§ The following Amendment stood on the Order Paper in the name of SIR H. SLESSER:
§ In page 1, line 6, at the beginning, to insert the words "For the purpose of removing doubts."
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Amendment in the name of the hon. and learned Member for South East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) appears to have no operative effect. I should have thought the argument I presume he has in mind could be brought in when we come to the word "declared," but if he attaches importance to it, I shall be glad to hear what he has to say with regard to it.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I think the Amendment has very considerable operative effect in this sense. This is a Measure which, instead of beginning by stating simply what the law is going to be, starts with the words, "It is hereby declared." The effect of those words is to suggest that the substance of the existing law is embodied in this Clause. It is my case, which I hope to be allowed to argue, that so far from this Clause in any way consolidating or re-enacting the existing law, it is completely reversing the existing law. Hon. Members opposite take the opposite view, and for that reason I am particularly concerned that when the Bill becomes law, if it does, it shall go to the Courts for their consideration not in the form of a naked declaration of law but that it shall be stated that at any rate the matter was in doubt. We are taking one view and some hon. Members opposite— not all I believe— are taking the other view. The precedent on which I rely is that it is almost universal, in making a declaration, in starting a Clause with the words "It is hereby declared," to insert at the outset the words "For the purpose of removing doubts." For example, in the Finance Act, 1921, to give one of many illustrations, Section 41 begins like this:For the purpose of removing doubts it is hereby declared.4.0 p.m.
I submit that I am entitled to ask the House that this declaration is made for the purpose of removing doubts. You suggest to me that this matter might be 406 raised later in Debate. For two reasons I submit that this is the proper place to raise it. First of all, if we are going to discuss at all, as I think we ought to discuss, what the existing law is, I submit that for the purpose of the convenience of the Committee, it is very much better that we should discuss and decide at the outset what we are doing, because I pledge myself—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and learned Member has said enough. I will admit this Amendment, but, of course, the discussion must deal solely with the legal question of the existing law, and not range over merits.
§ Sir DOUGLAS NEWTON
I desire respectfully to ask whether an instruction could not be given that all Amendments to this Bill should be given a number. I believe that would be for the general convenience of the Committee if that could be done. We have 46 pages of Amendments already, and it is very difficult to keep track of the Amendments, and still more difficult to enter into correspondence with regard to them. This procedure has been adopted with success in Standing Committees, and I believe it would be for the general convenience of this Committee if it could be adopted here.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I can only say with regard to that suggestion that I will consult the authorities of the House. I do not think I have any power to do it.
We, on this side, would like to associate ourselves with the suggestion. There can be no doubt as to the interest taken in this question in all parts of the House, and I can quite conceive, although I do not anticipate all-night sittings or anything of that kind, that in the long protracted negotiations, a large number of Members, without attending the whole time, would like to come in and know what is being discussed.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I beg to move, in page 1, line 6, at the beginning, to insert the words, "For the purpose of removing doubts."
I think that the whole Committee, quite regardless of the opinions 407 they may form of this Bill, will agree with me that it is for the convenience of us all that before we begin to deal with this very contentious Measure, we should at least know where we are at the present time. This is a Bill which purports to alter the law, and, surely, without going into any technical and legal distinctions— and I do not propose to do so— the Committee is entitled to have a clear idea as to what are the rights of individual workmen, what are the rights of trade unionists at the present time and how this Bill affects them. I do not propose at this stage to discuss the merits of this Bill. Rather would I concentrate on the point that, in my submission, this Measure, so far from being declaratory of any existing law, is overturning and altering the existing law with regard to the rights of strikers and trade unionists which have existed for the last 100 years. As a matter of fact, in one particular this Bill alters the law even as it existed at the time of the Combination Acts as far back as the year 1825. When striking was made an illegal offence, the law never went as far as to say that to refuse to accept employment was a criminal offence, and in the whole history of this country, from the Statutes of Labourers in the time of Richard II onwards, I know of no decision in the Courts or of any Statute which has ever made it a criminal offence for a man to refuse employment. Therefore, no one can decide for himself, by any smooth talk or evasion of the real issues, which I am sorry to say has been attempted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, what this law really is.
What is the law at present? I want to deal with two matters. I want to deal with the law with regard to the right to strike, and I want to deal with the law with regard to trade unions. I am going to deal with the important question first, which is the question of the right to strike, because, as I have stated here, and will repeat outside this House, that if you take away from any man the right to give notice to terminate his contract, and so to cease his labour, whether he does it in combination with other men or not, by making it a criminal or illegal offence for a man to terminate his contract, I say you have reduced that man to a state of servitude or serfdom. That is 408 not said by way of abuse—it is a naked fact. The existing law declares that men have a right to terminate their contracts. For 100 years the Law Courts have said, over and over again, that men have the right in combination never defining the limits of combination or the size of combination, to cease their labour. I am not going to weary the Committee with all the decisions given on this point. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] I am content to ask the learned Attorney-General to give a single instance of a Judge within the last 50 years who has ever decided that men in concert have not got the right to withhold their labour by giving notice to terminate their contracts. Whether the definition of an illegal strike be wide or narrow, the fact remains that, given what is here called an illegal strike—and, in my view, that definition, certainly under the new Amendment of the Attorney-General, extends to all sympathetic strikes—given that definition, the fact is you are withdrawing from all the working people of this country the right to terminate their contracts in concert.
As a matter of fact, this has only been brought forward by the Government in connection with what they call the general strike. I, myself, cannot disguise the feeling which I have had very strongly, that the real author of this invasion of our liberties is the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). He it was who, during the disturbance of last year, first laid down in this House what I believe to be an entirely incorrect view of the law. He it was who first really called the attention of the Government to the fact that, in his view, circumstances might arise in which men might not withdraw their labour. Let me be quite clear. The point will be put in this Debate by the right hon. Gentleman, "Do you say that any kind of organised action of labour, even although it overthrows the State, is legal?" The answer is obvious. The present criminal law dealing with seditious conspiracy is sufficient, and always has been sufficient, to deal with cases of sedition. I have never disguised the fact that when you can prove, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not attempt to prove last year, that the authors of a general strike or 409 any other action have for their intention the promotion of sedition, you can deal with them under the existing law relating to sedition.
But that was not the proposition of the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley. The manner in which his speech was treated in the country was very unsatisfactory in this respect, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General, when I asked him at the time whether he did or did not agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley—and surely the country, in a matter of such moment, was entitled to know whether the Attorney-General thought that the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley was right or wrong—instead of answering the question, merely published that opinion broadcast, and he and the Government took no responsibility; in fact, the Attorney-General specifically declined to give an opinion either way. But though the matter has been to some extent, I will not say concealed, but, at any rate, not given that importance which it demands, it is the fact that no less a person than Mr. Justice Erskine had decided in 1843—a long time ago, I agree, but you are dealing with the existing law—in summing-up to a jury, when an exact statement of the law was essential on this very point, made the very distinction which the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley fails to make, and which the right hon. and learned Attorney-General fails to make, between a general cessation of labour for seditious purposes, and a cessation of labour for a merely sympathetic purpose, and he said in that case in terms that the one was lawful and the other was not lawful. These are the words—Mr. Justice Erskine gave it as his opinion that it was not unlawful for men to agree to desist from work for the purpose of obtaining an advance of wages"—That is, of course, an ordinary strike—Neither was it unlawful for them to agree among themselves to support each other for the purpose of obtaining any other lawful object.He went on to say that, of course, if the intention of the promoters of a strike was seditious, they could be indicted for seditious conspiracy. That was the existing law when the right hon. Member for Spen Valley addressed this 410 House. The House and country have got confused, for the reason that the right hon. Member for Spen Valley did not call the attention of the House to this decision. He did not know, or did not say, that it had already been decided that a dispute of this sort was perfectly legal. Indeed, the dispute in that case was more directly against the Government than the dispute, which was purely industrial, of last year, and the Prime Minister stated several times in this House—I have not his exact words, but this is the effect of them—that, in his opinion, the general strike of last year, though foolish, though undesirable, was not done with a seditious intention, but was done with a wrong-headed idea of helping fellow-workmen in the strike.
That was the law when the right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke. I thought, at one time, the right hon. and learned Member was really saying that the general strike was illegal because it was in breach of contract, which, of course, might or might not raise a question of action for damages. On that comparatively small point it was not a criminal question, but was merely a civil one for damages. It is a small point compared with the great constitutional issue on which we are now engaged. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke at Spen Valley, he said:I want to make plain what the distinction is. The big distinction does not turn on the point of not giving notice, of the failure to give notice—a serious matter—and I think it my duty to call attention to this aspect of the case. But do not imagine that the fundamental difference between a general strike and a lawful strike depends simply on the question of the men's failure to give notice.I am bold enough to say that no other lawyer has ever supported the right hon. and learned Gentleman in his view, and the same is the case with practically every commentator. In spite of that fact, that view was pressed on the House. It was said, next, that Mr. Justice Astbury had declared the law on this point. It, really, is time that the country should not be content with vague statements of this kind. This sort of observation was excusable in the turmoil and excitement of the general strike. I can excuse the right hon. and learned Gentleman for having, when I raised a small point of law, accused me, of all people, of attempting to intimidate the workers of this 411 country. That I can excuse in the excitement of the moment, but now that we have reached a calm and tranquil period, surely we can now inquire dispassionately and quietly what Mr. Justice Astbury really did say. [An HON. MEMBER: "And what right he had to say it!"]
First of all, it was a case for what is called an interim injunction. It was not a final determination of a legal point, but a mere question whether certain things should be done to preserve the status quo until the trial. There never was any trial—that is the first point—because the defendant, who throughout had been working with the plaintiff, as I read the report, submitted to the decision. Secondly, the defendant was not represented by counsel at all. Neither Cooper's case, nor any of the many cases decided on this point, the Glamorgan coal case, the case of Allen versus Flood, and all the others, was ever cited before the learned Judge at all; in other words, there was no argument whatever. The third point was whether, under the rules of this union, these men could be called out on strike, and that turned on the small point whether the Trade Disputes Act did or did not apply to this particular contention. What Mr. Justice Astbury said was this:The so-called General Strike called by the Trade Union Congress Council is illegal, and persons inciting or taking part in it are not protected by the Trade Disputes Act.He said that, for the purpose of the Trade Disputes Act, this strike was illegal, and I am not prepared to quarrel with that, though on an interim judgment there was not very much evidence called on either side. On that slender foundation of dealing with a small action for benefit under rules of a single trade union—not argued, never brought to trial, most curiously reported in the Law Reports, when, to my knowledge, no other case of an interim judgment has scarcely ever found its way into the Law Reports—is built up this allegation that Mr. Justice Astbury and the law have declared the general strike, to be illegal. As a matter of fact, as I pointed out before, why, when we are told that, are we never told about the case of Mr. Justice Erskine, who discussed this very matter 412 as far back as 1843? I am not saying that if a general strike is used as a mean of promoting treason or sedition, it is not illegal. It is. A general strike might be evidence of a seditious conspiracy, and no doubt the reason why the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite did not prosecute in the recent troubles was because he knew he had not evidence enough to sustain a prosecution, but when I recall the attacks made upon the late Attorney-General for allowing political considerations to deflect, his judgment in the Campbell case, I cannot believe the Attorney-General would not have done his duty and prosecuted if he thought he had a case.
Therefore, I think I have destroyed this fiction of the illegality of the stoppage of work apart from seditious intent. Whether the law should now be altered, whether, as the Prime Minister said in his speech, he wished to have a law which would make general strikes illegal, I am not going to discuss, as I understand that will come up later. I am content at the moment to point out that the Committee is engaged to-day in making a new law, and that when this Bill begins by saying, "It is hereby declared," those words can only be there inserted for the purpose of misleading this House and the public as to the true situation. The Government have decided to make a new law, to alter the established law of this kingdom. They may be right or they may be wrong, but they must take the responsibility for their action, and they cannot get out of it by suggesting that they are merely declaring the law as it exists. But, of course, the general strike is a small and unimportant matter. [Laughter.] There is not an hon. Member opposite who laughs when I say that who honestly believes that there is the slightest chance of it happening again for generations. Why, the trade unionists have, by enormous majorities, decided not to have a general strike against this iniquitous Bill. If a Bill which is designed to destroy, as I believe, their whole estate and liberty does not provoke a general strike, I say we are safe in thinking that we shall not have one for some time, though it will not be the fault of the Government.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I leave the question of the general strike, because I do not think that is likely to come again, but I want to deal with a far more vital question. The question of the right of the individual man to leave his labour is a thing which comes up every day and every hour. Under this Bill I am not exaggerating when I say that the definition of a strike which may be an illegal strike, which, I say, cuts at the whole root of liberty in this country—nobody would believe it if he had not read it—says it meansthe cessation of work by a body of persons employed acting in combination, or a concerted refusal, or a refusal under a common understanding of any number of persons who are, or have been employed, to continue to work or to accept employment.What does that mean? Will the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the present law makes it possible to send a man to prison for two years for refusing to accept employment? I challenge him to produce any statute since the days of Richard II which has ever made such a suggestion. Therefore, how can this be said to declare the law? You are taking away from the ordinary citizen the right to make the contracts which he will, and to say, "After this week I will not work for you on certain terms," or "I will work for you, as per agreement." So much for this pretence that this Bill is merely declaratory of the present law.
It does not seem to me that we are the least better circumstanced if the right hon. Gentleman threatens the employer with a similar persecution. Though it may be equitable, if you are to have the Bill at all, to attach it to the employer, the employer has just the same right in law to terminate his contract as has the workman. If I were enamoured of an extreme form of State interference in industry of a very noxious kind, I could never have found a worse example of bastard Socialism than is to be found in this Bill. It brings in the policeman and the law at every point. But to return to the existing law. As I say, this is entirely new. The whole industrial system of this country has been built up upon the assumption that men were at liberty to make such contracts as they would. The workman could make such agreements as he would. the employer could make such agreements as he would, 414 the workmen could strike collectively, the employers could lock-out collectively—that is the existing law.
This Clause goes much further than that. In its amended form—because I must treat the whole Clause as one, and I am assuming that the Attorney-General will move his Amendment—the Government take out the words "or to intimidate the community or any substantial portion of the community," and substitute for them, by way of Amendment, the words "either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community." Is that the existing law? It is an amazing thing that when I attacked the right hon. Gentleman, as I have done, in the country for using the word "intimidate," he said that it did not mean the very thing which he now admits. His new Amendment makes it clear, to my mind, beyond dispute that wherever you can show that any strike in an industry other than your own has the effect of inflicting hardship on the community, it follows from that that it is an illegal strike. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is going to suggest that the words "to coerce the Government" are any protection to the striker, we will soon show him that his drafting is very faulty. To coerce the Government directly is a thing we can understand, but if you direct a Judge and jury to decide whether it was inflicting hardship on a community, it follows that that is itself the definition of the coercion of the Government, and, therefore, those words, as the right hon. Gentleman himself might agree, are otiose and unnecessary.
The hardship on the community is itself the definition of the coercion of the Government, and, therefore, I say that this Bill now—and I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for having saved us the trouble of arguing this point—makes it clear beyond dispute that in this new Amendment any strike or any lock-out which occurs in any trade whatever other than your own, which has the effect of inflicting hardship on the community, becomes illegal and renders everybody concerned in it liable to two years' imprisonment. If persons were now liable to imprisonment for inflicting hardship on the community by lock-outs, I am afraid that not many of the coalowners would to-day find themselves out of prison. We say that 415 the coalowners were within their legal rights in calling their lock-out, just as the men are within their legal rights in calling a strike. I think I have said sufficient to show that, as far as this is concerned, the existing law is entirely against the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
One more point and I have done. This Bill goes further. It not only makes it illegal for a man to strike, but it makes furthering a strike a criminal act, with a liability to two years' imprisonment, and that comes in under the first Clause under the definition of a strike and under the definition of furthering a strike. Does that mean, or does it not, that any person who is charitably disposed, who assists a striker or a striker's wife in getting up a relief committee, is a criminal under this Clause? The Prime Minister said in this House that all that he wished to do was to make general strikes illegal, but this Bill not only makes general strikes illegal; it makes all strikers criminals, and it apparently makes all persons who further strikes criminal. To publish an article in a newspaper might be a crime; to speak in favour of a strike or to pat a striker on the back and say, "Go on, old chap; I hope you will win," might be construed as furthering a strike. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggest that all these things are so under the present law? What an idle farce it is to declare that all these things are the law at present and that they are merely declaring the present law!
A most interesting thing on this aspect of the matter was stated by the Prime Minister in his speech. He stated that what he would have liked Labour to have said was that the general strike shall be illegal, but he was told that it would not be possible to put those words into the Bill. I would like to know who advised the Prime Minister that these words could not be put in the Bill. I am quite sure that the efficiency of the Parliamentary draftsmen would not have broken down at this attempt. The truth is that this has nothing to do with the general strike, and if the Government are going to insist that this shall go forward as a mere declaration of the law as it is at the present time, I say, both for the reputation of this country, which 416 has so far been a free country, and also for the sake of honesty and clarity, we are entitled at least, by moving this Amendment, to say that there were some people who had doubts whether you could prosecute and persecute strikers and those who assisted them and anyone else who tried to terminate a contract to work. We move this Amendment and ask the Committee to accept it in order to put on record our view, on this Bill for destroying liberty in this country, that some people had doubts whether the law of England at the time when the Bill passed was quite so tyrannical and quite so servile as the Government would have had us believe.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Douglas Hogg)
I do not desire on this Amendment to traverse all the ground which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser), the Mover of the Amendment, has seen fit to cover. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because it is wholly irrelevant to the Amendment.
§ Mr. MAXTON
On a point of Order. Is it in order for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to cast a reflection on your conduct in the Chair?
§ Mr. MAXTON
On a further point of Order. Did you not hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that most of what the Solicitor-General has said was irrelevant to the Amendment?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I was saying that I do not propose to go over all the ground covered by the hon. and learned Gentleman, who has, at any rate, had the courtesy of a fair hearing from my side.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must ask the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) not to indulge in that kind of remark.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The Amendment, as the Committee will observe, is to insert the words "For the purpose of removing doubt," so that the Clause which reads "It, is hereby declared…it is illegal" will read "for the purpose of removing doubts, it is hereby declared…it is illegal." How in order to support that Amendment the hon. and learned Gentleman thought that he was advancing an argument by saying that this was not the law I confess that, at present, I do not understand. The more he proved that it was not the law, the more clear he was making it that these words ought not to be there inserted. But in truth, since the hon. and learned Gentleman is reported to have made, both inside and outside this House, a series of statements as to his view of the law, I will, for a very few moments, answer one or two of his main propositions. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that it was not the law at present, that a person who had given notice to terminate his employment had committed a crime by so doing. I agree. Nor will it be illegal for him to do so when this Bill becomes law. I had thought for some time that the hon. and learned Gentleman had forgotten to read as far as the definition of the strike, but as he read it himself later on that cannot be an excuse. If he will be good enough, once more, to look at the definition of "strike" in Clause 8 he will find that "strike" means not a cessation of work by an individual, but the cessation of work by a body of persons employed acting in combination.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I cannot repeat, every time I say that it is not a criminal act for a man to give notice, that I mean in concert. I have said it 20 times. I say it once more, and once for all, because the point has been raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. When I say it is not illegal for people to leave work, I mean not illegal for them to leave work in concert.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
As long as the hon. and learned Gentleman has that clearly in mind, then I need not trouble—[An HON. MEMBER: "He said it!"]—to deal with the suggestion that this Bill makes it illegal for an individual 418 to cease work, as he must understand that quite well. What the Bill does, is to declare that a strike, under certain conditions, is illegal, and by a strike, the Bill explains, it means the concerted action of a number of people. The hon. and learned Gentleman at least knows as well as anybody in this House the difference between an individual doing an act and a conspiracy, which is a combination of a number of people to do an act. And a conspiracy, which is a combination of a number of persons to do an act which is unlawful, is—[An HON. MEMBER: "It is as clear as mud!" and Interruption]. It does not tend to clarify it, at any rate, constantly to interrupt. A conspiracy which is a combination of a number of people to do a particular act which is unlawful, is in itself a criminal offence, and the question whether or not a general strike is illegal depends upon the question whether or not it, be lawful for a number of people to combine to cease work in order to coerce the Government. In the view of some legal authorities that is unlawful. The hon. and learned Gentleman challenged me to produce any authority during the last 50 years that said so. Well, there has been only one general strike during the last 50 years. That was last year.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
My challenge goes much further than that. I challenged the right hon. and learned Gentleman to give us any authority to show that any strike, general or particular, is criminal.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Really, the hon. and learned Gentleman is hardly doing himself justice. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!" and an HON.MEMBER: "That means you cannot answer!"] Nobody has suggested that a strike—an ordinary industrial strike—is illegal. What we have suggested is, that a general strike is illegal. If, therefore, there has only been one general strike during the last half century, it follows that there cannot be authorities, except on that, general strike. The hon. and learned Gentleman cited to the Committee—and he is, therefore, quite well aware of it—the only decision which deals with the question of the last general strike. That decision, in terms, has laid it down that a general strike is illegal. I will read the passage, so that there may be no doubt about it. 419The so-called general strike called by the Trade Union Congress Council is illegal.[An HON. MEMBER: "Who said so?"] Mr Justice Astbury.[Interruption].
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and learned Member for South East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) addressed the Committee in perfect silence, and I am sure the Committee as a whole will wish to hear the answer.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The challenge was, as to the decision of the Judge to the effect that a general strike was illegal. I was pointing out that—
§ Mr. J. BAKER
On a point of Order. Is an expression of opinion, given without having heard any evidence at all on the point, a decision.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The only decision on the last general strike I know of is the decision of Mr. Justice Astbury. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is he?"] After stating in termsThe so-called general strike called by the Trades Union Congress Council is illegal,he goes on:persons inciting and taking part in it are not protected by the Trades Disputes Act.The hon. and learned Gentleman says it is an unsatisfactory decision because it was interlocutory. He knows as well as I do that most careful interlocutory decisions are given by Judges, especially when dealing with the question of granting an injunction. The learned Judge granted an injunction. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows as well as I do that such a decision is just as much a statement of the law as any considered judgment can possibly be. It is perfectly true that the whole of the points of the other side may not have been adequately put before him by the defendants who appeared in person. It is a matter which, no doubt, would be a matter of legitimate comment.
§ Mr. J. JONES
On a point of Order. Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us—I am not a lawyer, but only an ordinary Member of this House—when the law of this country laid it down—
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
It is perfectly legitimate for the hon. and learned Gentleman, when appealing against the decision, to say that the evidence of one side or the other side was not fully represented, but it does not alter the binding character of the decision. It is a reason for contending that the learned Judge may have gone wrong. At all events, so far as it goes, the only decision which has been given is a decision which the learned Gentleman has just stated and to which I have also referred. The hon. and learned Gentleman cited a case of Mr. Justice Erskine of more than 50 years ago—it was, I think, in the year 1843—and he has cited it on several occasions. Perhaps, therefore, the Committee will permit me just to deal with that case. The case was one in which a Mr. Cooper—I think that was his name—and certain other gentlemen were indicted for conspiracy at the time of the Chartist Riots, and at the trial Mr. Justice Erskine gave the summing up. The first few words of the report which the hon. and learned Gentleman cited are not the language of Mr. Justice Erskine, but purport to be the reporter's summary of the effect of what he said. The actual summing up is set out in terms later on. At the close of the summing up the prisoners were found guilty, and Mr. Justice Erskine did not sentence them himself. The case had been removed into the Queen's Bench and accordingly the case came on the motion for judgment before a full Court in the Queen's Bench, presided over by Chief Justice Denman. Although the hon. and learned Gentleman often cites the reporter's summary of Mr. Justice Erskine, I have not heard him so far refer to the actual judgment of the Court. It is a judgment set out in actual language, and not merely a reporter's summary of the summing up.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I quite accept that; but as it was not read to-day at any rate, it is rather import- 421 ant that the Committee should hear what was the considered judgment. This is what they say—Mr. Justice Patteson giving the unanimous view of the Court after consideration:It appears there were a great many out of employment and it was put to the jury (that is, by the Judge) with respect to the circumstance in the most favourable view for you (that is, for the prisoners) that it could possibly be. Because the learned Judge told the jury a workman had a right to demand what wages he thought his labour entitled him to, and that he was not obliged to work for any lower wages, and he had a right to stipulate for what wages he would have, and, no doubt, workmen, if they agree as to wages, if it is done peaceably and without intimidation, they may do so and not commit a breach of the law"—I am just pausing there. The learned Judges are taking the view upon the strike that, if there was a combination to raise wages, that is legal. But he goes on:But then, when we come to another matter, your (that is, the prisoners) recommending all persons to abstain from work at all, not to insist upon having any particular wages but recommending all persons to abstain from working altogether until the Charter becomes the law of the land, that matter is a very different one indeed. The Court does not say it is lawful for any men to combine not to do any work at all"—that is what a general strike does—and it is clearly illegal for persons to compel others throughout the whole country to abstain from work until the charter becomes the law of the land. That is an act which has been characterised as an overt act of treason; at all events it is most unlawful.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
It is very like "coerce." The reason that I have cited that judgment is that it is not a reporter's summary of the summing-up, but it is set out at great length in the Law Report, and it contains various phrases which do not altogether carry out the hon. and learned Member's view of Mr. Justice Erskine's remarks. Whatever Mr. Justice Erskine said or did not say, the Court of Queen's Bench, when they had the whole matter before them, after saying that Mr. Justice Erskine's summing-up was as favourable to the prisoner's point of view as it could possibly be, went on 422 to say, that whereas it is perfectly lawful for workmen peaceably and without intimidation to combine to abstain from work in order to improve their wages, and I suppose to improve their conditions of employment, it is a very different matter if they combine to refuse to work at all. [Interruption.] I want to be quite clear about this. I shall not make long speeches hereafter on this Bill, but I should like to trouble the Committee by reading the judgment again:No doubt, workmen, if they agree as to wages, if it is done peaceably and without intimidation, may do so and not commit a breach of the law, but then when we come to another matter, your recommending all persons to abstain from work at all, not to insist upon having any particular wages but recommending all persons to abstain from working altogether until the Charter becomes the law of the land, that matter is a very different one indeed.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
On Mr. Justice Erskine's direction the Court found that there was something in the nature of seditious action. The Appeal Court did not decide "Aye" or "Nay" on the question of what Mr. Justice Erskine is reported to have said in regard to the Charter, but upheld the decision that there was sedition.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I think that is right. Undoubtedly the Court upheld the conviction to inflict a sentence. In giving judgment they set out their view of the law, and said that it is lawful to strike in order to improve wages, but they go on to say that to recommend all persons to abstain from working altogether until the Charter becomes the law of the land was a matter which was a very different one indeed. That does not look as if those learned Judges thought that that was legal.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
They also said:The Court does not say it is lawful for any men to combine not to do any work at all, but it is clearly illegal for persons to compel others throughout the whole country to abstain from work until the Charter becomes the law of the land.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
On a point of Order. The right hon. and learned Member has put two points there, 423 namely, the recommendation to "refrain" and to "compel." On which of these points does the illegality occur?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I was referring to the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench. It is not my language. I was referring to it because it is the case which the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds cited, and I thought it right that the Committee should know that, whatever may be the view of Mr. Justice Erskine's summing up, the decision of the Court of Appeal was (1) that it was definitely illegal, possibly treason, for persons to compel other workmen to cease from work, (2) the Court were very far from saying that it was lawful for men to combine not to work at all, and that an agreement to recommend persons to abstain from work until the Charter became the law of the land, was a very different matter.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
At any rate, it is a very different matter from being legal. I do not think it is necessary to do more now than say that as far as authorities go, it seems that the balance of judicial opinion is very much against the view that the general strike is legal. I agree with the hon. and learned Member that there are some people outside this House who have suggested that the general strike is legal. There are other people, both in and outside this House, of great legal eminence, who take the opposite view, which is the view which this Statute seeks to enact: "It is hereby declared." We are now formulating what we believe to be the law and what—at any rate, as far as legal authority is concerned at the present time, unless and until it is reversed by a higher authority—is the law. It may be that the judgment of Mr. Justice Astbury may be reversed in the Court of Appeal or the House of Lords; but it has not been. At present the law is, as stated clearly, that the general strike is illegal. The hon. and learned Member has raised other points but I will reserve what I have to say on those points until they come before the Committee on the relevant Clauses. I think I have said enough to show that 424 there is nothing unreasonable in stating that the law is declared in the Clause with which we are dealing, and I think I have said enough to show that no advantage is to be gained on either side by inserting the word "For the purpose of removing doubts."
§ Mr. HARNEY
We have enjoyed the learned disquisition on the reading of the cases which have been quoted, but I am bound to say that I have no doubt that everything which the late Solicitor-General said is right, and that the Attorney-General has been straining very hard to convince the Committee that he is making no change in the law. I think that he is changing the root principle of the law. It is a little disingenuous so glibly to quote the decision given in the Chancery Division about the time of the general strike. The Attorney-General knows as well as I do that that decision has been commented upon in very many legal articles and in some magazines, and I do not know of a single instance where the learned commentator did not take up the attitude that the learned Judge, Mr. Justice Astbury, was wrong, but that he had to be excused in the circumstances. Some say that his judgment was interlocutory. Others say that the learned Judge had not the advantage of hearing counsel, and others say that it was mere obiter dicta, and not giving a decision, and that, on the whole, too much attention must not be paid to it; in other words, "Do not blame the learned judge, but do not pay any attention to his views." That is what these articles have said.
The Attorney-General has quoted the case which took place in 1843. I am a lawyer, but I was not able to follow quite clearly the inferences which he wished us to draw. It seemed to me that what he was reading meant no more than this, that in the Court of Appeal attempt was made to show that the Judge, in his summing up to the jury, was putting the case as favourable to the defendant as possible, and the Judge in the Court of Appeal said, "We are not saying 'yea' or 'nay,' but it may well be that if the combination was so widespread as to be calculated to compel, or urge or to put pressure upon people not to work at all, it might be a different state of things," My own view of the law is that from the 425 beginning it was always lawful for ten or a thousand or a million men to do in combination what each of them might lawfully do signally singly. We should have little to boast of in the way of liberty if the law was that, where I do a perfectly lawful thing to-day and it is followed up by many others doing the same thing, because we arranged it beforehand, I should be deemed guilty of an offence.
As I understand the exact position it is this: In 1799, when the Combination Acts were passed, the country was in a state of panic. It was during the Napoleonic wars. Groupings, for any purpose were deemed dangerous, and these Acts were passed, which for the first time in the history of England said, "The mere combination of workmen shall be an unlawful conspiracy." That Act and the one of 1800 continued in operation for 24 or 25 years. They were so unjust and raised such discontent in the community that they were repealed in toto in 1824. With the repeal of these Combination Acts the law was restored to what it always had been, but many Judges between 1824 and 1871 were struggling hard to bring trade unions within the ambit of the criminal law, on the ground of their being illegal bodies, conspiracies and in restraint of trade. It was because of that very thing that a Commission sat in 1867 and made certain recommendations, with the result that the Act of 1871 was brought to lay down beyond all doubt as to what was the law. It was a declaratory Act, and it said: "It shall be perfectly lawful for men in any numbers, provided there is no breach of contract, to combine or to strike."
After 1871, Judges and special juries, naturally having their interests on the side of the employing classes, endeavoured to steal away from the Act of 1871 the only effect which was intended by the legislation. Finally, another Commission, the Dunedin Commission, was held in 1903. I have not the exact words, but I think I am giving the effect of that Commission's recommendations, namely, that "Provided there is no breach of contract it shall be made clear that it is lawful for men to strike in any numbers in the industry affected, and that it is equally lawful for men to strike in any other industry, from 426 sympathy." That was the recommendation of the Commission, and the Act of 1906 was based upon it. I challenge the Attorney-General to deny that the law at this moment, as understood by everybody, is this, that where there is no breach of contract men are perfectly safe, no matter how many associates they have in the strike; and that even where there is a breach of contract the funds and the officials are perfectly safe, no matter how many may be on strike. Will anyone tell me that this Bill does not alter the law? Can the Attorney-General, or the Solicitor-General, produce a single Act of Parliament, or a single judicial decision, in the whole course of English history which says that it is unlawful for persons to strike after they have given in their notices and worked out their time because of certain motives they may have or because of the numbers that may be associated with them? This is the first time such a law has been placed on the Statute Book. The Attorney-General says that we have had only one general strike and there are no precedents. What does he mean by a general strike? He has been careful not to define it in the Bill. He has told the Committee that it is a thing you know when you see it, but which you cannot describe. Unfortunately, Magistrates and Judges have to go by what is described. What are the tests put forward in this Bill for knowing whether a strike is or is not a general strike? With my knowledge of the English language I can only find two. The first is this: Is there an object other than the furtherance of a trade dispute?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must point out to the hon. and learned Member that this is scarcely an argument on the Amendment now before the Committee. There will be an opportunity for a general Debate on the next Amendment I propose to call.
§ Mr. HARNEY
It is a little difficult to point my argument as to why this is an innovation without trying to put before the Committee what is intended by a general strike, at which this Claus is aimed. The sort of thing at which this Clause is aimed—and we are told it does not alter the law at all—is this. It is said that it is not new law to say 427 that where there is a strike, however extended, it becomes illegal when you look into the minds of the men and you find a certain motive. It becomes illegal if you find that its consequence is to put pressure on the Government. That is what the Bill says, and I challenge contradiction on this point—never until this moment has it been asserted by responsible Law Officers of the Crown that the question whether a strike was right or wrong had anything whatever to do with the motives of the strikers. They can strike for wages, or because they do not like the colour of their manager's hair; they can strike in sympathy with somebody else, but it is new law to say that the state of their minds affects their criminal liability.
The second test is this. It is said that it is not new law to say that if a strike swells to such dimensions that it is calculated to coerce the Government, that at a particular point, when someone chooses to say that its dimensions are great enough to become menacing, it becomes illegal. That is what the Bill says. I challenge the Attorney-General to produce any authority for the statement that a strike is more illegal if there are 100,000 in it, or even more, than if there are only 10,000 in it. It is trifling with the Committee and the country to make a pretence—I hope I shall not be misunderstood—a political and dishonest pretence, that you are doing nothing new, that you are making no remarkable innovation when, in fact, you are doing something which, if it had been clone before the last coal strike, would have made that strike illegal. This is not declaratory. Let me take the last coal strike, or lockout, if you like to call it. I do not mind what you call it because it is the same whether you call it a lock-out or a strike. I think it was a lock-out I start with this. The Attorney-General and all the legal staff knew during that seven months, when we were all suffering owing to the coal strike, that it was very important to stop it if they could. No one ever ventured to say that it was illegal. On the contrary, by way of contrast to what was called the general strike, everyone was saying that the coal strike, however inconvenient, was perfectly legal.
Let us test the coal strike by this Bill. Had the strikers in it any object other 428 than the furtherance of a trade dispute? What would be a trade dispute under this Bill? It would be a difference between masters and men in connection with labour conditions. Was the coal strike actuated in the minds of the men by a motive to improve their labour conditions as between themselves and their employers? The employers were the last persons they were trying to get anything from, because they knew they could not. Their object was to get a continuance of the subsidy; or to put pressure on the Government. Does anyone tell me that during this coal strike, if this Bill had been the law, and the men had been brought before any tribunal in the world, there would have been the smallest hesitation in finding the first test established—namely, that they had an object other than the furtherance of a dispute in their own industry?
Take the second test. Was it designed or calculated to coerce the Government—I will leave out community for the moment. For what else was it designed or calculated? It was not designed to coerce the employers; they had nothing to gain from them. If you take it in the form of a lock-out the result under this extraordinary Bill is that one does not know who you are going to prosecute, the owners or the men. Suppose you prosecute the owners. You have to ask, had they any object other than the furtherance of a trade dispute? Their object was to get the Eight Hours Act. Were they working to coerce the Government? That is the second test. What were they trying to do but to force the Government to bring in that Act, which would never have been brought in if the Government had not been forced to do so by the lock-out. Therefore, I say that it is trifling with our intelligence to try and persuade us that this Clause, which is a complete and drastic alteration in the existing law, is merely a declaration of it. The country should know that, because if it is going to make a change of this nature it should do so with its eyes open and should realise the far-reaching alteration which is being made in the law which has obtained for centuries in this country.
§ Sir JOHN MARRIOTT
I am not going to be so imprudent as to plunge into the dispute as to what is the existing law of the land with such learned 429 authorities as have already addressed the Committee. The hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) based the whole of his contention, or at any rate a large part of it, not only on the existing state of the law but upon a very broad historic survey of the law in the past, and he told, the Committee that not since the reign of Richard II had there been a single statutory enactment which prevented a man from withdrawing his labour as an individual.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
What I said was that since the time of Richard II there has been no Statute or decision which said that it was a criminal act for a man to refuse employment.
§ Sir J. MARRIOTT
I think the hon. and learned Member will not deny that a large part of his argument was based on this proposition, but he must have overlooked an important legal Statute which was passed in the year 1563—[Interruption.] I am trying to take advantage of that calm atmosphere to which the hon. and learned Member referred, in order to call his attention to what seems to me a very grave omission in his survey. There was a famous Act passed, the Statute of Artificers, which to a layman appears to contradict the statement of the hon. and learned Member. Perhaps he will allow me to quote the terms of the Statute on which I rely—[Interruption.] The third Section reads—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now stating what has been the law. The question now before the House is, what is now the law.
§ Sir J. MARRIOTT
As far as I know, this Statute has never been repealed. The statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman was to the effect that no such law had ever been enacted. That was his definite statement.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
This particular Statute was repealed in part in 1824, and the remainder repealed in 1862. 430 The hon. Member is apparently referring to the Statute of Apprentices and Artificers.
§ Sir J. MARRIOTT
Does the hon. and learned Member deny that he stated that no such Statute had ever been enacted since the reign of Richard II? Those were his words, and I think, Mr. Chairman, that I am entitled to reply. The Statute, in Section 3, states—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think we need pursue the argument historically any further. The question is what the law is now.
§ Sir J. MARRIOTT
I shall not pursue the point, but I would respectfully point out that the late Solicitor-General was permitted to found a very substantial argument on a statement which I have proved to be entirely incorrect.
§ Mr. SHORT
I was amazed at the reply of the learned Attorney-General. It was a most unconvincing, weak and lame reply. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have addressed himself to the very important legal issues raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser). The Attorney-General throughout the Debate has assumed that the law makes the general strike, or what he ventures to term the general strike, illegal, though, as has been rightly pointed out, there are no words in this Clause and nothing in the Bill which indicates what he himself believes or thinks to be a general strike. It may well be that a strike can take place under this Clause not general in character but having some of the features set out in the Clause, which would, within the provisions of the Bill, be illegal. The right hon. Gentleman based his opinion, as far as I could understand it, upon the reading of the judgment given in the case of 1843. He would have us believe that the learned Lord in that case gave a judgment on the point which has been raised, as to the legality or otherwise of a general strike, or a strike of such a nature or character. Of course the learned Lord in that case did not give any such judgment at all upon that matter, as far as I can understand it. All that he said was that if you seek to compel someone to abstain from work, then, to use the words of the learned Lord, it is a very different matter indeed. He merely expressed an opinion, 431 which any man other than a Judge might reasonably do, but, as far as I can understand it, it certainly had little to do with the case and it was undoubtedly not incorporated in the judgment.
The learned Attorney-General proceeded to justify his opposition to this Amendment—I should have thought he would have fallen over himself to accept it, having regard to the state of the law at the moment—on the ground of the judgment of Mr. Justice Astbury. We all know, and the learned Attorney-General admitted, that no such issue was before the learned Judge. No evidence was submitted, no witnesses were called, and no counsel was employed on behalf of the defendants. The issue was never actually raised before the learned Judge, but in the judgment of many of us the learned Judge took advantage of the opportunity to express an opinion about something on which he was never asked to give an opinion. There has been a great deal of contention as to what the law is upon this issue of the general strike. We have a learned ex-Solicitor-General taking one view, and the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) taking another view. As has been pointed out, all legal writers upon this question have differed, and in many cases have taken the view that the matter is not so easily decided or so clear as the Attorney-General would have us believe. It is clear, as far as I am concerned, that this Bill is an attempt to reverse the law as it stands. It is not declaring the law; it is a complete reversal of the law. There are introduced into Clause I many features and difficulties in connection with workers withdrawing their labour, yet under the law now they have a legal right to withdraw their labour for the furtherance of some specific object. It might well be, as I read this Clause, that if they pursue to-morrow that which is legal to-day, their action would he made illegal under the provisions of the Bill. I take the view, as do many of my hon. Friends, that the Attorney-General is not declaring the law as it is but is seeking to reverse the law. Consequently, our Amendment is a worthy Amendment. It is one which I expected the Attorney-General to accept, and I trust that even now he will see fit to reconsider his decision.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
The learned Attorney-General threw another handful of the same kind of dust with which he tried to obscure the issue on the Second Reading of the Bill, in order to confuse the Committee of the House. I am not clear even now whether he contends that this Clause, as it stands or as he proposes to amend it, is a declaration of the present law, or whether it is altering the law in the direction in which he desires that it should be altered. But as the right hon. Gentleman defended himself against the accusation that the law was being changed, I suppose he really contends that the law as he is setting it out in this Bill is in fact the law as it now exists. I suggest, however, that he can do that only by disguising the true facts from this Committee. On the Second Reading of the Bill, he said that because a general strike was illegal everybody who wished to maintain that proposition must support the first Clause of the Bill. I understand that this afternoon he goes even further than that, and suggests that because a strike, which is in fact seditious, is illegal, therefore every general strike is illegal, and not only every general strike, but every general strike contemplated as illegal in this Clause is illegal at the present time. There is a very wide difference in those propositions. It is true and no one can deny the fact—my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) did not deny the fact—that an action by a workman, and a fortiori by a combination of workmen, which amounts to sedition, is, of course, illegal, and may be a conspiracy and therefore punishable as a crime; but that is quite different from saying that every general strike is illegal at the present time. The question whether a general strike amounts to sedition in the particular case or whether it does not is a question of fact; and the contention that we have taken till all through on this matter has been that there were many general strikes designed not for the purpose of sedition, but for the purpose of obtaining advantage in the matter of conditions of workpeople, not necessarily those of the workpeople who were on strike.
But we go a great deal further than that. I am sure that the learned 433 Attorney-General, if he were giving an opinion to those who consulted him—giving an honest opinion, as I am sure he would do—would give a different answer to his clients from what he professes to give to this Committee. If he were consulted by clients who wished to know whether certain actions that they contemplated did in fact or did not amount to a general strike, I am sure that he would realise and would explain to them that they might do actions which would not amount to a general strike but which nevertheless would bring them within the provisions of this Clause of the Bill and would render their action illegal, whether we take the Bill as it is or with the Amendment that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to make later. I put this question to him. If he were invited by clients to express an opinion as to whether they could be brought within this Clause, even if they were not taking part in a general strike, I ask whether his opinion would be that nothing which did not amount to a general strike would bring them within the terms of illegality as included in this Clause? Perhaps when the right hon. Gentleman comes to explain the new proposals which he is to make he will answer that question—whether they could be brought within the ambit of this Clause even if they were not partaking in a general strike. The right hon. Gentleman has evaded the issue up to now, and I shall not be surprised if he continues to evade it. If he does not evade it, I shall be very interested to hear his statement.
I have shown in the first place that there may be general strikes which are by no means necessarily seditious and do not at the present time come under the same condemnation as the strike which is seditious. Secondly, there are many sympathetic strikes in industries, other than those which are primary strikes, which would be included under this Clause, which are not in the nature of general strikes. There is a still further point with which the Attorney-General ought to deal. There may be actual primary strikes which still are not considered legal under this Clause. For a strike to be legal, it must be concerned solely with wages or hours or terms of employment. But there may be a great number of other occasions for a strike, 434 even a primary strike, which would, as I understand this Clause, be rendered illegal. There may be a strike because the workmen find that the manager is tyrannical. They may object in certain circumstances to working with non-union men. They may object to paying certain fines. I think it is at least open to doubt whether some even of those primary strikes will not be illegal if this Bill passes into law, Further than that on this question of the declaration of the present law I should like to draw the attention of the Attorney-General to the Emergency Powers Act, 1920. That Act really contemplates something in the nature of a general strike. It contemplates action taken by a large number of people in such a way and on so extensive a scale as to becalculated by interfering with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel or light or with the means of locomotion to deprive the community or any substantial portion of the community of the essentials of life.That Act, passed in 1920 by the Coalition Government contemplating a general strike, expressly states:Provided also that no such Regulation shall make it an offence for any person or persons to take part in a strike or peacefully to persuade any other person or persons to take part in a strike.It is therefore clear, and stated in this Statute of 1920, that a strike even under the conditions which I have already read out is not anything but a legal strike. Therefore, taking the words of the Statute itself, it is clear that the proposals in Clause 1 of this Bill are not a declaratory statement of the law as it is at present but that they contemplate a definite change in the law. For these reasons, if the Attorney-General contends that he is merely stating the law, I support the Amendment asking that the words "for the purpose of removing doubt" be inserted at the beginning of the Clause.
§ Mr. MITCHELL BANKS
The hon. Member who has just sat down complains that Clause 1 of the Bill makes a definite change in the law. That, it seems to me, is the worst reason possible for suggesting that the Clause should begin with the words "For the purpose of removing doubt." If the Clause makes a definite change in the law, the Amendment ought to be to omit the words "It 435 is hereby declared that" and to allow the Clause to begin "Any strike having any object…is an illegal strike" and so forth. It must be obvious from the arguments to which we have listened from both sides of the Committee with great patience—and they have been very interesting arguments—that there is a great dispute as to what the present state of the law may be. This Clause does not refer anywhere to a general strike and I do not know that a general strike, in that phrase, has ever been the subject of a legal definition. The Clause says that certain strikes—and strikes are defined later on—shall be illegal. The hon. and learned Gentleman, the late Solicitor-General, read some passages from Mr. Justice Astbury's judgment, but he, like the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General, only read four lines. It is true it was not necessary for Mr. Justice Astbury, at the time, to go beyond the question as to whether the strike was in breach of the rules of the union, but he, as he was entitled to do, and as any judge is entitled to do, grounded his decision not only upon the fact that the strike was in breach of the rules of the union but also on the broader ground tat the strike was illegal, generally—that it was contrary to the law—and he gave his reasons:No trade dispute has been alleged or shown to exist in any of the unions affected, except in the miners' case and no trade dispute does or can exist between the Trade Union Congress on the one hand and the Government and the nation on the other. The orders of the Trade Union Council, above referred to, are therefore unlawful and the defendants are, at law, acting illegally in obeying them and can he restrained by their own union from doing so.In order to arrive at those facts it was not necessary that there should be evidence; it was not even necessary that there should be arguments by counsel for the defendants because the facts upon which the decision is based were not in dispute and, broadly speaking, the reasons given by the learned Judge were the same reasons as those which were given by the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). The right hon. and learned Gentleman said:Once you get the proclamation of a general strike such as this, it is not pro- 436 perly understood a strike at all because a strike is a strike against employers to compel employers to do something, but a general strike is a strike against the general public to make the public, Parliament and the Government do something.There, Mr. Justice Astbury's judgment which is the only authority, up to the present time, we have upon the question, is reinforced by the opinion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. This House and the country and all lawyers have a great respect for the opinion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the reasoning is the same in both cases. Of course, it is plain that there is a body of opinion to the contrary, but that surely just brings us to this point—that the law being uncertain it is right that the Clause should be a declaratory Clause, and that these first words "It is hereby declared that" are appropriate. To add the words "For the purpose of removing doubt" appears to be pure surplusage. When you declare something you make it clear; and the words "It is hereby declared" are, in themselves, an admission that the law is not as lucid and as certain as it might be. To add "For the purpose of removing doubt," as I say, is pure surplusage and the arguments adduced in support of the Amendment are pure pedantry.
I assumed that this Amendment would be argued and debated at considerable length by the legal experts in the House. I expected it to provide an illustration of the complete unanimity existing in the greatest of all trade unions, namely, the lawyers. I listened not only with interest but with pleasure and satisfaction to the ex-Solicitor-General and I thought he had succeeded in moving an Amendment which the Government themselves ought to have moved. I say that because the opening sentence of the Attorney-General introducing this Bill was to the effect that so far as the Government were concerned, this was declaratory legislation. What did that mean? To me as a layman it meant that the Government were absolutely satisfied in their own minds that the existing law dealt with the general strike and with intimidation and that this Bill was only for the purpose of declaring the law. That was the basis of the case presented from the other side and in many speeches made in the country it has been alleged that the Gov- 437 ernment are making no change in the law. Conservative Members are going about the country saying that in regard to strikes and the right of the workers to combine the Government are making no change whatever. We on the other hand not only think that they are making a change but we think that all this talk about not interfering is mere humbug.
In any case here is an Amendment moved from this side which says to the Government right away "This is an opportunity of proving what you say." But the only result of it is all this argument to prove that the Amendment is not merely unnecessary but unwise. There has been a lot of talk about the general strike and about the community. My view, for what it is worth, is that a general strike can only come about in one of two ways. In the first place suppose any leader or any body of leaders of trade unions went on the platform and declared, "On 1st May next year we propose that there should be a general stoppage of work in order to compel the removal of this Government from office and the substitution of another Government." I am stating the case quite fairly. If such a declaration as that were made, it would clearly indicate that the intention, the object and the aim of those advocating that policy was not to use their industrial power, by withholding of their labour, for an industrial purpose but was to use their industrial power for a political end. I respectfully submit that not only could a strike contemplated in these circumstances not succeed but that from the moment when it was declared, in such terms as I have indicated, the Government of the time, whether it was Liberal, Labour of Conservative would require no legislation to deal with an emergency of that kind. The law as it has been propounded by every legal authority in the House of Commons and the country would immediately declare such a strike to be seditious and actionable and the Government could and probably would prevent it.
I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to follow the logic of that argument. If that establishes, not the legal view, but the ordinary commonsense view of the man in the street of the law of the land, what right have the Government to introduce legislation to pretend that they are dealing with some contemplated con- 438 spiracy? It must be admitted right away that in the circumstances I have just mentioned not only would a general strike be illegal but it would be an act for the Government to deal with. That is the first form of a general strike we can have—one deliberately organised and worked up to achieve by industrial power some political object.
There is a second kind of general strike which could take place. How general it becomes must depend very largely upon the circumstances of the particular industry, and the circumstances I am quoting are the nearest approach to those of last year. The first general miners' strike in this country lasted 14 weeks. During the whole of that period 650,000 railway men found themselves in this position: 200,000 totally unemployed, and the remainder working on an average one, two or three days a week. Their union did its best to support them, but at the end of the time not only were the men's own savings gone but the resources of the union were mainly gone, in supporting its members, who were not directly concerned in any strike but were the innocent victims of a dispute in another industry. What was the impression left on the minds of those men? It was this: "Our job ought to be to shorten this dispute, because the longer it lasts the longer we are victims."
I have no hesitation in saying that that was the real first reason for creating what was called the Triple Alliance. It was no attempt to override the Government, it was no challenge to authority, it was merely cold, hard, reasoning and logic arising out of the economic circumstances in which those 600,000 railway men found themselves. They said nothing about the Constitution, nothing about coercing the Government, but they made this simple proposition: "Would it not be better that all our agreements should expire at the same time, because if when the end of the miners' trouble takes place we find ourselves in conflict with our employers then we ourselves may be on strike, and what happened to us will immediately happen to the miners?" Directly the railway men cease work the miners are in precisely the same difficulty as the railway men were in. That was the kind of logic and reasoning which guided those large 439 masses of railway men and miners in their first formation of the Triple Alliance. There is no one on this side of the House, and I say it with absolute sincerity, who believes for one moment that on the day this Bill becomes law the present right to strike in a purely trade dispute will then exist. That is the fixed and firm view of everyone on this side of the House.
Let us leave that for a moment, and apply ourselves to the events of last year. Neither during the dispute, nor since the dispute, did I ever hear the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Secretary of State for India—and I particularise those three, because, so far as I can remember, they were the only three who were in at everything throughout the negotiations last year—make the statement that the general strike last year was an organised attempt to overthrow the Government or a conspiracy towards that end. I have never heard that alleged in all our private negotiations or publicly. The General Council of the Trades Union Congress were first brought into the negotiations. last year at the invitation of the Government. Let the House remember that. The Prime Minister invited us to meet him. When he met us he said: "I am in this difficulty. I have been meeting both the mine owners and the miners' leaders and it is impossible for me to make any progress; in fact, they are about 50–50, they are as bad as each other." That was the considered view of the Prime Minister when he invited our intervention. We said to him, "Is what you suggest this, that some of us, representing other trades, bringing a detached mind to the question, not ourselves parties to the immediate dispute, should come in and assist?" He said, "That would be good, and I will ask the mine owners whether they agree to that." When we met next time we were told that the mine owners had refused—that they had refused not only the Prime Minister's view but ours.
That is all I have to say on that, and I have recalled the circumstances in order to demonstrate this point. From the beginning to the end I challenge anyone to produce a word, spoken either publicly or privately, by any executive committee or trade union leader, or anybody carrying any responsibility for those 440 events, which showed that any other aspect of the question was discussed than this: "Here are terms offered to men which are unfair, and if they succeed in inflicting these unfair terms on them it is inevitable that economic pressure will immediately result in those terms being made applicable to us." That was the logic and reasoning which were the fundamental basis of all the trouble. It might have been right or wrong. I am not arguing that, I am merely stating the fact. I am sure the House will agree—I have already said that no member of the Cabinet who is present will disagree—that that was the logic, the cold, hard, bald fact, underlying last year's events. What does it prove? I submit that it proves that no Bill introduced by any Government in any conceivable circumstances would or could prevent millions of working men, influenced wholly and solely by the human desire—however unwise, if you like—to benefit their own affairs, from taking action.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that I allowed this discussion on the assumption that only the legal question of what was the present law of the country was to be discussed. There will be an opportunity for discussing merits.
I accept your ruling, Sir. Not being a lawyer, I thought I was arguing law all the time. I always assumed that law and common sense ran together. Now I will come back to the legal aspect. The Attorney-General said the argument in favour of describing this Bill as merely declaratory legislation was based upon a certain statement made by Mr. Justice Astbury. A number of us were surprised at this statement being made, because we knew the grounds of the action before Mr. Justice Astbury. We do not pretend to be lawyers or to know about the legal aspect, but we did know, and it has been demonstrated emphatically to-day, that Mr. Justice Astbury never had before him the question of the legality of the general strike. It was never argued before him; no counsel argued in any sense the legality or otherwise of the general strike. That is why a large number of my hon. Friends resented his decision being quoted.
Reference has been made to my action in signing an agreement which says that the railway men's action in that dispute was an illegal action. I did 441 sign an agreement which said so—but not on the point that we are now arguing. I do not believe it is the duty of a leader to escape responsibility. These things have to be faced, and I faced the position boldly, and signed, and said quite deliberately that so far as the railway men were concerned in the general strike their action was an illegal action. But it was not an illegal action because they struck in sympathy with the miners, or because they had no right sympathetically to withhold their labour, or because they are a class who have no right to consider their obligations to their fellow men. None of those considerations was in my mind nor is involved in my signature admitting the illegality of what the railway men did. The point is that the men were under a legal obligation to give either a week's notice or a fortnight's notice before withholding their labour, and as they had not given that necessary notice they had committed an illegal action. That is an entirely different thing. If anyone from the opposite side of the House were to say to me, "Do you agree with an Act which defines illegality in that way?" I should have no hesitation in saying that I stand by my signature. What I have said in this matter I stand by. It is very difficult to argue these legal points, but here we find the Government declaring to the country that under this Bill, as far as our rights and powers of combination, and the right to sell our labour as we like, are concerned, there is no interference. The Government say that all they are doing is declaring what the legislation is, and setting out clearly what is the existing law. My hon. and learned Friend (Sir H. Slesser) proposes an Amendment which gives the Government an opportunity of saying, "This is what we want, and it is quite in accordance with what we have said," and yet they will not accept it. They say it is not true; but if it be not true, it is no good passing declaratory legislation. You cannot have it both ways.
It is no good hon. Members opposite saying that they are not altering the law, and that they are only declaring what it is. It is no good their saying that that is their intention, and that is what they mean, and that that is all they are doing, because when the Division is taken, they will promptly go into the Lobby to refuse 442 to put into the Bill exactly what they are saying to the people in the country and in this House. We have a number of Amendments on the Order Paper—I do not know how many there are—but I did think that this would be a good stunt. We know there are many blunders in the Bill and many inconsistencies. We also know that this is quite a hopeless Bill, but we thought we should be in a position to show that the first Amendment moved from this side would be one which the Government would have said was really something which they had omitted to say themselves. Now that the Government say they do not believe what they originally said, we will judge their sincerity when we go into the Division Lobby.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
I find myself in some doubt as to whether the very limited scope of this particular Amendment is really appreciated in all quarters of the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down made a very interesting contribution. Of course, in some part of that speech matters were dealt with which were quite beyond the scope of this Amendment, but as to the Amendment itself, in spite of the natural tendency of any Government or Government majority to resist any proposals to insert any words, at any rate I should have thought that this was quite a harmless Amendment putting in words for the purpose of removing doubt. I think this proposal may be said to raise two questions, and two questions only. In the first place, is there sincere doubt entertained by persons competent to judge on this particular proposition of law; and, secondly, is it the object of this Clause once and for all to clear those doubts away? I cannot imagine that there is any important issue involved in a proposal to introduce words for the purpose of removing doubt at the beginning of a declaratory Bill. First of all we want to find out whether people, who are not simply trying to get up a quarrel, but are putting their minds to the question, can be allowed to have an honest difference of opinion on the point; and, secondly, whether the object of the House of Commons and the declaratory legislation is to get rid of any further doubt.
As regards the first of these questions, I am not at all disposed to speak with the positiveness of the hon. and learned 443 Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney). I have noticed before that it is not always those who are most familiar with a particular corner of the law who speak with the greatest confidence about it. I apply that to myself just as much as to any other hon. Member who is here as a citizen, but who happens to have what may be the advantage of some training in the law. I know it is a common consolation to those who are not lawyers that they thank God they are persons of common sense. I have heard it said that mankind is divided into two classes—persons of common sense and lawyers. Some lawyers may hope to have a little common sense, and there are plenty of people with common sense who know a little about the law. I do not assert that anybody who differs from me on this particular proposition of law is manifestly stating something absurd, but the truth is that there is a difference of opinion on this point among persons who have tried to study this question, as to the exact limits within which you would state this proposition.
My desire is to serve the Committee as honestly as I can, and to state my view after a fair examination. I think the statement of the ex-Solicitor-General goes too far in asserting a different view, and he thinks that I was too positive in asserting my view. I admit that there may be some doubt on the point, but it is far from being the fact, as the hon. and learned Member for South Shields said, that all the commentators have taken one view, and nobody has taken another view. My hon. and learned Friend must have studied the "Law Quarterly Review." I suppose amongst lawyers who write over initials there are no initials which are more reverenced than the initials "F.P.", which represent the honoured name of Sir Frederick Pollock, an astute and accomplished student of common law. When the Astbury decision was given, there was in the "Law Quarterly Review," a comment, apparently written by Sir Frederick Pollock, because it had the initials "F.P." at the bottom, and he points out with complete fairness that Mr. Justice Astbury's judgment was based upon two grounds either of which would have been sufficient for the purpose, and therefore, what Mr. Justice Astbury said about the general strike has 444 always got to be read bearing that in mind. It was a decision that was given there and then without full argument on both sides.
People who wish to deal fairly with this subject have to admit those facts, and no advantage is to be gained in dealing with the proposition contained in that judgment as though it was the considered judgment of the House of Lords, because it was not. It is equally unfair to speak of it as though it was not part of his judgment. This learned commentator points out that the right answer to the question with reference to the general strike in May, 1926, really depends upon what is the right view of that particular event, and, having pointed that out, may I read a few sentences in regard to what "F.P." says in the "Law Quarterly Review" on this point? He says:But when a simultaneous multiple strike is planned, as this was, for the avowed purpose of enforcing a particular solution of a trade dispute on Ministers and on Parliament by means of stopping transport and business in general and causing intolerable inconvenience to the King's subjects at large, then a wholly different question arises.This is not pronouncing judgment about a particular event, but it is pointing out that if that is the class into which you must put this event then a wholly different question arises. The same authority says:It is not clear how far the difference was present to Mr. Justice Astbury's mind; in any case he was not bound to deal with this question at all.Sir Frederick Pollock goes on to say:But it does seem on the plainest grounds of public law and justice, that a plot to usurp the Government of the country in such a fashion is nothing less than a criminal conspiracy, if indeed it be nothing more, and that no verbal protestations on the part of the managers that they did not intend a revolution will make their position any better.I am not quoting that to represent in one way or the other the events of a year ago, but I am quoting it for the purpose of showing that it really is a gross exaggeration for anyone, layman or lawyer, to say that, apart from any opinion expressed in this House, there was not very high and most competent legal opinion confirming what I endeavoured to state a year ago. At the same time, I should regard it as quite ridiculous to say that 445 there are not persons inside and outside this House who have felt more doubt about this proposition than some of us did.
I now come back to what is more relevant to this Amendment. The insertion of this Amendment is not going to do the Bill any injury, because it is only declaratory, and it is claimed that this should be enacted, because it is thought that it is just as well that Parliament should put it in such a way that there is no doubt about it. I say that that raises these two questions: Were there doubts about it? Are there doubts about it—honest doubts? And I do not feel that it is open to the smallest challenge or controversy that there is, and has been doubt, as to the proposition. The real truth is that much of the confusion arises through failing to separate two quite separate things. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) separated them most clearly in his speech just now. One question is this: Let us suppose that you have admittedly got what the right hon. Gentleman suggested by way of illustration—notice given now, for a purely political and party purpose, that, on the 1st May next, all the wage-earners of this country, or the wage-earners in a large selection of vital trades, are going to down tools for the single purpose of turning that Government out of office. I take note of the right hon. Gentleman's statement; it was perfectly clear and candid. But I do not understand he is trying to dispute the view that there is nothing in the Trade Disputes Act which prevents that from being a seditious conspiracy. [Interruption.] Certainly; I am only stying that I appreciate the fairness with which he said it.
There is, however, a second question, which is not the same question, and which many people think is a far more disputable question. It is whether the events of May of last year were events of that character or not. That question is not a general question of abstract law, but is a question as to the judgment which people would form if they had to deal with that particular event. I do think, and I have not withdrawn my view in the least, that on a fair view the events of last May amount to this, that it was a combination which was really not addressed simply and solely to the promotion of a trade dispute. I do not with- 446 draw that one bit, but there are people who do not agree with me. [Interruption.] However much hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway may be suspicious of me, I hope they will do me the justice of saying that I have always recognised that people do not agree about this, and that I want to deal with it fairly. Therefore, there is a doubt, and, if there be a doubt, why on earth should not this Committee say, "We will make it perfectly plain, at the very beginning of the first Clause, that to get rid of that doubt is the reason why we are enacting this legislation"? I do not myself see the reason why not, and, therefore, I feel bound to say so.
There is a difficulty which is inherent in the position which this particular Amendment takes in the Debate, and it is this, that this particular Amendment is being moved at the very beginning of the Clause, and, of course, we none of us know the shape in which the Clause may ultimately be put—and, if I may speak for myself, I very much hope that, by the time we have finished with it, it will not be in the shape in which it is now. Therefore, there is a certain difficulty in inserting words of this sort at the very beginning, because, of course, we are, as it were, prejudging what follows, and what follows may have to be altered. Still, I cannot see, as things stand at this moment, why, either now or on the Report stage, we should not, before this Bill passes to the Statute Book, if it does, make it plain to everyone that the reason why the Government, at any rate, think it well to enact such a Clause as this, is because they realise what many people in this country realise, namely, that there was a vast amount of confusion, doubt, uncertainty, and misunderstanding a year ago, and that it is most undesirable that that situation should not be cleared up.
If that be so, I do hope that we may, at any rate, get from the Government this assurance, that, if they get this Clause into an order which commends itself to the vast majority here, if they get rid of what I think are its present imperfections, they do not see any fundamental objection to saying, "This is a declaratory Clause, and a Clause for the purpose of removing doubt and making things clear." It is quite true that the hon. and learned Member for Swindon (Mr. Banks) said it 447 was rather odd for some hon. Gentlemen who have supported this Amendment to support it in the speeches they have made, because, apparently, the people who are most emphatic that we ought to insert these words, "For the purpōse of removing doubts," are persons who put their hands on their legal hearts and say they have no doubt about the matter at all. That seems rather absurd, but, if we try to deal with the matter, as we have to deal with it, in a sensible, public-spirited way, I would ask the Government, either now or on the Report stage, what is the objection to saying, as has been said in Acts of Parliament before, "This declaratory Clause is put in by us because we do not want anybody to have any doubts about it hereafter."
If that were done, I should not care in the least who moved the Amendment, or who got the credit for it; but it does seem to me that it is not in itself an unreasonable thing to ask. While I have my differences with the late Solicitor-General in regard to some of his propositions of law, that has very little to do with it. What is really important is that if this Bill is going to be passed at all, we should have upon the Statute Book a Clause which can be clearly understood, and which it would be possible for all persons of good will to use hereafter, if there were a threat against the community by concerted action, whether of employers or of employed; and that we should be able to say, "All this kind of trouble was a great matter of debate in 1926, but in 1927 here is what Parliament put on the Statute Book, and it is put there in order that we might declare the law and that there might be no doubt about it." That is the reason. Why should we not say that this Clause is being enacted for the purpose of removing doubts?
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) that the issue with which we are dealing is of the narrowest character, and, as far as his opinion of the law is concerned, I should not in the slightest degree cavil at any phrase of his speech; but, for once, I rather think my right hon. Friend is confusing two things. When you speak of putting the words "For the purpose of removing doubts" into this Clause, you 448 must look to see about what it is there has been a doubt, and I think that, if my right hon. Friend had been reading this Clause instead of thinking of the doubt which there is as to whether the strike of last year was of the nature described in the Clause, he would have had no difficulty in coming to the same conclusion as the Attorney-General, namely, that there is no doubt about it at all, and that there can be no room for supposing that there is any doubt in the mind of any reasonable citizen. It says:It is hereby declared that any strike having any object besides the furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry in which the strikers are engaged, is an illegal strike if it is a strike designed or calculated to coerce the Government or intimidate the community.That is a proposition about which it would be very wrong to suggest that there can be any possible doubt in anybody's mind, and, indeed, I shall cite in a moment the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) to that effect. I do not think that that proposition has been doubted by anyone, and, indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby said in his speech that, if such a strike as is described here, having objects beyond a trade dispute and having the intention of attacking the Government or the community, were to be declared, it would be the duty—I remember his words—of any Government, Tory, Liberal or Labour, to treat that as an illegal strike, and deal with it accordingly.
For the purpose of accuracy, may I say that I made it perfectly clear that, so far as Clause 1 is concerned, that interfered with the existing rights as to striking and withholding labour, but the illustration I gave of illegality was one which, as I have already said, dealt with something intended deliberately to overthrow the Government?
§ Sir R. HORNE
The part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech to which I am referring now was the one in which he dealt with the general principle, and which was really mare of the nature of a Second Reading speech, or a speech on the question that the Clause should form part of the enactment. His real point, when he was dealing with the 449 question whether the words "for the purpose of removing doubts" should be put in, was whether the strike of last year was of the category which is here described, and, as it seems to me, there may be considerable doubt about that. It may be said that Mr. Justice Astbury was wrong. Many people may have taken a different view of the event. I gather that on the other side of the House above the Gangway hon. Members take the view that Mr. Justice Astbury was wrong. But I think that there is no possible room for doubt with regard to the principle which this Clause enacts, and that it would be wrong, and would be, in fact, suggesting that in the past the law was something different, if these words "For the purpose of removing doubts" were put in.
That is a phrase which is well-known to lawyers, and it is used when doubts are justifiable. For example, in the Finance Bill, when the complicated nature of Inland Revenue phraseology brings about a condition in which people may be obviously in error, in a subsequent year a Clause is put into the Finance Bill to the effect that, "for the purpose of removing doubts," the meaning of the enactment was so-and-so. I think my right hon. Friend will agree with me that, we are here in a different category of things. What we are doing is to declare the law as we believe it to be, and as Parliament says it was. My right hon. Friend says that, if the law were really of that description, and really involved that principle, what is the necessity for declaring it? The necessity is this, that, while there should not have been doubt, there were, in fact, a great many people who did not know the law, as was evinced by the events of last year. I think my right hon. Friend was right when he said, in one of his notable speeches in this House, that it was through confusion more than anything else that the general strike broke out. It is to get rid of that confusion that we are here passing this enactment to-day, and I believe a declaratory enactment of this kind will have the effect upon the British people—who, after all, are a law—abiding people—of making them not only hesitate, but refuse, to take part in events which are being characterised by Parliament as illegal. Indeed, I go further, and say that, if we had had such 450 a principle enacted previously, and known to all our people, the events of last year would never have occurred.
Mr. ROSSLYN MITCHELL
We have heard a great deal this afternoon about the general strike and about the events of last year. What we have not heard much about is the strike as defined in this Bill. The Attorney-General is just as definite about the illegality of a general strike as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) is about the legality of such a strike as took place last year; but nobody is able to say with any definiteness whether the events of last year were a general strike or were not, nor can anybody say that the Bill which is before the House is confined, either to a general strike as it is understood in the industrial world, or to events such as took place last year. Therefore, the question whether it is advisable to insert words to the effect that this Bill is promoted for the purpose of removing doubts, is dependent upon what the Bill sets out to achieve. I do not worry my head about the gentle phrases that have come to us from the other side as to what is the intention of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to the Bill. They may have all the best intentions in the world, but, if they do not in the Bill itself express in very definite language those intentions, they must not assume that a Court giving judgment will give judgment according to its own views contrary to the expressions of the Act when it comes before the Court.
If the Attorney-General is so perfectly certain that the events of last year were a general strike, that a general strike is now unlawful, and that this Bill only sets out to declare that it is unlawful, why does he worry his head about the Bill at all? If this Bill is only declaratory of the existing law, and if the Attorney-General, as the one inspired spokesman of the Government in this House, is so definite in his view as he always is—though it is not always sustained by the Courts—[Interruption)—when. I find him so confident as to the illegality of a general strike, and so confident that this Bill goes no further than a general strike, I am wondering whether he is particularly interested in this Bill for the purpose of removing doubts as to his own opinion.
451 If the Bill does not confine itself to a general strike, and if, in the opinion of the Government, a Bill is required for the purpose of preventing something other than a general strike, or for preventing something different from what took place last year, then this Bill ceases to be declaratory, and becomes, in its first Clause, preventive, and, in its subsequent Clauses, punitive. That it arises from the general strike of last year the Prime Minister, of course, has assured us, and we accept the assurance. It arises from the general strike of last year, not in its declaratory intention, but in its intention to prevent a similar occurrence, and to impose restrictions upon those who were responsible for last year's occurrence, so that they may not repeat the operation. Let us, however, dismiss from our minds for a moment or two the question of a general strike, or the events of last year. That, at any rate, is in doubt. I have for some years been much interested in the question of a general strike as technically known. There is no man in this House who is so fundamentally and bitterly opposed to the idea of a general strike as I am—nobody We have seen a general strike in operation in France and in Belgium; we have never seen a general strike in operation in this country, and I most sincerely hope that we never shall. But I ask that that may be dismissed from our minds.
There is a general doubt as to whether it was a general strike last year. There is a general doubt, I think I may say, though my opinion counts for nothing, and I would not offer it to the House on the legal side—there is a general doubt, I think, in the whole House, as to whether the events of last year were or were not illegal. But when we come to consider what things are to be made illegal in this Bill, with which we are primarily concerned, we must turn to what the Government themselves say. First of all, let us consider for a moment the definition of a strike in this Bill—not the definition of a strike in any other Act of Parlament, not a strike as we understand it by general consensus of opinion, not a strike as it has been interpreted in the past by the Courts, but a strike as defined in this Bill.
452 Here is the Bill. I do not mean to read it, but I would refer to Clause 8, which says:In this Act the expression 'strike' means the cessation of work by a body of persons employed acting in combination, or a concerted refusal, or a refusal under a common understanding, of any number of persons"—it is not limited; it says "any number"—who are or have been employed, to continue work or to accept employment.Our first stage is this, that when half-adozen men in any occupation intimate to their employers that, at the expiry of one week, they desire to leave—they do not give any reason—in fact, if they are working in concert, by a common understanding that they are going to leave one occupation and go to another, they are, according to this Bill, on strike. I should think that, if that were declared to be the law by the Attorney-General, or by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South-East Leeds, there would be very grave doubt in the mind of every lawyer and every industrialist in this House and in the country; but that is a strike according to this Bill. Now we come to the events which are to make that strike illegal. I have said that it says "any number." In this Bill there is one provision which says that if any one person does a certain thing in such numbers they shall be liable to three months' imprisonment. How can one person do a thing in such numbers as to amount to anything? Therefore, it is not absurd, in dealing with an absurd piece of drafting like this, for me to interpret the word "strike" as it is defined in the Bill, to meet such a case as I have suggested.
Now let us go back to Clause 1, and see what acts done or intended to be done, or consequent upon the doing of these things by a few people, may land us in a cessation of work. Clause 1 says:It is hereby declared that any strike having any object besides the furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry in which the strikers are engaged.Is there, or is there not, doubt in the mind of the people of the country as to what is a trade or what is an industry, or whether people are or are not engaged in a certain trade or industry? Let me give an example from my own experience. There are about 5,000 coal trimmers in this country. Coal trimming is a 453 definite trade and the coal trimmers' industry is a definite industry. A dispute arises, not on a question of wages or hours or anything of the kind, between the coal trimmers and the stevedores and the coal trimmers come out on strike. That would dislocate the whole trade of the country. That is a dispute that is quite outside a trade dispute within the trade or indusry in which the strikers are engaged.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
I think the hon. Member would be well advised to keep this speech for a later stage. It is clearly on the merits of the Bill rather than on the Amendment.
I at once accept your ruling, but I shall not require to keep my speech for a further stage as I have a great many things to say upon the Bill. What I am dealing with now is whether it is advisable to state that this so-called declaratory Clause should have for its purpose the removing of doubt. There is no definition of a general strike in the Bill. I feel I must, if I am to continue the argument at all, associate the definition of the word "strike" with the definition of what the Attorney-General persists in calling a general strike. But will not pursue my illustration. A strike becomes illegal if it has some other purpose than the purpose of the trade or industry, and is designed and calculated. I have no doubt at all about a thing that is designed, as long as it is I, myself, who am doing it, but who shall interpret the mind of another man? Who that knows anything of the sudden movements of passion, these sudden uprisings of masses of men against an injustice from which they themselves do not suffer, but which they feel sincerely when they see another suffer—who shall define whether or not such an act is designed? But what is worse, are we going to set out in life with so far a range of foresight that we have to calculate every step we take, not by what we design ourselves, but by what may be the eventual results of our operations? For not only is it to be designed or calculated. If I could have pursued the analogy of the trimmer, the docker, the coal miners for export, the coal men, the lorry men—a strike of 5,000 coal trimmers is calculated to coerce the Government, not deliberately but by the irrefutable argument of facts, and is most 454 certainly calculated to intimidate the community, and to put into jeopardy the livelihood of a very considerable portion of it.
If the Bill is intended to declare that a strike of that kind is defined in the Bill, and as expanded in Clause 1, is the law of the land, it is advisable to let the country know that this decision is being taken because there has been doubt in the minds of the people. I myself may be considered, perhaps, as rather muddleheaded in these matters, but when I read Clause 8 and expand it by Clause 1, I am in very great doubt indeed, even if I were to admit that a genera] strike is illegal, and even if I were to admit that the events of last year were illegal, that either at common law or under any Statute, or by the decision of any Court or by the obiter dicta of any judge, such a strike as is defined and expanded in this Bill is illegal. If it be not illegal, this Bill is more than declaratory. If it be illegal, there is so much doubt about it that the nation should be told that the purpose of bringing in the Bill is to remove those doubts, well or ill-founded, so that it may know it is not the result either of fear of another, or of revenge for the last.
§ Mr. KIDD
I wonder if I am wrong in thinking the fallacy underlying the whole of the argument of the previous speaker is this. He was trying to visualise, and trying to discover in his own visualisation, whether certain conditions represent a strike within the meaning of the Clause. He has no right to do that at this stage. The Clause declares that a strike as defined is illegal. What the hon. Member has been doing all through is anticipating the functions of the judge. Let me illustrate from a very minor offence. Suppose I ask the hon. Member to define a breach of the peace, it would be difficult. He would tell me a breach of the peace was an offence to be established by evidence before a competent judge, and similarly any set of circumstances arising would fall to be decided in the same way. The question for the judge would be: Do these represent a general strike within the definition of the Clause or do they not? That is entirely a question for the judge. It is a question that cannot be anticipated. It is a question that can only arise for decision on a certain set 455 of circumstances, and all this discussion in anticipation of these conditions arising is anticipating the functions of the judge.
§ Mr. CHARLETON
I am bound to agree with my right hon. Friends when they say the more the Attorney-General talks to us about the Bill, the more bewildered we get. The Prime Minister last week told us that what he wanted to do was to prevent a general strike. He said he would like to put that in the Bill, but he was told by his legal adviser, who I presume is the Attorney-General, that that could not be done. So we get a Bill that is designed to prevent a general strike in which a general strike is never mentioned. The Attorney-General keeps talking about the general strike of last year. He has never told us what he means by a general strike. He has admitted he cannot. He says you know it when you see it. If he postulates that he saw a general strike last year, I want to remind the Committee that those who had the authority to ask men to withdraw their labour never exercised that authority to the full. They only asked a proportion of the men over whom they had some control to cease work. So if the Attorney-General and those who support him say that was a general strike, the words "general strike" do not mean the cessation of work of all the men who could be asked to withdraw their labour. It would appear that what the Attorney-General means is that a sympathetic strike, or a general strike, is a strike where some men or women cease work in order to assist some others who have also ceased work within a trade or industry.
I feel sure, although the Attorney-General and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) keep repeating that that strike was illegal, the Emergency Powers Regulations would not have been asked for by the Government had they been sure that such a strike was illegal. Let me carry the Committee back a little. In the year 1911 some men in several trades and industries in Liverpool and thereabouts went on strike—dockers, railwaymen, carters. The strike slowly spread to Manchester and Cheshire, and ultimately all the unions catering for men who were on or about a railway came out on strike in sympathy with this 456 small handful who originally went out at Liverpool. The Prime Minister of that day told the executive of the railway unions that he would place the whole of the forces of the Crown, military and civil, at the disposal of the railway company. Had that strike been illegal, he would have gone much further. It is obvious that at that time he did not think it was illegal, but he did that to try to frighten the railwaymen. There was a very grave political crisis at that time with a foreign Power and a railway strike, we were told, would threaten the stability of the Government and the safety of the Empire. In spite of that, the judges of that time had not discovered that a sympathetic strike was illegal. It must be a sympathetic strike about which the Attorney-General is speaking, because we have not yet had a general strike within the meaning I am laying down, that the whole of the men over whom some authority has power are being called out. It is only the question of dimensions that is at stake. If this be so, if since 1906 a sympathetic strike has always been illegal, when the Empire was in danger in 1911 and the Prime Minister told the railwaymen's executive he would place the whole power, civil and military, at the aid of the railway companies, why did not the lawyers of that day discover in that hour of need that such a sympathetic strike was illegal? It was not discovered, because they were not clever enough.
Then, later on, there is another strike described. The Bill describes every strike except a general strike. It talks about a strike by Government employés. In 1919 the railways were controlled by the Government, and there was an altruistic strike by the railwaymen. Thousands of men who were not affected went on strike to assist their weaker brethren. The Prime Minister of that day described it as an anarchistic conspiracy. Knowing the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) as we do, if he had understood that the strike was illegal, within the definition of the Attorney-General, I feel sure he would have taken all the powers necessary, especially at that time, but he did not know it, and no one knew it, and no one believed it. The country to-day does not believe it at all. The only point we have before us 457 is that a general strike must be political in order to be illegal. That is the only evidence we have of the illegality of a general strike. Therefore, I am bound to support the Amendment, because it is just what we want. The more the Attorney-General talks to us the worse he makes the matter and the less we understand him. He will talk about anything hut the matter we want to understand. When I first read this Clause I thought it was badly drafted, but I am sure it is not that. It is designed. We have seen all the legal Gentlemen giving their views, and none of them agree. Can we hope to get any better settlement in the Courts? It seems to me what the Attorney-General is out to do is to leave the Bill in the most unsatisfactory state possible, in order that he may be relieved of the responsibility of saying exactly what he wants, and leave it to the Judges in the Courts. It seems to me we ought to insist that our Amendment be accepted, in order that we may later get the explanation of the Attorney-General's own mind put into the Bill.
§ Mr. WEBB
; I think it would, perhaps, be better to get a little nearer the actual Amendment. It has been discussed on both sides of the Committee by Members of the most different opinions without, as it seems to me, coming to the actual point of the Amendment, because it has been discussed from the basis of whether or not a general strike is illegal. What we have to do is to consider whether there is any reason for putting in the words "for the purpose of removing doubts" at the beginning of the Clause. I am going to argue that the words in the clause are not declaratory of the existing law. The Attorney-General has argued constantly, and we have heard to-day, that there is no doubt whatever in anyone's mind that a general strike is illegal. I am not going to discuss that, because the extraordinary thing is that a general strike is not included in Clause 1 at all, and I was surprised when the Prime Minister said the main proposition of the Bill was that a general strike was illegal. If that be so, why is not a general strike defined and described in Clause 1? It is not. It is not that it is impossible to describe a general strike. The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley 458 (Sir J. Simon) throws out a sort of impromptu, a new wording of the Government Clause, which gives a description and a definition of a general strike. If that had been so, it might have been possible to avoid any expression of feeling that there was a doubt as to the law, and whether this Clause was declaratory, but when we find the Government carefully avoid mention of the words "general strike" and then go on to define an illegal strike in such a way as to bring in any number of other strikes, not general strikes, and, moreover, by an extraordinary ineptitude, as I must think it, not even included the general strike proper in its definition, this Bill, if it becomes an Act, with Clause 1 worded as it is, will not affect the legality of the general strike properly so-called—at least, that is my submission. That is a new ground of doubt which the Attorney-General has not yet considered, and which has not been referred to in this discussion. For that reason, I am supporting the insertion of the words of the Amendment; otherwise we shall be telling an untruth if we say it is a declaratory Clause.
I do not want to trouble the. Committee with history, but as nobody has yet, in all the talk we have had, said anything about the history of the general strike, I think it is really worth while to remind the Committee what the general strike was, and when it was invented. It may be news to some Members that it was not invented in Moscow. It was not invented in any connection with the Soviet Government or the Third International, but, as far as I can discover, by a worthy man whose name, at any rate, bears not only the stamp of nationality but even, one may say, the glamour of patriotism—William Benbow. Curiously enough it was not taken up in England by trade unions at all. When he proposed a general strike, he did not propose that it should be a strike in furtherance of a trade dispute at all. He proposed it, about 1840, in the guise of a sacred month in which all the wage-earners and the population were to cease work of any kind. The interesting point is that he did not appeal to the trade unions—for there were trade unions even in 1840—but, curiously enough, as far as my researches have gone, I cannot dis- 459 cover in any of the manuscript minutes of the trade unions of the time, or in any publication or legal papers, that any trade union in England or Scotland took up this idea of a general strike. They refused to take it up then, and they have never in the history of England taken it up since—of course I am not now quibbling as to whether a general strike must be a strike of all the people, or only of some. That is not the real distinction between a general strike and a trade dispute. The real distinction is whether the object and purpose had anything to do with the trade dispute or not.
The object and purpose of this historic proposal of a sacred month was to bring about the Charter, and it led to a good many strikes by Chartists, but never by the trade unions. That general strike, whether large or small, was absolutely distinct from a trade dispute. That, the Attorney-General told us, was an illegal movement, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) going over the same ground, apparently said there would be no doubt that a strike or general cessation of work in order to make the Charter the law of the land would be a criminal conspiracy, and therefore illegal. I do not know whether there was some uncertainty about that in 1840, or whether there is doubt about it now, but that is a general strike. A general strike means, in all the historic definitions, a strike which is not a trade dispute and not in furtherance of a trade dispute. It was invented by William Benbow, and secured a great deal of attention at the time. It did lead to a number of small strikes, but it was never taken up by any of the trade unions, and it has never been since.
Clause 1 of this Bill is declared to have arisen from the events of last May. When the Prime Minister says he means this Bill to deal only with the general strike, I accept the Prime Minister's statement as true, but on this point that the Bill is supposed by the Prime Minister to deal only with the general strike, I want to point out that Clause 1 does not deal with the general strike at all. Let me read it:It is hereby declared"—460 and we want to insert the words "for the purpose of removing doubts"—that any strike having any object besides the furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry in which the strikers are engaged, is an illegal strike, etc.It says "any object besides." What does the word "besides" mean, taking the two things together? It says that any strike which is a strike in furtherance of a trade dispute and is also something else, is illegal. The very point about the general strike was that it was not a strike in furtherance of a trade dispute, but something entirely different, and excluded from a trade dispute. You cannot have a general strike that is in furtherance of a trade dispute. I see the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) laughs. I do not think he can tell us anything about the general strike, because he has not pursued any researches into that. The whole point about the general strike is not that it must be a universal one, for it does not matter whether it is universal or is only a strike of a small number of people. The whole point is that it is not in furtherance of a trade dispute, but is taken part in by men of any occupation or no occupation—for Benbow was a coffeehouse-keeper. It was not a question of the furtherance of his interests, and nobody was acting in sympathy with him or his economic position. It was a political design to form an organisation which should, in concert, cease work and down tools in order to bring about something which was not the furtherance of a trade dispute. That is a general strike.
The hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. R. Mitchell) mentioned there had been general strikes. The Attorney-General said, as with an elephant, you can recognise one when you see him. I do not think the Attorney-General has ever seen one, even in the Zoological Gardens; otherwise he would not have been so mistaken in his recognition. As a matter of fact, there have been general strikes. There was one in Berlin. An attempt was made at a monarchical revolution in Germany and to overthrow the constitution of Germany by illegal means and by military force to bring back the monarchy. That attempt succeeded almost as well as the illegal revolutionary action in Ulster. It was brought to nought, as the Ulster move- 461 ment might have been, by a general strike of the German workers. That was not in furtherance of a trade dispute. They simply downed tools simultaneously from one end of Germany to the other without saying anything. There was no trade dispute, and, according to the right hon. Gentleman, that was illegal. When the Attorney-General has gone further into the mysteries of the British Constitution than he has at present, he will discover that it is part of the British Constitution on appropriate occasions to act unconstitutionally. Of course, it is equally part of the British Constitution that the Government are justified in putting down that attempt. I need not labour that, because on the other side of the House it is felt that the action taken by the Secretary of State for India and other members—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think the right hon. Gentleman expressed an admirable determination at the beginning of his speech to confine himself strictly to the terms of the Amendment, but he is going very far away from it now.
§ Mr. WEBB
I apologise for it. I will only say, in order to justify putting in the words "For the purpose of removing doubts," that it is necessary that I should show that the words used in the second line of the Clause deal with something about which there is very considerable doubt. I say that I take it from the Prime Minister that this Clause relates to the general strike, but the words, as the Clause stands, do not relate to a general strike but relate to something else, as we chall show later on. The point is that there are doubts whether a general strike is illegal—that is, a real general strike with a political object, and the fact that there are such doubts may be indicated by the action taken by the Secretary of State for India and by the Home Secretary in regard to Ulster.
I pass to another point. I want to keep strictly to what I was discussing, but I do want to make clear the doubt which exists with regard to the question of the meaning of the first line of the Clause and the words "any strike." Let us look at the definition of a strike. The hon. Member for Paisley anticipated one of my points by quoting a part of the definition. I do not want to go over that again, because I am 462 not anxious to waste time, or to be guilty of vain repetition, but I must point out that what the Attorney-General said—and there is no doubt whatever about this—that in certain circumstances a strike will be illegal. This tells us what the definition is:The expression 'strike' means the cessation of work by a body of persons employed acting in combination, or a concerted refusal, of a refusal under a common understanding of any number of persons who are or have been employed, to continue to work or to accept employment.That is the law at present, the Attorney-General says. Can hon. Members find any other lawyer who will say that? There are a large number of members of the higher branch of the legal profession on the other benches. Will any one of them say that the definition of a strike which is imported is part of the existing law? The definition reads:In this Act the expression 'strike' means the cessation of work.That is all right and it is what is understood by a strike, and I think is good law, but it goes on:The expression 'strike' means the cessation of work by a body of persons employed acting in combination,which is a strike—or a concerted refusal.… of any number of persons who are or have been employed,… to accept employment.I want to point out that the Attorney-General has declared to us, with all his knowledge as a lawyer, and all his reputation, that Clause 1 does not alter the law. Will he say that now? Let me take an instance, and put a case to him. I am going to assume that the coal stoppage of last May, which lasted 7½ months, is affected by the terms of this Clause, because it was in furtherance of a trade dispute, and the Government and the Attorney-General say it had other objects as well. Those million miners were given notice by their employers, and those notices expired, and the men were discharged from their employment. They had no longer any legal relations with their employers at all. Then why does the Attorney-General bring in the words "a concerted refusal … to accept employment"? Because otherwise he could not have struck at that mining dispute. For 7½ months those men were guilty of nothing but "a concerted refusal … to accept employment." They 463 were not in the employment of anybody. They had been discharged, and their employers had no legal or contractual touch with them or control over them. To my knowledge, some of them went off to America immediately the stoppage began. I suppose they would fall within the ambit of this Clause. I do not know whether they could be extradited, but it is clear that if they came back on a holiday, years afterwards, they could be had up, not before the High Court, but before any two Justices in the County of Durham, and given two months' imprisonment for having in concert refused to accept employment. I must be allowed to say to the Attorney-General that I suppose the way it would be worked would be that under Clause 7 the right hon. and learned Gentleman would apply for an injunction.
On the point of Order. At the outset of the Debate the whole question turned on the wisdom of these words in regard to the legality or illegality of a general strike, and I submit that what my right hon. Friend was saying is in accordance with many other speeches that perhaps you, Captain FitzRoy, did not hear, to the effect that it is impossible to argue our particular Amendment unless we take in conjunction with it the definition of a strike as set out in Clause 1.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I have already allowed that to be done at great length, but I cannot allow it to be repeated.
§ Mr. WEBB
I assume I may complete my argument, not by pursuing further what I have said, but by taking up another point involved in the same Amendment to insert the words "For the removal of doubt." I have challenged the Attorney-General and any member of the higher branch of the law opposite to confirm the assertion that there is no doubt that the law at present is as it is declared in this Clause.
There has been a challenge thrown out, and while I do not recognise myself as coming under the description of the higher branch of the law, is the right hon. Gentleman 464 aware that the definition of a strike is taken from an existing Act of Parliament, namely, the Munitions Act, 1915, and, therefore, will he not withdraw the suggestion that there is no ground for taking this definition of a strike as being an existing one?
§ Mr. WEBB
I will not quarrel with the hon. and gallant Member on the point of law, but I remember a Bar story about a young man in chambers, who was very confident, and who was going to take his first brief. When asked if he would not take some advice in regard to it, he said: "Oh, no, I do not need any advice." When the case came on, he told the Court that he had a perfect answer to the plaintiff's case, and quoted Rex v. Jones. The Judge then asked, quietly: "Was not that decision overruled?" The young counsel was extinguished.
§ Mr. WEBB
The hon. and gallant Member quoted against me as stating the existing law an Act of Parliament which has been repealed! The Attorney-General wants the Committee to declare that any strike shall, under certain circumstances, be illegal, and then to say that the word "strike" includes a refusal in concert to accept employment. What crime have any number of men committed who, having been discharged after due notice, are no longer in employment, merely refuse to accept employment? Notice that there is no question of motive and that by the proposed definition the strike is a strike even if they refuse employment because, after being discharged by their employer, they want to go for a holiday or to resume work in some other occupation. Talk about the yearly bond of a century ago in Durham and Northumberland, where the miners served under a yearly engagement by which they were under a legal obligation to continue in employment with an employer for a whole year, but the employer was not under any obligation to give them employment. They were tied to remain with him for that year. But under this Clause they will be tied for ever. I do submit that, to put it mildly, it is a matter of doubt as to that being the law now, and when the Attorney-General asks the Committee to say, "It is hereby declared" that that 465 is the law, surely we are entitled to say: "If you think that is the law, for goodness sake put in the words 'For the removal of doubt.'"
It is very doubtful indeed whether the words of Clause 1 deal with the general strike at all, because they only deal with a strike having for one of its objects "the furtherance of a trade dispute" and so on. Therefore, there must be the furtherance of a trade dispute and something else. The ambiguity lies in the word "besides," and the phrase I have quoted means, as we thought, any object other than the trade dispute of the original strikers, that is to say, a sympathetic strike. The Attorney-General says:There may well be in one of the essential services an industrial strike which attains so large a scale as to amount to a menace to the life of the community. … Such a strike we have not stopped by this Bill.That is a remarkable statement. He goes on:It would have been easy to declare that the sympathetic strike. … was illegal … But, again, we have not thought it right to take that course. The sympathetic strike remains under this Bill perfectly legal so long as it is a strike directed against the employer, and not directed against the Government or the community.Remember, a strike in future may be nothing more than a concerted refusal to accept employment by men who have been discharged by their employer. Unfortunately, when the Solicitor-General spoke he took quite another view, for he said:Supposing the miners stopped to improve or maintain conditions of labour in their industry, and the railway men struck in order to avoid carrying what he described as blackleg coal. The answer to it depends, of course, upon whether the intention of the railway men in their refusal to carry blackleg coal is to coerce the Government or intimidate the community.It must be remembered that this proposition that this Bill is only declaratory of the existing law extends also to Clause 3, the intimidation Clause, and the Attorney-General said that Clause 3 was really declaratory of the existing law. Well, it is not, but he thinks it is, and when the Solicitor-General came to deal with the matter he said something quite different, because he said that the word "intimidate," which is the essence of Clause 3—
§ Mr. WEBB
I beg pardon. I meant of Clause 1. It was quite a slip, and I apologise. The Solicitor-General told me, to my surprise, that the definition of the word "intimidate" in Clause 1 would have the same meaning as it bears in the 1875 Act and every other Act where it is used without qualification. I almost gasped, because surely the Solicitor-General cannot be ignorant of the fact that the word "intimidate" in the 1875 Act has been defined over and over again, by one Judge after another and by a specially constituted King's Bench Division, to mean the threat of criminal violence to a person or persons, and you cannot offer that kind of violence to the community or even to a substantial portion of the community. The Solicitor-General told the House that that word "intimidate" was merely declaratory and that it had the same meaning as in the 1875 Act, but the Attorney-General does not think so, because he is proposing to leave out the word "intimidate." Unfortunately, he did not tell the Solicitor-General he was intending to leave it out, nor did he tell him why he was going to leave it out. The Attorney-General, no doubt, having discovered that the word "intimidate" in the 1875 Act meant violence or a threat of violence to some person or persons, proposes to leave out the word and merely to substitute something about causing hardship to the community, which is entirely different. The community was not intimidated by the events of last May, but a great deal of hardship was inflicted. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Yarmouth (Sir F. Meyer) says the community was not intimidated. [Hon. MEMBERS: "You attempted it!"
§ Mr. WEBB
The Clause as it now stands "to intimidate the community," is inept and useless. We are to have it altered to "inflicting hardship." I do not pretend to be a lawyer, or to know what the law is, but I have read a great many things on this subject; consequently, I can say with some confidence that hardly any of the propositions in this Clause are free from doubt. For that reason, I do suggest that the Govern- 467 ment might very well accept the insertion of these words. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) has pointed out that they can do no harm. It would be a becoming act of modesty on the part of the Government, after its blundering proceedings in regard to the drafting of this Bill, because many of us understand enough about the way Bills are drafted to see the blundering that has occurred. I have no right to imagine who drafted the Bill, but the one thing that I do feel pretty confident about is, that it was not drafted by the admirably qualified gentlemen who usually undertake the drafting of Government Bills. They would be positively ashamed, I think, to put their hands to such a botch, in the way of legal drafting, as this Bill is. Before we got to the Committee, the right hon. and learned Gentleman was proposing to amend one point after another, and to withdraw the use of the words declared by law. I suggest that we are entitled to ask the Government, as an act of modesty, as an act of confession that they have not drafted this Bill in the best possible way, to insert these perfectly harmless words, "For the purpose of removing doubts." They cannot say there is no doubt. It is impossible for them to say there is no doubt as to the words of the Clause being the law. All I am pointing out is, that there are doubts whether the extraordinary wording of Clause I represents the law. The Attorney-General doubts. He thought that it represented the law in its first from, and now he thinks it completely represents the law in its second form. Do not we all know that the form of the Bill will be very considerably changed as we go on? No reason has been assigned why these words should not be inserted. I conclude by thanking the Committee for its forbearance, and once more urging the Government, unless they really wish to ride rough shod over everything else, at any rate, to accept these harmless words.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
I was hoping that during the discussion in Committee on this particular Clause and the Amendment that has been moved, hon. Members would have hal a little patience, because the Clause is a very important one, so far as we are concerned. The reason I 468 say that is because I am quite convinced that if a similar attack were made upon the legal or medical profession, they would feel quite as angry as we feel about this particular question. I listened to the major part of the Debates of last week and the major part of the Debate this afternoon, and I should say that the words "general strike" have been used at least 500 times, if not more. As a matter of fact, there was no general strike last year, and I will tell you the reason why. As most of you are aware, on the 30th April, one million miners were locked out. There were only 1,500,000 men who thought it worth while to down tools on the 4th May. Therefore, if you take the million men who were locked out and the 1,500,000 men who came out in sympathy with the miners, you have only 2,500,000 men who were on strike—and we have got a working population in this country of 17,500,000. I fail to understand how you can in any way define that as a general strike.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) said he was not a lawyer. Neither am I, but I am convinced of what is going to happen under this particular Clause. The law at the present time is sufficient to deal with the millions of men in this country. Take one simple illustration—the case of the London gas workers. As everybody knows, or should know, every man and woman working for a gas company or a water company, either private or public, is compelled by the present law to give 14 days' notice before he or she can leave employment. In some cases 28 days' notice has to be given. May I remind the Committee that prior to the alteration of the Conspiracy Act of 1875, about 20 men working for the Mile End Gasworks gave notice to terminate their employment, and before they finished they were brought before the Court and sentenced at Maidstone Assizes to 12 months for conspiracy. That was the reason why the law of 1875 was altered. Mr. Gladstone at that time absolutely refused to alter the law. Subsequently there was a general election and the Liberal Government were sent about their business simply because they refused to alter that law. The present position, so far as the gas workers are concerned, is this: In the case of the Gas Light and Coke Company, which 469 controls all the gasworks in the northern part of London, the 20,000 employés, although they might give their 14 or 28 days' notice in a legal manner, would be liable to come within the definition of Sub-section (2) of Clause (1). If these employés give notice and leave their employment, and no coal is carbonised and no gas is made, and there are no gas fires, or gas cooking, or lighting in the houses of the people, I am quite convinced the present Attorney-General, if he were then a Member of the Government, would go to the Court at once and get an injunction against these men to restrain them from doing what they thought was the proper thing to do.
The Attorney-General and hon. Members on the benches opposite have not attempted to define a general strike, because it cannot be defined. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) has said, there have been one or two general strikes in other parts of the world, but those strikes were for the purpose of extending the franchise. There has never been a general strike in any part of the world on industrial questions. The question of a general strike has been discussed at a number of Socialist Internationals, and the first time I remember the subject being discussed was at the International Brussels Congress in 1891, and that subject was introduced by my late friend Mr. Keir Hardie. That congress was in favour of a general strike in the case of war. I want to tell the Committee quite frankly that during the whole course of the dispute of last May—and my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) and one or two other Members who are members of the
§ Joint Council can bear me out—the question of attempting to coerce the Government was neither discussed nor mentioned. As you know, the reason why the men came out was not because they wanted higher wages or shorter hours or an alteration in their conditions, but because of their sympathy with the miners and their desire to get the miners back to the position they were in when they were locked out. Your law and no other law will ever prevent any body of workmen in this country, if they want to come out, from coming out. They will come out in spite of you or anybody else. You will have as many strikes in future as you have had in the past. You may attempt to prevent strikes as long and as often as you like, but you will not prevent the workers from having the right to choose whom they shall work for and whom they shall not work for. It may mean that some of us may go to prison. I do not care a straw about that. Men and women have gone to prison in days gone by and they will go to prison in the future, in spite of your legislation. Whatever you may say to the contrary, you are absolutely and deliberately taking away the right and the privileges that we had prior to 1906. You may pass your Bill—I know you are going to pass it—but it is not going to operate as far as some of us are concerned.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL rose in, his place, and claimed to move, That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 294; Noes, 153.473
|Division No. 111.]||AYES||7.45 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bethel, A.||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Betterton, Henry B.||Bullock, Captain M.|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Burman, J. B.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Burton, Colonel H. W.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Centr'l)||Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Butler, Sir Geoffrey|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Blundell, F. N.||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Boothby, R. J. G.||Caine, Gordon Hall|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Campbell, E. T.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Cassels, J. D|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Brassey, Sir Leonard||Cautley, Sir Henry S.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.|
|Balniel, Lord||Briggs, J. Harold||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Briscoe, Richard George||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Chapman, Sir S.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd, Hexham)||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Christie, J. A.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Buchan, John||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.|
|Berry, Sir George||Buckingham, Sir H.||Clayton, G. C.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Raine, W.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Ramsden, E.|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Cope, Major William||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hurst, Gerald B.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs, Stretford)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Ropner, Major L.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Jacob, A. E.||Rye, F. G.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Jephcott, A. R.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Dalziel, Sir Davison||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Dixey, A. C.||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Drewe, C.||King, Captain Henry Dcuolas||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Lamb, J. Q.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Lane Fox. Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Elveden, Viscount||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)|
|England, Colonel A.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Loder, J. de V.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Looker, Herbert William||Smithers, Waldron|
|Falie, Sir Bertram G.||Lougher, Lewis||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Fermoy, Lord||Lumley, L. R.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Forrest, W.||Macintyre, Ian||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||McLean, Major A.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Macquisten, F. A.||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Malone, Major P. B.||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Marqesson, Captain D.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Gilmour. Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Goff, Sir Park||Meller, R. J.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Merriman, F. B.||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Grace, John||Mever, Sir Frank||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Waddington, R.|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Wells, S. R.|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nelson, Sir Frank||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Neville, R. J.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Harland, A.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Nuttall, Ellis||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Oakley, T.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||O'Connor T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Withers, John James|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Perring, Sir William George||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Peto. G. (Somerset, Frome)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Herbert Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Power, Sir John Cecil||Wragg, Herbert|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Preston, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Holt, Capt. H. P.||Radford, E. A.||Mr. F. C. Thomson and Mr. Penny.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Attlee, Clement Richard||Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff, Cannock)||Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Batey, Joseph|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Baker, Walter||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.|
|Briant, Frank||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Broad, F. A.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Bromfield, William||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bromley, J.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, J. J. (West Hxm, Silvertown)||Smillie, Robert|
|Buchanan, G.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cape, Thomas||Kennedy, T.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kenworthy, Lt-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Clowes, S.||Lansbury, George||Snell, Harry|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawrence, Susan||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lawson, John James||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Connolly, M.||Lee, F.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lindley, F. W.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Livingstone, A. M.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lowth, T.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Lunn, William||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Mackinder, W.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Dennison, R.||MacLaren, Andrew||Taylor, R. A.|
|Duncan, C.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Dunnico, H.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||March, S.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Fenby, T. D.||Maxton, James||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Gardner, J. P.||Montague, Frederick||Townend, A. E.|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Morris, R. H.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Gillett, George M.||Mosley, Oswald||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Gosling, Harry||Murnin, H.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Naylor, T. E.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Oliver, George Harold||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Greenall, T.||Palin, John Henry||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Paling, W.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Westwood, J.|
|Groves, T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Whiteley, W.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Potts, John S.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Purcell, A. A.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Hardle, George D.||Riley, Ben||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Harney, E. A.||Ritson, J.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Windsor, Walter|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wright, W.|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scrymgeour, E.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hirst, G. H.||Scurr, John|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Sexton, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Mr. Bayes Mr. A. Barnes.|
§ Mr. THURTLE
On a point of Order. When the Second Reading took place, the Prime. Minister said, as a reason for curtailing the length of time which was given for a Second Reading Debate, that there would be ample opportunity of full discussion when the Committee stage was reached. May I submit to you that there are large numbers of Members on these benches who have not had an opportunity of taking part in this discussion?
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Certain hon. Members on these benches have marked out a place for themselves on this question. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), the hon. Member for Camlachie 474 (Mr. Stephen), and the hon. Member for myself—[Laughter.]
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It is difficult to give guidance when everyone is shouting at me. No point of Order arises at all on this question. The Committee have decided that the Question shall be put. Therefore, I am bound to put it.
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 152; Noes, 302.477
|Division No. 112.]||AYES.||[8.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Sexton, James|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff, Cannock)||Hayday, Arthur||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hirst, G. H.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Baker, Walter||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Barnes, A.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Batey, Joseph||John, William (Rhondaa, West)||Smillie, Robert|
|Bowerman, Rt Hon. Charles W.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Briant, Frank||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bromfield, William||Kelly, W. T.||Snell, Harry|
|Bromley, J.||Kennedy, T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lansbury, George||Stamford, T. W.|
|Buchanan, G.||Lawrence, Susan||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawson, John James||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lee, F.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Clowes, S.||Lindley, F. W.||Sullivan, J.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Livingstone, A. M.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lowth, T.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Connolly, M.||Lunn, William||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Mackinder, W.||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||MacLaren, Andrew||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Day, Colonel Harry||March, S.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dennison, R.||Maxton, James||Townend, A. E.|
|Duncan, C.||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Dunnico, H.||Montague, Frederick||Viant, S. P.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Morris, R. H.||Wallhead Richard C.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Fenby, T. D.||Mosley, Oswald||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Murnin, H.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Gardner, J. P.||Naylor, T. E.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Oliver, George Harold||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Palin, John Henry||Westwood, J.|
|Gillett, George M.||Paling, W.||Whiteley, W.|
|Gosling, Harry||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wiggins William Martin|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Greenall, T.||Potts, John S.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Purcell, A. A.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Groves, T.||Riley, Ben||Windsor, Walter|
|Grundy, T. W.||Ritson, J.||Wright, W.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Sakiatvala, Shapurji|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Salter, Dr. Alfred||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hardie, George D.||Scrymgeour, E.||Mr. T. Henderson and Mr. Hayes.|
|Harney, E. A.||Scurr, John|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Blundell, F. N.||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Boothby, R. J. G.||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)|
|Albery, Irving James||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Chapman, Sir S.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Brassey, Sir Leonard||Chilcott, Sir Warden|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Christie, J. A.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Briggs, J. Harold||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Briscoe, Richard George||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Clayton, G. C.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Cohen, Major J. Brunel|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Buchan, John||Colfox, Major Wm. Philip|
|Batniel, Lord||Buckingham, Sir H.||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Bullock, Captain M.||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Burman, J. B.||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)|
|Beckett Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Berry, Sir George||Caine, Gordon Hall||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)|
|Bethel, A.||Campbell, E. T.||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Carver, Major W. H.||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Cassels, J. D.||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Dalziel, Sir Davison|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovll)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Jacob, A. E.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Jephcott, A. R.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Drewe, C.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Rye, F. G.|
|Elveden, Viscount||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Salmon, Major I.|
|England, Colonel A.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Lamb, J. Q.||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Fielden, E. B.||Loder, J. de V.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Looker, Herbert William||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Forrest, W.||Lougher, Lewis||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belf'st.)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Lumley, L. R.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Macintyre, Ian||Smithers, Waldron|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||McLean, Major A.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Macquisten, F. A.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Goff, Sir Park||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Malone, Major P. B.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Grace, John||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Margesson, Captain D.||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Meller, R. J.||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Merriman, F. B.||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Meyer, Sir Frank||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Waddington, R.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Harland, A.||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Nelson, Sir Frank||Warner, Brigadier General W. W.|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Neville, R. J.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carilsle)|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Wells, S. R.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Nuttall, Ellis||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Oakley, T.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Penny, Frederick George||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Perkins, Colonel E K.||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Holt, Captain H. P.||Perring, Sir William George||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Withers, John James|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Pliditch, Sir Philip||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Power, Sir John Cecil||Womersley, W. J.|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Preston, William||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Radford, E. A.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Raine, W.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Ramsden, E.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Rees, Sir Beddoe||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hurst, Gerald B.||Remnant, Sir James||Major Cope and Mr. F. C. Thomson.|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Rentoul, G. S.|
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
On a point of Order. This is the first Amendment that has been taken on this Clause. There will be a large number of Amendments, and I desire to ask you whether it is possible to have some collateral record 478 not only of the number of hon. Members voting but of the number of people they represent?
§ Mr. STEPHEN
May I ask you a question in connection with this Amendment? Some of us have put our names down to Amendments right through the Order Paper. I have been here to-day from the beginning of this Debate, and I want to ask you whether an hon. Member who has put his name to an Amendment has not the right to be called—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
There is no right about it. The fact that an hon. Member has put his name to an Amendment does not give him any right to catch Mr. Speaker's or the Chairman's eye.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I have a fair amount of knowledge of the Standing Orders and I am aware that there is nothing which gives him a right, but is it not the case that it is the usual custom?
§ Mr. MACLEAN
When an hon. Member puts his name to an Amendment of such importance as this does it not signify that he intends to support it not merely by voting in the Lobby, but that he holds certain opinions in regard to it, and is it not customary, apart altogether from any Standing Order, that when an hon. Member has put his name down to an Amendment of such first-rate importance as this he has at least the right to be called during the course of the Debate and before the Closure is moved?
§ Mr. MACKINDER
In the event of an hon. Member having his name down first to an Amendment, does not that give him a prior right to speak in support of it?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It gives him a prior right, over those whose names appear below his, to move the Amendment himself.
§ It being a Quarter past Eight of the Clock, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 4.