HC Deb 11 May 1927 vol 206 cc528-52

I beg to move "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee will remember that, on the Motion for the suspension of the Eleven o'clock Rule, the Prime Minister was asked what the intention of the Government was with regard to the Debate to-day. It was generally felt that, powerful as they were, the Government on the first day of an important Debate like this would have no intention of carrying on a long debate. The question was asked directly of the Prime Minister, and he replied that the only object in moving the suspension of the Eleven o'clock Rule was that if the Committee was in the midst of discussing a particular Amendment it would enable that Amendment to be disposed of.


Before I accept this Motion, I must point out that the House decided earlier in the afternoon to suspend the Eleven o'clock Rule in order to discuss the Trade Disputes Bill. It is, to say the least of it, very unusual to move to report Progress exactly at the hour when that particular Motion comes into operation, but I should be very loth to believe that the right hon. Gentleman who has moved the Motion wished to abuse the Rules of the House. Therefore, I am willing to accept the Motion, but I presume it was moved merely in order to ask the Prime Minister what the course of the Debate will be.


I quite understand and appreciate your expression of opinion, and I can assure you this is not an attempt to abuse the Rules of the House. But it is within the recollection of the House, or of those Members who were present, what was the expression of the Prime Minister in moving the suspension of the Eleven o'Clock Rule. My Motion is obviously moved with a view of giving the Prime Minister an opportunity of saying "Yes" to the Motion.

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

Unfortunately I have not got a copy of the words I used this afternoon, and I am always a little doubtful when implications and inferences are drawn from what one says. I would much rather make progress than report it, and with a view to making progress the Government asked the House on this first day, as there was an interruption at 815, to proceed with the business after Eleven o'Clock for what I said at the time would be a comparatively short period. I do not wish any time to be taken to-night which might be to the general discomfort of the House, but having regard to the number of Amendments on the Paper and the amount of business that has to be got through, think I must ask the House to-night—I do not know for certain what Amendment is to be taken—either to proceed with and finish whatever Amendment may be taken, or at any rate to make some progress with it, in order that less time may have to be devoted to it to-morrow. The House came to the decision to suspend the Eleven o'Clock Rule, and I do not see why that decision should now be challenged.


I make no apology for challenging the decision. I challenge it because I am entitled to assert that the course of moving the suspension of the Rule on the first day of the Committee stage of a Bill of this description is unprecedented. I have endeavoured to discover precedents, and I say to the Prime Minister that so far as we are concerned there is no precedent whatever for the course the Government have adopted. Unfortunately, for reasons which I can quite understand, the right hon. Gentleman was not present during the whole of the Debate to-day, but no one who was present would suggest for a moment that the Debate has been other than a useful contribution to the discussion of this important subject. It was so useful, in fact, that it left the Attorney-General without an answer. When one remembers the qualifications of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I think that is the best evidence of the success and importance of the Debate. At all events, I would ask the Prime Minister to remember that there is no precedent for this. It is now 11.20 p.m., and the next Amendment on the Paper raises the whole issue. Let there be no mistake about it. The next Amendment raises the issue not only of the general strike, but of the right of the workman to strike at all. We have no objection, if the House wants to go on all night. We are quite willing, but in saying that I again desire to remind the House of what the Prime Minister said earlier in the day. I think those who were present when the right hon. Gentleman answered the question this afternoon could put no other construction on his words than the one I have put on them. We are prepared to go on, but I have no hesitation in saying to the Prime Minister that I do not think it is in accord with the understanding—not an understanding as between parties, but the understanding accepted by the House as a whole. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I would much prefer that "No" to come from those who know what they intended. I repeat that our interpretation was that the suspension of the Eleven o'Clock Rule was in order to finish any Debate that was at the moment in progress. If that be not so, we accept it, and I am quite content to go on, but in any case, the Prime Minister will be the best judge of what he intended.


Nothing was in my mind beyond just to insure about an hour's discussion after 11 o'clock. I told the House perfectly plainly it was not our desire to sit late. I have here the words which have appeared in the paper, and I am sorry it is the only record I have: It was a wise precaution, the Prime Minister said, to put this Motion down, not with any intention of sitting late tonight, but thinking that it would facilitate discussion as the evening went on. I do not know if those were the exact words I used. If it be the fact—and I have not looked it up—that it is without precedent to put a Motion of this kind down on the first night of the Committee stage of a Bill, I am happy to think that I am not alone in making precedents. It is no less without precedent to promise opposition to every line of a Bill before you have seen it.


May I inform the Prime Minister of something of which he apparently is not aware, and about which he should be informed, namely, that there was a very clear undertaking that the Suspension of the Rule to-day was only in order to permit of the completion of any business approaching completion at 8.15 p.m. On that there was a clear undertaking which was communicated to the Members of the Opposition, and I

should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider that when he persists in carrying on the business to-night.


May I say in reply that the Chief Whip on our side has no knowledge of that. If there has been any misunderstanding—which I was not aware of at all—it is a misfortune which arises from the fact that recently on this Bill there has not been as frequent and regular communication with regard to business as there has been over other Bills. I hope very much that it will be possible, however hard the fight may be over this Bill, that there shall be, at any rate, that amount of concert between the two parties—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Perhaps I may be allowed to finish my sentence—that amount of concert which may obviate possible misunderstandings and misinterpretations such as will not conduce to the proper carrying on of the business.


Will you allow me to say that I can only express my surprise that the memory of the Parliamentary Secretary of the Treasury should have led him to make to the Prime, Minister the communication he has made on this point? My recollection of the matter is very clear and definite. So far as arrangements between parties are concerned I can only say I have never received any communication of a desire on the part of the Government to discuss their intentions in regard to this Bill to which I have not responded.

Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided: Ayes. 128; Noes, 253.

Division No. 114.] AYES. [11. 26 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Dalton, Hugh Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff-, Cannock) Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Grundy, T. W.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Hall, F. (York, W. B., Normanton)
Attlee, Clement Richard Day, Colonel Harry Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston) Dennison, R. Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Duncan, C. Hardie, George D.
Batey, Joseph Dunnico, H. Harney, E. A.
Broad, F. A. Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Harris, Percy A.
Bromfield, William Fenby, T. D. Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon
Bromley, J. Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Hayday, Arthur
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Gardner, J. P. Hayes, John Henry
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Gibbins, Joseph Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)
Buchanan, G. Gillett, George M. Henderson, T. (Glasgow)
Charleton, H. C. Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Hirst, G. H.
Clowes, S. Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)
Connolly, M. Greenall, T. Hore-Belisha, Lesile
Crawfurd, H. E. Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)
John, William (Rhondda, West) Paling, W. Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)
Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Thurtle, Ernest
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Ponsonby, Arthur Tinker, John Joseph
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Potts, John S. Townend, A. E.
Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Kelly, W. T. Riley, Ben Varley, Frank B.
Kennedy, T. Ritson, J. Viant, S. P.
Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland) Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Kirkwood, D. Rose, Frank H. Watson, W. M. (Duntermilne)
Lansbury, George Salter, Dr. Alfred Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Lawrence, Susan Sexton, James Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Lawson, John James Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston) Wellock, Wilfred
Lee, F. Shepherd, Arthur Lewis Westwood, J.
Lindley, F. W. Shiels, Dr. Drummond Whiteley, W.
Lowth, T. Short, Alfred (Wednesbury) Wiggins, William Martin
Lunn, William Sitch, Charles H. Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Mackinder, W. Slesser, Sir Henry H. Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)
MacLaren, Andrew Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe) Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Snell, Harry Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
March, S. Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Maxton, James Stamford, T. W. Windsor, Walter
Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley) Stephen, Campbell Wright, W.
Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Stewart, J. (St. Rollox) Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Murnin, H. Sullivan, Joseph
Naylor, T. E. Sutton, J. E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Oliver, George Harold Taylor, R. A. Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. A.
Palin, John Henry Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby) Barnes.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Cooper, A. Duff Harrison, G. J. C.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Cope, Major William Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)
Albery, Irving James Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Hawke, John Anthony
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn., N.) Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l) Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe) Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)
Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W. Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend) Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)
Astor, Viscountess Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro) Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Curzon, Captain Viscount Holt, Captain H. P.
Bainiel, Lord Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd) Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)
Banks, Reginald Mitchell Davidson, Major-General Sir John H. Hopkins, J. W. W.
Barnett, Major Sir Richard Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Davies, Dr. Vernon Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Dixey, A. C. Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Drewe, C. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Eden, Captain Anthony Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)
Bethel, A. Edmondson, Major A. J. Hume, Sir G. H.
Betterton, Henry B. Elliot, Major Walter E. Hurst, Gerald B.
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Ellis, R. G. Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Elveden, Viscount Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)
Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.) England, Colonel A. Jacob, A. E.
Boothby, R. J. G. Everard, W. Lindsay Jephcott, A. R.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Fairfax, Captain J. G. Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Faile, Sir Bertram G. Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Fanshawe, Captain G. D. King, Captain Henry Douglas
Brass, Captain W. Fielden, E. B. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement
Brassey, Sir Leonard Forestier-Walker, Sir L. Knox, Sir Alfred
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Foxcroft, Captain C. T. Lamb, J. Q.
Briggs, J. Harold Fraser, Captain Ian Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Frece, Sir Walter de Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Loder, J. de V.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony Looker, Herbert William
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Galbraith, J. F. W. Lougher, Lewis
Bullock, Captain M. Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere
Burman, J. B. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman
Burton, Colonel H. W. Glyn, Major R. G. C. Lumley, L. R.
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Goff, Sir Park Macintyre, Ian
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Gower, Sir Robert McLean, Major A.
Campbell, E. T. Grace, John Macmillan, Captain H.
Carver, Major W. H. Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John
Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter Macquisten, F. A.
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Greene, W. P. Crawford MacRobert, Alexander M.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Maltland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-
Chapman, Sir S. Grotrian, H. Brent Malone, Major P. B.
Chlicott, Sir Warden Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn
Christie, J. A. Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Margesson, Captain D.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne) Marriott, Sir J. A. R.
Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Hall, Capt. W. D' A. (Brecon & Rad.) Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.
Clarry, Reginald George Hammersley, S. S. Meller, R. J.
Clayton, G. C. Hanbury, C. Merriman, F. B.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Harland, A. Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.
Conway, Sir W. Martin Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent) Moore Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr).
Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint) Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Moreing, Captain A. H. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford) Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Murchison, Sir Kenneth Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford) Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)
Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Tinne, J. A.
Nelson, Sir Frank Salmon, Major I. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Neville, R. J. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Newman Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Sandeman, N. Stewart Waddington, R.
Newton, Sir D. G. C, (Cambridge) Sanderson, Sir Frank Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Nicholson, O. (Westminster) Sandon, Lord Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Oakley, T. Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D. Warrender, Sir Victor
O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton) Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)
Oman, Sir Charles William C. Shaw, R. G (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby) Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Pennefather, Sir John Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.) Watts, Dr. T.
Penny, Frederick George Sheffield, Sir Berkeley Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.
Perkins, Colonel E. K. Shepperson, E. W. Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Perring, Sir William George Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast) Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome) Skelton, A. N. Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leede, Central)
Plicher, G. Slaney, Major P. Kenyon Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Power, Sir John Cecil Smith-Carington, Neville W. Wise, Sir Fredric
Pownall, Sir Assheton Smithers, Waldron Withers, John James
Preston, William Spender-Clay, Colonel H. Wolmer, Viscount
Radford, E. A. Sprot, Sir Alexander Womersley, W. J.
Raine, W. Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.) Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Ramsden, E. Stanley, Lord (Fylde) Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).
Rawson, Sir Cooper Steel, Major Samuel Strang Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)
Rees Sir Beddoe Streatfeild, Captain S. R. Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Rentoul, G. S. Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C. Wragg, Herbert
Rhys, Hon. C. A. U. Stuart, Hon. I. (Moray and Nairn)
Rice, Sir Frederick Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Colonel Gibbs and Major Sir George

Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.


With regard to the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne), to insert, at the beginning of the Clause, the words: Where any trade dispute exists or is threatened, I do not propose to select that Amendment—


On a point of Order. May I ask whether, in accordance with the custom of the House, you will allow the hon. and gallant Member in whose name this Amendment stands an opportunity of explaining to you the reasons why he is putting this Amendment forward?


If I had any doubt as to my reasons, I should ask the hon. and gallant Member to explain. As I have none, it is not necessary.


On a point of Order. Some of us have some concern with this Amendment—


That is not a point of Order. [Interruption.] I have not selected that Amendment, therefore we cannot discuss it. I have passed it over.


Surely, you will allow me to state the point of Order, which I was trying to put as briefly as possible? I never got to the point of Order at all. This Amendment was put down by the hon. Members in question, but others of us might have put a similar Amendment on the Paper. It having, however, been put down by these Gentlemen, we left it. The point I want to put is whether a Member who is interested in an Amendment like this is not to be allowed an opportunity of stating the reasons why such an Amendment should be called?


I do not propose to give any reasons—at any rate, I am not compelled to give any reasons—why I am not selecting the Amendment.


With all due respect—


No point of Order can arise on that question. It has already been disposed of.


With all due respect, I am not wanting to be contentious, but the point I am trying to put is that, if a Member asks you if he will be allowed to state his reasons, surely he is entitled to be allowed to ask you that question? You may decide not to allow him to do so.


I have decided that he shall not do so. With regard to the other Amendments, there are at least five which I should be fully justified in ruling out of order at this stage of the discussion, because they amount practically to an alternative, and not to an amendment, to Clause 1. In that case they might have been put down as a new Clause, supposing Clause 1 to be not accepted by the Committee. It is generally found to be for the convenience of the Committee in the early stages of a Bill that a full discussion on the first Clause should take place on an early Amendment, and, therefore, I propose to call the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Luton (Captain O'Connor), to leave out Subsection (1), and insert: (1) Where any trade dispute exists or is threatened the object or natural consequence whereof either alone or in addition to the furtherance of a dispute between employers and workmen is or would be to coerce the Government or the community such dispute shall be deemed to be illegal and the persons or parties taking part therein shall not be protected from any civil action by reason of anything in any of the Trade Union Acts, 1871 to 1917, or the Emergency Powers Act, 1920. Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provision Section three of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, 1875, shall continue to apply to protect any person or persons actually taking part in such dispute. Of course, the Question that I shall put, after that Amendment has been moved, will be, "That the words 'It is hereby' stand part of the Clause," so as to save any Amendments that follow.


Do I understand that your observations apply to the whole of the next five Amendments on the Paper?


The Amendments I am referring to are the Amendment in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Luton, the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Anglesey (Sir R. Thomas), that in the name of the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney), that in the name of the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans), the second Amendment in the name of the hon. and learned Member for South Shields, and the Amendment in the name of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). All of these are really alternatives to the first Clause, and not merely Amendments, and I propose to allow a discussion on the first Clause on the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Mem- ber for Luton. If there be a full discussion upon that Amendment, subsequent Amendments must be confined exclusively to their actual subject matter.


I gather your ruling is that you propose to take in this particular Amendment as an alternative to Clause 1, allowing a very wide discussion on everything contained in the Clause. I want to be quite sure of that.


I was not going to take this as an alternative to Clause 1. As a matter of fact these Amendments could be ruled out, of order as coming in the wrong place. They are not, strictly speaking, Amendments to the Clause as it stands. I am only allowing this so that we may take a general discussion on the words "It is, hereby" stand part of the Clause. It would be for the convenience of the Committee if hon. Members who have similar alternatives expressed their views in this general discussion, but when their turn comes we should not have another discussion on the same question.


I should like, having heard and appreciated your ruling, to put a question to the Prime Minister. We have had a ruling that the Amendment that is now proposed to be called and debated is one that allows the discussion on the whole basis of Clause 1. Does the Prime Minister, knowing as well as I do what that ruling implies, think that at quarter to twelve we should enter upon a general discussion? Does he think the importance of the Bill and its effect on the country is such as to justify him in accepting that situation?


There is no Question before the Committee and I could not allow a discussion on that point.

Captain O'CONNOR

I beg to move, in page 1, line 6, to leave out Sub-section (1), and to insert instead thereof the words (1) Where any trade dispute exists or is threatened the object or natural consequence whereof either alone or in addition to the furtherance of a dispute between employers and workmen is or would be to coerce the Government or the community such dispute shall be deemed to be illegal and the persons or parties taking part therein shall not be protected from any civil action by reason of anything in any of the Trade Union Acts, 1871 to 1917, or the Emergency Powers Act, 1920. Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provision Section three of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, 1875, shall continue to apply to protect any person or persons actually taking part in such dispute. I esteem it a privilege to have an opportunity, even at this late hour in the very difficult circumstances in which I find myself, in which I am sure hon. Members opposite will sympathise with me, almost the first opportunity that has been available on the Committee stage of putting to the test specific pledges which have been given by the Government. They were, first of all, the pledge of the Prime Minister that the Bill had certain specific intentions alone, and secondly, the pledge of the Attorney-General that he was prepared to consider any Amendment put forward in a constructive spirit, from whatever person, however much a tyro he might be, as I confess myself to be, such suggested Amendment might come. This Amendment, which can only be fully appreciated if it were possible for hon. Members opposite to go through the whole maze of the Order Paper in order to select those supported by the same names, strikes at what I conceive to be one of the fundamental features, not only of the Clause but of the whole Bill. I do not think it can be contested that this is the vital Clause of the Bill and that the principle raised in it is vital, from whichever aspect the Bill is faced. I do not want to follow the late Solicitor-General in using the language of hyperbole as to what Clause 1 does, but of one thing there can be no conceivable doubt, that it restricts the freedom of a man to dispose of his labour in the way he has been accustomed to dispose of it. Assuming, as it is fair to assume, that the Amendment recently put down by the Government becomes a part of the Bill, it also restricts the freedom of an employer to employ persons in the same manner as he has been accustomed to do. Again, putting one's case at its lowest, it is fair to say this is the first time for 100 years that it has been attempted to make it a crime for men acting in concert to discontinue to labour. There can be no conceivable doubt, if these two propositions are true, that this is the crux of a very important Bill.

The crux of the Bill, in the minds of those who have put their names to this Amendment, is very largely to be found in the words "take part," which occur in Sub-section (2), Clause 1, line 6, on page 2. I confess that, this subject having been raised within certain limits on the Amendment discussed this afternoon, I was a little surprised to see the opposition to that principle which was manifested on benches opposite, because in the Socialist State, of course, labour would be conscripted, and no doubt the employers would also be conscripted, if they are allowed to exist at all. But this Bill merely states that an emergency so grave may confront the nation that it is the right of the nation in that emergency to conscript either the employers or labour in the service of the State. It was a little refreshing to find how little are Socialist principles appreciated on the benches opposite, that there was such a hearty opposition to the application of that principle itself in a state of emergency.

But what I think it is most necessary to inquire into is what is the emergency in which that exceptional step is to be taken? In the first place, I agree with a very great deal which has been said from the benches opposite and also by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). The general strike is not the emergency; it is something other than the general strike. It is the coercive or political strike and it is a question of the element of coercion and not the element of generality. The Clause as it is at present framed and in its present terms is wrongly described as a Clause which hits at the general strike.

The Clause, in fact, deals with a strike which has two elements and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr.Webb) pointed out, it only deals with a strike which has those two elements. They are, first of all, that it must be a strike which is in the nature of a trade dispute, and besides that, it must be a strike which is coercive. Why it should be necessary for a strike to come within the ambit of this Bill, that it should have the object of a trade dispute, is one of the matters which I shall be interested to hear the Attorney-General explain later. It would appear, as I said on a previous occasion, that the most vicious strike of all, a strike, for instance, of railwaymen to prevent arms being sent to China or in pursuit of a perfectly political aim—is excluded from the operation of the Bill by means of the word "besides," and it will be observed that those who have put their names to this Amendment have sought, however clumsily, to make it watertight in that respect at least, in regard to a single strike with a political aim.

The difference between those of us who have put our names to the Amendment and hon. Gentlemen opposite is that we do not burke the issue that you must deal with the coercive strike. The coercive strike is the really dangerous strike. In my opinion, it would be impossible so to frame any Clause that it would deal with the general strike, because by withdrawing one or more industries from the ambit of the strike you could destroy the element of generality and so render any Act of Parliament nugatory. But really my case on the emergency proposition is finished when I have pointed out that the Clause does deal with many strikes of a kind with which this country has been familiar in the last few years, such, for instance, as the threatened triple alliance strike in 1920, and it might deal with the kind of strike which might reasonably be contemplated four years hence when the Eight Hours Act comes up for revision. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] I think it is only fair that the House and the country should face that possibility. This might happen to be operative in such an emergency. What my case leads me to is this. Is there any case in an emergency of that kind to introduce penal criminal consequences not only against the people who instigate a strike of that kind but against every single man who takes part in it?

That is exactly what the Clause does at the present time. Clearly, there can have been no great sense of moral guilt on the part of a great many of those men who took pàrt in the general strike of last year. So that, by this Clause as it stands at the present time, you are presumably bringing within the operation of the criminal law a very large section of the population that feels no particular sense of moral reprehensibility in the act that they are about to perform. It is not only a, damaging criticism against this Clause at present, but a wholly unnecessary object for the Bill to aim at. The answer of the Attorney-General is that those are not the people that the Bill is sought to aim at and that, in fact, a certain kind of selective process would exist in his mind before he instituted a prosecution, and that he would select only those people who showed a greater degree of guilt than others. But that argument is not conclusive. A partial answer was, of course, given by the Solicitor-General when he said that what you really rely on is the law-abiding nature of our citizens, but it is a very fair answer to that to say that you must not strain that sense. It is the greatest tradition and proudest prerogative we have got in this country that we have law-abiding citizens who desire above all things to remain within the law, but we have only to look across the sea to that great country of America, where it was sought to bring in a law that was not in conformity with either common sense or with the wishes of the majority of the people to find that it is possible to strain the law too far.

12.0 m.

The Government should not in this Bill take power to do a great deal more than is necessary. Lower down on the Paper it will be found that it is sought to enforce the full power against anyone who may incite, instigate, or foster other people to embark on a dispute. It has, I believe, been suggested that the danger of the words could be reduced by putting in some such words as "knowingly" or to leave out the words "taking part." In my opinion, at the present time neither of those suggestions would have the complete effect that we desire. In the first place, to insert the word "knowingly" merely increases the onus of proof and does not decrease the criminal element at present attaching to people who are not guilty. As for the suggestion of leaving out the words "taking part," the danger is that by merely taking those words out you leave these men described as taking part in an illegal strike, subject to the ordinary law of the land relating to criminal conspiracy and, therefore, subject to greater penalties. The purpose of the Amendment is as it is described to be. It is designed to relieve the persons who merely do no more than take part in a strike of the criminal consequences of their act. Section 3 of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, 1875, is retained in full force so as to protect them from criminal prosecution. But, on the other hand, it is felt that if, in a clear case, it is known that these people embark knowingly upon an unlawful enterprise, they should not be permitted to seek to take advantage of the release from civil obligations which is granted to them by the various Trade Union Acts. That is to say, they would be liable in damages if their employers cared to sue them, but they could in no circumstances be prosecuted.

I do not want to go at any length into the Amendments which stand in my name, but if hon. Members will, as I have suggested, follow them through the Order Paper—a formidable task in all conscience!—they will see that the Amendments attempt two or three other things. In the first place, the very ambiguous words like "strike" and "lock-out" are sought to be eliminated from the Bill. I can myself see no reason why either of these words is in. They do not exhaust all the industrial possibilities that may encompass the country. In fact, I think industry is developing in this country; you are getting a kind of glorified syndicalism in various industries. You are getting the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) and the railway companies gradually forming nice little syndicates in which they shelter themselves, and everybody is very happy in the family. Possibly industry may very well grow up on those lines, and it may conceivably be necessary for the country at some stage in the future to introduce legislation which would be just as obnoxious to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby as it would be to the railway directors whom he serves.



Captain O'CONNOR

I know the right hon. Gentleman does not think I am making any aspersions of any kind in that remark. But it might be necessary for the State to introduce legislation which would be equally obnoxious to the men and to the railway managers and owners. In those circumstances, it might be thought that there would be a concerted movement between employers and employed to defeat the Act of Parliament. It would appear that that contingency could be avoided by introducing some neutral words such as "dis- pute" or "trade dispute" giving, if necessary, a new definition for the purpose of this Bill and eliminating words like "strike" and "lock-out." We are not wedded in any way to the words in this Amendment. After the Government have shown us the example of the ready divorce that they are prepared to make from the wording which they themselves introduced, they can hardly turn round and rend my Amendment merely by picking it to pieces and saying in effect that virtually it does something more or less drastic than it is intended to do. The Government are, I trust, in possession of the principles and methods that we desire to see established, and we look to them to fulfil to the utmost the Prime Minister's pledge and give effect to those principles in words best suited to do so. We feel, for instance, that an obscure term like "coerce" should be defined. At present more pains are being taken in the Sub-section to define "trade dispute." No pains are taken and no attempt has been made to define the term "coercion." It will be found that in a series of Amendments we have endeavoured to define "coercion" by relating it to the essential industries through which coercion can be exercised upon the community.

There are two more points which I wish to raise on Clause 1. A special attempt has been made to introduce a constructive element in the Clause by encouraging conciliation machinery. I think there is a real danger that if we leave the Clause as it now stands, certain industries which are especially susceptible to the purposes of those who desire to bring pressure to bear upon the community, may constantly find themselves selected for the purpose of having such pressure exerted. It is highly desirable in the interests of those industries that some machinery should be set up by which they can test directly whether the actions upon which they are engaged are lawful or not. It is suggested that any railway or transport undertaking which finds itself in doubt as to whether a strike is going to be legal or not should be able to get that doubt dissolved at once by applying the conciliation machinery which is attempted to be defined in our Amendment.

Finally, and most important of all, there is an Amendment, which will be found on page 467, by which it is attempted to set up machinery under which it shall be not only optional but absolutely essential for the Secretary of State to obtain from the Courts an authoritative definition as to whether a strike is legal or not; so that we shall not have the ridiculous anomaly of certain magistrates causing men to be sentenced and meanwhile cases being stated right up to the House of Lords and decisions given that the thing for which they were punished is not illegal at all. I have no desire at this late hour to trespass further upon the time of the House, beyond saying that we wish to put this Bill in the position that, as we must all hope, it will prevent any more of these unfortunate incidents in our industrial life. I am sure that every Member of this House must hope that Clause 1 will be put away and shall never be operated again, that there will not be any case in our industrial life which will require it; that it may be of interest only to the historian, who will look back upon the unfortunate days through which we have passed, and that never again will industry be brought to the pass when it is being prostituted for political ends. The Clause is designed to do that, and in our efforts to secure that, we must do our best to make it completely watertight and to see that it effects no more than it is intended to effect, and that the ambiguities in it are cleared up.


The hon. Member said that for more than 100 years such a provision had not been operated. He is wrong. I want to recall to his memory the fact that it is not more than 10 years ago when similar conditions were enforced in regard to workmen who withheld their labour and refused to work. In view of that, it is the more extraordinary that the hon. Member should take this line, because it must have been clear to his mind, and it must have been in the mind of the Prime Minister. I have not forgotten the analogy which the Prime Minister drew between the working men of this country and the armed enemies of this country. The Prime Minister, speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill said: As I have often said, the conditions in the economic sphere in this country have a most remarkable resemblance to the political sphere in Europe, and just as these great massings of federations alluded to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley, and of these large bodies of employers and of men were forming themselves all over the country, so you had in Europe great armies forming themselves in every country. As in the one case, in Europe war—as we have learned from those who have spoken since the Great War—became almost inevitable, so in the industrial sphere, strife on a scale hitherto not seen or suspected became equally inevitable. We have learned in Europe what war means, and we are learning at home what a strife on that scale means."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1927; col. 1671, Vol. 205.] Nor was the idea of war absent from the mind of those who drafted this Bill, because they have quoted from the Munitions of War Act, and have put a large part of that Act into this Bill. The reason I recall that parallel is this: If you consider the parallel carefully, it shows what a futile Measure the Government have evolved. Consider the circumstances in which the Munitions of War Act was passed. The country then by a large majority desired that there should be no strikes; it would be coercing the Government. There was consent in the case of the Munitions of War Act, but, although there was consent, consider what an enormous amount of machinery had to be set up—machinery of repression. Reference has been made in these Debates to the fact that the prisons will not be large enough to hold the strikers if this Bill becomes law, and it was received with smiles of superiority by hon. Members opposite. Consider the machinery that was necessary to enforce similar provisions which were carried by the consent of the workers; the number of munition tribunals which had to be set up all over the country to deal with the question whether people could withhold their labour; the enormous army of new Judges that was set up; the enormous time spent, and the large number of persons brought before the tribunals.

If this Bill be carried, you will not have consent and good will. You will have people striking against it. If you interfere with the liberty of the worker to withhold his labour, you will inevitably have to set up machinery for repression, new tribunals and a special set of Judges, and you will have to go into long and complicated trials again. You cannot prohibit strikes unless you have also the full machinery of the Munitions of War Act. You are also prohibiting lock-outs, and in this connection the Attorney-General said that the Emergency Act was sufficient. During the War the powers under that Act proved altogether futile and an amending Act had to be passed because they were utterly incapable of dealing with the situation.

If, when the community was agreed, you could not carry out provisions to prevent strikes without a vast amount of machinery such as I have referred to, how do the Government imagine that they will stop a strike on a large scale with only the machinery of this Bill? If this Bill passes we shall be led step by step to the setting up of more aggressive machinery, the instituting of special Courts and the doing of all those things that proved absolutely necessary during the War. If you needed State protection such as that when workers generally desired to obey an Act, you will need it ten times more when you have workers rebellious against an Act.


I cannot conceive that the Government propose to allow a Division on this Amendment without the Committee hearing an answer from the Government Front Bench. I anticipate what I am now expecting to hear.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. James Hope)

Captain Macmillan.




I certainly sat down on the assumption that the Patronage Secretary anticipated that a Motion that the Chairman do report Progress was going to be moved. We are in the position that an Amendment has been moved by a supporter of the Government who is a lawyer and there has been no reply.


I called on the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Captain Macmillan). We are in Committee and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, he can speak more than once in Committee. If the right hon. Gentleman has anything more to say, there will be an opportunity of saying it.


On a point of Order. The right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) rose to carry on the Debate, and he was told by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, I think, that the Government were going to move to report Progress, whereupon the right hon. Gentleman at once gave way. Naturally we assumed that the Government would report Progress right away. No one rose except a Member on the back benches opposite, and you called on the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton. I am sure that neither the Prime Minister nor the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury intended it, but they were treating the Committee with a lack of courtesy by saying that they were going to move to report Progress and then not doing so.


No point of Order arises. The right hon. Member for Derby will not be prejudiced if he wishes to speak later. At the moment the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton is in possession of the Committee, Captain Macmillan.


I hope the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I rose to continue the Debate because, having been one of those who took an interest in the formulation of this Amendment, I wished to say something in support of it. I understand that the ruling of your predecessor in the Chair was that on this Amendment a general discussion, ranging over the whole of Clause 1, would be permissible. The object of those whose names are attached to this Amendment is merely to put to the Government for consideration certain points on which they have formed views. The Mover made it very clear that the important question of principle arising in this Amendment, and in the series of Amendments which runs with it, is the questions of pains and penalties. The question is whether those who take part in a strike, as distinct from those who instigate, further, or maintain a strike, are to be subject to the criminal law? I cannot help thinking that the words of the Bill, as originally drawn, would include all in the full criminal penalties. Those who are mere unwilling or unknowing pawns in the complicated game which is the political form now taken by Labour party activities ought not to be made liable on any criminal charge, and I hope the Government, in the course of these Debates, will see their way to alter the wording of the Clause so that those who are guilty merely of taking part in a strike, shall not be made guilty of a criminal offence. These Amendments have had to be drawn up carefully in order to meet various legal points and in order to avoid the possibility of leaving people liable to worse penalties than those laid down in the Clause. Our Amendments may not leave the Clause in a properly drawn form, but we want to put this view to the Government, and it is a view shared by Members in all parts of the Committee reflecting all shades of opinion. We hope the Government will see their way to consider that the men themselves, as distince from the organisers of any conflict declared to be illegal, shall be relieved of any liability under the criminal law.

There are certain other points covered by our Amendment. A great number of people in all parts of England recently have been trying to draw up their own versions of what Clause 1 ought to be. I notice on the Paper many such proposals and it may be said that attempting to draw up a new version of Clause 1 has replaced the crossword puzzle as an amusement. Even those with legal training have found how difficult it is to draw up a Clause of this kind in the exact way required to secure a definite object. We have tried to raise various points which we hope the Government will meet or at least consider. The first is that there has been confusion caused in the public Minds by the use of loose phrases such as the term "general strike." What we really mean by a "general strike" is a strike involving those industries and services which are essential to the nation. A strike may be very general in character but not coercive. You could have a strike in which 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 or 6,000,000 men might be out of work, but they might not be employed in any essential industries. Hatters and bootmakers—and bookmakers too for that matter—and all kinds of other people may go on strike, and the strike may be very general but not coercive. The more the problem is considered the more one sees that we are getting to the point when it will become necessary to define what are essential services. It will become necessary—and it will be in their own interests to do it—to devise some special machinery which will be of service to them. In the latter part of the Amendment we have tried to deal, though perhaps inefficiently, with the question of possible machinery of conciliation which might be set up in order to relieve those important services from the danger of its being said that any strike upon which they embark is in itself an illegal strike. We want to preserve their rights. I think it is possible to do so if we lay it down that their rights shall be preserved on the understanding that they make use of the appropriate conciliation machinery.

The worst kind of strike of all, and one which all of us—at least, all those who approve the principle of the Bill—would wish to make illegal is the strike which is purely political and has no industrial object at all. The word "besides" is loosely used in the Bill. It is not clear what it means. I rather gather from what the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) said that he would approve of making illegal a strike, whether on a large scale or a small scale, which was purely political, and the main object of which was to coerce the Government. It is possible to conceive circumstances of grave national danger in which a strike of certain essential classes of people might be highly coercive, purely political, embarked on for no trade object at all but solely for the purpose of forcing Parliament to do something which it did not want to do. We ought to be certain that the Clause is so drawn as to cover that kind of strike. That is the worst kind of strike and I am not sure that the Clause does cover it

I do not know whether it would be possible to devise a form of words to get rid of the term within the trade or industry. I find a great difficulty in the definition of the word "industry" and if there is any way in which that particular phrase can be got rid of it will be of great benefit to the workability of the Bill. Clause 1 is a vitally important Clause and it is of the first importance that we should get it right. It should be a Clause which has no further effect than its framers wish it to have. It ought not to be a Clause which can be enforced only after a long series of wrangles in the Law Courts. The real importance of the Clause will not be in its application to 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 people who may want to engineer a revolution or a coup d'etat; if they want to do that they will do it. What we want to see is that there is no confusion caused. If we could so draft this Clause that it is a real protection to the moderate party, the progressive party, and show them that it enables them not to be drawn into contests which are not their own and yet cover their inaction by obedience to the law our aim would be achieved. The Clause would operate in that way and not by the action of force. It is these points that we ask the Government to consider. We are conscious that by obtaining such an early place with this Amendment we have gained a slight Parliamentary advantage but we are also conscious that, with all these suggestions, it is difficult to hit upon a form of words which will carry out the principles we have put forward. I am sure the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment and the other hon. Members associated with it only wish to put forward the principle—the most vital of all—and we hope the Government will see their way to consider this principle, of relieving these men from a criminal charge.


I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

I think possibly as we have had some little discussion upon this in the general Debate it might be to the advantage of the Committee if I move to report Progress.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being after half-past Eleven of the Clock upon Wednesday evening, Mr. DEPUTY- SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Twenty-seven Minutes before One o'Clock.