Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £3,065,336, be granted to His Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1925, for the Salaries of the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police, and of the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District, Bonus to Metropolitan Police Magistrates, the Contribution towards the expenses of the Metropolitan Police, the Salaries and Expenses of the Inspectors of Constabulary, and other Grants in respect of Police Expenditure, including Places of Detention and a Grant in Aid of the Police Federation."—[NOTE: £3,050,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. HAYES
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I desire to refer the Committee to a matter on which I plead guilty to having detained it last year for a considerable length of time, though I would like to indicate at the outset of my remarks that I have no intention of inflicting myself upon the Committee for that length of time on this occasion. The matter to which I desire to refer is the question of reinstatement of police and prison strikers. Recently in the Press there have been references to the policy of the Government in this connection, and a question was put to the Home Secretary last Monday as to whether it was the policy of the Government to reinstate the police and prison strikers in the Services. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman is not in his place, and am glad to hear he will be here in a few moments. The reply of the right hon. Gentleman was in the negative, though he was making some inquiry into certain points, apart, however, from the question of reinstatement. Previous Governments have considered this question, and I admit that their decisions have been consistent. They 1636 have consistently declined to reinstate the men, although in the main they have put a different reason before us from the reason which I understand is likely to come from the Home Secretary. One has to remember that the general point put against reinstatement was that it would be subversive of the discipline of the Service. I appreciate the anxiety of Governments to maintain the good order and discipline of its police force. I re cognise the absolute necessity for the maintenance of such good order and discipline, and I think those who knew me when I was in the Service know that I was quite a strict disciplinarian.
At the same time, if you desire, men to have discipline of mind, you must have conditions in which those disciplined minds may operate. If the conditions in which they have to do their duties, do not make for that stability of a disciplined mind then the resultant actions of a mind which has been disturbed by those conditions of employment must not altogether be placed upon the individual police officers who may commit, as one may regard it, an act of indiscipline. There is a dual responsibility which must be shared by others. I do hope we shall have the presence of the Home Secretary very shortly, because I want to take up one or two points that have arisen in discussing this matter elsewhere.
There is the general question to be considered by the Government as to whether the men had violated the agreement in the initial stage of the settlement of the 1918 dispute. The late Home Secretary made a point last year that the men had had ample opportunity and warning and had violated an agreement and that the fact that they had broken their oaths did not entitle them to the confidence of the authorities. That is a point of view, that has always been put up by the Home Office; but the present Home Secretary, in examining this question whether there was an agreement or not, ought, I think, to have full regard to the obligations of those who were a party to that agreement. You cannot have an agreement and maintain it if one signatory to that agreement does not comply with his portion of the contract. I am prepared to stand by an examination of all the points of that position.
Arising out of the 1918 dispute, an agreement was entered into between the 1637 Government at that time and the representatives of the policemen involved in the dispute. On the one hand the agreement was to the effect that the policemen of the country might join their own organisation and trade union, provided that organisation did not attempt to interfere with the discipline of the service. On the other hand, there was an agreement which contained a constitution, and the agreement was that during the War it would be inadvisable to give full recognition to the organisation of the policemen in question, but in order that there should be immediate arrangements made to cope with grievances and to give a measure of representation to policemen in the service, it was agreed that there should be set up a number of police committees and that the representatives of the men should constitute those committees or boards. In the constitution laid down, copies of which are in the archives of the Home Office, it was clearly defined that the Commissioner of Police, on application from the executive committee of the board, should receive a deputation and listen to any grievances.
Now it happened that the Commissioner at that time was one who, from perhaps the military point of view, might have been a very excellent officer. I am referring to General Sir Nevil Macready, who was transferred from the War Office after the 1918 stike to take charge of the Metropolitan Police at New Scotland Yard, and, in his own words to me, he was there to tighten up the discipline of the Force and to bring it at least up to the standard of the Guards' Regiment. Sir Nevil Macready was quite frank about it—I wish others had been equally as frank at the time—and when a certain Resolution appeared before the Commissioner he could not agree at all with its contents, and he gave some decisions—or expressed himself on a certain matter—to which the men's representatives also could not agree. They passed a Resolution indicating that they emphatically—I think "emphatically" was the actual word upon which the whole of this distressful business positively hangs at this moment—could not agree. In the Resolution passed by the men's representatives—passed not as subordinate officers to the Commissioner, but purely as representatives—they expressed themselves like this: "We emphatically decline to agree 1638 with the interpretation of a certain Order that has been issued."
The Commissioner of Police, probably having in mind his military training, when he saw this Resolution, became incensed that a disciplined body should have submitted such a Resolution, and he sent for the deputation and told them that they had committed an act of indiscipline and that he should decline to receive them on any further occasion. When we asked for a deputation to go to the Commissioner and the Home Secretary—at that time, Mr. Edward Shortt—we were refused, although the application was made under the constitution of the Board and agreed to as part of the 1918 settlement. When we pressed for this deputation to be received we were told by the Commissioner that he certainly would not receive that deputation, but that he would be prepared to receive some other deputation, if the men would elect some representatives other than those they had already elected. That was equivalent, of course, to saying to the members of the Police Force, "You can have your elected representatives only so long as those representatives fall into line with my ideas as to who they should be and how they should act." The Police Force throughout London resolutely refused to elect a further set of representatives, as they felt at that time, in 1919, that they had the utmost confidence in those men.
I happened to be at that time one of the 32 representatives of the Metropolitan Police, and we eventually did get to the Home Office, and, when we arrived there, the Home Secretary said he was only prepared to discuss some matters upon which we did not ask to be received. He was not prepared to discuss a breach of the Constitution, which, as it was a question of discipline, he himself was not prepared to interfere with. That may be quite all right from a theoretical point of view, but one has to remember that the men in the Service had in front of them the whole time the question as to how they were to get over the difficulty of a breach of the Constitution that had been arrived at and agreed to in 1918. Subsequently, the Home Secretary, acting through the Commissioner, Sir Nevil Macready, introduced a new Constitution entirely, and a Constitution that split up the method of representation into a totally different manner from 1639 that agreed upon in 1918. That was referred to the existing representatives to consider. We, in our turn, referred it to the men for them to consider, and, practically unanimously, the men, particularly the constables and the sergeants of the police, turned down the proposed scheme in its entirety as bad in principle and contrary to the agreement arrived at in 1918. One would have thought that at least we should have been entitled to proceed on lines of discussion in an amicable manner between the Home Secretary and the representatives. We discovered that it was not a question altogether of keeping to the agreement, but rather one in which the Commissioner was carrying out that particular job which he was sent to New Scotland Yard to do—to break down the spirit—shall I say in a way put very often by our opponents—the spirit of rebellion—which seemed to have grown up in the War years and in the hearts even of the Police Service. One could see the hopelessness of endeavouring to get his martial mind to understand that a civil police force can only depend for its success upon the individual initiative and freedom of the members of the Police Service, and that it could never be governed as he imagined. Therefore, when we found that we had to leave this scheme, whether we liked it or not, there came along a very interesting phase.
Before you can have representation even under any scheme representatives have to be elected. Here was a police force of 20,000 men in London who had imposed upon them this new scheme introduced by the Home Secretary through the Commissioner, yet the men in the Service had refused to operate it. Hon. Members perhaps remember the moment when the scheme was first put into operation. Nominations were asked for and nominations were not forthcoming When there were no nominations forthcoming one might have thought the scheme would fall to the ground. Instead of that, and in view of no nominations being forthcoming, the Commissioner instructed his subordinate chiefs to secure the names of one or two men at each station who would allow their names to go forward for nomination without actually being nominated for office. The names were 1640 actually brought forward by the authorities and placed before the men for election. The number of votes cast on behalf of the official candidates were infinitesimal compared with the number of men in the service, and if this number of votes could be resuscitated by the Home Secretary here and now I think it would be agreed that the number of votes recorded for these official candidates were so small that there could be no question about the unpopularity of the new proposal brought before the men.
We discovered that when the men did not vote that the Commissioner became again very incensed at the response made to the new proposals. In looking round for those who might have been responsible for this refusal to honour the order of the All-Highest there was not any man picked upon from one of the stations in the centre of London, where the men collect together in large numbers, and where there is always a feeling of security when you have your friends around; no, he went out to a little isolated station of Middlesex, Hare-field, where there is about a handful of men who have to patrol their rural beats and hardly see their comrades once in eight hours. There was a representative there who wisely, or otherwise, was asked by the men what action they were to take in connection with the new scheme. Being one of their representatives, acting in that capacity, and having been in the discussion, he found out the decision arrived at from representatives and felt it to be his duty to inform his comrades. The Metropolitan police district has an area of nearly 700 square miles, and he got the information somewhere in it! In regard to advising the men, he did it in a way that—anyhow, I am confident I should not have been caught in exactly the same way. Nevertheless, the way in which he did it, to my mind, was so obviously simple and sincere that there could have been no question about the desire of this man to do no act of indiscipline. If it was desired to act in that matter in an undisciplinary way it would have been done by some of us in a far different way from that in which he did it, because what he did was done—if I may say so—in a very clumsy way for one who might desire to avoid the consequences of his action. If he had so desired he certainly would not have 1641 laid himself open to what followed. On the station notice board instructions to the police were posted up from time to time on behalf of the superior officers, and the Commissioner gave permission to representatives to put up the notices to the men on the official notice board. This particular constable, whose name was Spackman, when he saw on the notice board the Commissioner's instructions for these nominations to take place, and having been asked, and not having time to run around, thought it his duty to the men to add to the notice on the notice board, as the men's representative, that no action should be taken. To my mind, that was quite a constitutional thing for the man to do. He was merely carrying out his duty as the elected representative of the men, and was in no way disloyal either to his superior officers or to the Commissioner, or to the Home Secretary.
What happened? In a day or two, because the ballot has been so unsuccessful, someone had to pay the penalty. Spackman, from Harefield, was hailed before his superior officer, and asked why he had put that order upon the notice paper. He explained. Eventually, however, it appeared that he had committed a very serious offence, and he was ordered to appear before the Commissioner. He was charged in terms that amounted to this: that he had been guilty of gross insubordination by inciting the men to disobey the lawful orders of the Secretary of State. I can assure the Committee that was the last thing that this particular constable, whom I know very well, would have thought of doing. He is about the last person in the world who would ever have associated himself, even in a distant capacity, with the Secretary of State. There was not the slightest idea that what he was doing was in any shape or form treading on the corns of one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State. I know the man. I know generally his outlook, and if he thought that he had injured in the slightest degree the dignity of one of the highest officials in the State he would have trembled so much that he would never have been able to hold the pencil to write on the notice board. It was decided that he should be dismissed. Subsequently, owing to the uproar created by this dismissal, regarded, as I think, by people 1642 who examined the question apart from just the military point of view, as a far too severe punishment in any case for any offence which might have been committed—even assuming that such offence had been committed—action was taken. Evidently Sir Nevil Macready thought it rather too severe a punishment because, afterwards, he had a meeting with the police in the Queen's Hall, and he had what he called a "heart-to-heart" talk. At the time of that "heart-to-heart" talk something was said in regard to the dismissal of Spackman. Sir Nevil Macready said that he was prepared to making a sporting offer to Spackman. The sporting offer that he made was this, that if Spackman would take his union card, tear it up into shreds, and place the bits upon the table in his office, he would reinstate the man in the service.
That time, I want the Committee to understand, was at a moment just immediately after the War, when the police force, for the first time, had been given the right to belong to their organisation. The men felt, no doubt, sincerely proud that they for the first time had gained the right to have their views represented through their fellow men. I should like members of the Committee to understand the state of mind the police were in subsequent to these things, which were not of their own seeking. Eventually, without any further consultation with the police, we were informed that a Bill was being introduced into the House of Commons and that Bill completely destroyed, by its terms, the agreement entered into in 1918. Now I want to say this: So far as preceding Governments are concerned I do not complain that they were true to their political faith. They have never made any secret that they are opposed to that method of organisation, and, at any rate, whatever their opposition may have been, at least, they were generally consistent in their point of view. But so also are those on our side. We were equally independent in our point of view. These men had the right to belong to their own independent organisation. The Police Bill came before the House of Commons. About that time the annual conference of the National Labour party, prior to the police strike of 1919, unanimously passed a resolution declaring its belief in 1643 the right of every policeman and prison officer to belong to his own independent organisation. It was decided to resist any attempt to take from them that which had been secured by action in 1918.
When the Bill came before the House hon. Members know that a strike took place. It may have been a minority strike. It was in fact a minority strike. But I am sure the House will not argue this from the minority point of view, and say that had it been a majority strike the men would have been reinstated, and that simply because it was a minority strike it alters the case. That would be a poor kind of morality and a certainly poor kind of justice. Although the minority may have done something the majority did not do, one has to remember the majority had expressed itself in the ballot which had taken place. The result of that ballot had made itself felt upon the minority, and the vast bulk of that minority were men who had recently returned from either service with His Majesty's Forces in the Army or in the Navy. You can imagine in 1919, with that spirit of a new found freedom which many of them felt they had got for the first time—though it was only a shadow after all—there was the feeling that inspired them to serve their own organisation.
I want to approach the question of reinstatement. The Home Secretary, no doubt, has given the matter full consideration. I suggest that the policy of the reinstatement of these men can be carried out by an act of administration. It can be carried out without jeopardising the welfare of the public, nor in any way becoming subversive to the discipline of the service. It will be welcomed by the service. It would be welcomed by the public. I feel confident also it would be welcomed as a very glad ending to, perhaps, a sad chapter in our police history. It would be welcomed generally by the Members of this House. It may be that there might be a few political objections to it, but I do not think we shall approach it from that point of view. The men in the Service would welcome it, and so would the public, and I am positive every Member on these benches, including the Home Secretary, would welcome it. When placing this matter before the Home Secretary, I was not able to discover just what were the 1644 real grounds upon which refusal was given in the House last Monday, but I believe that refusal was given more on the ground that there would be a legal difficulty in effecting this reinstatement, than anything else.
For my part I am quite sure there is no legal difficulty in bringing about reinstatement if there is the will to do it, and I think we are entitled to ask the Government to reinstate these men on grounds of justice and clemency. If they have to have any punishment they have endured a good deal more than was ever intended. The sentence of non-reinstatement is equivalent to a sentence of transportation for life because the best part of their life has been given in following a calling which unfits them for following any other trade which they might have been accustomed to, and their present condition is proof positive of what this sentence means to them apart from loss of pension rights.
In asking the Government to reconsider this question, not only on those grounds but upon others which I am going to place before the Committee, I hope I shall have the forbearance of hon. Members. I said the Labour movement was right behind these men in their claim, and I believe that the Members on these benches and below the Gangway, and also many hon. Members opposite, would welcome a gesture from the Home Secretary that he was prepared to carry out the pledges which the Government, through its Members, had given in the name of the movement. I want to go back to the annual conference of the National Labour Party in 1920, and I do not think at that conference there can have been any question at all in the minds of that party, and it is well to remember that the Home Secretary himself was at that time the secretary of the National Labour Party, and I think he will remember this resolution:The conference hereby pledges the Labour movement to take all possible steps to assist the men in the dispute financially and otherwise, and it shall be an instruction to the Executive Committee of the Labour party, and the Parliamentary Labour party, that, with an increased representation in the House of Commons, every effort shall be made to reinstate the men dismissed, and legislation introduced for the repeal of the Police Act, 1919; and that in the event of a Labour Government coming into power one of its first acts shall be to give effect to this resolution, this to be entered or the national programme of the Labour party.That resolution was carried without a single dissentient voice, and it was sent 1645 to the party leaders. The party had as its secretary the Home Secretary of to-day. That resolution has been repeated at annual conferences of the trade unions and the political labour movement, but in addition to that, one has to remember that we have personal pledges from our Ministers, and it is a very difficult position for me to be in to have to bring these personal pledges to the Floor of the House of Commons, because I had hoped, and I hope still, that in any case the Labour party will be the one political party which will not endeavour to strew too many broken pledges over the Floor of the House of Commons, and if there is anything which I can do to assist the Labour party to meet that desired state, I hope it will be taken into consideration in what I am going to say.
It cannot be argued by the Home Secretary, or even the Prime Minister, or the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who is on the Front Bench, that they were not cognisant of all the circumstances. It cannot be said that they had been misled, or were not acquainted with all the details of the case, inasmuch as there have been extensive reports submitted through our party and through our movement. At the General Election in 1922 the Prime Minister was asked whether, if elected, he would support a policy of reinstatement of the police and prison officers who took part in the strike of 1919. An, explanatory note followed to stimulate the memory of those who received the questionnaire, so that the facts should again be brought to light. The reply from the Prime Minister was in his own handwriting, and it was:Yes, with all my heart.I am sure the House will appreciate that I am not in any way desirous of bringing any personal note into our discussion, but I am endeavouring in this Debate to bring before the Government some of the reasons why they are entitled to regard this question of reinstatement in a totally different light to that in which it was regarded by their predecessors, and I believe I am right in saying that even their predecessors would welcome from the Government the happy fulfilment of the pledges which they have given.
§ Mr. HAYES
I am referring to the police constables, although the case of the prison officers is identical, but I do not want to refer to that because it will come up under the next Vote. The Secretary of State for the Home Department himself received a similar questionnaire to that sent to the Prime Minister, and he not only sent a reply in the affirmative, but he sent a communication on quite a different notepaper to that on which the questionnaire was sent, and his letter read:My reply to the question submitted to me therein is in the affirmative.Believe me,Yours faithfully,ARTHUR HENDERSON.The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department sent his answer to the questionnaire in the affirmative, and had he sent it in the negative it is possible he would not have been here. In that respect we all congratulate him upon having given a decision which has resulted in such a happy position. I hope after the Debate we shall be able to help the Government over the difficulty, and get rid of this very unpleasant subject There are other hon. Members of the Government who are committed on this question, but I content myself with saying that in bringing this matter before the House I think hon. Members will agree that I have not shirked in any way the fire of criticism which may be reasonably expected from some of our old opponents on this question.
The House listened very carefully and kindly to me last year, and I do believe that as time has gone on—time is a wonderful healer of wounds—I believe the House has come to regard this question not quite so much in the light that there were Communistic influences behind the dispute, but more in the light that these men had been unjustly treated, and that whatever action they took was taken purely on a question of principle. After all, we want men of principle, even in the Service, and we want them to appreciate the fact that their word is their bond. I believe that the Government, in reviewing the whole of this matter, will meet with the warm approval not only of Labour Members of this House, but of the rank and file of the electorate in the country that has made it possible for us to sit on the Government Benches.
1647 I hope the Government will reconsider the whole question and see whether this reinstatement policy cannot be introduced. The time for any kind of political humbug in the sense that once one has given a pledge on a particular matter of this kind those to whom the pledge has been given are entitled to know in no half-hearted way the reason why the pledge cannot be given effect to. There has been no good reason up to the moment submitted to me, or to the Members of the party or our movement as a whole, and I think if the Home Secretary will undertake to face this matter in a more broad and generous manner he will receive the approval not only of the men serving, but of the electorate itself, which, remember in Liverpool, returned me on two occasions, and that is a place where there was a good deal of damage done arising out of the strike itself.
§ Sir J. REMNANT
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has an intimate knowledge of the details of this unfortunate strike, and the reasons which led up to it. He has put his case before the House in a very moderate and in a very able way. There is only one indication given by the Committee or by part of the Committee during that speech which disturbed me a little and that was where a particular section indicated dissent. My view has always been, and I believe it is the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that this question, or any question affecting the police forces of this country, should be kept entirely apart from politics, and anybody who attempts to introduce politics into this question is doing the force a great disservice. I think the hon. Member opposite will agree with me that politics should be left out of it, and that this question should be approached purely on the grounds of justice and fair play to a great body of men.
I should like to appeal to the Home Secretary and ask him whether this is not a very favourable opportunity when the three parties in this House are, I will not say, equally divided, but divided from each other by very little, that he should take this opportunity of dealing with this question on absolutely non- 1648 party grounds, and try to settle it once for all. The hon. Gentleman opposite went into many intimate details of the whole subject. I am not going to touch on those intimate details, but I have many substantial facts which lead me to believe that it is not all, as it appears, a militant strike. There are many points in connection with it which, I think, if the right hon. Gentleman gave us an independent Committee to deal with it, would put a very different light on the whole subject. One point of which, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman is not aware is that to-day some of the chief agitators in the strike, men who recommended their comrades to come out, are to-day shining lights in the police force. Many of these men who could be spared went to the Front, and did good service, and I say, without fear of contradiction, any man who went overseas, and knows what took place there, knows perfectly well that a man had only got to call for a pal and he went to help him, and the same spirit is rampant in these men. Surely worse crimes than this strike have been committed in other parts of the United Kingdom, and if they could urge that they were done on political grounds they were forgiven.
These men have suffered five or six years of dire distress, and, not only they, but their women-folk and their children. If we cannot now put our heads together and cure this festering sore, and attempt to meet these men in some way or other, we must indeed be in a sorry plight. I do not say put them all back, but I would have a discretion left to the authorities to put back those men who can present good and reasonable excuses for the action they took. The previous year there was a strike, and who was to blame for that strike? Why, the Home Office itself, and, although perhaps it is out of order for me to refer to the widows of the pre-1918 pensioners, the strikers and their widows were put on far better terms than the widows of the men who had never struck in their lives, because they happened to have retired just a minute before the 1st September, 1918. I am not in favour of strikes. They are a ghastly disaster, and they should never take place if they can be properly avoided. It is not a militant force. While one would be sorry to say anything that would appear to destroy in the 1649 smallest degree discipline in this force, still, when the Chief Commissioner is put there for one particular purpose, to screw them up to the highest pitch of discipline of the finest regiment of our Army, I say that man does not appreciate his position.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he cannot exercise the same pluck that he showed in dealing with ex-Inspector Syme. He, at all events, did his best to take the special opportunity of the day, to try to get that unfortunate occurrence out of the way, and I hope and believe he will show the same pluck to-day in dealing with this question. There were only 2,600 men who struck, and, I believe, 1,000 were in London, where the force is very much undermanned to-day; there are over 1,000 vacancies. I do not say reinstate them all, but, at all events, stop these men from suffering further privations, with the very severe penalties of punishment they have already had.
There are two other points to which I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to pay special attention, and to see that they are carried out. I refer, in the first place, to the subject of appeal tribunals. I cannot help thinking that if the Government of the day had carried out more the recommendations of the Desborough Committee, this grievance would be a thing of the past. It is only right that these men should have the right of appeal in case of dismissal. We found their case on the strong recommendation of the chief constables themselves, that this reform would be conducive to the contentment of the force. I have here in my hand a strong case where a man was dismissed the service. I raised the question in this House, and the right hon. Gentleman who sits in front of me had to admit that it deserved for more consideration. That man is still out in the cold. After repeated requests for an inquiry, he is still without it, and I say a case like that, and many similar cases, if dealt with, would give contentment and satisfaction to all members of the police force. The same with regard to a medical appeal tribunal. I think these two reforms might easily be carried out by the right hon. Gentleman, and I will end by assuring him that, so far as I am concerned, I will support him in his endeavours to settle once and for all the several questions which have been brought, and will be brought, to his 1650 notice, and so conduce to the efficiency of the force.
§ Major HORE-BELISHA
I am sure the Home Secretary will have been moved, as the Committee was, by the extraordinary eloquence and pathetic appeal made on behalf of these police strikers by the hon. Baronet who has just sat down. I am sorry to have to dissociate myself from him in one small particular, in which he said that only those should be reinstated who could put forward adequate excuses for their conduct. I ask the Committee to realise that if the police force is to-day a model which all foreign countries seek to copy, and if its conditions of pay, pension and service are such as other services seek to acquire, it is because of the sacrifice made by these strikers in 1919. They have made the police force what it is to-day. They have achieved for it the high reputation and the splendid conditions which prevail in the force. The Home Secretary is fortunate in having this opportunity to right a very grave and a very serious wrong. He, probably, has personally come into contact with the families of some of these strikers. It is the wives and children of these men who should commend themselves to him with particular force. They are living in the most desperate circumstances in many cases, simply because their husbands were the heroes who achieved for the police force conditions of which the police force is extremely proud to-day.
The hon. Baronet referred to the courage of the Home Secretary in reopening the case of ex-Inspector Syme. A case such as that would never have occurred, nor would a strike such as that about which we have been speaking this afternoon, if there had been a proper and an adequate method whereby the members of the police force could lay their grievances before his Department. I want to add my voice to that of the hon. Baronet in his appeal for these tribunals, before which any policeman should have the right to go before he could be dismissed the service. I believe that no Post Office servant can be dismissed from the Post Office without the written signature of the Postmaster-General, and I would like to see a similar system prevailing in the police force. It is eminently desirable, that before a man should have his career broken, he should have the right to 1651 be represented by proper legal aid in the presentation of his case. The duties which he is called upon to perform in his daily life are so arduous, and his responsibilities are so great, that, in common fairness, the right should not be denied to him of being able to present his case before dismissal to an adequate appeal tribunal.
I would like also to join with the hon. Baronet in the request which he made for medical appeals. These are days in which members of the various Services, such as the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the police, are being turned out upon medical grounds. The medical board is used as a kind of excuse to turn men out of the service, and in the police force a man has no appeal to an independent medical referee; at least, he has an appeal, but, in some cases, he is not acquainted with his rights, and, if he does appear before the medical referee, the medical referee is not instructed to take into account the declension in the man's health which must have occurred through his service. The man is expected to remain A1 throughout his service. This medical question is seriously affecting those policemen who served in the War, and have been very considerably weakened as a result of their services, and cannot be expected to remain A1 all their lives, especially in view of the very arduous duties they have, to perform. They develop varicose veins, and so forth, in the natural course of their duties. The declension in health to which they are subject should be taken into account before they are turned out of the service on medical grounds, and if they are approaching the time of their qualification for a pension, which, I believe, is 10 years, and they have done eight or nine years' service, they should be given some employment, in the force of a less arduous character, so as to allow them to complete their time for pension.
I do not want to weary the Home Secretary with the various demands which he knows the police are putting forward. There are more convenient methods of approaching him upon the subjects, but I do want to refer to one or two, and particularly to the 2½ per cent. economy cuts which it has been decided to continue in operation, and to rent allowances. 1652 When these 2½ per cent. economy cuts were instituted, they were represented to be of a temporary nature, and, like the McKenna Duties, they have been continued from year to year. If the Home Secretary has supported the repeal of the McKenna Duties because they were of a temporary nature, he must also be pledged to the repeal of these cuts. I hope, also, he will redress the grievance as regards the rent allowances, which are quite inadequate and not at all in consonance with the scale which the Desborough Committee laid down. I hope, also, he will look into other grievances, of which he must be well aware, such as the refreshment allowance and the question of hospital treatment. It is part of a policeman's contract that he should have free medical treatment. Having mentioned these details, let me make one plea to the Home Secretary in regard to the duties on which the police are employed. I beg him to consider very carefully the kind of tasks to which the police are sometimes put. I am referring at the moment to that series of calamities known as the Hyde Park arrests.
I submit that the function of a police force in this country is to arrest criminals when a breach of the peace has been committed, or is threatened. The function of the police force is not that of moral vigilance, and it is most distasteful to the force as a whole that they should be compelled to go spying about in Hyde Park, and bring in a bag of poor, elderly clergymen who have been inoffensively walking through the park. The whole thing is reprehensible and foreign to the ideas of British justice, and it is most distasteful—and this is the essential point—to the police who are given these duties to perform. At one period it became almost impossible to walk through Hyde Park except under an escort of police. The instructions which these men are given on behalf of various moral agencies, to look for moral offences, are, in my opinion, totally at variance with the object for which the police force was founded. The Home Secretary has under his administration a fine and great force. I notice he gave it a testimonial after his recent election at Birmingham. He is now in a position to receive a testimonial from the police force, and I submit that his best way of earning that, is to grant the claim which has been so eloquently made by the 1653 hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Hayes). He represents in his personality all the virtues of the police force, all their moderation and their efficiency, and the police are indeed in a happy position in having him as their representative. If the Home Secretary will be guided by the case put forward on behalf of the police force by the hon. Member for Edge Hill, he will never make a mistake in regard to that force as long as he holds his office. I hope he will grant reinstatement to the strikers.
§ Mr. J. P. GARDNER
I wish to plead with the Home Secretary to reconsider the whole position in regard to the reinstatement of the police. I happen to represent a constituency in which a large number of these men are resident. I know them personally; I know some of their family, and I am acquainted with the terrible trouble they have gone through. I recognise quite fully that the greatest crime they committed was being unfortunate in not getting the great majority of their comrades to come out with them. It has always been the case throughout history, that men who are in a minority and do not choose just the light moment to act, suffer for the gains which inevitably follow for the great majority. Whether it be in the political field, in the international field, or in the national field, such as in the case of my own country, Ireland, one finds the same thing. Those who, either by force or eloquence, achieve success are forgiven all the crimes they may have committed, and are taken to the bosom of the people and recognised as heroes.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
Will the hon. Gentleman justify this police strike when there is always an appeal to this House?
§ Mr. GARDNER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows quite well that there was never any danger during the police strike to the proceedings of this House.
§ Sir H. CROFT
What I asked was; do the hon. Member and his colleagues justify the police strike when an appeal could have been made to this House?
§ Mr. GARDNER
There was no possibility of an appeal to this House. If there had been proper machinery in existence, such as there is, to a limited extent, in other bodies, this strike would 1654 never have taken place. I am one of those people who believe that the servants of the public ought to have the utmost consideration in having their grievances inquired into, and they should never be driven to resort to striking. I am satisfied, from personal conversations with the men just before the dispute took place, that the police were anxious to back up their comrades, but the great fear of the consequences which would be brought about by loss of superannuation to their families caused a great many of them to hesitate. The very fact, however, that the Home Office, immediately after these men went on strike, took steps to increase the police pay, affords the best justification for their action. This is far beyond a mere political question. There have been borough councils in the Metropolis—I was a member of one in which the overwhelming majority were politically opposed to me—which have almost unanimously agreed to request the former Home Secretary to reinstate the police. I hope the Home Secretary will hold out greater hope to-night than has ever been held out by any of his predecessors.
One of the things that impressed me most in regard to this dispute was the anger and bitterness in the heart of the wives of these men, particularly at the failure of the people who were returned to this House to redeem their pledges. I believe that the electors have a perfect right to ask pledges from Members who are returned to Parliament. I do not pay any attention to the statements that have been made in this House regarding the foolishness of making pledges. After all, when a man stands for Parliament, a very great trust is reposed in him, and the electors have a perfect right to something in the nature of a personal guarantee that the things they believe in shall be carried out in this Assembly. I hope fresh cause for bitterness will not be given, and that the persons who have given a pledge will see it is redeemed by the Home Secretary. There is no good ground for refusing reconsideration of the matter. The men have had their lesson, if that is the idea in the minds of some people who oppose them. The punishment they have gone through is more than many eminent men have had to suffer for crimes far greater than these men committed. I am satisfied that, even if the strike had been successful and 1655 there had been any outbreak of lawlessness in the land, the police would have rallied to protect the public. I appeal to the Home Secretary to make a change in the public life of this country by proving that a new atmosphere has come into politics, that people who make pledges will redeem them, so that the public will be able to have more trust in the people they return to Parliament.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I am sorry to find myself in direct variance with all previous speakers; but since I have listened to one Member after another speaking in the same sense, I feel it necessary to say a very few words in the other direction. Before I do that, I should like to deal with what was said by the hon. Member who has just sat down, regarding election pledges. I am not going to make party capital to-night out of the pledges that Ministers and hon. Members have given in the stress and turmoil of an election, and the way in which they have dealt with those problems when in office. As a matter of fact, it is far more courageous of public men, when new facts are brought to their notice, to take a line different from any statement they may have made at election time, than slavishly to follow what they said in an unguarded moment. I entirely dissent from what the hon. Member has said in applauding the practice of election pledges. I never give an election pledge myself, and the House of Commons would be far wiser never to do so either. Hon. Members cannot fulfil their duties, and Ministers cannot fulfil their duties, unless they are free to take what course they believe to be right in the light of information that may come to them in the course of study, or in the light of arguments that may be adduced across the Floor of this House. If electors have not got sufficient confidence in a candidate to trust him to act honourably and intelligently, then they have no right to vote for him at all. I have always said that perfectly frankly to my constituents, and they have been good enough to respond by electing me. I think if hon. Members opposite would do the same, they would not lose many votes. That is by the way. I am sure the Home Secretary will not think that because 10, 20 or even more Members of Parliament rise in their places to-night to make an appeal, which everybody would like to make, on 1656 behalf of men and women in distress, that in any way represents the view of the nation on this question. Of course, in regard to these individual men, nobody can fail to be exceedingly sorry for them; but we have got to consider what would be the result of allowing them to come back into the Service. I understand that these men had the clearest possible intimation that if they remained at their posts their grievances would be inquired into, but that if they went on strike they could never expect to get back into the Service.
§ Mr. HAYES
May I correct the Noble Lord? It is not true to say that the men could have been heard on the issues involved in that dispute. We persistently asked that the dispute regarding the question of representation arising out of the agreement made in 1918 should be examined by the Home Secretary, and we also appealed to the Prime Minister to receive us on the matter. We were not so received, and never have been up to this moment.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I am very much obliged to the hon. Member for his interruption. Of course, I accept his statement, but I notice that he does not contradict my information that the men had the clearest possible intimation that they could expect no readmittance into the service. I do not think that much is gained by saying that the police force is a civil force or a military force, or attaching to it some label of that sort, but I do say that it is intolerable for the public that the police should be given the right to strike. There is a limitation to the right to strike. A man who engages in an ordinary profession for his own benefit has, of course, the right to withhold his labour, but when he joins and engages in certain public services he does forfeit, and he ought to forfeit, the right to strike. That is made up to him in the case of the police force. There is no unemployment which he need fear; no trade depression will affect him; he is given very good conditions, and he is given a pension. He has many privileges of that sort, and in return for those privileges he must give up certain things, one of which is the right to strike.
§ Viscount WOLMER
That statement may be exaggerated, but there is a large measure of truth in it, and I am the first to deplore it. I cannot in too strong terms condemn the action of the authorities which allowed grievances to get to a point when there was a strike, and then remedied those grievances when there had been a strike. That, in my view, cannot be defended on any grounds whatsoever. But the fact that that mistake has been made in the past is no reason why we should make it again in the future, and I venture to suggest that the only way to treat a force like the police force, or the Post Office officials or other public servants, is to provide that there shall be a fair and just method of examining into grievances, but to lay it down as a fundamental condition that in no circumstances whatsoever can the right to strike be admitted, because it is intolerable and impossible for the public that they should at a given moment be deprived of police protection in a City like London.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I did not hear what the hon. Member said, but no doubt he will speak on the subject later on. I say, that if the Home Secretary reinstates these unfortunate men who were persuaded by agitators or eloquent leaders into taking this very rash and foolish action, he will be doing two things; In the first place, he will be acting very unfairly to the men who remained loyal to the Service under conditions of extreme difficulty to themselves; and, secondly, he will be removing from the public the greatest guarantee that they now have against a repetition of the disaster of a police strike. If policemen, or other public servants, such as those I have mentioned, ever think that they can strike and get back into the Service, the public has no guarantee that, when a moment of acute friction may arise in the future, there will not be a repetition of the strike, leaving them absolutely defenceless, as they were in 1918, and nearly were in 1919, against all the forces of robbery, anarchy and the like. I believe that if the Home Secretary gave way to the hon. Members who have spoken, there would be the greatest public disquietude 1658 and alarm. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It would be thought, and I believe rightly thought, that we had not passed the age in which such strikes were possible, and we should be once more put back into the situation of 1918, from which we have been delivered by the firmness of recent Home Secretaries. Sorry as we may be for the individual men, I say that a great principle is at stake, and if the Home Secretary cannot maintain it, he will show that he is unworthy of the very difficult but very responsible position in which he is placed.
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
I wish to dissociate myself entirely from the views of the Noble Lord who has just spoken, and to express my complete agreement with the previous speakers. The Noble Lord was very interesting on the subject of election pledges. I rather gathered the impression, listening to what was said down in Hampshire, that, if the Noble Lord and his friends had been returned at the last Election, certain farmers in the district were to receive £1 an acre and agricultural labourers were to receive a wage of 30s. a week. I do not know whether the Noble Lord had anything to do with creating that impression in the county, and I shall be interested in making inquiries when I go down there. The Noble Lord knows perfectly well that the statements that a Member of Parliament can never be elected to the House of Commons without giving some pledges is utterly ridiculous.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I do not know if the hon. Member is charging me with using words which are not true?
§ Mr. BROWN
Nothing of the kind. I am simply pointing out that what the Noble Lord stated is inaccurate and ridiculous. That is not to say that it is untrue. I say that no candidate ever stands for Parliament without being asked, not only to answer questionnaires, but asked personal questions by individual electors who are entitled to know his views; and I know enough about the mentality of Hampshire to know that, although, perhaps, they may be rather slower than in some parts of the country, they are very pertinacious in getting to understand what their members think. I am, however, content to leave that point to the sense of the Committee. I desire to associate myself with the 1659 eloquent appeals to the Home Secretary from all quarters of the Committee to consider that the War mind is finished with in this country. I consider the state of these men to be due to War mentality. There were exaggerated hopes and exaggerated fears in those days, but I hope those days have gone, and thatThe even flow of truths, that soften hatred, temper strifewill now guide our deliberations, and that these men will receive justice at the hands of the House of Commons. I appeal to the Home Secretary to consider the question of general appeals, and I want to add one other point. Some Members will know that I have, by questions to the Home Secretary in the House, raised the subject, not merely of general appeals for police constables serving, but the particular, although rather smaller, point of probationary police officers. I did this, not because of any general knowledge of the police force, but because of the case of the son of a constituent of mine which was brought to my notice. I brought it to the notice of the Under-Secretary, and received from him very courteous attention. Perhaps the Committee will bear with me if I repeat my questions which were very brief. I asked the Home Secretary,whether the police Regulations provide for any appeal against adverse reports on probationers, or if probationers, refused full admission to the constabulary, have any opportunity of being heard before adverse reports are ratified.I received the following answer:Under the police Regulations the services of a constable may be dispensed with at any time while he is on probation if the Chief Officer of Police considers that he is not fitted for the duties of his office or is not likely to become an efficient and well-conducted constable. This course may be taken independently of any specific offence against discipline, and the procedure laid down with regard to disciplinary cases will not apply."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1924; col. 1966, Vol. 169.]In answer to supplementary questions by the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Hayes) and myself, the Under-Secretary asked for notice, and in answer to that request, I put down the following question for 28th February:To ask whether, if prima facie evidence of injustice to a police probationer be produced, there is any Court to which he may appeal, or if there is any intention to set up such a Court.1660 I received the following answer:No, Sir. Probation implies that the services of the probationer may be dispensed with if he is not considered likely to make a good constable. This is a question which must rest on the judgment of his superior officer, and there can be no question of an appeal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1924; col. 662, Vol. 170.]I wish to renew my appeal to the Home Secretary to consider this question of the tribunal. This is not as large a question as the general question of appeal, but it is a fairly large question. If I may direct attention to the Report of His Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, paragraph 7 contains the following figures:In the year 1923, 1,486 recruits were appointed, and 128 left for one reason or another before the probationary period of one year was completed.In 1921 the figures were 3,785 and 378, so roughly 10 per cent. of the young men who came up for probation for the constabulary are rejected for one reason or another. The answer to my second question leaves out one implication. It is true the implication of probation is that services may be dispensed with, but there is another implication, that in dispensing with the services of a young probationer some regard ought to be had to his future. I have in mind the case of a young man, the son of a respectable constituent of mine, and I am quite sure on prima facie evidence grave injustice has been done to him. The Home Secretary under the present regulations has no power to inquire into the case or to take action, because his superior officer is the final court of appeal. There is an old saying that common reports are most uncommon liars. This is also true of superior reports, which may be very superior liars. I wish to ask the Home Secretary if he will look further into the matter and see if he cannot give young men who are turned down for one reason or another—the judgments of superior officers are very variable in different parts of the country—some court of appeal in which at least their case can be heard before their future is broken. If a young man comes up for a probationary period and he is turned down, his future is very insecure in any walk of life. I back up my questions by making this appeal, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take it into consideration.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
I do not intervene in this Debate as one who is pledged on this question of the reinstatement of the police strikers, because my position in Liverpool made it impossible for me to take such a part. I have never made any disguise of the views I hold, and I honestly believe that if the Home Secretary can see his way, if not to do justice to those men, at least to show mercy to them. There are many towns in this country which will be only too glad to follow the load he gives them. An hon. Member said a few moments ago that, so far from there being danger if the police strike, he was quite sure that some of these men would have actually helped if there had been danger. I actually had that experience in Liverpool. I had the experience of men who had gone out on strike, but when they found people breaking into shops the sense of duty came so strongly upon them that they joined in as volunteers. Those men are still out of the force both in London and in Liverpool. I believe Liverpool suffered more than any other town, except London, in this matter, and they did suffer. I have known this force for the 15 years I have been Recorder of Liverpool rather intimately, and one has not only a feeling of great respect and regard for them, but considerable affection as well. In every walk of life one realises what a splendid body of men they are, and when I hear the Noble Lord, differing not so very much from us in many ways, coming to the unamiable conclusion that he did, I wonder whether his distinguished grandfather, the great lawyer, would have come to the same conclusion. We have marched a long way during these last few years and sometimes, when one has the record of prisoners before one, one is absolutely shocked at the sentences they got some 20 or 25 years ago. And so it is with a case like this. The spirit of the War brings men back to some extent in a reasonable spirit of revolt. We are told, even by the Noble Lord, that they had great grievances which ought to have made the country ashamed. They had grievances of which we were all ashamed. When, bursting out in a misguided spirit following a great adventure, they go and do foolish things, is it not enough that they have suffered for four or five years? That is really what we have to consider. It is not justice I ask for. It is just mercy to a splendid body of men, 1662 and we have surely learned enough in our administration of justice during these last few years to realise that it is not only a duty, but a privilege to be able to show mercy, not only to the broken in this world, but to those who are so occasionally misguided as to exceed their duty. I do not think on these benches anyone really differs from the point of view which has been put forward that the police must not strike. I do not expect we shall ever be faced with a police strike again.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
I do not think so. I have been told, when I have refused to send people to prison, that we shall be faced with all sorts of trouble, but we wore not, and a little courage and a little sympathy occasionally helps a great deal more to put down turbulent spirits, and I had much rather have men and women who sometimes think so strongly that they act wrongly than people who hardly think at all, and for that reason I beg the Home Secretary, in this matter, not to be led aside by officials. No one knows better than he or the Prime Minister when they gave their pledges, the real underlying things that mattered in this. Do not let them be led away now by officials. After all pledges are made to be kept and I can say, as one who has had something to do with these men during the last 15 years, that this is one of those pledges that it is a real privilege to keep if you can bring back into this force, which is the envy of Europe and the world, some of its brightest spirits, who have already suffered too long for the work they did, perhaps in misguided zeal, but in all honesty, to break down actrocious conditions of which the country ought to have been ashamed.
§ Mr. WILBERFORCE ALLEN
I wish to associate myself with the sentiments to which we have listened and, in common with my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Brown) I dissociate myself from the sentiments we have heard from the benches opposite. The only comment that seems necessary with regard to the Noble Lord's speech is that there might be something to be said from his point of view if we asked that these men should be reinstated immediately after they had struck. Whether that would be right or 1663 wrong is immaterial, having regard to the length of time which has elapsed. But the best that can be said for the arguments with which he has favoured us is, that they might have been applicable if this appeal had been made five years ago, but they are certainly wholly inapplicable having regard to the very considerable length of time which has elapsed since the strike took place. I should like to draw attention to the question of women police. I cannot help feeling that, in the present Government, and especially in the present Home Secretary, we are appealing to those who will be fully sympathetic. I believe I am right in saying, although I was not present during the Debates that the subject has been under discussion at least twice during the past two years. I have noticed that the late Home Secretary gave it pretty clearly to be understood that he was in fullest sympathy with the claim that was then made for a very considerable increase in the number of women police, and that the only argument that really weighed with him was the question of expense. That being the position taken up by the late Home Secretary, I feel that in appealing to the present holder of the office we are, to a very great extent, hammering at a more or less open door.
It will be within the knowledge of almost every Member of the Committee that the appeal which was made a year or two ago against a reduction in the number of women police was supported unanimously by every religious and social organisation which was entitled to speak or entitled to have an opinion upon this topic. In the year 1920, a Departmental Committee, which inquired into the whole circumstances, also reported unanimously in favour of a considerable number of women police. In common with a good many other activities, the activities of the women police came under the strokes of the Geddes axe. We were told at the time that there was very little justification for the retention of these women. I think the language used was that their powers were very limited. At this time of day, the only comment that need be made upon that provision is that it was to some extent true then, because the women had not the power that was absolutely essential, namely, the power of arrest. Lacking that very essential 1664 authority on the part of any one who is a member of a police force, their power was limited; but that defect has been remedied, because the power of arrest has been conferred on them to a great extent. The criticism which was levelled by those who examined the position at the time of the Geddes Report has been removed, if only on that account alone.
The main objection is on the ground of expense. After looking into the question, I find that the total amount which a really useful women's police force in London would cost, is £18,000. Having regard to the very considerable sums with which we are dealing on this occasion, and the money which we do not hesitate to spend in one direction and another, it does seem to me that that amount is so trifling that it is hardly believable that a Labour Government will object to a substantial increase of the women police force on that ground. We have had an illustration in regard to education of the damage done by, and the decision of the Government to reverse, the parsimonious policy which the late Administration pursued. I think it is the belief of hon. Members above the Gangway that in the matter of education the economy stunt, if I may so term it, has been carried to excess.
The suggestion I would like to make to the Home Secretary and the Government is that in regard to the question of women police we have rather over-done the economy cry, and that we can pay too big a price for certain economies. The reduction of the women police force in the last few years is an illustration that too great a price can be paid for economy. In the main, the objection which one finds raised against women police springs, as so many objections of a similar character spring, from an antiquated conception of the functions of criminal administration in this age. I can quite understand that going back, say, for 50 years, it was regarded in the main as the function of the policeman to arrest-the criminal and to see that he was suit ably punished for his offences, whether major or minor. In those days there was substantial support for the idea that there was no place in our criminal administration for women police. I suggest to the Committee that having regard to the more enlightened ideas which we now entertain, and recognising, as we do, 1665 that the function of our criminal administration is not merely to arrest the criminal but to do all in our power to ensure that he shall never need to be arrested and that he shall never give cause for offence, we must realise that there is a very important field and function which the women police can occupy.
I would suggest to those hon. Members who still have doubt as to the need for these women, and the function which it is in their power to fulfil, that they should study the Reports which are to hand of the activities of these women at the time when they constituted a substantial section of the police force in London. I find that in 1921, before the force had been substantially reduced, no fewer than 49,813 cases were assisted as a result of the activities of the women police, while 70,140 people were cautioned by these women police in respect of contemplated offences. If hon. Members will go to the trouble to study these figures, they will find that the experience which some of us had will be their experience, namely, that any objection they once had to these women being employed is more a question of prejudice than anything else, and that when the subject is examined in a dispassionate, unprejudiced frame of mind, it is obvious that the women police have a really substantial and important function to fulfil.
It may be said that a great deal which policewomen do would be done by volunteers, but obviously volunteers would not have that authority which can only be vested in and exercised by persons who are duly authorised to act as policemen or policewomen. I would remind the Committee again that Sir Neville Macready had such a high opinion of these women policemen that he gave it as his opinion that the whole question of dealing with prostitution might safely be handed over to them. Obviously that is a sphere of activity which, from the standpoint of the women police, offers innumerable occasions on which, to say the least of it, it is undesirable that many of the young policemen who are in our force should have to deal with women who, from time to time, are necessarily taken into custody for offences in respect of those laws which are involved in this matter.
Then these women police have, an enormously useful function to fulfil in the 1666 patrolling of our parks and open spaces. It would be the unanimous conviction of every Member of this Committee that unless we can efficiently patrol our parks and open spaces it would be far better not to have them at all. But no one suggests that we should dispense with them, and the obvious corollary is that they should be patrolled efficiently by those who are best qualified to give advice to the great many who are liable from time to time to commit offences. There is another question on which we do not care to dwell in any detail, but which is very important. That is the taking from young children of the statements which are necessary from time to time. We have it on the evidence of those who are competent to speak on this matter, that cases of incest, for example, are very frequent in certain quarters of London, and I presume also in others of our great cities, and the task of interrogating young children as to the circumstances in which they have been assaulted obviously calls not only for great care and skill, but for that delicacy and sensitiveness which women only can exercise.
The whole question can best be summed up in one sentence. I believe that it is one of the innocent delusions with which women deceive themselves unconsciously that they do understand men. Whether that be true or not I am perhaps hardly qualified to say. I have met men who seemed to be under the delusion that they understand themselves. I think that that is quite possible, though I also think that the greatest riddle to the average man is the riddle of himself. But I have not yet met any man who claims to understand women. I have not yet reached that stage myself, though I may do so when I enter the holy state of matrimony, but I do suggest to the Committee that, having regard to this invincible ignorance which characterises the male section of the race with regard to women, there is an obvious and overwhelming reason why they should constitute an essential part of our police force, in order that they may deal with those subjects and incidents which occur from time to time, and with which even those men who have the highest conceit of themselves could never deal in a manner completely satisfactory.
Lieut.-Colonel LAMBERT WARD
I wish to say a few words in support of the remarks which have just been made on 1667 the subject of the women police. It is one of my fondest hopes that we may in time see these women police increased very much in numerical strength. A great deal of the agitation against the women police was due to the fact that at the inception of the force it was not used in the proper way. It was never used in the way in which it would have been of most advantage to the community at large. Then there was a certain amount of prejudice against the force at the start, which may have affected the direction in which its activities were exercised, and that, coupled with the desire and the necessity for economy which arose in the administration of this country two or three years ago, lent a great deal of colour to the agitation which arose for the abolition of the force.
At the same time no one can deny the vast possibilities of useful service which lie within this force. Of recent years a sudden and insidious traffic in dangerous drugs has arisen in this country, and in my opinion the women police are in many ways extraordinarily well qualified to combat this evil traffic. I am sorry to say that a great many of the habitual users of these drugs are women. I do not say by any means that they are the majority, but a certain number of them are women, and it is very difficult for male police to trace the trafficers in and purchasers of these drugs. Valuable services have been rendered by women constables in tracking down the traders in; cocaine and other dangerous drugs. They have succeeded in causing the arrest of a great many of the principal criminals, and for that reason, if for no other, I do hope that we may see the women police force increased in numbers in the coming years. Then from the point of view of the prevention of crime and prostitution they are invaluable. I hope that the Home Secretary may see his way to deal generously with this question, so that we may have a steady increase in the number of the force.
I desire to support the attitude taken up by the two preceding Governments with regard to the question of the police strikers. The hon. Member for the Edge Hill Division of Liverpool (Mr. Hayes), both on this occasion and on a similar occasion a year ago, put the case for the strikers with a great deal of skill, ability 1668 and power. At the same time I cannot help thinking that in the minds of the average citizens of this country there is a difference between a police force and a trade union. I do not mean to say that the discipline and the conditions of service in the police force should approximate to those of an army on active service Neither should it approximate to the conditions of an industrial trade union. The position of the police force is about midway between the two. Though I would be the very last person to deny the right of any trade union to strike for better conditions, yet I would strongly deprecate—if that be a strong enough word to use—an attempt being made by any portion of an army on active service to strike. What would be the opinion of the country, or of the rest of the Army, of a battalion which went on strike the day before going into action? What would be the opinion of the rest of the Army of a battery which went on strike and refused to give support to an infantry battalion that was going over the top? I do not say that the discipline which would be meted out to these should correspond to the discipline of the police force, but I do say that the police force is a body whose discipline we have always admired, whose discipline we rely upon for the maintenance of law and order. I do not know what attitude the Home Secretary is taking up in the matter, but if he takes up the attitude that was adopted by his two predecessors I am quite prepared to support him.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON
I rise now, not because I have any wish to curtail the discussion, but because I have to keep in mind that to-day, according to the arrangements made through the Whips, belongs to hon. Members below the Gangway. The subject which we are now discussing was not introduced by them, and they have intimated that they are exceedingly anxious, before the Debate closes, to raise some questions in connection with prisons. I have nothing to complain of as to the manner in which this very important subject has been introduced. The hon. Member for Edge Hill gave us a very comprehensive survey of the conditions and circumstances in which what is termed the police strike of 1919 took place. I can say, in reply to several of the speakers that followed the hon. Member, only that if sympathy 1669 could have settled this question, I believe there is sufficient sympathy all over the House to have brought about a very speedy settlement. I could not fail to listen with interest to one part of the speech of the hon. Member who opened the discussion, namely, his quotations from the promises and speeches of members of the Government. It is always an interesting experience. During the 21 years that I have been in this House I have spent not a little time in having recourse to the same method of treating my opponents. That being so, I feel that I cannot in the slightest degree complain that the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Hayes) brought before the Committee the promises that the Prime Minister and the Under-Secretary and myself have made on this question. I only put this construction upon those promises—that they, at any rate, demonstrated that we at that time had very deep sympathy with the man, and I say that without in any way admitting that we had sympathy with the actual strike out of which their trouble has come.
I have been a trade unionist for 41 years, but, like the last speaker, I draw a very wide distinction between an ordinary industrial dispute and a strike in what is a disciplinary service, like the police force. Those of us who are prepared to try to bring about changes, either political or industrial, on constitutional lines, cannot make too clear the difference between the position of the military, the position of the police force, or the position, shall I say, of the fire brigade, so far as taking up a "down tool" policy is concerned. I do not propose to go into the whole history of the circumstances and conditions that obtained when this unfortunate stoppage took place. The House is aware that some 2,300 men left duty on this particular occasion. Some speakers have tried to show that it was the result of bad conditions. If that statement had been made with regard to the strike of the previous year, 1918, I would readily have admitted it, but no one can become acquainted with all the details, as I have had to make myself acquainted with them during the past two or three months, without realising that a very important change had been made between the close of the 1918 strike and the opening of the strike 1670 in July, 1919. I do not think that I would be going too far if I said that no small step in advance had been taken in the interest of the officers. Therefore, I am not prepared to admit that the 1919 stoppage was in consequence of bad conditions. After all, we must remember the work that was done by a very important Committee, known as the Desborough Committee, to which the House was very much indebted.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
Hon. Members have stated their case, and I have listened to them. I did not say when the Desborough Committee Report was published, but I do say that the Desborough Committee brought in an Interim Report that resulted in an improvement of the scale of pay before the strike actually took place. That, I think, is to be said to the credit of the Desborough Committee and also to the credit of the then Government, and showed that, at any rate, they were anxious to try to improve a position which I think they would be compelled to admit showed very great room for improvement at that time. That is all I propose to say about the history of this position. To use a phrase which we often use, we have inherited this position. We tried to show our sympathy by saying that we were in favour of the men being reinstated, and the Committee has been very fully reminded of the fact by the hon. Member for Edge Hill. When I say that, I have also to point out that it was one thing to be in favour, as I was in favour, and it was another thing to be able to give effect. [Interruption.] Surely hon. Members will allow me to state the case. I am quite prepared to be pilloried or impeached or anything you jolly well please, but I am here to state the position and that I propose to do. I say we were in favour of reinstatement, and when I took office I hope hon. Members will accept it from me that I approached the subject with every desire possible to give effect to the position I occupied in two or three General Elections. After all, it has been pointed out by more than one speaker that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been consistent—that is, they have been consistent in their opposition. Surely hon. Gentle- 1671 men behind me, who are keenly interested in this question, must recognise that it would be a very much more satisfactory position for me to occupy to-night if I could say: "I decide, with the consent of the Cabinet, to reinstate every one of these 2,300 odd men who struck in 1919." That would have been a much easier task for me than the task with which I am confronted.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
An answer to a question, two days ago, said what was the Government decision. It is not a Departmental decision, it is a Government decision. As I say, it would have been very much easier for me to have taken up a position entirely different. When I say that, I want to make it clear, as I tried to do a few moments ago, that I have no sympathy with the idea that the police can be placed in exactly the same position as an ordinary industrial organisation. During the few months I have been at the Home Office I have had many appeals on this subject. I have had appeals for complete reinstatement. Others have not gone quite so far, and have appealed to me, as they say, "To remove the bar to re-employment." I have also had appeals on the question of pension. It was very properly pointed out to me that some of the men had served right into the "teens" of years, and had so much to go towards pension; that in some cases only by a few weeks or months had they failed to qualify, and that everything they had contributed was lost. In other cases, where the pensions position was not quite so fully established, it has been put to me that the men have been sufficiently punished during the last five or six years, and that sympathy and compassion demanded that the question of what are called rateable deductions from their pay might be taken into serious consideration with a view to making them some return.
I have considered all these questions. I know it is very difficult to convince some of my hon. Friends that there are what I will call insurmountable difficulties in the way of reinstatement. As I understand reinstatement, it means putting the man back into the position which he occupied at the time he left duty; it means that with regard to pay, 1672 pension and position, he is to be no worse off than he would have been had he never left duty. That is how I understand complete reinstatement. We feel it would be impossible to do that without legislation. Reinstatement, as I have just put it, would involve a money payment of some £2,000,000. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] My hon. Friends say "No," but I am not stating their position. I am stating the position as I find it after the closest investigation that I could make since I went to the Department. If they will draw a distinction between complete reinstatement and eligibility for re-employment, they will probably get a better grasp of the difficulties with which we are confronted. So far as complete reinstatement in the sense I have indicated is concerned, I am convinced, and my legal advisers are convinced, that it could not be done except by legislation and by the Government making itself responsible for the sum I have named. As regards the question of eligibility for re-employment, I admit frankly the position is not quite so difficult, though it presents very great difficulties. For instance, if we were going to proceed in the House in that direction, we would require to have the dismissal notices withdrawn, and the withdrawal of the dismissal notices would have to be put into operation for over 1,000 of the men by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and for the remaining 1,300 it would have to be put into operation by the watch committees through the chief constables in some six or seven municipalities in the country such as Liverpool, Birkenhead, Bootle, Wallasey, Birmingham—
§ Mr. HENDERSON
We are as much concerned with the one as with the other. I cannot omit Wallasey, though there was only one man involved. I want the Committee to realise that, even if we desired the withdrawal of this order for dismissal, we have no power to compel any watch committee to give effect, to that position. I want that to be clearly understood. Of course, I have to keep in mind that the watch committees are responsible for the discipline of their forces—in London, the Commissioner of Police, not the Home Secretary, is held chargeable for maintaining the discipline of the forces in the Metropolitan area—and, therefore, the 1673 Committee, I am sure, must see that these points present very substantial difficulties in the way, first, of reinstatement and, secondly, of eligibility for re-employment.
Now there is the question of the grant of pensions. Under Section 2 of the Police Pensions Act, 1921, the grant of pensions is absolutely limited to men who have retired on completion of 25 years' service or who have retired on medical certificates. May I say that at the time of the strike, or, at any rate, soon after the settlement, this question of pensions was gone into by a previous Home Secretary, and 21 pensions were granted to men who left duty, because they had served the complete 25 years which the law demanded to entitle them to pensions. There were seven in the Metropolitan area, two at Birkenhead, nine at Liverpool, and three (one sergeant and two police constables) at Bootle, making a total of 21, who had their pensions granted them, in spite of the fact that they left their duty the same as the remainder of the 2,300, because they had earned it by the lapse of the 25 years.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
Might I ask whether the cases came before the Court, and were decided there, or whether they were settled outside the Court?
§ Mr. HENDERSON
All I wanted to show was that these men—the 21 whom I have mentioned—did obtain their pensions. [An HON. MEMBER: "They were legally entitled to them!"] There is no question about that, and I do not, therefore, know the meaning of that interruption. I was trying to show that men who did leave their duty got the pension. Now, with regard to the grant of rateable deductions, these are controlled under Section 31 of the Police Act, 1890, under which Act rateable deductions were 1674 limited to men who had not been dismissed, but under Section 20 of the Police Pensions Act, 1921, which relates to the return of rateable deductions, and which only took effect from the 28th August, 1921, rateable deductions may be applied by the police authority for the benefit of the dependants of men who have been dismissed. The money is not returned to the men, but can be applied for the benefit of dependants of men who have been dismissed. To give effect retrospectively to this provision would, in my opinion, require fresh legislation.
I have tried to deal as fairly and squarely as I possibly could with these four points. I have listened to the Debate, and I was particularly impressed by the appeal that was made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant), although I noticed that he was not quite prepared to comply with the full demand. He had reservations as to the reinstatement of some of these strikers, but I was very much impressed with his appeal. That appeal was supported by two or three Members below the Gangway and above the Gangway, that is, for a fresh reconsideration of this question. As I have already said, this feeling seems to be represented amongst all sections of the Committee. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] Perhaps not by all the Members, but speeches have been made from all quarters of the Committee to that effect. It is very difficult, being in this position, to refuse to respond. If there be any desire that the question should be further reconsidered—I have pointed out the difficulties, and I have answered a question on the Floor of the House, or had it answered, dealing with this question of reinstatement—if there be a general desire on the part of the Committee that the matter should be further inquired into—but it can only be done if there be a general desire on the part of the Committee—then I am prepared to ask the Prime Minister if a Committee of Inquiry, such as the hon. Member for Holborn suggested, can be set up.
I am also prepared to suggest, in view of the fact that the position may be left in this unfinished way, that, just as we left over the Vote for my salary, if there be a desire that this matter should be left for the Committee to have a further opportunity for discussion, I am quite prepared to do with this Vote as I did with the last 1675 Vote, and leave it open. I want to be perfectly fair, and I have nothing more to say than that if there be a desire that I should move that this Vote be withdrawn in order that it may be discussed at a future occasion, I shall be quite prepared to move it, and I hope that the Committee will take it from me that it would have been very much more satisfactory could I have taken up an entirely different attitude from that which I have been compelled to take up, but the facts that I have placed before the Committee were too strong for me. If an independent Committee, a representative Committee, can find a way through the difficulties, then, so far as I am concerned, I will welcome it with satisfaction.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I would very willingly have remained a silent witness of the difference of opinion which exists among hon. Members opposite. [Hon. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, there is no difference of opinion! Then why was this subject raised? But I do not think it would be right if I did not say a word or two, in view of the fact that I occupied the position of Home Secretary a year ago, when this question was raised in the House. I do not suppose there is anybody here who is not sorry for the police strikers, who have been thrown out of work, and whose families have been subjected, in many cases, to considerable distress in consequence, and especially for those who were misled into taking part in that strike by imperfect knowledge of the opportunities there were for getting their grievances redressed in a proper and constitutional manner. I am quite sure everybody is sorry for them. We have got to remember, however, that most of them did this with their eyes open. They thought they were going to win this strike. They knew perfectly well that their action at that time was regarded as an unforgivable sin in a disciplined force like a police force, and they took the consequences. Therefore, we must realise that their offence was a very serious offence against discipline, and it is made all the worse by the fact that their case, as the right hon. Gentleman has already said, would have been heard, and what they wanted would probably have been given if they had followed the proper constitutional course. I have not changed my opinion since last 1676 year, when I said I could not reinstate them. It is not a question with us of punishment of these people. It is a question of precedent—whether it is right to set a precedent that people may contravene the very strict orders of a disciplined force and then not suffer the full consequences of their action.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The House, of course, can take any line and any action it likes on this matter, in the same way that it did on that.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. Member who moved the reduction of the Vote said he was not arguing this on the case of discipline. He said that last year the House had decided the other way on the ground of discipline, and that he had no fault to find with that.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I accept his interpretation of what he said, but his line tonight was that he could quite understand people objecting to their reinstatement on the ground of discipline, but that he was trying to impress upon the Committee that the members of the present Government—many of them—had given pledges which appeared to him to necessitate their acting in a different manner. The moral of that is that it is very undesirable for any politician or body of politicians to pass resolutions on subjects on which they are imperfectly informed, when they are in a position of irresponsibility, and when they may ere long be in a position where they will have the facts before them and be responsible for their actions. That is the moral of the lecture of the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Hayes). We know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has said he thought there ought to be a law by which all the previous speeches of 1677 Ministers who had recently acceded to office should be burned. Therefore, the main argument of the hon. Gentleman was that pledges that had been given without complete knowledge of the facts ought to be sustained, even when knowledge of the facts is obtained, and that knowledge throws a very different light on the position. The Home Secretary has very frankly and fairly stated that when he took up the office he now holds he went there fully desirous of re-instating these men on the knowledge that he had before he went there. But he found the difficulties in the way were very much greater than he had anticipated. When I went to the Home Office I went with a perfectly open mind, also as to re-instating these men. I had not passed any resolutions with no knowledge of the facts; that is the only difference between me and the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I had not given any pledges or passed any resolutions, but I went there, as he did, or as any other fair-minded man would go there, anxious to see whether any injustice was being done and, if it was, whether it could be redressed. I feel with him that the position of anyone holding his important office is a very difficult one in this case. He has pointed out that complete reinstatement is practically impossible. He has referred to the possibility of allowing the men to rejoin the force. I do not know whether any of them would accept that or whether they would want to rejoin. He has pointed out there are great difficulties in the way of giving them pensions, or partial pensions, while they still remain out of the force, in recognition of the years of service they had before they made this mistake, and what he has said has shown that the difficulties in the way are very great. To my mind the question of discipline is a very, very serious question in a force of that kind. The right hon. Gentleman himself said that a strike in an industrial dispute is a totally different thing from a strike in an organised force which has to preserve public order in the interests of the safety of the public in town and country. We cannot lightly disregard this question of discipline or the effect of this relaxation of it, however much any of us, in the interests of humanity, would like to do it. We cannot ignore that. At the end of his speech the right hon. Gentleman suggested some kind of inquiry—
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I do not know who suggested it, but the right hon. Gentleman at some part of his speech seemed to me to suggest an inquiry into the cases of some of the offenders, and not into that of the others. It was not very clear to me what was the inquiry he wanted, or whether in his own mind it was even possible. I rather doubt it. But the right hon. Gentleman certainly led the House to understand that if the opinion of this Committee, or of the House—which he was going to take in some other way—was that the matter required further inquiry, and that hon. Members would be more satisfied if there was further inquiry held into this matter, that he would be favourable to that inquiry being held. I think that represents what he said. I should not like to say offhand that I would be opposed to any such inquiry. It is rather difficult to express an opinion on it without knowing the terms of reference to the committee, or its composition. I do not want to press the right hon. Gentleman unduly to-night. I think very likely he would not wish to tell us what sort of committee he had in mind. I do not think those who agree with me on this side would like to commit themselves unreservedly to an inquiry—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—unless they knew exactly what kind of a tribunal it was going to be.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
A higher tribunal composed of Labour Members has already gone into the matter—we have just been told that—and that they have decided against reinstatement.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
A higher tribunal. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is the higher tribunal?"] I do not quite catch the point of that. However, for myself, and for some of the hon. Members here, I can say that before we disagree with the idea of an inquiry we should like to know what the tribunal is likely to be, and we are perfectly prepared to consider the matter with an open mind. I think the right hon. Gentleman will not ask us to agree forthwith with an inquiry as a 1679 satisfactory way of dealing with this until we understand a little better the kind of inquiry suggested.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
May I just say that it was a suggestion that came from the hon. Baronet the Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant). I think the right hon. Gentleman has made a very fair suggestion that he and his friends are to have time to consider the matter. I would be quite prepared to confer with himself, to get the Prime Minister to confer with the leaders of both sections of the Opposition as to the form the inquiry should take. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I gathered the right hon. Gentleman was speaking on behalf of his colleagues. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not at all!"] I thought there was a disposition on the part of all sections of the Committee to have the matter further explored.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I think the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary conveys rather a wrong impression to the Committee if he imagines that the hon. Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant) was speaking on behalf of those on this side.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I do not know whether I am speaking for my colleagues or not! I am only expressing the views of a person who unfortunately occupied the same position as the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for Holborn certainly had no authority to speak for those with whom I am here and to make the suggestion. Therefore we think the-Government should tell us quite frankly later what the proposal is and leave us to consider whether we agree with it.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The right hon. Gentleman the ex-Home Secretary not only gets himself into a muddle when in office, but he gets my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary into a muddle when he is in Opposition. I understood my right hon. Friend to say that he was going to consult the Prime Minister. I quite realise his difficulty, both on the main question, and the question of setting up a Committee if it is the wish of the House to inquire into this admittedly complicated and difficult question. Then we have the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oswestry (Mr. 1680 Bridgeman). I thought that his whole heart was with these unfortunate men. I do not think he made anything in the nature of an attack upon the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for the Edgehill Division (Mr. Hayes). At the end he asked a number of questions about this inquiry. Then the Home Secretary did not talk about consulting the Prime Minister. Oh, no! He was going to consult with the Leaders of the Opposition, and with the right hon. Gentleman who speaks for the party here.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I said I would confer with the right hon. Gentleman opposite. That was supplementary to what I had said. I was not withdrawing my offer. Then I said I would ask the Prime Minister to confer with the leaders of the two other sections.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Doubtless it will be arranged through the usual channels, but I must say I did expect more from my right hon. Friend. In this inquiry which is to be set up the Government is in a quandary if they do not walk carefully. If no inquiry takes place, what then? The right hon. Gentleman says: "Yes, but there will be further opportunity on the Vote for my salary to go into this matter." But I would remind him that the question of what is going to be put down depends not on his party or the Government; it is a matter for one of the sections of the Opposition, and it is just possible, therefore, that this Vote will never come on again but will be guillotined in the ordinary course of events at the end of the allotted days. Therefore the whole question will be shelved if opposition is shown by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oswestry or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith).
The right hon. Gentleman must really give us a little more than that. We really present the Home Secretary and the Deputy Leader of the House, and surely we can be promised an inquiry into this very difficult and pathetic case. The great majority of my hon. Friends seem to be in favour of some form of reinstatement. I quite see the difficulty of complete reinstatement, and back pay, and all that sort of thing, but I do not really think that all that is desired by any section of the House. A distinction has been drawn between complete reinstatement 1681 and eligibility for re-employment. I know the Home Secretary's difficulties both from the Trade Union Congress point of view, and the annual meetings of the Labour party, because they have declared for reinstatement.
I know the serious obstacles that exist, but nevertheless I feel that something should be done for these men. They were in many ways the very flower of the force. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, that is so. They were men of long service who simply answered an appeal made to them by their comrades. They were told that the other men were out on strike and they must come out as well. Those who came out are really men of character, however misled they may have been, and they are the sort of men you want in a civilian police force, and, thank God, it is a civilian and not a military force.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant) speaks with more authority on all police matters than the late Home Secretary, and I think in what he said he spoke for those who heard his speech. That is our case, and I appeal to the Home Secretary to give us something more definite. I do not think that I have made a hostile attack on the Home Secretary, but I am thinking of the sufferings of these men over all these years. Surely they have been punished enough, and there must be some way out of the difficulty. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us something more satisfactory than he has yet stated about this inquiry, otherwise I shall be obliged to support a reduction of this Vote.
§ The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Mr. Clynes)
The Committee usually finds no difficulty in understanding the motives of the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken, but I think he will admit that he has presented a difficulty to us in the speech he has just delivered. I will just go over the three points which he has raised. The little that my right hon. Friend has offered would probably go too far for the acceptance of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley and my right hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Bridgeman). In that respect my right hon. Friend has offered too much. In the second place, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) agrees that complete reinstatement is impossible, at least I understand that to be his view.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The third point is that my right hon. Friend must offer something more than he has done. A speech containing three such points of contradiction, is not, in my opinion, going to help towards the solution of the problem, and I rose merely to draw the attention of the Committee to the very definite assurance of the need for inquiry through a proper and acceptable tribunal, and the difficulty of the problem which has been presented. We accept the view off-hand that the Committee cannot expect us to indicate now the particular nature and character of the inquiry, because that is a matter for negotiation, but out of the statement which has been made by the Home Secretary, surely ways and means can be found for doing a very large measure of justice to these men who have a great grievance. I hope the Debate will not be prolonged, and that the course suggested by the Home Secretary will be accepted by the Committee.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
I did not intend to intervene in this Debate, but after the speech just delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) I feel I must say a word or two. The hon. and gallant Member has made a speech which has been admirably summed up by the Deputy-Leader of the House. The hon. and gallant Member's speech began with some offensive remarks about my right hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Bridgeman), and that did not surprise anyone on this side of the Committee. He then went on with the most illogical propositions that have ever fallen even from the hon. and gallant Member. Then we come to the Deputy-Leader of the House, who states that he thinks the Home Secretary has made a very ample proposal to the Committee covering all possible eventualities, and such a proposal as the Committee will, of course, be prepared to accept subject to further conference.
I do not want to say anything about that except that the proposal of the Home Secretary contained everything except his statement that the Government were prepared to take the responsibility. The Home Secretary, as the responsible Cabinet Minister, and the responsible adviser of the Crown, comes 1683 to the Committee and says: "Well, of course, I find this is a much more difficult question to decide than I did when I made my election pledges, but as I have found it a difficult question, I do not want to pretend to the House that I have made up my mind, or pretend that I am competent to make up my mind about it, and therefore I am going to ask the other two parties in the House kindly to help me out of my difficulty." That is the proposition with which he has confronted my right hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry, who says that he does not want to say anything now which would incommode the Home Secretary in his very difficult and pathetic position, and then apparently hon. Members opposite, and especially the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull, not being able to distinguish ordinary fair-minded action in debate in this House from his own normal party attitude—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"]
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
Does the Noble Lord understand anything about fair-mindedness? You are not in Committee now, you know.
§ Lord E. PERCY
The hon. Member for one of the Clyde Divisions is an artist in offensive and meaningless interruptions. They are the only contributions which he makes to our debates.
§ Mr. MAXTON
On a point of Order. Is it in order for an hon. Member to make a general reference—an offensive reference—which will be recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT—against a considerable number of Members? He has referred to "one of the Members from the Clyde district," or words to that effect. That has no geographical significance and certainly no Parliamentary significance. I wish to ask if it is in order for such an expression to be used?
§ Mr. HARDIE
Is it in order for an hon. Member to address his remarks to individuals, and not to the Chair?
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN
With regard to the latter point, all Members ought to address the Chair, as is well known. With regard to the use of the word "offensive," I think in these days we are not, perhaps, quite so strict with regard to terms as in the past. I believe if one delves into the records, he will 1684 find that the word "offensive" has been deemed to be unparliamentary, but I think in latter days it has not had that significance.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I think you failed to catch my point of Order. The point of Order I raised was as to the description of one Member by a general expression, instead of referring to him in the recognised way in this House.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It is net Parliamentary to refer to a Member by his own name, but he can refer to him by the name of his constituency. I do not think there is anything calling for withdrawal.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Lord E. PERCY
May I point out, if any hon. Members opposite think I have exceeded, in the last minute or two, the limit of what they think to be a fair rejoinder, it was in reply to a question whether I understood anything about fair-mindedness. I leave every fair-minded Member of this Committee to judge which was the more offensive expression. I want to say one word in conclusion. We are in this position, that the Government come to us and say: "We want you to take the responsibility. We want you to help us out of this hole." The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary shakes his head, but that is deliberately what he has done, and I think we have had during the last few weeks enough of this continual attitude of the Government—"We will not take any responsibility. We will not stand up to our own followers when they become troublesome. We will try and get help from the other party." The Home Secretary knows perfectly well that he can rely on the support of this side of the House in doing his duty if he takes a strong line. But if he utterly refuses to take a strong line, and asks us to help him to get out of a hole, and help him make up his mind for him—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
In view of the last speech—and I hope I say this without offence—I am more than glad there is no touch of a lord about me. What is the position we are in now? I think from the tone of the Home Secretary—and I regret it—he came down here deliberately to refuse to do anything at all, but the hon. Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant), with a great amount 1685 of courage, and with credit to himself, made a speech to which every Member here listened, and I am sorry so very few Members were present on the other side. He made an appeal which no Member, either on the Government or any other bench, could fail to resist. In view of that, I think the Home Secretary, who had made up his mind to do nothing at all, yielded, not to the persuasion of any Member on this side, but in view of a first-class and honourable appeal made to him by an hon. Member opposite. He has made an offer of a Committee of Inquiry. I regret it. I think he ought to have come here, and done what the right hon. Gentleman opposite did when he was in a worse mess. Last year he was guilty of a most abominable offence. In my constituency a man, who had been working with the railway company for over 20 years, was taken from his wife and six children at 2 o'clock in the morning, and deported to another country.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I was just resuming my place in the Chair, and confess I did not hear what the hon. Member was saying.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
That man was taken from his family. He was not a man eligible for Cabinet rank, but was a poor workman.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I have not a monopoly of sob stuff; it usually comes from rich men on that side. The right hon. Gentleman came down to the House, and admitted that he was wrong. Members opposite represent the privileged class; we represent the working class. [Interruption.] In my opinion, at any rate, we represent the working people. The Home Secretary to-night could have done exactly what was done for the opposite class last year, that is to say, deal with the police strikers as the Conservative Government dealt with the Home Secretary. These men should be treated with the consideration which other people who made mistakes at that time received. They were men who had just returned from serving in the Army. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon 1686 Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who made at that time some of the most stupid political utterances that were ever made, was largely excused because of the period. Even Labour leaders were excused. The only persons who are not to be excused are the police strikers. I myself was guilty in this House of a greater crime than these men committed, and this House to its credit frankly forgave me. I say to the Home Secretary that I am not satisfied with this suggestion of an inquiry. The Committee is not satisfied with it. I recognise the position the Government occupy, but I would much rather he had come down here boldly and courageously to say that he would do the right thing, and return these men to their situations. Failing such a promise, if there is a Division on this question I shall have no hesitation in voting against the Government. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Anybody who knows the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, is not surprised at his attitude, particularly at 10 past 10 at night.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
That cannot be said of hon. Members from the Clyde. That is one thing the hon. Member would delight to say, if she dared say it.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It is all very well for hon. Members to excuse themselves from their pledges, but the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister ought to have known that the Labour party would not remain a propaganda party, but would one day come into office and into power. They should, therefore, have made their pledges sincerely intending to carry them out. My chief objection to their not carrying out their pledge is, that it was given to a body of very poor men. If they were well-fed men, well-clothed and comfortably housed, it would not matter so much, because men in that position can fight their own battles; but to treat with contempt a pledge made to poor people is not worthy of a decent Government, and I hope that the people who do not carry this pledge out will go down with 1687 contempt in the political history of this country.
§ Mr. HAYES
I am frankly disappointed that the Home Secretary should have offered us this Committee instead of full reinstatement. On the other hand, I am sure the men will be very grateful for the very splendid support that has come from more than one quarter of the Committee. While I appreciate the goodwill and the identity of feeling of many of my hon. Friends who go even to the point, as one hon. Member has expressed it, of going into the Lobby against the Government, I feel that the men have such a just case, otherwise they would not have stuck to their fight for so long, that I have no hesitation in welcoming the proposed Committee, if it is to be of an impartial character and will review the whole question of reinstatement or reemployment of the men. Provided we get this Committee, and know the terms of reference within a very reasonable time, in order to be in a position to discuss the matter when the Vote comes back to the House, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment for the reduction of the Vote.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
I wholly object to the proposal that this Amendment should be withdrawn. I was greatly disappointed at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, but I recognise that he had to deal with irresponsible utterances which he had made when in opposition, and that he spoke to-night as a responsible Member of the Government. I am sure he himself fully recognised the difference in the two positions. I am more than disappointed, however, with the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary. We had no lead from him at all, except to surrender the position which he and previous Home Secretaries have affirmed. I cannot understand how he has been led to propose or suggest a Committee. So far as I am concerned, and I only speak for myself, if you want to do this thing, you do it on your own responsibility. I have had this case put to me in my own constituency in two elections, and I have answered it publicly and said: "No; you were the force of law and order, and cannot ask my help." I will stand by that here and there. Our party, or at 1688 least I thought so, was a party of law and order. Let us see what happened. Memories fail. Do we remember what happened in 1919, at the period of the strike? Do we remember what was the position at that time, when we were demobilising our great Army in France and elsewhere, when we were having to find them re-employment and reinstatement in their industries, and when we were threatened with the transport strike, and had to call up again men who were reservists, in case of need? I thought it was a recognised rule, in this country, at any rate, that our Police Force was not allowed to have a union. Could you admit of a union in the Army, or in the Navy? Can the Army or the Navy say, "Down tools"? If they do it is mutiny. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) is not, in my judgment, a force for law and order. If I hear his interruptions I will answer them. I do not consider that he is a force for law and order. He has defied the law, has defied the Courts, and has done every thing of that kind. Does he remember that he once went to the Prime Minister or the day, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), and shook his first in his face? I like the hon. Member very well, despite his politics, but I want to remind him of his misdoings. Perhaps he will not interrupt me any more.[Interruption.] I hear an interruption from an hon. Member from some Scottish place in an unintelligible lingo—
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
On a point of Order. The language that I speak has been challenged by the Englishman over there. He has called my language a "lingo," and he says it is unintelligible. My point of Order is that the language I speak is the language of the men that saved you from the Germans.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
The hon. Member has not heard the whole of it. I would answer him if I understood what he said, but I do not, and so I cannot. Let us go on. I was reminding the Committee that in the Army or in the Navy this would be 1689 mutiny, and I say it is very little short of it in our civil police. Who are they? I was surprised when I heard the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Hemmerde), who, I think, is the Recorder of Liverpool, support these men.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
I offer the hon. Member the apology his qualified answer deserves. [Interruption.] If you do not understand the qualification let me tell you the hon. Member did not say merely that he was not a striker, but that he would have been proud to be one, or words to that effect. I call that a qualification, and, therefore, I make the apology that the answer, coupled with the qualification, deserved. I believe the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Crewe (Mr. Hemmerde) is the Recorder of Liverpool. I do not believe there is a member of the Judicial Bench, be he Recorder or otherwise, who would have spoken in regard to this matter in the way he did.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
It may be. That is part of your Socialist doctrine. I have always thought it. No law and disorder. I hope you, Sir, at any rate, appreciate how these interruptions are helping me. It is showing what they really are. No law and disorder. That is what they want. In those days you had Communists among your party. [Interruption.]
§ The CHAIRMAN
I want to appeal, not only to the hon. and learned Gentleman, but to hon. Members who are interrupting to allow the discussion to proceed.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
I thank you very much, Sir. I do not believe there is a Judge in the land who would have used the language that the Recorder of Liverpool did. I want to know what the strike involved. These men broke their contracts as clearly as could be.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
You say so. Then their remedy was clear and simple—a Petition of Right. They could have gone to the Law Courts, and there was no difficulty at all. They had no rights; no one has any rights except the rights the law gives him. They had their contracts, and they had their rights, confirmed by Statute, and one of the things they could not do without suffering dismissal was to break their contract. They thought they would strike and intimidate us, but we were not the Labour party, and we therefore could stand to our rights and could say to them, "We will have none of this." It is what the Home Secretary is really saying to-night. He says, in substance, "I am no longer irresponsible. I am a responsible officer of His Majesty's Government," and I respect him for it. I respect him when he said, "It is no good quoting my speeches against me." It is an old game. These men had their rights under their contracts, and under Statute, and they had the right if their contracts were broken to petition the Crown, and no Home Secretary ever broke that contract or would have dared to do so. They had the right after all, in a case where their pay was too small, to appeal to the Crown through the Government and the House of Commons. Have we ever been found ungenerous in dealing with the police? [Interruption.] So you say, but noise does not convince me and never has. [An HON. MEMBER: "You expect it to convince us."] How comes it, if we have been ungenerous and unjust to the police, that we have the pick of the nation in the police force? We had them then, and we have them now. How is it that admirable character, fine physique, unimpaired constitution and everything that is good in mankind, can be found in the police force if we have been so unjust?
§ Sir G. HOHLER
I know that the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Mills) is of opinion that I ought not to be a Member of the House of Commons. If so, let him go into my constituency and publish my speech. Although I do not like the hon. Member's politics, I like him very well. What did the police strike involve? These men struck, regardless of the difficulties 1691 under which the nation was labouring. Had the strike been successful, it would have involved this—that every policeman in London and the provinces would be entitled to put down his truncheon and say, "I am off duty." The whole of the civil organisation of this country would be gone. It did not stop there. This involves not merely the police but the warders. You cannot consider the one without the other. You cannot consider the police of the Metropolis without the police of the country, or the river police or the fire brigade. I wonder what would have happened to the learned Recorder of Liverpool if while he had been holding his Quarter Sessions the warders had disappeared because the police had struck. All the gaols would have been empty. [Laughter.] It is easy to laugh, but what would hon. Members opposite have said in those circumstances?
We ought co stand to what we have done. The Home Secretary proved his case conclusively. He referred to the sections of the Act of Parliament and showed that without legislation we can do nothing. I know that the hon. Member for Edgehill states that the two Courts of quarter sessions decided in favour of the men, but you can take a case in the quarter sessions on appeal and no such case has ever been taken. It was not taken because they were anxious to settle, so far as they could, and let some of the men of long service easily out, but there was no right to these pensions. If a man puts down his truncheon and refuses duty he has broken his contract. You cannot reinstate these men who are over age. Now after an interval of five years when a Socialist Government are in power they dare do nothing as a Government, but they invite some of us to assent to a suggestion because the hon. Member for Holborn spoke in favour of it. I enter my protest against it.
If we are going to reinstate these men, how many thousands of men must there have been dismissed the force for some trivial offence who are much more worthy of reinstatement than these men who deliberately struck in the belief that they could deprive us of the protection to which we were entitled, and that they could demand what they liked? It was blackmail. There is no comparison with the case of trade unions. We are dealing 1692 with a disciplined force engaged for a term of years and entitled to a pension at the end of it. If we assent to this, we shall do injustice to the men who stood loyally by us, who knew that it was wrong to strike, who trusted the British people to do justice through the House of Commons, and to whom justice was done. I have risen because I was deeply disappointed with the speech of the late Home Secretary. I had hoped for something definite and clear from him, and therefore I enter my protest against that which is proposed.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I rise to get some information. I understand that we have been offered a Committee, but that that offer was contingent on certain things; it was contingent upon its being in accordance with the general wishes of the House. I understand that Liberal Members of the House wish to have this Committee and that Members of the Labour party want to have the Committee, but there seems to be great doubt as to whether hon. Members opposite wish to have it. I ask the Home Secretary to tell us what the position is to be in the event of inquiries being made through the usual channels and the discovery being made that, while two sections of the House are in favour of the Committee, the third section is not The conditions of general agreement will not then be fulfilled, and, presumably, there is a danger that we will not have the Committee of Inquiry. If I understand the position of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) it is this: That if we let this Vote go to-night there is no guarantee that on some later occasion we shall have an opportunity of discussing the matter again. Therefore, before we dispose of this Vote, those of us who feel keenly on the matter—I do, for one—ought to have it definitely stated that we are to have a Committee of Inquiry, whatever hon. Members opposite may say about it.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. Gentleman misunderstands or misinterprets what I said. The question whether there will be a Committee of Inquiry or not rests with the Government. What I stated was that I was not prepared to say, before we knew what the inquiry or the tribunal or the terms of reference were to be, 1693 whether it was wise or foolish to have the inquiry. It is the responsibility of the Government. If they want to have a Committee of Inquiry they can set it up, and nothing that we can do can prevent their setting it up. If the Cabinet have come to a decision and want an inquiry it is for them to take the responsibility of setting up the Committee.
§ Major HORE-BELISHA
The Committee is witnessing the interesting spectacle of the Home Secretary allying himself with entirely new associates. Finding that the whole of his so-called supporters are deserting him, he is falling on his knees and praying for Conservative support to save him from disaster. There is no question whatever about it. Is this pledge which the Home Secretary has given to be flung upon the scrap heap to follow the pledge given to the ranker officers? The whole question is a moral question. The Home Secretary and his associates were returned to this House after having given a definite pledge. They were supposed to have considered and to have examined the arguments upon either side. They had five years to do it. It was their bounden duty, before they solicited and obtained the votes which they did obtain, to examine this question, and it is not right or fair to come to this House now and to shelve off everybody to whom they have pledged themselves upon a Committee.
I want to know what this Committee can examine? Is it to inquire into the morals of striking? Is it to decide whether a man has a right to strike or not? That is a question of policy which the Government alone can decide. Is it to examine how these people can be recompensed for the wrong which has been done to them—acting upon the hypothesis that a wrong has been done to them? The Government are confronted with this dilemma—either they direct the committee to examine into the whole question of strikes and as to whether strikes are permissible or not or else they are compelled to assume that a wrong has been done to those men and direct the committee to vindicate the men and put it right. The Home Secretary promised to give a committee, contingent upon two circumstances, the first of which was that he would consult the Prime Minister. Suppose the Prime Minister refuses his 1694 assent, what will be the position of those Members of the House who have allowed the Home Secretary to ride off in this manner. Secondly, he is to consult the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister. Suppose the right hon. Gentleman refuses to have anything to do with this proposed committee or to get the Home Secretary out of the mess in which he finds himself as a result of his desertion by his own party? Suppose that the Home Secretary consults the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) who also refuses?
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
On a point of Order. I am sure the hon. and gallant Member does not intentionally misrepresent me, but he is not stating my position. I said I would consult the Prime Minister and suggest to the Prime Minister that, if necessary, he might consult the leaders of the two sections of the Opposition with regard to the form of the Committee, and on two occasions I accepted responsibility for complying with the suggestion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Holborn (Sir J. Remnant), and said I would give a committee.
§ Major HORE-BELISHA
I accept with gratitude the correction of the right hon. Gentleman whom I have no desire to misrepresent. I am glad we have now elicited the exact position. The right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley are to be consulted as to the precise form of the Committee. They may co-operate or they may not, but, after all, the question is: What is the Committee to discuss? That is what we have a right to know, and it is incumbent on the Home Secretary to tell us whether the committee is to discuss the whole morality of strikes or merely look into hard cases? We have no indication whatever as to the scope of the inquiry or as to whether it is to be assumed that a wrong has been done to these men.
§ Mr. HARDIE
On a point of Order. Is it in order for the hon. and gallant Member who is getting in for the second time in the same Debate to repeat the same speech?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have not heard the hon. and gallant Gentleman repeat the same speech. He is referring to a proposed inquiry and asking questions on a 1695 point which had not arisen when he spoke last.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
Is it not the case that in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's present speech he has already repeated himself three times?
§ Major HORE-BELISHA
The hon. Members above the Gangway seem to be repeating themselves one after the other. The hon. Member for Gillingham (Sir G. Hohler) made a very fluent speech in which he stated that the strikers had committed blackmail and the point to be considered in that regard is this: that everything for which these strikers fought was granted. Had it not been granted, I admit the strikers would have no case whatever. Seeing that the Home Secretary of that day admitted the justice of their claims, when they struck, by conceding them, and by giving the benefit of their action to those who had not struck at all, the question of blackmail can hardly arise, as they have evidently been made the martyrs, as the result of striking, to benefit those who remained on duty. I therefore submit that they are in an entirely different category from the ordinary class of strikers. The kind of speech made by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) was one to be thoroughly deprecated. It was one in which he endeavoured to enter into a competition of offensiveness with the hon. and learned Member for Gillingham (Sir G. Hohler). I hope the Home Secretary will define the terms of reference of this Committee, and say whether or not it is to inquire into the morality of striking as a whole, or to act on the assumption that a wrong has been done to the strikers.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
The Committee is in this extraordinary position. We had the party supporting the Government pledged up to the hilt on this subject, at all their party conferences; we had election pledges given by the whole of that party; we had two most emphatic documents that we heard read in the brilliant speech of the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Hayes) earlier in the debate, where the Prime Minister not only said "Yes," but that he would support this decision with all his heart, and where the Home Secretary also gave an equally specific 1696 pledge; we had the Chancellor of the Exchequer only two nights ago talking about honouring an election pledge; and here you have the Government party absolutely pledged, and the Home Secretary has completely thrown them over and promised them some form of Committee. I venture to think that when the electors of the country realise the methods of the Government they will think twice before returning them to office. We have had it day after day. The party were pledged to remove the whole of the Entertainments Duty, and then they come down here and make excuses, and on this question the Home Secretary appeals to the two Opposition parties for help in the formation of the Committee. It is most unfortunate that there is not a single Leader of the Liberal party here on this important occasion who is able to assist the Committee on this vital subject. The hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Major Hore-Belisha) referred to the fact that the right hon Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) was going to be consulted, and Members all looked towards the Front Bench opposite, but the right hon. Member for Paisley, as usual, is not there to lead his party. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is not here either. There is not a single responsible leader of the Liberal party on those benches opposite, and it is impossible to know what the Liberal party's views are on this point. It is perfectly clear that the Home Secretary, in making this proposal, is trying to get himself out of a difficulty in which he and the Prime Minister have placed the whole of their party. The Committee will probably come to nothing, but at least it will prove how the party opposite, who in a spirit of irresponsibility, which caused them to give pledges on every single subject, have come back to this House making deals with the party below the Gangway—[Interruption]—and when the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary turns to his supporters here, or should I call them his lackeys—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman has risen to a point of Order. I must hear what he has got to say.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The word used in relation to the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway may not be flattering, but I do not think that it is exactly out of order.
§ Sir H. CROFT
You have ruled in that way, Mr. Chairman, apparently with the unanimous support of the Committee. In order to show my hon. Friend that I wish to be in no way discourteous I will withdraw the word "lackeys" and I will say "patient oxen." What the Committee wants to know is what are the Government's real intentions on the subject. Do they stand by their pledges or do they repudiate their pledges? When the salary of the right hon. Gentleman comes up for voting on, I only hope that those who feel that pledge-breakers ought to be punished will see to it that a Vote is taken on the question and that the right hon. Gentleman will suffer some reduction in his remuneration.
§ Mr. TURNER-SAMUELS
Some of the speeches which have been made have been truly extraordinary—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"] There have been two speeches made within the last half hour that deserve comment. One was by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Gillingham (Sir G. Hohler) and the other was made by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). There is just this observation I should like to make on the former speech. The hon. and learned Gentleman set out to postulate instead of proving that the men for whom the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Hayes) is an advocate to-night broke their contract. The hon. and learned Gentleman must not know the facts of the case, or he would have known what the Recorder of Liverpool did, he merely demonstrated what is the usual office of a functionary of the Law, namely, that he was on the side of justice. The hon. and learned Member for Gillingham has proved, unfortunately, that sometimes the law is 1698 on the side of oppression. The position in respect to the contract is this. It appears to be entirely misunderstood. In 1918 the police were given the right to have a union and also to have a Board to represent them. That was a definite agreement. Instead of that being carried out, the Commissioner comes along and says: "No, you cannot have this one Board which is to represent the whole of the police and which is be recruited from the whole police without any regard to rank. What you can have is three boards representing the inspectors, the superintendents, and the ordinary constables." The men said: "We will not have that, that is not our agreement, that is not our contract." What did the Commissioner do? Hon. Gentlemen opposite are going for the men for striking. You say that the men did something against discipline? [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] What did the Commissioner do? [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] Instead of acting like a man, and carrying out the agreement with the men—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"]—he came to the House of Commons, and tried to get powers to enforce his will on the men. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"]
§ Mr. TURNER-SAMUELS
The hon. and gallant Gentleman talks about "deals below the Gangway." Well, we would rather have deals below the Gangway than deals below stairs such as the hon. Baronet is trying to justify. Also the hon. Baronet, in his best vituperative flight, called the Liberals lackeys and beasts of burden—"patient oxen" he said. Well, the Liberals could have rejoined on him (the hon. Baronet) that it was better to be beasts of burden than beasts of prey. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] The Commissioner comes to this House of Commons, to this solemn and sacred custodian of—[HON MEMBERS: "Divide!"] Well, it has not been very solemn to-night, but that is entirely due to the Opposition. It is the bulwark of the freedom of the people of this nation, and he tries to exploit it in order to oppress a class of men—
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee reported Progress; to sit again upon Monday next (19th May).