"]
§ Mr. D. HERBERT
I should like for a few moments to make reference to—[Interruption and HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"
§ Mr. HERBERT
I should like to address myself to the question which has been particularly in our minds, that is the method of dealing with strikes. It is only a few days ago that I heard the hon. Gentleman opposite say that neither he nor others had much love for strikes. When they say they object to them I can only believe they mean what they say, that hon. Members opposite hate strikes as much as we do. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I give them credit for what they have said on the point. I should like, however, to ask the Minister why in this matter of strikes and disputes which, after all, whatever may be said about it, is agitating the minds of a great number of people, there should not be the inquiry for which we ask? There can be only one explanation of the attitude which has been taken up in refusing this inquiry, and it has been shown by the speeches of hon. Members opposite. As a matter of fact the Minister of Labour would be only too pleased with the result if such an inquiry showed that there was 738 no danger from the International or the Communist party, and he would be equally pleased if the inquiry showed some means of dealing with any influence of that party which existed in this country.
If that is so, why cannot the Treasury Bench have the courage of their opinions, in spite of the views of some of their followers who are less experienced. It is perfectly clear that the only reason for the refusal of this inquiry is that hon. Members on the back benches opposite do not want an inquiry. If they do not want an inquiry, is it because they think it will be no use or are they afraid of the result? If hon. Members opposite will not give me an answer to that question, then I ask the Minister of Labour to answer it, and say whether he refuses this inquiry merely because he thinks it would do no good, or because he is afraid of the inquiry. If the right hon. Gentleman says he refuses because he thinks it will do no good, I will tell him that a large number of people who voted for his party at the last General Election will bitterly regret that there has not been an opportunity for inquiry into this question and they will regret that the Colonial Secretary has not redeemed the promise he made on this subject.
By this refusal the party opposite have not added to the confidence which will be felt in them by the class they represent. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite are now endeavouring to prevent my words being heard. There is the one subject which they have endeavoured to stop being discussed, and they have tried to get it ruled out of order. It is the one subject upon which they have funked discussion, and that is the ex-service men. They have tried to stifle discussion about the grievances of a most deserving class, namely, the ex-service men who are at present out of work. I hope that this will go out to the country and that they will take note of the two most outstanding features to-night at this debate. First, that the Minister has refused this inquiry, that he has given us no good reason for doing so, that his party have done their best to prevent the claim of ex-service men being heard in this House to-night.
§ Mr. TURNER-SAMUELS
I have wondered, having only been in the House a comparatively short time, whether this 739 House sometimes assembles for serious work or only for comic work. It is a remarkable thing, and I hope strangers who are in the Gallery will take note of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is not entitled to make that observation. It is quite out of order.
§ Mr. TURNER-SAMUELS
If I have made an observation which I ought not to make, I apologise, but it is certainly remarkable how hon. Members on the other side can make most sincere speeches on things that they know are sheer profound hypocrisy. There is one thing which appears to have been omitted in the Debate to-night and I am going to assert deliberately omitted. We were treated to a very wonderful harangue by an ex-Attorney-General. What I want to know is whether he and hon. Members opposite were not aware as they must have been aware of this elementary legislative fact, that this House has said that strikes are legal. We start the discussion to-night on the basis that strikes are perfectly legal in this country. What I want to know is, who are we and what authority have we got to defeat that statutory right. How can we inquire into the right to strike, when the right to strike is declared by Statute itself. It would be an absurd impertinence. In spite of the fact that the Conservative party have been for years the authors of all sorts of troubles in the way of strikes, there never has been an attempt on their part to inquire into the cause of the strikes, and the reason is that they were the cause themselves and it is very well known to them.
They have another reason for wanting an inquiry on this occasion, and it is a malicious and sinister reason. Anyone who has listened to the discussion will have that fact well impressed upon his mind. They have exploited to-night's discussion for the purpose of deliberately throwing upon this party something that they know to be false—deliberately throwing imputations and accusations of Communism for the purpose of trying to drag us through the mud of their own Press to-morrow morning. I am sure those who have been in this House long enough to have heard the sort of speeches the 740 ex-Attorney-General has made will realise this. It does not matter what he says so much. He is merely a type. It is the sort of type that when it goes to bed at night sees all sorts of shadows of Communists and Bolshevists running round the room and underneath the bed. It is the sort of type that, when it kneels down to pray, prays to the Lord that He will destroy every Socialist, every Labour man, every Communist and every Revolutionary. When he goes to bed at night he gets all sorts of nightmares of Socialism and when he wakes in the morning he asks the Lord to do away with Socialism and the Labour party. The truth is this. The Conservative party are becoming not only profoundly dissatisfied with, but apprehensive of the longevity of the Government of Labour, and, having refused the workers the right to work, they now want to take away from them the right to strike. There are people on this side of the House who are not Bolshevists. There are people who have unimpeachable political antecedents, and sonic of endeavour, by methods of stability, to work out a means whereby that revolution which you are fearing and which you are bringing on by your tactics may be averted. I belong to the North. I represent what is practically a miners' constituency. Does it lie in the mouth of any representative on those benches to say in sincerity a word in favour of miners after what they have done? The opposition talk about the right to strike. Why are these things done? Why are there strikes? What did you do with the miners? Did you not promise them an inquiry, and if the Commission said the nationalisation of mines was right you would give it to them? What did you do with the mines when you decontrolled them in the very face of the solemn agreement you made with the miners? You people on the other side talk—of course you must talk—
§ Mr. TURNER-SAMUELS
It is purely due to my Parliamentary ignorance. Hon. Members opposite talk about raising strife. If they would only be fair to themselves, and examine their association with the situation in Ireland in the past, they would sit silent in prayer instead of 741 being busy and abusive. A suggestion has been made that there ought to be a two-fold inquiry into the recent tube strike, one branch of the inquiry to investigate the cause of the strike, and the other branch of the inquiry to investigate the means whereby future strikes may be avoided. I hope that the people who read this Debate to-morrow in the country will realise that this House did not simply come into existence last week, and that strikes were not initiated for the first time when we had the recent tube strike. The people in the country will know that a great deal of Parliamentary time has been taken up by hon. Members opposite demanding that we should inquire into the cause of strikes, and they will want to know why the Conservative party, until they thought they could drag us through the mud of Communism, did not deal with the matter years ago.
Let met demonstrate the sheer hypocrisy of hon. Members opposite. They talk about the rights of the public. It is a solecism, the funniest thing I can imagine, to hear hon. Members opposite talk about the rights of the public. What do they mean? They do not know what they mean. However, the phrase looks well in type. Who are the public? If hon. Members come to the county of Durham, they will find that the public in the ratio of 7 to 3 are connected with the mining industry, and I would remind hon. Members that, although they may be Members of Parliament, they are no greater than the smallest member of the public outside. We on this side are fighting for the public. We have been champions of the public rights for many years. [Interruption.] I am not like hon. Members opposite, who stand up and have nothing to say, and then sit down after saying it. The public would long since have got their rights if we had been in office instead of the Conservative party. I do not wear a rough suit. I do not go into the mine. I belong to the most honourable profession in the world. [Interruption.] I belong to a class of people who want to see this country grow greater and greater, and happier and happier. But I warn hon. Members opposite that if they want to avoid the mischief of which they have been the long and active authors they must change their hearts and change their 742 minds. The hon. Baronet the other night—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must not insist in standing up to speak while the hon. Member for Barnard Castle is addressing the Committee.
§ Mr. TURNER - SAMUELS
The hon. Member the other day referred to Liberal Members as lackeys, patient oxen—beasts of burden. Well let me tell him that I would sooner be a beast of burden than a beast of prey. What I cannot understand, and what I am certain the country cannot understand, is this. We have been told about the shibboleth of "labour versus capitalism." That is a very convenient cry of the Conservative party. Anything with poison and malice is quite natural to the Conserative party. What I cannot understand, and no respectable thinking person can understand, is this. Before we came into power the country was told—[Interruption]—that here we have got a pack of thieves and robbers—[Interruption]—who are going to overthrow the Constitution, and now they find that we are not prepared to overthrow the Constitution, because we are nursing it, cultivating it,
§ Sir H. CROFT
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Gentleman entitled to describe lion Members as "thieves and robbers"? [HON. MEMBERS: He did not!"] He was pointing at these benches when he used the words "thieves and robbers."
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Baronet is mistaken. I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that hon. Members on his side of the House had been so described by hon. Members on the other side.
§ Mr. TURNER-SAMUELS
I ask hon. Members to try to listen to reason for once. We are trying to cultivate the Constitution, and we do not want the country to be destroyed, because we intend that this country is going to be the inheritance of our people. We do not want any revo- 743 lotions in this country, and so long as the Labour party are in office there will be no revolution in this country. The only chance there ever was of a revolution was when the Conservative party were in office, and the only reason why the Leader of the Opposition went to the country last year was because he wanted to avoid the advent of revolution, by his going out of office.
§ Mr. G. BALFOUR
On a point of Order. Have any of the references made by the hon. Member for the last seven minutes anything to do with this Vote?
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
On a further point of Order. May I ask who began to waste time in the Committee this afternoon?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The whole discussion during the last hour seems to have gone pretty wide of the Vote.
§ Mr. TURNER-SAMUELS
Moreover, Mr. Chairman, what can you expect of the pupil when he gets such examples from his teachers opposite?
§ Mr. TURNER-SAMUELS
We on tins side do not want to do anybody out of a job, we want to put people in jobs. I ask hon. Members opposite if they did not hear to-day a speech by an hon. Member for one of the divisions of Glasgow, who is constantly being referred to as a "wild man"? Could anyone have listened to a more sober, earnest and sincere appeal? That hon. Member told us what happened in Kelvingrove, and in conclusion I ask hon. Members on the other side not to be responsible for making every city in this country another Kelvingrove.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I hope not to take up more than five minutes of the time of the Committee, and I hope not to imitate the vivacious, but rather irrelevant. Debate to which we have been listening for a considerable part of this sitting. My sole object is to remind those hon. Members, who care to have their memories recalled to it, of what we are voting upon, before the Division takes place. I have listened to many speches with great pleasure, and to others with 744 pleasure that was, perhaps, not so great. I congratulate, if I may be permitted to do so, my right hon. Friend the Member for one of the Divisions of Glasgow and my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbary), who spent the best part of his days in the Liberal party, and whom, we hope, we shall see in the Liberal party again. In any ease, so far as these two Gentle men are pleading for the "gingering up" of the Government towards social reform, they are quite in conformity with the work we have been doing during the last six months.
Here, however, we are confined to a much narrower proposition, namely, the Motion which has been moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare). That Motion does not, as some people seem to imagine, propose definitely that we should vote for an inquiry into a strike, or into any strike. Many of us are quite prepared to vote for an inquiry into strikes, and any special Motion for an inquiry with a view to possible legislation in connection with these most disastrous industrial disputes would, I can assure hon. Members opposite, receive considerable sympathy from Members on this side of the House. That is not the Motion that is now before the Committee, and it is not the Motion on which we shall be called upon to vote. The Motion is a Vote of Censure on the Minister of Labour. It is a Motion for the reduction of the salary which is voted for the Minister of Labour, and it is a Motion which, by all constitutional precedent—which we on this side have no intention of breaking without protest—must, if it be carried, mean the resignation of the Minister of Labour. We are never going to allow, as long as we can protest, the position that the Executive shall be independent of the legislator—that the legislator can carry reductions in the salaries of Ministers without the Ministers at the same time resigning.
Therefore, the question comes to my mind whether, on this particular question and on this particular issue, my friends and myself should vote for the resignation of the Minister of Labour. If the Minister of Labour does evil, we shall be only too prepared to move a Motion for the reduction of his salary, but this Motion is specific. It is in connection with what he did or did not do in connection with 745 the strike on the London tubes a few days ago; and I have been wondering to myself what exactly hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would have done that would have been different from what the Minister of Labour has done, and what they have put in their programme or in their speeches to-day whien would lead us to think that, if they had been in the position of my right hon. Friend—whom I have freely criticised in the past, and am prepared to criticise again in the future—they would have been enabled to say that he ought to resign. I have listened for seven hours to occasional intermittent dealings with that particular subject, and I have not heard one single argument which leads me personally, apart from any connection with party interests, to say that the Minister of Labour has either been guilty of sins of omission or of commission which would lead me to demand to-night his resignation. We have heard a lot about Communism in Poplar, we have had the vague, wild, most foolish, vivacious, and
§ most humorous speeches: we have had references to "beasts of prey" as contrasted with "beasts of burden." We have had a response, for the first, time, to an appeal made by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley to the Front Bench to keep quiet in order that the Committee might hear the rhetorical efforts of the Back Benches—an appeal which has to some extent been justified, and now my final conclusion in this matter is that we should not vote for this Amendment. We are not asked to vote for a Committee of Inquiry. We are not asked to express an opinion on a specific act done or not done by the Minister. We are asked to reduce his salary. I see no reason for voting for that, and I propose to urge my hon. Friends around me not to support the proposed reduction.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £8,560,239, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 166; Noes, 245.749
|Division No. 111.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardener, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Kindersley, Major G. M.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Apsley, Lord||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensignton, S.)||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Ashely, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Deans, Richard Storry||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Astor, Viscountess||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)|
|Atholl, Duchness of||Edmondson, Major C. R.||Lumley, L. R.|
|Baird, Major Rt. Hon. Sir John L.||Edmondson Major A. J.||M'Connell, Thomas E.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Eleveden, Viscount||MacDonald, R.|
|Balfour, George (Hamspstead)||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Makins, Brigadler-General E.|
|Becker, Harry||Ferguson, H.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Forestier-Walker, L.||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)|
|Berry, Sir George||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Gates, Percy||Meller, R. J.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw|
|Blundell, F. N.||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)|
|Bourne, Robert Croft||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Guest, Capt. Hn. F.E. (Glousestr., Stroud)||Moles, Thomas|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Guiness, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Morrison-Bell, Major Sir A.C. (Honiton)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Burman, J. B.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Harland, A.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hartington, Marquess of||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Harvey, C. M. B. (Aberd'n & Kincardne)||Penny, Frederick George|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hennessey, Major J. R. G.||Perring, William George|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Raine, W.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Herbert, Capt. Sidney (Scarborough)||Rankin, James S.|
|Chamberlin, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G||Remer, J. R.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Cockerill, Brigadler-General G. K.||Hope, Rt. Hon. J. F. (Sheffield, C.)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, (Hereford)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Horne, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Robinson, W. E. (Burslem)|
|Cope, Major William||Howard, Hn. D. (Cumberland, North)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Cory, Sir Clifford||Huntingfield, Lord||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Illife, Sir Edward M.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Jephcott, A. R.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Joyson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Kay, Sir R. Newbald||Simms, Dr John M. (Co. Down)|
|Kedward, R. M.|
|Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst.)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, South)||Turton, Edmund Russborough||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Spero, Dr. G. E.||Waddington, R.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Stanley, Lord||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L. (Kingston-on-Hull)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sutcliffe. T.||Wells, S. R.||Commander B. Eyres-Monsell and|
|Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Wheler, Lieut.-Col. Granville C. H.||Colonel Gibbs.|
|Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Groves, T.||Maxton, James|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Grundy, T. W.||Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Middleton, G.|
|Alstead, R.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Mills, J. E.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Mond, H.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Harbord, Arthur||Montague, Frederick|
|Attlee, Major Clement R.||Hardle, George D.||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Harris, John (Hackney, North)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Baker, Walter||Harris, Percy A.||Moulton, Major Fletcher|
|Banton, G.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Muir, John W.|
|Barclay, R. Noton||Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Muir, Ramsay (Rochdale)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hastings, Sir Patrick||Murray, Robert|
|Barnes, A.||Haycock, A. W.||Murrell, Frank|
|Batey, Joseph||Hemmerde, E. G.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Nichol, Robert|
|Birkett, W. N.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Nixon, H.|
|Black, J. W.||Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfld.)||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hillary, A. E.||Oliver, George Harold|
|Bonwick, A.||Hindle, F.||Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hirst, G. H.||Owen, Major G.|
|Briant, Frank||Hobhouse, A. L.||Paling, W.|
|Broad, F. A.||Hodge, Lieut.-Col, J. P. (Preston)||Palmer, E. T.|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Hodges, Frank||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Buchanan, G.||Hoffman, P. C.||Perry, S. F.|
|Buckle, J.||Hogge, James Myles||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Cape, Thomas||Hudson, J. H.||Potts, John S.|
|Chapple, Dr. William A.||Isaacs, G. A.||Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Raffan, P. W.|
|Clarke, A.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford|
|Climle, R.||Jewson, Dorothea||Rathbone, Hugh R.|
|Cluse, W. S.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Raynes, W. R.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Rea, W. Russell|
|Collins, Patrick (Walsall)||Jones, C. Sydney (Liverpool, W. Derby)||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Compton, Joseph||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Richards, R.|
|Comyns-Carr, A. S.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Costello, L. W. J.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Ritson, J.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E.)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Crittall, V. G.||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Kennedy, T.||Romeril, H. G.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Rose, Frank H|
|Dickson, T.||Kenyon, Barnet||Royle, C.|
|Duckworth, John||Kirkwood, D.||Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. C.|
|Dukes, C.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Duncan, C.||Lansbury, George||Scurr, John|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Laverack, F. J.||Seely, Rt. Hn. Maj.-Gen. J.E.B. (I.of W.)|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern)||Law, A.||Sexton, James|
|Egan, W. H.||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham. North)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Lawson, John James||Sherwood, George Henry|
|Falconer, J.||Leach, W.||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Finney, V. H.||Lee, F.||Simon, E. D. (Manchester, Withingtn.)|
|Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H.||Lessing, E.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Foot, Isaac||Linfield, F. C.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Livingstone, A. M.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Loverseed, J. F.||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Lowth, T.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Lunn, William||Snell, Harry|
|Gibbins, Joseph||McCrae, Sir George||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Gillett, George M.||M'Entee, V. L.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Gorman, William||Macfadyen, E.||Spence, R.|
|Gosling, Harry||Mackinder, W.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Madan, H.||Starmer, Sir Charles|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Mansel, Sir Courtenay||Stephen, Campbell|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||March, S.||Stewart, Maj. R. S. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Greenall, T.||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Stranger, Innes Harold|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Marley, James||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)||Sullivan, J.|
|Sutton, J. E.||Warne, G. H.||Williams, Maj. A.S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)|
|Tattersall, J. L.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Terrington, Lady||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||Webb, Lieut.-Col. Sir H. (Cardiff, E.)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney||Windsor, Walter|
|Thornton, Maxwell R.||Weir, L. M.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Thurtle, E.||Welsh, J. C.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Westwood, J.||Wright, W.|
|Tout, W. J.||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Whiteley, W.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Turner, Ben||Wignall, James|
|Turner-Samuels, M.||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Viant, S. P.||Williams, Daivd (Swansea, E.)||Mr. Spoor and Mr. John|
|Vivian, H.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)||Robertson.|
|Wallhead, Richard C.||Williams, Lt.-col. T. S. B. (Kennington)|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Several hon. Members rose—
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again on Monday next (30th June).