§ Mr. CLYNES
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words:But regret the reference to proposals for defining and amending the law with regard to industrial disputes as indicating the intention of Your Majesty's advisers to continue the partisan policy pursued by them in recent industrial conflicts, and, in the absence of any mandate, to diminish the power of organised labour to resist encroachments upon, or to improve, the already inadequate standard of living of the workers, and declare that legislation to restrict the service of the trade unions would not be in the national interest.An hon. Friend behind me a few moments ago, during the course of Questions, put a Supplementary Question, in which he referred to the friendly relations existing between this country and Russia, and his sentence was received with a burst of mocking laughter by hon. and right hon. Members opposite. Yet the Speech from the Throne begins with these words:My relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly.In reference to our foreign relations, at least the Speech from the Throne should be accurate. The general terms of the Speech signify the failure of the Government to understand our home problems, not to say our foreign affairs. The 592 Speech is a pathetic document when read in relation to the condition of our internal relations. That fiction about our foreign relations could be turned into fact with a little change if applied to the working classes of this country, and the Speech might begin by declaring on the part of the Government that "Our relations with the British workers continue to be decidedly unfriendly." What is there in the Speech in relation to any of these internal questions? There is an appeal to employers and employed to do their best to improve employment, and, having made that appeal, the only other part of the Speech dealing with internal affairs is that in which we have the announcement of a Bill which is certain to ensure industrial strife. The Prime Minister closed his speech made in this House towards the end of last year by making an appeal to us all not to squander our resources on industrial strife. It is strange that the Prime Minister, having then made that appeal, should begin this Session by announcing a Measure certain to have the effect which he asked us to avoid. I declare then that the central feature of the Speech is an unmistakeable portent of industrial conflict and of further internal unsettlement. This Bill, of course, as yet, we have not seen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"!] If Amendments were never moved in relation to Bills until they were read and printed, very few Amendments would have found their way from this side of the House. But there can be nothing in this Bill of which we have not heard, and we need be told no more for the moment of the intentions of His Majesty's Ministers than we have already learned from Tory conferences, from Tory platforms, and from Tory journals, and the purpose of the Government we regard as a stupid and partisan effort to get industrial peace by the futile means of legislative repression.
We may take it as another effective proof of the existence of a class war. I have never shut my eves to the existence of class war. I have done my best to allay it. I have done nothing, I hope, to foment it. Class war existed before we were born, and much of our work during the time we have lived has been work to diminish it. But if nothing can be done to improve industrial conditions by legislation, as was declared by the Prime Minister in offering apology for 593 not exerting some compulsion upon the mineowners last year; if, as he said, you cannot compel peace by legislation, may we remind the Prime Minister and his Government that they did not think of that, when the Eight Hours Act was forced through this House to compel miners to work longer hours, or, again, when now they are thinking of a Bill in the terms of anti-trade union legislation.
We on this side of the House offer no apology whatever for the existence or the work of the trade unions. Organised labour is a lever of social betterment, and is essential. The improvements which are procured by its service are for the good of the nation as a whole, and national service is being rendered. In comparison with the motive and purpose of that work, organised capital is a selfish and an unsocial instrument. It is not that we object to giving the best in exchange for brains, ability and service. Those who have brains seek to get the best reward for what they do. We find that the manual worker has no opportunity of maintaining anything like a decent human level of existence without the fighting instrument of his trade union. The trade unions grew out of evil conditions, and were not brought into existence by agitators. They came from beneath, because workers could no longer endure the privations imposed upon them.
This Amendment which I move declares that the Government have acted like a partisan in cases and decisions where they should have shown impartiality. The Government by their policy and utterances, have encouraged wage reductions, and never discouraged aggressive action on the part of employers, even when those actions of employers have been against the national interest, and clearly were leading to social and industrial disturbance. Never a word was uttered except on the one occasion in the middle of the coal lockout when the stupidity of the mineowners was referred to for once by the Prime Minister. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear"!] I am glad to hear that sentiment cheered in that quarter. It was from that quarter, during the progress of that dispute, when the miners were beaten to their knees, when their women 594 and children were being starved and were approaching the borders of surrender, that the hon. Gentleman thought proper to glory in the fact that employers of labour in these contests always had the whip hand over labour, and we knew he was then alluding to the instrument of starvation.
It is not merely the spirit that we resent; it is the recurring instances of singular ignorance of industrial facts displayed so often on the benches opposite. Hon. Gentlemen seem to regard industrial disturbance and strife as the regular state of relations between employers and employed. On the contrary, the normal state of these relations is one of peace, is one of agreement, is one of general desire for settlement, for compromise, for give-and-take. I allege that there is no industrial country in the world where industrial relations are better maintained than in Britain, where the disputes when they occur are fought out under conditions of greater commonsense and toleration on both sides.
Let me go over briefly the main bodies which exist in this country by mutual consent and by a joint participation in the work which they do, and which cover many millions of workers, in order that this state of industrial peace shall be maintained. I take, first, the bodies known as the Trade Boards, for the reason that they were called into being by Act of Parliament when Conservative Members of the House joined with all others in agreeing that so intolerable were the conditions of the sweated workers of Britain that the law should intervene to protect women and children and underpaid workmen. In short, had trade unions not existed, or had the law not stepped in on occasions, and had the workers been left to a merciless capitalism, hon. Members can imagine what the state of the working classes, of this country would be like. So that 1,500,000 workers had been to some extent protected by the Wage Boards in our country. I dare say more than double that number—perhaps between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 other workers—are covered by the services of the Joint Industrial Councils—councils which, I regret to say, have never yet been able to do their work under anything but abnormal conditions, councils which, I believe, in the future are destined to render far greater service 595 to British industry, when a state of normality can be reached. The trade unions have offered a permanent machinery for regular and helpful discussion of the recurring differences that naturally arise in our trade, and trade unions have done their best to work it. I dare say the Minister of Labour can inform the House that, so far as there have been conflicts arising from failure to observe the decisions of the Joint Industrial Councils, those conflicts have been more often due to the unreadiness of employers to observe those decisions than to the unreadiness of the workers. We have a very considerable number of joint bodies, and conferences, having a recurring if not permanent existence, and, if we take, say, the big divisions or branches of industry in this country, we find them in the main covered, in respect of these differences of wage claims and changes in labour and hours, by machinery working under different names, but operating more or less for the good of industry. Let me give the main groups: Building, boot and shoe, cotton, shipbuilding, iron and steel, and gas and chemicals. Millions of workers are employed in the industries covered by these names, and the trade union agent every clay of the week uses his beneficent service in seeking to cure and to settle quarrels which arise or in seeking to remove the causes of dispute, and for a long time trouble has been very incidental, very rare indeed, in any one of these big divisions of labour.
We come now to those classes of work, also employing millions of workers, in which unhappily there have been disputes in recent years. I would classify them as the transport, mining, and electrical services. This is not now the moment for discussing the causes of the quarrels which have occurred in those groups of industry, and I ask hon. Members to restrain their laughter when we from this side of the House allege that among all the agents for peace in industry the trade union official has shown himself as effective and serviceable as any. There were disorders and there was strife in this country, bitter and broad, before ever a trade union official existed. Disputes have not followed in the wake of trade unions, but trade unions, to a 596 great extent, have had to follow in the wake of trade disputes. Even now in many branches of employment in which there was no trade union at all there are records in the Ministry of Labour of recurring disputes. There are no means of settling disputes until non-union men have formed themselves into an effective trade union. They must acquire all the attributes of an organised force before they can hope to enter into a condition to negotiate a settlement. There is no need then to offer excuses or apologies for the existence of trade unions.
I understand hon. Gentlemen to say: "We cannot tolerate anything like general strike," and "We cannot tolerate anything like the conduct or behaviour of the men who engage in a general strike." Now we are led by the terms of the Speech from the Throne to conclude that this Bill is to be submitted because of what happened in this country, beginning with the general strike in May last. The Prime Minister was frank enough immediately the genet al strike was called off publicly to admit what, in his view, had been the cause o the general strike. I will say what I think were the causes of the general strike. The first cause was the general lock-out of the miners. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not here, but I put to him a question at the end of last Session, and I prefaced it by saying that, as he was a right hon. Gentleman of the House who could answer any question on anything, I dared to put that question to him. He did not answer. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman later in the Debate will attempt to reply. I repeat my question. If it be right for mine-owners to lock out a million men, why is it wrong for two or three other million men to down tools in their support? The general strike was due, so far as it can be fastened upon any immediate event, to the general lock-out of the miners.
It was due in the next instance to the fact that continued and aggravating wage reductions had been imposed upon millions of workers in this country, reductions that were commonly covered by the figure of £600,000,000 a year in the way of lost wages, so that a general fear of further reductions was planted in the minds of other wage earners if without effective opposition the mine workers of the country were forced still lower down 597 in the scale of wages. That fear was the second great cause of the general strike. The third great cause was the general sympathy of the workers of the country as a whole with the position of the miners. We found that hundreds of thousands of Conservative working men who voted against my hon. Friends at the last General Election were as ardent strikers as any and took their places in the line and suffered as much as the man who was a Socialist. It was a natural consequence of having a common cause that they should come together in a common stand of resistance against the policy which the Government and the mineowners were pursuing. I said at the time in the right place and to the right people, and I have repeated often since what I now say to this House as to my own view of the general strike. As a policy, I think, that strike was a crude and foolish proceeding, but, as an effort of one class to rescue another, it was a fine and praiseworthy display of a readiness to sacrifice and to serve. It was not agitation which produced the general strike. As I allege, it was the general lock-out of the miners which produced the general strike. It was an unexampled instance of a readiness to sacrifice in face of very real risks on the part of those who left their work in defence of others. Millions of men believed, rightly or wrongly, that they were fighting in a good and just cause. While we perfectly understand the motives of what happened in 1926, it would, I think, be a crime against the workers' interests to encourage the idea of future general strikes as the best means for working-class advantage in Great Britain.
I ask the House to observe that in the main since the year 1921 the conflicts and stoppages in this country have been conflicts in which the workers have been on the defensive. Instances have been rare where the workers have been the aggressors. In these disputes, it is seldom that they have been the aggressors, and it is natural that in the mind of the working man and in the mind of his master he should stand his corner if he is hit and that he should do his best to repel attack when attack is made. In most cases the trouble has been due to employers of labour seeking to impose the lower wages, and the workers' sacrifices in any wage reductions have not brought the trade prosperity that was 598 promised if they would only submit to reductions. These conflicts have not been due, as some hon. Members I think foolishly allege, to the mischief wrought by cunning Communists, or, by fools who would destroy our trade and prosperity. Therefore, I ask responsible party leaders and business men no longer to evade the facts. I say that disputes have not been due to political agitation or to any unrest provoked from above. Discontent has arisen from beneath, and, if we probe deep enough, we shall clearly find the causes in the efforts to force the workers clown without other classes going down with them. If there has to be sacrifice as is so often alleged, can we not share that sacrifice in peace as service had to be shared in the War? Naturally, the workers will resist attempts to press them down when, by all the tests and all the figures, other classes remain in the enjoyment of their abundance; as indeed year after year, while all the privations are being suffered and reductions of wages are being endured, the Income Tax papers, the papers that cover the wealthy Super-tax papers, the revenue returns, and all the available official facts show that the better-to-do classes are not making a fraction of sacrifice in the interests of the trade and business of this country. Sacrifices should be shared if it has to be made at all.
We are left to surmise what is to be in the Bill, and we are facing the main line of attack already made upon the forces of organised labour. In this House a few days ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer did by a process of question reveal some of the purposes of the Government. He consoled us with the assurance that the Government Bill would continue to permit a strike, but, as I gather, if the Government can have their way, they will see to it that very little is permitted to make a strike successful. "You have the right to enter into a strike with all the balance of advantage thrown upon the employers' side." That appears to be the Government view. And we are not to intimidate. What is this powerful Government already doing if that has occurred? Is intimidation now permitted by the law? Certainly not. Were not any number of men sent to gaol for intimidation during the progress of the prolonged coal lockout? Where is the courage of the Government if the law exists to suppress this 599 intimidation and the law is not used to put it down? If the law is to put down intimidation by the working classes whenever they are guilty of it, what is it to do in the case of the employing classes? Do employers never put workmen in a state of fear? It is well known that quietly, secretly and silently, by message or by telephone, and by general instructions to their subordinates, any amount of intimidation can be applied to workmen, and pressure and suffering imposed upon them by secret agencies which workmen cannot employ in a corresponding manner. So I ask, Are employers to be punished for intimidation? Are employers to be prevented from entering into a general lock-out in the case of any one of the big industries, whether coal, cotton or any other? If you are to prevent intimidation in the case of the one class and at the same time command respect for your law, you must impose your penalties upon the employing class as well.
The Amendment draws attention to the fact that in this matter the Government are acting without mandate, acting without public approval, and without the wish of the constituencies of Great Britain. I know that a Government must govern or go; at least we know that that is said, though it is one of the things which, if true, would have meant that this Government would have gone last year. Let us take what verdict the country has been able to give. Since the General Strike began there have been seven by-elections. In those by-elections the total vote for the Government was 73,199, the total vote against the Government and for other candidates was 109,677. Leaving out the Liberal vote and taking now only the Conservative vote and the Labour vote, we find there were 73,000 votes for the Government and 76,244 for Labour candidates. So upon the basis of that test no mandate can be claimed for this repressive and unnecessary legislation. Let me take another comparison. In the last one I included all the seven constituences, three of which are agricultural divisions. Let us take the verdict of industrial Britain, for I assume that this legislation is intended for the protection of the workers and of the inhabitants of industrial Britain. [Interruption.] Yes, mass picketing, the possibility of mobs 600 unfairly and improperly exercising influence upon their fellow-workers; it is to protect the people in the swarming towns that this legislation is designed. Let us see how overwhelmingly the verdict of these people has been against the Government policy since the General Strike began. In the four working-class divisions of Hammersmith, Wallsend, Hull and Smethwick the total Labour vote was more than 66,000, while the total Tory vote was only 40,000.
If I can prove nothing else, I submit that we have proved that the Government have no public warrant for the policy to which they are now committed. We allege that this legislation is not urgent—we hope that national strikes or general strikes or lock-outs are not becoming a habit—that it cannot be said this legislation is introduced on any ground of urgency. No, it is introduced as the least of the concessions the Government are compelled to make to the opinion which was officially formulated at the Tory conference in Scarborough. It is not meant as an act of protection for the public, but is a partisan concession to their own supporters. Therefore, we are entitled to say that, as there is no urgency, it would be fairer to leave this issue to the judgment and test of the electorate; and let the day for that test be fixed as early as the Government like! This is not a Bill for the protection of an industrial interest. It is a Bill to divert attention from the Government blunders of last year—from the date of the subsidy down to the date of the termination of the lock-out—and by its introduction the Government show themselves literally, as we allege in this Amendment, to be an organised class corporation determined to try to cripple organised labour. In that attack the Government will fall.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
I have not risen to make a long speech, but to make one or two observations because, I understand, the Leader of the Opposition and those who work with him feel that we are treating them with discourtesy in suggesting that we should put up a Minister to reply at or towards the end of the Debate. I wish not only to explain that such a thing is far from our minds, but also to state the reason that made me take that 601 step. It was our intention, in the first place, to give notice on the first day we met of the introduction of such a Bill as is alluded to in the Motion, but when I heard that the Opposition wished to bring forward this subject for discussion, I said at once, "Let the notice of introduction be postponed, so that the subject matter may be debated." Had we given notice of the Bill on the day we intended, this matter could not have been discussed to-day; but I was particularly anxious to have this discussion, because I realise, as I am not quite sure all hon. Members opposite realise, that though it would be, I will not say impossible, it would be most unusual, for a Government to disclose at this point the details of a Measure which was inserted in the King's Speech. Therefore, the information which hon. Members would undoubtedly like to have could not he given them, and that fact in itself would make it more difficult for Ministers to speak than if we had been discussing the Bill itself; and I was anxious and hopeful that in a free discussion in this House we should get views on this most important matter from all sections of the House.
It has been observed several times that the trade union point of view has not been expressed or heard or attended to, and it seemed to me that a debate of this kind would be one of great value for His Majesty's Government, who have the responsibility of framing legislation in accordance with their pledges, to get at the mind, freely expressed, as it should be expressed in the House, of those who sit opposite to them as well as of Members in all other parts of the House. In those circumstances it seemed to me that, as far as the Government were concerned, their principal business to-day would be to repel the argument that they were doing something immoral or unconstitutional in introducing such legislation at all, and that, having heard the arguments freely expressed in the House, they would have had light thrown on what is unquestionably a most difficult question.
There is one other thing I wish to put to the House, and I hope this will be received with some sympathy by the Leaders of the parties opposite, both the Labour party and the Liberal party. I was in this House for many years as a private Member, and I always used to feel that the Front Benches took up more 602 than their share of the time of discussion. Every Front Bench Member who speaks cuts out two or three private Members. Now we have three Parties in this House, and sometimes on important subjects it happens that three Front Bench Opposition speakers take part in a Debate, and two speakers below the Gangway, and I cannot put up less than two to represent the Government; that is seven Front Bench speakers, who by a very modest calculation, take up half the time. I am not complaining, but I am pointing out the facts, and I think they are hardly fair to the House at large. That was one of the reasons which actuated me in the case of the Debate to-day, when I knew that there would be so many Members in all parts of the House anxious to speak, and that was why I was anxious to keep the contribution from this bench to one leading Member. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman opposite is putting up three Front Bench Members to-day. I do not complain of that to-day, because this is a matter affecting the trade unions, and each of those three speakers is a man who, in addition to sitting on that Front Bench, is qualified by his life work to speak with great authority on the subject under discussion, as either representing now or having represented during his official life in trade unionism, vast numbers of his fellow workers. In the same way there are in the Liberal party, small as it is, two or three men who have exceptional knowledge and whose contributions will be of exceptional value. I put these matters quite frankly to the House. I had not intended to, speak, but I should be hurt by any feeling that I had been discourteous to the Opposition, for nothing of the kind entered my mind; but I do feel that in the circumstances of this debate I have taken a course which, I think, will, in the opinion of the majority of Members of this House, help the debate.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
May I intervene for one minute to assure the Prime Minister that, whatever we thought about the arrangement of the Debate, we never, for a moment, felt that he intended to do any injury to our feelings in the matter? But this is a very serious Parliamentary matter, for, as he knows, an Amendment to the King's Speech is always of the nature of a Vote of Censure. 603 We never suggested that the Government should put up two Front Bench speakers, but we did consider, and I think this is a very sound Parliamentary practice, that, on an occasion like this, the Government should immediately reply, so as to enable those who take part in the Debate either from the back benches or from our Front Bench to know what the Government are going do. I am sure the Prime Minister will believe that that was the reason why we did press that a Government speaker should be put up immediately after the case was opened. It is not quite good Parliamentary practice to postpone the speech of the Attorney-General, who, I understand, is not going to speak until 10.30. I hope that the Government know their mind as to what they are going to do, and, although the Prime Minister's speech is courtesy itself, and removes any doubt we might have had about discourtesy, the right hon. Gentleman has left the House in a very awkward position on this very important question, and the Government are not going to say a word upon it until 10.30 to-night.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
I am quite willing to give way if the Attorney-General desires to speak. I think what has happened illustrates the inconvenient position in which we stand; although, perhaps, that inconvenience is partly due to the fact that this Amendment is put down to the Address before any of us have had any means of knowing what are the contents of the Bill referred to. As soon as the King's Speech was found to contain the announcement of the Government's intention to introduce a Bill dealing with trade union law, the Leader of the Labour party lost no time in stating that as soon as that Bill was introduced it would be resisted by him and his Friends, clause by clause and line by line. I do not corn plain of that, but it is quite plain if that is the position to be taken up at this moment, it is not entirely the fault of the Government that this Debate should be conducted in rather an artificial atmosphere. Whatever be the advantages of that bold and clear declaration, it must lead to this result, that when the Bill is introduced and speeches are made in opposition to this or that clause or line, it is inevitable that we should realise that the resistance is resistance, not merely on the merits of the particular Bill but a 604 predetermined course which has nothing in the world to do with the particular proposal of the Bill. I could imagine a great many proposals to deal with trade union law, some of which have been made public, which I would resist with all my heart, but I do not find myself able in advance, and without knowing what the Government is going to propose, to pledge myself to resist the proposals of the Bill, no matter what they turn out to be. Indeed, when you see in the King's Speech the statement that this particular Bill is designed to declare trade union law, I ask myself on what possible ground one could, in advance, announce one's resistance to those proposals. There are only two possible grounds, and one would be that trade union law at this moment is in so clear a state that nobody could hope to make it any clearer. That, obviously, is not so. I think the great mass of thoughtful citizens have given up in despair the effort to try to understand trade union law.
§ Sir J. SIMON
If I may say so, I know it is the practice to assume that every lawyer knows the whole of the law, but the truth is that this is a, subject on which no lawyer would like to be entirely dogmatic on all its parts, and people who have specially studied the subject may easily come to different conclusions. Let me give a small illustration to show how this arises. I saw in a newspaper recently a correspondence in the course of which somebody asserted that it was the law of trade unions that if a trade union was the owner of a motor car, and in the ordinary course of its work in driving through the street it ran over a wayfarer, that man could not get compensation from the trade union funds. With all humility I do not think that is quite correct. At any rate, if that trade union happened to be a registered trade union, I do not know myself of anything in the law which would prevent an action being brought against the trustees of that trade union and if negligence were shown in the use of the trade union's property then judgment would go against the trade union and in favour of the person injured, and the trustees would have to pay the damages and the costs out of trade union funds. This shows how very easy it is for people to be quite sure they know all about the subject, when even those 605 who have spent all their time considering this question have to admit there is a reasonable doubt sometimes.
The hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser), I know, does not agree with me in regard to the events of last May, but if he advises the Labour party on this matter, and if he really takes the view that the proceedings of last May were all within the law, I do not think that, that is an argument for leaving the law as it is, but one to see whether it is not necessary to make the contrary quite clear. There is only one other ground on which, at this stage, the House could be sincerely asked to accept this Amendment, and it is that no effort should be made to declare the law in regard to trade unions. If, indeed, public interest and public policy enabled us to leave things as they are and to rely, as the British people have been accustomed to rely with very good warrant, on the restraining influence of the various leaders of the trade union movement, even in a crisis it would be much better not to raise these controversies with all their opportunities of bitterness and misunderstanding.
I must, however, add that it does seem to me that the events of May last, and still more what has happened between May and now, do give some serious ground for thinking that a declaration on this subject may be necessary. It has often been observed, and indeed it cannot be disputed, that during the general strike last May the Parliamentary spokesmen for the labour movement for the time being were silent. I do not blame them, because I think they were in a difficult position, and I do not think it at all fair to suggest that their silence then was due to cowardice or calculation or anything of that kind. I think the Labour party in this House is here as the Parliamentary wing of the trade union movement. They represent as spokesmen in this House, to a very large extent, that immense organised body of public opinion. I do not say it in the least to reproach them, but the Labour party in its finances is very largely supported out of trade union funds. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I think it is a weakness that any party in this House, small or great, should depend too exclusively on finances drawn from a single quarter. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I hope hon. Members will listen to the right hon. Gentleman's arguments. I do not want to have to send the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) out again.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I think it is a weakness for their case that even when those who speak in the name of the party may sincerely agree with the view entertained in the quarter from which the money comes they are still exposed to suspicion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am speaking quite sincerely. I think they are still exposed to suspicion, and it is difficult for them to choose their proper course of conduct at the moment of a crisis. But the Leaders of the Labour party disagreed on this question in May last. If when it was all over, my right hon. Friend who opened this Debate and others who are sitting on the Front Opposition Bench had come forward and said firmly and collectively, "We did not protest at the time because we felt in the circumstances great difficulty in repudiating those upon whom we relied and who have relied on us in the past, but now it is all over, we wish to put it on record that we will never have anything to do with this kind of thing again," that would have made a very strong ease for no legislation at all. That, however, is not the position, and the interruptions which have taken place in this Debate may prove the necessity of legislation. The truth of the matter is that hon. Gentlemen sitting above the Gangway will have to make up their minds whether they do or do not defend the general strike.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am merely exercising my rights. Either hon. Gentlemen do defend the use of the general strike as an instrument in the course of controversy in this country, or they do not. If they do not, and if they would make plain that they do not, so that the country really had some security as to their own view on the subject, not only in the abstract but at the very moment of crisis, there would be a good deal to be said for leaving the whole thing alone. The difficulty which I feel—and I must speak 607 frankly about it—is that since the general strike that has not been the attitude, or at any rate not the consistent attitude, of very important spokesmen in the trade union movement. I take, for instance, Mr. George Hicks, who, I think, is now the Chairman of the Trade Union Congress. Here is what Mr. Hicks is reported to have said, as recently as October last, when he was addressing the American Federation of Labour, at Detroit, in the United States of America:This general strike lasted eleven days. Being the first of its kind it was very much of a great adventure.Then he goes on to say:It would appear that general strikes of a more intense and formidable character than the one recently experienced are inevitable.The second quotation is from the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Purcell), who is a very important member of the Trade Union Congress General Council. The hon. Gentleman is reported, in "The Sunday Worker," of 13th June, of last year—just a month or a little more after the general strike was over—as saying:Whether we like it or not, the class struggle itself, the inexorable urge of economic forces, is going to create the conditions for other and more formidable general strikes. Next time, however, the procedure will be different; the conduct of the strike will be improved upon. We will have learned much from this preliminary struggle.It is easy to multiply quotations, and I have many here, but I think the fair conclusion is that those who speak on behalf of this section of the trade union movement, so far from having abandoned the idea of using this weapon for the purpose of attaining their ends, regard the events of last May merely as a preliminary skirmish, as a dress rehearsal, and propose, on the next occasion, with more elaboration and better preparation, to use the same instrument to more effect.
That raises a perfectly clear issue for the country, and if someone else speaks from the Front Opposition Bench, he will, no doubt, make plain whether that is his view. I know very well that the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) showed the greatest possible courage, not only in denouncing the thing before it was attempted, but in 608 making plain his view by signing a document after it was over—which I know it must have gone to his heart to sign but it was the best thing to do—to show that he, personally, repudiated that method of procedure. The difficulty is—and I say this without any desire to quarrel with him—that there are forces behind him, and upon which from time to time he and his friends rely, who will not accept that view. Unless, therefore, we can get from within the trade union movement itself—what; it's wisest advisers I am quite sure, would be most anxious to secure—a satisfactory assurance that last time was the last time, I am not prepared to condemn the Government now because they announced that they intend to bring in a Bill which, for all knew, may make the position of the law quite clear.
The Mover of the Amendment has shown more than once to-day how little he understands what the general strike really involved. He has put a question to-day which he put the other day, which he wrote in a letter to the "Times," and which he has stated at various public meetings. It sounds a fair question enough, but it is one which I may, perhaps, be allowed to answer. He says, if it is right for employers to lock out 1,000,000 men, how can it be wrong for two million more men to down tools in sympathy with their comrades? You could hardly have, in a single sentence, a more delusive and question-begging way of putting what really happened last May. Let me point out why I think so; I am perfectly willing to hear arguments from the other side afterwards. Whether the employers were right or wrong, whether they were acting justly or unjustly in the realm of morals, they were, beyond question, exercising a right which every employer and every wage-earner has and must continue to have. Thee were exercising this right of saying that, there being a given contract of employment between them and their workpeople, they gave due notice to terminate their contract. They did not shut their pits, but they announced that they were not willing to make new contracts of employment, save on terms which, unfortunately, were worse for the workers.
Nobody can seriously contend that that was not a perfectly lawful exercise of a 609 right which every one of us, in our own affairs, from time to time exercises beyond question. The co-relative right is the equally undoubted right of workmen, or any body or combination of workmen, to give due notice to put an end to their engagements, and to announce that, at the end of that notice, they are only willing to go on on better terms. These two things are really analogous. If anybody was to assert that the one was right and the other wrong, then he would be guilty of the inconsistency which the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) suggested. But that was not what happened in May, at all. In the first place, though far from being the most important point, these 2,000,000 men, or whatever the number was, in countless cases, at the request or direction of trade union leaders, disregarded their contracts of service altogether and came out at a moment's notice. There is no conceivable analogy between that action and the action on the part of the owners. More serious than that, and far more fundamental, is this—the most recent history is always the most easily distorted, and the most rapidly forgotten, but surely nobody who remembers anything of what happened last May can doubt this—that the obvious and avowed object of what was being done by the General Council of the Trade Union Congress was not to make these employers do something. The employers were not in the position to provide a subsidy. Their action was obviously and avowedly taken because they took the view that, by the use of that pressure, they could compel the Government and Parliament to insist on a continuation of the subsidy.
Do not let me be misunderstood. I care nothing, for this purpose, as to which was the wise policy to pursue. What I was clear about then, and what I am clear about now, is this, that if, indeed, it is contended that action taken for that purpose, at the bidding of the Trade Union Congress, is within the law of the land, then that is not what has hitherto been understood to be the exercise of trade union rights at all. It is a perfectly plain attempt to substitute the will and decision of a great, powerful body outside this House for the free and deliberate decision of this House itself. Really, hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway must know quite well that— 610 though they do not always like to admit it—it is in substance admitted by some of those who speak with most authority for them within their ranks. Take, for instance, the extremely careful, calm review of the general strike, which was written in "The New Leader" by Mr. H. N. Brailsford, last January. Mr. Brailsford is by no means a partisan, and it was written, of course, from the point of view with which he is in sympathy. He says:It was morally extremely difficult for Mr. Baldwin to yield a second time to a threat of sympathetic action …. For yielding once to a threat a Government may be thanked for its self-restraint and for its readiness to sacrifice itself to the general good…. Neither in national nor international affairs dare any Government which cares for its own prestige yield a second time to a public menace. … The object of the strike was, after all, to compel the Government to do something (whether by legislation or by the grant of a subsidy, or at least by authoritative intervention) which neither it nor the majority behind it in the House wished to do.That makes a perfectly plain issue, about which I have not the smallest doubt in the world. The question really is whether or not the Labour party is going to claim a view of the existing trade union law, which would make it possible, for the second and third time, for this immensely powerful and, in its proper sphere, most useful organisation of trade unions to decide things which Parliament has to decide for itself. I am no more willing to see this country's policy decided by a committee of trade unionists outside this House than to see it decided by a committee of landlords, or by any other class in the community. If, indeed, it be the fact that from May down to to-day there has been no clear, definite, authorised, emphatic repudiation of the whole idea, I must say I think it highly unreasonable to seek to condemn the Government because it announces that it intends to introduce a, Bill to make that plain beyond question.
I can quite understand my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South-East Leeds taking the view, though I do not share it, that the particular case of last May fell on the legitimate side of the line. I think he is wrong. That is neither here nor there; it does not matter. But nobody can dispute that cases might easily arise which are plainly on the wrong side of the line. Does any- 611 one suppose that if the trade unions of this country were anxious to secure votes for women at the age of 21, and if they were not content to have it decided by Parliament—and, indeed, the failure of the Government to appoint a Commission was extremely provocative—that they could call a general strike. Does anyone suppose that if the trade unionists of this country decided that if they could not have all Income Tax abolished for persons whose income was below a certain limit, they could call a general strike to compel the Government to do it?
§ Sir J. SIMON
No one can suggest it, and, therefore, it is quite plain that either the admission has got to be made that there is the abuse as well as the use of trade union power; or else Parliament must do its best to define what the circumstances are in which the line is overstepped.
As regard other matters, I think they stand in a very different category. For example, although I am not willing to make any premature declaration about what I have not at present seen, if the Bill of the Government deals with picketing, it will be very necessary to remember that in regard to the failure which undoubtedly has occurred, and sometimes very gravely, to give reasonable treatment to working men who might otherwise have been willing to work, and who have been by demonstrations and by pressure stopped from working, that it is not due to anything which the present law permits. I have heard a great many people speaking about the law of peaceful picketing as though the law passed by a previous Government was a law which, in terms, said that any number of men might arm themselves with sticks and demonstrate in front of a working man's house and break his head if he attempted to go to work There is no such law, and there never has been. It is all nonsense to pretend that the law authorises violence. [Interruption.] I am not giving that illustration as though I thought such things happened. I am giving an illustration because there are people who talk as though if those things happened, and the present laws permitted it. They 612 permit nothing of the sort. The only question that arises on the subject of picketing that I can see is whether the law as it stands at present is couched in such terms as leads to misunderstanding as to the lengths to which workmen might lawfully go. That is a question which we may have to consider, but it is a very different thing from speaking as though the existing law authorised all sorts of abuses and extravagances.
In the same way on the subject of the political funds of trade unions, I very much question whether the principal difficulty is not to be found in the realm of administration, of audit, of the proper accounting for these things more than in the language of the law itself. Though it may be quite legitimate to see whether the law may be improved in order that we may do what we all mean to do in this matter, still, it may be useful to remember that the main difficulty that arises is a difficulty of administration.
But I conic back, finally, to the main point I want to make, and it is that it seems to me quite impossible for the House of Commons at the present moment, the history of the last year being what it was, to declare in advance that it is in the nature of things intolerable for the House of Commons to be asked to consider a Bill even to declare and to make plain the law of trade unions. The real danger which I see in occupying some portion of the Session on this subject is this. When all is said and done, dealing with this subject, however wisely and discreetly you deal with it, is not, as a matter of fact, attacking the heart of the problem. It is rather like holding a Hague Convention and deciding the exact rules under which people may go to war, when what you really want is a League of Nations to try to inculcate a spirit which will prevent people from going to war. The development in the last 20 years of industry in this country has shown quite clearly, just as in a case of military war, so in fie case of industrial war, that the whole thing is becoming more and more a large scale operation. When I was a very junior Member of the House, in my first Session of Parliament as a private Member and the Trade Disputes Act was passed, nobody in considering that Act was thinking of the sort of use which was made last year of the combination of trade union power. Trade dis- 613 putes, as people thought of them 20 years ago, were very often things that were limited to a trade or that were limited to a town, or, perhaps, that were even limited to a factory. The people who suffered by them on the one side or the other were the people who were immediately concerned in the actual dispute to a very large extent, and what has really happened in the intervening generation is that, just as in military war, so in industrial war, the whole thing has become an operation of immensely greater scope and range. You have the whole of industry or a very large part of industry involved on one side or the other. You have injury done to people who are perfectly innocent and who have really no interest in the dispute at all, and who stand to suffer whatever happens.
The real thing which has got to be determined in the end and is raised, perhaps, by this Debate to-day, is whether in our view the future development of our country is going to be along the lines of leaving the interests of the wage-earners of this country to be exercised by methods outside the House of Commons such as were attempted last May, or whether we cannot use the occasion to turn the stream back into the proper channel in which we have heard authorised spokesmen who represent the wage earners in a very special sense of the word appeal to them here and control and guide them outside. I wish, with all my heart, that it had been possible to get rid of this business by reform of the trade union movement from within. It would have been far better. It would have avoided a controversy and a bitterness and a misunderstanding, and a misrepresentation which will be attempted, I have no doubt, from one end of the country to the other. After all, our primary duty as Members of Parliament is to protect the House of Commons itself, and as long as the proceedings of last year are not definitely disavowed, I do not find it possible at this stage to condemn unread and unheard proposals which in due course the Government may see fit to put forward.
§ Sir WALTER GREAVES-LORD
May I first of all say, speaking from this side of the House, how much one values what is after all a very courageous but 614 characteristic contribution to the Debate by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). My only regret is that that speech will be used for the purposes of the Socialist party, and for the purpose of trying to substantiate the claim which they are making at the present time that the Conservative party and the Liberal party are both the employers' party. I stand in a somewhat peculiar position in regard to this Amendment. In so far as this Amendment purports to declare anything effective, I am entirely in agreement with it. The last sentence of the Amendment, however, is the only part of it which makes a definite declaration with regard to anything contained in the Gracious Speech. As a matter of fact, I think I am wrong in saying that it makes a declaration of anything in the Gracious Speech because, in fact, it is a declaration in the abstract, and has no relation to anything in the Gracious Speech at all. That declaration is this:and declare that legislation to restrict the service of the trade unions would not be in the national interest.If that were put as a Resolution of this House, I venture to think that there would be a unanimous vote that any legislation which tended to restrict the service of trade unions would not be in the national interest. Speaking for myself alone, I would resist to the utmost any legislation which had for its intention the restriction of and which would be likely to have the effect of restricting the service of trade unions. Apart from everything else, if one may extend that just a little further, I think that if any legislation were proposed which purported in any way either to affect adversely by weakening or by taking away any of the powers by which the bargaining power of the trade unions might be made effective, that action would be resisted to the uttermost by the Members on this side of the House. But the real thing underlying this Amendment is the effort which is so consistently made by the Socialist party to make a statement which is misleading and then to go a little further and to make a statement which is untrue, and which, after being repeated a great many times, is then said up and down the country in this form. "These people are doing these things, we had told you that they would 615 time and again and now they are doing it." And although the two state, meats have no relation to one another, a certain part of the electorate would believe them.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) said that there was no mandate for this change and that this Parliament had no mandate to deal with the question of trade union legislation or legislation referring to trade disputes. At any rate, one had an opportunity of seeing a great many of the addresses of those who were now Members on this side of the House at the last election, and I think it may truly be stated that there were very few Members on this side of the House who did not put very, very prominently in their election speeches the view that something should be done to prevent the present growing tendency to use trade unions for political purposes and to divert them from their real industrial purposes for which they exist and for which they ought to flourish. This much is clear, that the, right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting came down to my constituency not very long ago and he was good enough to say that it was not a more backward constituency than most of the constituencies which the Socialist party now represented, and one may take it, therefore, that it is not a particularly backward constituency in its opinion. If anything was said in that constituency more than anything else, it was that some alteration of the law regarding trade disputes and trade unions was necessary, and notwithstanding that, a little more than half of the registered electorate happened to put their votes in the ballot boxes in favour of the man who said that some alteration was necessary. Leaving that on one side, let us take the Amendment as it stands. The first thing I find is this. It starts with an assumption. It says that it regrets that the Gracious Speech is to be takenas indicating the intention of Your Majesty's advisers to continue the partisan policy pursued by them in recent industrial conflict.The right hon. Gentleman refrained from giving one case or one specific instance of what he called "partisan policy." He said that there were a number of occasions upon which the Government had encouraged wage reduc- 616 tions, but he was extremely careful not to give any instance which could in any way be checked. He gave one particular case which he said was an instance of partisan conduct and that was in the passing through this House of the Eight Hours Act of last year. Apparently he differed entirely from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), whom I am sorry is not at present in the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby is at present engaged in an open confession to the public of this country, and he is telling them, among other things, that the general strike was wrong, or rather that the miners' leaders were completely wrong because they pinned themselves to a slogan. He says that the miners' case was lost immediately Mr. Cook and Mr. Herbert Smith pinned themselves to the slogan,Not a penny off the pay; not a minute on the day.In other words, there is no point in the articles which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby is at present writing unless he means that the miners' leaders should have gone to conference with the employers without any fetter of any description, perfectly open to discuss both wages and hours. Otherwise, there is no point in saying they were wrong in tying themselves to a slogan.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
In view of what the hon. and learned Member has said about my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), will he say whether my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) has ever indicated that the Eight Hours Bill was anything but a partisan Measure?
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
I am proceeding to prove the statement which I made, and I shall continue to do so. I had said that the articles of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby mean nothing unless they mean that the miners' leaders should have gone into conference without any fetter from any slogan. That slogan had only two things in it. One was that there should not be a penny off the pay, and the other was that there should not be a minute on the day. The right hon. Gentleman has never said that they should have gone into the conference with one part of the slogan and not with the other; his whole point is that you should not go into a 617 conference fettered by a predetermination not to consider things which might come up in the course of the conference. All that this House did was to make it possible to discuss the matter perfectly openly, because, if the Eight Hours Bill had not been passed, then they would have been discussing the matter, and would have had ultimately to come to Parliament if they agreed that hours had to be lengthened. What the House did was, without compelling anyone to work for a period of eight hours, to say that if the owners and the miners agreed that there should be work for more than seven hours, it should be legal for them to do it. How, in these circumstances, it can be said that the Government were taking any part in the controversy, except to do as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby says—namely, to do away with the slogan, I cannot for the life of me see. There may be another way in which the Government may be accused of partisanship. I find that during the controversy, during the miners' strike, time after time the Government were able to come to agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby and those whom he represented, but, of course, they must be partisan because, exactly like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, they could never come to an agreement with Mr. Cook and Mr. Herbert Smith. If that constitutes partisanship, there is no doubt that His Majesty's Government were guilty of partisanship.
There is another assumption in this Amendment, and that is an assumption that it is desired to diminish the power of organised Labour to resist attacks or to improve conditions—I have summarised what is stated. That is one very clear illustration of the method of the Socialist party—to make assumptions and then turn round and assume that they have been fulfilled when later legislation comes along. Let us take some of the assumptions that they are making at the present time. I said, a moment ago, that they are making the assumption that the Conservative party and the Liberal party are purely employers' parties. The history of the country refutes that. All our factory legislation, all our legislation dealing with workmen's compensation, even such a matter as the abolition of "truck"—all of that has been passed 618 either by a Conservative or by a Liberal administration; and not only that, but passed at a time when the Socialist party had no representation in this House beyond' about two or three Members. Nevertheless, without any help from this so-called workers' party, Measures of that kind were passed through this House, and passed practically with unanimity by both the parties who were then in the House.
Now, of course, we have a totally different official teaching, and I recommend to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting, who is so keen upon industrial matters and so keen upon positions not being misrepresented, one at least of the pamphlets issued from the Socialist headquarters, which is supplied as one of the official pamphlets of the Socialist party; because it is in that pamphlet, which, curiously enough, deals exclusively with trade union matters, that the assumption and statement are made that the Conservative and Liberal parties are purely employers' parties. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting was very careful to tell us, and one was proud indeed to have it stated in the House, that there were a number of industries where you practically never heard of a dispute which came to action. One is glad to realise that there are, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, trade union agents who go to the representatives of the employers, who meet those representatives, who fight the thing out—and, as he says, there is give and take, there is reasonable discussion, there is a reasonable conclusion—and at the end of it both sides come to complete agreement, and then, I hope, work together for the good of the industry. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman impress that teaching upon his party and upon those who write the official leaflets of his party? Does he think, for example, that the employers in those great industries which he has represented—and, after all, they represent a very large proportion of the employers of this country—are determined to break up the trade unions of this country I Does he think that those employers are desirous of doing anything that is going to weaken the trade unions of this country? If not, why does he allow this sort of thing to be published:Have you asked yourselves the reason why your employer's party should want you to refuse to pay the political levy of your 619 trade union? Do you know why Liberals and Tories alike are trying to break up the Labour party? The reason is that the Liberal and Tory parties are both employers' parties.In other words, it is stated that these very employers whom the right hon. Gentleman himself has eulogised as taking, through their own trade unions, the steps which will lead to industrial peace, are dictating to the political parties of this country that they should break up the trade unions.
It is not only that. I assume that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting does believe that when you have come to agreement it is better to work with your employer for the good of the industry, and I suppose he would dissociate himself entirely from that slogan which one used to hear so much from the soap-box at the corner of the street—"Why fight against your employer all day in the workshop and vote for him on election day?" I suppose the right hon. Gentleman would dissociate himself entirely from that. I notice that, he is very careful not to associate himself with it. Then this official pamphlet goes on:It is foolish to fight the employers as trade unionists and vote for them as citizens.What is the assumption behind it? The assumption behind it is that it is apparently impossible for a worker, impossible for a man who is a member of a trade union, to have views upon the mode of government, upon the way in which industry is carried on, upon social organisation, except those views which are represented by the Socialist party. If that be not the assumption, why is this continuous insistence placed here upon telling those people that they must vote for the Socialist party, that if they vote for the Conservative party or the Liberal party they are playing their employers' game against themselves, and at the same time they cannot do it with dignity or with honour? There is one satisfaction, that, at any rate in very large parts of the country, those doctrines have not yet gone home among the working classes, and, so long as trade unionists exercise independence of thought—which some trade union leaders would rather they did not exercise—so long as there are trade unionists who believe that the doctrines of the Socialist party are inimical to the 620 State, so long will you have on these benches a very large majority of members of the Conservative party.
Let me refer to one or two of the matters which have been discussed. First of all, there is the question of responsibility. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley slightly misstated the position when he said—and it is only another illustration of the lack of clarity of trade union law—that the trustees of a trade union would be liable in a motor car case. Taking the quotation from the Act of 1906—legislation that the right hon. Gentleman supported—which is to be found in the "Labour Magazine" for this month, I find that—An action against a trade union, whether of workmen or masters, or against any members or officials thereof on behalf of themselves and all other members of the trade union in respect of any tortious act"—which this would be—alleged to have been committed by or on behalf of the trade union, shall not be entertained by any Court.And then follows this:—Nothing in this Section shall affect the liability of the trustees of a trade union to be sued in the events provided for in the Trade Union Act, 1871, Section nine, except in respect of any tortious act committed by or on behalf of the union in contemplation or in furtherance of a trade dispute.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman say that the knocking down of a person by a motor car is an act in contemplation or in furtherance of a trade dispute?
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
No; I expected that the how and learned Member would ask me that question, and for that purpose I took care to have here the Section of the Act of 1871, which describes the only cases in which the trustees of a trade union may be sued. They can only be sued in respect of matters touching or concerning the property, right, or claim to property of the trade union, and in cases concerning the real or personal property of such trade union. One knows perfectly well, no one better than the hon. and learned Member, that the particular action about which we have been talking is not within the purview of that Section at all. In those circumstances, the prohibition 621 comes under the prohibition in the first part of Section 4 of the Act of 1906, and the action could not be brought and would not be entertained in any Court.
The hon. and learned Member knows perfectly well, however, that, as the law stands at present, if a trade union chooses to publish a newspaper, and, whether in connection with a trade dispute or not, if that trade union chooses to libel anyone, neither the trade union nor the trustees of the trade union can be made liable in respect of the damage that may be done by the publication of that libel. That is a totally different position from the position of any voluntary association or any other body of people in this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has been indulging in a great many speeches about the lack of sense of responsibility among trade union leaders. Is there anything more likely to engender a sense of irresponsibility than the fact that in no circumstances can the huge funds which come within their power be used for the purpose of making good damage which, if it were done by anyone else, would be illegal and reparable out of the moneys of those other people? I venture to think that one of the matters which must be taken into account, in connection with any legislation, is that an opportunity should be given to put upon the trade union leaders a sense of responsibility, so that they, as well as other people, shall be responsible for the consequence's of any illegal act that they commit.
With regard to the general strike, I do not propose, after the admirable way in which it has been dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley, to say more about it than this: We have heard, not merely from one or two but from a great many of those who sit on the Opposition benches above the Gangway, an almost, pathetic chorus of condemnation of the general strike. We have heard, I think, from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and certainly from a great many others, that they knew the general strike must end in failure and disaster. They knew that even those upon whose behalf it was invoked must suffer tremendously, that it would do them no good, and that those who took part in it were bound to suffer to a degree that could not be estimated. There is one thing which a clear declaration on the general 622 strike would do. It would prevent those on the Front Opposition Bench, who quite rightly decry the general strike so much, from being pushed over the edge of the precipice, as they have been so many times, notwithstanding the fact that in private, at the time, they declared against it, though they were very careful not to make a public declaration about it until many months after.
I agree almost entirely with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Span Valley said in regard to intimidation. Most of the difficulty arises from confusion as to what is and what is not allowable under the present law. A great many people have an idea that the Section that allows two or more people to assemble for the purpose of peaceful persuading someone else allows an assembly of unlimited hordes, whether armed or not, for the purpose of terrorising people who happen to be either at home or walking down the street. There could be, of course, no greater misconception with regard to the Act of 1906. But I think there is something that Act has done which needs to be cleared away. It does not require an assembly of say 100 or 150 people to be armed with staves or stones to make them a possibility of fear or violence to persons outside whose houses they congregate, and as the Taw stands at present until actual violence has taken place, or until there is actual throwing of stones or a clear indication that a man is armed with a stick, it is very difficult indeed to say that assembly for the purpose of peaceful persuasion has gone over the border-line and has become intimidation.
On the other hand, when an industrial struggle is running in its intensity, when there is all the bitterness that you may get in the course of an industrial struggle, when you get men keenly desirous of working, probably only a few—whether they are few or many makes no difference except to the degree of intimidation—if you get a large number of people assembled outside the houses of the men who want to work it is impossible to say that is not calculated to strike fear into the men, who know that that crowd is waiting for them and will watch them down the street and follow them, and it may he that it is almost a greater intimidation because one does not quite know the length to which the crowd may 623 go, but at the same time a magistrate may very well say, "Until you have proved that these men have thrown a stone or used a stick, you cannot say they have transgressed against the law which allows them to assemble to an unlimited number for the purpose of peacefully persuading a man not to go back to his work." If you think the law wants to be perfectly clearly defined—and certainly it was the view of the Commission which sat before the 1906 Act was passed that any act which was likely to cause a reasonable fear that violence might be inflicted either upon a man, his wife, his children or his property should be clearly intimidation and should not be qualified in the way it has been by the Statute of 1906—at any rate to make that clear would remove a great deal of misconception, and then we should be able to see more clearly what is and what is not intimidation. But surely the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Miles Platting cannot say that to make it clear that in an industrial or any other struggle one man, or a hundred or a thousand men, shall not intimidate others is to take away the bargaining power of trade unions or in any way to weaken the legitimate power which trade unions may exercise.
With regard to the political levy, I think there are two matters that require attention. One is that the finance Sections of the Act of Parliament—they are not rules—are so drawn that it is possible to deal with the contribution in a way that is not clear to the member of the union. I think it was the purpose of the Act of 1913 that the political levy should be separate from the moment it was paid until it was actually used for political purposes and that it might never be dealt with by means of a grant from the general fund of a trade union—that there should be a separate political fund from first to last. Unfortunately, the Section of the Act does not make that clear. In addition, the definition of "political purpose" is not clear, and the Registrar of Friendly Societies appears to have decided that it was not a political purpose to subscribe trade union money for propaganda which came from the official headquarters of the Socialist party. The position which exists to-day is that a man who goes into an industry, and joins a trade union becomes liable to contri- 624 bute to the Socialist party. That is absolutely wrong. It is not enough that he should be able to contract out. There should not be even the semblance of trade union power to force them to subscribe to any political party no matter what it may be. I think the real evil that has been brought about by that Act is that it has encouraged the sort of thing that is described in this leaflet. It has encouraged the idea that a trade union exists simply and solely for political matters, and there is one sentence in this leaflet which discloses that more clearly than anything else. It says:Every industrial question sooner or later becomes a political question.
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
I am not at all surprised that hon. Members opposite say, "Hear, hear!" to that, but I ask them for the moment to contemplate what it means. It means that every question of wages and conditions of employment which is now ordinarily decided between representative workmen and their employers is to become ultimately a political question. Then you are at once doing that which will cause, if it ever comes about, the greatest injury to the future of this country, and that is the horizontal cleavage, which at present does not exist and which cannot exist so long as the present system is carried on, but which may come. This leaflet again says:Every political question is a worker's question. Politics can no longer be regarded as a game of the ins acid outs played by the landlord and capitalist party. It is a contest between the haves and the have nots.It is news to us that the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Mosley) is one of the have nots. It will be news to a great many people that those on the benches opposite are to be numbered among the have nots. But whether that be so or not, one matter is clear. In whatever stage of society a man may be, there are in every class of the community men who hold totally different views as to the organisation of society. In every stage of society I suppose now it must be admitted there are some who think the Socialist party is right and the Socialist organisation of the State is the only organisation. Just in the same way in every class of the community there are very large numbers who believe that the system of individual enterprise, the system that is known as capitalism, the system of allowing the individual to have 625 a real chance without interference from the State is the right system of society. As to that there are large numbers in every class. If you continue this attempt to put politics in the forefront in your trade unions you will either create a purely class division or you will ruin your trade unions.
There are some who suggest that legislation that makes for liberty in trade unionism is going to destroy trade unionism. I think the history of the last year has shown that the way trade unionism has been used for political purposes has driven many thousands out of the ranks of the trade unions. The only people who are sincerely and definitely against legislation for giving liberty to trade unionists are a few antiquated, disgruntled employers, who have never outlived the Manchester School and who say, "For heaven's sake do not do anything to give liberty to trade unionists. By their present antics the Socialist leaders are destroying the trade unions, and if you do anything to amend the law you will only strengthen them and bring them back again with great vigour." Because I believe that the line of freedom is the best line for trade unionism, as it is for everything else in the community, I will support the Measures which I hope will be brought m by the Government to restore those liberties to trade unionists which this country and this House ought never to have taken from trade unionists.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
Hon. Members on entering this House have the idea that Amendments to the King's Speech give an hon. Member the opportunity of talking about everything on earth without infringing the rules of order. After listening to the hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord), who has discussed almost every question which could possibly be discussed—Labour, Socialism, employers, Liberalism, indeed every subject instead of the one dealt with in the Amendment—I am inclined to agree that such an opportunity should not too often be given to a Member in this House. But I think we all like to hear the hon. and learned Member speak at some length, because, to give every man his due, the legislation which is now suggested is really his work. If the Government are to be ruined by their trade union legislation, it will lie at the 626 door of the hon. and learned Member for Norwood. If they save the country by their legislation, his, again, will be the glory. We know perfectly well that year after year he, with one or two of his associates, including the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) and the hon. and learned Member for Moss Side (Mr. Gerald Hurst), has for years been pressing the Government to alter the law relating to trade unions. The Government have been reluctant to do so. The Prime Minister himself definitely, if I may use the phrase, snubbed the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire last year and told him, in Parliamentary language, to mind his own business. Now, at last, the hon. and learned Member for Norwood has triumphed, and I think we can allow him to speak for an hour, or nearly an hour, now that they have surrendered to his proposals.
I do not agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), as I understood him, that we cannot usefully discuss this matter to-day. I think there is a very real issue before the House. It is true that we are, to sonic extent, embarrassed by the decision of the Government that the Attorney-General is not to speak in this Debate until very late this evening, so that at this moment we do not know the precise proposals which the Government will make. On the other hand, it would be really affecting an innocence which I am sure none of us intend to do, to pretend that any hon. Member of this House does not know pretty well what is going to be the Government's legislation on this matter. I am not going to confine myself to mere conjecture. I will take the King's Speech itself. In that Speech I find, quite definitely, sufficient language to tell me what the legislation is going to be. The Speech says:Recent events have made evident the importance of defining and amending the law with reference to industrial disputes.There, we have it, in quite clear and unmistakeable language, that "recent events" which must mean recent industrial events, and recent industrial events must mean, first, the general strike, and, secondly, matters which took place during the mining lock-out, have made it necessary to define and amend the law relating to industrial disputes. If I might apply the higher criticism to that language and 627 analyse it even further, we find in it the proposals which are to be laid before us. In addition to that, we have the speeches made by members of the Government and their supporters stating quite definitely that the Government intend to make illegal the general strike. They may be right or they may be wrong; but it is idle this afternoon to suggest that we cannot discuss as a real live issue whether that law should or should not be revised. Similarly, we know—how these things get out I do not know; but very often the newspapers seem better informed about what the Government are going to do than the Government themselves are informed—that a newspaper has made the statement, right hon. Gentlemen and their friends say the same thing, and the convergence of opinion is such that we know that it is the intention of the Government to deal with the law relating to picketing. I know that the hon. and learned Member for Norwood has other wishes and intentions; and as he has been successful in putting his will upon the Government, he may, before he has finished, succeed in getting the Government to do everything he wants. He must be a little patient with the Government, seeing that they are prepared to carry out so much of his demand. The time may come when the whole of his great scheme for reforming the trade unions of this country will be promoted by the Government.
Dealing with these two concrete matters, the general strike and the question of persuasion, picketing or intimidation, I would remark that, with regard to the general strike, I abstained from interrupting the right hon. Member for Spen Valley. I must not have made myself sufficiently clear on the former occasion—considering the circumstances in which we met and the discussion which took place, it is not extraordinary—as to my views on the speech which he made in this House and subsequently in other speeches in which he attacked me. Several distinct matters arise in connection with the general strike. There is the question of breaches of contract, and the question whether a general strike which is not in breach of contract, and where general notices are given to a large number of persons to cease labour, the notices to terminate contracts with the employers are or are not illegal. What 628 I said in this House with regard to the first matter was that that was a question of fact to be decided by the Courts. Where you had a breach of contract which undoubtedly at Common Law would produce a situation of illegality, whether that was or was not covered by the Trade Disputes Act was, I said, a question of fact to be decided in A Court of Law.
I am concerned not with the unfortunate breaches of contract which occurred in the recent dispute, but with the more general principle whether a general strike which is not in breach of contract is illegal or not. In regard to that matter, the interim judgment of Mr. Justice Astbury does not help us at all, because he was dealing with A case where there was a breach of contract, admittedly. I say now, with every respect to the learned Judge, that everyone will agree that the injunction granted was a mere interim matter, not argued on behalf of the trade union at all by counsel, but merely by a layman; and yet by some curious reason it has got into the Law Reports. Such a judgment, I respectfully submit, is not decisive on this question of the legality or otherwise of the general strike. It is important that this House should know before it considers whether the law should be altered or not, whether the general strike is or is not illegal at the present time.
Although there is very little which one can quote on the point, there is one decision which was given so long ago as 1843—the judgment of Mr. Justice Erskine—which certainly seems to suggest that a general strike, accompanied by no form of intimidation or sedition or breach of contract, is not unlawful. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Hon. Members seem amused, but surely we all want to know what we are talking about, and we shall certainly want to know in the discussion on the Second Reading whether we are merely declaring the existing law or altering the law. Whether we are doing the one or the other will depend on whether the general strike is or is not at the present time illegal. In the case before Mr. Justice Erskine there was a man named Cooper, who was a Chartist, and he wanted to enforce the Charter and make it the law of the land. For that purpose, he suggested, among other things, that there should be a general strike in order to compel Parliament to make the 629 Charter law. This is what the Judge said on that matter:Mr. Justice Erskine, in summing up, gave it as his opinion that as it was not unlawful for men to agree to desist from working for the purpose of obtaining an advance of wages"—that is an ordinary strike—neither was it unlawful for them to agree among themselves to support each other for the purpose of obtaining any other lawful object; and then, if the establishment of the Charter were a lawful object, and the means proposed for effecting that object were lawful, he could not see that the adoption of such means by the men were criminal, and, therefore, he could not see how it could he criminal in others honestly and peacefully to advise and encourage their adoption.Therefore, it is clear that so long as ago as 1843, it was decided in a criminal case of conspiracy, by a Judge of the High Court, that merely to say to a man, "You shall not work" in order to constrain Parliament to do a certain thing, is not unlawful, provided there is no sedition. There is authority for saying that if men are, let us say, foolish enough to say, "We will call upon people to come out on strike in order to force Parliament to introduce the Charter"—which was a purely political question of giving the people the vote—that that act is not illegal.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
It was Mr. Justice Erskine's summing up to the jury, but that summing up contains the opinion of Mr. Justice Erskine with regard to the law. I will not spend more time on this ancient case, but I will deal with the point raised by the hon. Member. The Judge was telling the jury to consider whether there were or were not proper reasons for calling out these persons on strike; whether there were elements of sedition present. He said, "If you are satisfied that they have only been called out on strike to get the Charter, then you must acquit him. If they were called out for some seditious object you must convict him." In order to make it clear to the jury, it was necessary to point out that one was legal and the other was not legal. Therefore, he pointed out that to produce the element of sedition was to produce the element of illegality; but he pointed out that if the whole scheme of the strike was to produce a, Parliamentary object in regard to making 630 of the Charter the law of the land, it was not illegal.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
The jury found, as a fact, that he had practised sedition, and he was convicted. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh and cheer because he was convicted of sedition. By cheering, hon. Members would appear to think that the Judge decided that a general strike is illegal. That is not so. The Judge pointed out that if there was a seditious object it would be illegal, and the jury found, as a fact,, that there was. But the Judge further said that if it was merely a question of calling men out on strike to get the Charter made law of the land, without sedition, that would not be illegal. Surely, that is a useful observation, and I believe that until the recent general strike no question ha[...] ever arisen on this matter. The particular dispute last May was complicated, I admit, by questions of breaches of contract. Now we are back on the more general point. There is something very much more serious about this matter than these archaic investigations. Here, therefore, comes the importance of realising what the law is. The real importance of the matter has not been mentioned by anybody. I hope that the learned Attorney-General will deal with the matter later.
What is a general strike? How can you by any conceivable form of words define the generality of a strike? In the recent dispute, I understand, a large number of workers did not cease work at all many of them were not asked to cease work. What I fear and wish to emphasise is this: Under the cover of having a law against general strikes we shall gradually find all sympathetic strikes of any magnitude made illegal. It is a serious matter, and it is of the utmost importance that everyone concerned with the liberty of trade unions should understand it. A general strike is a question of fact. Suppose that the railway men come out in support of the miners. Is that a general strike or is it not? If it is a general strike, then it becomes illegal for any large trade union to come out in support of another large trade union. Here we come up against the justification of what my right hon. Friend the 631 Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) has said, and what the Amendment says, that this really is a menace to the rights of trade unions. I do not say that everyone realises the grave danger that there is in this legislation, for you cannot, from the nature of the ease, limit or define the generality of a strike.
When we know how simple and apparently innocent words in the past history of trade unions have been used and construed to take away one right after another, how the word "molestation," for example, which seems in itself an innocent and proper word, was construed by the Courts to such an extent that it became almost impossible for trade unions to carry on their business at all, what guarantee have we that the words "general strike" will not be gradually extended to apply to every strike where persons are not immediately concerned? Under the Emergency Powers Act of 1920 there is a form of words something like "any cessation of labour which threatens the community with loss of fuel or light or food"—I have forgotten the exact words. That as late as 1920 was considered perfectly normal, because that Act, which dealt with something very like a general strike, goes on to say that no Regulations made under it shall prevent any person from calling a strike or taking part in a strike. Those words are so general that I cannot help feeling that we are being asked by the Government to-day definitely to alter the whole principle of the law as it has existed ever since the repeal of the Combination Acts.
Apart from that, there is one other question. The principle of English law is that any person has the right to terminate his contract when he will, and that a number of persons collectively may do so when they will, and that other persons may persuade those persons to terminate their contracts when they will. What is the difference in principle if the number of persons who decide to terminate their contracts is 10, 100, 1,000 or 1,000,000 of if the persons who endeavour to persuade them to terminate their contracts persuade 10 or 100 or 1,000 or 1,000,000? It seems to me that directly you have on the Statute Book a law which says that the number of men, merely because of their numbers, are not to have the right to terminate their contracts by giving proper notice, and that 632 others are not to have the right decently and properly to say, "I advise you to terminate your contracts after giving proper notice," you are really making a serious invasion into the liberty of the subject.
I ask respectfully that the House will consider whether you are not introducing into English law an entirely new and vicious principle which has not existed since the repeal of the Combination Acts in 1824, that you are for the first time saying that it is illegal for people in large numbers to cease labour or illegal for others to persuade them to cease labour, even though the cessation is perfectly lawful and with perfect notice given. If this should become law it means that men may not leave their labour. Suppose that I am employed on a weekly contract. I can give notice. But if I have the misfortune to have the intention of giving notice with 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 others, the law steps in and says that I must not give notice; so that the effect of this apparently innocent law against general strikes will really be that, if you only have enough people wishing to take part in the cessation, they will be bound to remain at work, otherwise they will become criminals. Therefore, I see here just that introduction of servile ideas into our legislation, which I have protested against in this House on several other occasions in quite other connections. Directly you depart from the principle that the, people should be free to make their contracts as and when they will, and to end them as and when they will, whether in small or large numbers, I say that you are in great peril of altering the whole principle of the freedom of English law, and for that reason this general strike legislation is a most perilous and hazardous thing.
That being the case, with all those risks and perils—and in spite of what the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley may say, there really is now, so far as I can see, no possible prospect of a general strike—I ask the Government at least to reconsider this matter, and to say that this very perilous legislation is not a matter which ought to be entered on now. Speaking as a politician, I hope the Government will go on with the legislation, because we as a party have everything to gain and they have everything to lose by it. But the learned 633 Attorney-General will agree that it would be very wrong if we were to allow our judgment of what is good for the State to be deflected by political considerations. Therefore, I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in the interests of the general state of society and of the certainty of the law, whether this legislation, which may satisfy a few persons in seaside resorts and places where they are frightened of trade unionists, really is calculated to produce tranquillity or peace or goodwill, or any of the things that we all desire.
I must add something on the question of the other suggested legislation, with regard to picketing. Here I am in the happy position of being in agreement both with the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley and with the hon. and learned Member for Norwood that the present law under the Act of 1875 does make it illegal for anyone with a view to compelling any other person to abstain from doing or to do any act without legal authority, using violence, intimidating, and so on—all these acts are now illegal. Therefore, if there be complaints, that the persons concerned to-day are in fact intimidating others, the criticism should be with the police and with the magistrates, and not with the law. The law is quite emphatic on the point. Now it is proposed that the words which exist in the Trade Disputes Act, "peacefully to persuade people not to work," shall be modified. I believe that those acts would have been lawful if those words had never been there at all. Someone may make the debating point, "Why not remove them?" There were certain difficulties which arose in certain legal decisions. The fact is that directly a person intimidates anyone or threatens violence within the meaning of the 1875 Act, he becomes liable now.
But what is so serious is this: It is going to do so much, in my opinion, to justify the allegation in the Amendment of the partisan nature of this legislation. What are the facts? We know perfectly well that there is scarcely an industry in the country in which the employers today are not banded together in a trade union. We have all of us, in our professional capacity, if in no other, had experience of thee, great associations of employers. These associations of employers, which are of every possible type, 634 motor manufacturers, cotton spinners, shipping men, coal men—every single industry banded together within the meaning of the Trade Union Acts—these associations of employers almost invariably have what they call a black list, and the general method which has been employed is this: If a particular person, either a member of an association or a manufacturer in the same trade, ventures to sell goods at a price lower than the ring rate fixed by the associations, he is placed upon the black list. Just as the workman is regarded with suspicion when he takes a wage lower than the standard rate, so the manufacturer is regarded with suspicion by the association when he sells his goods below the agreed rate. But instead of the manufacturers standing in a ring round the factory gates, and menacing him, as the hon. and learned Member for Norwood would say, they send him a neat, well-typed and beautiful note, and on it is written something like this:Dear Sir, We beg to call your attention to the fact that you are selling our commodity at 2 per cent. less than the rate which our Association fixed. We tell you that if this occurs again we shall place you on our Black List, and we would call your attention to Rule 17C.When the trembling recipient of the note looks at Rule 17c, he finds that every single member of the association, and very often every allied trade, is forbidden to deal with him at all. People talk about workmen and industrial tyranny. I am sure the hon. and learned Member for Norwood will remember the case of Pratt and the British Medical Association. Because a doctor at Coventry said he would take a smaller salary than the association had agreed, all the members of the association were forbidden to go into consultation with him. People might be dying for want of medical attention, but consultation with this doctor was forbidden. I think I am right in saying that they went so far as to forbid the wives of other doctors of the association in Coventry having tea with Mrs. Pratt. I notice that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Reiner) laughs. If the hon. Member were on a black list he would not laugh.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
There is one mentioned in the Law Reports, and that is the motor trade association. I am not going to mention all the names. The building materials trade has a black list. There was a case in the Courts about that in connection with some firm. Really the hon. Member is doing himself and his cause no good by achieving an innocence which he really does not deserve. The fact is that this is partisan legislation. Coercion, intimidation and all kinds of economic influences are being used all the time by these associations against recalcitrant members who sell goods at a price below a certain rate. As a matter of fact the Courts have proved almost powerless to deal with the matter. In the latest case that I remember, the newspaper case, the Courts decided substantially that there was no remedy. I am not saying nothing should be done, but I do say that if this legislation is going through, we are going to let the country know the position as regards trade unionism inside employers' associations.
All that we do not want to do. It is going to do no good, but if you insist on bringing in one-sided legislation—and the King's Speech makes it plain, that the proposed legislation is not going to deal with the employers' associations, but with the question of industrial disputes—if you insist on picking out the workers' associations and if you suggest that it is only the worker who needs protection from possible intimidation and coercion, then we shall be bound to publish up and down the country the way in which the employers' associations carry on their business at the present time. Then what will happen to that peace and tranquillity for which the Prime Minister hopes? I say that the whole of this legislation is calculated, from beginning to end, to produce an atmosphere of disorder, suspicion and discord and, if there be any Communists or Bolshevists who desire the growth of that sort of thing, they will live to thank the Government and the hon. and learned Member for Norwood for giving them the best opportunity.
§ Mr. ELLIS
I am sure many Members of the House feel much as I do at the present moment, namely, like members of a jury who have been listening for a 636 considerable time to discussions on points of law in a Court from which the Judge has removed himself and where they can expect to get no direction of any kind. We have been discussing, in the air, problems of law on which we are not at all clear as to whether we are going to have any lead whatever. I propose to deal with this question for a very short time from the industrial point of view. Industry, after all, is chiefly concerned in any legislation which may take place. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has given us what I was going to call illustrations about manufacturers in the course of his criticisms, but I can hardly call them illustrations. He suggested that there are certain employers' combinations, which he threatened to expose if the Government undertake any legislation in regard to the trade unions. I have been connected fairly definitely with industry for some time, and I think I can claim to know something both about industrial combinations and about industry generally. I can say for myself, and I speak also for a good many of my friends, that we have nothing to fear from this threatened exposure. In that respect I am in much the same position as many hon. Members of this House who are interested in industry.
What I want to say more particularly is this. Not knowing what the Government are going to do, one can only take this occasion as an opportunity of asking them in their legislation perhaps not to do certain things. May I call the attention of the Government to a tendency which is far too much present to-day in industry, namely, to imagine that everything on both sides of the question has passed into one big mass and that for the future the smaller individual employer and the smaller concerns need no longer be considered; that we are to range on the one side the whole mass of capital, and on the other the whole mass of labour as represented by the trade unions alone. There are in industry to-day, and more particularly in the skilled trades—and it is upon these trades that many hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Labour benches depend for the whole of the success that their sheltered industries can ever hope to get—
§ Mr. ELLIS
The hon. Gentleman knows that just as well as I do. If I am asked for a definition I will put it in this way. A sheltered industry is one which, without some productive cover, cannot go on. Therefore, I am concerned more particularly with the productive cover, because it is only through the profits of that productive cover that this country can continue to exist and pay its way as it is doing and keep itself going. There are in industry, more particularly in the engineering trades, and trades dealing in special things, many firms—with a few hundreds of hands, and, in some cases, a thousand, eleven hundred or twelve hundred—in which it is quite true employers are members of employers' associations and the men are frequently members of trade unions. But I think on both sides there is often little reference either to the employers concerned, or the members of the trade unions. Those industries manage to get along exceedingly well, each in its own separate undertaking, because of the undoubted good will and good spirit which exists between masters and men. What I want to impress upon the Government is that, in any legislation which may take place, and which may have the thought of establishing some kind of arbitration body, they will not forget that there still exist a great many people of this class, both as to employés and employers. They must not be forgotten in any circumstances of that kind. One very often finds—there being a law of gravity in industry as in anything else—that when the mass moves it very often takes smaller things with it, quite independently of the interests of the smaller things themselves. Legislation may work, as it has often worked, very much to the detriment of these smaller concerns.
Legislation, so far as trade union law is concerned, is a matter which a great many people regard as being outside their daily lives. I put it to hon. Members on the Labour Benches that the greatest concern of any working man is the conduct of the business or undertaking for which he works; his daily life in that undertaking; how he is treated in it; the wages he gets, and what his general conditions are. But if you were to ask him bow many times he has attended his union branch, and what share he takes in the union's proceedings, he would possibly 638 tell you that it did not particularly interest him. Therefore I, for one, contend that the key to the future of industry does not so much rest in legislation as in trying to create an atmosphere of goodwill in the shops and workplaces themselves. Let me, in passing, say one thing to hon. Members on the Labour Benches. It does not matter what kind of Government you have, Socialist, Royalist or any other kind, you will have to run industry in this country in such a way that it pays sufficiently to enable us to buy the food we eat and to pay for our raw materials. Therefore, even if the present system goes altogether out of force, and is replaced by the Socialist Government which hon. Members above the Gangway are convinced is going to cure all our ills, you will still have to meet the shop and workshop problem. It is that problem which is going to decide then, as it will decide now and as it has decided at all times, by the goodwill created between the two sides, whether industry is going to be properly carried on or not.
May I ask hon. Members to think of one or two things which have taken place recently during the growth of the trade union movement. In the early days, trade unions concerned themselves intimately with what we now call welfare, and quite rightly too. Now, welfare has very largely passed into the realm of Government control. All matters such as pensions, sick insurance, health, and so forth, are, being dealt with in that way. Formerly those who conducted the unions were actually employed in the works side by side with the men whom they represented in the unions. They were closely in touch with these men, they worked daily with them, and they understood fully their craft and industrial feelings as well as what they deemed to be necessary for them socially. When these social questions passed from the workshops to the nation, there came about a great change in the class of men representing the unions. I am not saying this in any sense disrespectful to the people who then came to represent the workers in the unions. It became more necessary from the point of view of the unions, owing to their growth, for those who represented the men to be more and more away from hair fellows in the workshops, and more and more interested in political questions. 639 In the end, we have got a more or less complete divorce on the industrial side, between the representatives of the unions and the men themselves. In the very nature of the case it was impossible for these representatives to remain in the works, and at the same time carry out the political work which they had to do. That has led, in the opinion of many of the men themselves—it is freely said among many of my friends in the unions—to a situation in which there is not between the union leaders and the men themselves that same understanding of real industrial questions that used to exist in the old days. If what I say be doubted, the answer is to be found in the fact that many of the unions to-day are forming craft unions in opposition to the political unions.
If what I have described be the case, trade unionism generally is missing an opportunity of bringing back not only peace to industry but prosperity to industry. This matter I believe to be right down at the roots of the real question involved in this dispute. It is not sufficient to say that in many works employers go in for welfare, and benevolence, and all that kind of thing. One hopes that that is the ordinary thing which any decent-minded employer already does, and most employers are decent-minded. When one uses the term "employer" it should also be remembered that the mere fact that a concern has been turned into a private company, or perhaps into something in the nature of a public company, does not mean by any means that the old personal influence has departed from it. The feeling is still strong, and the necessity for it is still there, and if to-day an attempt is being made by many of us, including hon. Members of this House who are interested in industry, to get a little closer and better understanding with those who are employed in the concerns with which we are connected, we are entitled to ask hon. Members on the Labour benches, if their object is not to destroy industry altogether, to help us in bringing about that better feeling. Many schemes are set on foot for the improvement of industry. We have heard a great deal about co-partner-ship and about employés holding shares, which to a large extent is done nowadays in the United States. Personally, I should 640 be somewhat chary of drawing many comparisons between this country and the United States. I speak with some knowledge of the social circumstances in both countries. The nature of our people is entirely different. The circumstances of trade in the two countries are different. The circumstances of capital and wages are different. But all that does not prevent us from using every opportunity we can get to create better feeling, and I am perfectly certain that such a view is very strongly held on my side of the House. What we really want to get at is not the question of the destruction or retention of capitalism, because, whatever Government we have in power, industry has to stay on, in some form or other; what we really should be disputing about is the division of the profits of industry. What we, on this side, say sometimes is this, that you have first to get your profits before you can think about their distribution; and it is most essential if those profits are going to be retained that there should be a cessation of the present all too frequent disputes. I do not think it is asking too much on the part of those of us who wish to see improvements, if we suggest to hon. Members who control the unions that, not necessarily in public, not through the employers, but directly through their own members at work, it would be welcomed by their organisation if they tried to get a better understanding with the employers. You would then see very considerable improvement.
I should be the last to suggest that hon. Members, to whatever union they may belong, have not a perfect right, if they think they are justified in doing so, in creating a purely political union. There are some employers' unions which are political. But if you create a political union, remember that it carries with it an implication of which one must have some care. You have no right to say to any individual. "According to your political principles, you shall or you shall not be allowed to take part in the work of a certain industry." If you make it plain that your union is going to become definitely and purely political, you can no longer come forward and say: "Whatever Government is in power must lay down the rule that only members of my union shall work in this industry." That is the consideration which has to be remembered when one takes up a definite political side.
641 So far as the political levy is concerned, I know no more than hon. Members who have been guessing what the Government is going to do, but I feel this about it—perhaps some of my friends may not agree with me—that if your principles are worth fighting for, men inside the unions themselves should have given a little greater lead than they have on some occasions. It is quite true that there may be in certain instances a good deal of difficulty and a good deal of what one might not unjustly term intimidation, but it does not always do for people to come and ask for assistance in circumstances over which they ought to take somewhat fuller control themselves. If we were to prevent—and I hope we shall not, as I think we should have no right to do it—a political levy in any circumstances, in any set of existing unions, I, for one, speaking at the moment as a lawyer—and I am cure my right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—can see no illegality in a body of men coming together and saying they will form a union one of whose rules would be that you had to be a member of a certain party, to wit, the Labour party. It would not be against the law if every member who joined knew the obligation beforehand and knew what he had to pay as a result of that obligation.
I hope hon. Members on the Socialist side of the House will try to look at this question from the point of view of some of us on the Unionist side of the House. I have heard it said—and I was sorry to hear it—that this was a class question and that it must remain one, and the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, I thought., made rather a strong point of this. I regret it very much, if he really thinks that, and if he is going to ask his own party to take that as his watchword in the trouble that undoubtedly must come when this Question is finally settled. If you are going to have class distinctions in industry in this country, Heaven help both the future of industry and the future of the country. It is a curious thing that when all these discussions are going on in our own country, with all the difficulty we find in settling down, although we were the country which won the war, all the other countries that we helped are settling down to work harder, to save more, to settle their industries, and to move ahead, and we are still in 642 the stage, apparently, of wondering whether we are to get to grips with one another or whether we are to go on with our business in a rational kind of way. I hope that when the Bill is brought in it may be so definite that we can at once get down to the real meaning of the Clauses, that if the question is one of legal interpretation it will be settled according to forms of law, and that in the meantime industry will be left alone to get on with its job.
§ Mr. CHARLETON
We, on these benches, have been taking notice during the last few years in connection with this subject, although there is no Bill before the House to be discussed, and we remember, for instance, what took place on this question at Scarborough last year. We know what the Tory newspapers have been saying for several years, we know what a good many employers' associations have been saying, and we also know what is in many reports of chambers of commerce just recently. I have had a report sent to me recently, and there was a paragraph devoted to this question, which said that if the Government would attend to the question of trade union laws and the retrictions of trade unions, trade would be better and prosperity would follow. It seems to me that we are entitled to assume that the attacks on trade unions mean a worsening of conditions in many ways, otherwise I fail to sea why a chamber of commerce should predict better trade following such legislation. One would imagine, if it only means that we shall get greater peace, that we were always at war and on strike. The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) twitted some of the Members on the Front Opposition Bench with not having said or done certain things during the national strike last year, and he stated that if they had said those things, this legislation would not be necessary. I cannot agree, because, as the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) pointed out, for several years past hon. Members opposite have introduced Bills to deal with trade unions and have been chid by the Prime Minister for so doing.
The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley said there was no case for further legislation so far as picketing was concerned. It seems to me that all the 643 complaints brought against trade unions in the conduct of a strike are always met by the ordinary law. Cases of assault, eases of obstruction, and cases of intimidation can all be dealt with, and my experience, when I acted temporarily as an organiser for my own union, was that quite the opposite to the charge that is brought could have been brought against the union. My time was largely occupied by being sent for by railway companies to come and settle disputes between them and their employés, where the employés on their own were kicking up a row. The companies sent to the trade union offices for someone to go down and set things right.
I am fortified in my belief that the agitation for trade union legislation should be altered by one, or two things that have happened. For example, in 1020 the National Union of Railwaymen had a claim for better conditions for their employés, and there appeared before the National Wages Board the Chairman of the Association of Chambers of Commerce, who came to show the reasons why railway employés should not have anything more than they were getting. Yet, in reply to a question later—and I have got all this in the printed report—he postulated that investors, having regard to the taxation at that time, would not be satisfied to invest at a less percentage than 12 per cent. I assume that, being the Chairman of the Association of Chambers of Commerce, he was speaking for that association and for all the members in that association, and as they have not yet reached that happy or unhappy stage of a general 12 per cent., it seems to me that I am entitled to assume that those people are still agitating for this happy state of affairs. From the opposite benches, from time to time, when we have discussed questions affecting wages and trade, we have frequently had it put up that production must be cheaper and costs lowered, because, it is said, we cannot sell abroad unless that is done. But hon. Members opposite appear to me always to lose sight of the home market, and I was under the impression that our home market was the largest. If we reduce earning power here, our purchasing power also will be reduced, and surely that must have a bad effect on industry; and then, with competition, people in the 644 other parts of the world will be saying the same thing, and so the unhappy process continues.
So far as my own union is concerned, we laugh at all this nonsense that is talked about strikes. I am a member of a railway union which was formed in 1872. Excluding the strike last year, we have had two national strikes during the whole of that period, but neither of them was caused by any act of the union in so far as we were demanding or asking for anything. In 1911 the men had made a blunder at Liverpool, and we asked the employers there to meet the men and discuss the matter, but they would not. There was no question about peace in industry; they were going to victimise and discharge those men, and so we went to their rescue. In 1919 the Government which had charge of the negotiations at that time decided to revise the conditions and wages of railway porters and others who were earning about £2 a week at that time. I, myself, as an engine driver, and others who were not affected said we could not see the living of these men depressed, and we told the railway companies that we should not allow it to be done. There was no question about peace in industry or of getting round a table. They simply thrust it on us, and I would say, in passing, that if it is the desire of the other side that there should be adequate machinery set up in the industries in which there is no machinery, when the employers decide to meet the unions to set up machinery, they will find the trade unionist waiting on the doorstep, where he has been for a very long time. I helped to set up the machinery for the railways, but had to agitate; we had to work for it, and almost strike for it. I took the first deputation into the Midland board room—a deputation of locomotive men in 1903. It was the first that ever went there, and we had to stand round the table like a lot of convicts, the chairs having beer removed. When we had stated our cave, the Chairman told us that "The world is wide, and if you do not like our conditions, you know what to do." That chairman was a member of a great territorial family, and not an ordinary commercial man. We had to break this down all the way along the line, and we are willing to set up machinery in every industry. The only obstacle to adequate machinery is the employer. When you agree to get this peace in 645 industry and set up this machinery you will find that we are already there.
There is also the case of intimidation. I know, from my own personal knowledge, what goes on as far as intimidation is concerned. I have been buttonholed many times by inspectors and others, telling me that the boss did not like my trade union activities, and in 1912 I was penalised for my trade union activities. The right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) was my advocate when ultimately the case was brought for inquiry by the Board of Trade, after the railway company would not deal with it. The company said they had no fault against me as a workman, and tried to prove some other reason for my victimisation. However, we proved our case. I had exhausted all the machinery to get justice. There is an hon. Member on the other side who was a director of the company of that day. He was seen personally by the right hon. Member for Derby, but they would do nothing in it. They were determined to victimise me. That sort of thing would still go on, and is going on. There are such things as black lists. The hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord) twitted us by saying that many things were done by Liberal and Tory Governments. We could not do anything when we were not here, but if there is anything that has been ill-done, it cannot be laid at our door, because we have never been in power, but I would ask you to remember the attitude of the employers as far as the Factory Acts, the Mines and Railway Regulations, were concerned. It took Lord Shaftesbury many years, and he was practically ostracised, before the Factory Acts could be passed. Then Plimsoll had to do a great deal before he got the load line put on ships. The hon. and learned Member for Norwood said—and this was news to me—that a trade union journal or newspaper could not be sued for libel. I was rather surprised, because I think there is some money due to my union, as we got sued some time ago and had to pay. It seems to me, if that is true, we shall have to get our money back, or, at all events, we shall have to make suitable arrangement; so as net to be sued again.
With regard to the political levy, there is a great deal of nonsense talked. It 646 is quite easy for any member of my union, at least, simply to go privately to the secretary and say to him, "I want an exemption form." There are men who have got exemption from the political levy in my own branch and I do not know who they are. I have never asked, and no one talks about it. The secretary knows but I do not know and I have never heard of any bitterness or criticism, The hon. and learned Member for Norwood wanted to know why we take the position we do. For the same reason that hon. Members opposite uphold the police, the Army and Navy. We think it a valuable asset to come here and ventilate the working-class point of view, rather than spend days and weeks in the Lobby begging and praying people who belong to another class to do the work for us. We admit, of course, that there are no new proposals before us, but, after what has been said on the other side, at the Scarborough Conference, and in the newspapers, we feel it necessary to tell the Government in advance that they ought to be careful where they are going. The last speaker evidently wants the Government to be careful. I do not know whether he feels that his side is not very safe, but he does not want the trade unionists to be able to rise up against him for what his Government may do. I do not think there is need for any alteration. As I have said, I believe all the cases of victimisation, intimidation and obstruction can be dealt with under the law, and I see no reason for this unless, as I have said it is, that wages have still got to be depressed.
§ Mr. DUFF COOPER
This Debate has almost collapsed under the weight of the legal argument we have already heard. Of the six speakers, four have been learned, and I must apologise to the House for not having that distinction. The hon. and learned Member who spoke last from the Front Opposition Bench only lapsed out of law to fall, as far as I could see, into blackmail. I must say I rejoiced in the legal argument, because it was delightful to me, as a student of history, to know that the trade union movement was dependent on what Mr. Justice Erskine said in 1843. The moment the hon. and learned Gentleman left legal matters, he seemed to get into an entirely different department, and to be verging into blackmail. As far 647 as I followed his argument, it was this: "If you go on with this kind of legislation, we shall say all over the country the terrible things which exist among employers' organisations." That seemed to be his argument. If these things exist, and if we do not get on with our legislation, is he going to hush them up, and not say a word about them? If that be his argument, it is, to a non-legal mind, a blackmail argument.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
What I said was this: You have to-day Black Lists among employers' associations. If you are going to legislate against trade unionists, you must equally deal with the employers. If you do not deal with the employers, then the Labour party will inevitably point out the partisan nature of the legislation, and then the goodwill we all desire will be destroyed.
§ Mr. COOPER
I deplore that these Black Lists should exist; it is the first I have heard of them. I hope, if they exist, the hon. and learned Gentleman will expose them, and will not wait for us to legislate. I hope he will not hold this threat over us, but will expose them, for the sooner this thing is brought to an end the better. I do not like this being used as a threat against us. So much for the legal argument to which we have listened. As to the other argument of the hon. Member who has just sat down, and the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), they made reasonable and moderate speeches, but devoted them mainly to the defence of trade unions, and to showing the great work trade unions have done in the past. We acknowledge that. Nobody has done more on behalf of trade unions than the Conservative party. [An HON. MEMBER: Oh!"] I am afraid the hon. Member has not had an opportunity of inquiring, but the facts are that the Conservative party has done more for trade unionism than any other party, and we intend to do more in the future. As has already been said, many of those who are not in favour of interfering with trade unions base their argument on the fact that trade unions are splitting-up, that the number of trade unionists is decreasing from year to year, and some who do not like trade unions say, "Let the good work go on; do not interfere with them." 648 I think the wiser doctrine, and the true Conservative doctrine, is that trade unionists are a very useful asset to this country, and we wish to increase them and encourage them.
That is why I hope we are going to introduce legislation which is foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. It has not been suggested that trade unions are not in need of any reform. I do not expect any speaker will suggest that trade unions are a perfectly sound system to-day. It is so with every human institution. This House of Parliament has been reformed continually, and even now we are contemplating a most drastic reform. Why, then, should trade unions expect immunity from the necessity of reform? What trade unions have accomplished in an extraordinarily short space of time is one of the phenomena of our modern system. How can they expect to be perfect as they exist to-day? I think all trade unionists, and the majority of hon. Members opposite, will agree that they are in need of reform, that there are abuses which can be removed. But they say, "Let that reform come from within." That was really the gist of my hon. and gallant Friend's speech this afternoon. To that my answer is, "Do we see any sign of that reform coming from within?" I am told that we do. What are the signs? We see unions breaking up; we see new unions being formed. That is not my idea of reform. It is my idea of collapse—of disintegration. Do you see in the old unions any intention to reform themselves? I am unaware of any, though they have been given full time and opportunity to do it. Even supposing the will was there, have they the power? Because these reforms are matters for legislation, and there is stilt only one legislative body in this country, although last year others attempted to assume the function of an alternative Legislature. But there is still only one body in this country which can pass law.
Therefore, even if trade unions wish to reform themselves, they have not the power, because they cannot pass laws to do it, and, as it is a question of legislation, it must hr done by Parliament. I am surprised that hon. Members opposite should dispute that fact, and should wish it were otherwise. I have 649 had occasion before to remonstrate with hon. Members opposite for being such bad Socialists, and I have tried to teach them the principles of Socialism. Surely, the first principle is the supremacy of the State—that the State should have an ultimate voice in matters of great moment to the community. Here you have a matter of first rate importance. Can a Socialist maintain that it is right that you should have within the State vast organisations upon whom are conferred great privileges by the State, who exercise almost despotic power over their own members, who raise taxes from their own members which they expend without audit, and that these bodies should be under no responsibility to the State and that, when the State wishes to reform them, they should be in a position to tell the State to mind its own business? It is not only an anti-social proposition, but it is an anti-Socialist proposition. If hon. Members only studied more carefully the principles of their own political philosophy they would realise that this is a matter with which the State must deal.
I can understand hon. Members taking up the view that here is a society, a club, an organisation of individuals, set up for a particular purpose which demands nothing from the State, which does not interfere with the State, which observes the laws of the country, and then asking why should the State interfere with it. That is not the position of the trade unions—far from it. They demand a great deal from the State. They demand protection from the State, and they demand privileges from the State. They have been accorded tremendous privileges by the State, privileges which no bodies of men have ever dared to demand in any country before. They have been put in a position beyond the common law by the State. They are in a position only analogous to that which was occupied by the French nobility before the French Revolution, and yet, when it is suggested that they should respond to a certain control in exercising the privileges which have been conferred upon them, they turn to the State and tell it to mind its own business. Why, even the French nobility gave up their privileges of their own accord in the end, but the trades unions, haughtier than any nobility the world has ever heard of refuse to listen 650 to the counsel, the advice, the admonishment of the State, although they demand that the State should accord them these tremendous privileges and should accord them its protection. Is that a sane, a wise, a sensible thing to do?
Hon. Members opposite may say that they are prepared for certain reforms, but that they suggest that the Government should consult them as to what those reforms should be. The right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) reproached the Government last week for not having consulted the trade unions themselves and the leaders of the movement as to what the reforms should be. But what encouragement have the Government had to consult with the leaders of the trade unions or with the leaders of the Labour party? Have they received any encouragement at all? Why, before the first whisper had gone abroad as to what kind of reforms they were going to introduce, or as to whether they were going to introduce any reforms at all, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, with less than his usual fairness, with less than his usual courtesy, announced quite plainly that the Government were going to attack the trade unions and said that, if they assured him, on their word of honour, that they were not going to do anything of the kind, he would not believe them. That has been cheered by a Member of the Front Bench opposite, a moderate, reasonable Member of the late Government. That is the attitude of the Labour party. They will not accept any evidence. Then having said, before any propositions are made, that they do not believe us, they then come whining to UK and say: "Why not consult with us?" How can you consult with people who doubt your good faith? How can you negotiate with people who call you a liar? That is the position the leaders of the Labour party have taken up from the beginning of this matter.
It is always unpleasant to attribute motives. The hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Mosley), in the Debate last week, attributed to the Government a motive for sending troops to China. He suggested that, such was the miserable state of affairs at home, they had deliberately entered upon a war of aggression and upon an adventurous foreign policy. Everybody knew, and the hon. 651 Member knew, that that was an utterly false, worthless, miserable suggestion. No one believed it in this House. The only damage it might do might be that, if the flight of his oratory reached the Far East, some Chinaman might believe it, not knowing either the House, the country or the hon. Member for Smethwick. It does suggest a reason for the attitude the Labour party have so definitely taken up on this particular issue. We hear on good authority that the Labour party are rent in twain upon nearly every political issue. Rumours reach us which are not unsubstantiated of divisions in their conclaves, and of motions which are carried by only a narrow majority, and we can imagine them saying, "Here is legislation that will unite our party." They say, "Tell them the lie that the Tories are out to break the trade unions, and we have a slogan better than poor old Cook ever dreamed of." That is what has gone behind the attitude that the Members of the Labour party have taken up from the beginning as regards trade union legislation. They do not want to consult; they do not want to negotiate; they do not want a settlement. They know they have got a good cause, a good slogan, and a good cry. They know if they send it abroad soon enough—and they have not wasted any time—it will do them great good in the long run. In these circumstances I hope that the Government will not be led away into attempting to conciliate those who are obviously not out for conciliation; I hope they the will not attempt to reconcile the irreconcilables. I hope they will be guided by no counsels of political expediency, but by simpler and firmer convictions of political justice.
In dealing with this difficult question, a difficult question because the situation varies so much from different parts of the country, I suggest that they should be guided, above all, by the principle of preserving liberty and restoring liberty where it has been taken away. In this Debate, before any Bill has been brought forward, it is not necessary for us from this side of the House to produce evidence of the abuses that exist in the trade union system to-day. The hon. and learned Member, the late Solicitor-General, sneered at those who on this side of the House spoke for those living at 652 the seaside and who were afraid of trade unions. I have not the advantage of living at the seaside, and I represent a constituency which has always been in the forefront of the trade union battle. If you read the history of the trade union movement the name of my constituency occurs in every chapter. I represent as many, if not more, trade unionists as any Member of this House. My political future depends upon the votes of trade unionists. I can assure this House that my vote will be based upon the evidence I have obtained from my constituents, who rankle under the injustices that the trade union system is inflicting upon them, and who think more about that than about any other political question before this House.
With regard to the great question of interference with the liberty of the subject, I am not going to give any bloodcurdling stories about the bad deeds that were done during this or that strike, but I will make a moderate statement which I do not think anybody will deny the truth of—that during recent trade disputes there has been great interference, which everybody deplores, with the liberty of the individual. Now the blackleg, in whatever community he exists, to whatever society he belongs, is an unpopular member of that society and sometimes justly unpopular. But just because he is unpopular, just because he does not see the same way as other people, just because he takes what may be an ungenerous and a selfish line, that does not take away from him the right to be protected by the Sate from the interference of other members of society. It is a very difficult thing for the State to protect. It has been said that it is impossible for anybody to protect an unpopular boy front being bullied in a school. It probably is, but it does not detract from the obligation of the schoolmaster to do everything in his power, however unpopular the boy may be, however much it may depend upon the unpleasant character of the boy himself, to ensure that he shall have freedom to do as he wishes and shall not be tortured or bullied by his fellows. There are cases, such as I was told of during recent disputes, that I can imagine a Government could not deal with, yet which represent the cruellest type of pressure that one man could bring to bear on another—cases of the children of workers 653 being sent to Coventry or being spat at by the children of men on strike. There is no crueller form of pressure than that. I do not know how a Government could deal with it. It is almost impossible to deal with it by law, but that fact does not take away from the responsibility of the Government to protect those members of the minority, however much at fault they may be.
After all, the real power of trade unions, the real good that trade unions have done for the working-classes of this country does not depend on their power of coercion over their recalcitrant members. It depends on their powers of persuading the vast majority if not the complete number—of their members of the wisdom, good sense, and sanity of their counsel, so that they pursue a unanimous policy. That is the real strength of the trade unions, and that is the strength upon which they must depend in the long run. You will never accomplish anything in the long run by coercion or by bullying. There is another form of interference with the liberties of the subject with which I will deal, and that arises from the sums of money that are being taken now from members of trade unions and applied to purposes to which they do not wish them to be applied. Here, again, I am not going to produce the evidence—there are mountains of it—of the difficulties which people find in contracting out in one part of the country or another.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
Is the hon. Member aware that the Registrar-General has made a declaration in his official capacity that there is no truth in the statement which the hon. Member has just made?
§ Mr. COOPER
I do not know what the Registrar-General has to do with this matter. The Registrar of Friendly Societies made a declaration which I shall deal in a few minutes with, which seems to me so contrary to common-sense that anything he may say has rather a legal than an equitable bearing on this discussion. It is quite absurd for any gentleman, whatever his position, to say that there is no truth in the statement that some people in some parts of the country have not difficulty in contracting out. If the right hon. Member thinks it absolutely untrue that any man or woman in any part of the country has ever found any 654 difficulty in contracting out, I am astounded. There are thousands of cases. Working-class people have brought numbers of cases to me.
§ Mr. COOPER
I will give you one example of the kind of injustice, which I happen to have in my pocket. This is not a political levy ca-se, though I am dealing with the political levy at the moment. [HON. MEMBERS "Oh!"] Well, really! Do hon. Members seriously believe that the whole of this agitation against the political levy is founded on nothing? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Then I despair of persuading them. This ease is a small one. [HON. MEMBER: "Do you know of it?"] Yes, know of it. The hon. Member who interrupts can read it. It is a case in respect of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. They publish a monthly journal, and, like very many Labour publications, it does not pay. People do not like to buy it. They will not pay for it. It is full of Labour propaganda. In this Particular number, dated January, 1927, there is a notice in the leading article saying that hitherto the purchase of this journal has been voluntary, but that in future, in order to make it pay, it is going to be compulsory, and that every member of the union has got to buy it, whether he wishes to or not.
§ Mr. R. YOUNG
As I happen to belong to that particular union, may I tell the hon. Member the real reason why we are asking the members to pay for it?
§ Mr. COOPER
A list of the hon. Members of this House is published every month. Supposing the Government, who control the majority in this House, were to insert in it a few pages from "Two Years' Work," or any other of their 655 political propaganada publications, and were then to pass a rule—I think they could do it just as ea,sily—that every Member of this House had got to buy a copy of that whether he wished it or not. Would the hon. Member say that that was fair or just? [Interruption.] That publication contains information which Members should have, very valuable information. Would that be fair?
§ Mr. YOUNG
There is no analogy between the two instances. In the particular trade union journal to which the hon. Member has referred there are definitions of rules given by the Executive Council, which every member of the trade union should know. There is no other way of giving an interpretation of rules except through the journal of the society, and members suffer by not knowing of those interpretations.
§ Mr. COOPER
There is the spirit of trade unionism! Certainly they ought! That is the spirit of trade unionism. These men may not want to know the rules, but they have got to learn them—[Interruption.] This copy was brought to me by a working man who did not want to have to pay for it, who did not want to know the rules, but who wanted to remain a member of the union. Injustices of this sort exist all over the country.
§ Mr. COOPER
The hon. Members asks me to give a case. I have given one case, and that is sufficient.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN: Give us a case.
§ Mr. COOPER
—that is now put upon the members of trade unions in this country was this, that there is no doubt, without any question of intimidation or terrorisation—because much harm has 656 been done to a good case by over-stating it,—that large sums of money are now reaching the coffers of the Labour party from people who do not wish to contribute to it.
§ Mr. COOPER
As to the money that comes into the coffers of the Conservative party, I have no reason to suppose that a penny of it comes from anybody who does not wish to contribute. That is the indictment, that is the charge—that money is now reaching the Labour party to which they are not entitled. If the House will pardon me, I would like to go back to the origin of the political levy, its original justification. It is now some 53 years or more since the first two Labour Members came into this House. They were then representative of the trade union movement, and of nothing else. The trade union movement, which was still young, took the view that it would be worth their while to expend some of their funds on paying the expenses of candidates for Parliament in order to have in the House a few Members devoted entirely and solely to the interests of trade unions. Perhaps it was their view that eventually a period might arrive when the two great parties would be equally balanced, and a small block of men, devoted to one interest and one interest alone, the improvement of labour conditions throughout the country, would be able to have a great influence on the country. That was a legitimate aspiration, and I think they were right then in saying that money should be expended out of their funds. It was not expended on a purely political object, it was expended solely for the benefit of trade unionism, and the majority of members of trade unions throughout the country could vote Tory or Liberal, as their politics might decide. Very few of them had the opportunity of voting Labour, because there were very few Labour candidates, but the money expended was expended solely upon labour work.
In the course of history there has come a great change. The Labour party has risen from being a small third Party into being the second Party in the State, and becoming the alternative Government, and it is claimed, and with justice 657 claimed, that it is a great national Party. It is a great achievement. I think hon. Members opposite may congratulate themselves upon it, and may be be proud of it, but I also think the moment has arrived when they ought to search their hearts and find out whether there is not something existing at the root of their party which ought to be got rid of, whether there are not sources of revenue which they were justified in obtaining during the early days but which they are no longer justified in using. Are they really proud of the fact that at this moment they are battening upon money obtained from the poorest of their political opponents?
§ Mr. COOPER
The hon. Member has asked that question before, and I have replied to it. Are they proud of the fact that they are obtaining money from the poorest of their political opponents? Apart from the political levy—and I do not know whether the Government intend to deal with it—there are ether matters in the legal situation as it exists to-day which need dealing with. I suppose most Members of this House read the Foster case, the case in which a trade unionist who had contracted out of the political levy brought an action against his trade union because he found that money he was contributing was being handed over to the Trade Union Congress and spent by the Trade Union Congress on paying the expenses of hon. Members opposite and subsidising the "Daily Herald," that great working class newspaper which the working classes so obstinately refuse to buy.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I would like to say, and with some sense of responsibility, that it is not the fact that the money which was handed to the Trade Union Congress was spent in financing or supporting Members of Parliament. Perhaps the hon. Member will confine himself to the argument of the "Daily Herald," although he will find that even that matter was decided in favour of the Trades Union Congress.
§ Mr. COOPER
Of course the hon. and learned Member knows the case better than I do, but there was no dispute as to the facts. The learned counsel on behalf 658 of the trade union never contradicted the view, as far as I read the case, that there were special sums—very small sums of about £3—spent on two constituencies.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
The hon. Member now limits the case to two sums of £3, hut that was a notional sum. It is a rather difficult matter to explain, but as a matter of fact those two sums were not so spent. It was shown in the case that the union had received literature from the Trade Union Congress of the value of £3 and was accounted for as election expenses. An imaginary sum of £6 is not quite the same as "paying the expenses of hon. Members opposite," which was the phrase used by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. COOPER
The hon. and learned Gentleman is, of course, right when he talks about an imaginary and notional expenditure of £6 towards literature for a certain by-election not bring political propaganda. He, of course has the law on his side, but to the ordinary man who read the case the fact did not appear to be denied that sums of money had been expended in assisting the candidature of certain Members opposite. The Registrar of Friendly Societies decided that that was not political expenditure? It was not political expenditure to subsidise the "Daily Herald," the organ of the Socialist party? [HON. MEMBER: "No!"] Then it is difficult to understand what hon. Members opposite would describe as political expenditure. To my mind, hon. Members opposite ought to be ashamed that money is being taken out of the wages of poor Unionists and poor Conservatives [Interruption.] Hon. Members do not mind that. They think that the 10,000,000 people who voted for us at the last election were all rich people. I wish they were. I wish we could feel that the position of this country were such that there were 10,000,000 rich people at the present clay. I think hon. Members opposite ought to be ashamed that this money should be taken out of the wages of poor men, against their wish, in order that they may be kept in affluence. [An HON. MEMBER: "Thank you for the affluence."] It may not be affluence, but at any rate they are better off than the people who are keeping them. I do not know what the Government intend to do with regard to this matter, none of us here do, and so I do not criticise, in which 659 I am unlike hon. Members opposite, who do not hesitate to criticise a Bill of which they know nothing.
So far I have dealt only with the liberties of trade unions, and yet a much more important phase of liberty is threatened by the position of the trade unions at the present time, and that is the liberty of the whole community. That has been attacked within the last year, seriously attacked and dangerously menaced. We have had the general strike discussed again this afternoon, and we have had again legal arguments with regard to the strict legality of that strike, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley said the last word on that subject when he said that if the hon. and learned Gentleman the late Solicitor-General was correct in saying there was some doubt about the law in regard to that matter, the sooner that doubt was set at rest the better. To the ordinary member of the community it is an anomaly that any body or any individual in the country should have the right to attempt to coerce the community by force. That was the real issue during the general strike. An overwhelming majority of the elected representatives of the people, elected 18 months before, took one view of the question, and a small minority took another view, which they attempted to impose by force upon that majority. They attempted to overcome the government of Parliament, they attempted to set up a new system of government in this country. No body of men in this country should have the right to do that, or should be allowed the right to do it in this or any other country. It is obviously contrary to the principles of government that a Government can give to any body the right to use force against it, and above all, to the leaders and controllers of the Trade Union Congress.
One would have thought that they would have, previously denounced the general strike in the strongest possible language and been carried away by the strength of their cause, and that although they had denied the principle, they would have endeavoured to show that in this particular instance, the need justified the means adopted. We know that quite the contrary has happened, and that the members of the Trade Union 660 Congress did not believe in the cause for which they were fighting, because they found themselves in opposition to the vast majority of the trade unionists of this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] As a matter of fact, they had asked thousands of working people in this country to lay down their tools and come out on strike for a cause which they themselves denounced. That was a betrayal of their own party and a betrayal of the miners themselves, because it encouraged them to go on with the strike.
On this question I have heard many bitter denunciations of Mr. Cook, but I have read one from 'he right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) which appeared in a Sunday newspaper, and in my opinion there is probably not a greater exponent of vituperative language than the right hon. Gentleman, who expended all the wealth of his sarcasm upon Mr. Cook, and it was much stronger than anything I have heard from Conservative speakers. Of course, I enjoyed reading it, but after reflection I asked myself, "Is this denunciation not a little late when Mr. Cook is down and out? Is it not a little late to denounce and crush him under the weight of such invective? "When Mr. Cook was an important power and leading the Miners' Federation, and when for nearly two weeks he was leading the trade unionist party, during that time not a single word of criticism or reproach came from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley, or any Member of the Front Opposition Bench. Such powers in regard to a general strike should not be allowed to any individual or to any body, and certainly not to those who have shown themselves so utterly unworthy of using such powers as the members or the Trade Union Congress have done.
I hope the Government will realise that they are now faced with a great political issue, and I trust they will not be afraid of the popularity they will lose for taking up this question. I know they will have to face a campaign of misrepresentation, in fact, that campaign was lodged before the Government Measure was produced, and no amount of conciliation or restriction will satisfy the Opposition. For my own part, I think it would be better to lose the next General Election 661 than for the Government to go back upon its policy once they have set their hands to it. Of all the tyrannies a country can suffer, there are no tyrannies so dangerous as the tyranny of a majority. The tyranny of one man cannot last long, but from the tyranny of a majority there is no appeal. It is that with which we are menaced at the present time, and it is for protection from that state of things that we look to the present Government.
§ Mr. WALTER BAKER
I think it has been prophesied that the hon. Member who has just sat down would, before long, be included in the ranks of the Ministers on the Front Bench. I noticed that the Prime Minister came in to listen to the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, and until he began to display a very partisan spirit the Prime Minister listened to him with very great care and attention. On the other hand, when the hon. Member for Oldham began to indicate his idea as to the partisan attitude the Government should take up, then I noticed that the Prime Minister left him, and, apparently, dashed his hopes of preferment to the ground.
I want to deal with one argument used by the Member for Oldham (Mr. Cooper), in which he referred to the Registrar of Friendly Societies and the number of complaints he had received. On the 19th February, 1925, the Home Secretary referred an hon. Member to the Report of the Registrar of Friendly Societies for 1921, where it was stated that, up to the 31st May, 1922, there had been 68 complaints, of which 26 were turned out not to be complaints within the Act leaving a net total of 42. The Registrar further stated that from the 31st May, 1922, to the present date, there had been 27 complaints, three of which turned out not to be within the Act, leaving a net total of 24. The net total of complaints under that Section of the Act from the 7th March, 1913, the commencement of the Act, to the present time, has been 66.
§ Mr. BAKER
I am content with the figures supplied by the Home Secretary, and having regard to the size of the trade union organisation and the whole of the attendant circumstances, I think that is a remarkable testimony to the 662 way in which the Act has been administered by the trade unions, because the actual figures prove the total complaints to be no higher than 66. In discussing this question, which we are told is a matter of very great moment for the country, we do not need to discuss it on the basis of quibbles with regard to figures, nor on the alleged intentions of the Government. I want to approach this matter, not on the hypothesis of what the Government may attempt, but on the grounds upon which they are urged to take action. I am concerned with the motives of the Government, and with the motives of supporters of the Government like the hon. Member for Oldham who are spurring on the Government to take action in this matter, and they are even telling them that they must risk the consequences, and be prepared even to lose the next General Election rather than leave the trade union movement in its present healthy and growing condition.
What are the actual facts? If hon. Members want the facts I would ask them to turn up the "Times" for the 17th January, 1927, which, be it remembered, is the official spokesman throughout the world for the Government. What did the "Times" say on this question? In a leading article on the date T have mentioned the "Times" says:Hitherto the extremely important and equally difficult problem of revising trade union law has been generally presented and discussed, except for the Prime Minister's speech in the House of Commons in March, 1925, as essentially an occasion of battle between opposing interests in the political field.I am missing out a few lines of the quotation, but the same leading article goes on:They assume, as a matter of course, that any proposal to amend the law is intended to smash Trade Unionism and cripple the Labour party…Nor can it be denied that loud calls on the other side urging the Government to drastic action give colour to their fears. And not calls only but threats. Unless they at least repeal the Trade Disputes Act of 1906 and put the trade unions hack in the position left by the Taff Vale judgment they are to be turned out. This belligerent attitude was illustrated by a speech which Mr. Dudley Docker is reported to have made last week at a meeting of the Midland Branch of the National Union of Manufacturers. He emphasised the necessity of ending the Trade Disputes Act, and sold that if the 663 Government were not going to deal with the question he hoped they would be turned out.Those quotations from the "Times" absolutely justify the Labour party in its fears and its critical attitude towards the King's Speech. I go further and I say that the attitude of my opponents is that the Labour party should not he represented here, as it is represented, by persons like myself who rely entirely upon the contributions from our trade union members. But while hon. Members opposite object to my presence here as a trade union official, they equally resent any attempt on the part of my union or any similar union to go in for industrial action. Hon. Members opposite seem to want it both ways. They argue that strikes are vexatious and bad for the nation, and they advise trade unionists to take a constitutional course, and when persons like myself, who believe in constitutional methods, proceed by constitutional methods and resort to political action, we are met by the cry that it is wrong for trade unions to use their funds for political purposes. If you examine the proposal of the Government and its supporters in relation to these two things von can he forced to no other conclusion than that the Conservative party, as a party, is desirous of killing the right of the working man or woman to be represented in this House.
Let me give one illustration. I happen to have won for the first time a seat for the Labour party in the City of Bristol, and I say sincerely it has been won for all time, and I believe it will continue to be held by the Labour party, no matter what this Government may decide in regard to trade union reform. Bristol is represented by five Members, and God knows, the working people there have not a large share of that representation.
§ Mr. BAKER
I am glad to hear that interruption from the Solicitor-General. The working people of Bristol have a very small share of the representation of this House when they have only one representative out of five, and yet what is the attitude of the friends of the Solicitor-General who represents the city of Bristol. I remember reading a speech of a learned gentleman in Bristol in which he referred 664 to myself as "A blot on the escutcheon of Bristol." He did not say this because of my character, but because, like the Solicitor-General, he thought the Conservative party was entitled to the whole of the five seats in Bristol. I am here in this House because I believe that the principles for which we are working can best be secured by constitutional methods, and I believe that no matter what the Government may propose or do, the tide of public opinion in this country is much too strong to be stemmed by any Measure which the Government can put forward or which they can carry through. It must be remembered that if the Government were sufficiently powerful to kill the Labour party by cutting off its supplies, the Government would then be faced with the only other alternative weapon which the working people of this country possess. I sometimes wonder if our opponents are sincere in their desire for peace in industry and good relations between workers and employers. It has often occurred to me that if the Conservative party could force us to leave peaceful methods and to turn to more violent methods because the constitutional weapon has been taken from us, it would then lie within their power forcibly to crush the working-class movement, which they detest and hate.
A good deal has been said in this Debate in regard to the irregularities of the conduct of trade unions generally. I have been a member of a trade union for 34 years. I have been an active worker in trade unions for 30 years, not only in my own section of the industrial world; I have had more active work in wider circles. So far as my knowledge and information go, the charges which have been hurled against the trade union movement with regard to irregularities, mismanagement and intimidation cannot, as a broad general statement, be justified. Having had that long experience of the trade union movement, I am proud to have been associated with it. Having regard to all the difficulties which men of little education have had to encounter, it is a very wonderful monument to the work which has been put in. It is quite useless for Members opposite, like the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Cooper) to think that clever debating speeches in this House will lie sufficient to stop the growth of a movement which is making rapid strides every month. The 665 working people are suffering under conditions which no man in this House would dare to defend. If the Government want to stem the growth of trade unionism, let them come forward with teal measures of social amelioration, so that the working people will feel that they have a reasonable chance of contentment and happiness. The strongest weapon the Government can have against the Labour party is to create a contented and happy democracy, and no one will welcome more than I any legislation from the other side which aims in that direction.
Two speakers in this Debate have claimed that all the beneficial legislation which the nation enjoys has been introduced by Liberal and Tory statesmen. If I understood them aright, they would emphasise the word "Tory." It is probably true, having regard to the circumstances of history. I do not quite see how Socialist statesmen could have introduced any legislation but, unless I am very badly informed, it has been one of the boasts that the governing classes of this country have always known when to give way in the face of the rising tide of popular agitation. I never expected that a mar who had given way to the clamour of popular agitation would have the claim made on his behalf that he had acted as a great benefactor and had conferred these advantages on the nation. The real facts are that the working people have secured nothing which they have not had the power effectively to demand. If We are to secure the many reforms essential for our well-being as a people, it will only be by the continued organisation of the working people handed together.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I do not know that I would have inflicted another speech on the House at an hour when all wise men were going to dinner, were it not for the inherent importance of the question, however it might he raised. Although we on this side perhaps are not in agreement with its language, the Amendment is such as to make every Member, who cares to try deeply to study public affairs, to come to some judgment of Ms own, and thereafter act on that judgment. Too little has been said in the Debate so far to point out to the House what an immensely delicate and important region we enter when we enter on legislation of this sort which, whatever the details are, 666 in general, is well enough understood. I mean by this, that past legislation on the subject of trade unions has been to give powers, rights and status. It is obvious that the present legislation must be of a nature to some extent to withdraw, remove and restrict those powers. As soon as you get into that sphere of legislation, you reach one of the most delicate into which a legislative assembly can go, and for this reason. The withdrawal of powers or status, or their restriction, is not in the least the same thing as the action—if I may use a humble example—of turning off a hot water tap which you have turned on. Once Parliament gives, by its legislation, powers, rights and status, only for reasons the most serious, and on grounds the most important, should such rights be altered by Parliament. It is for that reason—not for any party reason or any question of fear or popularity, or the reverse—then I stated at the outset that this was a sphere of legislation which was one of the most delicate, anxious and critical into which any legislative assembly could enter.
If that be true, surely the first and most important thing is to see whether you can discover any guiding principles to assist you in entering into such legislation. I think there are such guiding principles. It seems to me that the first is this. If you have given either to a colony, to a local government, or to a domestic institution such as the trade union, any powers, rights or status, those are all given subject to the supreme power of the community and the supreme rights and safety of the community as a whole. Therefore, I suggest that you will find yourself in the most easy stage of any legislation with regard to trade unions where you are dealing with trade unions in their relation to the community. I suggest to members of the Opposition that they should resist only with the greatest hesitation any legislation for the safety of the community if it be shown—I am not going to attempt one way or another this evening to show it—that the present state of the law involves the community as a whole in any danger.
The real difficulty of the situation comes when you propose to alter powers, rights and status that have been given to trade unions with regard to their internal organisation. I can conceive only three 667 circumstances in which powers in regard to internal organisation ought to be altered by Parliament. The first is if the trade unions themselves come and say that this or that provision of the existing law is unworkable. Second, if any considerable body, or any organised body of the trade union organisation, makes it quite clear that they are labouring, as a result of the existing law, under some hideous state of injustice, or something of that sort. The third is if you get, as a result of an independent inquiry undertaken by a Royal Commission, or some such well-known means, a perfectly clear opinion, and perfectly admitted and clear facts which show, in regard to the internal organisation of the unions, that there are defects which Parliament should step in to assist to put right. I am entirely against interference with the internal affairs of the unions upon hearsay evidence only. There are, on these benches, many who—nat from fear of favour, either fear of unpopularity or any other cause—share the view that it is a foolish, unwise and unstatesmanlike thing to interfere by fresh legislation with the internal organisation of the unions. They think so for this reason. Assume —I do not want to argue about the facts, we are dealing just now with the general principles—that there are defects, even abuses in regard to the internal organisations of the unions. Surely the only way in which those abuses and defects can be permanently or properly cured is by the members taking the subject up for themselves and making the necessary improvements in the management of their own affairs. I do not understand any other way of managing democratic affairs. If you give to an organisation powers, rights and status, I understand no other method of dealing with them until they ask for some alteration, or until change is obviously necessary. I know of no way for such a thing to be carried out, except by the organisation itself working out its own salvation and carrying out its own reform.
In the matter of the political levy, I assume for the purposes of what I have got to say that there are abuses. I assume that it is not in every ease easy for a man to escape payment, but even so, it appears to me that the proper thing and 668 the first thing that has to be done is for the rank and file of the trade unions, if there be abuses, to go to the meetings and to take up the job themselves. I regard it as statesmanship of the most unsound, jejune and elementary sort to try to do for other people what they should do for themselves. On the other hand, there are many Members on this side who disapprove of the political levy and of the present method of exacting it, because they feel that the individual rights of the individual trade unionist represent an immensely important principle. Whereas hon. Members opposite are considering the importance to the working people of the power of collective bargaining, there are many on this side of the House who are honestly concentrating their attention upon the rights of the individual. My view is that the measure of the possibility of developing the individual rights of the individual trade unionist in his industrial capacity is entirely, solely and purely the degree of the enlightenment of the employers. If I may put it more clearly, as soon as you get the great mass of organised labour in this country and the community as a whole satisfied that the great mass of the employers of this country mean, under all circumstances, to play fair with the labour which they employ, then it will be possible for the trade unions to relax their precautions, to consider more the rights of the individual, and to regard themselves less as a fighting force than as men of peace. That is what I mean by saying that, although some of us on this side of the House are unquestionably actuated mainly by the desire to ensure the individual rights of the individual trade unionist, for my on n part I am satisfied that the time whey, that side of trade union life can be emphasised does not really emerge until we can all be satisfied of the enlightenment and honest dealing of the great mass of the employers in this country.
One other consideration. It is said that trade unions should not take part in politics. I would like to know anything in this country that does not become drawn into the political seething-pot. I would like to know any problem—industrial, religious, rural or social—which does not find its way into discussions in this House. It seems to me to be 669 certain that, whenever a problem, industrial, social or economic, is a burning problem, it must find its way into politics. As I understand it, the relation between trade unions and politics, speaking generally, is that economic problems are the problems of our day. A large mass of trade unionists hold economic views which I, personally, do not hold, and they wish to represent those views in this House. I have no doubt that we shall meet the questions on their merits, but the contest, whatever it is, must be fought out here. May I also say that I, for my part, have never been able satisfactorily to draw the line as to where the industrial element ends and the political element begins, and I very much doubt if it can be drawn. In any case, surely it is hopeless and surely it would be unwise to maintain that economic, industrial and social questions should not be developed in this House. Some 50 years ago, what determined the fate of a great party was the question of whether the Turks should be allowed to massacre the Bulgarians. We had not the slightest responsibility for either, and we had nothing but the most frail relations with them. If the Bulgarian massacres of 1879 could become a burning question on the floor of this House, surely it is impossible to say that trade unions and what they stand for and what some of them represent should not have Members in this House who specially represent their views. I think it is an argument that cannot hold water.
I have tried to say that, so far as I am concerned, I look with the utmost hesitation and distaste at any attempt to interfere by legislation with the internal organisation of trade unions. I think that is a matter for themselves. I think, further, that if there is any real reason to believe that it ought to be undertaken, then we should do it on clear, independent evidence such as a Royal Commission supplies. But, when you come to the question of the relations between trade unions and the community, then, believe me, you come into an entirely different region, in which the duties and the rights of the House of Commons are very different. If it can be shown that the events of 1926 have made it perfectly clear that the present state of trade union law involves the community as a 670 whole in danger; if that can be shown—and it will have to be shown by any Government which desires to pass legislation on this subject—then, I beg hon. Members opposite to believe me, it would be an act of the rankest cowardice for this House to fail to amend and alter the law. Whatever your party, whatever your situation may be in politics or life, the community must come first and before any organisation. If it can be shown, as the result of the events of 1926, that the community was endangered by the general strike or that the interests of the community are endangered by the present state of the law with regard to picketing—and I spare the House any argument on the topic at this stage—then these topics must be approached boldly, without fear or favour. But it must not be contended that the country and the community are in danger if it is not so. It is equally foolish not to deal with a danger which exists as it would be to cry "Wolf, wolf!" if there is no danger. If, on the evidence—and on this topic the Government requires no Royal Commission, because it was in the saddle during the general strike—the Government can show us that, as a result of the knowledge they gained in the general strike, the community is truly endangered by the present condition of trade union law, then I for one will support the Government in the alterations which they think necessary. On the other hand, if without inquiry, without independent evidence, without any organised appeal for us to alter the law with regard to the domestic management of the trade unions, alterations, as I think unnecessary, are proposed to be made with regard to the domestic organisation of the unions, then such suggestions I, for one, will look upon with the greatest anxiety, with the greatest hesitation, and I should have to have far more powerful arguments put before me before I could support them with my vote.
§ Mr. LUNN
I should think that never did a Government receive less encouragement for legislation of a particular kind than this Government has received to-day for their proposed trade union legislation. The last speaker, the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton), has asked the Government to give him evidence that there is need for amendment of the trade union law. What I understand is that the Government are waiting for the 671 House to tell them to-day that there is some need for an amendment of the law. That is the reason why we have received no details on which we can discuss what is to be incorporated in the proposed Bill. The Debate has been very interesting. We usually get the lawyers quibbling in these matters; unfortunately for industry, we have to listen too much to the quibblings of the lawyers, and I think the Government would be very wise to put aside the three lawyers who have spoken and listen to those who have at least some knowledge of industry. The only hon. Member who has spoken on the opposite side and who is interested in industry, the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Ellis), has made a speech which ought to be considered by the Government. He warned the Government about legislating at this moment on matters concerning trade unions and industry in view of what appears in the King's Speech to the effect that there are encouraging signs of improvement in industry. I do not know where these encouraging signs are. I do not know who can point to them or where they can point to them. The Government last year destroyed the coal industry in order to support the coal-owners. They have ruined the possibility of peace in the coal industry by the passing of the Eight Hours Act, and there will never be peace in the mining industry until that Act is repealed. This year they have set out on what approaches a war with China, and they are destroying our textile trade. I cannot see that improvement in trade which is referred to in the King's Speech.
The hon. Member for Wakefield went further, and, like the hon. Member for Perth, asked, if there be any difficulties in the trade unions, if there be any room for argument against the political activities of trade unions, why do not the members take this matter up themselves? Why do not those within the unions take this matter up? I agree that that is the proper place where the matter should be raised. We have heard hon. Members say that so-and-so told them this. The hon. Member for Oldham gave nothing but hearsay statements of the facts so far as he understood the position with regard to the political levy. I have been long enough in this House to remember when the Tory party started with great seriousness to attack the political levy as 672 we have it to-day. It has been stated in the Press that when the present Lord Younger was the leader of the Tory organisation he distributed throughout the country trainloads of exemption certificates in the hope that trade unionists would take advantage of them. In the constituency of the hon. Member for Wakefield, which is in the centre of my Division, these exemption certificates were thrown about worse than fried fish papers, but they were not taken up by anyone; I do not know one individual who has ever signed an exemption certificate. I represent an industrial Division where there are many thousands of trade unionists, and I do not know of one individual who has ever signed an exemption certificate. I can well understand the hon. Member for Wakefield, who is interested in coal, in electricity, and various other industries, recommending to the House that this matter of dealing with the political levy should be left in the hands of trade unionists who desire it to be dealt with, if such exist. I do not, however, take this paragraph in the King's Speech to mean that the Government intend to deal with the political levy. The paragraph mentions recent events in connection with industrial disputes. I am not going to deal with the general strike, in the absence of a reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), who asked this pertinent question: If it is agreed—and it is agreed on all sides—that it is right for 1,000 men to come out on strike, what is wrong with the idea of 1,000 or 10,000 coming out in support of those men who are on strike? I think an answer is needed to that question.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Douglas Hogg)
An answer was given in the next speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), who dealt with that very point.
§ Mr. LUNN
I heard the speech, but did not notice in it an answer to that question. I think, however, we can associate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley with the Government. He belongs to the Government; he is their greatest asset, and before very long we shall expect to see him on their Front Bench. I think that that is quite a safe proposition. He belongs to neither of the wings of the Liberal party, so I take it, after his speech to-day and after what 673 he has said on the general strike, that we can reasonably expect that he will be on the Tory side before very long. We shall welcome that, because he is the Member for the next Division to mine, and I do not care how soon we have a Labour man in his place.
There are other matters in connection with what has been discussed by the Tory organisations. One idea is that there is a necessity for some legislation to provide for a secret ballot. I do not know what the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have to say to legislation declaring that, whenever a trade union desired to take a ballot, it should be taken as though we were passing through a local or a national election. A ballot, say at a colliery, to-day, will cost but a few shillings, and many ballots are taken. I was the leader of more than 2,000 men for over 20 years, and we never had in all those 20 years a local dispute which lasted a day—a dispute peculiar to the men themselves, and not a national or county dispute. Many ballots took place during that time, and I do not remember that they cost more than a few shillings in each case. Do you mean to say that the trade union leader desires to see a ballot faked? If he is a sane man, and wants to know the real position of his men, it is important that he should count the ballot carefully. If he has 2,000 men it is no pond to him, if 800 voted for a particular proposal, to say that 1,200 voted for it. That would be no gain to his future comfort or happiness in that position. If you are going to set up voting at schools or at particular places, and paying poll clerks three guineas a day to take the ballot every time there is a demand for one, I wonder where taxation is really going, and where the Tory party intend to take us in squandering people's money.
Another matter that has been discussed to-day is the question of picketing. I do not claim to be a lawyer, and to go into the question from the legal point of view, but I understand that the law to-day is that it is perfectly legal for any person to try to persuade another person who may have been a coward, a blackleg, or a black sheep, as we call him, who may have run away from his fellows—and you do not believe in cowards any more than we do, although you pretend to—it is perfectly legal for us to try to persuade 674 that man to come back into the fold. The year 1926 has left, in hundreds of mining districts, such a state of affairs as has never been known in our history. Men went back to work glorified by the Tory party and to serve the purpose of the employers, worn out, no doubt, from many points of view; but what does it mean? It means that friends of a lifetime are now estranged, that we pass one another without knowing each other, that this is not only going to live with the man but with his wife, and may live for his children in the school. We have the right to try to prevent that sort of thing, and, while we do not believe in and encourage intimidation, and believe that it can be dealt with under the law as it is to-day, and should be dealt with if it is of a mass character, yet as regards picketing by an individual or individuals—and I would say, "Never go alone to picket, in view of the fact that the police and the law are up against you all the time"—as regards peacefully trying to persuade men from running away, I hope the law will never be altered to allow anything to be done to prevent it. If any suggestion of that sort comes into the House in any Bill, it may be taken, speaking for myself in particular, that I shall oppose that sort of thing.
In our Amendment we say that this proposed legislation, of which we do not yet know any details, is to be of a partisan character. We know that it will be, after the discussions on these matters that took place at the last Tory conference at Scarborough. The Government had no mandate from the electors at the last Election to introduce and pass legislation of a repressive character upon trade unions as they exist to-day. This, legislation will not do anything to encourage a development and an improvement in our trade, which is the all important matter for the workers of this country to-day. It is important to us that trade should improve in every direction. There is no cure for unemployment except work, and we want to see work provided for our people. We know that legislation of this character is not going to encourage that development of trade; the impoverished condition of the people to-day, brought about by employers, backed up by this Government in every shape and form since it came into power, is not going to be improved by legislation of this character. If it can be shown that legis- 675 lation of this sort is going to raise the standard of life of the workers, it will have ready support from this side of the House; but we know that it is not meant in that way, but is meant to destroy trade unions, and to encourage employers further to lower the standard of life, which is now lower than it reasonably ought to be, for our people in this country.
Lieut.-Colonel McINNES SHAW
I have listened to the Debate with great interest. Being an employer of labour who has always been on the most friendly terms with trade unionists, I feel that at this time it would indeed be a great pity if any words were expressed in this House which would tend to increase the bitterness in our great industries. It is so often a fact that the national necessity is made the hobby horse of a political party. I have never been in favour of drastic legislation affecting existing trade union laws, because I am certain the mass of the people employed in industry are gradually beginning to realise that by co-operation, and not by strife, can the best results be got out of industry, and it would be a great pity if legislation should do anything to embitter or encourage this feeling. It is so easy for us here on one side or the other to challenge or to debate, but we have to realise that the great mass of the people have to live by our industries, and it should be our first and most essential duty to see that the industries of the country are on the upward trend and that we should do nothing to retard what I believe is an upward trend at the present time. At a recent conference held under the League of Nations Union in London on industrial relationships, the main factor was to see if more could not be done to bring about friendly co-partnership in industry. I would appeal very seriously, not only to Members on this side of the House, but to Members opposite, that we should call a truce. After all every one of us, irrespective of party, is here to do our best for our country and Empire, and I am sure hon. Members opposite are as keen as we are to see an industrial revival.
Many hon. Members opposite who represent, as I do, large industrial districts, realise that it is not, a matter of 676 politics but a matter of getting down to bedrock and of all of us, irrespective of party, trying to pull together to bring the country out of the depression in which we are at present. Any speeches made in this Debate which could be made political propaganda up and down the country would do a great deal of harm. During the Great War there was engendered a spirit of comradeship. It was hoped by many of us that it would survive the War, and that because we got to know each other better during the time of stress, after the War we should be able to appreciate getter one another's views. Unfortunately, that spirit of comradeship has been lost, and to-day we find ourselves in bitter strife. Although that spirit perhaps is lost for the moment I feel that it may be revived if all parties in the House would only set themselves not to make political propaganda, but to strive for the betterment of the trade of the country. It is not one party. We are all guilty of the same thing. It is in our power to do more for our country and the Empire, and that is why I feel that any legislation which may affect trade unions should not be made into purely political propaganda, but that all parties might unite. May I conclude by quoting words of the national bard of my country than which you can find few finer.Be Britain still to Britain true,Amang ourselves united;For never but by British handsMaun British wrings be righted.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
Hon. Members opposite have expressed very lofty sentiments, but, though I listened to them attentively, I did not notice that they said anything which would commit them to oppose any proposals whatever that the Government might bring in. In particular, the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Cooper) made a very vivacious speech of considerable length. Those who had in mind some of previous utterances on the same subject expected him at any moment to find himself in a very awkward situation, because what he did was to repeat a lecture which he delivered a 677 short time ago at the Constitutional Club, with modifications and omissions. At one moment he proclaimed himself to be a student of history, and in the next he said the Conservative party had done more for trade union legislation than any other party in the House.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
I wish the right hon. Gentleman had been present when his supporter was delivering his lecture at the Constitutional Club. He then stated that the Liberal Act of 1906 was the Magna Charta of trade unionism, implying that it was the greatest benefit that had been conferred on trade unionists in the history of Parliament. He also was careful to say at the Constitutional Club that if the Government did anything to withdraw the privileges conferred upon trade unionists by the Act of 1906 they would make an enemy of every trade unionist in the land. In his speech to-day he advocated the withdrawal of certain privileges which had been conferred by the 1906 Act.
I have always understood that there are two ways of approaching a solution of a difficult problem. One is to get your information, assemble your facts, work out your arguments and then come to a conclusion. It seems to me that a great many Members—and they are by no means confined to this side—have begun by proclaiming with great confidence what they think ought to be done and expecting the facts to fit in with their conclusions. If the facts have proved stubborn, they have not been one whit disturbed, but have kept their opinions and rejected the facts! This Government is going to do the same thing. It is stated in the King's Speech that they are going to bring in legislation, not only to define—no one could object to that—but to amend trade union laws. I think it was Macaulay who characterised the King's Speech as "that most elaborately evasive and unmeaning of human compositions." No one who has read the document this year would dissent from that definition. But if the Government are going to shelter themselves behind the obscurity of the King's Speech, and say we are not to criticise 678 these proposals, that is a wholly untenable position. Everyone knows what proposals are going to be made by the Government, and it is our duty to examine them from the widest possible standpoint. I wish to give my opinion on what I believe to be the three principal issues which are going to be dealt with by the Government. It is all the more necessary for me to do so, because the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), in a very excellent speech, did not quite express the views, I regret to say, which I hold.
The three features with which I believe the Government are going to deal are the general strike, the question of peaceful picketing, and the abuse of the political levy. These are, I think, the three least complicated of the legal questions affecting the law of trade unions. They are not so complicated as the law of tort, of criminal wrongs and civil actions. I believe that the law as it stands is perfactly clear on the questions of the general strike, peaceful picketing and the political levy.
I have been collecting authorities who have pronounced as to the legality or otherwise of the general strike, and find that in words of varying boldness and certainty that strike has been condemned by almost all of them as illegal. The Lord Chancellor, who is, presumably—with all respect to the AttorneyGeneral—the highest legal authority in the present Government, has declared the general strike to be illegal. Professors of jurisprudence in almost every university in the country have declared it to be illegal. The hon. and learned Member who was the Solicitor-General in the last Government and who, I believe, hopes to be Attorney-General in the next, although he has not declared it to be illegal, has, in his text book, prior to the general strike, made statements which go very far towards that view. Important trade union leaders have made the most specific declarations that the general strike was illegal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name them!"] I refer to declarations that have been made altogether apart from the conditions of peace which they were compelled to sign after the general strike. If hon. Members challenge me—although I do not want to be diverted—I have them here. Mr. Bevin, who is not only a trade union leader, but has the reputation of possessing forensic attri- 679 butes,, said at the Special Conference of Executives on the 20th January:You have to remember that the whole approach to the national strike was one of illegality." (Cries of "No!") "Pardon me, some of us know.Mr. Bevin is not alone in that opinion. It has been declared by a large number of authorities all over the country. Important lawyers, professors of jurisprudence, the Lord Chancellor of this Government, have all declared it illegal, and if that were not sufficient—
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
May I ask the hon. and gallant Member if he is aware that the only decision given by a Judge upon the question of the general strike and as to its legality or otherwise, was given by Judge Erskine in the case of the Queen V. Cooper in 1843? That is the only Judge's decision that has been given in this country on the subject.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
As a matter of fact, the opinion given by Mr. Justice Erskine was contained in the summing-up, and was not in a judgment at all. Apart from that ancient judgment Mr. Justice Astbury has recently incorporated his judgment on the question of the illegality of the general strike in the permanent fabrio of our common law. I do not think that can be disputed. I maintain that it is illegal now, and I believe I have shown that it is illegal, and because it is illegal already I am opposed to the Government flogging the dead horse and bringing in legislation to declare it to be illegal. No good purpose can be served by this legislation. It will only excite animosity, and I think the Government would be far better advised to leave it alone.
I pass to the question of peaceful picketing. Similar considerations prevail in the case of the law on peaceful picketing. I do not dispute that there are malpractices for which the term "peaceful picketing" would be a euphemism. I will quote from the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act the exact practices which are held to be illegal, and which were modified by the Act of 1906. The practices declared to be illegal are:
These prohibitions are modified by a permissive Clause in the Act of 1906, which Act the hon. Member for Oldham has stated ought not to be amended. That permissive Clause allows one or more persons to visit a trade unionist for the purpose of receiving or giving information or persuading him to work or abstain from work. I believe that within that existing law there is ample provision for preventing intimidation. I do not believe that the law has been administered as effectively as it could have been. There may have been malpractices, but I challenge the Government to point to a single instance in which they have brought cases into Court of intimidation or other malpractices in connection with peaceful picketing, which have failed owing to the inadequacy of the law. Before we bring in new proposals dealing with this question of peaceful picketing it ought to be more clearly shown that the law is not strong enough already. I blame the police, the Home Office and the Public Prosecutor for not taking stronger action if they consider that the law has been broken in the case of the pickets.
- "(1) Using violence to or intimidating a person or his wife or children.
- (2) Persistently following from place to place.
- (3) Hiding tools, clothes or other property.
- (4) Watching or besetting the house or other place where a person resides or works or carries on business, or happens to be.
- (5) Following a person with two or three other persons in a disorderly manner, in, or through, any street or road."
There is only one further question, and that is the question of the political levy. That is a simpler question than any other. It requires not so much forensic learning as common sense to arrive at a decision. Hon. Members on the other side, strangely enough, are almost unanimous in this. They say that the levy, instead of being automatically payable by the trade unionist and only avoidable at his expressed option, ought not to be paid at all unless his prior consent is obtained. Their reason for this is that if a man is compelled to contract out, that is, to signify his expressed disinclination to pay the levy, he becomes conspicuous and is subject to intimidation from his partisan colleagues. What I would like to know is whether a list of people who wish to contract out is any more prominent than a list of people who refuse to contract in. Is it to be supposed that trade unionists, if we pass this alteration of the law, are 681 not going to be asked to contribute? Is it to be supposed that trade union secretaries or such officials who would intimidate by publishing a list of those who have contracted out would no longer intimidate by publishing a list of people who have refused to contract in. I submit that there is nothing whatever to be gained by altering the law. If there has been intimidation in the past, there will be intimidation under the new system. I quote the analagous case of the Income Tax collector. Here Income Tax collectors deduct at the source Income Tax up to the full amount on practically every dividend warrant that is issued to people, whether they are liable to be taxed or not. If it subsequently transpires that they are not liable to the tax, they have to go to endless trouble with the Income Tax collectors in order to contract out. Perhaps someone who advocates an alteration of the law will tell me how it comes about that a principle which is salutary when exercised by Income Tax collectors is obnoxious when exercised by trade unions.
There is nothing whatever to be gained by this proposal, and h hope the Government will leave it alone. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not do anything?"] They have their remedy. If there be intimidation, it can he dealt with by the Registrar of Friendly Societies. If hon. Members opposite and their Government are not satisfied, they can bring pressure to bear on the Registrar to see that the law is more effectively carried out. It has been shown already that under the existing law it is wholly unnecessary to bring in legislation to deal with the general strike, peaceful picketing and the political levy.
I must not be taken as suggesting that the last general strike could have been dealt with by administrative action. I do not believe it could, because at the time everyone was in a state of doubt. The general strike generated not only heat, but light; it threw light on its own folly and illegality, and above all on its utter failure as a political and industrial levy. Therefore, if there were contemplated any approach by the Labour movement towards a repetition of those events, an idea which is inconceivable at the present time, I believe it could be dealt with adequately by injunction or other morn drastic legal 682 remedy within the fabric of the present law.
Every impartial authority that I have read or heard of has deplored the proposal of the Government to bring in legislation without the consent of all parties. This is a subject which ought not to be tackled by any one party. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech the other day, conjectured that the trade unions would give him no help. He has not asked them. If he intends to ask them, it is a most antagonising procedure to table your proposals and to say, "This is what we are going to do" and then to ask their aid. That is not the way to get co-operation.
I will make a suggestion to the Government. I think that the best way of dealing with this question would be to set up a Committee to codify and to consolidate the provisions of the trade union law as it stands to-day. There are six Statutes and many hundreds of cases. If the law is wrapped in doubt, and even in conflicting judgments, the best service the Government could render would he to establish a Committee, whose terms of reference would exclude any alteration, to codify and consolidate trade union law.
Such a proposal would receive the support, not only of the Conservative party, but of the whole Labour party and trade union movement, and certainly of the whole Liberal party. I am entitled to speak with some pride on the Liberal party's record. It was in 1906, after a specific mandate from the people, that a Liberal Government passed the Trade Disputes Act, and I believe that the electorate which authorised that Act would object strongly to it being altered by a partisan Government to-day. If the Government fulfil their intention to carry this legislation, they will not only destroy themselves—that would not be an irreparable calamity—but I believe they would wreck the prospects of industrial good-will in the country. We ought to make no mistake. These proposals are the offspring of the most reactionary members of the Conservative party. Without their pressure the proposals would never have been introduced, and the moment the proposals are tabled they will raise an outcry all over the country. Thousands of voices will be 683 raised to condemn them; unrest and suspicion and agitation will flourish; and the only people who will be satisfied are our enemies.
It is not so long since the Prime Minister uttered an appeal for peace in our time. It must be admitted that the response was not very adequate. There is another appeal which he could utter to-day, and for which he would receive a unanimous response, and that appeal is this: "I can defend myself from my enemies; defend me from my friends." A way out has been shown to the Prime Minister, and I appeal to him in the national interest to accept it even now.
§ Mr. RENTOUL
The House must feel deeply grateful to the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken for having given us the exact details of what the Government's proposals are to be. If he had communicated with the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, he might have removed some of that right hon. Gentleman's difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment is regarded as one of the pillars of moderate and constructive trade union opinion. That being so, it certainly strikes one as highly regrettable that his speech should have, been so largely an appeal to prejudice and to partisan sentiment, instead of an examination of the merits of the case, and whether the proposition that there are existing to-day abuses and anomalies in trade union law is justified or nut. Doubtless the tone was set for him by the Leader of the Opposition on the first day of the Session, when he said that the Bill would be regarded by every labour organisation as a political move for the purpose of advancing political interests. It has been pointed out more than once that it is a truly surprisingly and extraordinarily unstatesmanlike attitude to be adopted by the responsible Leader of a party with regard to a Bill that he has not seen and at the proposals of which he can only guess.
We are told that for the sake of peace this question ought not to be touched in any way. We are told that for the sake of peace, even though the abuses and anomalies May exist, they ought not to be remedied. If that is really the argument, I suggest that even peace may be 684 too dearly bought, and that peace is always too dearly bought if bought at the expense of justice. There are only two grounds on which inaction on the part of the Government would be justifiable. The first is that trade unions and trade union law are in so clear and satisfactory a state that any interference is unnecessary and, secondly, that if reforms are to come, they must and will come within a reasonable time from within the trade unions themselves, and that the community at, large has no right and no authority to interfere. I should have thought that after tie events of the last 12 months both those propositions were entirely untenable. One thing which has struck me in the course of this discussion is the slight importance which seems to be attached to the interests of the community.
One would imagine that the issue was purely between the trade unionists on the one hand and the employers of the trade unionists on the other, and that the public at large have very little interest in the question. Yet it must not be forgotten that the general strike was defeated by the efforts of the community as a whole, and I am convinced there are hundreds and thousands of people in this country who would regard it as a gross act of cowardice on the part of the Government, if the abuses which were then revealed and the anomalies which were disclosed were not dealt with and if trade unionists in certain respects and in the eye of the law were not placed on the same level as other sections of the community. It is surprising that hon. Members opposite who are so constantly inveighing against what they describe as the unfair privileges possessed by certain sections in the country should, nevertheless, claim for themselves and their own organisations a privilege greater than is claimed by any other class.
I suppose it is useless at this time of the day to assure hon. Members opposite that there is no hostility from this side of this House to trade unions as such, and nothing but the highest regard and goodwill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am only expresing sincerely what is my own opinion, aria I believe it is an opinion shared by an overwhelming majority of those who sit on this side of the House. The Leader of the Oppo- 685 sition made it a grievance that the Government had consulted employers with regard to their proposals but had not taken the trouble to consult the trade unions. I do not know exactly what is the justification for that somewhat sweeping indictment. Speaking as a private Member of this House I should have thought that the Government must have had ample opportunities of ascertaining trade union views on this question, and those views moreover which are probably of the greatest importance—namely, the views of the rank and file. So far as consultation with the employers is concerned, I can conceive that there are certain employers in this country who would agree with hon. Members opposite that the Government ought to do nothing whatever. It is not because these employers have any particular liking for the trade unions, but because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that the trade unions—or some of them—are in the process of disintegration to-day that they think it would be better to leave the matter untouched because the unions are more likely to smash up in that way. They think that if the Government remedy abuses and anomalies they will strengthen the position of the trade unions, and put them in a better position to carry on their work. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] That is not my own view, but I believe it is a view which is held by certain employers in this country. It is not a view which I, for one, would defend. I believe there is that feeling on the part of some employers, and that the course they would prefer the Government to take would be to do nothing at all. Most of us do not share that view. We want to see reform and would much prefer that reform should come from within the unions if that were possible.
At the same time, in view of what has happened recently and in the public interests it occurs to us that we cannot wait any longer in the vague expectation that the reform of abuses is coming from within the unions themselves. Not only that, but there are certain anomalies existing to-day which I do not think could be reformed from within the unions. What we complain of is that the law itself is inequitable and unfair in certain respects. Alterations of the law cannot be brought about by any internal organisation in the trade unions but only 686 through the medium of this House. For instance, there is the question of the immunity of trade union funds in regard to tort. I should like to hear the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment explain the justification for that immunity. To the ordinary observer it is a little difficult to understand it, especially when one finds that both the majority and minority Royal Commission Reports on this subject were opposed to any such immunity. What many of us feel is summed up far better than we could possibly express it in this passage from the Report of the Royal Commission:There is no rule of law so elementary, so universal or so indispensable as the rule that the wrongdoer should be made to redress his wrongs. If trade unions were exempt from this liability, they would he the only exception and it would then be right that the exemption should be removed. Such a state of things is opposed to the, very idea of law and order and justice.A little further down in the same Report we find this passage:Such a claim has, indeed, been made at former times by the spiritual as against the civil authorities and consistently pitted. What was denied to religion should not in our judgment be conceded to the trade unions.Yet, in spite of these views, the authority of which must be universally recognised, this immunity was granted by Parliament. In practice, and after a considerable period of time, we believe that it has proved entirely unsatisfactory and that it reveals an unjust state of the law which ought to be remedied—especially when one considers that the immunity is not confined to industrial disputes, but applies, apparently, at all times and in all circumstances. There is no such provision in the legal system of any foreign country so far as I am aware. I should like to ask hon. Members opposite how they can suggest that the repeal of this provision would be inimical to the cause of industrial peace or would remove from trade unions any protection which the, legitimately ought to have. No doubt unfair conditions were revealed as a result of the Taff Vale judgment; but at the same time there is the fact that, during the period when that judgment was in force, there were fewer industrial disputes in this country than there have been before or since. From 1899 to 1900 the average number of working weeks lost 687 per year was under half-a-million. In 1921 it had risen to 14,500,000 and in 1926 it was, as we know to our cost, over 20,000,000. Supposing that adequate safeguards were imposed on the lines suggested by the Royal Commission's Report, namely, safeguards to protect the unions against unauthorised and immediately disavowed action of their agents and so forth, how could it be said that to place the trade unions of this country on the same basis in the eye of the law as every other section of the community could be an act hostile to the workers or opposed to the interests of industrial peace?
§ Mr. RENTOUL
The hon. Member has twice interrupted by saying "Of course it would," but statements of that kind are not arguments. If he will produce some arguments to justify his opinion, I shall listen to them with the utmost eagerness. We hear a great deal about suspicion on the part of the workers of their employers. No doubt that suspicion exists, and I suppose everyone must deplore it, but I would ask this question: Are there no grounds whatever for suspicion on the part of employers with regard to the activities of the trade unions? Everyone recognises that there are good employers as well as bad ones, and are there no grounds for thinking that possibly those responsible for the trade union organisation are far more interested simply in patting forward demands, and ever-increasing demands, in this direction and that, and far too little interested in trying to maintain the output and the prosperity of the workers? I think it must he unsatisfactory and it must breed suspicion on one side or the other in any dispute if one of the parties to it occupies a privileged and indefensible position.
There are other Amendments which one would have expected to be produced from the Benches opposite, Amendments which would undoubtedly have been received with a great deal of sympathy from this side of the House—for instance, if there had been an Amendment appealing for some definite scheme of conciliation machinery in this country similar to that which exists in other countries. I suggest that the time is now ripe for something of this kind, and I am encouraged in that 688 view by the statements that have been made by many of the most experienced and statesmanlike leaders of the Labour party during the past few weeks. Surely an experiment in this direction might even now be attempted, an experiment, for instance, similar to that which has been tried for many years past, with the most satisfactory results, as I believe, in the Dominion of Canada under the working of what is known as the Lemieux Act. That is not compulsory arbitration; it does not take away the right of the worker to strike, because we must recognise that in the last resort that right is his great protection, bit if it were applied to essential services on which the life of the community depends, in the first instance it would impose a period of delay, and it would enable an opportunity for public opinion, which, after all, generally decides these matters in the long run, to get to work. There is a direction in which I think those on the opposite side of the House, who, although they may disagree with us on some things, nevertheless desire a peaceful state of industry as much as we do, might cooperate. A Measure or an Amendment on those lines, so far from destroying or indeed weakening the onions, would, I believe, put them, and especially that sane trade unionism to which the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) takes such strong exception, in a better position to carry on work which, we believe, has been of the utmost benefit to the workers of this country in the past and may be of still greater benefit to them in the days that are to come.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I have heard from the benches opposite and from those below the Gangway en appeal for peace in our time. There are many of us here who would be glad to have peace, but we want an honour able peace. At the present time that has absolutely gone, and a cry for peace now, with the existing conditions, is shouting for peace where there is no peace. I listened with interest to the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), and I have to say this, that he out-Heroded Herod. You will not get a strong speech from the other side, from any die-hard Tory, which will have a greater influence on the minds of the workers of this country than that delivered by my right hon. and learned 689 Friend, and I can assure him that what he said will not be forgotten, even in Spen Valley, and the other parts of the country. The Government lent their aid to driving the miners still further down, and apparently they have the help of my right hon. and learned Friend. I want to ask the Government this: Last year you lent your aid to the coalowners. For what purpose? I suppose you would say that it was for justice to the country that you lent your aid to the coalowners, to starve the men and women in the coalfields. I know of men who have had to work a week and then to appeal to the board of guardians for sufficient to keep themselves and their families alive. Is that the way in which the Government are desiring to find a way to peace? If they expect it, I am sorry for their hopes. You may have driven us back by that terrible weapon of starvation, but you have not broken the spirit of the miner, who will at the first opportunity attempt to regain the position he held before.
Are you satisfied with what you have done for our women folk, whom you have made slaves and worse than slaves, for mothers and now and again a daughter, for, after all, a mother has little help from her daughter? Immediately a daughter arrives at that age at which she could be of some service, she goes out to help keep somebody else's house clean, and the mother is left to look after her own, seeing their men folk out at two in the morning, seeing boys under 15 years of age going into the mines at 2 a.m. and corning out of the mines at 3 a.m., boys working from half-past ten in the evening till 6.30 in the morning. That is what the Government have helped a body of people who have never been employers of whom one could Gay they were good to do. I say of one employer who is a Member of this honourable House, that I give him this credit, that at least they have refused to intimidate their men. Much has been said about intimidation on our side, but there is intimidation from the coalowners to-day of some of our very best people, who, because they were true to their trade unions and carried out the rules of their unions, are to-day without work because they were trade unionists.
You talk about the law for the employers, but they have in their hands, with the aid of the Government, a far 690 more severe weapon, and that is the weapon of starving the men who had the courage of their opinions, and who to-day are broken because they cannot find support for their wives and families. And men who call themselves progressives, men who say that they are ever on the side of the people who are starving, are prepared to help and aid the Government in carrying out their nefarious work. In my county the shifts that have been fixed have precluded any man from taking advantage of the education that is provided, and no man or boy in any part of the county of Durham can, after doing his work, find a convenient time to get to any classes that may be established. Without education there can be no peace or happiness in this world. The Government are not seeking to make peace and happiness, but, on the contrary, are seeking to bring ignorance into play, which always brings in its train crime.
This Government and the coalowners have done an injustice which is incalculable, and now they are going further, and trying to take away the little power the workers have. What is sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander, and if workers are to be told they must work, then the owners ought to be told that they must employ them. But the contrary is the case. Now, the Government would seek to drive us still further. It is in the mind of the Government and the owners that it is wicked to strike. I want no strike. I have never preached a strike, but I have always held that we ought to have the right in our hands to refuse to do work that would not give us what we ought to have. But now the Government, not only say, "You must not strike to gain your livelihood, but we are going to make it impossible for you to vote here for your rights." Apparently, we are to be given less than we have to-day. Anything less than we have to-day will not satisfy the workers. They are seeking to be equal with their employers in these matters. They ask for nothing more. They ask for nothing beyond what employers have, but they do ask, and are determined, that their position shall not be weakened, hut that it shall be strengthened. I have passed through all the stages, and the Government are seeking to drive us back 50 years. It cannot be; it will not be, and I ask the Government to withdraw 691 the proposition in the Gracious Speech, and let matters alone for some time. We are as anxious as they are to put this country on its feet, but they are taking a course which, in my opinion, will cause still further trouble and still further (imputes, and eventually the country may come to ruin. My last Words are: Reconsider your decision before it is too late. Whatever you do, you have not broken our spirit.
§ Mr. DIXEY
So far as I am personally concerned, and I am certain so far as many hon. Members on these benches are concerned, we do not desire to see any Government legislation which would at all cripple the right—and the proper right—of every trade unionist to refuse to give his labour if he is not satisfied that he is properly paid, or that his conditions are reasonable. But what we do say is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Labour Benches are responsible for bringing the whole question of trade unionism to a head. I am one of those people who say perfectly definitely, that I think it is the way the leaders of the Labour party and the leaders of trade unionism in this country handled the question which arose at the time of the general strike which has made it necessary for the Government to bring forward legislation in this Session. Apart from those who belong to the Conservative party, apart from those who belong to the Liberal party, and apart from those who follow the political doctrines of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Labour Benches, there are a large number of people in this country who are in the main non-political, whose politics change from day to day, and who desire to see any Government in power bring in proper legislation to deal with any particular national emergency. They saw at the time of the last general strike, responsible leaders of the real Opposition in this House go to the Despatch Box and practically agree with action which was being taken by the Trade Union Council, which, undoubtedly, had for its final objective the destroying of the Constitution of this country. I want to be perfectly fair. There is no doubt that had the action of the Trade Union Council at the time of the general strike been effective, from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen and 692 right hon. Gentlemen on those benches had the Government had to give way upon that particular occasion, it would have upset the Constitution of this country. Hon. Gentlemen like the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) know as well as I do that, had the act of the Trade Union Council been successful, the real power of government in this country would have shifted from the Government to them.
What is the view of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite? What do thay think about the question of the general strike I know the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Snowden) has demonstrated on more than one occasion that he believes in constitutional Government. I do not yet know whether the right hon. Member for Derby believes in a general strike or not. I do know that he was one of the Gentlemen who went to the Trade Union Congress when they voted upon the question of the strike and that he agreed with the general strike. I believe the Leader of the Opposition was also there. I personally cannot understand Gentlemen like the right hon. Member for Derby and the ex-Prime Minister corning to this House and saying to-day that they are content to leave the position of affairs in the position it was at the time of the general strike. They came then to the Table of the House, protested that they desired to use all their influence against anything like a general strike, but at the same time they found themselves absolutely futile in their efforts to influence their own people behind them.
The weakness of the situation lies in the fact that politicians and trade unionists are not, as they should be, two distinct occupations. It is impossible for hon. Gentlemen leading the Opposition to do fair play to the general public and the country, when they come into this House pledged to take up the standpoint of any particular trade union. It would be to the best advantage of the Labour party and of the trade unionists of this country if the politicians who sit in this House were clearly and distinctly people with no particular interest in trade union matters. A Leader of the Opposition, for instance, ought to be above any purely industrial question. I hope that the Measure, which the Government will bring forward, will lay down clearly, once and for all, that a general strike is illegal, 693 not because it is not a proper weapon to use so far as the particular trade union interests are concerned, but because it is a weapon which can only aim at the destruction of the constitution.
As to the political levy, from a negotiating or bargaining point of view it was originally essential to have trade union representation in Parliament. In the early days of the Socialist party the only way Socialists and members of the Labour party could get into Parliament was through the collection of a political levy. Members on those benches to-day do not need trade union funds to bring them here. All the elite of the Liberal party will shortly be on those benches. Any number of people are desirous of taking their stand now side by side with such a successful party, and therefore the real idea of giving representation to workers' representatives and supporting them by trade union funds has now gone. I would say to hon. Members opposite that a large number of Members on this side sit for working people just as much as any Member on that side and have just as much experience of the working classes of this country. In fact, there are a large number of gentlemen on that side who have not as much experience, and who have not gone through the mill in the same way, as certain hon. Friends of mine on this side. We represent all classes, and, in addition to that, we represent a large hulk of the working classes of this country. That is what annoys hon. Members, because, despite the attractive shop window dressing which they always put forward on the platforms of the country, they fail to stir the common sense of the British working man.
I believe any fair-minded politician, who desires to see fair play, desires that a Conservative working man should be entitled, if he so wishes, to refuse to pay a contribution without being made a blackleg in the part of the world in which he lives. Hon. Members opposite know that there are working men in this country, good Conservatives, who are desirous of voting themselves out, and that every pressure is put upon those men to prevent them doing so. In fact, some of them are afraid of showing their party colours even on election day. People talk about cowardice in that respect, but I can understand the senti- 694 ments of those men. Some of them work in gangs where there are two or three ardent Socialists and they are sent to Coventry and every slight is put upon them. I hope the Government will, if they cannot eliminate the political levy altogether, make the position of the Conservative trade unionist as reasonable as possible by bringing about an alteration in the law in order that the Conservative working man, and the Liberal working man too, shall have to contract in rather than, as at present, contract out. I believe hon. Gentlemen opposite oppose it, not because they are afraid of the contracting in clause, but because they are afraid that, if we ease the position of the Conservative or Liberal working man, a large number of their own lukewarm supporters will not pay the levy. They feel that, if they give way, it means a lack of security for their own position.
I plead with the Government earnestly on this matter, because there are a large number of people in this country who desire to see a real stroll, measure in this trade union bill. We are not afraid of the consequences. Hon. Members have no need to think we are afraid of fighting. I hope at the earliest opportunity we shall demonstrate the real strength of the Conservative working men on this matter.
§ Mr. THOMAS
If any justification were needed for the Prime Minister's intervention this afternoon, it is to be found in the speech we have just heard. He said the real reason for the extraordinary and unprecedented procedure of to-day was this—although the Government had been telling the people in the country that their minds were made up, and they knew what they were going to do, as a matter of fact he had waited for this Debate in order to get some advice and assistance from the House. I only regret that the Prime Minister was not present to hear the last speech. There fie would have got all the information he required. He would have been told at first hand, and without doubt or qualification, that the only object of hon. Members sitting on these benches is to draw 9.00 a year; and the hon. Member, going further, said that from his personal knowledge the Conservative majority, big as it is, would be much bigger if it were not for the intimidation that takes place. I do not 695 know to what kind of intimidation be refers, but I can imagine the tremendous pressure that must be exercised in his constituency to prevent people voting for him; in fact, it must amount to mass picketing. But I am more concerned to ask the House to treat quite seriously the significance of the Prime Minister's statement, because, curiously enough, most Members speaking here to-day not only presumed to give their own opinion but went beyond that and said, "We are expressing the mind, the view and the intention, not only of the Conservative party but of the country as a whole."
If there was any doubt in the minds of hon. Members opposite as to what ought to be done, they were reinforced by the contribution of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). He was here a moment ago, and I am sure he will return in a few moments to hear the compliment I am going to pay him. It is very significant that when the Government are in any difficulty, when they have any doubt as to what is the democratic thing to do, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley always comes to the rescue. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman that I had just observed that whenever the Government were in difficulty they were always helped by him, and I was also observing that while he was looking at these benches he was really thinking of the Piccadilly Hotel. Why I say he was thinking of the Piccadilly Hotel is because I understand that while he was speaking the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was at a dinner there. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley, looking at these benches all the time, said, "My objection, my fundamental objection, against the existing system, what I want to see altered, what I believe to be in the interests of the country, is the dangerous situation that now exists through certain individuals controlling party finance." Just imagine looking at us on these benches and talking about the dangers of party finance! We agree with the right hon. Gentleman entirely, and the only complaint we have to make is that instead of complaining about the control of finance and supporting this 696 Bill he should ask all parties in the House to produce balance sheets showing not only how party money is spent but how it is produced.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman, with all the innocence of a lawyer, says, "I cannot understand the action of the official Opposition in this matter. Just fancy them committing themselves in advance. I"—and I was waiting to hear who it was he spoke fur, but he stopped there—"as far as I am concerned, I am going to bring an open mind to this question." The Liberal party—every section that has spoken since—has repudiated him. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, to whom he was really directing his remarks, has sent an intimation that the Liberal party must not be tainted by any association with the party opposite, and stating that he is pairing in favour of this Amendment. If the Government are, in the words of the Prime Minister, really waiting to draft their Bill according to the support they get from the House of Commons, I suggest to them that they should neutralise the right hon. Gentleman's offer by the united party they see there in front of them to-night. It is rather remarkable that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley should he the champion of the Government. When he spoke he mentioned something about the 1906 Parliament. It was that Parliament that saw the entry of the right hon. Gentleman into this House, and he made his maiden speech in that Parliament, curiously enough, on trade union legislation. At that time he was not congratulating the Tory party on their foresight. Of course, he was young and innocent and not so experienced; at all events, he was doubtful about Tory legislation, and he felt it was time he should come to the rescue. The particular subject under discuss on was the same trade union Bill that we are discussing to-night. Curiously enough, the subject was in regard to the liability at law of trade unions. The right hon. Gentleman intervened in the Debate, and he said to those now sitting on the benches opposite: "Please remember when you are dealing with trade unions and trade union legislation, and when you are dealing with a question affecting 697 damages which would be brought against a trade union, those damages are assessed by juries and cannot always be depended upon." That was the right hon. Gentleman's opinion in 1906, when he was resisting the proposals of the Conservative Opposition against a Liberal proposal, and when he sat on the opposite benches.
§ Mr. D. REID
Remember he is a lawyer; he has practised 21 years at the Bar since then, and has had much experience.
§ Mr. THOMAS
If that is so, then the real explanation of the right hon. Gentleman's conduct then and now is that he was then a green and innocent politician, and did not know what he was talking about. I am content to ask the House to judge, not only on those facts, but on the experience of recent events and of our own experience in dealing with this question. What is the first occasion, so far as trade union legislation is concerned, that there was any question of legal action? My own union was involved and a justifiable strike followed. That strike was not for an increase of wages or a reduction of hours, but it was a strike in consequence of the Taff Vale judgment, and a strike against what we alleged was the victimisation of one of their fellows not provided for in law. Sympathetically these men struck work. The result of that strike was a legal action which my own union fought and, ultimately, we paid £10,000 damages upon what was known as the Taff Vale judgment. I myself saw the cheque of my own union for £10,000 hung in the general manager's office of the Taff Vale Railway, because he had arranged with the bank to have that cheque framed as a monument to how they had defeated the working classes. I am only trying to show the vindictive mind of the particular individual concerned, who was, not only content to have the £10,000, but to have the cheque returned to his bank and framed. [Interruption.] There are hon. Members on this side of the House who know this incident and the facts better than those who are interrupting me, and T not only repeat that I saw the framed cheque, but I repeat that this particular individual made the statement that he would never recognise the trade union official. Of course, he was mistaken.
698 The first point I wish to draw attention to is that when that action took place there were 11 Labour Members in the House of Commons, and that was in 1902. That representation was followed in 1906 by 52 Members being returned for the first time as a definite Labour party. That was followed in 1908 by the friends of bon. Gentlemen opposite supporting and financing a member of my own organisation to take an action against our own union. That particular action was taken by a gentleman named Osborne, who had never earned more than 24s. a week, and he took an action to the Courts which cost over £40,000. When that action was tried, it was again decided that the trade unions were wrong, and that it was illegal to indulge in political action. Let me state the history of that case. When the rule was being framed, I was President of the union, and I suggested to my own colleagues that instead of relying upon their own judgment they should consult the best legal opinion in the country, and they agreed to do so. They unanimously decided that they would consult Sir Edward Clarke, who had been Solicitor-General to the Conservative Government. It is the way of working men, I suppose, to be biased and preiudiced, but in order to conform to the law they said, "Let us get the best legal opinion we can." It occurred to them that there might be such a thing as political bias and they said, "After all, Sir Edward Clarke is a Conservative K.C., and there may be some political prejudice." At my suggestion they then decided to consult a Liberal K.C. as well. We looked round to find the most distinguished Liberal K.C. and we decided that Sir Robert Reid was the most distinguished and we said to him, "Will you give us a joint opinion with Sir 'Edward Clarke, and then there can be no political bias?" After paying the usual trade union fee, these two lawyers agreed and we got an actual joint legal opinion from them.
§ Mr. THOMAS
At any rate, it was the time when my hon. Friend was an Independent Labour party organiser.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
No, I was not, and that is a personal reference that is entirely without foundation. I only interrupted the right hon. Gentleman in order to point out that Sir Robert Reid was then Lord Chancellor.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am glad the hon. Member has made that explanation or it would have been necessary for me to make it on behalf of the Independent Labour party.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I think the House will agree that both interests are satisfied. The Osborne judgment was given in 1909 and here is the considered opinion of Sir Edward Clarke and Sir Robert Reid, given to us and paid for on 30th March, 1905. [HON. MEMBER: "Ah, 1905!"] Not only did I say 1909, but I said the Osborne judgment was given in 1909. I said that the rule which the Osborne judgment dealt with was jointly made and put into our book by these two distinguished people. I ask the House to observe the significance of that. Sir Robert Reid, who ultimately became Lord Chancellor, and Sir Edward Clarke, who was Solicitor-General in the Conservative Government, both advised this great union. This great union put the identical rule into the rule-book; some gentlemen—whether you call them capitalists or anything else—financed one of our members, a shunter, to take the union to Court. When Sir Robert Reid had become the Lord Chancellor, the Law Lords decided that that which he and Sir Edward Clarke had advised us was legal was illegal, and we had to pay the damages. Would any Member of the House dare to suggest what we could have done otherwise, having got that opinion and having acted on it.
What followed? I have already said that, following the Taff Vale judgment, in 1902, 11 Labour Members were turned into 52 Labour Members. Following the Osborne judgment, in 1909, 122 Labour Members sat on this side of the House. The only moral I draw from that is, not to advise the Government not to go on with this Measure, but, if they want a rest of which they are so much in need, to go on, and we will sub stitute for them on the next possible occasion. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Cooper) actually said that he had 1,000 grievances in his pocket. He first said "in his 700 pocket," and, when we drew his attention to the fact that his pockets did not look very bulky, he said, "I have heard a thousand grievances, and I have got one." Someone from this side shouted, "Produce it." Well, this was his grievance. He said it was now being made compulsory on members to purchase the journal. When he was told that the reason was because it contained all the rules and regulations of the union, he said that that was interfering with the liberty of the subject to compel a man to know the rules of the organisation to which he belonged. And we are to have legislation to deal with it.
I ask the House to observe this significant fact. We are moving an Amendment against what has been alleged to be blind legislation. We are taunted from the other side with the fact that we do not quite know what this legislation will be. That is perfectly true, but I presume that those who make that sneer will not be prepared to repudiate the anticipatory preparation of Ministers for that legislation. Are they prepared to throw over the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for instance'? Everyone has said, "Oh, but it is so wrong, it is not loyal to do anything in advance." Last Wednesday night, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reply to a speech from this side, said what his view of the contemplated legislation would be.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL indicated dissent.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The Attorney-General shakes his head. Then that means that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is speaking for himself.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said there were three points, and three points only
—mass picketing, the general strike and the political levy.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I am not only reading the whole of it, but I challenge anyone to deny that he added any other words. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read from the OFFICIAL REPORT!"] I read the three points he made. The right hon. Gentleman, who is going to reply shook his head at my suggestion that the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have anticipated the legislation. If the proposed Bill does not contain the three points that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made, what is to be said for the Prime Minister's concrete Cabinet, about which he told us a week ago? Let me compare the three points. Last week, in dealing with another subject, I complained of the attitude of the Government in dealing with this question. Whenever they have dealt with an employers' organisation, I know of no occasion when they did not consult the employers first. I think that is a common sense and business-like arrangement. Let me compare the action of the present Government with the views of the late Prime Minister, Mr. Bonar Law. The House will remember that There was considerable agitation in 1922 as to the political levy, and Mr. Bonar Law was asked to deal with the question. This is what he said in the House of Commons in November, 1922:Members of trade unions should not be compelled to pay to the political funds of a party with which they do not agree. That seems reasonable, but we are going to have no rash action about it. Before we dream of dealing with it, we shall consult both trade unions and employers.That was the wise, statesmanlike utterance of Mr. Bonar Law in 1922. I do not know whether the Government have consulted the employers; I do know perfectly well that they have consulted no one on this side and that no trade union organisations have been consulted. Therefore, I am entitled to ask what was the spirit behind Mr. Bonar Law's declaration compared with the spirit behind the present Government. You have heard to-day about political abuses. I would like to know from the Attorney-General whether the prospective legislation deals with that aspect of the question. I ask for the reason that most of the speeches to-day have dealt with that side of the question. One Member on the other side went the length of saying that it was intimidation, and that that side of the House 702 was suffering more than anything else because of the unfair methods of extracting payments from Conservative and Liberal working men.
The difficulty one is in is to see what would be accepted as authoritative. One can hardly accept general statements unless they are tested. Lord Younger, when Sir George Younger, dealt with this question in the House of Commons in May, 1922. He was being urged from that side, and the Government were being urged, to deal with these abuses that we have heard of. He admitted that the Tory organisation had printed a million of documents like the one I have here which bears their signature. That sets out liberally the abuses that Conservative working men were subjected to. It says:We are issuing book forms of exemptions. Each book contains 50 detachable forms, so that you can send them to your trade unions and get exemption without any difficulty at ail.[Laughter.] The joke is that the million must have misfired. Curiously enough we are told that legislation is necessary, and vet, in this same document, issued by the Conservative party, they say:The Registrar has lull power to enforce his position upon the unions, and, in our opinion, his protection should prove adequate.That is to say, the Tory organisation issues a million of these pamphlets and says to the Tory working man, "Do not bother about the trade unions. In our opinion, the protection of the Registrar is sufficient." As to whether that is true or not, we can only turn to the Registrar himself. The Home Secretary, who unfortunately is not in his place, was asked on the 19th February, 1925, how many abuses or complaints have been received since the passing of this legislation, that is, abuses and complaints affecting 3,900,000 men during a period of nine years. The answer was that during the whole of that period there were 66 cases, only 33 of which were well founded. Just imagine, first, a million circulars issued, a million invitations for complaint, and all the propaganda, and the Home Secretary says, "Gentlemen of the House of Commons, it is all humbug my colleagues are talking; there is really nothing in it." And you wonder why the Attorney-General shakes his head when I say, "Do you contemplate interfering with the political fund?"
§ Mr. THOMAS
If he slid not shake his head, I ask "Do you contemplate that? "We are in the happy position that, if they had proposed to interfere, it is on the ground of 33 complaints of which were rectified. The Registrar says, all were rectified, and there are 3,900,000 men, and the effort you are now making to get peace in industry is to interfere with an organisation that is admittedly well-conducted. How far is this legislation going? Some three years ago, there was a public inquiry at Cardiff into the price of foodstuffs, and evidence was taken on oath. Various co-operative societies and traders were invited to give evidence, and during that inquiry this fact emerged. A firm, I think they call themselves Spiller, the great flour factors in Wales, had to admit on oath that, because a co-operative society was selling bread at 1d. per loaf less than the fixed price, flour was not to be supplied to them. Do you agree with that?
§ Mr. THOMAS
The only difference is that it was a baker. What is the moral of it? It is not wrong for people to pay 1d. per loaf more than it can be proved to be possible to supply the bread at, but no action is contemplated against the employers. I am told that to-day there are thousands of proprietary articles that the co-operative societies are not allowed to sell—they will not even supply them with those articles, because dividends are paid by the co-operative societies. All I can say is that, if this legislation is intended to remedy abuses of that kind, I shall be surprised, and the more so because we have had no word from either side of the House asking for legislation to deal with those particular abuses.
I will only make one other reference to the political side. Do Members on the other side of the House agree that, if a ballot of workmen is necessary for a particular purpose, that should not apply to the employers as well? Very well. Then will you tell us how you are going to deal with the Durham coalowners, who issued a circular in November, 1922, urging that there should be a levy of 2s. per 1,000 tons in order to finance a colliery proprietors' candidate in the Durham 704 municipal election? Was a ballot taken Were the funds examined [HON. MEMBERS: "Did they do it"] The point is quite right. It was done, but it did not succeed; that is to say, they levied the money but they did not get the candidate. These are things that at least the working classes be able to judge, but I would ask hon. Members on the other side of the House to remember the record. I have already shown the general result. In 1922, dealing with the political levy, Sir Meysey Thompson introduced a Bill. He not been heard of since. In 1923, Colonel Archer-Shee introduced a Bill, and he is non-existent now; and, of the 171 Tories who voted with him, 78 fought the next election, but those benches are minus them now. Go on with the process and you will get a long rest, of which the Prime Minister suggests you are in need.
I would take this as my final point. I would ask the Attorney-General whether the legislation deals with a general strike or a sympathetic strike. I will not ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) because I am more concerned with those who are against us and have power to enforce their opinion: but I would ask the Attorney-General to observe carefully that what we shall want to know is, Where does a sympathetic strike commence, and where does a general strike start? [An HON. MEMBER: "Wait and sees!"] It is not a question of waiting and seeing, because there ought to be no Member on the other side of the House who is not at least prepared to say, "We want industrial peace." You are not going to have industrial peace unless you realise what you are trifling with. I will put a concrete case. The railwaymen decide to strike. It is admitted, as far as the Front Bench is concerned, that there is going to be no interference with their legitimate right to strike. In order to make their strike successful, the men on the omnibuses say, "We believe in the railwaymen's case. By people coming from the Tubes to the omnibuses, we do not help the railwaymen." I am putting it quite fairly as a workman will visualise it. Therefore the omnibusmen say, "We shall injure the railwaymen unless we stop." The transport man says, "But if the omnibuses stop, men may he transferred to our department. We do not want to injure the omnibus- 705 men, and we do not want to injure the railwaymen and we stop." That is a legitimate sympathetic strike. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Very well. Now we know. Then stop all this humbugging talk that you are not interfering with the power of collective bargaining. If that is the view of that side of the House, let them say so, but do not disguise it under the talk of a general strike. I have put, not a hypothetical ease but one which has happened on many occasions. I can multiply them.
The final point is the question of mass picketing. The declaration of the Government was this. We do not want to interfere with the legitimate trade unions. We do not want to interfere with the trade union itself. What we want to do, in the word of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), is to protect the real trade unionists as against the wicked people who are running them. Let us innocent people that you want to protect ask this question: Is there any individual who commits a criminal act to-day, who cannot be dealt with by the law? if they can be dealt with by the law, see the exact situation you are creating. Supposing you propose legislation to make the head office of the union responsible. That is all you can do. The only thing you can do is to enable the union to be sued at law, and you want to help unions. There is a body of Communists in the district. There is a body of people in every town who hate the unions as much as many other people do. Make no mistake about that, and if you do not know it you do not know what is happening. There are people in our union who hate me much more than you do. Let me see what you are doing to help legitimate trade unionists. I issue instructions against all the abuses that you have mentioned. There is not an abuse that is mentioned by hon. Members opposite in which I acquiesce; not one. Intimidation! Not only do I not agree with them, but I have proved that I do not agree with them. See what you are doing. I represent the head office and I issue instructions against these things, but they do not obey the instructions. Then whom do you sue? Did that occur to you? What is the legislation to be? Is it legislation to sue the individual? If it is not to sue the individual, it is to 706 sue the head office, because other people have deliberately broken their instructions. That is the case, and that is what you have to answer.
You have to make up your mind on that situation. Therefore, viewing the situation fairly and dispassionately, I say that not only is there no justification for interference, but that if you want to give real effect to the formal phrase in the King's Speech it is impossible if you go on, and instead of peace in industry you will ruin all those who genuinely desire conciliation to be substituted for strikes and lock-outs.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I cannot help thinking that the Government may regard with legitimate satisfaction the fact that they were able to gratify the wish of the Opposition and have a Debate on the Amendment this evening. When we contrast the attitude of the Opposition on this official Amendment with their position on their last official Amendment, we are glad to find that there is, at last, something upon which they can be unanimous. Our satisfaction is not lessened by the reflection that they are only able to achieve unanimity in condemning our proposals when they do not know what they are.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Even that advantage, apparently, does not succeed in uniting the Liberal party. We are assured by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is paired in favour of the Amendment, a course which I can hardly expect the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) to adopt. The right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) was, perhaps, just a little unfair to the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley. He accused him of inconsistency. He cited a speech which he made 21 years ago in this House, when he professed himself in favour of amending trade union legislation. Is there anything inconsistent in his saying to-day that he is still not satisfied with trade union legislation?
I heard an interruption to the effect that hon. Members opposite do know what our legislation is going to contain. 707 I suppose they were founding themselves upon the observation made by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If the reference was to my speech at From, if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have been good enough to read it, they will have noticed that I began by saying that I was not speaking on behalf of the Government, that I was not explaining or purporting to explain what the Government might or might not do, and that all I proposed to do was to indicate some things which might require investigation.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman remember that when we were on the Government side of the House, the first criticism of the Labour Government was that one of our people had been speaking without speaking for the Government?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Yes, in announcing a policy, which I was careful not to do. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite hardly did justice to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Reference has been made to my right hon. Friend's speech of Wednesday last. It has been said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer laid down three matters which were to be dealt with. I have turned up the speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and I find that what my right hon. Friend in fact did was to ask three questions; and he said in asking the questions:Let me make it perfectly clear that in asking these questions I am not at all prejudging the contents of the Government's Bill. They will not be known until it is produced, though no doubt they will be forecast and surmised about."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th February, 1927; col. 198, Vol. 202.]Are hon. and right hon. Members opposite just in saying that that is an announcement of the Government's intention? In fact, this Amendment must be a very difficult Amendment for any right hon. or hon. Gentleman to justify because the House will observe that it, does not purport to condemn any specific proposals of the Government, even assuming that some hon. Gentlemen think they know what those proposals are to be. What it purports to condemn is the reference to proposals "for defining and amending the law with regard to industrial disputes." It condemns not 708 specific proposals, but it condemns us for daring to produce any proposal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I notice that hon. Members quite fairly accept that view. Therefore, the question which this House has to consider to-night is not whether our proposals are reasonable, but whether it is right to submit to the House any proposals for "defining or amending the, law with regard to industrial disputes."
Let us just remember what industrial disputes have done for this country during the last eight or nine months. I am not going in detail through the story of last year, but it. is common ground, is it not, to all of us that whoever may be to blame or not to blame—I am not seeking to place responsibility—the industrial disputes of last year caused immense loss to every class and section of the community, and not least to that class which hon. Members opposite claim to represent—that they have caused immense loss to this nation as a whole, that they have seriously injured our trade and commerce, and have imperilled our whole position as an industrial nation. I do not think I could more accurately sum up the situation than was done by the right hon. Member for Come Valley (Mr. Snowden), who wrote some two or three months ago these words:Unless something, can be done to stop these industrial conflicts, the doom of Britain as a commercial nation is certain.We have it then that, unless something be done, the doom of this country is certain and vet we are condemned for even asking Parliement to do anything. The truth apparently, is that in the eyes of hon. Members opposite, not only are trade unions to occupy a privileged position under the law, they are, apparently to occupy a privileged position against Parliament. Their interests are to prevail over the interests of the nation as a whole, and hon. Members apparently would prefer that this country should he doomed as an industrial country rather than that this House should even he asked to consider proposals with regard to trade union law. Let the House remember that that is no accidental phrase. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, when he spoke on the first evening of this Session, said: 709This Bill will he regarded by every Labour organisation as a political move for the purpose of advancing political interests and will be treated as such by us through every stage of its progress."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 8th February, 1927; col. 24, Vol. 202.]He said that every line would be fought and every stage would be fought, and he was supported and reinforced by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, who pronounced with his usual clearness and determination:With regard to the amendment of the trade union law, whatever it may be, we do not think it is justifiable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 9th February, 1927; col. 140, Vol. 202.]This position is sought to be justified by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) when he says, "You have no mandate to deal with this question; look at the recent by-elections." I have always understood that statistics can be made to prove anything, especially by-election statistics, but I have had the curiosity to check the right hon. Gentleman and I find that whereas he gave us the figures of seven by-elections there have been since the outbreak of the general strike, in fact, eight by-elections, and I have added up the figures of all eight by-elections and the result is this. There have been cast for the Conservative candidates 85,000 odd votes: for the Liberals 43,000 odd votes, and for the Socialists 77,000 odd votes, so that there is an anti-Socialist vote of 128,000 and a Socialist vote of 77,000 and the Unionist vote is bigger than the vote of either of the other two parties. Let me remind the House, since this is the attitude, which it is sought to adopt, that the same gracious Speech which contains this reference to industrial dispute legislation contains, a little later on, a paragraph in regard to the Companies Acts. The House is informed that proposals ill be made +o amend the Companies Acts and that a Bill will be introduced for that purpose. It is a fact that companies with limited liability were given their privileged position by the Legislature only a few years before a Conservative Administration conferred privileges on trade unions in 1875. It is a fact that both companies and trade unions do enjoy, thanks to legislation, special privileges before the law.
It has been thought necessary, in the course of experience, to introduce legis- 710 lation during the corning Session to reform abuses which have been made manifest in the company law—[An HON. MEMBER: "After an inquiry?"]—to prevent directors from the improper administration of company funds and improper dealings with shareholders' rights. Nobody suggests that that legislation is an attack upon company shareholders, but when we, in the same speech, propose to introduce some leislation to define and amend—[An HON. MEMBER: "Without inquiry!"]—I will deal with the question of inquiry in a moment or two—to define and amend the law, we are told that, whatever it is, it will not be justifiable and will be treated as 4 political attack.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite propounded to me certain questions. He asked me whether we were going to deal with the political levy, and he indicated certain objections which he thought were sufficient to negative any right to alter the law with regard to that matter. I can assure the House that those objections will be considered very carefully by His Majesty s Government, and that we shall not introduce any legislation dealing with this topic unless we are satisfied that there is a good answer to the objections made. The right hon. Gentleman put to me a question as to, whether we were going to deal with mass picketing. He again put forward some objections which, he indicated, were reasons why we should not deal with that topic. Let me assure him again that those matters will be most carefully considered and that, unless there are satisfactory answers, that topic also will be secure. The right hon. Gentleman went on to point out the difficulty of defining the general strike and differentiating it from the sympathetic strike—again a matter which is quite proper to be raised and which deserves the most careful consideration, and, unless we can find a satisfactory way of overcoming that difficulty, that matter also will not be dealt with.
It would not be in order for me on this occasion, when the question is not whether our proposals are good or bad, hut whether we are wrong in seeking to introduce any proposals, to seek in any way to forecast what those proposals are. At least one hon. and learned Gentleman opposite told us that lie knew what the 711 subjects were going to be. He said they were going to be the general strike and mass picketing. Another hon. Gentleman added the political levy, and another added various other matters. Let me take as an illustration only those first two matters, just to see whether there is any case, or may be any case, for condemning any attempt to define and amend the law. The first question which I should like Members of the House to ask themselves is this: In their view, is a general strike illegal or not? I mean a strike which is designed, to use the words of Mr. Cramp, to compel the Government of the country to take a certain course. I am not giving that as a definition, but as a sufficient statement by one very eminent Labour leader—[An HON. MEMBER: "Very eminent!"]—Do not let me quarrel among the hierarchy. The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), if I understood his speech, expressed in no uncertain language the reasons why he did regard a general strike as illegal. He has the support, unless I have wholly misunderstood the speech, of Mr. Justice Astbury.
The hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser), if I did not misunderstand him, pronounced the opinion that a general strike was not illegal, and he said that he found something in the summing-up of Mr. Justice Erskine, in a criminal case in 1843, in which the learned Judge said it was not illegal to use a strike to obtain a lawful object, which somehow fortified him in that view. As I understand, the result of the case was that the jury convicted the man charged with sedition, which is not a lawful object, winch might have been an attempt to bring pressure upon the Government. I am not concerned for the moment with discussing whether the hon. and learned Gentleman or the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley are right in their views, but this, at least, I venture to submit to this House is important, that when you have two authorities expressing diametrically opposite views, and when you have a question of a general strike, one which may affect the conduct of, perhaps, millions of His Majesty's subjects, it is the duty of this House at least to define the law.
712 When this House is told by two authorities that this matter is so obscure, when nothing except the editorial brilliancy of the hon. Member for South Hackney (Captain Garro-Jones) regards it as clear, when you are told that this is a legal decision, is it right for this House to leave so urgent and difficult a matter to Be in doubt until, possibly, a number of men have committed themselves to what at least may be an illegal course of action? Supposing a general strike is not illegal, is there not, at any rate, some sort of a case for making it illegal? We have had a citation from the opinion of Mr. Bevin, the Dockers' B.C., that the whole approach of the national strike was one of illegality. We have had statements—I have read them, and I am sure hon. Members who have studied this subject have read them—by a number of most distinguished Labour Leaders, who have pronounced the general strike a hopeless and bitter failure. Mr. Cramp says:In my view, the members have learnt the bitter lesson of the general strike. It is my view that never again will the railwaymen allow themselves to be forced into it.Mr. Frank Hodges says:The strike in execelsis has not added one farthing to the wage bill of the nation, nor maintained one good industrial custom threatened at that time. The big idea (that is, the national strike) has been tried, and has proved devastatingly futile. This strike idea has been exploited and abandoned. We now turn our faces towards sanity in trade union effort.The Leader of the Opposition said, "Why legislate?" If that were the general view, if that were the accepted theory of labour, that, no doubt, would be a very pertinent observation, but I have the two quotations, and I could add to them the citation from the right hon. Member for Platting, who has, unless I am mistaken, pronounced the general strike asmadness and, if the lessons of May last are learned, there will be no nest tithe.I notice that hon. Members who jeered at Mr. Hodges are not quite so anxious to cheer that. Although I find those expressions, I turn to the trade union special conference on the general strike and I find a very different set of utterances.The same set of circumstances,says Mr. Bowden of the Wood Workers', 713the same situation may have to be faced, and all we desire is to learn a lesson from the past and protect ourselves for the future.That means that he wants to make ready for a new general strike. We have Mr. Gossip saying,You want to treat the employing class as what they are, our bitter and vindictive enemies, and fight them—This is industrial peace as Mr. Gossip understands it,Fight them with all the power at your disposal.Mr. Chambers says—and I could multiply these quotations almost indefi-nitely—Alt I want to say is this. We will have another General Strike without you and we will win next time.The point these quotations illustrate is that it is not true to say that the Labour party or the Trade Union Congress as a whole have declared that there shall be no general strike again, that there shall be no next time, that it is madness to think of it. The snore responsible, the more thoughtful leaders may have said it, but there are a number of others, who are cheered from the back benches, who take just the opposite view. If it be true, as the right hon. Member for Colne Valley says, that unless something can be done to stop it the doom of Great Britain as a commercial nation is certain, and if it be also true that a responsible section, represented in this House, of the trade union leaders are preparing and advocating another general strike—[HON. MEMBERS: "ho are they?"] I have read some of the speeches—then I suggest that at any rate it would be a very heavy responsibility for any Government to accept, to allow that preparation to go on and to make no preparation to deal with it or to prevent it. As I am challenged I may say that there was another, Mr. Hicks, the Chairman, who told us:More serious general strikes are inevitable in the future.Let me turn again to mass picketing. Hon. Members have said that the law is clear with regard to picketing. It was interesting to me to remember that, on one occasion when I was in charge of the Treasury Bench and there was a discussion going on on the Emergency Regulations, no less than three hon. Members got up and asked me to plead with the Home Secretary for leniency in certain 714 cases. Each of them were cases in which bodies of young men had held up motor vans and cars and as a result there had been trouble and they had been sent to prison.
Each of those three hon. Members appeared to think that it was perfectly legitimate to do what they were doing. For instance, the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) told us that the men were on the roads past midnight and the only possible means of carrying out their legitimate duties was to call upon motor and lorry drivers to stop.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The right hon. Gentleman says, "That is the answer." Does he think it satisfactory that large bodies of trade unionists, including Members of this House, should be left under a complete delusion as to the law? [Interruption.] Then, again, take the case of mass pickets. We know that there were 6,000 convictions under these Emergency Regulations, and a very large number of them arose out of picketing or peaceful persuasion, or what the persons concerned regarded are peaceful persuasion. In my experience in reviewing cases I have found time and again that the defence put up was, "These are decent, respectable men, holding responsible positions in the trade union movement, and they thought they were justified because they regarded what they were doing as peaceful picketing, and nothing more."
One knows in practice that if you get mob—I do not want to use any offensiveterm—a crowd of 1,200, 1,500 or 2,000 people, excited and angry and trying to stop a small body of men from working, it is very apt to happen that the result will he, by the natural influence of mob psychology, that violence will take place and that there will be an assault and a breach of the peace. Is it right to let decent, respectable people get into that sort of temptation and then say, "Oh, there is no harm done because they can always be sent to prison afterwards." That is not my idea of statesmanship. Time and again there have been cases which have been described by Judges as 715 degrading trade unionism. The hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) said, "Well, but there are some employers who intimidate. They are just as bad. [Interruption] Who says that we age not going to deal with employers' trade unions. If these grievances exist, why should we not seek to deal with them? [An HON. MEMBER: "You should do, but you will not!"] We are told that the unions will reform themselves from within, and I am sure that that is a sentiment which we should all applaud, but what we know happens, in fact, is that there is to-day, as was stated at the Trade Union Congress, an organised conspiracy to honeycomb the Labour party's organisation. We know there is, to use the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, an effort to capture the trade union machine and speak in their name; or, to use the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley, that there is an active body at work seeking to capture the trade union organisation for world revolution. Their influence is derived from the indiffer-
§ ence of the great body of trade unionists, he says, because these do not attend their branch meetings, and the business is left to the active minority who capture the offices and make the policy.
§ We are asked why we should not consult with trade unionists. Consult we will, consult we shall be glad to do. We are not much encouraged by the attitude to-night, but consult we will. If our consultation is accepted, we shall be glad to have advice; if it is refused, then we shall not be slow to remind the country that our proposals were rejected in advance, and we shall not be afraid or deterred by misrepresentation of our efforts from attempting to clear the trade unions from the abuses which may exist, or to protect the majority of trade unionists at large and, what is more important, to protect the whole nation at large, against injustice and tyranny and abuse.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 135; Noes, 313.719
|Division No. 3.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Grundy, T. W.||Potts, John S.|
|Alexander. A. v. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.)||Purcell. A. A.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Halt, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring;|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Hardie, George D.||Riley, Ben|
|Baker, Walter||Harris, Percy A.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Robinson. W. C.(Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Barnes. A.||Hayday, Arthur||Rose, Frank H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hayes, John Henry||Runciman. Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Briant. Frank||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Hirst, G. H.||Scurr, John|
|Bromfield, William||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Sexton, James|
|Bromley, J.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Buchanan, G.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Cape, Thomas||Kelly, W. T.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kennedy, T.||Smillie, Robert|
|Clowes, S.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Smith, Ban (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kirkwood, D.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Clynes. Rt. Hon. John R.||Lansbury, George||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Compton, Joseph||Lawrence. Susan||Snell, Harry|
|Connolly, M.||Lee, F.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Cove, W. G.||Lindley, F. W.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lowth, T.||Stephen Campbell|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lunn, William||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Sullivan J,|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Mackinder, W.||Sutton. J. E.|
|Dennison, R.||MacLaren, Andrew||Taylor, R. A.|
|Duncan, C.||March, S.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Dunnico, H.||Maxton, James||Thomson. Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Montague, Frederick||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Morris, R. H.||Thorne. W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Gillett, George M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Mosley, Oswald||Tinker. John Joseph|
|Greenall, T.||Naylor, T. E.||Townend, A. E.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coins)||Oliver, George Harold||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Grentell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Palin, John Henry||Varley, Frank B.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Paling, W||Viant, S. P.|
|Groves. T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wellhead, Richard C.|
|Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.||Windsor, Walter|
|Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Whiteley, W.||Wright, W.|
|Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Welsh, J. C.||Wlison, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Westwood, J.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles Edwards.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Clayton, G. C.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Albery, Irving James||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Cooper, A. Duff||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Cope, Major William||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Couper, J, B.||Holland, Sir Arthur|
|Apsley, Lord||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Holt, Captain H. P.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Homan, C. W. J.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Atkinson, C.||Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Hopkins, J. W. W|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Balniel, Lord||Crookshank, Cot. H (Lindsoy. Gainsbro)||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hudson, Capt. A. u. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Dalziel, Sir Davison||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Hume. Sir G. H.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W,||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Benn, Sir A. s. (Plymouth, Drake)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Illffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Berry, Sir George||Dawson. Sir Philip||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Bethel, A.||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Dixey, A. C.||Jacob, A. E.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Eden, Captain Anthony||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Kennedy, A, R. (Preston)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Ellis, R. G.||Kindersley, Major Guy M.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||England, Colonel A.||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Erskine. James Malcolm Monteith||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Fairfax, Captain J G.||Lister, Cunllffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Brass, Captain W.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Fermoy, Lord||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Fielden, E. B.||Looker, Herbert William|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Forestler-Walker, Sir L.||Lord, Sir Walter Greaves-|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Forrest, W.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Lumley, L. R.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Lynn, Sir R. J.|
|Sroun-Lindsay, Major H.||Fraser, Captain Ian||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Gadle, Lieut.-Colonel Anthony||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Ganzoni, Sir John||McLean, Major A.|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Gates, Percy||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Surman, J. B.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John|
|Barney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mac Robert, Alexander M,|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Goff, Sir Park||Malone, Major P. B.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Gower, Sir Robert||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Butt. Sir Alfred||Grace, John||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Grant, Sir J. A.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Merriman, F. B.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (S treat ham)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R, (Ayr)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R (Prtsmth. S.)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hall. Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Blrm., W.)||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Murchison, Sir C. K.|
|Chamberlain. Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Harland, A.||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Harrison, G. J C.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Christie, J. A.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Hawke, John Anthony||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Shaw, R. G. (York. W.R., Sowerby||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Pennefather, Sir John||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mel. (Renfrew, W)||Waddington, R.|
|Penny, Frederick George||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Wallace, Captain D. E,|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Shepperson, E. W.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Bells)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton||Skelton, A. N.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Raine, w.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Watson. Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Ramsden, E.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Smithers, Waldron||Wells, S. R.|
|Rees, Sir Beddoe||Somerville, A A. (Windsor)||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H|
|Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple|
|Raid, D. D. (County Down)||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Williams, Cum. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Renter, J. R||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)||Williams. Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Remnant, Sir James||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Rentoul. G. S.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Rice, Sir Frederick||Streatfelld, Captain S. R.||Withers, John James|
|Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Stuart, Crichton-. Lord C.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Ropner, Major L.||Stuart, Hon. J. [Moray and Nairn)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Styles, Captain H. Walter||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Rye, F. G.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, w.)|
|Salmon, Major I.||Tasker, Major R. Inigo||Wood, Sir S. Hill (High Peak)|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Templeton, W. P.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Sandeman, A. Stewart||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Sandon, Lord||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Tinne, J. A.||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and|
|Savery, S. S.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Colonel Gibbs.|
|Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN rose—
§ It being after Eleven of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded to interrupt the business.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Commander Eyres Mansell) rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
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.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.