§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I beg to move,That this House regrets the policy pursued by His Majesty's Government during the lock-out in the mining industry; declares that the Government is deserving of censure for its disregard of the findings of the Royal Commission, for its partiality towards the mineowners, for its failure to control the prices of coal, and for the passing of the Coal Mines (Eight Hours) Act, which prolonged and embittered the dispute and resulted in the imposition of harsh terms upon men no longer able to resist; this House further declares that a decent standard of life and a living wage for miners can now be secured only by the nation taking over and reorganising the mining industry.I notice that immediately after our Resolution appeared on the Paper a certain number of Tory Members produced an Amendment. It was at once observed by everyone who read that Amendment that it never occurred to these hon. Gentlemen to congratulate the Government on what they had done. It never entered into their heads that, in reply to a Vote of Censure, such an Amendment certainly should say that the House was pleased with what the Government had done. In that respect they interpreted not only the mind of the Tory party on the back benches, but the mind of the nation itself. In the course of a day or two, two hon. and very valiant Members appeared with an amended Amendment. Then, saw at once the great lack of whitewash in the original Amendment, and they made themselves responsible for another Amendment which supplied the necessary amount of that ingredient—so much required at the present moment. Even they, I notice, have to describe the dispute as a "lock-out." That is a contribution which is most acceptable. No Tory Member has been sufficiently bold to amend the amended Amendment so as to eliminate the word "lock-out" and insert the word "strike." The framers of the second Amendment, however, agree with the original amenders and say something about the necessity at the present moment of restoring national prosperity by 2132supporting the policy of His Majest1y3's! Government in fostering good will in industry.Their imagination is admirable. Nobody would support a Resolution of that nature more heartily than 1, if there was the least shadow of foundation for the statement contained in it, but the way they are going to advance good will in industry, according to their own declaration in the Amendment, is to gerrymander the law regarding trade unionism in order to suit the political purposes of the party to which they belong. We will leave the Amendment at that. I move a Resolution of Censure upon the Government which the country wishes this House to carry. I stood in my place here the other day and I beheld and heard the great demonstration which attended the introduction of an hon. and gallant Member whom upon purely personal grounds we are all glad to see back here, but whom, upon political grounds—I am sure as an hon. Friend of mine he will not misunderstand me—we would prefer not to see back, I refer to the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Lieut.-Colonel Howard - Bury). [HON. MEMBERS: "Hull!"] No, I really intended to be much more sympathetic to hon. Members opposite than they themselves are; and I chose Chelmsford, where they happen to have had what they call a victory. In 1924 Chelmsford passed a vote of confidence in this Government by a majority of 2,000. In 1926, after this Government had done so much, especially during the last, six or seven months, to promote industrial peace—according to the phrasing of the Amendment to my Resolution—Chelmsford quite truly sent a Tory Member to represent it, yet it put into the pocket of that Tory Member, to present to the Prime Minister when he arrived here, the wording of my Resolution. Chelmsford, from giving this Government a majority of 2,000 two years ago, left it the other day in a minority of 1,200 odd.
On that platform and in the lobbies and the ballot boxes we would like to test whether the nation wishes us to pass this Resolution. As a matter of fact, nobody knows better than the Prime Minister what an uncomfortable position it is to occupy a seat on a very rapidly declining plane of popularity. Largely owing to the adventures in gutter jaurnalisna engaged in by the Chancellor 2133 of the Exchequer, the Prime Minister, a few months ago, had the country at his feet. From that day to this, his action—I do not talk about bim Personally, I talk of him as a representative person—and the action of his Cabinet and the action of the majority in this House have steadily alienated that confidence until now there is not a single Tory constituency safe unless it has a majority of 3,000 or 4,000. The reason is very plain to be seen. When this dispute started—the late dispute I am very glad to say we can now term it—one dominating fact was apparent in it. The Prime Minister saw it, his Cabinet saw it. I describe it in his own words used in this House on 25th October:With regard to the future, the only thing at the moment that I am quite clear about is that so long as the affairs of that great industry"—that is the coal industry—have to be negotiated between the personalities who attempted negotiations this time there will never be much hope of settlement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th October. 1926; col. 590, Vol. 199.]4.0 P.M.
That fact stood up and overshadowed the situation when the dispute broke out. It was a point to have dominated and controlled the tactics of a Government seeking to become masters of the situation. What did they do? The Government never had a policy at all; they burst out here and there, and they burst out in a third place. As they burst out with their various proposals like the operations at a Dutch auction it reminded one of the outburst of those will-of-the-wisps that you see every now and again at odd odd places. [Interruption.] The intermittent outburst of those unsystematic proposals that varied from day to day, from week to week, and from month to month were just like errant will-of-the-wisps bursting out over marshy ground. A steadiness, a clear idea, a plain objective, a, definite policy—it never appeared at all until it settled down to be the policy dictated by the Owners' Association. Look at the beginning. Five minutes before the subsidy was granted, the Prime Minister declared that it never would be granted. This great subsidy, which involved the nation in an expenditure of from £23,000,000 to £24,000,000, was granted on a momentary emotion. It was never thought out how 2134 it was to be spent. It was never considered bow it was to be used. The emotion seized them five minutes before we were to come into this House and put a question asking what had happened. According to the information at our disposal, the answer that was to be given was that no accommodation had been come to. As we were actually on the way to this 'Chamber, the policy of the Government suddenly changed. Something new had happened. Ten minutes later we were told that a subsidy was going to be granted and that a temporary settlement had been come to.
Well, they bought nine months' peace. As soon as they had bought the peace, what did they do They appointed a Commission. I think the appointment of the Commission was very doubtful. Never mind, we will give them the benefit of the doubt. As everyone who has read the Report of the Macmillan Commission is aware, the owners and men had already 'been discussing the facts of the industry, and what was required—everybody who was in it knew—in order to keep the. peace was not to throw proposals at the heads of the parties but to get the heads to come together. I still hold, as I held at the time, that it would have been far more. profitable if, instead of appointing a Commission to go over ground which had been very much gone over, the time had been utilised in negotiating and devising means to get the two sides into contact. The Commission reported. What was done? After we had been told again and again that if the solution of this problem was left to those contending parties it would never be found at all, the Government said, "We admit the paternity of this child. This Report is ours, but we will not maintain it. We will give it no recognition unless you two, both sides, recognise it first of all."
What a feeble position to be in. They knew that this was going to be no ordinary trade dispute. They knew the national and economic interest that was to be involved in it. They knew perfectly well that the Royal Commission's Report was not devised for the miners on the one hand or the owners on the other necessarily to agree to it. It was a Report presented by an impartial Corn-mission which dealt with the needs of the industry, and there was imposed upon 2135 the Government, in the form of a duty, a responsibility to change the organisation of the industry, if the industry was ever going to enjoy industrial peace. This was not a Report to squabble over. There were one or two points in it like wages and hours which had to be agreed to, but the question of the ownership of mineral royalties, the question of the organisation of the pits in the industry, the question of selling committees, the question of the whole organisation of the industry, these were reported upon by the Commission, and it was imposed upon the Government, as a duty, to deal with them irrespective of positions taken up by men and by owners, because that has got to be done and will be done by any Government that solves the mining problem as it must be solved.
Therefore, at the very beginning, we had this situation. The taxpayers' money had been made very free with. It had been spent unwisely and in an unbusinesslike way, and when the industry had to be released from the eubsidy the conditions of the industry had been worsened. The Government proved absolutely incapable of getting any advantage for the nation for the money which it had spent. To all intents and purposes, the Government had become a mere spectator in the struggle. Mr. Evan Williams's offensiveness had defied it; Mr. Cook's incompetence had baffled it; powerful intereets threatened it, and in that dilemma, unable to move, unable to unite the Cabinet upon a policy, unable to make up their minds what their moves were to be, they put up the Prime Minister to say that in the opinion of this Government the Government really ought not to interfere in industry. The profound and overwhelming joke is that apparently hon. Members behind them are supporting them in that view. The Government were not to interfere in industry—after doing their best, spending £23,000,000, making efforts, appointing a Commission, entering into the dispute, then, baffled, browbeatened and threatened, withdrawing with all the beautiful airs of a vestal virgin. "We keep our hands free of this. Governments must not interfere in industrial disputes, because they are completely outside the sphere of operations and the interference of Governments of this 2136 country." That doctrine as a practical doctrine was dead before Queen Victoria herself died. If they had carried out their principle, there might have been something to be said for it, but they never did. They were always interfering, and they never knew how they were interfering. After a sort of unprincipled, unsystematic interference, they settled down comfortably into the rut of interfering only how and as the owners asked them to do. By this time they must have known perfectly well that all that the owners wanted was time. The owner, the capitalist, the man who lives on reserves can endure very much longer than the man who lives from day to day upon his stomach. Time was all that was required. The Government allowed the owners time. The Government allowed the nation to lose at least £500,000,000 in order to give the owners time to win. Trade and well being were sacrificed in order that the coalowners should get a pyrrhic victory over the miners.
How the Government were completely in the hands of the owners it is really hard to believe. I am glad that hon. Members agree with me. It is very hard to believe. Their spokesmen from that Box again and again criticised the owners, again and again blamed the owners, and all the time remained in servitude to the owners. They knowingly did the will of the owners after agreement with the owners, they unwittingly played into the hands of the owners, and they were prepared to suffer any amount of humiliation at the hands of the owners during the time the dispute was going on. They told us, with tremendous cheering from behind and around them, that they would never think of carrying out any of the proposals of the Royal Commission except with the consent of both parties. They said "If we are going to carry out this Royal Commission's Report—and we wish to do so—we cannot lift a little finger to carry out our good intentions until miners and owners both agree." That is the double agreement required for carrying it out. But there was no double agreement required for violating it. Both sides ha d to agree to do what it asked, but on the prompting of one side, and one side only, the Government did what it asked them not to do at all, and the Eight Hours 2137 Bill, the permissive Eight Hours Bill, the optional Eight Hours Bill, was carried.
Not only that, but, according to Mr. Evan Williams's statements that have been published, when he faced the Chancellor of the Exchequer in September the Government actually, when they agreed with the owners to introduce a Bill extending the hours of labour, also agreed to smash a national agreement and to promote district agreements, and they knew that the legislation that they were proposing, according to Mr. Evan Williams, directly extended the hours of labour and indirectly smashed national agreements and established district agreements. That was direct obedience to the will of the owners, in violation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. I daresay there will be something said in the Debate—at least, I see in those papers that are doing their best to muster up courage to support the Government that the Government are going to tell us—about a thousand and one proposals that they made from time to time. I never in all my life knew a more laughable series of proposals than the Government made. It always seemed to me that they thought they were fulfilling their duty as spectators of a great contest to throw out a proposal now and again, a proposal that was constantly varying, no two proposals embodying the same idea of settlement, and what happened was that in the heat of the fight both owners and men simply had a look at the proposals as they fell at their feet and went on fighting, regardless of what the Government had said or done.
All that time they were playing the game of the owners. That is exactly what the owners wanted them to do. The owners themselves simply wanted the Government to keep making proposals, to vary them every week, and never to stand by them and push them through. The owners were so pleased with the Government that they did not even, in respect to some of the proposals, say whether they accepted them or rejected them. They left them alone, because the Government were leaving them alone to strangle the men with whom they were at issue. They did more than that. The Government submitted to a humiliation to which I doubt if any other Govern- 2138 ment in this country has ever submitted under similar circumstances. I remember when the Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself tried to do a little service. I dare-say the Chancellor is going to bump the Box with both his fists to-night as usual, but I think, however wild he may be, he will not deny the fact that, at any rate, both of us, quite honestly, tried to do a little thing in order to bring about peace, and he did more. When the preliminaries were through, the Chancellor of the Exchequer issued publicly a statement that the Government considered the offer then made to the miners, in consequence of the little pourparlers that had taken place, was a reasonable offer which ought to be discussed, and that the owners ought to meet the miners and undertake a discussion.
What was done? The Prime Minister hurried back from Aix, and the Chief of the Tory party hurried across from the Tory headquarters by St Stephen's Club, and what happened behind the scenes I do not know. It is quite enough to know what happened in front of the scenes. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), in a. speech, said that the Cabinet was divided, that the Cabinet could not agree, that there was a great fight on inside. The Prime Minister, replying to him, said: "Nothing of the kind. We were the most harmonious band of brothers that ever I have known." Very funny harmony! I never like to disagree with the Prime Minister on things like harmony, but I am afraid he puts a totally different definition upon that word from that which I put upon it, because the result of the harmony was this, that a declaration made by his Chancellor of the Exchequer on behalf of his Cabinet, a declaration made by his Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had been specially told off by himself to take control of these negotiations, a declaration made by his Chancellor of the Exchequer, who repeated again and again that at every stage of those conversations he had been in touch with the Prime Minister at Aix and that the Prime Minister agreed with him—the promise and pledge made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was broken, and the statement he made was not stood by. The statement made on that Saturday when the miners' letter to the 2139 Chancellor of the Exchequer was published, with a note of his own appended to it, the note to which I am referring, the statement made in that note as the result of this magnificent harmony, was departed from, and the Government informed the miners and the public that they were not prepared to go on with the proposal which they had said was a reasonable one and ought to be discussed.
That is harmony! We can imagine the Chancellor of the Exchequer entering into that harmonious Cabinet with that promise, with that declaration, with that commitment, and being so harmonious in having it upset that he never even fought for the declaration that he had made, with the responsibility of his position and with the sanction of the Prime Minister, according to the statement that had been made. He told us, he told the public, he told the miners, that he was in a position to coerce the owners. He never tried. Harmony, indeed! So far as I know, the interview with Mr. Evan Williams was the only thing that took place.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Churchill)
There was the proposal of the Government to introduce a Bill to bring in a tribunal.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
The Chancellor of the Exchequer must not mix that up with the statement of the miners which he accepted as a satisfactory basis of negotiations. It was not out of that that the question of the tribunal arose. What actually happened was this: The Government, after having committed themselves, first of all, to the miners, and because they committed themselves to the miners got from the miners a certain letter, which they published with a statement that committed themselves to the nation, after all that was done, because Mr. Evan Williams told the Government, told the Chancellor, that the owners would not meet them, the Government hauled down their flag and said, "All right then, we will change our plan." The dispute was hastening then to its end. Finally, another offer was made by the miners, the offer which included the 10 per cent. reduction in wages. The offer was reasonable, the offer was workable, the offer would have enabled, as my right hon. Friend the late Postmaster- 2140 General (Mr. Hartshorn), than whom there is no greater authority in this House, said, about 90 to 95 per cent. of the pits to be working. The Government were not in a position even to consider it, they had been so committed to the owners, and then the rout had begun, the fall away, and there was nothing left for it but that the nation should stand by while it was being victimised by the owners in forcing a surrender at the point of the bayonet.
All this time the nation was clamouring for a settlement. Even newspapers like the "Times" were begging the Government to take a stand. The owners were never popular. The owners never had any public opinion behind them. The owners to-day have no publie opinion behind them. Downing Street had been annexed by the Mining Association, and the nation had been victimised by the policy' that the owners were pursuing. That is why the confidence of the nation has fallen away from the Government. What is the position to-day? I see in some papers that an objection is taken to this Motion, and in fact that objection is voiced in both the Amendments, the ungracious Amendment and the gracious but the exaggerated and imaginative Amendment, that we ought to say nothing about this past, that we ought to allow the Government to get away with their sins, and that we ought to support them in fostering good will in industry. The objection to- that is this, that this Government is one of the greatest obstacles to peace in industry that we now have, and more particularly in the coal industry. I read a lot about peace. I wish we could translate newspaper columns' ideals into conditions. It is not, if I may apply another text to that which the Prime Minister has been using, it is not by saying "Lord, Lord" that we are to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, not by saying, "Give us peace, let us have peace, let us work for peace and let us speak for peace." That is not the way to gel peace. I wish we could all get it into our heads and our minds and our wills that we can have no peace anywhere unless we create those conditions of contentment and the sense that justice is being done, which alone is the basis of a lasting peace, either a political peace or an industrial peace.
2141 What have we got to-day? How can we shut our eyes to the fact that district agreements which are not agreements have been forced upon our people? If some of my hon. Friends behind me have an opportunity of catching your eye, Mr. Speaker, the House will hear from them that even the defeat embodied in those agreements is not handled by men of large, generous, forgiving minds. There are incidents like that which took place at Consett the other day. Managers, enthroned in great authority for the time being, insult their men and tell them they will not even talk to them: "Go down the pit." When they are asked to receive a deputation, the reply is, "Certainly not." Discussion about how certain things are going to be worked? "Certainly not, we are the masters in these pits and you are servants." That is the relation that is going to exist.
We are going to pass through an abnormal time—we have been through an abominably abnormal time, unfortunately, but I am thinking of the immediate future. From the point of view of the industry we are going through an abnormal time. There are stocks to be made good. There are special advantages just now for the employer of labour if capital is wise enough to take advantage of its opportunities. Something like a boom may, perhaps, be coming; it will be purely artificial, it will be very temporary, but it will give us an opportunity, if it is handled properly, of ascertaining what are actually the possibilities of the industry now, if these agreements are revised, if good-will comes in—so far, so good. At the moment the agreements have no moral authority whatever. If they had been come to, say, between a Member of the Government, and any one of us in a purely private capacity, I doubt very much whether a Court of Law would enforce them, because they would have been made under force ma jeure. There was no free will to make those contracts; there was no liberty to make them or reject them. The fight had gone on, exhaustion had come, and the men who held economic power said: "There are our terms, take them or starve." I would counsel that during this period of working a serious and strenuous effort should he made to amend them, so that they do become something like moral agreements carrying moral obligations. We are 2142 going to have our trade reviving upon wages that are below a living standard; we are going to have cheap coal at the expense of a substantial increase in the number of our unemployed people. Cheap coal perhaps—I am assuming the best, in order that we may have no mistake about the dark circumstances by which that best is surrounded.
The manhood of the nation are at the mercy of economic interests, immensely strengthened by the action of the Government. The mining industry is becoming more and more a trust, and in the Bill, the inadequate Bill, produced by the Government, no step has been taken to safeguard public interests. Hon. Members can laugh at nationalisation, and can propagate their ideas about it on the platform as much as they like, but we have come to a time when the coal industry is a type of those amalgamations of economical interests which cannot be allowed to go on unless, by the application of the idea, at any rate, underlying nationalisation, a public utility organisation is imposed upon a trust organisation, in order to safeguard the economic and moral interest of the nation.
The federation is broken. It will unite again. There is not national agreement. It will grow up. Combined labour, depend upon it, will resume its unity and its power. As the result of the action of the Government and of the operation of the dispute, good will is shattered. The miners to-day, in their million homes, have been taught to believe that organised might is right. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cook said so!"] They have been taught by bitter experience that those who have got might on their side can trample upon right as much as they like, and that while a Tory Government are in office no attempt will be made to prevent it. Antagonism is the only offspring of what has happened. Extremism is the only Fruit of the Cabinet's policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cook tried it!] One of the essential functions of a Government in a modern State is- to protect the nation against the absolutism of economic power; another is to protect human right against materialist might. The Government have declined to perform both these duties, and that is why the continued existence of the Government is hampering to industrial peace. The 2143 Government may make appeals, but their words are cloaked by the prejudice that has arisen through their partiality.
In summary, their action has prolonged the strike by stiffening the backs of the combatants. They have convinced the miners that the owners have been 'n power, not only in George Street, where they meet, I believe, but in Downing Street, in the Cabinet, and in the House of Commons. The action of the Govern meet has cost this country hundreds of millions of pounds, it has prevented an agreed peace, and it has thwarted the desire of the country that this should not be a purely economic struggle, but that good sense and decent feeling should enter into the settlement which ended it. That is why, if the nation were allowed to speak, it would pass this Resolution now. That is why by-election after by-election has asked the Government to perform a very simple duty, a duty which is at once constitutional and patriotic, and that is to go to the country, to ask the country to set up an assize, and to appear before that assize and receive the doom that their actions as a Government have merited.
The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Bald win)
I shall be quite prepared to go to the country—in good time. Two observations occur to me. First of all, I think it is desirable to say something about the Motion which is before the Rouse; and, secondly, I would say that I am not going to be driven to go to the country by threats of industrial unrest. There has been a certain searching of motives today. I wonder what were the real feelings of the Leader of the Opposition when he returned from his well-earned holiday, and found that the first task he had to undertake was to father this shop-window Motion. It appears to me to bear the stamp of not having emanated from the Front Bench. I should say it was dictated by the irresponsibles, whose idea is to get power without responsibility; it was accepted without any enthusiasm, and has been advocated in a very powerful speech whose power, however, increased in direct proportion to the thinness of the ice upon which the speaker was standing. That it was drafted in a, hurry, I think is obvious from the fact that, while implicitly accepting the Report of the Royal Commission, it 2144 explicitly gives expression to the view—at the end of the Motion—that the one important subject turned down, slain and buried in that Report, is the great deciding issue. I am very glad to think we shall have a direct vote upon this Motion. The Amendments on the Paper will not be moved. The Amendment I should like to move would not be in order. I should take the Resolution very much as it stands, with the alteration of few words, and I should propose something like this:That this House regrets the policy pursued by His Majesty's Opposition, and declares that the Opposition is deserving of censure for its disregard of the findings of the Royal Commission, for its partiality towards the extremists on the Miners' Federation, for its failure to control Mr. Cook; and this House further declares that a decent standard of life and a living wage for miners can only he secured by ceasing to squander the national resources in men and money by industrial strife.I cannot help, in spite of what was said by the Leader of the Opposition, regretting that this Motion has been put down. I do regret it. [Interruption.] I regret it for this reason, that we have in Debate after Debate thrashed out, not, perhaps, wholly to anyone's satisfaction, most of the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition. There are a number of points upon which he has not touched, but which are vital to the whole problem, which I should not have raised had this Debate not been initiated. I shall be obliged to touch upon several of these, which have arisen during these long and troublous times, about which little has been said up to now, in this House or outside it.
When one is being attacked, one naturally wonders whether the prosecution has come into court with perfectly clean hands. As the Leader of the Opposition has devoted some time to examining my shortcomings, I propose to examine his shortcomings, and the shortcomings of those connected with him. I gladly acknowledge that at that critical time in April last, the leaders of the Labour party, among whom I would include the right hon Gentlemen the Members for Aberavon (Mr. R. MacDonald). Platting (Mr. Clynes), Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson), Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) and Derby (Mr. Thomas)—all of them at that time, both by speech and in writing, tried to create a peaceful atmosphere for the consideration of the 2145 Report, and, as far as my knowledge goes, they used their best endeavours with the miners themselves, If I may quote for one moment—I shall have a good many quotations before I finish—I want to quote the right hon. Member for Platting, because he gave expression to what I have described. He wanted to ensure thatnothing would be said or done which would engender the feeling that conflict was inevitable as between the mineowners and miners.And we, on our part, tried to help in the creation of such an atmosphere. One of the difficulties that we have all been up against during the whole of this strife is that, while the, leaders of the Labour party were making those efforts for a year before, the Secretary of the Miners' Federation had had no such views in his mind. He had been running up and down the country—to use, as far as I can, his own words—I have evidence for all I propose to say—he said:For 12 months II have been raising Hell.He told us— whatever that may mean—that he was "one of the Big Five." My limbs "were to tremble." He was "out for revolution." He was a "humble disciple of Lenin." He was openly fomenting bad feeling both before July, 1925, and right away on, and he has, I believe in retrospect, prolonged the struggle and brought it to an ignominious disaster. Nothing that he prophesied came true, and he let down in turn the Labour party, the Trade Union Council, and the miners. It was he and not the Government—[An HON. MEMBER: "It was you who passed the Eight Hours Act"]who prolonged and embittered the dispute, who missed every opportunity of obtaining a settlement. [An HON. MEMBER: "You must get a scapegoat!"] It was a difficult and most unhappy temperament to have the responsibility of leading a million British workmen —a difficulty felt not only by the Government, but by his own colleagues — [Interruption] — and everybody knows it. I remember on one occasion, in July, 1925, we had a meeting with the miners' Executive. Before the meeting began, it was agreed that everything which took place in that room was strictly confidential, and no notes were taken. Mr. Cook went from 2146 that room to the Trade Union Council, and put words into my mouth which proved very valuable for propaganda—words which never were used. Let me say this: I have never accused Mr. Cook of doing that intentioNaily. I am perfectly convinced that on that night he was in such a. hysterical condition that he honestly believed what he said. Of course the phrase, "that all wages would have to conic down," was never used. That phrase was used in Smethwick, and it will always be used, but I wish to tell the House of Commons once for all, those words were not used in that room.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
As a Member who has repeatedly used on the platform the statement which the right hon. Gentleman now denies, I think it ought to be made perfectly clear. The statement I understood him to make was that he did not use the words as quoted. Did he use words which, in substance, implied it?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am very glad that that question has been asked, because I can tell the House exactly what did pass, and they will see how the mistake could easily be made by a man who was suffering under stress of emotion. Anyone who has worked with Mr. Cook knows perfectly well that at times he does get very excited. Hon. Members know it perfectly well. I am not blaming him for it. It is his temperament, and he was in that condition that night, worn down by the stress and strain of those days. He put the point to me, as it were, in conversation. There was no report taken, and I am merely giving my recollection. He asked me what would happen—I think he had the coal industry in his mind at the time, but we were discussing the whole thing—he asked me what would happen if an economic wage could not be paid, that is to say, if the condition of the industry would not allow a living wage to be paid? I said in any case like that, if you get an industry that is not making enough to pay a decent wage, there are no alternatives except closing down, a Government subsidy, or reduction of wages. [Interruption.] I would say one word about the other great power with Mr. Cook—a. character pofes asunder from him—and that is Mr. Herbert Smith. Mr. Herbert Smith is straight, very 2147 shrewd, and very suspicious—[An HON. MEMBER: "He has need to be!"]— he is sparing of words, and, briefly, he combines in his person the best qualities, with their accompanying faults, which we regard as inseparable from that Yorkshire character which we. know so well in this House. But the difficulty I felt with him was that, being a Yorkshireman, he is imbued with that old idea of a trade dispute—that when you have once got the men out, it is no good beginning to talk for some weeks; that then, after some weeks, you may begin to give an impression that you are willing to talk, and then time goes on, and some more weeks pass before you are willing to settle. It is a different way of conducting business from that in any other large trade union. The result has been—and here comes in part of the tragedy—that in these protracted disputes, one by one points which the men value go piecemeal, and when the end comes, the leaders find that everything has to be surrendered for which the men came out origiNally. When you have two powerful personalities, but divergent and discordant as they became towards the end; when you have a wages agreement, which, in the words of one of their own leaders, is such that not 1 per cent, of the working miners and not more than 10 per cent. of their leaders understand it thoroughly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense!"]—and when you have a rank and file—
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) entitled to stand in the House?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I hope the House will be good enough to listen. We are having a long Debate, and I am anxious that all sides of the question should be heard.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I was saying that when you have leaders of diverse 2148 temperaments of this kind, when you have an Executive divided, as that Executive was divided towards the end of the struggle, and when you have a. rank and file which has been fed for more than a year with promises that cannot be kept and with hopes whose only foundation was rhetoric, what can the end be but disaster? I want the House, after having listened to those few words about the protagonists on that side, to go back with me for a moment to last April. [Interruption.] May I remind the House that, while a great deal has been said about the Government and the coalowners, nothing has been said about the Labour party. On the 3rd April in "Forward," it was said— I am not sure that it was not said by the Leader of the Opposition, I think it was—that some temporary and clearly necessary sacrifice would have to be made by the miners, provided it was equitably shared, and energetic steps were taken to put an early end to the necessity for such sacrifice. The Government undertook at that time to put the whole of the Report into operation—[Horn, MEMBERS: "No!"] —with a view to having a settlement, if the other parties would agree—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"]—and assurances were given to the miners that we would put our backs into it, and that we should implement to the. utmost of our power that undertaking.
The first blunder which was made by the Miners' Federation was the rejection of that Report. Had they accepted it, they would have been in the strongest strategic position, and they would have got a settlement on that basis, because, on the confession of Mr. Cook himself, 70 per cent. of the findings of that Report were, in his view, favourable to the men. A little later, on the eve of the meeting of the Miners' Delegate Conference on the 8th April, four officials of the Miners' Federation met the General Council of the Trade Union Congress. They flied to bind them in advance to accept what has come to be familiarly known as the "slogan." I have here a report of what passed. Mr. Smith and Mr. Cook were asked:Are you aware that to adopt the slogan means, on the present economic basis of the industry, 200,000 miners out of work?2149 They said they fully realised that that would be the result, and thereupon the Trade Union Congress announced, by a letter I think, that they could not endorse the slogan. I am not aware that the Trade Union Congress ever receded from the position they then took up.
Let me pass now to the second blunder of the Miners' Federation, the rejection of what was called the Samuel Memorandum. That Memorandum put a more favourable view on the interpretation of the Report of the Commission than had been taken by the Government. It put the most favourable view possible, and it was pressed upon the miners' executive hour after hour by certain right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite to me. It was represented as being a fair basis for peace. The miners were implored and cajoled, and they were asked to pay some regard to the sacrifices which their fellow trade unionists, many of whom were less well off than the miners, were making. But it was all in vain, and a day or two later the miner's Executive told me that they would have nothing to do with the Samuel Memorandum. Why did they refuse it? I am not going to give the answer myself. Let me read what was said in September by the late editor [...]e the "Daily Herald," whom I may take as representing the Labour party. He said:We are at this point after four months of painful distressing, terribly costly industrial warfare; negotiations which ought to have been begun in May are with tragic tardiness beginning now … Why were they not begun in May? Because the millers' case was in the hands of men incompetent to present it as it should have been presented.… The man who has betrayed the movement, not purposely but from sheer instability of purpose, is the man who for more than three months refused all negotiations and who for three weeks past has been screaming for it, letting everyone see he was frightened, admitting by his change of front that, when the General Council begged him to accept the Samuel Memorandum as a basis for discussion it was indisputably right and he was disastrously wrong.So much for Mr. Hamilton Fyfe, looking backwards. Six days later, the Leader of the Labour party said in "Forward":We have once more placed the ball at the feet of the miners.I am quite convinced from my experience of those five months that, 2150 whatever else the miners' leaders were determined upon, they were determined that they were not going to let the Labour party or the Trade Union Con gress get the credit of kicking the goal. The Labour party have had many rebuffs; so have the Government, and we ought to sympathise with each other. Later, at a time when thousands of men had gone back to work, and attempts were being made to get the Miners' Federation to recognise district negotiations, the Negotiating Committee of the Trade Union Council came to the aid of the miners, and they were once more humiliated. That story is a recent one, but I may remind the House of it in a few words—and here again I shall get others to tell the story, as sonic might think that I would give a. prejudiced view of it. We made it plain to the Trade Union Council, when they saw us, that the Government would be only too glad to see the Miners' Federation if they were prepared to open a discussion on the question of what then had become the important question, of district negotiations, without reservation. The Trade Union Council consulted with the miners, and they gave us the assurance that we asked for—that no factor was to be shut out of examination. The door was thus opened once again. But when we saw the miners, Mr. Smith said that in no circumstances would they discuss hours. We saw the Trade Union Council again, or the representatives of it, and they told us that they held the view that they had understood from the miners that nothing was to be excluded from the discussion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), Mr. Pugh, Mr. Swales, Mr. Turner and Mr. Citrine, held to the view that nothing was to be excluded from the discussion. There is a brief account of what happened, which I will take this time—having dealt already with the "Daily Herald" and "Forward"—from the "Railway Review," which is not a capitalist paper. This report says:Negotiations went on till ten with the miners and at 10 o'clock the Prime Minister asked us to see him. Before going in we said, "We had better see exactly what the hitch is about," because we had been told there was one. We met the Miners' Executive and they said, "You have given the show away." That was the opening—a bit stronger perhaps and equally forcible replies from our side. We said, "What is the matter?" They said, "We never in- 2151 tended and did not mean district negotiations to include hours." Then we said, "You are either knaves or fools. What could district negotiations mean other than hours and wages? It includes everything and excludes nothing." One after another the Miners' Executive got up and said, "Of course it is humbug to pretend that it does not." Did we not argue it for hours in its implications before we sent them back to meet the Government? That was the last stage of our negotiations, because we went back to the Government and told them clearly and definitely that so far as we were concerned we did not want to deceive them, and were not going to deceive them, but that district negotiations included everything and excluded nothing.Is it any wonder that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) should say:There never was a body of men that had such a sacrifice made for them as the miners have had made for them by the trade union movement, and there never was a body of men more deserving of it. And there never was a dispute where such opportunities for peace, a geed and honourable peace, had been missed as in this dispute.That is the verdict of a man whose own union has suffered probably more loss than any other trade union in the country.
I accept absolutely that quotation from that speech from the "Railway Review," but is it not true that in that same report I said that the first blunder that was made was the Government not realising that they were bigger than both sides, and that they should take the initiative?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The great difference between me and hon. Gentlemen opposite is that I am quite aware of having committed blunders, but they are not. The "Manchester Guardian," in summing up in a leading article what had taken place said:Opinions will differ as to the merits of the miners' case, but there is a very general agreement, extending even to the Labour party and the Trade Union Congress, that the miners were wrong and foolish in not accepting reasonable terms while they still could. They preferred to fight, and it was this misuse of their power which fatally weakened the force of the general strike and, later on, the desperate, resistance which the miners put up alone.2152 That is what really dominated the situation. They preferred to fight rather than accept the Commission's Report. They preferred to fight rather than accept the Samuel Memorandum, and they preferred to fight all the way along, when every effort was made for peace by their own colleagues in the Labour movement through the summer. There is just one other quotation, and it is almost the last that I want to give the House, but it is a very pertinent one, and one, I think, that we should all do well to ponder. The Leader of the Opposition, writing in a 7d. paper called "The Socialist Review," said:One argument is much used. It is only a partial truth. It is said that the rank and file had given all the instructions. Nominally that is so, but really it is only an appearance. The slogans were given to the rank and file who were persuaded they could be made effectual. The rank and file listened and believed and voted.And here comes a very true phrase—If I go to a crowd and express opinions with fervour and ask the crowd if it wishes me to carry out my opinions and its vote is in the affirmative it does not relieve me of the responsibility for asking for what I got.That is the answer to those who would absolve the leaders who tried the slogan from their responsibility. Who was it made the rank and file believe that the fight would end on the terms that Mr. Cook had promised them? It was the agitation carried on by Mr. Cook and those who fought with him, and when the slogan, as the leader of the Labour party said, was put before the men they accepted it, but thee did not press it on the leaders, and the responsibility of all those who put this slogan before them and made them fight for it is tremendous. [Interruption.] There have been many things this year that have been extremely difficult upon which decisions have had to be taken. There has been much in this last struggle that has been very wearing not only to members of the 'Government and to certain members on the other side, but to all the people who have felt deeply and keenly. But the one thing that has really troubled me all through this time, and which has tried me more than anything was not coming down to this House and trying to make speeches and being shouted at, but it was this feeling that you had a million m.-r, who were show- 2153 ing day by day loyalty, courage, fortitude, and, with a few exceptions, restraint and good behaviour. [Interruption.] The finest qualities of the Englishman were being exploited in this manner. [An HON. MEMBER: "Humbug!"] Not a bit of it!
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must ask hon. Members to desist from these continual interruptions. There must be a cessation of these interruptions. We have to listen to arguments here from both sides.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am quite aware that to certain Members of this House this does sound all humbug, and I am grateful to them for using that expression, because it shows me that my words have hit the mark. I will just repeat what I said before Mr. Speaker rose. It is indeed a tragedy that this loyalty should have been so exploited and so traded on as it has been during the last six months by incompetent leadership. There is a point that has never been brought out in any of the Debates that we have had up to now, and it is that the Labour party themselves knew that the miners had been fooled by this slogan and they never tried to stop it. We know there have been many attempts made—we know that because in June Mr. Cook had evidently been annoyed by the attention that had been paid to him—and he writes in the "New Leader" and I must apologise to hon. Members opposite for reading his exact words as follows:The statements by Bromley and Thomas I shah never forget. They were all designed to show the absolute necessity for the miners to consent to some reduction of wages.And he goes on in another passage to say:I shall never forget when leaving the Council Chamber, Ramsay Macdonald"—I apologise for the bold use of the right hon. Gentleman's name—approached me and asked if he could come and see us and help us in this business, as this was a tragic blunder. I replied 'No; you have already taken your stand in appealing to us to consider reductions and the full acceptance of the Samuel Report, which means reductions. That has been your attitude throughout and we do not want you.Holding those views and attempting, as many of the leaders of the Labour party and members of the Labour party did, honestly and sincerely to persuade the 2154 Miners' Federation to face the reduction which they had acknowledged would have to be made even before the general strike began,, it was, I think, a lamentable want of courage not to come out. They were in a far better position than any Government to have brought this conflict to an end long before. They allowed false shepherds to lead the sheep into what the Leader of the Opposition called "The Delectable Land of Bunkum." I know why they did it, I know why they did not come out. It was their sense of loyalty to the party, but there are bigger loyalties than even loyalty to the party which I am not in the least disparaging. There are times when leaders of parties have to face up to their supporters, and tell them that they are wrong, and I consider that this was such a time. I think the courage to do that is a supreme test of leadership in a democratic country. The leaders of the Labour party knew that the slogan had become bankrupt. They know perfectly well that Mr. Cook could not get what he was promising the men throughout last summer, and their influence should have restrained him. But what I believed at the time to be a mistaken sense of loyalty prevented them from doing so. Mr. Cook is still on the war path. While hon. Members opposite have been cursing the Government in London, he is cursing it in Moscow.
May I, in conclusion, point out one thing more to the Labour party. My excuse for doing so is that hon. Members opposite for some time have taken such an interest in my party and the politics of my party that I think it will only be reciprocating their kindness if I should pay attention to theirs. The great difficulty the Labour party is faced with is that they are on the horns of a perpetual dilemma—an obvious dilemma and a. difficult one from which to extricate themselves. They can either throw in their lot with extremism and stir up industrial unrest, or they can cut loose from it. If their leaders tolerate extremism in the country and in the party, if they excuse it and get associated with it in the mind of the country, it is quite true that they will probably keep their ranks together for a time. They will get a certain amount of enthusiasm rising up from the bottom and in times like this, when everything is suffering from men being out of work, and from 2155 the troubles that we have just been through, they may win a few seats in the industrial areas, but so long as they are tied to that policy they will never win the country. If, on the other hand, they can cut loose from it and get rid of their tail, I should fear them much more. If my right hon. Friend (Mr. MacDonald), in August, 1924, instead of. surrendering to his Under-Secretary at the time the Russian agreement was made, had fought his extremists, he might have broken up his party at the moment, but he would have got a far bigger one now, and he would have had with him a large number of voters who are now on our side. This is the dilemma that I have observed for some time past, and hon. Members have to make their choice now that this dispute is over. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is it?"] Hon. Members in that quarter have made that choice. I am not complaining, but I tell the Labour party., that, the choice they make now—whether they are going to throw their lot in with industrial unrest or industrial peace—will not only affect the happiness and good fortune of this country, but will affect much more directly than they think the happiness and good fortune of the Labour party.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I propose to intervene only for a very few minutes in this discussion, in order to explain why I regret that my hon. Friends and myself cannot see our way to vote for this Motion in the form in which it is drafted. Hon. Gentlemen seem to think that we are bound to take either one view or another with regard to the whole of the proposals included in this Motion. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in the very powerful arraignment which he has directed against the handling of the negotiations by the Government. I have said so in this House repeatedly. There was a discussion in the House a very short time ago upon this subject, opened by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), in which I stated in my own way my arguments in favour of coming to the conclusion that the stoppage had been prolonged, certainly on two or three occasions, by either the action or the inaction of the Government. There is no doubt at all that the intrusion of the Eight Hours Bill, two or three months after the 2156 dispute had begun, in defiance of the unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission, had the effect of prolonging the dispute. The failure to honour the pledges of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that definite undertaking which he gave, not merely on his own behalf, but on behalf of the Government, with the sanction of the Prime Minister—the failure to carry out the plans which he then made, and which he submitted to the owners, I think was a very fatal error, and I have already said so.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Would the right hon. Gentleman state precisely what was the undertaking to which he refers?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Yes, certainly; that is perfectly fair. I am referring—without any documents, and, if my right hon. Friend thinks that in any particular I am not fairly quoting him, I shall be very glad if he will correct me—I am referring to the document which he sent to the coal owners in which he stated that a certain letter was a fair basis, which I understand the miners assented to, for negotiations. That was referred to in the course of Debate a short time ago. This is the substance of it. The principles of settlement, according to the Chancellor's method, were to be settled nationally, and the question of details was then to be relegated to the localities. That conformed generally to the recommendations of the Royal Commission. That was dropped in favour of district settlements, which were repudiated, not merely by the Miners' Federation but by the Royal Commission, and the mine owners themselves had agreed, at the commencement of the dispute, that the settlement should be national. It was a fatal error on the part of the Government to go back upon the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and undoubtedly the dispute has been prolonged by two or three months. In my judgment, something worse has happened. You have had, not a settlement, but a submission, which is a very different state of things when you consider the importance of getting rid of the industrial unrest in the country, and, as my right hon. Friend said in his concluding sentences, the importance of converting a temporary boom into a permanent prosperity.
2157 It is no use the Prime Minister saying, as he did, "We made a mistake, and the Labour leaders have made a mistake." After all, Mr. Cook and his colleagues are responsible to the Miners' Federation, and are answerable to them; Mr. Evan Williams and his colleagues are answerable to the Mining Association; but the Government are responsible to the nation. The Government are responsible to Parliament and to the nation. There is a vast difference. The others are responsible merely for the conduct of the industry with which they are associated, but the Government represent all industries. They have to take into account the effect of settlements upon all our industries, upon which 42,000,000 people are dependent for their livelihood. And not only that; they have at their disposal powers, resources and authority which neither Mr. Cook nor Mr. Evan Williams, nor a combination of them, has. It is idle, therefore, for the Prime Minister to put himself in the same position as Mr. Cook, or even my right hon Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and to say, "Mr. Cook has blundered; so have I.' That is no answer. There is no doubt at all in this House that all those who have taken the miners' point of view have repeatedly, not merely mentioned, but emphasised the fact that very serious blunders were made by the miners' leaders. It was a sad blunder, in my judgment—I have said so in the House before, and 1 repeat it now—not to have accepted the offer of the Government in February or March to put the Report of the Royal Commission into operation. That was a very serious blunder, and one, unfortunately, for which the miners will have to suffer. But we are not here arraigning either Mr. Evan Williams or Mr. Cook; the arraignment here in the House of Commons is an arraignment of the Government, which is responsible to this House.
If it were purely an arraignment of the Government for the way in which the negotiations have been mishandled, and in which the struggle, which at any rate ought to have been brought to an end in two or three months, as every previous struggle was, was prolonged until it lasted seven months, and even now you have not got a settlement—if it had been purely that, I should certainly have had no hesitation in going into the same Lobby. 2158 But, unfortunately, my right hon. and hon. Friends have deemed it wise to introduce another element. I am not sure that it is wise to move a Vote of Censure at all at this stage. [Interruption.] I agree with the views which are imputed to my right hon. Friend in the public Press, that it was not a very wise proceeding. We have constantly discussed the matter in the House of Commons; the miners are going back: and I do not know that there is anything very much to be gained by a discussion of this kind at this stage. But that is not the objection which I have to this Motion, and I am bound to point out what that objection is. At the end of the Resolution, we are committed to the proposition thata decent standard of life and a living wage for miners can now be secured only by the nation taking over and reorganising the mining industry.That is the view, undoubtedly, of my hon. Friends above the Gangway. [HON. MEMBERS "It was the view of the Sankey Commission."] The Sankey Commission, by, I believe, a majority of one or two, decided in favour of it at that time. I said I could not accept that. [An HON. MEMBER "Sankey himself did."] That is so. I am just pointing out why those who take the view that I take about nationalisation pure and simple cannot vote for a Motion which contains that proposition, and the climax of which is that proposition.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That question is a very fair one, and I am going to answer it. The fact that the question is not merely a fair one, but is perfectly relevant, shows the mistake of mixing up censure with a discussion on nationalisation. I am now going to be taken away from the subject of the Debate this afternoon in order to discuss something else. I am quite prepared to do it. The answer is that when you come to land it is the ownership of the raw material. [Interruption.] I agree; that is why I am in favour of the nationalisation of the coal measures which was recommended by the Royal Commission. That is national ownership of the raw material. But when you come to running a concern. 2159 to managing it, to taking the responsibility of directing the operations, of paying the wages, of raising coal and buying and selling it, the analogy would be if I proposed that farming should be nationalised. In both cases there is ownership of the raw material—in the one case the raw material in the mineral, and in the other the raw material in the soil. [Interruption.] I wanted to point out that a different issue is now being raised, and that there never has been a precedent for a Vote of Censure containing, not merely an invitation to the House of Commons to censure the Government for some administrative misfeasance or malfeasance, but leading up to a proposition which involves some great constructive policy.
There never has been a precedent for that, and that stands to reason. What would happen if I were to confine myself to the last sentence of this Motion? Mr. Speaker would immediately say to me, "You are drawing away the discussion from the conduct of the Government during these last months, to discuss the question of nationalisation." The speech of the Leader of the Opposition is the greatest condemnation for putting that sentence in. Far and away the most important part of this Motion is the constructive part at the end. The first part, which is about nine-tenths of it, deals with the past; it is a criticism of the past. The last sentence is a definite proposition committing the country to an important constructive policy with regard to the future in reference to one of our greatest industries, and yet the Leader of the Opposition did not devote a single sentence to the most important part of the Motion before the House. There was one sentence which was a. very significant one, and I do not mind saying it. I have pondered it very carefully. It was a sentence, not of defence, not of exposition, but of possible interpretation. It was a very important sentence, if I may say so, and I took a- note of it at the time. It is capable of this interpretation, that, if the coal industry of this country is going to fall into the hands of powerful trusts, who are going to use their powers for the purpose of exploiting the valuable coal measures of this country for the benefit of their own shareholders and to the detriment, not merely of those who are engaged in work- 2160 ing the industry, but of all those who are engaged in other industries—to raise the price of coal and to lower wages—if you are going to have great trusts of that kind, it is obvious that the nation must intervene, and intervene effectively [Interruption.] There are not powers of that kind now—
§ Mr. AUSTIN HOPKINSON
May I point out that the Report of the Royal Commission is very much in favour of a trust?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. Gentleman does not quite appreciate the point. The question is whether there are powers at the present moment vested in the law and constitution of this country to curb trusts who use their powers unfairly, to the detriment of the public, to raise the price of essential commodities and to lower wages. I do not believe that there are such powers at the present moment. If the right hon. Gentleman places that interpretation upon it it is worth considering. But that is not the sentence which is here. The sentence in this Motion is a sentence which would commit ali those who vote for it to nationalisation pure and simple. At present there is only one Bill before the House of Commons explaining what that means. I have no hesitation in saying that is the meaning of nationalisation. It would be injurious to the general public, and so far from helping the miners and other industries, it would be quite the contrary. For that reason I regret, in the absence of some more definite exposition of what this means, that I could not possibly see my way to vote for this proposition.
May I say one word in conclusion in reference to what fell from the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister. They both had a glance at the future and as to the importance of eliminating all unrest if you are going to pull this country through. I believe the question of whether you are going to have prosperity, not merely in the coal mines, but in industry, will depend largely upon what the mineowners and the Government do. There are indications—one was quoted by my right hon. Friend—that the mineowners are rather feeling the spirit of victory—of triumph that they have not used their victory as big men should, in a spirit of conciliation. and the issue will depend on the extent to which that is 2161 true. It will depend very largely on whether the reorganisation of the mines is going to be a reality or a sham, whether the Bill of the Government is going to be carried into effect. It will depend upon whether the mineowners are going to utilise the present position, and the extension of hours, for the purpose of reducing the price of coal and of improving the condition of their workers or whether they are going to utilise it, as has been done in a few cases which are known to me, for the purpose of largely enhancing the profits of the shareholders. If they take their triumph in the right spirit, if the Government will see that the legislation they have, inadequate as it is, is really carried out, I believe there will be a chance for this industry to recover some of its peace of mind and that you may restore a new spirit to industry altogether.
I am not going to attempt to follow the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in his effort to make the best of both possible worlds, vide the atmosphere of applause to which he looks forward with so much confidence from the ranks on his right, and the cold and gloomy silence with which all his remarks are received by those who are sitting on his left. I think the importance that has in the past attached to the expressions of an ex-Prime Minister has lost some of its savour since the recent campaign undertaken by the right hon. Gentleman in the country. I am tempted, impertinently perhaps, to apply to him a description which I understand was applied to him at another vital period in his career, that he was a vital force devoid of principle. I will turn for a moment to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. He has just returned from what he has described as 40 days and 40 nights in the Sahara desert. I prognosticate that not one moment of those days and nights was devoted to the contemplation of the possibility that he would be placed in a position so futile as that in which the extremists of his own party have placed him to-day. I want him to remember that this is not the first time he has found himself forced into that unhappy position by the impetus of the extremists, who seem to dominate his policy in this as in all other matters. We are re-reminded of the period in the summer 2162 of 1924 when he was forced, as the Prime Minister has reminded us, into some such ridiculous situation as this by these very same forces that I am convinced are behind him in this Motion.
It would be a gratuitous impertinence on the right hon. Gentleman's part to move this Resolution at all if he was not prepared to commit himself to some alternative policy instead of the policy he is condemning on the part of the Government, and I listened throughout his speech for any indication that he or his party had any alternative policy to propound at all. Even the suggested alternative policy which appears in the last words of the Resolution is no solution at all, because I think if he attempted to define nationalisation to-day—it has been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that he did not make any such attempt—he would immediately discover how many leagues apart the one extreme of his party was from the other. Does he mean by nationalisation, nationalisation by compensation? If he does, the whole of the impelling force which has driven him into this position would be up in arms against him because the President of the Independent Labour party, the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), has declared himself in no uncertain term as opposed entirely to the principle of compensation. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to get up now and attempt to 'secure the support of even a majority of his party to a, policy of nationalisation with compensation.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I am sure the House will permit me to interrupt—not that I am going to interrupt and answer any more questions—and answer this perfectly categorically anti straightforwardly. The Trade Union Congress and the Labour party have both declared in favour of nationalisation with compensation.
I am exceedingly glad to have had that admission, and I hope it will assist the right hon. Gentleman in carrying forward the purging process of his extreme elements. But I have this observation to make: that nationalisation involving compensation cannot be pretended, even by the right hon. Gentleman, to be any immediate solution of the coal problem, in 2163 which the whole problem was that the production of the industry was not already sufficient to bear the reasonable charges and to pay even a meagre profit and to maintain the present scale of wages. Therefore, nationalisation plus compensation was no answer at all. There is a lacuna in the right hon. Gentleman's alternative suggestion. What he really means is nationalisation plus an indefinitely continued subsidy. If there was one matter upon which the public opinion of the country crystallised itself with absolute certainty it was that the continuation of the subsidy during the coal dispute was wholly unthinkable. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman and his party that they are to a certain extent committed in this matter. They cannot come along now and say, "We could have found a solution of the coal, problem." On two previous occasions they have tried their remedy with disastrous failure. Their first attempt was in 1924, when upon a falling market they imposed on the industry terms which were only appropriate to a rising and a prosperous market. That was in the view of many of us the kernel of a great deal of the trouble that arose on 1st May of this year.
I want to remind the party opposite also that they are much more committed than they dare to confess, or ever admit, to the policy of the general strike as a solution of the coal problem. Of course, we all know that when things are a failure we endeavour to cast the dust off our shoes as quickly as possible and release ourselves from our responsibilities. But let it never be forgotten that, both by express statement in this House of Commons, and not only from the back benches but from responsible Front Bench Ministers, the party opposite were committed to the general strike as a solution of the industrial problem. Absolution has been passed unnecessarily by the Prime Minister on many of the leaders for the part they played in the general strike. I do not think that is justified. I recall, for instance, the way in which the right hon. Gentleman himself was swept along, like some mute uncomplaining Kerensky, at the Queen's Hall to the strains of the "Red Flag" when the policy of the general strike was being organised. I recall expressions used by 2164 responsible Leaders of the Opposition during the course of the strike, for instance the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), in saying why they maintained their attitude during the general strike:We are as firm in our belief that there was no other course open to us as he is in his.The personal pronouns there are well Worth recalling when they seek to evade responsibility for that strike. I remember the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Bromley):We shall go through with it. We may be beaten, but not this week or next.One finds statements of that kind followed up by an ex-Minister of the Socialist Government, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw), who said in a notable speech, which must be the cause of considerable embarrassment to his leaders either at present or on the hustings in the future:We take full responsibility. We are neither ashamed nor afraid.6.0 P.M.
[HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear!"] And echo shows how completely that has the assent of the party. He said they shirked no responsibility and there was no cover under which they desired to hide. He even said it was the positive duty of trade unionists to take part in the general strike. For these reasons, I say there can be no shadow of doubt that the party opposite were committed to the policy of the general strike as a solution of the coal problem. If in speech they were not, they were in other methods not less significant, often tacit, sometimes expressed. We remember when that typically revolutionary procedure the suppression of the Press made the issue of a. Government organ necessary, the trade unionists in the country were permitted to print an opposition organ, though not to print a free Press. We know how that organ was distributed through official sources from the Whips' office of the party opposite in the House of Commons.
My memory is better than some hon. Members opposite give me credit for. We recall the fact that, owing to organised hooliganism, 2165 free speech on this side of the House was cried down. The right of speech was disallowed to a responsible Minister answering on behalf of his Government in this House of Commons. We recall how epithets were hurled across the Floor of this House and no opportunity was given to deny them or refute them. We remember other things. We remember the campaign of calumny against Ministers. All this in furtherance of the attitude and the policy which was devised, determined and predestined by the Third International. [Interruption.] I thought I should have a little glimmer of opposition when I made that remark. Therefore I furnished myself with something which was written at a time, not when this Government was in being, but at the time of which the Prime Minister spoke, when the right hon. Gentleman opposite was in office. This is what Mr. Harry Pollitt, industrial secretary of the Communist party of Great Britain, wrote to the "Times" during the sitting of the Trade Union Congress, on the 4th September, 1924:We have noticed in the Press various statements about the 'Red' attack on the Trade Union Congress. I am directed by the Industrial Section of the Communist party to make it quite clear. We are working to transform the trades unions from purely pacific organisations into mass organisations for revolutionary activity. This can be done by a steady and persistent propaganda inside the unions themselves, and results justify' our claim. At the recent 'minority movement' congress there were 270 delegates.This is the important part to which I would call the attention of hon. Members:We have secured a notable victory in the election of Comrade Cook as Secretary of the Miners' Federation. We will receive opposition from the present reactionary leaders of Labour, but with the inculcation of the unions with Communist propaganda and the establishment of revolutionary nuclei, we will gradually be able to weed out those leaders.That was the inception of the idea that lay behind the coal strike of 1926. That was the spirit, and with that spirit at the head, and as I have shown, carefully inculcated, no efforts of bishops or of the Prime Minister or of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, or even of the whole party opposite, if they had had the will, which they had not, could have prevented this matter from being fought out as it was. One thing which the sanguine Mr. Pollitt did 2166 not expect and did not even anticipate, but which we know now by the fact, was that the right hon. Gentleman opposite was going to be a pawn in his game, that he was so to ally and associate himself with the policy that was organised by the "Red" unions, that he was never going to oppose it in this House and that he was never going to have the courage to stand up and show the division in his party. Mr. Pollitt never realised, even in his most sanguine moments, that that. would be the result of their propaganda.
Is it not an extraordinary thing that for the very first time, certainly in my recollection, we have heard in -this House from a responsible Member of the Opposition anything offensive whatsoever of Mr. Cook? During the whole of the six months, certainly within my recollection, there has been no challenge of Mr. Cook's authority in this House. I agree that there have been exceptions outside, hut, surely, the leader of the Parliamentary Labour party, if a Parliamentary party is to mean anything, is to lead opinion in the House of Commons and, through the House of Commons, the country. Why wait for the newspapers? Why did the right hon. Gentleman's henchmen, the right hon. Member for Derby and the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness go to the newspapers to put their views about Mr. Cook? Because they knew perfectly well that if they came into this House and expressed those views, they would ruin the party to which they belonged, from top to bottom. In other words, we are perfectly well aware that as far as this coal dispute was concerned the party opposite was not a party at all but a conglomeration of individuals with views as divergent as the pofes apart.
I will not trespass further upon the hospitality of the House more than to say that from this Motion I deduce the following conclusions—either that the party opposite supported the minority movement, either that they had a purely political aim, which was the destruction of the organised basis of industry and the replacement of private enterprise by public enterprise, or that if they had not the motives of the minority movement at heart they were so discordant among themselves that they had no policy at all. In either case, they could be of no possible assistance to this or any other civilised Government in dealing 2167 dispute of this magnitude. Think what it would have meant to this or any other Government had there been a party in Opposition which represented, instead of pretending to represent, labour. Think what it would have meant, supposing there had been men on the opposite side who were prepared to come forward and say, with the force of a united party, "We say this policy is wrong," instead of fiddling about and then going behind the backs of responsible officials of the unions and weakening their powers.
As long ago as the 13th of May—here I quote from the official organ of the workers' movement during the strike—The Trade Union Congress called off the general strike for this reason. The movement came out in order to ensure a fair deal for the miners. They are satisfied that that can now be achieved.If that statement does not carry the inference that the miners' leaders were unreasonable in continuing the struggle, I do not know the meaning of English. Yet in regard to the men who were unreasonable on the 13th May in not going back to work, the right hon. Gentleman opposite sponsors, give his benediction and blessing to a cadging tour to another country for alms to maintain them in their unreason in August. There can be not the smallest doubt that the party opposite had no policy whatsoever, that they were discordant, divided amongst themselves, inept and futile, as their speeches have shown this afternoon. Had there been any gravamen in the charge against the Government, we should have had the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), with his lachrymose and well-simulated air, coming down to this House with his guttural expressions and his guttural, whining remarks about murderers.
"Murderers" is the hon. Member's stock-in-trade. One of the remarkable things in this dispute has been that from first to last, from the beginning of the strike to the very end, there has not been one suggestion of a definite, concrete case in which any child in this country has suffered grievous injury to its health. When the crimes of this Government are recollected, I hope it will be borne in mind that a, capitalist Government during a 2168 strike which was a political strike against the capitalistic basis of society, did not, at any rate, allow one child to starve.
§ Mr. SCURR
In listening to the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down one realised that he desired to take this Debate right away from its real object. In that he has been following his respected leader, because the Prime Minister in replying to the Motion moved by the Leader of the Labour party did not in any sense of the word attempt to reply to the indictment that was made. Although Mr. Cook and Mr. Herbert Smith or other leaders of the Miners' Federation may have been the biggest fools on the face of the earth, and may have made a very large number of mistakes, that has absolutely nothing to do with the subject under discussion this afternoon. The subject which we are to discuss is the action of the Government in dealing with this question from its inception.
The argument that has been made by the mineowners throughout the whole of this dispute has been that owing to the economic facts of the industry it was impossible to pay the wages which they were paying to the miners, and that costs had to come down, and that costs were to be brought down in two ways, (1) by the reduction of wages, and (2) by an increase in the hours. That claim has been made by the mineowners through the whole. of the dispute, and as far as the action of the Government is concerned, they have stood by the mine-owners on that point all the way through. The Government endeavoured to stop the dispute when it was first showing signs of breaking out in August, and the consequence was that we had the policy of the subsidy. As the right hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) said in a previous Debate, the best portion of the subsidy went in the reduction of the cost of export coal. If it went in the reduction of the cost of export coal, the result would be that, if the mineowners were right in their contention that low costs were necessary to the foreign markets, there ought to have been a very considerable increase in the amount of coal which was sold from this country.
What are the facts? According to the Board of Trade returns for the corn-parable nine months, we rind that from 2169 August, 1924, to April, 1925, the coal exported amounted to 421 million tons, and from August, 1925, to April, 1926, it was only 38 million tons. In other words, when the average price per ton was reduced from 21s. 8d. to 18s. 4d. and when the total value of coal sold abroad fell from e46,000,000 to just under £45,000,000, during that period of subsidy and low costs, our export trade fell off all the way through. After all, the price of reparation coal, under the Versailles Treaty, was determined by the price of English coal. If the English price was lower then Geitnany must charge France or Italy the English price, and the consequence was that however low the price might have been during the period of the subsidy the whole of the subsidy went into the pockets not of the miners but into the pockets of those who bought abroad. The lower costs, which the mineowners contended would assist the industry did not benefit the industry in any sense of the word.
It may be argued that if our export trade did fall off during that time, we should find our inland coal trade increase, but on examination we find, for the same nine months, that the actual coal production of this country fell by at least 500,000 tons. Even when stocks were being accumulated against the possibility of the dispute, leading to greater orders in the industry, and also with lower costs, there was a falling off in the production of coal in this country. There has been a considerable change in regard to coal production all over the world; the production in the different countries is altering. There has been a considerable growth in the production of coal in Spain and in Holland—particularly in Holland, where the coal produced has increased from 1,843,000 tons in 1914 to 6,000,000 tons in 1924. Bulgaria has also increased its production four times, and we also have an increase in our Colonies and Dominions. The result is that we are faced with a much greater competition for our export coal. Although we are faced with this competition, and are selling less coal abroad, the remarkable fact as compared with 1913 is this—the Prime Minister quoted Socialist papers in order to prove his case, and I am going to quote capitalist papers in order -to prove mine—that the proportion of the coal exported by this country in 1913 was 2170 50 per cent. of the total production in the world, in 1922 it was 60 per cent.,, and in 1924 it was 55 per cent.
§ Mr. SCURR
Of the coal exports. It proves that we are still holding our proportion of the export trade of the world. Owing to the fact that there has been an increase in the number of oil ships, and. in other technical uses of coal, there is a falling off in the demand for coal. These considerations are being felt all over the world in the coal mining industry, and they must be dealt with by different methods to those which are propounded at this moment. Lower costs do not improve our export trade, but the Government, do not seem able to take that lesson.to heart. The Government are faced. with another difficulty. They appointed a Commission, and it was a Commission, of their own choosing. On previous bodies which have examined this coal industry there has always been found representatives of the miners. There were half-a-dozen miners on the Sankey Commission, and a representative of the miners on the McMillan Commission, but in regard to the Samuel Commission the gentlemen appointed had nothing to do with the mining industry at all, except one, who by reason of his directorship of Vickers Limited was connected' with the coal industry. They had no bias on the side of the miners. They made recommendations, in fact, the terms of reference asked them to make recommendations for the improvement of the. industry.
The Conservative Press circulated a very nice legend concerning the Prime Minister. They said he is to be regarded' as a simple man, and pictured him leaning over a country stile smoking his pipe and ruminating on life. Those who have watched the political career of the right hon. Gentleman since he entered politics have different views about him. We consider him to be most wiley and most astute, in fact, so wiley and so astute that I venture to suggest, without any offence, that the right hon. Gentleman-the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs(Mr. Lloyd George) might sit at his feet and learn wisdom. The Prime Minister was faced with this position, that his own Commission had reported, in direc- 2171 tions for which he did not care, but his astuteness came to his aid and he said, "I will ask both sides whether they will accept it." Why? Because he knew that both sides would reject it; and it got him out of his difficulty. The words of the Motion are emphatic in their condemnation of the Government, because this was their own Commission and they were responsible for implementing the findings of the Commission. The Government does not represent either the mine-owners, or they should not—unfortunately in this case they do—or the miners.
But in addition to the mineowners and the miners in this dispute there is someone else, and that is the rest of the community. The Government had an obligation to the rest of the community,, and having that obligation, if they found that the miners and the mineowners were obstinate, if Mr. Cook was all that he has been represented to be this afternoon, if the mineowners were as stupid as the Prime Minister has declared they are, it does not matter at all, the responsibility was on the Government net to be m stupid as both of them. Instead, they went about allowing the thing to go by, brought in the Eight Hours Act, which has, helped the mineowners throughout the whole dispute. If that Act had not been put on the Statute Book the position would be totally different in the minefields to-day. It is because of that Act that the mineowners are in the favourable position they are, but in enforcing that Act the Government showed the class bias which has animated them throughout the whole of this dispute.
We are constantly being appealed to for industrial peace. We are constantly told that employers and employed should sit down together in peace. What humbug it is! What nonsense it is! For the last 25 years, excluding the War years, there has been a consistent and a regular attempt on the part of the employing class of this country to drive down the standard of life of the working classes. As a matter of fact, if you compare the prices of to-day with 1900, the actual and real wages of the workers of the country are only 80, taking the figure at 100, as compared with the wages received in 1900. And yet we are asked to assist in securing industrial peace! to be kind to one another I How can you be kind when as a result of your labour the only result 2172 is that you have not sufficient to live upon and bring up your children. It is idle and foolish and senseless. It is all humbug to talk about industrial peace under conditions of that kind.
There are times in this House when Members are called upon to vote in the Division Lobbies on a subject in which they feel very little enthusiasm and merely vote because of their loyalty to their party. Sometimes there are votes which we cast with enthusiasm, and this is a motion which I shall support with enthusiasm because its terms are correct and should be on record. It will be no doubt defeated to-night, but when the time comes, whether it is to-morrow, next year, or the year after, when this House has to face the country again you will find that there will be a change, because the people of the country are against the Government_ They know the Government have erred, not because they have made mistakes, but because they have deliberately set themselves on the side of every oppressive force in the country in order to drive down some of the most gallant men we have into a condition of absolute starvation.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
I will endeavour to make my contribution to this Debate as brief as possible. I am fully aware that there are many hon. Members—they do not happen to be present in the House at the moment—who are anxious to participate in this discussion, and if my intervention has the lamentable result of debarring any hon. Member who may be able to refute the arguments of the Opposition better, I hope I shall be able to give some expression to the indignation which must animate many hon. Members on this side of the House who may not be afforded an opportunity to give it utterance. Amazed as we all were at the effrontery which prompted the leaders of the Opposition to depart from wiser counsels and Table this Motion, we did at least anticipate that we should be furnished with some intelligible or excusable pretext why they should so gratuitously run their necks into this noose. As I listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition I could not discover that he adduced any lucid reason why he should have adopted this suicidal course. What was the gravamen of his indictment against the Government His speech was exclusively devoted—I set 2173 aside his beating of the tom-toms and his strident calls to the faithful behind him which occupied a great part of his speech—to the indictment that the Government have taken the part of the mineowners.
I often ask myself, when I hear this accusation made against the Government: What is the alleged motive? It must be an evil motive. surely. The Leader of the Opposition—I took down his words—described the power of the mineowners as the absolutism of economic power; but what is the absolutism of economic power in the hands of a few individuals compared with the great power of the franchise exercised by nearly a million men? If there was any evil motive in taking one side or another, surely it is obvious as to which side the Government would take. If anything proves to me that the Government took an impartial attitude, it is that. They took the side they did with no base motive. We all appreciate how fully it is in accordance with the frailties of human nature that, when the leaders of the Opposition found, all through the controversy, that their situation had been one in which they were unable to direct the course of the dispute, that they should evince an anxiety to divert popular attention from their own impotence to a highly-coloured version of the part which the Prime Minister and his colleagues have played in the controversy. The leaders of the Opposition have certainly aspired to act as plenipotentiaries in the countless conferences that have taken place in Downing Street and elsewhere, but they have been deprived even of the melancHoly satisfaction of playing the humbler rofe of honest brokers, It is excusable, therefore, that in their discomforture they should display some resentment in public and give some vent to their spleen. But what perplexes us is that, if they wish to attach blame for their own impotence to direct the course of the dispute, they should seek it in any and every quarter but the right one.
How can they attribute the blame to the present Government? How do they reconcile it with their consciences to pour out the vials of their wrath upon the head of the Prime Minister? I am not aware that the Government throughout the negotiations, at any time or place, occasioned any humiliation to the leaders of the 2174 Labour party. On the contrary, the Prime Minister repeatedly went out of his way to save the faces of the leaders of the Opposition. There is a growing impression on these Benches that the Prime Minister is unnecessarily solicitous to save the faces of those whose faces, metaphorically speaking, are not worth saving. If the leaders of the Labour Party want to bring anyone to book let them face about and seek the culprits in exactly the reverse direction to that which they are pursuing this evening. The Leader of the Opposition is under no illusions whatever. Earlier in the dispute, in a very felicitous phrase, he complained that he was being hamstrung, and he did not intend, if the. Labour Party came into power, that such a, thing should happen again. The right hon. Gentleman objects to being hamstrung. In that he shares a popular prejudice. Grievous bodily harm inflicted from behind is not only painful but humiliating. It may be some consolation to him to reflect that if he has been hamstrung by the Trades Union Council, that powerful body has received a similar castigation from the miners' leaders. The Trades Union Council were permitted to organise propaganda on behalf of Mr. Cook. They were also allowed, if they felt so inclined, to make a levy upon their members, if their members felt so inclined. They were allowed also to declare an embargo on the movement of coal. But if the Trades Union Council attempted to assert their authority in the negotiations they were at once to suffer a very grievous disillusion.
I put it to them that if the Leaders of the Opposition seek the source of their mortification, and if they wish to take revenge, they should institute a campaign against the miners' leaders, which would yield results of far greater benefit to the whole community than the tabling of Motions of Censure, which only put them in an embarrassing position. It is quite true that the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) a short while ago announced his intention of perambulating the country and telling the miners what he thought of Mr. Cook, but I understand that he has refrained from taking this course hitherto out of respect for the miners' feelings. I should have thought that if he was going to pay attention to 2175 the amour proper of the miners he might have gone out into the country before the strike started, and then he might have obviated the whole of this industrial dispute. Mr. Cook has certainly given him his cue. He said that "Never again would any trade union leader trust the traitor Thomas." It is extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman should take so long about retaliating.
This Debate has served two purposes, neither of which, I presume, was contemplated. In the first place, it has served to strengthen the Government case, and secondly, it has served to prove that the leaders of the Labour party are such only in name. There has been published recently an intriguing correspondence between the Leader of the Opposition and the erstwhile Labour candidate in King's Lynn, in which the latter complains that the Leader of the Opposition is still in the toils of the Communist party. The right hon. Gentleman was at pains to explain, in reply, that no power rests with the National Executive to curb the actions and utterances of those powerful trade union leaders who owed only nominal allegiance to the party. There appears to be a considerable number of sections of the party whose allegiance to the properly constituted authority is something less than nominal. This circumstance, I think, is to be explained by the anomaly that men of all shades of opinion are received into the ranks of the Labour party indiscriminately, without any terms being exacted as to their party loyalty. When a Liberal is received he is allowed to preserve his Liberalism. When a Communist comes along he is not spurned; be is fawned upon. When a capitalist—the worst kind of capitalist who inherits his capital—places his filthy lucre at the disposal of the Labour party there does not seem to be any reluctance to accept either him or it.
Quite true, but Re see to it that they repent. The policy of 2176 the Labour leaders seems to be dictated by those who publicly revile them. The Leader of the Opposition to-night is fighting the battle of Mr. Cook, who is safely ensconced in the fortress of the Kremlin. To-morrow he will probably be influenced by some hybrid form of Liberalism. Before the week after next —though not if we can help it—he will he guided by a sort of neo-plutocracy. I am trying to help the Leaders of the Opposition; I suggest that they should re-orientate themselves and cease facing both ways. Then probably they will be able to please one section of their followers and gain part control over the malcontents. This Motion can be divided into three parts, two of which are all contradictory. The first part deals with history, which no amount of sophistry or playing with words can alter one iota, such, for instance, as the historical fact that. the Prime Minister on 24th March accepted the findings of the Royal Commission in toto, which will require no commentary from this House to aid historians in their researches under this head. It is difficult to understand what purpose the Debate serves under that head.
Secondly, the Motion deals with questions of opinion, such as whether the Government interfered too much, too little or judiciously in the course of the controversy. But there is another part of the Motion which calls far serious attention in this House. It has already been dwelt on at length by the Prime Minister. I want to stress one point in connection with it. We are all agreed that destructive criticism is not of the slightest avail unless accompanied or reinforced by constructive suggestions. What is the constructive suggestion of the Labour party? It is that a decent standard of life and a living wage for miners can be secured only by the nation taking over and reorganising the mining industry. There is no unanimity on the opposite side of the House on this subject. Quite recently the Leader of the Opposition, in an article in "Forward," expressed these views:Socialism is not going to come by the legal declaration of a minimum wage and consequential nationalisation of bankrupt industries. Such a method is to swamp us in untold industrial difficulties and is to foredoom our first great Socialist offensive to disastrous defeat. It will be our Verdun. Honesty compels us to face the real problem 2177 lest we deceive the victims we wish to help by inviting them to trust to remedies that will remedy nothing.Are those views shared by all those who framed this Motion? Surely with this pontifical warning ringing in their ears they cannot come down to the House and support this Motion. Surely the Report expressly states that the mining industry is particularly unsuitable for nationalisation. Here and now the Leader of the Opposition comes down to the House as the champion of the Report. Nationalisation is not worth arguing about in this connection. Under such a system two and two will make only four, and you will be able to extract only the value of 20 cwt. out of a ton of coal. But you will have this additional encumbrance: You will have the encumbrance of a vast bureaucracy, which will absorb any problematical margin of profit which you expect to get. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is under no illusions whatever on this subject, if we are to trust what he has written, and his writings, if they are nothing else, are candid, but some of his followers are still under this illusion. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley, with that light touch and delicacy of feeling which characterises every expression he gives to his views, in a. speech gave vent to the following opinion:Had a Socialist Government been in power the whole forces of the State would hale been used to fling off the backs of the people the most greedy, incompetent and brutal set of monopolists this land had ever been cursed with, and to clear out the thieving middleman who plunders both the producer and the consumer.How does this gentle insinuation compare with the expression of view which I have already read? Surely the situation of the Labour leaders is the most pitiable in the whole annals of party warfare Exploited first by one section of their party and then by another, thrown over by the miners' leaders, unable to make up their minds whether to retaliate or to grovel to Mr. Cook, distraught by internecine strife, they come to the House and table a meaningless and contradictory Vote of Censure which is not going to be endorsed either inside this House or by the country outside. We shall emerge from this Debate thankful indeed, more grateful than ever that the destinies of the country during the recent dark crisis were entrusted to men who were com- 2178 petent to deal with them; more than ever grateful that there was no other alternative Government set over us. What would have happened if we had had the Coalition Government in power? We all know that in 1919 the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) gave the miners the seven hours day, with the result that within two years there occurred a stoppage which lasted almost throughout the summer.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
Is it not a fact that the present Prime Minister was President of the Board of Trade at that time?
§ Mr. CADOGAN
But that has nothing whatever to do with my criticism. I and others, regard Coalition as the most pernicious form of Government ever proposed. I feel no responsibility myself whatever for the Coalition.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
Four or five years afterwards the present Leader of the Opposition increased the minimum wage, on a falling market, and I have no hesitation in denouncing that proceeding as the very root cause of our present discontent. This Vote of Censure will be transformed into one of thanksgiving that we have in charge of the nation's affairs men who are uninfluenced by base motives and unaffected by the criticism of those whose private interests and whose pockets were temporarily concerned in the industrial dispute. The Government are refusing the line of least resistance in favour of the more arduous pathway of their duty to the whole community. In one capacity or another I have listened to Debates of this nature and to Votes of Censure on the Government of the day for many years, but, in the whole range of my experience, I do not think 1 have ever heard of a charge brought against the Government of the day so fatuous or so futile.
§ Mr. WHITELEY
From the speech of the Prime Minister to-day we learn that, having read the terms of this Vote of Censure, he and the Government felt they had such a weak case that it was essential to make certain alterations in it. Accordingly they had to erase certain words and add certain other words before the right hon. Gentleman was in 2179 a position to side track that responsibility which the Government will eventually have to accept at the hands of the people of this country though they may escape it in this Vote to-night. The Prime Minister told us that the Miners' Federation had committed many blunders but that there were two of special importance. The first was that they had not accepted the proposals of the Royal Commission. As a matter of fact that blunder rests with the Government. The Government spent millions of the taxpayers' money, but, they have not the courage to put into operation the Royal Commission's Report. They said they would accept it, if the two sides to the dispute accepted it, but they knew, when saying so, that the coalowners never intended to accept it. [HON. MEMBERS: "They did accept it."] On that point the real responsibility still rests with the Government. The Prime Minister said that the Miners' Federation committed a second blunder by refusing to accept the terms of the Samuel Memorandum. I do not know whether the Prime Minister has forgotten it, but I have here a document which has been regarded as confidential up to the present time. Now that the dispute is over it can be used. This is a statement of what actually occurred between the representatives of the Mines Department and the officials of the Miners' Federation, and the first statement is this:At the outset Mr. Gowers made it perfectly clear that the proposals of the Government should be read and treated as entirely independent of the proposals contained in the Samuel Memorandum. The latter document had no official existence and if the miners had accepted it, on the understanding that the Government had also done so, an impossible situation would have arisen for all concerned.
§ Mr. WHITELEY
I will give it to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. It is an agreed report. The next opportunity which came along was the opportunity of 15th July to which the Prime Minister never referred. There was then a set of proposals drawn up by the Christian Industrial Fellowship who, having interviewed the coalowners and the Miners' Federation, drew up these proposals as 2180 a means of finding a way out of the dispute. Before the workers of this country had an opportunity of voting on those terms, the Prime Minister turned them down and said the Government would have nothing to do with them. On all those points the Government must bear their own responsibility and must not try to transfer it to somebody else not entrusted with the interests of tile nation as the Government were. There is another very important matter. It was said in this House on many occasions during the early days of this dispute that there should be no political interference in this matter and that it ought to be settled by the two sides. Yet on 11th June this year the Government were capable of an action which I, Personally, can never forget nor forgive. They introduced the Eight Hours Act and took sides with the owners. There are thousands upon thousands of working people in the country who can never forgive or forget that step by the Government. Let us take the situation which has arisen in many of the coalfields. Prior to this dispute the first shift men went in at 4 o'clock in the morning and came up at 10.30. The second shift of men went on at 9.30 and came up at 4 o'clock. Under the present arrangements the first shift of men going down at 4.55 come up at 12.30 and those who go down at 10 minutes past 1 come up at 8.50. The very fact of placing that Act on the Statute Book has caused all the domestic arrangements in the miners' homes to be reorganised. Mealtimes have had to be altered and additional meals provided to meet the needs of those whose working day has been lengthened by this legislation. In some cases under the new arrangement created by the action of the Government actual coal-getters are only released from their work on a Saturday at 5 o'clock in the afternoon.
These are matters for which the Government ought to have some real regard. They knew the facts from the start. One can read the whole. of the reports in connection with this dispute from 13th April until the last interview between the miners and the Government, and there will be found no alteration in the basic principles of settlement to which the Government were prepared to agree. As a matter of fact, we find that, on 13th April, we were offered just exactly what we have secured to-day and nothing more 2181 with regard to hours, wages and local customs. The Government have never taken up any stand. They have never said anything with regard to district, settlements, national agreements or a national minimum, because they have been in favour all along of the attitude of the owners, who said they could not accept these things. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) some 10 days ago made an earnest appeal to the House for some expression of that harmonious co-operation of which we hear so much, and he pleaded that we should try to create an atmosphere of peace which might help us to overcome many local difficulties. We find that in Durham certain local owners are refusing to meet the local officials at all, and are disregarding the Durham Miners' Association. If that be an expression of what is meant by harmonious co-operation, I do not want to see such harmonious co-operation brought into effect. Take the case of the Consett Iron Company, to which the Leader of the Opposition referred. A great company like that is refusing to meet the local officials, and though the Durham miners' agents are to meet them, they refuse to have the local officials at that interview. It is only fair to say that they have not at the moment met the officials of the Durham Miners' Association.
Such things as this are going on and, as regards wage conditions, nothing has ever been known in the history of Durham like the terms which are being forced upon the people. Under the district settlement it has been agreed that there shall be a 21 per cent. reduction and, in addition, the 12½ per cent. granted under the Sankey Award is to disappear, while in many localities the tonnage price of the coal getters is being reduced by amounts ranging from 9d. to 1s. 3d. per ton. The Government must realise that they have not played a very active part in trying to bring these district settlements on to something like a reasonable basis such as would be likely to secure peace and harmony. Local customs, prevailing for over 60 years in some cases, have been wiped out of existence by the owners who, in their ruthless manner, have made up their minds to have the full pound of flesh. They talked about making the Germans pay at the end of the War. In the same spirit they are going to make 2182 the miners pay. They are going to grind the miners down as far as they have power, and I do not want to hear any more about harmonious co-operation or peace and good will until I see some of it actually expressed in the districts by those who are giving lip service to it publicly from time to time.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
The hon. Member who has just made a very impassioned speech gave his whole case away when he said that on 13th April his Federation could have obtained the same terms which they eventually had to accept, after many months of weary struggle. It is exactly the failure to seize the opportunity of accepting those terms in April which filled many of us with astonishment and has been so disastrous to the men whom the Miners' Federation represent.
§ Sir A. MOND
Those who take part in any kind of struggle have to see whether or not they are strong enough to lead their forces to victory. Surely it is the worst form of leadership to—
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir A. MOND
"What is justice?" said Pontius Pilate. I might ask, what is justice I might ask hon. Members opposite if they think the industry should be carried on uneconomically. What they put forward was that, if an industry was obviously losing money, no change in hours or wages could possibly be made. That was not justice; that was just nonsense. It was because that attitude was maintained, and maintained against many of us, who on many occasions endeavoured to bring about a better feeling and a better settlement, that our efforts were continually defeated. It was that which defeated after all the entire efforts of the Trade Union Council and the Labour leaders. It is idle for the hon. Members now to try to throw all the blame on the Government when their negotiators were not authorised to negotiate at all. Negotiations consist in give and take; they cannot consist in making a statement that you cannot vary your terms. I have been engaged in a great many negotiations for the greater part of my life, so I know. It was really 2183 that spirit which caused the disastrous prolongation of this terrible industrial dispute and defeated those who really wished to make peace. I am not going to say that any of the parties in the dispute were free from blame. I have never supported to the full the policy or actions of the Mineowners' Association. I do say that the efforts of those who wanted peace were rendered impossible by those who misrepresented, as I consider, the rank and file of the miners of this country.
The Leader of the Opposition who has returned evidently with greater vigour from the deserts of the Sahara, where he has been contemplating, I hope, more pleasant scenes than the coal struggle, where he may have forgotten some of the events that happened in this country while he was away, and where he has been riding a camel, as I have seen depicted in the picture papers, made a -very vigorous and somewhat empty attack on the Government. After all, when he had finished his speech, none of us were any the wiser as to what he would have done if he had been Prime Minister. A question has been raised that is fundamental in a Debate of this kind. What are the functions of a Government in a trade dispute? What are the limitations of its power? How far should it go and how far should it enforce its will on employers or employed, who do not wish to obey its commands? That is the problem. When an hon. Member from the opposition side of the House shouted "Mussolini" during the Prime Minister's speech, I thought that that was exactly what the Prime Minister has never attempted to be. Mussolini has declared that there are to be no trade disputes in Italy, and there are not. In Fascist Italy there are no strikes because they are not permitted to go on strike.
During the strike the question came up of an arbitration tribunal. Candidly, neither side was prepared to accept an arbitration tribunal. I thought that those who represented the miners used rather mistaken tactics. If they had accepted an impartial tribunal, the Government would have compelled the coal owners to accept it, and the country would have demanded that the Government should have done so. They might then have got better terms than they 2184 have now. The fact remains that the two parties refused the offer of an independent chairman and refused the offer to place their case before an independent and impartial tribunal. If the right hon. Gentleman had been in office, what would the course of action of his party have been? Would they have set up this arbitration tribunal? Would they have cited the parties before it? If neither of them had appeared, would they have made an award and prevented those who did not accept the award from either working their pits or working in the pits? If that be the policy of the leaders of the Labour party, I would like it stated. I do not say I disagree with it, but I would like it stated. I remember I he Leader of the Opposition, in a book he wrote many years ago on Socialism, frankly admitted that the conscription of labour is absolutely essential to any Socialist State. That was really the fundamental point of the attack on the Government. We ought to hear more about it. Personally, I think the time has come when that question requires the most earnest consideration of the thinking people of this country. Can you allow indefinitely disputes—I do not care what their cause or what the justice of them may be—in the industrial field to paralyse the activity of a whole community? Can you allow the obstinacy of any body, or of any two bodies, of men to inflict misery on hundreds of thousands of noncombatants, and to inflict millions of pounds of e damages on a civilised community? Can you do that, any more than you can allow the traffic of London to be held up by a number of men, owing to a personal dispute of some character, fighting in the middle of Bond Street or Piccadilly? If that took place, the Government would be compelled to restore order.
In the industrial world you allow disorder to do on, disorder which devastates this country with a devastation equivalent to that of a great war, infinitely worse to us than if London had been bombed by enemy aeroplanes. Can you allow that to go on and say that it is a dispute by private gentlemen and we really cannot have the power to intervene effectively? Personally, I am coming to the conclusion that you cannot, that you require in this country a league of industrial peace as powerful, 2185 with the same sanctions, with the same powers, as the League of Nations at Geneva. I think you would have to go very much further in this country, not necessarily further than has already been gone in the dominions of the Crown, not merely in setting up tribunals, but in enforcing industrial judgments in the vital industries of the country. I do not see why anybody should fear that substantial justice would not be done in any dispute of this kind by any body of impartial people. After all, if you look at this very long terrible devastating strike, what it finally boils down to is the question of hours and wages. The whole variation of hours and wages is really relatively small to the enormous distress that has been caused in the country. Can any human being say that if a 7½ hours day had been worked in some districts, or seven hours maintained, or 7½ hours' work instead of eight, and if some variation of 5 or 10 per cent. had been made on the wages of 1921 or 1924, the coal mining industry would be ruined or the miners would be living on the border of starvation? Those who know the industry know that those assertions are absurd, if the industry could have settled its dispute on those terms.
In the early days of the strike a settlement could have been arrived at on easier conditions. Yet, month after month, the country has been plunged into a state of industrial depression and industrial loss, and into suffering from which it will take a long time to recover. If an arbitration court had sat and given an award of that kind, could any party have been able to continuo the strike? Would it not have given the Government just that authority which the Government did not have and, lacking which, it was rendered powerless to intervene in the dispute? When it was consulted, it received shabby treatment from both parties, and it showed the patience of Job. That is the big question that emerges.
Some hon. Members naturally feel a great bitterness at this moment, as they see a great and mighty federation suffer defeat for the first time for years, and they speak bitterly about the ideal hope that those engaged in this great struggle may get again on better terms. It would be disastrous to this industry if that spirit, which has existed in the past, cannot be exercised and a new spirit created. 2186 It would be disastrous if advantage is not taken of the result of this dispute to try and form a more equitable and more friendly basis of relations, or if it is used to crush down those whose loyalty to their cause and to their leaders must compel anyone to admiration, however mistaken their tactics may have been. It would be equally disastrous if this industry were to be permeated in the future, as it has been in the past, by the spirit of men who do not wish it success. Speaking as one interested in coalfields and taking a deep interest in their future and in those working in them, there is one question that must demand attention. Are those, who are going to work together, going to work jointly for the benefit of the industry as any other industry and going to co-operate in a friendly manner so as to enable us to work with them in a friendly manner? Or are they going, under the leadership of Mr. Cook, an avowed Communist, to go into the industry, not with the idea of making it a success but a failure? Are they going to be dictated to by the Bolshevists of Russia and to use the mining industry as a weapon to paralyse Britain? If they are, there can be neither peace nor prosperity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Humbug!"] It is not. Hon. Members perhaps in some areas do not know quite as much of what happens as those in other areas. I say deliberately, with full knowledge, that, in certain areas that I myself know, that spirit has been generated and implanted, not necessarily by men who are members of the Miners' Federation or who are miners at all.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman why an industrial court has not been set up in the chemical trade?
§ Sir A. MOND
Because in the chemical trade we have not wanted an industrial court. We have got a court consisting of representatives of the trade unions and the employers, and when a dispute has occurred it has gone to the industrial court which already exists.
§ Sir A. MOND
There is no question that I am aware of. I am advocating arbitration for industry at large, and if it were introduced for any industry, it should be introduced for all industries. I am not trying to make any kind of controversial point. The matter is very much too important for that, for, after all, the successful operation of the coal industry now and in the future is the essential basis of all our industrial and economic prosperity. Unless we can improve the economic prosperity of inn country, we cannot possibly raise the standard of living as it ought to be raised. We cannot raise the standard of living out of nothing. It can only be done out of increased economic prosperity, and the basis of all economic prosperity lies in the coal industry, which, by the kind of trouble that has been going or, recently, is not merely ruining itself, but paralysing the other industries, in which millions of men are engaged. Therefore, I say that if we could have assurances that the coal industry in the future would be conducted with an elimination of what I might call political influences, making it the football of political parties of all kinds, and with an elimination of foreign influence, treating it as a British industry as other industries are, I am certain that I am not alone when I say that there is a large Volume of influential opinion among those who have the responsibility for the conduct of coal mines who are ready and willing and anxious to enter into a new phase and a new era altogether in their relations between employers and employed in that tortured industry.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I would go a long way with the right hon. Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) in his aspirations for industrial peace, and even with respect to cultivating and strengthening the methods by which that peace may be attained, but if the lines of argument which the right hon. Gentleman has followed had been applied to the trouble which has produced the Resolution on the Paper, it would have meant that the coalowners could not have locked out a million miners. I doubt whether em- 2188 ployers of labour generally would express or show much sympathy with the view of the right hon. Gentleman in proposing to take from them that undisputed right of wealth and property to do what it likes with its own. [An Floe. MEMBER: "Why not?"] That is a question to be addressed to the employers, but we cannot in this discussion introduce a subject, deep and wide, and of national importance, bearing, as I conceive, not upon the dispute that we have had, but upon what are our conceptions of the future lines upon which industry in this country shall travel. I cannot really understand how the right hon. Gentleman, with his very great business experience and knowledge of men, can reach the conclusion, which the House has just heard him express, that the leaders of labour want to destroy and to ruin the industries in which they are concerned.
§ Sir A. MOND
I can assure my right hon. Friend that I never meant to suggest anything of the kind. I said there were certain influences in the coal industry, and I only mentioned the coal industry, which were advocating principles that would be ruinous to the industry, and I would refer the right hon. Gentleman to certain publications which have appeared, such as "The Miners' First Step," and others, which talk of doing no work in the collieries in order to diminish output and ruin the collieries.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The answer to that really is that in the best of institutions there are evil influences. The truth is that if the obscure and seldom-read little pamphlet, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, had not been resurrected intermittently by Tory newspapers and by the Conservative organisation, the country never would have heard anything about it.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Labour leaders, being human, like other people, want as much peace and as much plenty for themselves as they can get, and it is in our nature, as well as in the nature of other men, to "seek peace, and pursue it" as much for our own sakes as for the good of others. There are occasions—unhappily, they are too numerous—when we are 2189 unable to compose opposites and to reconcile differences, and when strikes have to be advised, but we are not so foolish as deliberately to seek this condition of self-destruction, which so often is used in the arguments of the right hon. Members opposite.
I want briefly to address myself to the terms and purpose of this Resolution. Some days ago I announced the intention of His Majesty's Opposition to table a Resolution to censure the Government in relation to the coal lock-out. That announcement was made at the express instruction of the Executive of the Parliamentary Labour party. That Resolution, I believe, expresses the universal mind of labour, both as it is in this House and as it is in the country, and I can assure the Prime Minister that his guesswork as to the terms of the Resolution was absolutely wrong, and that it is not the mosaic or creation of a mixture of extremist minds. It expresses, clearly, I hope, and deliberately, the united opinion of the Executive of the Labour party and of the Labour Members in this House.
We may look at Amendments as well as at the Resolution. The Prime Minister announced that there is no intention on the part of anybody in this House to move an Amendment to this Resolution, and yet we have read that there has been a good deal of deliberation, solemn and official, with a view to framing an Amendment which, at least in the public eye, would seem to dish the purpose of the Opposition. I turn to the Amendment tabled in the names of hon. Members opposite, and I see in it two points. I would like them to attempt some reconciliation of those points. One point is a plea to foster goodwill, and the other point, immediately following, is a threat to the trade unions to use the law to take from them such power as they might now possess. It is no wonder that the greater wisdom of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet has prevailed with the framers of the Amendment, and it has been decided that it should not be moved at all.
Our Resolution has been received in the past few days with a good deal, I think, of pretence of gleeful welcome to it, and that the Government were most eager for another opportunity to formulate its case and convince the country of its wisdom. Well, I am certain that 2190 that view has been dispelled by what has happened in the Debate so far. The right hon. Gentleman, before he sat down, raised the question of how far the Government should at all intervene in these disputes, and that is a very real point for the nation to consider. How far is a Government responsible for the action or for the consequences of these recurring quarrels? Our position is that of wanting to know clearly what Government policy is on these questions, and our view is that either a Government should not intervene at all, leaving the quarrelling parties to fight it out, or that it should intervene effectively, with a definite and understandable policy of its own, resting upon settled principles, upon convictions, not shaped out of pressure of circumstances or because they are driven here, there, or other where by different influences that recur.
We see that the experience of this trouble, which 18 months ago assumed its most serious form, has constituted for us the greatest dispute in the industrial history of this country, and has shown that no Government ever interfered with so little effect and helpfulness as the present Government has from the beginning to the end of this trouble. It is because its intervention has so far prolonged and embittered the dispute and produced an ending which is no ending at all, but is only the beginning of further turmoil, I fear, that we are justified in asking the House to support us in passing this Motion. The Prim' Minister did not offer any defence of the Government at all. There is no defence of the Government. I never heard the Prime Minister so pointless in either narrative or argument. He scattered a sort of bundle of extracts and quotations, having little relation to each other, and very little relation to the policy of the Government as shown from the beginning of this dispute to the end. Most of those quotations and extracts were designed to build up a charge of incompetence against the men's leaders, and particularly the Secretary of the Miners' Federation. This, at least, can be said, that on all occasions when the rank and file of the miners were tested and were asked favourably to consider Government proposals, even with the recommendation of the miners' leaders and executive, those proposals were rejected by the rank and file, and let us not misunderstand the 2191 reality of the sufferings which the men were enduring. They were really grim and bitter, and men must feel seriously wronged if, after months of privation, they will reject terms which give them some opportunity of getting back to their work.
What is the good of talking about continuous strikes? What is the good of evading the fact that here was a lockout? I know that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite smile when we make this distinction—it is acknowledged in their own Amendment—but there is a real difference between a strike and a lock-out. In recent years there have been very few strikes indeed, a strike being a stoppage caused by workmen insisting upon some change and trying to compel employers of labour to concede something to them. That is what a strike is. There have been instances, thousands in recent years, of lock-outs caused by employers insisting upon workmen accepting some change and refusing to let them go on with their work under the conditions which previously existed. Perhaps it is worth while to mention this because a Noble Lord, the present acting Home Secretary, associated himself recklessly not long ago with the malicious and ridiculous statement that since the Armistice there had been 5,000 strikes in this country. That is an extravagance in which I thought even the Noble Lord the Secretary of State for India would not have indulged.
We had, in the quotations and extracts referred to, instances of the Prime Minister's irrelevancies and even inaccuracies. The miners, declared the Prime Minister, rejected the Samuel Memorandum. Did the Government accept the Samuel Memorandum? Did they ever say a single word in its favour? Was it not discarded by the Government as soon as it was published? What is the good of trying to fasten upon the shoulders of the miners blame and responsibility for the rejection of terms or principles when they were contemptuously rejected by the Government themselves? Right from the beginning, as I allege, the Government have shown themselves incapable of foreseeing certainties. Men of experience can foresee certainties in these industrial dis- 2192 putes, and by this time the Government should have acquired some experience.
What would we have done, ask right hon. Gentlemen, if we had been in the Government's place? I can assure the House of one thing. Had we been in office when this trouble first assumed its most acute form, and,, when the subsidy was conceded, had my right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer been in the place of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am certain we would have given no subsidy without understandings as to the terms of a settlement to follow in the public interest. Driven by fear, and without any of the counsel which Government should have in an acute crisis, they surprised and astonished everybody by offering millions of public money and then instituting a Commission, the result of whose labours was discarded—except upon terms which it was pretty well clear to everybody could not have been accepted. Whatever the miners' leaders have done or left undone cannot be compared with the cardinal blnnder made by the Government in the early stages of the negotiations in insisting on the miners indicating a prior acceptance of reductions as a condition of going into conference. That is the first great blunder standing to the account of the Government, and that was why the miners' secretary declared in a letter thatUntil reorganisation is effected we shall maintain our unbending refusal to accept lower wages or longer hours. When it is effected the case for these conferences will have vanished.[Interruption.] The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that means a subsidy. What did the continuance of the dispute for seven months mean? Having accepted the principle of a subsidy—if the principle was not accepted it was granted as a necessary expedient—I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have balanced the load of losses, and if he had held the scales wisely he would have found that it would have been far better to provide some definite subsidy for a fixed period within which reorganisation would have had to be completed and within which the two sides would have accepted terms. That would have been a better plan than to come down solely on the side of the mine-owners and trust to time to starve the miners back to work. It was the right 2193 hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, in one of the discussions, asked the miners' leaders to arm him with the weapon of economic truth. They did so.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL indicated dissent.
§ Mr. CLYNES
At once Mr. Cook announced his willingness to agree to a national plan to reduce the costs of labour, and it was clearly known and indicated that in the consideration of this plan all factors contributing to the sum of the costs would have had to be taken into account. That declaration was accepted as satisfactory by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It was accepted as satisfactory as affording a basis for a discussion, if we could get one, but not accepted as satisfactory as a foundation for a settlement.
§ Mr. CLYNES
What I am putting is this, that the right hon. Gentleman himself accepted as terms good enough for a conference the undertaking of Mr. Cook to confer on conditions that would frame a national plan for reaching reduced costs. The right hon. Gentleman thought that declaration good enough to commend to the mine owners.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Yes, more than commend, and the mineowners refused any such basis as not being a basis good enough for a conference. If in what I say there is any difference, the difference is not between the right hon. Gentleman and the miners' leaders, but between the right hon. Gentleman and the mineowners. If there is any wrongdoing standing to the account of the miners' leaders, they were not let off with just a. few light, well-Polished words of censure, they -were treated to an Act of Parliament. Inasmuch as a conference could not be got on terms which, at least for the purpose of a conference, the right hon. Gentleman thought fair, what was there to do except for one side to surrender to the other I That is why we had a Bill passed to put the employers of labour in a position of strength in which they could not have stood had that Eight Hours Act not been passed.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Yes, I know it was long before. As soon as it was announced, we said in this House that it was certain to prolong the dispute, and I felt nothing so firmly and profoundly as this, that the passing of that Act of Parliament added at least three months to the duration of the unhappy quarrel. When the Prime Minister made an appeal to us not to squander our resources upon industrial strife, he addressed himself to the Opposition as though there were no other parties in the House. There was not a word of criticism of the mineowners. It was all the wicked Opposition. It was for them to persuade the more wicked trade unionists to surrender. I ask the Prime Minister to remember what has been done in the way of making sacrifices for industrial peace since the Armistice. The Ministry of Labour can inform us officially of the fact that the wage reductions to which the workers in this country have submitted in recent years amount, as an annual sum, to something approaching £600,000,000. Which class in the country, if asked to make a contribution to the safety of industry comparable to that would give it without fighting? [Interruption.] Certainly we are taking into account the cost of living. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will, in April or thereabouts, be in the fortunate position of his predecessors of recent years.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL indicated dissent.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Well, as near to that as possible. If the extraordinary happenings of 1926 make him less fortunate, let me remind him of the good luck of his predecessors, for during all the years when the workers' wages have been going down the revenue returns of income tax have shown that the incomes and the salaries of the better-to-do classes have been going up. Not only that, but with the growth of the unemployed there has been a growth of super-tax payers So I say to the Prime Minister, when he addresses an appeal to all classes in the country to save industry by avoiding strife, to keep in mind that strife has been less due to strikes than to the aggression of employers in locking out their workers to impose upon them reductions of wages.
§ Mr. CLYNES
It has been said by hundreds of Conservatives that that strike showed some revolutionary intention on the part of those who declared it, that it was an attack on the life of the nation, and intended to strangle the community. The House should remember that 1,000,000 men were locked out. I give the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer the credit for being able to answer almost anything. I will put a question to him: "If it is right for the mineowners to lock out 1,000,000 colliers, why is it wrong for 2,000,000 other men to stand by those 1,000,000 men?" I am not advocating a general strike as a policy, and never have done. I declared myself against it at the right time and in the right place, and went further by suggesting my own alternatives, but I am now answering the arguments that are levelled against the men, and I say trouble of this sort is incidental to the relations which hon. Gentlemen opposite insist on maintaining as between capital and labour. An hon. Member asked me, "What about the strike?" I say the Prime Minister, immediately the strike was called off, declared that clearly that strike was due to the sympathy which trades unions felt with the miners "A sympathy," he added, "which we all share." There you have the full story of the motive and promptings that were behind those who, whether right or wrong, entered into that great encounter.
Finally, I want to say a word about nationalisation. Why should we import into this Resolution the concluding part dealing with nationalisation? The reason is that a cure for these troubles must ultimately be found, and we are convinced, from bitter experience of ceaseless strife in the coal industry in the past 50 years, that ultimately the country must be forced, if not by argument then by its losses, to turn to a new system and method of carrying on the coal industry. It is essential that the men who did so finely in the War and who are, as much as any men living, doing so well for their country in peace, should have a. first part in the bargain which may be entered into in connection 2196 with the coal industry; and it is therefore in nationalisation that we are seeking a solution and a remedy for this trouble. Private ownership and competition in the coal mining industry have failed, as we know by bitter losses we have suffered.
There was one good point in the Prime Minister's speech which I would like to notice and I hope, if nothing else, the little I have to say on this theme will be conveyed to the Prime Minister. He paid deserved tribute to the good conduct of the miners of this country during this bitter and prolonged strife, and I think we are happy in that frame of mind, that British quality we call commonsense. Here and there men lost their heads, passions were aroused, crowds assembled, the sufferings and the justice of the cause —for these and like motives illegalities were committed not under normal conditions. The law itself was not normal. It was extended to bring in offences which, otherwise, would have passed unnoticed, and men now rest in gaol. I would not impute to the magistrates or the Judges of this country any prejudice in their position to punish merely for class reasons, but I do point out that, in these abnormal conditions, men who have to sit on the bench of justice may not be able to act as they would in normal times, and I think there have been instances where punishment has been unduly severe, and, in view of the admission of the Prime Minister as to the uniformly good behaviour of this large body of men, I hope the appeal made by the Leader of the Opposition to-day for clemency will not pass without some consideration, and without a remembrance that an exhibition of clemency now might go far in itself to be a contribution to that future state of peace in industry which all of us so much desire.
§ Sir H. CROFT
May I say at once how deeply, as a private individual, I appreciate the concluding words of the right hon. Gentleman's speech? We have heard one or two speeches from the back benches of the Opposition in a somewhat different tone to-day, but if words are spoken and appeals are made in the way which the right hon. Gentleman made them before he sat down I think we are likely somewhat sooner to get to that atmosphere which, I think, all of us desire at long last to see prevail. But when the right hon. Gentleman, in the 2197 course of his speech, indicated what a Government of his party would have done, all that I could gather was that they would have continued to pay the subsidy until they had brought Mr. Cook to reason. I venture to think it would have been a very expensive and prolonged course, and an impossible course. I want also to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should not have been quite so angry with the Noble Lord, who, I think, stated that there have been 5,000 strikes since the conclusion of the War, because, possibly, he had read the speech of one of the trade union leaders at Bournemouth where the figure was given as 4,000 strikes since the Armistice.
I have been in this House so many years as to be almost described as an old Member, and I have heard many Votes of Censure, but I venture to say I have never before heard a Vote of Censure in any way corresponding to this one. It embodies three or four different kinds of points, so that if the Opposition fail on one, they may hope to fall back on another. Never before have I known a Vote of Censure which was not almost impelled upon the Opposition by the unanimous support of its followers on a clean cut issue about something wrong the Government was supposed to have done. On this occasion there is no such unanimous feeling. If what one reads in the newspapers is correct, it was by a bare majority of one that they decided to have a Vote of Censure at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] That shows it must have been more than one. The result was that when the Leader of the Opposition hastened home on the sailing ship of the desert to his followers, he found this decision taken, and, I think, anybody who listened to his speech this afternoon must really have been filled with the deepest sympathy for a man in sore trial and trouble, who have been let down, as the Miners' Federation have let the right hon. Gentleman down again and again in the last few months.
This Vote of Censure, so strange in its inception and so curious and amphibious in its character, has really been introduced, we are told by the Leader of the Opposition, because the country desires to associate itself with it. When the right hon. Gentleman, speaking very emphatically at that Box, tells us that one of the reasons for the censure of the 2198 Government is the situation at the by-elections in the country, he really must not be too pleased because the Conservatives did not succeed last week in winning a constituency they did not hold at that moment. It is true that that seat was held by the common enemy, and it has sometimes happened before that, even with a popular Government, seats previously Liberal or Socialist still remain so. But if you take the whole of the by-elections since the General Election, I think I am right in saying the Conservative party has only lost one seat. [An HON. MEMBER: "How many thousand votes?"] The hon. Member who represents the Communist party in this House has curious ideas regarding these things, but it must be remembered that the true Communist view is to have no voters at all, as in Russia, where the Communists have destroyed all democratic representation whatsoever. But I do not want to be led astray. I only say to the Leader of the Opposition that, if he can quote any Government in the history of this country in the last 55 years which has lost so few seats as this Government since it was returned to office, I will make him a present of his argument.
This is not a Vote of Censure against hon. Gentlemen opposite who, without consulting the trade unionists of this country, plunged them into an illegal general strike. It is not a Vote of Censure against Privy Councillors of the Realm who sit on the Front Bench opposite, who took part in that illegal conspiracy, and who have not resigned their privy councillorships since. It is not against those who threw all the hard-earned savings of the great trade unions down a sink without asking whether subscribing members considered that a. desirable process; and it is not against those whose action has cost the country, on the admission of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, some £500,000,000 or £600,000,000. The Vote of Censure is, strangely enough, against His Majesty's Government, who, after all, have been vindicated, not only by every supporter who sits behind, but actually vindicated by no less a body than the Trades Union Council itself. After all, there has been already one Vote of Censure in this country in recent months, and that was a Vote of Censure of the Trade Union Council against the Miners' Federation.
2199 I admit that with becoming modesty and every kind of restraint, that document has not been officially published, but I think we can take it as certain that the terms were pretty much the same as those which appeared in the "Locomotive Journal," under the able editorship, I think, of the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Bromley). I will only quote two passages from this Vote of Censure to make my meaning clear. One said:They had no constructive proposition to make of any sort or kind, and lived merely on slogans, which, it will be seen later, the General Council never accepted." Again:The Industrial Committee felt that the appearance of the Commission and the Government acceptance thereof had materially changed the situation. To have continued with mere slogans would have been silly.I think none of us will be surprised that the hon. Member for Barrow later on finished with the words, "What leadership! What a tragedy! What a lesson!"
§ Sir H. CROFT
I think I am right in saying that was published before the Trades Union Congress came to Bournemouth.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I will say this, that since the Trades Union Congress was held at Bournemouth I have seen a glimmering of intelligence I had not seen before. After all, what was said in the "Locomotive Journal" was very emphatic. What has happened? The Opposition move this Vote of Censure on the Government for the very policy which the Trade Union Council censured the Miners Federation for rejecting. This is a mad world. I honestly believe that even the Mad Hatter must turn in his grave and writhe with jealousy when he sees that one of the terms of this Vote of Censure is to blame the Government for not having adopted the Royal Commission's Report. The Government strained the loyalty of some of their supporters almost to breaking point. In order to carry that policy the Government committed themselves to a great deal which was disliked by many Members on this side. Having 2200 risked all that, it is a mockery to come here this evening and suggest there is blame attaching to the Government for not having adopted that Report. If it is a question of putting the criminals in the dock, there sit the criminals who so foolishly, and under a mistaken sense of loyalty, supported Mr. Cook, when they knew he was leading them to complete disaster and ruin.
There have been two kinds of critics of His Majesty's Government. One said that the Government ought never to have entered into this matter at all. I cannot agree. I am one of those who think that the Government should not interfere with trade, but the thing had been done. The the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) had so committed the Government of this country by the establishment of the seven hours day that it was really impossible for any Government to stand aside when they knew that the action of the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for the whole of the mess in the coal industry. The second criticism is that the Government did not interfere enough. What does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) suggest? He says that the Government ought to have done much more. No Government ever made so many attempts to settle an industrial dispute, but the right hon. Gentleman said that the country is bigger than either party, and that the Government ought to have enforced the decisions of the Royal Commission. I am certain that the Leader of the Opposition also said that.
§ Mr. CLYNES
My point was that instead of the Government announcing its own general conclusion, it stated that it was prepared to accept the recommendations contingent upon their being accepted by the other two parties.
§ Sir H. CROFT
The Leader of the Opposition said that that was an impossible position and that the Government should have insisted upon it being done. How could the Government enforce the findings of the Royal Commission? Could they drive men down the mines? Could they force the owners to open the mines? To say that they could is talking nonsense. Then this Resolution censures the Government for the eight-hour day. 2201 There are some 350,000 miners who do not share in that vote of censure, but who availed themselves of the remedy of the eight-hour day, and, if the Government had not taken up that attitude, there would have been the just censure of the whole of the industries of this country in that they would have been brought to a standstill without the Government having taken advantage of this opportunity to permit a number of men to go back to work. The truth of the matter is that a foreign Power deliberately endeavours to stir up trouble with a view to promoting revolution in this country, and it is idle to blame the Government in the matter, unless you blame them for not making it quite clear to that foreign power that this must cease and that its emissaries must return to the place whence they came. The plan of this hostile Power, and I use these words with a great deal of deliberation, and its agents, the Communists, is to promote strike after strike—
§ Captain BENN
On a point of Order. The hon. Member appears to be launching into a general denunciation of a friendly Power which he describes as a hostile Power and he is proceeding now to expound the machinations of that Power in this country. May I ask if it is in order in Debate to make accusations of this kind against a foreign Government with which His Majesty's Government is in friendly relations?
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
I did not hear the name of the Power mentioned by the hon. Baronet, and I do not think his observations were out of order.
§ Sir H. CROFT
The hon. and gallant Gentleman was quick to rise to his feet but I did not mention the name of any Power.
§ Sir H. CROFT
There speaks the siren voice of the tempter, but I am not going to be lured to my destruction. I say that a hostile Power, through the instruments of the Communists, has been conducting in this country a campaign to bring about the absolute destruction of British industry, and I make this solemn declaration without fear of contradiction from hon. Members opposite. The Communist 2202 organisation is a part of a world organisation directed from and in the main financed by Moscow. Its aim is the over throw of all existing institutions by world revolution. Their influences can be traced in any strike of any magnitude, and they oppose everything which may promote better relations between employers and employed. Their object is to prevent any amelioration of the lot of the workers. Is there a single hon. Gentleman who sits opposite who says that that is not true? [HON. MEMBERS "Yes!"] Those are the words of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), and could any indictment be more complete? Can hon. Members deny that this movement has been financed from the same source as that mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, and do they deny that the agents of that foreign Power in this country have done everything in their power to bring about the ruin of the industry in which they profess to lead the men? Is it denied that the miners' leaders have done everything in their power to bring this industry to ruin? [Interruption.] I am going to quote once more. Mr. Cook told the miners of this country—and this has been his campaign for years, and he has never gone back upon it—that simply by limiting their work and reducing their output they could so contrive by their general conduct to make a colliery unremunerative.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Does the hon. Gentleman solemnly suggest that Mr. Cook and Mr. Noah Ablett did not sign jointly the "Miners' Next Step"?
§ Sir H. CROFT
It has always been my policy to endeavour to accept the word of an hon. Member opposite who flatly contradicts me. Mr. Cook is away, but. it has been stated a thousand times that he and Mr. Noah Ablett jointly signed this, and it has never been contradicted although there have been many oppor- 2203 tunities for doing so. Now I come to the last paragraph of this Resolution where the party opposite have nailed their flag to the mast for the moment to nationalisation. Personally, I suspect it is not a policy but a slogan. I suspect that it is exactly like the Capital Levy, something for window dressing at the General Election, when it takes place. It is very remarkable, however, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting spoke only three sentences about nationalisation and that the Leader of the Opposition, who is going to be the Prime Minister when this policy has to be put into operation, was unable to say anything this evening about this gift to the nation. May I suggest that, even if nationalisation is a sane policy, the country cannot afford it? Hon. Members opposite know that, and I am sure they do not imagine for one single moment that the State can manage this industry as well as private enterprise. As it is not a sound policy, I think we may agree that the whole thing is for window dressing purposes. We have got to go to the greatest brain in the Socialist party at the present moment on this matter, and I refer with all respect to Lord Haldane. Lord Haldane only this week in a speech as lucid as his speeches usually are—and his brain power is recognised as one of the greatest assets of the Socialist party—said:There is the question of nationalisation. He had thought that the mines lent themselves to nationalisation but it was a very difficult proposition and he is not by any means sure that if the State owned the mines they would be able to run them profitably. He thought the State would find themselves involved in a loss because the State never managed quite so well as private enterprise.I hope that I have not in any way offended hon. Members opposite by mentioning the name of the Noble Lord in this connection. No one can have failed to notice lately that hon. Members opposite are turning more and more to peers of the realm and to the aristocrats and millionaires. A. son of a peer has won a by-election for them and the husband of a daughter of a peer is now fighting a by-election for them, and I am not at all sure that we shall not find that the British working man will not get a look-in in that party in days to come. In conclusion, I think we must all begin 2204 to realise the fact that we have been through a terrible time and that angry passions have been aroused. No one can now deny that it is extreme Red action which has come from foreign soil and which is not native to this country which has caused it. As one who loves his fellow countrymen and who has been in business ever since the age of 19, and who has never had a day's industrial dispute at his works, may I not urge that the time has come for our people in this country really to get together and to drive out this foreign fungus, to get rid of it and really to try and help our starving countrymen to get employed in industry? The Red influences are not approved by 90 per cent. of hon. Members opposite, but unfortunately Red influences dominate them. I hope that a great party, consisting of 130 to 140 Members in this House, will not allow foreign Reds to dominate them. Let them give the workers a lead and tell them not to be dominated by the Minority Movement. What right has the Minority Movement in a democratic party? But it leads that party, as was found at the time of the general strike. Men who detested the idea of the general strike, who made speeches against it, saying it was folly, did not have the courage to turn it down. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), at a meeting held on 1st May, stood up and sang the "Red Flag." Do you imagine they liked doing that? They did it because they were afraid of the advanced influences of the Reds. If in this country we can get rid of these influences, we shall see the country turn the corner and the great mass of the workers will be the first to join hon. Members opposite and support them if they will show that they will not allow their country any more to be ruined by a set of foreign intriguers and foreign money, as we have seen done during the last 10 years.
§ Mr. CAPE
Hon. Members this afternoon, in reply to speeches from this side, came to the conclusion that the best line of defence was to attack, and they have made an attack upon these benches, believing that by doing so they could best cover up their own sins. We do not intend to allow them to cover them up by continuing that line of argument. The 2205 hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) says that he can rank as one of the old Members of this House, but I have heard many of his speeches and in every speech that I have heard, he makes one of his main principles an attack on Russia. The right hon. Gentleman went on to tell us that the party opposite had not suffered any losses at the bye-elections, but I am under the impression that they have lost four seats since the General Election. They lost Darlington, Stockport, Hammersmith and South East Ham. I remember that those are seats which they have definitely lost. There have been two re-cent elections at which the party opposite have done their best—that is Chelmsford, and North Cumberland—but badly as we did, hon. Members opposite did worse, because the Members now representing those constituencies are sitting as minority Members. I think hon. Members opposite must admit that they have lost a good deal of support at the bye-elections.
This vote of censure has been put down condemning the Government for their want of activity in trying to arrive at the settlement of the coal dispute. May I be allowed to say that I think hon. Gentlemen opposite have tried to cling to the fact that the Government offered to accept the findings of the Samuel Commission. It is true they did so, but they did it with certain reservations and conditions and they said, "We will accept it if both the coal owners and the miners accept it," knowing full well that if one party refused that would set the Government free from their obligation. The Government made that promise knowing full well that the coal owners did not intend to accept that obligation. As a matter of fact, the Government never got any reply from the coal owners in regard to the Samuel Report until the day on which the miners were locked out.
Now I come to the statements made by the Prime Minister. With all the solemnity he can master, he said in the most definite tones that the miners turned down the Samuel Memorandum. I ask the Secretary for Mines to tell us why the coal owners turned down that memorandum. If the miners were guilty of turning down that memorandum, so were the coal owners. May I remind the House that before anybody got a chance to give any opinion with 2206 regard to the Bishop's proposals the Prime Minister on the very day they were submitted to him, and only two hours afterwards, went to a public meeting and made a declaration that the Government was not going to allow the Church or anybody else to interfere in this matter, and he said that the Government absolutely turned down that report. Hon. Members opposite on this question are trying to make out that the Labour party are in the dock, but I would like to remind them that they are also in the dock so far as the general body of miners are concerned.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) made a speech advocating arbitration on the 23rd September. The miners' executive committee sent the following proposals to the Prime Minister:
Therefore the only overture made by any of the parties for a settlement on the lines of arbitration came from the miners' executive, the party whom the Prime Minister has denounced as not being prepared to go to arbitration at all. Therefore we were prepared to submit everything in dispute to the findings of a tribunal to be agreed upon by both parties. We went further than that and we stated verbally that we were prepared to agree that some Member of the Government should have the right to choose an independent chairman of that tribunal when it was appointed. When hon. Members and right hon. Gentlemen opposite speak on this question it would be well if they armed themselves with the facts. Let me give another instance where we made another attempt to find a settlement. On the 3rd September we wrote:
- "(1) The Miners' Executive Committee are prepared to recommend the miners to accept wages not less than those payable under the terms of the 1921 agreement as a temporary arrangement for the immediate resumption of work.
- (2) That the terms of the national agreement shall be referred for decision to an independent tribunal to be agreed upon by the parties.
- (3) The terms of reference to this tribunal shall be the consideration of the application of the Mining Industry Act and the recommendations of the Royal Commission of 1025."I beg to inform you that the Executive Committee and the Special Delegate Conference of the Miners' Federation, having again carefully considered the present deadlock in the mining dispute, have Resolved to 2207 ask you to convene and attend a conference of the Mining Association and the Federation. We are prepared to enter into negotiations for a new national agreement with a view to a reduction in labour costs to meet the immediate necessities of the industry.(Signed) A. J. Cook, Secretary.
What was the reply? On the 6th of September the Chancellor of the Exchequer had an interview with Mr. Williams. I am not going to quote from the pamphlet, but the shorthand notes stated definitely that the Chancellor of the Exchequer charged Mr. Evan Williams with having broken the pledge he gave to the Government, and it was then that Mr. Evan Williams said to the Government, "You give us an Eight Hours Act and place it on the Statute Book and then we shall he prepared to enter into negotiations with the Miners' Federation for a settlement on a national basis." Of course, Mr. Evan Williams denied that he had ever made that statement. All through these negotiations the Government has shown partiality towards the employers. They came here and forced through this House, by their huge majority, an Eight Hours Bill, which they called a permissive Bill. Since that date everyone, including Tories, has been trying to find a definition of the word "permissive." Two or three weeks ago, when we met the Prime Minister and other members of the Government in Downing Street, I asked the Prime Minister to give us a definition of the word "permissive," and, after some hesitation, he defined it by saying—and I think it is the only proper definition of the Act that he has put on the Statute Book—that what was meant by "permissive" was that it gave permission to the employers to work the pits any hours between seven and eight. But it did not give any permission to the workmen to say whether they would work those hours or not.
Therefore, this permissive Bill which was placed on the Statute Book was a permissive Bill to one side only. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense!"] The hon. Member had better read the records; I did not say it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was asked what would happen supposing that the owners in a district demanded an eight-hour day, and the men said they would only work seven or 7½ hours, said, "They will 2208 fight on." On the 17th September, in reply to our letter of the 3rd September, after the interview with Mr. Evan. Williams, the Chancellor of the Exchequer sent a letter to Mr. Evan Williams, in which he said he was satisfied that in the terms of our letter could he found a basis of settlement; but, when the coalowners said "No," the Government, of course, also said "No." The Government's mind all through this long series of weeks has just been a reflection of the mind of the coalowners of this country. Again, in another letter dated the 17th September, and signed by the Prime Minister, he said:After full consideration we decided that this offer constituted a basis sufficient to-enable us to approach the Mining Association and to invite them to attend such a conference as you desire"—that was the three-party conference. He went on:But the Mining Association have now declined in the most emphatic manner to enter into any discussion with your Federation on the subject of hours or wages, or to make a national agreement with them.He went on further to say that he agreed with the coalowners, when, in a previous letter sent on behalf of the Government, the honest belief had been expressed that there was a basis of settlement in our letter of the 3rd September. When all the facts are revealed, the Government, surely, cannot claim to come out of this matter with any credit, because, if anyone has made a futile attempt, or practically no attempt at all, to deal out justice to both parties, it has been the Government. The Prime Minister, I think, speaking from memory, on the 13th May, said he was going to see that the miners got a fair deal. I want someone on behalf of the Government to tell us to-night in this House when and where we got a fair deal. The Prime Minister also made another quotation to-day in regard to the negotiating Committee from the Trades Union Congress General Council. As a member of the Executive, I want Personally to give every credit to that negotiating committee for its gallant attempt and for its success in getting the Government and the Executive Committee together; but the Prime Minister said to-day, and he said the same in Downing Street, when the negotiating Committee met the representatives of the Government, that they impressed them with the idea that we 2209 were prepared to agree to an extension of hours in district settlements. We repudiated that, and then, when we went back into the Cabinet, room and saw the Prime Minister again, he was quite prepared to apologise for what he had said, saying that he had misunderstood what the negotiating committee had said to him. I should like to read what really happened. This was on the 5th November:The Miners' Federation were informed by us"—that is to say, the negotiating committee—that the Government were prepared to discuss and agree with the Federation the principles to be subsequently embodied in any national agreement, those principles to he acted upon prior to the Miners Executive ordering district negotiations. They empowered us"—that is to say, the Committee—to give the Government the necessary assurance, subject to such principles being satisfactory, that they were prepared to order immediate district negotiations.Those were the terms on which the negotiating committee approached the Government, and that was the suggestion made by the Executive of the Miners Federation. Where the Prime Minister can find anything in that saying that we agreed to an extension of hours passes my understanding. But we were told by the Committee, and also by the Government, that we were not going even to be asked to order the districts to enter into negotiations on a district basis until the Government had satisfied us with the safeguards they were going to propose. We negotiated for several days, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Mines was present during that time. During the course of those negotiations, which are on record, we were told, both by Lord Birkenhead and by the Prime Minister: "You come here to negotiate, and we will deliver the goods." We went there with the honest intention of negotiating to get safeguards that would enable us to recommend district settlements to our men, but after three days, finishing on the morning of the 12th, what did we get? There were no safeguards anything like what we expected we were going to receive. During these negotiations we had been led to believe that amongst the safeguards would be a national tribunal that could deal with 2210 everything that might be embodied in district agreements.
We were finally told that five principles were laid down in these terms, which were going to be called a standard agreement, and if any district or county accepted a settlement embodying those five points, which were called a standard agreement, they would be entitled to go before this Tribunal which the Government were going to set up by legislation. What was the tribunal? It was to be inexistence for six months. Any hon. Member of this House who begins to visualise the great mining industry, with all its complications and different points of dispute, can see that the Government never intended that that tribunal should function at all when it was only going to be in existence for six months. Moreover, they laid it down emphatically that on no consideration would that tribunal have the right to deal with the hour's that might be settled in any district, even if they were only settled provisionally. We asked that that tribunal might be given wider powers, and we sent a special deputation to interview the Government in order to get answers to certain questions. With regard to Clause 2 in the agreement set out by the Government, this question was put:Is the owners' offer based on longer hours?The answer was "Yes." Again, this question was put:In the event of failure to agree on the question of hours, who is to decide?and the answer was:This authority is not vested in anyone.A further question was:Can the tribunal deal with hours or conditions in any circumstances?and the answer was emphatically. "No." Those were the answers, so far as the question of hours was concerned, with regard to these so-called substantial safeguards that we expected to get. Now we come to other matters. Someone will say, "Yes, but you have a guaranteed minimum of 20 per cent." Let us see what the answer to that is. So that we should not make any error in putting these things before our men, we wanted everything verified as far as possible. We sent again and we said,In the event of the men in any district resuming work on an agreement that pro- 2211 vides a minimum percentage of less than 20, and appealing against it, are the tribunal bound to award 20 per cent.?That is the so-called national tribunal. The answer was,No, the tribunal have discretion to award less than 20 per cent. if the owners can satisfy them that 20 is too high.So that practically speaking we have no security of any kind. There is no hon. Member opposite who can show us that there was any security or safeguard so far as concerns hours and wages. Therefore we are surely justified in saying the Government showed its partiality to the employers and failed to put into effect the findings of the Royal Commission. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) thought he had scored a point over the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). He said: "How could the Government put into effect the findings of the Commission? Could they enforce them?" I have never heard any speaker say they could have enforced them but they ought to have been brave enough to make an open declaration that they were prepared to accept all their findings unconditioNaily. We can only have the first terms that were offered on condition of a reduction of wages. We could only have the right of access to the tribunal if we were prepared to give an increase in our hours.
The terms of settlement offered to the Miners' Federation Executive were conditional either on a reduction of wages or an increase of hours. Therefore when the whole thing is reviewed we are bound to say we were not fighting the coal owners alone. We were fighting the combined forces of capitalism, backed by the House. Every action the Government has taken in regard to this dispute has not been for the benefit of the workers or to mete out justice to the workers. It has shown its strong partiality to the coal owners in every move it has made. Hon. Members opposite say, "We are glad of the opportunity of recording our votes on this Motion. We do not fear." We know you do not. Yon know that by your overwhelming majority you can carry it, and even though your own conscience thinks it is wrong, you will have to do it. One hon. Member complained about the differing opinions on this side. I thank 2212 God we are allowed to differ. You dare not. It is not a hit of good the hon. Member telling us about our differences. He dare not differ from his leaders. If hon. Members opposite are so sure of their ground let them show their confidence by having a General Election. They will not come back exactly as strong as they are now.
May I add a word or two to the plea made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting. We can fight these things out, and then we are entitled to ask for some concession. It has been an industrial battle. Even after an international war, the prisoners on both sides are released. We have not any of yours or they would be released. We should at any rate have shown a generous spirit. The men are now largely back at work Can the Government show generosity by, at any rate, releasing their prisoners of war? The hon. and gallant Gentleman tie Member for Bournemouth was not probably in when the Prime Minister spoke, because he seemed to think we were dominated by Communism. If that had been so, surely there was every opportunity for the men to break out into a revolutionary movement if they had desired to do so. Get out of your minds the idea of their being influenced and dictated to by some one else. Surely you have more regard for Britons than that. There was a big strike in 1893, there was a strike in 1904 that lasted for 16 weeks, and there was a national strike for six weeks in 1912, and there was not a Red Government in Moscow then. Are we to assume that it was the Tsar of Russia who incited the strikes here? We had strikes before ever the Russians knew what striking meant. I want to appeal to the Secretary for Mines to use his influence with his colleagues and with the Home Secretary to give their liberty to these men who have been imprisoned for certain crimes.
§ Commander FANSHAWE
The last speaker mentioned the proposal of the Bishops. At the rime that was made they definitely said that a further subsidy should be given, and it seems that there was no definite assurance of a settlement being arrived at even if the subsidy had been given. I believe that is why that proposal was turned down. What has struck me more than anything else in 2213 the course of the debate is that on this side we have had appeals for peace and on that side we have had all the time threats of war in industry. It is my belief that if we want to achieve peace in industry we must not only look at the occurrences of the last few months. We must look back some way in this great mining industry and apportion the blame where it is due right along the line. I believe in the first instance, when the mines started, the owners did not take the interest in the men who were working for them that they should have done. I believe they earned large profits. I believe they went away and lived in other parts without seeing the property which rendered their luxurious lives possible and did not even know what was going on. They took no interest in their people whatever.
I believe that was the start of what is fundamentally wrong, and what is the fundamental difference, as I see it, coming from a mining constituency, having the honour to know a great many miners, liking them, trusting them and knowing their work. I know that in the hearts of these men there is a distrust of the employers. The distrust of the owners comes from the bad seed that was sown in the old days when the mines were first opened. The first thing we have to do is to try, on all sides of the House, in some way or other to get away from this mistrustful attitude and to pull together, masters and men alike. Tracing mining history we find the men gradually becoming more educated, banding together and forming trade unions. At first the unions were illegal; afterwards, they were made legal. That to a very large extent emancipated the workers. Subsequently mistrust grew up and it became stronger and stronger and, finally, the trade union leaders themselves went astray.
I believe that to-day many trade union leaders, particularly the trade union leaders in the coal-mining industry, are oppressing the men and using them for political purposes and for their own purposes. If I may put it in rather a strong way, they are using them as political cannon fodder. I do not for one moment refer to hon. and right hon. Members sitting opposite, whom we know as trusted leaders of the miners. I refer to the men in the minority movement 2214 who have come into this country from abroad and have captured the leaderships in the Miners' Federation. During the disastrous months of the stoppage we have seen the tried leaders of the miners, who have been through many disputes and hard times with their men, sitting on the benches opposite absolutely powerless—we have had 21 mining Debates—to help their men, or, if they could have done so, they had not the pluck to do it.
I believe wholeheartedly what the Prime Minister said to-day, that unless the party opposite can shed their left wing they are absolutely doomed. I would like to draw the attention of the House to occurrences that happened some years ago. I would go back to 1917, when Members from all quarters of the House, and every decent person in the country, men and women, were fighting against a great military terror. We were fighting for our lives. At that time certain hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who now sit on the benches opposite took the opportunity to go to Leeds, on the 3rd June, 1917, with the avowed intention of setting up a Soviet Council in this country on the Russian principle. That was a thing which perhaps has been rather forgotten in this country. I would like to point out that the Leader of the Opposition was one of the people who went to Leeds. The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Smillie) was another. The hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) was another. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) was another, and the right hon. Member for the Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) was another. I will not mention the names a gentlemen who do not now sit in this House, because I do not care to do it; but I do say that when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen go and play with Red fire, particularly at a time when we as a nation were fighting for our lives, they burn their fingers badly. Not only that, but I say deliberately that they are stabbing the nation in the back, and they are stabbing every right-minded man and woman in the country in the back. The action of those people should never be forgotten or forgiven by the nation as a whole.
There are many other instances, but I do not want to quote too many. After the War there was a sort of idea that 2215 this country would take some action against Russia, and a Council of Action was formed and some of the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen I have named were on that Council of Action. I find the name of the right hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) and the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). They were on that Council of Action, in company with the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). The right hon. Member for Derby said that the Council of Action wasa challenge to the whole constitution of this country.Here is a quotation from the newspaper "Forward." In an article, the Leader of the Opposition said, on the 7th June, 1919:Revolutions are as much in order against democratic majorities as against tyrannical Kings.It is very difficult, no doubt, for people who have gone so near to fire and singed their fingers so badly to free themselves now. The best we can say is that in the years since then they have been gradually learning. At what price have they been learning? When did they stop learning? They went on learning even up to this year, and the price of their knowledge has been the degradation and suffering of the people they ought to have been leading and of the workmen of this country whom they have allowed to drift into the hands of unscrupulous Communists who profess to be the disciples of Lenin and other revolutionaries.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
On a point of Order. When is the hon. and gallant Member going to talk about the Motion?
§ Commander FANSHAWE
There is one further thing which I believe has mitigated against peace in the mining industry, and that is the shilly-shally policy of Governments. I believe the Leader of the Liberal party whenever he was faced with a great industrial dispute instead of really facing it and taking a long view simply trimmed to it, to see how he could make peace, for his own special advancement, and peace that could never be lasting. We all know 2216 perfectly well that there are economic laws to be considered, and if we depart from those economic laws we cannot get on. The economic laws are just as strong as the laws of gravity, and perhaps stronger.
The Prime Minister to-day quoted Mr. Cook, showing clearly that Mr. Cook was not out for any settlement in the mining industry, but that he was out through the whole of the dispute to wreck the mining industry. In "The Miners' Next Step" Mr. Cook says:The old policy of 'identity of interest' between employers and ourselves should be abolished, and a new policy of open hostility installed.That quotation shows that he is out, and the speeches from hon Members opposite show that they are out, for a hostile, warlike attitude. Let there be a Debate on foreign policy and they say "No more war," but when they come here and sit quietly in their places, at no risk to themselves but only at the risk of misery to the people, they say, "War, industrial war!" and they bring misery to thousands of homes up and down the country. The miners and their families do not want any more industrial war. Do not hon. Members opposite know that? If they do not, I would advise them to go to the mining districts and find it out for themselves. The one thing that the miners want at the moment is to be left alone in peace. Let us have no more talk about war at home.
I would like to say just a few words on the actual Vote of Censure which has been moved. There are two points only on which I want to touch, and the first is the Eight Hours Act. That Act is permissive. Hon. Members opposite may say it is not, but it is, and I should like to remind hon. Members of the Labour party that at the Washington Conference it was laid down that eight hours a day is a fair working day. They are always pressing the Government to ratify this Convention which makes it obligatory on everybody to work for eight hours a day, but I cannot quite understand why the mining industry, which I admit imposes very difficult and trying conditions on the men engaged in it, should not come under the operation of this Convention. It would be a good thing if we could raise our coal in five 2217 or six hours, but we cannot do it. The economic facts are too strong. It means that men must work for seven hours with less wages or for seven and a half to eight hours with the same minimum wage, or possibly a little more. I think we shall be earning big wages in Scotland for a time, but after that there will be very difficult times ahead, almost as difficult as when the men had to give up their War wages and come down to their peace wages. We ought to provide for that time now. But the Eight Hours Act allows elasticity in negotiating. I am assuming district negotiations. In Scotland we find that eight hours is worked, and in some parts of England seven and a-half hours. This Act does enable the masters and men to negotiate with more elasticity than before. Is that not right? What possible objection can hon. Members opposite have to that? It is perfect nonsense to say that it is driving the men underground, driving them down. That is a mere slogan, a vote catching cry, which nobody in the country believes.
Another thing which this Act has done, perhaps almost the best thing it has done, is to remove the parasites on the industry —the Miners' Federation. That body is finished with, as we all know. I appeal to miners' leaders on the benches opposite. Do they want the Cooks and such people to sit over them, to impose their will upon them to such an extent that they cannot get up in this House and say they do not believe in Cook? Is it not far better for the miners in a district to go to the mineowners, whom they know, to negotiate with people they know, rather than through people whom they may never have seen? Apart from that personal touch, upon which I lay great stress, the miners' trade union money will not be dissipated to such an extent as it has been. With these constant meetings going on in all the big towns throughout the country, what good has it done to the working miner? None whatever. It has only led him into strikes and constant industrial disputes. Nobody comes out of an industrial dispute better than he went into it. Everyone is worse. It is sheer madness and suicide. I believe this is going to stop; that the men will not be led in this way any more.
9.0 P. M.
The only reason why the miners have been led in this way is because they are 2218 such a good lot of people with a tremendous sense of loyalty. These leaders were elected to lead them, and, therefore, they follow them through thick and thin. It is a pathetic tragedy that they should be led into a strike, with its want and poverty, through their sheer loyalty to their leaders who have misled them. I am going to pay a tribute to one hon. Member opposite, and I will leave out all the rest who could not stand to their guns and say they did not like Cook. I refer to the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Spencer). They might turn him out of the Miners' Federation. He did not care. He is a man of heart and backbone, who is not above standing up for his own men. They will rally to him, I am sure, and I say to every other miners' leader, "Do the same thing. It may be late in the day. It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength." You are not dealing with machines hut with human beings, and though you may think you can speak of them as machines and think of them as machines, I advise you not to try and do it any more. Think what you are doing when you keep an industrial dispute going, as you have, for six months, and at the end of it you have only got what you might have got at the very start.
What has been happening all the time to the miners' wives and families? Cannot you think of them? Cannot you consider them a little bit? It is all very well to give lip service, we have had plenty of that. We on this side of the House have been called brutes and hard taskmasters, but lip service is nothing. This tragedy could have been avoided and the responsibility for it will always lie at the door of hon. Members opposite, who have been driven by Cook; who have followed Cook. They have abused His Majesty's Ministers violently and very unjustly. They have been led by slogans, which anybody with even the slightest intellect would have disregarded. They have sung the "Red Flag," and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has been guilty of going to a trade council meeting and singing revolutionary songs. Hon. Members on the benches opposite were responsible for organising the revolutionary general strike, without consulting the workers before they called it, and 2219 in this House they have taunted hon. Members on this side and shouted down Members of the Government, thinking for the first few days that they had done a fine thing and were going to hold up the whole trade and government of this country. They did not understand the people, and in the end they have to come to the Government and say, "We have made a mistake through our ignorance." What right had they to call a general strike in order to try and force the hand of the Government?
They had no right, first of all, to try to usurp the reins of government. They had no right to use these people for political purposes. Now they bring forward this Vote of Censure simply because they think that a silly Motion like this, badly expressed and contradictory, will shift the responsibility off their own shoulders on to the shoulders of the Government. The Government has acted impartially. It has kept the nation going in spite of this grave dispute. The ratepayers of the country have relieved the distress caused by the dispute as distress has never been relieved before. There has been no shilly-shallying and no revolution. In October, 1924, the Government received a strong mandate from the country. At the time of the general strike the Government received a no less strong mandate. No one can deny that statement. What is the good of hon. Members opposite keeping up the cry of "War in industry?" Cannot they see that it is a failure? Are they not big enough and statesmen enough to see that they must change and try to co-operate. I know that in my own constituency the miners, when they have settled down and passions have passed, will again rally to this Government. Everybody will rally to the Government because they know that it is founded on a bed-rock of honesty which they can trust. I suggest to hon. Members opposite that they should try to live up to the word "co-operation" in place of the words "battle" and "fight," and such like things.
§ Mr. WELSH
It is not very often that I take part in discussions in this House, because I do not often feel called upon to take part. I quite frankly admit that upon many of the subjects that come up 2220 for discussion I do not feel that I could offer any authoritative opinion. Consequently I remain quiet. But this is a subject about which I do profess to know something, and I do profess to be able to offer an authoritative opinion upon it. I believe that if hon. Members were animated by that thought in this House, it would be much easier for you, Mr. Speaker, in the Chair, because there would not be so many speeches made about subjects of which right hon. and hon. Members know absolutely nothing. As a matter of fact the speech to which we have just listened is one of that kind. I have spent 24 years of my life in a coal mine. I have six brothers who are miners. I come from a mining family. I am proud of it, too. I cannot understand the statements that are made about the cowardice of the miners.
§ Commander FANSHAWE
I cannot allow that statement to pass, if the hon. Member means that I said anything about the cowardice of miners. I said nothing of the sort. I referred to the leaders.
§ Mr. WELSH
It was said that they have not the courage to stand up against the misleading of the present leaders, and that meant that they lacked moral courage. The statement of the Prime Minister to-day was much nearer the truth. He said that the miners of the country have always shown those qualities which have made this nation one of the greatest on earth. The miners have courage, endurance and fortitude. I wonder sometimes when listening to young expert opinion opposite, particularly on the mining industry, the opinion of men comfortably circumstanced, well equipped to face life, highly educated so far as education can equip them to face life, fortunate in every respect—I sometimes wonder how these right hon. and hon. Gentlemen would behave if they were suddenly precipitated into the position that our young men are in to-day, how they would behave if they were faced with the same conditions, with the same limited outlook on life, faced with the same environment as limits and cribs and cabins and confines them. If they were in that position they would not deliver the speeches on the mining industry that have been delivered in this Debate.
To me this matter is not a matter that is governed by rules of economics at all. 2221 I do not understand the laws of a game that treats over a million men and their wives and dependants as mere pawns in a game of economics and economic supremacy. Men's lives are at stake in this matter. I have never heard a single justification from the Benches opposite of the policy that the Government pursued in handling the dispute—not a single word of justification, but mere diatribes against Cook, against Herbert Smith and a few other individuals who are not named. I challenge the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken. I will go down into his division and I will face the miners in it with him. I know his division. I have been in it. During the dispute I have been in it oftener than he has been. To me the real crux of the mining problem is the question of hours. It is easy to say that an hour extra a day is not a great deal. It is not, under ordinary circumstances in other industries. You can understand the discomfort of a navvy's job when you see him waist deep in a drain in the street, with rain or frost and snow to contend with. You can understand the responsibility that rests upon an engine-driver running along in the night at 60 miles an hour, with hundreds of lives depending on him. You can understand the risk run by the man who is repairing a skyscraper. But you can never understand the risk and the danger, the discomfort and inconvenience and the awful responsibility which rest upon the miner, because you never see him at his work; because he is hidden away from the average sightseer you never seem to bring your imaginative faculties to hear in order to visualise the actual conditions under which he is working.
We have had a start of from 80 to 100 years in the production of coal, compared with other countries, and that start of 80 to 100 years has produced one material fact which cannot be disposed of by all your economic arguments. We have got rid, very largely, of our thicker upper seams of coal, and every year now, we have to cut deeper and deeper into the bowels of the earth for our coal, and we have to find that coal in thinner and still thinner seams. The proof of that is to be found in the evidence given by the colliery owners before the Samuel Commission, and I wish to quote the figures given by them because they are very im- 2222 portant and may bring home this practical matter to hon. Members opposite. According to the colliery owners' statement, in 1924 in Scotland 74¾ tons out of every 100 tons produced came from seams of 2 feet and under in thickness. I wonder if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen understand the difficulty which exists in producing coal under those conditions, as compared with the conditions in newly developed countries where the thickest seams are 7 and 8 and even 10 feet. Our intense productiveness during the period when we were leading the world, not only exhausted those thicker seams, but drove us, as I say, deeper and deeper in order to obtain our coal supply.
According to the same figures, submitted by the colliery owners, we are producing 58 tons out of every 190 tons from shafts over 400 yards deep. They went on to say that, not only did the accentuation of that condition become greater and greater, but that at the present time in Lancashire and Yorkshire there were some mines which, at their deepest part, reached a depth of 1,300 yards, or, roughly, three-quarters of a mile. Every miner knows that for every 60 feet you go down into the, bowels of the earth, the temperature increases by one degree, and at a depth of that kind you get a temperature at which it is impossible to continue hard physical toil such as is required in coal mines. I ask hon. Members to bring their minds back to the summer through which we have just passed. We had a heat wave during which the temperature was 80 degrees in the shade, and we then found it almost impossible to make any considerable physical exertion. We wanted to laze about, but in some of these mines you have a temperature of 95 degrees. And the only answer which an inefficient management can give, in trying to bolster up a system which has already broken down, backed by the criminal cruelty of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, is to say to the miner, "You must work an hour longer under those conditions." It is going too far when you ask so much from human endurance. So hot is it in some of these mines that, according to the colliery owners, horses cannot live in them; but the answer still is, "The miners must work an hour longer." There are 44 Members representing the miners 2223 on these benches, and every one of them knows these things from practical experience.
Hon. Members opposite may think they are now getting peace in the mining industry. They are making the mistake of their lives. I make that statement as a responsible agent and official of a miners' organisation. There can be no peace in these circumstances. We have been compelled to accept agreements. Hunger will compel anybody to do that, but how would hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite recognise an agreement of that kind if they were forced into it? If terms were dictated to them, if such conditions were enforced on them, and if economic circumstances so changed as to give them the power of increasing their wages or bettering their conditions, we would have a revolution among those on the opposite side of the House. Do you think that the miners are different from other people? They are of the same human nature as hon. Members opposite, and they have been compelled to accept these conditions. During this dispute every time the Government have touched the question they have bungled and blundered. It has been not only stupid blundering, but mischievous blundering. I put it to hon. Members that the reiteration of the talk about economic factors in the industry becomes a little tiresome. What are the economic factors? Are hon. Members measuring economic values by the number of units of usefulness that one man's labour contributes to the common wellbeing? I think that ought to be, and in fact is in the long run, the true standard in the economics of any industry or of any country, and if that be the standard, how are you to assess the units of usefulness of a miner engaged in this basic industry compared with the units of usefulness of a royalty owner who contributes nothing at all to the coal industry or to anything else? How are you to appraise these different values, if they are expressed in units of usefulness?
Hon. Members may sometimes wonder at the strength of the opinions held on these benches. If they knew all we know about the situation, there would be no wonder in their hearts. They talk about A. J. Cook as a wild revolutionary. A. J. Cook is a lamb compared with what some hon. Members opposite would be under the same conditions. There is one 2224 fact which I hope the younger Tory Members will keep in mind. They claim to be the political descendants of Disraeli. That is one of the finest names in our historical and political evolution, and is a name for which I think most of us on these benches have a great respect. I hope those hon. Members who are looking to the Disraeli tradition will remember, when they next face their constituents, especially if there are miners among those constituents, that the only country in Europe, with one exception, which has added to the number of working hours per day is this country. There is only one other case on the Continent of Europe where longer hours are worked than we have in this country now—and that is the achievement of the political descendants of Disraeli and the upholders of the Disraeli tradition. It is not a thing of which they can be proud.
The difference in outlook is a comparatively easily understood thing. If we had reorganisation in the industry, even such as is laid down in the Report of the Commission I believe from my experience—and other hon. Members on this side will I think support me from their experience —that in a very short time, comparatively speaking, we could employ every man in the industry, and we could have a production in this country of from 280,000,000 tons to 300,000,000 tons. We have never had any share in the management of the industry. That has always been denied us and I want to suggest that all the brains do not belong to one particular section of the industry. I know one colliery where three of my colleagues have taken an M.A. degree and are producing coal every day and in another there is a man with a B.Sc. degree. I know of numerous such cases. All this brain power that our taxes have been imposed to produce is going for nothing when it ought to be harnessed for the community's benefit in the better and cheaper and more efficient production of coal. We are denied any say in the management of the industry because we only belong to the mining industry when they need us for profit production—that is all. But that day is coming to an end, and whatever may be said of the contention, it will inevitably come to an end. When this question is debated in the House of Commons, and it will be more and more, because you are bound to face the only possible solution—it is only a 2225 question of time and inevitably the evolution of economics is bringing it—no matter what that contention may be, the uprising of the newer forces will dictate ultimately to your people. They can use the institutions which you have used in order to keep them down and I only hope that they will show more mercy when that day comes than you have done to our people in the past.
I said I was proud of being a miner, and I am. I would rather be the meannest and most miserable wretch in the coalfield, with all his legacy of debt and starvation after the long and tremendous tight which he has waged—I would rather a hundred times be that individual than be any individual on the opposite side of the House who can only say that this thing has been brought about by the machinations of evildoers who have evil thoughts and evil intentions for their country. We have as great a regard for our country as anybody on the other side of the House, and it is just because we have as great a regard as they have that we are determined—and we will do it some day before very long—to bring about a state of society which will enable not only the miners but every other down-trodden worker in the country to share in the wealth that his labour produces for humanity.
§ Captain EDEN
The hon. Member who has just sat down has raised so many points in what, if I may say so, was an extremely interesting speech to all of us, that I feel tempted to follow him, but the hour is late and time is short and I am not so well versed in the expert knowledge which he himself possesses. I would only like to say this. I can assure him that nobody on these benches was ever anxious to see or is anxious to see to-day longer hours worked in army industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I did not suppose that that statement would be accepted, but if we are the ogres in respect of hours that hon. Members opposite would have us believe, then surely we should not have been at pains to give a subsidy for a great many months, to produce a Report of a Royal Commission and to try to urge its acceptance, if our only motive the whole time was to force the industry to work longer hours. Every step and every effort which has been taken has been to 2226 enable the industry to adjust itself with the least suffering possible to those engaged in it.
We are discussing to-night a Vote of Censure. Nobody on this side can take exception to the fact that the Opposition should have moved a Vote of Censure. It is only a simple form, of Parliamentary necessity. If you have not got a very good case, the best thing you cart do is to abuse your opponent as quickly as you can, and the weaker your case the more violent must your abuse be. That is why we have had this evening such a tirade from the Leader of the Opposition. Rumour has it—and rumour is not always a lying jade—that it was some time before hon. Members opposite could determine whether or not they should move this Vote of Censure. We can only be profoundly thankful both to those who decided to move this Vote and to those who were responsible for its drafting. We should have to go back a very long way into the annals of this House to find any parallel for a Motion such as has been put down to-night. It is from first to last a hypocritical Motion. Every line of it is disingenuous, the greater part of it is inaccurate, and some of the statements are based on premises which are contrary to known and accepted and historical facts.
The reason is obvious and it is ingenious, but really the Opposition cannot escape their responsibilities by putting down this Motion. They have a responsibility to discharge every whit as serious as the Government of the day. They had their part to fulfil and we are entitled to ask, since they have put down this Motion, how they have done it, and what has been their contribution to trying to bring this dispute to an end? What have they done? From time to time they have issued little admonitory speeches to the leaders of the miners and every time they have been snubbed for their pains. Mr. Cook has made no attempt to conceal the fact that he cares nothing for the opinion of Parliamentary Socialists. He has never attempted to conceal the fact that he did not care when the dispute was in progress and he does not care now what Parliamentary Socialism happens to think, to say, or to do.
If there is one thing which emerges from the dispute it is that never in the 2227 history of the party opposite has Parliamentary Socialism been so inept, so inarticulate, and when it has attempted to speak, so supine and so Really it is hardly fair for hon. Members to come down to the House to accuse the Government of the day because they have failed to control forces within their own ranks which they themselves have failed to control. They accuse us because we fail to bring two parties in an industry together and to create peace. Where was their help in that work? Hon. Members opposite are fond of telling us that they are the enemies of Communism and that Communism has been as much their enemy as ours. I think probably that is true, because if ever Communism reached to power in this country, the first people to suffer would be the Kerenskys sitting on the Front Bench opposite.
§ Captain EDEN
I never said the hon. Member was a Kerensky. I was referring to the bench in front of him. Now is their opportunity. If that be the case, as I believe it is, I think the House has to turn its attention to the point which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) raised tonight. Now that we are at the end of a very prolonged dispute, we have got the same situation as we have had at the end of each one of these industrial disputes, with suffering on all sides, devastation, and impoverishment of industry. Regardless of who is to blame, has this sort of thing got to go on? Is there no way out? We all admit how barbarous is the weapon, call it lock-out, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) did, or strike; the name does not matter—but have we to go on paying this price every few months or years? We cannot afford it. No country in the world, no industry in the world, can possibly afford it.
The strike or lock-out, whichever you call it, is the scalping knife of the twentieth century, abhorrent alike to reason and truth, and yet it is still new. We all know what its eventual effect will be. It has no place in the armoury of a sane man. Can we not devise some means by which it shall not be used? The right hon. Gentleman the Member 2228 for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) made an appeal for some form of arbitration or outside court of appeal by some body similar to the League of Nations. I care not what form it takes, but it should surely be possible for all parties in this House, by their united efforts, to find some formula which will assist us to meet this difficulty. It cannot be beyond the wit of man to devise some method by which we can meet this evil. Unless we do, there is certainly no future for British industry. Unless we do, we shall certainly never recover our national prosperity, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman who is going to speak for the Opposition and to the representative of this Government that they cannot do better than unite in such endeavours. We know perfectly well that if anything is to come of it, we shall all have to make sacrifices for the common poof. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Oh yes, we shall. Hon. Members opposite, by their suspicion, show how much harm the present spirit can do. They may not believe me, but I was thinking of our party and not of theirs at that moment. I was thinking that we would have to put some sacrifice into that poof. Whatever it may be, if there is a real gesture to peace, it can only be originated and interpreted by this House.
My time is short, and I would only say two words more. We have suffered all this loss. British industry, and particularly the coal-mining industry, has suffered all this loss, and the party opposite are trying in this Motion to put the blame upon us. They tell us that we disregarded the findings of the Royal Commission, but we all know there never was such a travesty of the facts. If only the parties engaged in the industry had shown the same spirit of paradoxical disregard for the findings of the Royal Commission, we should never have had this dispute. If the word to be applied to the Government's attitude to the Report be "disregard," I am sorry the two sides in the industry did not show it too, because we should never, in that case, have had this dispute. We can only hope that some of the lessons which this unfortunate stoppage has brought home to us will be well learned. If only it should happen, as a result of this dispute and of this Debate, that the country at last and finally turns its back upon a 2229 past littered with broken hopes and unfulfilled promises of happier things, and if we in this House would give the nation a lead and, by a united and continuous effort, strive as we, and only we, can to bring back peace to British industry, then, perhaps, even this disastrous dispute will not have been in vain.
§ Mr. WALSH
Listening to a few speeches that have recently been delivered, I was beginning to entertain a doubt as to whether any of the Members of the House remembered the Resolution, but the hon. and gallant Member for Warwick and Leamington (Captain Eden) did inspire some hope when he said that, after all, hon. Members ought to speak occasioNally to the Motion before the House. I thought he would have done so, but, apart from his describing the Members on this side as being supine, silly, disingenuous, and other high-sounding adjectives, not a single word has he devoted to the Motion before the House. I am one who believes in Parliamentary procedure, and always have, and I think that Debates of this kind should have some regard to the special terms of the Motion submitted. May I trouble the House for a moment to ask its attention to those terms, which are really four in number? We say:That this House regrets the policy pursued by His Majesty's Government during the lock-out in the mining industry; declares that the Government is deserving of censure for its disregard of the findings of the Royal Commission, for its partiality towards the mineowners, for its failure to control the price of coal, and for the passing of the Coal Mines (Eight Hours) Act, which prolonged and embittered the dispute and resulted in the imposition of harsh terms upon men no longer able to resist.Hon. Members opposite have never spoken during these last three hours one single—[An HON. MEMBER: "Where, were you?"]—I was in for a long time and have only been out for the ordinary purpose of getting a meal. In the whole of the speeches delivered from that side, even including the speech of the Prime Minister himself, not a single word has been said in denial of the terms of that Motion. The Government appointed a Royal Commission, which sat for very many months, undertaking an exhaustive investigation into the conditions of the industry. I am not going to say at this moment whether or not such an investigation was necessary, but it took place, 2230 and in the words of the Commissioners themselves, they were set upto investigate the causes of the trouble and to endeavour to suggest a remedy. We have discharged our onerous duty to the best of our ability. There is no part of this wide field which we have not sought to examine. We have suggested a series of definite constructive proposals.What were those proposals? In the first place, the Commissioners were definite that there should be no increase in the working hours of the miners. They state:The standard length of the working day…should remain unaltered.The effect of the owners' proposals is to restore the working hour taken off in 1919, and thatwould make the working day of every British miner longer by half an hour to an hour than that of miners in any European coalfield of importance, except Upper Silesia. Subject to the same exception, it would make his working week about as long as any to be found abroad, and, in many districts, longer.It would be not merely as long as in Europe, but as long as or longer than the working week of any miner in the world.The comparison with other countries, so far as it hears on the standard of life that we seek to establish for miners here, tells against the proposals of the Mining Association.Nothing could be more direct than the recommendation that the working hours of British miners should remain unaltered; that there might be an optional rearrangement within a working week of five days instead of six days is a suggestion made by them, but, broadly speaking, they are emphatic upon the point that it was most undesirable to act in such a way as to make the working day or the working week of the British miner longer than that in any European country and as long as that in any country in the world. In the face of that the Government later introduced the Eight Hours Act, for which there had been no demand—certainly no demand on the part of the workmen and up to June of the present year, no effective demand even on the part of the coal owners. The demand for an eight hours day made by the coal owners was never submitted as one of their definite proposals until June or July of this year, whereas the dispute began on 1st May.
2231 Let us take another point. The main thing apart from working hours upon which the Coal Commission were insistent was that the principles regulating wages and profits in the industry should be decided by a National Board. They said:We do not see how the minimum percentage in a community so small and so closely united as Great Britain can ultimately be fixed by other than national authorities. The Ministry of Labour has supplied a list of 30 industries, including every important body of wage earners in the country, each possessing a national organisation for wage negotiations. If the proposals of the Mining Association were accepted, the mining industry would stand alone as a solitary exception to the settled practice of every other industry that need he considered.Here, again, the Government have showed themselves entirely indifferent to the recommendations of the Commission for the existence of which they were responsible, and have brought about the very thing the Commission explicitly condemned. Nothing was more emphatic, in so far as wages regulations and the conditions by which increased contentment, at least, would be brought into the mind of the coal worker, than their declaration in favour of setting up co-operative selling organisations. They said:We are strongly of opinion that the collieries would be well advised to establish co-operate selling associations. The present system of selling appears to carry competition to excess. The profits of these associations should be treated as colliery proceeds for the purpose of the ascertainment.It is perfectly well known by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench that those proceeds are enormous and that, while they are definite proceeds of the coal mining industry and of the sale of the mineral won by the men, they do not come into the calculations of the wages of the miners, which are maintained at a. degrading level. Not the slightest attempt was made by the Government to carry that recommendation of the Commission into effect.
Here is another recommendation. Legislation was to have been brought in to enable municipalities to engage in the retail distribution of coal. The Commission say: 2232This plan, subject to the proviso that no charge should be allowed to fall on the rates, had, in fact, been approved by most of the members of the Commission of 1919. This proposal might have useful results, and we recommend that legislation be passed to give effect to it.In these circumstances I think we are entitled to say, in the terms of our Motion, that the Government isdeserving of censure for its disregard of the findings of the Royal Commission and for its partiality towards the mine owners.This partiality towards the mineowners is proved by the fact that conditions put forward by the coalowners, even when they have been in direct opposition to the recommendations of the Commission, have been conceded by the Government. Not only have the Government disregarded the findings of the Commission on the positive side, they have gone definitely against the recommendations on the negative side as well. Take the question of wages. Though hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been deliberately ignoring it, it will be found that the Commission emphasises the fact:That the revision of the minimum percentage should depend upon the acceptance by all parties of such measures of reorganisation as will secure to the industry a new lease of prosperity leading to higher wages, and before any sacrifices are asked from those engaged in the industry—I am asking hon. Members opposite to listen to this:before any sacrifices are asked from those engaged in the industry, it shall be definitely agreed between them that all practicable means for improving its organisation and increasing its efficiency should be adopted as speedily as the circumstances in each case allow.There is not the slightest doubt that the recommendations of the Royal Commission were to the effect that before the workmen were o be asked to accept any revision of the minimum percentage they had previously received, proposals for reorganisation should be agreed upon and should be carried into operation as speedily as circumstances permit; and yet a proposal has never been submitted by the Government to the miners representatives which did not make it an essential condition of opening negotiations that the men should submit to a reduction of wages. The Prime Minister asked the public whether they could not depend upon him to give the miners a square. deal in the event of the general 2233 strike was settled. The Samuel Memorandum appeared. We were told that we were stupid not to accept the Samuel Memorandum, although the Government themselves never gave any intimation that they were accepting it. The very first proposals submitted by the Government themselves contained a definite reduction of wages, that there must be a reduction of an indefinite amount. That was the very first proposal submitted by the Government. We say that that proves at once the partiality to the mineowners, which is one of the factors contained in the terms of the Motion. In so far as regards the machinery by which wages and working conditions should be regulated, there was nothing more emphatically stated by the Commission than that a national authority should be set up as against district settlements. What did the owners say?it is the firm and unanimous conviction of those engaged in the management and control of colliery undertakings throughout the country, that while it is not practicable to regulate the general rise and fall of wages at each individual pit—although there are. Members on the other side of the House who went as far as that. Indeed, the First Lord of the Admiralty said that he himself believed in the. individual pit making its own arrangements. To continue the owners' case:—while it is not practicable to regulate the general rise and fall of wages at each individual pit, they are convinced that it is necessary to return to negotiating wages in individual districts.There was nothing more emphatically condemned by the Royal Commission than that. The Commission was emphatic that a national negotiating authority should be established, as it was established in practically all the big industries, for the regulation of general principles and the minimum percentages. Witnesses on behalf of the Federation said that it was absolutely vital, or, at any rate, of the highest importance that the settlement of wage principles should be done by a national authority. Here, again, in complete violation of the recommendation of the Royal Commission, and with what can only be described as partiality shown by the Government to the mineowners, the owners' proposals are accepted. District settlements, which have not been in existence since 1921, are 2234 re-established at the behest of the coal-owners. As to the Eight Hours Act, here, again, the owners said:The economic gap between the existing cost of production and the existing world price can only be substantially bridged by a return to longer working hours. The Mining Association therefore urge that the first step to be taken is to return to the hours of work in operation prior to 1919.10.0 P.M.
As I have told the House, and the House knows quite well, the Commission was strongly opposed to this. The coal owners themselves, until the middle of June, would never have submitted the proposals in actual fact for a prolongation of the eight hours' day. It is quite true in January of this year they had submitted their desire for the eight hours, but they had not put forward as a definite proposal the lengthening of the working day by one hour. Notwithstanding the strong recommendation of the Commission, the Government accept the proposals, and raise the working day of every man by one hour. In these circumstances, can any hon. Member say, judging on the facts alone, and without in any sense straining the facts, that such an attitude and such conduct by the Government is not showing partiality to the mineowners? Their own Commission say such action ought not to take place; if it does, it will depress the standard of life of the British miner. It will make his working day longer than the working day of almost every other miner in the world, and not merely in Europe. It will increase the amount of coal upon the market to such a degree that lower prices must follow. One hundred and thirty thousand people at the very least will be thrown out of employment, and yet, notwithstanding that strong and almost vehement opposition of the Royal Commission to the lengthening of the working day, the Government passed legislation, handing over as a free gift to the coalowners the Eight Hours Act. Is there a single hon. Member on the other side who, in the privacy of his own mind, is not convinced that that is showing partiality to the mineowners? Mr. Evan Williams, the Chairman of the Mining Association of Great Britain, told the Chancellor of the Exchequer that district settlements were the only condition on which the Eight Hours Act would work, and it was thoroughly understood. There is the evidence to prove it.
2235 We say that the passing of the Eight Hours Act has prolonged and embittered the dispute. Is there an hon. Member here who dare say that it has not prolonged the dispute? We told you at the time that there was hope on the wages question. You knew as explicitly as men in your responsible position could know, that there was hope if the dispute was confined to a question of wages, that wages would not interpose an insuperable barrier, but we did tell you repeatedly the one fact that would intensify the dispute and prolong it, was the passing of the Eight Hours Act. When young men day by day, as every new mine is opened, go down deeper and deeper into the bowels of the earth, when the hours necessary for the lowering and raising of the men is constantly increased, so that a seven hours' day meant in many cases eight and a half and nine hours, is it any wonder that young men with a. growing tendency of the tunes should feel injured at a condition which means another hour upon their labour, and makes them work longer than practically any miner in Europe or any country abroad We say, also, that as a consequence of the Eight Hours Act, and as a consequence of the prolongation of the dispute, harsh terms have been imposed upon the workers. As the Prime Minister said a little while ago:I wish to make it as clear as I can that the Government is not fighting to lower the standard of living of the miners or of any other section of the workers. That suggestion is being spread abroad. It is not true. I do not believe that any honest person can doubt that my whole desire is to maintain the standard of living of every person, and that I am ready to press the employers to make a sacrifice to this end consistent with keeping the industry itself in working order …. Cannot you trust me to ensure a square deal to secure even justice between man and man?I will take my own county. I say now—and no man in this House or outside it can deny it—that the wages that will be paid in Lancashire, the day wages that will come into operation on the 1st of July, after the temporary period is bridged, will be insufficient to maintain a single man, let alone a married mall and his wife and family, in anything approaching human decency. A day-wage man working underground will be able to earn at the highest is. 9d. a day. If you multiply that by all the days of the year 2236 on which the man can work—and he will be working five days a week—the gross wage will be 38s. 9d. From that at least 11 per cent. will be deducted for necessary stoppages out of his wages. If you take 260 days a year, he will have about 34s. a week. Is that a square deal? I ask the Prime Minister, is that the standard of life he desires for the miners? Is that the best he can do to maintain the standard of living of the men?
Now I take the workmen on the surface. An adult worker who on the 1st of July next will receive 7s. a day—a strong able-bodied man, able to do all the work on the surface of the colliery and working five days a week—will at the highest receive 35s. a week, out of which 10 per cent must go for stoppages, insurance, unemployment benefit and other things, and he will take home 31s. 6d. Is that the standard of life that the Prime Minister desires to maintain? Harsh terms! The terms I am speaking of are very much better than those in many counties, but in my own county they are not sufficient to maintain a single man in decency. In 1923 the Lancashire colliery owners and miners met the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister when he was President of the Board of Trade, and produced figures in his own room showing that at that time, when the Lancashire miners were on the minimum wage, the number of people who applied for pauper relief had more than doubled.
The colliery owners, to their credit, attended with us to see if we could divert the welfare levy of Id. a ton to help the ill-paid workmen of Lancashire. We are going back to exactly the same conditions. The action of the Government will degrade the standard of life of a million miners, and the effects no man can foresee The standards of life have been degraded below the pauper level, and these statements cannot be denied. It is because the Government have connived at this—I might almost say they were accessories before the fact—but, if they were not, they have connived at this condition of things, which has degraded the standard of life of this vast body of people.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
No one likes to be censured or to be the object even of an 2237 attempt at censure, but I think I shall be expressing the. opinion of most of those on this side of the House when I say that if we have to be censured we shall be more ready to accept it from no one than from the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. He puts his arguments and his points with sincerity and earnestness. He also avoids anything in the nature of prejudice, or anything that is offensive, and we know that in office and in Opposition he has always proved himself a sterling patriot.
We are the objects to-night of a Vote of Censure. Let me say at the outset, in order to begin upon a proposition with which I hope everyone may agree, that I should certainly not suggest that this is an occasion or a topic in which there is any great room for mutual congratulation. A seven months' stoppage in the coalfields of Great Britain is not an occasion which should lead to any distribution of bouquets. There is nothing in it for any party or group of Members in this House or for any element concerned in these transactions—there is nothing for them to write home about in what has occurred. In fact, the Prime Minister has said, with complete candour, that the period through which we have been passing has been a period of great humiliation. We all feel, or ought to feel, that it has marked a signal breakdown of that common sense, of that spirit of give-and-take, of that power to adjust difficulties, of which this country has always boasted, for which it has long been renowned, and in regard to which 'foreign nations have been ready so often to pay us tribute.
We have not raised this Debate. We have not seen much use in plunging into recriminations about the past. If the party opposite, and if the official Opposition sincerely believe that they are entirely free from mistakes of any kind during the course of these troubles—mistakes however innocent, however hard to avoid—if they believe sincerely that all blame for what has happened rests upon others outside their own ranks, if that be their sincere belief, we should be quite ready to let them dwell in that fool's paradise, and we should not wish by any word of ours to dispel the illusions which they were cherishing, and we should be quite content to leave it to the rebellious prickings of human reason and the rugged 2238 tuition of hard facts. It is not we who have raised this Debate, because you have raised it. You are the aggressors. You are the challengers. You have decided to attack us, you have heaped upon us to the best of your ability—which, I admit, is not unlimited—all the criticisms and all the calumniations which have occurred to you. That being so, we are bound to make a reply, and we are entitled to make a reply. I presume that hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would regard it as incompatible with the dignity of the Socialist party to make an attack upon us when they felt inclined, and then to impose any restraints other than those of which you, Mr. Speaker, are the administrator, upon the fullest freedom and liberty of debate. At any rate, it is upon that assumption that I propose to proceed.
I must not lay myself open to the censure of my right hon. Friend who has just sat down by not referring to the points which figure in the terms of the Motion. There are three specific complaints, which I will take in the most convenient order. They are the passing of the Coal Mines Eight Hours Act, the disregard of the findings of the Royal Commission, and the partiality shown towards the mineowners. As to the Eight Hours Act, we have no hope whatever of persuading hon. Gentlemen opposite to take our view. I am not such an optimist as that. But we should like to state exactly what is our view. We believe that elasticity in regard to seven hours as the legal maximum is a necessary feature in any economic settlement of the coal trade. We believe that sincerely. We also believe, and it has been put to the proof, that this elasticity, wisely used, will be productive of larger wages being paid to more people than any other system. We stated very clearly at the time when the Bill was passing, and have repeatedly stated since, that this Act was permissive, that we did not contemplate its being universal or obligatory. And what has happened? Although the Miners' Federation continued the fight until they had left their districts with scarcely any means of negotiating, although they had used up in the fight all that resisting power which, profitably and usefully employed in the districts, might have been of the greatest service to their members, yet, nevertheless, in the districts, agree- 2239 ments have been made which, over one-third of this country, have led to hours less than the maximum of eight hours.
Now I come to the Report of the Royal Commission. We never agreed with the Report of the Royal Commission. I, Personally, never regarded the Report of the Royal Commission as being the last word of wisdom on this difficult problem. It seemed to me that there were occasions when even that august body avoided a difficulty by an ambiguous platitude. Certainly, when they came to advise the handing over of anything between 100 and 120 millions of hard British cash to the owners of the mining royalties, then, on grounds which would at any rate occur to a Chancellor of the Exchequer, I parted company with them at once. In regard to the eight hours, again, the reason which the Commission have adduced against the eight hours—namely, an undue increase in production per manshift—is entirely inconsistent with their argument in favour of the improvement of scientific methods, a longer shift, and all the other means of increasing production. We owe a great debt to those gentlemen who served on that Commission, and I have no word to say against them, but let me remind the House, as I am entitled to do, that His Majesty's Government never accepted those proposals except on the terms that, whether we liked them or not, we would sink our differences and accept them if it were the means of saving this country from the evils from which it was suffering.
We are told that we are guilty of partiality to the employers. I, at any rate, have not found myself particularly complained of by the employers on the ground of any excessive partiality that I have evinced towards them, but we are told that this partiality on our part has led to our not putting forward any useful proposition or contribution to the settlement of this dispute. Nevertheless, we had the Leader of the Opposition to-day deriding us fur the number of proposals that we had put forward without any definite policy. It is quite true that we have made repeated proposals. In a dispute of this character, lasting for seven months, when everyone was at their wits' end to try to find some way of bringing it to a close, is it wonderful that the Government of the day should put for- 2240 ward a succession of proposals, and should bring forward every scheme that they thought likely to effect a termination of the dispute? I should like to-remind the House of some of the proposals that have been put forward. On the 21st April the owners handed to the Government—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
That, really, is not quite up to the lion. Member's level; it was ancient in the clays of Queen Anne. On the 21st April, the owners handed to the Government a suggested national agreement which included both national and district boards. In April the Government offered to accept the Report of the Royal Commission, as I have said, if the other two parties would do so. On the 11th May the miners rejected the Samuel Memorandum, which was not put Forward by the Government, I quite agree. The general strike was in progress, and we refused to put forward any proposals. The miners rejected the Samuel Memorandum, though pressed upon them by the Trade Union Council. On 14th May the Government put forward a fresh series of proposals, including a National Board of owners and men, with an independent Chairman, to frame a new National Agreement., and we offered financial assistance to the extent of £3,000,000. We also offered to make the machinery of this National Board permanent by Statute. On 20th May this was turned down by the Delegate Conference.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Has it not been boasted, about in this Debate by no less a person than the Leader of the Opposition that the men were so desirous of arriving at a favoerable solution that they actually offered at a later stage to accept a 10 per cent. reduction The condition proposed by the Government was ultimately recognised as an indispensable necessity by the men. On 8th June, after a further meeting with the owners, the slogan of which we have heard so much was repeated. On 5th July the Yorkshire owners proposed to 2241 reduce the ratio to 85–15, and the Government insisted that it should be maintained at 87–13
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Time moves on. That is what you have to realise. On 10th August the districts rejected by vote the so-called Bishops' proposal.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Did I hear an hon. Member say the Bishops ought to mind their own business? That is very interesting. I have wearied the House with these proposals because I want to point out that there is not one of them for which the miners would not be thankful to-day. Is there one of them that they would not be glad to have embodied in the settlement to-day? But all of them have been summarily rejected, and the right hon. Gentleman to-day told us Mr. Cook has been guilty of incompetence. Whether "incompetence" is an exhaustive description of Mr. Cook's attributes I will not presume to say, but I notice that the right hon. Gentleman let him get as far as Moscow before he uttered that word. Perhaps, if he should, unhappily, continue his journey to Siberia, we shall have the rest of the epithet, we are told that he is "incompetent." I adopt that word, because it is the word of the leader of the Labour party. Mr. Cook is incompetent. Why, then, should the Government be censured for the rejection of all these proposals, and why visit his defects and shortcomings upon those who are his victims, and not his only victims, because the most suffering victims were the miners he professed to represent?
I will say a word about my own share in these negotiations. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George)—who is not in his place below the Gangway, and who has on occasion taunted us with our lack of spirit in resisting labour demands, and being afraid to face cold steel—told us that we had committed some breach of undertaking or some breach of a pledge. I am sure there is no truth in that. I told the right hon. Gentleman, on the first day that the negotiations for which was responsible were beginning, quite 2242 clearly and quite plainly, that we had no power to coerce the owners to an agreement, that the most we could do, the most that we could contemplate doing, was to add conditions to the Eight Hours Act as a means of enforcing their agreement to any course we wished them to take. The same night that I told the right hon. Gentleman that, I wrote to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and said that that would be the ultimate sanction which it seemed to me if no agreement was forthcoming we should be called upon to invoke. That is the sanction that the Government were prepared to invoke, and it is the exact proposal, not one inch beyond and not one inch short, which we, in fact, offered to the House of 'Commons and to the Miners' Federation.
I am no partisan of the employers. I regret very much that they did not obey the summons of His Majesty's Government to attend the conference. But in view of all that has happened and what we now know, I cannot say that I believe that any good results would have come from such a conference. By going to the conference the employers would have put themselves in the right, or they would have avoided putting themselves in the wrong, but I doubt very much whether any agreement would have been reached between the parties. It is always right, or very often right, to persevere in these matters, even if you cannot see the second, the third, or the fourth move. It is well to push forward in the good hope and with the feeling that if you do come a cropper it perhaps may pave the way to some other and more successful effort later on.
It is my sincere conviction that, if the employers had accepted our invitation, if they had come together, almost immediately the question of hours would have proved a stumbling block, and that although the Miners' Federation had said, "We are willing to discuss everything," when the word "hours" was mentioned, Mr. Herbert Smith would have said, as I have heard him say, I think, a hundred times before and after that, "Never will I put my hand to an agreement for an increase of hours." So the effort would have broken down. The matter did not arise, however, because the employers refused to attend the conference. What did we do? I will not have it said that 2243 we rested in futile impotence in the face of their refusal. We proceeded to offer to the men and to offer to Parliament exactly what I mentioned as the extreme limit to which we were prepared to go, in my first conversation with the right hon. Gentleman. On 17th September the Prime Minister himself wrote offering a national tribunal. This is the point where the party opposite, the official Labour opposition, must begin to consider how they stand. It is no use their hiding behind the incompetence of Mr. Cook on this particular matter, in which they were the prime actors.
The last time I spoke in this House was to beg the Parliamentary Labour party not to treat with impatience and scorn the offer made in the Prime Minister's letter of 17th September of a national tribunal. And let me point out that this national tribunal covered the whole field. It applied in all cases where there was any extension of hours beyond the old hours, and it would have embraced all the district agreements from one end of the country to the other; it would have lapped them up within its scope and subjected them to subsequent review by an impartial and absolutely fair tribunal. We undertook to pass that Bill through Parliament, to secure that it should be put into law, and you are moving this Vote of Censure on us for not having brought this matter to a conclusion! You derided it., treated it with ridicule, and manifested so much anger that I found it difficult to conclude my speech. You did not even try to improve it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs saw the lifeline thrown out with great difficulty and wished to pick it up, but speaker after speaker on the benches opposite stamped on the whole proceeding,, and less than six weeks after the representatives of the miners in this House asked across the Table that the Government should give them, at the last moment, the very proposal which their own Parliamentary representatives had so unceremoniously turned down.
Is not this absolutely typical of the attitude of the Parliamentary Opposition and the Miners' Federation throughout the whole of this lamentable and discreditable business? Time after time terms have been offered and turned down, 2244 which only a few months after have been eagerly asked for, even down to the very last moment when the Government undertook to carry, in the teeth of the-employers and in spite of very strong objection, a' Bill through Parliament providing for an impartial tribunal in all cases. I want to put this to hon. Members opposite—I am getting a very fair hearing and I want to put my point without blunting its edge in any way. Do you not consider that von have some responsibility for rejecting an offer like that? Do you not consider that some responsibility rests upon the Parliamentary Labour party for throwing away an offer like that without picking it up and examining it carefully, when only a few weeks later it is supported by the very men in whose interest you profess to act? The truth is that the miners' leaders have so conducted these negotiations that they would not give us anything until they were in the position of losing everything that was involved in the dispute, and the Parliamentary Labour party, although I recognise, as did the Prime Minister most fully and most generously, their many efforts to persuade the miners to accept some compromise, have on snore than one occasion, so far as their public action is concerned, encouraged the Miners' Federation in the foolish course they were pursuing.
This fact might be remembered by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends before they set themselves up as judges in a matter of this kind. It may be said, why should the employers put up their terms as the dispute is prolonged; if the terms offered in the beginning were fair, why should the employers have asked at the end for snore? That, I think, is a perfectly reasonable question. But all experience shows that the time to negotiate and to arbitrate is before war or a trade quarrel and great struggle. Once people are committed to strife, with all the loss and suffering that is entailed, with all the passion that it excites, once a struggle has been fought to the bitter end, it is not much use to come along and say, "Now let us go to the Hague Tribunal." It is perhaps a pity that such things should be. But all human experience shows that fighting hardens and embitters both sides, and the longer it continues the sharper are the differences and the worse the terms that the defeated party gets. Perhaps it ought not to be 2245 so. I suppose that in Heaven, if one set of angels quarrelled with another, they would never ask for any more at the end than they had asked for at the beginning. But in this world it is different.
As these struggles go on people are weakened on both sides, and they are no longer able to give the same good terms as were open at the beginning. Money is poured out, firms slip over the edge of solvency. Sometimes they get so much into debt with the bank that they know that the bank must carry them through to the end, and they become quite reckless of further developments. Everyone feels that after so much fighting, so much has been lost, so much has been spoiled, that it will be better to work for a clear and definite result. It is inevitable. But the Government is not responsible for this. We did all we knew, all we could at every stage, to conciliate, to placate and to promote an arrangement, and the proof is that at the last moment we made au offer which six weeks later was demanded by the miners themselves.
I am not trying to fix the whole blame of this upon the Opposition of the Labour party. I think it would be just as absurd for me to do that as it is for them to try to throw the whole blame on the Government. We tried to do our best. We had every incentive to bring this matter to a happier issue. But I will show that the official Opposition. I have a very great responsibility, and I believe they have a greater responsibility even than the Government. The very constitution of their party and the whole history of its growth are built upon bringing politics into industry and industry into politics. I do not make it as an accusation. I have seen the Labour party grow from a handful of men in this House to the official Opposition of the country. I dare say what has occurred could not have been helped. But I am stating the facts. I say that the association of the trade union movement in the country with ordinary party politics, and its intermingling with the perfectly legitimate work of a Parliamentary Opposition to the Government of the day, has inevitably produced a spirit of faction in British industry, which is not present in the industries of many foreign countries who are our competitors, which would never have been there on ordinary trade 2246 grounds, and which would never have been there but for the intrusion of party politics.
For my part I am all for party politics in their proper place. I think it is the right of every Opposition to attack the Government of the day, to try to put that Government out and to take its place. That is the way in which the Constitution works, and I think we should endeavour to take it in good part. But it is a very different matter when politics are brought into industry and when the fortunes of a Parliamentary Opposition, for instance, become involved in the success of a general strike or when its leaders, however unwillingly, find its fortunes associated with the possibility of a breakdown in the means of feeding the country during a prolonged stoppage such as we had. That introduces most dangerous elements into the Constitution and into the ordinary party struggle of Government and Opposition. It is not fair to Parliamentary institutions. It is still more injurious to the industries of the country. If the industries of this small overcrowded, over industrialised and highly artificial island are going to be plunged into the political bear-pit, and if their antagonisms, their inherent antagonisms, already serious, are to be used as pawns in the party fight, then you are not only going to injure Parliament, but you are far more gravely going to strike at those industries upon which the mass of the industrial wage-earners of this country depend for their daily bread. In so far as basic industries are involved in these party politics, those who' depend upon them, be they capitalists or wage-earners, will sink increasingly into utter and permanent destitution.
Look around. Look at the state of the country. I was reading an article the other day—which so interested me that I had the facts verified by the proper Department of State—in which a line was drawn across England, and taking that line everything to the north of it is in great misfortune while everything to the south is carrying on somehow. There is double the percentage of unemployment north of a line drawn from Bristol to Hull—double what there is south of that line. [ Interruption.] This is a fact of which everyone should think. Is it not your affair as much and even more than ours? [HON. MEMBERS: "That is 2247 what we are here for!"] Then be quite sure you are proceeding in the right way. Be quite sure that the areas in which your propaganda has been most successful are not the areas in which misfortune is most rife. The Pathan tribes on the Indian Frontier live in a continual condition of tribal and family feud, but they have introduced, from motives of self-preservation, an unbreakable rule that there shall be no mutual hostilities during the harvest time. Can we not take some advantage of the example of these barbarous peoples? Cannot we come to an arrangement as far as possible to declare a neutral area in our party struggles, in which the basic industries on which the great masses of the trade union population live will be allowed fair play to do the best they can? In so far as any hon. Gentleman opposite has endeavoured to keep the rancour of party politics out of his trade union or industry, I make him my respectful acknowledgments, but in so far as he has failed to do that, then I say he is a contributory party to this lamentable state of affairs for which he is now attempting to censure His Majesty's Government.
There is one other count which I shall venture to urge against the Opposition. This class-warfare business, which has undoubtedly embittered the industrial life of the country and brought great suffering on everybody, has been aggravated by another influence. I mean the Russian influence. There is no secret about it. Mr. Cook has gone there himself. He has gone there, I suppose, to report progress and ask leave to sit again. He has published some figures which are really remarkable. He says that £1,150,000 has been subscribed by Russia in aid of the miners and only c,'430,000 by the trade unions and Socialist, movement in this country. All that great sum of money has been sent from Russia I would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite—and I am not going to use this in the way in which it is commonly used—to consider whether that, really, is not an extraordinary thing?
Fancy these Russian miners, whose real wages, I am assured on the best authority I can get, are less than one-third those of the British miner and whose conditions of labour are worse than any which have been settled in the recent settlements of 2248 which hon. Members complain so much, and who are, as we know, one of the most illiterate crowds in the whole of Europe—is it not an extraordinary thing that these miners should spontaneously and of their own free will, out of the generosity of their hearts, subscribe from their pitiful weekly wages two and a-half times as much to the British miners as the whole of the British trade unions? It argues either the greatest altruism that has ever been shown in the world, or that they have not been free agents in the matter and that deductions have arbitrarily been made from their pitiful pay. I do not say for a moment that the object of the Russian Government in doing this has been purely political. I think they were actuated to a large extent by the desire to occupy favourably some of our export coal markets. But in the main, the incentive which has actuated them is widely believed in this country to be a desire to disturb our affairs and to bring about a state of confusion in this country. If that be really so, can you wonder that it has exercised a hardening effect on this dispute?
I tell the House quite freely that I believed that public opinion in this country would compel the coalowners to accept the Government's invitation to come to conference. Why do you suppose that public opinion was not active and forthcoming? Largely he catise of the fact that this foreign element had been introduced. There is no doubt that that has darkened the whole course of this dispute, and although I do not grudge the miners the relief they have obtained from Russia, which, I am told, is one-eighth of what they received from the British guardians, so that when Mr. Cook says, "Thank God for Russia!" he ought, by mere arithmetic, to say, "Thank God for England eight times more!" I believe it has had the effect of hardening and embittering this matter. The foreign interference has been the main explanation, or at any rate a chief explanation, of why one peace effort after another has been overturned.
I am one of those who more than or most of all have, as a Minister, to suffer by what has occurred. Our finances have been stricken and wounded by this loll? stoppage. The means which we might have used for further social development 2249 have been sadly crippled. The trade of the country has been held back from the the revival which was overdue and perhaps at hand. The unemployment figures, which would have been far below the mean, are now far above it. Out of all this evil there may come some good. At any rate, we have all learned certain things which were unmeasured before. We have learned that neither a general strike nor a prolonged stoppage on the coalfields can break down the life and organisation of our country. These threats hung over us for many years, and we are a stronger country to-day because we know they have no power against, the nation. We have learned that, and can we not also learn, from what we have gone through, that higher comprehension of the common interest which we all have in the vital industries
§ of the country, without which in this island we shall not succeed for any lengthy period of time in nourishing our teeming millions?
That this House regrets the policy pursued by His Majesty's Government during the lock-out in the mining industry; declares that the Government is deserving of censure for its disregard of the findings of the Royal Commission, for its partiality towards the mine owners, for its failure to control the prices of coal, and for the passing of the Coal Mines (Eight Hours) Act, which prolonged and embittered the dispute and. resulted in the imposition of harsh terms upon men no longer able to resist; this House further declares that a decent standard of life and a living -wage for miners can now be secured only by the nation taking over and reorganising the mining industry.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 131; Noes, 339.2253
|Division No. 549.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson. Rt. Hon. W. (Fife. West)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hardie George D.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Hayday, Arthur||Scurr, John|
|Baker, Waiter||Hayes, John Henry||Sexton, James|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Barnes. A.||Hirst, G. H.||Sitch. Charles H.|
|Barr, J.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Smillie, Robert|
|Batey. Joseph||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Bromfield, William||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bromley, J.||Johnston; Thomas (Dundee)||Snowden, Rt Hon. Philip|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham. Silvertown)||Spoor, Rt- Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Stamford. T. W.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noe)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Stephen. Campbell|
|Cape, Thomas||Kelly, W. T.||Sullivan, J.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirkwood, D.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Clowes, S.||Lansbury, George||Taylor, R. A.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawrence. Susan||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lawson, John James||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Compton, Joseph||Lee, F.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Connolly, M.||Lowth, T.||Townend, A. E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lunn, William||Trcvelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Dal ton, Hugh||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Varley, Frank B.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||MacLaren, Andrew||Viant, S. P.|
|Davis, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Day, Colonel Harry||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Dennison, R.||March, 5.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Duncan, C.||Maxton, James||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Dunnico, H.||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||welsh. J. C.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Montague, Frederick||Westwood, J.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham. N.)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Murnin, H.||Whiteley, W.|
|Gillett, George M.||Naylor, T. E.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Gosling, Harry||Oliver, George Harold||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Graham. D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Palin, John Henry||Williams. T. (York. Don Valley)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Paling, W.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Greenall, T.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Potts, John S.||Windsor, Walter|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Gimorgan)||Purcell, A. A.||Wright, W.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Groves, T.||Riley, Ben||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Grundy, T. W.||Roberts. Rt. Hon F. O. (W.Bromwich)||Mr. T. Kennedy and Mr. Allen|
|Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.)||Robinson, W.C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Parkinson.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Ainsworth, Major Charles||Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Albery, Irving James||Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. s.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Apsley, Lord||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hutchison.G.A.Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's>|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Ilffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Drewe, C.||Jacob, A. E.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Duckworth, John||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon Cuthbert|
|Balniel, Lord||Eden, Captain Anthony||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Kennedy. A. R. (Preston)|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|Beamish, Captain T. p. H.||Ellis, R. G.||Kindersley, Major G. M.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Elveden, Viscount||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||England, Colonel A.||Kinloch-Cooke. Sir Clement|
|Bennett, A. J.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Berry, Sir George||Everard, W. Lindsay||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Bethel, A.||Fairfax. Captain J. G.||Little, Or. E. Graham|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Fermoy, Lord||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Fielden, E. B.||Loder, J. de V.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Finburgh, S.||Looker, Herbert William|
|Blundell, F. N||Ford, Sir P. J.||Lougher, L.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Forrest, W||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Luce, Ma).-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Foxcroft, Captain C. TV||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Macdonald, Capt. p. D. (I. of W.)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Frece, Sir Walter de||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||MacIntyre, Ian|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||McLean, Major A.|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Galbraith. J. F. W.||Macmillan Captain H.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Ganzoni, Sir John.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Gault, Lieut.-Cot. Andrew Hamilton||McNeill. Rt. Hon. Ronald John|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Glyn Major R. G. C.||Maitland Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Goff, Sir Park||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Gower. Sir Robert||Malone, Major P. B.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Grace, John||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Margesson, Captain D,|
|Bullock Captain M.||Grant. Sir J. A.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Greenwood. Rt. Hn.Sir H.(W'th's'w. E)||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.|
|Burman, J. B.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Meller. R. J.|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Merriman, F. B.|
|Burton, Colonel H. w.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.(Bristol, N.)||Mitchell. Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Moles, Thomas|
|Campbell, E. T.||Gunston. Captain D. W.||Mond. Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred|
|Carver, W. H.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne||Moore. Sir Newton J.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hall. Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hammersley, S. S.||Morden, Colonel Walter Grant|
|chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hanhury, C.||Moreing. Captain A. H.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Morrison H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Harland, A.||Morrison Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Murchison, C. K.|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Harrison, G. J. C.||Neville. R. J.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hartington. Marquess of||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Harvey, G. (Lambeth. Kennington)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Haslam, Henry C.||Nicholson,O. (Westminster)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hawke, John Anthony||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn.W.G. (Ptrsl'ld.}|
|Clayton, G. c.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Henderson,Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A, D.||Heneage. Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Oakley, T.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Herbert, S. (York. N.R.,Scar. & Wh'by||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hills, Major John Waller||Ormsby-Gore. Hon. William|
|Cope, Major William||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Pennefather. Sir John|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)||Penny. Frederick George|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn., N.)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Perkins. Colonel E. K.|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Holland, Sir Arthur||Perring, Sir William George|
|Crott, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Philipson. Mabel|
|Crookshank. Col C. de W. (Berwick)||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N||Plelou. D. p,|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney. N.)||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hume. Sir G. H.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton|
|Dalziel, Sir Davison||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Davidson, J.(Hertt'd,Hemel Hempst'd)||Hunter-Weston. Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Radford, E. A.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo- F. (Somerset,Yeovil)||Huntingfield, Lord||Raine, w|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hurd, Percy A.||Ramsden, E.|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Shepperson, E. w.||Watson, sir F. (Pudsey and Ottey)|
|Rees, Sir Beddoe||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Smith. R.W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Walls, S. h.|
|Remer, J. R.||Smithers, Waldron||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Rentoul, G. S.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Rice, Sir Frederick||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Stanley, Col. Hon.G.F. (Will'sden, E.)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Stanley, Lord (Fyide)||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G.(Westm'eland)||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Strelford)||Storry-Deans, R.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Ropner, Major L.||Streatfield, Captain S. R.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ruggles-Brice, Major E. A.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Russell, Alexander West- (Tynemouth)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Withers, John James|
|Rye, F. G.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Sandeman, A. Stewart||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Tinne, J. A.||Wood. Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Sanderson, Sir Frank||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Sandon, Lord||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Turton, Edmund Russborough||Wragg, Herbert|
|Savery, S. S.||Vaughan-Margan, Col. K. P.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)||Waddington, R.||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Shaw, Lt.-Col.A.D.Mcl. (Renfrew.W)||Warrender, Sir Victor||TELLERS FOR THE NOES-|
|Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Waterhouse, Captain Charles||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and|
Question put, and agreed to.