§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
I beg to move,That the Regulations made by His Majesty in Council under The Emergency Powers Act, 1920, by Order dated the 26th day of July 1926, shall continue in force, subject however to the provisiois of Section 2 (4) of the said Act.I rise once more for the purpose of making the speech I made a month ago, and the month previous to that, and the month previous to that, and the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) will probably rise after me to make the same speech that he made a month ago and the month before that, and the month before that. Perhaps, however he will be more able than I am to make a different speech. There is very little fresh that one can say. I do not think it is necessary at this time to justify the Emergency Regulations as a whole. I see that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is in his place, and I am reminded that he found, when there was trouble anticipated during his term of office, that it was necessary to issue a Proclamation, though the trouble did not actually occur at that time. We found at the beginning of May that a very serious difficulty arose, and an Emergency Proclamation was issued.
Perhaps I might digress for one moment to explain, as I did on the last occasion, that the Message from the Crown which was read here by Mr. Speaker two days ago is not the personal act of the Sovereign, but he being a Constitutional Sovereign, it is the act of His Majesty's Ministers, and we take full responsibility for that action. We are to-day following the precedent of 4th May, 1921, when there was a second Message from the Crown continuing an Emergency Regulation, and it was found unnecessary to move an Address to the Crown.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The hon. and gallant Member, I presume, would not be in order in moving an Address, because we have not put it down. We did not think it necessary at this time, this being the third renewal of the Proclamation, to put down an Address in reply to His Majesty. I, therefore, have simply to move this Motion that the Regulations shall be continued, and, as the Member of the Government who is responsible for the maintenance of law and order throughout the country, I am bound to come to the House and to say that, in my view, in the view of those who are advising me, and in the view of the police authorities throughout the country, it is desirable that these Emergency Regulations should be continued. I can only say, and I am delighted to be able to say, that since the conclusion of the general strike the coal stoppage has, not resulted in any very great trouble, but there have been minor troubles in different parts of the coalfield, and under these Regulations I am doing, in conjunction with the police authorities of the districts, all we possibly can to preserve fairness between the parties, consistently with the right, which I lay down-and I think the House will agree with me-that every man who desires to work shall have the fullest possible protection of the law to enable him to do so.
I was asked, on the last occasion, to give details as to the way in which these Regulations had been utilised during the previous month, and I was able to tell the House that in June there were 28 prosecutions under Regulation 20, and, 40 prosecutions under Regulation 21. I have got further details to-day for the current month, and I think it is only right that the House should have them. Under Regulation 14 there have been three cases and three convictions; under Regulation 16 there have been one case and one conviction; under Regulation 20 there have been 24 cases, nine convictions, and 12 cases pending; and under Regulation 21 there have been 49 cases, 36 convictions, and 7 pending.
§ Captain BENN
Could the right hon. Gentleman differentiate the cases under Regulation 21 between acts alleged to cause disaffection among the police and armed forces' or fire brigades, and acts alleged to cause disaffection among the civilian population?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I cannot at the moment, but I could telephone through. These cases come from all over the country, and it is very difficult to get absolutely full details, but when the matter is over, if the hon. and gallant Member desires it, I will submit a very full Return to the House of all the cases, differentiating between the different parts of the Regulations. There have been no fewer than 59 cases under the Emergency Regulations where people used sky lights and signs of various kinds, 41 convictions and 15 cases now pending. Though it is true that, taking England as a whole, the number of prosecutions has, I am glad to say, been remarkably small, at the same time there have been prosecutions, and I must say to the House that I think it is essential that we should keep these Regulations until the coal trouble is over. I have had notice from an hon. Member opposite who proposes to call in question the action of the police in Warwickshire, and I believe there is another district also where the police action is called in question. I do not complain for a moment. It is quite proper at this stage that any hon. Member who desires to raise a complaint against the police should do so, and the Floor of the House of Commons is the place where it ought to be done, and where the responsible Minister can be arraigned and make such defence as he is able to do.
I should like to explain what the action of the police is in conjunction with the Home Office. We do not desire to interfere unnecessarily. Where everything is quiet, where, however many thousands of men may be out on strike, there is no rioting and no intimidation of any kind, the police do not interfere. On the other hand, where there have been, in certain districts, intimidation and occasionally minor rioting—I am glad to say that since the conclusion of the general strike there has been no rioting on any large scale—we offer or supply to the chief constable of the district, if he so desires, reinforcements of police from different parts of the country. It has not been necessary, and I hope it will not be necessary, for us to use any military in this dispute. I do not think it is a case where it will he necessary, however long the stoppage may last, and however bitter feelings may become, and I appeal to hon. Members opposite who have influence in the mining 2512 areas, to help to continue the present spirit of fairly good temper, which has has made it unnecessary up to the present to call in the military.
Here is a ease which I can give to the House of the kind of thing which is going on. 'Of course, hon. Members may say that in a stoppage of this kind, men who are going to work are enemies to their trade unions, and that they must put up with opprobrium and minor threats. I do not take that view, and I am going to ask hon. Members opposite to agree with me, and to say quite definitely with the responsibility attaching to them in their own districts, "You men may stay out as long as ever you like, but you must not act harshly and unfairly to the men or the wives of the men who are working. I do not think it would be fair to mention names in a case of which I will give details, as there is a prosecution pending, but it is the kind of thing which, in my view, it is not right should go on. Here is the statement of a miner working in the Warwickshire district—
"I live with my wife and five children—
§ Captain BENN
Then may I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the Home Secretary is reading from a document relevant to a ease before the Court, and I submit that it is an abuse of his power in this House to make a statement which might prejudice the decision of the Court.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
On that point of Order, may I say that I am not stating what the ease is, and I am not creating prejudice.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I used to expect courtesy from the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I am bound to say that I am forced not to expect what I used to get.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
May I raise another point? Although the right hon. Gentleman may give no names or 2513 locality, will not the case be identified, and will not the magistrates who have this case before them, if they read the right hon. Gentleman's speech, understand precisely the case to which he refers? Is he not, therefore, prejudicing that case, even by keeping it anonymous and as impersonal as he possibly can?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The right hon. Gentleman puts the matter in a different way from the somewhat offensive way of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I do not want to prejudice the case at all, and I say at once, that if the right hon. Gentleman makes an appeal to me not to mention the case, I will not mention it. It is not necessary for the purpose of my argument, but I do want the House to realise—and I am making this really in the form of an appeal to hon. Members opposite who are interested in the mining parts of the country—that the kind of unfair personal intimidation to make men abstain from work, and to make the lives of their wives and families unhappy, is not quite fair. An hon. Member opposite has referred to attempts to make men go to work. If he will produce to me any cases of intimidation to make men work, I will at once communicate with the local police, and suggest to them that they should take exactly the same steps to deal with this sort of intimidation as with intimidation against those who want to work. I want to hold, the balance fairly. But I do say it is a great pity that this great stoppage in the coal trade, which has been very largely an example to all countries in the world so far, should be spoilt, when we are getting towards what, I hope, is the end of the dispute, by unfair attempts of quasi-intimidation against those who are desirous of working.
I do not desire to take up the time of the House, because I know many hon. Members opposite wish to adduce arguments against the continuance of these Regulations, but I do submit that, on the whole, coupled with the spirit of the men—and I desire to make the fullest acknowledgement of that—and coupled with the very reasonable way in which all the chief constables in the mining areas throughout the country have done their best to carry out their duties, and, 2514 as it were, to preserve fair play between the competing interests in the coal industry, I think the House will do well to continue these Regulations for another month. Although, as stated by the Prime Minister yesterday, it may be the case that we may have to come back at the end of August to renew the Regulations for a further month, I sincerely trust that this will not be necessary, and that this will be the last occasion on which I will stand at this Box to ask for the continuance of the Regulations.
§ Mr. PALING
Do the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman relate to offences actually committed in the present month, or were they offences committed in the previous month, the trials of which have taken place this month?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I think some of them probably were in the previous month. To get, I think, a fair conspectus, we should have to take two months.
§ Miss BONDFIELD
I think the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has made an excellent speech for the abolition of the Regulations. There was not a single note of substance in that speech justifying the continuance of these Regulations. Since the right hon. Gentleman made his last speech on this subject, however, new uses have been found for the Emergency Powers Act Proclamation. It has been a decoration on Conservative candidates' platforms and a prelude to Conservative .Candidates speeches. The subsequent disapproval of audiences whose votes were being solicited were then described as an "interference with free speech." That kind of use, while it may be convenient to candidates who have difficulty in justifying Government policy, does nevertheless seem an extraordinary use of the Emergency Powers Act. The point I would like to make, quite seriously, is that the country is noting the fact that this is the first time such powers have been applied for in connection with a single trade dispute, a trade dispute that is a clearly defined one, in which there is a proved body of men who are following a most dangerous calling. A distinguished Member of the Conservative Part, then Lord Ashley when deal- 2515 ing with certain phrases of the coal mining industry nearly 100 years ago said:It is right the country should know at what cost its pre-eminence is purchased.When Lord Ashley was piloting through this House the Mines Act, 1842, he made a speech revealing the conditions in the mines which was so powerful as to change the temper of the Prime Minister of that day, and secure from the House a unanimous passage for that Measure. Mine-owners were not then in this House, they were in the House of Lords, and when the Bill went to the House of Lords the mineowners in the persons of Lord Lonsdale and Lord Londonderry, proceeded to make hay of the Bill as far as they could. To-day the mine-owners do not need to bother about the House of Lords, because they have the Government of this House to give them the conditions they desire to obtain. In 1842 the workers in the mining industry were brutalised, were uneducated, were disfranchised, were inarticulate. To-day they are able to read balance-sheets and to study the history of their occupation both at home and abroad. They are responsible citizens, and they are capable not merely of a critical examination of the conditions of their industry but are capable of a self-control which requires from this House that they should be treated as responsible citizens and not merely as some indeterminate group described as "the workers or the persons in the dispute." They are as responsible citizens as any who are sitting in this House to-day and they ought to be treated as such. The Northumberland situation, if I may be permitted to take a local illustration of a general point, is such that the men there are being asked to go back to conditions, as to which I will quote the actual words used by Mr. Straker:They are being asked to go back to a condition of things worse beyond what has been worked in Northumberland for between 60 and 70 years, and the proposals seem to be annulling all the progress which has been made during that period.That statement of the fact has not created riot and disorder. The men have, on the contrary, with the utmost self-control, with a unanimity which is really startling and with an unshakeable resolve, decided simply not to operate the Eight-hours Act. They have taken the most constitu- 2516 tional way of expressing to this House their determination not to operate that Act. There is no case for applying the Emergency Powers Act to a situation like that. Then there is the question of the general depression of conditions—another provocative action by the mineowners. I would like to tell the House what these men have to face, these responsible citizens engaged in an essential industry—one of the most dangerous industries of the country. They are asked to face conditions which, worked out in terms of purchasing power, come to a reduction of something equal to 2s. 2d. to 2s. 6d. a day. That is what the owners' terms mean in the abolition of certain privileges peculiar to Northumberland added to the proposed 10 per cent. reduction of wages. Again on this point I quote Mr. Straker:If this is the expectation of the coal owners in making an offer, that expectation"—that is, the expectation of starving them into submission—may be realised, but the condition of the workmen will be such that instead of its being a gain they will find that it will be an economic loss owing to the inefficiency created amongst the workmen generally by reason of low wages and hard conditions.That is the attitude and that is the kind of speech being made by the leader of the miners in that district under great provocation. There is nothing inciting to riot in that speech, and it has been received with self-control but at the same time with a determination to resist the conditions offered which should at least make it as clear to this House as it is clear to the average citizen what is the feeling in that district. I am grateful to Bishop Gore for having reminded me of a fine rhetorical phrase in Carlyle's "Past and Present," which sums up the attitude of the Government in dealing with this tremendous situation. The Government appear to be trying to apply 19th century methods to a 20th century population, and it will not work any more now than at the time when Carlyle wrote these words:How is it to be cured? Brothers, I am sorry I have got no Morrison's Pill for curing the maladies of society..… There will be no 'thing' be done that will cure you. There will a radical universal alteration of your regimen and way of life take place; there will a most agonising divorce between you and your chimeras, luxuries and falsities take place; a most toilsome, all but impossible ' return to nature, and her veracity, take place; that so the inner fountains of life may again 2517 begin, like eternal light fountains, to irradiate and purify your bloated, swollen, foul existence, drawing nigh, as at present, to nameless death! Either death, or else all this will take place. Judge if, with such diagnosis any Morrison's Pill is like to be discoverable.Morrison's Pill of the E.P.A.! The Morrison Pill of the Eight Hours Act, the Morrison Pill of the Mining Industry Bill. How is that going to meet a situation in which the whole prosperity of the nation is endangered? This is the. Government view—instead of meeting the upwards rise of civilisation, instead of welcoming the undoubted growth of responsibility of which we ought to he proud and which is the most signal mark of the worth of all the work that has been put in by generations to uplift the people. They do not touch the root problem at all, arid it is from that point of view again that I desire to emphasise our objection to the renewal of the Emergency Powers Act.
I would like to say a word about the women's share in this dispute. They do, in a very real way, share the occupational hazards of their husbands. In the mining industry they lead a very isolated existence—both an isolated and a unified existence. When an ambulance goes through a village, in every house there is a quiver of apprehension, "Is it going to stop at my house?" There is no other industry where that peculiar atmosphere exists day by day, week by week, year in and year out; so among the women also there has been this protest against the inaction of the Government in not dealing with the root problem but, instead, attempting to deal with the surface of the matter by the Emergency Powers Regulations and the Eight Hours Act. When I was in the colliery villages recently this statement was made to me, not on one occasion, but on many occasions by women; "At any rate there is this to be said, my man is still alive and he can still walk about. It is just possible, if he had been in the pit, that by this time he would have been dead or have met with an accident which would have crippled him for life." Cannot bon. Members realise the intensity of the problem in a district where that can be one of the first thoughts that comes to a woman in connection with a stoppage in the industry, overshadowing the fact of the weekly wage not coming in? Do hon. 2518 Members realise that? I am sure many of them do. I think they can widen their imagination to that extent, even those who are living in towns and cities and are accustomed to other forms of occupation. It is very difficult for them to realise just exactly what the feeling is in the mining industry. There are Members in this House in touch with the mining industry who can verify what I say about the extraordinary feeling and passion there is in these districts against any attempt to still further reduce the low standard of life. The remark is often made that if we have to starve we will starve above ground. In all these matters I submit that in spite of this tremendous provocation the Prime Minister himself has borne testimony to the perfect discipline and self-control, which is the admiration of the whole world, which has been exercised by the working classes of this country during this stoppage, and as a recognition of that fact I think the wiping out of this Order would be an appropriate gesture which would meet with an immediate response from the people of this country.
One other point I wish to mention is in relation to the intense disappointment at the provocative act on the part of the Prime Minister in regard to recent negotiations. There was an attempt made by the bishops to deal with this problem, but it was turned down and flouted in a way which has amazed and disgusted the country. The offence of the Church apparently was that it was trying to carry Christianity out into the common ways of life. Nearly 2,000 years ago Our Lord was crucified for carrying His gospel out into the common ways of life, but the common people heard him gladly and I venture to say that the action of the Church to-day has created again a tremendous impulse—a movement on the part of the people of good will towards that greater unity of purpose in the utilisation of all our great material resources —of coal and other things not for the selfish purposes of the nineteenth century, but for the great communal purposes of the twentieth century, for which we are now ripe.
We have been informed by the Press that the Prime Minister is suffering under a mental strain. I am not surprised because I think any Prime Minister with the present Government must suffer a mental strain, but is not the moral strain 2519 even greater? A man who has a sensitive conscience and who either deliberately or by mere inertia, disregards that conscience—a man who knows what is the right thing to do, and according to his earlier speeches the Prime Minister did know, but does not do it, is bound in the long run to get broken by the state of discord within himself. I wish the Home Secretary would decide to end his Emergency Powers Act to-day because I do not think he has given any justification whatever for its continuance.
§ Captain BENN
Every hon. Member who has listened to the speech made by the last speaker will welcome her back again to her place in this House. I do not wish to speak about these Regulations from the point of view of the Prime Minister's speeches, but from the point of view of the liberties to which we are accustomed in this country. First let me say that I deeply regret the alteration of the procedure in relation to these Regulations. It is the custom when we pass an Act of Parliament to require a Royal Proclamation, as was done in the case of the calling out of the Reserves, and it is done in the case of these emergency powers.
The invariable practice has been for these Proclamations to be communicated by a Royal Message under Sign Manual, and the practice has been for the Government to move that the Royal Message should be taken into consideration. Recently, for the first time, a Royal Message delivered under the Sign Manual by the Home Secretary, has been received by this House and no Minister has seen fit to move even that the Message be taken into consideration. Furthermore, for the first time we have abandoned the practice of moving the humble Address in reply to this Proclamation. I raised the point myself at the time, but just let us see where we are in consequence. These Regulations require a Resolution to be passed confirming them, but previously they required a humble Address to His Majesty. In the past that used to go upon the Order Paper, and it was debated in the daylight, but the Chief Whip knows that this Resolution which we are discussing might perfectly well be moved at 12.30 or 1 o'clock in the morning, and I deeply regret that no support was forthcoming for my plea that the old procedure should be retained.
2520 This has now become the practice and practically the Home Secretary says "I need not say anything now because we are used to the abandonment of the old procedure and we have abandoned the humble Address; we have reached the stage when the Chief Whip pressed with much business can put this Motion down and it can be discussed in the middle of the night." By abandoning the ancient procedure of moving an humble Address we have foregone a vital opportunity of discussing procedure of this kind, and I deeply regret it. The Government are now asking for very strong powers. They are asking for power to arrest without a warrant, and there are charges of an utterly undefined kind in these special Regulations. One of the charges is "If a person attempts or does anything calculated or likely to cause sedition or disaffection amongst the civilian population." What is disaffection amongst the civilian population? Is there a single Conservative Member in this House who does not consider that when we on this side advocated the curtailing of the powers of the House of Lords we were not doing a thing calculated to cause disaffection. As a matter of fact they said we were proposing revolution. Take for example Regulation No. 33. It says:Any police constable may arrest without warrant any person who so acts as to endanger the public safety, or who is guilty or is suspected of being guilty of an offence against these regulations.A person can be arrested for being suspected of acting in a manner likely to cause disaffection amongst the civilian population. In order that there should be no loopholes Regulation 34 deals with attempts to commit offences and it provides thatAny person who attempts to commit, or solicits or incites or endeavours to persuade another person to commit.These are great and vague powers, and before whom are these alleged culprits to be brought for judgment? They are to be brought before the minor Courts and Justices of the Peace. Who are they? In the old days I remember that "Truth" newspaper used to give a comparison of sentences passed in different cases. I remember one comparison where it was stated that if a man stole a hare he got six months, but if he walloped his wife he would be let off with a fine. It it said that the Lord Chancellor has con- 2521 trol over the magistrates, but who is the Lord Chancellor? He is a political officer, and what does he do? If he finds a Justice of the Peace is acting in a way of which he does not approve he writes to him a letter, and tells him that if he continues to misbehave he will have to be taken oft the Bench.
Is that a suitable tribunal to try people who are unpopular because the Squire will be prepared to contend that a man who promotes a trade union in a country village is a man who causes disaffection amongst the civilian population? We are giving power to these Courts to arrest people in this way. Previously, serious charges of this kind have been brought before professional Judges. We can say of the Judicature of this country that it has always shown an entire disregard of the Executive. There is therefore a safeguard for the culprit who goes before a professional Judge, but there is no safeguard for the culprit who on a charge in these vague terms goes before a local Bench. The Home Secretary himself has under these powers immense judicial re-responsibility. The separation 'between the Judicature and the Executive disappears, and, under these Regulations, the two functions are merged in the present Home Secretary. He himself says so, Making a speech at a political demonstration he said:I am able to do my best work "—There is a tone of modesty about that which stamps it as a remark of the right hon. Gentleman—when it is utterly unknown to the people of this country." It is done under the authority of the powers of the Home Office.That is to say, such powers as these. The right hon. Gentleman accused me of discourtesy. I certainly made an interjection, and I made it with conviction. It was emphatic, but it was not discourteous. I say the nature of the right hon. Gentleman is foreign to the conception of the judicial powers which he exercises under this Act. Let us see—I will try and put it in moderate language—if there is any substance in the charge that I make. Let us take, first, the old case when he prosecuted under the Incitement to Mutiny Act. I think they were actually arrested in November. He himself in a speech in October named Mr. McManus and Mr. Gallaher and said that they directly or indirectly received their orders 2522 from Moscow. That was the charge on which they were going to be tried.
§ Captain BENN
Certainly it was. The thesis of the Third International, this precious document which few read and no one understands, was the main burden of the Public Prosecutor's speech on that occasion. I will pass over statements made by other Members of the House. During the course of the trial there was one made in the presence of the Secretary of State for War. An hon. Member said that this was the sole Government who had had the courage to bring into Court men who preached sedition. That was the charge on which the men were being tried, and there was no correction by the Secretary of State far War who was present at the meeting. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary goes to a meeting the night that the men are arrested. What does he say? He says "You will be pleased to hear that I have arrested them." Why pleased? Shall we be pleased that they are arrested if they are acquitted? Is it not prejudging the very issue from the mouth of the Judge himself? Then he goes on to say: "Before this ease is over"—the jury and Judge are considering it, but he, the supreme Judge, says—"you Communists will be ashamed of yourselves." Why? That was the first and major offence, but there are many others.
I will pass over his jocular references to hon. Members opposite, which I consider offensive, such as, "I have my eye on you," as he constantly says. It is not the conduct of a Judge, though it, may be that of a party politician. Then, on 22nd April, in this House, he confessed that the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) had for a long time been a great temptation to him, and that more than once his fingers had itched. They did not itch long, because three weeks afterwards the hon. Member was arrested. That may have been the proper thing to do—I am not complaining about that as an act—but I say that for a Judge, before a man has come before the Court and been convicted, to say that his fingers have itched to get hold of him is a monstrous perversion of justice. I will take, another case, and then 2523 have nothing more to say. The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of the last debate on these Regulations, when asked "Why do you want these Regulations?" said "Look at the case of Mr. Cook," and he went on to say that Mr. Cook had said so and so. Far be it from me to defend or to examine what Mr. Cook has said. That has nothing to do with the case. The right hon. Gentleman said "Look at. Mr. Cook. That is why I want the Regulations." Yes, but he is the judge, and he goes about pleading like a hired barrister.
Then we get the final case to which I have called attention to-day. Here is a trial proceeding and men are to be brought, I do not know upon what charge, before the Court. The right hon. Gentleman comes to this House, the great sounding board of the country, and, with all the authority of his position, and all the notice which will be taken of his statement, proposes to read out some partial document dealing with the case. I say that the right hon. Gentleman has got to choose, if he wants to be the leader of the Tory Diehards and shine at Primrose League demonstrations let him do it. It is not a very comprehensible, though it is a permissible ambition. But, if he wishes to come to this House and to ask us to put him in a position to supersede the Judicature of this country, then, I say, he has to show a different spirit.
§ Sir HERBERT NIELD
I have come into the House the last few minutes to enjoy further the attacks made by the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn), who seems to represent for the time being the rump of the Liberal Party. He talks as though he were really a dictator, but, when he speaks sneeringly about hired barristers going about the place, I hope he will remember that he is making an undeserved sneer against one of the most honourable professions. Barris'ers do not as a rule select their political opinions from one party only; they are to be found in the ranks of all parties.
§ Captain BENN
A barrister's position is to win his case. That is not the position of a judge, and that is the whole point of my argument. I have not the least intention of throwing any discredit 2524 upon a profession of which the right hon. and learned Genleman is so distinguished a member.
§ Sir H. NIELD
It is most unfortunate that the hon. and gallant Member should have used the word "hired," for he knows perfectly well that the basis of the professional employment of a barrister is a token. At the back of the garment which barristers wear is a small bag, the origin of which is the idea that clients might slip the fee into it without the susceptibility of the barrister being shocked. The word "hired" was unfortunate, and it is unfortunate to say that the barrister's one object is to win his case. The, barrister's object, of course, is to justify his client, even though that client is a fool; but, on the other hand, he works within limits, and he never forgets the honour and standard of his profession, whatever he may be called upon or asked to do.
Now I turn to these Regulations, which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has been attacking. I have been amazed during the last few months at the manner in which that remnant of a party talks in this House. Apparently its talking in the country is no good at all, because it goes from bad to worse; it is positively going to vanishing point.—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about your party?"] I do not think that hon. Members above the Gangway opposite have anything to jeer about. If the election in North timberland could not have been won in that particular district, it could not have been won in any district. [HON. MEMBERS: "North Hammersmith."] The less said about North Hammersmith, about which I know something, the better. It never pays to jeer before the sentence is completed, because, if hon. Members knew the methods to which the Socialist party sank in North Hammersmith—[Interruption]—they would see that it was as black a page in the history of electoral proceedings in this country as any. Therefore, let them not he too sure that North Hammersmith is the feather which shows the way the wind blows. [An HON. MEMBER "What about Ladywood?"] I am at a loss to know why hon. Members are so anxious—
§ Miss LAWRENCE
May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he is 2525 imputing anything in the nature of discreditable practices to the hon. Member for North Hammersmith?
§ Sir H. NIELD
A candidate in an election cannot always be held responsible for the actions of his supporters.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman answer my question? I was intimately concerned in the North Hammersmith election, and I ask for an answer.
§ Sir H. NIELD
I do not know what the hon. Lady wants an answer to, but, with a longer knowledge of electoral proceedings than she can possibly have, I say that I made no reflection upon the personal character of the candidate, but I say that the methods resorted to at that election were most discreditable.
§ Sir H. NIELD
I am afraid it is something of the nature of a red herring. It was the interruptions with reference to electoral experiences that caused my remarks. Of course, it is one of the characteristics of my profession that we are always ready to meet any point that may be raised by the other side. I now go back to the Regulations. These Regulations which are denounced as though—
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
May I intervene? There was not only a Socialist candidate at North Hammersmith, but a very distinguished member of the Liberal party. I put it to you, Sir, that when the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has given long service in this House, who is greatly respected in all parts of the House, and who occupies a judicial position outside, makes a statement of this kind as to there having been gross corruption, or whatever it was that was alleged, it is not quite fair that he should be allowed to ride off by changing the subject without giving some explanation.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Does the hon. and gallant Member propose that we should proceed to discuss by-elections?
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I should like to ask whether it is in order for an hon. Member to throw out an insinuation against the conduct of an election, without any proof. These things are very painful, and they may be repeated.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am afraid that is not confined to one section of the House. It is my duty to check these matters as soon as I can. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will proceed to the Regulations.
§ Sir H. NIELD
I promptly obey your directions, Mr. Speaker, and to put myself in order, I agree, as a matter of order, that I ought not to have transgressed—[Interruption]I leave it at that, notwithstanding the cries of hon. Members opposite. These Regulations are said by the last speaker to be absolutely unnecessary. One knows that the country at the present moment is honeycombed with illegal societies having illegal aims, and it is for the defence of the Realm at a moment of supreme necessity that this House is asked to reaffirm these Regulations. I say that no Judge seeking to determine in regard to offences under these Regulations is likely to extend them or to strain them, but, as experience has proved, they have been administered with the greatest consideration for the person charged. There is not a case that can be brought forward, I venture to think, in which the Regulations have been administered otherwise than with the greatest consideration for the person charged. Quotations have been given from speeches. No doubt there have been many peaceful speeches, but it does not follow that there have not been mischievous ones, though it may be that it has not been found desirable to allude to these mischievous ones. After all is said and done, however, the safety of the Realm is what we have to look after at this moment, and I say with emphasis that without these Regulations the Realm is not safe against those who—sometimes citizens of this country, to their shame, 2527 but more often foreign, alien agitators—are doing their best to undermine society. We think it is necessary that we should have these Regulations in full force in order to combat that kind of mischief, which otherwise may mean destruction to our country which would be beyond repair.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
Before we go to the details of these Regulations, I think the House ought to direct its attention for a short time to the need for the Regulations themselves. Is it necessary that special legislation and special administrative orders should be enforced? That is really the question. When we come to the various Regulations, we shall have a good deal to say on how they have been administered during the last three or four months, but I think there is a confusion in the right hon. Gentleman's mind between politics and law. He talked to-day, for instance, in justifying these Regulations, as though there were no common law and no Statute law in existence. He never attempted to justify, in relation to the experience of the last three or four months, why the common law shoul0 be complicated by these Regulations. The right hon. and learned Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield) has told us that in his opinion the whole country is honeycombed with seditious conspiracy, conducted very largely by foreigners who ought not to be here at all. If that nightmare conception of the state of England at the present moment be true what is the use of these Regulations? We did not hear the right hon. Gentleman piously expressing the hope that before the end of next month the lock-out would be finished and the Regulations would lapse. We really must apply means to an end with something like common sense. What is the Home Secretary's own case? He gave us a list of figures, which I took down. Was there ever a more miserable justification of special legislation than those figures? Three convictions under one Regulation, one under another, 31 under another, 49 under another and 59 under a very special one. That is the sum total in a month, and a confession that he in not quite sure how many cases last month have been carried over to this month and included. Again, what is the 2528 position? There arc a million and a quarter men out all over the coalfield. They have been provoked almost beyond words. Their distress is getting more and more severe. This is the beginning of the fourth month of the dispute. The figures relate to the third month of the dispute, and with a million men out one Clause has been used three times, another once, another 34 times, and Clause 20, the seditious Clause, 49 times. The right hon. Gentleman knows quite as well as I do that those figures are absolutely no justification for the continuance of these Regulations. What I want to know is this. I wonder if he can tell us from how many districts those figures have been drawn?
Sir W. JOYNSON-HIC KS
They are roughly drawn from all the coal districts, because an hon. Member opposite put a question yesterday—Durham, Warwickshire, South Wales, Lancashire.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
The right hon. Gentleman will find in analysing the figures that the greater number come from districts where probably the police administration is more responsible than the state of unsettlement. These Regulations, given police conditions such as are alleged in Warwickshire—and there will he more said about that later by hon. Members who have been there and seen it from personal experience—you can produce all those figures and instead of them proving a state of national emergency, they only prove bad handling on the part of the police. I am certain that at least half those figures prove that rather than a state of unsettlement on the part of the miners themselves. We have had coal lock-outs and strikes before. We have had riots before and we have had picketing before which was not peaceful. we have had disturbance and unsettlement before in connection with industrial disputes, and the safety valve was to put the ordinary law and the ordinary police administration into operation. The least said the soonest mended, and the right hon. Gentleman has no occasion whatever to compare his experience, with these Regulations, and the experience of his 2529 predecessors without them, and to congratulate himself that he has maintained law and order. That is the test of special Regulations. The whole political and legal genius of the country is a deep-seated suspicion and enmity against the police State. The right hon. Gentleman is establishing a police State. There are two ways of doing it. Of course, you are going to have risks. The man who is a statesman takes risks. Take your risks, because by taking risks you save your State far more certainly than by putting on police Regulations. You give your people a sense of fair play and justice, and there is nothing that is more conducive to an instinct for obedience to the law and the keeping of order than that. In this case you tell your people, as the right hon. Gentleman has told the million and a quarter who are out today, " I do not trust you. I suspect you. The Government is afraid of you. We cannot leave your conduct to the ordinary operation of the law. In order to meet the fear and the suspicion that are in our hearts we have to produce a new 39 Articles." You have thrown over the Church. The right hon. Gentleman's mentality may be of that kind that he is never safe unless he has a policeman about him, and not only a policeman, but a policeman specially armed. I say with great respect that it is not in that that lies the foundation of British liberties. It is exactly the mentality that has created your Junker State, your Prussian State.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
Your Russian State, too, as the inheritance of Czardom. These Regulations now are merely an insult to our people. They are a violation of the spirit of the British Constitution and they are an open confession to the miners now locked out that the Government is mortally afraid of them.
There is another general observation I want to make. The right hon. Gentleman has talked about blacklegs. The blackleg is disloyal to his society. When hon. Members opposite find their children leaving the old Tory principles of reaction and joining the Labour party they frown on them, boycott them and turn them out of society. The class consciousness of hon. Members opposite is one of the most supremely apparent 2530 things. Everyone who has anything like an objective mind and can see things not merely as they appear but see them as objective truth outside understands the position of hon. Members opposite. They ought also to understand the position of the trade unionists and the workmen who combine together in order to advance their interests. You will find men who are always willing to take the advantages when advantages come and yet always willing to be blacklegs when there is any labour dispute on. Workmen and trade unionists have a perfect right to say to these gentlemen, " You are disloyal to your trade, you arc disloyal to your society, you are disloyal to all the great forces that are lifting human beings in society. That does not justify them in adopting any attitude towards those people except the attitude that private individuals adopt to others in choosing their associates and their friends. There must be no breach of the law, no personal violence. Anything that relates to the liberty of the subject must be preserved in that relationship. Outside that, the individual trade unionist has a perfect right to boycott and blackball and leave out of his society anyone who is blacklegging society. It is in the same way that hon. Members opposite have a perfect right to exercise the function which they do towards ors of keeping us outside their society.
The effect of these Regulations on the administration of justice is of the worst possible character. Reference has been made to the peculiar position of the magisterial bench. I am one of those people who prefer never to raise these awkward questions, because we have to trust not merely to the letter of the law but to the spirit of it. But the moment you challenge, as you are now doing, the status of the justices of the peace, you have to take the consequences. The very first consequence of putting the responsibility of administering Regulations like these upon Justices of the Peace is that people begin to reflect upon the nature of the bench. The Home Secretary has invited that, and he knows as well as know that the magistracy is a political appointment. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain W. Bonn) referred to the very obvious fact—one prefers to overlook it and just to allow the machine to work—that if a man who is a 2531 Justice of the Peace takes up a political attitude at a time when feeling is heated and social opinion is divided very sharply, that man, acting conscientiously and in accordance with his political lights, is censured by the Lord Chancellor.
What to me is remarkable, is the most absurd conception of loyalty and disloyalty held by the Home Secretary, and the right hon. Gentleman's conceptions of loyalty and disloyalty undoubtedly are part of the conceptions and ideas held by his Lord Chancellor. His Lord Chancellor in pursuance of those conceptions, regards the actions of Justices of the Peace and, as he is entitled to do, as he is morally bound to do—I am sure the Lord Chancellor would say so—he has to apply his conceptions of loyalty to the conduct of Justices of the Peace. Consequently, applying his conceptions of loyalty he says to one body of Justices, " You, being conservatively-minded have done right." To another body of Justices he says, " You, being Labour-minded have done wrong, and you must come off the bench."
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The right hon. Gentleman is making very serious charges against the Lord Chancellor. He has not one iota of proof that the Lord Chancellor has acted for political reasons, or that he has complained of any particular Justice of the Peace became he has Labour views. That is not the case. Undoubtedly, there have been a few cases in which Justices of the Peace have taken part in action against the State, and on those grounds those men have been removed from the Bench. To make a statement that the Lord Chancellor has said to one set of Conservative magistrates that they have done well, and to Labour magistrates that they have done wrong, is not the case. Labour magistrates have, on the whole, done quite as well as other magistrates.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must intervene at this point, and remind the House that any question regarding the action of the Lord Chancellor cannot be discussed in the ordinary Debates of this House. It is only permissible on a Motion properly tabled.
§ Captain BENN
Does that Rule apply to the Lord Chancellor as a member of the Cabinet and a politician, or is 2532 confined to Judges of the High Court who are members of the Judiciary?
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I. bow at once to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. The discussion that has taken place has rather been pushed across borders over which I had no intention of pushing it. [HON. MEMBERS: " Withdraw I "] Perhaps you will allow me to say, without pursuing the matter further, that the statement which the Home Secretary has just made is one which I would be perfectly willing to make, but it is not at all in accordance with the point that I was making. We will leave the Lord Chancellor out of account and deal with the principle of the Bench. The point that I was making was this, that under conditions such as we are in to-day, the question of what is loyalty and what is disloyalty is not capable of a definition which will satisfy the Home Secretary and myself, as representatives of two very separate and fundamentally different points of view regarding society. I say that the representative of the Home Office, whether the Home Secretary or anybody else, is bound to apply his views of loyalty to the actions of people for whom he is directly or indirectly responsible, and in applying those views he cannot possibly dissociate the administration of justice from political opinion. That is my point.
I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, and the House will clearly understand that what I have been saying is not in the nature of a censure but in the nature of a definition of the particular part of our machinery which when worked under the conditions of to-day is bound to produce political results. That is all I mean. By the passing of these Regulations the Home Secretary is only emphasising that unfortunate aspect of that part of our machinery. Therefore I appeal to him from that point of view, and as he does not wish all these things to be raised, and as I do not wish all these things to be raised, and as he and I occupy this common ground that when we have a machine working, which works, on the whole, well, it is far better not to overload the machine and compel people to consider its nature when it begins to work badly.
2533 The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, and this was the point which 1 was making when he interrupted me, that he himself censured certain magistrates, following certain observations which- I made. He said he was perfectly well aware of the fact that certain magistrates in the administration of justice had made observations which were improper, and had said things that they ought not to have said as magistrates. Has any representation been made for the removal of those magistrates? No. That shows the delicacy of the position in which he is placing the Bench by constantly repeating these Regulations. He knows that in special needs, when the circumstances are such that we are faced with a grave crisis, in order to protect the national interests, he can bring in the Regulations and carry them through. That is not the position now. This is a prolonged affair, a continuation of exceptional legislative and administrative rules, when the figures do not prove the necessity. Any hon. Member from any part of the House, who goes about the country and through the coalfields, knows that however high passions may be, however angry the men are, there is no chance of any serious situation arising unless it is provoked, and if it is, these Regulations are not necessary. If, for instance, a coal embargo had been going on there might have been some justification for special legislation. But that is off. This is an ordinary dispute between capital and labour in the coalfields, and there is no justification on earth for continuing these special Regulations.
Let me touch upon a far more fundamental point before we get to a consideration of the details of administration. I beg this House, every Member in this House, to carefully consider all the implications of this extraordinary drift of the State towards the type and mentality of a police state. I believe in liberty. I believe, moreover, that when you have a people like ours, who are accustomed to have these Regulations in their own hearts, the more you trust to that internal power the more you will strengthen your position and the more good you will do for the State. Instead of doing that, the Government, as soon as any dispute takes place, rush to these Regulations. After the crisis of the dispute has passed, so far as we can see, then the duty of a statesman is to take his risks, say " I 2534 believe in my people, but if anything compels me to do so, I will call the House of Commons together immediately and do it." In the meantime very little damage will be done. Even if the right hon. Gentleman scraps all these Regulations he has the common law behind him, which certainly can tide him over a week. Surely we are not in that distressful condition at the moment. We are in a minority in this House, but I beg hon. Members to consider that this is not merely a Government business; it is not merely a party business. It is an indication of a great change in political psychology, which the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing not only in this instance but in half-a-dozen other ways, and one day the citizens of this country, and the Government, will wake up and find that the old English political mentality, the old British legalistic mentality, has gone, and that we are in the position of those unfortunate States which have gone to wrack and ruin as they followed this method towards the latter part of the nineteenth century.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I agree with many of the general statements made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I am a passionate believer in personal liberty, but when it comes to the application of this principle, I find great difficulty not only in the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite but also in the statements of the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn). One would think to hear them there had been no revolutionary strike recently, no attempt to subvert the State itself. I may point out that it was then that the reverence and instincts of the people of this country for law and order, which the Leader of the Opposition eulogised, were manifested. The Government may be entitled to some little credit for the defeat of that outrage upon the British community, but it was the people themselves, the great mass of the people., who defeated it. That general strike came as a very severe shock to the masses of the people of this country, and the Government was very severely blamed for its laxity in allowing a certain class of people to get such a vast amount of rope by which so serious an attempt could be made upon constitutional Government in this country.
These Regulations are the fruit of weak legislation in the past. I am a believer in liberty. Hon. Members opposite say 2535 they are believers in liberty, but the liberty they believe in is a liberty to tyrannise over their fellow workmen. They do not believe in industrial liberty in any shape or form. They will not allow the working man to have any freedom. They were deprived of their freedom by the weak legislation passed by the party of which the hon. and gallant Member for Leith is a member, which was not in my opinion sufficiently strenuously resisted by the party to which I belong. The working man has been deprived of his personal and industrial liberty; and what is the result? It is only the other day that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was flapping his wings pretending he was a dove of peace. But what happened in Glasgow during one week in 1920 when a large body of men came into conflict with the police in St. George's Square? I was a witness of that conflict—from afar off. I knew the law that you should never he part of a crowd. The Minister for Mines in the Labour Government (Mr. Shinwell), he knew the law too, and I have never seen a man, any Marathon runner, run so fast down a side street as he did up Hanover Street that day. The lion. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood) did not know the law, and stopped to argue the matter with a policeman in much the same way as if he was disputing with the Chair in the House of Commons. Unfortunately for him he was rendered unconscious, as he said, for 25 minutes. I have often thought when I have heard him address this House that he had made an error in the time, and had not yet completely recovered consciousness.
The next day the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs had three tanks and 10,000 troops in Glasgow, and a lot of aeroplanes. He was ready to make a shambles of the citizens of Glasgow, this man of peace, whom the hon. and gallant Member for Leith supports. It was not a case of genial special constables going to have a little bit of a rattle here and there with some of their fellow-citizens. There was to be shedding of blood if they dared interfere with the dictator who won the War; and yet that right hon. Member comes here and talks of peace, and calls on the Christian 2536 churches. The trouble we are experiencing to-clay is a most unfortunate and serious business, but I say this, that in the main it has been conducted on both sides with a great amount of good humour and good temper and the minimum of violence. I do not like these Regulations. I do not like the idea of a man being arrested without a warrant, and I do not like giving to the police the power to say whether it is a crowd or not. We all know what was said by a certain policeman to a man. The man was expostulating that he was not " a crowd," to which the policeman replied, " One man is a crowd if I say so." But the number of cases in which there have been convictions is no indication of what the Regulations have done.
Is it not a thousand times better, at a time like this, when the country has passed through such a crisis, that we should have emergency powers, so that this state of peace may continue until the parties in the dispute have come to a reasonable settlement, rather than that we should have a repetition of what took place in Glasgow when the right hon. Member for Carnarvon as Angel of Peace was ready to make peace with guns and tanks. Hon. Members opposite should be grateful that law and order are well kept. There is always in any community a substratum of the population, who do not belong to the working class but belong to the class who do not work, who are prepared to take advantage of industrial or other disputes and to bring about social and economic chaos and disorder. It is against these people that the Regulations are directed. The Regulations are not directed against the steady working man, the miner. Everybody who knows the miner knows that he is not only among the boldest and the bravest, but that he belongs to the most law-abiding class that we have. I know the miners intimately. I have been very sorry time and again to see the result of the foolish legislation that his brought great numbers of quiet and decent young working men, who were acting as pickets, into collision with the police. If hon. Gentlemen of the Labour party would assist those cal the Government side of the House who are strong believers in strengthening the powers of trade unions so as to put them in their proper legal position like other large institutions, and would see that the supporters of the 2537 moderate party amongst them will have the right to veto foolish and illegal expenditure, then I say that there will be no need for these Regulations.
§ Mr. SEXTON
On a point of Order. I would like your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether the diversion of the hon. and learned Member to the question of trade unions has anything to do with the question before us.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and learned Member is not entitled to deal with the question of legislation affecting trade unions.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
If supporters of trade unions would give us help to put the unions on a sound basis, these Regulations would never be needed, because you would not have the circumstances out of which disorder and sedition arise. The inevitable result of the present state of the law is to lead to disorder, trouble and sedition; with the further consequence that in times of crisis the governing power of the country has to be armed with forms of legislation which, I agree, everyone of us who is a supporter of liberty and freedom feels is in normal times contrary to the spirit of the British people.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I want the Home Secretary to note that his coming back to, the House for the fourth time for these special Regulations is an epoch-making event. Here is a strong Government, or one presumably strong, with a large majority in this House, armed with laws which are quite sufficient for carrying on the administration of the country, but it conies to the House for the fourth time when as a Government it is only two years old, and says that it is incapable of carrying on the administration of the country unless it is armed with most extraordinary and despotic powers. That is the position to-day. We are told that the Regulations are for the defence of the Realm. They are not for defence, not even of the whole Tory party, but only as a means of making a dramatic and spectacular exhibition by the particular wing of the Tory party which wants to establish its hold on the Prime Minister, and to assume the leadership of the Tory party. The whole purpose is a political purpose. I challenge the Home Secretary to produce his figures of prosecution and 2538 to give to the House an instance in which a prosecution could not have been carried out in the ordinary way. We know that these extraordinary prosecutions arc taking place. They are not taking place against men of all political parties who deliver provocative speeches; they are taking place all over the country against individuals, men and women, who have been marked by local Conservative agents as standing in the way of Conservative progress in a particular locality.
I agree with the last speaker that the Liberal party are now making a splash. I am quite delighted at some of their recent speeches, because they are delivered, not in the spirit of the Liberal party, but as an attempt at approach to the Labour party. I am convinced that the most excellent speeches delivered from the Liberal benches nowadays are excellent because they are a direct setting of the cap to the Labour party. I would go further than the last speaker and quote, not only the example of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), but that of another leader of the Liberal party—there are several—and would remind the House of Tonypandy and Featherstone. If a real outbreak takes place it is not these Regulations which will be invoked to deal with it. Then the Home Secretary will hand over the maintenance of law and order to the Secretary for War, who will send down his battalions. It is certain that at the present moment these Regulations are not helping towards a settlement of the miners' dispute and are not operating so as to give work to the locked-out miners, but are being operated directly and purposely as a means of taking proceedings against those marked men whom Conservative agents privately report as being a thorn in their sides. If there is in this House the true spirit of democracy, if we are to have regard to the traditions of the House and of the British constitution, we must realise that this so-called strong Government is incapable of administering the country without extraordinary laws and regulations, and I say that the only honest course for the Government to take is to throw up the sponge, to admit that it is incapable of finding a solution of the present industrial problem, and to tell the country to find persons capable of administering the country with ordinary law.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
I beg to move, in line 2, after " 1926 " to insert the words " other than Regulations 21 and 22."
I find some difficulty in reconciling certain of the remarks of the hon. Member who has just sat down, with that desire for the preservation of individual liberty which I believe to move Members of the Labour party. In another country which has been referred to during these Debates, it is considered that the value of efficiency and order and governmental coercion is so great that it is justifiable to have Regulations of this kind, and if I were to draw a comparison, I should imagine that there is a considerable bond of sympathy between the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) because, as I understand their theories, they do not believe much in that liberty which we think keeps the community sweet.
In substance these two Regulations contain the objection to the Regulations as a whole. Sonic of those which deal with the price of coal and such matters may be very material, very natural and very useful at the present time, but the real interference with the operation of the common law is to be found in Regulations 21 and 22. Not many Members of this House have been at pains to examine the Statute under which these Regulations are made. The Regulations have only power and force, in so far as they are justified by the Statute under which they arc made. Therefore, in order to test the real intention of the legislature one has to look at the Statute itself. One finds that the Statute—the Emergency Powers Act, 1920 —is concerned almost entirely with the production, and distribution of food supplies and other commodities. It was passed primarily to ensure that in times of emergency and industrial stoppage, people should not lack the necessities of life.
The Act provides that where action has been taken or is threatened which will interfere with the supply and distribution of food and other essentials of life, a Proclamation may be made, first, for securing the essentials of life for the community and, secondly, to give such powers as His Majesty may deem necessary for the preservation of the peace. Parliament, when it passed that Act, had 2540 never seen the Regulations because they did not come into being until after the Act was passed; and my first point is that the Legislature contemplated that in times of emergency the Government should have the power to commandeer materials, to control prices, and secondly, to take the necessary steps to preserve the peace. I very much doubt if the steps which were to be taken to preserve the peace were ever intended to include the creation of a vast mass of new offences such as we find here catalogued. As so often happens with this kind of sub-legislation, there is great danger that, with every good intention, the persons making the sub-legislation—which never actually comes before the Legislature—imperceptibly extend and enlarge the powers which the Legislature intended to confer. Here we have an excellent illustration. There are new principles of law, there are new offences and there are all kinds of machinery in these Regulations which go very far beyond the words of the Statute " the preservation of the peace." I am not saying that they are illegal or ultra vire:3. I will be frank with the House—I do not think they are, but I think they go much further than was ever intended.
My next point is that the amount of regulation which is made under this Statute ought not to he a hard and fast amount. It ought to vary with the necessities of the case. Instead of repeating month after month the same stereotyped Regulations, the amount of coercive legislation required ought to be varied and modified from month to month according to the necessities of the time. It may be that during a general stoppage far more stringent Regulations are needed than during a partial stoppage. Certain incidents may occur, certain possibilities may be apprehended, which, at a particular time, would justify stringent Regulations. Those incidents and those apprehensions might pass away, and, then, I submit, the Regulations ought to be modified because they are only for the preservation of the peace at the particular time when they are made. The necessity for special legislation to preserve the peace is, I think, less to-day than it was a month ago and infinitely less than it was two months ago. We are all prone to repeat our arguments to some extent, but why should we go 2541 through this somewhat idle form month by month. It arises from the fact that the Government take the view that they ought to go on repeating these Regulations without modification or consideration. I believe the intention of the Legislature in asking Parliament to review and renew these Regulations from month to month was that intelligence should be brought to bear upon them each month in accordance with the conditions which had arisen during that month. If we are to be presented every month with the same Regulations, quite regardless of how the situation has changed or how serious the cessation of labour may be, then the procedure becomes something not much better than a farce. That is because the Government by refusing in any way to modify the Regulations have defeated the intentions of the Statute.
The Legislature, I submit, looked upon these Regulations with disfavour and thought they were undesirable and that the ordinary law was quite sufficient, but in effect they said, " Circumstances may arise where special Regulations are necessary, but it is always reluctantly that we should employ those Regulations." The arguments adduced by the hon. and learned Member for Ealing (Sir H. Nield) and by the bon, and earned and humorous Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) seemed to proceed on a fallacy. These Regulations are only in force for so long as this particular stoppage continues. If the hon. and learned Member for Ealing is right that this country is honeycombed with seditious organisations, they can go on just the same after the settlement of the coal stoppage. In fact they are likely to grow worse, because, according to the Freudian psychology, if they are not able to let themselves out, they will burrow underground and re-appear elsewhere. Therefore, in order to satisfy the views of the hon. and learned Members these Regulations ought to be a permanent part of our law. The hon. and learned Member for Argyll thinks it is necessary to protect the trade unions from what he believes to be tyranny. I think myself that the present law is sufficient to deal with that situation. The Act of 1875 in its terms prohibits any forms of molestation or victimisation by trade unions. The Act of 1906 is little more than declaratory, 2542 that where you have peaceful persuasion it is lawful. Be that as it may, if the right hon. Gentleman is right and legislation is needed, what is the use of legislation which is going to come to an end directly this coal dispute is settled? There will be more disputes and more victimisation, and because the coal dispute is not on, he will cry in vain for these Regulations.
According to the Stoic philosophers, humanity will repeat in 15,000 years, I think—I forget the exact cycle—the same experiences. When I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that exactly the same speeches would be made to-day as were made a month ago, it did seem Jo me that the Stoic cycle was at work, and 1 have no doubt that the wheel will turn round again in a month's time. But the right hon. Gentleman has had a month to consider these particular Regulations 21 and 22, whether they are any longer necessary. It has never been disputed that they are an invasion of the common law. I tried last month to analyse in what way this Regulation 21 differed from the common law. I pointed out that, while it was quite true that the common law of sedition and incitement to mutiny was -covered in the first part of the Regulation, in so far as it went on to deal with the publishing of reports and statements, it laid the onus on the person liable to be prosecuted to showthat he had no intention of transmitting or circulating the document or distributing copies thereof to or amongst other persons.In all those matters the common law of sedition has always required that the act of sedition should be proved by the accused. I pointed out the situation that arose by providing that a person shall not be guilty of an offence under the Regulation by reason only of his taking part in a strike or peacefully persuading any other person to take part in a strike. While that is permissible, it really leaves you nothing except something in the nature of malicious damage to property, which is already dealt with under the Malicious Damage to Property Acts. It does introduce a vicious principle of putting the onus of proving innocence in certain cases on the accused. According to the common law, these persons are entitled to trial by jury. What is there in the present situation to entitle the right hon. Gentleman to deprive people of their 2543 right to trial by jury? I submit there is nothing. There is no class of case in which it is more important that you should have a jury than in sedition cases. What necessity is there to abolish trial by jury? Supposing a historian 10 years' hence writes, " A great coal stoppage broke out in England, and the Government thought it necessary to abolish trial by jury." Anyone would ask what was the connection between a coal stoppage and trial by jury. If these things can be dealt with by the processes of law, what need is there for the abolition for trial by jury? When we hear that 29 persons have been prosecuted, we may take it that 10 or 15 of them may have been concerned in one offence combined together, so that many of those offences are probably offences of persons acting in combination. The total number of separate persons charged with disorder must be greatly less than 29, and I do not think we have reached a state in which we should alter the law.
As I am moving the omission of Regulation 22, as well as Regulation 21, I may refer to the other Regulation. It provides, first of all, that ifthe assembly of any persons for the purpose of the holding of any meeting or procession will conduce to a breach of the peace and will thereby cause undue demands to be made upon the police, or will promote disaffection—1.0.P.M.
]it shall be lawful to make an order prohibiting the holding of the meeting or procession. I believe that this Regulation has scarcely been used at all. It may be said in reply that that is a reason why it should be left there, but the same argument applies as in the case of Regulation 21. The common law has devised a carefully balanced principle to deal with this question relating to all meetings which are apt to irritate other people and promote disorder. There is the famous case of the Salvation Army against the Skeleton Army, as it was called, in which it was settled, not that they were not lawful, but that they might cause other people to be unlawful. Good sound principles were then laid down as to which assemblies were lawful and which were not. Is it quite satisfactory that any magistrate should have before him the material in advance to judge whether a meeting will conduce to a breach of the 2544 peace? Very often it does not depend upon the people who are at the meeting but on people who are not actually there. How can you tell beforehand whether a meeting is going to cause disaffection? There may be banners, but you cannot tell beforehand whether those banners arc going to be carried in the procession or not? It is also provided that any magistrate shall decide, and not even a quorum. That is really too much of a burden to put on them to perform judicially. There is no suggestion that there have been any meetings of this sort, and I think the present law is quite adequate. Why are these meetings likely to take place now any more than before? The right hon. Gentleman knows, in connection with another Measure in which both he and I are interested, that the question of processions has been considered there. Those are processions that are likely in certain cases to promote animosity, but it is not suggested that these Regulations should be applied to them. let they are quite as likely to promote animosity as the meetings to which the Regulation applies.
There is one final point to which I would like to refer, that is that while this House should be only too pleased to assemble if public business demanded it, I think I can speak for hon. Members in all parties when I say that we do feel that a reassembly which might happen in consequence of these Regulations and which we consider would not be necessary, would in fact be as unpopular on the opposite side of the House as it would be on this.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I beg to second the Amendment.
With the Leader of the Opposition and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser), who has just spoken, I cannot help thinking that the very existence of these Regulations has had such a bearing upon certain sentences that, have been inflicted that the sentences have been much more severe than would have been the case for similar offences under the common law. The Home. Secretary will be aware of the very large number of people in the Don Valley Division who were apprehended during the general strike for certain offences committed on the highway. I do not suggest that these men were totally justified in doing some of the things that they did, and possibly many 2545 indiscretions were committed, but, on the opposite side of the balance-sheet, there is the fact that large numbers of police from other districts were there who knew nothing at all about the mentality of the local miners and who took such action as would not have been taken in other circumstances, with very disastrous results so far as the miners were concerned. The right hon. Gentleman will know that over 80 miners in the course of a few days were sentenced to three months' hard labour each, and in one or two cases fines reaching £50 were imposed. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman told us this morning that only minor troubles here and there had been experienced during the past two months, I think that is a clear indication that when no exceptional force, either of police or other people., is imposed upon a district, there is little or no likelihood of untoward incidents taking place.
I suggest that the quasi-intimidation which is supposed to have taken place in various districts has not been seen to the same extent perhaps as the quasiintimidation which we know to be a fact by one or two boards of guardians in this country. The cases of Lichfield and Bolton are, I think, tantamount to infinitely greater intimidation than any that may have taken place with regard to the miners in any part of Warwickshire. and if we, as a nation, would concentrate on attempting to maintain and develop the best that is in men, we should be better employed than in passing Regulations of this description. Arising out of the Hatfield case, I received a letter to-day from one of our local people, and I think I ought to read it for the benefit of the Home- Secretary, so that he will see that in these local disturbances, where large numbers of strange policemen are brought in, the police may very well be more responsible for the disturbance than the local men. This is one of the consequences of a happening of this description. I received this letter from the secretary of a branch of railwaymen, who states:Dear Sir,On the 12th May during the melee between the police and miners at Hatfield, the police ran amok, and one of our members was struck by the police while on private property, standing on his front doorstep. He is still under the medical care of Dr.— I should like to state that on this occasion the police showed no 2546 mercy to man, woman; or child. I have reported the matter to the local superintendent of police at Doncaster, who has acknowledged the letter and states that he is giving the matter attention.The attention apparently that he is giving to it is that nothing further has been heard about it, and I suggest that in this particular case, while the miners, in an extraordinary atmosphere, did congregate in fairly large numbers, the action of the police tended more towards creating unpleasant scenes than would have been the case had the ordinary methods of keeping the peace been used. I should like to ask the Homo Secretary if he does not think that the very existence of these Regulations for dispersing crowds in an extraordinary manner and all that kind of thing is not likely to create more disturbances than the disturbances they can dispel. As the Leader of the Opposition truly said, not only have we 1,250,000 miners out of work, but there are also another 1,500,000 of people who are unemployed, and it is scarcely possible to avoid large demonstrations, although meetings may not be taking place, and as, during the existence of these Regulations, all men, even down to one man, cart be moved on, a good deal of ill will and bitterness may be created. Therefore, I think Regulation 22 may very well he dispensed with. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us how many meetings or processions have been prevented during the existence of Regulation 22. I have in mind one instance where the President of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain was due to address a meeting, and the local people who were organising the meeting had to do all manner of things before they could secure the final permission of the superintendent of police for that meeting to take place. Mr. Smith must have addressed thousands of meetings in Yorkshire and in no previous case that I can remember had it been necessary for the organisers of the meetings either to interview the local police or to go to a police superintendent to secure permission for the president of a large society to address his own members. That happened because Regulation 22 was in existence, and I do not think this Regulation ought to be continued if the local superintendents of police are going to insist upon permission being sought in this way.
2547 I want to refer to one other case, which is that of an individual who was prosecuted under Regulation 21. This person addressed a large meeting of mine workers, and during the course of that address he would be telling these men what he conceived to be their duty to their trade union during the run of the general strike, Because he made that speech, he was hailed before the Bench, and a sentence of three months' hard labour and a fine of £50 were imposed. I do not know whether the term of imprisonment or the fine of £50 can be regarded as a normal sentence for an analogous case of that kind, but I do suggest to the Home Secretary that, knowing this person, I cannot conceive that he would make any statement or statements deliberately calculated to incite the public to any sort of act which would be directed against the State. His words might have that ultimate effect, and it might very well be that his statements might have two or three interpretations, but the interpretation placed upon them by the Court brought him three months' hard labour and a fine of £50. I suggest to the Home Secretary that this person could not have been prosecuted, had it not been for the existence of Regulation 21, and it is because certain unfortunate cases of this description have arisen, and will be included in the 39 or 40 cases referred to by the Home Secretary, that I desire to see Regulation 21 dispensed with altogether.
I would like to ask the Home Secretary a question, which, perhaps, can better be dealt with later in private. There have been certain cases in certain parts of the country dealt with by the Magistrates and certain punishments inflicted, and then appeals lodged against the original sentence. These cases are taken to the Quarter Session, and I would like to ask the Home Secretary whether it is a usual thing, in a case of this description, for the presiding Magistrate who, at the original hearing inflicted the sentence, to attend the Quarter Sessions to give evidence, either in the ordinary sense against the defendant, or to quote from evidence submitted to the local Bench of which he happened to be the presiding Magistrate.My knowledge of law is very 2548 small indeed, but I would like to know from the Home Secretary, either publicly or privately—possibly, privately would be better—whether that is a normal proceeding in the Courts of Great Britain.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am rather astonished at the hon. Member's statement. Does he say that a Magistrate who is Chairman of a Bench which tried a case subsequently gave evidence in Quarter Sessions against the man whom he tried?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I want to be strictly correct, and not open to two interpretations in the statement I am making. I said the presiding Magistrate at the original hearing goes to the Quarter Sessions, enters the witness box and gives certain evidence as a witness. But I would not carry the statement further, and declare that the presiding Magistrate gave evidence against the defendant in the ordinary sense, as a witness for the prosecution would be expected to give evidence. Perhaps the Home Secretary will tell us later whether or not this is the normal procedure in the Courts of Great Britain.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I think I can tell the hon. Gentleman at once. It is a most extraordinary statement. I have never heard of it before. I am quite sure the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesscr) will agree with me. The hon. Gentleman has made a very serious charge—[HOX. MEMBERS: " Not a charge!"]—that a man who is chairman of a Bench, and in that capacity convicted and sentenced a prisoner to three months' hard labour, when the prisoner appealed to Quarter Sessions, the original teresiding magistrate went to give evidence there with regard to the case over which he had presided. Perhaps the hon. Member will furnish me with full particulars?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I would certainly prefer to do that, for fear one's words might be misinterpreted in the form of a charge, which they are not intended to be. At all events, thi6 has arisen in case after case under these Regulations, and it is because one fears the extension—even beyond the point to which the Home Secretary himself would go—of certain things which are happening, which would not happen were it not for the existence of these Regulations. In the ordinary sense, I think, the Home Secretary would 2549 be the first to admit that the miners all over the country have behaved during the past 13 weeks in a most wonderful manner, and have been an example to the whole world. I do not think that in any other country on earth could we have had from 2,000,000 to 2,750,000 people out of work for such a long period with so few incidents having happened. Because of that fact, I think, with the Leader of the Opposition, we ought to have a great deal more confidence in our own people, and not atempt to restrict their normal liberty when they are living in abnormal times, and inspire them to do things of which, otherwise, they would never have dreamed.
The Leader of the Opposition made reference to various magistrates who hold certain political views. I think it is, possibly, unfair to these gentlemen, who are called upon to perform a most delicate duty, to place them in a position where they even may be suspected of interpreting their political conception of a, given case, instead of administering in the most impartial manner the law in any case which may be brought before them. While one would like to see the administration of British law remain untainted, it is fair to say that in many districts, because of these Regulations, and the prosecutions which have been undertaken as a result of them, a good deal of suspicion has been aroused, and is still in the minds of tens of thousands of people, with regard to the action or attitude of certain members of the bench. I would prefer, notwithstanding one's opposition to some other person's political view, at least to believe that he carries on his duties with the utmost belief that he is doing the right thing, and it is because I. fear the suspicion, ill will and bitterness which have been created already will be in future increased and because of the extraordinary difficulty in which magistrates on the bench are placed while these Regulations are in existence, that I second the deletion of Regulations 21 and 22.
§ Major COLFOX
I find myself in an unpleasant difficulty this morning, because perverse fate compels me to give a qualified support to the point of view of the Opposition, which, to me, is very distasteful. Although one hesitates to agree with any view of the official Opposition, I rather doubt whether some of the Regu 2550 lations are any longer needed. Of course, it must be clear that those Regulations which deal with sale of coal, and such things, are required. Everybody in the House will agree as to that, but I think it is necessary, if I may respectfully say so to the Home Secretary, to show us how the ordinary law of the country fails to deal with the situation as it is at present, although, quite obviously, it has been necessary for the last few months to have the whole of these Regulations. It was necessary during the general strike, and necessary since then, but it seems to me that the situation now is somewhat different. The Government have shown, and a tribute is due to the Home Secretary in this connection, that they really mean business, mean to preserve law and order, to carry out the law, and prevent the violence and brutality which have taken place during former strikes; and by showing this clearly to the country at large, they have very largely, if not entirely, made the continuance of these Regulations unnecessary.
The real cause of the trouble in previous strikes—it was apprehended in the present strike, and undoubtedly would have occurred but for the enactment of these Regulations earlier—has been that past Governments have failed to carry out the law, not that the law itself was weak. Everybody admits that any workman or body of workmen have a perfect right, subject to proper notice, to withhold their labour; but the converse must be admitted by every right-minded and fair-minded man or woman, namely, that every workman or body of workmen have an equal right to work if they choose, and that no other workman or body of workmen have any right whatever to prevent a willing workman from doing his ordinary work. In the past the Government, whose duty it was to give protection to those able and willing to work, have failed to carry out that duty.
The course of the present strike has witnessed a new departure in that the Government, through the Home Secretary, have definitely shown that they realise that one of the primary functions of Government is to preserve law and order and to give protection if and when necessary. Therefore I feel that unless the Home Secretary can clearly show that under the circumstances now existing the Regulations are still absolutely neces- 2551 sary they ought not to be re-enacted. I do not for one moment mean they were not necessary earlier in the strike, but it seems to me the necessity for them has now lapsed, and that the ordinary law of the country suffices, without this extra assistance. The psychological effect, if one may use that expression, of not re-enacting them must be good, it seems to me. It would tend to show that the Government and the country are prepared to trust those working, or formerly working, in the mining industry, whether employers or men, not to abuse their position and not to engage in violence-and disorder. I do not think it would have been safe to do earlier what I am now suggesting, but the firm action taken by the Government recently has made it possible, and therefore advisable, not to re-enact these Regulations other than those, as I have said, dealing with the sale of coal. I realise that nothing which I can say to-day will have any effect on the decision of the Home Secretary or the Government to re-enact these Regulations for the month of August, nor should I oppose their doing so; but I would very seriously appeal to the Home Secretary to consider, supposing the strike lasts for another month, whether it would not be wise to abstain from reenacting these Regulations at the end of August, thus showing those engaged in the coal industry that the country feels they can be trusted to behave themselves like gentlemen.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I am sure the House must have been pleased to hear the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for West Dorset (Major Colfox). It is true he said the Regulations dealing with the fixing of coal prices ought to be retained, but our chief objection to these Regulations is that those dealing with the fixing of coal prices have not been used, while the Regulations giving power to magistrates to proceed against innocent citizens, sometimes men of irreproachable character, have been put into operation in a way which even the Home Secretary would scarcely credit. I was told by my hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) that only this week half-a-crown has been charged for half a cwt. of coal and the same price for half a cwt. of coke, that is, a rate of £5 a ton In the face of instances of that kind, and 2552 that is a common state of things, it is high time these Regulations for limiting or fixing prices of coal were used, but those are just the Regulations which have not been used, whereas Regulations 21 and 22 are used in an extraordinary way.
I gave the Home Secretary notice that 1 intended to deal chiefly with the operation of these Regulations in the mining area of Warwickshire. The effect of the Regulations in that area has been that the police and the magistrates seem to think they are quite absolute, that they can do almost anything they wish. The relationship of the 150,000 miners in my district and the police has been exceedingly good, and I know from my own experience the extremely difficult and delicate task which the police have sometimes to perform. With regard to intimidation I agree with what the Home Secretary has stated, and all through the strikes with which I have been connected as a responsible official I certainly have not countenanced any attempt to defend intimidation on the part of the men. We have demonstrated clearly that that is the point of view of the official, and we have always endeavoured to carry out the law properly.
I went down to Warwickshire last week where I was told the coalowners in cooperation with Fleet Street had arranged a big posh, and were trying to get the men back to work. I was rather sorry that the Home Secretary was not able to see the point of intimidation in this case, because intimidation in the Warwickshire coalfields has been the normal day to day procedure on the part of the coalowners. In that county the men have received letters to the effect that if they do not go back to work the work would not be there for them. Moreover, the police in Warwickshire have got to such a state of mind that evidently they think it is not their duty to see that the citizens carry out the law, and they consider it is their chief duty to help the coalowners to bully the men back to work. The Home Secretary seems to think that that is a very strong statement, but I think shall be able to give him some evidence on that point.
During my visit I addressed a meeting at Tamworth, which is in Staffordshire. On that side things seem to be all right, the situation was quiet and the usual 2553 relationships existed. I heard of certain incidents but I did not take much notice of them because I observed that the relations between the men and the police were perfectly normal in Staffordshire. The same day I addressed a meeting on the Warwickshire side in a small village, and hon. Members would scarcely believe the difference I found there in the relationship between the people and the police, and this was only two miles out of Staffordshire. I addressed in this small Warwickshire village a comparatively small number of men, but the inspector of police and two plain clothes men were present, and I found that that was the regular course of things, and had been for weeks past from day to day.
I do not know what the figures of police charges in connection with the stoppage are for Warwickshire, but the Home Secretary promised yesterday that he would furnish them to-day. I know that there are a large number of men who have been put into prison in Warwickshire. I met a lady whose father and her two sons were serving two months imprisonment, and there are a large number of such cases. In view of these facts I said definitely to the meeting which I addressed that I had seen such things during my visit that I was satisfied that the police inn Warwickshire were simply the pimps and tools of the coalowners of the county. I also said that I was careless as to whether I was going over the bounds or not, but I confess from what I have seen of the harassing of humble and obscure men in this county that it would be a good thing if something would happen to turn the searchlight of the Home Secretary's activities in that direction. Let me give the Home Secretary evidence that that is the opinion of other people as well as my own. The "Manchester Guardian " has a correspondent in that district, and he writes:The miners live in a hostile atmosphere. The local governing authorities, political influences, and the county are against them, and there can be no doubting the strong pressure than is being exercised against them; the police in some districts have gone exceedingly close to active participation in the work of strike breaking.If that is true how can the right hon. Gentleman say that the police are impartially carrying out the law? In 2554 yesterday's "Manchester Guardian" there appeared the following passage:Feeling is now running pretty high here, and a police official whose instructions to his men on the control of picketing are over-strict and provocative may stir up trouble. The Warwickshire miner is a mild-mannered. man in comparison with his fellows in some counties, and will not complain without good grounds.Here is an example of what I saw. The offices of the Warwickshire Miners' Association are in Tamworth, and they published about a fortnight ago a typewritten statement saying that there were so many men out on strike and so many working, and that all the statements, which had been made about a number of the men having gone back to work were not true, and the men were urged to-stand fast and so on. A highly placed police official arrived at the Warwickshire Miners' offices at Tamworth, and asked the agent if they were responsible for publishing that statement, and he said " Yes." Then the police official told the agent that it was intimidation, and against the law, but fortunately the offices were in the County of Staffordshire, and as it had been published there he could not take this necessary step to deal with it. Here is another example which has occurred this week, and this is a circular which has been issued: