§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Bowyer.]
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
I see in the newspapers this morning that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) made some observations on the Motion for the Adjournment last night, in criticism of a speech which I made to the House two or three days before. I do not at all complain of the hon. and learned Gentleman doing that, though I think it was a little unfortunate, since I was in the House within two or three minutes of his rising, that he did not inform me that such was his intention. The hon. and learned gentleman is an old professional and private friend of mine, and he has been kind enough to express his regret and explain the mistake. I say no more about it except this, that I quite understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman might have been tempted to make a speech without giving me any notice, because he was criticising a speech of mine in which I had pointed out that there were cases in which the failure to give notice exposed people to actions for damages. It may have been that the hon. and learned Gentleman was anxious to give an illustration of a case where the failure to give notice does not expose anyone to an action for damages. I can assure him that, so far as I am concerned, 861 I make no complaint, because it is not worth while occupying the time of the House with it.
I cannot help thinking that the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman showed that he has not apprehended the main point which I tried to put to the House. That is no reason why I should be annoyed, but I think it is important that the point should be understood. Most unfortunately, as I began to speak the other night, there appeared to be a kind of general strike proclaimed on the Labour Benches. Not only did the Labour Members strike work, but three or four of them who were prepared to remain, were what I believe is called "fetched out"; they were peacefully persuaded by the pickets. As we are fortunate now to have some of the members of the Labour Party present, I hope I may be allowed very seriously to put briefly, but in perfectly plain and rather broade; form, the main point to which I ask the attention of the House, and, if I may say so, of hon. Members above the Gangway. I can assure them that I am not spending my time in discussing some miserable, legal technicality. The point which I put is a point which must be admitted to be of the greatest possible substance and importance if it is right.
The central proposition which I suggest that anyone who studies this matter fairly must accept is this—that this so-called general strike, whatever be the provocation or the explanation or the circumstances which caused it to be decided on, is not, properly understood, a trade dispute at all. I am quite willing to believe that it has had its origin in a trade dispute. I take the view that, so far as that particular trade dispute is concerned; my hon. Friends above the Gangway are very far from being people without reason for supporting most strongly the contention that the coal miners must have all the public support that could properly be given to them. But my point is that, once you proclaim a general strike, you are as a matter of fact, starting a movement of a perfectly different and a wholly unconstitutional and unlawful character.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I think I can quote reasons which the hon. Member will respect. I take the view that the Trade Disputes Act, when it spoke of a "trade 862 dispute," undoubtedly never contemplated at all the situation in which we are standing to-day.
The best proof of that is that the Trade Disputes Act was carried through this House on its Third Reading without anybody voting against it, and the plain fact is—not as a matter of narrow law, but as a matter of broad fundamental constitutional principle—that once you get the proclamation of a general strike such as this is, it is not, properly understood, a strike at all because a strike is a strike against employers to compel employers to do something, but a General Strike is a strike against the general public to make the public, Parliament and the Government do something. I ventured this view last week because I felt it my duty to state it as clearly as I could for the information of any who might choose to listen to me, or read what I had said. The hon. and learned Gentleman the member for S.E. Leeds last night observed that these legal propositions could only be finally decided by judges, and not by other members of the public. That is quite true. I merely offered that view believing it to be true, but I have very good reason now to think that it is accepted and entertained in quarters which the hon. and learned gentleman the member for S.E. Leeds certainly will not suggest are either partisan or ill-informed on the subject. I notice that a very learned judge, Mr. Justice Astbury, in a judgment which I understand lie gave this morning—I saw a copy of the judgment an hour ago—has been stating this proposition. I think it worth while to read to the House three short passages from the judgment of this learned judge who had before him a dispute concerning the Sailors' and Firemen's Union. I am not concerned with that dispute, but in the course of his judgment the learned judge, dealing with the facts and the law, said:The so-called general strike called by the Trade Union Congress Committee is illegal and contrary to law, and those persons inciting or taking part in it, are not protected by the Trade Disputes Act of 1906. No trade dispute has been alleged or shown to exist in any of the Unions affected except in the miners case, and no trade dispute does or can exist between the Trade Union Congress on the one hand and the Government and the nation on the other……. The orders of the Trade Union Council above referred to are there- 863 fore unlawful and the defendants are at law acting illegally in obeying them, and can be restrained by their own Union from doing so.This was a case where the Union itself was intervening to prevent members of the Union from being required by other bodies to leave their work improperly. Then the learned judge said:Now the law upon trade union benefits is as follows. No member of the plaintiff union or any other Trade Unionist in this country, can lose his trade union benefits by refusing to obey unlawful orders.I am sure my hon. and learned friend the member, for S.E. Leeds will be glad to have this from a judicial authority. I understand his language last night might be thought to show some little doubt about this, hut perhaps I was ill-informed. The learned judge proceeds:The orders of the Trade Union Congress and the Unions who are acting in obedience thereto in bringing about the so-called 'general strike' are unlawful orders and the plaintiff union is entitled to have this fact made clear and brought to the attention of its members.That was the second point I made.
Then, says the learned judge finally:Trade union funds in this country are held in a fiduciary capacity, and cannot legally be used for or depleted by paying strike pay to any member who illegally ceases to work and breaks his contract without justification, in pursuance of orders which are unlawful, and this fact also is one that the plaintiff union is entitled and bound to make clear to its members in the difficult position in which they have been placed.I venture to delay the House to read those extracts, because if the hon. and learned member for S.E Lee 's wants judicial authority, there is the judicial authority. I do not know whether the hon. and learned member would attach importance to an extract from a textbook of repute. He himself is the author of a text-book on this subject which is, if I may say so, a very good one. In the course of that work—which I know very well and which many of us often use, greatly admiring the talent of its author—the hon. and learned Gentleman himself in his own book, under his own hand, lays down this very simple proposition—There has recently arisen for consideration the question of how far a strike called for political objects,—'direct action' 864 as journalists have called it—that is, a strike to interfere with or constrain the act of the Government in conduct which the trade unions do not approve, can he said to he a strike in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute. This matter has fortunately not yet had to be decided.The hon. and learned Member was writing some time ago. Most unfortunately it has now to be decided. As a matter of fact, it was decided in the Law Courts this morning—I have very little doubt that such a strike would not be covered by the words and the definition of the Trade Disputes Act.I just want to point out to members of the Labour Party, [HON. MEMBERS: "You need not"] I think some members of the Party do need it, but let me point out to the House that the only possible matter that ever could be debated on this subject is whether or not the particular proclamation of a strike does or does not come within this perfectly plain constitutional rule. You may do what you think right in the exercie of the right to strike against your employer, but you are not only breaking the law, but you are inflicting a most serious blow on the whole constitution of the country if you abuse that undoubted right with totally different effects. So that the result of what you do, whether you mean it or not, must be that you are putting pressure upon the community, the Government, the people, as a whole.
I am saying a thing which has been perfectly well understood by the Labour leaders themselves. I do not suggest for a moment that the very distinguished leaders of labour who are represented on the Front Opposition Bench in this House are not as well aware of these propositions as I am. My very respectful criticism is that if they are so well aware of that, firstly, they should have stated it explicitly and publicly before this strike was proclaimed, and, secondly, they should have risked everything sooner than have allowed themselves to be associated in supporting a general strike. Let me repeat words which were used by one of the most respected leaders of the party, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). He discussed this long ago, and put it quite correctly and quite plainly—if you ever attempt to do this thing, if you ever attempt to declare a strike 865 which really is designed to bring pressure on the Government or the community this is what will happen. You tell them there will be a strike for 24 hours, perhaps 48 hours and then you tell them you want a couple of days more, and so on. It is easier to get men out than to get men back, and all the time you imagine that the Government and the other people will be doing nothing but simply waiting for Labour's victory. All experience is against such a lame and impotent method as that. You cannot do it—I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) has just come into the House, as I was quoting his well-known and courageous declaration—You cannot do it without anticipating a condition of civil war.For my part, I entirely acquit the responsible Parliamentary leaders of labour from ever having designed, as a motive and an object, the blackmailing of the community which is really to what it amounts.
§ Sir J. SIMON
If my hon. Friend will wait for a moment, he will find I am doing full justice to them. I am saying I entirely acquit the responsible Parliamentary leaders of Labour from having been guilty of such motives. [HON.MEMBERS: "We do not want it."] I am speaking to the House of Commons. I acquit those leaders of having set out as their object and intention what in fact is the inevitable consequence if a general strike succeeds, what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting himself said must happen, and I repeat his words—You cannot do it without anticipating a condition of civil war.But I wish to point out that people in this world have to be judged not by the motives which some of them may have in deciding upon very serious actions, but upon the quite obvious results which the action, when determined upon, is bound to produce. I would invite the House to consider for a moment the character of the announcement which was made I think on Saturday afternoon May 1st, by the General Council of the Trade Union Congress. This was before the negotiations broke down, and before whatever mistake the Government made, and I think the Government made some very bad mistakes; it was before the negotiations 866 broke down at all. Consider the real character of the announcement which the Trade Union Congress then made. They announced that they proposed, on the following Monday, to call out and bring to a dead stoppage carefully selected industries in this country, and these industries were selected for the express purpose of making it difficult, and it might be in the end impossible, for the life of the country to go on. There was no reason on earth why they should have called out these particular trades unless it was with that object. They had no quarrel, and the workpeople whom they called out had no quarrel with the employers in those trades. They stopped transport. With what object? Not because anybody in transport has any quarrel with the coalowners, but because transport is one of the vital services of the country. Some foolish misguided people who ought to have been sternly corrected by more sober Labour opinion imagined that they could bring the country to its knees. Of all the stupidities that have ever been perpetrated the most stupid thing of all was the attempt to stop the Press. I am perfectly convinced that no Government can ever conduct a monopoly of newsprint, newspaper ink, newspaper information, and newspaper circulation to the satisfaction of the community at large. A Socialist Government could not do it. No Government could do it, and there is nothing more certain than that in history the decision to stop the circulation of the Press will be regarded as one of the greatest condemnations of the folly which has started this business. Up to, the present we have kept our temper, but let me point out what an astounding view it must be which imagines that the community can be compelled to put pressure on the Government, because, for example, you stop transport in London. We have all seen shopgirls and typists and the rest trudging along sometimes great distances, morning and evening, to and from their work.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Does any human being of any party or opinion believe that by making those girls do that for a week or two, you are going to make them more favourable to the miners' case? You can make these people go to immense incon- 867 venience and suffering and I dare say want, and when you have finished you may wear out the girl's shoes, but you cannot wear out her spirit. [An HON. MEMBER: "How about the miners' wives?"]. I do not want to say anything to create temper at all. Just consider. We all had experience, or those of us at any rate who were at home at the time, of what it was like when the Germans tried to bomb London with Zeppelins. The Germans knew so little of the British character, that they thought that, by putting people living in London to inconvenience or it might be danger, they would somehow advance their cause. I never could have believed that my countrymen, who know the British character as well as any of us do, and who are just as good specimens of the British character as any of us, would have thought that you could possibly secure public support for your cause by operations which are designed to put inconvenience and possibly danger upon the general inhabitants of this land.
It is that aspect of the matter which makes it so perfectly clear to me that I want to be excused for trying to make it clear to everybody that this is not in any proper sense of the term at this moment a trade dispute at all. It has its origin, I do not doubt, in very deep seated and genuine feeling, and in a very serious industrial matter, but that does not in the slightest degree either explain or excuse the confusion of mind—for it is much more confusion of mind than anything else—which has led perfectly respectable people to imagine that they can adopt the method of the General Strike without completely changing the whole of the character of the activities which are associated with organized labour.
I know that I have to-day, and the other day, been talking law, but I am the last person in this House to suppose that law is the whole of life. I have never thought so. [Interruption]. My hon. friends above the Gangway are annoyed with me now, but I know very well that there are considerations involved in this whole story which are vastly more important than any mere legal proposition.
I thoroughly agree, if I may be allowed to say so, that there is apart 868 from the legal question a much bigger question, a constitutional question, a Parliamentary question, and that, side by side with that, there is a social question, an industrial question, and a human question. But—and, after all, this is a place where we ought to express our views—what I feel is that the country cannot really concentrate its mind upon, and no Parliament can do justice to, the social, industrial, and human issues involved in this unless it is first realised that the proclaiming of this General Strike was a tragic blunder. It is not that the people who did it were a set of revolutionaries who wanted to break the country to pieces. It is that it has been done under some, I think confused, but at any rate quite mistaken impression, that this was a lawful exercise of the rights of organised labour. It is nothing of the sort, and until there are people who will say that openly and loudly and firmly in another quarter of the House, I feel it my duty to do my best to say it from this quarter.
When one looks back over the last few days and considers the situation at this hour, this, I think, is perfectly clear. It is perfectly clear that the General Council of the Trade Union Congress has got itself into a position which at the moment it cannot get out of. I saw in the newspapers to-day a statement reported by one of the members of the General Council of the Trade Union Congress to this effect: "We cannot afford to make the first move." I have no doubt that the same is true about the Government. The Government says that in defence of the community, in defence of us all, it is bound to put up a resistance to a General Strike, and it is perfectly right. To the considerable disappointment or misunderstanding of some people who are friends of mine I have felt it my duty to say boldly that the Government is right about that. But what I feel so deeply—and this is the last thing I have to say—is this. We have got a situation in which on the one hand, those who have proclaimed this General Strike do not see their way to call it off. We have got, or the other hand, a Government representing the whole country which cannot in the circumstances take the first step, and the result is that we are threatened with a continuance from day to day of this frightful condition, merely because the 869 people on the two sides—and I ask my hon. friends to notice that the two sides are the Government and the Trade Union Congress—each of them, cannot make an open move.
If you will read the remarkable book recently published of Colonel House's Memoirs, you will see in it how in 1916 I think,—at any rate, it was before America came into the War—America was in confidence apparently making certain propositions to Germany on the one hand and to our own Government on the other, and evidently, in the view of Colonel House, those were propositions which might perhaps have led to some earlier solution on terms which would still have secured victory to the Allies. I do not know whether that is right or wrong, and we have too much on our hands to discuss the history of those days now, but my point is this that the reason why nothing came of that was because neither of the two contesting parties could, in public, take the position that they were making even a suggestion or an attempt at a suggestion to end the War. Each side said, "If we were to do that it would be interpreted as weakness." And that is what the leaders of the Trade Union Movement are saying to-day. Exactly the same thing, I feel quite certain, must be passing through the minds of many of those who are responsible for the Government of the country. But there is this prodigious difference. That, at any rate, was a war that was being carried on against a foreign country, a foreign community, and we in this country were one community, acting together.
This thing is a war—the reason why we have this censorship of the Press and so on is just because it is a war—in our own boundaries, and when I hear people, talking about fighting to the bitter end, I do not mind whether it is some hotheaded gentleman on the Labour side or, as I think, some reactionary on the Government side, I shudder at the idea that there is any sane human being who really thinks this is a fight that can be fought to a finish. If this is to be fought to a finish, even though the community is completely vindicated, it mans that our flesh and blood have been struck down and reduced, in life, hope, in business it may be, for dozens of years to come. There is no man in this country who ought to talk about this horrible con- 870 flict as a thing which is going to be fought to a finish. On behalf of myself and some of my friends, I am going to take a little responsibility. I see quite clearly the great difficulty which the authorised and respected leaders of labour are in. I regret with all my heart that they ever gave even a, silent acquiescence in this shocking and dreadful attempt to put pressure upon the whole community. As it is, they are in a difficulty. The Government I will not say is in a difficulty, but at any rate it has its difficulties, because there are people who want to fight to a finish on both sides. I am against a fight to a finish, whoever wants it.
Therefore, my friends and I propose to put down on the Order Paper of this House a Resolution for an early date, in which we will ask the House of Commons to put on record its view that, if and when three conditions are satisfied, satisfied concurrently, the Government ought to announce its willingness for a short period to give assistance to this very hardly pressed coal industry. Now what are these conditions? I put first and foremost, as absolutely an essential condition, for the sake of the future of our country, for the sake of the whole orderly, constitutional Government of this land, the condition that there ought to be an immediate and an unqualified calling off of the General Strike. I put down, as a second condition, to be complied with at the same time—I do not care whether you call them lock-out notices or not—that there should be a resumption of work by the coalowners at the old rates from day to day, in order that there may be no attempt any longer to state, what I think is historically untrue, that as a matter of fact what they did amounted to a lock-out in the proper sense of the term.
I say, in the next place, that the Government have got a responsibility. They have put on record, in the last letter which the Prime Minister wrote before the break, that they propose in any event to prepare legislation to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission so far as they call for fresh legislation. I propose that that should be one of the conditions to be imposed, and lastly, I think it ought to be an essential condition, not that the Trade Union Congress should say it will use its best en- 871 deavours, but that those who speak for the miners on the one hand and for the coalowners on the other should give a definite undertaking that they will forthwith negotiate on the basis of the contents of that Report, without excluding from it anything which it contains. I have no doubt many people can greatly improve on that formula. I am not on formula. I am on this simple point, and I appeal to the House of Commons. I have done my very best from here to show during this past week I do not qualify in the least my belief that this General Strike is in its, effects, whatever its intention may be, an attack which is borne by and inflicted upon the community as a whole. As such, I think it to be absolutely intolerable, but I am equally clear that if anybody on either side in this business talks about "fighting to a finish," ho cannot have the slightest idea of what is really involved.
I have abstained in what I have said in the last few days from making criticisms about the early stages of the negotiations, not because I do not think there is a very severe criticism to be made. I think the time will come, and I hope it will come soon, when people will say to the Government, "You paid £24,000,000, the biggest price ever paid by the British people for anything of this sort. What did you buy with it? You bought time with it, and what have you done with the time? "I beg hon. Members who agree with me not to mistake. It does not matter what the merits of your case may be, or what aggravation you may have. If the Prime Minister refuses to receive a deputation in Downing Street, that is no reason for blowing up Whitehall. You are bound in the end to recognise that this method which you have adopted is a method which is criminal, which is unconstitutional, which will bring disaster to the labour cause, and which is utterly contrary to the wise advice which the Labour leaders have given in the old days.
I indicated just now the sort of Resolution which my friends would put down. We should have thought that if those conditions were satisfied, the Government ought for a limited period publicly to announce its willingness to provide assistance for the coal trade in some form or other, but, unless something of this sort be done by people in this House or out of 872 it who are under no compulsion to reserve their suggestions for fear of being misunderstood, then the future of this country is dark indeed. It is all very well to say that this is a good-tempered strike. It is all very well to say everybody is cheerful and happy. There is no sensible, sober, careful man in this land who does not see to what this must lead. I, therefore, would, with great respect to the House of Commons, and apologising for taking upon myself something which I really do not care to do, suggest that these considerations will have to be borne in mind, and as soon as that Resolution which we will put down for an early day is one which the Prime Minister feels in his judgment can be usefully discussed it will be within the power of the Government and its Whips to give the House a day for discussing something of the sort, to see if we cannot bring this frightful business to an end.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I am very doubtful, indeed, whether this Debate is likely to do the good that the right hon. and learned Gentleman thinks perhaps it may do. It would have been better, think, if a Debate of this character had been initiated in circumstances in which we could have insured the presence of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. My hon. and learned Friend, the ex-Solicitor-General is not in the House, I am sure he would have been here had he known that this Debate would have been raised at this time.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, that as soon as I read this morning that my hon. and learned Friend had made the observations he did, I wrote him a letter telling him that I should raise this matter on the Adjournment. I told him I should make no complaint of his remarks. I said I hoped he would indicate to any of his colleagues or friends that they were at liberty to attend if they liked.
§ Mr. SHAW
I think most of us were of opinion that the pensions debate would go on longer, and that after the pensions debate there would be the unemployment debate, which no one anticipated would finish before 8 o'clock. I mention these facts to assure the House that what I said has really some foundation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has explained to us the law, and has 873 read a lecture to the Members of the Labour Party. He has kindly absolved some of us from the responsibility for the General Strike. May I say to him, with all clue respect for his legal knowledge, that it is not illegal in this country for a person or a body of persons, however large, to cease work if they wish to, and I am not aware of any law which prevents any working man who desires to leave work at the request of any person from so doing. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the breaking of contracts !"] Between a breach of contract and the illegality of a strike there is all the difference in the world, as any hon. Member knows. I repeat my point, that in my opinion it is not illegal for any body of men, however large, to leave work in this country, and if our people see that by leaving their work they can prevent an injustice being done to the bravest, the most generous and the most loyal of the workmen of this country, they have a perfect right to do it, and if they can prevent the injustice, well, God speed to them.
May I say to the right hon. Gentleman, —speaking on my own behalf, and, I am sure, on behalf of all my colleagues on the Front. Bench and the Back Benches—that he has no need to absolve us from any blame. We really do not need absolution from the right hon. Gentleman. We will take the full responsibility for all our actions, and if he kindly keeps his blessings and his absolutions for his own friends, perhaps he will do more good than by making speeches such as the one he has made to-day. Every word of blame which he has apportioned he has apportioned to trade unionists. Not a word of blame has ho apportioned to those who are trying to drive below the subsistence level men who work in a dangerous occupation, in an arduous occupation. If his blame had been equally apportioned, if he had shared his blame between people who want miners to work for less than a subsistence amount, and the trade unionists, one would have understood the genuineness of his blame. All his blame is on the shoulders of the trade unionists. There is not a word of blame for the people who posted notices of savage reductions in wages, which no body of self-respecting workmen could accept, and no body of 874 self-respecting workmen could fail to help their colleagues in fighting.
We had better know exactly where we are. We are not ashamed at all; we are neither ashamed nor afraid. From this Box, before this dispute broke out, appeal after appeal was made. The word "grovelling" was used. I am afraid that grovelling appeals were made, giving the impression of weakness. As a matter of fact, it was calm strength and not weakness. I know the gravity of this situation, and I do not want to minimise it. I have myself travelled this week-end, in one way or another, over about 500 miles of our roads. I do not need to be told by the right hon. Gentleman or by any hon. Member what a general strike means. Everybody knows the gravity of it, and those who would speak, intending to make party capital at this moment, even from our benches, are doing disservice to the cause of peace.
My principal object in rising was to make it perfectly clear that as far as we are concerned, there is no responsibility we shirk, there is no cover under which we desire to hide. We do not admit that anybody who has ceased work has not the right to cease work, and we do not admit that the miners are wrong, or that the trade unionists are wrong. Let this proposition be perfectly clearly understood, in order that the House may realise what is the proposition it has to face. In a few words I am going to deal with the suggestions of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It is rather regrettable that the lock-out notices were ever posted. That was the beginning of the dispute. It was perfectly well known to everybody in the country that if the miners were attacked, the rest of the trade unionists would stand by their side. Why, then, was not an attempt made in order to get these lock-out notices withdrawn, so that negotiations might take place? I hare spent thirty years of my life as a trade union negotiator. I know something of Government action, through the Ministry of Labour, as a conciliator. Both the Employers' Associations and the Labour Minister—one Minister after another—always puts one question to the Trade Unions in case of dispute: If the trade unions have tendered notices, those notices must be withdrawn before negotiations can go on. That has always bean the policy.
875 Why then has it not been the policy that the employers' notices should be withdrawn before negotiations take place? No attempt was made to get the employers to withdraw their notices, and the trade unionists feel, and the miners feel, that they are treated in quite a different away from the Employers' Association. On the one hand, both the Employers' Associations and the Government say in a dispute, "You must withdraw the notices. We cannot negotiate under a threat". But the Government have never to my knowledge said to a body of employers, "You must withdraw your notice; it is impossible for us to negotiate otherwise." That is a plain, simple statement of the case, I hope [Hon. MEMBERS: "No"]. If it be not a plain, simple statement of the case, let me try to make a simple statement of another case. Let me try to make a simple statement of another kind, and that is, that the trade unionist will never be contented to see a state of things in which his notice must be withdrawn before negotiations take place, but the employers' notice must not. That is where we are.
What is to take place in the future? The right hon. Gentleman is to move a Resolution. His Resolution, I take it, if carried—and it will be carried if the Government accept it—will put the position, will give us what is known, I think, asthe status quo ante, though I do not know anything of Latin—I understand it will be the position before the lockout notices were posted. If that be the case, then the House can discuss it. But I wonder if be can tell us whether it is likely to meet with a favourable reception, because some of us would like a hint in advance? If there is something behind it, then it is possible that there are some people on this side of the House who believe in peace, and if they have a guarantee of the status quo ante, and that the miners would get a straight deal, would help in every possible way to bring about peace. I am trying to look at 876 the matter for myself, as I can see it through my own eyes. I know how difficult it is to see the other man's point of view. As I see it from my own point of view, the miners have twice been deceived. In the first case, they were promised that the Sankey Commission's report should be accepted in the letter and in the spirit. I myself heard that promise made from that box opposite. That promise was never implemented. There was a second Committee that again declared, in order to bring prosperity to the coal industry —I am not quoting the actual words but the spirit of them—in order to bring prosperity to the coal industry there must be reorganisation. Again nothing was done. We had the subsidy paid for months long, and during all that time not a step was taken towards that reorganisation that two Commissions had reported was necessary. The third Commission reported that reorganisation was absolutely necessary. The employers never said a word about reorganisation. They proposed savage cuts in wages that it was impossible to accept.
I do not believe that the coalowners or any Member of this House, would attempt to defend the notices which the employers posted. Here are the miners. Twice Commissions have reported that reorganisation was necessary. Nothing happens. The miners have to bear the brunt, in their wages, of the lack of reorganisation. Why should not, therefore, the workmen stand by them in order to help them out of their difficulty? It is their duty so to do. I am not going to make a speech that will raise any passion. I merely say, in conclusion, that when this Resolution comes before the House, we shall see who are the friends of the right hon. Gentleman. We shall hope in the discussion to hear less of the crimes of the trade unionists, and a little bit more of the crimes of the employers.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twelve Minutes before Seven o'Clock.