HC Deb 25 February 1930 vol 235 cc2058-65

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit the funds and profits of cooperative societies from being made liable to contribute to any political party or cause, This Bill will do something to bring help to some 6,000,000 people in this country who, at the present time, are either suffering injustice or are liable to suffer injustice by having funds, which they have acquired and accumulated for the purpose of trade, diverted to partisan political purposes. It came as a great shock to members of co-operative societies in this country when a Bill was introduced earlier in the Session designed to remove some of their grievances, but leaving this principal grievance of theirs without-redress. They were very grateful, indeed, when, owing to the noble stand that was made in Committee by various hon. Members on these benches, an Amendment was passed in order to give them the redress for which they were longing, but, unfortunately, no sooner had their grievance been redressed than the Bill was withdrawn.

What is the wrong of which these cooperative societies complain 2 They complain that at the present time—and it is a fact—that where the rules of the cooperative society allow of it, a majority is able legally to divert funds and profits which have been acquired on behalf of all the members of the society, in order to finance a party of which a minority may entirely disapprove, and whose policy may be wholly abhorrent to them. This power of the majority has not been abused in any case where a majority of the co-operative society happens to belong to either of the constitutional parties, but it is an unfortunate thing that where the majority in many cases happens to be Socialist, large funds have been diverted from their proper purpose, and have been spent on financing elections and financing propaganda between elections. The money which has been so acquired does not belong to a majority; it belongs to the whole society, and it must be borne in mind that were we ever to have, which Heaven forbid, Socialism in our time, it would mean the destruction of all enterprises owned by cooperative societies, and also the confiscation of all the share and loan capital belonging to individual co-operators.

The remedy which this modest little Bill of mine proposes will leave every member of every co-operative society perfectly free, if he or she is willing, to contribute to any party to which he or she may belong. Members if they wish can dispose of their assets for the benefit of the Socialist party, or of any other party which, like the Socialist, preys upon the gullibility of mankind. The case for this Bill is based upon two great principles—first of all, the principle of freedom. The co-operative society came into being for the purpose of buying and distributing goods for use and consumption. Its purpose is entirely alien from the purpose of a political party. It has no more right to spend the money of its members on a partisan policy without their consent than has a tennis or bowling club. There are hon. Members opposite who sympathise very much with the depressed peasantry of India or Egypt; will they do nothing for the wage-slaves of England? The second ground for our Bill is the intolerable hardship which this misuse of co-operative funds involves upon its members. It is easy to imagine anywhere in the industrial north a struggling home in which the family belongs to a co-operative society, waiting for the annual dividend, and, instead of having handed over the annual dividend which they ought to receive, finding that it has been grievously cut down by the diversion of co-operative funds for the purpose of financing the Socialist party.

This one-Clause Bill is a Bill which has support in every quarter of the House where there is any love of liberty still lingering, and even in the Liberal party, I am glad to say, are some of the backers—at any rate one of them has given his name. I hope, therefore, that this Bill will be treated as a non-contentious one, and will be as welcome as the Bill just introduced by my hon. and gallant Friend. I would suggest to the Front Bench opposite that, assuming this Bill receives its First Reading to-day, they would be well advised to give its further stages every possible facility. If they do that, when they go to the country they will be able to say that among the mass of bad Bills they passed, there was one good Bill, and they would be able to say, "It is true that a Socialist Government has increased unemployment, depressed industry and made most homes in this country more unhappy and poorer than when it came in, but, at all events, we have done one thing: we have given facilities to this one-Clause Bill, which enables members of co-operative societies to be freed from the shackles of political persecution."


I cannot help but notice the ever-increasing interest which the hon. Gentleman takes in this subject, and my first observation is that of all the Private Members' Motions to which I have listened in this House, none has been a greater abuse of Private Members' time than this one; in fact, I could not quite decide whether I was listening to a farce or a comic opera. I am opposing this Bill because it im- poses a condition that it has no right to impose on a co-operative society, which is an organisation of members for business reasons, and also for an ideal. It is establishing the principle that these members may combine for any other purpose, but not to defend their political interests and their political advancement. It is saying that they shall have no power to decide how they shall spend their own money. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is the other way round."] It is a Bill which says that they shall not be able to decide how they shall spend their own money. It is telling the 6,000,000 co-operators that while private banks, private railways, private breweries, private electrical companies and private food companies may send their managing and other directors to this House to protect their interests, co-operative societies shall not have the same privilege.

Co-operators have two ways of protecting their interests in this House. One way is to send to this House men from their own ranks who have an interest in their ideal and particular form of business and to pay for that representation. The other is to send our business opponents to this House to look after our interests. Our business opponents are always getting up and saying what a fine movement it is. They are always giving lip-service, but they never lose an opportunity to weaken this organisation. The second

method has been tried. We have relied upon our opponents to try to defend us in this House, with the result, which we could only expect, that we have always been let down, especially in War time. We have had, therefore, to adopt the first course, and send men from our own ranks interested in the ideal and business of co-operation, and to pay for that representation. So successful have we been in this method that we have the spectacle of the hon. and learned Member for Moss Side (Sir G. Hurst) coming here to-day and proposing that it shall stop. That is the crux of the matter and I suggest that every Member of this House should oppose this Motion, first because it is a denial of liberty to people to say how they shall spend their own money; secondly, because it is an attempt to put members of the co-operative movement, the great majority of whom are working-class men and women, at a political disadvantage; and, thirdly, because it will limit and restrict what, to my mind, is the finest example of working-class achievement—the Co-operative movement.

Question put, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit the funds and profits of co-operative societies from being made liable to contribute to any political party or cause."

The House divided: Ayes, 191; Noes, 265.

Division No. 176.] AYES. [4.15 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Bullock, Captain Malcolm Everard, W. Lindsay
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles Burton, Colonel H. W. Falle, Sir Bertram G.
Albery, Irving James Butler, R. A. Ferguson, Sir John
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l) Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Fermoy, Lord
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.) Castle Stewart, Earl of Fielden, E. B.
Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.) Cautley, Sir Henry S. Fison, F. G. Clavering
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Ford, Sir P. J.
Astor, Maj. Hon. John J. (Kent, Dover) Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.) Forestier-Walker, Sir L.
Astor, Viscountess Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Ganzonl, Sir John
Atholl, Duchess of Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton
Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W. Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.) Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley) Christle, J. A. Glyn, Major R. G. C.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Gower, Sir Robert
Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet) Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)
Balniel, Lord Colman, N. C. D. Gratlan-Doyle, Sir N.
Beaumont, M. W. Colville, Major D. J. Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon Courtauld, Major J. S. Gritten, W. G. Howard
Berry, Sir George Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.
Bevan, S. J. (Holborn) Crichton-Stuart, Lord C. Gunston, Captain D. W.
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
Bird, Ernest Roy Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro) Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)
Blindell, James Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West) Hammersley, S. S.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Davies, Dr. Vernon Hartington, Marquess of
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Boyce, H. L. Davison, Sir W. H, (Kensington, S.) Haslam, Henry C.
Bracken, B. Dawson, Sir Philip Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
Brass, Captain Sir William Duckworth, G. A. V. Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.
Briscoe, Richard George Dugdale, Capt. T. L. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'ld., Hexham) Edmondson, Major A. J. Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Elliot, Major Walter E. Howard-Bury, Colonel C K.
Buckingham, Sir H. Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s. M.) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
Hurd, Percy A. Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld) Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton) Oman, Sir Charles William C. Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) O'Neill, Sir H. Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Kindersley, Major G. M. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D. Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon) Stewart, W. J. (Belfast, South)
Knox, Sir Alfred Peake, Capt. Osbert Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.
Lamb, Sir J. Q. Penny, Sir George Thomas, Major L. B (King's Norton)
Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton) Peters, Dr. Sidney John Thomson, Sir F.
Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak) Power, Sir John Cecil Todd, Capt. A. J.
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Pownall, Sir Assheton Train, J.
Lewis, Oswald (Colchester) Purbrick, R. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey Ramsay, T. B. Wilson Turton, Robert Hugh
Long, Major Eric Ramsbotham, H. Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Lymington, Viscount Remer, John R. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
McConnell, Sir Joseph Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'te'y) Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.
Macquisten, F. A. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall) Warrender, Sir Victor
Mac Robert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M. Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Makins, Brigadier-General E. Ross, Major Ronald D. Wells, Sydney R.
Margesson, Captain H. D. Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A. Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Marjoribanks, E. C. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)
Meller, R. J. Salmon, Major I. Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George
Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Savery, S. S. Womersley, W. J.
Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond) Simms, Major-General J. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Sinclair, Col, T. (Queen's U., Belfst) Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Morris, Rhys Hopkins Skelton, A. N. Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton
Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester) Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Muirhead, A. J. Smith-Carington, Neville W. Sir Gerald Hurst and Lieut.-Colonel
Nicholson, O. (Westminster) Smithers, Waldron Sir G. Dairymple-White.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Cocks, Frederick Seymour Hollins, A.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Compton, Joseph Hopkin, Daniel
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Cove, William G. Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M. Daggar, George Isaacs, George
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro') Dallas, George John, William (Rhondda, West)
Alpass, J. H. Dalton, Hugh Johnston, Thomas
Ammon, Charles George Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)
Angell, Norman Day, Harry Jones, Rt. Hon Leif (Camborne)
Arnott, John Denman, Hon. R. D. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
Aske, Sir Robert Dukes, C. Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Attlee, Clement Richard Duncan, Charles Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.
Ayles, Walter Ede, James Chuter Kelly, W. T.
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Edmunds, J. E. Kennedy, Thomas
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley) Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Kenworthy, Lt.-Com Hon. Joseph M.
Barnes, Alfred John Edwards, E. (Morpeth) Kinley, J.
Batey, Joseph Egan, W. H. Kirkwood, D.
Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham) Foot, Isaac Knight, Holford
Bellamy, Albert Forgan, Dr. Robert Lang, Gordon
Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood Freeman, Peter Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George
Bennett, Captain E. N. (Cardiff, Central) Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Lathan, G.
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Gill, T. H. Law, Albert (Bolton)
Benson, G. Gillett, George M. Law, A. (Rosendale)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Gossling, A. G. Lawrence, Susan
Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret Gould, F. Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)
Bowen, J. W. Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Lawson, John James
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)
Broad, Francis Alfred Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne). Leach, W.
Brockway, A. Fenner Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)
Bromley, J. Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)
Brooke, W. Groves, Thomas E. Lees, J.
Brothers, M. Grundy, Thomas W. Lewis, T. (Southampton)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield) Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Lloyd, C. Ellis
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Logan, David Gilbert
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.) Longbottom, A. W.
Buchanan, G. Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn) Longden, F.
Burgess, F. G. Hardie, George D. Lowth, Thomas
Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland) Harris, Percy A. Lunn, William
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.) Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Calne, Derwent Hall Hastings, Dr. Somerville MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)
Cameron, A. G. Haycock, A. W. MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)
Cape, Thomas Hayday, Arthur McElwee, A.
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.) Hayes, John Henry McEntee, V. L.
Charleton, H. C. Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) McKinlay, A.
Chater, Daniel Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow) MacLaren, Andrew
Church, Major A. G. Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) MacNeill-Weir, L.
Clarks, J. S. Herriotts, J. McShane, John James
Cluse, W. S. Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth) Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Hoffman, P. C. Mansfield, W.
March, S. Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Sutton, J. E.
Marcus, M. Riley, Ben (Dewsbury) Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Markham, S. F. Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees) Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)
Marley, J. Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich) Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Marshall, Fred Romeril, H. G. Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Mathers, George Rosbotham, D. S. T. Thurtle, Ernest
Matters, L. W. Rowson, Guy Tillett, Ben
Maxton, James Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Tinker, John Joseph
Melville, Sir James Salter, Dr. Alfred Tout, W. J.
Messer, Fred Sanders, W. S. Townend, A. E.
Mills, J. E. Sandham, E. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Milner, J. Sawyer, G. F. Turner, B.
Montague, Frederick Scurr, John Vaughan, D. J.
Morgan, Dr. H. B. Sexton, James Viant, S. P.
Morley, Ralph Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston) Walker, J.
Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South) Shepherd, Arthur Lewis Wallace, H. W.
Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.) Sherwood, G. H. Wellhead, Richard C.
Mort, D. L. Shield, George William Watkins, F. C.
Moses, J. J. H. Shiels, Dr. Drummond Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent) Shillaker, J. F. Wellock, Wilfred
Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick) Shinwell, E. Welsh, James (Paisley)
Muff, G. Short, Alfred (Wednesbury) Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)
Muggeridge, H. T. Simmons, C. J. West, F. R.
Naylor, T. E. Sinkinson, George Westwood, Joseph
Noel Baker, P. J. Smith, Alfred (Sunderland) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Oldfield, J. R. Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe) Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston) Smith, Frank (Nuneaton) Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley) Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Palin, John Henry Smith, Rennie (Penistone) Williams, David (Swansea. East)
Paling, Wilfrid Smith, Tom (Pontefract) Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Palmer, E. T. Smith, W. R. (Norwich) Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Snell, Harry Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Phillips, Dr. Marlon Snowden, Thomas (Accrington) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Picton-Turbervill, Edith Sorensen, R. Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Pole, Major D. G. Stamford, Thomas W. Wise, E. F.
Potts, John S Stephen, Campbell Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Price, M. P. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox) Wright, W. (Rutherglen)
Quibell, D. J. K. Strachey, E. J. St. Loe Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
Raynes, W. R. Strauss, G. R.
Richards, R. Sullivan, J. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. Perry and Mr. Hubert Gibson.