§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Captain AINSWORTH
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill is introduced at the very insistent demand of trade unionists all over the country—trade unionists who are intensely loyal to their union, but who think, and I think with them, they are labouring under a great disadvantage. The whole object is to prevent unions insisting upon members paying contributions to political purposes in which they do not believe. I think that is the real spirit of the Bill. I know it is contended by hon. Members opposite that in the 1913 Act provision is made by which members of unions can contract out of paying contributions for political purposes. That may be true, but the actual working of the 1913 Act is so bad, and there are so many loopholes, that, in fact, it does nothing of the sort. Unions, not one, but a great many, are deliberately evading the intentions of the Act. I know there is very strong resentment on the benches of the Socialist party opposite against this Bill. If the Socialist party is not receiving contributions to which we say they are not entitled, why do they object to the Bill? I think the strong objection raised by the party opposite is the strongest argument for the Bill. The Bill only seeks to say members of unions may deliberately contribute amounts for political purposes. It does not say they shall not contribute. It provides that any member of a union wishing to contribute for political purposes shall give notice in writing to that effect. This is only what holds good in all other societies and clubs of any sort whatever, and I think the reason of the strong opposition shown by the Socialist party is that they must know, in fact, they do know, that money which ought to go to the general funds of the union is being diverted for political purposes. I notice that in May, 1922, when a Bill on the lines of this Bill was introduced by Sir Henry Meysey-Thompson, the Lord Privy Seal, as he now is, made a most remarkable speech, 2744 and his point seemed to be that individuals could contract out if they wished to do so. I agree that the 1913 Act provides that, but the actual working does not give relief to the workman. I am rather surprised that he should seek to mislead the House in the way he did on that occasion, because he must know perfectly well that the contracting out Clause of the 1913 Act is a dead letter as far as trade unions are concerned.
I will give one or two instances of what I mean when I say the contracting out Clause in the 1913 Act is a dead letter. For the year 1920 the total membership of the National Union of Railwaymen was 457,836. The political membership was stated to be 246,337 and the amount allocated for political purposes was £33,387. The proportion very far exceeds the membership of 246,000. It practically means that, per capita, every member of the trade union has contributed to political funds, though he may have contracted out. The 246,000 political subscribers really become 457,000, because the amount is made up from the general funds. These figures are taken from the Report of the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies published at the end of 1922 and there is a very important statement on the balance sheets the trade union submitted. He says:Some important discrepancies were observed on a comparison of the printed accounts of the National Union of Railway Servants with its annual return. For example in the former the omission of the political fund at the beginning of the year from one of the accounts was offset by an error of £17,830 15s. 7d. in the expenses and management, and an error of £40 in the total on the income side of the account. An inquiry was addressed to the Union and in an interview it was explained that the errors were due to the great pressure of work at the time, and it was admitted that the accounts were in fact sent to the printer before being audited. Further it did not appear that the Union kept any record of the number of members contributing to the political fund, the number shown in the annual return having been calculated from the contributions. The original calculation was inaccurate, and after inquiry by the Registrar the figure was increased by over 130,000.I do not think hon. Members opposite will be able to get over that. It simply substantiates what I say, that if the political fund is falling short or if a sufficient number of men try to contract out, the amount is made up from the general funds of the union. 2745 I have many other cases equally as bad. There are a few unions in which the numbers of the political membership and of the membership represented by subscriptions agree, but they are only a few. Hon. Members opposite may bring out those facts if they can.
I would like to ask hon. Members opposite what is their reason for opposing this Bill so strongly. I hope they will deal with the figures that I have given when they take part in the debate. It is said that the Bill of 1922, brought in by Sir H. Meysey-Thompson, was designed to injure trade unions and to hamper if not to destroy trade union political action. It is very plainly stated in the Bill which I have the honour to bring in to-day that that is not the case and that if any member of a trade union desires to contribute to the political purposes fund he is quite at liberty to do so. Clause 1 says:(i) it shall be competent for any member of the union to give notice in the form set out in the First Schedule to this Act, or in a form to the like effect, that he is willing to be levied and to contribute to a political fund of the union.Words cannot be clearer than these. The only thing the Bill does in addition to that is to prevent a levy being made upon members of trade unions who do not wish to contribute for Socialist purposes. Every other party in this House receives its funds—[HON. MEMBERS: "By selling honours!"]—from voluntary contributions. The party opposite, the Socialist party, are the only party who seek to say, "Whatever your political opinions may be, you shall subscribe to our political principles." [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That is, in effect, what takes place under the Act of 1913. If the present law gives complete freedom of exemption to any man who does not wish to pay, and if the political funds of the union are maintained by the willing gifts of free men, the party opposite have no case against this Bill. This Bill simply seeks to say, and does in fact say, that a man who is willing to contribute to a fund in support of the political opinion in which he believes, can do so. It does not hamper the trade unions in any way whatever but makes it perfectly clear that any member of any union shall be free to exercise his judgment and to subscribe to the fund what he desires. The truth of the matter is that hon. Members opposite know quite well that there is considerable intimidation brought 2746 to bear in the unions upon those members who seek to contract out of the 1913 Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name the unions!"] I can give facts and figures directly; I have already given them in the other case. [HON. MEMBERS: "Facts about intimidation?"] I hold over fifty sworn statements of trade unionists who have filled in forms for contracting out from paying to the political fund of their union, and many of these statements point to direct intimidation and victimisation. So strongly is that carried out that many trade unionists have said, "It is not worth the candle, and as the price of peace is this contribution we will continue to pay." I think that is a scandal and a slur upon trade unions.
§ Captain AINSWORTH
Yes, I have fifty sworn statements to that effect. It is quite obvious to hon. Members opposite and to all hon. Members that I cannot disclose the names because they would be simply special cases for victimisation.
§ Captain AINSWORTH
Since this Parliament assembled, I have often looked to the Front Government Bench and I have seen hon. and right hon. Members sitting there who have now very considerable wealth, in fact great wealth in some cases, and the foundation of that wealth has, in many cases, been derived from trade union funds. The figures that I have given in regard to the National Union of Railwaymen proves that most conclusively.
§ Captain AINSWORTH
The Socialist party have an opportunity now of clearing away this slur on their party and on trade unions. We know quite well that most workmen are members of some trade union. Unions were formed for collective bargaining to improve the condition of their members, and rightly so, 2747 but it has become almost a condition of membership of a union—and that membership carries with it really what is the man's right to work—and of remaining in the union that the members must subscribe to the political fund. It is made so difficult to contract out, and there is so much pressure brought to bear upon the men. First of all, the levies are collected, and when the forms are sent in the amounts are supposed to be returned to those members who have contracted out. In numberless cases, hundreds of thousands of cases, those members are unable to get a return of their money although they have contracted out under the Act. The Front Bench of the Socialist party contains several very wealthy men, most of whom have laid the foundations of their wealth by the trade union funds of this country.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
On a point of Order. Is it in order for an hon. Member to keep talking about the great wealth of hon. Members on this side in connection with trade union funds?
§ Mr. MACKINDER
Is it in Order for an hon. Member of this House to state that Members on the Front Bench on this side made something out of the money of the trade unions?
§ Captain AINSWORTH
Those are not the words which I used. What I said was that there are many Members of the Socialist party who occupy the Front Bench to-day and who are now wealthy men, and that the foundations of their wealth are drawn largely from what they had received from trade unions.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Is it in Order for any Member in this House to make the statements which have been made in face of the fact that all moneys which are paid to officials of trade unions can only be paid by a majority vote?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It would not be in Order to make any statement which insinuated personal dishonour against any Member of this House, but I did not take it in that way from what the hon. and gallant Member was saying. I would stop 2748 him at once if I thought that he was imputing any personal dishonour in what he was saying.
§ Captain AINSWORTH
I do not think that there is any Member opposite who will quarrel with me when I say that very large, sums of money do go for political purposes and are given to Members of the party opposite in support of those political purposes. I do not think that it is any reproach to any hon. or right hon. Members on the Front Bench to say that they are wealthy men. I do not think that wealth is dishonourable; I never suggested that there was anything dishonourable If the cap fits them they can put it on.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
On a point of Order. Is it in order for any hon. Member to reflect upon the origin of the private wealth of any individual in the House? The only object of the hon. Member's reference as to the origin of the wealth is to state that it has come into the possession of hon. Members out of political objects.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not so understand what has been said. It might well be said to be a compliment to say that right hon. or hon. Members on any Front Bench in this House owe a great deal to their position here.
§ Captain AINSWORTH
Trade unionists all over the country, seeing that their contributions to their unions are very heavy, are very anxious as to the position of those unions. The financial position of some of those unions is not very good. I do hope that the party opposite will remove this doubt from the minds of trade unionists. I have on many occasions spoken of this matter in my own constituency during the last two years. I remember, about two years ago, bringing up this matter, and to my great surprise it brought down most of the Members of the Socialist party who are now prominent on the Front Bench. I had down to my constituency the Lord Privy Seal. A week or two afterwards I had the present Secretary for the Colonies, who spent a week-end there. I had Brigadier-General Thomson, now Lord Thomson, the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones), the present Attorney-General and other Gentlemen who claim to represent the working classes. And the net result of all this 2749 heavy artillery in my constituency, directed as I think against the speeches which I made on these trade union matters, was that the Socialist candidate at the last Election polled rather fewer votes. I recommend this Bill to the acceptance of the House as a Bill which is fair to all parties. I think that the Socialist party will be well advised carefully to consider its provisions. It does them as a party no injustice; it gives freedom to all members of trade unions to contribute to political funds if they so desire. The only thing that it does not do is to compel men to contribute to funds to which they have no desire to contribute.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
I rise with a great deal of pleasure to Second the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill.
I do so because during the many years of my life which I have spent among the miners of Lancashire I found a very strong desire on their part that they should be free to devote their money, in so far as they want to devote it to politics, to the particular political party with which they agree, and should not in any way be compelled to devote that money to a party with which they disagree profoundly. I propose to state a few propositions on this matter which I do not think will be disputed by any hon. or right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Bench. First, there is nothing in this Bill which prevents any man from subscribing to any political party to which he wants to subscribe. In the second place, there is nothing in this Bill which places any trade unionist upon any other footing with regard to the opportunity of subscribing to a political party than that of any other citizen of the country. Further, the only principle which I can find in this Bill is that it safeguards the trade unionist from being placed in a different position, so far as subscription to political funds is concerned, from any other citizen of the country.
We may lay it down as a definite proposition that this country will never tolerate a position in which men may be compelled to support any politics at all unless they want to do so. Certainly very much more than that. This country will never tolerate the view that any man, whatever his position in life, should be forced to support by his money any one 2750 particular party, no matter what his own opinions may be. Before we deal with the proposition so far as it affects this Bill, we should consider for a moment or two the whole trade union position. A trade union is organised purely and simply for industrial purposes. It has peculiar powers, and, in addition, it has permeated, in a peculiar way all its own, the life of the people of this country. Here is a proposition which I am certain will have the support of every right hon. and hon. Members on the Government benches—that in order to be efficient it is advisable that every man in an industry should be a member of the trade union connected with that industry.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
I did not suggest force. The hon. Member has misunderstood me. What I said was that every Member on the Labour benches will agree that for the efficient use of a trade union for industrial purposes, it is advisable that the trade union should be supported by every man engaged in that industry to which the trade union relates. I have not said a word about force, but I will do so. As I understand it—it will certainly be news to most Members if not true—the policy of all the trade unions in all the highly-organised trades of this country has been to take effective steps to see that every man in an important industry belongs to the particular trade union attached to it. I am not discussing whether it is right or wrong, but there is no doubt about the proposition that in most of the highly-organised trades of this country it is becoming increasingly difficult for a man to get a living unless he is prepared to join the trade union which governs his industry.
It is said that it is not a question of force. Let me give one illustration from the County of Durham. How is membership enforced? A man in one of the lodges—I think it was the Dowden Lodge of the Durham Miners' Association—got into arrears with his payments. There is undoubtedly a practice, which, I think, is to be deprecated, on the part of members of the Durham Miners' Association, that where a man is in arrear with contributions to the union the officials of the union report that man to the management of the colliery, and the man is told by the management, as the result of that communication, that inasmuch as he is not keeping 2751 up his trade union payments he had better leave the colliery. That is acknowledged. What happened in this particular case? A man had got into arrear. He was seen by the colliery management at the request of the officials of the trade union. He was then unable, by reason of the fact that the union practically controls the industry in the neighbourhood, to get work at any other colliery in the district. He was, therefore, entirely without work and income. He went to the Board of Guardians at Easington. He asked for the relief to which he was undoubtedly entitled. The chairman of the Board, a union official, said: "Oh, but you have been dismissed from your colliery, and in the circumstances you cannot come here for relief." The man then went to the Employment Exchange, and there he was told by the Labour Members of the Unemployment Committee the same story: "You cannot get unemployment relief."
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Hon. Members must not be so restive. If we are to come to a decision, we must hear both sides.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
A few moments ago, when I was referring to the question of compulsion, an hon. Member opposite suggested that there was no compulsion that a man should joint a trade union. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Then I misunderstood hon. Members. I am speaking within the recollection of the House. Whatever may be the position, we now have it assented to that compulsion goes as far as this: that it prevents a man earning a living in the district in which he lives, and that the channels' which are ordinarily open to any other man to get relief from the guardian or from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, to which he has contributed, are denied him by the action of the very men who have thrown him out of his employment. It is not merely a case of compulsion of that kind, but even the children of the man are derided in the streets as they walk along. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Hon. Members opposite know perfectly well. It has always been, and I hope always will be, the policy of the law of this country, that if you give great and peculiar powers to any particular body you must 2752 watch those bodies extremely carefully to see that their powers are not used as an engine of oppression.
Let me deal briefly with the trade union position before the Osborne judgment. We all know that levies were made on members of trade unions all over the country. Let us see how those levies were made. They are not always made on a ballot of trade unionists. They are very often made by secret meetings of the executives. I will give a clear illustration of a levy which has recently been imposed by a secret meeting of the Executive of a particular trade union. It is a levy recently made in connection with the support of the "Daily Herald." The Trade Union Congress, without a ballot of the trade unionists, decided that they would come to the rescue of the "Daily Herald." They did that by getting the union delegates at the Trade Union Congress to pledge themselves—curiously enough in a secret session—that they would make a special levy upon their members of the subscription to the Trade Union Congress in advance, if possible for five years.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
I am not going into the matter as far as the Trade Union Congress is concerned, but I am going to show the way in which the levy was made in a particular trade union.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
I refer to a particular trade union, one of whose members is in the House—the Shops Assistants Trade Union. After the Trade Union Congress there was a meeting of the executive of that Union. That meeting was held in camera. [HON. MEMBERS: "They always are."] In that case I do not know why in this particular case they took care in the agenda, to put against the item referring to the "Daily Herald" matter a note to the effect that it would be specially taken in camera. A resolution was moved that there should be a levy upon the members of the Shop Assistants Trade Union for the purpose of supporting the "Daily Herald." A question was asked by one of the executive as to whether an undertaking would be given that non-payment of the 2753 levy would not be considered as arrears of contribution. I take it, that particular member of the Executive knew quite well a number of the members of the Shop Assistants Union did not agree with the policy of the "Daily Herald." The answer was that it must be taken as arrears of contribution. There was considerable objection, and in the end the levy was imposed by a vote of 38 in favour of the levy to 36 against the levy.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
I am reading from the minutes of the 31st Annual General Meeting of the National Amalgamated Union of Shop Assistants, Warehousemen and Clerks.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
Because the report says that the "Daily Herald" urgency resolution is to be taken in camera.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
Let us pass from that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That shows that every hon. Member over there is anxious to pass from it. I cannot understand any man who thinks that a levy of this kind, by means of which a man might be put in arrear and deprived of his trade union benefit, should be placed on every member of the trade, union by an executive vote of 38 to 36 when, as a matter of fact, the whole union has not been consulted. But I pass from that to the Osborne judgment. In the circumstances that levies of a political character could be made in the way in which I have described the "Daily Herald" levy as being made, Mr. Osborne took action.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
Excuse me, the levy for the "Daily Herald" is on individual members. [Interruption.] Passing from that, I turn to the Osborne judgment, and hon. Members will realise my point very much better if they listen without interruption. In connection with the Osborne judgment the position was this—that Osborne, having brought his action and succeeded, the state of the law 2754 was as described in this House by Lord Reading, then Sir Rufus Isaacs, and in order that there should be no misunderstanding, I will use his own words:The sphere of activity and operations of trade unions must, according to the Trade Union Acts, which were their charter, be confined entirely to industrial purposes and must not in the slightest degree overlap political purposes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th August, 1912, col. 2,976. Vol. 41.]It was recognised an those circumstances—and I am entitled to say it was recognised by all parties—that that position was an extremely difficult one for trade unions, and that there should be some relaxation—in other words, that it was quite right that some provision should be made by which the machinery of trade unions might be used for the purpose of collecting subscriptions for a party which a number of the trade unions desired to support. Sir Rufus Isaacs laid it down that where the machinery of a trade union was being used for purposes outside its ordinary activities, those who disagreed with the levy were entitled to the protection of Parliament in order that they might not be compelled to pay for the propagation and advancement of political opinions which were opposed to their own. He said two conditions were essential. First, it was essential, in order to carry out that principle, that any payment made in furtherance of political objects should be carried to a separate fund and that this fund should not be mixed up with the ordinary funds of the trade union. He said, further, there should be no undue pressure and no victimisation. In these circumstances, the Trade Union Act, 1913, was passed. It has been said that it was passed with practical unanimity, but that merely means that the Third Reading was not opposed. The Second Reading was opposed and carried by a vote of 232 to 132. Mr. Bonar Law said, quite definitely, that for himself—and in this he was speaking for the whole of the party—he believed the proper method would have been to make those desirous of supporting a political party contract in instead of having the contracting-out arrangement.
It was equally recognised that the Act might become an engine of oppression. Let us take its provisions. Frist, there is to be a ballot and that ballot is to determine for all time whether the machinery of the union is to be used for collective political subscriptions or not. There have been several ballots concerning 2755 particular unions and between the date of those ballots and the end of 1921 there has been an increase in the membership of those particular unions of between 600,000 and 700,000. Consequently, at the end of 1921, there were in those unions 600,000 or 700,000 men who had never been consulted on the question of the use of the trade union machinery for political purposes. After the ballot, there must be rules to provide for the separate fund and for exemption. Further, contributions for political objects must not be made a condition of membership of the unions and political objects were clearly denned. They included the support of Members of Parliament, the payment of election expenses, the support of members of county councils, borough councils, boards of guardians, and in fact all the paraphernalia of political propaganda. It was provided that the man who objected should be allowed to send in notice of objection. It was not to be on a particular form supplied by any particular person. It is perfectly clear from the Act, that all the man need do was write on a piece of paper the words in the Schedule to the Act and send it in to his trade union and once he sent it in he was to be, until he withdrew it, absolutely exempt from any political levy. There were two ways of dealing with the policital levy. One was that there should be a separate levy and that the man should not be called upon to pay the separate levy; the other was that if the levy was included in a general subscription, at periodical payments to be specified and made absolutely clear, the man should be excused from a part of that periodical payment representing the proportion which goes to the political levy.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
I am only stating this condition because I want to show it has not been observed. The man who has sent in his exemption form should not have to take any money out of his pocket by reason of the fact that the union had adopted political objects. It was clearly recognised at the time that the safeguards in the Act were not particularly sound, and if I may read a passage from the Debate on the Second Reading of the 1913 Act, hon. Members will see that there were, even in those days, Members of this House who 2756 seriously distrusted—and, as I shall show, they had reason to distrust—whether the Act provided adequate safeguards. This was said:As regards the exemption of the individual, surely it is impossible to suppose that the individual will really gain the exemption that he wants, coupled with the protection that it is necessary he should have, if he has got to give written notice to the officials of his union, declaring that as far as he is concerned no funds contributed by him are to be used for political purposes. What is the position of a person giving notice under conditions of that kind? Is it not impossible to suppose that he will not have the whole weight of boycotting opinion against him by perhaps a large number of his fellow trade unionists, and probably of all the officials of the union?He then quotes what a preceding speaker had said, namely: "You must give trade unions absolute power to use their funds as they like," and he goes on:That is a proposition which I think ought to be opposed to the utmost. If you do not do that, all these so-called paper safeguards are wholly insufficient and wholly illusory; they are simply for the consumption of weak-minded individuate.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
That meant those who were putting them forward as safeguards—who, not liking the tyranny which they know is likely to be brought about, console themselves by referring to the paper safeguards which are contained within the four corners of the proposed Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th August, 1912; cols. 3027–8, Vol. 41.]When the present Bill gets to another place, we shall certainly look for considerable support from the speaker whose remarks I have just quoted to this House, and we shall get his support, I am perfectly certain. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who was it?"] He is a member of the present Socialist Government, Lord Parmoor. I am perfectly certain that they have welcomed an opponent of tyranny into their Government, and we hope he will continue to oppose tyranny. Now I want to show how this Act of 1913 has entirely failed. In the first place, it took no regard of the constitution of a great many of the trade unions of this country. It provided for registered trade unions, but it did not provide, for unregistered trade unions. I asked a question in this House only on Wednesday of this week as to 2757 when the Miners' Federation of Great Britain had made its return in regard to political matters, and the answer which I received from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was that the Miners' Federation need not make any return. The importance of that is, that with the exception of a few trade unions in the mining industry, the Miners' Federation is really the only body of miners' trade unions which has adopted political rules. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] I said, with the exception of a few. The Durham Miners' Association adopted political rules last year.
§ 12 N.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
No, long ago. The ballot taken last year was only for the administration of local funds, but so far as general purposes are concerned, the Durham Miners' Association long ago adopted the political levy.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
My answer to that is, that what happened was that the Durham Miners' Association, from the passing of the 1913 Act until last year, made a levy for the support of members of local councils without having any political rules or authority to do it. [Interruption.] I am dealing with a particular Act of Parliament, and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has said that, whereas you say the Act of 1913 provided that a return should be made of all unions which had adopted political objects, the Miners' Federation does not make that return, and the Financial Secretary tells me that the reason for that is that they are not registered, and therefore the Act does not apply. The South Wales Miners' Federation, as far as I can make out, except in so far as it is bound by the rules of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, has no special political rules. The Miners' Federation of Great Britain did adopt political rules, and this is one of them, that a return in respect to the political funds shall be transmitted by the union to the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies before the 1st day of June in every year. That is their rule, and inasmuch as they have adopted it as a political rule, it is a part of the contract which the Miners' Federation of Great Britain makes with every one of its members, and yet we have had it stated in this House that although it is a part of the contract, it does not observe it, because, 2758 says the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, they need not do so.
Let us pass from that. A man is entitled to get exemption, but let us see the way in which it is done. I have here a letter which was written by the General Secretary of the National Amalgamated Union of Shop Assistants, Warehousemen, and Clerks to another district secretary, and it is with regard to the claim which was made for exemption by a man named Forster, who did not believe in a political levy, who was a member of the trade union, and who applied for exemption forms. May I tell the House this, that the position was that it cost him in stamps alone 1s. before he was able to get his exemption.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
Yes, but for a lawyer's fee you get value for your money. After this member had paid 1s. in postage stamps to get his exemption, a letter was written by the general secretary which stated that, if he so desired, any allocation or deductions for political purposes since that date could, of course, be claimed by him. He got this letter, which said:Your account has been duly revised, and we have now given you credit for one shilling and also for threepence a quarter from December.So that, practically speaking, for 1s. in postage stamps he got 1s. in return. That is value for money, but let me point out the way in which this has been evaded. A practice has grown up of collecting from every member of a union, whether he claims to be exempt or not, exactly the same contribution, but at the end of the year he is told that that part which is referable to the political fund can be returned to him. The policy of the Act of 1913 was that the"] man who objected should not part with a penny more from his pocket because of the political levy. There is a lodge known as the Ouston E. Pit Lodge in Durham, in which between 90 and 100 members claimed exemption. They paid their quota for the whole year. At the end of 2759 the year, a notice was sent to the effect that they might claim back the money which formed the political levy, and this is the way in which it was done. They were told they could obtain it at the Co-operative Hall, at Burtley, and they were told they could receive one shilling, which was the political levy. Twenty-four attended. They were paraded in a line one after another. They had to file past the table, and the money was handed to them, with the chairman of the lodge looking on so that he could mark every man.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member can speak later on. Hon. Members must not make their speeches until the time comes.
§ Mr. RITSON
Is the hon. and learned Member aware that that division returned the Financial Secretary to the War Office with the biggest majority in the country?
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
I am not surprised. That is all the more reason why the minority who did not agree with him should be protected. When they have signed an exemption form, it should relieve them from any necessity of having to go before the chairman of their lodge in order to claim money to which they are entitled, without any such claim.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
I would not take the money from them, in the first place. Let me point out one other thing with regard to this. In the South Wales Miners' Federation the same thing is done. There is a lodge there, and I find from the accounts that at the end of the year a man gets 2s. returned, representing the political levy. There is no doubt uncertainty, because the accounts are so mixed up that nobody knows what the right thing is. It may be an extremely useful thing for the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), when he goes to Ynysbwl to explain to the members of the Lady Windsor Lodge why 2760 they only get 1s. returned, while in the Abertridwr Lodge they get 2s. I have now established this proposition, that instead of one exemption being the rule, these unions are insisting on two claims for exemption for the same money.
I want to deal now with the mixing of accounts. According to the Durham Miners' Association report for the year 1923, the membership is about 155,000. Their auditors, looking at the balance sheet, were moved to the remark that, apparently, the political members were about 90,000. That, on the face of it, would look as though the book-keeping were perfectly clear, and that you had a clear indication that there were some 60,000 exemptions. But I find this in the auditors' report. I think it is important we should see how these trade unions deal with their funds. I am perfectly certain that every hon. Member on the other side of the House will want to see that this is properly dealt with. This is what the auditor said in October, 1922:We find that the political fund is understated to the extent of £3,882. We know there are amounts due from the political fund to the general fund of £1,161, and to the sick fund of £58 and from the sick to the general fund of £21. We have seen no details as to the membership of the political fund. We understand the number of members given is an approximate figure. After allowing for exemption claims and fluctuations, the contributions to the political fund do not represent 2s. a member, the explanation given being that owing to the financial position only one year's contributions had been paid, and another quarter was exempted. Hence the general fund owes the political fund £6,000 to the 31st December, 1921. [We understand that has since been paid.]One would think that they would have put their house in order, but going to 1923 I find this:We would again point out that no details of the membership of the political fund have been produced to us, but we understand that the contributions to this fund as shown in these accounts is made up of £6,000 from the General Fund together with £9,000 for the year ending 28th December, 1922. The latter amount represents 2s. each for 90,000 members, which is claimed as the approximate membership at the date after allowing for exemption claims.How on earth the poor miner is to find out what is the number of members, and the right amount, when even the chartered accountants cannot ascertain, I 2761 do not know, and yet they are entitled to the information. Although they have a political fund, when they pay their delegates to the Labour Party Conference, they actually pay out of the general fund for the purpose. What is still more amazing, although you get these figures in their accounts, if you look at the Miners' Federation Annual Report for 1922–23, you find that the Durham Miners' Association return their political membership to the Miners' Federation at exactly the same figure as the ordinary membership, namely, varying from 126,000 to 120,000. You can, as it were, pick up your report and take your choice.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
Here it is—General Fund showing the number of members returned to the Federation each quarter upon whom 1½d. per head is paid.That is the general membership. I find the figure—I take it at random—for the quarter October to December, 1922, is 120,000; January to March, 1923, 120,000. Let me take corresponding figures with regard to the political levy from December to February and March to May. In each case it is 120,000. In addition to that, I find a similar thing in South Wales. I have here the balance sheet of the Ferndale Lodge, South Wales Miners' Federation. On the receipt side is "Rhondda Labour Party, £70 11s. 11d." On the other side:Payments for political purposes, representatives on local bodies, county councils and various councils, £76 14s. 7d.; speakers and hospitality, £23: Rhondda Labour Party, £22; election expenses, £35.This shows they received in their general fund for political purposes £70, and they spent £148.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
All I can say is that I have the balance sheets. If the hon. Member can point out any other 2762 income than is expressed in the balance sheet for political purposes I will at once apologise and withdraw what I have said. As a matter of fact, I have got the balance sheet here. I have read it very carefully through, and I cannot find a solitary word which indicates any money for political purposes except that which came from the National Labour party. Let me take one other. It is just as well that we should have these accounts fully gone into. Let us pass to the cotton trade. What is the position? You have weaving. There is the Weavers' Association in a particular town. You then have the Weavers' Amalgamation. Then you have the United Textile Association, the real political association, which alone has the political rules with the exception of a few units in Nelson and elsewhere. The United Textile Association is the head of the lot. The body which collects the political levy—if it is collected at all as a political levy—is the Weavers' Association of the particular town. I have here the balance sheets of the Weavers' Association for Blackburn for the whole of 1923, and a good bit of 1922. I have gone through them very carefully. There is nowhere shown on the income side any collection for political purposes, and on the expenditure side there is nowhere shown the contribution of anybody for political purposes.
When I come to the Weavers' Amalgamation, I find that the Weavers' Amalgamation received from the Blackburn Weavers' Association for the year ending 7th April, 1923, £619 for political purposes. Surely a member of the Blackburn Weavers' Association is entitled to know where that £619 came from, and what part of the funds of that particular Union it was. I find, going on, that you have got the United Textile Association, and you have another figure of £4,000 odd contributed from the Weavers' Amalgamation; but you really cannot find the like figure in the Weavers' balance sheet. Just in the same way the Weavers' Amalgamation when they come to send delegates to the Labour Party Conference pay them out of the general fund although they have a political fund. So much for that.
Let us take one other Union, the Shop Assistants. The Shop Assistants' Union is a most useful Union. Not only that but their accounts are extremely interesting, because one finds that their income 2763 for political purposes is made up in two ways, an allocation from the general fund of £1,907 and a proportionate members' contribution of £801. Yet you cannot find any rule which allows that allocation from the general fund. There ought to be no allocation from the general fund. It should be the members' contribution.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
It does not matter whether it is or not for this purpose. Let us pass to other unions. Let us come to the Trade Union Congress and the Labour Party Conference. The membership of the Trade Union Congress, according to Standing Orders, is based on a subscription to the Congress, and is paid on the basis of the subscribing membership of the Union. According to the Standing Orders of the Labour Party Conference, the affiliation fees are paid upon the subscribing membership of of those who contribute to the political fund. I have here both the Trade Union Congress Report, and the Report of the Labour Party Conference. I will take the Unions one after another. There is the National Union of Distributive and Allied Workers, Enginemen and Firemen's Union, Marine Workers' Amalgamated Union, Post Office Workers' Union, Shop Assistants' Union, and the Railway Clerks' Union. I find that in almost every case they have subscribed to the Labour Party Conference on exactly the same basis as they have subscribed to the Trade Union Congress, but that in one case a union has actually subscribed in respect of move members to the Labour Party Conference than the Trade Union Congress. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name!"] Under these circumstances what becomes of the exemption? I challenge the hon. Member for S.E. St. Pancras (Mr. Romeril), the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Hoffman)—the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Hodges), or the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Rhys Davies) who are connected, or were connected, with the membership of these Unions, to say that it is a true representation of the people of this country to take subscriptions to the Labour Party Conference as if there is not a single 2764 exemption in any one of the particular unions.
I find something else. Notwithstanding the fact that you have your private subscriptions to the trade unions, I find that the Trade Union Congress, which is purely trade union, has for years been subscribing from its general funds, which are purely trade union funds, to the Internationale. I find, for example, that in 1921 they agreed to pay, or share in paying, to the right hon. Gentleman who is now Prime Minister of this county as Secretary of the Internationale, so far as I know he is not a trade unionist! £600 a year as Secretary of the Internationale. I find, apart from all that, that in the same year they subscribed £1,500 to the Internationale Socialist Bureau out of the general fund of the Trade Union Congress. Further than that, I find that in 1922 they paid the expenses of a delegation, of which the hon. Member for North Salford (Mr. Tillett) was a member, which went to Germany, and which, in the name of the trade unionists of this country, and at the expense of the trade unionists of this country, told their brethren in Germany that their policy was the renunciation of reparations. I do not think that that is the sort of thing which the working men of this country will tolerate as being paid for out of their money.
What then are our proposals? Our proposals are these. With the ballot we are not interfering in any way—with the method of taking the ballot under the Trade Union Act, 1913. We have left out any provision in regard to the time or the method of taking the ballot. But the ballot shall decide that the machinery of the trade unions shall be used. Once that has been settled, then it is perfectly free and open to every member of the trade union who wants to subscribe to the Socialist party to say so in writing, and from that time onwards, he is absolutely liable to do so until he withdraws it. Is there any unfairness, any undue pressure, any possible injury to the principles of the Socialist party in that? We go further. We do provide for what is, after all, a true safeguard against the muddling of accounts. I should be the last person to charge any Member on the Benches opposite with any intentions of dishonesty, but everybody I think realises this, that once you get two accounts 2765 muddled in the same account, it is extremely difficult to separate them and to keep the separation properly. What we provide for is that the payment for the political levy shall be made on a separate contribution card, and that from start to finish, both in the registered and unregistered trade unions, from the moment that contribution 16 paid, it shall be clear that it is a payment for a political fund, and it shall be kept in the lodge or the branch of the union in a separate account. There shall be, too, a proper, clear audit of that for the benefit of the union. I venture to think that a Bill which contains those privileges is a real and proper attempt to safeguard the workmen of this country from undue oppression. It is an honest attempt not only to save them from undue oppression, but from the consequences of having muddled accounts. This Bill is a great measure of justice to the working men of this country, who will visit their judgment on hon. Members opposite if they oppose it.
§ Mr. T. SMITH
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
It is rather unfortunate that the hon. and gallant Member who moved this Bill (Captain Ainsworth) and the hon. and learned Member who seconded (Mr. Greaves-Lord) omitted to mention that a similar Bill to this was before the House in 1922. I notice that there is a difference between this Bill and the one presented in 1922. The latter Bill provided that the Ballot in order to be valid must be made up of 50 per cent. of the members of the Union, and that the majority must be at least 20 per cent. Those two things are left out of this Bill. It is asserted that the object of this Bill is merely to consolidate the trade unions, and to amend the Trade Union Act, 1913. The hon. Member who moved this Bill made one or two insinuations to which there will be a very effective answer later on in the day. I would like to say to the hon. Member who seconded that he must have a bad case if he needs 55 minutes to state it.
§ Mr. SMITH
I remained quiet while the hon. and learned Member opposite was speaking, and I hope his knowledge of the law will at least permit him to remain 2766 quiet while I am speaking, although I may make him a little uncomfortable before I have finished. There is a very effective answer to the statement which he has made with regard to the Miners' Federation, but as that refers mainly to Durham I will leave the reply to it to hon. Members representing that County. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading said there was an insistent demand throughout the country for this Bill. It is rather strange that the country should demand this Bill, because it has only been available during the last two days. It was circulated on Wednesday of this week, and the hon. Member who moved it very carefully refrained from stating where the demand for it came from. He said he had 50 names which he dare not reveal, and that is very poor evidence indeed, and would not be accepted at any rate by the hon. and loyal Member who seconded the Motion.
In order to understand clearly what is the real reason for this Bill we must carry our minds back to the circumstances which existed in 1912 and 1913. The hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Mr. Greaves-Lord) read out a statement made by the Attorney-General at that time on the Second Reading of that Bill which took place on the 12th August, 1912. I submit it would pay him very well indeed if he would consult what was said in the Debate on the Third Reading on the 31st January, 1913. When the Bill was before the House in 1912 and 1913 there were three distinct points of view put before this House. There were those who believed the Bill was all right as it was presented, but there were members of the Labour party who wanted a complete reversion of the Osborne judgment, and there were also members of the Tory party who stated that the Bill did not give sufficient guarantees and protection to minorities.
§ Mr. SMITH
I am pleased to hear that interruption. When the Bill was presented to the House on the 31st January, 1913, a speech was made by the late Mr. Bonar Law, and I think he is regarded by members of the Tory party as a man who was very jealous of any interference with the liberties of the individuals. He said:I should like to say a few words about the Bill before it leaves the House. As 2767 regards its general principle there has not been from the first any dispute. I think everyone, in all parts of the House, recognises that the Osborne Judgment left trade unions in an invidious and unfair position. Trade unions ought to be able, if they wish, to carry out political action under fair conditions.I am going to submit that the Trade Union Act, 1913, did lay down fail-conditions. If it did not why did the Tory party let it go through the House of Commons without a Division. Is it contended that the Members of the 1913 Parliament were not as alert as hon. Members opposite are now in regard to this question? Were they not in the past desirous of protecting the individual? I submit that neither the Mover nor the Seconder has given the real reason for this Bill, which is that Members sitting on the benches opposite are a little anxious about the progress of the Labour party. I know it is not in order to impute motives, but there is no necessity for me to do so.
There were 40 Members of the Labour party in the House of Commons after the 1910 Election. After 1918 there were 73, in 1922 the Labour party had 142 representatives in this House, in 1923 we have 190, and we are now the Government of the day. This will not be the last time that this Bill will be brought forward by hon. Members opposite, because anyone who searches the history of trade unions knows that it has prospered in spite of the opposition of lion. Members opposite, and when hon. Members opposite talk like the Prime Minister did about being the party which always stood for Social Reform and quoted the late Lord Shaftesbury—no one admired his work more than I do—they must remember that he was fighting in spite of the opposition of the Tory party inside this House. Therefore I think it is quite true to say that the real reason for the introduction of this Bill is the progress of the Labour party. It is too much to expect that those attacks from the benches opposite will cease.
I have taken a very keen interest in politics for a number of years. I took an interest in politics even before the Trade Union Act, 1913, was passed; I had a fair apprenticeship on a local body for ten years: I stood my own expenses for at least seven years; I am, as hon. Members know, a Miners' Federation member, and 2768 I want to say that there is no truth in the statement that if a man wishes to secure exemption under the Trade Union Act, 1913, he is afraid of victimization. That argument is very weak indeed. I will tell hon. Members what is the position. During the War, when certain differences of opinion arose on the question of the war, there sprang up certain societies, and certain men, who were anxious to get ammunition to throw at the trade union movement, laid themselves out to secure exemption and to make as much capital as they could out of the way in which exemption was granted to them. Fortunately, some of those very men came to the conclusion that they were playing a dirty game, and they came back inside the trade union movement and took their part in clean politics.
What is the argument that has been put forward by hon. Members opposite? The gist of it is this. They wish to restore liberty to an individual who has been denied liberty by a certain Act of Parliament, and they say that certain trade unions have abused that Act of Parliament. I submit to the hon. Member for Norwood, who is a lawyer, that it is always a very bad point of view to take that, because an allegation is made that a certain individual has violated an Act of Parliament, you should scrap that Act of Parliament. I submit to him that if a policeman exceeds the law you do not talk of scrapping the police force. I submit that if a bigot commits a crime that does not prove that Christianity is wrong. And I submit that hon. Members have not brought forward sufficient evidence to this House to justify any alteration of the Act of 1913. As matter of fact, that Act was not hastily pushed through this House. It was very carefully considered on its Second Reading. It is true that there was a division on its Second Reading, and that there was a very strong fight in Committee, but at its Third Reading all Parties in the House agreed that it was a good compromise, and they allowed it to go through without a division. In my opinion, hon. Members opposite have not made out a case for this Bill. The Bill, instead of restoring liberty, would be met by tremendous opposition in the country. I would like to remind the House of the changed circumstances since 1922. Lieut.-Colonel Meysey-Thompson who then moved the 2769 Bill, is not now in the House. The hon. Gentleman who presided in Committee upstairs, and who, I believe, was one of the most biassed Chairmen that ever sat on a Committee—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
An observation of that kind cannot be allowed. Our Chairmen of Committees are governed by the procedure of the House, and we never allow any reflections of that sort.
§ Mr. SMITH
If I have transgressed the rules of the House in any way, I am very sorry. I did not intend to transgress the rules of the House, and I hope that you will accept that statement from me. Hon. Members know that the discussion that took place was most unsatisfactory, and hon. Members themselves, in their quiet moments, would admit certain things that took place. In spite of all the talk about this Bill being needed in the country, some, of the very people who backed it are not now in the House. I submit that it is a good thing for the country to encourage trade unions to take part in political activity. It is a good thing that the working classes of this country are to-day taking a keener interest in politics than they did in days gone by. If you hinder and hamper and embarrass trade unions in regard to political activities, you compel the industrial workers to revert back to the only alternative to secure any concession, and that is the strike weapon. I, for one, have always believed that the strike should be the last weapon to be used. I have always held that it was far better to try and secure by constitutional action inside this House reforms for our people; but, if this Bill were to become an Act of Parliament and if, as hon. Members believe, thousands of people would refuse to pay the political levy—if you thus hinder and hamper and embarrass trade unions in regard to political activities—you would compel trade unionists and working people generally to rely more on the strike weapon than they are doing to-day, and I hope that this House will not allow any such thing.
Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I beg to second the Amendment.
The Mover of this Bill submitted two or three points on which he based his argument for the need for the Bill. First, he claimed that certain trade unionists who are intensely loyal to their 2770 unions are labouring under a great disability, and then he said that contracting-out under the Act of 1913 has become a dead letter. He followed up these two statements by stating that he was in possession of 50 sworn statements, by trade unionists who are full of grievances against their particular organisations. If those 50 sworn statements are the only evidence that the hon. and gallant Member can submit in justification for this Bill, then, obviously, remembering that there are some five million trade unionists, there is no necessity for the Bill. It must be obvious to all Members of the House that since this Bill was handed in the whole of the Unionist Association, with its legal department and all the other departments, has been hard at work to supply the mover with all the evidence that can be supplied, and if, after a fair examination, they can find only 50 people who are prepared to swear to a statement then, surely, there is no necessity for the removal of the Trade Union Act of 1913 and the substitution of the Bill that is before us this morning.
The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Bill made reference to a political escapade that had occurred in his division. He told us of the visit of the right hon. Gentleman who sits for Derby (Mr. Thomas) and of one or two other Members who sit on the Front Bench, but he did not tell the House that he is now the representative of a serious minority, and that, of some 32,800, votes, he only captured 10,600 in 1923, so that, from an electoral point of view, he has nothing to boast about. The hon. and learned Member who seconded referred to his acquaintance with Lancashire miners, and he told us, I believe quite truly, that Lancashire people like to have freedom to do just as they please, and like to express themselves in their own peculiar way. May I remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that they did express themselves at the General Election by submitting five candidates and sending all five to this House? The miners of Lancashire elected five miners to represent them, and they not only saw to it that they nominated them and found the money to conduct the Election, but they cast their votes and saw them safely inside this House.
2771 The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that trade unionists are entitled to all the liberty and freedom of citizens. While he was speaking I imagined all the Members sitting on this side of the House as members of the Temple, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman belongs, and the hon. and learned Gentleman himself as a new entrant pleading that new entrants into that Department should have some say as to what the rules and constitution should be. May I remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that the rules of his particular trade union organisation were made many years ago, and that all those who became members years afterwards, and even to-day, must comply with the rules and regulations laid down, perhaps, before they were actually born?
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
May I inform the hon. Member that the rules of the legal profession are dealt with from year to year, are revised and brought up to date every year, and have been amended even within the last year?
If the hon. and learned Gentleman would make a closer acquaintance with trade union organisations, he would find that they do exactly the same thing. During the whole of his 55-minute speech, one thing that stood out pre-eminently to my mind was his absolute lack of knowledge with regard to trade union organisation. Might I also remind him and the Mover of the Bill that, while referring to the disadvantages under which trade unionists are labouring, they actually suggest in this Bill that in future, when contracting out, they shall do exactly what they are called upon to do at this moment, namely, that, if having decided to pay their political levy, they desire at any date to withdraw, they can do so according to the following statement in Sub-section (2, a, ii) of Clause 1:Any member giving such notice shall be liable to contribute to the political fund of the union as from the date of such notice, provided that such notice may be withdrawn at any time by letter sent by post.The only thing a political objector has to do at this moment is merely to send a letter by post. It seems to me that this is the whole weakness of this Bill from top to bottom, except, of course, the weakness that is inherent in the minds of most hon. Members opposite, who are 2772 always living in the days of antiquity. I am never surprised at any attacks upon trade unions from the opposite benches. I should like to read to the House two paragraphs which appeared, one in the "Times" of 7th January, 1800, and the other in the "Morning Post" of 29th March, 1922. The first paragraph, from the "Times" of 7th January. 1800, states:One of the first Acts of the Imperial Parliament will be for the prevention of conspiracies among journeymen tradesmen to reduce their wages. All benefit clubs and societies are to be immediately suppressed.On 29th March, 1922, the following paragraph appeared in the "Morning Post":The alienation of the funds of industrial societies to political purposes, and the abuse of trade unionism for political ends, constitute one of the most monstrous frauds ever practised upon British workmen.This hostility towards trade unions has persisted for over a century; the only difference has been in the methods of attack. They had to fight hard to obtain legal protection 100 years ago, and they are having to fight hard even in 1924 for protection, either political or industrial. Is there any real need for this Bill? It seems to me that if a person can contract out, as under the terms of this Bill, by sending a letter through the post, he can, surely, do exactly the same thing to-day. It seems to me that the supporters of this Bill, rather than really expecting and hoping that the Bill is going to be carried, are merely introducing one of those periodical pin-pricking, embarrassing pieces of legislation which are conceived, not in any spirit of real helpfulness, but in a spirit of hostility towards those political opponents whom they persistently fear. With regard to their appeal for individual liberty close examination of all their actions in past years will quickly indicate the type of liberty that they actually want. One of my friends at a political meeting said once:The liberty, equality and freedom that some people desire"—I would not attribute this either to the Mover or to the Seconder of this Bill—is that the workers should be at liberty to starve, and then they might have equality and freedom and justice in Heaven.It seems to me that the only liberty and freedom desired in this Bill is, not that 2773 the workmen shall be at liberty to do as they wish, but that the employers shall be at liberty in the future to do just as they have been doing in the past with regard to their workpeople. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Bill is, I understand, interested in agriculture, and I would ask him if he feels, or if he knows it to be the fact, that agricultural labourers have not any sort of economic, political, moral or spiritual freedom in this country?
§ Captain AINSWORTH
The hon. Member has asked me a question, and has also stated that I am an agriculturist. I am an agriculturist in a small way, but I am connected with the Lancashire cotton trade, and employ a considerable number of men in that trade. May I tell the hon. Gentleman that I pay considerably above what the trade unions are asking in wages, and that, as regards my agricultural exploits, I have not a man who is receiving less than £2 15s. a week and a house?
§ 1.0 P.M.
I am delighted to hear that statement and when the hon. Member's friends who pay less than £1 a week in wages say they cannot pay more, I hope he will support Members on this side in establishing a wage board for that industry. These persistent attacks upon the political rights and privileges of trade unionists are not intended to confer liberty on the individual at all, since that liberty exists. The late Mr. Bonar Law, who said trade unionists ought to be able, if they wished it, to carry on political action under fair conditions, was satisfied in 1913 that the 1913 Act conferred fair conditions upon all members of trade unions. I would remind the mover of the Bill of a statement made by a very prominent politician who said:I am convinced that the more political parties or the House of Commons interfere with the internal work of trade unions, the more will they strengthen those who desire political action.That statement was not made by the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton), nor any other Member on these benches; it was made by the late and revered leader of the Conservatives, Mr. Bonar Law, in 1913. The truth of that prophecy is indicated by the confined growth in the number of representatives the Labour party actually have. This talk of the liberty of the individual would be 2774 humorous if it were not so tragic. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Norwood who told us some of the things Sir Rufus Isaacs said in 1912 and 1913, omitted to tell us of one or two other statements he made. Sir Rufus Isaacs, who was then the Attorney-General, told the House that it was a most difficult proposition for any Member to determine where industrialism finished and politics began. He said this not only confounded every metaphysician and all sociologists, but psychologists of the human mind; and I would defy the hon. and learned Gentleman to determine where industrialism really ends and politics start so far as trade unions are concerned. Is it not perfectly true to say that, during all the years trade unions have existed, officials of the unions have been meeting parties in the Lobby of this House for the purpose of begging for their members what they ought to have been able to give them, as Members sitting on other benches have been able to do. The division between industrialism and politics ought to have been determined before either the hon. Member who moved or the hon. and learned Gentleman who seconded the Bill submitted it for discussion. The Attorney General in 1913 said that under Clause 3 of the 1913 Act, the very Clause this Bill desires to abolish, the protection given to minorities was very effective. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not quote that statement to the House. Neither did he tell the House that if a man takes the trouble to claim exemption from contributions he will get it. If he says, as I daresay a great many will, that it is not worth doing so for the reason that he is content to leave it to the judgment of those he has put at the head of affairs, he will be perfectly content to pay. The Attorney General could at that time foresee that the mass of trade union members, who appoint their officials and invariably leave the work in the hands of a small minority, would be perfectly satisfied with the results achieved industrially and politically, and would be content to continue to pay. I cannot help thinking the object of this Bill is to say that there shall be no political contributors to any trade union in the country unless all who desire to pay contract-in by a written notice and perform all the other various acrobatics laid down in the Bill. 2775 To comply with the Bill would necessitate branches appointing a special secretary; there would have to be a special ledger; and we should have to have an annual flag day in order to get our people to pay their political contributions. All this seems the height of folly to those who know something of the working conditions of the people and who know something about trade union organisation. At a mine where 3,000 men are working, 1,200 or 1,400 going to work and 1,000 to 1,200 leaving work at the same time, how can they comply with the rules and regulations laid down in this Bill? If I remind the House of what is happening in Yorkshire, a county with which I am well acquainted, hon. Members will see what people are really thinking. We have somewhere about 150,000 members, and the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading appears to have 198 friends amongst that 150,000. Since 1913 every facility has been provided for political objectors to withhold their money, and during the past eight years there have only been three people who have appealed for exemption from political payment, and I can tell the hon. Gentleman this, that if two of the three were working in or about the mines to-day they would pay double money rather than pay no money at all. That is the result of several years working in Yorkshire. I can tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman this also, that of all the moneys expended by the society in the last eight years less than 3 per cent. of the total money paid into this society has been spent on politics. At this moment the society includes fifteen county councillors, hundreds of urban district councillors, and nine members of Parliament; and the members feel that all these men are performing useful and necessary work such as could not be performed unless funds were provided. Just as the coal owners of the North have a fund to which they contribute 2s. per 1,000 tons of coal produced for the purpose of securing representation on local governing bodies, so it should be permissible to the miners and other workers to contribute towards any fund for a similar useful purpose. Further, when the coal-owners make up their minds that they are going to make this contribution of 2s. per thousand tons of coal produced, do they ask the consumers of coal whether 2776 they shall be permitted to pay or not? Is it not fair to assume that these contributions are exacted from the consumers, who in large numbers are political opponents of the coalowners themselves? Without entering into the various schemes of things as to where the money is coming from for the Conservative Party Fund or the Liberal Party Fund it seems to me every penny they pay—I know they claim the payments are made voluntarily but they are exacted from involuntary givers before they are paid into the party funds. When it comes to a question of balance sheets it seems to me that their sincerity towards this Bill is embodied in their anxiety to submit their own balance sheets to the Registrar-General.
In 1919 and 1920 we were told some 32 people passed away who all held titles, and they left approximately £11,763,000. Were they given titles because of the wonderful work they had accomplished for the nation, or because of the large sums they paid over to the political funds of the two political parties? They did not ask this nation, when they were giving national titles to these individuals, whether the nation agreed or not. Their only conception was, how large shall the contribution be, and how many parliamentary elections shall be fought as the result of giving national titles away. Again, in the same year, 162 people passed away who left behind them at least £150,000, and one out of every six held a title of some description. We have been told subsequently to these deaths that a knighthood cost between £10,000 and £12,000 and a baronetcy anywhere between £25,000 and £40,000. Why do not hon. Members tell us exactly how much they have sold these titles for? Why do not they tell us also where the money is expended? The right hon. Gentleman who used to sit for Ayr told the House in 1922 that the Unionist Association purchased a million handbills to be distributed among trade unionists asking, advising, even cajoling them to advocate political exemption from their societies. How comes it about that they can get such fabulous sums of money with which to coerce trade unionists into doing something that they otherwise would not do? I should like to say a word or two with regard to the Seconder of the Bill introduced in 1922. That doughty supporter of trade union freedom 2777 and liberty, the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour) quoted John Stuart Mill, who said:The people, it would appear, may be progressive for a certain length of time and then stop. When does it stop? When it ceases to possess individuality.If there is any individuality at all it ought to express itself by contracting out if it feels it ought not to be inside. May I mention one reason why this has not taken place? It is computed that in 1922 there were 3,300,000 members of the National Labour Party and they secured 4,250,000 votes. Is it not fair to say that every single trade unionist who voted at all, who pays to any political department of his own trade union, cast his vote on behalf of Labour when the General Election actually took place. Since there are rules to regulate the trade union, since ballots are constantly taken, since rules are revised every 12 months and the workpeople have an opportunity of deciding what the political objects should be it seems to me there is no reason for this Bill at all. It is unnecessary and ill-conceived and it will do much more harm than ever it could possibly do good and I hope it will be rejected by an overwhelming majority.
§ Major ROPNER
I crave the indulgence which the House usually extends to a Member making a maiden effort. The main principle contained in the Bill is that when a trade union has determined by ballot to take political action, individual members of the union shall "contract in" instead of "contracting out" as at present. Bills of this nature have been before the House, and have met with pronounced hostility from hon. Members opposite above the Gangway, with the object, I expect, of endeavouring to excite opposition throughout the whole trade union movement to a Measure which would ensure that trade unions shall not receive monies to which they are not entitled. Hon. Members opposite are endeavouring to explain that this is an attack on trade unions, for whilst the majority of the present Government are Socialists, and the majority of the leading spirits in trade unions are Socialists, the general bulk of trade union members are not. But they are in the position of acquiescing in Socialist domination, not understanding its drift, misled by the promise of higher wages and by that elusive eloquence on the solidarity of 2778 Labour and class consciousness which are so much beloved by Labour agitators. The description of the Bill as an attack on trade unionism in general is so ill-founded that it requires little attention. There can, I think, be little doubt that the passing of the Bill would, on the contrary, be of immense assistance to the trade union movement. To-day when workers in many occupations are levied, without their consent, to finance Socialist and revolutionary politics, and when some trade unions are being wholly deflected from their original object and becoming Socialist and Communist clubs, many trade unionists are leaving the unions to which they belong, sick and tired of being made to support political objects with which, in nine cases out of ten, they have no sympathy at all.
In no single respect does this Bill infringe the existing rights of any trade union to organise and protect the rights of trade unionists. Reasonable criticism of a previous Bill of this nature has been met in the provisions of this Bill. It has been mentioned that when last a Bill of this nature was before the House there was a provision that, before a trade union could take political action, 50 per cent. of its members must ballot, and of that 50 per cent. there must be a 20 per cent. or more majority in favour of political action. That provision has been omitted, quite rightly, from the present Bill. Objections to the previous Bill have also been met in respect to the provision that when an individual trade unionist has contracted in he will not have to do so every 12 months, as was suggested in the former Bill. It is recognised that when a trade unionist has expressed a wish to contribute to the political objects of his trade union he should himself be under the obligation to free himself should it be his wish.
No concession has been made with regard to an objection against the previous Bill, whereby it will be possible not only for individual trade unionists to recognise at once what monies are being paid to the general fund, and what to the political fund; but what money the trade union itself is paying for political objects, and how much for benefits. This Clause is absolutely essential in view of the disregard on the part of some trade unions of the provisions of the 1913 Act, and where contributions for the general fund 2779 have been carried to the political fund. For this reason it is essential that the accounts should be kept separate and that both accounts should be audited. The Bill does not compel the Labour party to publish its accounts any more than it is necessary for the Conservative party or the Liberal party to publish their accounts, nor does it care how the trade union funds are spent when once they have been handed over to the Labour party, but it does provide that the trade unionist shall know how the union's money is expended, in order that he may ascertain whether the law is being carried out as it should be.
With regard to the main principle of the Bill, the Labour party's violent opposition appears in itself to be an indication of the need of the Bill. When the 1913 Act was passed it was considered that it contained adequate safeguards of the interests of those trade unionists who did not wish to contribute to the political fund. Some trade unions, however, appear to have fallen under the domination of Socialist politicians, and they have devised a system of exacting out of the workers the last possible penny in support of Socialist politicians. There are two reasons which prevent trade unionists from claiming the exemption to which they are entitled. One reason is the trouble to which they are put before they are able to obtain the exemption form from the Secretary, and when they have got it there is the difficulty of their claim being met. The other reason is the victimisation and intimidation which objectors receive at the hands of some trade unionists. Not only are the men who come in this category subjected to victimisation, but in many instances their wives and children have been made to suffer.
The Act of 1913 as it stands is a negation of democratic principles in that it forces a trade union objector to the political fund to declare his politics by claiming exemption from the levy exacted by the Socialist organisation. It is a gross wrong to which the industrial worker is subject, that at the price of being a trade unionist, and very often at the price of obtaining employment, he must contribute to the political fund. Labour political bodies have an undoubted right to collect as much money as they can 2780 towards Socialist politics, provided that the persons who pay are willing to pay, but it is not right to allow any Labour body to coerce, directly or indirectly, unwilling members into paying.
There are men in trade unions to-day who are being compelled—there is no other word which adequately describes the situation—to pay to a political movement in support of Labour principles with which they are in entire disagreement. I could quote instances, and instances have already been quoted, of victimisation and intimidation. There are innumerable instances where the very greatest obstruction has been put in the way of men either receiving the exemption form or even then obtaining exemption. It seems to me an extraordinary fact that the party which claims a monopoly of human sympathy should in many instances be a direct cause of suffering to individuals who do not agree with its policy of socialism.
§ Mr. WILLISON
Like the hon. Member who has just spoken I claim the indulgence of the House because this is the first occasion on which I have spoken here. I I desire to oppose this Bill because I feel that before we proceed to alter the law there should be strong ground for the alteration. There has been no call from the public for its alteration, neither has there been any strong call from any members of trade unions for its alteration. The hon. and learned Member who seconded the Resolution may be able to quote from 50 or 60 or, if he likes, 100 dissatisfied trade unionists, but that is no reason why the law should be altered. I am sure that no Member of the party to which I belong wishes in any way to assist in victimisation or in undue oppression.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. WILLISON
I am certain that no member of the party to which I belong wishes to assist either in victimisation or in undue oppression, neither do we want to assist any trade union members or secretaries in muddling their accounts. Far be it from us that we should want to do anything of the kind. What we in the Liberal party want to see is fair dealing for all. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member who seconded the 2781 Bill. He belongs to the leading branch of the profession to which I belong, I belong to the second branch. In my time, extending now for some 30 years, I have learned something about the preparation of briefs. I have briefed many members of the profession to which he belongs, and I have received many briefs, and when I heard him speak, and quote from document after document in support of what he was saying, I could not help thinking that his brief had been most carefully prepared, not so much in support of the alleged poor, oppressed victim of trade unionism but for the purpose of making an attack on trade unionism itself and that I resent.
When he says that the Act of 1913 leads to victimisation whereas this Bill Will relieve it, I think that he has got his tongue in his cheek, because such a learned man as he would know from this Bill that it would not relieve victimisation in any way. Sub-section (1) of Clause 2 sets out distinctly that it shall be competent for any Member of a union to give notice in the form set out to the first schedule to this Act or, in any form to a like effect, that he is willing to be levied and to contribute to the political funds of the Union, by sending such notice to the secretary of the lodge or branch of which he is a member, or to the general secretary of the union. How does that relieve him if his trade union wants to victimise him? The only thing the trade union has got to do is, instead of looking to see who has contributed, to look at the list of those who have not. They have the member's card marked and if they wanted to victimise him they could do it just as easily under this Bill as they could at the present time Therefore this Bill cannot be due to the burning, earnest desire of hon. Members opposite to protect these unfortunate victims but it is an attempt to attack trade unionism.
I have had a good deal to do with trade unionists. I have fought for them and fought against them and I hope that I have fought as hard against them as I have fought for them, when I have been instructed to do it, but I have yet to learn that there is this victimisation which is spoken of. There may be isolated cases in which men have had bona fide complaints against their union, but it does not need an Act of Parliament like 2782 this, and speeches such as have been delivered by hon. Members, attacking even the front bench of the Government with regard to their salaries, to provide a remedy. That has nothing to do with this Bill. It is only part and parcel of an attempt to injure trade unionism. Why are members of the Tory party so anxious about this Bill? Would the House ever hear a single word about a Bill of this description if the members of the trade unions were voting for Tories? Of course it would not. It is only because they vote for the Labour party that this Bill is introduced.
It cannot be said that in saying this I am helping myself as a Liberal in any way, or that I am putting forward these views, because I have no Labour opposition. I fought the Nuneaton Division, which is a mining, agricultural and industrial Division, against both Labour and Tory candidates, and I am pleased to say that I beat them both. I feel as strongly about trade unionism as any Labour Member. I claim to be a member of one of the strongest trade unions in the world—the Law Society. [An HON. MEMBER: 'Can you contract out?"] We can look after ourselves. As a member of that trade union or society I should resent—and I think that hon. Members of the higher profession would do the same—any interference with my profession, and I want to know why, therefore, the hon. Member wishes to interfere with trade unionism, as he is attempting to do? I feel confident that this sort of attempt against trade unionism is wrong, and that if a Bill of this description were passed into law it would simply lead to serious industrial trouble, which is the last thing that we want. I also feel that if the Tory party are so anxious to know all about political funds, and wish to protect victims, they should not bring in this piecemeal legislation which deals only with trade unions. Why do they not bring in a Bill dealing not only with trade unions, but with the masters' organisations and societies, providing that the funds of any of those societies cannot be used for political purposes except under the conditions prescribed in this Measure? If the masters' organisations had to furnish accounts, such as trade unions furnish, and if I had an opportunity in my humble way of preparing a brief investigating a few of their accounts, I 2783 think that by the time I should have finished I could draw up an indictment against them as long as that which has been drawn up with regard to trade unions. I oppose this Bill.
I rise to support the Amendment. I do so because I am intensely suspicious of the solicitude of the Tory party for trade unionists. They say that they are bringing in a Bill to protect trade unionists from tyranny, to protect them from having to subscribe to political funds against their will. As I listened to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Bill I was not at all impressed with the idea that they had made out any case. I could see no real desire to champion the cause of trade unionism. On the other hand it was manifest at every turn that the intention behind this Bill is to prejudice and damage the position of trade unions. I hold that if a thing is bad it will naturally come to nought. What has been the experience of trade unions in regard to political activity? If our methods of raising funds for political activity had been wrong or tyrannical, and if public opinion and trade union opinion were really against these methods, how does it come about that the strength of the Labour party as a political force has increased so much in the last 20 years? Tyranny and oppression, wherever they are found, defeat their own purpose. In this Bill the boot is on the other foot; it is not that the trade unions are oppressing their members, but that there is a manifest desire on the part of the promoters of this Bill to place restrictions upon the activities of trade unions.
I was interested in the case put up in support of the Bill. It was alleged that 50 sworn cases were in the possession of an hon. Member opposite. That is a very serious statement, because, as the General Secretary of a trade union, I happen to know that there is no Department of the State more keen than that of the Registrar of Friendly Societies. If 50 sworn cases could be obtained in this country, what are these custodians of public rectitude doing in not handing these 50 cases, or any of them, to the Registrar of Friendly Societies? I have yet to find that the Registrar of Friendly Societies is solicitous or tender to the trade union official. I have always found him most vigilant in carrying out his 2784 duties. The statement to which I have referred is an aspersion on a Government Department and is totally unwarranted. Apart from that, it establishes the weakness of the case put up by the hon. Members opposite.
But for the intent of the promoters of the Bill and but for their manifest purpose of crippling trade unions and hindering our political activity, I should be disposed to accept the Bill, because I am sure that in its application, with the method of contracting in as against contracting out, instead of the spirit of trade unionists being crushed or the political activities of trade unions being curtailed by the Bill, the reverse would be the case. We have a good many Mark Tapleys in the Labour movement. We think it is no virtue to smile except in adversity. We are accustomed to oppression and tyranny. But it ill becomes those who represent privilege and monopoly and money, those who have shown glaring examples of the purchase of power, to bring in a Bill designed to hamper the political power of the Labour party—political power, which, on impartial examination, would be found to represent perhaps the cleanest phase of political life in the country, judged from the standpoint of methods of raising money for political activity. It is no use blinding our eyes to the fact that all political parties require funds. I am prepared to submit our methods to comparison with the methods adopted by other parties represented in this House, and I contend that our methods are the cleanest and the best.
Moreover, this Bill is a challenge to democracy. Our method is surely a very democratic method. We have not, in many instances, raised our trade union contribution for the purpose of providing political power. When we had it enforced upon us that political rules must be established, in many instances we did not say to our members, "You will have to pay so much more for political purposes." What happened in most of the unions was that we said that one-twelfth or one-eighteenth of the monthly contribution to the union was in future to be earmarked. We balloted on that question, and we received a democratic verdict from our members. We apply the rule to the extent of providing that any member who desires to contract out of this arrangement is at liberty to do so. The fact that 2785 so few contract out—in my own union it is a little over 1 per cent. of the membership—is the lie direct to the case put up by hon. Members opposite. Working men who have in many cases taken their lives in their hands, in the face of the employers, by joining the trade unions, have the law on their side and have the vigilance of a great Department like that of the Registrar of Friendly Societies always at their disposal, so that the trade unions can be brought to book if any man attempts to violate the law. In conclusion, I want to say that all the privileges we enjoy as trade unionists—the right to meet, the right to raise funds, the right to picket, the right to strike—have been wrung from an unwilling legislature, and this Bill is brought forward as a mere political party move to hinder and hamper our work. As has already been pointed out, whether you contract in or contract out, it involves a movement on the part of the member of the union concerned, and, for the life of me, I cannot see any reason why the law should be reversed to meet the wishes of those who desire to pull us down, those who fear our ascendancy into power, and who are not amenable to our occupation of these benches at the present time.
§ Mr. DICKSON
I am a new Member, and have to ask the usual indulgence from the House. Since I came to this House, several things have filled me with something like wonder and amazement. One thing which has done so more than anything else is the remarkable concern manifested by the capitalist party opposite, for the workers and for all connected with the workers. Their concern for the trade unionists, and their desire that trade unionists should have absolute liberty, is of recent development both in trade union history and in my own experience. An hon. Member this morning referred to the manner in which, about 100 years ago, the predecessors of the hon. Gentlemen opposite looked upon the trade union movement. It may be argued that we have travelled very far since. I agree that hon. Members of the capitalist party may have travelled 100 years forward, but in reaching that stage, they are still relatively where they were 100 years ago, that is to say about 50 years behind the wisdom of democracy. To-day they are taking the same viewpoint and they seek, wherever they can, to, blunt any weapon which the people forge 2786 for the achievement of fuller liberty. We have heard from the Mover of the Resolution that they are very anxious to save certain members of trade unions from victimisation. I believe I have seen more victimisation than any dozen Members on the other side, as far as trade unionism is concerned, and I have never found that victimisation to come from the trade union side of the industrial organisation. It inevitably comes from those who are so ably represented by the hon. Members on the benches opposite. There are Members on this side of the House to-day who within my own knowledge, not because they objected to a political levy, but because they dared to be trade unionists at all, were denied by those whom hon. Members opposite represent, the right to work within miles of their own home—denied the right to work even in their own county. I have not heard that hon. Members opposite were very vehement in their protests against victimisation of that description.
Frankly, we do not accept these protestations from the other side. I do not know if the expression I am about to use is Parliamentary or not, but I will say that we do not accept those protestations as honest protestations. Then we are told by hon. Members opposite that we should accept the terms of this Bill, and thereby remove a slur from our trade unions. I suggest, if our political funds receive nothing more unclean than the sixpenny and threepenny pieces of the colliers and the dockers, we have little to fear in a comparison with the sources of the political funds of the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We need offer no apology for the source from which this political party draws its funds. One could not but wish, while listening to the. Mover and Seconder of this Bill putting their case to the House, that the sources of their party funds and the balance sheets of their party funds were as open to the public eye as those of the party for which I speak. Emphasis has already been laid on the facts of the present situation. It is quite clear, despite insinuations made by those supporting this Bill, that any trade unionist who has political or conscientious objections either to the Labour movement, the Labour party or the Socialist party can by the mere effort of posting a letter secure exemption from the payment of the 2787 levy. I hope there is no man of the Socialist party, the Labour party, the Liberal party or the definitely capitalist party who has lost his courage to such an extent as to prevent him taking that step if he desires to be exempted from a political levy. The ostensible purpose of this Bill is to give freedom in political matters, but that I am sure is not the real purpose. The Mover of the Second Reading said that the object of the Bill was to prevent the unions from insisting upon members paying contributions for political purposes in which those members do not believe. That is the ostensible purpose of the Bill, but I contend again it is not the real purpose. The real purpose is to prevent trade unions from carrying out the industrial purposes for which they work inside their industrial organisation, up to the logical legislative end.
An hon. Member has very properly said that it is difficult to draw a definite line between political objects and industrial objects. If you succeed in drawing that line and in paralysing the political end of this work, you also succeed, in many cases, in paralysing the industrial end and that again is one of the real purposes of this Bill. For example, the industrial organisation may desire an eight-hour day, a seven-hour day, a six-hour day, a four-hour day or even one hour a week which Lord Leverhulme has indicated to be quite possible if we were only wise. If the industrial organisation is desirous of obtaining any of these things one of the surest ways of achieving it is by giving legislative form to the demand. Are we to accept the view of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that the unions should spend money in industrial organisation, crystallising the demand for this seven-hour or six-hour day or whatever it is, inside the unions and then, instead of going up to that place where the demand can be given legislative form they should suddenly stultify themselves and say: No, having fought the fight so far we will leave the legislative form of that demand, not to our friends but to our political opponents. That is very wise from their point of view, but I am glad to say it is not the wisdom of the working classes of this country. I thank the House for their courtesy in listening to me. I know that many more Members want to speak, and 2788 that, being a member on these benches, I can speak for much longer than the House would like to hear me, but I wish to impress upon the House that this Measure ought to be very definitely rejected, and rejected in such a way that hon. Members opposite will think twice and thrice before bringing it forward again. Hon. Members opposite are never so democratic as when they are out of office. They had an opportunity last year, with their very considerable majority, to introduce this or almost any other Measure, but this was one of the many beneficent Measures which they omitted to bring forward or to pass.
§ Mr. DICKSON
Well, they omitted at least to pass it. We were told, in a rather unfortunate phrase, that members on the Treasury Bench were wealthy. I hope they are wealthier than I think they are. They will be almost the first Front Bench in political history that deserve to be wealthy upon their own individual efforts, but if they are wealthy, as was suggested, because the foundations of their wealth were the trade union funds of this country, that only means that their wealth is founded upon contributions from the wages of the workers of this country, and I am afraid that the wealth of a good many Members opposite is not so much founded upon contributions from the wages of the workers, as from wages unpaid to the workers.
§ Sir PHILIP SASSOON
I am sure that the House will agree that the speech to which we have just listened has been an exceedingly skilful exposition of the case, and that we all welcome the hon. Member as an addition to our debates. But, however skilful his case was, I do not see how hon. Members on the other side of the House can logically oppose this Bill. After all, apart from the substitution of the principle of "contracting-in" for that of "contracting-out," its only effect is to make more precise provision for matters that ought to be done under the Act of 1913, if the spirit of the Act is properly observed. I should like to know why trade union leaders are so desperately anxious to keep off the Statute Book a Bill which gives to trade unionists of all shades of opinion a fair and free opportunity of expressing their personal opinions upon political matters. I should 2789 be the last to suggest that the consciences of trade union leaders are not clear in this respect, but what other explanation is there? If it be correct that the overwhelming majority of people who contribute to the political levy in this country are content to do so, what is the harm in letting them undertake to do so? Hon. Members opposite cannot have, it both ways. [An HON. MEMBER. "Neither can you."] Either this provision for contracting-in will not affect the numbers of those contributing to the political levies, in which case the position is unobjectionable from their point of view, or else it will mean that the numbers contributing to political levies will diminish. If that be the case, it must mean that there are many people in this country who are contributing against their will or under some sense of compulsion, and in that event I think this Bill is justified up to the hilt.
Are hon. Members opposite afraid that if this Bill pass into law there will be a falling off in the contributions they receive for political purposes? If that were the case, I could understand their anxiety, although I feel that they would be the last people to allow personal considerations to stand in the way of the democratic principle of the subject's freedom of choice in political matters. We have been told that under Socialism every citizen will be able to do as he pleases, and that if he docs not, he jolly well ought to be made to do so. I think that is a form of Socialism which is advocated by the opponents of this Bill. The fact is that the Act of 1913 was loosely constructed and has broken down in practice. It was designed to ensure secrecy of ballot and to preserve liberty of choice. It has, as a matter of fact, done neither. There can be no secrecy where a man has to declare his views to obtain exemption, and there can be no liberty where every obstruction is put in the way of his obtaining his right to exemption. I think there are thousands of working men throughout the country to-day who are paying a political levy in which they do not believe for the sake of a quiet life. One of the hon. Members opposite said that he did not see why every political party should not have its funds. I agree, but why should the Labour party have the special privilege of replenishing its funds by forced levies 2790 imposed on people who do not believe in them and who only do it because they are made to? If they are sincere and honestly believe that the people who support their political activities do it voluntarily, why are they afraid of this Bill?
If the spirit of the Act of 1913 is being rigorously observed, in what way are trade unions damnified by the spirit being expressed in the letter? If it is not being rigorously enforced, and if that is the reason why opposition is being made to this Bill, it seems to me to be a most improper objection and one which should be resisted in every possible way. I do not think, in common justice, it ought to be allowed to prevail. Let the working of this Bill be made as easy as it can be for trade unions, but the principle of the Bill should prevail. After all, it is a principle which is unassailable except by methods of attack which expose the whole case of the opponents of it. To my mind, this Bill is neither more nor less than a measure of common justice, to which many thousands of men and women are looking to restore to them the liberty of thought and action which is the birthright of every Englishman and Englishwoman. Hon. Members opposite may gain a tactical advantage for the moment by opposing this Bill, but I think that in the long run they will do their own case a great deal of damage.
§ Mr. RAFFETY
In rising to address the House for the first time, I ask for that indulgence which is always so generously accorded by hon. Members. I understood the hon. and gallant Member for Bury (Captain Ainsworth), in moving the Second 'Reading of this Bill, to say that there was a demand all over the country from trade unionists that such a Bill should pass, in order to prevent their funds being diverted for political purposes. I can only say that I have not met with that demand. My intercourse with the trade unionists whom I have met, either in the Parliamentary contests in which I have engaged or elsewhere, has led me to a contrary opinion, and rather have I been pressed to use what influence I may have to prevent the passing of this Measure than to say anything in its support. If I thought that a measure of this description was truly democratic, if I thought it was going to add to the efficiency and usefulness of the trade unions. I should most heartily support it, but I cannot regard this Measure 2791 as doing other than fomenting discord amongst trade unionists and in trade unions, and therefore I desire to give it my opposition.
It is impossible at this stage to reverse the principle adopted in 1913. Although, like my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Willison), I can conceive that there may be occasional cases of persecution, and that there may be irregularities, as in every human organisation, the answer to that must be more efficiency, and the cure of those irregularities, and not the proposals which are put forward in this Bill. After all, we see irregularities in the best of organisations. I think we read in the papers the other day about an organisation which holds the party fortunes of hon. Members opposite, and that the ruling of the chairman was in dispute, and even the voting papers were alleged to have been sent out with some irregularities. I am sure there must be these imperfections and irregularities. We must do our best to cure them by encouraging greater efficiency and greater confidence. I should be very glad indeed to do anything that would add to that efficiency, that would strengthen the trade union movement, and bring about that better organisation of industry in this country which I believe we all desire, and which some of us have tried a little to bring about. When I tried to take a small part in the building up of these organisations between the trade unions on one hand and the employers on the other, I was made aware how very inefficient were the organisations on both sides, and how highly desirable it was to make the trade unions fully representative of all the workers in the various industries. I do not think a Bill of this sort would lead us to the goal, or add to the efficiency.
The hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Mr. Greaves-Lord), in his very able speech, said he would like to see every worker included within his trade union, and so should I. I believe that would greatly add to the efficiency of the trade unions, and would make the problem of security, conciliation and good order in the working of industry in this country more easy than it is to-day. If this Bill pointed at all in that direction, I should be very glad to be one of its supporters, but I want to 2792 do nothing that would add to any misunderstanding. I want, if I can, to do something which will increase the good will in industry, and I desire very briefly to oppose this Bill, because I believe that it would lead to discord; it would create a want of confidence—and I want to see more confidence—and it would not assist that movement which, above all movements in this country in domestic affairs, I want to encourage—the building up of a better understanding between the employers and the employed, and the bringing about of more good will in industry, as we want to see it brought about in international affairs. It is because I do not believe that this Bill would achieve that object, but would remove it further from us, and make it more difficult to achieve, that I desire to oppose this Measure.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I merely rise because I was one of those who participated in a somewhat vigorous manner in the opposition to a similar Bill. It appears to me that this is becoming somewhat of a hardy annual. Year after year we have Measures like this introduced with the avowed object of preventing trade unions carrying out their legitimate functions under the existing law. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] An hon. Member shakes his head. I do not know whether he happened to be in Parliament when a similar Bill succeeded in passing the Second Reading, but, if he was, he will remember, and if he reads the records of the Committee upstairs at that time, he will see pronouncement after pronouncement was made that the amount of proof did not substantiate the case. I remember in the last Parliament but one the hon. Members who introduced a similar Bill were fortified by the fact that they had a lot of decoy ducks, or camp followers, who called themselves trade unionists, to back them up. Not only are they not now assisted by the camp followers, but if any proof were required of the hollowness of the plea that the principle embodied in the 1913 Act was not accepted in the trade unions, I would like to ask, where are the decoy ducks to-day? The Members who put those views forward received their answer at the polls; they are no longer here. I understand that the hon. Member who introduced this Bill was himself returned to this House by a minority vote of the constituency he represents. [An HON. MEMBER: "So is the 2793 Socialist party."] How, then, can he claim to represent the opinion of the majority of the trade unionists in his constituency?
I pass to the hon. and learned Member who seconded the Bill. He is a lawyer, a very eloquent lawyer, a very able lawyer; but, surely, with all his experience, he will admit that the principle embodied in this Bill is an absolute contravention of all Parliamentary procedure in introducing legislation in this House. If the hon. and learned Member were here, I would ask him to look up the records of legislation in this House, and where would be find in an Act of Parliament the principle of contracting-in, instead of contracting-out? Take the Vaccination Act. Would hon. Members apply the principle of contracting-in to that Act? [HON. MEMBERS: "That is what we want."] I venture to say, if my hon. Friend above the Gangway tried it, he would find out the serious mistake he was making. We expected that at least a specific case would have been given by the hon. and learned Gentleman where some injustice had been inflicted on a member of a trade union, but we looked in vain for one tittle of evidence of that sort. The hon. and learned Member said he had 50 names, but he could not mention them. Is there any jury who would convict on such evidence as that? The law is that you must substantially prove your case. If you go to Court and quote cases without giving your authority you put forward evidence that would not convict anybody. We have had general statements made without one word of evidence to back them up. We were given 50 names. Of whom? Are they responsible trade unionists? The hon. and learned Gentleman, having no case, absolutely switched off and quoted these names as though they were prominent trade unionists. He pointed out means that he alleged were used to compel men to join the trade unions.
Did the hon. and learned Gentleman never hear of employers practically compelling those of their class to join their unions and federations? If he never heard of that, his experience must be nil. The abolition of trade union effort would bring about a greater tyranny. Did the right hon. Gentleman never hear of the character-note given by employers? Has he never heard of the advantage that has 2794 been taken by employers of the Workmen's Compensation Act and the Employers' Liability Act which, who while apparently obeying the law of the country, are really against the spirit of it? I could tell the hon. and learned Gentleman many cases of the compulsion of employers. Take my own union. It is only a few years ago that employers objected to what we were wearing. They objected to us wearing a button in our coats. They would not employ us if we persisted in that. I suppose that is business! The hon. and learned Gentleman has heard of the Taff Vale decision. We had a Trade Union Act, and that gave greater liberty to the unions. Members of the trade unions were advised to be good fellows and to achieve their political objects by other methods and in a proper fashion. We have had the common sense to follow the suggestions made to us, to be good fellows and to be decent members of the community, and in that spirit we have formed our trade union political section. We collected funds for doing so. Talk about the compulsion of political funds. I wonder what would be the position of the hon. and learned Gentleman himself if he neglected to subscribe to his own trade union? It is no use hon. Members shaking their heads. The fact remains that the very essence of representation here on party grounds is a subscription to the political fund of the party to which you belong. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] We were told the way to go about this matter was not to strike but legislate; and we used the common sense suggested to us in relation to the political action which we took. We are now told, after having satisfied ourselves on political action, that we are committing injustices. Upon whom? Give us one case.
In the last Parliament we had the great privilege of the Ten Minute Rule grossly abused by hon. Members opposite. When this agitation was first heard of we had 40 Members on the Floor of this House. The character of this opposition is shown in the fact that it is directed against anything that strengthens the party to which I belong. [HON. MEMBERS: "We object to the Bill!"] Why the necessity for this discussion? If hon. Members persist in the attitude they are adopting the time will come when the place which knew them once will know them no more for ever! I submit that there are two kinds 2795 of ignorance, the unlettered and the educated. My hon. and learned Friend opposite has given us a lamentable example of the second. He referred to a meeting of the executive of a certain union, when a little inquiry would have shown him that it was not an executive meeting at all. It was only a delegate meeting of the whole union entrusted with full power to make a levy upon the members for any purpose whatever. I was a member of the Committee upstairs where, as here, a Machiavellian spirit prevailed in relation to this matter. That is really what it is. I would only add that I should prefer hon. Gentlemen opposing me frankly instead of posing as the candid friend. Their attitude reminds me of that verse of CanningGive me the avowed, the erect, the manly foe;Bold I can meet, perhaps may return his blow;But of all plagues, good Heaven, thy wrath can send,Save, save, oh! save mo from the candid friend!
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir P. RICHARDSON
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has stated the he would rather have an out-and-out opponent than a candid friend. One thing has been very evident throughout this Debate, and it is that whereas at the commencement there was a good deal of interruption, as the Debate went on it became more friendly as the arguments developed. We have had some very reasonable speeches in this Debate. I want to congratulate the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Raffety) upon the very reasonable contribution which he made to the Debate. I think it is all to the good that these matters should be discussed and that we should not indulge in recriminination. Some hon. Members have referred to past times and have gone back to the year 1800. I want to bring hon. Members back to the present day. We are all aware, that as time rolls on the relations between men gradually change. Some hon. Members opposite are continually throwing gibes across the Floor of the House at those belonging to my party that we belong to the Capitalist class. I do not know that that is any disadvantage. A great many arguments have been used about this 2796 Bill. But I have not heard one single objection raised to the argument that if a man should be allowed to contract-in, he should also be allowed to contract-out.
The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Palmer) said that the object of the promoters of this Measure was to restrict the activities of trade unions, and that their manifest purpose was to cripple the activities of trade unions. Then the hon. Member proceeded to speak of privilege, monopoly and money. I am sure there are very few hon. Members on this side of the House who have the slightest wish to cripple the activities of trade unions. We all agree the trade unions perform and discharge a very useful function, but we are also aware, and I can speak with some experience of the past—perhaps before some hon. Members opposite came into the world—of what victimisation meant in the North of England. The last speaker asked where was the injustice. He mentioned the fact that an hon. Member on this side only knew of some 50 names. Anybody who knows what are the relations of men with one another knows that it is impossible to produce any of those names, because they would be subject to further victimisation. It has been asserted that there have been cases of the victimisation of the employers. One man is no better than another, and if there have been cases of victimisation in the past, and if names were produced there would be further victimisation in the future. The hon. Member opposite knows that, while I differ from him politically, I have never charged any of them with any unworthy motive, and I have never suggested that they would do anything of an improper nature. The same argument holds good as applied to hon. Members who hold my view. It is a matter of great regret that so many people are so vociferous in making charges, and some are less so. The hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Dickson), in a maiden speech, upon which I congratulate him, referred to the Capitalist party, and said it was the desire of that party to cripple the Labour party. I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman if he can show in what way this Measure will have the effect of crippling the activities of the Labour party.
This Bill provides quite simply that the system should be reversed, but it also demands that special accounts should be 2797 kept of the political funds. I have not heard from the opposite side any reference to the criticisms which have been made about the keeping of political funds in better order, except the counter charge that on our side we have political funds, and it has been stated that these are not voluntary contributions. All our political funds are entirely voluntary. What we object to is that political funds should be raised by any compulsory methods. On this side, as a rule, we generally pay our own expenses at elections. To my mind it is quite a wrong principle that men should be obliged to subscribe to a particular political creed under the guise of subscribing to trade union funds. In the event of a contested election, it naturally follows that a great many of the electors hold different opinions, and it is not right that any man should be obliged to subscribe to political funds to support particular political candidates, because he might wish to support another candidate of a different way of thinking.
Throughout the country there are thousands of trade unionists who must support either Liberals or Unionists, and no one should seek to divert the funds of these unions to objects which the subscribers never intended they should go. That is tyranny, and it would not be submitted to by hon. Members on this side of the House or on the other side that they should be forced to subscribe to political funds, and that those funds should be devoted to some particular object with which they disagree. I have referred to one or two objections, and I hope some other hon. Members on this side will take them further.
§ Mr. BATEY
I want to utilise the time at my disposal in replying to the statement made by the Seconder of this Bill in regard to the Durham miners' organisation. It is not too much to say that if the hon. Member who seconded this Bill had not had the instance of the Durham Miners' Association to quote, he would not have been able to make out a case for the Bill at all. The whole case made out for the Bill has been that one or two organisations do not carry out the law as hon. Members opposite would like them to carry it out. I do not want it to be understood that we object to the remarks which have been made about us. We are rather used to that sort of thing. About three years ago in the county of 2798 Durham the Conservative Association commenced these attacks, and we have never since had any reason to complain. As a matter of fact, they have been for our good. Ever since they commenced these attacks upon the Durham Miners' Association, it has welded our men together, with the result that we have been able to sweep the whole of the county of Durham and send so many Labour Members to Parliament. We not only need not complain, but, if we had our choice, we would say to the Conservative party in the county of Durham, "Go on with your attacks, because so long as you go on with them you are helping far more than you are damaging us."
I want to take up two or three of the cases that were cited this afternoon. It is only fair, since they have been cited, that we should have an apportunity of putting on the records of the House our reply to them. The hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Mr. Greaves-Lord) mentioned a colliery belonging to Lord Londonderry's firm. He said that a man in that colliery had fallen into arrears with his union contributions, and the officials of the union went to the manager and prevented him working. He also said that the man was unable to get work in the district, unable to obtain parish relief and unable to obtain unemployment benefit. I want to submit, whether these facts are true or not, that if he was unable to obtain parish relief and unemployment benefit, that cannot be laid to the charge of our miners' lodge. Our lodge would be responsible for the man not being able to work since he had not paid his contributions, but it was not responsible—and I understand that was the sting of the point—for the fact that the man was unable to get either parish relief or unemployment benefit.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
Does the hon. Member deny that the ground upon which the man was refused relief by the guardians was that he had allowed his contributions to get into arrear, and had discharged himself, or that the same point was taken against him by the Labour Members on the unemployment committee?
§ Mr. SHERWOOD
Was not this man debarred from relief from the guardians because he was in arrear with his colliery contributions of one penny a week?
§ Mr. BATEY
I repeat that our lodge officials were not responsible for the man not getting parish relief or unemployment benefit. The hon. and learned Member referred to another case, and he told it in such a harrowing way that it seemed to be such a really important case that this Bill should be passed. He referred to the Ouston Miners' Lodge, and he said that men there were not exempted from paying the political levy each fortnight. He said that their contributions were taken all the year round, and that then, at the end of the year, the men were summoned, marshalled in a queue, and marched one by one past the president of the lodge, so that he could mark the men. That looks a terrible statement against this miners' lodge, but it is not so black as it looks. As a matter of fact, this was the ordinary meeting room of the lodge, and they have to get into a queue in order to pay their union contributions. The president was the ordinary card marker, and he was just marking the cards and not the men.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
Can the hon. Gentleman find any authority in the Act of 1913 for making a man who has claimed exemption pay an amount which includes the political levy, and leaving upon him the onus of reclaiming the amount subsequently?
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
May I ask the hon. Member whether the Miners' Federation rule does not provide for any member who claims exemption being excused from payment of an amount which is in fact attributable to a political levy, and under these circumstances why do not the Durham Miners' Association—
§ Mr. BATEY
The political levy that has to be paid by the miners is 2s. per year, and, dividing 2s. by 26, it comes to less than one halfpenny a week. How could any man, when he comes to pay his contributions, be excused less than ½d. per week? This is not a new case; it is a very old case. As a matter of fact, this 2800 statement was made by a county official, a very prominent member of the Conservative party, a long time ago. As soon as he made it, the lodge president insisted that he should withdraw it. Now, after a lapse of time, we have the statement hashed up again and brought forward in this House as a real, solid argument why this Bill should be passed. The hon. and learned Member also said that the Durham Miners' Association had been illegally spending money for several years for political purposes. That, again, is not as black as it looks. All our miners' branch lodges—and we have some 200 of them in the county of Durham—have for 50 years been collecting 2d. or 3d. per fortnight in order to pay purely local expenses. Recently, they have commenced to return members to county councils, local councils, and boards of guardians, and they have been paying the expenses of those representatives out of this money. That has not been the only purpose for which this money has been used. Several lodges used this money in 1921 for the purpose of feeding the children when they needed feeding. We were getting far too many Labour Members on the local councils to suit the Conservative party, so they went to the Registrar and drew his attention to the fact that out of this money we were paying for these local representatives. The Registrar drew our attention to it, and, as soon as he did so, we put ourselves right by taking a ballot in the county and setting up a separate fund. When the ballot was taken our men by three to one voted in favour of setting up this fund and paying their representatives out of this fund.
The hon. and learned Member also made a statement to the effect that the Miners' Federation, being an unregistered organisation, did not supply any retain of its political fund. Since that statement was made I have made particular inquiries to see whether it was true, and I am informed on the best authority that that statement was not correct, but that the Miners' Federation do make a return annually to the Registrar in regard to their political fund. I think I am safe in saying that the hon. and learned Gentleman based that statement upon an answer he received from, I think, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, but I am assured by the Financial Secretary that that answer did not convey, or was not intended to 2801 convey, any such moaning. Whether it did or not, however, there is no question that the Miners' Federation returns an annual statement as to its political fund, and, therefore, the hon. and learned Gentleman's statement to the contrary is altogether misleading. While hon. Members opposite are complaining and trying to make it as difficult as possible for us to collect levies for political purposes, I want to ask them what they would do with, say, the Durham Coalowners' Association. We had a majority of Labour representatives on the Durham County Council until two years ago. Two years ago the Conservative party commenced a real, live propaganda against us, in order to prevent us from returning that majority of Labour Members on the county council. We do not object to that, provided that they fight fair, but they certainly did not fight fair, and when the next Election comes round they will see whether we shall get that majority back again. What I complain about, however, is that, in order to get funds to fight us and turn our men out of the county council, the Coalowners' Association issued a circular to its members calling upon them to pay 2s. per ton on the output of the previous year, in order to fight the Labour members in the County of Dui ham. If the Durham Coalowners' Association could do that, why should an attempt be made to interfere with us in collecting our levies for political purposes?
It was said, I think by the Mover of the Bill, that this Bill was asked for by trade unionists. I come from a very big trade union county, and the Conservative party have been there doing all the propaganda they possibly could in order to stir up our people against paying political levies. In one case they got some of their officials to go round colliery villages while the men were at work, saying to the women, "If your man will only sign that exemption form you will get clear of paying 6d. per week to the union." They have used all kinds of methods in our county to try and set our people against paying political levies, but, in spite of everything they have done, I want to ask whether, in a great big county like Durham, there is any big demand for this? I would not say that you could not get one or two. That is possible in all organisations. I do not suppose that even the 2802 Conservative party are unanimous upon everything. In a great county like ours, however, you will not find any big volume of opinion among trade unionists asking for this Bill, but, on the contrary, you will find a great bulk of opinion totally opposed to the Bill and objecting strongly to any alteration in the present system. Hon. Members opposite can promote these Bills as they like, but there is one thing that they ought to have clearly in mind, and that is that they cannot stop the progress of the Labour party. The Member who moved this Bill in the House of Commons a year or two ago—Sir E. Meysey-Thomp-son—is now out of the House; and the Member who was in charge of the Bill last year, Sir M. Archer-Shee, is also now out of the House. I want to warn the Mover and Seconder of this Bill to-day that their experience may be the experience of those other Members if they continue to fight Labour in this fashion.
§ Mr. FRANK GRAY
The one thing that would help me above all others in coming to a decision as to the vote I should record on this occasion would be to know whether hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House are actuated by a sincere desire to help the downtrodden trade unionists, or whether they share with me the great fear of the growing strength of the Labour party based upon the collection of, it may be 1d., or it may be 6d., a week for political funds. There is a saying in the Equity Court that, if you come into Court asking for relief outside the ordinary legal provision—and that is what hon. Members are asking for here—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]—hon. Members are asking, surely, to change the law, or else they are wasting our time, which I am sure they would never do—you should come with clean hands, and, therefore, it becomes material to consider the basis on which other parties in this House collect their funds. It is alleged—I will put it no stronger, although there is an admission—that the party on the other side have augmented their funds by the sale of honours. I say there is an admission—[Interruption.]—I hear an hon. Gentleman ask, what about my own party? Our poverty is the evidence in regard to that. I say there is an admission for this reason, that the party opposite introduced a Bill themselves last Session to whitewash themselves 2803 and to penalise, not the principals in the crime, but the middlemen. The gravamen of the charge against the Labour party is that this collection is compulsory. I would point out that to-day a charge is made against the Conservative party. It is not made by me, because I am an old friend of so many of them, but we have one of their own leaders saying that there is not one of those who occupy seats upon those benches that has not had to obtain, under compulsion, the beer coupon or ticket. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!" and "Withdraw!"]
§ Mr. GRAY
Had I made that charge I should have been the first to withdraw it, but I will call upon Lord Astor to withdraw it. Let me pass on to things that are not controversial. Can it be denied that traders' associations have their rules of compulsion to obtain funds which are applied in part to political purposes, and do you expect Members on this side to introduce legislation to relieve members of traders' associations from that compulsion? May I refer to the rules, etiquette and regulations of the Bar. I do not mean the bar which my hon. Friend on my left means.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
What I was referring to was the legal Bar. Are you aware that they charge 6s. 8d. for opening their mouths and another 6s. 8d. for shutting them?
§ Mr. GRAY
I am glad to find that my hon. Friend and myself are at one for once. I have charged 6s. 8d. for opening my mouth, but I have never got the other sum for closing it. The issue I wish to put, particularly to Members on the other side, is, which do you consider more detrimental to the country, that there should be compulsion to contribute to trade union funds to obtain money which may be used, in the last resort, for the purposes of a strike, or to provide money, however small the sum may be, for the purpose of enabling the workers of the country to give expression to their thought in a constitutional way.
§ Sir KINGSLEY WOOD
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) belongs to an association which compulsorily makes people subscribe to political purposes?
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Mr. GRAY
No, I have never suggested that. I was drawing the distinction at that moment between a compulsory fund for political purposes, and a fund for industrial purposes which may lead up to the point of a strike. Where I blame the Labour party—I have done with the other side now—is that they are not brave and bold in their policy. If they are right, they should be asking for an amendment of the Act of 1913 not to deal with contracting-in or contracting-out but in order that they must have compulsion. That is the lessen they ought to have learned from the great friendly societies of the country, where the policy of compulsion led to the necessity of introducing other legislation. If you are permitted to have compulsory regulations to raise funds for industrial purposes, for the purposes of a strike, I see no reason at all why you should not have compulsion in support of those people who, as I think, are doing noble work in providing funds voluntarily in order give political expression to their views. You should be enabled to apply compulsion to both funds. But if you do that, at least you must deliver the goods. I know some Members, particularly those on the Front Bench, are as proud as peacocks when they are called Socialists; but they are not Socialists, they are only a had reproduction of the other side. If you start a political fund on the basis that you are going to obtain this or that, and 2805 that you are going in for disarmament, it may well approach false pretences if you come here and support the acceleration of the building of cruisers.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think it is relevant to the Bill to go into the subjects in the general programmes of political parties.
§ Mr. GRAY
I was only saying that to show that in my view it is perfectly legitimate for a trade union to raise a political fund, and that they ought to have compulsory power for the purpose. But directly they have that power they have the grave responsibility of seeing that the funds are used for the purposes for which they are raised.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
The spectacle of Satan rebuking sin is always an entertaining one; and the remarks which the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Gray) addressed to the benches with which he is in quasi-association, and the rebukes which he administered to us on this side of the House as to the most effective way of obtaining party funds, will be received with equal conviction. The speeches which have been delivered in opposition to this Bill would for the most part have been very relevant to some other Bill, but the greater portion of the criticism has been directed against provisions which find no place in any part of the Bill.
The speeches of the many Members who have spoken for the first time, and whom I should like collectively to congratulate, for I think I have heard nearly all of them, were more relevant than some of the speeches in opposition delivered by Members who have been much longer in the House. What, in effect, does this Bill seek to do? It simply seeks to make the Act of 1913 effective for the purpose for which it was passed. Let us see what was1 the purpose of the Act so far as this Bill deals with it. It provided that a trade union should not apply its funds for political purposes unless authorised to do so by ballot. That provision is not touched by this Bill. The right remains exactly where it stood. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. T. Smith) said he would stand by a quotation by which certainly we on this side of the House would stand, for it was a quotation from a speech of Mr. Bonar Law, that a trade 2806 union should be free to carry on political action under fair conditions. If the hon. Member accepts the first proposition, does he also accept the condition, for it is "under fair conditions" which is the basis of this Bill? The Act further provided, or intended to provide, that members of unions should be free to contribute or not, as they desired, for political purposes, and that the political funds should consist only of moneys voluntarily contributed by the members for that purpose. I do not think anyone will deny that that was the purpose of the Act of 1913 in so far as it dealt with the right of trade unions to use their money for political purposes.
I contend that the need for this Bill has been fully established. The very clear facts that were stated by the Mover and the Seconder of the Bill, I think, contained ample examples to show why the Bill is necessary. It is sufficient for my purpose to give three reasons. In the first place, there is no doubt that to-day excessive sums are being carried to the political account. The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) has apparently had some argument with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury as to what he meant by an answer he gave to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Greaves-Lord) on the 12th inst., and he said the answer did not in the last bear the interpretation which my hon. and learned Friend put upon it. I wish the financial Secretary was in the House because I should like to read the question and answer—To ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether the Minors' Federation of Great Britain has made any return to the Registrar of Friendly Societies for the years ending 30th June, 1923, or 31st December, 1923.The hon. Member said the Miners' Federation did make a return.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
It is a very remarkable thing, but this is the answer of the Financial Secretary—The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. The Miners' Federation, not being registered, is under no legal obligation to send returns to the 2807 Registrar. The remainder of the question does not therefore arise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1924; col. 2361. Vol. 170.]The remainder of the question was most relevant, because it was how much had been carried to the political fund and what was the amount so contributed and transferred. The question referred specifically to the political fund. It asked whether the Miners' Federation had made a return and, if so, whether such return showed the amount contributed and transferred to the political fund. The answer given was that they were not compelled to send in a return.
§ Mr. J. JONES
On a point of Order. Is not the Miners' Federation a conglomeration of various organisations inside the federation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I am entitled to put this question.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Not on a point of Order. The hon. Member can put a question to the right hon. Gentleman if he give way. This is not a point of Order.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
I will deal with the question whether or not the organisation composing the Miners' Federation ought to send in this return, and whether or not they did so. What is clear is, that if you take one particular Miners' Federation which does make a return, the South Wales Miners' Federation, it shows quite plainly that that body is carrying to its political account funds which ought never to have gone to that political account. I am quoting from the Return Form A.R.21, which is the annual return prescribed by the Registrar, for the register of trade unions, for the year ending, 31st December, 1922. There can be no doubt that a very large number of members of the South Wales Miners' Federation have claimed exemption from the payment of the political levy. That, I think, is common ground. I am told that complete lodges have claimed exemption. What is the position? First of all, this return gives the total number of members of the South Wales Miners' Federation as 87,080. Then the return goes on to show the political fund. In accordance with the Act, the only sums which ought to be credited to the political fund are the contributions or the deductions in respect 2808 of those members who have not signified their desire to be exempt from contribution. What in fact has been contributed? When you come to the account of the political fund you find this:Contributions and levies at the rate of 2s. per member in accordance with Number 1, Central Union's Political Fund rule.What is the total sum credited to that account? It is £8,807, which is 2s. per member for every single member of the South Wales Miners' Federation. That is sufficient to establish the fact that large sums are being contributed to this account which the Act of 1913 never intended to get there. It does not end there. There is no doubt that men who are seeking to contract out are being hampered, prevented and victimised in doing so.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if a member applies for an exemption form it has to be sent by post. Therefore how can he be prevented from getting it?
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
I am perfectly well aware of the law, and now I am going to tell how it is carried out. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said the same thing. I am glad that there is no doubt about what is the duty of trade unionists in, this matter. The hon. Member for Don Valley said that all the political objector has to do is to send a letter by post if he chooses to claim exemption, and he will get it. How is it carried out? In September, 1921, the Tanfield Moor Lodge in Durham wrote to the head office to say that they wanted forms of political exemption, in order that they might be able to issue them to their members who objected, and this is the reply which they got, which is dated 29th September, 1921:In answer to your letter we cannot supply exemption forms to any branch of this society. Every man must make a personal application"—
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
I think that hon. Members had better wait before they cheer——through his lodge giving his full name and address and the reasons for desiring to obtain exemption.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
Why is it quite right? What does the Act lay down? All that any member who objects has got to do is to send in a letter and get the form. Now it is said that he has got to give his reasons. Do hon. Members contend that anything more than putting in an application is required?
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
Why should any member have to state to the head office the reasons which prompt him to vote either Liberal or Conservative? Where is that found in the Act? But something more was required. He was I not merely compelled, if he desired to seek exemption, to send a letter to the head office stating in writing his reasons for desiring to obtain exemption, but they say:The matter will then be considered and a decision arrived at".So that is the way in which the simple right of a man to put in a formal application and receive an exemption form by return of post is to be dealt with. He cannot put it through his local branch. He has got to send it to the head office, and that is not enough, and the hon. Member knows well enough how firm the discipline is in the Miners' Federation. It is not enough that he should state his reasons, though that is utterly outside the Act. The chief caucus is to review the matter, and, presumably, if it decides that he has not stated his objections to Socialism correctly, his application is turned down and a decision is not given in his favour.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
Finally, he has a right of appeal to the Registrar after the high court of justice of the Miners' Federation has denied him his inalienable right. If the hon. Member thinks that he is carrying out this political action under what Mr. Bonar Law called "fair conditions," I am amazed at his sense of fairness. But let me come to another point. Not only are members subject to an improper examination of their desire to contract-out, but, when an exemption has been claimed, in 2810 many cases a refund is not made. I believe it is quite common that, instead of returning money to the objector, the unions leave it in the common fund. Take the case of the Blackburn and District Power Loom Overlookers' Association. A member of a union lodge objected to contribute to the political fund. The answer which came back to him was: We have not taken your contribution for the political fund. We have only taken into the political fund the contribution in respect of those members who have not objected. Did they send him back his contribution? No. They said: Your contribution remains in the common fund of the union. He had paid it. In future, if this Bill passes, he will not have to pay. What he had done in that case was to pay in his ordinary contribution. Part of that contribution is taken in respect of members who do not object and is credited to the political fund, but the whole of the rest is left in the common fund. What does that mean? It means that the member who objects to the political fund is being forced to pay more for ordinary benefit than the man who pays his contribution to the political fund. Is there anything in the Act of 1913 to justify that? Absolutely nothing. Therefore, on those three grounds there is ample ground for seeing that the spirit and the purpose of the Act of 1913 are carried out. One hon Member quoted a speech by Mr. Rufus Isaacs—as he then was—on the Third Reading of the Bill of 1913, in which it was stated that the House might well accept the Bill because the safeguards which had been inserted in it were ample. I dare say that a great many Members in different quarters of the House accepted, as one is inclined to accept from Law Officers, an opinion of that kind, which I am sure was quite honestly given. But who was there who foresaw, when that statement was made and accepted—that all a man would have to do would be merely to send his application in and get his money back as a matter of course—that the whole of these preventive measures and persecutions would be put in his way?
If in 1913 the House had known how that Act was to be carried out, that provision would never have gone through, and the provisions in the present Bill 2811 would have been inserted in the Act largely by common consent of all parties in the House. What does the Bill seek to do in order to remedy these acknowledged and admitted defects? In the first place, it ensures that only those who are willing shall pay; that, instead of the man who is unwilling to pay having to contract-out, those who wish to pay shall contract-in. Once they have contracted-in, they go on paying exactly as anybody else does who subscribes to a political party, a workman's club or any other institution. The hon. Member for the Don Valley said these were impossible conditions under which to work. What nonsense that is! All that is to happen is that a man has to signify his desire to have his contribution levied for political purposes, if he desires to have it so applied. There is not a single man in this country who does not understand that proposition, and there is no administration, however inept, which could not easily administer that provision. I go further and say that this Bill, with its plain and straightforward provisions and its two cards, will greatly simplify the administration of every trade union which seeks honestly to carry out what is in the 1913 Act. The hon. Member for Don Valley said something else which struck me as being far more relevant to the objection against this Bill. He spoke of the difficulty of collecting this kind of contribution. "Why," he said "we should have to have a flag day in order to collect the money from our members" That is the heart and root of the objection to this Bill and not the difficulty of administration. [HON. MEMBERS: "We cannot sell titles!"] That is a singularly irrelevant observation and I think a very improper observation. It is a very poor defence and I hope hon. Members can put up a better defence to their own constituents.
The next provision of the Bill is that everyone should know what he is paying and for what purpose he is paying it and it is therefore provided that there shall be a separate contribution card so that the member who pays a political levy will know he is paying that political levy and the member who is paying for ordinary trade union benefits will know he is paying for ordinary trade union benefits. That is absolutely clear and undoubtedly 2812 it is much simpler for the book-keeping and accountancy of a society which wants to keep its books properly. [Interruption.] Yes, I know quite a lot about keeping accounts and I know trade unions accounts, if they are properly kept, are not kept on different principles from other accounts. It is perfectly patent that in order to keep your accounts right and have them rightly checked, you are in a much simpler position if the political fund is to consist of moneys paid in on a special form, and is not to be worked on some wonderful system of carrying something forward from the general contribution, with cross credits and all the rest of it. When listening to the case unfolded by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Norwood (Mr. Greaves-Lord) of contributions which have gone from one holding company to another, I felt I was listening to a dissertation upon that kind of finance which has been so often attacked by hon. Gentlemen opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "Watered stock!"] No, the stock is not watered, it is improperly increased. Finally, the Bill provides that the accounts shall be in a form which shall show clearly and correctly that the political fund consists only of moneys subscribed for this purpose. The need for this Bill is plainly proved by the cases of administration which have been brought forward in the House to-day—that it is essentially fair to every member of a trade union, that it does absolutely nothing to take away any right or any privilege which was given by this House in the Act of 1913, and, in fact, anybody who is prepared to vote against this Bill will have to get a new watchword for his party, and that is, that he wants to make the world safe from democracy.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
In a very few minutes I should like to put to the House the considerations which will govern me, and, I think, many of my hon. Friends, in deciding how we shall vote in half an hour's time. The Trade Union Act, 1913, was passed by a Liberal Government, of which I was a Member, and indeed I had some personal responsibility for its framing and its passage, and I am, therefore, concerned to see what is the case that is made for altering that Act of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hendon (Sir P. Lloyd-Greame), and the hon. and learned 2813 Member for Norwood (Mr. Greaves-Lord), who made so brilliant a speech earlier in the Debate, have largely depended upon particular instances. No doubt it is easy to present a very taking argument by carefully selected and highly coloured, though, it may be, quite accurate, special instances, but the real question as to whether Parliament should take the responsibility of altering the Trade Union Act, 1913, cannot, I think, be decided by taking particular instances. You have to take a much broader and more general view.
The question I ask myself first is this: Is it really disputed that trade unions ought to be so organised that they may pursue political objects? It is a perfectly possible view that trade unions ought not to take part in politics at all, and it is a view, I think, which was strongly advocated at the time of the litigation which raised the difficulty out of which the Trade Union Act, 1913, became law. But I notice that hon. Members opposite are not contending that trade unions should not have and pursue political objects, though I am quite satisfied that at the back of the minds of many people who are supporting this Bill there really lies the hope and the intention that, if it were passed, trade unions would be prevented effectively from taking political action. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I know they do not say so, but when I read some of the things that are said in the newspapers which most strongly support this class of legislation, I think I am at liberty at least to express my own opinion that that lies behind some of the support given to the Bill.
Then comes the second point, which has been put very persuasively by the right hon. Gentleman. He says that when he reads the Trade Union Act, 1913, there are provisions in it that the fund of a trade union shall not be applied to political objects except in accordance with certain statutory limitations, and he says—and he may be right—that cases may be quoted—very striking cases—where these statutory limitations have not been observed. It may be so, but surely the conclusion that is to be drawn from that is that Section 3 of the Trade Union Act, 1913, ought to be enforced by those members of trade unions and their supporters and friends, who feel that it is being disregarded. It is no reason at 2814 all for passing a new Act of Parliament to say that the old Act of Parliament makes perfectly proper provisions, but that the old Act of Parliament, in this case or in that case, has not been accurately followed and applied. That is a reason for applying the old Act of Parliament, not for passing a new Act of Parliament.
Let me, in the last place—because I will keep my promise to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the right hon. Gentleman who is leading the House—make this point: I quite concede to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that it would make a material difference whether you say that members of trade unions whose money is to be used for political objects must affirmatively say so in writing, or whether, on the other hand, you say that any member of a trade union who does not want his money to be used for political objects must in express terms contract-out. No doubt, it would make a good deal of difference. The inertia which is true of all human movements is, I have no doubt, true about the trade union movement as well. That is perfectly true, but it does not by any means follow, that because it would make a material difference both to the amount of the fund and to the effectiveness of trade union political action, that the change is right. If you have got a provision, which, for my part, I think it is very proper to preserve, that a man who feels very strongly on this subject has got the right to object in accordance with the law, you have, in fact, secured the proper exception for that individual, and it may be perfectly right—and I am inclined to think it is right under modern conditions—that a trade union should have the advantage on its own side of what we may call the inertia of its members. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?" and "Why not?"] I think much for the same reason that it is quite right that the Conservative party, in a constituency which is predominantly Conservative, in trying to return a Conservative candidate, should have the advantage of the inertia of the electors.
I will sum it up in this way. There ought to be no dispute that trade unions may pursue political objects. There ought to be no dispute that they may raise funds for those purposes. The question is the question of the protection of the individual, and I do not see why 2815 you should change the whole scheme of the law, when there ought to be other and much more direct ways of securing that an individual who is really being persecuted should be protected. It is not right to refuse a trade union its fair opportunity, because that is the only way you can provide protection for an individual. I agree it would make a good deal of difference if everyone who does not want to subscribe to a fund is to contract-out, and everybody who does want to subscribe is to contract-in; but I am unable to see any real case made for altering the Trade Union Act, 1913, on that account. I believe I speak without any political bias. I am not aware that the party to which I belong has any special desire to prevent people who have other political opinions from exercising their undoubted right of earmarking their own contributions for their own purposes. I am more concerned to see, especially under modern conditions, that these great, responsible organisations should have a real, fair chance of expressing their predominant political view, than I am to try to drive a wedge into the great structure of trade unions, by pretending you are only trying to secure a more accurate system of accounts.
§ The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Mr. Clynes)
I am certain that, whatever may be claimed by right hon. and hon Members on the opposite side for the case they have presented in support of this Bill, they will not attempt to claim that there has been no partisan or political motive behind its submission to the House. Since 1913 the Labour party has grown, and it is that growth which is the explanation of the attack now being made on its means of facing its opponents in the various constituencies. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I venture to suggest to every corner of the House that had there been no such growth there would have been no such Bill as this. It is true, as was said earlier in the Debate, that the original objects of trade unions were limited to the pursuit of certain industrial purposes and needs. But present-day objects of trade unions have been arranged and adapted to meet present-day needs. We reject the claims now being made by some hon. Members, that we must look to the 2816 benches opposite to find the real custodians and guardians of working-class interests. I do not know whether we may take the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the ex-President of the Board of Trade (Sir P. Lloyd-Greame) as being the official attitude and authoritative pronouncement of his party. The need for this Bill, says the right hon. Gentleman, has been established. We shall know, then, in future what is the official purpose and attitude of his party in relation to the right of trade unionists to gather and accumulate funds for political objects. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
If I understand what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, he seems to be misinterpreting the principles of our party. The sole purpose of this Bill is to ensure that those who contribute for political purposes shall contribute as they desire, and only as they desire.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The right hon. Gentleman, if I may say so, has not materially altered what I understood to be his position, and the exposition in his speech of what was the object of the Bill now before the House. Indeed, there is the robust use of one or two cases which again this year, as last, and the year before, hon. Members were able to cite in favour of their suggested reform of the law. The principal instance brought forward was that dating back to 1921. However, I think the memorandum of the Bill, on the face of it, seems to me to justify the law which it proposes to reform. If the right hon. Gentleman will turn a moment to the memorandum, he will see that the law is suggested to be wholly inadequate for the protection of the liberty and consciences in the case of any dissentient individual. The Act of 1913defined trade unions, authorised the application of funds for certain political purposes, and laid down the manner in which such funds wore to be raised, levied and applied. It provided for the drawing up by trade unions of political rules to be approved by the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies; for a secret ballot of members to decide whether political action should or should not be taken, and for the exemption from contribution to the political fund of members who objected to paying to the support of such fund.It furthermore laid down means whereby grievances in respect of breaches made under the Act might be redressed.2817 What this Bill now proposes is to give the trade unions a right to do by means of a ballot that which they could do without any ballot at all. Assume there had been no law or no Act of 1913. What in our practice or constitution could prevent any man voluntarily offering a subscription in support of a political purpose? By the passing of this law it will give trade unions the right to conduct a ballot, but not to do anything which they could not do before. The law does not give trade unions too much power, if anything it gives them too little. In what other organisation of any kind are there provisions for exemptions of the kind now forced upon trade unions? In what other sphere of public or of private life do provisions exist which correspond to the conditions which the law would set up in the event of this Bill being passed into law?
After all, it is only a very small part of trade union money which is paid for political purposes, and with all respect I say to hon. Members who are supporting this Bill that obviously they know very little about the internal organisation of trade unions, and the manner in which their work is conducted. Take the union of which I was the active president before taking up office. It has about a quarter of a million members. In no year can they be required to pay more for political purposes than 1s. per member, and frequently we do not call upon them by the exercise of the law to do that. Roughly, the amount is about one-fiftieth of the total money subscribed to trade unions.
Take the larger trade unions. Assume that their contributions for ordinary trade union purposes is roughly 2s. a week. It would be very rare indeed to find a case where any of the members would be called upon to pay 2s. for a whole year. Not one-fiftieth part of the money subscribed is in any case devoted to political activities. I suggest that it is not in the national interest that trade unions should be assailed in this way, and that further efforts should be made to narrow their public and political operations.
If their operations in politics be narrowed down we should be driven back to industrial disputes and conflicts, and there would be an increase in the turbulent action of working men in their 2818 despairing efforts to seek redress. For good or ill the law permits their existence, and organised labour has begun to be successful in its struggles with the law, and in securing a position which no rich man in the State should ever try to take from them by such means as those which are now being proposed. What was done in 1913 was in the nature of an agreement. In fact, it was the settlement of a long struggle after which the Second Reading of the Bill was carried. A long time was spent on the Committee stage of that Bill, and finally it came down to this House, and was carried without a Division. The hon. and learned Gentleman who seconded this Bill to-day was wholly incorrect in stating that the late Mr. Bonar Law declared himself in favour of what is termed the process of contracting-in rather than of contracting-out. I took down carefully the words of the hon. and learned Member, and I assert that no one can cite any statement made at any time in any terms by the late Mr. Bonar Law in support of the principle of this Bill.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
May I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the OFFICIAL REPORT of the speech of the late Mr. Bonar Law on the Third Reading of the Bill, in which he pointed out that there was an Amendment, of which he was in favour, for contracting-in, and that he himself, notwithstanding the fact that he was not going to divide the House, very much favoured the principle of contracting-in rather than that of contracting-out.
§ Mr. CLYNES
After having referred to that speech to-day, I can only re-affirm my statement that no such language was ever used.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
I have not the copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT here, but I have read the extract within the last 24 hours, and it is perfectly clear that Mr. Bonar Law said, "I prefer the method of contracting-in rather than that of contracting-out."
§ Mr. CLYNES
If my hon. and learned Friend makes that statement after recently reading the speech, I will not further dispute it, but I shall certainly refer again to the speech, and find, I think, corroboration of the statement which I have made. The case which hon. Gentlemen might very well submit to the House, if they deem that there be any ground for 2819 a change in the law at all, is not a case for a reversal of the practice or principle of the practice, but a case for protecting those whose freedom they claim is interfered with by the general practice of the trade unions. The Act of 1913, by Subsection (2) of Section 3, makes very elaborate provision for protecting the freedom of any individual who is in any way aggrieved in regard to his rights under the existing law, and it may be ascertained by reference to the reports of the Registrar that in the period of 10 years during which this Act has been in operation there have been less than 100 complaints by men who have had any cause whatever to complain of their treatment under the law as it is. I suggest that 10 cases a year on the average out of millions of cases is really a testimony to the good conduct of the trade unions rather than any ground for criticism against them.
§ Mr. FERGUSON
Is it not the case that tens of thousands of miners in Scotland are in favour of this Bill and are in complete disruption at the present moment?
§ Mr. CLYNES
I should prefer to leave the answer to that question to the workmen of Scotland themselves, and, judging by recent events, we are not likely to be disappointed. Let me mention another fact which, although expressed in figures, will not, I hope, excite such lively resistance. The freedom of the workmen in this regard is shown in the results, that is to say, in the number of men who have found it easy to secure exemption from any political payment. Hundreds of thousands of workmen, by formal application for exemption, have secured it. The list is in the possession of the Registrar.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
Would the right hon. Gentleman allow me to read this extract from the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Third Reading of the Bill in 1913? Mr. Bonar Law then said:It seems to me perfectly obviously clear that, if a change is made, the burden of making the declaration ought to rest upon these who desire the change, and not upon those who desire that things should remain as they are."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January, 1913; col. 1683, Vol. 47.]
§ Mr. CLYNES
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman expect me to accept that quotation as confirming his opinion? The cases where men have had cause to complain of their freedom being impaired in relation to the law are very rare, and the proof of their liberty is fully given in the large number of exemptions, running into hundreds of thousands, which they have been easily able to secure. I assert, then, that there is no ground for seeking to upset the settlement reached in 1913, that this Bill seeks to destroy the central principle of political liberty, it assails the ideal of constitutional government, it will pretend to give the workmen only the shadow of a right to settle by a ballot arrangements as to contribution to a fund for political objects; and I therefore sit down with the conviction that the House will reject it.
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 129; Noes, 211.2823
|Division No 27.]||AYES.||[4.0 p.m.|
|Alexander, Brg.-Gen. Sir W. (Glas. C.)||Bullock, Captain M.||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Henry Page|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Caine, Gordon Hall||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Becker, Harry||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Doyle, Sir N. Grattan|
|Berry, Sir George||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Dudgeon, Major C. R.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Clarry, Reginald George||Eden, Captain Anthony|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Clayton, G. C.||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Ednam, Viscount|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Elveden, Viscount|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Briscoe, Captain Richard George||Cope, Major William||Ferguson, H.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Galbraith, J. F. W.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Gates, Percy|
|Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Lumley, L. R.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Gould, James C. (Cardiff, Central)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Stanley, Lord|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Meller, R. J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Morden, Colonel Walter Grant||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Morrison-Bell, Major Sir A. C. (Honiton)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Harland, A.||Moulton, Major Fletcher||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Croydon, S.)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Wells, S. R.|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Perring, William George||Wheler, Lieut.-Col. Granville C. H.|
|Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Hughes, Collingwood||Remnant, Sir James||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Ropner, Major L.||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|James, Lieut. Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Johnson, Sir L. (Walthamstow, E.)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Kay, Sir R. Newbald||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Kindersley, Major G. M.||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Savery, S. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Captain Ainsworth and Mr.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Mackinder, W.|
|Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Groves, T.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Grundy, T. W.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Attlee, Major Clement R.||Guest, Capt. Hn. F. E. (Gloucstr., Stroud)||Maden, H.|
|Baker, W. J.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Mansel, Sir Courtenay|
|Banton, G.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||March, S.|
|Barnes, A.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Batey, Joseph||Hardie, George D.||Marley, James|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Harris, John (Hackney, North)||Martin, F, (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Harris, Percy A.||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.|
|Birkett, W. N.||Hastings, Sir Patrick||Maxton, James|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hastings, Somerville (Reading)||Middleton, G.|
|Bonwick, A.||Haycock, A. W.||Mills, J. E.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hayday, Arthur||Mitchell R. M. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Briant, Frank||Hayes, John Henry||Montague, Frederick|
|Broad, F. A.||Hemmerde, E. G.||Morris, R. H.|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Brunner, Sir J.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Buchanan, G.||Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfield)||Mosley, Oswald|
|Buckie, J.||Hirst, G. H.||Muir, John W.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Murray, Robert|
|Cape, Thomas||Hodges, Frank||Naylor, T. E.|
|Chapple, Dr. William A.||Hoffman, P. C.||Nichol, Robert|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hogge, James Myles||Nixon, H.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)||O'Connor, Thomas P.|
|Clarke, A.||Isaacs, G. A.||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Climie, R.||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jewson, Dorothea||Paling, W.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Palmer, E. T.|
|Collins, Patrick (Walsall)||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Perry, S. F.|
|Compton, Joseph||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Crittall, V. G.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Pilkington, R. R.|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E.)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Potts, John S.|
|Dickson, T.||Kennedy, T.||Purcell, A. A.|
|Dodds, S. R.||Kirkwood, D.||Raffety, F. W.|
|Dunn, J. Freeman||Lamb, J. Q.||Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford|
|Dunnico, H.||Lansbury, George||Rathbone, Hugh R.|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern)||Laverack, F. J.||Raynes, W. R.|
|Egan, W. H.||Law, A.||Rea, W. Russell|
|Falconer, J.||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Lawson, John James||Ritson, J.|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Leach, W.||Robertson, T. A.|
|Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Lessing, E.||Romeril, H. G.|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Lindley, F. W.||Rose, Frank H.|
|George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Linfield, F. C.||Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. C.|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Loverseed, J. F.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Gillett, George M.||Lowth, T.||Scurr, John|
|Gosling, Harry||Lunn, William||Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)|
|Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Seely, Rt. Hon. Maj. Gen. J. E. B. (I. of W.)|
|Gray, Frank (Oxford)||M'Entee, V. L.||Sexton, James|
|Greenall, T.||Macfadyen, E.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Sherwood, George Henry||Sullivan, J.||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.|
|Shinwell, Emanuel||Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)||Weir, L. M.|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Simpson, J. Hope||Thornton, Maxwell R.||Westwood, J.|
|Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Thurtle, E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Sitch, Charles H.||Tillett, Benjamin||Whiteley, W.|
|Smillie, Robert||Tinker, John Joseph||Wignall, James|
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Toole, J.||Williams, A. (York, W. H., Sowerby)|
|Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Tout, W. J.||Williams, Lt.-Col. T. S. B. (Kennington)|
|Snell, Harry||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Williams, Maj. A. S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)|
|Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Turner, Ben||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.||Varley, Frank B.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Spence, R.||Viant, S. P.||Windsor, Walter|
|Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)||Wallhead, Richard C.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Spero, Dr. G. E.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Spoor, B. G.||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke upon Trent)||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Stamford, T. W.||Warne, G. H.|
|Starmer, Sir Charles||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. T. Smith and Mr. T. Williams.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Words added.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.