§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
I beg to move,That the Regulations made by His Majesty in Council under the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, by Order dated the 20th day of November, 1926, shall continue in force, subject however to the provisions of Section 2 (4) of the Act.This is the eighth and I hope the last occasion of my moving that the Emergency Regulations be approved. It has been my custom from time to time, in moving these Regulations, to give a statement to the House of the number of cases involved under them during the previous month, and I have that statement here, from the 17th October to the 17th November. The number of prosecutions of persons involved under different Regulations during the last month was 511. Of that number, 66 were sentenced to imprisonment, and 184 were fined; in the case of 86 proceedings are pending, and 175 were discharged as not guilty.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Just a slight increase. The reasons why I have felt it necessary to move these Regulations to-day are these: After very fully consulting with those who are in closer touch than I am with the position of affairs in various parts of the country, I came to the conclusion that it would not be right not to move the Regulations again this time. As the House knows, there are something under 500,000 miners back at work, out of something over 1,000,000 who were involved in the stoppage. Those miners who are back at work are back largely in certain districts of the country, and there are certain portions of the country where the proportion who are back is much smaller. I had hoped, myself, that by to-day it would have been possible for me to say that the condition of affairs was such that I should be justified, as the Minister responsible to the Government and to this House for the maintenance 714 of law and order, in not pressing for these Regulations; but, having regard to the fact that several of the chief constables have advised me that it would be better and safer, in the interests of the preservation of peace, that the Regulations should be made for some little time longer, I have felt it my duty to put them before the House to-day.
In an answer which I gave to the right hon. Gentleman the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition yesterday, I stated, and I repeat to-day, that I hoped that very soon—it might be within a few days, or it might be within a week or two—it would be possible for me to ask the House to revoke the Regulations. I said yesterday that I thought it would be possible, under the Act, to revoke the Regulations by an Order in Council, but the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) very kindly spoke to me on the subject yesterday, and he, at all events, had some doubt as to whether an Order in Council would enable me to revoke the Regulations without a corresponding Resolution from both Houses of Parliament. I need hardly say that I am much indebted to the hon. and learned Gentleman for having spoken to me on the point. As he, of course, knows, in these matters I am advised by my legal advisers, because it would not be right that I should act on my own responsibility with regard to rulings in law; but this I will say, that I will consult my legal advisers, and whatever course is necessary will be followed. If in a few days' time I can satisfy myself that the condition of affairs is such that I can safely waive all or any of the Regulations, it will be a very great pleasure indeed to me to ask the Privy Council to make the necessary Order, and to bring it before the House for immediate sanction.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
Is it, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman's advisers, desirable merely to continue these Regulations, in order to preserve peace in the meantime, or do they allege that the state of affairs is so serious that the essentials of life are at stake?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
No; I want to be quite frank with the House. It is, of course, important that nothing should be said to-day that could possibly prejudice a peaceful solution of the difficulties which have so long involved 715 the country. I say at once that it is purely as a matter of precaution that I am asking for the continuance of these Regulations, in order that there may be no difficulty whatever about preserving the peace; and, at the very earliest possible moment at which my advisers inform me that I can dispense with them, I shall come down to this House and ask that they be dispensed with. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. G. Thorne) made a strong appeal to me, on the last occasion but one, that I should not permit action under Regulation No. 22, dealing with the prohibition of meetings and processions, to be carried out by chief constables, but that I should retain those powers in my own hands. I have already directed that a new Order be issued to the chief constables revoking the previous Order, and if it be necessary—
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
From today. If it be necessary, which I hope it will not be, to prohibit any meeting or procession, it will be done purely on my own responsibility and by my own sanction. That, I think, will meet the views of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, and, I am sure, will meet the views of hon. Members opposite.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Yes, it will apply to every exercise of the powers under Regulation No. 22. There will be no banning of any meeting or procession under Regulation No. 22 by any chief constable after to-day, but, if anything of the kind is needed—as I have said, I hope it will not be—it will be done by myself Personally, and, of course, I shall be responsible by question and answer in this House for any exercise of my power.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Yes, I think I can say that. I think I can say that no ban exists at the moment, but if any chief constable, or any mayor, or 716 anyone else, thinks that any meeting should be prohibited, application will be made to myself, and I shall then consider the case on its merits and decide one way or the other. As I have said, I hope that during the next few days it will not be really necessary to exercise any of these Regulations to any great extent, as the whole matter is in so much happier a frame of mind, if I may so put it, than it was a month ago. Indeed, at any rate 10 days ago, I had the very greatest doubt whether it would be necessary for me to move the Regulations at all, but I found that it was considered necessary by my colleagues that the Regulations in regard to the supply of coal should still be continued—those Regulations, of course, I do not administer myself; they are administered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines—and I was rather impressed by the reports made to me by some of the chief constables throughout the country, and, in particular by the fact that in one district, just after I had more or less made up my mind that things were going to settle down, there was another somewhat serious trouble; and, on the whole, I felt that the House would for the last time give me these Regulations, on the distinct understanding from myself that they will be administered by me with the utmost, desire not to utilise them except in cases of urgent necessity.
I might, perhaps, add that. three or four hon. Members opposite have been to me during the last week or 10 days, complaining of the administration of these Regulations in certain places. I am having very full inquiry made into those cases. One hon. Member, whom I do not now see in his place, came to me with a very serious complaint against the action of the police, which I need not detail to the House now, in a certain district, and I at once sent down one of the inspectors of constabulary—he was there yesterday—to make. full inquiry into the accusation made by the hon. Member; and I heel hardly say that, if the accusation can be proved to be well founded, I shall take such disciplinary steps as are in my power. As the House knows, I have not hesitated, when proper cases have been put before me, to make the fullest investigation. I hope the-House will pass these Regulations to-day, and that on all hands it will be felt that 717 this is the last occasion on which it will be necessary to do so. I sincerely hope that, although the House may give me the Regulations as a matter of precaution, it will not be necessary to take action under them, and, as far as I am concerned, the less I have to do with them the better.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman has not yet consulted his legal advisers as to whether he can or cannot revoke these Regulations by Order in Council, or has he already formed an opinion?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I have consulted the legal advisers of the Home Office, but as the hon. and learned Gentleman differs from certain advice which is given to me, I propose to ask the Law Officers of the Crown. It is a very small technical point. It is merely whether an Order in Council can do it or whether that Order in Council has to be followed by a Resolution of the House. I need hardly say I could go to the Privy Council and ask for an Order, assuring them that I am satisfied the country can safely proceed without the Regulations, and they would revoke them and the House would pass the revocation as a matter of form.
§ Mr. THURTLE
In the event of a chief constable having prohibited, say last Saturday, a certain individual from speaking in a given area, will that prohibition now lapse unless it is reaffirmed by the right. hon. Gentleman himself?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I had not considered that point technically, but the Order will be going out to-day to the chief constables, and I will see that no ban is effective after, say Monday, without my personal approval.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
Do I understand that the real and main reason for asking the House to confirm these Regulations is the danger which may still exist of an interference with the supply of coal?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
There is that danger, of course, though I did not want to exaggerate it too much. Not half the miners are yet back, and efforts are being made on behalf of some of the more extreme sections of opinion to prevent those who are not back going back 718 to work. [interruption.] I am not speaking of anyone in this House at all. The hon. Member is unnecessarily annoyed with what I said. I have not interfered at all in regard to the negotiations which have taken or may take place. What I am concerned with is the responsibility for maintaining peace, and when there are a large number of miners who have returned, and on the other hand a large number who have not returned, when there are two views in regard to whether they should return or not, that is, of course, the moment when there might be trouble between the two sections, and it is really my duty as a matter of precaution, as the Minister responsible to the House itself for seeing that there is no breach of the peace in this anxious period, to ask for the powers that my advisers and myself think are necessary to enable. me to take whatever measures are desirable. That is the sole object, to maintain the peace of the country during the next few weeks when there is undoubtedly anxiety as to what is going to happen. Everything is very peaceful in the coal area at present and I hope and trust there will be no trouble of any kind. If I may speak by way of appeal to hon. Members opposite who have such great influence in the coalfields, whatever their views may be in regard to the terms of peace which have been or are being arranged, I am sure I can rely on the hon. Member opposite, who occasioNally attacks me in various ways, to do his utmost to prevent a breach of the peace. A breach of the peace does no good to anyone. It is solely a matter of precaution in order that there should be, at the conclusion of this long-drawn-out dispute, no real breach of the peace that I am asking the House to pass these Regulations.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Viewing only the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman has addressed the House, one can regard his attitude to-day as absolutely faultless. But I do not think we can say the like of his judgment or of the decision of the Cabinet to continue these Regulations. Again I think the Government has missed an opportunity of rendering some useful service in connection with the dispute which has not yet terminated. By dropping these Regulations and by making some pronouncement which would help the two parties to a settle- 719 ment, the Government might at least have contributed what one might call a useful gesture at a stage of the dispute where we hope even yet the services of the Government might have been usefully invoked. But the attitude of the Home Secretary to-day is neither one thing nor the other. The Regulations are to be continued in a sense, and in a sense they are not. Chief constables are to have a certain authority to use their judgment as to what the situation is and as to what they think might be done. Then they must report their thoughts to the Home Secretary, who will decide. for them what they ought to do. I thought it had been the wish of the Government to place a certain authority in the hands of those who are on the spot and leave them, who are alone possessed of local knowledge, to exercise their discretion and then, following the exercise of that discretion, the Government would accept responsibility for their action. I suppose we shall have to wait and see in what way the Government's mind will turn and in what way its authority will be applied. I shall, of course, leave to my hon. and learned Friend the Member 'for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) the handling of the purely legal aspect of this question, but I must remind the House that yesterday the right hon. Gentleman announced that he was authorised to state that at the earliest possible moment such Regulations as may no longer be needed will be revoked by Order-in-Council. It would now appear that he is uncertain as to whether that. procedure can be followed, and instead of waiting to find out, he asks the House first to give authority for the continuance and confirmation of these Regulations, leaving it quite uncertain as to whether the Government can proceed to set aside any of these Regulations by the process he has named. It is probable that before this Debate is concluded, he will, find other aspects of uncertainty on purely legal features of this question, and I shall leave them to others to deal with.
It is true, as the right hon. Gentleman has indicated, that the facts and circum stances in this lock-out have recently changed. The resumption of work on the part of a considerable number of men, and the discussion of terms in some places but not in others, have changed 720 the aspect of the dispute. In face of that change the Regulations are to go on. Yesterday's announcement was one of doubt as to what actually would occur in the matter of the men resuming work. I think the right hon. Gentleman ought not to make up his mind that in a few days the whole of these men will have returned. He ought to make up his mind that there are many coalowners who are not facing the discussion of these matters in anything like the spirit in which the men and their leaders have been ready to face them. I am expressing what is the common knowledge of members of all parties when I say that, considering the size and the duration of this dispute, and considering all the elements of aggravation, tending naturally to provoke ill-temper and scenes, it can safely be said that there has been a degree of good order and readiness to observe the law and conform to it on the part of large numbers of men which has been unexampled in this country.
We have had a state of orderliness and good behaviour which is without precedent, notwithstanding on six or seven occasions the right hon. Gentleman has come forward asking for these exceptional powers. The uniform conditions of good order and willingness to obey the law have driven us to the conclusion that the ordinary law was quite ample for dealing with any condition that is arising in any part of the coalfield, and that it is up in the authority of the ordinary law that the Government should have relied. Obviously, they have thought to the contrary. They seem to think that inasmuch as the degree of peace was unprecedented their action in forcing these Regulations should be unprecedented. That is what. they have done. There has never been in this country before, an instance where because of a stoppage in the coal trade alone Regulations of this kind hare been called for. Not in the history of disputes have we ever before had such an instance of these exceptional powers being demanded because of a. dispute in any one trade, and particularly in the coal industry.
However, we have these Regulations, these 39 Regulations —the Thirty-nine Articles, the new lines upon which a spirit of Christian dealing and peace is to be sought in industrial Britain! These new Thirty-nine Articles have in 721 no sense been used so far as they should have been used to the public advantage. They have been used in instances, we think, as instruments for repression and provocation in the different coal areas. Take the first two or three of the Articles—Power to take possession of land, etc.; Power to take possession of food, etc.; Power to supply and control the distribution of food, etc. There has been a great deal of privation, undoubtedly, in many instances bordering upon a state of starvation, in many coal areas, but I have yet to learn of any one instance where these Regulations have been used in relation to food supplies. If they could not have been used in respect of food supplies, they might have been used in respect of prices. In no instance have the Government used any of their authority, in spite of prices ascending and in spite of evidences of profiteering, reflected in the fortunes which some men have been able to make because of the conditions of coal shortage.
We know that economic law works usually upon the tendency of an increase in prices with diminishing supplies, but here is an instance where diminishing supplies were foreseen, where it was known that there would be greatly reduced quantities of coal, and yet we have an instance where this power to safeguard the public against profiteering tendencies might properly have been used by the Government, and never in any case have the Government stepped in. The Secretary for Mines has relied, as he has announced to the House, upon the operations and effects of the ordinary play of competitive forces: the interplay of competition. Here is an instance where shortage has produced, not a condition of competition, but a condition of monopoly. The public have been virtually at the mercy of the mineowners of this country and of the coal importers who have arranged the importation of coal from abroad.
We are entitled to say that where these Regulations might have been used to the public good, the Government have completely ignored and neglected the public interest, and have sought to use these Regulations only for the purpose of suppressing popular liberty. The right hon. Gentleman, when last he announced the effect of his communications with 722 chief constables, gave the House some interesting figures. Those figures have been brought up to date by a further announcement to-day. His announcement leaves the figures in substance and in nature unchanged. I therefore ask the attention of the House to the fact that before the right hon. Gentleman communicated with the Chief Constables, when he left them freely, without prompting them, to the exercise of their own discretion, there was a condition of sustained peacefulness, of meetings being held without disturbance, and without any sign whatever of those meetings exerting upon the mind of anybody any state of fear or sense of intimidation. In nearly six months there had been only 21 instances of interference with meetings. That was from the beginning of May to about the third week in October.
In the middle of October, the right hon. Gentleman sent his first communication to the chief constables, and—I repeat now what I have said before—clearly that communication acted as a stimulant to activity on the part of the chief constables who, no doubt, were made to believe that it was time they got more busy in the handling of these great crowds of workers who had been peacefully assembling day after day and week after week. So stimulated by that communication were they, that in three or four weeks' time the number of suppressions of meetings totalled 63 as against 21 in nearly six months. Common report and the general facts which have come to one's knowledge of what is happening in the coalfields, afford no proof whatever of there being any increased reason for increased interference with public assembly, or with the right of the men to meet together and discuss their grievances in regard to the stoppage.
We have at a stage of the dispute where greater restraint was required on the part of the Government, greater recklessness and, obviously, a hint to the chief constables that it was not desirable to permit many of these meetings. I allege, therefore, that the Government's record has been a record of negative and of barren service in respect of the public interest and in respect of any line of settlement of this quarrel. While endorsing the right hon. Gentleman's hope of an early and complete settlement, we cannot avoid recording our disapproval 723 of the whole policy of the Government. by asking the House later to accept the terms of a Vote of Censure which it will be our business to place on the Table of the House. The justification of that view can be found in the last act of the Government announced during the course of this week. It was characteristic of this Government to make this proposal in the way they did. They were making a parade of impartiality in this dispute by announcing their willingness to set up a tribunal, an arbitration body, that, would safeguard the interests of the men in cases where unfair terms were forced upon them by the powerful mineowners, but instead of submitting that suggestion on its merits and as an independent proposal they must wrap it up with most objectionable suggestions, which clearly the miners and their leaders were obliged to reject.
This is dropped now on the ground that the men, having been consulted, did not approve. I merely ask the House to note that the miners and their leaders were not asked what their view was with respect to the other Act of Parliament passed by the Government; they were not asked to say whether they approved of the cancellation of the Seven Hours Act. No, it was only when the Government anticipated a certain result that they asked the miners what their view was. No doubt these Regulations will be forced upon the House and the country, but, if the Home Secretary cannot see his way to withdraw them, I appeal to him, in view of the tone in which he has spoken this morning, to use them as sparingly as possible and avoid exciting tempers by an unnecessary use of this instrument. If you let these large bodies of men alone, permit them to hold their meetings and go on with their customary trade union affairs, there will be no breach of the law. A breach of the law is only threatened when you interfere with their liberties, and I ask that their liberties shall not be interfered with.
§ Captain BENN
Before I say a word as to the view I hold on these Regulations, I want to make one or two remarks about the procedure that has been employed in introducing them. When this Act was passed in 1920 the right hon. Gentleman himself contributed to the Debate. He did not 724 object to the principle of the Bill, but emphasised, and most creditably emphasised, the importance of preserving the rights of the House of Commons at every stage. That was a very moderate and, as I think, a well-founded argument to address to the House. But what do we see in the matter of procedure? First of all, the old procedure was that when a Proclamation was made by His Majesty a Message was read by the Home Secretary at the Bar of the House, and a Minister of the Crown moved that it be taken into consideration. That. was an act of courtesy, but, much more important, it provided an opportunity to the House of Commons for debate and control. That is the first thing which has been abandoned by the Government. The second practice of this House—and a practice of this House is the law as much as the common law of the land—was that a humble Address should be moved in order that a further Debate might take place. The Government have thought fit to deprive the House of Commons of that right, for according to the Rules of the House this can only be moved by a Minister of the Crown, not by any private Member. Both have gone, and all that is left is this perfunctory Resolution of confirmation which may be taken at midnight. There is no sort of guarantee that it will be discussed.
This time a further invasion has been made on the rights of the House. The Act of Parliament lays it down that when a Proclamation is made it shall be "forthwith communicated to the House of Commons." That is an order made by the House in respect of its own business, and it is in the Statute. What happened? A Proclamation was made on Saturday. The house met on Monday, and you, Mr. Speaker, clearly expected a Message to be received on Monday. The Home Secretary fumbled: a breach was committed. There was a flat defiance of the order made by the House and which is in the Statute, and no communication was "forthwith" made to this House that a Proclamation had been issued. Furthermore, the Regulations were made on Saturday. They are pro forma Regulations now, you have only to alter the numbers. But the Statute says that they shall be laid "as soon as may be" before the House of Commons. They were not laid 725 until Tuesday. What is the explanation of all this? It is, first, the ingrained contempt of the Government for the rights of this House; but there is a much more commonplace explanation than that. The Whips of the Government had arranged the business of the House for the week and if these Regulations had been laid on the Table on Monday there would not have been sufficient time for them to run the risk of leaving this Debate until to-day, because if it was not concluded and the Debate was adjourned until Monday the Regulations would cease to be operative on Sunday. The Whips said, "You had better not do this now, because our business programme would be disarranged." That is the contemptuous way in which this Government treats the House of Commons and the rights and privileges of the people as laid down in the Statute by the House of Commons itself. So much for procedure.
Let me take another point before I come to the gravamen of the speech I desire to make. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that if any party, any Communist or any other party, are going to hold meetings to prevent the men accepting the terms he is justified, in the public interest, in prohibiting those meetings. He has said so this afternoon, and he has said the same thing before to-day. No one desires more than many hon. Members in this House that a settlement should be made, but the point is: has the Home Secretary any right to exercise these powers to prevent a man, I do not care who he is, whether he is a Communist or not, from going down to a meeting and saying, "Do not accept the terms; accept no terms; do not go back at all." It may be an improper thing to do, and Personally I think it is a wrong thing to do, but the point is: has the Home Secretary the right to prevent people doing that. The Act says:No such Regulation shall make it, an offence for any person or persons peacefully to persuade any other person or persons to take part in a strike.That means that when the Act was passed the House of Commons specially provided that people should be entitled to promote a strike, to persuade people to strike, or to remain on strike, and to refuse to accept terms, without creating an offence under the Act. That brings me to my 726 main point. I think the Home Secretary has never had a right appreciation of his. functions in this matter. His functions in this matter are judicial, but he has always regarded himself as being in some sort of way the protagonist of respectable people against the influences of the "Reds." That is not a right conception of his duty, the-semi-judicial duty which is thrust upon. him. Secondly, he has never had the-least conception of what the real justification for this Act is, as set out in the Act itself. If there is such a state of affairs in the country that people are likely to be deprived of the moans of life, any Government is entitled to take steps to prevent that happening. I do not care what Government happen to be in office. I am certain that if there were danger of people being starved, and of the life of the community being held up, any Government would be compelled to take action to prevent it. But that action and the statute of 1920 which gives these powers have behind them a moral sanction. The people of the country would demand to be protected. They would and have approved the action of the Government in protecting them.
But has the Government any moral sanction behind it to-day? It has none at all. The moral acquiescence of the people in the action of the Government has disappeared, owing to the partisan conduct of the Government in this dispute. I shall not discuss the. full dispute, but I shall take two single instances. First of all there was the promise of a square deal for the miners. That was not done. Secondly, there was the most important lapse that, whereas we were persuaded here to pass an Act depriving the miner of the one statutory privilege that he has, namely, the seven hours' day, on the understanding that a national settlement would be made—that was the understanding—in this House Yesterday or the day before the Prime Minister rose and said that, although he has the consideration, namely, the Eight Hours Act, he is not prepared to pay the price of a national settlement. All the moral justification behind the Government has disappeared.
I must say something as to the Act itself. May I remind the Home Seers-tart of the terms of the Act? The Act does not say that if the Home Secretary thinks there is likely to be a breach of the peace he can proclaim an emergency. 727 It does not say that if the Home Secretary's advisers consider it wise, for the time being, to continue the Proclamation, he is entitled to do so. I remember very well that when Mr. Bonar Law introduced this Act he emphasised what, indeed, is in the words of the Statute. He said it was the essence of the whole thing; the very life of the community was at stake. That, indeed, is set out in the first Section of the Act—that the whole life of the community is at stake. Mr. Bonar Law went on to say that this could not apply to a strike, a mining dispute. He said that a substantial portion of the community must be in danger of being deprived of the essentials of life. Is that the definition of the Home Secretary to-day? He has told us that he is glad there is a happier state of affairs. He meant that it was due to his moderation and statesmanship. The right hon. Gentleman certainly exhibits, within the limits of his conception—a totally false conception—great qualities of good temper. I asked, "Is this a precaution?" He said, "Yes." He states that it is a precaution for the preservation of peace. That is not what the Act is for.
The right hon. Gentleman has no justification under the Act for issuing a Proclamation for the preservation of peace. if Parliament thought well to give additional powers for preserving the peace it would do so, but it has not done so under the Act of 1920. It has given the Government power, when it sees such a state of affairs as will deprive the community of the essentials of life, to issue a Proclamation. I ask the Home Secretary whether he can claim that there is such a state of emergency that the community is being deprived, or is likely to be deprived, of the essentials of life. Nothing of the kind exists. It is a fatal thing if this House is willing, because of practice or boredom or routine, to continue these autocratic powers. It. is not less dangerous for hon. Gentlemen opposite than for hon. Gentlemen on this side. When Mr. Bonar Law introduced the Bill, very little was said about the invasions of personal liberty. He had to apologise to a swoflen Coalition majority, mainly representing the business interest of the country, for an Act which threatened the rights of private property.
728 Are these the only Regulations that might be made under the Emergency Powers Act? The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said, "Take the mines under this?" Someone said, "He could not take them." But the Regulations can be wade by the Home Secretary. We do not make the Regulations. If we get into the habit of investing the Home Secretary with this autocratic power, who is to blame any future Home Secretary if he uses the power in a way which would not be at all congenial to hon. Gentlemen opposite? There is no ground for a continuation of the Regulations. We al hope, of course, that a peaceful settlement will be reached. Whether it be peace or not peace, that has nothing I do with the Emergency Powers Act. The Act is intended to deal with a national crisis, and the national crisis has long since passed, and we ought to refuse to the Home Secretary further powers under the Act.
§ Mr. LAWSON
In view of the experience of the last seven months, it is nothing short of a scandal that we should be discussing these Regulations again to-day. The people who have no sympathy at all with the miners have been compelled, almost against their will, to pay a tribute to their conduct. I have thought during the past seven months that if some of the statesmen of the 18th and 19th centuries could have come back and seen the conduct of the average workman during these terrible seven months, they would have thought that something like a miracle had happened. I remember the right hon. Gentleman himself paying a tribute to the miners for their conduct. Here arc 1,000,000 miners, 5,000.000 people, faced by starvation and misery for nearly 30 weeks, and yet their sense of order and spontaneous loyalty to the institutions of the country have commanded the admiration, not only of the country, but of the world at large. I remember that the right hon. Gentleman himself paid a tribute to the miners for their conduct. He said:It would not be surprising if that sense of grievance should break out from time to time into riots or other form of disturbance. But the great mass of miners, over a million of whom are out of work, has been content to leave their case in the hands of their leaders, and have taken no steps against the provisions of the general law or against 729 the provisions of these Regulations."— [OFFIOIAL REPORT, 30th August, 1926;col. 10, Vol. 199.]Those who know anything about the isolated nature of the mining villages know that there are no places in the country in which destruction on a, large scale can be accomplished so easily, with little chance of detection. It is not because of the police or because of these Regulations; it is because of the Voluntary self-control on the part of our own people that you can have a tribute like that from the right hon. Gentleman. In the face of these those facts it is astounding that the right hon. Gentleman should be asking us to repeat the Regulations to-day. With others, I want to protest against the use of the Regulations for the suppression of free speech. In my division a few weeks ago there were certain people whose meetings were banned by direction of the Home Secretary. It is certainly a poor return to the miners for their self-control that they have to be treated like children, and that they cannot meet and hear what speakers they like. It is quite true that those speakers were Communists, and I dare say they would have made lurid speeches, such as the right hon. Gentleman himself used to make at one time.
I have heard speeches in this House which could be described as lurid, and even Members of the present Government have, I understand, made speeches of that character. I looked back to the Second Reading and Report stages of the Government of Ireland Bill, 1914, and one could not imagine speeches much more lurid than some of the utterances of hon. Members opposite on those occasions. They remind one of the famous film serial, "The Clutching Hand. In seventeen parts." They resemble the dramatic stuff which we used to get in "The Face at the Window," and that kind of thing. Some of the gentlemen whose meetings were prohibited possibly would have made lurid speeches, but I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should trust to the common sense of the men to whom he paid tribute a few weeks ago. In face of the situation which exists, I protest against this suppression, not merely as it applies to our own people, but generally. I say there never was a time in our history when free speech all round was more justified than it is to-day. There 730 never was a time when democratic institutions should be more jealously protected and when liberty should be more insisted upon in view of the challenges which are being made to democracy throughout the world. Instead of that the right hon. Gentleman has been adopting the very methods of the challengers during the past few months. The right lion. Gentleman has not administered the law fairly. He seems to try desperately hard to do so.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I cannot say that the right hon. Gentleman succeeds. I have an instance here, the particulars of which may be known to him. In Chester-le-Street a committee was set up for the purpose of granting permits and so on, in connection with these Regulations. They brought a case against a small company in that area for selling coal without a permit. The company were-fined at the petty sessions by a bench of magistrates who could not be charged with prejudice in favour of the miners. The right hon. Gentleman has been approached in some way—I do riot know from what source—and has remitted the fine upon this company. Here is the letter which he sent to the clerk to the justices for the Durham Petty Sessional Division:With further reference to your letter of 16th ult., I am directed by the Secretary of State to acquaint you, for the information of your justices, that he has now recommended the remission of the. following fines imposed by them on 26th. July last.Fine of 14s. imposed on Mainwaring Bainbridge Pescod for unlawfully supplying. coal"—and he then goes on to give a number. of different charges of the same kind in which fines have been imposed, and the. letter continues:I have to ask that you will recover from Mr. W. A. Horn"—that is the clerk to the coal committee—the sum of 55s. in respect of costs which. have already been paid in order that the. full sum of £5 11s. may be returned to the. defendant.12.0 N.
Here are people, working in a small way, but a colliery, employing men, selling coal without a permit, making a small fortune out of the people because of the prices they are charging. Yet the right hon. Gentleman remits this fine. I know 731 his Department will say that there are certain circumstances in these cases on which the decision to remit the fine was based. There are no circumstances which justify the right hon. Gentleman in going past that bench of magistrates to remit these fines—none that I know of, at any rate. I wish the right hon. Gentleman were as ready to remit the sentences which have been passed upon decent men who were never imprisoned before. If it were possible to ask him to apply the same spirit to them, I would say that to do so would be the most generous gesture the Government could make, if they would break through the fog which has involved us for the last 30 weeks and has hindered a normal view of the circumstances. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to do a generous action and to do good to his country, then I say there should be a general amnesty to the people who are suffering under these sentences. The right hon. Gentleman should do to them what he has done in this case. If he is going to be just, let him apply the same principle all round. I wish we had been able to discuss this industrial position without the irritating influence of these Regulations. It is a position which demands the best thought and the best will of this House. There are Members on the other side who know sufficient industrial history and have sufficient experience to warn them that this thing which appears to be ending is not ending. If it ends to-morrow in appearance, it is not a real end. The so-called coal peace will be no peace at all. In 1921 people thought that the end had been reached, but we knew from our experience that it was not the end. There are people to-day who think that this is the end of the Miners' Federation, but it certainly is not. There are people on the other side who know that the Miners' Federation was part of the warp and woof of the dreams of our people for over a century. It has now become a fact, and it will remain a fact.
Is it, not possible for this House and the Government to do something for a real peace instead of allowing the next two or three years to be used merely in preparation for the next war in this industry? Is it not possible for this country, Voluntarily and actively, to prepare the ground for a peace which will 732 be permanent? Are we to sit here as we did in 1921 waiting on the tide of industrial events to drift us into another catastrophe? Unless the situation can be taken in hand by the people who really want peace it must remain as it is to-day. In the smaller districts—and these facts are being discussed now by the Miners' Conference within a stone's throw of this House—they are absolutely refusing to meet the men, and that means to say: "If you are weak, we will do what we like with you, but if you are strong, we will ac least meet you and keep up some pretence of negotiation.' Take the case of Somerset, which before the lock-out was one of the best paid districts in the country. It was one of the very few that did without the subsidy, and it had a very handsome profit on its results. In fact, the owners offered the men the same wages and the same hours as they had previous to the stoppage, but—
§ Mr. LAWSON
I am not saying whether they locked them out or not. It is to the credit of the great mass of the well-paid districts and men that they came to the rescue of the ill-paid men. Whatever the economists or the business men may say about this situation, it will not be denied by all commonsense men that behind this great stoppage and conflict there has been the desire on the part of the strong to save the weak, and on the part of the best paid districts and men to save the great masses of our men from taking wages which would require them to ask for guardians' relief. I was very surprised to learn this week that in Somerset they are in pretty much the same position as that in which we find ourselves in the north of England. They have had seven hours, but now they are told they have to go back to work before the owners will meet the men's representatives, and that they have to work eight hours, and conditions are laid down in detail upon which they say they will negotiate when the men get back to work, when they know that there will be no negotiation at all, but that those conditions will be laid down practically as hard and fast rules.
Some of the other districts are in a more difficult position than Somerset, but can anyone say that this position is being 733 faced in the spirit which the facts of the situation demand? As I have looked at this situation during the past 48 hours, knowing that in this country there is a great reservoir of social feeling and good-will that is antagonistic to what is happening, knowing what will happen if we keep on along the present lines, I have wondered if it is not possible that all the best forces in this country and in this House can be mobilised in order to save us from the trend that events are taking. I have spoken in this House sometimes with officers who had battalions of miners serving under them in the War, and I have heard them pay tribute, in terms not only of enthusiasm and intense feeling, but almost of emotion, to the conduct of those men on the field of battle, and I am wondering if it is beyond the bounds of possibility to resurrect some of that feeling and sentiment which prevailed in those days. Is it beyond the bounds of possibility to do for peace what we did for war for this country? Is it not possible to construct for the future and for the well-being of this country with the same enthusiasm with which we destroyed our race? I think there are some very definite things that we can do to this end. The miner, after all, is not the kind of person who is the figment of the imagination, the man who loves his beer, his "baccy" and his dog, and that is all. That is not the miner at all. He is one of the most intelligent and kindly people in this world.
Would this House believe that in my own county—and it is an example of what goes on in varied ways throughout the country—our people have built, out of their own wages, no fewer than 1,500 homes for their own people, and they are homes that are almost as beautiful as a fairy tale and that are a joy to see? The coalowners have given their contribution and done something towards that, and my friends and I here, during this conference, with all its bitterness, have been time after time on the platform with coalowners and with managers. Only the other week we were on such a platform, and the people who have been in misery have not only refused to touch their accumulated funds in this crisis, for some collieries have hundreds and thousands of pounds accumulated, but in spite of their want they have refused to touch those funds in order to help their own people. Much more than that, they have agreed 734 to forget their feud for the moment, and some of the finest meetings I have ever addressed have been during this crisis. That is the miner, and I know there are Members opposite who know what he is and how intelligent he is. After the 1921 crisis, in our county, the men paid on a percentage basis out of their wages, to the men who were unemployed, no less than £2,000,000 in two and a half years. They have paid sick and accident benefit, and medical men know that their contributions to hospitals are so generous that they have become a byword. Is there anywhere where men love their homes and their wives and make sacrifices to live decent, self-respecting lives, free from the guardians' help, more than they do in the mining areas of this country? Is it not possible for this House and this Government to appeal to that generosity?
I can tell the right hon. Gentleman and his Government that there is no body of men in the world to-day that responds more readily to generous dealing than do the miners. I was in a colliery village not many weeks ago, and it is a beautiful, model village. They are all too few, and I am prepared to pay tribute to them when I see them. but this House would scarcely believe the pride with which one of the local leaders showed me those houses. They respond to that kind of spirit, but how are they going to be met? Is it going to be longer hours and low wages? Is it going to be using your strength in different districts to any extent that you can, merely because you appear to be top dog at the moment? Any weakling can do that sort of thing. What we are thinking about is the future of our own people, and the future of this industry, and I do not hesitate to proclaim myself one of those who believe, in spite of what appears to be the surface facts in the mining industry, that the mining industry has a future, if those responsible will help forward the salvation of this industry. But this is the moment. It is not a time for mere cajofing. The owners are dealing with intellectual men, who are their intellectual equals. It is a time for deeds and not words. And so I ask, why cannot the right hon. Gentleman waive these Regulations to-day, and free from prison the men who are suffering under the Emergency Regulations? He will not get the opportunity in a few 735 weeks' time. I know that this seven months' bitterness, and all the rest of it, has got round us, and that it is very difficult to rise above it. It is easy to say the bitterest things. The opportunity will not again come to the Government to do it, and I venture to say it would be the beginning of a new spirit with regard to these dealings that are going on.
Take the present situation. Can the Government do nothing? Is conciliation altogether dead? You, Mr. Speaker, were responsible in the War days for the setting up of Industrial Councils which bear your honoured name. I never came into contact with those organisations until I had the privilege of serving in the War Office. There were 30,000 workmen there, I happened to be chairman of a committee for some time, and I can say that those committees forestalled bitterness, the small things which might rise to bitter things. They did more than that. They applied a spirit of development to the industry which is badly needed in other parts of the country, and I am pleased to have this opportunity of paying my tribute. I wish some of that spirit could be applied generally to industry throughout the country. The right hon. Gentleman opposite will remember what happened in 1021. The Government had brought in a Bill, in which there were provisions for pit committees and district committees, and it was said there was the possibility of a national committee, a real arbitration board by Statute. I agree that the miners refused. The owners were then willing, because the miners refused. The Government left it open to accept the working of Part 2 of the Act, for, I think, some six months. When the time had passed, the Miners' Federation had arrived at a state of mind which led them to accept the Act, and what happened? The coalowners then refused it. The Government had put itself out of court by making a time-limit, and so, what would undoubtedly have turned out to be a beneficient Act in operation, was of no account.
The task of the Government of this country, whatever Government it is, has not finished. The task of the Government has just begun, and the task of all lovers of this country is about to com- 736 mence. And so I ask for the mobilisation of these forces, and immediate action -on the part of coalowners to see that that square deal, which the Government promised, is given to the miner on this occasion. Is it too much to ask of this House, and of all disinterested men, that they should even come to the rescue of the devastated mining areas of this country, as they did of the devastated areas in the War. In a rough and crude, and, perhaps, rambling manner, I have tried to express what have been the thoughts not only of myself, but, I believe, of a good many people. It would have been much easier to have said bitter things. It may be that we shall once more be driven into warring camps, and I am sane hon. Members opposite, with their various interests, and for the people they represent, will fight with all the zest and zeal they have shown in this past conflict, which we have fought and I have fought, and would fight again, in similar circumstances. But there is an old text which says:Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him.Never was that text more applicable than it is to-day, and never will there be a readier response than if it. be applied to the situation in which we find ourselves.
Captain STR EATFEILC
There is one question I would like to put to the right hon. Gentleman. I want to ask him whether it is proposed to continue Regulations Nos. 12 and 14, which apply to the control of shipping and also to the control of coal distribution? Those are points which are exercising the minds of a good many, not only on this side of the House, but, I think, on the other side as well. The question of the supply and distribution of coal at home has been dealt with. That distribution has neon freed, but that is not everything. We want to know a little more about that part of the coal industry which supplies foreign markets. It is vital to districts such as South Wales and the North East of England and Scotland that we should have an absolutely unrestricted market at the earliest possible moment. Contracts have already been booked, some of them pretty considerable ones, and it is quite safe to say that we cannot possibly get hack to full- 737 time work unless these restrictions are removed. The Secretary for Mines, I believe, expressed the view a few days ago that if the embargo upon export coal were lifted, the price would tend to rise. But there is, after all, foreign competition which would effectively keep prices down, and it is very certain indeed, that if, through restrictions, exporting collieries cannot get on full-time, their cost of production will be very much larger—almost prohibitive. If we have not a free outlet as before the stoppage this year, it will be impossible, even if these settlements may be made, to get back to full-time and to normal conditions. I would, therefore, ask the Secretary for Mines very seriously to consider the question of removing this embargo on export coal. The same consideration applies to slopping restrictions as well. Perhaps my hon. Friends opposite will think I am putting forward these points from personal interests, but I am not. I am putting them forward because I want to see a move made, if that be possible, to give full work to thousands and thousands of miners, a great many of whom have for the last seven months been crying for work, and I am sure hon. Members opposite are at one with me in wanting to see them at work in really equitable and fair conditions.
I was very much impressed by the speech made just now by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). I am fortunate in knowing him Personally, as well as in his capacity as a Member of this House, and I fully agree with the remarks he makes regarding the necessity for peace and good will in the mining industry. For my part, I think the whole future of this great industry depends upon whether the two parties, the owners and the miners, continue to regard themselves as in separate camps. The existence of two sides throughout industry generally is positively deplorable, and I for one am quite certain that until we get rid of that spirit of antagonism which is far too prevalent on both sides, we can never get the coal industry, or any other industry, put on to a solid foundation. I think the establishment of pit committees would be a very good thing, but that is only a side issue. I welcome the desire—the really deep and inherent desire, as I believe—in hon. Members opposite for peace 738 within the industry, but I would appeal to them to believe on their part that the owners desire peace.
I am sorry that my remarks should have been met in that way from the opposite side. I repeat that the owners do desire peace.
I repeat that they do desire peace, but their gestures must be met in a similar spirit to that shown by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street if this peace is to be a. solid foundation for both sides.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I think the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for State can scarcely -expect that, in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, with many agreements made, a large number of miners at work, and the country otherwise under normal conditions, we shall allow this Proclamation of Emergency to be made without strenuous protest. The right hon. Gentleman is taking a very serious responsibility upon himself when he advises the House again to consider these Regulations. We have to consider to-day not only the conditions laid down in the Statute authorising the making of a Proclamation, but the statement made by the Home Secretary himself why he considers it necessary to make it—a statement made in answer to a question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) a day or two ago. These are the reasons on which he advises the Crown that it is necessary that these extraordinary and martial Regulations shall continue. He says "he is advised that until by district agreements or other means a much larger proportion of the men are at work than at present, it would be inadvisable to dispense with the Emergency Regulations." He says, because there are still a number of miners, several hundred thousands, not at work, that he was entitled to make a Proclamation. Following up what the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn) has said, let us see what the Statute has said that the Crown must.
739 be advised is necessary before the Proclamation is made. The words are:If it appears to His Majesty"—and, of course, when these words are used, it is the Minister who is responsible for advising the Crown—that any action has been taken on so extensive a scale as to be calculated, by interfering with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel or light, or the means of locomotion, to deprive the community of the essentials of life.Those are the only circumstances in which a Minister who has any regard for the Constitution of this country and for the requirements of this Statute is entitled to advise the Crown to issue a Proclamation, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, when the number of men absent from work is decreasing, when we are told in all the newspapers that coal is being brought up at the rate of millions of tons a day, when coal is being imported into this country, when coal rations are to be taken off because there is so copious a supply, when the supply of food, light, clothing and transport, and of everything that the community can require, is perfectly normal, he can still say it really appears to him that action is being taken on so substantial a scale as to deprive the community of the essentials of life? If the Minister is not prepared to get up and say that action is depriving the community of those essentials, then he must admit that he has no shadow of a right to advise the Crown to do that which he must know, and which his legal advisers must tell him, is absolutely beyond the powers of the Statute. I protest in the strongest possible way, supplementing what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Leith, that the Government and the Home Secretary. in the use of this Proclamation, have shown a complete ignorance of the requirements of the law.
I pointed out on a former occasion that the Home Secretary was himself alarmed about the seven days' period and the powers given to the Executive when the Bill was introduced by the late Mr. Bonar Law, and therefore Parliament decided that extraordinary droit administratif of this sort—which those of us who study constitutional law have always been taught it was the pride of this country that we did 740 not have—should only be granted when the essentials of life were actually menaced. What essential of life is threatened at the moment? Is food threatened? Is light, or heat, or transport threatened? Nothing at all is threatened. The Minister, in applying these powers, bases himself on a mere statement that "be is advised." I demur to the suggestion that "he is advised." It is for him to take the responsibility, and not to be advised by anybody in a Government office. He has no business to say "I am advised." It is a question of fact what, under these circumstances, actually arises But he says that he is advised that until by district agreements or otherwise a much larger proportion of the men are at work, these Regulations ought to be continued.
We are dealing here with a very serious constitutional issue. Can it be said that whenever a Minister is given powers under a Statute to advise the Crown he can say of his own mere motion and special grace, "These circumstances exist; whatever may be the facts, I make them so by the mere statement that they are so"? If so, any Government, a Communist Government, a Fascist Government, or any other disagreeable Government we may have in the future—though I hope we shall not—may come along and say, "The Crown says it is necessary at the moment that, because an emergency has broken out, to seize everybody's property or to seize the property of some particular people." I see with some alarm that ill-guided and ill-informed persons are using this very argument. They arc saying, "See what those Ministers do with this Act, uncontrolled by any considerations of the Statute. What will not we do when we get power to employ it against them?" The Minister may take it from me that, if I had any responsibility, I should fight to the last to prevent any Government misusing or twisting any Statute to get any temporary power; but that is what the present Minister is doing. There is no risk at the moment that the essentials of life will be withheld. Therefore I say that the whole use of this power is utterly unfounded, and raises a most grave constitutional question as to the real power of the Minister. I am sure my hon. Friends behind me will have 741 something to say, something about this twisting of the functions of the Crown in order to take powers under martial law when there is absolutely no justification for it.
My second point is that, apart from the making of the Proclamation, I maintain, and I am more and more strengthened in my opinion, that the powers which have been taken and are being taken are utterly illegal. They may pass Resolutions imposing such powers and duties upon a Government Department as may be necessary for the preservation of peace, but how can it be said that the creation of new criminal offences is a power imposed on His Majesty's servants for the preservation of peace? f believe those Regulations relate chiefly to the moving of constables from one place to another, and other executive arts of that kind, hut I do not think it can be properly said that under these Regulations you can construe as disaffection and intimidation instances where merely persuasion not to strike has been employed. Not by any manipulation of the machinery of justice do I believe it can properly be said that these Regulations impose on the Minister a power of that kind.
The Home Secretary may say, "Why not test this in a Court of law?" I have no doubt some people would enjoy that proceeding, but surely it is better, if there be any doubt, that such dubious Regulations should not be made. We all know what are these Regulations. They were origiNally Regulations made under the Defence of the Realm Act, but we now have an infinitely wider form of them. There are many Regulations here creating new machinery which I feel sure, if they were tested in a Court of law, would prove to be illegal. I stated yesterday my strong feeling that these Regulations cannot be revoked by an Order in Council. I thought the Home Secretary would have obtained legal advice on that point and would have been able to-day to have told us whether he agreed or not with my contention. I do not think the matter is a purely academic one, and if the right hon. Gentleman is sincere in his statement, as I believe he is, that he intends to repeal some of these Regulations as soon as possible, I would like to point out that the delay would be very much greater if he has to 742 proceed by Order in Council than by a Resolution. I think I shall be able to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman and the House that there is no power to do this by Order in Council, and therefore the concession which he has been promised is worth less than has been represented. The right hon. Gentleman said:I am authorised to say that at the earliest possible moment such Regulations as may be no longer needed will he revoked by Order in Council."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1926;col. 539, Vol. 200.]Even if it be legal, it will be a much more cumbrous method. What I would also like to point out is that it cannot be done when Parliament is not sitting. It may be that the Home Secretary wishes to do this during the Christmas holidays, and that he believes that the season of goodwill will be a good time to do away with Regulations 21 and 22. But if Parliament is not sitting and I am right, then what he has suggested cannot be done at all. May I just tell the right hon. Gentleman and the House why I feel practically certain that this thing cannot be done by an Order in Council? What is the structure of the Act? First of all, you can carry a Regulation by an Order in Council, but it is only valid for seven days, and at the end of that time you must get a Resolution of the House to make it effective. Now let us turn for a moment to the Section which deals with the ending of the Regulation. It says:the Regulation so made shall have effect as if enacted in this Act but it may be added to, altered or revoked by Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, or by Regulations made in like manner as the original one.Therefore you may revoke by Resolution or by a second Resolution, but in either case you cannot avoid the Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, and the Act lays down clearly the only machinery by which you may revoke a Regulation. Some hon. Members may say, "Let us do it by an Order in Council and chance it." Hon. Members opposite seem to be regardless of constitutional niceties so long as they can produce a certain result which they are willing to achieve in any way. I am more concerned to see that this matter is done properly. I do not want to see a man convicted at the Sessions and then someone coming forward and pointing out that he has been illegally convicted. We 743 want to see that this thing is done properly and in order, and that is what as the constitutional party we are asking should be done. Our party is one of the few parties which has never tempted anybody to commit sedition or any offence of that kind against the constitution, and therefore we are entitled to ask that these things should be properly done. As it is quite clear that this matter can only be done by Resolution, it follows that the concession which the Home Secretary has announced is worth very much less than if it were done by an Order in Council, and for that reason we are inclined to thank him for nothing. The right hon. Gentleman's Proclamation is invalid, his powers are probably bad, and his attempt to end them worst of all. In these circumstances we are quite willing to leave the people to judge whether they can continue to have confidence in a Government which plays fast and loose with the Constitution.
§ Mr. GEORGE THORNE
I was very pleased indeed to hear the Home Secretary state that he had withdrawn the instructions previously issued to the police constables with regard to the prohibition of public meetings. I felt that when those instructions were first given it. was a wrong thing to do, because I am one of those who regard the right of free speech as one of the most precious possessions of our democracy, and anything that is likely to interfere with that principle is most dangerous. I felt that if circumstances justified any interference with free speech it should only be done by the direct action of the Home Secretary and not through a chief constable. I am glad that the Home Secretary has now recognised that position. He has done so very gracefully and I thank him for that concession. I sincerely wish he could have gone further still. I wish, instead of merely withdrawing the instructions to the chief constables, he had altogether withdrawn all those Regulations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) who is now leading the Opposition said that they represented the Thirty-nine Articles. They appear to me more like the 40 stripes, save one. I think they are utterly unworthy. But the point I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman is the one so admirably put a little while ago by my hon. Friend 744 above the Gangway the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). I should like, if I am not presuming in doing so, Personally to congratulate him upon the tone and spirit of his speech. It was one which ought to be regarded as most helpful. He said that the Government were throwing away their last opportunity. I am afraid that this Government will be regarded in the future as the Government of wasted opportunities. To-day they had a great opportunity. I entirely agree, so far as my limited knowledge goes, with what has just been said by my hon. and learned Friend and also by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain Benn). I do not think, on legal grounds, that the Government are justified in the course they are taking to-day.
There is something infinitely more important than arguing this on purely legal grounds. It is a matter which has far greater and more reaching effect upon the people. How is this country to be governed Is it in the long run to be governed by faith or by fear? I am one of those who, after a long experience of public life, believe very sincerely that you get more out of the people by trusting them than you do by distrusting them. These Regulations are not an indication of faith; they are an indication of fear, and, whatever justice there might have been in regard to them at the time. of the general strike, I am one of those who hold the view that there never has been any justification for them since, and least of all at the present time. Here was an opportunity for the Government, if they contended that they were legally right in opposition to what my hon. Friends have said, if they were advised that there was still some slight anxiety, of saying that they threw themselves in trust upon the people; that, looking back upon all these weeks and the way in which the people have acted, they felt they might trust them to keep the peace in the time before them.
I do not like that testimony should be borne to the law-abiding character of the miners of this country only by those who are absolutely identified with that industry. I am not so identified, but I have lived now for nearly 50 years in the neighbourhood of those men, and, as an outsider, I entirely confirm what my hon. 745 Friend has said, that there are no more honourable and law-abiding men in the country than the miners. If testimony were needed what more could be produced than the testimony of the last 30 weeks? Exposed as they have been to the loss of their livelihood, looking into the faces of their wives and little children full of anxiety and with a possiblity of starvation coming right in front of them, they have given an example to the whole world of their law-abiding character, and it is an insult to give them again at this stage these miserable Regulations which I believe are so utterly unnecessary.
I therefore appeal, in the note struck so admirably by my hon. Friend: Is it yet too late? Is there not still the chance for the Government to give this great gesture of confidence and faith? I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman now to take his courage in his hands and say, "I will risk it. I believe in the people of my own country. I believe in their law-abiding character. We want to get this cursed thing settled on the best terms we can. We will offer our share by withdrawing the Regulations, looking to the people to respond by peace and quietness, to bring this settlement about." There is nothing this country needs now more than the settlement of this long agonising dispute. It cannot he settled now on the terms that some of us hoped for months ago, but for God's sake let it he settled on the best terms on which it can be settled, and, with that view and with that object, and in this promising spirit of peace so engendered by my hon. Friend, I appeal to the Government on their part to do what in them lies to get this thing settled in the quickest and most peaceable manner possible.
§ Mr. RITSON
I would not have risen had it not been for the remarks made by the hon. and gallant Member for Galloway (Captain Streatfield). We know him Personally and we know that he was speaking on behalf of the owners of Durham. He made a statement which we cannot accept, namely, that he wished and the owners wished, for peace at the present time. Let us understand the position as we on this side of the House only can understand it, because I want to urge what I have often said before that it is an unfortunate feature of this huge dispute that the majority of the 746 people who have made the most noise about it did not understand it. He said that the owners were anxious to settle. Let me say that we are anxious to settle, but there is no hope of settlement under the conditions they are offering to our people. The Government ought to try to sympathise with us to this extent. They laid down certain conditions to which we were to be reduced, and I want to say very seriously that the Government have got more than they asked with regard to the reductions. The trouble that is now going to stand before us and that is causing this bitterness that exist to-day is the fact that they are going to take away from us every one of our local asociations for which our forefathers bled in their day. They are not content with what the Government have suggested is sufficient in reduction—they are getting 11 per cent. more than that—but they arc taking what is of much more value to us than money, namely, the institutions for which we have worked and with which we have worked this last 10 or 12 years. There can be no peace in Durham on that ground.
I want to speak to the Home Secretary on something else. Having had, as he knows, some experience in a police force and being now on a Watch Committee, I want to give him my opinion of his Regulations. I want to say that he has made the mistake of his life. He has killed the moral of the police, particularly in the mining areas. I would like the Home Secretary to understand that we believe in the police institution. It is an institution of which this country has every reason to be proud. Even the Communist, I think, will agree with me, because he locks his door at night.
§ Mr. RITSON
Well, if you were there he might. I wish the hon. Member would leave me alone. I do not like interruptions, and if I get them I am apt to put my foot into something. My point is that the police are a great institution. The ordinary policeman in a mining village establishes himself with the people and is looked upon as an adviser. Some of us who have had experience in the police force have preached this doctrine all along, and, thank God, we 747 have got away from the old system of it being a matter of dragooning people into obedience. The position has now come to be that of an appeal to the people themselves. Then comes along the Home Secretary, or rather his advisers. Unfortunately, he is so much pleasanter than his Regulations. I am not surprised at the Dames of the Primrose League hanging on to the right hon. Gentleman. I am astonished that his good lady allows him to go so much there. He looks very much pleasanter than his Regulations and he is much more pleasant. I would have thought he was the very right hon. Gentleman who ought to put his foot down against this sort of thing, because he is so much coofer when standing at that Box than at meetings outside, where hysteria takes him body and soul. But when he comes here he is very affable. I appeal to that side of him which stands at the Box, and I appeal to him to with draw these beastly Regulations altogether. I tell him that peace in the mining counties and areas is being more due to the local leaders than to the police.
The position I want to put is this: The police, as I have said, are an institution which we all respect. The policeman establishes himself in a district for 10 or 12 years and then is moved up to some other place, either by way of promotion or taken into some office in the police force. That man has become established among the people and immediately these Regulations come in, you bring in strange policemen and strange things that have never been policemen and were never intended to be, and who have never acted like a decent and honest policeman at all. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, for the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Whiteley), has given him sufficient evidence. The local man in charge, the superintendent or the inspector, has to try to guide these people who have been sent in from other areas, because it has been said to those people that they should deal with people in a stern way. The result is that the sergeant, the superintendent and the inspector have no power of discipline over these people who go and act against our men, women and children. There are some women in the Durham area who have been treated so badly that I dare not express myself here. We value our women —and any country which does not value its women is going down.
§ Mr. RITSON
We value the woman who acts like a mother, and we value the mother who says her child shall not be put under the conditions that her husband has had. The action of the strange police has broken the moral of the resident police and they are feeling it very bitterly. When this cloud has blown away the policeman has got to live among these people and we want him to go back to his old position, of being an institution and an advisory one. We should have no trouble in the county. The trouble on particular occasions has been when power was given to an autocratic police official who should never have been brought into a civilised area. The police feel it very keenly and they have always appealed to us and said, "If they would only leave us alone we could manage ourselves." But it is the Primrose League and meetings at which the right hon. Gentleman creates the feeling which has been created. For my part I wish he would put his own power up aganst his own actions, and we would be in a better standing than we are today. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman means badly. With that face he could not. I think he has the sportsmanship in this House to allow us to say we are entitled to criticise him, because we have not all walked straight all our lives and the right hon. Gentleman had been walking down a by-path before I was born.
We feel it keenly in the county of Durham, that our own police force has not been trusted, because as my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) stated, in 1921 we had an experience. The experience we had then was, that in the county of Durham we had a Labour chairman. The Labour party was in charge of the county then and Mr. Peter Lee, a man profoundly respected in the county, who was then chairman, sent for the Chief Constable. The Home Office at that time—I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman opposite was in charge then or not—asked, could they have the military there? Immediately Mr. Lee called the Chief Constable up and said, "There are no military coming in here. What you can do is to send the oldest policeman to 749 what you feel was the area and let no young hot-blooded young men go into the area where they might upset things." He added, "You can communicate with us at any moment and if there is trouble we are prepared to take the risk at any time and keep our own people in order." It was so peaceful then that the Press had to come along and ask me to state a ease. I remember a gentleman coming down from London one Sunday morning and saying, "Cannot we get any copy at all?" I was rather ignorant as to what copy meant then, and I said, "Well, I can get you some copy." But he said, "I have come all the way from a certain large newspaper and we understood there was a not here." They could not find a not even on paper and the result was that we had that sort of thing, which has been going on unfortunately in this dispute, of the papers being allowed to exaggerate things until the right hon. Gentleman lost his balance.
My last appeal is, Will you withdraw this thing altogether? We are only too willing, as the right hon. Gentleman has kindly said, to try to keep the peace. What is the use of men destroying things? That is the spirit of my people. Why should we destroy anything? You may tell us there are some people among them not to be trusted. That applies to all things and everywhere and to every county.
§ Mr. RITSON
If I were to speak of the Government, my body would not stand the strain nor my memory its results. But I do make this appeal, because I feel that at this time, just when we are coming through this very severe crisis, there are many good-minded people who do not, know what is going on. Our people are anxious for peace. They have lost their all, and we are anxious that we should get back to work in a peaceful way, but give us your hand by taking away these horrible things. Take the statement of the chairman of the Coalowners' Association in this county, Mr. Tom Taylor, chairman of the Durham Mineowners' Association. He said to the right hon. Gentleman, in effect, "What need is there, and what need has there been, for this huge expense on your police force?" That was the chairman of the Coalowners' 750 Association of the county in which we are living, who asked what was the need for all this, seeing that there had been peace there, which had been a credit to our counties of Northumberland and Durham. When that is said by the chairman of the Coalowners' Association, when it is said by one of His Majesty's Judges, that the credit of the North of England stands as high as ever it did in tunes of this kind, why, in the name of all that is good, should you come forward with these things to-day? As has been said by one of my hon. Friends, with a dramatic force that thrilled me, faith is a greater thing than force. This country has been based on its faith. This country was looked upon as the land of the free, until this Government came into power, and, because of its freedom, it became strong. Our people will never be dragooned into what you believe is the path they should follow. Give them their liberty, give them their head as you do a good horse, and they will carry their country through as far as they can, determined as they are to see that things are right.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
Being a miner, I feel sure the House will believe me when I say that I was deeply interested in to-day's proceedings. I was wondering what the right hon. Gentleman was going to do in regard to these Regulations when the month expired, and, after the Proclamation, I was wondering what excuse he was going to give us for their continuance. Apparently, all that he has to say in favour of keeping the Regulations in being is that they are a precaution. To me that seems absolutely futile. The common law is sufficient to deal with the whole matter without any emergency Regulations at all. Indeed, I have my doubts as to whether the Privy Council have the power to make emergency laws when nothing untoward is happening. Everywhere, practically, peace has obtained, and nothing untoward has happened, except in places where policemen have been drafted beforehand. That is what causes the mischief, and these Regulations, in my humble judgment, have done more to work mischief than to preserve peace. Had we been left to deal with our own position, nothing untoward would have happened, but fancy a position like this: A coalowner persuades three men to go to work. They go to work, and nothing 751 happens, but, in the meantime, 100 policemen are drafted into that mining village for the purpose of guarding these three men. Can the right hon. Gentleman think of anything that would be a greater incitement and a greater source of inflammation to the men? If they had been left alone, I feel sure that nothing would have happened there, but, of course, a little incident did occur, and probably the right hon. Gentleman and the Government think that that is sufficient to justify these Emergency Regulations.
Conciliatory speeches have been made here to-day, but, God help me ! I am afraid I am a rebel still, because of the humiliating conditions that these negations have helped the owners to impose upon my people. I am older than many hon. Members here, and have gone through more. I have seen worse conditions than they saw, and I see my county going back to the terrible conditions that I had to meet when I was a boy. [An HON. MEMBER: "Worse!"] Worse, probably, than when I was a boy. Fancy the hours that have existed for so many years in my county being swept away, and an hour and a-half at least added to the working day. Can the right hon. Gentleman give any instance where manual workers are asked to work 49 hours a week exclusive of meal times? The hon. and gallant Member for Galloway (Captain Streatfield) spoke of good will, but I am afraid that good will under such conditions can never enter Durham. I have preached peace all my life as a, miner, but, under the conditions that obtain to-day, I am afraid I cannot do so until more consideration is shown by the other side. Hewers, who used to work on an average 6½ hours per day, are now asked to work 7½ hours plus one winding, that is to say, more than eight hours, and a further half-hour can be added to every day's work, because a man must be there half-an-hour beforehand for the purpose of getting all that he wants for the day's work and looking after his day's work. That makes at least nine hours a day for every miner. I see no one around me who works so hard as the Durham miner, and yet he is asked to give nine hours every day, as against other people's eight. Moreover, while in- 752 creasing his hours by 1½ per day, you tell him that at the same time he must do with less wages. Twenty per cent. is to be taken from the basic wage of every Durham miner without exception, and in some cases there is not only this 20 per cent. reduction, but another 12½ per cent., because the hours have been increased. That is adding insult to injury.
Those are the conditions under which peace is being asked for and hoped for. I am afraid that the dispute in Durham is not ended, but there is no need for any regulations, because, nevertheless, in Durham peace will obtain; but to use these Regulations to enable owners to wring more work out of the miner, and penalise his wife and children, is not playing cricket with the miner. I have declared in this House that these Regulations were not, in the mind of the Government or of the owners, for the keeping of peace, but that they are instituted to help the owners to beat the workers into submission by sheer starvation. I cannot help thinking that that is so. I hope I may be wrong, but it is the result of honest and life-long experience. I want the right hon. Gentleman to help, if he can in any way, to get a better set of conditions offered to the miners. We were told that the Eight Hours Act was a permissive Act, but now that the Government have seen what is happening, and that at least an hour a day is being added to the work of every miner in this country, will not they now assert themselves and say to these people, "You have exceeded anything that we anticipated with regard to terms, and we are going to remove that Act from the Statute Book and put the miners back where they were." But for this interference with the hours, the dispute, without doubt, would have been settled long ago. The chance to bring about a condition in the mines which would be toferable has been swept away. The Government should do something at this juncture which would give the people of the country some confidence in them. I am afraid the miners may he driven back to conditions which are not worthy of a great country such as England is, not worthy of the name of the great citizens of this country, May I plead with the Home Secretary to ask the Government at once to take away these Regulations, which are now not necessary in the right 753 hon. Gentleman's own words, not in mine. To insult us by saying we must have precautionary measures against citizens who have done as much and more than any other industry for their country is mofe than flesh and blood can bear. The last word I have to say is, let the Home Secretary consult his Government and have these obnoxious Emergency Powers withdrawn.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I want to raise the general question of the Regulations more than the problem of the miners, with which my colleagues are more intimately concerned. I have a word to say of criticism against the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) and his extremely able speech. It seems to me idle now to ask the people opposite for peace of any kind. My hon. Friend made a most eloquent speech, and he was followed by the hon. and gallant Member for Galloway (Captain Streatfield) who, to say the least of it, is a colliery owner and is interested in mines. One would have thought my hon. Friend's speech would have produced something in reply from the owners' representative who followed, but it was just this: "If the miners will reduce themselves to less than slaves we might be generous to them." Then he proceeded to ask for the ban to be lifted on the export of coal. One wonders what they think we are made of. He represents Galloway, where there are one or two mines at the most, and where the price of coal at times has reached between 4s. and 5s. a bag. There was never a word for the consumer—not a word for the poor person he represents in this House. That is the reply to the too generous speech of my hon. Friend. I can imagine people suing for peace at the beginning of this dispute. The men at that time had not been humiliated. They had not been driven to worse than slavery. At the beginning of the dispute I did not take up the more extreme position, as might have been expected of me, but now if I were connected with the mines I would not ask the miners to sue for peace. I would do my best, with whatever power I had, to teach them and their children to hate with all their being the coalowners and this present Government.
I wish to say a few words on the Regulations themselves. There has been no case made out to-day by the Home Secre- 754 tare on the law itself. His justification is this. "I think I see the end of the coal stoppage, therefore just give me these Regulations. They will not be long in operation. I will be a despot, hut I will be a beneVolent despot." I do not know what the Home Secretary really thinks we are, after six months to trust him for another few weeks with these powers without opposing him. Does he think, after his record of prison for his political opponents, of stopping the miners' leaders from addressing certain miners in the country; after his record in being partly responsible for the removal of Justices on the Labour side from the bench—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The Government are partly responsible for the removal of the Justices. They cannot escape responsibility. I could understand a Government who said in respect of the general strike, to those concerned in it, "You are wrong. We shall deal promptly with everybody concerned, leaders and followers alike." But I cannot understand the position of a Government who say to the poor fellow who followed the leaders during that strike, "You came out. You carried out what you thought was your duty, but you are a Justice of the Peace, and therefore you are removed from the magisterial bench because you took part in the strike." To the leaders, the people who asked these poor fellows to conic out, the Government say, "You called out the men. You are the persons who led the strike. You led the people into trouble, but because you are leaders, great men, we will not gaol you or other-wise punish you; we will invite you to Buckingham Palace to meet all the other people who matter in the country." The Government punish the poor chap who has been loyal, who may be secretary of a branch of the National Union of Railwaymen or of a miners' lodge. They say to him, "You obeyed the call during the strike. You have been active. You must be removed from the magistracy, because you are poor." If the man happens to be on the General Council of the Trade Union Congress, they are frightened to tackle him, indeed, they honour him by inviting him to royal garden parties. 755 That is the action of a. Government who are supposed to give the same justice to rich and poor alike.
I could quote many cases. I have had particulars of a case sent to me this morning of a prominent Conservative who evaded the coal Regulations. He was fined, and his name was sent up with the object of his removal, because he has broken the law. But his name remains on. What happened at Renishaw? A poor chap who happened to be an active Labour man has been removed from the bench because of his sympathies. I was at the trial last Monday of one of my colleagues in this House. When a Member may make a speech in this House, he is taunted from various quarters opposite that he is frightened to repeat the speech outside. "You are a coward," he is told. "You will not go outside and make that speech." He goes outside and makes the speech, and when he does so the Home Secretary comes along and gaols him. If he makes a. speech in this House he is called a coward; if he goes outside and makes it, he is imprisoned. The Home Secretary and his supporters have the best of both worlds. They taunt Members here with being cowards, and when a Member goes outside to do that which they tell him he dare not do, the Home Secretary exercises a vendetta, and there is imprisonment or fine for a political opponent.
What happened at the trial of my colleague at Renishaw? This is what is called a fair trial under the Emergency Powers Act. The chairman of the bench was the Conservative candidate at the last Election. Just imagine the Home Secretary being charged under a Labour Government with a seditious speech, in contravention of the Emergency Powers Act, and I happened to be Chairman of the Justices!
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I can imagine the Home Secretary and all his pals coming to this House within 24 hours and talking about prejudice. What happened in the Campbell ease? The Conservatives could not even trust the Attorney-General of the Labour Government to administer justice. They made innuendoes and threw mud at the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General. They could not be 756 trusted to administer justice, because Campbell had some alleged connection with the Labour movement. Now, they expect us to accept this chairman of the bench at Renishaw, an ex-Conservative candidate, who not many months ago was saying what he would do with the "Reds," what he would do with the extreme people, and how he would deal with them if he had the power. Then he comes on to the bench as chairman to judge a political opponent. Even worse than that, as the trial proceeded, when it was three-parts through, one of the magistrates turned to the chairman and asked, "What charge are we at now?" There were four charges in the count against my colleague, but the prosecuting counsel agreed to go on only with one, and to take a verdict on one and allow the other three to go. Yet we find one of the justices in the case, when it was three-fourths over, turning round and wanting to know on what charge the defendant was being tried! He did not say it in a stage whisper, but so that everyone in the Court could hear him.
What amazed me on Monday was not the trial of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), but that a man prominent in political affairs could have such a trial. This trial was attracting attention not only throughout Great Britain, but outside Great Britain. If that was the kind of justice meted out to a prominent man, what kind of justice could a miner, poor and illiterate, ever expect to get in a similar assembly? If that was the kind of justice meted out to a prominent man when public opinion; had been aroused in connection with it, when the pressmen were present and his own colleagues were present, what would happen to a miner or any other poor person, ill equipped for such a test? In that trial, the crime for which my colleague was sentenced was not a seditious speech, in the sense that I understand sedition. He was fined because he had said one thing, for which he did net apologise, and I hope none of us will apologise for it. It may be a wrong thing and it may be a stupid and foolish thing, hut I will not admit the right of anyone to say what I ought to say. Ail that he said was, that he had gone to the men of Derbyshire for the purpose of advising them, among other things, to remain solid, to remain 757 true to the Federation and, further, to withdraw the safety men from the mines. He admitted that. He never attempted to deny it. That is not a crime.
The Home Secretary in his last statement in this House said that he was banning the Communists, that he had issued a sort of general proclamation, saying that Communists must not address meetings during this dispute. Whatever the Communists did was illegal. His reason for doing that was that they had issued a manifesto in which they argued for the withdrawal of the safety men. In other words, they advocated a more active and militant part being played by the miners. Those may be wrong tactics or they may be right tactics; I do not express an opinion, hut if that doctrine was wrong and if that advice was wrong it was not for the Home Secretary to ban meetings on it. It was for him to take action against those who had issued the leaflet. But he could not, as the leaflet was within the law.
A curious doctrine is propounded by the Home Secretary. He makes speeches on the alleged terms which were offered to the miners. They never were terms; they were only a form of blackmail on poor people who were starving. When the War was on it was considered a terrible thing to starve the women and children, but here he is doing to the womenfolk and children of the miners the very thing which he condemned during the War. He makes speeches, he goes to meetings, and says that the miners ought to vote for the terms then before them, that is the terms which the Government had offered to the men. He took this line at Newport and at Scunthorpe. He said that the miners should vote for peace and accept the Government's terms. I am not opposed to his doing that, there is nothing wrong in it. And there is nothing wrong in a man taking the opposite view. What is there criminal or wrong in a man advocating, if he cares, the withdrawal of ale safety men? What is there illegal in it? Can the Home Secretary show me one Clause in the Emergency Powers Act that gives him power to take action against any man because he advocates the withdrawal of the safety men? He cannot do it. But to-day meeting are being banned 758 and men are in prison because they dare to advocate a policy of which the Home Secretary happens to disapprove.
The right hon. Gentleman is not there to carry out what he as Home Secretary thinks fit. If this House considers that the Communists should be banned let it face the issue by legislation, let us have a straightforward. policy, let us make that issue; but do not let the Home Secretary start interpreting the law. His job is to carry out the law as it is on the Statute Book, not as the Home Secretary likes to make it. He has banned meetings, never waiting to see if there is likely to be any disturbance, simply because they were held to advocate things he does not like, which his Government does not like. They are not illegal, but because he dislikes them they are banned. I know the mess the Government are in and how hon. Members opposite fear a contest in any industrial district. They know that things are going bad for them in industrial areas, and in conversation with some of them they will admit that there is not one industrial district in which they would care to face an election.
§ Mrs. PHILIPSON
The hon. Member says that no Member on this side of the House would dare face an election in an industrial district. I represent a large number of miners in an industrial district, and I would be quite prepared to face an election.
§ Mrs. PHILIPSON
Certainly not. There is no need for me to resign. But if I thought I could do any good to the country, I should be quite prepared to do so.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I do not want to be hard on the hon. Member. I will leave it. The least said, easiest mended. The Home Secretary knows that there is no hon. Member on the Government side who would care to face an election at the moment in an industrial area, and hon. Members from industrial districts will admit the condition of the party in these areas. There is one further point I desire to raise on these Regulations. I have dealt with the sentence passed on 759 an hon. Member of this House, and I do not want to pursue it further. He has no regrets for what he said. I am not going to appeal to the Home Secretary to withdraw these Regulations. They have done almost all the damage they can ever do, and they can go right on to the end now. You have got your Eight Hours Act, you have used them to put the miners in gaol and to crush freedom of speech. Why should we appeal to the Government to withdraw them now ! The Home Secretary will carry them by the aid of his supporters, who will, no doubt, vote loyally for their Government, but I hope that another Government will soon take the place of the present Administration and that the next Labour Government will not be so gentle as the last Labour Government, and will use such Regulations as these with greater ruthlessness.
I see the Secretary for Mines in the House at the moment. Every one of these Regulations regarding seditious speeches, public meetings, and freedom of speech has been put into force. Wherever the miner was affected that Regulation has been put into effect. I want to ask whether the Regulation dealing with the price of coal has been put into force. For the last five weeks not a bag of coal could be bought in the city of Glasgow for less than 4s. 6d. or 5s. 6d. per cwt. No action was taken by the Secretary for Mines to defend the poorest. of the people or to help them get coal. All that he said was that economic conditions would adjust matters at some other time. When it comes to taking action against the holding of meetings, the Government's powers are used in order to carry out the Regulations. Whether the other side like it or not, and whether we like it or not, a Labour Government is coming in the near future. I hope that with ruthlessness it will take the utmost possible action under the Regulations, that it will not be mild, but will use the Regulations to the fullest advantage.
§ Mr. JOHN
Appeals have been made to the Home Secretary to withdraw the Regulations. The work that has been accomplished under the Regulations ought surely to satisfy the most hardheaded and greedy Government and body of coalowners that have ever existed. 760 The Regulations have achieved their purpose in crushing the miners down to the lowest possible level. Even the Home Secretary, in his opening remarks to-day, admitted that Personally he was of the opinion, prior to an intimation from certain chief constables, that the Regulations should lapse; but inasmuch as the chief constables have suggested a continuance of the Regulations for another short period, he had agreed. The Regulations have been operating to the disadvantage of the miners right along the line, and operating to the advantage of the civic authorities and the employers. I wish to draw attention to one or two complaints about the action of the police. Reference has been made to local police and imported police. Like every other section of the community, the police contain in their ranks good and bad. They are not all angels, otherwise they would not be here.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. JOHN
When I was interrupted I was drawing attention to very serious complaints that I have to make against the attitude and the activities of the police. I wish to refer to two special cases, which are applicable to a large number of others. One case is that of a woman who was charged with assault. The case was in Rhondda West. Because the woman was in a certain condition, the case was postponed sine die. Notwithstanding the condition of the woman and the fact that she was a cripple, every day for a fortnight a police officer called at her home and asked questions, as to whether she was prepared to go to prison or to conic to Court. That happened notwithstanding the fact that the medical man had issued certificates with respect to the condition of the woman. The result was that at the end of the fortnight the health of that woman had become undermined to such an extent that the husband had to appeal to the police officer to desist from coming to the house. Three days after the confinement, notwithstanding the fact that the police officer had received notification from the nurse and medical attendant, he persisted in calling at the house of the woman.
There is another case of a woman who is awaiting trial at the Assizes. After 761 she had been committed to the Assizes, police officers called occasioNally at her house. Sometimes it was one police officer and sometimes they came in pairs. The result was that the medical officer had to appeal to the police to desist from coming. What the police wanted was to adopt the third degree—coming to the woman when she was in that frail condition and persuading her to admit, or threatening her so that she would admit, that she had hid a certain individual. If the police officers were certain when they made the charge that the woman was guilty of the offence with which she was charged, there was no need for them to be coming in ones and twos to intimidate her. In consequence of the continual worry to which she was subjected, the woman delivered a still-born child. Her life was despaired of for a considerable time. These cases call for inquiry. There is no justification for the police following such a policy.
I would like to call attention to the use of intimidation under the Regulations. Intimidation, if I understand the word aright, means using one's powers in order to play upon the fears of another individual. If any of the miners, either leaders or the rank and file, prevent men going into work, then they are charged with intimidation, but the colliery owners can send the police round the houses of the men and tell the men that unless they are prepared to come to work now, they will not be able to return to work after the settlement. Further, the police are being used to go round in the morning to rouse the blacklegs in time for work. A colliery company in the Rhondda Valley some time ago bought two streets of houses—slum dwellings—for a very low rate. The men living in those houses were working in other collieries, but last week and this week the company's officials have been going to the tenants in these streets threatening them that unless they come to work at the company's pit, irrespective of the fact that they were not employed there prior to the stoppage, there will he no alternative but to seek ejectment orders against them for arrears of rent.
That is intimidation. The people in these houses are met with the threat that unless they are prepared to blackleg they are 762 in danger of losing their homes and of having their wives and families thrown out upon the road. If they want to retain their homes, they must work at this particular colliery, regardless of the fact that there was no contractual relationship between them and this company prior to the stoppage. If these men go to work at this pit—and some have gone—the men who were formerly employed there will see their livelihood going, and their employment being taken up by others who are acting under intimidation. As a result of these Regulations the coalowners are in a position to tell the miners that the victimisation policy will be operated. The men formerly employed in this pit will object to their places being taken. What will be the result? There is the possibility and even the probability of a conflict between the two sections of work-people, one section desiring to save their homes and the others desirous of saving their employment. In this conflict the police will be bound to enter. Surely that is intimidation in its worst form, and should conic under the ban of Regulation 21. If it does not come within that Regulation, then no other form of intimidation can come within that Regulation. If colliery companies are permitted to use the civic forces in order to reduce the condition of the miners, through the medium of these Regulations, it is high time to withdraw the Regulations.
Invariably when disturbance has taken place it has not been caused by these Regulations; neither have the Regulations been the medium of preventing disturbance. In every instance that I know of, disturbance has taken place as a result of the importation of police into certain areas. I would direct attention to the policy of the chief constable and authorities in Glamorganshire recently. Not only have they been banning meetings, but they have been holding up motor-cars which were conveying newspapers from London to the rural areas. There is a little village not far from Porthcawl in the heart of the agricultural area of the Vale of Glamorgan. It is four or five miles from the nearest colliery district. The inhabitants number between 200 and 250, and the number of miners living there is between 11 to 15. Yet the Regulations have been applied in such a way that the chief 763 constable, or some other authority, has permitted the stopping of motor-cars bringing newspapers to that little village. It is no longer a question merely of freedom of speech but the freedom of the Press is now involved as well. The condition of the miners is such today that there is no further purpose for these Regulations. The Government have their Eight Hours Act and everything necessary in order to put the miners down to the lowest possible basis. We talk about peace and good will. Peace is a very tender plant, and will not grow in an atmosphere of injustice. If the Government want the plant of peace to grow, they must remove the injustice of these Regulations. For those reasons I appeal to the House to withdraw the Regulations and I trust the Parliamentary Secretary will make inquiries into the complaints which I have submitted. I have been at some trouble to gather the information concerning them. I have been to the houses of the people concerned and if the facts be as I have stated them, the conduct of the police in those two cases should he made the subject of inquiry.
§ Mr. G. HALL
I join in the plea which has been made by the hon. Member for West Rhondda (Mr. John) that these Regulations should be withdrawn. They are no longer required. The Government are pressing them forward again simply in order to maintain continuity of policy and to do all they can to assist the mine-owners, even at this late stage of the dispute. The Regulations could have been useful had the Government desired to apply certain of them in the interests of the public generally. But the Government are quite consistent in their desire to assist the mineowners. As far back as the first fortnight of the dispute the mine-owners desired the Government to come to their assistance, and the Government very willingly did so. In the memorable interview of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with certain members of the Mining Association, he referred to the fact that it was on 14th May that representations were made by the mineowners to the Government to press for the introduction of the Eight Hours Bill. One could quite imagine the willingness of the Government to accede to that request, for no Government have been so fooled as have 764 the present Government by the mine-owners, who informed them that if they would introduce an Eight Hours Bill, there were hundreds of thousands of miners in this country who would prefer to work an eight hours' day to a seven hours day. The Government, in their very simple way, believed it, but as soon as it was seen that the miners were not going to nibble at the bait, the owners again came to the Government and said "You can assist us still further." I can quite imagine the Government asking: "What can we do to assist you again?" Then the mineowners said: "Apply the Emergency Powers Act, and see that it is applied very rigidly throughout the coalfields, and then we will get some of the men back to work." The Government came forward with the Emergency Powers Act, and applied it, or a part of it, and even then they found that, notwithstanding their efforts, that second intervention was not successful in coercing the men back to work.
On the third occasion, I can quite imagine representations being made again by the owners to the Government to assist them, and the Government asking how they could do so. The reply then was that coal should be imported into this country in such quantities as would indicate to the miners that they were not such important individuals after all, and that, the country could well do without them. So we see the, spectacle of this Government purchasing, with public money, coal at three times the price at which they could have purchased British coal in the attempt to defeat the miners. Every single occasion on which legislation has been brought forward has been used by the Government on the side of the mineowners to defeat the miners, and for seven months we have seen a noble band of men, women and children who have resisted the action of the Government in this matter. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he can mention one single occasion on which legislation during the last seven months has been introduced into the House of Commons that can in any way be construed as being for the assistance of the miners.
This is the square deal that the Prime Minister talked about, and that we would 765 like the British public to judge. It was to be a permissive, a temporary Eight Hours Act, whereas in almost every district in the coalfields where district negotiations have been entered into, very largely at the request of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the miners' representatives have been treated with contempt in almost every area, and in some areas the mineowners have refused even to meet the accredited representatives of the miners without the miners first being ordered back to work on the basis of an eight hours' day. If you take all the large exporting areas, such as Scotland, South Wales, Durham, and almost every area, the terms, not proposed but dictated by the mineowners, are. based upon the extension of the working day that existed on the 30th April by one hour in each case, and these terms are the terms that are going to give the miners the square deal of which the Prime Minister talked and which the Government indicated they were prepared to give. I think the British public will now have an opportunity of judging as to whether the Government were really biased on the side of the mineowners against the men. Well may the Home Secretary and members of the Government pray for peace and good will. There can never be peace and good will on terms such as these, offered, not for negotiation, but dictated to the miners with the implication that unless they accept them, they can keep on starving, as most of them have been doing for the last seven and a half months.
In regard to the Regulations, I want, if I may, to pay a tribute to the Home Secretary for the very great interest that he has taken in matters that I have submitted to him for his consideration in the last week. I understand that inquiries are being made in the area, and, seeing that that is so, I am not going to trouble the House with those matters that I have discussed with him, privately, but if these Regulations are to be put into operation, I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to take note of a few observations which I should like to make. My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West referred to the fact that in almost every instance where there has been trouble in the coal-mining areas, the trouble has really been caused by imported police. In Glamorganshire, 766 which is one of the largest industrial counties in the whole country, in nine cases out of ten where there has been difficulty with the police, it has been a difficulty with the imported police, and I should like to ask the Home Secretary to satisfy himself that there is need for the importation of any police into the industrial areas of this country before they are imported; and if it be necessary, in accordance with his view, to import them, I trust that he will import them in such a manner and under such conditions that it is possible for the imported police not to be left isolated, without having any consultation with or being brought in any way under the control of the local police, who understand the habits and conditions of the people. They should be linked up or connected with the local police so as to be able to get to know the difficulties and understand the habits and conditions that the people have to contend with in the areas in which they live.
There is another question that I should like to put to my hon. Friend, and that is as to whether the Home Office are satisfied that, where the importation of police has been necessary, public-houses are the best places in which to station them. It has been brought to my notice, and I do not know that one can altogether justify it, but there is the possibility, seeing that these police are stationed at places where they are within easy access of intoxicating drinks, for a number of these people, when called up for duty, to be in that frame of mind that is not the best frame of mind in which to deal with difficulties such as they have to experience; and I think the Home Office and the officials there should satisfy themselves that there are no other means of accommodation in an area before they resort to the staticning of police in public-houses. I had the same experience in the Forest of Dean when I was there. I stayed at an hotel where there were 15 or 20 police stationed, and the same thing is occurring within my area now. All the imported police, notwithstanding that there is ample accommodation available in other buildings, are taken into public-houses, and the rumours that emanate from those public-houses are such that it is not to the credit of the police or the Home Office. I offer those observations and suggestions, and 767 I trust that the Home Office will take this matter up, for I feel that, as it is the importation of police that aggravates the situation in almost every instance, if these Regulations were withdrawn, and the imported police were sent back to their own areas, I am convinced that the mining population would respond in the right way. The miners after all have shown that during the continuation of this struggle, with the exception of the last month or two, there has been very little difficulty. The mining population of this country are quite capable of taking care of themselves, and seeing that everything possible shall be done to look after their interests, and the interests of the public authorities, without these Regulations, and without the importation of police from other areas, as has been done under these Regulations.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Before I move the Amendment standing in my name, I would like to say one or two things generally, and the first is, that the reason I object altogether to these Regulations lies in the fact that the Government, from the beginning to the end of this dispute, have definitely taken sides with the coalowners, and every one of the Regulations is used, or is not used, by the Home Secretary and his Department for the sole purpose of helping to defeat the miners in their struggle. I object altogether to the theory that the Government, in taking the action they have taken, have been defending the nation. What they have been defending is the right of the coalowners to get profit and dividends, even out of slave conditions imposed by starvation upon the workers. That is the position I want, if I can, to make quite clear. The Government, right from the beginning, have tried to make the country understand that they were dealing with a national emergency caused by men who were interfering, as it were, with some national enterprise. I want to point out that what we have been witnessing is a struggle between employers on the one side and workmen on the other. The nation has allowed private people to control the natural resources of the. country, and to manipulate the organisation of supplies from those resources, and in the carrying out of their business they have fallen out with the men whom they employ, and, as a result, there has 768 been a stoppage. The Home Secretary is never tired of saying that it is his business to hold the balance fairly, but it is impossible in the position that he takes up, for him to hold the balance fairly, because he considers—and all his speeches both here and elsewhere prove that I am right—that the owners have a perfectly legitimate right to buy human labour at whatever price they are able to buy it.
None of us who listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) could help but be moved and carried away by his appeal, but what vitiates that appeal is the fact that the Home Secretary and the Government, and all those who take up the anti-social position of defending property as against the interests of the community, is that all the time they put up to us what they are pleased to call the economic facts of the industry. Again and again we have heard the Prime Minister tell us that we must face the economic facts, and that this industry must pay its way on its own feet, as it were, and carry on without aid from anybody. The result is that the employers and many on the other side of the House, both in and out of the Govern-merit, maintain all the time that their first object in organising their business is to make profit and dividends, and that the men must submit to whatever terms and conditions are necessary in order to make the industry pay. Speaking for myself, I do not appeal for peace on those conditions, because you cannot have peace on those conditions, and you cannot have peace for several reasons, but the main reason is that 70 years ago this House passed an Elementary Education Act. It has passed Secondary Education Acts and it has passed Franchise Acts, and the result is seen on these benches. If you educate people and allow them to develop their minds, it is impossible that they will, without a struggle, go back to conditions out of which their forefathers struggled to get them, and we are all faced to-day with something in tins industry—a fundamental industry for the nation—which is quite impossible of reconciliation under the conditions of master and man, employer and employed, as we have understood them.
The industry is in this condition, that if you leave it to the districts, as you are leaving it at this moment, it means 769 setting one district against another, and means a general degradation of the standard of life, and you imagine that men who can reason, men who understand, will submit to it for very long. They may, like the rest of us when we are hungry, submit to a great deal, and they may submit to it, but that they will peacefully submit to it is, I think, asking for the moon. They will do nothing of the kind. Many of these settlements will be fought right out to the bitter end. There is only one way out of it, and the Government know the one way out of it, and that is a complete unification and reorganisation of the industry. I have heard nearly all the speeches the Prime Minister has made on this subject, and I heard him pointing out that this was a grossly mismanaged industry, and pointing out very much what I am pointing out to-day, that the industry must be reorganised on scientific lines. But what the Prime Minister forgets, and what the Government have forgotten all the way through, is that whenever there has been a great social service in this country reaching the position that the mining industry has reached, the nation has stepped in through legislation, and taken it out of the hands of private enterprise. We wanted great trunk roads; we wanted proper sanitation; we wanted proper education, and, lastly, we wanted the electricity business of this country dealt with in an efficient manner, and what have you done in regard to that? You have applied a principle to that industry which, had you applied it to the mining industry, would, in all probability have saved us the plight we are in to-day. You are proposing to unify that industry and put behind it, not £6,000,000 or ££5,000,000, but £30,000,000 of the nation's money or credit. The mining industry is in exactly the same position as the electricity industry. It got into the plight it is in owing to gross mismanagement by the people in control, plus, perhaps, economic reasons over which they had no control, and there is no way out but the way that we, on these benches, have again and again urged the Government to adopt.
When I hear these appeals for peace from the Home Secretary and from my hon. Friends I want to cry out that there can be no peace unless those who cry for 770 peace will the means to peace, and the means to peace lie in taking this industry out of the realm of competitive industry and organising it as a social service for the community. The nation needs coal, and ought to insist that the men who get the coal are paid decent, honest wages for getting it; and as the owners, on their own confession, are unable to pay these wages, then it is the business of the nation to do so. Until that fact is recognised there cannot be any peace in the industry.
The other thing that has to be got rid of is the buying and selling of human labour as if it were a mere chattel—the buying of a man's manual power on the same basis as we buy coal, that of supply and demand. I wag asked one day in the Lobby whether I really believed that all who were against me were villains and thieves. I do not, but I do believe that the system under which we live is wrong. An hon. Member said he wanted to get rid a this idea of sections and classes, of "our interests" and "your interests." We cannot get rid of that until we get rid of the conditions that put us into classes and against one another. The Secretary of State for India, in a speech the other night, proved conclusively the truth of what I am saying. He said, "This has been war, the miners have been beaten, and they must pay the price of defeat." That was a confession, open and honest. It was war—and is war; all life is war under present conditions; and we can only get rid of that state of affairs when we apply to modern industry the same principles that we apply when we give the nation a road, or supply any other social service.
When I came back to this House three or four years ago I was full of the idea that we might do something by co-operation, and by men of good will getting together. I confess it has all gone by the board so far as I am concerned. We may make nice, soft speeches here, but soft words butter no parsnips, and it is no earthly use our making speeches about brotherhood, love and comradeship whilst outside we are squeezing one another in order to extract rent, profit and interest. It may sound very amusing to some people to hear these things, but they are fundamental to our life. I have thought this thing out for years. I have 771 spoken at brotherhood meetings, but I have given it up now. I cannot speak at them any longer. We do not mean the same things when we are speaking at religious meetings on Sunday as we do from Monday morning to Saturday night; and it is because I feel so strongly on that point that I—I will not say I enter my protest—try to put my point of view in this kind of way.
To my certain knowledge the miners throughout this country are being treated in the meanest and most despicable manner by those who think they have their heels on the men's necks. It would have been a disgrace to treat a foreign enemy as the miners are being treated today—in regard to the price that is being exacted from them. Remember what they and their wives have gone through! I have read a good deal of history, and I have read and heard a great deal about the heroic struggles of men in sieges and in beleaguered cities. Great tributes have been paid to them, even when they have been defeated. Nobody in this House would say a word against Townshend and the garrison of Kut because they were defeated. We revere the memory of how they held out as long as they did. All of them do that. Here are the miners, more than a million of them, who have been piling up debt week after week, seeing their little belongings go, seeing their children trained to depend upon Poor Law relief and charity—eating School meals, and so on—seeing their clothes wear out, and seeing penury and want unending coming upon them; and yet one of the leading members of His Majesty's Government can only fling a cheap sneer at them and say, "It is war, and you must pay the price."
I will not attempt to irritate hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite by saying any more about the War, and about these men having fought in the War, but I want to remind them that the spirit which has made them continue the struggle is the same spirit that is applauded when they go to shed their blood on the battlefield. They have not done this at the bidding of Moscow. I am sorry the Home Secretary is not here. I look upon the Home Secretary as the most incendiary person in this country, by reason of the speeches be makes outside this House charging a million intelligent men with allowing themselves 772 to be starved for over six months at the bidding of somebody in Russia—some one man. Why, what rubbish it is! [Interruption.] I sat where that hon. Gentleman is sitting when the miners were on strike in 1910 or 1911. There were no Bofshevik agitators then. There was nobody in Moscow to whom one could point then. The miners were fighting for a standard of living, as they are doing now. No one could point to any foreign interference then.
If this had been the first great strike there might be something in that tom-foof argument, but there is nothing at all. The miners have been fighting because they knew the terms and conditions offered by the owners would reduce them to a slave status. They have fought them until now, and what I am saying on their behalf is that Lord Birkenhead and the Home Secretary, instead of going about the country gibing at them for being under the direction of some foreign enemy, ought to be side by side with them helping them to win their fight, helping them to get decent conditions of labour. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you and the House will forgive me for speaking on the general question, and if it is in order, but not unless it is in order, I would like to move my Amendment.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Of course, that depends on the hon. Member who has the ear of the House. If the hon. Member does not move his Amendment after speaking on the general question, he will not be able to move it later on, because he will have exhausted his right.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Perhaps some other hon. Member will move my Amendment later on. The Deputy-Speaker informed me a short time ago that only one hon. Member had got up to speak, and, therefore, I bad better move my Amendment. As I find that other hon. Members are desirous of speaking I will not now move my Amendment. On the general question I want to say that I hope the Home Secretary will remember that those of us who are fighting him en these Regulations and fighting his policy, are doing so because we believe, first of all, that 773 these Regulations are totally unnecessary, and, secondly, that he is totally unfit to administer them even if they were necessary. I do not object to hon. Members considering that I am unfit to hold a judicial position. I was told that some time ago when some of my friends wished me to become a Justice of the Peace, but the legal authorities thought that I was not judicially minded. My own view is that the least judicially-minded man in this House is the Home Secretary.
The right hon. Gentleman is one who is expected to hold the balance in these matters. When the Home Secretary first spoke on these Regulations he said:My position is to stand midway between the parties and see that there is no breach of the peace and that the law is not broken.To do that the right hon. Gentleman has to place himself in the position of a Judge, and no Judge in the country would be permitted by the Government or by this House to go about making the same kind of speeches which the right hon. Gentleman makes. No Judge would be allowed to use the powers which these Regulations give to suppress political opponents. What I want to bring the Home Secretary up against is his own statement made in this House that because there was a discussion of peace terms going on, he has a right to suppress those who are against the propositions which are being placed before the men. The right hon. Gentleman read out the other day with great gusto from the "Workers Weekly," the headline, "Fight like Hell." I expect those who gave that advice to the men had been reading the sort of speeches made by Lord Birkenhead, Lord Carson and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. We are now grown up men, and we ought not to foof ourselves. We all know why hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite take the view they do on these questions, and what I say is that if they were in the same position as the miners, they would fight like double hell or two or three hells. The workmen are only following the example of the party opposite and they are learning to use their language.
We are bound to do that because we have to learn it from somebody, and hon. Members opposite are the people who 774 have really shown us what we ought to say in order to give emphasis to what we want. I do not say that I should use a headline like that. The result of what you are doing is not that you will suppress rioting or keep people from assaulting one another, but you try to stop the expression of opinions with which you do not agree. The other day I asked whether the advocacy of Communism was illegal, and I was told it was not. Now I ask under what law does the right hon. Gentleman suppress Communists, and why does he not allow them to speak? There is nothing in the Regulations which gives the Home Secretary that right, and I should like to know under what law he has been proceeding. It may be said that if the right hon. Gentleman has been acting illegally, the Courts are open to those who have been oppressed. I know that you, Mr. Speaker, would not allow me to say what I should like to about that point, and whenever I have been before a Court on one of these jobs, I have generally got short shrift, and if the right hon. Gentleman takes the same course probably he will get short shrift. My point is that the right hon. Gentleman must not ride off in that way, but he must tell us under what authority he is doing this kind of thing.
The other point I want to make is this. You, Mr. Speaker, and other hon. Members who have sat here for a long time, must have agreed with what the Home Secretary said yesterday afternoon in answer to a question. He was asked, "Why do you not prosecute certain newspapers for publishing certain statements about China." He immediately gave what I thought was a very good answer, namely, that "it is not expedient to do that because it would do more harm than good." I want to suggest to the Home Secretary and to the other arch rebels of the Ulster period, that they should remember how they were treated by the Asquith Government. They took up the position that while people merely talked it really did not matter, and they said that everybody knew perfectly well that if people were persecuted, prosecuted and put into prison, they would only be given more importance than they deserved, and therefore, they decided to treat the whole business with contempt. If the Government imagine that they are going 775 to put down Communist propaganda by refusing to allow Communists to speak at public meetings they might as well, like Mrs. Partington, try to sweep back the Atlantic with a broom. If the Communist propaganda is true, nobody can stop it no matter how you try to crush it down.
With regard to the miners the thing which you have to face is that under this Government British industry has got into the position that the workers in every single trade and calling are being called upon to work for less wages and longer hours in order to produce a bigger return. As I said a moment ago, they are not going to do that, and although at this moment you are deriving great satisfaction by knowing that the coalowners, aided and abetted by the Government and backed up by the power and influence of the State, have for the moment got the men down, I am as certain as I stand here that the miners will rise again, and the men and women in that industry will come by their own, and they will do what the Irish Nationalists have done, that is, sweep you from power, and in this way get rid of this infamous system of buying labour and selling it cheaply, and in its place will establish a system whereby men will work for the service of one another, instead of being bought and sold like cattle as they are to-clay.
§ Mr. SEXTON
As the general discussion is still open, I want to take this opportunity of saying a few words. I have refrained from discussing this matter hitherto, because I thought it was essentially a miners' question. I happen to represent a mining constituency which has been one of the most peacefully inclined districts—I hope that is a characteristic of its Member—and I think the opportunity has now come for me to point out that this is not only a miners' question, but is a question affecting generally trade union organisations throughout the country. Perhaps I may be allowed to point out one or two facts which occur to me. Take, for instance, the two Regulations which will come up for consideration on the Amendments, Regulations 21 and 22. On page 9 of the Regulations these peculiar words appear:Provided that a person shall not be guilty of an offence under this Regulation 776 by reason only of his taking part in a strike or peacefully persuading any other person to take part in a strike,The peculiar part of the business is that, though stating that, the Regulation also saysor to cause sedition or disaffection among the civilian population, or to impede, delay, or restrict the supply or distribution of food, water, fuel, light, or other necessaries, or the means of transit or locomotion, or any other service essential to the public safety, or the life of the community, he shall be guilty of an offence against these Regulation.The only possible success of a strike—and I want to be perfectly frank with the House—particulariy in the case of the transport trade—is to impede, delay, and restrict the supply and distribution of these particular commodities. Take, for instance, a strike at the docks, a strike in the transport trade. We could not even issue a document from. our offices saying to any of our people, "Do your best to prevent the distribution of foodstuffs." I want to be perfectly and brutally frank on this job. We come out on strike with the object of winning. We enter into a strike for that purpose, and our only hope of success is to impede, delay, and interfere with the supply and distribution of the commodities in which we are interested. I suppose, although these Regulations have been created only for the purpose of dealing with the mining dispute, if anything of that character occurs, they will be resurrected to apply to a strike in the transport trade. There may be some strength and reason and sense in saying:If any person attempts or does any act calculated or likely to cause mutiny, sedition, or disaffection among any of His Majesty's Forces, or among the members of any police force, or any fire brigade … he shall be guilty of an offence against these Regulations.But it is extended to say, in Section 2, that you cannot print and distribute or have in your possession and in your house any document instructing your members on strike what to do in order to win the strike. That is really what this Regulation means. The miners are not down and out yet, but, when they are finished, it is possible that an attack will be made on our organisation and on other organisations to bring us down; and, if a dispute occurs in the transport trade—it is not impossible, though I hope it will not occur—we shall be prevented 777 even from issuing a document instructing our members what to do in case of a strike. The very element of success, as I have said, and I say it brutally, if you like, in a transport strike is to prevent the distribution of the commodities which we handle. This Regulation, therefore, absolutely takes away all power, not only from the transport trade, but any other trade performing any service to the community. Again, Resolution 22 says:Where there appears to be reason to apprehend that the assembly of any persons for the purpose of the holding of any meeting or procession will conduce to a breach of the peace and will thereby cause undue demands to be made upon the police or will promote disaffection, it shall be lawful … to make an Order prohibiting the holding of the meeting or procession.If we want to hold a meeting either inside or outside a. building to instruct our people where to go, what to do, and what to say to the blacklegs, so long as they do not man-handle him, and keep within the ordinary trade union law, this Regulation prevents us holding that meeting. I hope therefore that hon. Gentlemen will see how far-reaching these Regulations are. They not only affect the miners' organisation, but also every other trade union organisation which relies upon the strike. It may be that some people regard the strike as a method of barbarism, but unfortunately it is the only weapon which workmen have in hand at the present time. I hope that as time goes on they will see the necessity for extending further their political action, which to my mind is the only remedy. May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman and his friends that it is no use attempting, as the Prime Minister did the other day, in the spirit of Macbeth to wash their hands of the whole business, and to exclaim:Thou canst not say I did it: never shakeThy gory locks at me.From the very beginning of this struggle, the responsibility has not rested upon the miners but upon His Majesty's Government. If I am not wearying the House, I should like to shortly survey the situation. At the commencement of the trouble the Government gave a subsidy. Nobody wanted it; the miners did not want it. The subsidy failed, the strike came. 778 Before that the Government appointed a Commission during the period of the subsidy. Nobody wanted the Commission. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues appointed it themselves; it was their own Commission. Their own Commission reported, and they put the Report of that Commission which they had appointed in the wastepaper basket, and legislated in an entirely opposite direction from the way the Commission reported. The right hon. Gentleman and His Majesty's Government have been more responsible for Regulations of this character than all the miners in the United Kingdom. Therefore, I agree with the miners that these Regulations, if allowed to pass, will he a. precedent for the future if any strike occurs in any trade—transport, lighting, tramways or anything else—and it is because these Regulations will equally apply to any future strike that I oppose them.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Mr. KELLY
One would have hoped that the appeals made from these benches in the earlier part of this discussion would have found some response from the Home Secretary. He was asked, in view of the fact that he could not prove the necessity for these Regulations to be imposed, that he should now withdraw the Motion he had brought forward for these Regulations to continue in operation. We have not had one word from him in response to that appeal. I noticed that some of the hon. Members opposite applauded the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) when he made his appeal, but by merely applauding they are not acting in accord with the spirit and the words of that appeal. We have been discussing throughout this Debate without one sign or one gesture from the other side that they are prepared even to realise the position at this moment. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street referred to what is happening in other industries, and to his own experience of the Joint Industrial Council for the War Department, of which he was Chairman during the time of the Labour Government. I am a member now, and was a member then, of that particular Council. I only wish that I could say of the other Joint Industrial Councils that they were acting in a way that did help to bring better understanding in industry. One hon. Member, who spoke from the other side, and who, I 779 believe, is a coalowner in Durham, appealed to us on these benches to try and bring something of peace in industry. He is appealing to the wrong quarter in this sense, that we have been prepared for it, and have stood for it. I can quite understand the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) shaking Es head. He has had no experience of industry or any experience of negotiations in any of the industries of this country, certainly at no time in the last 20 years.
It is not to us, but to the employers in the various industries of this country that the appeal requires to be made, an appeal that they should recognise that we are not going to remain content with being ordered about, while the moment they find themselves in difficulties, particularly financial difficulties, the only thing they look to is how they can cut the wages bill to recoup themselves. You cannot have peace in industry while that view is taken by the employers, particularly employers engaged in the coal industry of this country. We heard something too of peace in industry. Those who are engaged in that particular agitation at this moment, both employers and trade unionists, are doing a great disservice to industry at this particular time. It is not by those public meetings that we are going to bring the right spirit into industry, and I know that employers' federations are equally opposed to this particular agitation, which is being backed up by certain people at this time. If there is a desire to have a better spirit, then it is for the employers to sit down with the representatives of the trade unions, and we will endeavour to find a better method of conducting our affairs, than has prevailed in the past, or is prevailing at the present time.
Why is the Home Secretary to-day demanding these Emergency Regulations? He has not put forward one idea or suggestion that the country needs or demands them. I am sorry he is not present at this moment, hut I am wondering whether he is of the same opinion to-day, which he expressed two months ago, when he told the House that ho had nothing to put forward to justify him in making such a demand upon the House, but he intended to go forward with his proposals because he feared that something might happen at some time 780 or other. If that is his view, there is no reason why the Regulations should not remain on the Statute Book for all time because, if he is waiting for something to happen, something may happen at any time time even when a dispute in the coal-mining industry is not in progress. I am not going to make an appeal; it is useless making an appeal to the other side. I am merely going to state that there is no justification whatever for the proposals which are before us at this moment for continuing the Emergency Regulations, excepting that they have enabled, despite the assurance we had this morning, certain chief constables, particularly the Chief Constables of Derbyshire, and, I think, Staffordshire, to be so afraid of certain ideas in this country that they had to ban meetings in those particular parts. If a chief constable such as those two, is so foolish as to act in this way, it is really time for the standing joint committee, or whoever is in authority over them, to consider dispensing with the services of such chief constables as have banned meetings at this particular time.
I do not think that that applies to all. I know one chief constable who would. I think, have scorned to have operated the suggestion of the Home Secretary. In fact, in his division of Lancashire, during this period of crisis, white gloves were presented to the Bench, an incident which had not taken place in that area for many years. And vet we have to-day, despite that position, a claim by the Home Office that these emergency powers should remain in operation. I trust that, even at this time, there will he a possibility of our enforcing on the minds of the Government that it is against the interests of the country that these powers should be put into operation, and that even now, without any appeal from us something will happen to have them withdrawn, rather than that they should he forced upon the people, thus creating trouble where there is no likelihood of trouble arising without them.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I, also, listened with a very great deal of sympathy to the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). Notwithstanding the remarks of the last speaker in regard to my limited acquaintance with negotiations in industrial disputes, I may say that I know the miner well enough to know 781 that there is not a more gallant and loyal citizen amongst all the inhabitants of this country, and I have often been sorry for the state of the law that has sometimes led to his getting into trouble. I have been in Court defending miners where every man in the Court had his head swathed in white bandages, and I was very sorry for those men, because I realised that it was the folly of certain gentlemen who insisted on. having rights of their own, above the rest of the citizens of this country, and on being put in the position of a privileged class, that had led these poor fellows into conflict with the police, which otherwise would never have happened. If hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House would content themselves with being ordinary citizens, without wishing to be put in the position of a sort of priesthood, immune from the ordinary sanctions of the law, I do not believe that these Regulations would ever have been needed. if the executives of the unions had not got into the hands of extremists, as no doubt the Miners' Federation latterly has done, and had not allowed themselves to become institutions for the purpose of promoting strikes, they would have seen that their duty to other people was to endeavour to quell strikes, and, instead of promoting lightning strikes and breaches of contract, they would have seen that their duty was to see that due notice was given and that con, tactual relations were maintained. If these matters are considered beforehand, very often a breach will never occur.
That is the position into which the mining industry has got. These gentlemen say that they are all for peace, but I would remind them that we have not seen very much sign of peace from the leaders. It was not so very long ago that we had a general strike, which was really an attack upon the whole Constitution of this country. I felt a, good deal of sympathy with the hon. Member for Gorbals when he said that it was extraordinary how the men would occasioNally get into trouble while the leaders were let off. I sympathise with the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street in his desire for greater harmony between employers and employed. I have never been able to understand how some employers, especially in some districts in Scotland, could look patiently on at the housing conditions in which the workers 782 live. It has always struck me that, if you could get the same relationship between employer and employed as existed between the miner and his officer when they both served each other so well in the War, the employer would realise that his first interest is his men. I was interested to observe, when the recent deputation went to America, what some managers of big industries stated, namely, that the first interest of all companies and of all industries was in those who were actually engaged in the industry, the shareholders coming second. That is the proper spirit in which industry should be conducted.
If one could only get that into the minds of all employers, then I think a, great part of the solution of our present troubles would be arrived at. There is also that splendid loyalty which has been shown by the mining workers in this dispute—their stability, and the way in which they have stuck by their anion—and, although I think it was wholly misguided, I cannot withhold my meed of admiration from it. If you transfer that spirit to the industry and show the same loyalty to the pit in which they work, and do their best in it, there is no limit to the prosperity which would come about. If they follow their leader whose original intention was practically to destroy the industry —[HON. MEMBERS: "Who told you that?"] That was written in 1911 in a book published by Mr. Cook called "The Miners' Next Step." If these gentlemen who were using the unfortunate miners for their Communistic ambitions would step aside and leave it to the wiser, saner heads, of whom I believe there are a good many on the benches in front of me, though some of them are absent to-day, if they would realise the immense power these organisations of unions have put into their hands, if the money which has been spent on disputes had been directed into proper channels there is no reason why they could not come into the open market and acquire the industry for themselves. That is the legitimate way to get it. When you consider the enormous sum that is paid in wages compared with the amount that goes in profits, a very slight deduction from the miners' wages week by week would enable them to buy the pits and work them for themselves. Why should not that be done? The unions are doing 783 that in the United States. They are establishing banks and buying shares in their industries. The secretaries of the Engineers' Union, when trade was slack, went to South America, and booked orders and brought them back to their employers.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I do not know that they own any, but they have a large share in the industry, and they have a-n interest in it. The hon. Member cannot but deny that it is sound counsel that I am giving and nothing could be sounder than that the men should own the works in which they themselves work. There is only one way of getting it, and that is by buying it and paying for it. You cannot begin by the predatory methods of Rob Roy. The employer in the United States recognises that he is in the same position, working alongside his workmen, as an officer in the Army. He makes it his business to do his best for his men. I hope the mine-owners will take a. lesson from what has happened. They have been subjected since 1910 to constant political interference, and there is nothing more likely to cause friction than interference by third parties in a business that does not belong to them. This dispute from the beginning has been to a large extent prolonged by the hope that in some way the Government would come in. But from the moment the Government ceased to pay anything in the nature of a subsidy it had no more concern with the mining industry than I have. This attempt which is constantly made to get the Government to step in and try to regulate industry only protracts the dispute. After all, capital and labour are like husband and wife, and we know what happens when anyone interferes with them. It is the worst possible thing that interference should take place. That is what has harassed the mining industry since 1910.
On a point of Order. Could the hon. Member tell us what was the reason in South Wales in 1893 and 1898, when we were out for 28 weeks?
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
That is not a point of order. It is a point of history on which the hon. Member is probably better informed than I am. Probably the reason why there was such a long 784 dispute was that the hon. and gallant Member was in charge of the local union. We all know from his military record that he is a very pertinacious gentleman.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
There has been too much interference. It we take the record of the output of coal up to 1910, we find that there was a steady rise in proportion to the amount of population, but after 1910, when the politicians began to interfere, the output wavered up and down in accordance with the amount of political interference which took place. I would ask hon. Members opposite, why can they not come to my assistance and endeavour to put their institutions within the pale of the law again, to use their funds for legitimate industrial and beneficial purposes, and build up the unions to such a strength that, instead of being disturbers of the peace, instead of being disturbers of industry, they will be so strong financially and morally, with a moral basis behind them, which at present they have not, that they will be in a position to negotiate in their particular industries, without the necessity of a strike? Why not do as is done in the great cotton industry of Lancashire, where there it a combination of employers and of men?
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
There, if an employer does not play the game, according to the rules of the union, the Workers' Union will report him to the union of employers, and they will deal with him. Until the unions get back within the pale of the law they will never get rid of trouble. There will be these crises, in which the nation insists on protecting itself. The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) spoke about his union, and how these particular Regulations affected it. The nation, of course, will always be up against any tyranny and dictation. What made the uprising of the nation at the time of the general strike? It was not the Government who defeated the general strike. It was the 785 people themselves who defeated it, and that is because there is rooted in the bosom of Englishmen, Scotsmen and Welshmen a democratic instinct which refuses to be dictated to by any number of men who are not elected on a democratic basis, but represent only a sectional and class interest.
It is because these Regulations are in defence of the democratic principle that I support them, especially at a time when, towards the end of the dispute, they are most likely to be needed. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street spoke of the law-abiding character of the great bulk of people in his district. I concur in that entirely, but there is always a small minority of men in any large body of men who are not law-abiding. These Regulations are not aimed at the general body of law-abiding people, but at that small percentage who are to be found in any class of the community, who will take any opportunity which is afforded for causing disturbance, and who cannot be dealt with by the ordinary statutes of common law which, by the way, have been altered so much in favour of trades union in order to give them a privileged position. These Regulations are intended to readjust the balance for the time being, when there is a time of public danger, and of consider. able industrial disturbance. It is in the interests of law-abiding men among the miners that these Regulations should remain until there is peace for the time being in this industry. That is why, although I dislike Regulations as much as any man, because usually they give too much arbitrary power, I support the continuance of these Regulations. Such provisions are necessary in a time of crisis or even of threatened crisis, in order that the democratic Constitution of the State can be upheld.
§ Mr. PALING
The speech of the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken is on the same lines as the stuff we read in the "Daily Mail" and the "Daily Express" in connection with the miners. He tried to give this House the impression that it is only a small proportion of the miners who are affected and that if this small rebellious portion could be eliminated, you would have peace in the industry and everything in the garden would be lovely. That is not quite true. If the hon. and learned 786 Member had followed the course of events during the last three months he would have found that everything that has been submitted to the miners which came short of what they considered to be their due was rejected, although the suggestions were backed by a recommendation from the officials of the Federation. The miners themselves, by huge majorities, have decided this business. [An HON. MEMBER: "By ballot?"] Whether there has been a ballot or not every man has had ample opportunity time after time to record his vote, and at some of the meetings as many as 1,500 to 2,000 miners have attended in order to record their votes. To say that it is only a small minority of rebellious people who are affected is not correct.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I did not say that. What I said was that there may be cases of disorder if these Regulations were not in force, but it would be only a small minority of the miners who would be guilty of disorder.
§ Mr. PALING
It is on the same line of argument that I am putting. It is always the small minority that Regulations like this are aimed at. The whole object of this business is to decrease the standard of life of the miners. That is the sole reason, and no amount of running around the question can get away from that fact. This Debate opened with two or three of the most remarkable speeches that have been made in this House from the point of view of appealing for peace. The Home Secretary professed to be much affected by them, and agreed that the speeches were admirable in tone and sentiment. There was the speech by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson).
§ Mr. PALING
Yes, I dare say. I am not expecting any compliments from the right hon. Gentleman. I have probably said too many things about him to expect compliments, and I do not think he will expect any compliments from me. He will not get them, in any event; his conduct has been too bad. Apart from that, there have been speeches made this afternoon asking for peace, and it was indicated in these speeches that one of the first steps towards that 787 peace and conciliation which the Prime Minister has been asking for is to drop these Regulations, seeing that the need for them has largely disappeared. I ask the Home Secretary whether he is going to respond to that appeal; whether he is going to take the first step this afternoon, make the first gesture, by dropping these Regulations? Is he going to say that the men have conducted themselves so admirably, there are so many men back at work and coal is coming up in large quantities, that in order to get as decent a peace as possible the Government will do their part by dropping these Regulations. Is be going to respond to that appeal? Apparently he is not. I did not suppose he would. No Member of this House who has heard him since these Regulations came into force would ever expect he would respond in this direction. And I do not know that I am very anxious that he should drop these Regulations, they have gone on so long that it does not matter now whether he takes them off or not. It would be a shockingly poor gesture for peace, even if he did. I am sure that in any event the temper of some of our men, in view of the terms which have been forced upon them, is such that it would take more than a gesture like that to conciliate them.
When men are asked to work eight hours a day, as in Somersetshire, where they were making profits before the stoppage, and where I believe they have hardly ever been down to the minimum, and for 50 years or more have had something in the nature of a seven hours' day, and where the employers are simply stating to the men, "Eight hours a day, and get back to work before we will even condescend to discuss anything with you "—I ask, is that the spirit that is likely to bring peace, conciliation or confidence? It is not only there in the greater part of the districts throughout the country the coalowners are insisting on eight hours a day. In districts that were perhaps not as good as Somersetshire or Yorkshire, but in districts which were only slightly below the minimum, and in pits where they are insisting on the eight hours—pits where they were actually making a profit —the owners are taking advantage of the situation because they think that they have the men at their mercy. The owners are dictating terms which, so far from 788 bringing peace, will bring a spirit of war and hate almost second to none that has ever existed, and goodness knows there has been bad feeling in the industry for generations past! It will be worse in future than ever in the past, bad as it may have been then.
In my own neighbourhood of Doncaster the proprietors of a pit put up the terms of seven and a half hours a day with a reduction to the 12.2. The 12.2 was put on for the reduction from eight hours to seven. This particular company between 1912 and 1920 paid 20 to 25 per cent. dividend each year, and from 1920 to 1924, the last years for which we have the figures, in spite of the depression, they paid an aggregate dividend for the four years of 50 per cent. That dividend has been paid on an original capital of £500,000, plus a bonus share capital of £200,000, which they gave to themselves in 1920. Yet the proprietors say, "The only terms you can have are seven and a half hours minus 12.2." The men refused to go back. Since then the owners have been more generous and have reduced the 12½2 to 6.1. It is asking too much of human nature to expect men to go back on terms like those, in view of the fact that they know the profits which these people have made. It is easy for people such as the Home Secretary and those of his class, who probably have never known what hard manual labour means, to come here and talk, but it is difficult for them to realise what an eight hours' day means to the miner.
I used to work in the pit before I got a better job, and I frankly admit that work in this House is heater than work at the coal face. I used to work eight hours a day. I lived, as did hundreds in the Doncaster district, six miles from the pit. I started work at six in the morning. I had to get up between four o'clock and a quarter past four in order to catch the paddy train at five o'clock. I was at the pit at half past five, and got down in a few minutes. The shift stopped at 2 p.m. and the paddy train started back at 3 p.m. I got back by three or four o'clock. I had to wash and get the dirt off myself even after that. From four o'clock in the morning until a quarter to four o'clock in the afternoon or nearly 12 hours I was away from home under the eight-hour 789 day system. A return to the eight-hour day system means that hundreds of thousands of our people will be condemned to that experience again. [Interruption.] I daresay this is a laughing matter for the Noble Lord the Linder-Secretary of State for India. I did not catch his remark.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Earl Winterton)
I said I wondered what the hon. Gentleman would have said if he had fought in Gallipoli. He would have found the hours considerably longer.
§ Mr. PALING
It is interesting to know that the Noble Lord is one of those who promised these people that if they fought in Gallipoli they would come back to homes fit for heroes. [Interruption.] Having fought in Gallipoli for the purpose of pr serving the privileges of the Noble Lord and others, the men who were described as heroes at that time are now described as revolutionaries because they ask for the implementing of the promises made by the Noble Lord and the Home Secretary and other people of that class. This is the only thing they can do—with their precious honest Prime Minister and his slogans. "Courage, conciliation and confidence," I think, is the last one. "Give us peace in our time, O Lord," was another, and "Trust us to give you a square deal" was a third. And you people who in the days of the War praised the miner as a hero are now seeking to impose on him a standard of life which is worse than anything that has existed for 50 years. That is his reward for fighting in Gallipoli and for winning the War. I tell the Home Secretary that whether he puts these Regulations on or takes them off—whatever gesture he may make—it is too late. If the coalowners hacked by the Government and the Noble Lord are going to insist on putting on to the miners [Laughter.] I do not object to the Noble Lord's laughter. I would rather see him laugh than cry. But we will talk about this when we get the opportunity, and perhaps the Noble Lord will laugh on the other side of his face before this business is finished. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Hon. Members are addressing each other across the Floor of the House instead of addressing me. I would like all these remarks to be addressed to me.
§ Mr. PALING
I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. But to expect the miners to be peaceful and conciliatory while such degrading terms are being thrust upon them is asking too much of human nature. If our people have to submit to the terms now being put on them, and if they are compelled to submit to those terms by the semi-starvation which they are suffering now, I would be the last in the world to ask them to submit peacefully. I, like the rest of the Miners' Federation, will do my beet at the earliest opportunity, in season and out of season, to tell our people that their business is to fight against the degrading terms which are being forced upon them and to remove not only those terms but to remove the Government which has enabled the coal-owners to inflict such degrading terms upon them.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I propose to deal with some of the arguments used by the hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten), but I do not propose to spend much time in referring to the gibes and sneers on the part of the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for India, because we do not expect anything else from him, due to the fact that, applying certain conditions in India, he is just as anxious to have those conditions applied to this country. We expect nothing else from him but an attempt to foist upon British miners coolie conditions for which he is responsible, or partly responsible, in India—not coolie manners, for he has not got the manners of a coolie. The hon. and learned Member for Argyll gave us one of his usual speeches, in which practically half of the arguments he used were destroyed by the remainder of his arguments. He convinced us that trade unionists were in their present troubles because they were a privileged class, which was rather a remarkable argument to come from a member of one of the most privileged sections of the trade union movement. The hon. and learned Member belongs to the most privileged section of the trade union movement in this country, and, arguing as a trade unionist, he has been desperately anxious to safeguard the rights of any indi- 791 vidual, whether or not he belongs to a trade union, working in the mines, and the trade union to which the hon. and learned Member belongs absolutely refuses to allow anyone but a trade unionist to plead the cause of anyone inside the Law Courts.
He accuses the miners of being in their present position because they are led by extremists, but I have listened to a most revolutionary speech in this House to-day from the hon. and learned Member, because he has suggested that the way in which to get out of our difficulties is for the miners to own the mines and for the railwaymen to own the railways. I am a Socialist, and I most emphatically object either to the railwaymen owning the railways or to the miners owning the mines. We, on this side, belong to an organised body which has fought as strenuously against Syndicalism as against private enterprise, and I may say, speaking as a member of the Miners' Federation, that we do not want the mines to be owned by the miners. They have no more right to the mines than have the coalowners. The nation ought to own the mines, and we, the miners, ought to be entitled to have a say in the industry in which our lives and the lives of our kith and kin are invested.
It is suggested that there has not been much evidence for a desire for peace on this side. All will pay a tribute to the eloquent appeal for peace submitted by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), but after we have had appeal after appeal made from this side for some action on the part of the Government which would show that they have a desire at the end of this great struggle to be a little bit fair at least to some of the victims of the struggle, we are told that there has been no desire shown on this side for peace. Every effort for compromise has come from the miners' side, and I defy the hon. and learned Member for Argyll or any other hon. Member to give me one single instance of any offer that has been made by the coalowners in the way of a compromise. The conditions which they are imposing on the men to-day in every district of Great Britain are those which were posted on the 1st May this year, and they have never made one offer of a compromise. Any suggestion of anything more than the offers made by the 792 coalowners has been suggested by the Government and has been refused by the owners, and there has not been a single instance where the coalowners of this country have moved one inch from the position which they took up last May.
From the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Argyll, one would imagine that all the troubles which have arisen have been created during this dispute by the men themselves, where these men have been arrested. I have here a case to which I wish to draw the attention of the Lord Advocate, who, with the Secretary for Scotland, is responsible for giving effect to these Regulations in Scotland. It relates to some of the things going on in the small township of Bonny-rigg. Nine men were arrested. Two of them were exonerated from the charge made against them, but seven have been sent to gaol for 24 clays. Yet I have sworn evidence here, which I am prepared to submit to the Lord Advocate and the Secretary for Scotland, that a young boy, who was used as evidence against these men, had been taken into the police office, not by the local police, because I, like other representatives of mining districts, have no real complaint against the local police. It is the imported police from other districts who know not the local conditions, who do not understand the psyschofogy of the mining population, who set themselves out to create as much trouble as possible, and many of them have proved, not only to be sneaking skulks, but neither more nor less than individuals who are setting themselves out to provoke our men. The statement in question is that this young boy, whose evidence was used against these seven men, was taken to the police office, and was struck—that is the allegation, about which I want inquiries made—that certain evidence was forced from him, that he was brutally treated by six of these imported policemen.
I want the Scottish Office to carry through an investigation in connection with this allegation, so that at least we may expect that even a miner will get a fair deal. I know that rules and regulations are being applied against us at the present time, after all that we have done in the interest of the nation, and there are many on these benches who have done more in the interest of the nation than many Noble Lords who are sitting opposite, and we at least ask for our 793 people a fair deal. We are entitled to ask for justice, the kind of justice you would be prepared to plead for yourselves in a Court of Law. Therefore, I sincerely trust that as a result of sending to prison seven men in Bonnyrigg, on a charge which was admitted by the Sheriff as not being very strong, but in which he was prepared to accept some of the evidence as being truthful, and in which the main evidence was given by a boy who alleges that he was struck in a police office by six of the policemen who had been imported into the district—I sincerely trust that we are going to have an investigation as far as this particular allegation is concerned.
I want to add my plea to that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street. I know there is not very much chance. We are almost at the end of a great industrial struggle. Many of those whom we represent are lying in gaols today, and surely at the end of that industrial struggle, not only ought the Home Secretary to withdraw his Regulations, but he should at least prove that at the end of the struggle he is not pre, pared to be vindictive as far as the men in that fight are concerned. There are scores of our men in gaol at the present time who are as innocent of any intention to break the laws of this country as I am. I have never set out to break any laws which have been made in this country. Time and again I have said to my own people that even though a law is bat it is their duty to obey it, they should wait till they can change it, and I am sure hundreds of miners who were just as desirous of obeying the law as I am have been convicted on account of the existence of these Regulations. Evidence has been accumulated against them, and the fact that they were miners has been to their detriment when they have come before the Sheriffs.
I want to plead for an amnesty for these prisoners of war at the end of this industrial struggle. They are prisoners of war—so far as the class war is concerned. They are in your hands. I see an hon. Member Opposite smiling. Probably he would desire to see all miners thrown into gaol. I have no doubt the hon. Member is quite well satisfied even though some innocent men may be in gaol. Even in the case of the War with Germany, an arrangement was 794 made for the liberation of the prisoners at the end of the War, and surely we are entitled to ask as much for our own countrymen in this war as we asked from an enemy country in an international war. After all we have heard about the bravery of the miners during the War, about the sacrifices they made and their readiness to help to save the lives of their officers, surely it is not too much to plead for an amnesty for these hundreds of men, who were promised better things than they have got. Hon. Members on the other side may smile. They may think they have got the miners down. They have not got the miners down for all time. We will come back again. Our own time will come, and I say in this House, as I have said in the country, that when our time comes these Regulations will be very handy. We shall not require anyone to draft new Regulations. When we are in power, if there be a majority of the same mind as I am, I will as mercilessly apply these Regulations to your class as you have applied them to mine.
§ Mr. GROTRIAN
I have listened to practically the whole of this Debate, but I cannot recollect any real argument addressed to the question before the House as I conceive it to be. The right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) certainly did put forward some arguments and if I understood him rightly his arguments were, in the first place, that these Regulations are unnecessary owing to the condition of affairs in the country, and, in the second place, that we can do all that is required to be done under the ordinary law. As to the question of whether the Regulations are necessary, I think we have to trust -the people responsible to say whether they are necessary or not. As to being able to do all that is necessary under the ordinary law, I think the right hon. Gentleman was somewhat at fault there, because surely it is not possible to enforce such things as the prohibition of the export of coal and all those things under the ordinary law. There is nothing in the ordinary law to prevent a man from exporting coal. Then it is said that to continue these Regulations would be a scandal and an insult to the miners. I have never been able to appreciate that argument. I do not think any decent man feels himself insulted by the 795 fact of the Ten Commandments being in the Bible, or the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act being upon the Statute Book. No decent man feels insulted because we have to pass Statutes against evil-doers. So that argument seems to be quite fallacious, and while we all acknowledge that the majority of the miners have been most patient, most law-abiding—admirably so—yet if the responsible authorities still think these Regulations ought to be continued for some time my view is that we ought to continue them. Surely it can be no implied insult to any law-abiding man that these Regulations shall be continued. I am afraid that so long as the miners are led or misled by persons whose avowed object is to destroy the industry, then I think these Regulations will have to be continued. Hon. Members opposite are constantly hurling insults at the Home Secretary, but that is not the way to obtain peace. It seems to me that when the Home Secretary is conciliatory hon. Members opposite say, "That is no good, we do not want your gesture." If the Home Secretary was not conciliatory in these matters I quail to think what sort of language would he used about him. Therefore, I think we should have done much better if we had applied our minds to the real point, viz., whether these Regulations are necessary, and whether it would have been possible to achieve the same object under the ordinary law. My opinion is that our object could not have been attained under the ordinary law, and, therefore, I think the Government are quite right in continuing for a short time these Regulations.
§ Mr. J. HUDSON
The hon. Member who has just sat down has stated that the object for which these special Regulations have been drawn up could not have been attained by the ordinary law. I think he ought to have given us some reason for that statement.
§ Mr. HUDSON
The hon. Member has not adduced any argument in support of the opinion he expressed on this point. I regret that pleas made in the early part of this Debate for a more conciliatory attitude on the part of the Government have fallen entirely upon deaf ears. I admit at once that hon. Mem- 796 bers who were present during the early part of the Debate did show that they accepted the reasonableness of the position taken up by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), but the misfortune is that very few Conservative Members attend these Debates, and the large mass of those Members take up the attitude that was so well exhibited at a later period by the Noble Lord who is responsible for the Indian Department. It is because the attitude of those Conservative Members is known to the Home Secretary that we know that although we may make pleas for peace and conciliation nothing will avail, and in the long run the coalowners will reap their will against the defenceless miners. I feel, as a Labour Member, that the only service I can do for the stricken miners and their wives and children to-day is not to make pleas for peace to the Government, but do all I car to encourage and harden what solidarity may be left in the miners who have beer so badly treated. It is that which compels me to get up at this late hour in the Debate and protest against keeping on Regulations which manifestly by all that has happened during their administration have been brought in purely for the sake of backing up one side in this dispute.
I do not desire to discuss the details of the Regulations point by point, but I draw the attention of the House to a fact that was brought to my notice recently by one of my constituents who is an ardent supporter of the party opposite, who blames me for my support of the working-class movement in the general strike, and who did all he could to organise the blacklegs in that strike. He is an important coal dealer, and he came to me with the complaint that coal on the railways that ought to have been delivered to coal dealers had been confiscated by the railway companies for their purposes. He wanted me to find out how it was, but I did not need to come here to ask any questions. I learned from the railway depots what had actually taken place. The great oil interests of this land, in their efforts to extort long-term contracts from the railway companies for the delivery of oil, had put the railway companies into difficulties, and those companies had laid hands on private coal.
797 I want to know, if these Emergency Regulations mean anything, especially where they refer -to the necessity of guaranteeing forage, fuel, material, or stores for the general community, why the Government do not lay hands on those powerful oil interests. I want to suggest that wherever Capitalism has been entrenched, whether in the matter of oil, coal, land, or whatever form it may have taken, their interests always have been tenderly considered, and it has been only against the miners tha these Regulations have been applied. To bring these Regulations up again now at a time when all of us pretend to admit that peace is most needed is nothing less than a declaration of war, and war is bound to be the result. I go a step further and say that the bringing in of these Regulations is drawing away the Forces of the Crown from the legitimate work with which they ought to be concerned. I observe that the other day there was a speech made by one of our Judges during the preliminaries at one of the Yorkshire Assizes, in which he complained of the 798 tremendous increase of crime during the last 10 months. He gave as a reason for that large increase this fact, that the Forces of the Crown had been drawn off for other purposes, and that petty larceny and other crimes with which the police had been set up to deal was not being watched.
§ It being Four of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next (29th November).
§ The remaining Government Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the Rouse, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at One Minute after Four o'Clock until Monday next (29th November).