The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir W. JoynsonHicks)
I beg to move,That the Regulations made by His Majesty in Council under the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, by Orders dated the 30th day of April, 1926, and the 3rd day of May, 1926, shall continue in force, subject, however, to the Provisions of Section 2 (4) of the said Act.These Regulations have been on the Table of the House since Monday, and I need make no apology for moving them. As hon. Members know, under the Act of 1920, it is open to His Majesty by Order-in-Council to direct that a state of emergency has arisen, and, when that state of emergency has arisen, the Government have power, by an Order of the Privy Council, to enact certain Regulations to enable the work of the country to be carried on; and, to ensure that the Government cannot act without the assent of the House of Commons, the Legislature has enacted that any Regulations made by the Privy Council under the provisions of the Act of 1920 must be forthwith laid upon the Table of both Houses of Parliament, and that, unless they are approved by Parliament within seven days, they cease to have effect. Consequently, as soon as the Regulations were made, at the earliest possible moment, on Monday, I laid them on the Table of the House and put down a Motion yesterday in order that they might be considered and that the House might pass the Regulations and authorise the Government to exercise the powers conferred on them for a period of one month. These Regulations are purely temporary. They cannot be worked beyond the period of a month, unless a further Proclamation takes place and a further Order of the House of Commons is passed to enable their working to be continued for a further period of a month. I need hardly say the Government, and I am sure the whole House and the country, hope it will not be necessary to extend the period beyond the month for which I am now asking.
292 I should like also to point out that these are not new Regulations. They are Regulations which have been passed, except in one or two eases, on previous occasions. In 1924, when there was a threat of a strike in the omnibus and tram world, the present Leader of the Opposition, who was at that time Prime Minister, made some observations upon the necessity of enabling the work of the country to be carried on. I want to put the matter before the House in the most dispassionate form, and therefore I am going to found myself very largely on the view in regard to necessity which the right hon. Gentleman very properly put before the House two years ago. He said:We should do our best to advance public convenience while the dispute lasts. The first step that will have to be taken is to issue a Proclamation that a state of emergency exists.I need hardly say the present Government agree with that, and they have issued a Proclamation exactly as the right hon. Gentleman said would be the first step. I hope neither side will take that as being provocative:The Government must be armed with the powers which are required should the dispute spread, or should public convenience demand some action which can only be taken under the powers given to it by the issue of the Proclamation. The major public services must also be continued, and the Government, any Government, all Governments, must give protection to those engaged in their legal occupations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1924; col. 1682, Vol. 171.]That is a very fair statement of the position the present Government take up, and I ant certain the right hon. Gentleman, with the authority he has as Leader of the Opposition, will confirm—we know him well enough to know that he would not do otherwise—the view he took when he had the responsibility of Prime Minister. There is nothing in these Regulations which prevents a man striking if he desires to do so. Regulation 21 has a proviso that a person shall not be guilty of an offence under this Regulation by r; assn only of his taking part in a strike or peacefully persuading any other person to take part in a strike.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am sure in a matter of this kind the House will 293 desire that what are practically legal questions should be debated regularly. I understand the question of the publication is to be raised a little later on in the day, and if any attack is to be made on the Government in respect of anything published in the newspaper—
§ Mr. THURTLErose.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Most of these Regulations are to enable the Government to take possession of land, buildings and various undertakings which they desire to keep in operation for the benefit of the nation as a whole. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Hon. Members must remember that we are dealing with very serious matters. I shall endeavour to give an opportunity for all points of view to be heard.
§ Mr. POTTS
On a point of Order. The right hon. Gentleman is discussing the whole matter in one speech and one statement. Would it not be better to discuss the matter Clause by Clause I By discussing it on general lines, we should pass over many subject matters which ought to be discussed on their merits. They ought to be discussed Clause by Clause and paragraph by paragraph right through.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Of course, the effect of these Regulations must necessarily be to be put inconvenience on a great many shoulders, and I am going to ask the House and the nation as a whole to allow us to place this inconvenience upon those shoulders in the interest of the community as a whole. A great many of these Regulations are what we may call common form, and have always been used in an emergency of this particular kind. I ought, however, to say a word about Regulation No. 21, which deals with acts inciting to mutiny, sedition or disaffection. Its provisions are merely an adaptation of the existing Common Law. There is no difference between the Common Law and sedition as comprised in Article 21, but under this Regulation offences of that kind can be dealt with summarily 294 instead of by indictment, which would entail a long delay, perhaps of some months, and it is desirable that when the public mind is inflamed, matters of this kind should not be allowed to drag on after peace is declared, but should be dealt with summarily and quickly.
Another Regulation which might be criticised is No. 33, dealing with the right of arrest without warrant. I want the House to understand that there are an enormous number of cases which have been dealt with without warrant. It is no new thing in law. There are very numerous occasions when any constable may arrest without warrant, and even private persons may arrest without warrant. For instance, if the hon. Member who interrupted me sees anyone about to commit a felony, he not only may, but it is his duty to arrest. He may arrest a person intending to commit a felony. He may arrest anyone trying to steal his property on his own land. He may arrest anyone attempting to commit an indictable offence by night. The powers of an ordinary police constable to arrest without warrant are very wide indeed. A person who is reasonably suspected of having committed a felony may he arrested without warrant. A person loitering about at night and expected to be about to commit a felony or to commit an offence against the person may be arrested by any constable, without warrant. On the whole, this Regulation does not to any large degree extend the right and the duty which rests upon the police constables to arrest without warrant anyone having committed or who is suspected of being about to commit an offence. Hon. Members, of course, will understand that when a man is arrested, either with or without warrant, it does not mean that he is sent to prison without a decision of the Court, It only means that in time of emergency and excitement when an offence has been committed or is about to be committed a constable may arrest forthwith. He has then to take the arrested person before the magistrate, and the arrested person has the same right in regard to defence which appertains to all citizens who are dealt with on ordinary charges.
I will now direct the attention of the House to Regulation 24 and to Regulation 33 (2A). Regulation 33 (2A) was 295 made on the 3rd May, and is printed on a separate paper, and the other Regulations were made on the 1st May. The power which is given in 33 (2A) is not as new a power as would seem. Under the Regulation, a constable is empowered to interfere in order to prevent any offence being committed and to protect the community from the commision of any offence. I do not desire to shirk the fact that this Regulation does give very great power to the Secretary of State to deal with newspapers. It gives power to him to direct the police to enter into any buildingsuspected of being used for the purposes of printing, producing, publishing or dispersing any document calculated or likely to cause mutiny, sedition or disaffection among any of His Majesty's Forces or any Police Force or any Fire Brigade, or among the civilian population, or to impede, delay, or restrict any measures taken for securing and regulating the supply or distribution of food, water, fuel, light, or other necessities, or for maintaining the means of transit or of locomotion, or for any other purposes essential to the public safety or the life of the community. …I am not going to shirk the fact that that Regulation gives to the Secretary of State very great powers indeed—
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am going to ask the House of Commons to confer those powers upon the Secretary of State, because I say, quite definitely, that in the interests of the life of the nation those powers are necessary at the present time. Regulation 24 gives me certain other powers. It gives me power to direct that a service is of vital importance. In connection with any service which any Secretary of State directs is of vital importance, we may call upon the Forces of the Crown to assist in carrying on those services. I desire throughout any trouble that may arise to tell the House of Commons from day to day what I am doing. The House of Commons is entitled to know and the country is entitled to know. Therefore, I am going to tell the House that, acting under the provisions of Article 24, I have already made four Orders. I have directed that the supply of electricity is a vital necessity. I have directed that the maintenance of the electrical and mechanical plant and 296 machinery of the Port of London is a vital necessity. I have further directed that the transport of motor spirit is a vital necessity, and that the continuance of the railway service is a vital necessity. The House will see that the Government —[Interruption.] I do not want to say anything provocative to-day. I am sure that hon. Members opposite will desire me to say what is being done. It is the first duty of the Government to keep the House of Commons informed as to what actions they are taking.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am doing it now. If hon. Members opposite do not desire to hear what steps the Government have taken, it is quite simple for the Government, under the powers conferred upon them, to take the steps without telling the House of Commons.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
It is only fair to the House that I should state what has been done under these Regulations. In the first place, having made these Regulations, I have been in communication with the railway world. Perhaps the House will desire to know that although the country is in a very serious condition—I do not wish to minimise that, because a considerable stoppage of the railways has taken place throughout the country—the position in regard to the railways is improving. [Interruption.]
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I say the position is improving. In regard to the omnibus service of London, it is much better to-day than it was yesterday. One of the tube railways is carrying out a service. Electric light and power stations in London are all working well, with the exception of five which are not satisfactory. The great bulk of the electric light stations throughout London are working admirably. We are employing naval ratings, and we have applied for volunteers to take the places of those who have declined to carry out the work of supplying London with electric light and power. On the stations which are now working and supplying both light and power to London we have only used up to the present 33 per cent. of the naval ratings who are in London ready 297 to be used for this purpose, and we have only used 12 per cent. of the volunteers who have enrolled and are prepared to assist in carrying out these services. There are also—I am only too glad to state it—a large number of loyal men who are carrying out their duties.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I said that there were five stations which were not carrying on quite so satisfactorily. These are stations which are run—I do not wish to mention names—by some of the municipalities. There they have decided that while light shall be provided for the community during the night time, no power at all and no light shall be permitted during the day. The House will see that great inconvenience is caused in these districts. In one of these districts there happens to be a large number of bakeries which are run by electric power, and when that power is not available the bakeries cannot continue for more than a day or two unless fresh arrangements are made for the baking of bread in that district. The London Hospital has all its power cut off during the day. I make no comment on these facts, but I think the House and the country should know such facts as are in my power to give. One of these stations supplies the power at the cold storage in sonic of the warehouses in London, and if it is cut off—and there is a grave possibility of it—it will mean that the meat in these cold storages will go bad. I trust and hope that arrangements will be made which will obviate these difficulties. The Government realises its responsibility, and, if necessary, I shall ask the House to support the Government in whatever steps they may take to insure that these things are corrected.
The food supply of London is going on quite satisfactorily. The milk supply, as hon. Members will probably know, is being thoroughly efficiently conducted under the arrangements made by the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Transport. We have felt it necessary under these Regulations to take possession of Hyde Park, where the work is being 298 carried on, and I hope we shall have the support of Members of all parties in this House in carrying on, these vital services, which are just as necessary to the wives and children of the poor as they are to the wives and children of those who are not so poor. I hope the House will forgive me if I deal with a more debatable question—the question of protection. I feel that I am entitled to deal with this point because of the remark which I have already quoted from the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister. I will read it again:The major public services must also be continued, and the Government, any Government, all Governments, must give protection to those engaged in their legal occupations.That is the paramount duty of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. On my shoulders the protection of the community rests. It is a grave and heavy burden. We are using our utmost endeavours, and we shall continue to do so, to protect all those who desire to carry out their legal occupations. I have not yet made any special appeal for special constables, but 7,900 of the old special constables have been duty enrolled, and have turned out for duty. There were 3,035 new special constables enrolled yesterday and the day before. I propose to-night to ask the community as a whole to enrol in much larger numbers as special constables. It is desirable that the country should know that there are men and businesses, the docks, the provision of food, the provision of electric light and gas, and the transport services, which in great communities like London must be carried on if the whole State is not to be dissolved in dire confusion, and I appeal to the whole House to assist me in protecting those who desire to do their work That is the right and the duty of the Home Secretary in any Government, and in all Governments, and I am appealing to-night to any able-bodied men who can give their time—and, after all, everybody ought to be willing to give their time—wholly to the State in order to protect the community in a time of difficulty and danger like this. There is no other point on which I desire to make any observations in regard to these Regulations.
§ Mr. THURTLE
Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with Regulation 22, which takes away the right of public meeting?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I need hardly say that I do not object to deal with any Regulation to which hon. Members may wish me to refer. Regulation 22 says that:Where there appears to be reason to apprehend that the assembly of any persons for the purpose of holding any meeting will give rise to grave disorder"—It is only if the Home Secretary has reason to believe that grave disorder will arise that he can prohibit such a meeting.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am obliged to the hon. Member for having called my attention to this particular Regulation. I should have failed to have given the House some information had he not specifically called my attention to it. The police received information last night that the Deptford Branch of the Communist party, in conjunction with the National Unemployed Workers' Committee, and the International Class War Prisoners' Aid, were holding a committee meeting with a view of organising a mass procession, in which they estimated sonic thousands of men would take part, into the heart of London tonight. I was advised by the police that anything of that kind at the moment would be likely to lead to a breach of the peace, and acting under this provision I have directed the police not to allow that procession.
One word more. It is to ask the country as a whole to view this difficulty, as the Prime Minister said two days ago, in a steady spirit. You will hear all kinds of alarmist rumours. I have heard from time to time of alarmist rumours. I heard three or four to-day which, if they had been true, would have been very unpleasant. There are rumours of riots here and there. They have not been true. There was one small one last night in Poplar, but it was a matter of no great importance. They are all greatly exaggerated.
I want the country as a whole to stand firm in this grave crisis, not to be excited, not to worry about rumours they hear from time to time. The difficulties of the Government are great enough, without it being called upon to answer questions concerning rumours, which arise in all parts of the country. I heard 300 a rumour last night which on inquiry I found turned out to be a gross exaggeration.
Whenever there is any real matter of importance, any real difficulty, I pledge my word to the House that I will keep nothing back from the House of Commons. I will answer, day by day, any questions which are put before me, and even if it is not put to me as a question, if there is any matter of real importance I will very gladly—and it is part of my duty as the Secretary for State responsible for these matters to do so—indicate to the House at the earliest possible moment every information of real importance as to what may take place throughout the country. The country is steady at the moment. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will not mind if I read some passages from a work of his, a very good work, which I happened to come across some few months ago, and which I have kept until the occasion and the need for it arose. I will read these passages because I want the House to realise that, although I believe we shall pull through these difficulties, we are faced with what is, in effect, a general strike to-day. What I am about to read is the opinion, not of the present Home Secretary, but of the Leader of the Opposition on general strikes in a book upon "Syndicalism" written by him in 1912.The general strike is not a weapon of reform, a means of raising wages, or of improving conditions, like the ordinary strike such as we know it. It is purely speculative, and is dominated by the ideas of revolution'.…The general strike.…works in a totally different way (to ordinary strikes). It empties markets, it raises prices, it stifles consumption throughout the whole community. And what does that mean? It hits the poor people heaviest the middle classes next, and the rich least of all. If surrender is, therefore, to come by social pressure, the programme works from exactly the wrong end, for the class that must surrender first is the poor, and the surrender of the poor does not mean the triumph of the revolution, but the collapse of the strike.May I quote one more passage showing the right hon. Gentleman's considered views on this subject.The Syndicalists assume that when the general strike comes time will be on their side. Exactly the opposite is true. Time will be against them. As the days go, Society will organise itself against them because Society as well as the individual is moved by the Will to Live.301 That is what I want to say to the House of Commons and to the country to-day. We arc faced with a grave position, and with grave difficulties, and the poorer section of the community are being harder hit than the more well-to-do section, as the right hon. Gentleman said, in that thought-out passage of his 12 years ago. Time is on the side of law and order; time is on the side of those who desire to carry on the country as it should be carried on, and I believe if we only stand fast we will succeed, and that it will not be very long before we see our way through our present difficulties.
§ Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman in any of his detailed references to the regulations which are dealt with in the Motion. I think it will be agreed that the proper time at which to refer to the Regulations will be when this general discussion is terminated, and that I understand to be the desire of the House. The Home Secretary has done his best to emphasise the need for the Regulations, and I noticed that he endeavoured to emphasise one point, namely, that with regard to the essential services. It is important, in view of what he said regarding the essential sort lees, that I should remind him that the other side—those with whom the owners and the Government have come into [...] during the past day or two—cannot carry the whole of the responsibility if sufferings follow as a result of a policy which has been put into operation in connection with the essential services. I think the Home Secretary must be aware of a communication that the Prime Minister received, as late as Saturday evening, in which a very definite offer was made. [HON. MEMBERS: "Offer?"] I repeat, a communication in which a very definite offer was made by those responsible, and those who were enabled to give the assistance to which the Home Secretary referred this afternoon. I hear interjections, and hon. Members seemed to ask, Was this an offer to the State—an offer to the Government? I say, "Certainly." We have been reminded more than once, in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, that the Government are asking for volunteers in volunteers in an unorganised condition are good, volunteers in an organised condition for the essential services cannot be bad.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Again, I must say that these interjections are no service, and it would be far better if hon. Members would hear all points of view.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
It has been quite obvious now for eight or nine months, whether we like it or not, whether we think it right, or whether we think it wrong, that the position in which unfortunately we now find ourselves, was inevitable, if no settlement of the issue that was raised last July could be found Those who were conducting the negotiations were anxious all along to avoid disaster and I shall have something to say about the efforts they made during long and weary hours of striving, of which I was a witness night- after night. Though in no way responsible, I was there watching, and doing, as l have done several times during the lest 20 years, using all the influence I could and giving all the experience I have, to assist those responsible in trying to bring about an avoidance of this great disaster. They found that it was no longer possible to continue negotiations and—I say this very definitely and I want to impress it on the House and I challenge contradiction upon it from any horn, or right hon. Gentleman on the benches opposite—they were in no way responsible for terminating the negotiations. I was present on the Sunday night in the Board Boom of the Treasury when everything seemed going well, and when hours bad been spent in trying to get a proper formula.
A little move had been made here and there, and we all thought, at one o'clock or. Monday morning that they were just about to get that slight, move forward which would have enabled us then to have called off the whole thing and to have got a settlement. I again say that there was no responsibility on the part of the negotiating committee for the break that took place between one and two o'clock. What is more, I want to say that overtures were made even on Monday. Some of us on this side realise the gravity of the situation. I am not sure that all hon. Members—I want to say this without arousing any passion—the impression that I had on Monday afternoon when our proceedings opened was that a large num- 303 ber of hon. Members on the opposite side did not realise — [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—I repeat it—to see the opening of a sitting where issues so grave were to be considered begun with the flag-waving that took place in this House, is something that I have never witnessed in the 23 years that I have been privileged to be a Member of this Assembly. I am taking this hope, that a different feeling obtains to-day. There are signs to-day that we all realise, as we all must realise, the seriousness of the position.
I believe that probably the spirit that was manifested on Monday was influenced somewhat by a failure to believe that the issues involved were so vital, so affected the human interest of the great masses of the workers of the country, that they felt that those responsible—I mean the General Council of the Trade Unions Congress, that the executives of the unions that met at the Memorial Hall had taken on something that they could not bring to fruition, that they had taken on something and would find that their members would not respond, and that the whole thing would be a fiasco. Those of us on this side, at any rate two or three of us who had been privileged just to watch the strivings after peace, who knew something of the spirit that dominated the Memorial Hall Conference, believed—at any rate I believed—that no moment similar to this had been experienced in this country during the 42 years that I have been associated with the trade union movement. If our friends wanted to realise the full measure of the gravity of the situation they should have taken their minds back to, or should never have taken their minds away from, the attitude of the general public of this country last July, when the infamous demands of the employers were made. I state advisedly "the infamous demands"; they were so infamous that I believe the whole of the general public felt, and that there were very few Members of this House, wherever they sat, who did not feel that here we were having a challenge to human interests, a challenge to the very subsistence level that some of these employés in the mines had already been reduced to. I believe there never was a more nearly unanimous feeling behind the miners, behind any body of workmen, than that which existed in this country 304 when the notices for reductions were first posted last July.
If all these things had been kept in mind, if it had been realised that there was an attack that. could not be justified, an attack that was totally inconsistent with the standard of our civilisation in this country; if we had never lost sight of that, there would have been no need for the Home Secretary to come along to-day and move his Motion. No, Sir. It is no use burdening the position. It is quite true that the Government appointed the Royal Commission; it is quite true that the Royal Commission reported; and it is quite true that when they had reported the Government called the parties together. How long ago is that? What took place afterwards? I hope that these things will be remembered. If you are to measure up the position properly, you cannot lose sight of the fact that three to four precious weeks passed between the issue of the Report and the serious handling of the negotiations, which took place only 10 days ago. Those three or four precious weeks which would have been invaluable had the negotiations proceeded immediately the Government brought the parties together. Oh! that we could have had three or four weeks, not three or four days, when we reached the position that we were in last Friday or early on Saturday morning! We were striving then as we had striven all along, but we found that we were fighting against time, and we never could get it away from our minds that we ought not to have been placed in the position that the three weeks had been allowed to go by when no effort whatever was made. If those three weeks had been properly utilised!
Another point which the Home Secretary made and to which he seemed to attach a great deal of importance, I am not going to shirk. He referred to the position taken up by the Labour Government with regard to the Regulations. Yes, and I think he tried to show that the situation was exactly the same. I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is in any way going to run away from his responsibility for the Regulations that were prepared in 1924, or from the speeches that were delivered in association with the then pending or threatened crisis. But what the Home Secretary omitted to notice, and what I have the pleasure of 305 reminding him and his colleagues of, is this—that the right hon. Gentleman to whom he referred more than once, and his colleagues who were responsible, so handled that position that the Regulations never became necessary. If the Home Secretary was so anxious to proclaim our failures, he might just have whispered a word about our success. Therefore, it does not seem to me that he has made out a very strong case with regard to our position in 1924. But, as I said at the beginning, I am not going to concentrate the attention of the House on these Regulations. We shall come to them one by one later, and we shall have our say upon them. But I am a little bit concerned at this attack that is being made so soon upon those with whom the Government have been in such close relations during the past week or two.
References were made at question time to the new Government publication, the very interesting document called the "British Gazette." I would have thought that the Government would have hesitated before they launched this attack upon men whose praises they could not sound loudly enough only a few days ago, men like my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas), who has worked, as some of us know, almost every moment night and day since this issue was raised. Yet he and his colleagues arc I he subject in the very first edition of this paper of a most bitter attack. One would have thought that, now that we all realise—this is a point to which I attach the greatest possible importance in anything I have said—the extent to which this policy that has been put into operation has gone, and, as it continues, is bound to become mote intensified in the sense of the suffering that will he entailed—one would have thought that the Government even now would have been prepared to have said what I know the responsible leaders on the trade union side have never ceased to say, "We are prepared to negotiate and to try to find a formula whereby the whole business could be terminated." It is no use our being told to-day that we are now in a state of war. I have seen these great national disputes in years gone by. I have seen similar Debates to this Debate. I remember the first national railway stoppage I would remind the House that the railway stoppage 306 of 1911 was such that, if it had gone on, it could have brought to bear on the community as a whole almost as great an amount of suffering and inconvenience as even a general strike could do, because our railway service is so vital and essential in carrying on the whole of the communications of the country. But even in those days, after a Debate such as we had on Monday, the Government of the day were prepared to talk and to see whether even then something could net be done. But this Government, oh, no! The present Government were unprepared to talk and to try to find a means of settlement!
All that I have to say on the general position in this: If this is to continue to be the attitude of the Government, the position in this country in the next few days is going to be such as. I believe, will baffle the imagination. [HON. MEMBERS "Oh!"] Let those who say "Oh!" admit that they are prepared to go through the experience. [HON. MEMBERS: "Threats!"] I will allow the House to judge. I will allow those who know something about the position that some of us have taken in reference to other disputes to judge as to whether what I have said is not a prophecy, and has no threatening word in it. I am as alarmed about the position as any hon. Member on the other side of the House. I have striven to advise and to avoid this catastrophe as much as possible. I believe that all trade union negotiation experience dictates that even now this House should bend its energies to see whether we could not get to where we were at one o'clock on Monday morning, striving to get a formula. Honestly, I believe that at that hour if the news had not come through that a certain paper had been interfered with, and if that paper had been the "Daily Herald," we would have heard nothing about it. It ought to be the business of all sections of this House to strive to their uttermost to see whether now we cannot get to the position we were in then, and to see whether this cannot be settled by reason and not by force.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) in a discussion of the circumstances and conditions which have produced this emergency. I have already expressed my opinion in this House and outside on that 307 subject. I deplore the precipitancy which was shown in breaking off negotiations. I think it was a very serious and a very grave error. The Trade Union Council had only just intervened. It was known to everyone that they were most anxious to negotiate a settlement. They had very great difficulties, difficulties with those who were specially associated with the dispute. They were overcoming them, and I think it was in the interest of the nation that a little more time should have been given to get over those obstacles. It was a great pity that negotiations were broken off so suddenly. I have expressed my opinion before, and I do not intend to go any further with regard to that point. But I must say one word in reference to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman when he said that the nation had a good deal of sympathy with the case of the miners. I think that is so. But that is the condemnation of the general strike. I believe that has obscured the merits of the miners' case. There was real sympathy with the miners—I felt it myself, and I know that I was only one out of multitudes of people who felt it—and it led people to believe that their means of livelihood had been suppressed beyond what was fair to people pursuing a very dangerous avocation. What has happened since has for the moment obscured that and provoked a good deal of sympathy on the wrong side. [Interruption.] What I mean is that it has for the moment taken away sympathy from the case of the miners That is what I mean, and perhaps my other phrase was unfortunate. That is why I said on Monday, and I still think it, that the general strike under the circumstances is a mistake.
But what we have to discuss this afternoon is a question of Regulations. An emergency has arisen, and it is very difficult to exaggerate its gravity. I do not disagree with the right hon. Gentleman, and I do not think he was using the language of menace. I know him and I have had a good deal to do with him in trade disputes, and I have never seen him intervene except in the interests of peace. He is the last man in the House who would use language that was threatening. When he made that statement, I think he was merely stating his conviction, and I may say, apprehension—an apprehension that is shared 308 by many of us. I do not take the view that so many take, that this is something that will pass away easily. The Government have got the whole resource of the community behind them, and public opinion in the main is behind them. [Interruption.] I am not referring for the moment to the merits of the dispute. In the question of maintaining order and the essential services in this country, public opinion is behind the Government. I have never had any doubt at all with regard to that.
The Government have got all that behind them, but they must not underrate the forces on the other side. You have the trade union movement, which is more deeply rooted here than in any other country. The unions that have challenged this issue are, on the whole, the best disciplined and best organised, and, if I may say so, very ably led. Therefore, it is a very serious matter. They have got great powers of discipline over those who are under their authority. There is a loyalty to their union which has nothing to do, as I have discovered many times, with the opinion which any individual unionist has as to the merits of the case. It is almost like the loyalty of the Army. Whatever the soldier may think about the course of the war and the quality of his generals—and there was sometimes a good deal of division of opinion on those questions—they have only said, "Here we are in this organisation; we have sworn to obey the orders," and they will obey those orders.
I have never credited the sort of assumption that the men will dribble back and throw over their leaders. It is this House that will settle this question, and I thank God it is here. It is essentially a British institution that always manages somehow or another to express the will of the nation. That will happen now. I think it is too early at present for the House to do so, because I think, not parties, but the nation does not realise what is happening. My only hope is that there will be no disorders, and, if this thing is carried out, it will be carried out with that restraint that British people always show in moments of crisis. Then, I think, commonsense will assert itself and something will be done to rescue us from something that is imperilling the future. Meanwhile, I am entirely with any Government that 309 equips itself with all the necessary powers to preserve law and order and to maintain the essential services of the country and to see that civilisation is not interfered with. I believe in my heart that my hon. Friends believe the same thing. They may criticise various sections of these Regulations, but that is not the question. The Government must be equipped with general powers to meet any emergency, whatever it is. What matters is not so much the actual wording of these Regulations. I do not think they go beyond possibilities. I do not go beyond that—but there are possibilities that have got to be provided against, and therefore I think we are right in taking the balance. What really matters is the spirit and way in which they are carried out.
I would like to appeal to the Government that that is really vital. It is so important that we should not excite temper. This is a brave people and will not be stood upon. There are 4,000,000 trade unionists; they are flesh and blood just as much as we are, and, if something is done that is unfair, if the law has been strained against them, and anger and wrath will arise that will make it very difficult for conciliation ultimately to come, and, if temper is provoked, British industry will suffer for a long time for it. I therefore, appeal to the Home Secretary that everything depends upon the temper with which it is done. It should be done with tact and discretion and, above all, it should be made clear that these regulations should not be initiated for any party purposes. I say that, because there are one or two things that have happened which give the impression that there is desire rather to make party capital out of the situation instead of to act for the nation. [Interruption.] I am going to give reasons for that. I am appealing to the sense of fair play of the House. The Government now are not the Conservative Government for the time being. They are equipped by Parliament in the name of the nation to administer law and authority for the nation. They represent the nation and no party.
There are two things to which I want to call attention from that point of view. The first is, and I think, in fact, it is the whole thing—the newspaper that 310 has been issued to-day. That is a Government newspaper. The Home Secretary has accepted responsibility for it, and rightly so. There are two things there which I think, ought never to have been there. First of all, there is an attack on trade unionists. It is a very injudicious thing, to say the least, to do at the present moment. What is the contention put forward? That this is an attempt to take advantage of an emergency in order to crush trade unionists. If that is believed, this will be fought right to the bitter end, and the dregs of that bitterness will not be drunk altogether by trade unionists, but by millions of people who depend on the industry of this country. It was very injudicious.
The Home Secretary may believe it is right. But is it wise at the present moment, when this is practically the only paper, and the Government are issuing it on behalf of the nation, to include something in it that is an attack en an Act of Parliament which gave special powers to trade unions and a sort of hint that it was the Liberal Party who carried it. [Interruption.] I appeal for fair play at a time when I am supporting these Regulations, and I am supporting them, whatever I may think about whether Regulations 22 and 24 are very drastic. I am not going to draw any distinction between them. The Government must he equipped, but I do ask hon. Members to look at that last paragraph, with regard to the Trade Union Act of 1913. This is a Government paper, and I ask any fair-minded Member of this House, knowing that we are going to face a very grave crisis, when it is very important that the whole of the nation should be behind the Government and should feel that the Government are representing the nation, whether it was desirable to put in a controversial paragraph of that kind, and I think the general sense will be that it ought not to have been there. I do appeal to the Home Secretary to see that controversial matter of this kind is not inserted, when not merely hon. Members on these benches but hon. Members above the Gangway on this side of the House—and between us we represent the majority of the nation—[An HON, MEMBER: "No!"] Yes, we represent between us the majority of the nation, and I ask whether it is desirable that 311 paragraphs of that kind should be inserted and that advantage should be taken of an emergency in order to press forward political propaganda. I am not making the right hon. Gentleman directly responsible, but I do ask him that in future we shall see nothing of this kind occur.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
May I say at once that I quite appreciate the view which the right hon. Gentleman has taken? I do accept responsibility, of course, but until this moment I had not read the paper. [An HON. MEMBER: "Did you not edit it?"] I did not. I will convey the right hon. Gentleman's views to the editor. I can assure the House and the right hon. Gentleman that the paper was published in a great hurry and that the Government have no desire to use it unfairly.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I accept the assurance given by the Home Secretary. What we want is news, and not dope. It is not fair. Another suggestion I want to make is this: I think if news is to be given, it ought to be news conveying what in substance is said on behalf of all parties. I will show what I mean. [Interruption.] I should have thought honestly from the point of view of the Labour party, it was to the advantage of everybody that you should have a Press, and I have no doubt at all if conditions were imposed on the Press that there should be columns representing the Labour point of view—I have seen that done—given on their own responsibility, because it is fair in a great conflict like this that the Press should represent the position fairly, in news, showing the contentions on both sides. I do not believe, from what I know of the Press of the country, that if approaches were made to them from that point of view, they would refuse. However, that is another matter. I think it was a mistake to suppress the papers. It is public opinion that in the end will help us to get through. This is a democratic country, and I believe public opinion will help us to get through, but it is very difficult for public opinion to operate when the Press is completely kept out of action and there is no means of communicating what views are held and what 312 is happening. There is no doubt about that.
The second point to which I wish to call attention is this: Last night there was a Debate in the House of Lords on the Regulations, and there was a statement made there by my noble Friend the Earl of Oxford, who speaks with unexampled authority and great experience, and who presented the case, I think, with great power—and. that was generally acknowledged—but there is not a word about that in this paper. May I point out that it is not that there is no space, for there is a whole paragraph given to monkeys and another to bearded lizards, and may I point out that there are quotations from the speeches of the Prime Minister? I am not objecting to that, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer naturally would also get in. They would find it very difficult to suppress him—perhaps it would be better if they did—but I think they ought to give the impression of complete impartiality. They must accept, if I may say so, the responsibility, the special responsibility, which they have now. A Government always acts for the nation, always, but at the same time you cannot rule out the fact that every Government is a party Government; but in a state of emergency, whether it is war or civil dissension the Government then becomes specially a national Government, and I do ask that under these circumstances, when they come to deal with the Press, when they come to deal with the very drastic Regulations, when they especially come to deal with public meetings, they should act with discretion.
It is quite true, as the Home Secretary said, that the power to suppress public meetings is only in a case where there is a danger of a breach of order. If I may say so, the sample which he gave is an admirable one. I think he was absolutely right in stopping that procession, for there cannot be any doubt in the mind of any reasonable person that otherwise it might have promoted a breach of the peace; but there must be public meetings which I think will conduce to order. For instance, the trade unions will naturally want to address their men, and I shall be very surprised if at those meetings the responsible leaders will not make an appeal to those 313 under their command to preserve order and not to do anything which is provocative. I should think that would be in their own interests, and, in fact, I am sure that it is not merely their inclination, but their interest to do so, and I do hope there will be no interference with meetings of that character.
I simply got up to say that, as far as the Regulations are concerned, my colleagues and I feel that it is a state of emergency, and if the Government say they want these powers, not merely do we not take the responsibility of opposing them, but we do not believe it would be our duty to offer any opposition even to any Clause, because they contain powers which I can quite well understand a Government might, in the great contingencies which may be brewing at this moment, be called upon to exercise. But, above all, the fate of the nation is in their hands, and I hope, if I may say so, that they will conduct the proceedings with that temper, restraint, and impartiality which this Parliament and British Governments have generally shown in the past. By that means, I believe we will come through in a way which will reflect credit upon us among the nations.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
May I, by leave of the House, say one word? As the House realises, I am very busy, but may I say a word in reply to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman? I have no intention of stopping meetings of the kind to which he has referred. The House knows me. I am fairly good tempered, and it will be my aim and my object to administer these Regulations in the spirit which the right hon. Gentleman has appealed to me to do.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
This is rather an important question regarding meetings. It is just possible that people who are constitutionally hostile to the conduct of meetings might threaten to make trouble. Will the Home Secretary see to it that if the object and the real genuine intention of the meeting is to give information and to help things, the meet- 314 ings will not be suppressed because a handful of people may have threatened to give trouble?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The only object of taking this power is to suppress meetings such as that which the right hon. Gentleman opposite entirely agreed ought to be suppressed. If the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition or any of his colleagues think of addressing their friends, I have no intention of stopping anything of the kind, and I will add this. I want to get through this difficulty in a friendly spirit, and I will say to the House at once that any meetings that I think it necessary to restrict or to proclaim, I will at once report to the House of Commons, or, if the Leader of the Opposition likes to ask me in regard to any particular meeting, I will at once give him the information.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman for any responsibility for the first copy of the Government paper, because I can quite understand that he never saw it, that he did not know what was in it, and that he took it for granted that it would be all right. Therefore, I do not blame him, because I know the difficulties, but that must not follow from the second copy, and I want to ask him whether he is aware, whether his Department is aware, that the General Council had already, in their counter news to this—there is a counter "Workers' Bulletin" issued, of which the right hon. Gentleman's Department got all the news—is he aware and will he give equal publicity to the fact that they repudiate immediately and emphatically to all parties that this is a challenge to the Government, that they have issued instructions that anyone who invites or suggests insubordination or mutiny by troops or sailors is to be repudiated, and that, so far as they are concerned, whatever the result, they want to make it an industrial dispute and nothing else?
§ Mr. LOOKER
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down if he is aware that the pickets in the Grays district are to-day stopping the food supplies?
§ Mr. THOMAS
I do not know anything of the details, but I know that I myself was a party to a letter sent to the Government to the effect, that as far as the 315 trade unionists were concerned in the lighting, in the maintenance of hospitals, and in the food supplies, they offered, still offer, and are willing to co-operate in any way to supply those needs.
§ Mr. BASIL PETO
May I ask the Home Secretary, with regard to one point raised by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) as to the absence from the Government newspaper of any report of Lord Asquith's speech, whether it was not owing to the very good reason that the paper was being set up in print at the time or before?
§ Mr. HADEN GUEST
I want to associate myself with one of the remarks which fell from the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), when he said there can be no victory. I am sorry the Prime Minister is not here. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to remember that, in this dispute, whoever wins, as in the Great War, the suffering is very terrible, and I want to appeal to the Prime Minister to-night, in the spirit of that great faith which he professed, speaking from that bench on Monday, to take steps again, which have been asked for by my right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary, for negotiations to be opened up. As a private Member on this side, as an individual not speaking in any official, semi-official or any capacity at all, except that of my own representation here of a constituency, I wish to ask the Prime Minister to realise that he and his party are not right in the conception that so many of them have formed of the nature of this dispute. On Monday the Prime Minister said, "Everything that I care for is being smashed to bits." If this dispute goes on, and force and violence come into our lives, then everything that most of us care for will be smashed. If the powers are used, as they may be used, foolishly, without proper control, with violence and with anger, then there will come such a disaster upon this country as is very difficult for us to contemplate.
I am putting this matter as seriously as I am able, because with my own experience of large scale serious disturbances in Russia and in other countries, I know, perhaps, what the effect of a disturbance of this character may be. The responsibility is on the shoulders of the 316 Government, and nut on the shoulders of the trade unions. The Prime Minister has said that he believes in the supremacy of the House of Commons. I believe in the supremacy of the House of Commons, but if you appeal to force, you are not using the supremacy of the House of Commons you are using the supremacy of force. I believe it is quite easy for an army corps or two, a few regiments, with machine guns, and for battleships and so forth to cow this country into a state of submission, whatever happens, but if you do that you are destroying our political institutions, and I am afraid the temper of some of the Members on the other side of the House would wish you to do that. [An HON. MEMBER: "No.''] I am speaking from my heart. I have no diplomatic intention in my mind. I am afraid of the spirit of some of those who may be in charge of these operations. I am not afraid for myself. I am not afraid for my trade union and Labour party colleagues. We are not afraid of death or of wounds or suffering. Many of us went through the War from start to finish, and know how to face that kind of thing. What I am afraid of is that ill-considered actions of the Government, that people taking decisions rashly, without proper information, that hotheaded men without due experience—and there are, unfortunately, some at the present time—should precipitate at some point a catastrophe, and that a catastrophe should spread from that point over our country.
I do appeal to the Government to realise that it is more necessary now than ever before really to understand what point of view of the Labour party in this matter is, what the point of view of the trade unions in this matter is, and not to take a wrong view. I could see on Monday that the Prime Minister was genuinely amazed and genuinely alarmed at the strike. I saw that the Prime Minister, although he did not express it, thought there was a. revolutionary intention behind this strike. To quote his own words, he regarded it as a threat to the Constitution. This is not a threat to the Constitution. The threat does not arise. The threat to our Constitution, to our State, and to our safety and security does not arise from this strike. It arises from the industrial conditions which have led to this strike. There is an old Indian 317 saying that the thrones of princes are undermined by the tears of the wretched, and if there is in this country at the present time a condition of great national emergency, it is because of the terrible wretchedness of so many of our people. It is easy in this House to forget the condition of the people. It is easy to forget that poverty is the ordinary lot of so many multitudes, and it is that which threatens, and not the action of the trade unions. But may I appeal to you —and I am putting it, I know, with a certain amount. of heat, because I feel in this matter deeply—to try to remember—a thing which is very difficult for you on that side to realise—that you only represent one aspect of the tradition of England. I see an hon. Gentleman raises his eyebrows. It is perhaps a new idea to him, but you only represent one aspect.
I apologise. The party opposite does not represent more than one of those trends of historical tradition which go to make the tradition which we all love and revere. The tradition of the University, of the public school man, of the great public service, is a great tradition, which has done very great service in the past, and is still giving great service to the country. But there is another tradition in this country, a tradition which we on this side represent. It is the tradition or those whose education, until quite recent years, has been gained with exceeding great difficulty and exceeding great sacrifice in the night schools—the class which is now educated in the elementary school and the evening school, which goes at an early age to manual toil, which has always poverty as the certainty of its life, a sufficiency as its best reward, and the uncertainty of unemployment constantly hovering over it. The workers have attempted to escape from that condition of life, organising in the past a great cooperative movement. I would remind the hon. Member who raised his eyebrows just now that he only represents one side of this tradition, and that the great cooperative movement of this country, which represents a working-class organisation, another movement of society, is responsible at this moment for the 318 feeding of 12,000,000 of the population. That is a very great influence in our national life. So is the organisation of the trade unions. So is the organisation of the Labour party itself.
I regret more than anything I can say that these conceptions and this tradition of life are foreign to so many hon. and right hon. Members on the other side, for it is vital to the consideration of this problem to realise that the present condition is not a challenge to the Constitution. It is a demand by the workers for equality of treatment, and that alone. The workers feel that the treatment of the miners by the mineowners was the treatment of a class considered inferior by the mineowners, that it was the treatment of one class by another from the standpoint of superiority and inferiority, and not from the standpoint of equality. Our conditions, although they may be gradually improving in this country, are not by any means improving rapidly enough. This difference divides us—and may I remind the hon. Member that one of those who drew attention to it was Disraeli—the difference between the world of which I am speaking now and the world which the right hon. Gentleman represents. The difficulty of understanding between those two worlds is so terrible, that I do not think we could occupy our time better at the present moment than by trying to realise that there are these two distinct points of view. You, on your side, too often have a feeling of superiority and power. We on our side too often have a feeling of distrust, and the only way to get rid of that is by an attempt at understanding. There is, too, the question of the treatment of the workers, who could receive a good deal mare justice than is evident at the present time. I understand that the Prime Minister considers the present moment is one of challenge to the constitution of the country. It is one of peril to this country. But it is not a challenge to its constitution. I have, if I may say so, the utmost respect and admiration for those great qualities which distinguish the Prime Minister. I believe that his insight is a very great asset to the country, and if I sit on this side of the House and not on that, it is because I feel that there are certain aspects of our life which the 319 Prime Minister does not see, does not understand, which, in fact, are outside his life; it is those things which trouble, and it is because of these that the workers at the present time are demanding equality of opportunity.
I should like to hope that the Prime Minister might go a little further in his faith and in his practical idealism than he has done up to the present time. Let him make that faith a reality. Let him announce that he is willing to suspend the operation of the Emergency Powers Act until the two sides have had an opportunity of coming together again to reopen negotiations. I do not think that a Government armed with the powers it has needs fear any loss of dignity in any action which the right hon. Gentleman takes. I hope that there will not be on the opposite side of the House any idea that by taking such a step forward the Government is resigning its prerogative, and giving way to superior force. As I said earlier, we are not afraid here of the issue. What I do fear is not only the suffering to many, but what may be an irretrievable set-back in our constitutional development. I am very seriously afraid, indeed, of the use of force becoming established as an ordinary expedient, and being so used. I am very much afraid, indeed, of unforsecable reactions taking place as a result of the action which the Government are now forcing upon the country, and which will put us back, not only, perhaps, in trade and industry, but in constitutional development for many, many years.
I ask the Prime Minister, who has all the powers of the State at his disposal and who cannot be accused of fear, to take a step forward at the present time and offer again to reopen negotiations. I ask this because I share, if I may say so, the belief of the Prime Minister that the highest and the noblest aspects of humanity will triumph if they are appealed to. I ask the Prime Minister to make this gesture and to suspend the operation of the Emergency Powers Act as an appeal to everything highest and noblest in the men of this land. I believe that if he does that there will be a response. I am speaking as an individual. I am speaking as a Member for the constituency of Southwark North, which is a wharfside constituency, and in which are 320 very poor people. I am afraid for those people. I see no necessity for the Government to take the drastic action which they are taking. I do not understand why this Government, with all the power it has at its disposal, did not come forward and take this step that I suggest. I believe that if they did we could get together once more and avoid, not only the suffering, but the torture, preserve the political structure of our country, and lay the foundation of real co-operation between both classes of the community.
Is the Government sure that their operations and their thoughts on this matter are quite clear? Is the Government quite certain that there are none on their side of the House who are not longing for a. fight, and to get it over? I do not believe you can win in this battle, Whichever side comes out on top; and if this kind of warfare continues it will inflict such damage, not only moral, not only political, on our community, but it will for many, many years prevent any possibility of co-operation, and it would not be we on this side who have done it. We are only asking to be treated as equals, as men.
§ Mr. BROMLEY
I should like to claim the indulgence of the House just for a few minutes to endeavour, as a member of the negotiating committee on the trade union side, to get the House to see the position in a mood less bitter and less hilarious than I noticed here on one day, or immediately following Question Time to-day. I want to say that any suggestion that this dispute is a challenge to constitutionalism or an endeavour to overthrow the Government is quite wrong. If there were anything in that line of thought, I should be the first to admit it. There is nothing in the way of a challenge to the Government, unless the Government admit that they took up a position to protect the interests of the mine owners, and preferred the degradation of the mine workers. If they take up that position, then we may have to admit that it may be a challenge to the Government. What I myself grieve about is as to what I saw here on Monday, and I want to use no offensive words. I thought that I saw on Monday a spirit of truculence and of Jack-bootism [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I may be wrong. I hope it was not so. But I thought I saw again this afternoon something of the same character.
321 Let me assure the House that we on our side do not minimise the magnitude of this matter and the tremendous possibility of our task. I am speaking for myself. Matters have been brought up against us, and quoted against us, and it has been suggested that we are bound eventually to be defeated. We shall not, however, go down without a, struggle. I would suggest to every hon. Member in this House that whatever the immediate development of our trade union organisation, and despite the effort to break it, there is something in the present spectacle of which hon. and right hon. Gentleman and every Britisher in and out of this House ought to be proud. Here you have a body of men working at certain occupations. If I may be quite frank to the House, let me say that if there were only two occupations left in the country, mining and burgling, I should do the burgling. Those who have descended the mines know the horrors of the appearance of it. Here was a body of men who know and understand the statistics of the killed and the suffering, which are tremendous; but I note that the Noble Lady the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor) when there is any hilarity in the House, with all respect to her—
I really cannot allow that to go by as a challenge when hon. Members on the other side say that we on this side of the House were hilarious on Monday. I was horrified when I saw the hilarity of some hon. Members opposite—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Yes, my point of order is this: I understand the Noble Lady rose to a point of Order. My point of 'Order is: Is it a point of Order for the Noble Lady to make an explanation?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I understood the Noble Lady rose to a point of 322 Order, and as the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Bromley) gave way, she was entitled to make her explanation.
I only wanted to say that I think the House needs to keep steady. It is not quite right to say that we were in an hilarious mood on Monday. [An HON. MEMBER: "Some of you over there were shrieking for blood on Monday!"] I only want to say that some of us were really horrified at the shouting and the noise of hon. Members opposite. We kept quite quiet here. [HON. MEMBERS "Oh!"]
§ Mr. BROMLEY
I am very sorry for that little breeze because, believe me, we who have been through the negotiations for the last fortnight, who have had very scanty meals and very short time for rest and for sleep, are not taking this with great hilarity at all.
§ Mr. BROMLEY
I could not refrain from what I said. Of course I know the general attitude of the Noble Lady opposite, and I pardon her. There are some who do not realise, who have not the slightest conception of, the difficulties that we have to face. I think the House will bear with me when I ask hon. Members to realise that those of us who have been charged with these negotiations on behalf of the miners and the others have had a pretty strenuous time, and do not feel in especially hilarious mood.
§ Mr. BROMLEY
I judged from the way the Noble Lady took the attitude of her comrades that it was so. Hence I drew attention to it. I am afraid there are many people who are interested to see the trade unionists beaten in this affair. I am not blaming them, for by virtue of their birth and their bringing-up they may feel this. There are many of them officers of the Services who have had the use of much human material, and I do not think that their mentality can quite see the direction of things; but I suggest that in the spectacle before us there are some things of which every Britisher in this House ought to be proud.
Here you have people suffering in a way I have indicated, and there are others supporting them so that they may get a subsistence wage, to say nothing 323 of a comfortable wage. They have been met by the terrible weapon of the lockout. You have men of security who are sacrificing, and men who are under a severe statutory penalty, men who are liable to a severe and heavy loss, men who are due shortly to retire on superannuation, men who have wages far above the miners, and they are supporting their comrades. If that is not the British spirit of which we heard so often in this House at one time, then I lack the understanding of what is! I am not one of those who say that the only spirit, or good spirit, that the British can show is that spirit which will cause them to rush off to war. A. noble spirit can be exhibited on other occasions.
But what I was coming to was this. Even we who have quite a stiff upper lip at this moment are not standing on our dignity, and we are not above appealing to Members on all sides of this House. Sitting here I sometimes feel very much hurt by expressions from the opposite side of the House, as Members there are very often entitled to take umbrage at what is said on this side, but I am not yet satisfied that ail desire for fair play is extinguished in the minds of all hon. Members of this House, and so I would appeal to hon. Members to try to keep cool and calm, and to leave an atmosphere that may allow us to close, his terrible catastrophe as early as possible consistent with the honour of that large section of the British people whom we represent. it there is a spirit of truculence—I hope I am wrong—if there is a spirit of laughing at defeat, I again say that whilst we recognise that in the end, the resources of the State being so terrible as they are, we may be beaten, it will not be this week, it will not be next week, it will very likely not be the week after, and I ask everyone to consider the terrible damage that will be done to this State before that end comes.
I am an old negotiator. I have taken part in many negotiations, and, whilst I pay a tribute of respect to the Prime Minister for his part in these negotiations, I am afraid that at the last he was moved by sinister hands, for I have never seen negotiations conducted as they were conducted from the other side before this dispute took place. I said quite frankly to representatives of the Govern- 324 ment before the decision of the Trade Union Congress had been given, that if it had been my own people for whom I was negotiating and we had had nothing but "No, no" and "Down, down," I would not have stood for 24 hours what we stood. We begged and pleaded and appealed, and I believe the Prime Minister himself had some realisation of our case; but again I say I fear there was not the desire for peace amongst some of his colleagues.
I want to put something to the House, not, believe me, in a gibing manner and not in an unkindly manner, to let hon. Members opposite see how little things affect the psychology of people who are suffering. On the one side we had representatives of the starving miners, all feeling very jaded and very tired and feeling, rightly or wrongly, that were not getting a square deal. Mr. Herbert Smith and his colleagues were amongst them. Late in the evening two gentlemen came in who had not seen or heart anything of the negotiations before. They came in resplendent in evening dress. The House must not misunderstand me. I am not complaining. I like to see men and women dressed nicely and decently, and making the best of all those attributes with which Providence has endowed them—and I like to see it also for the men and women of my class. But look at the psychology of the thing! On the one side were men defending the wages of the mine workers from going down, in some cases to 5s. 6d. a clay, and opposite them, in very fine raiment, were men demanding that the wages should go down before there were any negotiations. I appeal to hon. Members to try to understand the psychology of the great movement that is now standing behind the miners and to realise that one cannot kill thought. We can kill everything else. Anything that has the power of government can kill everything—can shackle and burn and sear and brand and kill, but no power on earth can kill thought other than that power which gave it, and it is thought which is bringing this expression of sympathy for the miners.
I have said, and I repeat, that the negotiations were the greatest travesty of negotiations that I have ever seen; and may I come back to this? If the Government as a whole say that we are 325 challenging them, then why? Is it not true, and have not figures been given in this House, showing that in a few years at the latter end of the War period sufficient profits were taken from the coal mines of this country to cover the whole value of the British minefields? Further, do not mining royalties, for people who risk nothing in the mines, run to some £10,000,000 per annum? If the Government say to men who are down and out: "We will not cover your trouble from the earnings of the minefields, which have gone to the capitalists, we will not deal with mine royalties or wayleaves," but come back to the old theory held by the employing class, that the only possible economy in industry is to be made out of wages—if the Government will accept that position, I will accept the charge that we are challenging the Government; otherwise, I do not. The negotiations could have been continued and, as has been said from the Opposition Front Bench earlier this afternoon, we believe that on that fatal Sunday night we were coming to such a formula—a bad word to use, but there is no better at the moment —which would have brought us together. It would not have saved the miners, unfortunately, but at least have removed that weapon of the lock-out from their heads, and have given the possibility of fair negotiations without a threat from those with power to those without power and we might have carried things to success. Personally I believe that we could have done so, but an opportunity was taken to tend the whole thing from top to bottom.
I want to get away from that spirit. I regret that these Regulations have to be moved, because while recognising that a Government must govern—I do not get away from that idea at all: please do not let that be thought—I do earnestly appeal to everyone not to believe that there are threats in my mind. I should be a traitor to my people who are fighting if I used this hour for truculence or threats, and if I put things badly it is because of the lack of language, and not with intention, but I do want to point out that the statements in this news sheet which has been spoken of, and the tendency of the general propaganda to say that things are failing, and that certain things have not happened, are untrue. Why not speak the truth? Things are too tragic now for us to speak 326 otherwise. The first paragraph of this news sheet begins by saying:The stoppage was by no means 60 complete as its promoters hoped.It has far exceeded our hopes, exceeded not only what we hoped for but what we asked for.
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary spoke of services that were open. We have kept them open. We have sent men back to work, and we are now appealing to others not to leave duty. If we had accepted the situation in the jack-boot spirit which I thought was exhibited yesterday, remember that there are many hundreds of thousands more whom the General Council could call out. We are keeping safety going; we are keeping lighting going; and we offered to keep foodstuffs going. Although I think this is not a time for dignity, I am not going to suggest that the Government can come and bargain with the General Council of the Trade Union Congress, arid I am only saying this to try in my humble way to get the right frame of mind. But when it is suggested that services are running, that everything is going on smoothly and that things are improving, believe me, they are not. Suppose a few more omnibuses are running in London—I deny it, but suppose there are a few vehicles bringing a few clerks and girl typists into their dismal rabbit hutches in the offices of London. [interruption.] Yes, I am speaking advisedly. Four years ago I came to London seeking an office, when we moved our headquarters from the North of England, and I went through hundreds of offices that were empty, and I spent twice as much money eventually as I need have done in purchasing such a general office that our people could be in liveable conditions and have light and airy rooms.
What I want to put is: Is there anyone who sanely understands the magnitude of this strike who believes that such few facilities as have been provided are having the slightest effect on the general situation? Think of the position in the North of England, where great industries are closing. Do not think that shooting will alter it, or that seizing people will alter it. There are 100 people prepared to step into the place of any one of us on the General Council whom you remove. I am told that shooing is 327 very unpleasant, and my skin is not bullet-proof. I am not challenging it, I am not welcoming it, I do not want it; but if there is a truculent spirit conducting affairs on the other side who says that will alter it, I say again, without challenge or threat, that it will not. This country is at a standstill, and undoubtedly the position will be worse, and whichever side is beaten or whichever side wins, how much will it be to the credit of anyone who has the power to create a sanity of feeling and a clarity of outlook which will leave negotiations possible!
If I have trespassed on the indulgence of the House, I must say that the House, with its usual kindness, has listened with an attentiveness which I appreciate, and I would not have inflicted myself upon the House but for a feeling that a certain spirit was about—if I am wrong, I regret it. I want to sum up in these few words. Fear will not kill this thing. We are wrongly represented when it is said that we have deliberately done this, that and the other, because, I repeat, we have offered to work essential services. Not only was that offer not accepted, but it was ignored; there was not even an acknowledgment of our communication. We have sent men back to work who have come out. We are holding back hundreds of thousands of others with a greater power than many hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite realise, and for which, I am afraid, they may not give us the whole credit. This Press, the fact that these Orders may have to be put into operation, will possibly break all down, and the last position will be worse than the first. If it is to be a fight to the finish, God knows I regret it; but there are men on both sides of this House who, while they may regret a certain decision, yet if they believe from the bottom of their souls they are right, will not be stopped by regrets from going forward.
If there is justice, if there is a need to be merciful to certain of our own fellow countrymen who are flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, can we not say, "Let us even at this late hour come to a fair understanding, let us do them justice, even though we throw dignity and everything else to the wind"? If we cannot inspire that feeling, if the issue has to 328 be fought out, no one will regret it more than I shall. We shall go through with it. I believe the trade unionists are not challenging the Government. Do not try to make capital out of that, because we have no desire to damage our nation, which we love as much as anyone else. We desire to protect a large section of our nation which has suffered so long, and which we intend shall not suffer so much in the future. In conclusion, I appeal to the House all round to endeavour to create a better and a more truthful atmosphere, and to try to understand the position from the standpoint of the working people who have suffered so long, and who are now putting up a strenuous battle on behalf of those we believe to be downtrodden and degraded.
§ Sir EDWARD ILIFFE
I rise, not to make a speech, but to offer a suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George) referred to the attitude which had been adopted towards certain newspapers. I think it is necessary that the public should be informed upon all matters connected with the present industrial dispute. The right hon. Gentleman said that in his opinion every reputable newspaper desired to publish every point of view, but that suggestion was not accepted by many hon. Members in the party opposite. On behalf of the directors of a group of papers with a circulation exceeding 10,000,000 weekly, I wish to say that we are prepared to offer to print in each division two columns of matter supplied by the Labour party unaltered, and we reserve the right to comment but not to alter so long as the matter published is in accordance with the law. This has been the practice of certain papers with which I have been connected for many years, and whenever there has been an election in a constituency where there is only one evening paper we have placed its columns at the disposal of all parties, and I am certain that all reputable papers will take the same line.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I rise to take part in this discussion with a certain amount of trepidation. The issues involved are so tremendous that everybody should be extremely careful about every word that is uttered. The only claim I have to speak is that I can speak free from any party allegiance or party 329 passion, because I belong to no party in this House. Perhaps because of that, and perhaps because I have had a long service in this House, it will not be considered impertinence on my part if I make a small contribution to this Debate. I know there have been several speeches made from the Labour Benches above the Gangway by men who are deeply involved and more deeply involved than anybody else in this trouble, and yet I have not heard a word from them which was not in the language of reason and conciliation. I noted particularly a passage in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. Henderson) indicating a desire and an eagerness on the part of himself and his friends to reenter the path of negotiation.
Now, I put it to the House that what we all ought to do is to adopt as our motto, "Back from the battlefield to the council chamber." I ask the House, What advantage would it be to anybody that this struggle should go on? At the end it will only tell the same lesson as the Great War. Victors and vanquished will be equally affected by the appalling results of mutual slaughter and destruction. Is there a man in this House who does not realise that, whatever may be the result of this struggle, whether victory, or what is called victory, go to the trade unions or whether it go to the Government in office at the moment, it will be no real victory for anyone? Look at the conditions existing all round. You may talk about the dislocation of our industries, but the cost of this dispute may easily be more than the millons required to buy out the royalty owners and the millions required to reconstruct the whole mining industry.
When I hear the word "reconstruct," I feel that I must call the attention of the House to the fact that we have had on this subject three or four Royal Commissions, manned by some of the greatest men in the country. They have pleaded time after time for a reconstruction of the mining industry, and yet that reconstruction has not taken place. After all the suffering and humiliation which the miners have undergone, a man must be without heart or reason if he can look upon such a situation without compunction. This situation can only be dealt with by frank 330 and honourable discussion on both sides. I object altogether to the position that people should issue ultimatums before they enter into the council chamber. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members on the Government side cheer that statement, and probably they interpret those words in a different sense from my hon. Friend below the Gangway, but I interpret them as applying to both parties.
On this question I must make another observation. I do not want to say a word against the Prime Minister because we all have great faith in his honesty, his energy, and his benignant and peaceful spirit, although our faith in him may have been a little shaken by the events of the last few days. I cannot, however, understand the delays which have taken place in regard to these negotiations. I cannot understand these delays either on the part of the miners or of the Government. I understand that up to a certain hour on Sunday night there was a possibility of peace, and hopes in that direction in the minds of the Labour representatives; and everybody knows there could not be a more reasonable conciliator or arbitrator than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). I am told that there was a second opportunity for peace given to the Government on Monday, and also at ten o'clock on Monday night. The men who divide the two parties in this last disastrous war will he held to a heavy, if not a criminal, responsibility.
Why do not the parties come together again? Is there some quest ion of dignity? What does the dignity of any man matter, however highly placed he may be, in the face of the disaster with which our country is confronted. I fully accept the position laid down that any Prime Minister would have to accept the responsibility of maintaining the food supplies of the people and the supremacy of Parliament, but never will I give any countenance to what I call the insane idea that any body of men ought to place themselves above the constitutional authorities of the country. None of these men has done so. I know there has been a. great response on the part of a large mass of people to volunteer for the service of the Government. But do not make any mistake about this, because there are great forces on the other side. Although the Government 331 may think it right to get together all the forces of the Empire to defend the constitutional authorities of the nation, it must not be overlooked that there is in the minds of a good many people a very uneasy feeling as to the conditions under which the miners suffer.
Some figures were quoted the other evening by the Leader of the Opposition—figures which, I think, must have shocked every hon. Member in every part of the House. I would ask, how can this grand fabric of Empire be founded on dead men's bones? Therefore, in my opinion, this struggle is not the end of the struggle, and men are in a blind man's paradise who do not realise the dangers that lie before us if this struggle continue. The amount of support that my hon. Friends have got from so many people in this country is an indication of what I am afraid is now a very widespread feeling in the country—I do not say it is justified in all cases, but in many cases it is justified—that there is going to be a mass attack on the wages and the food and the homes of the people. I do pray that my poor humble voice may be listened to by all parties in the House in my plea that, by a united pressure upon the Government, dismissing questions of dignity, they may change, as I have said, the battlefield for the council.
§ Mr. CLYNES
No one could find fault with the tone in which the Home Secretary, earlier in the day, submitted these Regulations for the consideration of the House, but I think the right hon. Gentleman must feel how real is the irony of fate which requires him to submit these Regulations, in view of his own past record in the matter of suggestions for sedition and disorder. As that is on the records of the House, I do not want further to emphasise it. Much can be said, at moments of threatened tumult, for proposals such as the Home Secretary has submitted, and we resist these proposed Regulations, not because we fail to recognise the duty of the Government or the possibility of the need for some of them, but because this is still an opportunity for suggesting alternative methods and for repeating arguments which are being used, perhaps, more outside this House than in it, as to the sustaining and earnest desire of those who have acted for Labour in this 332 matter to reach a settlement without a stoppage.
I hope that this Debate will be continued in the tone and terms which, so far, it has followed, above all, in the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) and of my bon. Friend the Member for Barrow (Mr. Bromley), who has made a most moving and, at the same time, matter-of-fact appeal to the conscience of the House further to consider this situation. No one could listen to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Burnley without reaching the conclusion that the breaking-off of the negotiations was a. precipitate and calamitous step on the part of the Government. It is true that this matter had been before the mind of the public for, perhaps, 18 months or two years, but the truth is that, with respect to the actual exchange of definite proposals for reaching a conclusion and for coming to terms, the negotiations had only begun on the 30th April, and those negotiations had to be conducted under the threat of the lock-out notices that were then hanging over the heads of the miners.
I have here a copy of the letter sent by the Prime Minister to Mr. Herbert Smith, the President of the Miners' Federation, and it was in that communication that for the first time some definite proposals were made other than upon the hard-and-fast lines which had divided the two parties to the dispute during the preceding months. As that letter has already been published, I shall not trouble the House by reading it, but, as I have said, I hope we shall travel particularly in the spirit of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), for he well knows, as every other Member of this House should know, that in the end Labour cannot be beaten. It is willing to compromise, it is willing to settle. It may be defeated, it may go down temporarily, as it has done before, but, in the sense of being a rising and enduring factor in the economic and social life of this country, it cannot he beaten. I recall how, 25 or 26 years ago, the great engineering organisation in this country had its funds drained, and its members, in a sense, beaten to their knees by a powerful and well-organised body of employers, 333 but in a few years that defeat had been turned into a victory, the reverse had been effected of nearly doubling the membership of the organisation, and in a few years it had restored its power and authority and influence with the employers of labour.
Are we to lose the lessons which history, ever repeating itself, teaches us in respect of these recurring quarrels? If we are to lose the lesson of history, let us at least face what is the outstanding fact in addition to the issue that is now before us. It is the fact that, after this dispute is ended, no matter who wins or how they win, no matter what the terms of the settlement or compromise may be, no matter what is the result in respect of all these sides of the question, the outstanding fact before us is that the problems of the coalfield which existed last week will be left to be settled afterwards, and those problems, being as they are, the property of us all, the mutual onus and equal concern of us all, will be intensified and aggravated the longer this unhappy quarrel goes on.
I know that some hon. Gentlemen, if we are to judge by their personal manifestations and sometimes by what they say, suspect us of being possessed of some design to unsettle the country, to attack and overthrow the Constitution, to assail our established systems. We go the same way as any other party in the use of constitutional methods to secure improvements and modifications for the masses of tie people whom we represent. We appeal to the electors. Remember the last election, and remember how the men who in hundreds of thousands voted for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are now amongst the men on strike, and are not finding fault with us on this side of the House for having asked them, to vote for us, but are finding fault with us for not having asked them to rise earlier.
It has been already proved in speeches on this side of the House to-day that, apart from there having been a full response to the strike appeal, the response has gone far beyond the claim or appeal that was made to the men to cease work, and hundreds of thousands of men have actually come out who were not required to do so at all; and let it be remembered that those millions of men who are on strike are a mixture of Labour men who 334 voted for us and of Conservatives and Liberals who voted against us. Perhaps I should also say, further, that most of these men are ex-service men, who fought as well for their country as they are now entitled to fight for the miners.
We offer opposition to these Regulations because safety for the State does not lie in mere acts of repression, in merely strengthening the executive authority. National safety is to be found upon far different lines. This is no time for treating lightly any observation of a responsible Minister, but it was difficult to withhold a smile when earlier to-day the Home Secretary said he had directed that railways are a vital necessity. The truth is that the only men who can direct the railways are the railway workers, and there they will remain, so much valueless property, until their worth is restored by work. Accordingly, as I have said, we are not to seek the restoration of our system of locomotion or transport in any one of these Regulations for which the Home Secretary is asking support. We have no desire to stop essential services. I doubt whether before in trade union history so full an exception has been laid down as in this instance in the use of trade union powers, for when, provoked, as I allege and believe, to answer the employers' lock-out with the workers' strike, when that point had been reached, those who had the care and keeping of the course of events in their power said, "We must think of the hospitals, of the sick and ailing; we must think of the needs of the people in regard to food and light and essential services," and they offered in all sincerity, and with a view to maintaining to as full an extent as possible public business and the national life, to co-operate with the Government in respect of the maintenance of these national services.
It may for the time being fit in with the temper of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to treat those offers with contempt, to conclude in their own minds that they will be able to do without them, but when they tell us that it is we who are interfering with the national services, we are entitled to answer and say that the first and the greatest of the essential services of this country, namely, the supply of coal, was interfered with, was, indeed, stopped altogether, by the lockout notices which were issued. We never 335 despaired, until the negotiations were actually broken off by the precipitate action of the Government, of reaching a settlement, harassing and difficult as was the labour of those who had to apply their hands to that task, and here I would like to say, as one who is somewhat acquainted with my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), that I do not think that ever before in the history of industrial negotiations has a man worked so hard and with such effect as did my right hon. Friend throughout all these consultations. Now he, I suppose, according to this Government sheet, is to be regarded as the enemy of his country, as one who is seeking to throttle the life of the nation.
I want, before I sit down, to make one further reference to this scandalous publication. If information is to be circulated, it should be, in the first instance, more in the fashion of news than views, and if views are to be circulated, they ought not to be of a partisan character, for I conclude that this so-called national publication is issued at the nation's expense. I will read to the House this concluding paragraph, after a reference to what trade unions were in former days:Then the Trade Union Act of 1913 was passed by a Liberal Government, and from being at least on the surface a beneficent organisation whose funds were devoted to the needs of its members and its members only, the trade union of to-day is a vast political body spending its money to the end that the capitalist state may be overthrown.I welcome the admission that the trade union of to-day constitutes a vast political body. Events threw trade unions into political activities. They went most reluctantly into political activities. It was found that scarcely ever could a trade union get the meanest advance for its members without resorting to the arbitrament of a strike, and we thought by sending representatives to this House, and using constitutionally and peacefully the power that that political action might give, the standard of the workers' life and wage might be raised. We are perfectly entitled to take part in the political activities of our country. Shut workmen out of the right of taking political action, and you will drive them back upon the weapon of 336 revolution. It is the development of trade union influence which has strengthened the bulwark against revolutionary aims and tendencies.
What is it that members of trade unions pay for this political purpose? I wish this paragraph were true. We denounce it because it is false in the main. The average contribution of the average trade unionist for this purpose is a farthing a week, and yet this lie is frequently circulated, not only in this disgraceful sheet, but from many a Tory platform and in many Conservative daily paper. Provocation to strike existed because the mine-owners would not withdraw the lock-out notices. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, at the close of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of Monday night, put a definite question, it was not answered. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman who may speak later can afford a reply. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated the view that the gates for negotiation were not entirely closed. There were still some open provided the strike notices were withdrawn—provided the strike did not take place—whereupon, rightly I think every Members of the House must admit, my right hon. Friend asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Does that mean also that the lock-out notices will be withdrawn? I hope we may return before long to that state of sanity which is more in keeping with our reputation for British common sense and that there will be no demand of a one-sided character, and that which one side asks for is a course which it must accede to the other. I can only repeat that we do not look for any benefit to the country from the mere passing of these Resolutions, and as I say it may be necessary for all of us to join together—and I hope we shall—in the maintenance of conditions of peace and order and law, I hope we shall see at the end of this Debate an end of the recurring charges that we alone are to blame for these troubles, and that all of us may find the path along which we can move to reach a settlement of this unhappy problem.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I can assure the House there is nothing I desire more than a peaceful and rapid termination of the present industrial and political unrest. I thoroughly agree with what has been said by several speakers from various points of view, that in these matters no victory for 337 either side is a desirable thing. We do not want, indeed, to have language imported from war used in these matters at all. You do not want to have winning or losing spoken of, except colloquially, for the purpose of saving trouble. In any really considered statement it should not be thought of as a thing in which one set of people triumph over another. But I am obliged to say I think, of all the things that make for peace, precision of thought and exactness of expression make most for it. We do not really get on, even by the kindest and most warmhearted appeals, if they do not clear up in some degree the situation in which we find ourselves, because after all, as I am sure right hon. Gentlemen on that bench believe, the Government, and humble persons like myself, and hon. Gentlemen opposite—all of us really honestly desire peace. We do not like having a strike any more than right hon. Gentlemen on that bench. I do not care about the mineowners and their interests. To begin with, there are really two disputes. Hon. Members appear always to treat the whole transaction as if it were one homogeneous whole. That is precisely one of the points on which I think no hon. Gentleman on that side, seeing things from a different point of view, can understand the position of right hon. Gentle-men on this bench. In our view the mining dispute is a trade dispute like any other, in which everyone must feel a great deal of sympathy for those who are in great difficulties, whose wages are threatened by proposals for a reduction. It is a trade dispute like any other, though much more important than most, about which doubtless there is this to be said on one side, and that on the other.
But a general strike is not a trade dispute at all. It is an aggression against the community at large. Everyone suffers from a general strike. No one is better off for it. The rich suffer very much less than the poor. It is perfectly innocent persons in very humble circumstances who are most affected by a strike It seems to me very surprising that, with absolute sincerity in every tone of their voices, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. Henderson), for instance, and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, avow themselves the advocates of peace when they proclaim at the outset a general strike 338 against the whole community. We cannot reconcile the two points of view—the honest desire which, I am sure, they have to come to a friendly and equitable decision and the proclamation of the general strike. The two things do not fit together. The particular way in which the general strike is carried out is still more astounding, because this strike against newspapers is a thing which it is quite impossible to explain. It has nothing to do with mining nor with any trade dependent on mining.
§ Lord H. CECIL
Surely in order to score a party point off an opponent it is not legitimate to inflict the suffering that a general strike inflicts on the community. There is a reference to the influence of newspapers from the point of view of votes at an election.
§ Lord H. CECIL
It is impossible to suppose that that is to be treated as if it were an ordinary trade dispute. It is quite a different thing. It is an effort to force on the State a particular policy. This general strike is an attack upon the State. It is not a step in a trade dispute. It is for that reason that it seems to us so very unreasonable to say the general strike is not to be withdrawn except upon the settlement of the other trade disputes. It has been pointed out that you cannot withdraw the other notices—to speak with absolute precision they are not strictly lock-out notices. They are notices of termination of one agreement followed by proposals for another agreement.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) must not make remarks of that kind. He will please withdraw what he said.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is a matter that can be argued in Debate, but not by means of the interruption which the hon. Member made. I call upon him to withdraw what he said.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I do not wish to quibble about words. It is beyond question that there is common agreement on both sides, the Government side and the Labour side, that if nothing had happened the notices posted were tantamount to a lock-out.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I do not want the House to get, as I am afraid it is getting, into a heated state of excitement. I hope that hon. Members in all parts of the House will avoid that, because it does not help forward any of the objects we have in view. I do not mind, Mr. Speaker, anyone calling me a humbug, or any other such expression. I am quite indifferent. Anyone is at liberty to attack me in the most violent terms they can find in the English language. I have been a Member of this House for a very long time, and I do not think that I have ever solicited the protection of the Chair against people who have made attacks upon me. I do not mind attacks in the least. I do not want to make any attack upon the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench. My purpose is to clear up the disagreements that divide us.
We do not on our side see that there is the slightest reasonableness in the parallel that exists in the minds of hon. and right hon. Members of the Labour party between the notices which have been issued in respect of the mines and the general strike against the whole community. They seem to have an entirely different opinion. While we are perfectly willing, with the utmost patience and 340 consideration, to listen to arguments on the merits of the mining dispute, we say that there is nothing to be said for the general strike. It is a pure attack upon the liberties of Parliamentary government and the freedom of the State. When complaint is made of the Government interrupting negotiations—it was only an interruption, because they were quite open to resume them when they could properly be resumed—because of the attack upon the "Daily Mail," it does really seem to me to be a most astonishing thing to have happened. The Government are not likely to view the "Daily Mail" specially from the point of view of thinking that it was of great importance to silence the "Daily Mail."
§ Lord H. CECIL
Not because of good will on its part. It has done its best to do harm. It is not merely an important thing in itself, to try to muzzle the Press in a free country, but it is an extraordinarily significant thing, because it seems to me impossible to understand that it can be directed to any end except a revolutionary end. It would be easy to understand if the Trades Union Congress had put at the disposal of the miners all the strike funds they had at their disposal. That would have been an intelligible thing. That mark of sympathy would have been largely understood and sympathised with to some extent by those who did not agree with them, but to make a violent attack upon someone or something not connected with the mining industry, and to make an attack on the freedom of the Press, what can it mean? What can really be the mind behind it except the revolutionary mind?
§ Lord H. CECIL
No violence, but revolutionary purpose is involved, and the destruction of free discussion. I cannot see that there is any fair or legitimate industrial object which that can possibly serve. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that if we are to have peace, the first step must be that the general strike must come to an end. There remains, of course, the old difficulty. I honour and respect the sincerity with which the arguments have been urged, but I do not think hon. Members make it easy when 341 they say that they were confronted with a new situation and that they had not time to consider it. That is, I understand, their complaint. The thing was contained in the Report of the Commission. That survey of the whole industry made certain definite proposals. The Government—not for the first time, because they did it some weeks before—recommended the adoption of the Report as the solution of their difficulty, not because they particularly liked everything in the Report, but because they thought they must accept it, after all the careful inquiry that had been made, as the best means of reaching a successful solution of the difficulty. In reply to that there have never been any kind phrases or conciliatory words used. There has been no substantial act of conciliation from the other side.
§ Mr. THOMAS indicated dissent.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I am saying it as it strikes my mind. There does not appear to have been any step whatever taken, at any rate, in substance. I agree that all sorts of language have been used. I am not arguing the case of the mine-owners at the moment; I am dealing with the case as between the Government and the miners. The position of the mine-owners is obscure. They have reservations. If that were all, it would be open to the representatives of the miners to say, "We will have the Report, if we can have the whole Report. We will have the Report if you, the Government, will show us how we are to get over the immediate difficulty of the two or three weeks, or some other transitional period, which lie between us and the acceptance of the Report."
Let me make a suggestion. Right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench are in close touch with those who understand the miners' point of view. They say, "We were on the point of arriving at a formula." That is, perhaps, rather an unhappy phrase, because it suggests an agreement in words which is not an agreement in reality. The 39 Articles represent a formula, but I am not sure that it would regulate successfully any industrial dispute. You want a formula to be such that each party means the same thing. Subject to that condition, if they have a formula, why do not they go to the Prime Minister and say, "Here 342 is a formula that would satisfy the miners. What do you say to it?" There is no difficulty—the door has not been shut—about approaching the Prime Minister. The right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) will agree that the Prime Minister is a most conciliatory man, and most anxious to hear what there is to be said. But it is of real importance to that attitude of mind that we must get rid of the general strike, the stress of which is suffered, not by the Government, not by the mine-owners, but by quite innocent persons, whom no one can blame; people who have nothing to do with the dispute. Unless the general strike is got out of the way, how can we get any nearer to a friendly understanding?
Let us avoid the language of war. Do not let us speak about people having victories, or beating one another. We do not want to beat anyone. Do not let us indulge, though we are all susceptible to it in these times, in excessive suspicion. Do not let us suppose that the Government or any of us want a campaign against wages, or to destroy trades unions. I do not want anything of the kind, and I am sure the Government do not want anything of the kind. Of course, some interested persons in all walks of life want certain things that are very unfortunate from the general well-being of the community. These people will not have their way if the people of goodwill and good sense come together. I do not want to encourage suspicion. I could have said a great many more things, which would seem very odd, about the management of trade unions, but I do not want to encourage suspicion amongst my own friends who, like other people, are very prone to it.
Let us avoid the language of suspicion and let us avoid the analogy of war, which one is so tired of in these matters. Let us try, by common consent, to get the best settlement we can. No one is to blame for a good many facts of the situation. The real difficulty does not lie in what happened on a particular Friday night or Saturday morning. It lies in the economic difficulties of the situation. Let us try to make the best arrangement that we can in those difficulties. So, and only so, shall we get peace.
§ Mr. THOMAS
It was not my intention to take part in the Debate, but the speech of the Noble Lord is very important. It represents a detached point of view, and it is the one real contribution that has been made to the discussion of our problem. In a few minutes, I will endeavour to answer it. I will give one analogy to the Noble Lord in reply to his question why the trades union support the miners. He may disagree with their methods. He may say that it would have been better to have supported them financially. I will not discuss that. I will give the Noble Lord one analogy from his own experience. Ulster took a certain view. They may have been right or they may have been wrong; it was their view. The Noble Lord and his friends thought it was essential that they should risk even a revolution to support Ulster. That is the analogy. I merely draw his attention to it in relation to his feelings of a few years ago. I leave it at that.
Now I come to the other question. Let there be no misunderstanding. It was no formula. I say, even if it was the last word I uttered in this House, that at Eleven o'clock on Sunday night, not a formula, but the Prime Minister's own words, in his own writing, were in my possession as a means of settling, and I accepted it. Let the. House be under no misapprehension about that. I accepted it. When I say "I" I speak for the Trades Union Congress. Perhaps I had better use the word "we." We had not only accepted it, but we had taken the responsibility of saying, "Never mind what the miners or anybody else say. We accept it." That was at eleven o'clock on Sunday night. [Hon. MEMBERS: "What was it?"] The words that the Prime Minister had himself written down as being a common basis of settlement, not my words. [HON. MEMBERS: "What were they?"] The words were there. As to the "Daily Mail," we knew nothing about it. We knew nothing about any expression of opinion of the "Daily Mail" in its leading article or anything about that. When the existence of the country was at stake, a question about the "Daily Mail" ought not to have prevented us coming to an agreement.
I know that the Noble Lord is sincere. He only wanted to know the facts. I have told him the facts in a few sen- 344 tences. The Noble Lord asks why did the Trade Union Congress support the miners? I answer him, because the whole trade union movement believed the miners were right. Just as the Noble Lord and his party thought that Ulster was right, and they risked their all in supporting them, so the Trades Union Congress thought the miners were right, and risked their all in supporting them.
I will now repeat in the presence of the Prime Minister what I said on the other matter. I have just stated to the House that at eleven o'clock on Sunday night, so far as the General Council of the Trade Union Congress was concerned, which is the only body responsible for the general strike, we had already told the Prime Minister that we accepted the formula, that is the word used for the exchange of documents, and were prepared to take that risk. We knew nothing about the "Daily Mail" incident. It was after we had gone back—after having told you we accepted it, at eleven o'clock on Sunday night after we had told the Prime Minister that the exchange of documents between us, that is between the Government and the Trade Union Congress, was accepted—when we were going to tell the miners that we had done so, and whilst we were with the miners, that the "Daily Mail" incident happened, of which we knew nothing, that the negotiations were broken off. I am not arguing the merits of the "Daily Mail" incident; I am merely answering the Noble Lord. Like him, I do not want the word "war" used, because we are not fighting the Germans or anybody else. It is our own people, and when the end, whatever it may be, comes, we are all citizens of this country and we want to do the right thing.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
I must apologise to the House for not being present, but I have a good deal of work to do, and it did not occur to me that on the Debate on the Regulations any point could possibly arise on anything that had preceded the introduction of the Regulations. I will give my recollection, which I do not think is different from the statement that has been made to you. The discussions which were going on were being held very privately, and what myself and my colleagues, that is, Lord Birkenhead and the Minister of Labour (Sir A. Steel- 345 Maitland) were endeavouring to do on our side was to get an assurance from the Trade Union Council that they felt confident, or some equivalent word, that a settlement could be arrived at on the lines of the Report. Some people may think that rather vague, "on the lines of the Report," but it meant in our minds acceptance, and we talked for hours on that point of acceptance. I do not honestly remember clearly whether or not it was stated that evening that those who were speaking to us were satisfied about that, but what I am clear about is that they were going to see the Miners' Executive on the Sunday and see if they could get such assurance from them that they could say to us that the miners accepted, as well as the Trade Union Council, because acceptance by the Council without the miners would not have been a sufficient guarantee for us The Trade Union Council were not plenipotentiaries, as the Minister of Labour said yesterday; they were acting for them.
They went to see the miners about eleven o'clock, and what has been said confirms from another direction what I said in my speech on Monday. I was in a position of grave anxiety negotiating, as I have told the House, under a threat. I doubted the wisdom, but I ran the risk in the gravity of the situation. It was while the Trade Union Council were seeing the miners and while the Cabinet were considering, or rather let me say while I and my colleagues who had been to the meeting were explaining to the Cabinet what it meant, and what we hoped to, do, that we learned by telephone that the first active overt move in the general strike was being actually made, by trying to suppress the Press. We felt that in those circumstances the whole situation was completely changed. We felt that this was more than a threat. It was direct action, and direct action, in my view, of the worst kind, because it was suppressing, or trying to suppress, the possibility of the dissemination of news to the public. In those circumstances, and with infinite regret, we had to take the stand that we could go no further. It confirms what I think I said on Monday, that there was every hope of an agreement being reached which would have enabled us to continue discussions had it not been for the 346 declaration of the general strike. I think that is all I have to say.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I have not risen to make a speech or to continue the Debate, but to say that so far as it was reported to me immediately afterwards the statement of the Prime Minister is perfectly correct. To me that was the sorrow of the whole thing. Let hon. Members visualise what was happening—and in regard to this formula the noble Lord knows that when he is up against a stiff proposition sometimes nine-tenths of the trouble is not to get agreement upon the substance but to get an agreement upon the words that are going to be the form of the substance. That was the difficulty on this occasion. The Prime Minister knew the mind of the representatives of the General Council. That is the first fact. He also knew that at that moment the General Council, having specially summoned the Miners' Executive, were in consultation with the Miners' Executive in a room practically next door to the room where the Cabinet was sitting. That is the second fact. Then the news of the "Daily Mail" incident appeared. There was never a question put to the people in the other room, "Do you know anything about this?" "Are you responsible for this?" "What action do you propose to take in regard to it?" There was no approach made of one kind or another. But when they were busy working out this formula, which was the form of a substance, a letter was received which says, "The whole thing is finished." After the consternation on the receipt of this letter was over my colleagues decided to send a deputation to the room next door where the Government representatives were sitting, asking really what this was all about and to explain the whole situation to them. When the deputation arrived at that room, they found the door locked and the whole place in darkness.
I again ask this House, cannot you do something? I intended to take part in the Debate, especially after the references made to me by the Home Secretary. Will the House allow me to say this. I withdraw not a single word I wrote in 1912. I withdraw not a single word I said from that Box as Prime Minister in 1924. These are not the issues we are faced with to-day. I am standing as solidly by the 347 miners as any of my colleagues. The evil sands are beginning to run down. Is this House not going to supplement good will and common sense and see whether we cannot settle it? I want to warn you. I am not speaking for the Trade Union Congress. I am speaking for nobody. I have not consulted with my colleagues or my friends around me, but I am speaking from my own heart because I know—I believe I know and can visualise—what all this will mean as the days go into weeks and the weeks, though I hope not, go into months. So far as memory is concerned, they will. Although the men have said and the Government have said that there is to be no more appealing as far as they are concerned, I am an outsider, I stand apart. I am not a member of the Trade Union Congress, and therefore I am a little freer than some of my colleagues, and I can do things for which perhaps I may get blamed to-morrow by the Trade Union Congress. But I cannot let this opportunity go without telling the House what is in my heart, and, if it is rejected, well, I have done my best, and no man can do more.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I do not, of course, want to make it public, but if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. MacDonald) has this formula, or knows of it, why should he not get it and send it to the Prime Minister?
§ Lord H. CECIL
Do I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that he knows that that formula would be acceptable to the Trade Union Congress
§ Mr. MacDONALD
What I would like to do is to get hon. Members to remember the situation. The formula came as a trial from the Government. The Trade Union Congress section said that they were prepared to accept it and do their best. It is rather difficult to say in a word or two precisely what the situation was. They were discussing it with the miners at the time. No one can say what the situation was, although we can all have our views, because right in the middle of the negotiations, when every man was striving to get a settlement, the letter came.
Mr. AUSTEN HOPKINSON
I think I can answer the question. The trouble is that in this Debate now we seem to have gone off on a side issue. This formula has no effect whatever. On the Sunday evening in question the following statement was issued to the Press to be published in the Press the next day:
Mr. A. J. Cook, the Miners' Secretary, last night issued the following statement:'A number of incorrect or misleading statements have appeared since Saturday morning concerning the attitude of the Miners' Federation to any possible reduction in wages. In view of this, and in view also of many telegrams from districts and branches of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain asking for reassurance on this point, it is necessary to make clear that under no circumstances can the miners accept any agreement which lowers their standard of living. The delegate conference of the Miners' Federation last week, after receiving the unanimous reports of the districts against any reductions in wages, increase in hours, or district agreements, reaffirmed its unalterable opposition to any settlement embodying any of these proposals.'I submit, therefore, that at this stage of the proceedings any discussion of this formula is absolutely useless. What that formula was—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I have appealed to the House before. If hon. Members desire, as I believe they do, this discussion to proceed, let each one of them remember that every interruption they make in argument is only delaying and not promoting discussion.
I am sorry that what I have just said may be a little controversial, but it seems to me that the House is rather wasting its time on a formula that it does not know and that has vanished in view of that absolutely unequivocal statement on behalf of the Miners' Federation. It was utterly impossible to carry that formula into operation in view of that statement. I would like also to refer to another point with regard to what was said by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil). The Noble Lord seemed not to be fully informed. It has been said by hon. Members above the Gangway on this side, that it is exceedingly difficult to negotiate when lockout notices have been published. Although 349 I do not wish to use the tu quoque argument on so serious an occasion as this, it might fairly be asked whether in those districts where lock-out notices had not been posted the miners would also withdraw their notices. There are large districts in this country where notices have not been posted up by the owners. The miners, quite rightly for their own protection, put up notices terminating their own agreement. No threat was made any more by the miners than by the owners. In both cases they had to protect their legal position, because they would be liable for very serious damages for breach of contract. Just in the same way in those important districts where notices have not been posted by the owners, if the men had not handed in those notices they would have been liable to breach of contract. A lot of wasted talk has gone on with regard to the idea that it is impossible to negotiate with a threat hanging over the miners by means of the owners' notices when at the same time the owners were under threat. I do ask the House to drop these matters and endeavour to discuss the real point in this Debate which I think was very carefully observed by the Noble Lord. I do not put forward these points in any controversial spirit, but purely in order that the time of the House may not be wasted.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am at a little disadvantage in not having heard the earlier portion of the Debate, but there was a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. MacDonald) which I think is just not quite the right impression of the close of the proceedings in the evening. I might just correct also an impression which I think was formed by something said by the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) before I came into the House. I understand he gave the House the impression that this was a Government document written out by myself that we were discussing. That is not quite the case. It was a formula that had been reached by discussion between the permanent officials and the members of the Trade Union Council in which we were seeking to get a kind of formula that might he agreed to when the Trade Union Council met the miners. That is the point. Then we were each of us to take this form of words and consult our friends. They would consult the Trade 350 Union Council and the miners. But on the morning some of the representatives could not be got because they had left London. I had been to the Cabinet and had heard discussion there. In the evening we considered it again.
There is some discrepancy in the rest of the statement. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Macdonald) seems to think there was some lack of courtesy in the way the negotiations actually broke down. They were broken because of the actual beginning of the general strike. [Interruption.] We wrote the reason in the document that was handed in, and we said that negotiations had broken down. We did not close the door to negotiations; we said no negotiation could take place until that general strike was called off. I may add this. I cannot remember whether I told the House on Monday—I think I did. I was so conscious of the attempt for peace that we had made together that I asked the representatives to meet me—instead of sending the document—that I might hand it to them in order that I might express my regret to them, that as has so often happened the work of the peacemakers had been killed by the action of the hotheads. I am quite sure that among those I addressed they felt it as strongly as I did. I say nothing more in this Debate in addition to what I said on Monday as to a general strike and all it means to any Government that may be in power. No Government in any circumstances can ever yield to a general strike. The moment that general strike is called off unconditionally the Government are prepared to resume negotiations to attempt to bring this matter to a successful issue.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman again, for the benefit of the House, this question? Is it not true that the formula that he referred to as being the work of the permanent officials was a formula that was acceptable to his side and ours? Secondly, is it not true that when the breakdown took place we knew nothing of the incident, we were not told of it, and, when we heard of it after the breakdown of the negotiations, we wrote and told him at once that we knew nothing about it and repudiated it.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
On the second point what the right hon. Gentleman says is quite true. I think it is quite likely that he had no knowledge of the incident, But 351 that does not affect the fact. He may have repudiated it, but it showed that he had entirely lost control. With regard to the first point, certainly I and my friends accepted those words, or, to be perfectly exact, we should have accepted them had they been accepted to mean, to him, what we and the Trade Union Council were trying to make them mean, and we got the consent of the miners.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WARNE
I want to address the House in the very fine atmosphere there is prevailing at the present time, and I want us to remember the statement that was made to-day that this matter, if it has to be settled, will have to be settled by the House of Commons. Now, I want to say that in my opinion we are watching the working out of one of the greatest tragedies that ever befell this country of ours, and the tragedy is all the greater, because everyone wants peace, and peace is not coming. Why has this crisis come about? It is well known that the workers of this country have had the idea, rightly or wrongly, that there was going to be a determined attack upon their standards of life. The miners believed that they were the first, people to be attacked. The general strike and the wonderful response that has come to the assistance of the miners are due to the fact that the worker believed that there was to be a general attack upon the standards of life of the workers of this country. We may be wrong, but I am just pointing out what is holding the working men of this country and the trade unions together, that idea that there is a general attack on their standards of life. What is the idea that is holding the other side at the present time? It is that the workers were going to make an effort against the constitution of this country.
Let us try to visualise the two forces that are holding us and stopping peace from coming. Here, on the one side, is the fear of a general attack on the standards of life. The moment that it is resisted, the other side say, "Here it comes, what we always thought would be the case, the Russian method adopted by the working people in this country." The tragedy of the negotiations breaking off last Monday morning shows that that was the fear in the minds of some of the 352 negotiators on the other side. The moment that that silly act of certain men in a newspaper office was made known to some of the negotiators on the other side, they said, "The whole thing has to be stopped." Let us try to clear away the misunderstanding. I still agree with the Prime Minister that, unless there is goodwill, understanding and trust, we are not going to settle this crisis. Has it now become a question of outraged dignity on the part of some men? The dignity or the reputation of one or two men should be put by the board when you compare the sorrow and suffering that this thing will cause. My appeal is to the House of Commons, and especially to the younger men. Are we going to sit here quietly and see this thing work itself out, causing misery and suffering, knowing that in the end some settlement has to come? If it is a question of dignity, we say to the men on both sides, "Climb down a little bit and see if we cannot get the matter settled." Eventually a settlement will work out, to the benefit of both parties.
There is a wonderful volume of opinion in this country that the miners are not paid well enough for the work that they do. I am not going to blame the mine-owners. Both the miners and the mine-owners are the victims of circumstances in which they cannot help themselves. The only people who can help the miners are the people of the nation outside. This House should see that, if a settlement can be found, even if it takes months to work out, a subsidy should be found to keep the miners on the standard of life that they were on before the strike began. You say that subsidies are wrong in principle. There is a good deal more objection to the finding of the money. What is happening? As this crisis goes on for weeks, or perhaps for months, what will it cost this nation? And still the mining industry will be in the same position then. We are asked to put aside passion and to appeal for common sense. I make my appeal in no party spirit, not as a miners' representative even, but as a Member of Parliament with sole responsibility to the nation in which I live. If we sit here and let this thing go on, the House of Commons will not be able to blame the Government or anyone else. We will have to take our full share of responsibility. I say that 353 if we stand by and see this thing work itself out, we will deserve all that can be said against us.
The tragedy of it is that we have on one side the Prime Minister, a man who has made a reputation in his Premiership for bringing a better spirit in this country and for making for peace, and yet a man who in these negotiations has brought about one of the greatest industrial conflicts the country has had to face. On the other hand, we have the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas), always suspected, very often by our side, of being too keen on peace in leading the industrial movement. He, too, is at the head of a movement which is part of the greatest industrial crisis that the world has ever seen. Cannot something be done? Has there not been some misunderstanding some where? We do not want to minimise the responsibility of the Government; we do appeal that party passions should be put for the moment on one side and that we should get off the battlefield back again into the council chamber and, eventually, get this crisis settled.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
The hon. Member has just stated very fairly one of the great difficulties dividing us. It is a lamentable fact that, when negotiations were apparently almost completed and when, from the knowledge I have, I feel confident that peace could have been brought into the coal industry, these negotiations should have been broken off and the country precipitated into a crisis without precedent, into a conflict in which there can neither be victors nor defeated. Cannot a little common sense on both sides solve a difficulty which the nation does not want and which no leader in this House, and no responsible man outside, desires? It is a conflict that fills men like myself, who are in charge of great industries, with despair. Up to a certain hour of a certain night agreement was almost reached. Why is time always so hurried at the end and delay always so common at the beginning of such negotiations? Why cannot a little more time be given to solve the difficulty? Why cannot slogans be repudiated? There is nothing so foolish or so dangerous as to be able to make great phrases. They tie you up and you have to repudiate them. Some people who have made great phrases in the coal 354 struggle will have to find some way of coming down from their terms and conditions of inflexibility.
We know that, had it not been for the precipitate action of some foolish people, we might to-day have industrial peace. The action of the Trade Unions Council, the most misguided action that that responsible body ever took, of announcing a general strike while negotiations were going on, was one which could very well have been postponed until negotiations had failed. It complicated the situation infinitely. The notices were given a long time before these negotiations. There was nothing new in those notices. It was the usual formula. As everybody knows, they were put up under a fortnight's rule. There are districts where the notices were given by the miners to the mine owners, and the mine owners did not refuse to go on with the negotiations. Hon. Members opposite do not understand one thing, that to the people outside this House this threat of a general strike is a challenge to citizenship. A young man said to me this morning, "I have fought four years in the War for this country, and will fight against this threat for four years longer in this country or leave it."
That is the spirit you have generated. Cannot you understand what it means to free-born men to be told that you are going to take over the control of their food supply, and that they have to come to you for what they want? What does this mean to the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have to tramp for miles through the wet to and from their business every day. How can that help the miners to get more money? How can it help the miners, to make life inconvenient—to make life a hell—for these people? How can you secure the ascendancy of the trade union movement by inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of workers? It is a most fantastic idea. Who are you hitting? Who are you trying to hit? Who do you think you will damage? It is not the man with the motor-car but the clerk and the typewriter girl who have to walk to work every day. How is that going to help and who is it going to help? Who are you going to starve if you starve anybody? It is not the man who can go to his country place where he can get plenty to eat; it is not the thousands of people who have left England for the Continent, 355 and who can go on living there for the next five years if necessary while you are carrying on your strike. No, you are going to starve thousands of working men and their families.
What good is that going to do to your own movement or how is it going to help the miners? You are simply setting the whole country against the miners and against the trade union movement. I have worked with trade unionists all my life, and I think they have no complaint to make against me throughout my whole career as an employer.
§ Sir A. MOND
We had our 50 years' celebration of Brunner, Mond and Co., and I was presented with a testimonial from the secretary of every trade union of the twenty represented in the employment of the firm expressing, unsolicited, their pleasure and appreciation of the way the company has treated them during all the time of its existence.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must ask the House to keep to the serious business in hand. I have already said that these interruptions are not helpful at all.
§ Mr. KELLY
I am personally concerned, and I think the right hon. Gentleman himself will agree with what I am going to say. I happen to be Secretary of the Chemical Trades General Industrial Council for the whole country and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, although I knew of that celebration to which he refers, he will not find my name on that testimonial.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think, on an occasion of this kind it would be unworthy of the House to pursuer further a personal of that kind.
§ Sir A. MOND
All I can say to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) is that I regret that fact. I realised that this is a grave national matter and not a personal matter at all. I was speaking in all sincerity and I hope that hon. Members opposite will accept my remarks in the spirit in which I am making them. In my opinion, they run very grave risk of damaging their own movement rather than helping it in this country by the action they have taken. I am certain the more they think of it, the more they will agree with me. Cannot we get back to what I would call a position of solution? Cannot you withdraw this menace which the Government are bound to meet with increasing severity every month. Cannot you rearrange the conference which was so near solution? Cannot some step be taken to bridge over the interval? It would be no unusual thing in the coalfields to work under a clay-to-day arrangement, while negotiations were pending. There is no reason why the collieries should not be carried on, at the present rate of wages, on day-to-day terms, while the Government prolong the subsidy until parleys are finished.
We have spent £24,000,000 for nine months peace in the coalfields. Will anybody who is a business man tell me that the Government are entitled to say, "We will stop on a certain day and not another penny will we spend; we will run the country into a crisis like this when at the end of two or three weeks more at a small expense of this kind, a solution might be found." It is surely neither finance nor business nor common-sense to say so. Do not let us be frightened. Many people outside look on a subsidy as a terrible thing. I do not agree, and never have agreed with the idea that we should pay £24,000,000 for nothing. I think for that subsidy we should have achieved peace and not a conflict such as we have to-day. I think it would be equally foolish, having spent that money and having achieved the Commission's Report and having brought it near acceptance, for any Government to refuse to spend a little more money if it saw peace in front of it. It is not impossible. You have to disregard, and I say so deliberately, narrow-mindedness and obstinacy on both sides of the negotiations. But there are plenty of men, both on the owners' side and the other side, 357 who are prepared to make what I think are reasonable and national terms. The industry has to be reorganised. That has been said for years. It is common knowledge. I think reorganisation is neither so difficult nor so complicated as some would make it appear. To ordinary intelligent men of business the problem should present no insuperable difficulties.
I say that if the Government stand behind the progressive elements in this industry, the elements that are prepared to support progress against reaction, and if they do not allow the obscurantists who are thinking only of themselves, and who are incapable of forward movement, to wreck the reorganisation of the industry, the Government will have the whole country behind them. The country cannot go on indefinitely tolerating every few years a hold-up of industry. The industry of this country will depart and decay if, every four or five years, you are threatened with a stoppage of this kind. Importers and buyers will lose all faith in your capacity. The financiers of the world generally and at home will refuse to go on developing and expanding the industries of this country and those engaged in that task will be only relieved to give up the unequal conflict, if they have to fight the competition of the world and the difficulties of modern business while at the same time they are stabbed in the back in their own country.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I agree largely with what the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said about the desirability of commencing at a point where we can hope for some solution of this problem, because up to now there has not been a real, genuine attempt to bring about a settlement. Notwithstanding all the work that has been put into this problem by trade union leaders and the representatives of the Government, a settlement has been blocked from beginning to end by a decision reached nine months ago by the Coalowners' Association. I have been looking at the files of the "Western Mail," and I find, on 11th August, a letter there written by me relating to a publication from the Coal-owners' Association, and, if the House will excuse me, I will read one paragraph from that letter, which conveys what I want to impress upon hon. Members. It is:The statement circulated by Mr. Philip Gee (an official of the Mining Association 358 of Great Britain), and published in your paper on Saturday last, is full of significance and very ominous. With unblushing effrontery he makes known the fact that the coalowners of Britain propose to devote the next nine months, not to a genuine effort, to get the mining industry out of the muddle into which they have brought it, but to conducting a propaganda, the object of which is to produce civil war in Britain. 'The Mining Association,' says Mr. Gee, 'has no illusions as to the possibility of a lasting settlement until the constitutional issue is faced.… It will be the endeavour of the Mining Association, during the respite purchased by Mr. Baldwin, to expose to the public the ramifications and activities of our English "Reds" the methods by which they control the Miners' Federation and other unions, and their policy towards industry and the State.'There you have a declaration by Mr. Philip Gee, head of the publishing department of the Mining Association of Great Britain, that the isue they proposed to raise, and the issue which had to be decided before any hope of settlement of the wage question could be reached, was the constitutional issue of whether we were to be governed by a Soviet or whether Parliament was to rule. I say that the Coalowners' Association, by raising that issue, pursued a policy which has made a settlement of this coal problem quite impossible up to now. In everything they have done, they have had that object in view. All through the negotiations and in their evidence before the Coal Commission, day after day, they went on reading from speeches delivered by different people, all of which aimed at creating prejudice and showing that there was a constitutional issue behind the whole case. When they submitted their proposals for settlement, they presented the most remarkable set of proposals that has ever been submitted in the history of this country.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
No, they put down a definite statement that the only solution of the mining problem was to be found in the rates of wages, not merely of the miners, but of the railwaymen, the dockers and all the rest. By this means they created a general atmosphere, and all this procedure in my opinion was part and parcel of the programme and policy of the Mining Association. When we come down to the question of notices, what do we find? Without any discussion at all between the miners and the mine- 359 owners, the coalowners put up 14-day notices to dismiss all their men. Not a word of discussion or negotiation had taken place, but notices were put up on the 16th or 17th April to terminate contracts at 14 days, and nothing was said about the terms upon which they were to work until the 24th April, and then those were district terms. They were of such a character that it was quite impossible for anybody to begin to negotiate upon them. They were unthinkable terms, which even proposed that the men's wages should be less than those which obtained before the War. The Government came along and said: "You must not simply deal with district wages; you must bring forward proposals on a national basis." They went into a discussion, but when did they come forward with their first proposal? Not until the stoppage had actually occurred, and is it possible to conceive that in fare of a set of actions such as are now known to all of us, there was any sort of atmosphere existing in which it was possible, regardless of any effort that might be put into it by the most conciliatory set of negotiators, to effect a settlement of the mining problem or of any other problem?
I think the time has come when we ought to give a real, fair, and square chance to the men who have to deal with and settle this problem and clear the boards altogether. Why should we not? I do not think there has been a, fair chance for a proper atmosphere at all up till now for bringing about a settlement. Instead of getting down to what has been done and to formulas that have or have not been agreed to, why should not we get back to where we were before the notices were put in at all? There had been no discussion of terms by anybody up to the time that the coalowners tendered their notices, and why should we not get back to that time? The right hon. Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) said we had spent £24,000,000 on the settlement, as we have, and what have we to show for it? There can be no doubt that had the mining problem been dealt with in relation to the real problem that faces the industry, and had a scheme for solving the problem been drawn up and the £24,000,000 of subsidy treated as part and parcel of that scheme, we should have had by now a solution of the coal problem. We should have had 360 hopes, at any rate; we should have had a scheme in operation which, by a progressive process, would ultimately so deal with the real problem that is there as to have avoided a repetition of the kind of thing we have had up to now.
That problem cannot be solved by a fight. The economic facts of the mining industry are of such a character that they cannot be fought out, and when people talk about fighting it out, they do not understand the nature of the problem. I wish I could go into it now, as I would rather be talking on the coal industry than on this subject, but most hon. Members who have given any thought to the real nature of the coal problem must be well aware that whatever happens by way of a strike or lock-out, however long the stoppage continues, whatever the position at the end of it is, nothing can bring about a solution of the coal problem that does not embody in the scheme a big system of re-organisation. A lot of people have suggested methods of solution, but the trouble is that we have got to a stage where everybody says that somebody else must do something before anything can he done. Why cannot we all agree to get back to the point where we started going wrong, back to where those notices were posted up? Surely it is net too much to ask this House that we should all agree to get back there. If that were done, I have not the remotest doubt that a solution of the coal problem could be found. We are not going to find it in increased hours or reduced wages. We shall have to find it in the re-organisation of the industry along tines which are now very clearly understood, but it will take time to do that, and it will require assistance from the State to enable that time to elapse before the real fruits and benefits of that scheme can be put into operation.
We might just as well face that fact now as at any other time. We have allowed £24,000,000 to pass through this industry like water through a sieve, without having in any way changed the economic situation, without in the least degree having solved the problem or even touched it, and surely we shall not say now that we are not going to spend a few millions more in order to get down to business. There can be no sort of excuse for having pursued this matter as far as we have, and then to say that for the 361 future the thing will right itself. It is not going to right itself, and I sincerely hope that, even at this stage, when it appears to be a deadlock, we will get down to the simple fact that up to now there has not been a real, genuine effort to tackle the problem. The problem has not yet been handled, and that is very largely due to the fact that the impression seems to have developed, nine or twelve months ago, that behind the trouble in the coal trade there was a Red propaganda, a revolutionary movement. I am satisfied that all through the negotiations the coalowners had that at the back of their minds, and it has very materially hampered and seriously hindered any effective result accruing from the negotiations that have taken place. Unless we are to bury all that kind of feeling, unless we are to get a clear course, and to get back to where we were when we were attempting to negotiate, I think there is small hope of a settlement, and in the absence of a settlement, the Lord only knows how long this is going on, what is going to develop from it, and what the result of the stoppage will be.
There is no bigger mistake that will he made than to imagine that, if this is to be a trial of strength, it is going to be speedily ended. That is not going to happen. Surely nobody in this House can contemplate a mere sitting down with folded arms, one saying to the other, "We are in one camp, you are in another; we can hold out much longer than you can, and our resources are much greater than yours. Go on as long as you like." If that is to be the attitude, I should say we have a couple of months of it in front of us—a very nice prospect for this nation. I do not think any of us can contemplate that without a feeling of horror. I do not think we can imagine or conceive what kind of social conditions will exist in this country or what may arise during such a prolonged stoppage. If we are not going to adopt that attitude, if we are going to use such common sense and brain-power as we possess, to try to effect a settlement rather than have a trial of strength, surely it is much better that we should get about that at once, and get the negotiating parties back at work. I do not think that, if they do get hack and get down to the real problem, they will find it in any way insoluble, and if there be a real determina- 362 tion on the part of the Government and the owners of the mines to find a solution, it ought to be done and done speedily.
If it were done now, it need not be more than a couple of months before we get a proper reorganisation scheme in working order, which would enable the industry to begin to put itself right and to start a solution of the problem, because the coal problem is not one to which you can apply a solution to-day that will be effective to-morrow. Whenever it is applied, it will be a progressive solution, and I sincerely hope that wiser counsels will prevail, and that we shall agree that. it is necessary at this stage for some further financial assistance to he offered the industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "For how long?"] That is a matter that can very easily be determined if they will only get together to find out exactly what is required.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Whatever was offered, or whatever suggestions have been made, we, have now reached a deadlock. I am not going to discuss the merits of the offers that have been made. The real point of importance is that we should recognise two or three salient, facts. First of all, we cannot solve this problem without some further assistance from the State. That is a fact that we shall have to face either now or later, and the sooner it is recognised and put into operation, the cheaper it will be for all of us. The next thing is that whenever we apply a solution, it will take a couple of months to prepare a scheme and get it set into motion. That is the line upon which we have to proceed, and if the House would only bring the necessary pressure to bear or convey to the Government its desire that they should move on these lines, surely there is no loss of dignity involved. I should not fear any loss of dignity to suggest that this course should be pursued. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the strike order withdrawn?"] I have suggested that we ought to get back to where we were on the 16th or 17th April when the, notices were posted by the coal-owners. I have pointed out that up to that time there had been no negotiations on any terms, and, as a matter of fact, no terms had been submitted. Before any 363 negotiations took place, the lock-out notices were posted, and I say we ought to get back there, and, whatever were the terms and conditions prevailing then as to wages and subsidy and everything else, we ought to start there. If we do that, and, if you like, give a month in which to endeavour to effect a settlement, I think the State may yet be saved from all the possible consequences of a prolonged national stoppage. I sincerely hope that that line of action will be taken by this House, even to-day.
§ Mr. B. SMITH
I beg to move, after the word "Regulations," to insert the words "other than Regulation 6."
Regulation 6 states:The Minister of Transport and any other Government Department approved by His Majesty for the purpose, and any person duly authorised by a Department on whom powers are conferred by or under this Regulation, may grant to any person a licence to drive a motor car during the period for which the Proclamation of Emergency is in force, and such licence shall have effect as if granted under the Motor Car Act, 1903.I move the Amendment, because I think that Regulation 6 is entirely unnecessary. Anybody at any time can apply for a licence under the Motor Car Acts by a payment of 5s. in any part of the country. If, however, this Regulation is to mean the licensing by the police or the watch committees, then again I say it is unnecessary, for the Home Secretary, so far as London is concerned, and the watch committees, so far as the country is concerned, have powers already to grant day-to-clay licences for 24 hours. The strike, bad as it is, at least is a peaceful strike. Up to now, no single act of violence, to my knowledge, has taken place in the streets of this country. If that be so, the effect of incorporating Regulation 6 within the terms of these Regulations will mean the licensing of people to carry on the work of legitimate drivers, which will engender bad feeling, and undoubtedly strife will arise therefrom. For these reasons, I ask the House to accept this Amendment. There is, furthermore, the factor of putting on to these vehicles people who are not efficient drivers, and to the possibility of trouble on the road will be added the risk to the lives of the people. The fact is, that already the authorities can grant day-to- 364 day licences, and it seems to me that the incorporation of Regulation 6 will have the effect of taking, shall I say, the peaceful side out of the strike, causing disturbance and danger on the roads, and the second stage of the thing will be worse than the first.
§ Mr. MARCH
I beg to Second the Amendment.
I have known something about the conditions of road traffic for a great number of years, and I do not think the Government could be doing anything worse to cause friction and trouble than to pass such a Regulation as this. We have always been given to understand that there has been no difficulty for those people who require licences to obtain them, and, surely, there is going to be no difficulty in their being able to get them in the same manner as they have been able to get them for a number of years. As mentioned in the Regulation, licences are to be granted to have effect as if granted under the Motor Car Act, 1903. We have had 23 years' working of this Act, and even although there may be, as is suggested, a case of great emergency, the authorities who have been dealing with these licences are quite efficient and capable of dealing with them now, as they always have been. It would be the right thing to bring about that kind of feeling, which, I think, the Government are desirous there should be amongst those who have obtained their licences, that they have obtained them all in the same way, and that no preference, privilege or favour has been granted to certain people to obtain these licences.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Douglas Hogg)
The Government are unable to accept the Amendment, and I cannot help thinking the Mover and Seconder have brought the Amendment forward under some little misapprehension. They have said that they desired to move this Amendment because the powers to be granted would cause ill-feeling, would create hostility in the streets, and would make people feel that others were licensed to carry on the work of legitimate drivers. They said, further, that it would deprive the public of protection against inefficiency. The Mover and Seconder will realise, if they look at the Regulation, that it is not a Regulation affecting 365 licences for hackney carriage driving, and things of that sort, but a Regulation which permits the Minister of Transport and any other Government Department to grant a licence under the Motor Car Act, 1903, and that licence is granted at present without any power of anybody to ascertain whether the particular driver is efficient or not.
Therefore, it is impossible to say that the granting of this power to the Minister of Transport and any other Government Department deprives the public of any protection against inefficient driving, because any inefficient driver can still pay a fee of 5s. to obtain a licence under the Motor Car Act. The only object of the Regulation, which, I think, is a harmless one, is that in times of emergency, and, possibly, even of disorder, it may not always be possible to get to the county council, or the county borough council, as the case may be,
§ for immediate access to grant the licence when it is required. As numbers of volunteers are coming up to assist in necessary services, it might happen that it would be useful for the Minister to be able to allow people to drive tars at his disposal for the purpose of maintaining essential services of the country, without having to wait until the county council has power to deal with them. It may take some little time. It is not a power which will be very often used, but it is one which is thought useful, and it may, possibly, allay the suspicions of hon. Members opposite if f say it is a power reproduced from the Regulations in force in 1921, and from the draft which was prepared to be put in force by the previous Government in 1924.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 91; Noes, 329.369
|Division No. 206.]||AYES.||[7.55 p.m.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Potts, John S.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hardie, George D.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Barnes, A||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Barr, J||Hirst, G. H.||Scurr, John|
|Batey, Joseph||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Broad, F. A.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Buchanan, G.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, H. B. Lees. (Keighley)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kelly, W. T.||Spencer, G A. (Broxtowe)|
|Clynes, Right Hon. John R.||Kennedy, T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Compton, Joseph||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Connolly, M.||Kirkwood, D.||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lansbury, George||Taylor, R. A.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lawson, John James||Thurtle, E.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lee, F.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lunn, William||Viant, S. P.|
|Dennison, R.||Mackinder, W.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Duncan, C.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Dunnico, H.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gillett, George M.||March, S.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gosling, Harry||Maxton, James||Whiteley, W.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Murnin H.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Groves, T.||Oliver, George Harold||Windsor, Walter|
|Grundy, T. W.||Paling, W.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Guest, L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Warne and Mr. B. Smith.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Balniel, Lord||Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Blades, Sir George Rowland|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Blundell, F. N.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Bennett, A. J.||Brass, Captain W.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Berry, Sir George||Briggs, J. Harold|
|Astor, Viscountess||Betterton, Henry B.||Briscoe, Richard George|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Brittain, Sir Harry|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N)||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Meller, R. J.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Merriman, F. B.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Hammersley, S. S.||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Burman, J. B.||Hanbury, C.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Harland, A.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred|
|Campbell, E. T.||Harris, Percy A.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Harrison, G. J. C.||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hartington, Marquess of||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Morris, R. H.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Haslam, Henry C.||Morrison. H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hawke, John Anthony||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Murchison, C. K.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Neville, R. J.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Christie, J. A.||Herbert, S.(York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Hills, Major John Waller||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hon. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Oakley, T.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Holland, Sir Arthur||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Holt, Captain H. P.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Colfox. Major Wm. Phillips||Homan, C. W. J.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hope. Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Perring, Sir William George|
|Cooper. A. Duff||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Peto, Basil E. (Devon. Barnstaple)|
|Couper, J. B.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Philipson, Mabel|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Pielou, D. P.|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn. N.)||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Howard, Captain Hon. Donald||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Preston, William|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Price, Major C. W. M|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Huntingfield, Lord||Radford, E. A.|
|Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry||Hurst, Gerald B.||Raine, W.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hurd, Percy A.||Ramsden, E.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'ble)||Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. F. S.||Remer, J. R|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Jacob, A. E.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Jephcott, A. R.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Jones. Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Drewe, C.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Elliot. Captain Walter E.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Rye, F. G.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Salmon, Major I.|
|Elveden, Viscount||Lamb, J. Q.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Samuel. Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Lister, Cunliffe- Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Livingstone, A. M.||Sanderson. Sir Frank|
|Fermoy, Lord||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Sandon, Lord|
|Fielden, E. B.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Loder, J. de V.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W)|
|Forrest, W.||Looker, Herbert William||Shaw. Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Lord, Walter Greaves||Sheffield. Sir Berkeley|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Lougher, L.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Skelton, A. N.|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col Anthony||Luce, Maj-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Lumley, L. R.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Smithers, Waldron|
|Gates, Percy||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||MacIntyre, Ian||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||McLean, Major A.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Goff, Sir Park||Macmillan, Captain H.||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Grace, John||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Wallace, Captain D. E.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.||Withers, John James|
|Tasker, Major R. Inigo||Waterhouse, Captain Charles||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Templeton, W. P.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)||Watts, Dr. T.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)||Wells, S. R.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Thomson, Travelyan (Middlesbro. W.)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)||Major Sir Harry Barnston and Mr.|
|F. C. Thomson.|
§ Mr. AMMON
I beg to move, after the word "Regulations," to insert the words "other than Regulation 18."
This Regulation has reference to power to be given to the Post Office, to the Governmentto direct that telegraphic messages of such classes or descriptions as he may prescribe shall not, be accepted for transmission.I want to submit to the House the fact that hon. Members on these benches have accepted without any opposition most of the Regulations in the leaflet which is before the House, and which have for their purpose the safeguarding of the food supplies, the prevention of hoarding, and the preservation of the essential services. That, I think, is an indication so far as we are concerned, that there is no desire to do anything to hamper the normal life of the community more than can be helped in the present condition of things. In fact, as I understand it, the General Council of the Trade Union Congress have intimated their willingness, nay, even their desire, to assist the Government in these very particular purposes.
Amendments are being moved only to those Regulations which, it is felt, will aggravate the position, which will exacerbate the feelings of those engaged in this particular struggle. It is for that purpose that I am asking the Government to reconsider this particular Regulation. So far the employés in the various State Departments have remained at their posts; but there is a very strong feeling in these Departments as to the position of the other workers. Rightly or wrongly, there is running through them a feeling that this is a prelude to a direct attack upon the wages of all sections of the workers, including themselves. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am in a position to know; therefore, I am talking in regard to what I know, and I do not think anybody would accuse me of being 370 an extremist. There is the position in which we find ourselves at the present moment. Under this Regulation, if carried out, it would appear to those of whom I speak that advantage is being taken of the strong position in which the Government find themselves to weight the scales still more unfairly against the persons who are engaged in this particular matter. It will be permitted, apparently, to interfere with messages that may be construed as being of a seditious or even of an inflammatory nature, and possibly those of a quite peaceful nature, and for a pacific purpose. There are some of us who cannot help the feeling that there are some hon. Members of the Government who want this fight, and who have been trying to provoke it, and who are doing everything they possibly can to prevent it being fought out to the end as at present. I suggest that under the Regulations that the Postmaster-General has at present he can safely see that, nothing is done to imperil the safety of the realm. If this proposed regulation were allowed to pass it, will make the position of pass it like myself more difficult in the Post Office.
In other Government Departments you will create fresh difficulties for the State where we do not want them. I suggest that the State could carry on under the normal Regulations and not do anything which is going to give the feeling that you are acting unfairly and without giving rise to what was referred to by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil), which he deplored a little time ago, that the Government are bringing the appearance of war and a declaration of war into this matter, and against the people. Surely ire ought to do all we can to keep that sort of thing out! Pass, by all means. Regulations that are to ensure the food supplies of the people, the maintenance of the ordinary necessaries of life and the carrying on so far as we can of the 371 essential things necessary for civilised life. But for heaven's sake do not pass anything or bring in anything which will exaggerate more than at present the suggestion of war and give the impression that is in the minds of many that there are people who want to carry the fight out in the spirit of war. Rather let us eliminate this spirit and see if we cannot carry on this fight with at least as little bitterness as possible, and with a minimum of hardship.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I beg to second the Amendment.
Here we have a service which is complete so far as externals are concerned. There is no trouble in the service so far, yet we are asked to pass a Regulation like this by the Government in the hope that by it they can make the people believe that there is really something the matter. If they want to do things that are real, why is it that they have the milk supply locked up in Hyde Park and have been broadcasting messages asking the dairymen to come and take it away because they cannot distribute it? Why are the milk cans in Hyde Park? Was it the brainy suggestion and arrangement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? It seems to me that the Government are plunging along in their folly, and making Regulations for a service where there is no disturbance—a stupid Regulation! The Government are endeavouring to give cause for irritation in this matter. Only on Saturday afternoon some of the Labour Members, myself included, got a telegram to attend a meeting. It was dispatched at 1.15 and arrived at my house in Ealing four and a-half hours afterwards. I know that there were other telegrams that were delivered about the same place 20 minutes from the time of handing in. That is the sort of thing one gets experience of, and it shows exactly what is in the minds of some people. Then what about the telephones, and what about coded telegrams and cablegrams? Who in the Department is going to attend to these latter, and to determine whether or not they should be accepted? Will not this be another cause of delay and a disturbance to business? Whatever the Attorney-General may say in reply to this Amendment, I would suggest that we are only going to do 372 something which will cause and continue irritation.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
I intervene for one moment only in the matter of the interpretation of this Regulation. I am sure the Attorney-General will agree with me that whatever Regulations we have should have an exact and certain meaning. I should like to know how this Regulation is to be interpreted. It says:It shall be lawful for the Postmaster-General to direct that telegraphic messages of such classes or descriptions as he may prescribe shall not be accepted for transmission.Is it intended that this Regulation shall refer to individual telegrams, or only to classes or descriptions? If that is not so, then I think the Regulation is rather unfortunately worded. I am only asking for the sake of certainty on the point, and for fear that, if we give the Postmaster-General general power, these words would seem to assume a veto on telegrams of a certain kind rather than on other telegrams. I should like to know when the right hon. and learned Gentleman answers if he will tell us what exactly the Regulation means?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I intend to vote against the Government on this Amendment, and on every Amendment and Motion before the House in connection with these Regulations, and in a few sentences I will say why. I consider the Government are not doing all they can, and have not for the last three days been doing all they could, to bring about a peaceful solution of the present difficulties. They consider they have Labour down, and, in my opinion, they mean to crush Labour. For these reasons I will resist them in every way I can.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
After the conciliatory speech to which we have just listened one realises why it is that, unfortunately, some people outside are misled into thinking there is a deliberate attack on their wages or a deliberate attempt to crush trade unions.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Yes, and unfortunately there are people in this House who say the same thing.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I think the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) had better read the speech of the Prime Minister and try to imbibe a little of its spirit; but I turn from these mischievous observations to deal with the merits of the particular Amendment. The hon. and learned Member for South Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) asked me a perfectly fair question as to my view of the scope of the Regulations. I think he quite correctly and accurately stated what it is. It is a Regulation which empowers the Postmaster-General to direct that telegraphic messages of such classes or descriptions as he may prescribe shall not be accepted for transmission. That does not, in my view, and I think in the view of my hon. and learned Friend, permit the Postmaster-General to say, "I will not take this particular telegram or that particular one," but it does enable him to use the telegraph service as may be most important and expedient in the public service. May I give the House an illustration of the sort of thing I have in mind? Supposing it were the fact that it were necessary to send, as it very well might be, a large number of telegraphic orders with regard to food supplies, or with regard to stopping ships from leaving, or a variety of other matters, and supposing that just at that time there happened to have been, as there was only a day or two ago, a race meeting going on and a number of betting telegrams were likely to be transmitted. It seems to me quite reasonable that the Postmaster General should have the power to say, "We will not at present take any betting telegrams at all."
Similarly, supposing there were, unhappily, as I hope there will not be, a serious strike breaking out, a pivotal strike breaking out in any particular area, it might be advisable for the Postmaster-General to say, "I will not take any code telegrams addressed to that particular district." It is things of that sort which I think are covered. I am only giving those as illustrations of what, I think, are covered by the Regulations; and although the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment accused this Government of being very stupid in inventing this Regulation, so as to make people think they were badly off when they really were not, I assure him that so far from this foolish 374 Government inventing it, we merely copied it from the Regulations in force in 1921 and the Draft which was proposed to be put in force by the Socialist Government in 1924. If it is folly, at any rate we did not originate it ourselves. I think the House will see that it is not only a harmless but a necessary and useful Regulation, and I hope, perhaps, the hon. Member who moved its deletion may possibly see that.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not want to follow the learned Attorney-General in the somewhat provocative tone of his opening remarks, which contrasted very much with his conciliatory tone in his closing sentences, except to say this, that while all of us on this side know that the Prime Minister's appeals for peace have been well documented, there are also documents which indicate that that desire for peace was to be obtained on a starvation level. I myself quoted in this House, and it is recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT—it was when the coal subsidy was being debated last year in the latter days of July or at the beginning of August—from a responsible Conservative newspaper, utterances of the Home Secretary, who in his opening speech on the Debate to-day seemed to indicate that he is now the strong man in charge of the situation. It was certainly his view then that the wages of miners and of other workers must be beaten down to starvation level if this country was to be restored to prosperity. And there are many speeches from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite which can bear no other interpretation than that. There are any number of speeches on record in various newspapers and in the journals of this House saying that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite honestly, and perhaps sincerely, believe that the workers of this nation must pass through a period of starvation—most of them indicated it was a period of temporary starvation—before prosperity could be obtained. If that feeling is prevalent amongst the working classes throughout the country, as it is, for it has led to the very great solidarity of this stoppage, hon. and right Members opposite must not blame us on these benches, but must blame themselves if they now realise that those utterances were foolish and indiscreet.
I do not believe that the strike has actually been precipitated because of 375 that belief amongst the working classes. We have learned to-day with a fair degree of accuracy that the general strike was only precipitated—I think this is admitted by the right hon. Gentleman on the other side—because the amour proper of a great newspaper proprietor was hurt. It seems to me a. shocking and disgraceful thing that the whole nation's services should be throttled, and that millions of people should be suffering tremendous inconveniences, and some of them enduring even definite sufferings, because one great newspaper proprietor, whom the public has recognised as suffering from megalomania, should say that his dignity is seriously affected.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
This would have been in order on the main question, but I do not think I ought to permit a full discussion on each of these Amendments.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I think that all through to-day's Debate there has been a fairly lavish interpretation of what order was, and. I am sure, Sir, that you do not hold the view which seems to prevail on the Government Front Bench that one may discuss any aspect of this dispute quite freely; may stick up lockout notices and nothing serious occurs; may even intimate the prospect of a general strike and nothing serious occurs; but that if one mentions and touches this sacrosanct thing the "Daily Mail" and its proprietor, then one has gone beyond the limits of human decency. That is one thing the House of Commons cannot allow. You may discuss the monarchy, you may discuss the common people, you may starve millions of people, but you must not touch the "Daily Mail." Now, Sir, you do not hold that point of view, and I only departed, as I admit I departed, from the strict discussion of this particular Amendment, because first of all my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) made a reference to it, and the Attorney-General followed him on that line. I have merely followed this a stage further. I am quite satisfied with the way things are going in the country, but I do not know that I am quite so well satisfied with the way things have been going on here. I do not want to dwell on the general question because I am not a prophet and I have no special 376 information, but I agree that in the ultimate end the will of the majority will prevail, although we may have different opinions as to which will be the majority that will ultimately prevail.
This Regulation deals with the sending of telegraphic messages. If it is directed against the people who are running the strike, then it is quite unnecessary. Code telegrams have been referred to, but I can assure the Attorney-General there will be no code telegrams sent by the Labour party, because everything they will do in connection with this dispute will be absolutely above board, and any telegrams sent on behalf of the Labour movement will be as legible to read by the Postmaster-General and the Attorney-General as any ordinary telegram sent by a private individual in regard to social or commercial matters. There is no need to fear the unfair use of the telegraphic service by the Labour movement while the strike is in progress. I think it would be to the advantage of the Government if they were able to see on the telegraph form the nature of the instructions sent from one part of the country to the other. I think we have a right to ask the Assistant Postmaster-General, whose chief is now engaged in trying to organise other things outside his Department, to tell us what is really meant by this Regulation and by issuing these instructions.
§ Mr. MAXTON
That shows how justified we are in asking for the dropping of this Regulation. Telegraphic messages are of great importance, but it should be possible for the members of the Trade Union Congress to be able to state that a successful agreement has been arrived at, and then it would be necessary to send out telegrams. May I point out, however, that the crucial telegraphic period has passed, and up to now it has not been found necessary to restrict any class of telegrams. What is the sense, under these circumstances, of putting down a Regulation of this kind, when there was no need for it in the crucial beginning days, and there is certainly no need for it until the crucial closing days? Whether that will be months or years hence I do not know, but if there has been no need for this provision up till now, why put it in at 377 all? The learned Attorney-General has declared that he and his colleagues have slavishly followed in this matter the model laid down by the late Labour Government, and I think, without any loss of dignity, the Attorney-General could quite easily leave out Regulation No. 18.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The Attorney-General seems very anxious to assure us of the harmlesness of this Regulation, and he has told us that all he desires is to empower the Postmaster-General to stop on certain occasions a large influx of betting telegrams. That might have been necessary during the crucial early days of this dispute, but now that particular fear has passed away. I am informed that betting is over for a period, because the racing season has stopped, and, therefore, I do not know what the Government mean by demanding such wide powers. After all, you do not describe in this proposal the particular class of telegrams which is going to be refused. It is all very well for the Attorney-General to mention betting telegrams, but there are many telegrams which have nothing whatever to do with betting, but deal with the stock market instructing brokers to purchase or to sell certain shares on the Stock Exchange. The Attorney-General has not referred to any stoppages of those particular telegrams, and he only refers to betting telegrams.
There are many other telegrams to which no reference has been made and here in this Regulation you are giving power to the Postmaster-General to direct that telegraphic messages of a certain class or description that he may prescribe shall not be accepted for transmission. In the other Regulations certain other powers are being asked for, and they are clearly defined, but here we are asked to give wide and sweeping powers not so much to the Postmaster-General but more to the Government so that they may be able to issue instructions to the postal servants not to accept some particular class of telegrams. This is a "Daily Mail" Government run by Lord Rothermere, and they cannot get on unless their wonderful doings are reported in the "Daily Mail" which keeps them in the limelight and so they provoke this general strike. Is the Attorney-General as certain that he is correct in having these Regulations placed before the House 378 as he was when he ordered the deportation of the Irish prisoners? Does he realise that there may be a snag here that may land him into trouble ultimately, just as he landed himself and one of his colleagues in the Government into trouble, and an Indemnity Bill had to be rushed through this House to save them from being landed in heavy financial damages?
It is not at all creditable to the Attorney-General to stand there and state that the reason why he considers this to be a good thing is that the Labour party in 1924 included it, and that the Coalition Government in 1921 had a similar Regulation in their Emergency Powers Regulations. Other Regulations were passed in the old bad days of the Irish party in this House, and emergency powers were given to the Government that only provoked trouble instead of preventing it. If the Attorney-General is going into past history in order to justify this Regulation, he can find a great many other Regulations 20, 30, 50 years old, which he could have defended or explained in just the same way. The right hon. Gentleman smiles, and his colleague also evidently enjoys the matter in the form of a joke. Let me assure them both that this is no joke. The circumstances that have provoked the Government into bringing forward these Regulations are not a joke. This is a serious matter, and it shows the mentality of the Government we have in this country when they treat an affair of this character as a matter for laughter. It was the same with the Attorney-General over the Irish question. He treated that lightly also; he treated it as a joke, and the Government of that day treated it as a joke, but he knows where it led him, and the Government of which he was a Member in the same capacity as he is to-day, as legal adviser.
I suggest that he should withdraw this Regulation, or that, if he will not withdraw it, he should at least put into it the specific classes of telegrams that he desires to have excluded from transmission through the Post Office. If he does that, we shall know what is in it. But I am rather at one with my colleague the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) when he suggests that it may be to try and prevent telegrams being sent by the general council of the various trade unions, conveying instructions 379 from their people what to do, that has led to this Regulation being put in here. I hope the Attorney-General is not going to lead the Government into the same position as he has already led a past Government, but will withdraw this Regulation. I notice that the Assistant Postmaster-General is also treating this as a joke.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
He smiled, at any rate. I do not know whether he is happy in the fact that this Regulation is going to be passed, or that he will try to get it passed—
§ Mr. MACLEAN
He is the castor oil provider. I appeal to the Assistant Postmaster-General, not to prevail on his chief—because he has gone away and left his seat in the Post Office vacant, he has become a Director of Supplies, apparently, and the Noble Lord is left in charge of matters affecting the Post Office—I would ask him, if he has an eye to a brilliant political future career, not to be led aside by that evil influence sitting beside him, the Attorney-General, but to strike out a path for himself. I am convinced that he will rise superior to his evil environment so that this Regulation can be withdrawn.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I was not surprised to hear the Attorney-General deprecating the allegation made from these benches that there was a general fear, based on very good grounds, behind the miners, that there was a general desire for a reduction of wages. We have listened to many Debates in this House, and, if there has been one class of men that has been attacked more than another, it has been the class of men who are in what are called sheltered trades. I have heard it suggested from those benches time and time again that all those who are in what are called sheltered trades and occupa- 380 tions ought to have and must have some reduction in their wages if the country was to regain its prosperity. I have heard unmitigated attacks made upon the railwaymen—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am afraid that none of the points which the hon. Member is now raising are connected with the question at issue. Perhaps he will confine himself to the telegrams at present.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I was led into that because of the remarks of the Attorney-General, and I wanted to put my recollection of what has taken place, not only inside this House but outside. I should like to know whether this Regulation is going to stop Press telegrams, or whether members of the Press are going to be allowed to send about the country the kind of information that they desire.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The Press looms very big in this dispute. After all, this is the most disastrous industrial dispute that has ever occurred in this country in the whole of its history. It is likely to have the most disastrous results, and it is going down in history as the dispute that was caused by a newspaper—as a dispute caused by the "Daily Mail." The "Daily Mail" is a very disastrous paper so far as this country is concerned. It has cost us a great deal. It has cost us this dispute, and 26 years ago it cost us the Boer War. It was largely its lying telegrams that brought about the final rupture between ourselves and the Boer States. I think there should be a careful watch kept as to what telegrams the Post Office is going to transmit over its wires from the Press point of view. I think we ought to have an assurance that the telegrams that will be sent by those gentlemen who are exercising so maleficent an effect upon our national life at the present moment shall be carefully watched, shall be just as rigorously censored and as carefully connoted as the telegrams that may be sent by a trade union secretary. I think it is equally important that we should know that, and I should like to get from the Assistant Postmaster-General an assurance that, if this Regulation is put into force, it is not going to be directed against our side of the dispute—the trade union side of 381 the dispute—but that some attempt will be made to prevent Press agencies and members of the Press from using the public services in a way detrimental to the national interest, by the spreading of false information that is detrimental to the best interests of those who desire an end as soon as possible to this unfortunate dispute.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
This is apparently giving a new power to the Postmaster-General, and I am wondering whether it is the same kind of power that someone exercises over people's letters. I think one or two questions have been asked, not during this crisis, but during ordinary times, about the opening of letters. I should very much like to know what is going to be the machinery in regard to these telegrams. Perhaps the Attorney-General, who appears to be the general utility man of the Government, ranging from electricity to law and every other subject under the sun, can tell us exactly how this business is proposed to be carried on. Who is going to be the censor? I do not accept at all that this is an innocent sort of proposition, because I am not sure that the Post Office authorities have not already got power to decide as to the rotation of telegrams and how they shall be dealt with. This looks perfectly innocent on the face of it, and from the sort of innocence which the Attorney-General spreads around him it looks as if it is quite innocuous, but the power could be used quite easily to prevent the dispatch of any Labour telegrams or anything Labour wanted to send about the strike, because it says:It shall he lawful for the Postmaster-General to direct that telegraphic messages of such classes or descriptions as he may prescribe shall not be accepted for transmission.To say that means only a big batch of betting telegrams, or something of that kind, in the midst of this crisis is to ask the House to believe something that is quite unbelievable. The object of this power is quite simple in my judgment. It is to give the Home Secretary, and the Postmaster-General acting as his agent, the power, when they think an emergency has arisen, not to transmit telegrams of the Labour party or the trade unions in connection with the strike. To say that is not possible under this Regulation, and that it is not the object of the Regulation, is to ask me to believe some- 382 thing which, under the circumstances, is unbelievable. I remember quite well that years ago the practice of opening people's letters was looked upon with great horror. It is the custom now to open the letters of Communists and to interfere with people's correspondence, and apparently it is going to be the law, if this Regulation is passed, that you can even interfere with telegrams, whether coded or uncoded, and I think it is a monstrous thing to ask us to agree to it at this moment. I do not believe it is necessary. I do not believe the trade unions concerned in this issue will ever want to send a telegram to which any real objection can be taken.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
It was done in the seamen's strike. Lying telegrams were sent to Australia to say that all seamen were on strike in this country. The head of the trade union said so.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
That may or may not be; but I am certain, whoever sent that telegram, it was not the General Council of the Trade Union Congress, and I do not believe it was sent out by any authoritative body of trade unions. I have not the reference in my mind, and I should like the hon. and gallant Gentleman to give it to me and perhaps I might clear it up as to who really sent it.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I dare say he can tell me a great many things, but, as he is not in the House and has not made the statement, the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself had better undertake to confirm it and not call in aid someone who is not at present a Member. I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree that, whatever any insignificant body of Communists or trade unionists may have done in the matter to which he refers, it is as nothing to the lying telegrams that were sent off or invented by the proprietors of the "Daily Mail" in reference to the Pekin massacres a few years ago which never took place at all. However, I do not want to be called off from the point I am trying to make, which is quite definite, and I want the Noble Lord or the Solicitor-General to tell us frankly what the power taken here is to be used for, and who it is who is going to say which telegrams shall he allowed to go through and which shall 383 not. If it is going to be the Postmaster-General or the Noble Lord who is going to say what telegraphic message is too dangerous to go forward, I will not trust them at all, because they are not lawyers and they cannot tell what is seditious and what is not and it is pretending to put a power in their hands which I am certain even this Government would not trust them with. This is a very great power that is going to be given them of rejecting telegrams, and I suggest that it is not the Noble Lord or his Chief who is going to determine this but the Home Secretary, and if that is so, I am confident that it is a power the Home Secretary ought not to seek to obtain in the sort of words that are put, in this Clause. Therefore, I hope hon. Members opposite will throw over the Government. for once and vote with us against this proposal.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I can only repeat that the Section means exactly what it says. The Postmaster-General shall have power to direct that telegraphic messages of such class or description as he may prescribe shall not be accepted for transmission. The Attorney-General has pointed out the reason why that is introduced, and has also said this power has not yet been used. That is the case. In a crisis of this magnitude it is necessary, as the Labour Government themselves found, to take powers which are very wide. I am certain the house feels that in the circumstances of the case it is right that the Postmaster-General should have that power.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 92; Noes, 301.387
|Division No. 207.]||AYES.||[8.55 p.m.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hall, F. (York. W.R., Normanton)||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hardie, George D.||Scurr, John|
|Barnes, A.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Barr, J.||Hayday, Arthur||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Batey, Joseph||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Broad, F. A.||Hirst, G. H.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bromley, J.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Buchanan, G.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Buxton. Rt. Hon. Noel||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones. J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, T. l. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kelly, W. T.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Compton, Joseph||Kennedy, T.||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Connolly, M.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lansbury, George||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lawson, John James||Thurtle, E.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lee, F.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lowth, T.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dennison, R.||Lunn, William||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Duncan, C.||Mackinder, W.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)|
|Dunnico, H.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gillett, George M.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Whiteley W.|
|Gosling, Harry||March, S.||Williams T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Maxton, James||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Murnin, H.||Windsor, Walter|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Oliver, George Harold||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Paling, W.|
|Groves, T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Grundy, T. W.||Potts, John S.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Warne.|
|Guest, L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Barns'on, Major Sir Harry||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Brass, Captain W.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Briggs, J. Harold|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Berry, Sir George||Briscoe, Richard George|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Betterton, Henry B.||Brittain, Sir Harry|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bird, E. B. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bird. Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)|
|Balniel, Lord||Blades, Sir George Rowland||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Blundell, F. N.||Buckingham, Sir H.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Harrison, G. J. C.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Burman, J. B.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Haslam, Henry C.||Oakley, T.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Hawke, John Anthony||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxl'd, Henley)||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chaster, City)||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Penny, Frederick George|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Perring, Sir William George|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hills, Major J. W.||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Christie, J. A.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Philipson, Mabel|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Holland, Sir Arthur||Pielou, D. P.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Holt, Captain H. P.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Clayton, G. C.||Homan, C. W. J.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Preston, William|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Colfox, Major Win. Phillips||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Radford, E. A.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Raine, W.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Ramsden, E.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Howard, Captain Hon. Donald||Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper|
|Couper, J. B.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Remer, J. R.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Huntingfield, Lord||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Hurd, Percy A.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Hurst, Gerald B.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Ropner, Major L.|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. F. S.||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Jacob, A. E.||Rye, F. G.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Salmon, Major I.|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Jephcott, A. R.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Knox, Sir Alfred||Sandon, Lord|
|Drewe, C.||Lamb, J. Q.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Ellis, R. G.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Elveden, Viscount||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Evans Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Loder, J. de V.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Looker, Herbert William||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Lord, Walter Greaves-||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Lougher, L.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Fermoy, Lord||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Luce, Major-Gen, Sir Richard Harman||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Forrest, W.||Lumley, L. R.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Storry- Deans, R.|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Macintyre, Ian||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||McLean, Major A.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Gates, Percy||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Tasker, Major R. Inigo|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Templeton, W. P.|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Golf, Sir Park||Meller, R. J.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Merriman, F. B.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Grace, John||Meyer, Sir Frank||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Grant, J. A.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Morrison, H (Wilts, Salisbury)||Wells, S. R.|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Murchison, C. K.||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple|
|Hanbury, C.||Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall. Northern)|
|Harland, A.||Neville, R. J.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Harris, Percy A.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Winby, Colonel L. P.||Wolmer, Viscount||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George||Womersley, W. J.|
|Wise, Sir Fredric||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Withers, John James||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.||Captain Viscount Curzon and Captain Margesson.|
§ Mr. BATEY
I beg to move, after the word "Regulations," to insert the words "other than paragraph (4) of Regulation 19."
This is a very dangerous paragraph. By these words we are clothing the police with enormous powers. It means that the police can go into any meeting and search any member in order to see whether he has any weapons of offence or any stone or other dangerous missile. It means more. It means that the police can stop any procession, and search men in that procession to see whether they are carrying firearms or ammunition or any other weapons of offence, any stone or other dangerous missile. This afternoon the Home Secretary said that the country was steady at the moment. We want the country to remain steady, but this is not one of the things that will help the country to remain steady. If a meeting is being held or a procession taking place, and the police stop the procession or enter the meeting in order to search the men, then the country will not remain steady under such conditions. This Regulation is not fair to the miners, and I am speaking now as a miners' representative. We have to remember that these Regulations were directed against the trade unionists who are on strike, but they were directed first against the miners.
I notice on the front page that they were signed at Buckingham Palace on 30th April, that is last Friday, long before anyone knew there was likely to be a general strike. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am speaking for myself. On Saturday morning when I went to speak at a demonstration I did not know there was going to be a general strike. It was not until I took up an evening paper on Saturday night that I read there was likely to be a general strike, These Regulations were signed at Buckingham Palace on 30th April, on Friday, almost before the miners had ceased work and certainly before many of them were at the surface. Therefore, I submit we are justified in saying that this Regulation, along with the rest of them, is aimed at the miners. There is no body of men in this country who love to attend meetings more than the miners, and there is no body of men who 388 are less afraid to walk in a procession. It is not cricket, it is not fair on the part of the Government, to have this Regulation drafted last Friday and signed against the miners, Laying them open to be searched whenever they take part in a procession or attend a meeting. It is wise for the Government to remember that the miners are locked out at the moment, and they are out for the purpose of resisting poverty. In my own county in January, 1921, the wages of one of the best classes of men we have was 20s. 0½d. per shift.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
On a point of Order. Is there anything in this Regulation which forbids a miner or anyone else taking part in a meeting or procession unless he has firearms in his possession?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I hope the hon. Member will come to the particular Amendment he wishes to move. I understand he refers to paragraph 4 of Regulation 19, and that he proposes to omit it.
§ Mr. BATEY
Yes. I am proposing to omit paragraph 4 of Regulation 19. This Regulation, as I have said, is aimed at the miners principally, and the miners in joining in processions and attending meetings do so for the purpose of protesting against the low wages they are receiving. I was on the point of saying that hon. Members do not appreciate the big reduction in wages the miners have suffered during the last five years. In January, 1921, the strongest class of men were receiving 20s. 0½. per shift. That has been reduced to 9s. 8d. per shift, and now this class of men are being asked by the owners to accept 6s. 10d. per shift.
§ Mr. GREAVES-LORD
Is there, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, any question involved here in regard to wages? As far as I can 389 understand the question is whether a man who attends a meeting or joins in a procession shall be allowed to have in his possession firearms, ammunition or any other weapons of offence, explosive substances or stones. The hon. Member's argument can only be relevant if the suggestion is that a man who has suffered a reduction of wages is entitled to curry firearms.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On that point of order Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is not the hon. Member in order in arguing that this paragraph would not be necessary if it had not been for the immense reductions in miners' wages? Surely it is competent for an hon. Member to argue that this additional power sought by the Government would not be necessaray if the miners had not suffered these big reductions in their wages?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think the hon. Member's argument refers to more than the Emergency Powers Act or to this particular Sub-section.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Further to that point of Order. Firearms or explosives are in the nature of a miner's work and his day to day toil, and the argument of the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) was that this paragraph is specially designed against miners, and therefore the best way to keep it from referring to miners is to restore the miners' wages.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The hon. Member was submitting the fact that explosives and the carrying of stones is a common everyday occurrence with miners, and that therefore this paragraph is specially designed against miners. Is he not, therefore, perfectly in order to say that the restoration of miners' wages is the best way to obviate this kind of Regulation?
§ Mr. BATEY
The miners attend these meetings and join in these processions for the purpose of protesting against the low wages they are receiving at the present time. When they attend a meeting or join in a procession to protest against low wages it is not fair for the Government to 390 make this Order that will make them liable to be searched if they are in a meeting or a procession.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
This is an Emergency Powers Act, and I must ask the hon. Member not to discuss the question of wages.
§ Mr. BATEY
I am sorry I cannot go along that line, but I do not want to get into conflict with the Chair, so I will leave it. I want to make a very emphatic protest against this Order. It seems to me that this Paragraph 4 of Number 19 Regulation is altogether contrary to what we had a right to expect from the Prime Minister's prayers for peace. On Monday he indulged in his desires for peace, and not many weeks ago he stood there and prayed for peace—
"Grant us peace in our time, O Lord," or something like that. This is a poor way in which to seek peace—take and put into Regulations words like this which will not- bring peace. A man can pray for peace as long as he has a mind, but, unless he is prepared to make some sacrifice for peace, he will never get peace. Certainly the last thing that words like this will bring to a man is peace. This Order is a great danger, and I want to suggest that we should except this paragraph.
§ Mr. SCURR
I beg to second the Amendment.
As I understand the Home Secretary, speaking to-day, the object of these Regulations is that they do not impose any other obligations except those which are of the Common Law, with the exception that under the Common Law there is a certain procedure which is regarded as too lengthy, and that therefore summary jurisdiction is required. I think this paragraph goes a great deal further than that, and is in every sense a dangerous paragraph. I can quite understand that the Government might desire to have legislation against people taking part in meetings that they considered dangerous, but what about the innocent spectator? Another point I object to is this. I can quite understand objection to carrying firearms and pistols, but what about the "other weapon of offence"? What is it? As hon. Members will know. I myself have to go about with a stick! but a stick can on occasions be a weapon of offence, and if I attended one 391 of these meetings, although I might not be a member of the meeting, but simply there as a spectator, because I had a stick I might be liable under this paragraph to be impounded by a policeman, brought up, and subjected to the penalties imposed. It seems a very dangerous proposal, and I think it ought to be confined to persons taking part in the procession or meeting who are carrying firearms, and not as at present designed in its widest sense.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
The objection of the two hon. Members is presumably only to that part of the paragraph which provides that a person attending a meeting with any of these lethal weapons shall be guilty of an offence against these Regulations. The hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) can be reassured as to miners taking part in processions. There will be no interference with their desire to hold meetings or take part in processions so long as they conduct them in a peaceful way without the use of weapons such as are described in this Regulation, which are likely to cause trouble, injury, and death. The Regulation is aimed at the prevention of the use of firearms, which I am sure hon. Members would deplore just as much as any Member on this side of the House.
Hon. Members are well aware that when people attend meetings they are quite likely, according to whether they are emotional or not or responsive to eloquence, to become excited and possibly to use available materials or weapons for the purpose of expressing their opinions against any person against whom they may have a grievance. It is very desirable that people who expose themselves to the consequences of eloquence, inflammatory or otherwise, should not enter a meeting with any weapons which they might be tempted to use in a moment of heat against their comrades or foes.
This Regulation is not aimed at any particular person or class of persons. It is aimed at all persons who fill their pockets with stones, and most ordinary and peaceable persons are not in the habit of carrying about pocketfuls of stones any more than they are in the habit of carrying pistols or other fire- 392 arms, or explosive substances. The House will agree that it is very reasonable that persons who do in an emergency of this character adopt extraordinary habits, which are quite foreign to the British character and temperament, shall be prohibited from attending meetings if they desire to indulge in habits of that sort. This is a protective Regulation which I venture to think in a state of excitement might possibly operate for the protection of miners themselves, as much as for any other portion of the community, and I hope the House will agree it is right to add this paragraph to the Regulations in order that the intention of the Regulation, which is to prevent the carriage as well as the use of firearms, may be complete and satisfactory
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I think the real objection to the Regulation, as drafted, centres round the words "any stone." It is quite right and proper that people should be prevented from taking firearms into meetings, and where you have got a dangerous missile, you have a strong case, but the words "any stone," really, do seem to he going a little too far. First of all, a stone includes a pebble. I do not know if there is a single geologist in this House who can tell me exactly what constitutes a stone. A gentleman who is a geologist might have collected one stone as a specimen and then attend a meeting, not necessarily a political meeting, but a meeting of geologists, and he would not be quite safe, and might find he had committed an offence and made himself liable to be sent to prison. Would it not be sufficient to say "or explosive substance or dangerous missile," for a stone which is a dangerous sort of stone would come under the definition "dangerous missile"? Is a man going to be convicted of a criminal offence when he has not got a dangerous missile but merely a stone?
The words "any stone" are to me the only objection; otherwise, this is perfectly proper. But I think it is going a little too far, when there may be even in the House at the present time some Member with a stone in his pocket which he uses for the purpose of packing tobacco down. This is interfering with the liberty of the subject. All I am asking is that after the words "explosive substance," we should read "or other dangerous missile," 393 and leave out the words "any stone." Many perfectly innocent people attending meetings might find themselves guilty of a crime merely because somewhere in their pockets some very small stone is discovered. Then there is that class of persons called schoolboys who have stones in their pockets for perfectly innocent purposes, and who would be liable because they have stones in their pockets. I, therefore, do ask the Solicitor-General to give serious consideration to this paragraph, which is the only objection.
§ Mr. MARCH
After all the hilarity we have had from the other side in connection with this matter, I am going to disagree even with regard to the missiles. I am a countryman, and, when I was a boy, we used to go round and pick up horse-chestnuts and put a lot of them on a string and throw them about. They were called "conkers," and they could be used as a missile no doubt. I also very frequently carry about an umbrella, which might be used as an offensive weapon or missile just as it suits the police or those who are going about wanting a job.
We heard something to-day from the Home Secretary, who just lightly tripped over it, about there being some little disturbance near Poplar last night, but he did not say what was the cause of the disturbance. Probably inquiry is being made into it. The police were anxious for a row. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] Well, you may say shame; of course, you would say so. There was a very big crowd of people round this corner watching what was going on. They did not go away immediately the police told them, and so the police thought they would try and shift them. They were asking for trouble, there is no doubt about that. The police ought to be told that they have got to use commonsense and discretion. I also notice there is something about the police going to arrest here and arrest there. I wonder whether some of those could not be arrested who were on this job in connection with this matter.
People will attend meetings, and very often as they are walking along through the streets, not with the intention of going to one at all, they accidentally get to a meeting. That may seem strange to hon. Members, but you might be going 394 along Whitehall and possibly meet three or four hundred people. [An HON. MEMBER: "Full of stones!"] No, full of sense. You are walking along and you walk into the crowd. You may have no intention of going to the meeting, but are passing on to somewhere else, and you hear a meeting going on and you stop. There may be a row at that very moment, and it is usually the innocent ones who get clouted and not the guilty ones. Whenever there is a meeting on, and anything of that kind happens, I hope hon. Members who laugh will get there and get their share of it.
We disagree with this paragraph. You have the previous paragraph which deals with firearms, and surely that ought to be sufficient. That being so, the Government ought to feel themselves fully at liberty to have this one deleted, because there are many things that can be brought up against innocent people having in their possession certain things which can be classed as "missiles," with no intention whatsoever of using them, and probably never having used them. If they are searched and such things are found on them, are they to be classed as being at a meeting for the purpose of doing some injury? I hope the Government will withdraw these words.
§ Mr. THURTLE
The Solicitor-General has failed to deal with the material point made by the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr). It is possible for people, quite casually, to become part of a public meeting, and I should like some definition of the phrase "attending a public meeting." If I am carrying a walking-stick, and going along the Embankment at night and I come upon a meeting of protest—let us say, against the fact that the "Daily Herald" has been raided by the police and its printing machinery taken away—and if I remain and listen to the speeches, am I then bringing myself within the meaning of the Regulation against carrying weapons of offence? According to the Solicitor-General's own explanation, that expression means any weapon which might be used in an offensive manner by an excited man in a crowd, and such a definition would cover even a walking-stick. It is even possible that a scholarly Member of this House—the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, for instance—might be walking along the Embankment, in the circumstances I sug- 395 gest, carrying a book. I believe that in the past the. Financial Secretary to the Treasury developed a habit of throwing books about and he might become part of a public meeting in the way I have explained. Would the right hon. Gentleman in such circumstances make himself amenable to this Regulation? The Solicitor-General should give us more assurance on this particular Regulation.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
If we are not to have the definition for which we have asked, I should like to say a few words. I was astonished at the laughter from the other side which greeted the cases cited by Members on this side. I can give an instance from my own experience. I was crossing George Square in Glasgow on one occasion when I was batoned by a plain-clothes policeman. I was on my way to a county council meeting, and the officer in question had no right or authority to carry a baton, but when I complained to the inspector I got no redress, and apparently I was lucky that I was not arrested as a member of a riotous mob with which I had no sympathy, and of which indeed I had no knowledge. What happened to me could happen to any hon. Members. Everything depends on what one's conduct has been previously. A Conservative Member would have no difficulty in getting out of it, if he were found going to a meeting carrying a heavy stick, but a Member from our side might have more difficulty. [HON. MEMBERS:"No!"] I think we require to restrict the carrying of certain weapons. It is a good thing in this country that we have got. away from the practice, but the law must be applied equally all round. During the trouble
§ in 1921 I had to save a colliery from being burned. There had been no trouble there until an official drew a revolver and fired it. Even the police reported that there was no likelihood of trouble had that official not used the firearm. His action led to a great amount of damage for which the men were not responsible, and he happened to get hurt in another way. No action was taken against him, and the police made much out of the fact that they could not find the "shooting iron" although they saw him use it. We must be careful in passing these restrictions to save the innocent. People who are intent on making trouble have to face the law, but people who are innocent, and who might easily be involved in these troubles, should be protected, and the matter is not one to be regarded humorously.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
In my own town I expect that the chief mischief into which the miners will get will be the playing of marbles. Many of the men will have pockets full of marbles, and I wish to know if these will be regarded as dangerous missiles and within the meaning of this Regulation. I myself have been playing marbles on the streets when the notice has gone out calling a meeting, and I have picked up the marbles and brought them to the meeting. Is a man in that position to come within the Regulation? I think this restriction goes much too far, and that it ought to be modified in the manner suggested. I trust the Solicitor-General will see the force of what has been said, and will not allow things to be treated as dangerous weapons or missiles which are not intended to be used as such.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 86; Noes, 305.399
|Division No. 208.]||AYES.||[9.45 p.m.|
|Amman, Charles George||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hardie, George D.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Day, Colonel Harry||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon|
|Barr, J.||Dennison, R.||Hayday, Arthur|
|Batey, Joseph||Duncan, C.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Bromley, J.||Dunnico, H.||Hirst, G. H.|
|Buchanan, G.||Gillett, George M.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. N. E.||Gosling, Harry||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Cape, Thomas||Graham, D. M. (Lanark. Hamilton)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Groves, T.||Kirkwood, D.|
|Compton, Joseph||Grundy, T. W.||Lansbury, George|
|Connolly, M.||Guest, L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Lawson, John James|
|Dalton, Hugh||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Lowth, T.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lunn, William|
|Mackinder, W.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Viant, S. P.|
|Maclean, Nail (Glasgow, Govan)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Warne, G. H.|
|March, S.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Watson, W. M. (Dumfermilne)|
|Maxton, James||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Murnin, H.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|O'Connor, Thomas P.||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)||Whiteley, W.|
|Oliver, George Harold||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Stephen, Campbell||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Stewart,-J. (St. Rollox)||Windsor, Walter|
|Potts, John S.||Sullivan, Joseph||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Taylor, R. A.|
|Saklatvala, Shapurji||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Scurr, John||Thurtle, E.||Mr. T. Kennedy and Mr. A. Barnes.|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Varley, Frank B.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Holland, Sir Arthur|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Holt, Captain H. P.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Homan, C. W. J.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Davies, David (Montgomery)||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Balniel, Lord||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Drewe, C.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Howard, Capt. Hon. D. (Cumb)., N.)|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase||Ellis, R. G.||Hudson, R.S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Elveden, Viscount||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Bennett, A. J.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Berry, Sir George||Everard, W. Lindsay||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Falls, Sir Bertram G.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R, Skipton)||Fermoy, Lord||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Fielden, E. B.||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. F. S.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Ford, Sir P. J.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Forrest, W.||Jacob, A. E.|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Frece, Sir Walter de||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Kidd, J.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Kindersley, Major Guy M.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Brown-Lindsay, Major H.||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Gates, Percy||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Little, Dr. E. Graham|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Burman, J. B.||Goll, Sir Park||Loder, J. de V.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Gower, Sir Robert||Looker, Herbert William|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Grace, John||Lord, Walter Greaves-|
|Campbell, E. T.||Grant, J. A.||Lougher, L.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Gretton, Colonel John||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Grotrian, H. Brent||Lumley, L. R.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Lynn, Sir R. J.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. (Dulwich)||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Hamilton, Sir R.||MacIntyre, Ian|
|Christie, J. A.||Hammersley, S. S.||McLean, Major A.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hanbury, C.||Macmillan, Captain H.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Clayton, G. C.||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C, (Kent)||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Harney, E. A.||MacRobert, Alexander M.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Harris, Percy A.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Harrison, G. J. C.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hartington, Marquess of||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Haslam, Henry C.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Couper, J. B.||Hawke, John Anthony||Merriman, F. B.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Meyer, sir Frank|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Rentoul, G. S.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Moore, Sir Newton J.||Rice, Sir Frederick||Tasker, Major R. Inigo|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Templeton, W. P.|
|Moreing, Captain A. H.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Thom, Lt. -Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Morris, R. H.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Ropner, Major L.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Neville, R. J.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Rye, F. G.||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Salmon, Major I.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Oakley, T.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Pennefather, Sir John||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Penny, Frederick George||Sandon, Lord||Watts, Dr T.|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)||Wells, S. R.|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W)||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple|
|Perring, Sir William George||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Philipson, Mabel||Skelton, A. N.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Pielou, D. P||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Pilditch, Sir Philip||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Smithers, Waldron||Withers, John James|
|Preston, William||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Radford, E. A.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G.(Westm'eland)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Raine, W.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Wood, Sir S. Hill (High Peak)|
|Ramsden, E.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Rees, Sir Beddoe||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Mr. F. C. Thomson and Captain|
|Remer, J. R.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid||Bowyer.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I beg to move, after the word "Regulations,' to insert the words "other than Regulation 20."
10.0 p. m.
This is the Regulation which deals with injury to property, and it appears to me that one could not have such a set of Regulations, especially imposed by a Conservative Government, without an attempt being made to strengthen the law for the protection of property. It is my view that there is already ample provision in our legislation for the protection of property. I am very sorry indeed that there is nothing to compare in that respect with regard to the protection of human life. If there were legislation as deeply concerned with the protection of human life as with the protection of property, there would be no industrial crisis to-day. It is a very striking contrast to see this emergency legislation with all these Regulations brought in because of the fact that there has been attempted the degradation of human life by the imposition of a miserable standard of living upon a class engaged in the most dangerous employment in the country. Paragraph (1) of Regulation 20 reads:If any person injures, or does any act calculated to injure, or to prevent the proper use or working of, any public building, railway, canal, bridge,400 and so on. I think we have already individuals who have done acts calculated to prevent the proper use of various services. Already in this Debate to-day there has been very striking testimony to the fact that this crisis, this emergency legislation and this holding of services is the work of the "Daily Mail" proprietor, Lord Rothermere. I believe that the best thing the Government could do would be to act upon the first paragraph of this Regulation at once, and deal with this individual, who, from the statements made in this House to-day, is quite obviously more responsible than anyone for the fact that there has been this prevention of the proper use of those various services. I am surprised that the Government allow this individual to go on, especially in view of what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in a previous Debate, when he spoke so contemptuously about the message evidently sent by the hon. Member for Thanet (Mr. Harmsworth). There have been other things which have happened. I want to know from the Attorney-General why this action is not being taken, because it is very evident from the raid that has been made upon the "Daily Herald" premises that the whole of the people of this country have got to be drawn into this tremendous industrial 401 crisis, because the "Daily Mail" circulation has been going down, and the "Daily Herald" circulation has been going up. [Laughter.] Hon Members may laugh at the suggestion, but, according to the statements which every fair-minded Member of the House must admit, prove that he is responsible more than anyone else. I notice that one hon. Member shakes his head, but I referred to the fair-minded Members in the House of Commons, and the fair-minded Members of all parties. It was quite evident, that while those statements were being made previously in the discussion, on all sides of the House there was a sense of disapprobation that this individual should be using his powers in order to make these negotiations break down. Of course the whole tenor of that paper—
§ Rear - Admiral BEAMISH
On a point of Order. Is it in order for the hon. Member to introduce a discussion about the "Daily Mail," when it does not enter into the subject at all?
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I want to submit to you, with all due deference, with regard to this point of Order which has been raised, the opening sentence in paragraph (1) reads:if any person injures, or does any act calculated to injure or to prevent the proper use or working of, any public building.It is well known that there is no individual more responsible for preventing "the proper use or working" than Lord Rothermere, the proprietor of the "Daily Mail." I am quite willing, seeing that it has hurt the suceptibilities of the hon. and gallant Member that I should be making that point, to go on, and I want to know what the Government have got to say about the attack which has been made upon the property of the "Daily Herald." Why has this attack been made on the "Daily Herald"? Why has there not been the prevention of this attack upon the "Daily Herald"? So much for paragraph (1). I come to paragraph (2). I believe that a greater objection can be taken to this than even to para- 402 graph (1), in view of the conduct of the Government. It reads:If any person approaches or is in the neighbourhood of, or enters any such place as aforesaid with intent to do injury thereto, he shall be guilty of an offence against these Regulations.I wonder if that would apply to the proprietor of a newspaper going into his own office to arrange for the publication of his own paper, to arrange for the publication in that paper of the malevolent, lying statements that are constantly in a paper like the "Daily Mail." The carrying out of such work in a paper would do so much to prevent the proper use of buildings or the settlement of a dispute like the present one that I would like the Attorney-General to tell us if, in the event of those papers being produced and the kind of articles occurring in them again such as occurred in preceding days, the Government would take action to close down the evil actions of such a proprietor. Then I want to look at it from the other point of view, that of the person who is perfectly innocent. In the first case, there is the intention to do injury, and in that case:He shall be guilty of an offence against these Regulations.That may be all very well, but when you come to consider how the intention to do injury is going to be judged one begins to have a certain amount of suspicion in connection with this case. It says:Notwithstanding that no such act of injury is committed by him, he shall be deemed to be guilty of such an offence if by reason of his being in possession of any explosive or incendiary substance, or lethal weapon or dangerous missile—Obviously, that is in in order to make it appear that this is a very natural provision, but note the words which follow:or otherwise from the circumstances of the case or his conduct or his known character as proved, it appears that his purpose was to do such injury.It is this paragraph (2) that fills our minds with the utmost suspicion, and we shall require very grave assurance from the Attorney-General in connection with these words:The circumstances of the case.If I were to be found in the neighbourhood of the printing office of the "Daily Mail" I have no doubt that hon. Members opposite, and possibly the Attorney-General, might say that I was there with 403 the intention to do an injury. If I was going to address a meeting in my own constituency, the Attorney-General and hon. Members opposite might say if I were near to some works in the division that I was there "with intent" because there might be members of the working classes blacklegging in that establishment, and therefore possibly I was there with intent to do injury.
The whole point is that there is not one on these benches, and not even on the Front Bench opposite, safe, if the House is agreeable to give the Government powers under this Regulation. After all, there are real grounds for our suspicion. We have had experience in the past, and there is no hon. Member who has had experience who would like to be dependent upon what any Member of His Majesty's Government would say, for they might say in regard to his being in any place that it was "with intent." The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) knows from his past experience what might happen. He is a man respected by the whole of the citizens of Glasgow. Yet because the Coalition Government, which to say the least was just as respectable as the present, and just as honest, possibly not any more honest—or any more dishonest—found his action without any justification, he received the treatment he did. Our position under such a Regulation as this is that the Government can do the most obnoxious things to the most obnoxious of their opponents. Naturally, as their opponents in this House, we arc anxious to put difficulty in the way, and we are anxious to have fairmindedness from hon. Members on the other side.
The boast is always made, we know, of the integrity of British Courts of Justice and that there is the same law for every man, for the rich and the poor, that there is one law for us all, but when a man goes into Court, a member of the working classes, you will find that he has very little opportunity in the way of defence compared with members of the well-to-do classes. We have had experience again and again in that respect. The whole history of the country from the beginning of the nineteenth century, are 404 a warning to Members of this House of what may be done under such a Regulation as this. Consequently we want from the Government assurances in connection with this matter. I know that the Home Secretary said that it was only a matter of having a swift trial, and so on. Everything is simple, we know, until the Government get the power.
The Government's legislation in the autumn is an example of that where we got assurances in connection with unemployment insurance. I hope that fair-minded Members of this House opposite will agree to ask the Members of their own Government to act fairly in regard to their opponents in cutting out this closing part of this second paragraph and to replace it by something which will be much more to the point; which will give an assurance to Members on this side of the House that because we are opposed to the capitalist system we will not be struck clown by this legislation, in order to help, partly by regulation, the mine owners to impose longer hours and smaller wages on men who are far more worthy of respect than the owners. Consequently, I have pleasure in moving the deletion of Regulation 20. I hope the House, will agree with its deletion, and that the Minister representing the Government will reply to the points I have made.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I beg to Second the Amendment.
I agree with my colleague in the view he takes of the injury that may be caused to many innocent persons if this particular Regulation be carried into effect as it is printed in this pamphlet A. I want to ask the Government why it takes what they have termed a "state of emergency" in the country to make them bring forward this Regulation? The first phrase of it says:If any person injures or does any action calculated to injure or prevent the proper we or working of any public building, railway, canal,and so on. Prevent the working! The Attorney-General and other hon. Members know perfectly well that there are bodies of men, directors of companies and managers of associations, who for many years past have been preventing the proper working and use of canals in this country, but no such Regulation has been brought forward to be used against them. Now, however, that we have what 405 is termed a state of national emergency, the Attorney-General and the Home Secretary, and probably the Prime Minister, are under the impression that if some poor ill-clad working man is found in the vicinity of any of the places described in this Regulation—a public work, a canal, a railway bridge, a railway station, a level crossing—and if he is upon strike or associated in any way with the unions connected with this dispute, that he must be looked upon as a man who is there with intent.
It will not be a question of his having done something, but of his being there with intent to do something. Who is to judge whether the man intends to do something or is merely passing that place on his way home? Is it to be the Attorney-General and the Home Secretary? I want to tell this House frankly that those two men are the very last in whose hands I would trust my character, or anybody else's. [Laughter.) Yes, that may cause laughter to hon. Members opposite, but the people who know me and amongst whom I live return me every time I stand; but if some of the hon. Members opposite were to go amongst people who knew them they would never be in this House. The Attorney-General and the Home Secretary—
§ Mr. MACLEAN
—are the two who are behind this particular Regulation, and if any individual is arrested, they will be looked upon as having moved the forces of the law to try that individual. I am going to say quite frankly, and I am certain the Attorney-General will take it that I am not casting any reflection upon him, that in any case in London where any individual is arrested he is probably the one who will appear as prosecutor, he is one of the individuals who will be paid for prosecuting that man, and as he is personally financially interested in this Clause he ought not to vote. There is a Standing Order of this House to that effect. Of course, that seems too funny for the Attorney-General. Law and politics in this House are all funny things to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are only in this particular thing as a game. Politics are only a game to them.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I have been drawing attention to the fact that if certain things are done in contravention of this particular Regulation, I he Attorney-General is one of the individuals who will be personally affected. I have pointed out that he receives fees for any prosecution he takes part in and ought not to take part in any Divisions. That, surely, is a legitimate argument. The second paragraph is very much along the same lines. Is says:If any person approaches or is in the neighbourhood of, or enters any such place as aforesaid with intent to do injury thereto.Again, I want to know who is to be the judge of what the intentions are? Again it is to be the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General who will no doubt instruct the Public Prosecutor with regard to these things. Surely, the wide powers contained in this particular Regulation in both parts of it are powers which ought not to be granted to any Government in circumstances that arise at the present time. This Regulation has to be considered in relation to the preliminary statement in the Preamble, where it states most emphatically that:Provided also that no Regulations shall make it an offence for any person or persons to take part in a strike, or peacefully to persuade, any other person or persons to take part in a strike.The whole of this Regulation is based upon the fact that we have an industrial dispute, and yet in the Preamble that is one of the things to be provided against. These powers are sought under circumstances of an industrial dispute, and, I submit, it is not consistent with the proviso in the Preamble to the Regulations which we are now discussing. I hope this House will take a broader view of the situation than it seems to be taking, and if hon. Members reject this Regulation it will show that they have an attitude of mind which one can admire. If they do not reject this particular Regulation, it will show that the Government have got into a state of panic and they have provided all these particular Regulations to safeguard themselves. No move is being made on the part of the Government to prevent members of their class from rushing to 407 Folkestone and Dover, to get away to Paris and to France, to escape what may be happening in this country. Special boats are running to convey the members of their class over to the Continent. They say they are not in a panic, but the very conduct of the members of their own class, and. the fact that they are trying to pass this Resolution, is an indication and a standing proof that they are in a state of panic. [Laughter.] It is all very nice to laugh in here. You go to Paris for the week-end and forget that the week-end is only from Friday night to Monday morning; you stay next week there—you have a long week-end. I hope the House will reject this Regulation and show at least that affairs in this country can be managed without putting the country under what is practically martial law.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I rise to oppose the Amendment and ask the House not to accept it, and I do so with the sincere desire to deal with any coherent objection; but, although I listened to the speech for 25 minutes of the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and to the speech, not so long—about 10 minutes—of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean), I find it very difficult to detect in their arguments any reason against this particular Regulation. The hon. Member for Camlachie began by saying that this only dealt with property, and the Conservative Government would introduce no Regulation about human life; but he forgot that the previous Regulation, which the Socialist party voted against, was to protect human life. He went on to discuss the misdeeds of Lord Rothermere and the "Daily Mail," and, indeed, Lord Bother-mere, like King Charles's head with someone else, seems always to drift into the hon. Gentleman's objections. In fact, however, this Amendment and this Regulation have nothing whatever to do with the "Daily Mail" or any other newspaper. Then the hon. Member for Govan objected to the Regulation, as far as I understood him, on two grounds. First of all, he said it was a Regulation which would redound to my financial profit, because I should be able to appear in the Police Court—
§ Mr. MACLEAN
No. After all, the right hon. Gentleman might be fair. I did not put that forward as an argument against the Regulation passing, but as a reason why the right hon. Gentleman ought not to be the pilot of this particular Regulation in the House.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Then I am afraid the hon. Member was out of order; for what he purported to be discussing was not whether I should be piloting the Regulation, but whether the Regulation should be passed—
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
And his criticism of the Regulation was based, if I properly understood him, upon the suggestion that it would be the Attorney-General or the Home Secretary who would have to decide whether a particular individual was guilty of some felonious intent or otherwise. I can reassure the hon. Member, and any other Member of the House who may have had any similar opinion, that it Is not the Attorney-General—who, by the way, does not as a rule appear in police courts—[Interruption]. An hon. Member interrupts to say it is the Central Criminal Court, but the object of this Regulation is that the procedure should be the summary procedure of a police court, and not the more lengthy and expensive procedure of a trial at the Old Bailey.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[The Attorney-General.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.