§ Mr. OLIVER STANLEY
(in Court dress): I beg to move:That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.There is, I believe, an instrument known to science, an invention which has as its object the conversion of sound into colour. The possibility of introducing such an instrument into this House opens up a fascinating vista of speculation. There might be black spots and purple patches, and the speeches of some hon. Members might be almost colourless, while others might be pink of varying shades. But there is no doubt that the colour of a model speech made by an hon. Member entrusted with the task with which I am entrusted to-day would be grey—dull, monotonous grey, unbroken and unrelieved by any brighter hue—for it is a tradition that although this speech is made by a supporter of the Government and, therefore, by one who is presumably an enthusiastic supporter of his Government's legislative programme, yet inward enthusiasm has to be so tempered with outward moderation that the feelings of hon Members opposite are not exacerbated by controversy or wounded by aggression. I shall endeavour to keep that tradition, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will believe that if at any time I should stray over the borderline of the non-controversial, it will be due entirely to lack of skill and not to any lack of goodwill.
It is never a very easy task, but perhaps it is a task which to-day is more difficult than usual, because among the other important proposals for legislation which occur in the Gracious Speech is the proposal for the definition and amendment of the law regarding industrial disputes, which I can hardly hope will be considered by hon. Members opposite as being entirely of a non-controversial character. That legislation which has been foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech does not, in fact, 12 threaten any of the vital aims of trade unions. Trade unions have an essential part to play in the modern industrialised state and the possibility of collective bargaining is just as valuable to-day for the employer as it is for the men. There is no body of responsible opinion in this country which would countenance for a moment any attempt to destroy trade unions, to do away with the possibility of collective bargaining or to deprive the worker of the right to withdraw his labour and to make that withdrawal effective. But hon. Members opposite have another safeguard. If there are abuses, if reform be necessary, then that reform, in order to be really effective, must come from within and must be demanded and supported, if not openly, at least at heart by the great men of the trade union movement.
There are few laws the object of which cannot be defeated even though the letter is rigidly adhered to, and that is almost inevitably the fate of any Act which does not command public sympathy and support. The object of this legislation must be to support and assist a movement for self-reform, if reform be necessary, and it can only be successful in that object if it is recognised to be fair and unbiased, even though it is, in the opinion of hon. Members opposite, unnecessary. If, in fact, it is inspired by party feeling; if in fact, it can be interpreted as an attack on the essentials of trade unionism, then, by the bitterness and resentment which it would evoke and would continue to excite long after the Parliamentary battle was over, it would defeat its own object and would end only by strengthening the very things it set out to destroy. But is there not, in fact any common ground between us? Take, for instance, the question of the political strike. I assure hon. Members opposite that I do not put forward, as an example, the dispute of last May, because I know there are hon. Members who do not regard that dispute as having been political in character and it would be highly improper for me, here and now, to argue as to the correctness of their views. But whatever may be right or wrong as to what happened last May, it is clear that circumstances may arise which will admit of no argument, circumstances where the political character and political objects of a dispute are too clear to be discussed, 13 and yet, even in those circumstances, the Government would be as hampered in its action as it was last May. Can it be seriously argued by anyone who attaches any importance to Parliamentary government, as do hon. Members on both sides of the House, that in a case like that the attackers of the Parliamentary system should not only enjoy the privileges which we all enjoy under the Common Law of the land, but should enjoy, in addition, special privileges and special opportunities granted to them by that very House whose authority they are engaged in attacking?
Take the question of peaceful picketing. Hon. Members opposite are convinced and sincere opponents of force at home or abroad, whether it is clothed in a black shirt or a red coat. They must recognise that organised force in this country, even if by some loophole in the law it is strictly legal, will sooner or later be met by organised force on the other side and in the clash of the two forces democracy must eventually disappear. There is not an hon. Member opposite who would stand up in this place and say that force was either desirable or a possible way of settling the right or the wrong of any industrial claim. There were, during the dispute of last year, stories current—whether true or not I do not know—of violence and intimidation, of mass picketing and of threats to homes. It does not matter whether those stories are true or not: there always remains the possibility. It does not matter that hon. Members opposite would be the first, if these stories were true, to discourage such actions. The time may come when the counsellors will be less sage and when the advice will be less wise. All we have to do to-day is to consider whether the law as it stands is strong enough and wide enough to ensure the peace which we all desire and afford the protection which every member of the community has a right to expect from the State. Then the desirability of other reforms more intimately connected with the internal management of the unions has been widely canvassed, but there I should be on even thinner ice than I have been on up to now and I do not intend to take the risk. Finally, may I say that we on this side of the House approach this legislation in no light-hearted spirit. We recognise its dangers and its difficul- 14 ties, but we are prepared to meet them because we believe it to be right, we believe it to be essential and we believe it to be desirable.
The Gracious Speech contains other important proposals for legislation but to one who, like miyself, represents an agricultural constituency, no passage is more welcome than that which holds forth the hope of further legislative aid for agriculture. On the fells and in the valleys of Westmorland the farmer's is no easy life. He has to be up early and late and out in all weathers—and in that part of the world we have a good many—and at the end of it all he has a wholly inadequate and incommensurate reward. Yet these people who are so striving and striving unsuccessfully are among the finest—and it is only my respect for greyness which induces me to put in the word "among"—in the whole country We all agree upon the problem; few of us agree upon the solution. At least, I believe that to be the experience of all parties. On this we are quite agreed, that we are all prepared to welcome, without any thought of party politics, any measure which we believe will really tend to alleviate the hard lot of the agricultural community to-day.
There is in the Gracious Speech a reference to legislation for the amendment of the Unemployment Insurance scheme. That reference, presumably, marks the completion of its labours by the Blanes-burgh Committee. We have seen in the Press reports—whether they be true or not I know not—that the decision, the report and the recommendations are unanimous. If those reports be true, and if, in fact, people of such divergent political opinions have been able to find common ground of agreement, then we can sincerely hone that this marks the commencement of the task of taking unemployment insurance wholly out of the realm of party politics. With the other important proposals in the Gracious Speech, with the proposals for leasehold reform for the amending of the Companies Acts or the encouragement, under the beneficient &gis of the President of the Board of Trade, of British Fairbanks and home-grown Pickfords, I will not deal. Nor will I trespass upon the field of foreign politics now, alas, so deeply shadowed by an ominous cloud, partly because the House is waiting anxiousl 15 for more important speeches, and partly because my hon. and gallant Friend and I, following the precedent of the meal time arrangements of a couple well known to us in childhood have agreed upon a certain division of labour.
May I, for the two minutes which are left to me, dwell upon that passage in the Gracious Speech which holds out prospects of trade revival and expresses the hope that that revival will not be hampered by industrial strife. It is a prospect which we must all welcome. It is a hope which we must all share, but even though we may recognise the signs, even though we may share the hope we have to admit that wherever we read, whether it be in trade returns, revenue returns or unemployment returns, all force us, however little we like it, to look back upon the events of last year. It is a spectacle no one can contemplate with pleasure or with pride. When we look at it none of us can fail to ask whether there is not some lesson to be learned from it which may enable us to prevent a recurrence. Have we, perhaps, been too rigid in our views? Has there been too little give and take? There are some who look back to the green fields of unrestricted competition. Others look forward to a land flowing—perhaps a little monotonously—with controlled milk and Government honey. Both are chimeras. We have drawn a little picture of a trench system, neat and regular, with support and reserve Tines equally spaced, and a "no man's land" fringed with impenetrable barbed wire and on one side we have stuck up a little label "Individualism," and on the other side we have stuck up a little label "Socialism." But the real world, the world of business, economics and industry, knows no such rigid distinctions and no such clear-cut definitions. The true picture is quite otherwise. Here the trenches are far apart: there they are close together. Here the entanglements are impassable; there the way is open. The difficulties before us are formidable enough. Need we add to them by our own acts? Differences must always remain. There are differences between us of outlook, of philosophy, even of object, but must we add prejudices to them? Can we not sink our prejudices? There are some who cannot. Some are born with them, live 16 with and on them and die clinging to them. Others will not, because they find prejudice a comfortable shield against disturbing arguments, but enough remain who can and who will, and it is only so that we can hope in the years to come to restore alike our national prosperity and our national pride.
§ Major MacANDREW
(in the uniform of the Ayrshire Yeomanry): The honour has fallen to me of seconding the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I can only think that it is with the intention of doing honour to the country to which I belong, and the constituency which I represent, that this honourable duty has been put into my hands, and I would ask the House to extend to me its indulgence, as it always does so willingly to those who occupy the position in which I now stand. My hon. and gallant Friend has referred to the domestic matters in the Gracious Speech I would speak briefly about foreign affairs. The Gracious Speech alludes to the entry of Germany into the League of Nations, and her appointment to a permanent seat on the Council of the League. That marks another step forward in the fortunes of the League, and the entry of Germany adds authority and prestige to the League, and, I think, must finish once and for all the rather foolish talk about the League being a League of Victors. Undoubtedly the League had a very severe shake last March, but the speed with which it overcame this trouble shows, I think, its great vitality. More than once in the course of its rather short existence it has been rather severely strained, but each time it seems to have overcome the strain after a month or so and to have become stronger in the last instance than in the first. It is only by increasing strength that the League can hope to do the difficult and dangerous tasks which are sure to be put before it in times to come.
The Gracious Speech referred to our difficulties in the Far East and the grave and complex position in China. Since that great country became a Republic, it has always lacked a strong central Government. To-day we have it divided by civil war and under two Governments. That, of course, is the great obstacle which faces His Majesty's or any other Government in trying to negotiate with that country to-day. The Government of Pekin is now no longer considered the 17 authoritative Chinese Government, because the Government of Canton now exercises its influence over a third of China, both as regards population and area. We see it suggested by some that we should conduct our negotiations with the Cantonese Government, as representing all of but I do not think that that could be fairly done; it would not be logical, as that Government does not represent the whole of China. On the other hand, any suggestion that we should negotiate with one of the Governments means that we would be negotiating only with a part of China, and in that way would be setting the seal of British authority on a division of China. It seems to me the only sane and fair step which we could take would be to adopt a line of strict neutrality between these two Governments. How China is to be ruled internally is a matter for the Chinese, and not a matter for us to meddle with at all; but the Chinese must realise that, from their own point of view, the sooner they establish a good central Government the better will it be not only for their own prosperity but for the prosperity of the whole world, in the matter of the trade done with them. Last year, in spite of the Civil War, China bought from us over £13,000,000 worth of cotton goods, and with improved times the improvement on that figure would be out of all reckoning.
But although we have no interest at all in the internal affairs of China, we have a very grave interest in the welfare of our citizens living in the country and trading there under certain Treaties. There is no question at all that the Treaties are out-of-date and obsolete; there can be no controversy upon that at all. I think, too, that a good deal of the anti-British feeling in China is probably due to the fact that these Treaties, which now are out-of-date, were originally drawn up by us—that causes a certain amount of ill-feeling. But I would say this, that through three-quarters of a century these Treaties have been of great advantage to China and to ourselves, and to other countries as well, in trading with her. This problem of China has been before successive Governments, and apparently all have put it off in the hope that a strong central Government would arise with which it would be possible to negotiate. What 18 has happened now? The urgency of the problem has been so great that our Government are attempting the very difficult task of negotiating at the same time with the two contending forces.
While these negotiations are going on to what we all hope will be a very satisfactory conclusion, we must not forget the position of our own people who are living and trading in China. If we look hack to a few weeks ago, we see events which show that they are not in that safety in which one would desire them to be. With that fact in mind, the Government have sent to Shanghai a Defence Force. Shanghai might probably be the storm centre of war between the two contending Chinese Governments. There is a large foreign population in Shanghai, numbering 30,000, of whom a considerable proportion are British, and it would be quite impossible to evacuate a large port like Shanghai in the speedy way that was done in a place like Hankow. Shanghai is a large port doing really about half the British trade with China. As I said a moment ago, a Defence Force has been sent, and one sees a certain amount of criticism by some who regard it as an act of aggression, a step towards an aggressive war in China. I do not think there is any reason for that view. In the first place the composition of the Force shows that it is not intended for that purpose; and if that were not enough guarantee, I cannot imagine anyone who has given any consideration to the matter thinking that a force of 20,000 would be any use at all to force an aggressive war in a place like China, with its 400,000,000 population.
§ Major MacANDREW
Another argument one sometimes hears is that there is a. certain amount of provocation in our having sent the Defence Force now. I would ask, what is the alternative to sending it now? The only alternative would be to wait and send it when its presence in China was urgently required. It takes a month to get to China. What would be the good of sending it then, when British lives were in danger? I hope sincerely that the Defence Force will return to this country without firing a shot, but I can imagine nothing that would bring any Government more into 19 disrepute than the loss of British lives through negligence or carelessness in taking the necessary precaution of sending a force to China or anywhere else. One has read with great pleasure speeches in the country by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite commending the Government for what they have done. [An HON. MEMBER "That is not true."] Whether that is or is not true, the speeches have been made. All these speeches have not been made by those who come from the north of the Tweed, they nevertheless all show the spirit of Robert Burns who wrote:Be Britain still to Britain true,Amang ourselves united.I thank the House for the indulgence with which they have listened to me.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
It has fallen to my lot for a few years now to congratulate the Mover and the Seconder of the Address in reply to His Majesty's Speech. I must say that I have been most fortunate in my experiences, and that I have never been more fortunate than I find myself this afternoon. We have had two very pleasant contributions, both delivered, if I may say so, with very dignified restraint and in a smooth and most acceptable diction. As I was listening to the two speeches, I wondered whether, as a matter of fact, the House of Commons would not be very much improved if we could extend the restraint of debate. I am somewhat afraid that those thoughts, most appropriate in the beginning of a Session, would very soon deteriorate while the Session were going on. The hon. Member who moved the Address indulged in a very pleasant excursion into the question of the colour of speeches, and came to the conclusion that his own speech this afternoon would be grey. I make another suggestion to him: that in the circumstances of the speech, and in relation to the King's Speech which he was commending to us, he might consider the question of blue. I have never known a King's Speech that gave the Mover and the Seconder of the Address in reply less material to work upon. What does the speech amount to? It is perfectly true that in the first paragraph we have a statement regarding international peace and the admission of Germany into the League of Nations, which all sides of the House will accept 20 with great pleasure. That Germany has been admitted into the League of Nations is the fruit of years of patient sowing and of watering, and the whole of the House will hope that it will add to the stability and the security of Europe and to the authority of the League of Nations itself.
But has any Speech ever intimated more plainly than this one that His Majesty's advisers have nothing to advise His Majesty about? Take agriculture. The hon. Member who moved the Address indulged in very pleasant-professions of faith. He gave us a very pretty picture of the woes of agriculturists. But what are the Government going to do? Bills in connection with agriculture will be laid before the House. What Bills? Upon what subjects? [HON. MEMBERS: "Agriculture."] There is a Government —[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"]—there is a Government that has been in charge of agriculture, according to its own friends, specially in charge of agriculture for generations, and it has specially appealed to the rural districts. As a matter of fact the Government were returned to power mainly by rural votes. The present Government is now entering upon its third Session of Parliament, and all it can tell us is that it is considering Bills relating to agriculture. Whether this means that the Government intend to supply some of the needs of the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) or whether it is intended to deal with tenure and land settlement or redeem the pledge which the Prime Minister gave some two or three years ago when he wanted the votes of the farmers and he promised to give them £1 per acre as a every for every arable acre they possessed, we do not know. All it means is that the Government has not made up its mind what agricultural Bills it is going to introduce, and they simply put this paragraph in the King's Speech in order to allay the agricultural apprehension that is growing so much in the country.
What we do gather from the King's Speech is that the Government finds itself in very great difficulties in making up its mind what its programme is going to be. There are divisions in the Cabinet; pledges have been given from time to time about this year's programme and the Cabinet cannot make up its mind to fulfil those pledges. Therefore, they have 21 been omitted. There is no question now of Poor Law reform, and there is no question of a Factory Bill. There is no question of fulfilling pledges given with regard to the extension of the franchise to women. With regard to the Factory Bill, everybody knows it is necessary now and it is time the factory laws were codified. Everybody knows that after a national agreement has been arrived at it ought to be implemented by legislation, and since the last factory legislation was passed we all know that we have had an industrial experience which ought to be embodied in the law. Last year the Home Secretary, speaking in the presence of the Prime Minister in this House on the, 26th March, 1926, made a perfectly definite pledge on this question, and he said:I am, therefore, authorised by the Prime Minister and the Government to say that I will introduce the Factories Bill during this current Session of Parliament for the purposes of consideration and discussion, and that then I will re-introduce the Bill with any amendments that appeal to my colleagues in the Government and myself as the result of such consideration and discussion at the earliest possible moment, in the Session of 1927.We sometimes quarrel as to what is a pledge, but there can be no possible quarrel about that. The Home Secretary went on to say, because he wanted to be more emphatic:That Bill will he one of the principal Government Measures of next year and we will do our utmost, and ask the House to pass it into law. That is a categorical statement which I have keen authorised to make in regard to this matter. "—[OFFICTAL REPORT, 26th March, 1926; col. 1568, Vol.I have searched the King's Speech and it is not there, unless it happens to be embodied in the final paragraph where it says that:Other important Measures, as the time of the Session permits will h introduced to your notice.That seems to me to be a very nice drawing up of a form of words which cleans that if the Government can make up its mind and if it can settle its differences it will produce certain important Measures. Then there is the question of the franchise. Has the Government forgotten its pledges about that? Has the Home Secretary forgotten his pledges? Speaking on 20th February, 1925, the Home Secretary said:I will answer the hon. Member at once. I said that we were so busy this Session 22 that we could not set up the conference this Session. We can set up the conference in 1926. It will take a few months to go into the questions which hon. Members desire to be included in the terms of reference, and bring in a Bill in the following year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1925; col. 1515, Vol. 180.]This is the following year, but in spite of all those pledges we have again got a King's Speech, and there is not a single word about a committee or a Bill in order to remove the admitted blot upon the position which women occupy in our legislation. There is a pious reference in the King's Speech to industrial peace. I join with the Government most heartily in the prayer that is contained in that paragraph, but I would like to ask, is the Government doing the right thing to make that prayer likely to be realised? The Government knows perfectly well that there are industrial conditions in this country to-day which forbid inch's— trial peace. The Government know perfectly well that the terms of settlement, the varied terms of settlement, of the coal dispute have been so applied by the coal owners that there is nothing but ill-will being engendered by them. [HON. ATEMBER S "No!"]
The Government know perfectly well that victimisation is a common experience, and they know that there are hundreds of men out of employment in the coal fields to-day not because their labour is not required because it is required, and could be employed profitably, but these men are out of employment because they are being punished by the owners for their trade union activities. I and my colleagues were only too anxious 10 promote industrial peace, and far more anxious than many hon. Members opposite. I challenge hon. Members opposite to apply their pius expressions about industrial peace and to help us to create industrial conditions under which alone that peace can be secured. We do not require to go outside this House or away from the Government to see what is being done in order to promote industrial peace. Surely if there is any question, however necessary it may be to consider it, that ought to be allowed to rest for the moment in regard to a difficulty in which time may be a healing agent, it is the question of the present position of trade union law. There is nobody, certainly no Member of the Gov- 23 ernment, can be under any delusion whatever that if the Government insist upon raising a controversy about trade union legislation now, that is not going to make for industrial peace, and if the Government are wise they will leave that matter alone.
The Government talks about its impartiality. We appreciate very much both the frame of mind and the words in which that frame of mind was expressed by the Mover of the Address, but when the Government talks about impartiality I would like to ask, has the Government ever consulted a single trade union authority before making up its mind to touch this question of trade union law? We know the Government have consulted employers. Surely if they are aware of the very delicate nature of this problem they would never for a moment make up their mind to bring down to this House even a Bill that is fair without taking the preliminary precaution to consult those who would be most affected by it if the Bill were passed into law. The Government to-day have neither the political nor the moral authority to touch trade union legislation. The Government cannot face any ordinary by-election in this country now because its majorities are disappearing and its votes are going down by thousands. The Government has been discovered in the country and there is nothing this Government can stand less than discovery by the electors of this country.
The Government can count upon its majorities in the Division lobby, hut adipose tissue does not indicate health or vitality. Of course we know that during this Session, and during the lifetime of this Parliament they can outvote us. We know that, but any democratic government with a Parliamentary majority, when controlled by wisdom, is always estimated in regard to its authority by what it represents outside, and if when a Division is taken on the trade union legislation of the Government, instead of individual Members being counted as one in this House they were counted by the number of voters they represent, the Government would never carry trade union legislation because they would be out-voted every time. If the Government have no political autho- 24 rity they have still less moral authority. I think this is just a little bit too much of quick-change artistry for a Government, which less than a year ago was a sub-committee of the coalowners, to come up this year and pretend to be a subcommittee of the trade unions of this country.
The fact of the matter is that the legislation they propose regarding trade unions is only a supplement to the Eight Hours Act for miners which they carried in relation to the coal trade last year, and if the hen. Mover of the Address did not require to make the apology that he did lest he should exceed the limits imposed by the traditions of this House upon one occupying his position, his prophecy was perfectly true and right that this Bill will be regarded by every Labour organisation as a political move for the purpose of advancing political interests, and will he treated as such by us through every stage of its progress.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
Domestic questions will be dealt with stage by stage and Bill by Bill as they come up. But I should like to have a word on China, which presents to us all a problem of the very gravest concern. As I see it there are two schools of thought. There is a school, which I might call the Foreign Office school, and there is another school. I know perfectly well, as I have explained again and again, that the actions of both receive the support at any rate of a majority of the Cabinet. The Foreign Office school, as I call it for convenience sake, was responsible for two most excellent pronouncements, the pronouncement of Christmas and the pronouncement which appeared on the 22nd January. The Foreign Office school, as I read it and interpret it, means this, that this country sees quite clearly that the old China is dead, that old treaties no longer can operate, and that old privileges that we enjoy have to be given up; and, further, that China has now become awake and that the nationalist movement in China has become so active and so powerful that we must candidly and frankly recognise that China must have all the powers of an independent and 25 self-governing nation. That is what I understand is recognised by those manifestoes.
Then there comes to the other school, the school which, whilst negotiations are going on, feels that they are not enough, the school that feels, as was very admirably expressed by the Seconder, that somehow or other there is still the problem of security. We have got our people out there, and we cannot leave them. [An HON. MEMBER: "You would like to!"] Please do not talk nonsense. We have got our people out there, and we cannot leave them. There is no suggestion that enters into our hearts or minds to leave them, but the problem of security has really got to be considered in all its bearings. There is a school that has come to the conclusion that the way to effect security is by sending a force of 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 or 100,000 men out there. The problem is one which we hold in common, but the conclusion is open to much graver consideration than I think the Seconder of the reply to the Address has really given to it. What is the position? The very first thing we have to consider is this: When we send out a military defence force—I do not care what name you give it: I have never called it an expeditionary force—let me put it in language which I think is even more in accordance with the thoughts of hon. Members opposite than the expression "a defence force"—when we send out soldiers to act as policemen—I think that is a fair statement, and I want to make my statements fair—we have created a new situation. It may be that that situation does increase the security of our people out there, but it may be that it does not, and all that my hon. Friends who act with me have done is to doubt whether, as a matter of fact, you have increased the risk or, on the other hand, the security of our people at Shanghai.
What are the considerations I will venture to offer only one or two of them. First of all we must know this. The moment we sent out soldiers even as policemen those soldiers in China are regarded as soldiers, more particularly when your Press indulge in the advertisements that they unfortunately have indulged in with regard to this expedition. I know perfectly well that no Government department can control the 26 Press, and I make no suggestion that they should; but I do think that the Press ought to control themselves. That is our first point, that this ought to haves been foreseen. There is no man who sits on that bench and no man who sits on this bench but would have known, while he was still considering how far this was a defence of our people in Shanghai, that our Press would have run away. That ought to he put down as one of the elements in the consideration, as one of the entries in the ledger which ultimately we ought to balance in order to find out on which side the balance was. The very first thing therefore to consider is not what we intend but what the reaction is going to be upon the other side, and I say that reaction was bound to be bad and could not be anything else but bad.
One of the most significant things is—and if we are really approaching this matter quite impartially the significance of this must loom very large—that the first protest that came in was not from Cantors, the first protest against the use-of troops which came in was from Pekin, the people with whom we have been more or less co-operating. I think there has been a good deal of nonsense talked about how much we have been co-operating. I think it has been altogether exaggerated. I do not think that we have been co-operating so much as many people imagine. But the people, the-section, the side with whom we have been supposed to he most friendly, was the side which first of all said, "We object to British troops being sent on to Chinese soil." The first effect, therefore, of this expeditionary force as soon as it left our shores, in fact before it had fully left our shores, was to unite Pekin and Canton against us. That is a very serious result.
There is another point. As soon as we decided to use this force, we widened the front of our difficulties. If I might use an illustration which probably will not be acceptable to either side, it was like the general strike. Instead of concentrating forces upon one point, as a matter of fact it extended the line of attack. It brought new problems under consideration, and it gave our diplomatists more trouble in carrying out their work effectively than was the case before this step was taken. It was a step, moreover, which brought general military operations on to the shadowy background 27 of the stage. We must remember this. If those troops are landed in Shanghai or anywhere else where there is trouble, what guarantee have we that the operations of those troops are going to be confined to police work? Hon. Members who have been in the Army and who have been involved in this sort of work know perfectly well that when a soldier becomes a policeman, especially in a foreign country, the dangers of the soldier transferring himself from being a policeman to being a real soldier are so great that he does not care to take the risk. Can this House imagine 20,000 men in Shanghai doing the work that they are intended to do, namely, facing a mob? Where can the line be drawn between police work and soldiers' work. As soon as the operations begin, it is not the intention of Ministers here that control; the evolution of events itself controls the work that the soldiers are going to do One morning we rise with our soldiers acting as policemen, and that night we go to bed with our soldiers acting as soldiers. A police operation has become a warlike operation. No one can prevent it, and that is the result of employing military under those circumstances.
It has been done, however, to increase, as we say, or to decrease the risk of British people in Shanghai. Again, let us be realistic in our consideration of the question. If the Chinese Government, either at Pekin or Canton, were deliberately to adopt the policy of using violence to turn us out of China, well, the reaction in this country would he so great that nobody would care to contemplate what the result would be Therefore, surely what we all must strive for is to diminish the chances of violence in China, to diminish the chances of a repetition of Hankow. That is our problem. The reason why there was any risk in Hankow was not that we had few troops there, but that we had no negotiations going on beforehand. If we had had negotiations going on before Hankow started—I mean negotiations in full blast—with our representatives fully armed with instructions and declarations as to our position with regard to China, like the O'Malley instructions—then it is impossible to see how the Hankow situation would have developed as it did. Therefore, what we have to try and point 28 out is this. Remember that the only way to diminish the risks under which our subjects in Shanghai have to live is to go on with the negotiations, and to get such arrangements under consideration as will make the outbreak of violence absolutely impossible. That was possible, but no steps, so far as I know, were taken to do it. What we have there to ask I is this: Was Mr. Chen ever approached with the idea of getting a security from him regarding the situation in Shanghai? Has it ever been suggested to him by us that, say, a neutral zone should be drawn round about the town? Has it ever been suggested to him by us that he might himself guarantee that nothing untoward would happen in Shanghai that would create the necessity and make active the risk that we want to cover by the sending of troops into that country At the present moment, of course, Mr. Chen is not in possession of Shanghai, hut the General in possession certainly would offer no objections whatever to such a suggestion as that which I have made. As a matter of fact, this expeditionary force, instead of diminishing the risks—this defence force—
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I correct it. I did not use the expression in the technical meaning of an expeditionary force; I simply meant this expedition. It is sometimes very difficult always to remember that words are used in double meanings. If I have used the expression "expeditionary force," I did not mean an expeditionary force in the sense of the expeditionary force at the beginning of the War in 1914. I did not mean that, and I never have. But, so far from this defence force, this expedition, having diminished the risks to our people in Shanghai, we are profoundly convinced that it has increased the risks, and that is the reason why we are opposed to it. I deprecate most strongly the use of war talk by either side. It is just ass mischievous when it is used on one side as when it is used on the other. At the same time, I do 29 warn the Government that by sending those troops they are playing with fire. The myth of security by a military expedition has been proved again and again only to land us into great difficulties. There has never been a case where a policy like this has effected the purpose for which it was instituted. Again and again it has been shown that the beginning of this kind of policy, with apparently the most simple justification, has led to the political authority losing the initiative and military events compelling the political authority to subordinate its policy to them. Therefore, while I deprecate references to war, it must not be overlooked that the danger of a war is brought very much nearer to us by the use of this defence force, by the sending of soldiers to Shanghai, than otherwise would be the case. [A laugh.] There is the fact. The problem which we now have to face, and a positive contribution to which I hope this House is going to make, is to do everything it possibly can to get negotiations reopened. I understand—if I am wrong I shall be corrected—that, apart from the general question of our position in China, on the question of Hankow alone after much negotiation, after statements that a satisfactory agreement had been come to, and then modifications made in that agreement to which both sides agreed modifications in the original draft—
§ Mr. MacDONALD
If the Foreign Secretary will wait, I think that, unless I have been misinformed, my mind is going in the right direction. I say this, that I believe that in the Hankow agreement we had first of all an agreement that had been accepted, then on further consideration—the Foreign Secretary's interjection was, "Not by us." No; that is not my information; it was not by us— but on further consideration changes were asked for. Those changes were accepted, and the form of agreement was re-drawn ready again for signature. The final form which was agreed to was supposed to be signed at a certain time, and then it was broken off. I do not believe, if I have got the whole of the facts of the case, that it is impossible for men of good will and men of decent consideration to 30 allow that state of things to drift and drift until Shanghai is threatened and we get into greater and wider difficulties with the Canton Government or any other Chinese Government. I believe, it is possible, by judicious handling, to get that Hankow agreement signed, and, if it is signed, what better security for our people in Shanghai can there be than that? That is the positive contribution that I make. Then something must be done on our side, and, if that is going to be done, we must give an assurance to the Canton Government that, if negotiations are reopened, if in a peaceful way the Shanghai difficulties can be removed from our line, then those troops will be taken back at once and will not be landed, either in Shanghai or anywhere else in China. The double responsibility must be faced, and it is the double responsibility that I am doing my best to impress upon this House. If Canton and ourselves are determined that a settlement shall be made in Chinese affairs, then, in the making of that settlement, there ought to be no need whatever left for a demonstration of armed force.
I would like to ask just one or two questions on the matter. I would like to know what communications we have had from other Powers regarding the security of their subjects, and' also regarding the landing of our troops in a concession which is not a British concession, in a concession which is an international concession—the landing of our troops upon territory upon which we have no right, under international law, to land them, so I am informed. I would like also to know whether any attempt has ever been made to get an agreement with the Canton Government regarding the security of our people in Shanghai—the question of a neutral zone, the question of influence should any untoward event happen, and so on. Further, have those troops been sent at the request of our representatives in China—the men who are responsible for the immediate negotiations—or have they been sent contrary to their wishes? Could we also know precisely what is the position to-day—exactly where we stand to-day?
Then I had better take the opportunity now of asking when those long-promised papers are going to be laid regarding the Wanh-sien—papers promised before the end of last Session; 31 and, moreover, I think it is time that this House had papers regarding affairs since Wanh-sien. I think the Foreign Secretary will agree that, the more information he can give at the present time, the better. In normal circumstances, when there is no malicious gossip going about, he may feel that he would prefer not to advertise the truth, but at the present moment one of the most mischievous things is this malicious gossip, this spreading of statements that are not true. [Interruption.] We know perfectly well that in China there are certain elements that do not desire a peaceful settlement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Certainly. I believe those elements have very little influence, but I know this, that, so long as our policy is in doubt, and so long as we do not make clear declarations which can be sent to China, then those evil influences will have a greater effect than they would have under normal conditions. Therefore, I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he could not let us have in a very generous way papers regarding the situation right up to the present moment. And, as the Prime Minister is going to follow me, I should like to ask him whether he could not make some statement to this effect, and with this intention in mind, that, if negotiations can be pursued, can be reopened, the troops will be diverted, on the ground that the reasons for sending the troops have been obliterated, because the circumstances are such that we can arrive at security in the way that alone security can be enforced.
There is one other point, that I should like to mention before I sit down, and it is this: Arising from this Chinese position there is the question of our relations with Russia. I think that everyone who has been following European and foreign affairs during the last few years has been very disturbed during the last week or two by remarks that those who wish to break off relations with Russia have had some accession to their strength. Nothing will complicate our foreign relations more than a breach with Russia, and I want to ask the Prime Minister whether he contemplates any change in Russian policy. I myself hope that there will be a change in Russian policy; I hope we shall get much closer to Russia than we have been. I hope we shall take 32 out of the control of financial cliques and certain newspapers in this country the question of our relations with Russia, and put them where they ought to be, namely, in the hands of our Foreign Office. I am certain no Foreign Secretary who considers the problem is going to be influenced by this kind of cock-eyed logic, that because there happens to be a Russian connected with the Canton Government we ought to break off relations with Russia. Is that going to help us? Is that going to compel Moscow to stop propaganda against us? Is that going to help our trade? Is t hat going to help us to get Russia to take its proper and responsible position as a nation in Europe playing the game with the other nations in Europe? Of course it is not. Nothing of the kind. But one thing that is absolutely certain is that if we break off our connection with Russia our position is going to be far more difficult than it has been hitherto, and we ought to get from the Government a very clear statement as to what their position is.
I join very heartily in the final prayer of the King's Speech. We are told in that Speech:I pray that your deliberations may, under the Divine blessing, result in the happiness and contentment of my people.I hope so, but I am perfectly certain it will only be by the Divine blessing. I am perfectly certain it will only be by Divine interposition. When we remember the records of the Government last Session, when we look at what is going to happen in this King's Speech, when the Mover of the Address, with true and keen political instinct, selected, as the first question in the very meagre Address and the very meagre programme, the legislation regarding trade unionism, I do not see very much prospect during this Session of what is described as the promotion of the happiness and contentment of the people of this country while this Government lasts. Still, I promise the Prime Minister and his colleagues that so far as those interferences with trade union liberties are concerned, every line of them will be fought and every stage of them will be fought, and if it not yet too late, if, whatever they may disagree upon, they have been able to agree to interfere with trade unions and to carry on their campaign of last Session against trade 33 unionism—if they have made up their minds to do that, we will do our very best, by defeating them and compelling them to withdraw their legislation, to promote the best interests of this nation, and particularly industrial peace.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
The first speches of the Session always begin in harmony, however much they may end in discord, and it is my pleasant duty to follow the right hon. Gentleman in paying a tribute to my hon. and gallant Friends the Members for Westmoreland (Major Stanley) and Kilmarnock (Major MacAndrew) for the way in which they have discharged that difficult and delicate duty of moving and seconding the Address. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we have indeed been fortunate in recent years, although it is always a source of wonder to me how the House manages to produce year after year Members who can discharge those functions with such ability and such competence. But I think I may say, without straining language, that we have seldom listened to two speeches so different one from the other and yet each so admirably adapted to the part it has to play. Kilmarnock, as my hon. and gallant Friend stated with some pride, holds a great record in this House, having had three or four Members representing that Division selected to move or second the Address within recent years. I am confident that she will be still further proud of what has been achieved to-day and the House will look forward in future years to the position which my two hon. Friends will undoubtedly make for themselves.
Now I have to examine briefly, as is customary to-day, the King's Speech and the observations which have been made upon it by the Leader of the Opposition. Of course, from my point of view it is an admirable thing that he should complain that he has never had lees material to work upon than he had in that speech. It is not my business to provide him with material to work upon. What he wanted was to find a mass of legislation which would help him to unite the scattered fragments of his own party, a kind of counterpane of unity to hide the straggling limbs of that ill-concealed couch. I think when the speech is examined the House will see that there is a great deal 34 of useful work that it may accomplish this summer. It has for a long time past been borne in upon me that by far the best way of dividing the Parliamentary year is to begin the new Session in the late Autumn. The Government tried this experiment once, but owing to various causes was only able to try it that once. We feel that it would be well worth the House trying it once more and seeing whether it cannot he made a success, and for that reason we have put into the speech such legislation as we think there is a reasonable prospect of carrying by 1st August, giving the House a substantial rest through the late summer and early autumn and beginning the new Session with important legislation, say, in the early part or the middle part of November as the case may be. I do not know how other Members who are regular attenders of the House feel. My duty brings me to this Chamber every day at some time or another, and I have felt very strongly during the last year, quite apart from recent strenuous events, that the House has been suffering from too long and too continuous work in this Chamber and there have been apparent—I will say this for all sections of the House because I am speaking now as Leader of the House—signs of fatigue in the machine, and I believe from the point of view of the efficacy of our work a less strenuous year is a matter of the very first importance.
I say this without in any way discussing legislation, for which this is hardly the occasion, that one Measure of which the House has heard a good deal, the question of Poor Law reform, is so large and comprehensive that it would have been impossible to take it this Session unless we had contemplated a long Autumn Session. It is a Measure which must be mixed up with very important and intricate questions of local finance. It is very important, in my view, that such questions should not come into the House until they have been examined from every point of view and some opportunity has been taken of discussing them with local authorities in the country and I hope it may be possible when the new Session starts in November to get ahead at that early period with this important piece of work so that it may have the time devoted to it and the attention of all parties which is desirable in framing a Measure of such great 35 importance. The same is true of the Factories Bill. I should like for many reasons to have dealt with it this summer, but I would ask the House to consider this point, which bears on the question of business to which I have alluded. For some years past there has been a tendency among all parties to attempt more legislation than the House can deal with. If you take the greater number of years, Easter falls at such a time that it is impossible to look with certainty to getting the Second Reading of any important Bill before Easter. After Easter there comes the Budget. The Budget may be a small Bill or a big Bill, but it is always important, and you may be in the month of June or, as has happened, even in July, before you can get to the Committee stage of a long and important Bill. That inevitably means summoning the House back after an inadequate holiday, which for most Members includes a period when they are in their constituencies working—I think the general public are very often apt to forget that—and the House has to meet early in October and work right up to Christmas. That is a bad thing for good work, and I am sure if it is possible, as I believe it is, to get the Second Reading of the big Bills in the Government programme this side of Christmas so that they can be got into Committee when the House reassembles in February, it should be possible for any Government and any House to see that all the effective legislation is passed by about the end of July or early August. Of course, we all know the temptation on every Department to bring Bills out of its pigeon holes which have been rejected year after year by Government after Government on the ground that there bas been no time, and it will require a good deal of firmness on the part of any Government that may be in power working under this new time table, to resist that pressure so as not to lose the benefit they hope to get for Parliament as a whole by the changes they have made.
The House will judge from what I have said, and will know from its own experience, that it is no easy matter to get any considerable volume of legislation through by the end of July for the reasons I have given, but I should like 36 to say a word or two about the Measures which have been alluded to in the King's Speech. By far the longest Bill with which the House will have to deal is the Bill on Unemployment Insurance. I would like to supplement what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Major Stanley) with regard to it. Let me remind the House, and many Members are familiar with this, that the system at present in operation is based on a series of Acts dating from 1920 to 1926. The system is, admittedly, of a temporary character, because it is provided in the Act of 1926 that the provisions in regard to payment of benefit cease to operate after December of this year. So, if there 15 no legislation, it would be necessary to include that Act in the Expiring Laws (Continuance) Bill, and in any case the matter would have to be dealt with within the next year or two, unless the House were satisfied, which I am convined it would not be, to allow this Act to be carried year after year under the Expiring Laws.
I think it is a matter of general agreement, not as to what should be done, that the scheme, which to a certain extent is of a patchwork nature, does require examination, and it was for the purpose of examining it that the Minister of Labour set up a Committee, presided over by a distinguished Judge, Lord Blanesburgh, to go into the matter. That Committee has now reported, and I hope the report will be published within the next few days. My hon. Friend quoted from some observations which had appeared in the Press to the effect that it was believed the Report was a unanimous one. I am glad to be able to tell the House that that information is correct; the Report is unanimous: it most satisfactory conclusion, and one reflecting immense credit on the Chairman and on all the members of that Committee, having regard to the complexity of the subject and the many difficult points which its investigation raised. From that, I would hope very much that the Bill may not be considered, as it would have been in other circumstances, a Bill primarily of a controversial nature, and that the House may join in trying to make it a really good Measure, and to get this question on a sound and satisfactory basis, on the lines of that Report, for a good many years to come. 37 In any case, that will be a Bill of many Clauses, and the matters which will arise in those Clauses will be of great interest to large numbers of Members of this House. The subject is one that is very familiar to them, and as such it is bound to be discussed at some length. I hope very much that, with the provision for business that we have made, it may be possible to give that Bill the examination that it deserves, and that the Act will be one that will reflect credit upon all parties in the House.
I do not think it is necessary at this point to say more about the Bill in connection with trade unions, because I understand that the Opposition desire to make that the subject of a separate discussion on one of the days allotted for discussion of the King's Speech. With that object in view, I have asked my right hen. Friend the Home Secretary not to give notice to-day of the introduction of the Bill, so that- there may be no technical objection to the discussion of that subject during the Debate on the Address. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made some very natural fun about the wording of the paragraph dealing with agriculture. It is quite obvious from that wording that the Bills in question would be small Bills. None the less, there are a great many small Bills, and we have passed a number of them, which are Bills of great value, and. I am not at all sure that small Bills of the nature that we have passed, and shall pass, are not a great deal more welcome in agricultural circles than Bills which deal with much larger subjects.
The right hon. Gentleman, when he had run through the King's Speech, spoke at some length on China. I do not propose to speak at any length at this moment on China, for the reason that that, again, will be the subject of a day's debate on the Address. I understand that Thursday has been provisionally fixed for that debate, and on that occasion my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will take the opportunity of intervening and speaking at some length. But there are one or two things which the House would expect to hear to-day, and there are one or two points, I think, which should be made without delay. I could not help being a little amused at the way in which the right hon. Gentleman tried to discover fissures in the concrete foundations of the Cabinet. It is common form 38 to talk about divisions in the Government. I pass that by. But on the question of our China policy, he was very interesting. He reminded me very much of some of those modern and acute critics of the Pentateuch who are always looking for the various strata which they describe as Jahvist and Elohist. In regard to our China policy, he discovered the strata of what he calls the Foreign Office or the War Office. I can assure him, if he will take it from me, but I am afraid he will not, that these are myths he is pursuing. We have only one policy that we are pursuing, and that is the policy of His Majesty's Government. The speech that was made at Birmingham by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary—a speech, incidentally, which I think commended itself to the country as a whole and to foreign nations as a whole—contained an admirable account of events as they had happened up to the date on which he spoke. Some things have happened since, but, again, I will not go into detail. I think it is far better that the details should be discussed on a day which is given up entirely to that particular subject.
I wondered when I was listening to the right lion. Gentleman who preceded me in this debate whether he would have made exactly that speech had the responsibility of action as the head of the Government rested upon him. It is so easy to criticise when you have not the responsibility. I can assure him that none of the points which he put have been absent from our minds. I think that responsibility males you give a rather different weight to the factors in the opposing scale than you would give in the absence of responsibility. Where you have lives in the scale it is very difficult perhaps to weigh calmly all the factors on the other side. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the danger when soldiers become policemen. Well, I wish it were possible to send the Metropolitan Police out to China. When policing has to be done in a foreign country on a large scale you have no instrument you can use, except soldiers or sailors, and T am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman would acknowledge that no police in the world could have shown the tact, the courage and the forebearance which was shown by our men at Hankow. One of the difficulties of the situation, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is that 39 there are elements at work that desire to push us into fighting and desire bloodshed.
China is not like this country; the mentality is very different. China is in a state of civil war. There have been events in the history of that country, unhappy events, which compel—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—authorities on the history of China will have their opportunity—anyone in the position of responsibility to envisage the grave possibilities that may occur. There are appearances in China, to-day which remind those of the greatest experience of what they saw shortly before the Boxer trouble. The danger is not only from the mob in Shanghai. If it were only the danger of the mob, it might he that such forces as have been accumulated there internationally, together with the local forces, would be sufficient; but there was the fearful possibility shown at Hankow that if bloodshed had begun you might have had Chinese troops fighting with the mob, and you might easily have had a massacre of white inhabitants. As was truly said by the Seconder of the Address, you can evacuate the small populations of foreigners in a place like Hankow, but in Shanghai you cannot, they are too many. Every foreign country is aware that evacuation is out of the question at Shanghai, and thus protection comes in.
I said a few minutes ago that China is in a state of civil war. That is what we have to remember when we suggest that complete security could be obtained by an assurance—assurances can be given perfectly bona fide, and intended to be bona fide—but until we are clear that the opportunity has passed by for the neighbourhood of Shanghai to be the fighting ground between the various national forces in China in their civil war, you cannot say that the danger to the European and Japanese nationals in Shanghai has passed. At Hankow, one of the difficulties has been, as everybody knows, that the Nationalist army have either lacked the will or the power, or both, to control their mobs. Much more might an organised force fail to control such forces as might be let loose in a city of the size and wealth of Shanghai if a combination of unhappy and evil 40 circumstances once let them loose. We have sent to the East, as the right hon. Gentleman frankly admitted, not an expeditionary force. If we had contemplated war with China it would have been a different and a larger force. We have sent a, force which we have been advised by our advisers would be necessary to defend our people in the international concession, if that combination should arise of a real struggle to capture the concession and to murder the inhabitants on the part of a mob, together with troops, whether they happened to be troops which had come into Shanghai from beaten armies or troops of a victorious army. Such force as we are sending to China has gone there for the purpose of the protection of life, and for nothing else. I think it right to read to the House the resolution to which we came yesterday in the Cabinet embodying in few words the policy of the Government:That the general policy of the Government should be based on the following considerations:Our troops were sent to the Far East to safeguard British life in China, and particularly at Shanghai. That was, and is, the only policy of His Majesty's Government. The question of the time at which, and the manner and numbers in which, the troops should he landed at Shanghai must obviously depend on the local situation and the advice we receive from our representatives on the spot. If they consider that the emergency requires immediate disembarkation at Shanghai we shall act accordingly. If not, the leading brigade will be held in readiness at Hong Kong while the rest of the force is approaching. There can, of course be no question of entering into any arrangement with Mr. Chen or anyone else in connection with the movement of troops which are despatched solely with the object of protecting British lives.With regard to the situation at Hankow, all I wish to say is this. Nothing has occurred from our point of view, although the Foreign Secretary will be able to speak an this at much greater length, to make us alter our determination to achieve our ends by negotiation. That is so. Mr. O'Malley at this moment is waiting a further communication from Mr. Chen which has been promised to he sent to him within a very short time. It may be that by Thursday the Government may be in a position to tell the House something more on that. That is the position at this moment.
41 With regard to the North, I wish to say just one word. It is a difficult task, as the two Leaders of the Opposition will recognise from their experience in government, in a situation like this to hold the scales so evenly between the conflicting parties, in a struggle with which we have nothing to do and which is exclusively Chinese, in such a way that neither party can accuse you at any time of helping the other. The South would like us to declare that they are the Government of China when they hold authority over but a fraction of China. It would be impossible for us to do that, as it would be impassible for us to help the North in the various directions which they would like.
No man can tell when we shall have a united China again, or what form that united China may take. Such events as are happening to-day are nothing new in the history of China. They are common to every period when a dynasty breaks down. Such periods are succeeded by years of anarchy. Most unfortunately for ourselves, having regard to the great trade interests we have in the East, we are living to-day in one of these periods of anarchy. It is our earnest desire, from motives of self interest if from no other, that that period shall be shortened as much as possible. We cannot help to shorten it by taking part in the struggle ourselves. We can, and we shall, do what we can to be ready for the day when there is a united Government in China by keeping on, as we have been, with making the most generous offers simultaneously to both parts of China, the North and the South, by being ready to discuss, as we have discussed and as we are discussing, with them what we can do to come together in the hope that when these unhappy internal struggles are ended we may again be able to enter on new friendly and propitious relations with that great country united, a country with which in the past we have had on the whole friendly relations, relations of service to both of us, and relations which must play, having regard to our position in Asia and the East, a great and growing part in the peace and prosperity of the whole of the Eastern hemisphere.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I do not rise in order to pursue the debate on the question of China because we shall have other opportunities of dealing with that 42 very important question in the near future. I rise to draw the attention of the House to another part of Asia, to one of our great Dominions which at the present moment is suffering from a very severe disability. I refer to the detention of large numbers of persons without trial in the province of Bengal. Before I come to that subject, I should like to call attention to an omission from the Gracious Speech from the Throne, it has already been alluded to by the Leader of the Opposition. It will be within the recollection of the House that a promise was given by the Prime Minister at the last General Election that there would be carried into law a Bill creating equality in franchise rights as between men and women during the lifetime of the present Parliament, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has already pointed out that a statement was subsequently made by the Home Secretary which pointed to the year 1927 as the year in which that promise would be fulfilled. If there is a General Election between October of this year and September of the year 1928, it is essential that any change in the franchise should be passed into law in time for the new voters to be put on the October register. That is common knowledge. But what is not equally realised is that if the General Election is a year later, then this Session of 1927 is the one in which any changes should be carried into law. If it is contemplated to enfranchise several millions of new voters it is not possible for those who have to compile the new register to do their work unless they have the new Act before them for several months before the register is made up. The register which comes into operation in October, 1928, is made up in the summer months of that year, therefore, in order that those who have this task to perform should do it adequately, it is essential that any changes in the franchise law should be made during the year 1927. If they are not made during this year, and if as a result it is not possible for the new voters to vote at the next General Election, the charge will justly lie at the head of the Government that they failed to carry out their pledge in time for it to be put into operation.
My object in rising this evening is to raise the question of the detention of prisoners without trial in Bengal. I have recently come from India. This question 43 cannot be divorced altogether from the question of the position in China. The fact is that the unrest in India and the unrest in China are all part of one great change that is coming over the world, a change in the mind of the Asiatic, when he is no longer content with the status of inferiority which has been his lot until recent times. The uprising which we are seeing now and which is having such tremendous effects in China, is part of the same movement which is taking place in India and which is causing our Indian fellow subjects to resent conditions imposed upon them to-day under the Constitution under which they live. My experience in India showed me that there are great signs of hopefulness in the situation. There is a considerable coming together of people on both sides of the colour line with regard to the major issues of the Constitution in India. But these hopeful signs are being frustrated and are unlikely to bear the good fruits which they ought to bear because of the continuance of this detention of persons in Bengal. There are from 200 to 300 of the best young men in Bengal being detained in prison, not for a few weeks or months but over a period that is- now running into several years, and detained without any trial and without any charge being preferred against them. They are kept there, and have been kept there, for this long period without having an opportunity of confronting their accusers or confuting any evidence which may be brought against them. During my visit I was very much impressed with the fact that this resentment was not confined to the more extreme parties in India. I was quite prepared for the Swarajists and the Communist party to take a very strong line on this question, but I found to my surprise that the resentment amongst the Liberal and moderate sections in India was quite as strong as it was amongst the more extreme people, and that men who were exceedingly moderate were convinced that many of the prisoners so detained were quite innocent of the charges which it was believed that the Government had against them. I feel that that is a very serious situation which ought to be dealt with at an early moment.
What is the case of the Government? The ease which the Government put for- 44 ward is this: They say, in the first place, that these men who ace in prison are not political offenders in the ordinary sense of the word, that they are not men who are merely engaged in sedition, that they are not men who are merely attacking the Government and urging vigorous action against the Government; they say that these people are potential murderers, that they are people who either themselves have actually take part in assassination or have been plotting and urging others to go to extreme lengths of violence; they say that it is because the prisoners wish to commit these murderous outrages, that they are kept in prison. I believe that practically every native politician in India is entirely opposed to and deplores anything like violence being carried out in India, and is perfectly willing, and very properly so, that everyone against whom a, legitimate charge of murder or conspiracy to murder, or conspiracy of that kind, can be proved, should be detained in prison, and, if necessary, that the extreme rigour of the law should be exercised against him; but what they are not willing to see, and what we in this House as upholders of British liberty ought not to be willing to see, is that men should be detained in prison against whom no charge is preferred and who have no opportunity of refuting charges which may be brought against them.
What is the case of the Government with regard to that? It is no good putting up a case of this kind unless one understands the reasons which impel the Government to take their action. The Government argue that they cannot bring forward their evidence because their witnesses will be tampered with, and because persons who are informers would lose their lives. I realise that that is a very serious position. But the grounds upon which the Government of India support that statement seem to me, after investigation quite inadequate at the present time. I think that the risks which the Government are taking in continuing to detain these people in prison is much greater than the risk of injury which is conceivable if the Government were to brine their men to trial, because by their conduct the Government are manufacturing persons who are violently disposed against the Government. Imagine what would be the case in this country if we 45 had here some foreign ruler, and if a large number of men who were known to he politically against the Government were arrested. If we believed in our hearts that those men were thoroughly innocent of the charges of which it was alleged they were guilty, and if we came to the conclusion that they were being kept in prison, and in many cases that their health was suffering in prison not for these alleged crimes but really crimes of their anti-Government attitude, we should be thoroughly indignant, and those members of the community who were least able to restrain their feelings would perhaps turn to violence and unconstitutional remedies. I say that, whatever risk there may be in letting these Indian prisoners free, or, as I would prefer, bringing them to trial, the risk of keeping them there indefinitely without trial is very much greater indeed.
After all, how long are the Government going to keep these men in prison? They may say that the original Bengal Ordinance was allowed to be promulgated during the time that a Labour Government was in office. On these Benches I am not bound to defend the action of the Labour Government in allowing these Ordinances to be promulgated at all. But this original Bengal Ordinance was for six months only. While there may be some justification, in a moment of great emergency, for arresting people and detaining them without trial for a period not exceeding six months, a totally different situation arises if you keep people in prison month after month until the months have run into years. It must be clear to every thinking person that the time must come some day when these men must be liberated. I suggest that that time has come already. Among those detained are distinguished men. One man was the chief executive officer of the Calcutta Corporation, a man in whose integrity all his friends had the utmost confidence. He has been in prison now for considerably over two years. I suggest that the time has come when, even if it were right to take this course in the first instance, the opportunity should be seized to bring these men to a speedy trial. I would urge not only that they be afforded a speedy trial, but that the whole process be now reversed by which 46 people without trial and without charges being preferred against them, can be clapped into gaol and kept there indefinitely at the wish of the auth I know that the Government think they have irrefutable evidence against these people. I would remind them, however, that there is such a thing as fabricated evidence, and when you are dealing with people who are admittedly informers there is always a risk, as the history of this country and Ireland has shown, that they will fabricate information because they think that that is what is wished by the authorities. That being so, I hold that much the greater risk is being incurred by the course that is being pursued, and I ask the Government to consider very carefully whether the time has not come to reverse their action in the matter.
§ Mr. GEOFFREY PETO
I noticed in the speech of the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald), as I have noticed in other speeches delivered throughout the country, a suggestion that the Conservative party and the Conservative Government are meditating an attack upon the trade unions. At this early stage of the Session I think it advisable that we should face the facts. The trade unions have been attacked, the trade unions have been disintegrated, and they are nearly ruined. But that has not been the work of the Government or of the Conservative party. It has been the work of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite and of the trade union leaders throughout the country. Consider the position as it was a year ago. There were then trade unions with large memberships, large reserve funds and great powers with which they could bring very great influence to bear on employers and even on the Government. Look at the position to-day. The trade unions have lost some £5,000,000, they have lost their prestige, and they have lost a great number of members, who have joined other and new unions under saner or freer leadership. In 1925 a Bill was brought in by a private Conservative Member to deal with the political levy, but at the request of the Prima Minister that Bill was abandoned in order to give trade unions a chance of setting their own house in order. Instead of doing that, the trade unions have burned their 47 house down. I hope we shall hear no more of the charge against us of wanting to attack trade unions, but that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will appear throughout this Session in sackcloth and ashes, and do their level hest in assisting us to restore trade unionism and put it on its feet again.
Trade unions have done very much useful work in the past, and they will do much more in future, but on sound industrial lines and not on the lines of political revolutionary agitation. To begin with, we want to see the trade unionist free. We want to see no more bullying, either by majorities, or, still less, by minorities, as has been threatened lately in the trade union movement. I hope that the Government will take very firm action in restoring the liberties of the trade unions. I notice that in the Gracious Speech allusion is made only to industrial disputes. I presume that this is an allusion to the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, which certainly needs revision. For one thing, I hope that such action will be taken as will make it impossible for us to have another general strike such as we had last year. I hope that the general strike will be made illegal, because it is an attack, not upon employers—it is not a question of dispute between employers and employed —but is an attack on the whole nation. Then I hope it will he made impossible for civil servants who have undertaken to serve the State to break their contracts without adequate notice, and that the same rule will apply to those in services of an essential nature, such as lighting, heating and sanitation. I also hope that something may be done with regard to trade union ballots. I do not think it is feasible to insist upon a secret ballot, but I do think that any tampering with a trade union ballot must be made a criminal offence.
There was a case not long ago in the Marine Workers Union where it was found that an official of the union had introduced into the ballot a number of papers filled in by himself and had destroyed other ballot papers which were filled up by members. That ought to be made a criminal offence. Then the law needs drastic revision with regard to peaceful picketing, which has grown into a terrible form of intimidation. No picketing of any kind should be allowed 48 near a man's home. I should like to see the benefit funds of the trade unions kept strictly separate from the other funds, and the other funds of the unions made liable for the misdeeds of trade union officials. In 1966 Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who was then Prime Minister, yielded to the extremists and passed a Measure which was entirely in opposition to the recommendations of the Royal Commission and to the advice of the Attorney-General. The result of that Measure has been very great tyranny in strikes such as we had last year. For example, Mr. Hall, the financial secretary to the Yorkshire Miners' Federation, said at Castleford on 30th August last year:I told the men in Notts and Derby—Dare to go back to work. If you do, 50,000 men from Normanton, Castleford and Doncaster will march down into your counties.Is that freedom? Mr. Cook said near Mansfield on 23rd August, 1926:We have the names and the addresses of the blacklegs. In future these men will never get a job in any other coalfield outside their own. We will see to that.Is that the liberty of the British subject? How does the liberty of a member of a trade union in this country compare with the position of a trade unionist under Fascism or even Bolshevism? There was reported in the papers recently, a case which was heard before Judge Turney at Mansfield County Court, of a man who lost his hand in his employer's service in the coal mines but whose dismissal was secured by the trade union committee because he did not belong to a trade union of which they approved. I should like to see trade union funds made liable where their officials secure the dismissal of a man from his work. I call that intimidation. This legislation, which I hope the Government will put through this House, is not legislation directed against trade unionism any more than the criminal law of this country is directed against the citizens. It would be legislation to protect the genuine trade unionists and genuine trade unionism; but it will, I hope, put a stop to a number of abuses in trade unions which have arisen in recent years. How galling must he to a trade union member to feel that he has subscribed to the cost of s gold watch to Mr. Tomsky and a pearl necklace to Mrs. Tomsky, and to read Mr. 49 Tomsky's contemptuous message with regard to his own trade union leaders and the Socialist leaders in this House. I entirely agree in that point with Mr. Tomsky. I do not often agree with him, but I do agree with him that the leadership on the benches opposite has been extremely poor.
Take the Leader of the Opposition. He knew that the general strike was going to be a failure, and he knew that it was a wrong thing, but on the eve of the general strike, at the meeting which was held by the trade union leaders, he was "there in the battle with you." Why did he not warn his partners against the general strike and why did he not warn the nation? I know that he has a difficult team to drive. He has extremists and moderates whom he has to try to reconcile. It is like driving a tandem with the leader turning round and trying to pitch you off the seat, especially awkward when the leader is one of those great horses from the Clyde. But the nation does not expect consistency in its leaders and especially in an ex-Prime Minister. Look at the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in regard to China, Those speeches did a great deal of harm during delicate negotiations which were in progress with China, in fact to such an extent that they largely caused the breaking off of the negotiations when an agreement has been reached and was ready for signature. Then let us look at the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for colne Valley (Mr. Snowden). I read an article by him the other day in one of the newspapers in which he says:Mr. Cook's monstrous slanders on the Parliamentary Labour party are the expression of his gratitude for our loyal forbearance and defence when we saw every day the chances of a settlement being thrown away by his incompetence and things drifting to inevitable disaster. During the dispute our mouths were closed in regard to the antics of Mr. Cook and the futility of the miners' leadership, because we were unwilling to say or do anything which might help the owners and the Government.Loyal forbearance! To whom was he being loyal? Has not an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer a duty to the nation? Has he not a duty as a Socialist leader to his trade union followers who, he 50 said, were being futilely led to disaster? I cannot see how anyone who occupied the high position of Chancellor of the Exchequer should have kept his mouth closed throughout that critical period merely because he was afraid he might help a Conservative Government in office and a small body of men, the mineowners. He was prepared to let the whole nation go to ruin and see enormous losses inflicted upon the nation merely because a word of his might possibly help a Conservative Government or the mineowners. That is a miserable exhibition of leadership or lack of leadership. Now right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite and trade union leaders, having wrecked the trade union movement, are turning to the cooperative movement. I hope all who are interested in co-operative societies, all who have helped to build up those great societies will put up strenuous opposition to their use for political purposes by the Socialist party. Supposing the Socialists had succeeded in getting the co-operative societies involved in the general strike, how long would the reserve funds which have been carefully built up throughout. many years have lasted?
§ Mr. PETO
The whole of it would have been swept away. Now I turn to other matters in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I hope that the Bills which are to deal with agriculture will include agricultural credits, because agriculture is waiting anxiously for the scheme of agricultural credits which has been promised to us by the Government. I hope also that we shall have continued for another year and made permanent the grant for the maintenance of rural roads. I notice that no reference is made in the Speech to economy, but I do not suppose that that would be a subject for special mention in the Speech. I do hope the Government will do all they possibly can to reduce the expenditure of this country, and that they will soon see their way to relieve us of some of the War Ministries and post-War Ministries which still exist. One word in conclusion with regard to Russia. I hope the Government are going to take a strong attitude with regard to Russia. There is no doubt that the undertakings which were given in the Ressian Trade Agreement have been and 51 are being disgracefully broken, not only in China, but in this country anus throughout the whole world, and it is time that we in this country took a definite stand on this matter. Even a trade union leader, Mr. Citrine, has laid it down as a condition of further trade union co-operation with Russia and the Bolshevists that there must be no interference with the internal affairs of the British trade union movement. I am glad to see that, and I hope the Government will take a firm line and see that there is no interference in Britain of any kind by Russia. If Russia still interferes, I hope we shall see the last of the so-called Russian trading, which mainly consists of selling in this country goods which have been stolen from Englishmen in Russia. That trade is doing no good in this country. Russia gets credit from us which she expends in other countries, and a great deal of the money is spent upon agitation by Russia against this country. I hope the Government, therefore, wilt take a firm line in regard to Russian interference with Britain.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I do not mean to follow the hon. Member's discursive speech; but I would like to refer to me matter he mentioned, which was that of the Government bringing in a Bill to deal with agricultural credit. There is very little said about the subject in the Speech, but the Prime Minister suggested that the Bill would be a very small Bill. I ask those hon. Members, who arc interested in agriculture and who represent agricultural constituencies, whether they think that small Bills are likely to be of any use to farmers under present conditions. Agriculture is at the moment passing through probably the worst depression it has known since the "70's," and in a very large number of cases tenants are faced either with liquidation or the Bankruptcy Court. I am quite willing to admit that the Small Holdings Act of last year has done a good deal by giving county councils powers, which, if rightly exercised, may help the farmers in regard to security of tenure. But in security of tenure is a permanent grievance of the farmer. His present and most pressing grievance is lack of financial assistance, and I am sorry to find that no assistance is proposed for him. Take the farmers 52 who bought their farms under compulsion, when they were faced with the loss of their heroes. They are finding that the rates of interest are out of all proportion to what they can make out of their land at the present moment. Considerable assistance has been given to certain industries in the form of guarantees and otherwise, even to cotton growing in the Sudan and in Uganda, and I do not understand why something more substantial cannot be done to help the farmer at home to obtain money at a much lower rate of interest. I think I am right in stating that at the present time, if a farmer obtains a loan of£100, he has to pay a yearly annuity of £5 6s 10d.
There is the difficulty of the ever varying markets with which the farmer has to deal. This industry is more dependent upon nature than any other and it is also more dependent upon changes in foreign markets than any other industry in this country. At one time the Prime Minister toyed with the idea of the stabilisation of prices and I am under the impression that he dropped it, in very much the same way as the Labour party dropped the idea of the Capital Levy. I am not going to suggest that the stabilisation of prices is the ultimate remedy, but I think there is a good deal to be said for the farmer. It may be pointed out that while he buys in the spring he has no guarantee that, having fed and kept his cattle until the summer, he will then be able to realise even what he paid for them three or four months earlier. The price which he obtains is not dependent upon anything done by him. It is not even dependent on toe home market. It is dependent on the great amount of foreign produce and foreign animals put upon the market. I think it is worth consideration by all parties, whether or not something could be done, by way of stabilisation of prices or otherwise, to help the farmer in this matter. Of course. I know quite well that, if stabilisation of price by interference with imports from abroad were put into effect it would of r necessity mean control of prices in this country, and I have no doubt that is a consideration with the Labour party. If any farmers are enamoured of the proposal, I would only suggest to them, before they accept the idea of the stablisation of 53 prices, to consider that they must also, ultimately, accept some form of Socialism.
But there is another method by which the Government could help agriculture. A few years ago in America it was found that the price of hogs was becoming so depressed and the financial condition of the farmers, in consequence, was becoming so unsatisfactory that the market, under pressure from one side and the other, was becoming demoralised. The Government advanced money to the farmers to enable them to keep their hogs for a certain season, so as not to throw them on the market and depress the price unnecessarily. I suggest that the Minister of Agriculture should consider whether he could not introduce some system of that kind, either through the banks or in some other way, which would enable the farmers to tide over what we all hope will prove to be a temporary depression. Then there is the question of temporary assistance to the farmers. Farmers, like many engaged in other industries, find it, as a rule, very difficult to obtain overdrafts from the bank, and it is generally forgotten that two-thirds of the farmers of this country occupy less than 50 acres of land, while I am well within the mark in stating that 80 per cent. occupy less than 100 acres. In other words, they are men of comparatively poor financial position, and with a very small command of capital. They are under the additional disadvantage that they have no turnover and no security to offer the bank.
What can be done to assist the farmers under the present system? They have to buy on credit in the spring. They are under not a legal, but a moral obligation to sell their produce to the person from whom they have obtained credit in the spring. A farmer who fails to do so knows quite well that he will not be able to obtain credit in the following spring. Take another case. Farmers, as a rule, shear their sheep in June. In my own county and in adjoining counties rents become payable in mid-July. The result is that the dealer knows quite well that the farmer must dispose of his wool in July if he is going to meet rent and other payments. It is therefore essential in my opinion if we are going to help the farmer to put him in a position where he can borrow money temporarily and 54 decide for himself the time and the circumstances in which it is best for him to put his produce on the market. That has been done very many years ago in Ireland. There, assistance was given to the farmer which enabled him to buy seed and machinery and so forth on credit or on a guarantee for credit. I hope when we have the details of these Bills which the Government have promised we shall find that they deal with both forms of credit—firstly, assistance to the farmer who has bought his farm and secondly, assistance to the farmer such as is extended in every other industry to enable him to obtain the cash to buy on the best terms and to sell at the time and in the circumstances which are best for himself.
Lord HENRY CAVENDISH-BEN-TINCK
I am only a very humble Member on the back benches in this House and, therefore, I do not suppose that my approval or disapproval of the policy of His Majesty's Government is a matter of very much importance to them. I would like, however, to assure the Government that, at all events, as far as their foreign policy is concerned I think they are to be congratulated The speech delivered at Birmingham by the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary was read by the whole nation with the strongest approval. Personally, I do not think I have ever read a speech by a Foreign Minister which I admired so much. I have no reason to think that the right hon. Gentleman's policy in China. will be less enlightened than his policy in Europe and the happier condition of Europe is, to my mind, to a very large extent due to his influence and instrumentality. I wish I could he equally complimentary to the Government in regard to their home policy. I do not wish to say anything which would give offence. I would a. thousand times rather make a speech here approving of everything which the Government have done and have not done, but there are occasions when one must find fault and, if I may say so without offence, I do not think the Government quite realise what the nation expects of them in the present conjuncture of affairs, or indeed what lies within their power to achieve. Mr. G. N. Barnes, who will be recalled as a highly respected and popular Member of this House, wrote a very interesting 55 letter the other day to the "Times" on the subject of industrial peace and the restoration of industrial prosperity and he concluded that letter by stating that what was wanted was leadership.
Undoubtedly what is wanted is leadership, and I always hoped that the Government would take the country by the hand and lead it along the road to greater prosperity. But I cannot see that there is any sign that the Government think it their duty to show the qualities of leadership at the present moment. [HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I am going to explain. I cannot help feeling that this is a golden opportunity for the Government to do something really effective towards the establishment of industrial peace. On the one hand, we have prominent trade unionists and Labour leaders making most hopeful speeches. As far as we can judge from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. Arthur Henderson) the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) Mr. Pugh and others, they are quite ready to be disillusioned with the old mischievous fallacies which used to reign supreme in Labour circles. They are quite willing to abandon a policy of opposition and to adopt a policy of construction and to help to make the present industrial system a workable system. Also, we have a very favourable public opinion. Public opinion is more and more coming to see that if we are to restore our industrial prosperity it cannot be done by lowering wages and lengthening hours, but that it must be by an ample reward for labour, by high wages and a share in the profits, coupled with high industrial efficiency. As the "Times" the other day pointed out, there is a great danger that all this goodwill and desire to co-operate may "peter out" owing to bad leadership. I should have thought that this was obviously the right moment for the Government to call a conference of representatives of Capital and Labour at which could be discussed the question of whether it is not possible to arrive at a basis of co-operation and a better feeling in industry. I regret that the Government do not see their way to do so. I invited this Government and the previous Government to call such a conference. My invitations have always 56 been turned down but I shall go on hammering at that point, because I believe it to be the duty of a Government to take the lead in these matters.
With all due deference to hon. Members sitting around me, who may differ from me very strongly, I regret to say that to my mind the Government are not only failing to move in the right direction but are actually moving in the wrong direction. Academically, and from the point of view of strict legality, there may be a good deal to be said for the proposed legislation for trade union reform, but from the point of view of practical and helpful statesmanship, at the present moment I find very little to commend it. The Government after the coal stoppage were under a cloud of unpopularity. I speak feelingly on this point because I represent a very highly industrialised constituency and I was told after the coal stoppage that I should not have had a dog's chance of being elected, had an election taken place then. I believe there is an opportunity at the present time for the Government to recover all their old popularity and a good deal besides, if they would only make up their mind to lead the country along the broad road of a policy of reconstruction and gather up, as it were, all the goodwill which exists for a co-operative effort to restore the prosperity of the country. Therefore, I regret all the more that the Government are throwing away this golden opportunity and plunging us once more into strife and contention and stirring up illwill, class hatred and bitterness.
The last time an effort was made, some two years ago, to raise this question of trade union reform it was said: "Give us peace in our time. Now it seems to be: "Give us a little more fighting"—and this after several months of bitter conflict in the, coal areas. I am very skeptical whether you can solve any of these sort of problems by legislation of repression, but if there he one thing more certain than another it is that if you have another attack on the standard of life of a very large number of our working people, it will be resented most bitterly, and it will raise angry passions, and great antipathy, against which your legislation will be of little avail. The only way to maintain law and order in 57 our industrial society is to strengthen the social and industrial order, to make it conform to the wishes and interests of the working people of this country, to realise their aspirations for a higher, a fuller, and a better life, and, in fact, to increase the happiness and prosperity of the people. To my mind, you would then have no need to trouble about peddling legislation for trade union reform. For this reason, I regret that we have very little social legislation foreshadowed in His Majesty's Speech, and, as one who for many years has advocated social reform in this country, I would have preferred to see such a Measure as the Factories Bill or the ratification of the Eight Hours Agreement introduced rather than this question of trade union reform.
We are told we must not overburden the Statute Book. I have great sympathy with the Statute Book, but I cannot help thinking it is much more important to remedy the industrial evils of the present time. It is a Fact that many hundreds of people are being done to death for want of protective safeguarding appliances to dangerous machines, and it is a fact that many thousands of our working people are having their sight, and their health injured by ill-lighted, insanitary factories and workshops, and I cannot help feeling that if the Government had taken up such a Measure as this, they would have earned the gratitude of the people and increased their popularity in the country. I am very sorry to find fault with the Government, but as long as I am in this House I shall always maintain that the first and chief duty and function of the Conservative party is to advocate and propose measures of social reform and to put forward a social programme for the welfare of the country, and it is for that reason that I raise my voice this afternoon. I hope I have not given any offence, but at the same time. I hope that before the Government appeal to the country, they will have done something to redeem their pledges at the last election: otherwise I, for one, and a good many others, will have some difficulty in supporting them at the next election.
§ Mr. TINKER
I think most of us will agree with the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck). It is always a 58 pleasure to listen to him, and I can only hope that the other back-benchers opposite will speak in the same strain as he did. He mentioned at the outset that he was only a back-bencher, and he thought the Government would take but little notice of his speech. I, too, occupy that position, but I think he will bear with me when I say that one great writer, Emerson, said: "Speak out your thoughts: they may be universally accepted on the morrow." We can only hope that what we have got to say may he accepted. One point in the King's Speech to which I want to refer is with reference to unemployment. The Prime Minister stated that a Bill would he brought forward to consolidate the number of Measures that have dealt with unemployment. Has it ever occurred to the Government that there might be an increase in the scale of benefit for winter months? There is quite a difference between the summer and the winter, and anyone knows that in winter a man who is unemployed is in far greater want of sustenance than in summer. I would, therefore, commend it to the Government that for, say, November, December. January, and February they might consider an increased scale of benefit to the unemployed man. I think it is worthy of consideration, and T hope that, if this Government will not accept it, our party, when we get an opportunity, will take notice of what I have to say on this matter.
Another point I want to touch upon comes under the heading of "other important Measures," and deals with the Mines Act. I do not think it is generally known that at the present time boys under the age of 16 years may work below ground between the hours of nine at night and five the following morning. A rather strange thing is that for surface work a boy under 16 years of age may not be employed between nine at night and five the following morning, yet underground he may. It is a thing that I cannot understand, but it is on the Statute Book, and I want the Government to take into consideration a small matter like that, because in the coal mines we have young boys who are down below ground on the night shift, a thing I believe no one would like to have going on in this country. If it be good for the surface workers in our mines not to be 59 employed between nine at night and five the following morning, it ought to apply to boys who have to work underground also.
The third point that I want to deal with has reference to the Workmen's Compensation Act, and I referred to it last time in the Debate on the King's Speech. The Workmen's Compensation Act, altered in 1923, lays it down that unless a man is incapacitated for one month, he does not get any payment for the first three days, and I claim that that is wrong. The old Measure, the Act of 1906, said that if a. man was without work through injury for a fortnight, he was paid from the first day, but the Act of 1923 extended it to a month. It is true that there are only three days involved, but when you take the average wage of a workman, which is about 50s. a week, and he gets injured and receives 25s. as his weekly compensation, and 12s. 6d. is taken from him the first week and he does not get that back unless he plays for one month, I claim that that is wrong. Surely if a man is genuinely incapacitated, there should be no hesitation in paying compensation from the first day of the accident. Why go to one month? Indeed, you might in many instances get the man back to work under four weeks but for this provision, whereas under the law as it stands his desire is to stay away for over four weeks, so as to get hold of the 12s. 6d. It is a natural desire, and I should certainly be of that way of thinking myself if I got injured and got on the borderline of four weeks. It would be in my mind to extend it over the four weeks in order to get the extra 12s. 6d. There is no need of that. If a man be injured, it ought to be recognised from the first day of the accident. It was said last time that the Act had not had much chance of being examined thoroughly. It was passed in 1923, and it is now 1927, and I think it is time for the Government or the Department controlling this particular Measure to go into it, to see if it cannot be altered now, and to give a lead in that direction.
I have touched on one or two points that are very important to me. I am hardly hoping the Government will deal with them, but I want to assure both this Government and successive Governments 60 that if I occupy a place in this House, I shall deal with the third point, the Workmen's Compensation Act, at every opportunity I get. I am giving it out now as one of the Measures in which I am keenly interested, and I will do all that I can to get it improved.
§ Mr. PENNY
The House listened with very great interest to what the Prime Minister had to say in regard to the very serious situation in China at the present time, and I am quite sure there is nobody in the House or in the country who has any knowledge of China or of the Chinese people who will not warmly approve of the policy of the Foreign Secretary and of the Government in dealing with the situation. They have shown to the whole world quite conclusively that they have no Imperialistic policy of aggression, that they are in entire sympathy with the Nationalist aspirations, and that their one idea in putting forward those generous proposals was that they could come to a satisfactory settlement on this most vexed question. The one thing about which I would like to urge the Government not to waver or falter is in taking every necessary precaution to protect the lives and interests of our nationals in those parts. There are always people who will criticise and falsely represent the action of a Government, but I think this Government could have the motto in front of them: "Do right, and fear no man," and then they cannot go wrong. I am expressing the opinion not only of people in this country, but of people in the Far East, where I lived so great a portion of my life, who look up to this Government to take strong action and to do the right thing, feeling quite sure that we shall then come through successfully.
I very much regret that. a certain section of the Socialist party should have sent that message to China saying they were behind the workers at the present time, because they must realise that the position is an extremely delicate and difficult one, and a message such as that is not going to help the Government in coming to a satisfactory and speedy settlement, and I think it was a very misguided action on their part. There is a very strong and growing feeling that one of the greatest reasons why we cannot come to a satisfactory settlement is the intriguing influence of Russia 61 behind the scenes at the present time. The right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) said he hoped we would not break off diplomatic relations with Russia, and I sincerely hope that it will not be necessary to do so, but at the same time I think the Government should make it quite clear to Russia that unless they stop this pernicious, persistent, and poisonous propaganda against us, we most certainly will break off diplomatic relations with that country. There are many reasons why we should do so if they are going to work for the downfall of this country, which they openly declare to be their object. The longer they are putting these ideas into the minds of the Chinese, the longer it is going to take us to get a satisfactory settlement. All that means additional cost to this country in sending out protective forces, when at the present time we are overburdened with debt and taxation. That is one aspect of the case.
Then we have to realise that we are not dealing with people who are people of good will. Soft words on our part are mistaken for fear. As regards our trade relations, I think it is far more advantageous to Russia to maintain trade relations with us for we are importing double the amount from Russia that we are exporting to her, and, therefore, from the trade point of view, it is up to Russia to see that it is time that she did not work against us if she wants her trade to revive. Any lack of firmness on the part of the Government has a very bad effect on Eastern populations who feel that this Government is strong enough to govern firmly. For that reason I do not want them to take the line of least resistance, for it is only a firm policy which will bring about a settlement of this very serious problem. If the Government have very serious reasons why they will not approach Russia in the way that I suggest, I would like very much to ask if they could give us the reasons, because the country is behind them, and a great section of our people feel that we are being worked against by a country who wish to bring about our downfall, and that we are not adequately protecting our own interests.
In regard to Communistic propaganda in the East, I would mention that some five or six years ago there was a great fight in Malaya in regard to the Teachers 62 Registration Ordinance. A large number of individuals came down to Malaya as teachers of the children, arid the parents of the children, who were Chinese born and of Chinese sentiment, told the Government of the Straits Settlements that these men were emissaries from Moscow who were teaching the children Communism as the doctrine of human salvation and intriguing against us the whole time. It was for that reason that this Ordinance was brought in. One of the leading Chinese who was a member of the Legislative Assembly, went in fear and trembling of his life for years because of his outspokenness in warning the Government of this peril. Well-educated Chinese feel that their people in China are being misguided by this Communistic influence.
Her case against us is that she lost her full independence because she met defeat at our hands during the trade wars. The wars were caused by the inability or, possibly, the disinclination of the Chinese Government of that time to give protection to the foreign nationals in that country, protection which any national expects from the Government of a country which he enters as a peaceful trader. China was under Manchu rule at that time. It was an alien rule, and it failed to bring sections far distant from Peking under the control of its central government. They failed to protect foreigners, and the foreigners asked permission to protect themselves, and that was the reason the Concessions were given in the first instance. It relieved a weak Government of onerous responsibilities and made the trading relations with foreigners far more stable and peaceable. Then came the anti-Manchu Revolution of 1911, when Sun Yat Sen led the revolution which resulted in the royal house of the Manchus abdicating early in 1912. Unfortunately, the Nationalist movement, instead of consolidating the great Chinese Empire, did just the reverse, and it was more seriously divided as a Republic than it was previously as an Empire. Had there been full sovereignty of China at that time, foreign nationals could have said, "Now we have a Government which can adequately protect us, we will be prepared to surrender the Concessions to you." Unfortunately, divided opinion obtains at the present time. We have armies from the North confronting armies from the South, with the foreign nationals 63 in jeopardy of their lives between them. That is a position which we have to realise to-day. We have also to realise that England and her traders who went there have been trading under legitimate treaties. These treaties may be obsolete and want revising; in fact, our Government realise that that is so, but our nationals were there carrying out their legitimate trade, and they were a great stability and help to the Chinese.
I would like the Government, if they possibly can, to point out the striking contrast between our nationals in China and the Chinese in the Straits Settlements. When we went to Penang it was a wilderness, and in a few years it was teeming with prosperous Chinese who were given safety and security under our Government. At Singapore it was even more marked than in Penang, and at the present time throughout the whole of Malaya there must be at least a million Chinese—probably the largest population of Chinese outside China itself. Thousands of them have become British subjects. Their laws and customs have always been considered and respected, the British Law Courts labour to do justice, searching into Chinese laws and customs to do so. The poorest Chinese can obtain justice, and the richest Chinese cannot bribe a British Court. There are highly trained officials who act as protectors of the Chinese, guarding the weak against the strong and giving advice and protection where required. Education is placed within the reach of everyone, and if they wish to learn their mother tongue they can do so. The Chinese are the largest property owners there; they own about two-thirds of the mining rights in Malaya; they own about one-third of the rubber industry; they handle about half the food supplies, and they also have representatives on the Legislative Council and on the Federal Council of the Federated Malay State and on the municipal bodies. They can form companies and banks, they own steamships, and they come there very often as paupers and go away wealthy people and have the same privileges and advantages as the Europeans.
All these rights and privileges have not been acquired by undiluted merit on their part, because, although there are a great number of Chinese who are the most 64 splendid examples of industry and integrity, there is also a deplorable percentage of the criminal class. In fact, the prisons there are mostly filled with Chinese, and the record of Malaya is stained with their crimes of violence. Yet notwithstanding this, justice both full and generous, has been meted out to them, not because of their qualities but in spite of their defects, which is a great tribute to our administration and is a reason why we should ask these Chinese nationalists to consider and compare what their compatriots are receiving at our hands against those given to our nationals in their country. I feel very strongly that they do not realise the generous and just treatment that their compatriots receive. I hope with our Prime Minister that our proposals will meet with a ready response and that we will do all we possibly can to eliminate that sinister movement behind the scenes instigated from Russia. We want to see a satisfactory settlement, we want to see China prosper; and if our Government continue their present policy there is no doubt we shall be able to secure not only a satisfactory settlement, but it will be possible to make a real peace and build up the foundations of a solid friendship with the British Empire.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I would like to take this opportunity of heartily congratulating the Mover and Seconder of the Address on the very temperate, very earnest but still very instructive speeches they have made. In regard to the mover, I have some acquaintance of a personal character with the noble House he represents. Although in a very' humble capacity myself, I have had the honour of his personal acquaintance, and his contributions to the Debate to-night does credit to him and opens up a future that I am positive will show a good record. As a humble back-bencher with no particularly extensive knowledge of foreign affairs, I want to cross the t's and dot the i's of the Address. With regard to the position of China, I do not profess to have any particular knowledge of the case, but this is how it appears to me. Here is a country with a civilisation which was old long before our own. It suddenly discovers that a change is necessary, and that change is brought about. The position is such a delicate one that it is quite evident that both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are very cautious and wary of what 65 they say. The Foreign Secretary's contribution to this trouble in China was a magnificent display of reason and statesmanship. I think that is admitted by everybody who has read his speech and has followed his policy, and it is a pity that some of his colleagues did not follow his example, particularly the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I regret to criticise the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he is a responsible statesman, and in the middle of the most delicate negotiations in a very delicate position, while the Foreign Secretary was going in the right direction for peace, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes a speech at Manchester of a most deplorable character, and I think the House and the country ought to be reminded of it. Here we are, engaged in delicate negotiations with the only man in China to-day who can prevent disturbance, riot, bloodshed, and the right hon. Gentleman gratuitously insults this man—the very man with whom the Foreign Secretary is engaged in an endeavour to bring about a peaceful solution of this problem. It is deplorable to find a man who occupies a responsible position in His Majesty's Government speaking in that way at a time when every endeavour is being made to avoid hostilities. I recognise the difficulties both of the government and of the Opposition. I am not one of those, and T hope T never shall be, who regard with disapproval everything which His Majesty's Government does—so long as there is a grain of commonsense or statesmanship in it.
What is the remedy for the present situation? In Shanghai there are thousands of British residents whose very lives are possibly in danger—in fact, in my opinion, there is such danger—and therefore it is the first duty of His Majesty's Government to take the necessary precautions to safeguard their lives. The thing goes deeper than that, however. There are grievances. Let us go to the genesis of the grievances. This trouble dates further hack than the Chinese revolution. It goes back 100 years, to the time when the first British settled down in China, without the permission or consent of the Chinese people, and set up commercial treaties through which the Chinese people have been 66 exploited from that time up till now. That is the secret of the trouble. The Chinese, after enduring bad conditions for many thousands of years, have suddently discovered that they have some power to remedy them. These treaties were created without even the consent of the Chinese. In the King's Speech it is stated:I earnestly desire a peaceful settlement-of the difficulties which have arisen," and—,My Government will maintain our traditional policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of China.May I remind the Prime Minister that while that may be true with respect to the national policy of China, we have interfered with the domestic affairs of China, from the commercial point of view, for at least 80 years. British settlers who went there made treaties without consulting the Chinese people. They settled down in Chinese territory, where there is a British colony, and a French colony —in fact there is an international colony. These people make laws on that portion of Chinese territory and compel the Chinese to obey them inside that territory, although they have had no voice in the making of those laws.
There are Chinese colonies in this country. We have them in Liverpool and in the East End of London. What should we say if the Chinese colonies in this country made laws of their own without consulting us, and compelled our people to obey them when we went inside the boundaries of those colonies? That is what we have done in Shanghai, Hong-Kong, and elsewhere in China. When the Chinese people threw off the yoke of the Manchus, they found themselves in this position—after having freed themselves from one yoke, they were faced with another; that from an industrial and commercial point of view it was only a change of masters. There is no doubt about it that, so far as the business class in China is concerned, the presence of British people has brought great improvements to the country, but at what a cost. Take the condition of those' working in the industries of the country. There are Chinese workmen getting wages of 16s. a month, and the position as regards the labour of women and children is as it was a century ago in our own industrial history. All those things add to the flame.
67 It is also said that the present troubles are due to anti-British agitation in China. if that be so—and let us be perfectly frank about it, it has every appearance of it, though it may not be official from a Russia; but, official or unofficial, I would be one of those to protest against Any such anti-British agitation, from Russia or anywhere else. I would point out, however, that the Chinese Republic was created in 1911, seven years, before the Russian Soviet Government was set up. There were no Bolsheviks in China in 1911, and I think the agitation is in no small measure attributable to the horrible conditions under which the people have been living. The Prime Minister, in dealing with the particular situation with which we are faced at shanghai, said it would be difficult to evacuate thousands of people from that port. That point appeals to me. I am quite prepared to give due consideration to that. It is the first duty of a British Government of any party, Conservative, or Labour, or Liberal, or any other, to protect our own people. I know the difficulties which exist, they are great, but I do not think it would he impossible to evacuate our people in case of necessity. If we sent 60 or 70 warships to Shanghai, what is there to prevent them, if the danger does come, from taking the few thousands of people at Shanghai aboard those ships? Then it may be said, "Why should we do it?" There is sonic force in that. It is said these people have got possessions there, that they are not responsible for the misery of the Chinese worker, that they are ordinary workpeople, not exploiting Chinese labour, but earning their daily bread. With them I have considerable sympathy. It may he very difficult to do what I have suggested, but I think that it would be preferable to parading our militarism as we are doing to-day.
If we have a Yellow Peril we also have a Yellow Press in this country, and from the beginning of things a certain section of the Press have been flaunting our militarism with accounts of bands playing, trumpets sounding, drums beating and glittering steel in the streets of the metropolis. Surely it is not necessary to send fleets of ships, squadrons of airships, and 20,000 troops to Shanghai, and, above all, not necessary to go back 68 to the spirit of Jingoism displayed by certain sections of the British Press who are flaunting this belligerent display in the fact of the Chinese people. There ere divisions in China. The Northern and Southern parts of China are contending against each other. If anything will tend to bring unity between the rival forces in China it is this military display of ours. In my opinion nothing could be more dangerous than to flaunt our military display in their faces. All necessary precautions should be taken to save the lives of our people; and that is all that is a concern of ours. We are not concerned about the people who are responsible, initially responsible for the present position, but I am concerned with the working class in China, I mean the Ordinary middle-class clerks and all those other auxiliaries which go to the building up of business in China and elsewhere. While I do see and appreciate the difficulties of the Prime Minister, I also see that if the worst came to the worst it would pay us better to use our warships to take these people away than to rush in where angels fear to tread.
Let me pass to another point in what I regard as about the vaguest Speech at the opening of Parliament which I remember during my 20 years in the House. It says:Recent events have made evident the importance of defining and amending the law with reference to industrial disputes.Vague as that appears to be, the cloven hoof has crept out in a speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of the day following his speech at Manchester we had it from him that, so far as he was concerned, his one object was to attack trade unionism for its political activities. That was the key-note of his speech. Whatever shape the Bill may take, the Government are taking a very serious risk in interfering with the domestic affairs of trade unions. I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman that the history of over half-a-century of trade unionism teems with tolerance, and this has been the case from the very commencement of things. This was the case at the time of the abolition of women labour on the pit banks, the abolition of half-timers, the agitation for workmen's compensation, and the passing of the Employers' Liability Act and the Truck Acts, to say nothing of the last miners' 69 dispute, for all these things have been made the subject of political action in this very House. Many hon. Members opposite have been very industrious indeed inquiring into the expenditure of trade unions and condemning their extravagance. In regard to the political levy they have demanded over and over again in those speeches that a ballot should be taken of the whole of trade unionists. Of course, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and I now challenge hon. Members opposite to take a ballot of the electorate of the country on this question, and then they will see exactly where they stand. I think that is a fair offer. On this question, we are not afraid of an inquiry, and I am prepared to stand by the result of any such appeal to the country.
I deeply deplore the necessity for dropping the Factory Bill which we were promised last. Session would be passed into law this Session, and I regret that in the King's Speech you are making an insidious attack upon trade unionism. The whole business seems to be one of organised hypocrisy from beginning to end. The Chancellor of the Exchequer charges hon. Members on this side of the House with inconsistency, but that comes with very bad grace from a right hon. Gentleman who sneers at Mr. Chen and ridicules the changing opinions of people who pars from one part of this House to the other. I want to emphasi9e the vagueness of the King's Speech, and the dropping of many important industrial Bills, because it shows that an attempt is being made by these vague references to damage the only instrument and safeguard which the working classes have to-day to save them from extinction in an economic sense.
§ Sir CHARLES CAYZER
Any hon. Member on this side of the House who has read the speeches made by Members of the Labour party during the last month of the Recess must have been very much struck by the similarity of the arguments which have run through all those speeches. Those speeches have been made on purely party lines emphasising the argument that the action suggested by the Government was not likely to bring about any reconciliation in industry. Even the Leader of the Opposition has declared that, no matter what reasonable proposals the Government put forward dealing 70 with trade union laws, he himself refuses to believe that they are actuated by other than partisan motives. Surely in face of what has happened during the past few months no one is less qualified to speak about impartiality than hon. Members opposite, and I think that they are making a very great mistake in committing themselves to hostility to the Government proposals even before they know what they are likely to be and however fair and just they may turn out to be.
But notwithstanding action of this kind I do not think hon. Members opposite will induce the electors to believe that as a result of the proposed Government action there is likely to be a fresh outburst of unrest in the industries of the country. I am sure that all the sane and moderate opinion in the ranks of trade unionism does not believe that, and many of them have too much confidence in the Government to believe that they will be likely to introduce legislation antagonistic to that sane and reasonable opinion which exists among trade. unionists What we on this side of the House contend is that for some very good reasons best known to themselves hon. Members opposite are afraid of the result of the action proposed by the Government in regard to this matter. Can it be that they fear that if the Government deals successfully with this matter they will find that the tactics they have adopted have resulted in the confidence of trade unionists in the Labour party being seriously shaken. Do they really suppose by this hue and cry that they will prevent the Government passing any legislation on this subject? Public opinion is in a very different frame of mind from what it was nine months ago and the public demand protection against a repetition of those disastrous conferences which followed the action of the extremists in the Labour movement last year. As a matter of fact, it is the action of those extremists which has tended to solidify public opinion in the direction of the action suggested by the Government. The events of last year have proved to the public not only that the general strike was a failure, but it has shown what importance in the future can be attached to the majority opinion expressed at the Trade Union Congress. The public have seen for years past votes taken at trade union congresses at which 71 there has been an overwhelming majority against direct action and a general strike, and yet when these protestations have been put to the test the public have seen with astonishment the ease and facility with which it is possible for a small and infinitesimal minority to sway the opinion of this vast body of trade unionists, and persuade them to take extreme and perilous courses against reason and common-sense views.
This was the course adopted in many recent industrial disputes which called for settlement by conciliation, and that was the state of things existing last May. It has been found possible for this small minority of extremists to sway the opinion of the vast majority against all reason and common sense, and they have occasionally persuaded them to take desperate action. To my mind the general strike was the most undemocratic action that has ever been taken in this country, not so much because of the state of insecurity which it produced as because those who were called upon to take part in it had no chance of expressing their real opinion in regard to the action which had been taken by the trade unionists. I think the actual course which hon. Members took in that crisis has proved conclusively that the action of the Government in this mater was right, and many hon. Members are prepared to make every allowance for the position in which many of the members of the party opposite found themselves last May. At that time men with a lifelong experience of trade union affairs were faced with this terrible dilemma, that either they had to swallow the expressed convictions of years' past and accept the general strike, or throw over friends and comrades right in the face of the enemy. We all know and appreciate that it would take a great deal of moral courage to do that, and that is the reason why so few of the Members of the party opposite found themselves able to rise to the occasion.
The hectic outbursts which we have had from the party opposite during the past few months against the Government have left us on these back benches curiously un-moved, for we have merely seen in their blustering an attempt to cover from the public view their own pitiful failure of last May. This failure 72 has not been lost on the people, nor have the threats which have been made since the General Strike by the extremists in the Labour Movement. We have been told we shall never have another General Strike in this country. I sincerely hope such optimism is well founded. What I might term A. J. Cook's school of thought seems to have come back refreshed and invigorated from Russia, and by no means satisfied that there will not be another General Strike. Such a man as Mr. Cramp has given it as his opinion that the General Strike, though hopeless in achieving anything of a positive nature, yet might in certain circumstances achieve objects of a negative character; in other words, prevent the Government doing something they might otherwise have done. We see from these facts that the General Strike is not perhaps dead in this country. Therefore the Government are faced with a really great demand for this; that they should make in the near future the issue of a General Strike an illegal issue in this country. They should make it clear that those who take part in a General Strike should be looked on as taking part in a treasonable conspiracy against the State and should be liable to the w accordingly. All branches of the Civil Service should owe but one allegiance it times of crisis and that allegiance to the State.
I trust that the references in the Gracious Speech to this question of industrial reform means that the Government intend in the Immediate future to bring in a short and simple Bill dealing with this issue, and, his issue alone, and to give it priority against all other measures of the Session. I sincerely trust that they will exclude from this matter any other matters of a more domestic concern. I think such things would only tend to confuse the issue. I do not think the Government have absolved themselves from consideration of other matters. There are other matters which yet require consideration. We know the practice of some trade unions in this country in such matters as peaceful picketing or in regard to benefit funds, or even the political levy. I know Mr. Williams has an exemplary record. There are other men Whose record is not so good. The Government should aim at bringing up the practice to the level of the practice Which exists in the best unions. What 73 is needed is a recodification of existing legislation. If they bring in a Bill to recodify the existing law on this matter they could allow the country to consider what they would next do and allow the trade unions to express themselves, and perhaps have meetings with leaders in this country. In that way I think we might be able to get agreement. I ask the Government to make up its mind on the issues raised by the General Strike and other issues which are more peculiar to the trade unions themselves. I hope the Government, when it has made up its mind to deal with these matters, no matter what opposition may be coming from the party opposite, will stand fair and square to its guns.
§ Mr. HARDIE
In listening to the last speaker it would appear that his idea of intelligence as between one individual and another or between two bodies of individuals is this, that if the one is larger than the other, the larger would therefore impose its will upon the smaller. The whole of his arguments were towards trying to crush something by force which he, even he, would be incapable of crushing with intelligence. After all, the most difficult thing in this world to control by force is intelligence. Listening to-day to the numerous speeches that made reference to trade unions it filled me, just as other days hale filled me when the subject has been up in the House, with the idea of the almost criminal ignorance of the subject of those on that side who stand up to speak. Take, for instance, the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. Peto), who spoke a short time ago. He began, like the last speaker, to emphasise something about intimidation, but every Member who has spoked to-day on the other side of the House has taken great care not to tell the truth about the stoppage and the Government's action through its Emergency Regulations. They have all spoken as if these Regulations were something which fell equally on all classes. None of them has told about two speeches published, one by a Noble Lord and the other by a coalowner known by the name of Sir Hugh Bell. They were speeches inciting the public. Although these matters were brought up in this House, the Home Secretary had not the courage to face them. He rather became irritated and got ill that day 74 when he was being pressed to face them. That may be the result of his action that day, but, when that subject was put by myself six times in this House and there was always a refusal to answer, it shows that the Home Secretary has very little respect for the truth, and it showed he had no fair play in his mind, because at the Box on the day these Regulations were introduced we were told they were to fall equally on all classes. They have not. That is the type of mind represented in my opinion in the speech we have just heard. He would like to put his heel on something that is smaller than himself, and he runs away when he comes up against anything growing larger than himself.
§ Mr. HARDIE
If you faced it you would not talk as you do. The hon. Member for Frome spoke about the freedom that we should have, but; he did not tell the House about the area he himself represents, the Somerset coal area. Although the Government passed what it called a reconstruction of coal getting—a permissive—Bill, we have still to-day in the Somerset mines, in the constituency of which Frome is a part, almost nude men working with a rope round their waist and through between their legs attached to a box with no wheels on it to bring coal to where the tubs can have wheels. Where is the freedom? What is meant by the word "freedom" from a man representing an area which contains that—men who have absolutely no freedom even to stand out and say they protest against being made beasts of burden? "Freedom" is a word that is running all ways. You cannot have it in one section. Here we have these conditions to-day and no reference in the King's Speech is made to that kind of poverty and slavery. No mention has been made from those benches about these conditions still obtaining in this great age where we claim to have all the scientific advantages. Although the wheel is one of the oldest inventions in connection with motion of any kind, here we have men to-day drawing like beasts a box with coal in it and no wheels on it. This is the supposed age of British and world science where we are speaking over the ocean to America 75 and, other places, and yet we have men like that in the coal industry. There is no mention made to-day of these conditions in the mining industry. The reason is that all the speeches made are to try to cover the real truth of the situation. We have statements made about leaders, but that seems to miss the point, especially in relation to the last stoppage. We are told by the Press that certain men were leaders, but whenever anyone cares, no matter to which party he belongs, to go into the subject, he will find that every action taken was the result of votes by the members. I challenge contradiction, as I have done before in this House, to that statement. To talk about futile leadership in the face of that fact and to think that one man can gull a million and a half, shows that you have a wrong estimate of the intelligence of the working classes.
§ Mr. HARDIE
We have the hon. Member for Frome worried about the fact that we are taking an interest in the Co-operative Societies. We have always had an interest in them. The Co-operative Societies are a working-class movement, and we are members, but again because it is something you are becoming afraid of you want to put your heel on it. You cannot put your heel on this. Why should a Tory Government try to appear as the friends of the Co-operative Movement alter, by legislation and every other form of propaganda, they have tried to crush it because it was a working-class movement. Every working-class attempt at organisation, every movement in this country where the working classes have tried to combine, has been met by Toryism always saving, "This cannot he good." Why? Because it may be the creation of a force or organisation that you are incapable of coping with. That is your whole trouble to-day. The working-class conscience has grown to such an extent that you are quite incapable of dealing with it unless by a process that you will not be allowed to apply.
Then we had the hon. Member for Kingston (Mr. Penny), who painted rather a wonderful picture about China —the wonderful conditions obtaining in 76 China. But he spoiled the whole of the picture he had painted by using the tar brush—the tar brush which was his last statement as to the number of prisoners and the number of evil-disposed Chinese. He gave us then all the tar, and spoiled the picture he had painted, taking away every argument he had previously advanced by saying that even the part that hon. Gentlemen like himself had played had not had much effect upon the Chinese. To hear him talking about dealing with the Chinese, one would think they were a nation who had just come from the Fiji Islands a few weeks ago. We seem to forget that China was a civilisation long before the Briton was running about with a goatskin to cover him. We also forget this, that what is called the state of China to-day is due largely to a great teacher who came and gained the ear of the Chinese, and told them that the one real thing in life was the pastoral life. He told them to get back on to the land and work it, to go on with their industries and arts, and to leave war alone. They took that advice. But now the Chinese are awakening to the fact that, although they want to respect that religious leader of theirs, other countries claiming religious freedom are trying, because of that form of religion which makes the Chinese what they are, to impose a foreign will upon them and to destroy the whole of the work of their great teacher and leader.
It is no use talking about Britain having been out there in order to educate and help the Chinese. Britain has never been anywhere like that unless for profit or for obtaining some more land. It is well just to remember the development of Japan in this relation. Japan has not made herself quite clear as to her attitude generally on this Chinese question, but one thing that she has definitely stated is that she is not going to stand idly by if the national side of China is going to be interfered with. A writer whose works I real some 20 years ago in relation to the Far East, where he had lived for 48 years, dealt with the condition that has developed within the last six months. He pointed out that, unless the nations dealing with China were very careful indeed, circumstances might arise, through the development of Japan and other parts of the Far East, such that, when the West sought to impose any conditions, we might then draw a line of 77 demarcation between the East and the West and bring on a war, not for markets or anything like that, but a race war between the yellow and the white. That is something that everyone who is thinking seriously on this question has to keep in mind. It is not such a difficult thing to conceive. Japan has developed industrially and scientifically more rapidly than Britain, considering the time in which she did it, and Japan is realising now that, when or before she was developed, the lands that her increasing population might have flowed over into have been acquired, and, with the population of Japan still increasing and not finding an outlet in her own islands, you are bound to realise, if you think out this Eastern question, the Japanese ideas—Japanese freedom, if you will, because they have the same claim to live naturally as we have. I give every race that right, because it is here by a Power over which we have no control.
We have to realise that the East must be looked at, not from the point of view of one nation or a number of nations trying to obtain control so as to bring about a race war between East and West, between yellow and white. The only basis upon which we can deal thoroughly with the question is a peace basis. What do you think the slow-thinking Chinaman, as he is called—he is called slow-thinking because he thinks—what do you think is the average Chinaman's idea of this display of force? The moment anything has had to he discussed in China, the first thing Britain has always clone in the past, and is doing even now, is to try and anticipate the argument by sending out a display of force. You are never going to get anything permanent by that method of demonstration, because do not forget that, just as soon as they care, just as soon as they are compelled to descend to force—because that is what it means—you are going to waken up that which you will be quite incapable of dealing with. We have heard some talk about Russia and her influence in China. One would think that the Chinese, instead of being members of an ancient civilisation, and quite capable of thinking, were a lot of babies, and anyone could go in there and fill up their heads. Those who have met Chinese do not get that impression. This idea that has been sprung upon us is altogether outwith the history of China, but it is clone for a purpose—to try and 78 cover over the facts that have brought about the present conditions, which chiefly date back to British action in China.
I had hoped that the Speech would have made some reference to the problems existing in our country. Reading the Speech, one would think that this was a great, peaceful country, where everything was going on well, instead of its being the fact that unemployment is increasing, that we are still in the hands of profiteer for our food, that we have had no legislation to deal with these things, which are fixing their fangs in the vitals of the whole organisation of the working class. There is no suggestion in the Speech about the promises that have been made in the past as to the reorganisation of industry. We have had the permissive Bill relating to the mines, but it is not being applied. No mention is made of the promises as to the reorganisation of other industries. The whole of this Speech is simply something brought together in words to try and till up so many pages. If there had been any true realisation of what is required in dealing with the conditions in this country, we should have had the names of all the things to be dealt with. We should have had poverty split up into various sections, and how it was to be met; and how we are going to deal with the, fact that the development of science and the increase of machines was making a permanent army of unemployed. Cognisance is taken of none of these things, but, in order to keep the eyes of the people of Britain from their own doorstep, you get something in the Far East and direct their attention there. But you are not going to do that with the working classes of this country; their growing consciousness is going to make Speeches like this in the future utterly impossible.
The hon. Member for Chester (Sir C. Cayzer), who spoke last on the opposite side, presented such a tempting and vulnerable target that I regret, not desiring to take urn too much of the time of the House, that I already have another subject with which I desire to deal. It seemed to me also that the answer to the rather brutal arrogance, reminiscent of the old German junkers, with which the hon. Member made his 79 speech, was contained, more effectively than we could make it, in the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck), who spoke earlier in the Debate. Just as the more serious members of his own party somewhat damp down the ardour of the Yellow Press, so the Noble Lord supplied the answer to the Yellow Press arguments with which the hon. Member for Chester supplied us.
I wanted to refer to the first paragraph in the Speech, which, as far as I can gather, is the only one with which the whole House will be in complete and unanimous agreement. So far as it goes, I think there is no Member of this House who will not welcome the information contained in the first paragraph of the Speech. I do feel, however, that there is a danger that the Government, and especially the Foreign Office, will be apt to be too well satisfied with the results that they announce in this Speech. The entry of Germany into the League, and the efficient manner in which the League's difficulties in the earlier part of the year were dealt with, were undoubtedly a considerable step towards the pacification of Europe, but it would be a very serious and sorry thing indeed if this House or the party opposite were to get the impression that Europe is in any great degree of pacification. It is probable that in Europe at the present moment there are more potential causes of war than there have been for the last 200 years. My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Shepherd) and myself have only been back a very few weeks from a visit to one of the new countries of Europe, and there, in Poland, we were brought face to face with some of the enormous difficulties with which Europe is faced, which were inherent in the Versailles Treaty, which were brought there in the same Covenant which gave us the League of Nations, and which, unless they are realised by the National Assemblies of all nations, and especially the larger nations connected with the League, seem to us bound, sooner or later, and possibly sooner, to involve us in more serious trouble. Indeed, at the present moment, although they do not cause any serious catastrophic upheaval, they are a con- 80 stant cause of minor warfare, of oppression, and of all kinds of trouble of that sort.
You have in Poland, and on the frontier between Europe and Russia, a whole series of national minorities. You have East Prussia split off from the rest of Germany, and you have a comparatively new country, Poland, left to face far more than its share of the European difficulties created by the Treaty of Versailles. While we were there, we went to the Ukraine, and saw the enormous difficulties which the Peace Treaty has left there. The Polish Government, recently formed, with one of the poorest countries in Europe, with an impoverished Treasury, is forced to keep up an army which is the second largest in Europe, because it is left in a most precarious position on the frontier, and great Powers like ourselves do not do all that they can to establish the most amicable relationship with that great land Power on the East of Europe. Because of that Poland is left, not only with the necessity of supporting a huge army with an impoverished population, but forced, whether it likes it or not, to have a reactionary form of Government, because that is the Government which the Powers upon which it is dependent prefer it to have.
That question may be disputed. As a matter of fact, my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington and myself went to the Polish Parliament, and we saw all parties there unanimously voting in favour of certain things. We consulted with the leaders of the parties, and they said, "Of course, these things will not happen, because the military dictatorship will not allow it." On top of that, you have this shaky Power handling two very large national minorities under the Covenant of Versailles. The larger of the two minorities is in the Ukraine. The Ukraine consists of 34,000,000 people, of whom 30,000,000 coins within the frontiers of Soviet Russia, the other 4,000,000 being ruled by this impoverished and greatly handicapped Polish Government. That little tract of Ukranian territory was handed over to the Polish Government by the League of Nations, and it was distinctly laid down that any nation taking over part of the old Austrian territory, part of the old Russian terri- 81 tory, or part of the old German territory must also take over the contractual obligations incurred by the Government from which it took over.
When we went to Lemberg we found that over a thousand railway men had been dismissed. They had paid for years for superannuation and the new Government was unable to do this. You have the whole of the Ukranian workers practically ostracised from Government employ, which is a very much greater thing than it is in England, because there is much more Government enterprise, and you have in addition to that the most stern and tyrannical form of oppression. While we were there, we saw people in some of the villages who had been rounded up being tried. At one place, we found 150 men and one woman being tried together. If we had been members of the party opposite and had seen a scene like that in a village on the other side of the Russian frontier, we should have come back to the House and indignantly demanded that the Government should at once break off relations with the wicked Soviet Government. This is happening all along the European side of the Russian frontier. The white Russians and the Ukranians arc being rounded up, prosecuted, beaten. tortured, oppressed and driven from their employment. Naturally, they are in a constant state of revolt, and, unless something is done about it, it must prevent the pacification of Europe, for which the opening paragraph of the Gracious Speech expresses a wish. The British Government claim to lave done a considerable amount for new governments who were endeavouring to find a way to freedom. I wish it were possible for us to make some kind of friendly representation to the Polish Government. They are impoverished, they are very heavily in debt both to Britain and France and they have almost insoluble problems to face on this frontier. Certainly without breaking off relations, and with a view to helping to solve the Near Eastern problems, it would be a very great help if the Government would at once ask the League of Nations to inquire whether the obligations incurred when the white Russian and Ukraine were taken over by the new Governments have been met and whether the people are receiving ordinary humane and civilised treatment.
§ Mr. KELLY
The Prime Minister has told us he felt that the House last year had grown very tired, and he made a plea that there should be an extended holiday this year despite the tact that we had a great many months of 1926 when we were away from the business of this House. When one looks at the House to-night and sees the number of Members who are present in the Chamber—and this is not the dinner hour—I am afraid there was very little justification for the right hon. Gentleman's plea for an extended holiday. He used that as a reason why the King's Speech was of such small dimensions. He told us that in the past so much legislation had been attempted that there had not been time to go through with it and to conclude the programme which had been outlined in the King's Speech. In order that there shall be a lengthened holiday in the summer he was proposing to do very little during this year. We have listened to-day to speeches from the other side suggesting that so serious is the condition of industry, despite the statement that there is a likelihood of improvement, that we must tackle the problems which are weighing so heavily upon the country at present, and the main Measure to be put before us this year is one dealing with trade unions. I listened to the hon. Baronet the Member for Chester (Sir C. Cayzer) telling us of the sins of the trade unions and talking of what he termed, and what I have seen described in newspapers as the "sane trade unionist." I do not know where the line of demarcation is drawn between those members of trade unions who are sane and those who, in the minds of hon. Members opposite, are insane. I wish they would explain to us what they mean.
Surely this is spoken to and written of by people who have never seen the inside of a branch room of a trade union and have had no connection whatever with the administration of any of our trade unions. Yet despite the fact that they have had no experience whatever either of conducting a trade union on its benefit side or in dealing with its industrial problems, they come forward and tell us that the trade union movement must be put right, and it is going to be put right by people who have never had any connection with it. It has been suggested by some employers' federations that the unions must be made responsible 83 for any loss that is sustained by reason of withdrawals of labour. Perhaps if the Government look at the question in that way they would insist that the employers shall guarantee to us wages which, if they had their places well organised, we should be receiving through their undertaking the work which is in demand throughout the world. I am amazed at the way hon. Members opposite speak of the proposals of the Government. We have had no details given to us but we hear from hon. Members opposite what. kind of Measure it is that is to be brought before us and which will satisfy these sane trade unionists who are so sane that they will not come to their trade union branch, will not come to their organiser, will not come to their trade union secretary and report what is wrong, but will go to a Conservative Member of Parliament and pour into his ear all the wrongs and the woes connected with their trade union. I want to meet that sane trade unionist—I am afraid it is an abuse of the term—who is such a friend of the Conservative party.
§ Mr. KELLY
They are so courageous that they can only talk to members of the Conservative party. What is it they complain of? Is it that they are not allowed to express themselves or that they are not allowed to take an equal part in the administration of their organisation? There are members of trade unions listening to me who can correct me if I am wrong. I know no trade union which does not allow an equal voice to every member in its organisation on every matter concerned with its administration. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) described this sane trade unionist very well a moment ago. Do you suggest that they are the only people who have the right view? I am afraid you have taken counsel from a number of people who either take no active part in their trade union or if they do, do not understand what they are talking about when they speak to a Conservative Member of Parliament.
84 I notice that the Mover of the Address and the hon. Member for Frame (Mr. G. Peto) referred to the Civil Service. I regret that the hon. Gentleman is not in his place. Having spent some considerable time in the industrial and political field in Somerset, I would rather he heard what I have to say. They suggest that civil servants shall have no rights of associating with other bodies of trades unionists in this country. In other words they want a position where those who are in the employ of the Government shall be unable to fight for themselves. They desire to bring the civil servant back to the old position where they presented petitions to "My lordships," humbly praying that they would concede, them another shilling a week, and promising to pray for them for the rest of their lives.
That kind of happening was not creditable to those who presented the petitions or to those who received them. I remember, a few years ago, speaking to a member of a Liberal Administration who implored us not to do anything which would mean the abolimon of the petitioning system, because he said it enabled him to listen to such human stories of the domestic circumstances of the men employed by the Government that he would miss something out of his life were the petitioning system abolished. The answer he received from us was that we had no respect either roe him or for those who petitioned, and we told him that that would be the last petition he would receive. It was the last petition in his case, because in that particular section of Government employés no petition has been presented since the year 1913. Ts that the position into which hon. Members opposite desire to put civil servants—a position in which they will have no opportunity of standing up against a Government which is reducing wages or refusing to give good conditions: that they wish them to have no association which they can put up to fight against unfair conditions, and that they must consequently submit to any conditions that the Government care to impose upon them?
We have had many protestations today as to the love of the present Government for trades unions. On that point, I want to say something about Woolwich. I mention Woolwich in order that hon. 85 Members who sit for Woolwich Divisions may take up the question on behalf of the people who live in that part of the country. In Woolwich, the Government started last September on their anti-trade union methods. They presented a document to 25 members of the trade union with which I am associated and asked them to sign it, stating that unless they withdrew from any association which had the power to withdraw their labour, they would not be promoted. One would imagine that it was a case of a Field-Marshal or an Admiral who was being promoted, whereas these were men engaged in stores, in ticketing and docketing stores and looking after stores. To these men the Government said, "You shall not be members of trade unions." To-day we have heard protestations from the Government and their supporters of their love of trade unions and trade unionists, although in September last they entered upon their anti-trade union methods, which they are carrying out as well as they possibly can, despite the fight we are putting up.
It was suggested by the hon. Member for Frome, and I think it was hinted by the hon. Member for Chester that there was a time in the history of trade unions when they were doing really good work, but that when they entered upon the political field they went astray and appeared to have clone no good work from that time onwards. I wonder what are the questions in which the trade unions of this country are interested. What are the questions that come before this House with which trade unions are not concerned I In matters of wages, conditions of labour, foreign policy and so forth, surely trade unionists are concerned, and they have a right, and I hope they will insist upon their right, to take their proper place in regard to these questions, even in the teeth of all the opposition put up by the Conservative party or any other party.
Reference was made to the co-operative movement. Not only have these statements been made in this House by Ministers and their supporters, but they have been making statements in the country that the co-operative societies are likely to be captured by the trade unions or by the Labour party. That is a most foolish statement. Most of the hon.
86 Members who sit on this side, or nearly all the hon. Members on this side, have been Members of co-operative societies for many years, and have taken an active part in them. I have been a member of co-operative societies in various parts of the country for more than 30 years. Is it to be suggested that we are now setting out to capture and utilise the co-operative societies? It is curious to find that those people who have never lifted a finger to help co-operation and who only use the word "co-operation" when they wish to mislead people by talking about co-operation, have suddenly found that they desire to help the co-operative movement, which originates in the division of which I am proud to be the representative. The co-operative movement is a. movement of working people; a movement intended to take an active part and to take its proper place in the affairs of this country, and that movement will be found facing members of the party opposite if it is going to do its rightful work and to do it with effect for the carrying out of its principles.
The hon. Member for Chester told us that few people thought 12 months ago that there could he such a thing as a general strike. There was not a general strike. There was a stoppage in some industries. We are accustomed to the rise of terms by hon. Members on the other side of the House, to the application of which they have given very little thought. Speaking generally, there was little thought 12 months ago that there would be such a stoppage. The hon. Member did not refer to certain incidents in the mining dispute. He did not refer to the great-hearted effort given by large masses of working people who believed at the time that they were giving assistance to the miners who were struggling at that particular period. Had that stoppage been looked at in the way it might have been looked at by the people of this country, credit instead of censure would have been given to the men and women who stood by the miners during that particular period.
I wish we had heard in more detail what was meant by the hon. Member when he said that the majority opinion of the Trade Union Congress could not be taken notice of at this time, and that those of us who are in the trade union 87 movement are led by an infinitesimal minority. I think that was the term he used. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] I suppose the hon. Member who said "Hear, hear!" is a member of a trade union, and therefore he knows. If so, I would like to know the particular trade union with which he is connected. [An HON. MEMBER: "The employers!"] I was not aware that even in the employers' trade unions an infinitesimal minority would lead them. I know something of the inside of those associations, and even they are conducted on the basis of majority decisions. If you take any body of workmen in this country engaged in, say, the heavy or the light industries, engineering, shipbuilding, chemical trades, textile trades, and so on, if you go through the whole gamut of industry, you will not be able to find one trade union where a small minority is able to lead a trade union in the way in which the members do not desire to go.
A suggestion was made by the hon. Member that a general strike should be made a treasonable act. I suppose that would carry with it all the penalties that attach to high treason. If that be the opinion of the hon. Member, we would like to know how many hon. Members on the other side are allied with him in that particular view. If they desire to see capital punishment imposed when a man ceases work in a fight for the improvement of wages and conditions of labour, or in a fight to prevent the worsening of conditions or wages, then we shall know the opinion of the Conservative party, and that it is its desire to make that a treasonable offence. There was a time in this country when trade unions were illegal institutions. That was more than 100 years ago. Does the hon. Member for Chester desire to take us back to that period?
Another point of comment is the small amount of legislation outlined in the King's speech, and the absence of details. The Government are to deal with agriculture. What is going to be done? Is it intended to deal with the wages of agricultural labourers? Those wages are already too low for a decent standard of life. Not a hint has been given to us by the Prime Minister in his speech to-day as to what was intended by that 88 phrase in the King's speech. I do hope that if agriculture is to be dealt with that the wages of the agricultural worker will not be neglected, and that something that will help him into a better position will be introduced in the legislation that is to come before us.
In connection with China, I cannot understand why it was necessary to despatch forces. We have had statements made from the Government side of the House on the question, but we have not been told of any dangers threatening the people in Shanghai. On the other hand, we have had no proof given that the forces in the civil war there were intended to take Shanghai by force of arms. Despite all that we have sent out this force to China and probably lost an opportunity of securing that peaceful condition of things for which we should strive. The whole position there is a condemnation, not only of this Government but of all the Governments we have had of the two historic parties for the last 60 years. They have allowed this method of extraterritorial rights to be continued, and only now when force is being used between the two parties are we thinking of doing the right thing. Are we never to do the right thing without force of arms? That is the position we are in now, and hope, despite the dispatch of this force to China, that there will be no shedding blood. That will not be because of any action on the pact of the Government, who by sending out this force have tended to cause suspicion in other countries. The King's Speech from the Throne is not creditable to the Government of this country at this time, and the suggestion for a longer holiday in the summer is something that will come back on a Government who are prepared to give themselves longer holidays and yet refuse to give holidays, with pay, to industrial workers in their own establishments.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. PILCHER
I only desire to refer to one quite relatively small topic. The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), speaking from the Labour Benches, has referred to a very serious problem which has confronted for some years, and still confronts, the Government of Bengal and the Government of India. I refer to the detention of, I believe, about 110 detinu in the various Provinces of India who were placed under detention for their connec- 89 tion—I think I may say their proved connection—with a very serious conspiracy. The hon. Member for West Leicester has recently returned from a cold weather visit to India, and in what was a very moderate speech to-day he drew attention to the fact that these men are still under detention. He also referred to summary arrest and imprisonment without trial, and to various other things of that kind which are certainly contrary to what are generally regarded as English principles of liberty. I think it would be unfortunate if that speech were to remain on record without any comment of any kind from someone who knows something of the circumstances which attended the arrest of these men. I should like to emphasise the fact that these men are not in any real sense detained without trial. They have not been tried in open court, they have not had a jury trial according to the ordinary procedure of the criminal law in India. Although they have not had a public trial, which experience has shown is very dangerous to accord to such cases in India, they have had a very careful, a very scrupulous and a very sympathetic, examination of their case time after time by very competent persons.
I should like to make it clear that the Governor of Bengal who first decided that these arrests were necessary in 1923 was Lord Lytton, and no one in this House needs to be told that Lord Lytton went to India full of real sympathy for the Indian people in their desire to obtain a greater degree of political freedom. It was Lord Lytton who, after two and a half years as Governor of Bengal, was forced by circumstances, and very terrible circumstances, to realise that something must be done to handle this terrible underground conspiracy. The case was then pressed by Lord Lytton on the Government of Lord Reading, and thus we had an ex-Lord Chief Justice of England adjudicating on the case of each one of these men. He examined the documents in each case; and he re-examined them with the greatest care.
He made a personal examination of the record of every one of these detinu, and Lord Reading having convinced himself the matter went before his Cabinet, which is a Cabinet composed not only of leading persons chosen from the Civil Service, but comprising three very 90 influential Indians: and that Cabinet of Lord Reading's came to the same conclusion, that these people who are now called, the Bengali detinu must be subject to a summary process with a view to preventing the conspiracy developing further. After Lord Reading had made his examination every one of these cases came home to the Secretary of State for India in this country, who was then Lord Olivier. He made another examination of these cases, and he came to the same conclusion. Therefore since that time cases of these detinu have been examined and re-examined, and recently they have been examined again by Lord Birkenhead, an ex-Lord Chancellor of this country. These constant examinations. of the cases of these detinu should, to say the least, create a very stong prima facie case in support of the action of the Government of India and the Government of Bengal.
What about the actual conspiracy? I should like to make this perfectly clear. I am convinced on this point as I lived in India, and I saw the whole of the conspiracy in operation in the years up to 116. The conspiracy was in operation for many years, from 1908 to 1916. You had constant murders in the districts of the various provinces, the raiding of shops for treasure and silver, the raiding of post offices in some cases in order to, act the loot in the tills. This went on from 1908 to 1916, and if there are many hon. Members of the Opposition who. would really care to find out something about the antecedents of the conspiracy I would recommend them to study—I recommend the hon. Member for West Leicester—-and read the Report of the Rowlatt Commission, a Commission headed by a Judge of the King's Bench Division, which was sent out to India to to consider how best the conspiracy could be dealt with in some legal or extra-legal form. They will find a series of maps corresponding to every year during which this conspiracy was taking form, and they will also find red dots indicating the murders committed. In 1916, the Great War being on, the special powers of D.O.R.A. were exercised in. India and conspirators were put away under detention. Not rotting in gaol, lout under special detention and under very pleasant conditions. From 1916 to 1920 there was complete peace as far as conspiracy went in India. The con- 91 spiracy went underground. It disappeared. These men were under detention and that was sufficient. Mr. Justice Rowlatt's Commission recommended a certain procedure, a special Commission to examine the cases of conspirators of this type when peace should be restored.
The recommendations of the Rowlatt Commission became the subject of a Bill which was enacted by the Imperial Assembly in India, and the conspiracy probably would never have raised its head again but for a change of mind on the part of the British Government and the Indian Government. The Montague Reforms came in, and an effort was made to democratise India. With a view of creating an atmosphere of conciliation, the Rowlatt Act was summarily repealed, and the conspirators were released. That was in 1920. In 1921–22 nothing much happened. A great many of the conspirators went abroad. Many of them went to Moscow, and there they were in touch with the Bengali Roy, who was a well-known Indian member of the executive of the Third Internationale. These are all well-established facts. The conspirators then began to go back to India, and sporadic murders and sporadic raids began again. There was a shocking crime committed in a main street of Calcutta in 1923, when a perfectly peaceful Englishman was summarily murdered by one of these conspirators on the ground merely of his likeness to it leading British official in Bengal. In a leading Indian thoroughfare of Calcutta a post office was raided by these desperadoes and a perfectly innocent Bengali at work in his shop was murdered out of hand and the money taken from the post office. There were very serious developments of the Conspiracy at that time, and I clearly remember that many of the Bengali themselves, and the Indians themselves, were loud in their demands for a more serious handling of this terrorist conspiracy. Lord Lytton gradually became convinced that something would have to be done, and a special Ordinance was re-enacted under which these men have been once more detained. The result is that the conspiracy has disappeared underground again.
But I ask hon. Members not to come to the conclusion that in India to-day there 92 is anything like summary arrest and suspension of the judicial processes. Nor is there prolonged detention in the manner of the old Government of Russia who sent its desperadoes to Siberia. There is nothing whatever of this kind obtaining in India. The position of the police, both Indian and English, became very serious at that time, and it became almost impossible to maintain an element of English police in the police forces India unless something was done. In a matter of three years there were 95 resignations from 700 British officers who were in the Indian police force. Not even the strongest advocate of democracy in India pretends that, you can maintain peace and order in India without a stiffening of the English white personal element in the Indian police. The Indian police are admirable. The conspirators have murdered many noble Indian policemen, sometimes in the streets of Calcutta in broad daylight. If you are going, to maintain peace in that country and not allow whole provinces to drift into the anarchy which prevails in Canton and South China you will have to assist the police and handle this conspiracy so that it will never be able to raise its head again. The great difficulty is that when these cases are put up for trial by ordinary procedure it is impossible to get a conviction.
Lord Lytton told a very touching story some months ago. He was inspecting an educational institution in the North of England and he saw an Indian lad there who attracted him by his appearance. He said, "I should like to speak to this lad," and when he did so this Indian lad confessed that he was a man who had committed a political murder in Calcutta. The case went to the High Court with a jury, and he was acquitted. Some arrangement was made for him to come to England. He became extremely penitent and sorry that he had been associated with these people, and he told Lord Lytton this terrible story. This lad will have this crime on his conscience for the rest of his life. Lord Lytton told this story to the Bengal Council to give them some idea of the real intention and purpose in confining these mad conspirators when it was quite impossible to deal with them by ordinary legal procedure. I submit that if the suggestion of the hon. Member for West Leicester were adopted, 93 and if these men were released again to re-create their connection with Moscow and to re-start these underground crimes in Bengal, we should stand in very real jeopardy of creating on the eastern side of India something like the anarchy that there is in China.
The real connection between China and India is that in both countries you have a vast population totally uneducated. Only 7 per cent. of the population of India are literate in any dialect. If you let loose these conspirators there is no corrective to their propaganda amongst the ignorant population. The bazaars get hold of the stories, ill feeling arises, and sooner or later, as in China, you get this perverse and unnatural hatred of the white race. We are much too apologetic about our work in China and in India. In general there is nothing to be apologetic about at all. Those of us who have lived in the East realise that the white race has done infinite good, and the members of the white race in those countries to-day are just as keen as any of their predecessors to maintain the good record created in past years.
§ Mr. J. JONES
If I were disloyal l would be prepared to thank His Majesty for His most Gracious Speech, but I know full well that this is not the King's Speech. If I thought it were, I should be prepared to sing "God Save the King," because his Majesty would require some saving for having put his name to such a document as this. Everybody in the House knows, however, that this is not His Majesty's Speech. It is a thing that His Majesty is supposed to say; it is "His Master's Voice." The first statement in the Speech is that His Majesty is pleased to congratulate himself and the Government on the fact that our international relationships are all right. Everybody in the House knows that that is not true. We know that, as far as Europe is concerned, there are international jealousies arising at almost every point, and that the Chinese imbroglio would not be as bad as it is were it not for the fact that other people are waiting for the opportunity of jumping; in. The Speech says, further, that we are carrying on our usual policy of not interfering in the internal affairs of China. Everybody knows that that is perfectly true grammatically, but that it is not true from other points of view. 94 We have always interfered in the external affairs of China. We have created concessions and Treaty Ports. Other Governments have followed our example.
Now the people of China have risen through their Governments 'North and south and have said, "Hands off China!" The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary says that we will not take our hands off China, but that we will take off six of our fingers out of the ten. But economic and other circumstances will compel us eventually. I have not lived in China, and my knowledge of the country is bounded by the West India Dock Road on the one side and Limehouse Causeway on the other. The Chinese there have been put in gaol because they dared to sell opium. Yet we went to war to compel China to allow British merchants in India to import opium into China. We have sacrificed thousands of lives and spent millions of money to compel the Chinese in China to do that for which we sent them to gaol here in England. I hope hon. Members opposite like that kind of medicine when it is doled out properly by a respectable Foreign Secretary, which I am not.
The Speech also tells us that proposals will be made to the House for the purpose of dealing with the Unemployment Insurance Act. Coming events cast their shadows before. We can only imagine what kind of reform the Government are likely to propose from the policy that they have been pursuing for the past two years. What have they been doing? They have been doing their best to make it impossible for men to draw the benefits for which they have been paying, by making all sorts of Regulations and fancy rules, and even by cutting out the recommendations of local employment committees. We can imagine therefore, what kind of reform we are to have. It is not going to be reform, but a de-forming of the Unemployment Insurance Act. Then we are told that the public health services of the country are to be looked after. We who are members of local authorities know that the public health services are being looked after now. We know also that every time we make an application for money to be spent on public services for the improvement of public health we are faced with all sorts of difficulties before we get consent to 95 spent a few thousand pounds of our own money. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent the Government at the moment I know have a very important reception to attend at Lord Londonderry's house to-night. [HON. MEMBERS:" It was last night!"] Then Ministers have no excuse for being absent. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the Labour Benches?"] Our benches have some decent representatives on them, but the Government are represented by a beggarly array of empty benches, and those who are present do not take any interest in the Debate. They are here simply as decoy ducks.
The Speech tells us, further, that a friendly setlement has been reached regarding the funding of war debt due to this country by Portugal. I hope you will get it. I hear that there is a revolution there. The Portuguese cannot afford a revolution and payment of their debt to this country at the same time. Then the Speech says that we are to have industrial legislation. Yes, industrial legislations affecting only the trade unions. The trade unions are to be legislated against. Will the Government legislate against the Federation of British Industries? Will there be a Clause in the Bill saying that the coalowners committed a criminal offence when they locked out the miners? Is there to he any machinery established to say that no body of employers shall have the right to lock out their employés?
§ Mr. JONES
No, I am not talking about the "Daily Herald"; I am talking about the "Times" and the "Morning Post" and the other organs of respectable public opinion—more respectable than public! They are not organs of public opinion at all, but they are the barrel organs of the employers' opinion. They are telling us what they are going to do with us. Before a dispute is entered into, there is going to be a secret ballot taken of all trade unions. Is that going to apply to the Employers' Associations? Do not those Associations arrange over the telephone to lock out their employés? Do not we who have worked in the building trade know that the Master Builders' Association over the telephone have given notice to their members to lock their men out? There was no talk about a ballot there, and you cannot enforce a ballot upon them because, if you do, the people who are behind them and who find the money to run the Tory party at election times will not stand it for five minutes. No, it is the trade unions that you are going to legislate against, not the Employers' Associations. I wish you luck and I hope it keeps fine for you.
We were faced in 1906 with a similar issue. Who is it that has been asking for industrial trouble? We have never tried to bring about industrial troubles; we have done our best to prevent them. You are going to meet Mr. Chen round the table and talk with him about the arrangements for China and her future, but you will not meet representatives of the trade unions round the table and talk to them about the regulations governing trade unions. You are prepared to argue with a Chinaman, but you will not sit round a table with your own countrymen. This is presented to us as what von are going to do. The Bill will be brought in, and no doubt with your 220 majority behind you, it will be carried into effect. If the Bill is carried through the House, we shall he told that we may go to Committee and' discuss it there but the main principles you have decided upon will be carried out even before we meet. Why? Because we are not in the position which the Chinese are in. We are not even in the position of the. Russians. We are not in a position to threaten you with the use of force except in so far as we 97 can bring about a strike with the consent of the members of our unions. There is no trade unionist in this House who can bring a man out on strike against his will. I have been a member of a trade union for many years, but I cannot bring a man out on strike unless he wishes to come out. You cannot make a revolution without revolutionists, and you cannot make a strike until you get the strikers. Yet all the blame is going to be put upon the union. Will you make the employers pay for the cost of a lock-out? Will you say to the employers who have locked out a million miners, and whose action caused the general strike, that they will have to put the bill for that? No! Will you say that all the loss that has been caused through their action they will have to make good?
§ Mr. JONES
You know very well that it is said that you are going to force a secret ballot upon us, before we as trade unionists can call a strike. I do not know whether you do propose that, or whether you do not. I do not know what is in your mind. There is not much there as a rule! But I know what you have been writing in your newspapers, and that is all that we can imagine you intend to do. The men who have been writing in the Press on your behalf have been attacking the trade unions. Your journals have started the campaign, just as you have sent your missionaries to China. The proposal is to take a ballot before a strike takes place. Nobody told me that, but that is what I have read in responsible journals, the protagonists of your policy. Surely Mr. Garvin knows something. He knows more than 50 per cent. of the Members of the Tory party, Or else they would not employ him. Are you going to force the employers to take a ballot, either public or private? Will all the shareholders of all the great companies of the country be balloted before a lock-out or dispute takes place?
§ Sir R. LYNN
You are quite wrong. I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but, as a matter of fact, last week three of his friends were then in Belfast and spoke in one of our public halls.
§ Mr. JONES
Then you are the inspirer of it. But I think the King's Speech is more noteworthy for what it does not contain than it is for what it does contain. It travels all over the world and leads to nowhere. It roams from China to Peru. The last thing that we come to is the only thing that matters, and that is the condition of the people, and on that point we have nothing at all. We are promised reforms that are not going to be reforms. We are promised alterations in present-day existing conditions which we know will be reactionary. 99 We are threatened by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—the gentleman who has been everything by turns but nothing long, and who has been over to Mussolini to get hints as to how to conduct the affairs of this country—that more economy is to be practised at the expense of the great mass of the people of this country. We cannot afford to send battleships to China unless we cut down our expenditure at home to make up the leeway. So far as this Government is concerned, this King's Speech is going to be its shroud. It is the last word in nothingness. It is another dose of "Baldwin's Balsam." It is an insult to His Majesty the King to put it forward as his Speech. It is the king of the capitalists' speech—big business! So far as we are concerned, there is nothing in it, and it is a pity that we are wasting our time in discussing it. It is only out of a sense of duty to his Gracious Majesty that we even consider it. The Government have a majority of 220 over all other parties combined, but they go so low as to come into the House of Commons with this as the programme for their third Session when they have such a majority, when they know there is an enormous army of unemployed men and women in the country—a million and a quarter registered and recognised—when they know that there is a bigger army of people in receipt of Poor Law relief today than there was in the worst days of previous industrial depressions, and when they know that we have a huge National Debt and many other problems to face. Yet they can only come forward with a proposal to hamstring the trade unions and to destroy, as far as they can, the only protective power which the workers have got.
It has taken one hundred years to build up that power but we shall be as good as our fathers in fighting to preserve it. You have your big majority here and you may be able to treat us from the judicial point of view, like the so-called rebels in India, who have been mentioned. We are not going to be rebels in that sense, but we are going to exert all the political power we possess and take advantage of every industrial opportunity we may get to insist that you shall not carry out this programme, if it is going to affect the lives and conditions 100 of the class to which we belong. I will not have an opportunity of taking part in this Debate again. I know there will be bigger speakers than I and speakers who know more about these subjects than I do. Probably they have a right to know more than I do because they have had better opportunities. Some of my hon. Friends opposite know more than I do, but they do not apply their knowledge. What some of them know would fill a book and what they do not know would fill a library, but they look wise and we have to take them at their own valuation. So far as we are concerned, this King's Speech is not worthy of a great Parliament like this at a time like the present when we are faced with some of the greatest problems the world has ever known. At such a time we get this beggarly thing. I am ashamed that any printer could be found to use his machinery for the purpose of producing it. If this is a product of the greatest Government of modern times I can only hope that that Government, like the paper upon which this Speech is printed, will soon return to the oblivion from which it came.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
Unlike the hon. Member who has just spoken, I have not risen to criticise the Government but to congratulate them on one passage in the King's Speech. It is:Proposals will also be made for an amendment of the law relating to leasehold premises, so as to secure to an outgoing; tenant compensation for the loss of his goodwill and unexhausted improvements.That is a reform which is long overdue and, speaking on behalf of the National Chamber of Trade, the Town Tenants' League and other organisations representing the shop-keeping community of this country to the extent of some 300,000 persons, I wish to offer my congratulations to the Government on having at last tackled this question. We have advocated a measure of reform of the kind outlined here for many years. Last Session I had the honour to introduce a Bill dealing with the question, but unfortunately it did not progress very far. None the less, those for whom I speak are delighted that the Government have taken up the matter. All we have asked for is a Measure which will be equitable, as between the owner of property and the tenant. It is, of course, impossible either to criticise or commend the provisions of 101 a Bill until the Bill is produced, but I take the first opportunity of congratulating the Government on having mentioned the subject in the King's Speech.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
I very much regret that the hon. Member for Chester (Sir C. Cayzer) has left the House for the time being because he made what was to those on this side of the House, a most interesting speech, particularly in his references to the proposed Trade Unions Bill. Like the hon. Member for Rochdal (Mr. Kelly), I am interested to know whether his views are symptomatic of the views held on the benches opposite as to the proposed legislation, because if they are, then, despite the fact that the promised legislation is to be of a very watered down character, I prophesy that the Debates upon it in this House will be lively. The hon. Member for Chester, went so far as to say that not only should a general strike be defined as illegal, but that those participating in such a strike should be declared guilty of treason. The hon. Member for Rochdale asked him if he really meant that, and if he understood the implication of what he was saying. The hon. Member for Chester did not reply, but from subsequent remarks in his speech I take it that he does mean that those who, in future, may take part in a general strike, should be made, according to law, guilty of an offence which carries with it the penalty of death. He said that what the Government required to do was not so much to enact fresh legislation as to define clearly the legislation already on the Statute Book. Perhaps he knows, or perhaps he does not know, that treason in this realm is still an offence punishable by death. There are four such offences still—treason, treason felony, setting fire to the King's wharves, and wilful murder. The hon. Member seems to have understood that, when he said that what was wanted was a clear definition of the laws on the Statute Book, and as I say, if his speech is symptomatic of the views held opposite on the proposed Trade Unions Bill, that Bill will have a lively passage.
The same hon. Member spoke about the legality of the general strike and he seemed to suffer from the same delusion as his colleagues suffered from in the course of that strike. It was a generally held opinion and a generally expressed opinion both on the other 102 side of the House and from the Liberal Benches, that the general strike was illegal. The lamp-posts and tramway standards were posted with documents pointing out to the workers that the strike was illegal. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), one of the greatest legal minds in the country, twice in this House said the general strike was illegal. How then does it come that we are to have legislation to make it illegal? After listening to the second speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley, in the Lobby I called his attention to the fact that according to British law and the only decision we had under British law, the general strike was not illegal. Judge Erskine gave the only decision we had which was that the general strike was not illegal. Presumably the Government and their supporters and the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues have found out that the general strike, which was then proclaimed on all sides to be illegal, was not really illegal, and we are now to have legislation to deal with the matter.
The principal reason for my rising tonight is to ask a question of the Government with regard to China. When I was elected to this House I thought it- was here that we should look for information upon all important and vital matters. There are certain terms that have been offered to the leaders of the insurgent forces in China, to Eugene Chen, which have been published in the newspapers within this last month, and we are now to understand that before Hankow, before Wanhsien, before all real trouble arose in China, these self-same terms were drawn up_, in a Memorandum, in the month of May last. Is that true? if so, why did this House not know it? Why did not the Chinese people and the British people know it? If they had, we might not have had Hankow or Wanhsien, and we might not be confronted now with the perilous position in which the British find themselves to-night with regard to China. Is it a fact that these self-same terms were embodied in a Memorandum in May last and, if so, why was this House not made aware of those terms?
That was my principal object in rising, but since I have risen I want to deal with the remarks of the hon. Member for 103 Kingston-on-Thames (Mr. Penny), who painted a glowing picture of the conditions that Chinese workers have under British administration and in the employment of British owners. He went so far as to say, after describing all the educational facilities and other good conditions, that Chinese come under British protection and administration and rule as paupers—those were the words he used—and he did not say they went away millionaires, but that they went away wealthy men. I am trying to reconcile the expression of opinion and the flowery statement of the hon. Member for Kingston-on-Thames, who says that he has actual experience of these things, with what we heard from the ex-Ambassador to China, Sir John Jordan, who held that position for 14 years. there are Members sitting now who heard him upstairs describing the British and foreign concessions in China, and one of the questions put to him, I remember, was this:" Is it true, Sir John, that in these concessions, in British-owned mills and factories, we have children of the tender age of four and five years employed?" Sir John replied: "Yes, it is true, but do not pass any hasty judgment upon a matter of that kind until you understand, and I explain to you, something of the Chinese psychology."
Sir John went on to explain to about 100 of us, Members of Parliament, who were listening to him upstairs, what he termed the Chinese psychology. He said: "The Chinese mother prefers to have her children with her in the mill for two reasons. The first is that she cannot pay for her children being tended at home, and the second reason is that the children earn a few coppers per week, which help to augment the family income." "What do these children do?" Sir John was asked. He replied:" They pick up fragments of fabric that fall on the floor from the machines, and place them in baskets put there for that purpose." n And their ages are from four to five years, Sir John?" "yes," said Sir John, "four to five years of age, but do not pass too0020hasty an opinion about it. Do not come to any resolutions upon the matter unless you understand the Chinese psychology." If I was asked: "What is wrong with China to-day, what is the Chinese 104 problem?" I would say that the awakened Chinese nation has determined to wipe that kind of psychology off the slate for ever. That is the trouble.
So far as the Government are concerned, I and other Members on this side watched for some 3½ months before we rose in August last the questions that were put and answered regarding China, and always these questions had in them something that was not on the surface. They were questions with regard to property and lives, but more particularly property, but they had always in them what was little less than a veiled demand that the British Government should take firm action in China. That was the gist of all these questions, and I cannot help thinking that the fact that the British Government are dealing-I think I am right in saying for the first time—with the representatives of an insurgent Nationalist force in China, has something to do with the demands that have been and are still being made from the back Government benches for firm action in China. I want to say, in conclusion, that it has been said and written that as far as China is concerned, neither we ourselves, the British people, nor the American people, nor any of the other nations that have the concessions in China would be there had not the Chinese people, or at least an important part of them, wanted us there. I am not going to argue whether that is right or wrong, but if it be right, along the same line of reasoning, now that the awakened Chinese nation see otherwise, and have become determined to be masters in their own house and owners of their own territory, we here, if we are the lovers of freedom that we pretend and proclaim ourselves to be, will not hesitate to take even the extreme step of clearing out, bag and baggage, from Chinese territory.
§ Mr. BROMLEY
I dare say the House has already listened to a great deal of criticism similar to that which I shall direct to the King's Speech. I want to echo what I know has been said from these benches with regard to the position in China. If the second paragraph of His Majesty's Speech were all that the Government intend, it would not loom so seriously in the minds of some of us, but our opinions are necessarily moulded very largely by what Government spokesmen have given utterance to and by the 105 line taken in the Press of the country that is regarded as giving expression to the views of the political party now in power. What I would like the Government to remember, if they are as well informed as they should be with regard to China, is that, should this result in a clash of arms, they will not be dealing with the "heathen Chinee" depicted on the music hall stages of this country. Their advisers in China should be able to tell them that we are dealing to-day with an enlightened and very largely educated China, and at the moment he is behind a machine gun. With all desire to be fair, I cannot rid my mind of the belief that the intervention is not to keep up or protect the honour of this country, or even for the sole purpose of saving the lives of its citizens, so much as to protect the trading interests' that have made very large amounts of money out of the exploitation of the Chinese nation. It can hardly be said to be for the extension of British trade, because I think every sober-minded person would see at a glance that, where a few British capitalists have made wealth out of the poverty-stricken China, if the standard of life of between 400,000,000 and 500,000,000 people were raised, the expansion of the trade with the world, and very likely especially with this country, would be enormously enhanced.
I am afraid the Government in the past have taken wrong advice with regard to China. It is a British characteristic, which I am afraid both sides of the House are imbued with, that we are rather a stiff-necked people and once having taken up an attitude we stick to it. I would appeal to the Government to give the fullest possible consideration to the effect of what a hurried reading of this second paragraph would convey. Unfortunately the people of this country —I believe with some reason—always regard political statements as being words used to conceal thought, and about this paragraph—[An Hon. MEMBER:" That is your policy."] The hon. Member says that is my policy. I am pleased to say I have not the honour of personally knowing the hon. Member, and therefore I rather doubt his judgment, seeing that we are not so closely connected. I am not an agriculturist by any means. I would just add my word to the desires already expressed, that every care in negotiations 106 may be taken before plunging this country into a war which I suggest will not be the suppression of a few unarmed ill-disciplined natives, but might lead to numberless lives of British lads being sacrificed and homes rendered desolate for what some of us believe to he a fetish of stiff-necked British Imperialism. I say that without putting it in a gibing manner. I want to put it as fairly as I can and yet put it frankly.
I would add a word of criticism for what I feel to be a regrettable absence from His Majesty's Speech. Not only I, but many Members of this House, regret that there is no mention in the Speech of closer relationship with Russia. [Laughter.] It is regrettable that some hon. Members take this with some hilarity. I am afraid hilarity is not weighty opinion, it is not calm judgment, and it does not lead us anywhere. If the House gave itself over to treating serious questions generally in that way, I should tremble for its future. However, I repeat that we are losing to our own people and to our own country possibilities of trade and of releasing our unemployment from the serious position it is in to-day by neglecting to consolidate and extend our relationship with the great Russian nation. I regret it more because attempts have been made in either malicious or ill-informed quarters to link up the trouble in China with Russia. If that were so, our country could be said to be linked up with every war and every revolution in the world, because there are Britishers, either serving as advisers or in the armies or in a half-diplomatic service of a great many nations when they fly at each other's throats. But that, I suggest, is an excuse. Since such suggestions have been made, within the last few weeks, many millions of pounds of Russian gold have been taken from our country to other countries for the purpose of trading. That may be a very serious loss. With all its attendant possibilities of trade, it has been transferred to other countries. [HON. MEMBERS:" To Russia."] Hon. Members are interrupting without sufficient knowledge, and if they are so wise in their own conceit that they cannot have a word of advice from someone who knows that which they may be ignorant 107 of, we shall have to leave it at that. There are the facts, and they have been brought about by a few fanatics who would hang the Russian question on to anything possible for the sake of Russian bondholders and not for the sake of the welfare of the people of this country. So I regret the absence from the King's Speech of any preparatory wording which would lead to that closer relationship.
I will conclude by saying a word as an officer of a trade union, with regard to the small paragraph, which evidently intends to deal more drastically with trade unions in an industrial dispute. If I wanted to give the Government advice which would be suitable to our people, I would say at once, "Get on with it, by all means," because just as a compressed spring rebounds with greater force in proportion to its compression so would the organised trade unions of this country resent any forceful attempt by a powerful Government representing the capitalists' interests to take away their freedom of action. I would say to the Government that all these secret ballots that they may enforce and all the repressive measures they may bring against the 5,000,000 organised workers of this country, would have no effect when a time arose that the organised trade unionists felt that they would have to use their powers of the strike to enforce justice. After many years of service with my union I can say that some of the most effective and most enthusiastic demonstrations have been strikes which were entirely unauthorised, and even opposed, by officers of the organisation. When men feel deeply that they are being wronged, no legislation will prevent them quitting their work. As the hon. Member for Silver-town (Mr. J. Jones) indicated, those people who are brimming over with human sympathy for the ordinary member of a trade union, and are so anxious that his voice shall be heard, would be highly indignant if it were suggested that every shareholder of a company must be balloted before a board of directors could take action. We know that if at a company meeting a single shareholder dares to challenge the board, he is generally treated with less courtesy than a disgruntled member of a trade union would be in a trade union branch during a dis- 108 pute. I regret that one hon. Member keeps up a running fire of comment. I hope he will have the courage to get on his hind legs and express his opinions openly. I am not given to interrupting by way of muttered disagreements, and I forgive the hon. Member quite readily, because I think he knows no better.
I would point out to the Government that should they bring in the Bill which has been apparently outlined, all they will succeed in doing will be to bring a hornets' nest about their ears, without taking the spirit from the organised workers of the country. The better way of getting the trade unions to see when they are wrong in taking action either in the form of a national strike or otherwise, would be for employers to bring into operation occasionally when dealing with their workmen that spirit to which so much lip service is paid here. I have in mind at the moment a few men who took part in the great national call and who, in spite of all the speeches about the lion lying down with the lamb and letting bygones be bygones, are still unemployed, still kept out of the service of their previous employer, though other men taken on in their places are working excessive hours on important jobs, to the danger of the life and limb of themselves and those with whom they work and a number of other citizens in this country. I say at once, though not in a truculent or a threatening manner, that if they were employed on railways, and my organisation had authority to speak for them, no laws on the Statute Book would prevent us taking the strongest possible action to see that they got a fair deal; but because they are in the employ of a company able to exert the lash, it is used. Had the King's Speech spoken authoritatively to bring about the better feeling, the real understanding and the human sympathy which are spoken of but seldom given effect to, it would have done a great deal more for industrial peace in the future than will all the threats held over the heads of organised trade unionists by people who suggest that they are only endeavouring to do the business better than trade unionists can do it for themselves. It is dangerous to prophesy, but I prophesy now that whatever form such a repressive Bill may take it will give this Government more trouble than they bargained for, and will not be effective in creating that peace 109 of stagnation and bovine work and sleep which is evidently desired by the reference in the King's Speech.
§ Sir R. LYNN
I cannot, like the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Bromley), claim to have any close or intimate connection with Russia, but I may point out to him, for his edification, if it is -necessary, that the country which has refused to see Russia or to have any dealings with Russia is the United States of America, and that in spite of that fact the United States is doing a larger amount of business with Russia than any other country. I am quite at a loss to understand why the hon. Member is so anxious to have dealings with Russia. I have been reading recently the reports of the trade union organisations in Russia, and I find that the people there are paid a lower wage than before the War and that the conditions are worse than they ever were under even the worst of the Tsars. I am at a loss to understand why my hon. Friend wants to be so intimately connected with Russia. My hon. Friend the Member for Silver-town (Mr. J. Jones) sneered at the fact that missionaries have been sent to China. I thought that his Church, and my Church, were both agreed that it was a benefit to send missionaries to China.
§ Sir R. LYNN
If my hon. Friend tells me that his Church is making a mistake in sending missionaries to China, of course I will accept it.
§ Sir R. LYNN
I accept my hon. Friend's admission. He says that missionaries—and the most enthusiastic missionaries belong to his Church, I believe—have been the vanguard of business. Is that a great crime? Is it a real disadvantage to this country that we should do business with China or any other country? Is it not of advantage to the working classes that we should do as much business as we can with every nation in the world? I am surprised at this suggestion of my hon. Friend, who, as a rule, is very sensible in those things —except in his opinions about the leaders 110 of his own party. That is one of the things he and I never can agree on. He never will admit that the leaders of the Socialist party can do anything wise or sensible. [Interruption.] Oh, yes, I agree that the leaders of the Socialist party are very foolish people, though I would not agree that the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) was a foolish person, because no Member of the House listens with more respect than I do to the hon. Member for Rochdale. I have risen not for the purpose of creating more trouble than there is, but to say that we ought not to be wasting our time in this House and in the country in fighting each other. It is our business to work together.
§ Sir R. LYNN
I have said it always. The hon. Member for Silvertown asked the question, "Will you do the same thing with regard to employers?" And I said then, as I say now, "Yes—absolutely!" I do not see why the State should make one law for employers and another law for employés. If half the time and half the energy that are spent in fighting were spent in trying to compose our differences, it would be better for each one of us and better for the nation as a whole. I have never taken an extreme view of these things. I have always tried to take the absolutely fair view in regard to all these public questions, and I say that instead of accentuating our differences we should try rather to compose them, and assist this country to maintain the tradition that it has upheld for so many years. So far as this nation is concerned we have either to maintain our old historic position or sink back to a position not worthy of a great nation. Are we going to go ahead and compose our differences? I think it would be a better policy if we could sit round a table and endeavour to compose our differences and arrive at some solution with which the Trade Unions would be in agreement. We cannot go back to the condition of things which existed last May, when all forms of constitutional Government were threatened and an attempt was made to impose upon this country something like what exists today in Russia. I do not know whether my hon. Friend who has just spoken would like to see the conditions obtaining in Russia to-day reproduced in this 111 country. I ask him to say whether he wants Russian traditions introduced into this country.
§ Mr. BROMLEY
The hon. Gentleman has addressed a question to me, and my answer is "Certainly not," because the two things are distinctly different. In Russia, under the Tsar, you had a band of serfs working under disgraceful conditions, uneducated, and ill-fed, with no franchise, no representation in Parliament, and no possibility of any public expression of their views, and their only way to rid themselves of that torture was by revolution. Therefore, by revolution the Russian people have everything to gain and nothing to lose. As for a revolution in this country, it would be a disaster. I do not want to interfere in the affairs of Russia, and I protest against Russia interfering in the internal affairs of this country. That, however, does not prevent me agreeing to trade with Russia to the mutual advantage of both countries.
§ Sir R. LYNN
I am pleased to have got that declaration from the hon. Member opposite, and I think some of his leaders will read that declaration with the greatest possible pleasure. Some members of the Labour party have been preaching in the country that we ought to reproduce in this country what has been happening in Russia, but now we have got the declaration that the Eon. Member opposite objects absolutely to the Russian system of Government because they are a band of serfs.
§ Mr. BROMLEY
I was speaking of the past, but to-day you have in Russia quite a different state of things, because the wages are not the same as they were in Tsarist days, and the people of Russia to-day have health and unemployment insurance, the women are granted assistance during childbirth, there are rest homes, and medical attendance is provided. All these things are very valuable, and the Russian people never enjoyed those advantages in the old days.
§ Sir R. LYNN
Recently I read the report of a trade union organisation in Russia which pointed out that the conditions in Russia to-day were really worse than they were under the Tsar in 1913. [HON. MEMBERS: NO!"] Of 112 course I am not in a position to contradict that statement, but that trade union organisation in Russia to which I have referred declared that the condition of things was worse to-day than in 1913, and of course we do not want to see anything of that sort adopted. The lion. Member is quite right in saying that 85 per cent, of the Russian people are illiterate, and my view is that if they were not illiterate they would never have adopted such a system of socialism as they have done, because that system could only be enforced by the military. I am very grateful to the hon. Member for what he has said. I do not want to end my remarks with a note of unfriendliness, but we do want to get down to business, and our particular business at the present moment is to compose our differences. I know I hold strong views on some questions, but I want to meet my hon. Friends opposite, and see how we can compose our differences, how we can get back to business, and make this nation as great in the future as it has been in the past. I am sure 99 per cent of hon. Members opposite will agree with me when I say that the business of every one of us is to minimise our differences, and try and make every part of the nation be what it ought to he, that is, loyal to the Empire and loyal to one another.
§ Mr. JAMES HUDSON
I feel that the challenge thrown clown by the announcement of the policy of the Government and the statement made by Ministers about getting to the holiday period at an earlier date this year, makes it necessary to make it clear to the Government that that policy is going to be vigorously opposed throughout. I do not think it is right that the Debate should come to a conclusion at this early hour. I have been inspired to say something by the speech we have just listened to from the hon. Member for West Belfast (Sir R. Lynn), who has addressed himself to the necessity of securing some understanding by meeting round a table. The hon. Member says he wants to hear the other fellow's case, but it is very easy to talk in that strain when you have the other fellow down. The difficulty is that the hon. Member for West Belfast concentrated his mind on Russia, and the report which he has read about the reduction of wages in Russia as compared with the year 1913 113 under the Tsarist Government. The hon. Member apparently forgets that last year we went through a terrible industrial crisis. [An HON. MEMBER:" Whose fault was that?"] It does not matter whose fault it was. I want to face the fact that as a result of the crisis we passed through last year the miners, when economic conditions come to settle down again, will be infinitely worse off than they were in 1913. For that reason it becomes extremely hard at this moment to talk about peace in industry.
If there is to be any chance of a settlement of our fundamental differences there has got to be a full undoing of the past, and there has to be an expression of better intentions with regard to the future. You cannot talk to the workers about coming to an understanding when those workers in millions believe that you have served by the legislation passed by this House the economic interests of the master class so far as they are represented by the coalowners of this country. It is all very well to say that this House wants to contribute to peace in industry when the people remember that the main concern of this House last year was to alter legislation so that the coalowners' interests could be served. I refer to the Eight Hours Bill. It cannot be forgotten in a day. I do not think it will be forgotten. Members on the other side, all Members in this House, must realise that if peace in industry is to be won, very much bigger efforts must be made than the general talk about peace to which we so often listen. May I say for myself, and I believe I speak for the whole of my party, that I want peace in industry because I know that my people suffer more from war in industry than anyone else. As I look at last year's doings and trace out the results in the price of industrial security, in the rates of profits, in the interest figures that are collected for us by such economic authorities as the "Economist," I discover that the more disputes there have been the better the capitalist class seem to have served themselves.
§ Mr. HUDSON
That is a very rude interruption, but I am sure the hon. Member for Macclesfield will be able to test the figures given by such papers as the "Economist," in which we see from the sample companies that paper gives, 114 that, all the time, even into 1926, the rates of profit have been rising in connection with the concerns of the two or three thousand companies that that paper samples.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I agree there are other companies beyond those referred to by the "Economist" The "Economist" is referring to the general, typical, companies in arriving at the figures it gives. I still insist that taking the dispute and the fluctuations through which we have passed, that the working classes have lost steadily.
§ Mr. HUDSON
If the hon. Member desires to bring forward his argument I would prefer him to put it in a speech, I am not going into individual firms. I admit many firms have done badly. I take the evidence of a reputable paper which I believe is accepted in all parts of the House. It is not a Labour paper; it is not a Conservative paper; it deals with economic and financial interests, and I submit that it is a very valuable point when it tells us that during the period of strife many financial and industrial concerns have, done comparatively well when our people have been sinking further and further towards poverty. I am a little surprised that there are so many efforts on the part of hon. Members opposite to contest this point. I am trying to say that it never has been our interest to engage in strife for strife's sake,. We are always accused from the benches opposite as if we are trying to stir up strife to get benefit out of it. It is the last thing a trade union organiser wants or that the political leader in the Labour movement, wants. We know the consequences to our own people. I go further and I say that the Labour party not only stands for peace in industry but has proved by its record when the chance has come to it that it could win peace in industry. Hon. Members to-night have spoken about getting people together round a table and 115 fixing something up whereby our difficulties can be overcome. We have done that. The right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) when he was responsible for the Ministry of Health, confronted by one of the greatest difficulties in the land, namely, the question of getting, an agreement in the building industry where fighting had gone on for years, where loss had taken place for years, where there was suspicion and irritation almost as great as in any industry, got representatives of the builders and representatives of the masters together, and representatives of local authorities and even representatives of firms that were engaged in dealing in building requisites, and with the help of the State hammered out a 15 years' agreement that gave them peace in industry. Had the party opposite not come in in 1926 with its proposals to scrap that agreement, with its reduction of the building subsidy which my right hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston had arranged, that industry at the present moment would have been going steadily on with its apprentices, its workers, its employers and the local authorities all working together to carry out a job that the community much required to be carried out. If hon. Members opposite would act more rather than talk merely about getting round a table; if they would show their concern through the arrangements they make rather than merely in political speeches with which they regale us, there would be a greater confidence in their professions than there is at the present moment.
What I say about peace in industry and the unsatisfactory attitude of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I say also about their plea regarding peace abroad. I am willing to admit there has been progress made by the party opposite. I know they have given us Locarno. They are out to secure the entry of Germany to the League of Nations. Reference is made in the Speech we are discussing to the advance that has been made in the international situation as a result. It has taken them a long time to get to that regarding Germany. It is not a far cry back to the days when on all their political platforms —I am sure the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) will recall the days— 116 they held up the Germans as a permanent enemy, a country always to be suspected and guarded against. Now we have put Germany into the King's Speech with great pride, because at the last moment we have introduced, or hope to introduce, Germany into the Comity of Nations. I wish this process might go on. Hon. Members now are feeling as resentful about Russia as a few years ago they felt about Germany, but they have to come to the same conclusions with Russia. I could point out many things about Russia that I do not like. Much in Russia's propaganda which would not make any appeal to me. This party has frequently expressed itself about the value of Russian propaganda in better terms than anything most of the hon. Members opposite have said, but all the same if we are to have in the world security—supposing it be true that Russia as hon. Members opposite say, is trying to stir up the East against you—if we have to have security we will have to proceed with the Russians as we have proceeded with the Germans.
May I remind the House of what has been done in regard to the China situation as far as the Germans are concerned, in order that, perhaps, we may see better what we shall have to do in China as far as the Russians are concerned? At the end of the War, we were instrumental in taking away from the Germans their concessions, their special legal privileges, the opportunities that they had had to collect special taxes, as we to-day have those opportunities of getting special dues and privileges for ourselves. By the Peace Treaties we drove Germany out of her concessions, and many thought that that was the end of Germany. I submit that it was the beginning of Germany in China. I have read in the "Manchester Guardian," not once but two or three times within the last fortnight, statements from merchants and others that the. Chinese to-day, although it is agreed that they are giving fewer orders all round than they were formerly, are at least giving them to the German merchants in greater proportion than they are giving them to our merchants. Why? Because the German, at least, is meeting the Chinese on an equality. The special privilege, the concession he had won by treaty, and all the other arrangements that have been made in the past, have 117 gone, and the Chinese fully realises that at last he has got a man without any special Power to support him, with whom he can trade with mutual advantage both to himself and to the German.
I submit that our foreign policy should be directed all the time to getting rid of concessions so far as we are concerned, so that we can meet the Germans on an equality. I observe that an hon. Member opposite laughs rather derisively at the suggestion I am making; yet I had almost understood at moments, when I have listened to the Foreign Secretary and read his speeches, that, in a way, that is what he wants us to believe he is ultimately going to work towards. I would only say to the Foreign Secretary that he evidently has not convinced all the hon. Members on his own benches, he certainly has not convinced me, and he has not convinced the Chinese, for the progress that Britain is making to the point where we can be on an equality with the Germans and the Chinese is altogether too slow for the purposes of our security and the security of our own people yonder in China. It is with a view to pressing the Government to greater haste in this matter that I suggest that they should at the earliest moment publish categorically their intention to give up the concessions and privileges that hitherto we have maintained.
Look at the question of Russia in China. The Russians have given up their concessions. The Russians have acted, too, with regard to the Chinese indemnity, far more wisely than we have acted. There was a scornful reference from the Prime Minister during his speech to what he called the historians of Chinese affairs on these benches. I do not pretend to any such knowledge, but I do know what has happened in the last year or two on this great issue of the Chinese indemnity, what our attitude has been, what the American attitude has been, and what the Russian attitude has been. We have a claim upon China at the present moment, measured by the capital value of the indemnity, of about. £11,000,000. The Russian claim, the, claim won in the Tsarist days, was about £20,000,000. The American claim was a number of millions which I forget just now, but I think it was £6,000,000 or £7,000,000. What has happened on that 118 issue? The Russians published two or three years ago their determination to spend all that money in China for the welfare of the Chinese, and to guarantee that it should be spent for the welfare of the Chinese. They set up a committee consisting of two Chinese and one Russian. The Americans, in order to see that the indemnity went for the benefit of China, set up a committee of 12 persons, six of them Chinese and six Americans, with an independent chairman, who turned out also to be a Chinese. But our Government, this Conservative Government, in 1925 brought to the House of Commons, and finally got carried through, an arrangement whereby we set up a committee to consist of nine English and two Chinese. As a matter of fact, the first proposal was 10 English and one. Chinese, and now—
§ Mr. HUDSON
Not in the least; I am referring to the Advisory Committee that was set up to supervise and advise our Foreign Office regarding the use that should be made of the Chinese Indemnity.
§ Sir P. GOFF
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but might I ask if that was the first, or the second, or the third Committee that was set up?
§ Mr. HUDSON
If the hon. Member will take note of the Blue Books and White Papers that he may obtain from the Vote Office, he will see that a Report came out only about a month ago indicating to us exactly what that Committee now desires. It is a remarkable fact that now, at this late date, the Committee asks that an independent Board of Control should be set up, with one-half Chinese representatives and one-half British representatives. In the Standing Committee—and the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury may recall this, for he sat on the Committee at the time I raised the criticism—I put down an Amendment that there should be an equal number of Chinese and Englishmen, but the Government rejected it, and it is only now, after our people have gone out to China and got experience of what is going on, that this proposal is tardily put forward.
We cannot afford to go on playing while Rome is burning. The situation 119 must be tackled more vigorously and with greater haste if we are to save ourselves from a catastrophe, and I submit that the only safe policy for us at this moment is to accept the Chinese on an equality with ourselves, and ultimately, if we can, to accept the Russians also on an equality with ourselves. Until you are prepared to do with China and with Russia what you have been compelled to do with Germany, you can no more get peace in foreign affairs than you can get peace in our industrial affairs at home. It is with the desire that that peace may be won that I intervene at this late stage in the Debate, and ask the Government whether they cannot reconsider some of the proposals they have put forward.
§ Mr. REMER
—a number of companies selected from the "Economist," which had been declaring increased dividends and greater prosperity. It seems to me that the hon. Member has a very poor idea of economic conditions and industrial affairs. He must know that there are many concerns that are prosperous in this country, and he must know also that there are many which are in the unfortunate state of not being able to make profits at the present time. I happen to know, and have studied the history of, those concerns to which he referred. I have heard the same statement made from the benches opposite on previous occasions. I have taken the trouble to examine the state of those concerns, and I find that in every case 120 where profits have been made the, has been full time worked by the workers, there have been increased wages paid to them, and there has been greater prosperity for the fortunate people who are employed by them. There, I think, is a great difference between hon. Members opposite and my friends on these benches. If you are going to have prosperity in any industry for the worker and for the employer you must have that increased profit which is so necessary, and which will enable those higher wages to be paid which are so necessary for the well-being and prosperity of the country.
Hon. Members opposite are always talking about war I m capital—we have heard it to-night in speech after speech —not, only in this country and in our own Empire, but war on capital in China. The capitalist in China is bringing orders and wages to our people, and those who are supporting the attack that is being made from Russia upon our country are making an attack on our working people in Lancashire who are enabled by these orders from China to earn their daily bread. If I may make an appeal to hon. Members opposite, cannot we try to make our country more prosperous by loyal co-operation in order to increase those profits, the only way we can increase wages, and by that means make this the happy and prosperous country which everyone of us wants to see it made.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. T. Kennedy.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.