§ Mr. CLYNES
I beg to move to leave out the Clause.
This Clause, as it emerged from the Committee stage, is double the length it was when we first saw it; it is twice as long and about three times as bad as when it was first introduced. And its increase in length, its very considerable extension, has not diminished the original obscurity of many of its provisions. When the Bill was first introduced, even before it was introduced, the boast was made on behalf of the Government that such long and mature attention had been given to the drafting of this Clause that it was regarded as being as perfect as anything which had ever been introduced on behalf of a modern Government, but the way it has been changed and hacked to pieces by hon. Members on all sides of the House should teach to the head of the Government a lesson, and he should be careful in any statement he makes regarding future Measures. We regard the Clause as being worse now than it was when first introduced. During the Second Reading of the Bill we drew attention to the absence of any provision for equitable treatment as between employers and labour and trade unionists who might be disposed to cease work, and faced with our charge of unequal treatment the Attorney-General said that the matter had been considered, but provision was not made in this Clause for dealing with lock-outs because an attempt to do so would be useless, and any such Clause would be quite inept for that purpose. I invite the Attorney-General to 1532 explain to the House and to the country what value Sub-section (1) of this Clause has in regard to dealing with lock-outs which employers of labour may force.
Primarily, the lock-out is a weapon to force such a condition of hunger and privation and want on the workers of the country as to compel them to surrender to the employers' terms. It is not a cruel thing to say that a lock-out must to some degree inflict a state of starvation not merely upon the workers who are locked out, but upon their wives and families. Happily, provisions now exist in this country, perhaps better than ever before, for diminishing the conditions of stern necessity and real domestic privation, but I assert that in the case of every extensive lock-out that has taken place, and they are much more common than strikes, the feeling behind the mind of the employers is that it is merely a case of endurance, for in the end the workers must give in when they have suffered beyond a point which they can no longer endure. While inevitably, and almost always, the lock-out weapon must inflict some degree of privation if not starvation on the families of the workers no corresponding loss can be inflicted on the employers by the use of the strike weapon. Men who strike cannot put the employers in any condition of want; they cannot starve the employers' children. I have often felt that if the conditions of industry were such that by the use of the strike weapon, by withholding labour, starvation could be inflicted upon employers they might be predisposed to show a greater degree of mercy and reason toward their employés than they do now. Unfortunately the fight in such matters never can be even.
When we first debated this Clause in Committee I inquired why, if it aimed at the prevention of any future general strike, the words "general strike" are not to be found in the Bill at all. I repeat that inquiry. If the suppression of the general strike is the motive behind this Bill surely the Government should use the words "general strike" in order that it should be understood by those who have to deal with industrial questions and trade union policy. One of the primary objections which we are entitled to urge against this Clause is that it raises, and will always maintain, a condition of the greatest uncertainty in the 1533 minds of those who have to guide the working men as to when it is right and legal for them to strike and when it may not be legal or permissible. It is highly advisable, indeed it is essential, that in order to maintain peace those who have to guide working men and determine trade union policy should know clearly what the law is, when it is legal and when it is not legal to advise their people to cease work. We have had innumerable large scale lock-outs and very few large scale strikes. The reason is that a large scale strike has generally been preceded by a large scale lock-out. The first great lock-out in modern British industry occurred in the engineering trade some 27 or 28 years ago. The trouble was a very small one. It occurred in London, where the men in the engineering industry felt that the special conditions in and about the City of London entitled them to an eight-hour day, and failing by negotiation to secure that standard they decided to, strike.
The employers were not perfectly organised, but they soon perfected their organisation and throughout the length and breadth of the country, in the great towns and cities where engineering shops existed, measures were taken to coerce many employers of labour to lock out their workpeople, who had asked for nothing, who had no grievance, and who were not parties to the establishment of an eight hour day in London. From this we can trace the mood which has tended to greater mass action on the part of employers and employed, and the consequent tendency to raise disputes, whether strikes or lock-outs, to a large scale indeed. At any rate, the workmen did not begin this modern tendency, and so far as modern employers have used the weapon of the lock-out, which is a weapon of privation and starvation, they have not scrupled to try to force their employés into a state of surender, when those employés have had no grievance and have made no demands at all. I am prepared to say what I have said in the country to large bodies of workmen, and it is this: that trade union leaders in Britain have never, either at, home or abroad at international conferences, advocated the policy of the general strike. It has not been either our desire or our official attitude. When we have made this pronouncement we have been mocked at to some extent and challenged as to 1534 why, in the case of May last year, we did not repudiate the rank and file of our followers for the course they determined to take. I urge that that was essentially a rank and file movement.
I was present at the great conference of trade union secretaries, numbering some thousand representatives, 90 per cent. of whom were not officials but working men drawn from their trades and workshops, and by a unanimous vote they decided to take a certain course. In my own particular sphere of action in the proper way and at, the proper time I stated my views on that act, on the policy of the general strike, as an act of folly, but I reject the view that it is the business of trade union leaders who dissent from a decision of the rank and file to put themselves into a state of revolt against that decision and acclaim themselves hostile to whatever policy their men may decide. There is such a thing as loyalty, and leaders accept the decision of the rank and file, leaving them to take the consequences of their action. The strike of last year was in the nature of a very desperate endeavour on the part of a few million workmen to come to the rescue of the miners, who, observe, had been attacked not for the first time and whose wages were again in peril by a policy which the mine-owners had put forward. Accordingly, I would urge that if the Government wanted really to deal with the possibility of any future general strike they would have brought forward some Measure for legislating against a political strike. By so doing they would be in a far stronger position than they now are with this Bill before them. Perhaps in that relation I might quote what appeared in a journal which commonly supports the present Government, namely, the Sunday "Observer." In the "Observer" yesterday, under Political Notes, this statement may be found:If the Government had limited its restrictive action to declaring a general strike illegal and accompanied it with insistence on remedial publicity, it would have done something permanently helpful to industrial peace and not unprofitable to itself. Reason is the only keeper of the peace and publicity alone can weild its authority,But instead of limiting the Bill to more or less understandable and intelligible proposals to protect the country against 1535 a recurrence of what was regarded by some as a disaster last year, they have thought proper to include in this Bill innumerable other lines of attack upon both the political and the industrial phase of the trade union movement. The Bill itself has not been inspired by the general strike of last year. The general strike has rather been made the occasion for an attack upon several lines on the organised workers in both their political and their trade union aspects. I will not labour that side of the question any further, but I do ask the Government to drop the pretence that the main purpose of this Bill is to insure the country against the possibility of any recurrence of what happened last year. My profound conviction is that no legislation can possibly deter millions of working men from taking, a certain line of action and from ceasing to work anyhow, if they feel so deeply aggrieved and wronged as to make them determined that that is the course which they are entitled to take. I find, in many parts of the country, that the feeling in the minds of working men at this moment is that whatever may happen in respect of this Bill in the way of its becoming law, nothing will ever prevent bodies of working men ceasing work whenever they think they are morally entitled to do so in order to protect themselves and their follows. But, if that state of things has to be dealt with, the Government could have made it its business to limit this proposal to efforts to find ways and means to cope with what may be regarded as a very great national calamity.
In the Committee stage, very many changes were made in the Clause. In my view the most intelligible change is the remarkable change of liberating from any prospects of penalty, either financially or otherwise, the masses of men who themselves are guilty of the offences against which the Bill provides. Masses of individual working men are not to go to gaol, they are not to be penalised or punished for the mere act of ceasing work, yet it is the act of ceasing working which counts. It is that extended state of idleness which, in itself, would be a condition causing the Government to feel that it was being coerced, and causing deprivations and losses to be endured by the community, whether in a small or large degree, yet 1536 that primary offence of refusing to go on with their work is not to be the subject of punishment or penalty of any man. Why is that? It is because the Government saw the absurdity of thinking to arrest and imprison hundreds of thousands or millions of men who might take that course. Having been compelled to abandon the attempt to defend that absurdity, they go to the other extreme of inflicting the greater injustice upon those who happen to be regarded is ringleaders.
Upon what grounds are those who serve the trade unions and carry out their orders, and give, advice and help to formulate policy, to be placed in a different category before the law from any other class of leader in the country? It is well known that there, have been strikes and stoppages entered into contrary to the advice of leaders; not advice publicly given or advice of which the country, or the Government, would ever know. Most of the decisions reached are reached not at public meetings but at executive meetings; meetings which are not attended by the Press and which are in no sense made public in any way. Frequently a strike occurs after a long process of consideration, leading up from the home of the working man himself to whatever may be the highest authority his particular organisation. I think I have said before, either out of this House or in it, that the first step to be taken is frequently taken not by the working man but by the working man's wife, who naturally wants better conditions, if by some movement they, can be got, and who properly inspires her husband to take some step to try and make conditions better and to get the benefit of better wages. If that be so, in very many of these fights, so far from there being acts of aggression or scenes of disorder, women have taken a more prominent part than men. While from first to last, the wife of the working man might be the immediate cause of the stoppage, yet the blame in to fall upon the so-called ringleader or the trade union official.
I have only one further thing to say under this heading. Just as so many, if not all, of the other parts of this Bill will fail in their alleged objects, none will fail more completely than the endeavour to throw the penalty of responsibility 1537 upon the trade union official. I am convinced that one result of the Clause will be to extend any strike, no matter what its cause or character is, in point of duration, if an attempt is made to arrest any so-called trade union leader and to seek to punish him because of the advice which he has given to his men. One Sub-section in this Clause deals, as we allege most unfairly, with the former freedom that workmen have enjoyed sympathetically to associate with each other for a common end. This tendency to sympathetic action has commonly developed in more recent years because of the greater extent of capitalist power and because of the corresponding weakness of individual workmen in trades acting in their single capacity.
Trade union activity would be almost valueless without the right of further sympathetic action on the part of organised bodies of workmen in the future. The workers' unity is that condition upon which alone working men must depend to put themselves on anything like a condition of equality with employers in the matter of arranging conditions and settling relations between employer and employed. However different men may be in trades, in pursuits, in occupations, in politics, and in point of view, they all claim the right of the wage earner, irrespective of their pursuits or trades, to give assistance to each other in the struggle which they may have to face. I have said, and I repeat it, that probably hundreds of thousands of the workmen who whole-heartedly entered into the last general strike were workmen who did not support the Labour party at all, who were Liberal and Conservative workmen, associated with their respective trades. Whatever might happen to be their political colour, however, they felt that their fortunes must hang together, and they had a perfect right collectively to use their power in order to balance the might which even a single capitalist can wield. While one enormously rich employer, if not acting within a federation or body of employers, can by his own action put the lives, not to say the wages, but even the lives and domestic prospects of thousands of men in jeopardy, it is impossible for any individual working man to exert any influence at all upon conditions or policy and therefore, his ideal of trade unionism rests upon the conviction that what cannot 1538 be attempted by a working man singly can be accomplished or should be attempted with the support of law and without interference by the law by working men in every collective trade union.
I ask the right hon. and learned Attorney-General to observe how complete is the hostility which this particular Clause has aroused. As the right hon. Gentleman is no doubt well aware, even in trade union circles, there are degrees of feeling on these questions of policy. There are the very advanced, and the advanced men; there are the very moderate men and the reactionary men. There might be even several other degrees, but, with one accord, the whole of the trade union movement has manifested its hostility to this policy of the Government. In the moderate school of trade union thought, there is the Federation of Trade Unions. Their official, Mr. Appleton, in his last report makes the following statement:Under the terms of the Bill it would be very difficult to say when any sympathetic strike would fall within the illegal category, or when such a strike might be accounted a general strike. In view of the tendency on the part of some individuals and of some Courts of law to hold all sympathetic strikes illegal, the ambiguity was deplorable.So the Attorney-General will see that the whole forces of organised trade unions, whether it be definitely Labour in the political sense, or whether it be on the extreme or the moderate side, take the same view of this lamentable step to which the Government are committed. I believe that view will find expression with the greatest unanimity and determination, whenever the first moment of test has to come, in the event of this Bill becoming law. If the organised workers give way to such a policy their decline is assured. They will have forfeited the only means by which, in the past, they have been able to retain anything like a reasonable standard of remuneration or good conditions of service. On whatever matters working men may be disposed to give way, I am convinced they will not, without a fight, whatever the cost may be to the country or to the Government, give way, whenever the moment of test has to come, as to the future exercise of their right of collective bargaining.
1539 As I understand this Clause it will really mean that the greater the grievance of workmen the less is their chance of being able by this Bill to remove it. A strike will be unlawful if it has other objects in addition to the furtherance of a trade dispute, or if it has for its direct object an object other than the furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry in which the workers are engaged. I take those words to mean that a Government later on will be left to determine an illegal strike, not by a consideration of it within the Clause itself, not by the use of any language there is in the Clause, but by the assumed motives or intentions which are behind the act of the workmen. I do not envy those who in future must try to enter into the secret sensations of workmen in their settlement of questions of industrial conflict. Motives and intentions are not always revealed. This Government is ready to guess at them, to undertake to assess them, and having, in their judgment, come to a conclusion as to what the motives and intentions are, to apply the rigours of the law or call up all these penalties in order that men shall be punished for something which they have not revealed and, indeed, cannot reveal. In short, if the 60 odd lines of print are put before any average workmen and he is asked to give his opinion upon what they mean, I am certain he would be as puzzled after reading them 20 times as when he made the first effort. Whatever do they mean?
So much is that so, that I find in different parts of the country some men are not troubling their heads about the Bill, because they say and they have told me, that it can make no difference to what they intend to do, that you cannot compel them to remain at work if they are determined to leave. So that the Government might have tried, I think, in fewer words and in a more direct and a more honest and straightforward way, to deal with the question of a general strike, alleged to be the cause of this Measure. I fear we have not had in any Parliamentary work in modern times any step greater than this towards teaching the masses of the people a contempt for the law, and we do pride ourselves on the Labour side, I assert, upon the regard which 1540 commonly we all entertain for the law when it once is the law. We accept as a rough and ready means for governing this very mixed community the democratic method of counting heads instead of breaking them, and getting majorities of people in order that the law should be settled; but such has been the spirit of evil and of class and party malice behind this Measure, that we are convinced that when it does become law it will not win what is necessary for all law, namely, the respect of those who have to obey it. So that it may well be that in future when anyone wants to justify any kind of Parliamentary or legislative outrage, it will be sufficient to say, "What did the Tory Government do in 1927?"
I finish by saying that, however moderately I might have tried to express my own views, I shall, I hope, be as stalwart as any in any endeavour which workmen make in future to retain what is the distinction between the freeman and the slave. The slave is compelled to remain at his work by the compulsion of his master; the freeman has the right to leave his job whenever he thinks he is entitled to do so. That is a right of which a Government, even a powerful Tory Government, has no title whatever to rob him. You can arrange peace and, I should hope, prosperity in industry, upon the basis not of compulsion but on the basis only of an appeal to reason. This is not an appeal to reason; it is an appeal to numbers; and merely because the Government feels that it has weight of numbers on its side it claims the right to impose this restraint and these wrongs upon organised labour. But we shall stand for the freedom of workmen in future, even after this Bill becomes law, as we have stood for the freedom of workmen in the past.
§ Mr. BROMLEY
I wish to support the Amendment. We on this side of the House and certainly I, personally, believe that Clause 1 is neither well balanced nor understood nor fair in its intentions. There have been changes for the worse, as far as the workmen are concerned, in the Clause since it first appeared in the Bill. Whether we take its original form or the amended form, I can apply quite fearlessly and sincerely the criticism which I have already made of it. Unfortunately it has been conceived 1541 by the Government in panic and in arrogance—in arrogance because of the weight of numbers already referred to, and in panic arising from the national strike of 1026. I suggest to the Government without any fiery words that any Measure conceived in either of those frames of mind, and especially a Measure conceived in both, is not likely to be well balanced or fair to the individuals at whom it is aimed. I can quite conceive that after the calamity which struck the industries of the nation last year all men on all sides of the House and all thinking people would be making some endeavour to avoid a recurrence. I suggest to the Government that the sane and proper and manly way to try to avoid a recurrence would be, not to put shackles on the organised workers, but to endeavour to delve down to the roots of the upas tree and find why such things are considered necessary by the working classes of the country in order to get some measure of justice.
If it had been the honest desire of this tremendously powerful Government, numerically, to avoid a similar occurrence in the future, it would have exerted its power and authority in getting down to the seeds which bring these discontentments amongst working people and trying to remove them, for they are capable of removal. There is sufficient wealth in this country to give a fair deal to our workpeople, and they are sufficiently diligent and honest workpeople to be entitled thereto. Instead of that the Government, in their panic, fearing to go the long and the just way round to salve these sores after proper diagnosis, in their haste and in their belief to make such an occurrence impossible again, bring forward this Bill, of which Clause 1 is the outcome of class hatred and an endeavour to force the slave mentality on the workers of the country. I say coolly and after a great deal of thought given to this Bill as a whole and to Clause 1 in particular, that it is impossible for any Government or any power in this country, now or in the future, to force upon the workers of the country that old bovine spirit of work and sleep and obey all injunctions of whatever character they may be as to their wages and manner of following their employment.
1542 There has emerged from this discussion a suggestion from Members on the Government side that something of the character I have indicated would have been the right way—the conciliation method, the method of inquiry, of looking into things and trying to give the working people a square deal. The Ministerial Bench refused to consider that. I am not going to criticise that decision too vehemently, because I do not think the suggestion could find a place in this Bill. But I do suggest that Clause 1 should be deleted, or, better still, that the whole Bill should be scrapped and some conciliatory method, some method of fair and just inquiry substituted for this class Measure. It has been said from the opposite benches that this is a manufactured agitation and that it is confined to the protests of trade unions. That I am prepared to refute at once. Not only is there no manufacture about the enthusiastic condemnation of this Bill and of Clause 1 in particular, but some of us who are likely to be penalised under the Bill when it becomes law, though that will not have a great deal of terror for us, are already having more difficulty than will be conceived by some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in keeping our people in a calm frame of mind and persuading them to allow us to deal with this matter in this Chamber.
The opposition is wider than the opposition of trade unions. From my own constituency I have had resolutions condemnatory of the Government and of the Bill and of Clause 1 in particular. The opposition comes, in the first place, from co-operative guilds. A few minutes ago the House was considering the question of co-operative societies. There is a large number of co-operative guilds in the constituency that I have the honour to represent, and they send me resolutions framed with as great severity as any framed by trade union branches. Then, again, the board of guardians of Barrow-in-Furness, certainly not a Labour organisation or controlled by its Labour members, has asked me to oppose by every possible means this Bill, and Clause 1 in particular. The town council also passed a resolution, which has been forwarded to me, condemning the Bill, but the Government appear to 1543 be incapable of realising that, instead of curing the evil which it professes to cure, the Bill is likely to cause more turmoil, and disturbance, and dissatisfaction, and probably more industrial disputes in the future than we have experienced as a general rule in the past. I regret that Ministers, who are supposed to be men of perspicacity, education and understanding, do not appear to know the psychology of the working people of their own nation, whom they are endeavouring to suppress by Clause 1. As the Bill originally stood, the first Sub-section of Clause 1 contained the words:Any object beside the furtherance of a trade dispute.Those words might not have been the most meticulous English but they could be generally understood. The amended Bill reads that a strike is illegalif it has any object other than or in addition to the furtherance of a trade dispute.Those words, I suggest, give to legal gentlemen, and also to non-legal gentlemen in the persons of magistrates who may be called upon to deal with these points, the power to veto any industrial dispute in this country, even though it may be the adoption of protective measures by the members of a union against some infringement of their conditions of service by a rapacious employer or set of employers. We are told that the Clause is not meant to have this effect, but as I analyse the alterations made to Clause 1 I see it in that way. I have given it careful consideration and I have had explanations not only in this Chamber but from the Ministry of Labour—given I understand with the cognisance and agreement of the Attorney-General—which would appear to make this Clause less offensive and dangerous than some of us at first thought it was. I suggest, however, that these amendments give it practically the effect which we all feared at first. There might be a dispute, clearly within the confines of a particular industry, for purposes of defence against a proposed lengthening of hours or reduction of wages. People unfriendly to organised labour would be enabled under this Clause to hold that in addition to that defensive object a trade union's action would carry with it in such a case some 1544 coercion or intimidation of the Government or something else apart from the ordinary trade dispute. Clause 1, with all the Amendments that have been made to it, is still an "un-understandable" and difficult Clause which appears to have the definite intention of making practically impossible any legitimate strike or any stand by the workers against aggression on the part of the employers. That is why I so willingly support this Amendment.
I go further in my criticism of the Clause. Suppose that the premises I have put forward are wrong. With all respect, I doubt the bona fides of the Government in the Bill as a whole, and in this Clause in particular, but suppose that I am taking a too severe view and that, for example, a strike of railwaymen would not be held to be intimidatory or to contain within it the germ of something other than an ordinary trade dispute. The Clause would still shackle and confine the trade unions and prevent them from taking part, not in any national strike but in any legitimate strike within an industry, which affected men employed by one employer or one set of employers. It curtails the freedom of the men to withhold their labour from one employer or set of employers. In the last part of Sub-section (1) we find the wordsor between workmen and workmen in that trade or industry,but if we turn to Sub-section (3) we find the wordsWithin the same trade or industry if their wages or conditions of employment are determined in accordance with the conclusions of the same joint industrial council, conciliation board or other similar body.Now my union, for example, has an understanding with the Transport Workers' Union. We have in this city men employed by the London combine, engaged on tubes, trams and omnibuses. The men are in the same employment, the one body of shareholders take the dividends from the pooled results of the operations of these three sets of work-people. Our agreement provides for the underground railwaymen, fighting in defence, or in aggression if necessary alongside of and in conjunction with their fellow trade unionists who operate omnibuses or tramcars. Clause 1 would make that arrangement impossible The men would not be considered to be in the 1545 same industry. The wages and conditions are not fixed by the same conciliation board or other machinery. If the men, actuated by the purest and most altruistic motives, desired to act with their fellow transport workers, and their own colleagues, by refusing to carry traffic, they would be placed in an illegal position. I myself, according to this beneficent Measure, would be likely to find myself in what is euphemistically termed "durance vile." I should be in a particularly lively position under this Measure, because I happen to be both a chief officer of my union and a member of the General Council, and the Attorney-General would be able to get me on two counts. I do not know whether my penalty would be doubled or not. Apart from that, this Clause is a definite infringement of the right of association in reference to workmen employed by one employer, and it does not affect the question of a national strike at which it is supposed to be aimed. Clause 1 goes further than we are told it is intended to go, and I ask for its deletion as a very brutal, ill-considered and badly-balanced proposal.
My union also has an agreement with the members of the electrical trade unions, employed in the generating stations which provide the "juice" for these services Their conditions are not governed by the same conciliation machinery and, consequently, we are debarred from operating with them, though they are employed by the same employers and in the same industry. In the case of any dispute they are to be regarded as a separate industry for the purposes of Clause 1—again without having the slightest effect on any question of a national or general strike. I wish to enlarge on what my right hon. Friend the Mover of the Amendment said with regard to penalties on officers or leaders of trade unions. I think the Government were rather wise to amend the Bill so that it would not penalise the rank and file of trade unionists, though I do not think that proposal would have had the slightest effect on men who were deter mined. The freedom to leave work is a freedom which has always been recognised in this country. One man or a dozen men or 50 men may give notice to leave work. It is only a question of degree, and not of principle where it is a case of a thousand or three thousand men, but, 1546 whatever penalties the Bill might have imposed, they would not have had the slightest effect. I suppose, however, the Government and their advisers thought that by removing the penalty from the rank and file and putting it on the officers, it would make the Bill less objectionable, and would possibly gain sympathy in some quarters, and—though here they must have stretched their imaginations considerably—they may have thought it would intimidate the officers of the trade unions
I say without any arrogance or threat, that it will not do so. I repeat what I said in a previous Debate—that the last person who wants a strike is the trade union officer. There is not one of us who does not like comfort in his life just as much as other people. We would be content to go on conducting the affairs of our organisation, but when the rank and file, through the machinery of their union, which they have democratically arranged and set up determine to leave their work as a protest against some aggression by the employers, they expect their officers to carry out that decision. What do the members of the Government think we are? Do they think that we are the veriest poltroons, that we would accept payment from our fellows in times of peace and quiet, and that a Bill or a Clause in a Bill will cause us to betray that trust when there is a storm? If so, the Government are seriously underrating some of my right hon. and hon. Friends on these benches, and the trade union world generally. The Clause is likely to cause much greater trouble. I remember during the latter part of the War, a rumour got abroad among the South Wales members of my organisation, and spread as far North as Shrewsbury, that I had been arrested for daring to ask for an eight-hour day. Several locomotive depots in South Wales practically ceased work until they got an assurance to the contrary, and the Chief Constable at Shrewsbury had to telephone to Newport where I was staying and get one of his own sergeants to see me personally. I was brought out of bed at one o'clock in the morning because the police officer would take no one's word but my own in order that the men at Shrewsbury might work their trains on the following morning. If that spirit was in evidence in time of war, when no 1547 one was anxious to do anything detrimental to the nation's interest and when there was no question of any trade union suffering, what is going to be the position when the Government's apparent desire is to punish the officers, leaders, or servants of a trade union and when there is a real determination on the part of the men to defend themselves against some aggression?
Do the Government think that by sending us to prison the whole thing is going to collapse like a house of cards? The men would fight with greater virility than ever. In times of peace the democratic spirit of our unions leads the rank and file to kick the officers; it is a part of their recreation. They hammer us and threaten us with all manner of penalties, and they question us at our conferences, not quite in the language to which you, Mr. Speaker, would confine us in this gathering, but in pretty blunt English. But if someone else attacks us, you will find that the family circle closes with greater strength than you would give us credit for in times of peace. I therefore suggest that Clause 1 is deliberately aimed at causing strikes. You can reason with the rank and file of the trade unions if a fair and square deal is given, but threaten to punish those who are serving them when there is a storm, and you will merely precipitate trouble that might otherwise not be there. I seriously ask the Government, even now, if they cannot delete Clause 1 and, in taking the whole Bill back to consider its substitution, think over the whole matter again.
I feel sure that not everyone opposite is quite happy in his mind about this Bill. It goes much further than some honestly intentioned people desire it to do, and I believe that it has awakened the conscience of a great many hon. and right hon. Members opposite. While apparently, in the words which advocate it, though not in its construction, aiming only at a national strike, the Bill stirs up dangers, possibilities of turmoil and trouble, and the determination of the organised workers to resist the filching of their freedom, that many hon. Members opposite, I am sure, do not intend, or at least did not intend, in the early stages of this Measure. I submit that, to be fair to the working people, the better way to salve the sores of the past and prevent outbreaks in the future, 1548 which all of us desire to do, if we can get a square deal, is to see that any inquiry before or at the commencement of any dispute is deep, is searching, and is applied as firmly and fearlessly on the side of the employers as it is on the side of the men. Give the men the idea that they are getting at least a square deal, and you might often avoid disputes and difficulties, but put this Clause 1 on them and tell them that their freedom is going to be taken from them, that they are going to be pushed back into the equivalent of the days of mediæval serfdom, with pressure from above that is going to say that they or those who serve them are to be put in prison for daring to protest against the aggression of the employers, and we are in, not only for the downfall of the great party opposite from this false step, but for years of industrial disputes.
No Measure will prevent workmen leaving their employment if they are sufficiently stung by the aggression of employers to do so. The fear of fine or of imprisonment may be very serious to people who have not lived hard and do not know what it is to have only just enough or not even that, but on the ordinary workmen who had to choose between going back to serfdom, or nearly to slavery, and exhibiting the strength of their manhood to protect themselves against aggression, no Bill of this description would have any other effect than that of arousing passions that all of us who have learned any lessons from the upheaval of 1926 ought to try to allay. We can allay those passions, not by an instrument of class oppression, not by an instrument from a forceful Government to break the spirit of the working people, or to attempt to do so; but by giving them a square deal and fair-play and by letting them know that they have fair-play. In order that a more enlightened spirit may come into the feelings between employer and employed and between this Government and the workers whom they would appear to hold in so much contempt, I support the omission of Clause 1 from the Bill.
§ Mr. MORRIS
I have no desire to traverse the whole of the arguments against the inclusion of Clause 1 in the Bill. The only practical value, as far as I can see, that the Clause has is that it has provided, so far, mental exercise for the House of Commons in trying to 1549 define what a general strike is and under what circumstances it shall be declared illegal, but, apart from that, its practical value cannot be very great. The Clause has the one definite object of making a general strike, or a strike in certain circumstances, criminally illegal, but that will be the least value that the Clause has, for I do not believe that in the circumstances of last year, if such should possibly recur, resort would be had by any Attorney-General or by any Government to the use of this Clause. Resort would be had to the Emergency Powers Act in those circumstances, as was done 12 months ago. But I want to raise one other point, and that is that this Clause may have a totally different effect from that of merely declaring to be criminally illegal a strike in certain circumstances. I conceive that the use to which this Clause may be put is that it may be applied in civil rather than in criminal actions. I imagine that this Clause is going to have a profound effect upon the working of the Trade Disputes Act of 1906. Rightly or wrongly, that Act has placed the trade unions in some respects in a privileged position. Section 3 of that Act reads:An act done by a person in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute shall not be actionable on the ground only that it induces some other person to break a contrace of employment or that it is an interference with the trade, business, or employment of some other person, or with the right of some other person to dispose of his capital or his labour as he wills.What is the result? Supposing an action is done by a member or an official of a trade union which would be covered by the Act of 1906. I will take the case of a sympathetic strike. This Clause 1 of the Bill before the House says that any strike is illegal if it has any object other than or in addition to the furtherance of a trade dispute within a trade or industry. Take the case of the railwaymen, where a dispute takes place in the coal trade and the railwaymen come out in support of the miners. The moment that the railwaymen come out in support of those miners, although that does not necessarily make it an illegal strike for criminal proceedings, it is clearly not a strike within the trade or industry, and any action done by them is not done in pursuance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry. It may be pleaded, therefore, in an action brought against them, which 1550 would be barred by the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, that under this Clause that action was illegal, and it, would not be protected by the Act of 1906. The effect of this Clause, therefore, although it has to do with criminal offences in its main intention, will be the effect it will have in repealing the Trade Disputes Act in civil proceedings. That may or may not be a desirable thing to do, but it certainly is going to be one of the results flowing from the passage of this Bill. It may or may not be a legitimate thing to repeal those powers and to change that privileged position under the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, but my argument is that this is not the way to do it, and that, if it is to be done at all, it should be done openly and frankly, not by a side door.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. HAYDAY
I rise to add my voice to the protest that has been made in connection with Clause 1 of this Bill. My first objection to the Clause is that it is totally unnecessary and gives undue prominence to the question of strikes. I wonder whether the Government, before introducing this Clause into the Bill, made a survey of the whole of our industrial relationships for, say, the past 10 or 15 years, and whether they caused to be extracted for them the percentage of settlements arranged by negotiation as compared with the settlements forced by strikes or lock-outs. If they had, they would have come to the conclusion that it is quite unnecessary to give this pre-eminent position to strikes, as though they were in themselves the greatest handicap towards settlements and as though settlements so forced were likely to leave an imprint of hardship upon the nation or upon a considerable portion of the community. As one who has had some little hand in negotiations, I suggest that quite 90 per cent. of the differences between bodies of employers and of workmen have been settled by negotiations, short or long. The cases in which there was a failure of negotiations, for which neither the employés nor their representatives can be held solely responsible, represent only 10 per cent. Therefore, it is not statesmanship to put the question of the strike in the forefront and attempt to frighten people by saying, "If only we make strikes illegal there will be industrial prosperity, and we shall drive those who otherwise would resort to strikes to make settlements 1551 by negotiation." We shall do no such thing. What the Bill will do will be to give the strike an undeserved preeminence in the world of industry. The strike will now be the first thing thought of, because there will be a desire to test this legislation.
For the past three weeks I have been at Geneva, where a possible questionnaire for Governments on the subject of freedom of association was under discussion, and I found there that the action of the British Government in introducing this Bill was reflected in the views of other Governments. In conversations outside the conference room it was suggested that Great Britain, in collaboration with Italy, was moving in the direction of limiting freedom of association amongst industrialists to a circumscribed area which would always give a Government Department an influence over every act which the men might think of embarking upon. The spirit of reaction started by the introduction of this Bill has now found its way abroad. It is copied and looked upon as a good thing. I would say to the Government, "You are not dealing with members of a Latin race. You are not dealing with industrialists who have never yet had an opportunity of organising themselves in their trade unions. You are dealing with a far different race, who are not given to sporadic outbursts or periods of excitable emotion, and the more you attack them and try to cripple their liberties the greater the resentment you will arouse within them. "But that resentment will not express itself in the way in which many of those who, no doubt, were behind the promotion of this Bill would like to see. They would like to see an outburst in some aggravated form which would give the Government an opportunity of bringing into play the forces which this Bill places at their disposal, an excuse to beat down the workmen.
Workmen who have attempted to negotiate terms with their employers and have failed will not submit to being told, "You must not do this for fear of imprisonment. You must not do that because it will be illegal and you will be punished. "You cannot say to a man suffering from a grievance that he must submit to it, that he must not do anything 1552 for fear of incurring punishment; because if I know the British character I know that it is the very last thing he will do. A man who finds that his terms of service cannot bring him wages which will enable him to give his children the education they desire to have and the food, clothing and housing accommodation which he desires to provide for them will not be tied down by an Act of Parliament. He will strike if he feels that that is the last method open to him. If he strikes agains an employer who is trying to beat him down, and that employer turns to some other branch of the industry to ask them to produce his goods for his customers, do you think we would not encourage those other workmen to take sympathetic action in order to defeat the aims of that employer? You are asking too much of human nature if you expect we would refuse to do that.
It is said this Bill is designed to deal only with strikes which have some other object than the purely industrial one. Let me ask the Attorney-General if he could define a dispute which arose in these circumstances as being legal or illegal? There is an industry where the workers are suffering hardships because of the refusal of the Government to ratify the Washington Hours Convention, and there is a possibility of a dispute not only over the question of wages but for a reduction in hours. The argument used by the employer would be that he would be willing to reduce the hours if the Government would ratify the Washington Hours Convention. Therefore, that question would become part of the dispute, and that is a political issue, but it is an issue raised by the failure of the Government to carry out its word. I suppose the Attorney-General would say that was clearly an illegal dispute. Every dispute arising out of the question of long hours might well be brought within the same category. It is said that the workers are getting a measure of protection in so far as employers have been placed in the same category with regard to lock-outs as the workers are in regard to strikes. That is so much moonshine. I am sure the Attorney-General, with his astute legal mind, and the others who framed the Bill, know very well that that provision might just as well have been left out, because it is of no effect at all. If an employer wishes 1553 to make his workpeople accept a set of conditions which they are not inclined to accept he need not say, "I will lock you out and starve you until such time as you do submit." All he need say is, "I must close down my works because it is no longer profitable for me to carry them on." He closes down on that pretence. It is not a lock-out within the legal interpretation of the phrase, or within the terms of this Bill, but it is the same thing, and the employer can in that way evade any liability he otherwise might run under this Bill.
Whatever the Government may do in connection with this Bill I want to tell them they have put back the industrial development of this country more years than one cares to think. If I were now back in the workshop and were suffering under a sense of grievance I would not give the best that is within me. Good treatment will bring good service. Bad treatment and mistrust will bring bad service. Good will is not created by leaving men with a feeling that they are crippled and handicapped because of legislation which the Government have passed telling them they must not do this and that. That will not encourage a man to do the best he can. I would give only in accordance with the treatment I received, and I make no bones about saying it. I would say to the members of my organisation, "If you are treated harshly you cannot give generously." If they are treated as free men when entering into negotiations to settle their differences, a very different atmosphere will prevail. I repeat what I have said, that you are giving the question of strikes a position of prominence out of all proportion to its importance. You are weakening our Joint Industrial Councils, you are weakening the opportunities for conciliation, and weakening the possibility of successful negotiations. Our members will say, "We may spend seven or eight months in discussing a possible settlement but if we are up against a class of reactionary employers, these will say to themselves We need not come to a settlement, we have always this Act of Parliament behind us and these men will have to be very careful as to any steps they take if these negotiations fail."
Suspicion will enter into all negotiations in which we engage. I do not want the Government to take my word for it. Let them ask any prominent employer 1554 in the country what advantage he is going to get from this Bill. I have met a good many of them since this Bill was introduced and they all have fears as to the consequences of the Measure. They fear it is going to upset the development of factory welfare schemes and works' committees, and cheek that improvement in industrial relationships that was just emerging from the turmoil of the dispute of last year. The rough edges were beginning to disappear, but now the raw sores begin to show again. There is doubt and mistrust because the Government during a moment of panic pledged themselves to something which they cannot now let go with any sense of dignity. All these disturbing elements are at work, and within the course of the next year or two, instead of industrial development, you will be confronted with further difficulties. All the full flush of the industrial spring which the Government have been looking for will have trickled away, and class hatred will be the only result. I never conceived that mighty capitalist representatives, containing all the best of the great professions of the country, would be found so ready to belittle their abilities as to introduce a Bill of this kind for the purpose of attacking the free men of the country who saved us during the War. Now you are saying to these men, "You have come through a testing time, and before you have quite recovered we are going to let loose upon you the bully of the law, and we will keep you down."
The last thing we think about is a strike, because we are not thinking so much about the men themselves as the women and children, and we are not going to allow the Government or any law to pin down those women and children to a standard of living established by the supporters of the present Government. We have our ideas as to what a reasonable life should be. We say, if there is to be responsibility on our side, there must be obligations and responsibility upon the other side, and you are not going to get that by stripping yourself for a scrap with all the full force of the law behind you, because moral rights in the end will beat bad laws. So long as moral right is on our side, then, though the battle may be stern through misrepresentation by the Conservative Government, there is bound to come a 1555 reckoning day, and, when it comes, I hope that the blow will fall more softly upon those who are attacking us now.
Lord HENRY CAVENDISHBENTINCK
When this Clause was being discussed in Committee, I made an appeal to the Government on the ground that there was so much ambiguity in the Clause that there was a great fear that under it we might travel very much further than the declarations of the Government. I am aware that the Clause has been improved from that point of view in Committee, but there is still too much ambiguity about it, and there is a very great fear that the Clause, as now worded, will interfere very largely with the perfectly legitimate activities of trade unions, and will take from them rights and privileges which they have enjoyed for a great number of years. My doubts about this Clause have been confirmed by that most respectable journal the "Times," which the other day, in an article on the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Bill, drew attention to these points, and, if I may be allowed to inflict a rather long quotation upon the House, I would like to quote a passage from this article, which says:Clause 1, in short, certainly emerges from Committee improved. But this is not to say that it is even yet flawless, and between now and the Report stage it is to be hoped that it will be subjected to further scrutiny. There is still wide disagreement as to its meaning and effect. For instance, it continues to be loudly asserted on the one side (and denied on the other) that the Clause illegalises all sympathetic strikes. Again, the question is still asked whether the Bill illegalises any strike which is confined to a single industry. If, for instance, a coal strike (1) aims at nationalisation (an object besides the furtherance of a trade dispute within the industry), and (2) is designed or calculated to coerce the Government, does Clause 1 declare it illegal or not? In logic it is hard to see why the Bill should not aim at illegalising such a strike, if coercive, no lees than a sympathetic strike, if coercive. But the point under consideration is whether the Section as drafted does so. Here, again, there seems to be doubt. Thirdly, what is the meaning of designed or calculated to coerce? The normal rules of construction suggest that 'calculated' here means something other than 'designed.' If so, it must mean 'likely in fact.' Is it the intention of the Government that a strike, which was not designed to coerce the Government, but accidentally resulted in doing so, should expose its promoters to imprisonment? It is to 1556 be hoped that even at this advanced stage language will be found of a kind to resolve these ambiguities (whether real or illusory) beyond the possibility of doubt.It is evidently not clear from the "Times" article what is the meaning of Clause 1, and I venture to make a renewed appeal to the Government to have another try, and see if they cannot put down words which are really watertight, and will not carry the meaning of the Clause further than they want to go. The Attorney-General has said many times that this Clause is designed to do nothing except prevent a general strike, but I would remind him that the interpretations of the Court have to be placed upon the plain words of this Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament, and it very questionable whether it is wise to keep this Clause in the Bill in its present ambiguous state. In all good faith, I make a further appeal to the Government, and I ask if it is really worth while persisting in this Clause at all? What do the Government really think that they are going to get by this Clause? Do they think that they will prevent either a general strike or any particular strike? Do they really think that it will promote peace in industry? Is it not 10 times more probable that it will stir up ill-will, class hatred, and bitterness, and so promote the very result which this Bill, we are told, was designed to prevent? It was said in the eighteenth century that we lost our American Colonies for the sake of a formula, and put it to the Government whether there is not a grave fear that we may alienate all the organised labour of this country merely for the purpose of giving them a pinprick. Before this Bill was introduced Lord Birkenhead said:The Government was well aware that the introduction of this Bill would stir up a great deal of bitterness in the country, and involve the Government in a very bitter quarrel with organised labour.If Lord Birkenhead and the Government were well aware of that, then they have introduced this Bill deliberately, with their eyes open. I have great respect for Lord Birkenhead, but I definitely refuse to quarrel with the trade unionists of my constituency on this matter at every election, and I question very much the wisdom of a Clause like this, either from a political or a national 1557 point of view. I think it is accepted by everybody who has had any experience in these matters that a Government cannot do a more stupid or a suicidal thing than to arouse among a large section of the people of the country a keen sense of grievance, and there is no better way than that for a Government to dig its own electoral grave. I question the value of this Clause from the national point of view. Surely, with our trade in the condition in which it is now it should be the object of our statesmanship to promote the maximum of good will, conciliation, and co-operation between class and class. As a matter of fact, that has been realised by a very large number of labour leaders, and as Lord Grey has pointed out:There has been a return to reason, and the things which grow in an atmosphere of reason have decidedly made progress.That passage was written before this Bill was introduced. I would also refer hon. Members to the last report of the Labour Ministry which drew attention to the fact that the industrial councils, so far from having been weakened by the general strike, were strengthened, and that both employers and workmen had concentrated their attention on strengthening the machinery for conciliation. It is a fact which I do not think is sufficiently realised in this House that every important industry in this country is covered by conciliation and arbitration machinery. Even the coal industry is at the present moment under conciliation machinery, and it is lamentable that the only contribution the Government can make is to treat trade union leaders as naughty children and attempt to pour a dose of nauseous medicine down their throats. If we are to have peace in industry, we can only have it in one way, and that is by promoting the atmosphere of peace. As Burke said during the American War of Independence:The proposition is peace—not peace through the medium of war, but peace sought in the spirit of peace and on principles purely pacific.Those words are as true to-day as when they were spoken. Therefore, I make this appeal to the Government to withdraw the Clause, and let us have peace in industry on the principle of good will and co-operation in industry, rather than 1558 on principles of repression and restriction, on which the Government are relying at the present moment.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
The Noble Lord who has just spoken has sounded a note from the past which recalls the finer and more prosperous days of the Conservative party, but, unfortunately, the warning which he himself gave, in a very remarkable work on Conservatism, has been fulfilled. Some years ago he invited the Conservative party "to cast out the money-bags from the Temple." That clearance was not effected, and to-day we witness the tragic spectacle of the Noble Lord and his class weighted down in that temple beneath the money-bags of the bourgeois plutocracy who now control the Tory party. The Noble Lord has my profoundest sympathy, for the last refuge of aristocracy is on these benches. The Noble Lord, at any rate, has the traditional courage of his convictions. He condemned this Bill at the outset, and he faced the wrath of the party caucus, and even of some people in his own constituency—though I think not many—in order to give effect to his convictions. Therefore, I must confess that I entertain for him a far greater measure of respect in this matter, as I do in most matters, than for that gathering of young Conservative Members on the benches opposite who have supported this Clause and this Bill at every stage, who have assisted in the generation of an atmosphere of strife and of class hatred, and who then, a few days ago, at the very last phase of this Bill, revived the cant of peace and good will.
We heard speeches from such Members as the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Captain Macmillan) —speeches which were almost the post mortem of Baldwinism, if I may use the expression. They were trying last week to recapture the magic of last year's cant. The bewildered disciples of the fallen prophet were making the speeches that the Prime Minister used to make two years ago. But they are too late; they are merely aggravating the offence of their party, for the electorate is very human in this matter. They object to a man picking a pocket, but they object still more when he sings a hymn about it. I prefer the frank and downright attack of a die-hard to the attack of a man who supports the Conservative party, who 1559 derives all the advantages which support of that great organisation gives him, who engenders the class strife in which this country is now immersed, and then comes down to this House and talks pious platitudes about the peace and good will which he himself has destroyed. That is not the way to peace or to good will. The way, and the only way, is to build peace in industry upon the sure foundation of social justice. In the hearts of a free people, peace and injustice have never yet lived together, and industrial strife, I regret to say, will continue in this land while Measures of this character remain on the Statute Book, and while social inequality is perpetuated by the class interest of a class party.
The Noble Lord said that this Bill had been in some respects improved during the Committee stage. I beg to differ from that statement. I think that, in so far as the Bill has been altered, it has been altered for the worse. But a more interesting consideration, on the Report stage, is to compare the actual admissions of the Government during the progress of these Debates with the claims which the spokesmen of the Government made during the earlier stages, and I propose very briefly to examine, in respect of this Clause, some of the claims which Government spokesmen advanced on the Second Reading and during the Committee stage of Clause 1, with the facts which have emerged under the painful process of cross-examination, to which the Attorney-General has submitted other victims in the Courts, and to which he himself has had to submit in this House. It was contended from these benches at the outset that the sympathetic strike would be made impossible under Clause 1 of this Bill. The Government, with all the emphasis at their command, denied that. The Government ment said that a sympathetic strike was still permissible, that they did not aim in any way at depriving the worker of the right to go to the aid of a comrade so long as the design was not to coerce the Government of the day. But, under the painful process of inquiry into this Measure, we very speedily found that the Attorney-General was compelled to give this definition: he said that, if a cessation of work takes place in any particular industry, the 1560 maximum pressure that can be exerted has been brought to bear on the owners in that particular industry; and then he went on to say that, if any other body of workers come out in support of the workers in the primary trade, they cannot be striking to put pressure on the owners in the primary trade; their strike is clearly designed to coerce the Government of the day. That was the definition which the Attorney-General gave, and which is on evidence—
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Douglas Hogg)
If the hon. Member purports to be quoting me, I should like him to give me the reference when I said that.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
If the right hon. Gentleman will look up the report of the proceedings on the first allotted day in Committee, he will see where he gave, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), precisely the definition which I am now quoting; and, if the right hon. Gentleman will further refresh his memory, he will recollect that a specific question was put to him by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who asked what would be the position if the railwaymen refused to transport, in the case of a coal strike, firstly, coal imported from abroad, and, secondly, coal produced by blackleg labour from the British mines, from one point in Britain to another? The Attorney-General replied that in both cases the railwaymen would be committing an illegal act. In the first case, it is clear that, if they refused to bring in coal from abroad, and the Government were the importing authority, it might be represented as a strike against the Government; but, in the second case, a refusal to transport coal produced in the British mines from one point in Britain to another is directed primarily, clearly, not against the Government of the day, but against the coalowner, whose profits are directly affected by the refusal to transport his coal. The right hon. Gentleman—the words are on record—gave that very clear-cut definition. As I have pointed out, and as the right hon. Gentleman, if he refers to a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT, will see, he very clearly said that, in the case of a sympathetic strike when a complete cessation of labour had taken place in the primary 1561 trade, the sympathetic strike could not be aimed at the owners in that trade, but must be aimed at the Government, and so would be illegal under the terms of the Act. I refreshed my memory on that point only yesterday, and on reference to the OFFICIAL REPORT the right hon. Gentleman will, I think, admit the justice of my quotation.
At any rate, he will not resist the proposition that the right of sympathetic strike on any material scale is very seriously affected, that he is in fact saying to the working classes, "You may strike in small detachments; then you are sure to be beaten; but you may not strike in large detachments; then you may win, and you may affect the pockets of our friends." Clearly, once such a definition is laid down, the chances of success of any working-class force in any industrial struggle are very seriously reduced. Suppose that in the late War the Germans had been able to define for us the conditions of war, and that they had been able to lay down rules which applied to us and not to them. Suppose that they had been able to say, "You may only come out of your trenches in twos and threes; you may not attack upon a wide front; you may not attack in mass; you may not attack with artillery fire supporting you, to blow away all our barbed wire entanglements, but you may come out in small detachments, you may come out singly-then our machine guns can easily shoot you down." What would have been the prospect of success in a struggle waged under those conditions?
The right hon. Gentleman and the party supporting him know perfectly well that the only chance of success in a working-class struggle is a strike on a wide scale, which exerts real pressure upon the opponents of the working class; and they know that, if a limitation is placed on that right, if they are in small detachments, in small parties, the working class can be beaten down. They know, in fact, that in every struggle of recent years, if they have consented to be beaten in detail, when the workers in one trade have gone down the wages of practically every other section of the workers have speedily followed. When the miners came out in 1921, alone, and went down, the railwaymen and practically every category of workers in the country followed within a very short 1562 space of time. They learned their lesson, and, the next time, they resisted the attack—which was, in fact, an attack originating from the policy of the Government—not singly or in detachments, but in their masses and in their strength; and at that moment, when they had learned the lesson of combination, the Government took steps to deprive them for ever of the weapon of effective resistance. There are other considerations, other exposures of the Government's pretensions, Which have taken place during these Debates. We were told, to begin with, that the only design of this Measure was to prevent some great revolutionary conspiracy designed to overturn the whole fabric of the State, planned and calculated to defeat and to ruin the Government of the day, and bring to an end orderly government, the Constitution, and everything else which this country holds dear. But, as we proceeded in these Debates, we came to quite different definitions of the Measure that is now before us.
It was clear, of course, from the outset, that no one would really seriously propose to stop a violent revolution by law. After all, if a violent revolution has any object at all, its first object is to overturn all existing law, and it was farcical to suggest that people imbued with that intention would be deterred by passing one law more. The thing was absurd from the outset. But, as we proceeded to question and to examination during the Committee stage, we found that what was calculated to coerce the Government was not, in fact, any design or intention in the minds of strikers or their organisers, but a situation which, in the mind of some Conservative magistrate or Judge, was likely to result in pressure being put on the Government of the day. The Attorney-General, during the Committee stage, defined the word calculated" as "likely." He said that it had often been held in a Court of Law to mean just "likely." So then we got far away from the great revolutionary conspiracy of the fevered dreams of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—a great subversive force planning and plotting the downfall of Britain under the directions of Moscow. All that vanished with his other dreams into the land of the past forgotten, and happily forgotten. I share the right hon. Gentleman's happiness in forgetting the past. 1563 All those things passed away, and we found, in fact, that a strike became illegal if in the opinion of the Judge it was likely to coerce the Government. Then we departed altogether from the intentions of the strikers or trade union leaders and we came to the character of the Government. How likely is a Government to be coerced? That depended upon the strength or feebleness of the Government, and clearly if the criterion of a strike's illegality is to be with his other dreams into the land of the ineptitude displayed by the Government, under the present Government all strikes would be illegal.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
The Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to throw doubt upon the contention that, under the definition of his not so adroit colleague the Attorney-General, the question whether a striker becomes a criminal or not depends on the strength or feebleness of the Government of the day, but, clearly, if in the first Clause of this Bill the word "calculated" can be held in the Courts to mean "likely," if we merely have to consider what is likely to coerce a Government, we have to consider the strength or feebleness of that Government, and that depends very much on who is in charge of the Government. If it is dominated by a personality such as that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if then at a moment of national menace he shows a strong and firm hand, the Government is not likely to be coerced, but if by an unfortunate chance the leadership of the Conservative party reverts not to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as it undoubtedly should, for he is much the ablest man in the Government, but falls rather to a type of character which the stupid party invariably chooses, we will say the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Government is very likely to be coerced. Then any interest, any force, in the community can push it hither or thither, but if strength, resolution, determination, as typified by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is in charge, nothing could shake such a rock of purpose. I am sure those are propositions from which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not 1564 dissent. I have always made myself one promise, that at some moment or other from the Labour Benches I will put forward a proposition in which I should win the cordial assent of the right hon. Gentleman. I firmly believe I have just done it. I think that illustrates the fact that the illegality of any strike depends no longer upon the intention or design of the striker but rather upon the character of the Government of the day.
The Attorney-General a little earlier in the discussion disputed a definition which I ascribed to him. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) put this question to him:Suppose the miners have engaged in this legitimate trade dispute. The railwaymen and the other transport workers feel that it is their duty to go to their help, and they withdraw their labour in support of the miners' dispute, and in doing so, in the words of the Clause, they inflict hardship upon the community. I want to ask a simple specific question. Will the action of the transport workers or the railwaymen or any other body of men, under the precise circumstances which I have mentioned, be a legal or an illegal action?I think I gave a very fair summary of the question put to the right hon. Gentleman. The Attorney-General replied:That is a plain question to which I can give quite a plain answer,and unfortunately for his party he gave the first plain answer of the Debate:The strike of the transport workers or the railwaymen, in the case which has been put to me, could obviously not be a strike to put pressure upon the employers or the miners. It could only be a strike which was designed to put pressure upon the Government to compel them to act. That, in my view, would be illegal and illegitimate either by this Bill or independent of this Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1927; col. 1034, Vol. 206.]That is precisely the situation which I described to the right hon. Gentleman and from which he so vigorously dissented. That is the satiation in which, when a strike has taken place in a primary industry, the maximum pressure which can be exerted hay been brought to bear on the owners in that industry and consequently any body of men coming out in support of the workers in that primary industry are held under the Bill, and in the opinion of the Attorney-General, to be directing their attack not against the owners in the primary industry, but against the Government of the day, and it is very difficult indeed 1565 to conceive any sympathetic strike which under that definition can be held to be legal. So as we proceed in the painful process of elucidating information we find a very grave divergence indeed between the actual facts and admissions which now emerge and the original contention of the Government.
But this matter proceeds rather further than the admissions of the Government. We are now considering a Measure which, in the claim of the Government, is designed to prevent revolution, but which I believe is in fact a Bill for the promotion of revolution. I make that statement for this reason. The Government ensures that under this Measure every strike must rapidly pass into the hands of people whose intention is revolutionary. They make provision for putting in gaol, for getting out of the way, any trade union leader who obeys the wishes of the rank and file to take part in a struggle of this kind. They leave workers on strike without responsible leadership of any kind, without leadership that can function in the open, and that is precisely the situation which in every historic position has led to revolution. Instead of Unity House, with its gilt-edged respectability—I think everyone will admit the respectability and integrity of such an institution—you are to have the secret society of the Continent. A leader cannot openly, on the public platform or in his trade union office, conduct a strike which the rank and file instruct him to conduct. If he does, he goes immediately to gaol, and men take his place who will meet not in the offices of a trade union, but in the caves and cellars of revolutionary conspiracy, hunted and chased by the police, as on the Continent in similar situations, and in such a condition you inevitably get that development of the revolutionary and violent mind which Toryism always produces. If you make impossible the open conduct of a strike, inevitably you produce the secret conditions of conspiracy and underground struggle which inevitably bring the evil in their train which this Government affects to detest.
This Bill, for which such grandiose pretensions were advanced and which has been exposed to such a remarkable extent in the course of these Debates, is introduced without authority or mandate of any kind from the 1566 people. When and where was any tampering with trade unionism submitted to the people? The history of this matter is very simple. In 1913 the position of the trade unions was regularised and settled with the consent of all parties. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer played some part in that legislation. The leader of the Conservative party, Mr. Bonar Law, advised his followers not to vote against the Third Reading of the Trade Union Bill. It was settled by consent, and I challenge any Conservative to mention any statement or pronouncement by any responsible leader of his party since that day even suggesting they were going to tamper with this great institution. Conservative candidates were not walking round at the last Election with placards round their necks saying "Vote for lower wages and ending trade unions." They were talking of Very different issues indeed, into which I will not now enter. But in this matter a very grave constitutional issue is raised by the party that sets itself up as the defender of the constitution. Supposing the Labour party, to take an analogy, did something which I hope it never will do and promised to leave a reformed House of Lords in exactly the situation in which the Tory Government had left it, won an election on totally different issues, and then brought in a Measure to abolish the House of Lords, what would be said from the benches opposite? "Bolshevism," "the overthrow of the Constitution," "the end of democratic Government," and at once the usual appeals to violence and bloodshed would be raised. But they are doing a precisely analogous thing in this Measure. Having won their power on totally different issues, by methods which I will not now describe, they use that power to uproot one of the greatest institutions in the land, an integral part of the Constitution which they say they are out to defend, and how grave a departure from any previous legislation is contained in this Bill is well exemplified in the Clause we are now considering.
The Government in this Clause say, at any rate, to some categories of workers—and this will not be denied—"Under some conditions you may not leave your jobs when you want to. You have to stay at work under the conditions and under the wages that we dictate for as 1567 long as the Judges in the Law Courts say you will." "Oh," says the Attorney-General, "they may leave singly, but they may not leave collectively." A very great concession indeed! The right hon. Gentleman says to the working classes, "We confer upon you a great privilege, the privilege our party has always conferred on the poor, the privilege of starving alone. If in your sad plight any other man comes out in sympathy with you, to help you, or fight for you, not only do you starve, but you become also a criminal." They go further than that. In the Clause that defines a strike, connected with the Clause we are now discussing they go so far as to say that a man who is out of employment, and will not accept employment, will not accept a blackleg's job to destroy and to undermine the resistance of his own class, is also to be branded as a criminal. So we find in this legislation the principle of slavery and compulsory labour frankly avowed and erected into an integral part of the Constitution of freedom. This Measure is brought forward and passed by an automatic majority through a House of Commons ruling a nation which led the world in abolishing those conditions among black men and savages. I do not and will not believe that a condition such as this can long survive in a nation such as ours, and I believe that before many months have passed this Government will meet the fate which tyranny, treachery and cowardice deserve at the hands of a free people.
§ Mr. REMER
The hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat prefaced his speech with a reference to money-bags. I do not know whether he is an authority on this subject, but he gave me the impression, and I think also some of my hon. Friends on this side, that that speech to which we have just listened had been studied at length on the tennis courts which, I understand, he has just erected. We have listened now to three speeches from the opposite side all of which have told us about the great class struggle which is going to ensue as the result of the passing of this Bill. They have told us we are wrecking the cause of peace and disturbing the relations between employer and employed, and stirring up trouble and strife in the industrial 1568 life of the country. If I thought that, I should be one of the bitterest opponents of the Bill. It is because I believe this Bill is going to bring industrial peace and happiness and prosperity to working people that I am a supporter of it.
When the hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat spoke about this Bill being one to stop strikes, I might ask, what is that strike to which he refers going to have as its object? Is it a strike such as we had in May of last year, designed solely in order to further the economic fallacies of hon. Gentlemen opposite? Is it merely for political objects or for industrial objects? I venture to say that if it is a strike of a kind which has purely industrial objects, it will be just as possible after this Bill as it was before, and it is only that class of strike having definite political objects, such as was the case last year, which is prevented and dealt with in this Bill. When we hear the speeches of the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Bromley), the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) and that of the hon. Member who has just resumed his seat, and when we think of what happened in the life of this Parliament and the speeches made by the Prime Minister appealing for peace, and the appeals made from all people on this side of the House who desire to avoid the wrecking of our industrial life, which became such a vivid memory to us last year, and when we realise the reception given to those appeals and remember the hon. Members opposite who are largely responsible for the disaster to our trade and industry through the general strike of last May, then we should realise what the effect upon our trade has been. And it is because I believe that a repetition of the general strike, which some hon. Members opposite say they are going to have, would mean an end to all business in our country and untold disaster to our people, that I support the Bill.
If the hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat asks me what is our mandate, I say the mandate of the Conservative party, and the Conservative Government or any other Government, is to save our country from impending disaster. I say that as far as our mandate is concerned, we have not only a mandate but an obligation to see that 1569 no further general strikes are made possible, and that our country is saved not merely from the revolutionary actions of certain members of the Socialist party, but from the economic fallacies they have put forward. We on this side, viewing the future and the verdict which may be given as the result of the passing of this Bill into law, are not afraid of that verdict, and we shall stand shoulder to shoulder to see that that verdict is put forward, free from the misrepresentation of hon. Gentlemen opposite. When that verdict is given, we shall not be afraid, for it will be on the side of the Conservative party and the Conservative Government, of which I am a supporter.
§ Mr. NAYLOR
I am, I hope, a man of peace. For many years past I have been working on behalf of peace in industry, and I was one of the few trade union officials who took a certain attitude of opposition to what is called the general strike of last year; and one would suppose that having the opinion that the working classes had nothing to gain as a result of the policy of a general strike, I might be expected to be supporting this Bill. I want to explain why I am opposing, not only the Bill, but especially Clause 1. Although one might oppose in principle and practice the policy of a general strike, and even might admit that the consequences of the general strike might prove to be injurious to the best interests of the working classes, that is not to say that we ought to interfere with the rights of trade unionists to combine in whatever way they decide must be in their interests. It is not for the minority in any movement or school of thought to attempt to force by legislation views which they cannot maintain without it.
Surely in this generation we are entitled to liberty of thought and liberty of action in things which do not aim at the revolution of which we have heard so much from hon. Members opposite. I ask them, by what right do they interfere with the privilege of trade unions combining together and using the industrial weapon in the way they think will best serve their ends? Clause 1 aims at the liberty of the subject, a principle which members of the Conservative party are always preaching throughout the country. The Attorney-General has said that the Bill, and Clause 1 in particular, aims at 1570 preventing a recurrence of the events of May of last year. Why should he aim at preventing the trade union movement exercising the right they have had for generations past and won from this House by legislative enactment? We are told by certain lawyers in this House that the proceedings in the general strike were illegal. Then why do we want this Clause in the Bill? If it is to be said that a combination of that kind is against the State and aims at the existence of the State, there can be no doubt whatever but that that action is illegal, but even this afternoon the question has been asked as to whether or not the action of May of last year was, in itself, revolutionary in character.
As one who was engaged in that movement I want to say, definitely and emphatically, that it was of a purely industrial character, and had no aims beyond that of assisting the miners in their efforts to secure a living wage. Speaking as one who passed through that movement—and my colleagues will say the same thing—I can say that our men came out with no other purpose than that the miners should be supported, because they felt if the miners were defeated then there would be no limit to the losses which they themselves might sustain by reason of the defeat of the miners. Therefore, I am quite justified in saying there was no question whatever of attacking the State. Why should we wish to attack the State—we who hold positions in this House as well as in the trade union movement? What interest could we serve by any action on our part designed or calculated to overthrow the State? The idea is absurd. We have by our presence in this House, certified our intention of proceeding by peaceful political means to the purpose of reconstructing our social and economic system, and surely that is sufficient guarantee in itself to have persuaded anyone but a Conservative that our intentions were peaceful as far as the State was concerned.
There is another reason why, I think, that this Clause is a mistake. I have had some experience in negotiating with employers and in the work of the Joint Industrial Councils, and I have, very much to my regret, noticed that since this Bill has been introduced a change has come over the scene—a change perhaps, that might cause, in the near or 1571 distant future, the interests of those Joint Industrial Councils to be most seriously affected. I, for one, would greatly regret that that should take place. At a recent, meeting of the industry to which I belong, there came up a question which has already been discussed by this House on a Bill brought forward a year or two ago, as to the desirability of making the decisions of Joint Industrial Councils binding by legislative enactment on all those in the trade or industry. I have to tell this House that when that question came up again only a few months ago, such was the effect of the action of the Government in introducing this Bill, that the representatives at that conference would have nothing to do with the idea of carrying on that process.
I can assure the House that the last has not been heard of the effects of this Bill upon the work of the Joint Industrial Councils. Those of us who have been responsible for negotiations of this kind know from our experience that it is in the interests of those we represent to preserve the peace in industry. While we would not sacrifice the right to strike either by accepting the principle of arbitration or by accepting even the terms of a Bill of this character, we still believe that the strike, whether the weapon be used or not, is the only weapon that the trade union has of enforcing its beliefs. We know at the same time, having that faith in the power to withdraw our labour, that once the necessity comes it is most unlikely that the use of the weapon will be effective. I think my colleagues who have had experience of these negotiations know perfectly well that when negotiations have reached the point when disagreement becomes final and there is no help for it, either for the lock-out or for the strike, in nine cases out of 10 the strike will be unsuccessful. Yet, what would have been the conditions of the working classes of this country to-day if it had not been for the power that they have always possessed to withdraw their labour?
We who have been educated in the movement have come to the conclusion that we cannot part with this power to strike, reluctant as we may be at all times to use it. I can go back over the past 20 years and honestly confess, after an experience of strikes and of peaceful 1572 negotiation, that, in most cases, we get more out of peaceful negotiation than we get by threatening a strike at the very outset of negotiations in the event of demands not being conceded. Prior to the introduction of this Bill, we who were supporting the peace-in-industry movement were hoping that we had succeeded in getting the vast majority of the trade unionists of this country, and the trade unions collectively, to recognise that fact. There was a new spirit in industry arising which made it possible for representatives of the men and representatives of employers to meet, knowing that one side or the other had to give something away, and believing that by reason and argument, and by friendship and good will on both sides we on our side were likely to get more than by any other means that we could adopt.
That was the position before the introduction of this Bill. What is it now? Even with the introduction of the Bill a great change has taken place in the attitude of the men whom we represent, and I feel confident that were I to go before my own men and suggest that we should bind ourselves to a movement which might be described as the peace-in-industry movement, the proposition would be turned down mainly because of the anger that the men feel at this interference with their right to combine. I suggest to the Government, and especially to the Attorney-General, that it is not fair to place this handicap upon the liberty of action of men who, although they may not desire ever to take that course of action again, certainly ought not to be restricted by an enactment of this kind.
A good deal is said in this House about class antagonism, about the class war. Can we describe a Bill that aims at a purely working class movement and limits its activities—its peaceful activities—by legislation as anything more than the legislative emphasising of the class struggle? We cannot deny that the class struggle exists. While you have the interests of two sections of the community continually in opposition, it is fatuous to deny that the class struggle exists. What you should have in mind and wish to aim at, is to eliminate the causes which make that class struggle. Here we have the Conservative party doing exactly the opposite. Instead of 1573 eliminating the causes, they are introducing fresh reasons why the class struggle should go on, and they are making it far more difficult for leaders who would wish to eliminate the causes of the class struggle by the introduction of legislation of this kind. I believe already the Government regret the action which they have taken, but if they do not, at least they might have confined their efforts to the one particular danger that they themselves believe threatens the community. The honesty of their intention may well be doubted in that respect, otherwise they would have confined the Bill to a single Clause, and that Clause would have dealt with incidents arising out of a possible combination of all the trade unions of the country. We might have believed then in the honesty of their intentions. But no, they proceeded from one Clause to another, and they introduced Clauses without any relation whatever to industrial action as such.
When we find introduced in the Bill two or three other matters besides that of combination in industry, we are justified in suspecting the motives of the Government. I will not go beyond Clause 1. It is not my intention to discuss any other Clauses of the Bill. I only mention these other Clauses in order to emphasise the fact that the Government have gone further than they originally intended, and that, therefore, they do not merit the confidence even of their own party. I was glad to see this afternoon that at least one member of the Conservative party was ready to criticise this particular Clause. I can only hope that before the Bill goes through, other members of the Conservative party will be sufficiently honest in their attitude towards this Bill by voting against Clause 1.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
To a large extent the discussion to which we have been listening this evening has followed what have become almost the stereotyped lines of attack upon Clause 1. We have heard from the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Mosley) quotations almost textually from his own speech on Clause 8—I suppose because he thought it was not received with sufficient appreciation last time—
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
—coupled with quotations not quite so accurate from the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser), winding up with alleged quotations from myself which bore no sort of resemblance to anything I have said.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. Member says, "Only read from the OFFICIAL REPORT." I am proposing to deal with that particular question a little later on, and the House will see whether it was only read from the OFFICIAL REPORT. Apart from this old controversy, there have been a few fresh points with which I desire to deal. First of all, there was an entirely original mare's nest which was disclosed by the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Morris). The hon. Member said, and said truly, that we had mainly discussed matters of criminal liability. He said also, that it was right to have regard to the possible use of Clause 1 in civil disputes. So far, I am entirely at one with him. But he went on then to say, that in a civil dispute, if it turned out that there was a strike which had an object other than, or in addition to, the furtherance of a trade dispute in a particular industry, then the Trade Disputes Act no longer applied and no protection was afforded for trade union funds. Of course, the hon. Member was there making a mistake which he would be the first to recognise, because if he looks at Sub-section (4) he will see that the immunity conferred by the Trade Disputes Act is removed not when only one of the two conditions necessary to constitute the illegal strike has been satisfied, but only in the case of a strike which is declared by the Section to be an illegal strike. In other words, for civil, just as for criminal purposes, both conditions have to be satisfied. The Trade Disputes Act is not affected in any case, except in the case where a strike is commenced which is declared by this Section to be illegal.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) raised what, I think, is a profitable line of inquiry when he said that he wanted to consider for a moment whether the Clause, as it emerged from Committee, was better or worse than what it was on Second 1575 Reading, and he committed himself to the view that the Clause was worse than ever. I propose, therefore, for a few moments, to see what changes have been introduced which produce in the view of the right hon. Gentleman so lamentable a result. The first change that has been introduced is to include the general lock-out equally with the general strike. The right hon. Gentleman said that in practice he did not think that the inclusion of the general strike would be of very much effect. I have always taken the view, as I stated on Second Reading, that there are more effective ways of dealing with the general lock-out, if ever such folly should be perpetrated, than the means provided by this Clause. I think there is, in the existing law, a far more effective means of dealing with any employers who engage in any such illegal conspiracy, but that does not mean that the inclusion of the general lockout makes the Bill worse. At best, it can be said, it does not make it much better, and the truth is, that it makes the Bill worse from one point of view only, and that is, that it becomes less easy for Members opposite to misread its effect.
There was an alteration, which, I confess, I thought even the right hon. Gentleman would have regarded as an improvement. I refer to that concession which the Government regard, and I think most of my hon. Friends on this side regard, as a substantial concession, the concession, I mean, in which those who merely take part in a strike which is declared by this Clause to be illegal are not thereby subject to any criminal liability. I am surprised to find that that makes the Bill no better, but makes it worse. The reason it makes it worse, according to the right hon. Gentleman, is because it is so unfair to the ringleaders. In other words, it is easier for the ringleaders to frighten their men into objection to this Bill by telling them that it makes them liable to go to prison, but when they are told that it only makes the revolutionary preacher liable to go to prison, the average trade unionist is left comparatively unmoved.
The next alterations are two or three changes in language, which I do not think substantially affect the meaning of the Clause. We were told on Second Reading that the word "intimidate" was a difficult 1576 word to understand. We have left it out. We were told that the expression "a substantial portion of the community" was a vague expression, and might lead to confusion. That expression has disappeared from the Bill. We were told that the expression trade or industry" was an expression which might be narrowly construed, and thereby defeat the effect of the Clause. We have, accordingly, put in a definition which says that the words are to be construed in the widest possible sense. While on that point, may I refer to a misconception which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Bromley), in which he said that there were people—I think the instance he gave were the tubes—who were employed by the same employer. Some of them were engaged in producing electricity, and some in running trains, and he said that they will not be able to strike together under this definition, because their wages are not determined by the same joint industrial council or conciliation board. I am glad that the hon. Member mentioned that misconception, because it enables me to clear it up, in case anyone else should share it. The definition which we put in, and which is now Sub-section (3), begins by stating expressly that it is not a limiting but an enlarging definition, and it goes on to say that, if any one of a series of conditions are satisfied, then on the satisfaction of those conditions the workmen in question are to be deemed to be within the same trade or industry. Therefore, if workmen are employed by the same employer—in other words, if they are, to quote the words of the Sub-section workingin accordance with agreements made with the same employer"—they are within the same trade or industry, whether or not their wages are determined by the same conciliation board or joint industrial council. The workmen employed by any one employer or by any one group of employers are by the express language of this Sub-section within the same trade or industry.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Does that mean that they will be in a position to make London walk again if they so desire?
§ Mr. TOWNEND
On the point of accuracy. The submission made by the 1577 hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Bromley) was not that they were employed by the same concern and not that they were in the same union. The instance he gave was that of the railway men supporting the tube men and the tramway men. They would all be under different employers, but they would come under an agreement covering the transport industry.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
If the hon. Member looks at the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will see that the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness quoted the electrical trade union, and I think the tubes.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
That is why I took that particular illustration; it was the one that remained in my mind. So long as the employers are the same, then they are within the same trade or industry; so long as the employers belong to the same group, again they are in the same trade or industry, and, so long as the wages are fixed by the same joint industrial council or the like, they are still within the same trade or industry. These definitions are without prejudice to the generality of the meaning of the language and expression "trade or industry."
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
May I press my question? Mr. Bevin has said that this Bill is going to prevent him from making London walk. Can the Attorney-General say whether under the provisions of the Bill it will be possible for Mr. Bevin to make London walk?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
That is a question which had better be addressed to Mr. Bevin. It is his threat and not mine.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how this Clause will affect artisans in the Royal Dockyards who belong to outside societies? The position is not clear.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I do not understand the meaning of the question, and it is dangerous for me to try to give an answer to a specific case, without knowing all the facts. I understand the hon. Member to ask how it is going to affect the artisans who are employed in the Royal Dockyard, who are members of outside societies. Obviously, we might 1578 embark upon a discussion of Clause 5. I do not think it would be useful or desirable to try to elucidate that point now. To deal with a question of that kind—and I frankly admit I do not understand its full bearing—would require a very careful statement of facts which are not in my possession.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The position under the Bill is clear. So long as the facts are known, it is easy to apply the definitions in the Bill to the known facts.
§ Lieut.-Commander BURNEY
Would the Attorney-General apply for an injunction if Mr. Bevin endeavoured to make London walk?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
It would depend on whether or not I was satisfied that the method he adopted was an infraction of Clause 1. There is one further matter, which I am not proposing to discuss now, because it is the subject of a later Amendment standing in my name, under which we are proposing to meet a difficulty raised by some hon. Members on my own side to the effect that there might be prosecutions instituted by policemen in remote areas, where justices might come to a decision which was wrong in law. I am proposing to meet that point by providing that no prosecution can be instituted without the fiat of the Attorney-General. These are the alterations and, except from the point of view of those who want to mislead the public as to what this Bill does, I should have thought that they would have been received as improvements in all quarters of the House. The right hon. Gentleman opposite put a very attractive alternative. He said: "If the Government want to make the general strike illegal, why do not they just say so? Why do not they just say that it is illegal to have a general strike?" The right hon. Gentleman must know, and I am sure he does know, that that would have made things no better but worse, because at once we should have been asked: "What do you define as a general strike?" That is what we have done in the Bill. It is true that we have not used the expression "general strike." That expression has very different meanings 1579 in the minds of hon. Members opposite. The speech of the hon. Member for South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor) proves that.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Does the Attorney-General mean by that statement that the Government are legislating against something which it is impossible to define in law?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
No, Sir. It means that the Government are careful not to legislate against something which it is impossible to define in law. We are legislating against something which we have defined. We have heard within the last few minutes from one of the hon. Members opposite—I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was present—that the general strike, I think the hon. Member referred to it as a general stoppage, was not a general strike but a purely industrial strike. In truth, one has to make up one's mind what one means by a general strike. I mean by a general strike a strike directed against the State, against the community, and not a strike for industrial purposes against the employer. If that be the definition, if that be what is understood by the expression "general strike," then Clause 1 does deal with the general strike and declares that a general strike is illegal. The House will remember that the definition which we give expressly brings in the condition that the strike is one which is not merely industrial but designed directly to coerce the State. Therefore, we have done the very thing which the right hon. Gentleman suggests was the desirable thing to do.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that it was quite unnecessary to legislate against the general strike, because the responsible authorities, the trade union leaders, ere convinced that the general strike is a mistake, a weapon which ought not to be used, and which can only result in disaster. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to give us the answer to that argument. He went on to say that they were of the same opinion a year ago but that, perforce, when the rank and file desired the general strike to take place last year, it was the duty of the leaders to follow. I have no doubt that the same persons who desired the general strike last year will remain desirous of such a strike, and it will still 1580 be the duty of the right hon. Gentleman and those associated with him to follow in what they themselves have said are going to be more serious and irrevocable general strikes in the future.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that there is such a thing as loyalty. There is such a thing as loyalty to the State as well as loyalty to a class in the State, and it was because the general strike of last year was in breach of that primary duty to the State that we have thought it right to ask the House to condemn it in unmistakable language.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The right hon. Gentleman is not going to lead me away with that red herring. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that last year there was an irrepressible pressure from the rank and file in favour of the general strike. I am not going to follow him into that discussion at any length, because the question is not, "Who was responsible for starting the general strike?" The question is, "Are we going to allow it to happen again?" I would remind hon. Members opposite that the only trade union which did their own members the courtesy of consulting them by taking a ballot found a majority of two to one of their members against joining the strike. The right hon. Gentleman further said that a sympathetic strike to assist their fellows in distress was a thing into which the trade unions would always be ready to plunge. He forgets that it is not the strike to assist their fellows in distress in putting pressure upon the employers with which this Clause interferes.
What this Clause forbids is the sympathetic strike designed not to put pressure on the employers, but to put pressure on the State. I stress that point because the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Mosley) quoted me, or purported to quote me. He said that my statement had been that in any primary strike the maximum pressure is put on the employers by the strikers, and he said that I had gone on to say: "Therefore, any other strike cannot be to press the employers, and must be illegal." I should not have taken up time in contradicting that statement were it not that if it went uncontradicted it might give outside a 1581 wholly false impression as to the effect of the Clause. I never said any such thing. It would not have been true if I had said it, and the very column which the hon. Member purported to quote gave words almost in terms opposite from that which he represented me as saying. The hon. Member should read from col. 1034, just after what he quoted from col. 1033. Let me read from cols. 1033 and 1034 from the OFFICIAL REPORT of the 17th May. A question was put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) as to whether a strike by the railwaymen or any other body of men under certain circumstances would be illegal. My answer was this:That is a plain question to which I can give quite a plain answer. The strike of the transport workers or the railwaymen, in the case which has been put to me, could obviously not be a strike to put pressure upon the employers or the miners. It could only be a strike which was designed to put pressure upon the Government to compel them to act. That, in my view, would be illegal and illegitimate either by this Bill or independent of this Bill.That is the passage which the hon. Member quoted, and it states that where there is a sympathetic strike, the object of which is manifestly not to put pressure on the employers but on the Government, that that sympathetic strike is illegal. It does not say, and I do not think anybody can suppose it to say; that every sympathetic strike is designed to put pressure on the Government and that the maximum pressure in every strike is always put on the employers. If anybody had thought anything so foolish they have only to listen to the next sentence in order to see how ridiculous it is. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Wallhead) asked:If there were a general strike of the miners under the conditions which have been discussed for the purpose of enforcing a reduction of hours, then there could not be under the Bill a sympathetic strike in their aid?Some hon. Members called out "answer" and this was my answer:It would depend entirely upon who the sympathetic strikers were. If they were persons the effect of whose strikes would be to bring pressure upon the mineowners, then it would be perfectly legal. If, on the other hand, they were persons who, by their strikes, could not bring pressure upon the mineowners but were only attempting 1582 to coerce the Government, then it would be illegal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1927; cols. 1033–4, Vol. 206.]
§ Mr. MOSLEY
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that, if there is a complete cessation of work in the mines, no further pressure by any body of workers can be exercised on the mineowners; that if in that event another body of workers strike, under his definition they are not coercing the owners, who are already coerced to the maximum extent, but are coercing the Government, and that covers the case of every sympathetic strike?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. Member assumes that in every strike there is a complete cessation of work. Surely, he has studied the history of our own times and knows that the whole essence of the struggle in any strike is that it is not always complete to begin with, and that it very often ceases to be complete long before it is settled, and it is at that moment that sympathetic action may have serious effect on the employers. I agree that, if there is already maximum pressure brought to bear on the employers, then obviously, ex hypethesi, you cannot have more. But it is an entirely different thing to represent me as having said that wherever there was a primary strike the maximum pressure was brought to bear on the employers and, therefore, any sympathetic strike was, in my opinion, not designed to bring pressure on the employers.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
Is not the right hon. Gentleman saying this, that a sympathetic strike is only permissible within the same primary trade in which the strike takes place?
§ Mr. MOSLEY
I think so. The right hon. Gentleman says this, that in some cases the maximum pressure is not brought to bear on owners. In a mine the cessation of work is not complete; in that case, a further cessation is possible, and is legal. That is a sympathetic strike by men engaged in the same trade or industry; but, if it is a strike outside that trade by another body of workers, that sympathetic strike, which is the genuine sympathetic strike, is illegal.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I do not want to take up the time of the House, but obviously that is not so. It is perfectly true that any sympathetic strike in an industry is legal whether it brings pressure to bear on the Government or not, because it is in furtherance of a trade dispute in the particular trade or industry in which the workers are engaged. All these sympathetic strikes are covered even if they bring pressure to bear on the Government.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. Member has just called it one. Hon. Members opposite must agree among themselves as to what they mean by a sympathetic strike before they cross-examine me. Of course, it is not true to say that a sympathetic strike is necessarily illegal if it happens outside the industry in which the strikers are engaged. If it is a strike which tends to bring pressure to bear on the employers, as opposed to one which tends to bring pressure on the community, then it is necessarily legal.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Suppose there was a strike in a pit, and there was a refusal to transport coal brought up by blackleg labour. There you have a sympathetic strike which was designed and calculated to bring pressure on the employers, because they would have no market for the coal, and it would not inflict such hardship on the community as to coerce the Government. Obviously, it would satisfy the definitions in this Clause. I do not want to take up any more time with the mistakes of the hon. Member for Smethwick. I think I have shown that at any rate he is becoming too adept at misquotation.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. Member will be able to speak later. There is another point made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which I want to deal with. He said that this Bill must be much more serious in its effects than we represent because it invokes the unanimous hostility of the trade unions. If by trade unions the right hon. Gentleman 1584 means the officials of trade unions, then I think there is some measure of justification for his statement, but if he means the rank and file, I can assure him, from my own personal experience, that it is very far from being hostile. I have had a number of letters from trade unionists welcoming the Bill and begging me to be firm and resist any Amendment.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman read any one communication from any one branch of a trade union?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The right hon. Gentleman has again misunderstood me. I did not say that I have had statements from branches of trade unions. I said that I have had statements from individual trade unionists, and I do not propose to expose them to victimisation. It, in fact, there was general hostility to the Bill it would not be surprising when we remember the constant and deliberate misrepresentation as to the effect of the Bill which has gone on up and down the country. I want to quote one or two statements from a pamphlet to illustrate what I mean. This is a pamphlet published by the Trades Union Defence Committee, from Eccleston Square. It has been sold by the thousands; if it has not been sold it has been given away. These are a few of the things it says:Imprisonment for workers(1) If any group workers refuse to accept a wage reduction and in the last resort cease work it may be decided by any two justices of the peace that such a stoppage is illegal and the workers concerned will be liable to two years' imprisonment, while the employers will be able to secure damages from the trade union funds, including the benefit fund.Every statement in that paragraph is untrue. It cannot decided by a Court that a stoppage of work, because of a refusal to accept a wage reduction, is illegal. On the contrary, such a strike is expressly left as legal under this Bill. And the workers concerned will not be liable to two years, or two minutes, imprisonment. Even if it was illegal, they would not be liable to any imprisonment, and Justices of the Peace cannot give more than three months' imprisonment and do not decide claims for damages against trade union funds. Whoever 1585 published that must have known that every statement was designed to mislead the public.(2) If the miners cease work in order to obtain a shorter working day underground that will be an illegal strike.The right hon. Gentleman opposite knows, I have stated it in this House several times, and the Bill states it in express terms, that a strike to secure improved conditions of employment is a legal strike. Therefore, that, again, is a statement which is absolutely untrue.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
It does not matter whether it does or does not. There are none so blind as those who will not see.(3) The Government is virtually given power to prevent or stop any strike whenever it pleases.The House knows perfectly well that the Government is not given power to prevent or stop any strikes. The only thing which can be stopped by the Courts is the application of funds in their support, and only when the strike is one which has been declared and proved to be illegal. Let me read another quotation from this pamphlet.If the Bill had been in force last year"—I want hon. Members to notice this—the mining lock-out would have been an illegal strike.I will read a little more:Contributors to the women and children's relief fund, including the Prince of Wales, would have been liable to two years' imprisonment.One more paragraph:Every sympathetic strike, and practically all stoppages of work, may be declared illegal.Really, I think the hon. Member for Smethwick must have composed some of this. That is the sort of thing which has been circulated by the thousand up and down the country. The right hon. Gentleman himself told us that, if a workman was asked to read the Bill, he would not be able, after he had read it, to tell its real effect. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members opposite applaud that statement. Then surely it is a duty, and an obligation of honour, on those whom the working men trust not deliberately to mislead them. The 1586 fact is that the Bill does none of these things, and the people who have published these statements must have known that it does none of these things. I hope, when this Bill is on the Statute Book and the workmen find out that it produces none of the effects which have been alleged, they may change their views as to the reliability of the men who have betrayed them. The right hon. Gentleman told us that they were going to stand firm in support of freedom for the working men. They may; and they will not be affected by the Bill as long as they do it. This Bill does not interfere with the freedom of the worker. What this Bill does is to assert that there must be freedom for the community as well, and it is because freedom for the workman has been abused, not by the average workman, but by a small gang of irresponsible people who sought to capture the trade union machine, that legislation has become necessary. They have destroyed liberty for the community by claiming licence for the workman, and the time has come when the Government must ask this House to put an end to that tyranny. We hear on benches opposite talk about the wonderful reunion of sympathy and good will which was arising in industry when this Bill spoiled it all. Last year we saw what a marvellous reunion of employers and workmen was taking place, how closely they were being joined in sympathy and good will.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I am not discussing whose fault it was. I am discussing the argument of those who said that it existed. In truth the hon. Member for Smethwick talked about this cant of peace and good will. I think the cant comes from those who pretend to desire good will in order to damage this Bill, when they themselves are preaching the class war and proclaiming that the only sort of peace in industry which they desire is the peace which would come by the annihilation of the industry upon which the country depends. For all these reasons, the Government think that this Clause is demanded not merely by public opinion, but by public necessity in the interests of the State, and it is in that view that we have carefully endeavoured 1587 to limit its operation to those cases for which we designed it, while at the same time we have steadfastly resisted, and will continue steadfastly to resist, any endeavour to whittle away and destroy its usefulness. It is because we believe that by the Amendments made in Committee we have improved the Bill in the direction of making it carry out clearly and definitely those principles with which we began on the Second Reading discussion, that we ask the House to accept Clause 1, and to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has just given us an illustration of the dual sides of his character. In the earlier part of his address, he sought to meet some of the objections which have been advanced against this Clause, and in the latter portion he descended to the hustings as he did on previous occasions. In the last part of his speech, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that public opinion was behind the Government in demanding that this Clause should be carried. I wonder upon what ground the right hon. and learned Gentleman feels justified in making a claim such as that. I wonder if the right hon. and learned Gentleman could quote a particular passage from his own speeches in the last General Election, or his own election address, or from the election address of the Prime Minister or any of his leading colleagues in which any indication was given that, if they were returned to office, the Government proposed to introduce a Clause such as this. I venture to think that he cannot, Not only have they not sought a mandate for this Clause, but I am prepared to show that they actually received votes by parading themselves before the electorate as friends of the trade unions. I have in my hands a booklet which was published in my own constituency during the last General Election. The title of it is, "What Unionists have done for the workers." I was very much intrigued to know what they had done, so I looked inside to see what it was they claimed as their record. In the first place, they claim that they had given the vote, and, in the second place, they say:Trade Unions.—First, the right to form trade unions, established by Conservative 1588 Acts of 1824 and 1825, abolishing old laws against labour combinations. Effects partially spoiled by Radical Act of 1871. Finally re-established by Conservative Acts of 1875 and 1876.The right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues were inviting support from trade unionists in the country on the ground that they had proved themselves to be great friends of trade unionists. To emphasise their claim, they were hurling brickbats, metaphorically speaking, at the Liberals, and saying that the Conservative Codlin was the friend and not the Liberal Short. It seems to me, however, that the Tory party have become weary of well-doing. Having given the right to trade unionists to form trade unions, they are now making it extremely difficult for the ordinary man-in-the-street to decide when and on what occasion he may use his trade union. No one knows at a given moment what strike may be legal, and what strike may be illegal. It is, I think, fair for us to emphasise that this question of the right to strike has become increasingly important to trade unionists. I represent a constituency in which I was brought up, and my mind goes back to a time when my father was a miner there. In those days, there were in the Valley some 12 to 15 collieries, and they were owned by five or six different companies, and if a man had a grievance against one company, he could easily transfer his services to another company in the neighbourhood. But now no such conditions apply. In the whole Valley, from top to bottom, there are only two collieries out of 12 to 15 that are owned by two companies; all the rest are owned and controlled completely by the same company.
If it be true that the tendency in various types of industries is towards the formation of greater amalgamations of companies, and the concentration of greater power in the hands of the capitalist class, then an equal right to co-operation should be allowed to the workers. It is the difficulty of using to the full that right of co-operation through trade unions that I feel is so much challenged in this Clause. The right hon. and learned Gentleman admitted that this Clause had undergone a good deal of transformation since we discussed it in Committee, but I should think it would be fair to say, quoting an old French proverb: "The more it changes, the more it is the same." He points to the fact that lock-outs have 1589 been made illegal equally with strikes. He says that he himself, in speaking on the Bill at an early stage, pointed out that there was a far better method of dealing with lock-outs than is to be found in this particular Bill. He says that these far better methods are in the existing law. If that be true, why was this far better method not put into operation a year ago? What happened on the 4th May last year happened three days after the lock-out of the miners? The general strike was an answer to the lock-out of the miners. If the Attorney-General thought that the law was sufficiently strong to enable him to deal with lockouts, why was that power not used then?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
It all depends on what you mean by it "general." If you mean by "general," in that connection, a strike directed against the State, as opposed to a strike directed against the employer or the employed, then certainly all these general lock-outs, whether they be partial in area or extent, are dealt with by the Bill. The reason why last year's lock-out was not dealt with in the way I have suggested was that it never approached being a general lock-out in the sense of being directed against the State.
§ Mr. JONES
But surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot deny that it brought direct injury to the general community? When he argues that he had enough power last year to deal with lock-outs, we accuse him of having failed to use it on that occasion. Another point arises. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, in his speech, on a previous occasion, said that, if you did introduce the word "lock-out" into this Bill, it would—I think his words were—be "useless and inept." Therefore, he cannot accuse us of having failed to support him on that occasion, if he himself assured us in his introduction of that particular word into the Bill that it was in fact useless and mere window dressing for political purposes.
1590 In his second point, I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman was rather less than fair to my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). He said that the right hon. Member for Platting had stated that the change in the matter of the treatment of the rank and file who take part in a dispue was unfair to the ringleaders. That argument of the Attorney-General was very unfair. The argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting was this. He said in effect, "If you take these powers, you take them because you want to prevent the cessation of work as far as possible." He said it was not the ringleaders who would be taking part in the cessation of work but the rank and file, and, therefore" he argued, you exonerate the rank and file from penalties under the Bill and clearly you are failing in the purpose which you say is the prime object of the Clause. My right hon. Friend did not argue that the ringleaders should be allowed to escape, far from it; and the Attorney-General had no right to make that insinuation. To do so was less fair than the Attorney-General usually is in debate. I want to make it clear that the right hon. Member for Platting was not arguing that the ringleaders should be allowed to have special treatment as distinct from the rank and file. He urged that if the Attorney-General's point of view as to the purpose of the Clause is what has been stated, the Government failed in that purpose in the Clause as amended.
The third point made by the Attorney-General was this. He said there had been certain changes made by the elimination of the words "intimidate," "substantial proportion" and the method of dealing with the words "trade or industry." I think it is still open to some doubt as to who may or may not legally participate in a strike. The Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) quoted the "Times," a paper which is not partial to Labour. It was a quotation which indicated clearly that there is in the minds of people who ordinarily are strong and faithful supporters of the Government a doubt as to the real implications of the Clause. Let us return to this controversy, which originated on the last occasion between the learned Attorney-General and my 1591 right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas). The matter arose because of a speech delivered at Swansea by the Minister of Health. The right hon. Member for Derby quoted the speech of the Minister of Health, and he asked the Attorney-General whether he subscribed to the interpretation of the Bill given by the Minister of Health. The passage in question will be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT, beginning in col. 1030. The proposition, as I remember it, was this. Suppose that all the miners are locked out or that there is a national miners' strike. For all intents and purposes all the miners are out. Suppose that the railwaymen, having examined the situation, decide to come out on strike in sympathy with the miners, as they did last year.
The question asked was, if the railwaymen came out on strike in those circumstances would they be striking legally or illegally? Do not let us bother now about the other people, but confine ourselves to the question of the railwaymen. The answer of the Attorney-General, as I understood it, was that some sympathetic strikes would be legal and some would not. That is a broad way of stating his point of view. Within which category does this sympathetic strike of railwaymen fall? Is it a legal or an illegal strike? Clearly, if all the miners are out you cannot bring any further pressure to bear on the coalowners. If, therefore, the railwaymen come out as well, they are clearly not adding to the pressure brought on the coalowners, and the pressure must be brought to bear on someone else, either the Government or the community. Can we have a clear answer to the question whether in those circumstances the railwaymen are striking legally or illegally?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Assume that the miners are on strike in some great dispute, and assume that the railwaymen are out on strike in circumstances which cannot have any effect upon the mining employers and can only be effective by coercing the Government. Is that legal or illegal? If it is designed to coerce the Government it is certainly illegal. If it is designed to coerce the Government, if intended to coerce the Government, which is the only possible effectiveness of their action—?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to finish my sentence? If it is designed to coerce the Government, which is the only thing their action can do, that is illegal. If they do not intend to coerce the Government, then it would be illegal only if it was on such a scale and so large and general as to be calculated to coerce the Government, and in that case again it would be illegal.
§ Mr. JONES
Let us examine it for the moment. Assume that the railwaymen come out on strike in support of the miners on strike nationally, could they have any other intention or how could anyone assume any other intention than that of bringing pressure to bear on someone other than the coalowners? Clearly they are bringing pressure to bear on someone other than the coal-owners. Who is that someone else? Either the Government or the community. As I understand the answer of the Attorney-General, it means that in those circumstances, if there is already a general strike of miners, it will be impossible for the railwaymen to come out in support of them because then, inevitably, the railwaymen will be designing a strike to bring pressure on the community. That is a very serious proposition.
§ Mr. JONES
Yes, and I think I am right in saying that the Attorney-General went to the Free Trade Hall in Manchester and, before the public there, said it had been alleged against the Government that railwaymen could not come out in support of miners and I believe he used the words "That is a lie." What is the truth? Is this answer true or is the statement of the Attorney-General in Manchester true?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I can correct that statement now if the hon. Member will allow me. The instance I gave was this. Suppose a porter at Manchester has a dispute about wages, I said every railwayman in the employment of every railway company in the country could come out in support of him, and that would be perfectly legal. I never dealt with the point which the hon. Member attributes to me now.
§ Mr. JONES
Then I withdraw at once. But the House will observe that the Attorney-General all the time visualises a dispute within a given trade. I am asking him to visualise a case where there is already a primary dispute, say in the mining industry, and where another trade strikes in sympathy with the people in the primary industry. The right hon. and learned Gentleman still does not answer the question except by giving us the clear impression that, in his view, such a strike would be illegal. In any case, even if he is not prepared to go as far as that, there is clearly a grave doubt in the matter. I am prepared to tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it is a very grave invasion of what these people have come to regard as an elementary right even to place the matter in doubt. The power to withhold their labour is the only power which they have, and its seems grotesquely unjust to place that right at all in jeopardy by leaving its legality in doubt. Not only are we afraid that the people directly concerned in a sympathetic strike will be involved, but we are not yet clear as to how far people outside the trade concerned, say the womenfolk of the strikers, may participate in helping those who honestly believe themselves to be acting in a perfectly legal way but whose action may subsequently be pronounced illegal by the Courts. Let us again suppose that the railwaymen came out with the miners, as they have done before and as they believe they have the right to do again. It may, in the course of time, be decided by the High Court that such a strike is illegal, but meanwhile the womenfolk in various parts of the country will have embarked upon the setting up of relief funds or the provision of food and clothing for the strikers. That may be held to be furthering an illegal strike.
Is that a correct interpretation of the word "furthering" or is it not? We are 1594 entitled to know. Frankly, I do not know, and I think I may fairly presume that there are millions outside this House who are not accustomend to the verbiage of Acts of Parliament and who do not know. What is the view of the Attorney-General? Will these forms of activity be legal or illegal, if a second trade which strikes sympathetically is pronounced to be acting illegally. That is a very important point and one on which we are entitled to a precise reply. Hon. Members opposite frequently argue as if striking were an activity in which trade unionists indulged but which ought not to be mentioned in the presence of respectable people. But, as a matter of fact, it is the exercise of a privilege which scores of hon. Members on the other side exercise in their own concerns. There any many business men on the other side of the House. They buy and sell commodities, and no one will challenge their right to withhold their commodities from the market until they get what they deem to be the appropriate price. The workman has a commodity to sell. It is the power of his right arm. It seems to me that the workers have a right, either themselves or in sympathy with others, to withhold their commodity from the market until they get an adequate price. That seems to be an elementary principle which is affected by this Bill and, whether the Government believe it or not, it will be proved in due time that the trade unionists of the country attach so much importance to this right, of withholding their labour, in the ultimate resort and when they are driven to it, that they will express strong disapproval of the Government's action in placing that right in jeopardy through the medium of Clause 1.
§ Mr. CLUSE
Throughout the Debate this afternoon we have had a continuation of the usual line of policy of the Tory party. It seems to be their mode of propaganda to assume that the Labour party, industrially, is in favour of a policy of general destruction and, politically, in favour of a policy of confiscation. One does not know whether hon. Members opposite believe in this or whether it is merely a pose. As a matter of fact, the attitude of this party on trade union questions is not that the strike should be used for the purpose of destroying industry, but that it, can legitimately be used by working people to help them 1595 when they are bargaining either for an increased price for their commodity, which is their labour power, or when they are resisting an attempt by the employers to reduce their standard of living. We have heard a great deal of talk about peace and good will but only recently in these Debates the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) showed how, under modern developments, the trade union movement has had to extend its front in order to deal with the increasing power of modern aggregations of capital. With all the talk about good will in industry, unless the Conservative party believe in the abolition of trade unionism, they must leave to the workers the power of organising to protect themselves in the dealings between themselves and their employers.
The Labour party and the official trade union movement stand by the right of the working people to withdraw their labour whenever they think it is necessary in the discussion of the living wage conditions. No responsible trade union leader and no sensible number of them have ever taken up the attitude that they believe in using the trade union weapon for any purposes other than the improvement of the conditions of the workers under the present capitalist system of industry, but the other side are always trying to drive us into the position of admitting that we believe in the destruction of industry by industrial methods. In a paper published by the Conservative head office under the name of the "Democrat"—a very amusing name when you come to remember that the party opposite believe in reforming the House of Lords in the direction of increasing its undemocratic powers—we have the same suggestion running right through, that we believe in the Communist or the Bolshevist attitude in politics, and that industrially we believe in destruction. It is because we know that the object of the Conservative party is to try to induce the public to believe that that is our out look that we think that in trying to bolster up that position the Conservative party, through this Bill, is really hitting at the right to strike and to organise possessed by the working people of this country.
I am particularly concerned with the condition of working people in the unorganised trades of this country. In 1596 the catering trade, for instance, there is a tremendous amount of sweating and of very bad and insufferable conditions, and in the food distribution trade there are at present the same evils. What is wanted in those trades is a strong industrial organisation, with 100 per cent. membership in the trade union, in order that the representatives of the trade union can exert legitimate pressure upon the owners in order to lift up the standard of those who work in those industries. Immediately the suggestion gets abroad, as it naturally will, that this Bill will limit the fighting power of industrial organisations, instead of helping the development of organisation in certain industries which are now unorganised, it will deter it, and those working men and women will remain in the position of suffering and hardship in which they find themselves at present, with very little hope for the future. We go round the country—and we are prepared in this House to stand by our agitation outside—stating that this Bill is aimed at the industrial power of the workers of this country, and we intend to go on fighting it inside this House and to carry on our propaganda throughout the constituencies.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The Attorney-General has attempted to give an explanation of what is meant by this Bill in so far as a strike is concerned that might be in sympathy with miners on strike, and if some of us present raise the case of the miners, we must be forgiven, because the miners are in a bad case. My constituents are miners. They are in a particularly bad way in South Wales at the present moment, and it is exceedingly difficult to see how their position is going to be improved if their power of striking or of taking industrial action is taken from them or weakened in any way whatever. I know that the argument is put up that the community must be protected against the recurrence of strikes upon a large scale, and I find that even on these benches there is a predisposition to suppose that there is something particularly sacrosanct about what is called the community.
I am bound to confess that I do not quite accept that point of view. So far as my experience goes, what is called the community cares very little about the conditions of the people who produce its 1597 commodities, as long as it can sail along comfortably with no inconvenience to itself. The community cares very little about the conditions in the trade, for instance, which my hon. Friend the Member for South Islington (Mr. Cluse) has just mentioned, namely, the catering trade, a particularly ill-organised industry, and I think it cannot be said that the catering firms are firms which do not pay a fairly adequate profit. Some of them, indeed, pay exceedingly high dividends, but the conditions of employment in those firms constitute a positive disgrace. The community, however, is not concerned; the community does not bother itself. Speeches may be made explaining and exposing the conditions, but the community makes no move, and it is only when this sacred entity called the community has its convenience and comfort interfered with that it begins to take notice of the issues involved.
It is the same with most of the trades and industries. Whether the miners were right or wrong last year, their condition at the present time is deplorable. I heard stories on Saturday afternoon of men in South Wales whose wages for the hours they can work in the week, the days they can put in, are less than £1 a week, and when the question of a minimum wage is raised, I was informed that the men dare not ask for their minimum wage, that they are afraid to ask for their legal rights, because, if they do, they are threatened that they will lose the meagre employment which they are supposed to enjoy at the present time. That is a very deplorable situation, but what does the community care about that, so long as the community continues to get coal cheap and so long as the manufacturers get their coal cheap? What does the community care that the lives and homes of the miners are being wrecked and shattered, that, they are living lives in a continual tragedy from one year's end to the other? All this talk about the community leaves me very cold, and when I find the community beginning to exercise its mind on the condition of the people who maintain it in its comfort, I shall be prepared to have more regard to what is called the community than, I am bound to confess, I have now.
I raised a question with regard to the miners, and the Attorney-General this 1598 afternoon has attempted to meet the point of a possible sympathetic strike on the part of the railwaymen, but I raised another point in a previous discussion about this very same issue. Capital now is becoming of a very international character. The right hon. Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) has stood in this House and pleaded for an international arrangement whereby the conditions in the coal trade might be improved. He visualised a system under which there would be a kind of international cartel, in which the international coalowners would begin to pool their resources; and as internationalism in capital spreads, it is easy to assume, I think, that British coalowners can own coal pits not only here in this country, but abroad, in Poland, in France, in Germany, or in Belgium. There is nothing to stop them, and it may well be that that will be the move in the near future, if it has not already begun. Supposing the miners here go on strike—and it must be a general strike of miners, otherwise adequate pressure cannot be exerted to bring the owners to reason. In that case the coalowners here who own either partly or wholly mines situated abroad would import coal produced by their foreign workmen, and the loss of their profits here would be made up by the increased prices of the coal from their mines abroad. In that ease the miners here would fail in the attempt to bring the necessary pressure to bear upon the coalowners, and the only way in which that pressure could be applied would be by a refusal of the transport workers and the railwaymen to handle the coal brought into the country. I am quite convinced in my own mind that under the terms of this Bill that would he treated as a sympathetic strike of an utterly illegal character, and the state of the miners in this country would become a very deplorable one indeed. That, however, seems to be the position to which we are rapidly coming under this Bill.
We have been told that we must prevent sympathetic strikes because of the disaster they bring, as exemplified by the loss inflicted by the general strike. I have heard talk about the economic loss caused by the general strike until it has become rather nauseating. I believe the general strike involved 2,500,000 workers, and that over the period of eight days 1599 which the strike lasted there was a loss of about 20,000,000 working days. That is represented as being a tremendous interference with the prosperity of the country. We have had 1,000,000 men unemployed for years, representing a loss of 5,000,000 working days a week. We have even had 1,500,000 unemployed for years, and for some time there were 2,000,000 unemployed. Taking the figure as 1,000,000, however, that represents a loss of 260,000,000 working days per annum. That has been going on year by year for the last six years, but the Government do nothing. The Government have never made a move to deal with the unemployment problem, except by the continuance of State payments, for which they obtain nothing in return. Therefore, we do not feel disposed to shed crocodile tears about the economic loss that accrued from the general strike, seeing that the Government, a Government of the big manufacturers and the trading community, have allowed this loss to go on unchecked year after year.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
The hon. Member seems to be getting rather wide of the question of illegal strikes.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I was trying to deal with the argument put up about this Clause being necessary to prevent strikes on a large scale on account of the economic loss inflicted upon the community and showing that we are not taking the same meticulous care to prevent economic loss in other directions where it is far more severe than the loss we are immediately considering. We cannot help thinking that this Clause is aimed at the organisation of the trade unions themselves. From all we hear and from all the speeches in this House we get the impression that there is a feeling among hon. Members opposite that the fundamental cause of the difficulty with which this country is faced lies in the organisation of the trade unions and in their regulations, and that if they were organised on a different basis it might make a tremendous difference to trade and industry. A good deal has been said about a return to sanity in organisation. Many of my friends who believe what the Prime Minister said when he spoke about "peace in our time" have been led to 1600 believe and to say that if we could get round a table to discuss difficulties strikes might disappear. Everybody will accept conciliation. No one but a fool would go in for a strike if it could be avoided.
I would accept conciliation gladly, but I hold that the present organisation of society makes conciliation extremely unlikely, at any rate, makes it extremely difficult, and that it is absolutely necessary that the workers should retain their power of withholding their labour. We hold that the policy of conciliation is not likely to be accepted under the system of industrial organisation existing to-day, and the Government are proving that that is right. This Bill is one of a series of Measures based upon class antagonism of the deepest description, and proves up to the hilt the ineradicable antagonism which exists in modern society between the sellers of labour power and the takers of profits and dividends. Because we feel that this Bill is based upon that feeling we are out to oppose it for all we are worth. I make no appeal to the Government at all. I do not complain of what they are doing. I protest, so far as the trade unions are concerned, that it is a vindication of the trouble, that goes on.
I say frankly that if I were a Conservative and found myself faced with a growing Labour party, faced with the growing power of a working class determined to alter its economic position by transferring wealth from one section to another in order that the workers may really enjoy the wealth they create, I would do exactly as the Conservative party are doing. They do what they are doing because they have the power to do it. All their talk about their love for trade unions leaves me exceedingly cold. I simply do not believe it. Every Amendment that could be thought of to strengthen this crippling Bill has been brought forward by them. I do not complain at all. I would do exactly as they have done, and I only hope that I may live long enough to see the time when a Labour and Socialist party will sit on the other side of the House, not only in office but in actual power, and then we will begin to undo some of the things the Government are now doing because they have the power to do them; and the excuse we will give and the explanation we will make will be the one they give 1601 to us—that they do it because the power is theirs. When we have the power we also will use it.
§ Mr. GILLETT
There is one point in the speech just delivered by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Wall-head), with which I do not agree. The hon. Member said that if he belonged to the Conservative party he would do exactly what they are doing. If I belonged to the Conservative party I certainly would not do what they are doing, because, from the point of view of that party, it is an exceedingly foolish policy. The reason it is so foolish is that this Bill has not met with whole-hearted support in many important quarters that have no sympathy with Labour, and who look upon these questions from a totally different standpoint. Some of the leading financial papers have condemned this Measure. The Clause we are considering at the present moment is the principal Clause in the whole Bill.
If we take a bird's eye view of the history of the trade union movement, and consider what that movement has meant to the vast mass of workers, I suppose all of us on the Labour Benches, and probably many of those sitting in other parts of the House will agree with me when I say that, whatever hon. Members opposite might have felt about this question, the lot of the worker has been better where the trade union movement has been most successful and powerful, and the sweated industries exist where there has been no trade union organisation at all. Therefore, if we consider the social outlook of this country to-day the two great weapons upon which the worker depends for the improvement of his lot and the defence of his position, are, first of all, the power of the ballot; and, secondly, the power of withholding his labour if in industrial disputes he has no other means of compelling his employer to do what he desires.
The Conservative party are deliberately attacking this great principle of democracy. Hon. Members opposite may say that this Measure has not excited as much opposition as is claimed by the Labour party. Very often there exists an apathy that may be mistaken. This Measure is by no means understood, and those in this House who have listened to the explanations of the legal Members 1602 in different parts of this Chamber have noted how different even those explanations are. It is no wonder under these circumstances that a vast number of men and women hardly realise what this Measure stands for.
On the introduction of this Bill, the Prime Minister said it was intended to prepare the way for peace, but since that time the extreme members of the party have come in, and we have now got before us a Measure far removed from the peace about which the Prime Minister spoke. When the Conservative party attacked this great principle of the workers they made a mistake, because they ignored altogether the enormous power which wealth has in the industrial world. Supposing hon. Members opposite had said, "We think you were mistaken in what you did last year," I think the Conservative party have made a mistake in thinking it was wise for them to meet that situation by introducing a Bill of this kind. Last year we had a general strike, and many hon. Members on the Labour Benches and on the benches opposite have said that they considered the principle of the general strike was unsound. I consider that the worker ought to be left the supreme power to decide as to whether he chooses to strike or not. A long experience will prove that, after all, the general strike is a weapon which is more powerful as a threat than it is when it is actually in being. Anyone who observed the general strike must have been enormously impressed by the suffering which it inflicted upon the very poorest people in the country. It is the smallest cellar that feels the coal pinch first, and it was from the men who were suffering most that the great mass of supporters of the general strike came, because they honestly thought it was a sympathetic movement to help some of their fellows who were being most unjustly treated.
I think the action of the coalowners on that occasion was condemned by men of all shades of opinion. The line of action taken by some of the coalowners could only have been adopted by some of the worst employers this country could possibly have. If the opinions of many business men had been made public I think they would have been 1603 found to coincide with the views expressed in this House by the Prime Minister, after he had met the coal-owners, in regard to the way in which they had behaved. Whatever the policy which was adopted during the general strike may have been, it was no justification for bringing forward a Measure of this kind which challenges the whole position of the trade union movement. The general strike is a thing which I very much doubt this Bill is really going to stop in the future.
There have recently been two illustrations in Europe of a general strike. One was in Germany and the other was in the very early days of the revolution in Russia. The fact that the Tsar was compelled to bring a legislative body into existence was due to a general strike. This Measure may possibly make a strike such as took place last year impossible, because the general strike in this country was never intended as revolutionary action. When you have another general strike in this country, it is possible that it may be the preparation for a revolutionary movement, and, if such a strike as that takes place, this Bill will be of very little use to prevent it. If you are going to have a revolutionary strike, you already have sufficient powers in the hands of the Government to deal with an emergency of that kind without any such powers as those which are contained in this Bill.
If we take the first great principle outlined in this Clause, I believe that to stop a general strike in its worst revolutionary form this Bill would be useless. The danger, however, of the whole proposal, is that you pass through the general strike to the sympathetic strike, and we have seen, as the Bill has been going through Committee, the extreme difficulty of limiting the proposals in the Bill to the actual object which the Government have, at any rate, pretended to have in view, namely, the prevention of a general strike. As to how far a sympathetic strike can go, endless illustrations can be put forward, and here we come to one of the root objections to the Bill. We have asked the Attorney-General one question after another. He has answered that this strike will be legal and that strike will be illegal, and we might go on putting those questions.
1604 There is one thing that it would be interesting to know. Suppose that, in the emergency of last year, when the whole of the coalminers were out, the railwaymen then refused to carry coal coming in from the Continent, I cannot see, if the Attorney-General were to give an answer as whether that was legal or illegal, that it would be any guarantee as to what action would he taken in the future should that emergency arise. It could easily be argued the other way. If there were a great coal stoppage, such as we had last year, and if coal were prevented from coming into this country, surely that could easily be interpreted as an attempt to coerce the Government. Where the number is larger, say, in the event of all the railwaymen being called out, the Attorney-General tells us that that would be illegal.
It is one of the great difficulties and one of the most unsatisfactory features in connection with this Bill that to such a large extent it is virtually going to depend finally upon what a Court of law is going to say is the actual meaning of the Measure. In the earlier parts of the Debate, instances were given of the line of argument used by the Liberal Attorney-General and Solicitor-General when one of the great trade union Bills was going through the House. They said then how unsatisfactory it was that matters of this kind should be decided by the Courts, because they said that those who would have to decide were by no means best qualified by experience to decide matters of this kind. Nevertheless, it seems to me that in the case of the sympathetic strike it is bound to be left in the hands of Courts of law—in the hands of magistrates or of judges—and, with the best intentions, there will be the most extraordinary decisions, and feeling will be aroused which will only embitter any industrial disputes that may happen in the future. I do not know whether the question has been gone into very closely, but I have not heard what is the real meaning of that part of the Clause which deals with the question of people instigating or inciting others to take part or otherwise act in furtherance of a strike. I should have been interested to hear a little more as to what really is covered by this—whether, if a strike were going on which was declared to be illegal, anyone who gave any money, or anyone who 1605 began to collect funds on behalf of the wives and children of those who were taking part in the dispute, would render themselves liable to penalties under this Clause. Would anybody who was serving on the committees of the trade unions concerned be liable under this Clause? It seems to me that there is no end to the number of men or women who might become liable. These considerations are quite apart from what I regard as the great fundamental principle that the worker should be allowed the right to decide whether he is going to withhold his work or not.
This Bill will only make the industrial problems that we have to face more difficult of solution than they were before, and it is very extraordinary that at this stage there should have been talk of some measure of conciliation. It has been suggested that the trade union leaders might now begin to see whether there is not some way of avoiding industrial disputes by methods of conciliation. Hon. Members opposite must have a very small conception of the enormous bitterness that this Bill has aroused when they can even make such a suggestion. If it had been made before the Bill was introduced, I could have understood it, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health who, I see, is smiling, cannot have any idea whatever of the bitterness that this Measure has introduced. If he thinks that the men who have been fighting it are now going to sit round a table in order to try to talk about what might very well have been spoken of before, he very much mistakes the whole position at the present time. In any case, time would have to be allowed to elapse, if the Government are going on with this Measure, to see what its actual working is going to be, but to talk at the present moment of conciliation, to talk of asking men to sit round a table when a Measure of this kind has just been introduced, as though there were no resentment and no bitterness, shows an extraordinary lack of statesmanship. Can anyone imagine the Liberal Government, at the height of the dispute on the Irish question, suddenly going to Lord Carson and proposing, while the Home Rule Bill was being passed, that he should come and sit at a round table? Can anyone imagine that Lord Carson would have listened to such a suggestion?
§ Mr. GILLETT
I was only trying to bring that in as an illustration which I thought might perhaps have been better understood on the Benches opposite than an illustration dealing with a dispute in the trade union world. The point which I was trying to bring out, and which I still desire to lay stress upon, is that I think the Government, if they really have any idea that conciliation is going to be considered at this time, are fundamentally mistaken. This Clause is fundamentally against the principle of the right of the worker to withhold his work. That right is going to be taken way, though how far or to what extent the great mass of the workers of this country do not know, and probably the Government themselves do not know; I do not think they possibly can know, because it will depend finally upon the judgment of the Courts. When that right is being challenged, as it is, and as it has been to-day, to come and talk about conciliation is utterly futile and hopeless. I shall certainly vote against this Clause, believing that the Government, in bringing in this Bill and introducing a Clause of this kind, have made a very great mistake which they themselves will have cause bitterly to regret.
Mr. W. M. ADAMSON
The main argument that we have been using in regard to this Clause is as to its indefiniteness and its vagueness. We are inclined to believe that, almost deliberately, it has been given the widest and fullest possible scope, in order that it may include within it many things that are not intended to be shown openly and above-board. Whatever may be the legal expressions contained in it, there is no doubt that the intention of those who have been responsible for framing the Bill has been in the main to prevent what is detrimental to the interests of the nation. But it would have been very much better, instead of relying upon the experience of 1926, to take an ordinary period and base their proposals on ordinary normal conditions, on the fact of negotiations becoming futile, and on the probability of strikes on the one hand and lock-outs on the other. I speak as a trade union official of some 20 years' experience, and, taking my mind back the length of that period as to the 1607 methods which have been adopted with regard to hours of labour, the conditions that apply inside the factory, the wages paid and so on and the negotiations which generally have taken place on these matters, if you take the average position you have to come to the conclusion generally that it is only after very lengthy negotiations and every possible means to get at a settlement that a dispute actually takes place.
I want to quote a particular instance in a normal year. I take the period of 1925, and I find that 53.7 per cent. of the disputes that took place arose out of reductions of wages that were being enforced upon the workers, whereas the actual number that were for increased wages was only 7.9 per cent., the remainder being on questions of working conditions, hours of labour, and so on. After we had gone through the period of enormous wage reductions from 1921 to 1924, the workers were surely entitled during 1925 to use every possible means to maintain their standard of life under the conditions that existed. But what is going to be the interpretation of hardship upon the community? Although it was discussed on many occasions in Committee and on the Second Reading, it has never yet been defined. There is an organisation called the West End Tailors' and Tailoress' Association. Let us imagine that prior to the opening of the society season the tailors and tailoresses decide not to carry out any of their ordinary functions in the making of fine dresses that are worn at Ascot or in the coming society season and that this caused hardship upon a section of the community. Would that entail the intervention of the Attorney-General? It would be a wonderful thing that the races could not be attended in last year's dresses.
Certainly. It would be a very peculiar position if Court functions were held up by the absence of new finery. The hon. and gallant Gentleman possibly has no experience of that class of society in which ladies dare not wear the same dress twice in public. It is not a question of the trade unionist's wife having to weal the same dress in and out 1608 of season and then turning it outside in. It is a question of what causes hardship. The only thing that caused discomfort to a certain section of the community would be something that took from their physical comforts or prevented the actual flaunting of their wealth and luxury. I want to know if it would be considered a case of hardship if the West End tailors and tailoresses struck work and refused, unless they got better wages and shorter hours, to carry out their ordinary functions.
However, there is perhaps a more serious aspect of the Clause than that, as to the infliction of penalties under certain conditions when a strike is declared illegal. I believe the great responsibility upon the House of Commons is to keep free from the type of legislation that enforces penalty Clauses. It may be in the minds of Conservative Members of the House that penalty Clauses are a deterrent against infringements of the law. It may be, of course, in the case of ordinary crimes that a penalty may be a deterrent to individuals against breaking the law, but I question very much when you are dealing with matters of principle—and we have the same thing in regard to all sorts of questions that have come under the law as declared by the Governments of this country, such as anti-vaccination anti things of that nature—whether penalties, however inflicted, are any deterrent whatever.
Perhaps I may take the opportunity of giving a personal experience to this House. It was a case in which I was engaged some 13 years ago in connection with a dispute in which, although it was taken under the common law, I was summoned before a bench of magistrates for a certain action taken in that dispute. I was responsible for the dispute in enforcing, as far as we could, a decent rate of wages and working conditions. I was brought before the magistrate in a certain town in the Midlands and a penalty was imposed for what was termed a misdemeanour for making threats, or something of that kind, to a man who had refused to cease work, although a member of a trade union who had, with others, decided himself upon the dispute. The bench of magistrates consisted of three employers who, within a very short period of time, had equally come under our methods of negotiation and had been compelled to pay increased 1609 wages to their workers. I was given the alternative of paying £5 or a month's imprisonment. I accepted the imprisonment. I may remind the House—and perhaps there are Members who remember the incident—that it was raised in the House and Mr. McKenna, who was then Home Secretary, reviewed the whole situation, and I was released in six days, after the fullest possible investigation, with the evident intention on the part of the Home Secretary to redeem what had been an injustice. Is the same thing going to happen under this Measure where you have a bench of magistrates who are not prepared to consider the circumstances in the light of evidence—it can be done on the application of the Attorney-General even in these cases—and who may be prejudiced individuals who are willing and likely to take an exceptional advantage of those conditions, so that responsible officials of the unions can be sentenced or fined under the Clause?
As I said at the beginning, I am very much opposed to the Clause as it stands with its vague and indefinite form. Is it going to help the Government, even assuming that they claim it is illegal, in their attack on the dispute as it exists? Rather would it be better that they should settle down to the solving of many of our industrial problems by types of legislation that would be beneficial, not merely to the industries concerned but to those who are engaged in them. It would be better if it were possible even at this late hour, to withdraw the implications that are in this Clause, and which are bound to cause difficulties in the future, rather than solve the difficulties which they are intended to meet. It would be better for the Government and their supporters really to try to visualise the attitude of mind which they are going to create. They may think to-day that there is no enthusiasm in opposition to this Measure, but, on the other hand, let them be assured that there is the keenest possible determination against this Measure, and particularly this first Clause, which is going, in its vague and indefinite form, to make it possible for strikes to be declared illegal after they have been in operation, and for men and women who are engaged in them to come under the law, and be made criminals, and sometimes convicts, merely because they have acted according 1610 to their principles, in applying what was right and standing by their fellow-workers in carrying out the ordinary traditions of the trade union movement, in their desire for better working conditions and the things that mean life for all.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I certainly wish wholeheartedly to support the proposal for the omission of this, the all-important Clause of the Bill. I am very strongly in agreement with the reference made by the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead) when he drew special attention to this particular part of the Clause which deals with causing inconvenience to the community. There is no doubt that one of the great difficulties in endeavouring to secure the application of justice to the struggles in the workaday world is because the community does not give serious consideration to those particular struggles as we find them today, and it has to be acknowledged that, even in the trade union world, that particular aspect of the situation has been very distressing. On many occasions, while very urgent appeals were being made by the men—and sometimes women—who were out on strike, for the appreciation by the community of a good cause, even then, not only did the community generally take no particular action to support the cause of the strikers, but sections of the trade union world themselves carried, on in their own way as if nothing particular was happening. That phase of trade unionism had, unquestionably, to be taken in hand, and in previous contributions we made in this Debate we certainly did acknowledge—and we endorse it to-day—that that situation has greatly improved. Had it not improved, it would have been a serious reflection on the trade union movement.
The growing tendency of the trade union movement was to recognise that where it was a just cause for a strike, then that feeling should be made evident in a practical fashion by the other industries and different trades coming together either on strike themselves or by contributions towards such purpose. Now the Bill sets out to say, you are not going to have anything of the kind. You are going to consider the community! I have read in the evening paper to-night that three of the great meat traders of the world have had a terrible conflict for the last 1611 two years, and that now they have come to some terms which will obviate the struggle between them, but which will have the inimical effect, on the community of London in particular, of raising the price of meat. What evidence have we that the Government, with their pretended concern for the community, are concerned with an issue of that kind There is an inconsistency here which must appeal to every thoughtful man on the other side. There is no doubt about the inconsistency. The whole question lies in the difference between the ordinary toiler in his struggle for a fair deal, in his perfectly reasonable claim to get a fair reward for his labour, the labourer being worthy of his hire, and the tendency of the Government, in every possible way, to recognise the forces, and to facilitate the interest, of the very section of the community which profits by the crushing of the toiler to the lowest possible point.
That is a desperate state of affairs for a Government concerned about the conserving of the best interests of the country, to get into. There is perfect agreement on the part of all writers on this Bill that nobody is going to be able to prophesy what will be the results of the Measure. I am quite confident that while there may be a difference of opinion as to the results of the Measure, there is not a shadow of doubt about this, that instead of helping in any degree to improve the industrial situation it will intensify the class struggle. Notwithstanding the penalties which have been emphasised by previous speakers, I am quite confident that there will be breakings of the law, and that there will be a steady drifting towards the intensification of industrial unrest in the country, and that you are not going to obtain the results you profess to desire in the best interests of the commerce of the land. One of the things which we conceive is that the Government are going to give an impetus and an encouragement to the less satisfactory employer, the man who is out to try to strike down wages to the lowest possible point.
I am glad to think that one of the results will be that the blackleg chap will be let down. It is not the interests of the blackleg man about which the Government are concerned. It is very edifying on that score, that the man who is 1612 inclined to take advantage of the result of the reasonable combination amongst his fellows—the man who is now being appreciated as a hero, much on the same lines as the man during the War was a hero—and God help that man at the present time!—is going to be let down. The blackleg at the present time is a hero, but he is going to be dropped as surely as the man who took part in the War was dropped after the War. The blackleg man is going to go down. While you are doing this against the man who at present occupies the position of employer and who appreciates trade unionism, you are, at the same time, creating in the constituency, of which I have the honour to share the representation, gladness in the heart of one of the most diehard Tories this country has ever known. He has the running of a big journalistic enterprise not only in the City of Dundee, but elsewhere. He makes no bones about it. There is a clearing out of everybody in connection with all his establishments whatever may be the union, or whatever may be the association with which they may be identified, if they have any tendency at all towards the struggle for the benefit of the general body of the workers—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
This might be relevant to Clause 3; I really do not see how it can be to Clause 1.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
That is quite correct, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I felt that he was really entitled to the recognition under this Clause while we were about it. I quite agree that this matter does not come under it.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
There might be something to be said on the lock-out score, but as far as lock-out is concerned, as was stated in a previous contribution, the employer does not need to trouble about the lock-out method of dealing with it. He can deal with his employés in various ways without the lock-out. The lock-out is mere camouflage, and was not introduced when the Bill was first brought before the House. The very fact that there is a lock-out Clause tells of the necessity for facing the question I was handling at the moment. If we are to get something done in the interests of those who have to toil and struggle in 1613 order to find the means of securing why proper reward for their labour, why should the Conservative forces, as represented by the Government, step in and say, "You are not to be allowed to make any subscription towards the struggle of your fellow men or sisters engaged in another business"? I am stressing, for the moment, the seriousness of the situation which confronts the workers, but there is the other side of it. I make a frank admission that as far as I can see—and I know there are other Members on this side of the House who recognise it—that there is not just a spontaneous outburst against the Bill amongst the workers in the country as a whole. That will come. When the Bill begins to operate, it will result as other Measures have resulted. The workers will defer their most serious consideration and their most aggressive action when the screw is put upon them by Clause 1.
When that state comes, it may then be realised by the trade union movement and the Labour party what was meant by the late Keir Hardie in his struggle to establish the Labour movement by adopting the plan of linking up the trade unions, and by providing for financing the Labour party. The stage has now been reached, by the passing of this Measure, when the body of workers will realise that it would have been far better for them in the early days, and it would be far better for them now that this Bill is to be passed that, instead of adopting indirect action, they should come direct into the political arena as a body of men and women not concerned simply about wages or conditions which are applicable only to trade unionism, but as a force realising that they can only deal with trade and industry and the general conditions of the country by securing power in this House, and being able, by placing a majority in the Lobby, to carry through the reforms that are necessary.
It is a somewhat strange and significant thing that certain hon. Members of the Labour party, who are not by any means identified with the Prohibition party, have recently put forward the proposition that in opposition to this Bill, and especially to Clause 1, there should be a boycott of intoxicating liquors and of smoking. I never had very much hope about that propaganda, 1614 but I was interested in it as having come from a section of the Labour party who were not particularly enthusiastic about prohibition. I have heard the repeated assertion that that suggestion has not a ghost of a look in. That means that so far as direct action is concerned, so far as the general body of workers are concerned, you can smash the trade unions, so long as you do not smash their bottles.
Would not the hon. Member be in order in saying that the smashing of bottles would be calculated to coerce the Government?
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I am speaking of the Opposition. I am admitting something which the Government may feel is gratifying to them and important in the interests of the Bill. We ought to be getting this Bill smashed, but the smashing is deferred, and I have given an illustration of what has been suggested for the overthrow of the Bill. Although there are those in this House and in the country who are securing meetings in opposition to the Bill, there is not that spontaneous response from the general body of workers by organised effort and by contribution to funds to promote opposition to the Bill, that one would have expected. The Government know how much they have behind them in carrying through a Bill of this kind. They rely upon this Measure as something which will be helpful to what they call the conservation of the country. I submit, quite seriously, that in this development we have something which is regardless of the true conservation of the country. It is quite consistent with the other policies of the Conservative party, all of which are derogatory to the interests of the country, entirely retrograde and adverse to the interests of the country at large.
This Bill is a perfectly consistent line of action on the part of the Government, although it is a, decided reversal of the Conservatism as it was known in days gone by. It is in marked contrast to what we knew in the old days, even so late as 1874 and 1880. It places in 1615 an awkward predicament people like the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck). He took a courageous line of action in connection with the Bill, and he has been dealt with as a blackleg in the Conservative party. He is the only man on the Conservative side who has given some definite indication of the real conservation of the interests of the country. He has been put into silence straight away, and we have not seen him since. What you have done with him, I do not know. This Bill will be one of the most remarkable memorials that the worst kind of Government could possibly have produced.
§ Mr. J. BAKER
I listened to the Attorney-General, and I do not think he was at his best. He flourished a leaflet, which was written before the Bill was amended, and wished the House to believe that that leaflet applied to the amended Bill. That might be a good cheap debating point, but this House needs guidance on this Bill, and we are relying upon the Attorney-General to give us that guidance. The making of cheap debating points is not the best way to do that. The reading of a certain phrase in the leaflet aroused quite a chorus of laughter on the other side. Hon. Members opposite are not so liable to be locked up as are those on this side of the House, and I suppose they feel in a position to laugh. The phrase—I am quoting from memory—was that under this Bill last year's lock-out might have been declared an illegal strike.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The quotation was:If the Bill had been in force last year, the mining lock-out would have been an illegal strike.
§ Mr. BAKER
Will the Attorney-General assure the House now that under no circumstances whatever can a strike, which at the outset is a legal strike under the terms of this Bill, become an illegal strike through the action of some outside body over which the strikers have no control? If that phraseology be wrong, 1616 if it be not possible under this Bill for the general strike of last year to make illegal the action of the miners in resisting the reductions which the employers were trying to force upon them, I, too, have been wrong, as well as the writer of the leaflet. It is the old complaint that this Bill is full of flat traps. It has been so drafted that we have not a sporting chance of understanding it, and, if we are to be misled by a Bill which we are told has been drafted with every care so that it shall carry out the intentions of its promoters, then, I say, that the intentions are deliberately to lead trade unionists into difficulties, so that the Government may punish them and get their revenge for what happened last year. The phrase sounds illogical and rather peculiar English, but I believe it will be possible for some group of work men to go on strike within the terms of this Bill, and then by the action of some outside body, over whom the strikers have no control whatever, it is possible for the strike to be made illegal and for the workmen to be taken before a Court of summary jurisdiction.
The Attorney-General was playing on our ignorance as to the meaning of the term when he said that magistrates cannot inflict two years' imprisonment. The Bill says that "on summary conviction." What is summary conviction? I have asked hon. Members on this side who are magistrates, and they assure me that it is conviction in a police court. This Bill says that that court can inflict a fine of £10 and imprisonment for two years. If magistrates cannot do this, is not the Bill going a little further than the Attorney-General believed? It certainly makes that provision. The Attorney-General recognises clearly, probably it is the leaflet which he despises that has converted him, that there is an immense danger here of a miscarriage of justice and he is amending the Bill in order to prevent that miscarriage of justice. In that case he surely ought not to ridicule the men who drew his attention to its possibility. That leaflet was either sold or distributed, in fact, both things happened, and over a million copies have been circulated. I had nothing to do with the writing or publication, but it was drafted hurriedly in reply to a Bill which the Government has admitted was far from 1617 perfect because on the Clause we are now discussing they have brought in 10 Amendments. If they felt that it was necessary to bring in all these Amendments in order to make their Bill understandable the Attorney-General should be willing to excuse people who take him seriously and believe he means what he says. The Bill, in Clause 2, Sub-section (3), says:As respects any strike or lock-out before the passing of this Act but since the first day of May, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, which, according to the law as declared by this Act, was illegal, this Section shall have effect as if it had been in operation when the strike or lock-out took place.What are we to think, except that this Sub-section is punitive, that the Government is out for blood and that it is going to force this Bill through the House of Commons and punish as many people as they can possibly get hold of. If they do not mean that why put such phraseology into the Bill? It is said that it is introduced in order to bring peace in industry. The Prime Minister prays for peace and throws a bomb. He says "Give me peace in industry; give me power to lock up all those fellows who are creating disturbances and we shall get peace." If the Government are relying on getting peace by locking up trade union officers I am afraid they have made a bloomer, and if they are relying on the indifference of the workers of this country they are making a mistake. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) has said that there is no wild enthusiasm at the meetings he has addressed, but there is something worse than wild enthusiasm and that is the sullen attitude of the workers of this country towards this Bill. I addressed a meeting a week yesterday in South Wales, and when I said that I was not a believer in the general strike I was almost howled down. A resolution was carried at that meeting demanding a general strike immediately. In the afternoon I addressed a meeting where the audience was variously estimated at between 5,000 and 20,000 people. [Laughter.]
It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to laugh, but I believe that if the miners' leaders had advised the men at that meeting not to go to work the 1618 following day, they would not have gone, notwithstanding their poverty. I hope we shall get through this situation without trouble, but hon. Members opposite who want to lock up the leaders and think they are going to get peace in that way are making this blunder. It is not the leaders who want strikes. The leaders have restrained their men as much as they can. It would be the easiest thing possible in several of our industries to have a general stoppage within a few days if the leaders lost their heads, as the Government seem to have done. When the Attorney-General was handling the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Mosley) his backers behind him enjoyed the joke and thought it was good fun. They laughed; I hope they will be able to laugh after the next election. I am so certain that this is a blunder, because I know the effect it is having on my own organisation. Hon. Members opposite do not quite realise what was the view of the ordinary trade unionist last year. Last year was the first time in the history of my organisation—and the history of parts of that organisation goes back for 70 odd years—that the executive council declared for a strike. If hon. Gentlemen opposite were looking for signs, they would ponder that statement and ask if repression is the proper way to treat men like that. These men with all their training for arbitration and conciliation, whose leaders have been pioneers in the movement for industrial peace, kicked over the traces and joined their fellow-workers as a protest against what took place last year. This legislation will not help these men to continue in the paths of peace.
Outside the House I have described this as a bosses' Parliament. It believes in the interest of the bosses. It is possible to take a course of action that one believes to be in one's own interest, and to find ultimately that it is the worst thing one could possibly have done. If this Government wanted peace, they might have attained it, but not by Acts like this, because this legislation appears to us to be so unfair and unreasonable that it cannot be justified. We have had no serious alteration in the trade union law such as this for over 100 years that has not been preceded by inquiry. In the year 1824, when no workman in the 1619 country had a vote, when there was not a workman in this House, when this country was being run by landlords and capitalists in their own interest, the result of an inquiry was that that kind of legislation was said to be unreasonable and unfair. One employer, employing a thousand men, is a stronger organisation in himself than these 1,000 men. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General would trouble to look at this question from our point of view, he would know that an employer is in a better position for self-defence; that he can last out longer in a fight that is decided on the stomachs of the people, because he has something to pawn, and he can borrow as his work-people cannot do. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General thinks it is fair to tie these workmen to employers or a group of employers who are guided by a board of arbitration or conciliation. In 1824 it was recommended by a Commission that the circumstances were unfair to the workers, because it gave the employers an unfair advantage. But in 1927, after 100 years of progress—and hon. Members opposite would be insulted if I compared their intelligence and civilisation to that of 1824—we get a Bill brought in which is just as unfair as the position was in 1824.
Employers if they want peace cannot afford to tell their workmen that they are not going to be fair to them. The only reason why we have had such peace as we have had in this country is that because at least some employers have been fair, and it is those employers who are to suffer under this Bill. All employers will have to be treated alike; the bad ones will set the pace and the good ones will have to suffer. There will be no discrimination, and I think that is a pity. I am one of the men who, when I was secretary of a union, was known as one of the fighting crowd. I did not believe in strikes as a matter of policy, and I do not now; I did not believe in arbitration as a matter of policy, but I adopted either as the circumstances warranted. If an employer said to me, as they have said to me, that they were not going to meet me and would not discuss things with me, I have said, "Treat the men decently, and I do not want to 1620 see you; but, if you do not treat the men decently, there is only one way out, and that is a fight, and I never shirked a fight that was forced upon me." My chiefs believe in arbitration. Do not make it impossible for these men to continue advocating arbitration amongst our members by passing Bills that are so brutally unfair as this Bill.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I would not have intervened on this Clause were it not for an interjection which was made by the Attorney-General in reply to a query by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). I hesitate to put to him a question which has been so often repeated on this Clause. But before approach that I would like to point out that during the last two hours we have not heard a single voice on the other side of the House in support of this Clause.
§ Mr. DAVIES
There have been several chances during the last few hours for any hon. Member of the Conservative party to stand up in this House and champion the cause which they say they have so much at heart, but we have not had a single speech from them for two flours. One of the hon. Members for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) said that there was no enthusiasm against this Bill. If comparisons of signs are anything to guide one, I would like to tell the House that the Attorney-General and I spoke at two meetings in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester—not at the same two meetings—and for every handbill which we put out for our meeting, he had 20 large posters. All the great men of Lancashire were there to support him. The Lords were there, and if there were Dukes, they were there, too; all the landlords and employers and the big business folk collected in the Free Trade Hall to listen to the Attorney-General defending his Bill. The Free Trade Hall, however, could have contained at least 300 or 400 more people than were present. I want the hon. Member for Dundee to note the fact that we on the other hand filled the Free Trade Hall at our meeting against the Bill; and from my experience there is very much more enthusiasm against the Measure than the Government is able to work up in its favour.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
My hon. Friend has mistaken what I said. I did not say there was not any enthusiasm. I said there was no spontaneous outburst of enthusiasm.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The hon. Gentleman apparently wants spontaneous enthusiasm in favour of prohibition against the Bill. It might help if I tell him that if the non-consumption of alcoholic drink would prevent a Tory Government coming into power, they would never have been in power so far as I am concerned. My point, however, is this: The Attorney-General, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly, said that there were strikes that would be quite legal. He will pardon me if I put it in my own way; I am incapable of understanding legal formulas. Clause 1 makes it quite clear that if a strike is, as the right hon. Gentleman said, coercing the Government, or inflicting hardship on the community, that strike is illegal. I want to ask the Attorney-General this question. Can he imagine any strike on a large scale in any one of the vital industries of this country by the very fact of its taking place not fulfilling both the conditions required in the Clause? A classic example has been given over and over again and I repeat it. If all the miners of the country came out on strike, having decided to fight the Mining Association for shorter hours or higher wages or both, and the railwaymen came out in sympathy with the miners, the Attorney-General could at once declare that the railwaymen would be acting illegally? I take it that that would be the case? The right hon. Gentleman does not dissent anyhow. That means, that we can say now, that so far as this Bill is concerned, the railwaymen of this country will not be able ever to come to the aid of the miners in a dispute. That is the case, I think? I do not think that the Attorney-General would care to stand up now and dispute what I have said.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The answer that the Attorney-General has just given will be very useful in a Court of law later on. May we take it for granted, therefore, that if the miners of this country, about 1,000,000 of them, come out on strike in future, it will be quite competent for 1622 the railway men to down tools, to collect funds and to support the miners on strike? The Attorney-General does not reply to my question in that form. Unless I am mistaken, I may be qualifying as a lawyer by putting these questions in different ways. The reply I got from the right hon. Gentleman will help us, as I said, in future, to elucidate some of the very difficult points in connection with the administration of the Bill. It does appear to me—I am not now speaking of small strikes in connection with, say, soap or biscuit works or industries of that kind, for those strikes probably will not be illegal, but of strikes, say, in the transport industry—it seems to me that by virtue of the fact that strikes take place they will in themselves fulfil the two qualifications that the right hon. Gentleman has put into his Bill, and consequently—I hope he will pardon me for putting it in this way—it is sheer hypocrisy to tell this House that the railway men can come out in sympathy with the miners to support them in a strike, when in fact the very nature of their strike will fulfil both conditions in the Bill and snake that sympathetic strike illegal.
Let me put it in another way. I am entitled, if I desire to-night, to commit burglary. If I wanted to attempt that, I suppose I would do best if I broke into a Tory club; but before to-morrow morning, I would know that I had committed an offence against the law. In effect, what the Attorney-General has told us is that the railwaymen can come out on strike in the circumstances mentioned; that there is nothing to prevent them, but that on the following morning, they will be hauled before the Courts on the ground that they have committed an illegal act. That is the reasoning of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in connection with these two conditions. I would like to ask him still another question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Surely, we are entitled to ask the Attorney-General these questions. I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health sitting opposite, and I would remind him that when he was in Opposition and we were on those benches, he was quite an adept at asking questions. I really thought he was in charge of the Bill to-night; and, if he were, I would put to him a few more questions than I am putting to the Attorney-General. The next 1623 question which I wish to put to the Attorney-General is with regard to funds. The Bill says:It is further declared that it is illegal to commence or continue or to apply any sums in furtherance or support of any such illegal strike.In spite of the fact that I am opposed to this Clause, and to the Bill, I realise that it would be illegal to use the funds of a trade union in support of an illegal strike; but I think the point should be cleared up as to what is meant by "sums." Supposing a collection has been made in favour of those who are illegally striking. Would it be illegal to support those strikers from funds collected outside the trade union organisation? If the Attorney-General answers that question, I think he will help us considerably in the administration of this Bill when it becomes an Act. I have another grave objection to this Clause It is going to enhance the reputations and fill the coffers of the lawyers of this country. When it becomes law, a trade union will hardly venture upon a strike without consulting the lawyers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I notice that all the lawyers in the House say "hear, hear" to that statement.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
It is very good advice.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I do not think, however, they will go to Tory lawyers for advice even on this Measure. It seems to me that it will be a ridiculous expenditure of money if trade unions are compelled to consult lawyers before they determine to engage in an industrial dispute of any kind. I would not be surprised if the right hon. and learned Gentleman had something of that kind in mind when he drafted Clause 1.
I come back now to the point upon which I touched at the beginning of my remarks. What about the trade union which is compelled, when it strikes against the employer, to do the two things that are held to be illegal in this Clause. They must, automatically in striking against the employer, coerce the Government and inflict hardship upon the community all at the same time.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The right hon. and learned Gentleman shakes his head once again. He knows the law better than I do; but I am not sure that he knows this Bill as well as he ought to know it, if I may humbly say so. I ask once again, what about the trade union which must fulfil both conditions, of inflicting hardship upon the community and coercing the Government when it declares a strike against their own employers? As I have already stated, I can think of no strike on a large scale in this country, particularly in the transport industry, which could be legal, even when the men are striking against their employers.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
But it must be in addition to the furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Yes, but the hon. Member knows full well that you cannot very well separate the Government from the employers in any big dispute.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I thought the aim of Clause 1 is to prevent not only a general strike because it is an industrial dispute, but because it is a dispute designed to coerce the Government and to inflict hardship on the community. But I pass to another point. The Debate to-night and prior to this evening has turned mainly on the two strong organisations, the miners and the railwaymen; but there are other industries quite as important in a way. The union to which I belong has in its membership a large number of flour millers; and I should say that if all the flour millers in this country struck work in favour of better conditions, they would automatically inflict hardship on the community, and I would not be surprised if that would not also at the same time be held to be coercing the Government. Consequently, I say that it is sheer hypocrisy to tell us that men are entitled to strike when, in fact, once they come out, the strike will be declared illegal almost immediately.
Clause 1 is based, as far as I understand it, on the present situation in industry; but the legal gentlemen who drafted it have presumed that trade unionism is static. They look upon the miners, for instance, as being organised 1625 in federations in Scotland, South Wales, Lancashire, and so forth, but the miners to-day are talking of forming one big union instead of a federation, and I should not be a bit surprised if the miners some day joined forces with some other organisation too. I say, therefore, that trade unionism is not static. In the engineering trade, for instance, we have seen great amalgamations among the workpeople; and I can well imagine a great change taking place not only in the machinery and foundations of trade unionism, but in the whole functioning of those organisations. A Bill which is based upon trade union organisation as we find it in 1927 may be totally inapplicable in 1930 or 1932, when labour unionism may have changed its complexion altogether.
The strange thing to me, in the speeches to which we have listened from the Conservative benches is that they all presume that trade unionism is anti-social in its character. They imagine that if this country were devoid of trade unionism, that if there was not a single trade unionist or Socialist in the land, everything would be well with this country, but, strangely enough, where trade unionism is strongest in Europe, that country is the richest of all the European countries. Trade unionism and labour organisation are stronger in this than in any other country in Europe, and still, in spite of the power of trade union organisation here, the rich people of this land are richer than those of any other country in Europe. It is not true to say trade unionism is anti-social; and rather than attempt to check the growth of trade union organisation the Tory party should be doing their best to encourage it. Right hon. Members opposite who talk of this Measure as a charter of freedom for trade unionists know very little about labour unionism. They know something maybe of professional organisations. I doubt whether any of them have ever been employed in workshops in their lives, or have ever worked in a coal mine or a textile factory; and I do not think they are entitled, therefore, to dilate upon trade union organisations in the way they do.
We are opposed to this Clause and shall vote against it; and we shall endeavour to convince the electorate that the Clause, just as the whole Bill, 1626 is designed to cripple trade union organisation; and when the time comes, I trust we shall get the support we deserve from the population of this country in destroying the Measure root and branch.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
When listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Davies) I could not help thinking it would be a very good thing if Members of the Opposition, particularly those sitting on the Front Bench, would read the Clause they are criticising before they begin to criticise it. In spite of the fact that I took the trouble to remind the hon. Member of the wording of this Clause, he went on with his argument without taking the least notice of the wording which I brought to his recollection. Indeed, one of the chief troubles of the present official opposition is that no matter how bad a Bill this Government may bring in—and they bring in some pretty bad ones—by the time the official opposition have finished criticising it it is almost impossible to convince anyone in the country that it really is a bad Bill. When Clauses 1 and 2 were printed, and before they were amended, there was a very great deal of feeling against them not only in the country outside, among employers and others, but among supporters of the Governmenthere. But after listening to the Second Reading Debate and the Debates in Committee I found it almost impossible, to my very great regret, to get up any sort of opposition against Clauses 1 and 2. If the official Opposition, instead of attempting the hopeless task of introducing alcoholic prohibition into their party, as described by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour), had imposed on themselves a self-denying ordinance of a much more stringent but much more effective sort, and had denied themselves the pleasure of making speeches in opposition to this Bill both in this House and outside, I cannot help feeling that we might have modified Clauses 1 and 2 still more. Those who feel as I do that, on the whole, this is an unwise Bill at the present time, realise still that the Attorney-General and the Government have undoubtedly improved those two Clauses immensely in Committee. I should like to see other Amendments passed, but we must be thankful for what we have got.
1627 To my mind, the chief criticism that can be brought against Clause 1 is that it is a Clause designed to meet a situation which it is almost impossible to conceive can occur in future in this country. There is not the least doubt that, judging by the very careful wording of that Clause, and particularly by the conditions which were put in, we have made certain that a strike may not be declared illegal except under certain very stringent conditions. It is perfectly obvious that the Clause is directed against a general strike somewhat of the same kind that we experienced in May of last year. If we consider the history of that episode of last May, we are led to the inevitable conclusion that it is a work of supererogation to pass a Clause directed against the possibility of such a situation arising again. What was that history? The general strike was organised by the Trade Union Congress General Council. That body had given full, definite, and written notice to the Miners' Federation that they were going to betray them. They had given that notice publicly and confirmed it in writing. On 12th February last year the Trade Union Congress passed a resolution in which they said they were going to support the miners through thick and thin, and see that there should be no reduction of wages, no increase of hours, and no interference with the national agreement.
But, as the time for the revolution approached, they began to reconsider their position, and on the 8th April they passed another resolution of quite a different character. They were then prepared to support the Miners' Federation only in getting an equitable settlement of the trouble in the mining industry. The Miners' Federation never showed any great practical skill or penetration, but even the Miners' Federation General Executive began to have a little doubt as to the degree of support they were going to receive from the Trade Union Congress Council. They made inquiries, and they were told, "It is quite all right,'' and afterwards they very foolishly involved themselves in a desperate position and were let down by the Trade Union Council.
If it had not been for an unfortunate 1628 concatenation of circumstances the general strike would never have taken place at all. It is quite certain that the Trade Union Congress General Council never intended for a moment that the general strike should take place; in fact one of the most prominent members, and certainly the most intelligent member of that body, thought he himself personally could again make his celebrated swerve on the edge of the precipice and that he and his friends would not be precipitated over the edge. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who made that swerve?"]
Another unfortunate circumstance occurred. Unfortunately the Government, being unused to revolutions and general strikes, and just before the revolution took place, receiving the unexpected news that the "Daily Mail" leading article could not be published, gave a wild cry of dismay. Having read many of the leading articles in the "Daily Mail," I do not see why the Government should have been so distressed about that. Unfortunately, the Trade Union Congress Council, balancing on the edge of the precipice, were disturbed by the cry of the Government, lost their balance, and found themselves over before they knew what had happened. They made a gallant attempt at surrender, and came back to 10, Downing Street, but unfortunately their previous conversations had produced such a degree of somnolence in the Prime Minister that when they arrived there with the intention of surrendering they found the lights were out. Under those conditions, I ask: Is this House not engaged in a work of supererogation in putting forward legislation with a view to preventing such a thing happening again?
It is as certain as that there is going to be an eclipse of the sun that no Trades Union Congress in this country, at any rate for a very long time to come, will ever enter upon such an adventure again. That seems to me to be one good objection to these particular Clauses, but there is another objection, at which I hinted during the Committee stage of this Bill, when we were discussing these same Clauses, and that is that, if by any extraordinary mishap such a situation did arise again, the existence on the Statute 1629 Book of Clause 1 of the Bill would undoubtedly make that situation very much more dangerous than it was last May. Our revolution last May, as the House will recollect, extended over a period of some ten days, during which the Trades Union Congress General Council was dashing about trying to find any sort of excuse for betraying the miners. By great good luck, Sir Herbert Samuel reappeared from the Continent, where he had fled after issuing his Report, and he was able to give them that very thin and very delicate, almost gossamer, fabric in the way of excuse which enabled them to throw over the miners on the tenth day of the revolution.
There is, therefore, one thing that I think this Clause might do to the detriment of the nation. If by any possible circumstance such a situation could arise, it would undoubtedly prejudice the position of the Trades Union Congress General Council when they were trying to find an excuse for betraying whoever it was that they were going to betray on that particular occasion. The uncertainty which existed in the early days of May of last year as to whether a revolution in this country is illegal or strictly legal—that uncertainty undoubtedly helped them immensely, and I wish that uncertainty to remain, and then, when we have another revolution in this country, we shall get over it, perhaps, with as great ease as we did in May of last year. But, again, I return to my view, which I cannot help feeling very strongly, that we are not likely to have any more revolutions just at present. The House will remember that we met, after the declaration of war on the Government and of revolution, to discuss the revolution which was then in being, which was actually taking place before our eyes; and I remember distinctly that this House and the country itself got so frightfully bored with that revolution on the second clay that the Debate fizzled out long before the appointed time for the House to rise. If there is one thing more certain than another, it is that if a revolution bores the people stiff on the second day, and bores this House to such an extent that it cannot keep up a discussion on it for more than an hour or two, then, in a country of that sort, it is a very poor business to be a revolutionary, 1630 and particularly to be a revolutionary of that extremely indifferent type, which is represented on the Trades Union Congress General Council.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
I rise to put to the Attorney-General, in the last few minutes of the Debate, a question that has been put again and again from these benches, from the benches below the Gangway, and from the Conservative benches. When the Bill was printed for Second Reading, I put a question upon the Paper, which was allowed by you, Mr. Speaker, as being in order, and to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer replied. The question was, "Do the words 'civil servants' and 'civil establishment' refer to the Royal Dockyards and workmen therein?" That question has been put again and again, and to this hour has never been definitely answered. I want to know whether in Clause 1 the words "trade or industry" cover artisans in the Royal Dockyards, because there are tens of thousands of workmen in the Royal Dockyards whose position is uncertain.
There is a principle of British law that we should know what the law is. If we go into a Court of Law, we cannot plead ignorance of it. We are told we should know the law, and what is forbidden by the law is defined in the law. I put the question this afternoon, and the Attorney-General asked me to put it in a more definite form. I am going to do so now. I want to ask him what would be the position of my society and its members in a case of this kind. I have explained twice before what our position in the Royal dockyards is. The status of our members in the dockyards is equal to that of our members in private shipbuilding yards. If an attack is to be made on the, status of those men in the dockyards and we come out on strike to support them in their resistance to it, under this Clause is our action to be taken as coercing the Government, or under the definition of "trade or industry" are the artisans in the Royal dockyards who belong to our society to be covered by that phrase? I put it to the Attorney-General that that question, which has been asked from his own benches, from the Liberal Benches, and from these benches persistently through all the stages of the Bill, ought to be answered in the last few minutes to-night.
§ Mr. TINKER
I want to comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). I felt some alarm at his opening remarks. I thought he was going to declare himself to be a party man and was about to stand by the Conservatives in all their doings, because it would be far better for us if he would declare himself one way or the other. He is what we call in Lancashire a Jack of both sides, an independent critic, but I notice that his criticism generally ends up against the Labour party. When he has finished telling his own party off, it is our party that gets the worst of it, from his point of view. In dealing with the general strike, or the general stoppage, so-called—one has to be very careful in these matters—the hon. Member assumes an attitude of indifference, but I am of opinion that when the stoppage was on, his attitude was not quite what he has sought to show to-night. It is evident from the speeches he made then in backing up the coal-owners that he was not so indifferent.
§ Mr. TINKER
If the hon. Member did not make a speech during that time, he made one immediately afterwards, pointing out what the coalowners intended to do. Whatever the Government did in trying to bring about conciliation, he at least could tell the House of Commons that the coalowners would have nothing to do with it. He made that quite emphatic in declaring his opposition to the miners and the stoppage. If he and the Government want to deal with this question properly, they want to get to the root cause of last year's stoppage. The Attorney-General, when dealing with this matter, slips over the first part and gets on to what happened afterwards. If he will examine the root cause, which ought to be examined in a matter of this sort, he will find that the coalowners were the chief cause of the stoppage commencing. They set out conditions to the miners which it was impossible to accept. Whatever may be said about the ultimate result, the miners could never have accepted these terms without a fight Following on that, it was the feeling of our fellows that brought them into the field—the real sympathy and bond of feeling between one working man and 1632 another. If by Clause 1 it is to be attempted to remedy that, and to prevent any help being given to the miners or any other body of men, I say the Government are not dealing with the matter properly. They ought, first of all, to get at the people who attempt to bring about this kind of thing.
The Attorney-General has tried to define what will be a strike which is illegal. On 17th May he tried to define it, and if f understood his definition properly, it was that if the miners came out for a reduction from eight hours to seven hours, and the coalowners agreed with that, and we refused to accept it without getting the sanction of the Government upon the Statute Book, then that stoppage would be illegal. Do I get the Attorney-General right in that respect'? If the coalowners agreed with us for a seven hours' day, and we refused to accept that agreement without it being put on the Statute Book, and we asked the Government to put it on the Statute Book, should we not be carrying forward an illegal strike I want to put it to the Attorney-General and the hon. Member for Mossley that we have so much distrust in the owners that if they agreed to a seven hours day we could not accept it from them unless it was put on the Statute Book, because it would not be honoured, and we should have all over the country breaches of the Seven Hours Act, making it a dead letter. So we should be bound to go to the Government and ask them to sanction it legally, whatever the agreement might be. I claim that that stoppage would be declared illegal by the Government, because of the two factors being fulfilled. The miners' stoppage means causing hardship and the second point would be fulfilled by coercing the Government, so that in the one industry we should have an illegal strike, and that is backed up by the Attorney-General's words on 17th May.
I want to put it to the Attorney-General that that proves the point that any big stoppage in one industry that coerces the Government at once makes that stoppage illegal. The miners would do it on every occasion because whatever we came out for would mean, of necessity, bringing in the Government. Therefore, to my mind, Clause 1 makes it quite clear that we cannot have any big 1633 stoppage without the whole matter being declared illegal. It may be said, "All right, wait until the time comes and see what will happen." We want to get ready before that time comes, and to be quite clear of our position, so that there will be no misunderstanding when the struggle takes place. We are so much in earnest on the matter, that we want the Attorney-General to make it quite definite where the Government stand on this particular point. This afternoon he slipped off on to a circular issued by the Trades Union Congress or Eccleston Square, and by covering up the mistakes of the Government and never attempting to answer the position, used the circular, saying we had not told our men the real position. May I tell the Attorney-General that when he replied on the Second Reading of the Bill, he himself was not quite clear what the Bill meant. When we said from this side, "Put in lock-outs," his reply was that to put in that word would be useless and inept. Those were the words he used, and yet, later on, lock-outs were inserted. That goes to show even at that time the Attorney-General was not quite clear what the Bill actually meant. Then he criticises us because we issued circulars to our people on what we thought it meant, and he draws the attention of the House to how misleading we were to the public.
If we were misleading the public, the Attorney-General certainly misled the House of Commons in the Second Reading Debate. The Attorney-General this afternoon wanted to say that he had had a number of letters from trade unionists giving support to the Measure. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!"] All right, but surely with 5,000,000 trade unionists one would expect he would get some letters.
§ That is only natural. You will never get 5,000,000 people into one way of thinking. No one wants them to be, anyway. The Attorney-General said he had got some letters. In his speech at Manchester, in defence of another Clause, he said they had got a lot of evidence, and that was why they brought in Clause 4. If he has got the same kind of evidence on Clause 1 as he got on Clause 4 it does not amount to very much. He has put forward that as being one of the reasons why the Tory party is supporting the Measure. If they had received any genuine complaints they would have been shown in the recent elections, When I tell the House of Commons that out of the last five elections the Tory party obtained about 25,000 votes against the other parties' 80,000 votes, it goes to show what the feeling of the country is with regard to this Measure. That is the support the Tory party have got for this Bill. I would say this to the Tory party" If you really believe that you have got any strong grounds at all for this Measure, test the country upon it. See what they have got to say." If you do that, then we on this side of the House will accept the verdict of the country and will agree with you, if the country says that they want this Measure. If you do that, there is not a Member on this side of the House who would attempt to fight this Bill any further. These are the points of objection we have to Clause 1, believing that the country does not want it.
That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'within,' in line 8, stand part of the Bill.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 253; Noes, 111.1637
|Division No. 191.||AYES||[11.0 p m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Blundell, F. N.||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Boothby, R. J. G.||Cayzer,Maj-Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)|
|Albery, Irving James||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Brittain, Sir Harry||Chapman, Sir S.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Charterls, Brigadier-General J.|
|Atkinson, C.||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Buchan, John||Clayton, G. C.|
|Balniel, Lord||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Bullock, Captain M.||Colfox, Major William Phillips|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Burman, J. B.||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Cope, Major William|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Couper, J. B.|
|Beliairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Butt, Sir Alfred||Courtauld, Major J. S.|
|Berry, Sir George||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn., N.)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Campbell, E. T.||Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Crookshank, Cpt.H.(Lindsey, Galnsbro)||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Jacob, A. E.||Ropner, Major L.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||James, Lieut-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Rye, F. G.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Jephcott, A. R.||Saimon, Major I.|
|Davies. Dr. Vernon||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Drewe, C.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Sandon, Lord|
|Eillot, Major Walter E.||Lamb, J. Q.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|England, Colonel A.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Savery, S. S.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-S.-M.)||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D.Mcl. (Renfrew, W)|
|Faile, Sir Bertram G.||Loder, J. de V.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Fermoy, Lord||Looker, Herbert William||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Luce, Major-Gen, sir Richard Harman||Skelton, A. N.|
|Finburgh, S.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Foro, Sir P.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne.C.)|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Somervllie, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Forrest, W.||Macdonnell Colonel Hon. Angus||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Macintyre, Ian||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||McLean, Major A||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Macmillan, Captain H.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Macquisten, F. A.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Gates, Percy||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Tasker, R. Inlgo.|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Margesson, Captain D.||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Goff, Sir Park||Merriman, F. B.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Grant, Sir J. A.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Tryon, Ht. Hon. George Clement|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter E.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Morrison, H. (Wilts. Salisbury)||Ward. Lt.-Col.A.L.(Kingston-on-Hult)|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Nall, colonel Sir Joseph||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Wells, S. R.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Nicholson, Col.Rt.Hon.W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Nuttall, Ellis||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Oakley, T.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Pennefather, Sir John||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Perring, Sir William George||Withers, John James|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Pilcher, G.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Wragg, Herbert|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Preston, William||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Radford, E. A.|
|Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Rains, Sir Walter||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Holt, Captain H. P.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Major Sir Harry Barnston and Mr.|
|Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Remer, J. R.||Penny.|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Buchanan, G.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Charleton, H. C.||Fenby, T. D.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Clowes, S.||Gardner, J. P.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Cluse, W S.||Gillett, George M.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Gosling, Harry|
|Baker, Walter||Connolly, M.||Greenall, T.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Barnes, A.||Crawfurd, H. E.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)|
|Batey, Joseph||Dalton, Hugh||Groves, T.|
|Beckett, John (Gatesbead)||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Grundy. T. W.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Briant, Frank||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Broad, F. A.||Day, Colonel Harry||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)|
|Bromley, J.||Duncan, C.||Hardle, George D.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Dunnico, H.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon|
|Hayday, Arthur||Maxton, James||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Hayes, John Henry||Morris, R. H.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burntey)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Sutton, J. E.|
|Hirst, G. H.||Mosley, Oswald||Taylor, R. A.|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Murnin, H.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Naylor, T. E.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Oliver, George Harold||Townend, A. E.|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Owen, Major G.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Pethick-Lawrenee, F. W.||Vlant, S. P.|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Potts, John S.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)|
|Jones, Morgan (Cairphilly)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-Is-Spring)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Ritson, J.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Kennedy, T.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W.Bromwich)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Lawrence, Susan||Rose, Frank H.||Westwood, J.|
|Lawson, John James||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Lee, F.||Scrymgeour, E.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Lowth, T.||Scurr, John||Windsor, Walter|
|MacLaren, Andrew||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Smillie, Robert|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Snell, Harry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|March, S.||Stamford, T. W.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
Resolution agreed to.
§ It being offer Eleven of the Clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended, to be further considered To-morrow.