§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question (12th February,) "That the Bill be now read a Second time.—[The Attorney-General.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ Sir John Anderson (Scottish Universities)
In the early part of his speech yesterday the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Attorney-General, dealt very frankly with the position of the law in 1926, prior to the passage of the Act of 1927. He recognised that there was a profound difference of opinion among high legal authorities then as to the effect of the existing law. On the one hand, there were authorities then such as Sir Douglas Hogg, Sir Walter Greaves-Lord, Sir John Simon, and Sir Frederick Pollock, who had no doubt at all that, under the law as it then stood, what we call the general strike of 1926 was illegal. On the other hand, authorities such as Sir Henry Slesser and the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is now the President of the Board of Trade took a diametrically opposite view. The learned Attorney-General told us the view that he himself took, in accord, I think, with the view expressed by the present Lord Chancellor who. in the course of the Debate on the 1931 Bill, expressed the opinion that the question turned really on facts, and that the matter was one which could only be determined, in the last resort, in the courts by a judge and jury.
I should have thought, myself, that, having got into that position, the hon. and learned Gentleman would at once have admitted the case for amending and clarifying legislation, and would have gone on to express the view that if the Act passed with that object in 1927 was found unsatisfactory, the appropriate and convenient course would be to amend that Act. But the hon. and learned Gentleman was in an unfortunate position in having to defend Clause 1 of the present Bill, which proceeds on an entirely different line, by way of complete repeal of the. amending and clarifying Act of 1927. He sought to escape from the dilemma in which he then found himself, by making 387 use of words which, if I do not misrepresent him, suggest that the matter is really not one for the criminal law at all.
He said that in the event of a general strike such as we had in 1926, he would send not for a policeman but for a conciliation officer. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman must have realised when he uttered those words that the manoeuvre he was executing was not likely to be very successful. In the first place, surely, one cannot ignore the fact that the matter has already been dealt with by Statute law, by the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act of 1875, and the Trade Disputes Act of 1906. The matter is already dealt with by provisions which have been included in the criminal law. Further, to talk of sending for a conciliation officer in such circunv stances as confronted the country in 1926 is, surely, to beg the whole question, for what is there for a conciliation officer to do, in the case of a general stoppage such as occurred in 1926, when there was no trade dispute in the ordinary sense? There is nothing whatever for a conciliation officer to do in such circumstances. However we may seek to wrap it up, the position that we are in today is quite clear. The law was in doubt in 1926. The Act of 1927 was an attempt to clarify it. Whether the attempt was satisfactory is the essence of the matter which we are now debating.
Here I would point out that we are dealing with a branch of the law which affects the actions, and which should govern the actions, of large numbers of people who are entitled to know how they stand and where they stand in the case of a general strike. If one looks at the view expressed by the learned Attorney-General in today's Hansard, one will see at once how very unsatisfactory is the position in that respect. This is what the learned Attorney-General said:That is not to say that the strike is illegal, far less that it is criminal, but that is the first stage. If, after that first stage, looking at the actions and intentions of any particular body of men involved—the leaders perhaps or any other men taking an active part in it—you find, again as a question of fact, that the object is to overthrow the Government, to coerce the Government, or to obtain a change in the law by unconstitutional means, then I think that an indictment lies against those men for criminal conspiracy. But those are questions of fact. These are not questions for the Attorney-General or any single one of His 388 Majesty's judges to settle. These are questions that, according to the great and very wise and safe tradition of English law, are best submitted to the good judgment and common sense of the 12 men of the Clapham omnibus—in other words, to a common jury of the common people. They are the people who should decide ultimately whether or not particular persons indicted before them have had criminal intentions in regard to a strike or not.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1946; Vol. 419, c. 202.] If that is really the position, and if that is to remain the position, as will be the case if this Bill is passed into law, what sort of guidance is this House of Commons giving to people who may find themselves in a state of very real doubt—people who wish to be law-abiding, as the vast majority of the people of this country do wish? What comfort will it be to them to be told, "You cannot possibly tell whether what you are doing is lawful or not, until the matter has come, in due course, before a judge and jury, and even then no one could tell you what the issue will be. It is not a matter on which an Attorney-General can presume to pronounce. The matter must be determined by a judge and jury "? I suggest we are putting all concerned in a position of extreme difficulty if we are to be content to leave the law in that condition. If it be the case that the Act of 1927 left the law still in an unsatisfactory condition, the proper course, I suggest very respectfully, is to make another attempt to put it right, to make it clear beyond doubt so far as is humanly possible, to all concerned, what is lawful and what is not.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour, in winding up yesterday's Debate, seemed to be approaching that solution, when he said he was against a political strike but was in favour of a sympathetic strike. That is to say, I presume, he was in favour of putting it beyond question that a sympathetic strike, having no political objective and no primary political purpose, should be made legal. Why then, I ask, is that course not proposed now, as it was proposed by a Labour Government in the Bill of 1931? Let us, therefore, be quite clear that it is obviously the deliberate intention of His Majesty's Government to throw us all back into the state of confusion in which we were before the Act of 1927. I suggest that that is a very dangerous thing to do. I wonder if any 389 hon. Member, and particularly any hon. and learned Member, would dispute the view that it is always a bad thing that there should be any doubt about the effect of the criminal law of this country, especially about the effect of that branch of the criminal law by which the conduct of large numbers of people may be regulated. I suggest that there can be only one answer to that question, and I suggest further that it is inimical to good administration, on which I should like to believe hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are as keen as these who sit on these benches, to leave matters in this respect in any doubt. I am sorry that the Lord President of the Council is not in his place, because I think that is an argument that would appeal to him. Whatever we may think about his views in other respects, to my belief he has always stood for sound administration, and I think sound administration is directly threatened by the present proposals of His Majesty's Government.
This is not the only respect in which His Majesty's Government are proposing deliberately, by the Measure we are now considering, to bring confusion into the law as it affects the conduct of His Majesty's lieges during a strike. That will be the effect also of the proposed repeal of Section 3 of the Act of 1927. Here I would like to give the House some insight into the history of Section 3 of the Act of 1927. I was at that time Permanent Under-Secretary of State to the Home Office, and I had some knowledge of these matters.
I say to the House that the provisions of Section 3 of the Act of 1927 had really very little to do with the events of 1926. They were based on material in the records of the Home Office with regard to happenings during strikes over a long period of years from 1875 onwards. There was, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford City (Mr. Hogg) rightly reminded the House yesterday, very widespread misunderstanding prior to 1926, as to what was lawful and what was not lawful in the matter of the conduct of strikers and pickets, and of the police, during strikes of all kinds. The position was unsatisfactory in three main respects: first, in regard to what is known as mass picketing; secondly, by reason of the narrow interpretation placed by the courts on the word "intimidation," con- 390 fining in practice intimidation to something involving fear of physical injury, and there was also much doubt as to the legality of what is called "watching and besetting" a worker's home.
The purpose of Section 3 of the Act of 1927 was, so far as possible, to remove doubt on all those points. It was that uncertainty as to the law in regard to picketing which was the explanation of the very large number of prosecutions for intimidation during the prolonged stoppage in the coal industry in 1926. The question of intimidation was discussed at great length during the Debates on the 1927 Act and the 1931 Bill, and I speak from my own knowledge and experience when I say that the police found themselves constantly in a position of very great difficulty in knowing what they were entitled to do. On this point, let me quote what the learned Attorney-General said yesterday about intimidation. I confess that I cannot enter into controversy on a legal matter with the learned Attorney-General, but what he said on that subject surprised me very much. He said:Let me take a few examples of how I think the thing would work in practice, though it has not been much operated.He was talking of the Act of 1927, because that Act in fact went a very long way towards clarifying the law and eliminating occasions of misunderstanding and dispute. He went on:Suppose you had a strike that made men stay out. Suppose one of the strikers going along to a friend; going along, at all events, in a perfectly friendly and peaceable way to a man who had thought it right to remain in work; and suppose he said, ' Look here, Tom, if you stick it we shall be beaten, and if we are beaten they will bring all our wages down, and you will lose money in the end, the same as the rest of us.' Perhaps hon. Members may think there is nothing very terrible in that, but that is intimidation under the terms of the 1927 Act, and that conduct would be punishable on indictment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1946; Vol. 419, c. 205.]That is a statement which, I am bound to say, surprises me very much. I wonder what authority the hon. and learned Gentleman had for that statement. I should have thought that there was all the difference in the world between a warning of possible economic consequences and a threat. The learned Attorney-General shakes his head, but perhaps he will tell us whether there is any judicial authority for it? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the 391 Board of Trade helps him out and says, "The Chester decision." It is perfectly true that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General referred to the Chester decision, but what were the facts in that case? It was a very exceptional case. The Chester decision was in a case, so far as I recall, of which the facts were these. Certain plumbers, members of a trade union, found themselves working with a man who was not a member of their trade union. He was a member of a rival union, and they said to that man, "Come and join our union." The man was obdurate; he was within his rights and he preferred to stick to the union of which he was a member. Then they said to him, "If you persist in that course of conduct, we will tell our employer that we will not go on working with you and, to avoid trouble, he will dismiss you." That was a plain threat, not a mere warning. I venture to suggest, with great humility, that whatever may be said about any part of the law, that particular decision should not be regarded as governing other warnings, not accompanied by threat on the part of those who convey the warning. That is the point I want to make.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
What about the definition of intimidation? As the right hon. Gentleman has raised the point that he cannot understand on what basis the Attorney-General yesterday gave the illustrations—there were three, each one of them sound, if I may respectfully say so—may I suggest that if he will look at and deal with the definition which is embodied in Section 3, I think in Subsection (2), he will find why those illustrations were given, and how they are covered.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am perfectly prepared to deal with that, though I do not think it is entirely relevant to the argument I was submitting to the House. Let us then look at the effect of Section 3 (1) of the Act of 1927. All that Section has been very generally admitted to be a mere declaration of the effect of the law in 1926, and it has the advantage, from the point of view of administration, of making the point that mass picketing is not lawful. That is, if people attend in such numbers as to be intimidatory, that is an infringement of the law. Subsection (2) of Section 3 goes further, and expands the definition 392 of intimidation so as to make it clear that it goes beyond a mere apprehension of physical injury. Why was that amendment of the law proposed? The then Attorney-General, who is now the Lord Chancellor, in 1931 explained rather fully the grounds for such an extension of the law. I am not going to suggest that he agreed with that extension, because he relied on the argument that there may be things which are very undesirable, very improper and even oppressive, which all right-minded people would condemn, but which, nevertheless, are not fit subjects for definite statutory prohibiton. He made some observations, however, which I will venture to quote, and which I think are very much to the point in this connection. He said:… I do not want to put myself, or any of us, into the position of its being thought that we want to encourage intimidatory methods. Here I can speak on behalf of the great trade union movement, and I say that it is grossly untrue to suggest that they want to be allowed to employ the weapons of the bully arid the blackmailer to carry on their work.…I do not dispute, no sensible person can dispute, that there are other methods and ways of intimidation quite as dangerous and quite as effective as a broken window or a black eye."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd January, 1931; Vol. 247, c. 405.]That, in a few words, is the case for Subsection (2) of Section 3 of the Act of 1927.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I do not think it is necessary. I think it is clear in everybody's mind. It was amended during the passage of the Bill through the House of Commons. There were words in the Subsection as it originally appeared which, I suppose, were taken from the law of libel, referring to "bringing people into hatred, ridicule and contempt," which hon. Members thought at that time to be rather ridiculous. Those words were struck out, but the matter was very fully debated.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
This is not a question merely of an apprehension of physical injury. The definition includes "apprehension of loss." What I was asking the right hon. Gentleman to explain, which he has not yet done—and I doubt whether he can—is whether the illustrations which the Attorney-General gave do not contain an apprehension of 393 loss. That is to say, if a man were afraid that he was going to lose his wages because he came out, would not that involve in his mind an apprehension of loss, and would it not therefore be covered by the Subsection?
§ Sir J. Anderson
That is going back to the point that I was discussing earlier. I was venturing to suggest very respectfully that there is all the difference in the world between a warning of consequences which may ensue, and a threat of what will be done to the striker by those who give the warning if the striker does not conform. I put the point to the learned Attorney-General whether there was any legal authority for the view he had expressed. But nothing of this is relevant to the argument that it is wrong, that it is improper, that it is inconvenient that the definition of intimidation should be enlarged, and the words I have quoted from the speech of the present Lord Chancellor make it quite clear that in his view there are forms of oppression, forms of intimidation—in the popular, if not the strictly legal, sense of the word—which ought to be ruled out by legislation passed by this House.
Now I have dealt with the question of interpretation, with that of mass picketing and of intimidation. I want to say a word now about home picketing. Home picketing is expressly prohibited by Section. 3 (4) of the Act of 1927. All "watching and besetting" was at one time unlawful, but the illegality of the practice was qualified by words in the Act of 1875, and later by words in the Act of 1906, which expressly excepted "attending for the purpose of giving or receiving information "—I am not quoting textually, but that is the substance— "giving or receiving information or peacefully persuading a person to abstain from work." As the matter was left by the Act of 1906, no distinction was drawn between watching and besetting a worker's place of business, and watching and besetting a worker's home. I can assure the House that the records of the Home Office bristle with instances where the practice of besetting a worker's home was attended by oppressive conduct of the most outrageous description, and it is significant that there was no proposal in the Bill of 1931 to modify that particular provision of the Act of 1927
§ Sir J. Anderson
The facts have been published again and again. There is what is known, I believe, as "rough music "—people attending near a worker's home, night after night, making loud discordant noises, rattling tin cans, and so on. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but that sort of thing is surely not to be encouraged. [Hon. Members: "Rubbish."] I do not think it is rubbish. Until the Act of 1927, when the police were appealed to, as they constantly were for protection, they were powerless. They did not know what they were entitled to do. I think it is reasonable to conclude that the law, in that respect at any rate, was in an unsatisfactory condition and was greatly improved by the Act of 1927.
Section 3 of the Act of 1927, with which I am now dealing, made, I suggest, a very valuable clarification of the law in that respect. It defined, for the benefit of strikers and trade union leaders, what is lawful and what is not lawful, with a clearness and precision which had been unknown to the law before. What the Government apparently want to do now is to throw us back into the confusion and uncertainty of the pre-1927 period. If there are stoppages as I fear there may well be in the future— everyone regrets them, but they may be necessary—the strike weapon is a weapon which trade unions are entitled within the limits of the law to resort to in their discretion. All responsible leaders, and, I am pretty sure, all right hon. Gentle-men who are members of the present Government, many of whom I know very well, having worked with them intimately for many years, will wish such stoppages to be conducted in an orderly and decent way, with a minimum of ill-feeling, and above all, I believe, they will wish to make the task of the police in the case of an industrial stoppage as easy as possible. I have noticed with interest that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has not been in his place at any time during this Debate. I think he would find himself in a very uncomfortable position, because he would find nothing in the records of his Department on which he could rely to support the present proposals of His Majesty's Government. 395 Now, why, I ask, are His Majesty's Government doing this? Are they doing it just to pay the Conservatives out for the Act of 1927? Who will benefit if this Bill is passed into law? Not, I suggest, the workers. Only those who wish to sow discord, to preach class hatred, and to extend the area of revolutionary activity. The workers will not benefit. Their wives and families certainly will not benefit. The responsible trade union leaders will not benefit. Why, above all, should His Majesty's Government choose to propose this change in the law at a time when the authority of responsible trade union leaders is being constantly challenged, and being challenged, more and more by minorities of various kinds? If His Majesty's Government would be content to leave the law at it is, or if they can support by valid argument specific amendments of the law to make it better and clearer and to carry out more effectively the intentions and purposes of the authors of the Act of 1927, the Government and the responsible trade union leaders would be buttressed, in the efforts that they make to have these disputes conducted in an orderly and decent fashion, but the statute law of the country. But if this Bill passes into law, I venture to say that it will not be very long before all the ingenious and plausible arguments that may be put forward in support of it, will be forgotten, when the one thing that will have impressed itself on the minds of workers and minor trade union officials all over the country will be the fact that the Act of 1927, making a general strike clearly illegal, dealing effectively with the problems of mass picketing, intimidation and the picketing of the home, has been utterly swept away. That will be the only lasting impression on the people of this country, and I think the consequences will be absolutely deplorable.
I pass to another topic altogether. I do not wish to take up the time of the House for any considerable period. I have nothing to say at this stage on the question of the political levy. I am content to leave that where it was left by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), and by other speakers on this side of the House. I shall detain the House now only for a few minutes on Section 5 of the Act 396 of 1927. It is the Section dealing with the Civil Service. I am sure that every responsible Minister of the Crown realises, as I do, the immense importance in the public affairs of this country of a non-political Civil Service. I am sure that Ministers will give no support to ill—considered suggestions that are made from time to time in certain quarters. I wish to go further. I wish to suggest that the importance of the preservation, in the organisation of the public service, of a body of men who can be trusted to do their duty without regard to party political considerations is increased, the wider the field of Government activities is extended, and, I would add, the more questionable the doctrines which the Government of the day may put into practice. Therefore, I say, right hon. Gentlemen should hesitate long before they do anything that might encourage civil servants through their organisations to ally themselves with bodies having a party allegiance.
The view that that is a risk which ought not to be taken is embodied in Section 5 of the Act of 1927, which it is proposed now to repeal. But, in fairness, there are two consideratons which should be weighed on the other side. The first is this. After the last war, when the system of Whitley Councils was established in the Civil Service, it was decided by the Government of the day, and the decision stands at this moment that civil servants should be encouraged to form associations which, in the ordinary course, would be registered trade unions. That was a deliberate decision of the Government in 1919. The second consideration—I have heard this argument put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown)—is that it is established Treasury doctrine that rates and conditions in the Civil Service should be related, as far as possible, to those observed by the best employers in comparable employments outside.
Therefore, when Civil Service organisations have contended, as they do—or some of them do—that it is unfair that they should be debarred from association with and participation in the deliberations of bodies concerned with questions of pay and service conditions in the wider field outside, which may ultimately govern their own conditions, they have, at least, an arguable case. There is, in my view, 397 a matter for consideration here. It serves no purpose to conceal this dilemma from ourselves. I speak entirely for myself when I say that I am sorry that the conversations that were entered upon some time ago to which reference was made in the course of the Debate yesterday, were carried no further. I can explain the circumstances. I think that hon. Members know that what brought them to a deadlock was the fact that it became apparent that legislation to deal with Section 5 would be controversial, and there was a general understanding that controversial legislation, not necessary for the prosecution of the war, should not be introduced in those circumstances.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Why did it become clear that it would become controversial? The right hon. Gentleman apparently made it perfectly clear that they were prepared to do nothing.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
Is it not a fact that the party opposite refused even industrial affiliation being allowed to civil servants?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I wish hon. Members opposite were not quite so quick. They are anticipating the reference which I was about to make. The suggestion that was made, I think on behalf of those who were suggesting discussions, was that it might be possible to arrange for Civil Service organisations to be affiliated to the T.U.C., for example, for industrial as distinct from political purposes. That in my view—I wish to make it quite clear that I am speaking only for myself—merited examination. I do not think that it was a quite simple proposition. I do not think that it was anything like so simple or so innocent as it seemed. In pursuing it, one might have had to look into the details of the constitution of bodies with which the Government ordinarily have no concern. But I say, quite frankly, that I think that was a proposition that merited consideration. I myself had always taken the view that if Civil Service organisations were allowed to affiliate to trade unions generally, and to the T.U.C., they should certainly, whatever else might be prescribed, be debarred from having anything in the nature of a political fund. That perhaps would have been quite simple.
Then, I think it would have been essential to preserve the right of the Govern- 398 ment to lay down rules of conduct for the Civil Service, or certain branches of it. I think that there might well have been a case for drawing a distinction, not by reference to rank, but by reference to the nature of the work between certain classes of civil servants, and certain other classes of civil servants. I think that these are all matters that might have been examined. I noticed, when I was engaged in the rather burdensome task of reading the Debates, as I did, on the 1927 Act and the 1931 Bill, that Sir William Jowitt, as he then was, proposed that the right of the Treasury to lay down conditions for the Civil Service should remain intact, and he proposed then, as I understood him, to rely entirely on that power. His words were:The Treasury should have an unfettered discretion in regulating the conditions under which and the extent to which any grade of civil servants may take part in political affairs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd January, 1931; Vol. 247, c 395.]That was his view in 1931. I do not know whether that is still his view today. I have endeavoured in this matter to state briefly, but I hope clearly, where I stand personally. I should like to have seen the whole of this question carefully explored to determine whether some compromise solution would remove what, I think, are elements of hardship and even of unfairness in the present position, without exposing us to the risk of a fundamental change in the character of the Civil Service. That is a matter to which I attach the greatest importance. Do not, I beg, let us run any risk of undermining the integrity of a very great public service.
I have nothing particular to say about Section 6 of the Act of 1927, which has been dealt with by previous speakers on this side of the House. I have endeavoured to indicate quite simply, and I hope quite dispassionately, why I consider this is a most unfortunate Bill. Speaking for myself, but with great earnestness and with a feeling of profound conviction, I would, even at this late stage, beg His Majesty's Government to give further thought to these matters. If there is some action which they must take at this juncture—and for which, on merit, I confess, I can see no necessity—let them, I suggest, proceed by way of reasoned amendment of the law and not a repeal, which would leave everyone in doubt on matters on which they ought to 399 be clear. It is the duty, I suggest, of this House to see that the position is made as clear as possible so as to avoid any possibility of misunderstanding and conflict.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I can understand the depth of feeling and regret which the parent of the child experiences when he sees his child dying. I think that the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken is the father of this Act. He designed it after the general strike of 1926 with the help of other Departments. I imagine how regretful he feels, at this late stage of his life and mine, that we are now to proceed to the funeral of what he thought might prove a healthy child. I propose this afternoon to deal with the historical side of the general strike. I have been waiting 20 years to do this. In the closing words of his speech the right hon. Gentleman said, "Let us have reasoned Amendments, let us have consideration." May I remind him and may I remind the Conservatives opposite that this is the only Trade Unions Act carried in the history of this country in regard to which the Government of the day refused an inquiry and refused to allow trade unions to state their case. Time after time, I spoke to Mr. Baldwin, as he then was, and the then Minister of Labour, and I said, "Before you tamper with the trade union law, will you set up a public inquiry and allow us to state our case?" [An Hon. Member: "Will you? "] I am going to repeal this Act because hon. Members opposite did not.
Every time we made requests we were refused, and why? Because hon. Members opposite were afraid to investigate the circumstances of the general strike itself. They cast the trade unions for the role of enemies of the State, and while as an individual I have been a trade union leader for 20 years, I never have been an enemy of the State. I have been as big a constitutionalist as any Member on the other side of the House, and I am fighting to remove the stigma which the Tory Party in 1927 put upon me, as the leader of a trade union. That has been the burden of my claim all the way through. [Interruption.] You can "hog" it but that does not alter the facts In 1921, there was a heavy deflation of the currency which upset the 400 whole wage standards of the country. Every wage agreement in this country was thrown into the melting pot, which answers the question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) yesterday as to why there were more strikes before 1927, than afterwards. In 1921 the Government of the day without a word to industry, without mentioning it to a trade union official in the country, without knowing what was really happening, deflated the currency by 40 percent. I think they were totally ignorant of what the effect of that would be on the production of this country. If you take the whole 19th century, which was the heyday of productive activity and progress, you find that the ratio of production during that century, without a war, was about 1¾ percent. per annum. Yet industry was expected to adjust itself to 40 percent. at one blow. The result was that we had both strikes and unemployment which rendered idle altogether, in 1921, nearly 5,000,000. We had unemployment which rose to 2,500,000 and we had strikes involving nearly 2,000,000. We had the Amalgamated Engineering Union spending over£5,000,000 of their accumulated reserves in 1921 to try to save their wages.
§ Mr. Bevin
They spent their pension fund and everything to try to save their position. There was not an industrialist in the country who knew what the State had done. You could go to any manufacturer, or to any industrialist, and you found he did not know what had hit the country, but suddenly he discovered he could not do his business. Every overdraft was falling and every credit was falling simply because two men, to whom I shall refer later, had decided on this thing. This decision was taken unilaterally. There was not a word said to any trade unionist. We were assembled by the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Lloyd George, and told that this was necessary. I, personally, asked in 10, Downing Street if we had to face it as the new postwar value of money—I ask the Press to say that I hammered at the Box at this point to call special attention to that—and Sir Austen Chamberlain replied "Yes." Being a conciliatory person and not wanting unemployment. 401 at a great conference in Westminster Hall I appealed to my trade union friends to accept the fact and proceed to try to build new trade union agreements on the new value of money, having in mind this situation, that we were involved in shipping, we were involved in exports, we had these millions of unemployed and so what could we do? My friend Arthur Pugh—who is not a revolutionary and is now an old man in his retirement, honoured by the King and every one else for the work he has done—and I stood together and we decided in the end, at the expense of those in the steel trade, in the tinplate trade, in the copper trade and in chemicals, to take a reduction of over£2 per week to try to get South American and other trades going. We asked "Is this final?" and we were told "Yes." From 1921 until the beginning of 1924 every trade union leader in this country went through hell with his people to try to get them to accept these reductions in order to get this country's industry going.
In 1924, let me remind the House, when the first Labour Government was in office, unemployment fell below the million mark. We struggled hard, patriotically—using that word in the right sense—to try to get our people back to work on the new basis. Then came the Election of 1924 in which my hon. Friends opposite were returned to power, not on a Trade Union Act, but on a "Red letter." Within a few months, Mr. Baldwin put the greatest financial expert in the world in charge of the Treasury, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), and the chief official of the Treasury was Sir Otto Niemeyer. [Interruption.] I am telling the story authentically. [An Hon. Member: "But it is irrelevant."] It is not irrelevant, and I am telling this generation the story in order to avoid a repetition in the future. Directly right hon. Gentlemen got into office they started to contemplate our return to the Gold Standard. No sooner had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford agreed to that course, than Sir Otto Niemeyer left the Treasury to go to the Bank of England. That was very significant. We were brought back to prewar parity to gold. No single trade union or industrialist in this country, outside the immediate bank directors, was ever told. There was no notice in the 402 Press that it had been ever discussed, and like a bolt from the blue we were suddenly met with the complete upset of our whole wage structure in this country. Not a single agreement would stand a test—and all this on the advice of Mr. Montagu Norman as he then was and Sir Otto Niemeyer. Well, when they found themselves with this change in the money situation they had to consider what to do. The old system of the City worked very well, when there were no social services, and when starvation worked quickly. They knew they were about to be met with resistance, but, having taken a decision, they found it did not work.
What did they do? They concluded that the City situation would best be met by tackling coal. They decided that if 2s. 6d. per ton was taken off coal, that would mean 10s. in the case of steel, and a corresponding reduction all the way through. They also decided to attack transport, particularly the dockers and the railway men, who contributed to the total cost of the basic industries. That was a City decision, not a Government decision. Suddenly, one day, the miners, who were the lowest-paid people in the country at that time—their position was, I believe, about 65th on the list of wage-earners—were faced with this enormous cut. What do you think of a Government and a City which, to adjust their finances, took a slice of bread off a miner, who was going down the pit to win the fuel with which to run industry? Cannot hon. Members understand our resentment when this arose? We did resent it. We had not been consulted. Remember, there had not been one word said about the reconstruction of the industry, not one of the recommendations of the Samuel or Sankey Commissions had been carried out, there was no improvement in mechanisation, not a thing had been done to make the industry better, in order to produce the results that were required. Nothing took place except this miserable attack on the standard of life of men in a basic industry. This nation is today paying a terrible price for the stupid, insane action which was taken at that time. The other industry which was attacked, was agriculture. The Conservative Party have always claimed to represent agriculture. What did they do? They wiped out the Wages Board, and cut agricul- 403 tural wages from£3 a week to 28s. in order to meet the Bank of England and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford in the matter of restoring the Gold Standard. Can you deny that? That is what happened to wages on every farm in the country. They went down with a rush, so that the poor farmer and everyone else found themselves completely stranded. But the farm labourer could not strike. He was not organised. He resented it just as much as the miner, but he could not fight The Tory Party, as I have said, wiped out the Wages Board in 1924. That Board was the only protection the agricultural worker had to maintain his wages. It was abolished, and wages were cut, by economic law, to a terrible standard. I am proud to say that one of my first acts, on entering the Coalition Government, was to try to restore that wage to a decent level. Five years later I asked Montagu Norman why he had done it and he said "Well, if a man is working, and is living on£3 or£4 a week, he causes so many imports and upsets the exchanges and the gold situation cannot operate." I asked him why he returned to it, and he did not answer. [Hon. Members: Why return to it now?"] We are not returning to it. [Hon. Members: "Bretton Woods."] I do not agree, but that is another issue.
§ Mr. Bevin
That is the story of the agricultural industry and the coal in dustry. By these two industries the Bank thought it could recover its position. When you talk of a general strike, and a strike against the State, it must be remembered that the State has a certain obligation to the community. If the State says, through its spokesman, "Proceed to make your contracts to restore your export trade and revive industry on a certain definite basis for the value of money," and then, unilaterally, alters that money, it throws people into a position in which they cannot carry out their contracts. That is what the State did through the present Leader of the Opposition, who is now enjoying the sunshine in the United States. I do not begrudge him his holiday; he has earned it, but I regret that he is not in his place today, because he is the father of all these troubles. 404 Faced with this situation—I am giving the reasons why we are repealing a Bill which was passed on certain premises that were not sound; and you can be irritated with me at one moment and cheer me the next—the miners developed a sympathetic strike, not a strike against the State. I hope that if we ever permit injustices against the masses of our people, that great feeling of sympathy will never be destroyed. The Government of the day urged the miners to accept terms and we tried negotiations, but we had to tell that Government that we could not adjust the situation unless they were prepared to make changes. In 1925, the Government gave a subsidy, and we thought that subsidy was given so that during the nine months it would cover, we should be able to tackle this basic industry, and get it right. But nothing happened during that time. It turned out in the end—and it would not be denied by the leaders of that day, if they were here—that during that nine months there was not even one day's study of the problem of how to get basic industries adjusted to the new conditions. Indeed, the whole of the Civil Service was put to work on a scheme to defeat Labour in 1926, in the event of a strike.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
If the right hon. Gentleman will not give way, the hon. Member is not entitled to intervene.
§ Mr. Baxter
On a point of Order. A most foul and personal attack has been made upon me by the right hon. Gentleman, and I ask that I should be allowed to explain my interjection, or that the right hon. Gentleman should withdraw.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg
Further to that point of Order. The Minister has repeatedly referred to Members on this side of the House as "you." I therefore desire to draw your attention, Sir, to Section 160 of the Manual of Procedure. The right hon. Gentleman thought it exquisitely humorous to refer to my name by way of insult—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
When a point of Order is raised, the hon. Member who is raising it must be given an opportunity of putting it.
§ Mr. Hogg
Under the Rules of Procedure, to which I draw your attention, Sir, I desire to repeat certain words which the right hon. Gentleman used, and in connection with which the Rules of Procedure provide that certain definite things should follow. I draw your attention to the fact that repeatedly, before my intervention, the right hon. Gentleman used the second person singular directed to us, and made an offensive reference to my name which, even from a Foreign Secretary, was discourteous to a Private Member of this House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not think that any question of an offensive reference to the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) arises on this occasion, and I propose to call on the right hon. Gentleman to continue his speech. The hon. Member must not interrupt.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member has raised the question far too late. When a matter of that sort is raised, it must be dealt with immediately.
§ Mr. Bevin
I seem to be adding to the gaiety of nations. The hon. Member for Wood Green said, a few moments ago, "Quite right," and I replied that he would take the bread out of a miner's mouth rather than devote that nine months to the reconstruction of the industry. The Tory Pary would use all the forces of the State to prepare to fight Labour at the end. I say that that is quite wrong. We are subjects of the King as much as anybody else. We are part of the State. Disraeli said that we were two nations. At any rate, we have done our best to make this country into a classless society where, at least, we are equal. Trade union leaders were anticipating that during that nine months 406 they would be called together in order to try and remedy that situation. But nothing happened until, at last, the poor miners had to accept a reduction, or nothing at all.
Then came the great decision on 1st May. I am going to give the history of it. As I said at the beginning, I have waited 20 years for this chance. After 1st May, when we were faced with this issue, we were invited to negotiate with the then Prime Minister, Mr. Baldwin. I went to the conference and was faced with a storm of opposition—although I am never afraid of it, whether it comes from that side or this—and begged them to negotiate, and to try, at the last hour, to prevent the strike. On Sunday, 2nd May, we were within five minutes of a settlement. Documents, which are still in my possession, were drafted. We were to submit them to the miners and others at No. 11, Downing Street. Suddenly, a message came into us that the negotiations were off. We had not had time to hand in our documents. We do not know what happened. Then we inquired and we were told, "It is the ' Daily Mail' incident." I have a copy of that night's paper in my pocket now. The document I have was objected to, on what grounds? Not on the grounds of the general strike, but because the proprietor of that paper wanted to use the type heading, "For King and Country," in order to bring the King into an industrial dispute.
I ask the country to draw its own conclusions as to what base usages these people will descend. There was not one word of the general strike in the whole dispute. What happened? I am sorry the right hon. Member for Woodford is not in his place. He dashed up to Downing Street, ordered a meeting of the Cabinet, rushed Baldwin off his feet—if he was awake—and in a few minutes the ultimatum was given to us and the country was thrown into this terrible turmoil, when within the same few minutes it might have been saved.
I do not think I am doing Lord Baldwin an injustice when I say that perhaps the wisest decision he ever took was to put the right hon. Member for Wood-ford in charge of the "British Gazette," because, if he had not, that gentleman might have landed the whole country in a series of Sidney Streets, instead of the 407 strikers and the police playing football together as they did.
Turning to the Act itself—[Hon. Members: "Hear hear."] I knew you would get fed up; the medicine is nasty to take. I know too that you would do it again if you were in power.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I have three or four times heard the right hon. Gentleman refer to Members on this side of the House as "you." Are we or are we not entitled to the protection of the Rules of Order of this House?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It is usual, of course, to refer to the Chair as "you," but I do not think there is likely to be any confusion in this instance.
§ Mr. Bevin
The trade union law of this country up to 1927 evoked no complaint, and there has been little difference since. It is the stigma we are endeavouring to remove, not the law. The actual change you made came about very curiously. [Hon. Members: "You."] Very well, the change that the House made at that time.
I had a very curious experience during the general strike to which I think I ought to refer, since the decision of the courts has been mentioned. I am not imputing to the courts any wrongful thing, but I was approached and asked to put up a stooge in order that a case might be stated that the general strike was illegal. I thought that rather curious, but it is on the records of my executive today—the whole of the correspondence is there. I declined to do it but later—I do not know how it came about, perhaps it was a coincidence, and I make no accusation or no charge—I saw the judgment to obtain which it had been suggested to me that I should use one of my members. That too, is on the records. [An Hon. Member: "Very significant."] I go further and say that a learned gentleman who was a Member of this House made a pronouncement at that time. I refer to Lord Simon. I came to the conclusion afterwards that the Bill had to be carried to make Lord Simon correct. Finally, when I asked another very learned gentleman, then a Member of another place, "Why did not you make it?" he replied, "Do you think I am such a fool?" 408 The whole of this business was really a cooked business. The endeavour was to destroy the economic and political power of working men in this country. There was no other reason. Otherwise, why did not the Conservative Party at that time, and the Conservative Government, have an inquiry in which we were allowed to state our case? Why did we not have a chance, as we did in 1913, in 1906, and in 1875, to put our point of view to an independent tribunal, or to an inquiry, in order to see whether we were really guilty or not?
If there is a strike against the State it is obviously illegal, but this was not a strike against the State. It was a strike in support of people whose wages were at the lowest possible level upon which they could live and from which certain powers in this country sought, unjustly, to drive them lower. I put it to the Conservative Party: Do they deny the right of the trade unions, out of solemn sympathy with their fellows, to come to their aid when a grave injustice is being done? That is the issue. We should never strike against the State. Trade unions in this country never have. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir John Anderson),. who has known us so long. At the Home Office, at the Ministry of Shipping, or at the Board of Trade where we dealt with him as a civil servant before he became a Minister, in all these years, has he ever found a more constitutional body than the trade unions of this country?
§ Sir J. Anderson
The right hon. Gentleman may have noticed that I was very careful, in what I had to say, to refrain from making any observations on the origins of the strike in 1926. I had a grave submission to make to the House, and I was most anxious to avoid prejudicing the effect of what I might say by introducing controversial matters. The direct answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question is that I have always regarded the general attitude of the responsible leaders of the trade unions, during the whole of the period in which I had any knowledge of public affairs, as being directed to keeping everything on an orderly, peaceful and decent footing. I have the greatest regard for the right hon. Gentleman and those associated with him, with whom I have had close and intimate 409 personal dealings during the last five years. But the Minister will perhaps allow me, as he has given me this opportunity, to say that when he was describing the events, as he saw them, leading up to the general strike, he was dealing with matters which, to a very large extent, were entirely outside my province. I had nothing whatever to do at the Home Office with anything except the machinery for carrying into effect the Emergency Powers Act to which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General referred in his speech yesterday. I had, naturally, a great deal to do at the Home Office with matters affecting the police.
§ Mr. Bevin
Thank you very much. I only want to deal with two other points. One is the position of the Civil Service. A stigma was placed on the Civil Service by this Act, and it was totally unjustified. Not one civil servant took part in the strike, so far as I know. Nobody among them contributed or took any part in the business at all. Every civil servant in the State was loyal to the Crown during that strike. No trade union involved in the dispute asked the Civil Service to do otherwise. Then why take the opportunity, assuming that other trade unionists were guilty of all that was said about them, to deprive the Civil Service of the right of affiliation? I regard it as a stigma, totally unjustified, upon men who were perfectly innocent and had been doing nothing wrong. From the higher grades in their special offices down to the postmen and the messengers, nobody among them did a thing. Why take that opportunity to throw upon the Civil Service the stigma that they had been guilty?
The Act was based upon the claim that the strike was a fight against the State. Section 5 incorporated the Civil Service as fighting against the State at that time. I think that was totally unjustified. If civil servants go back into the Trades Union Congress now, it does not make any difference to their loyalty to the Crown. They are loyal because of their training, and their obligations, and everybody respects their loyalty. The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities admitted a very significant fact. You were content to use all the industries of the country against them when they wanted increases or improvements, but you denied to them the right of association to improve themselves and 410 others. That also is a totally unjustified position. The right hon. Member has been Chancellor of the Exchequer. There would have been some validity in your arguments if you had been willing to become a model employer, which you never were. [Hon. Members: "You? "] I said that the right hon. Gentleman had been pressed over and over again to increase holidays and sick pay for ordinary people, but always the reply has been, "We must follow industry." The men in the dockyards and in the great services of the country are held down by the limits of every reactionary employer in the country. It is not fair to say that the Treasury follow the best employers. They do not. The Treasury follow the basic agreements, a far different thing from the practice of the best employers. The Treasury have never been willing up to now—we hope to improve them, with a little pressure—to become a model employer.
If the general strike against the State was the cause of this Act, why was it necessary to introduce the political levy? The Labour Party took no part in the strike. The Labour Party never associated itself with it, but was a constitutional party. To say that the general strike and the fight against the State were a justification for interfering with trade union law is a bit thin. I would remind hon. Gentlemen that the law was based on the Act of 1913, which was introduced by agreement among all parties. One party to an agreement, in the case of Treaties or relations with other countries, does not usually decide to act unilaterally and, without a word, use its majority to destroy an agreed solution. If the Tory Party were not in power in 1913 it does not alter the fact that the Act of 1913 was an agreed solution between all parties in this House in regard to contracting out. I sat in the Gallery when the matter was carried at that time. The Liberal Party came forward and said that an agreement had been arrived at among all parties. Contracting out was agreed to.
Nevertheless, advantage is taken of a situation which was first created by deflation, and secondly created by an industrial disturbance, to interfere with the political representation of labour in this House. The only deduction I can draw is that everybody said in 1927: "We are afraid of this Labout Party rising. We are afraid of its funds. We are afraid of it 411 running candidates Here is a God-given opportunity to hamstring it. It arises out of a disturbance which our own policy in finance and industry has created. Having created it, we have them where we want them, and so we will carry a law to prevent them coming into power." I occupy another position from what I did in 1927. The fact cannot be denied that this country has taken its decision and has elected a Labour majority in spite of all the attempts that have been made to hamstring the party over the years. It may prove in the end how wrong the Conservative Party were both in the Act and in the contracting out business, and in picking out one club in the country.
They chose no other rule. There is nothing that can be shown to me in any Tory club, in any association anywhere, or in the rules of any society, where you have contracting out, but only in those of the workmen. If ever there was a class Act, this was one. It was an attempt to prevent us achieving what the country has achieved in spite of the Conservative Party. We are here. We are going to stop here, too. I believe it will be for the benefit of the country. As an old trade unionist of more than 40 years' standing, I say that, just as I have a clear card in my union, I want this Act off the Statute Book so that we may have a clear card before the law.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Basil Nield (Chester)
The Attorney-General in opening this Debate advised us to approach the discussion calmly and dispassionately. I feel that the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us has indeed failed to follow that advice. He often fails to follow advice, inside or outside the House, and in many respects we admire him for it. Hon. Members opposite have not hesitated to assert, or to suggest, that those of us who seek to prevent the passage of this Bill are actuated by a desire to restrict the rights of the workers and to lessen the authority of trade unions. I do not hesitate to say that it would be difficult to imagine a more unjust allegation. Those who purport to claim some monopoly of social progress would do well to scan the Statute Book for the last century and a half. They would do well to remember the words of one of their earliest and greatest leaders, James Keir Hardie, when he wrote: 412As a matter of hard, dry fact from which there can be no getting away, there is more Labour legislation standing to the credit of the Conservative Party on the Statute Book than there is to that of their opponents.[An Hon. Member: "No."] My hon. Friends do not like their medicine. Hon. Members on the opposite side of the House have said that they feel deeply about this matter, that they admire people who say what they mean. I feel deeply on this matter, and I hope to say what I mean. I should not be standing here if I were not convinced that along the path defined by Conservative principle lies the surest way to the improvement of the conditions of the people.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
In that case will my hon. and learned Friend mind addressing his remarks to this point? Will he cease to rely upon the tribute paid to the Conservative Party in the 1890s, and defend what it has done since?
§ Mr. Nield
I have pointed out that hon. Members must look at the Statute Book and I certainly propose to refer to Conservative legislation in due course. The hon. and learned Gentleman who opened this Debate defended this Measure with great fervour, although the Measure itself has been sadly lost sight of from time to time, so that I was constrained to remember the phrase:Methinks he doth protest too much.He invited the House not to allow this to be a lawyers' holiday, and I am not surprised that he seeks to avoid too close an investigation into the legal problems involved. A close investigation would show that the repeal of this Measure involves a return to the uncertainty of the pre-1926 position and to further difficulties for the trade unionists and the workers. From time to time lawyers are decried in this House; we exchange good-natured banter upon this subject across the Floor. It would perhaps not be wrong to remember that all hon. Members are law makers, and that it is not unseemly to have some respect for their handiwork and for those who administer it. After all, our constitution is based upon the rule of law.
I desire to address myself to two aspects of the Measure which we are considering, which involves proposing the repeal of the 1927 Act. First, I wish to say a word about Section 3 of the 1927 Act, and then I desire to add a word generally on the 413 objects of that Statute which it is proposed to abandon. The title in the marginal note to Section 3 of the 1927 Act is:
"Prevention of intimidation, etc." One would have thought that few would quarrel with that object. It is necessary to examine the position of the law before 1927, in order to see what the Statute of that year effected. It is right, as I am sure the learned Attorney-General would agree, to say that the law before 1927 was contained in two Statutes, the first of which was the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, 1875, the first Conservative Statute to which I propose to refer. I regret that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is not now in his place.
Section 7 is the material Section. With that Statute must be read the Trade Disputes Act. 1906, Section 2. Without keeping the House too long, I will quote part of those two Sections, and I will paraphrase the remainder. Section 7 of the 1875 Act says:Every person who, with a view to compel any other person to abstain from doing or to do any act which such other person has a legal right to do or abstain from doing, wrongfully and without legal authority, (1) Uses violence to or intimidates such other person or his wife or children, or injures his property.This is the first modern reference to the word "intimidates." Thereafter the Section provides that it is an offence to follow persons about, to hide their tools, clothing, etc., and at the end of the Section these words appear:Attending at or near the house or place where a person resides, or works, or carries on business, or happens to be, or the approach to such house or place, in order merely to obtain or communicate information, shall not be deemed a watching or besetting within the meaning of this Section.This Section, as I say, must be read with Section 2 of the 1906 Act, which says:It shall be lawful for one or more persons, acting on their own behalf or on behalf of a trade union or of an individual employer or firm in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute, to attend at or near a house or place where a person resides or works or carries on business or happens to be, if they so attend merely for the purpose of peacefully obtaining or communicating information, or of peacefully persuading any person to work or abstain from working.[An Hon. Member: "It is there, you have what you want."] If the hon. Gentleman will be patient that is what I am about to explain. There were two faults in the pre-1927 position, the first of which 414 arose out of a definition by the courts of the word "intimidates." The second arose because it was felt that the picketing of a man's home was a wrong thing, and I want to say a word about each of those two matters. The courts decided, as indeed I think the learned Attorney-General pointed out, in effect, that the word "intimidates" was confined to threats involving physical violence. Surely, all right thinking people will agree that there may be other types of threats just as objectionable, if not more so; as, for example, if people were to say to a man, "If you do not take such and such a course, we will see to it that your son does not get the job he hopes for, and we are able to prevent him." It was felt then that it was right to widen the definition of "intimidation," and I suggest that all people who think about this matter must agree on that. In order to meet that situation, Section 3 (2) of the 1927 Act was inserted. I do not need to read it because it has been read already, but the effect of it is so to widen the courts' construction of the word "intimidates" as to include those more oblique and sinister forms of intimidation and threats.
Let me turn to the other matter, the question of picketing a man's home. To meet that position Section 3 (4) was inserted in the 1927 Act. Again it would weary the House if I quoted it verbatim but what it does is to prevent and render illegal the picketing of a man's home. I agree so much with what my right hon. Friend below me said, that it was significant indeed that in 1931 when a Socialist Government sought to amend the 1927 Act, there was no word of suggestion that a single syllable of this particular Section should be amended or repealed. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, who has explained to me that he cannot be here at the moment, pointed to things which happened 20 years ago, and I am pointing out something that happened 16 years ago, when the then Socialist Government felt content, apparently, that it was right and proper to render illegal the picketing of a man's home. Why have they changed their minds?
Finally, I want to deal quite generally with the objects of the Statute of 1927. I have already suggested, I hope not unfairly but firmly and logically, that it is wholly unjust to attribute the descriptions to that Statute which have been freely at- 415 tributed to it by hon. Members opposite. Reading the Act of 1927, it is plain that its purposes are these: To declare illegal a general strike by which a section of the community can seek to arrest the life of the nation; to make illegal intimidation in all its forms, not only involving physical violence; to require that a trade unionist shall only subscribe to a political party if he wishes to do so; to ensure that a civil servant shall give his undivided allegiance to the government of the day, whatever its political colour; and to enable a man employed by a local authority to hold any political convictions he chooses. The simple issue in this discussion is whether or no those objects are worthy objects. To prevent the Measure now before the House becoming law is to uphold those objects. To pass it into law, in my submission—and it is made with just as much conviction as has been displayed by hon. Members opposite—is further to narrow and reduce those few remaining fragments of freedom which the people of this land enjoy.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Donovan (Leicester, East)
I have sat in this House now for some six months, very silent, very attentive—which I hope may be forgiven in a newcomer. During that time I have learned a great deal from hon. Members on both sides of the House and for that I am genuinely grateful. I should be prepared, I think, to go on listening longer were it not for the fact that to the most nervous Member of this Assembly—which exactly describes my condition at the moment—there must come a time when he can no longer keep silent in the face of an argument which he believes to be totally unreal. If I were to promise to be noncontroversial on this most controversial of subjects, I should be as optimistic as my fellow countryman, the Irishman, living in London who, asked whether he had paid his overdue Income Tax, said no, he had not, and now he had not got to; because last week the Inland Revenue sent him a form headed "Final Demand," so now he supposed they were giving it up as a bad job. But if I fail to be non-controversial, I hope, at least, I shall not be too provocative, and thus forfeit the indulgence of the House which is customary on this occasion; and I can promise the House I shall not be too long. 416 Connected as I am with a country whose inhabitants love a fight for its own sake, and frequently regard the merits as a totally irrelevant consideration—an attribute which, after hearing some speeches from the opposite Benches, I am inclined to think is shared by some pure Englishmen—I remind myself very firmly at the outset that I am not engaged tonight in a mere dialectical competition or lawyers' debate, at the end of which a vote will be taken to see who has won. We are dealing tonight with the liberties of 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 of our fellow-countrymen. In 1926 they had certain liberties; in 1927 they were taken away; in 1946 we are going to restore them. Sitting here as a new Member during the Debate on the continuance of controls for five years, I heard the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Devizes (Squadron-Leader Hollis) make his maiden speech—a performance which, if he will allow me to say so, I greatly admired and still more greatly envied. At the end of it he said, "England was once a free country and, God helping us, she will be a free country again," and the cheering from that side amidst which the hon. and gallant Member sat down, rounded off a Debate in which every member of the Opposition who spoke assumed the mantle of a protector of English freedom.
Here is an instalment of English freedom which we propose to restore to the people of this country. Here are liberties which we propose to give back that in 1926 were regarded as commonplace. Instead of receiving congratulations and co-operation from hon. Members opposite, we are encountering the most bitter and determined opposition. There are no bouquets, there are only brickbats. Why? "Because," say hon. Gentlemen opposite, "what you are proposing to restore is not liberty but licence."
If I were to deal with that argument over the whole field covered by this Bill, I should take much longer than I am entitled to take. I, therefore, select two matters on which to deal with it, the political levy and the civil servant's right to affiliation. To begin the argument about the political levy at the point where the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) began it and where in that respect he was followed by the hon. and learned Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Nield), is really to begin the 417 argument halfway through the story. If a new union were being formed in 1925 there would be a set of rules drawn up and a general meeting of members to approve or disapprove them. If one of those rules provided for a political levy, there would be a secret ballot and the other formalities required by the 1913 Act, and even if that rule were passed by a majority, the minority could claim exemption. Assuming such a rule was passed by the majority, is there anything undemocratic in that procedure? Is there any oppression of the minority by the majority? Of course not; otherwise every Conservative candidate at recent by-elections could complain of a like oppression.
Would it not be candid of us to admit that the interference with the trade union's liberty to pass that sort of rule, was not some altruistic defence of the rights of minorities by the Conservative Government of 1927—it was the desire to hamper the political activities of trade unions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) brought a breath of fresh air into this Debate, when he admitted that the civil servants had a case for affiliation, and it would bring a corresponding breath of fresh air if some hon. Member would candidly admit the reasons for contracting in instead of contracting out.
It is said that if you contract out more people will subscribe to the political levy than is the case today. I believe that to be true. I hope it is true, but not for the reason given by hon. Gentlemen opposite, because in this matter of putting one's hand into one's pocket and paying out money, it is so much more human and pleasant and easy to procrastinate than to pay. There is not one of us who does not have appeals on his desk every week, and we look at them and say, "Yes, of course I must subscribe to that, I will write out a cheque as soon as I have done this job I am doing." We push it on one side and hope that we will forget it. But if a banker's order is given, thereafter the question is not, Shall we go on paying, but shall we stop paying? All of us would search our conscience's and need a good reason before we stopped payment. That in effect is the position we desire to restore in regard to the trade unions. 418 The history of trade unions being what it is, the fact that the benefits of political action inure to the whole body of members, the claim of the Conservative Party to be the protectors of trade unionists being inadmissible, we think it wholly right that a decision not to contribute to a political fund should be a decision consciously and deliberately taken and that the failure to contribute should hot be the result, or the possible result, of mere procrastination, lethargy, or delay. Then it is said that the man who contracts out will be intimidated; I do not believe it. I represent the industrial constituency of East Leicester. Machinery, boots and shoes, hosiery, and many other trades. I was adopted there as the prospective candidate in 1938 in readiness for the General Election of 1939 and in the seven years I waited I got to know the trade unionists fairly well. I know them to be decent kindly folk who would have nothing but respect for any Conservative workman who said, "I do not believe in the Labour Party, I believe in the Conservative Party," or" I do not want, for a reason I am not prepared to tell you, to contribute to a political fund "—nothing but respect for a man who had the courage of his convictions. What is true of Englishmen in East Leicester cannot be untrue of Englishmen elsewhere. So much for the political levy.
On the civil servant's right of affiliation, the picture that is painted is of the whole of the Civil Service downing pens' and coming out on strike in sympathy with an outside dispute. Hardly a day passes when we do not hear from the Opposition benches a complaint about the excessive interference of officials in the lives of the citizens, yet when there is a possibility of a complete holiday from such interference, they recoil from the prospect with horror. Why do civil servants want affiliation? For two reasons: first because it has been laid down consistently by Governments in the past that Civil Service remuneration must correspond to outside trends for the same work. Outside trends for the same work are largely influenced by trade unions meeting together and discussing these matters in the Trades Union Congress and it is wholly wrong that civil servants should be debarred from taking part in discussions there which might materially and directly affect their own standards of remuneration. It is wrong that civil servants should be 419 isolated as this Act which we propose to repeal isolates them from contact with millions of wage earners whom their civil service duties so vitally and directly affect.
Another point is the very human one that the Conservative Government took away their rights of affiliation, quite unjustly, in 1927. I was a civil servant in 1925 and 1926. I was engaged in the exciting pastime of administering the Death Duty Acts, or helping to do so. I was perfectly loyal, I worked very hard, much longer hours than 10 to 5, and I was underpaid, and every quarter my salary went down because somebody said that the cost of living had gone down. But I remained perfectly faithful throughout the general strike and had no intention of joining it and would have gone on being completely faithful. But in 1927 the Conservative Government taps me on the shoulder and says, "Do you know you are a dangerous fellow, you might get mixed up in politics? "That was more prophetic than either of us thought at the time. But they meant that I might come out on strike in assistance to an outside dispute. They said, "We must take away some of your liberties." I asked, "Is not that sentencing me before I commit an offence, and merely because I might do so?" Nevertheless they did it, and did not even say they were sorry. If, in 1926, I had been asked what my most valuable possession as a civil servant was, I should probably have said it was that which the husband of no film star has ever yet achieved, namely, security of tenure; but I might well in 1927 have said that my most valuable right was the right of affiliation to the Trades Union Congress. What right had the Conservative Government to do that to me in 1927? What right had they to do it to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Scottish Universities? What right had they to do it to the hundreds of thousands of quite loyal established civil servants?
I ask by what right they did it; I know why they did it and I will tell the House. Last October the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) stood at that Box, censuring the Minister of Education for some unguarded remarks about bread rationing in this country. At the end of his speech he made an observation which was quite irrelevant to that 420 Debate but very relevant to this one. Looking at these benches he said:I would say that in forty years' experience in this House, I have never perceived such a remarkable collection as those who sit on the benches opposite."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1945; Vol. 415, c. 557.]I know, of course, that the Noble Lord did not mean that offensively. He merely meant that he did not like the view; and I am prepared to admit that the view of these benches from those benches may not be so pleasant and inspiring, as is the view of those benches from these. Nevertheless it is the truth that on these benches we represent a faithful cross-section of English life—medicine, the church, commerce, the law, trades of every description, every sort of vocation. We may be a little deficient in aristocracy, but if light should ever be vouchsafed to the Noble Lord, I am quite sure that we shall be able to accommodate him here. In. those circumstances it seemed to me at the time a melancholy confession to make, and to have endorsed by supporting cheers behind him, that he had been able to sit in this House for 40 years without meeting his countrymen face to face. The significance of his remark was that "Those one does not know one does not understand, and those one does not understand one cannot very well trust," and the Conservative Party neither knows nor understands and does not trust the working population of this country—[Hon. Members: "Rubbish."]—and at bedrock that is the basic reason for Conservative opposition to this Bill.
§ Mr. Donovan
Yet we have the most trustworthy population in the whole world. The only thing they will not stand is gross injustice, and whether there is ever a general strike again will not depend on whether there is a Statute allowing it or prohibiting it or leaving it doubtful as to whether it is legal or illegal; it will depend on whether the endurance of our people has been strained beyond breaking point by economic injustice, such as was inflicted on the miners in 1926. The law, I regret to say, has too often been the handmaid of political oppression, but it has never ultimately succeeded in that role. The 421 wholly delightful and valuable presence of lady Members in this House is living testimony to the truth of that observation. The legislative repeal of the Taff Vale and the Osborne judgments is another example. The vote on Division on this Bill tonight will be another. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will, of course, persist in their opposition for the basic reason I have given. But, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I rejoice not only that the high privilege has been given to me of making my maiden speech in this Debate but that mine will be one of the votes which will restore to trade unionists in this country, who worked so hard and fought so well during the war, liberties of which they were deprived in vengeance, but which we will restore to them in confidence, trust and joy.
§ 5.45 P.m.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
I rise to take part in this Debate, first because, as the House knows, I have a very special interest in one aspect of this Bill to repeal the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, 1927, and secondly because I share the general interest of all other Members of the House in securing a proper settlement of trade union law in Britain. But before I proceed to discuss either of those things it is my very pleasing duty to congratulate and felicitate the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Donovan) on what I think the House will agree was a remarkably attractive maiden speech. From my point of view it had three merits. I commend them to all others who have not yet made their maiden speeches. First, it was audible, and that in itself is no little consideration in this House, where the acoustics are very bad. Second, it was very much to the point. Third, it had the saving grace of humour, and to me life is so serious that it is only to be endured if one takes it humorously. On behalf of the House I heartily congratulate the hon. Member.
I wish especially to deal with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson). Before I do so I would like to make a comment or two on the character of the Debate so far, and on the very remarkable speech made by the Foreign Secretary. This has been a remarkable Debate, judged by any standards. It began with an intellectual tour de force from the Attorney-General 422 to which it was a joy to listen. It must have been a joy even to Members above the Gangway on this side of the House from the point of view of its quality, whether they agreed with it or not. We have had remarkable speeches from both sides of the House and one of the greatest utterances I have heard the Foreign Secretary make in the course of my long knowledge of him. I rejoice that that speech has been made, because the biggest obstacle to a reasonable conclusion of this Debate is that this place, and the Debate, are full of ghosts. And it is only as we get the ghosts out of the way and lay them that we are likely to develop the attitude of mind necessary for calm judgment on the real issues of the Bill which is before the House.
How many ghosts! The ghosts of the Combination Acts of the early part of the 19th century, the ghosts of Francis Place and the tailors of Tooley Street, that little gathering, who, because they represented the heart of Britain much more adequately than the Governments of that time, ultimately triumphed and forced the repeal of the Combination Acts. There are the ghosts of the decisions in the High Courts in this country, the ghosts of the Taff Vale and the Osborne judgments. There is the ghost of the General Strike and the ghost of the 1927 Act. This place is full of ghosts. Unless those ghosts are dispelled, what this Bill requires, which is judgment and not passion, will not be forthcoming. We have had speeches in this Debate which have borne evidence of the irascibility of revenge. We have had other speeches, like that of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), which started from the lowered threshold of nervous irritability and culminated in a magnificent frenzy of passion. I began to be a little concerned about him, because I am afraid that one of these days he will have apoplexy while I am here, and I have no qualifications for dealing with such an emergency if it should arise.
I was especially glad that the speech of the Foreign Secretary was made because—and here I wish to address myself to hon. Members above the gangway on this side of the House—as long as the Conservative Party in Britain believes either that the general strike of 1926 was a conspiracy against the State, or that the trade union movement in this country is in the habit of contemplating plots against the State, it will bring to the repeal of Section I of 423 the 1927 Act an attitude of mind utterly foreign to the realities of the situation.
I would like to add to what the Foreign Secretary said on this point. My union was involved in the 1926 dispute although, as he properly said, we were not called out. Our functions were limited. My own function in that dispute was to pledge every asset that the Civil Service Clerical Association had in this world, including the office furniture and the building we worked in, in support of the strike. We did that. Why? Because we wanted to be disloyal to the State? Because we were connected with some conspiracy against its well-being? Not at all. We did it because of the merits of that dispute. The members of my union were heart and soul with the miners in resisting reductions in wages at that time. I remember some of the interviews I had with the present Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) when the 1927 Act was being drafted and we were making representations to him. I remember a deputation at No. 10 when he read extracts from my speeches made during the general strike, to which I listened with unbounded admiration. I am glad the Foreign Secretary's speech was made, because I doubt whether folk on this side of the Gangway realise what it takes to make a workman strike.
The workman is born in a poor home. He knows, almost as soon as he can talk, what poverty is, and he learns from his father and mother and the experience of his own house what it means. I would not like to be dramatic or sentimental, but in my own home, the home of a plumber, I saw my mother's beauty wilt under the pressure of child-bearing in squalid penury and frequent spells of unemployment. That is part of the heritage of every poor man in the country, and part of the mental equipment with which he goes out into the world. Why did I go into the Civil Service? Primarily because of the value set by my workman father on the element of security in a world where to him there was no security. Otherwise, the place would never have been dignified by my presence. When he has gone into the world as a boy and as a workman, he learns at first-hand how grim a business life is. He is never more than a few days 424 or a few weeks separated from the abyss of economic disaster. If, in those circumstances, he resolves to strike, something has happened in that man's soul to make him do it. It is not a desire to embarrass the community. It is the uprising in a man's spirit of some categorical imperative that tells him he has got to resist wrong, even if he has got only bare hands and an empty stomach on which to do it.
That is a quality that ought not to be derided or despised in England. It is that quality in the English that enabled us to break the power of the Kings. It is that quality which has made this Island a rock on which dictator after dictatorhas broken his hands and his heart in vain. It is a quality to be admired, and when you get millions of people so animated by a sense of wrong being done to some of their number that they are prepared to pool the whole of their trade union funds, as they did in 1926, that they are prepared to come out on strike and risk the oppression that follows an unsuccessful strike, then we are in the presence of something that we cannot deal with by any law whatever. We are then dealing with something outside the category of things that can be arranged by writing on bits of paper.
I am glad that speech of the Foreign Secretary was made, because if it has taught Members above the Gangway that really trade unionists are not conspirators but workmen with a deep sympathy for their fellows, we may get one discordant and prejudicing element out of the consideration of this Bill. Equally, if I disagree—as I shall do in a few minutes' time—with the repeal of some Sections of the 1927 Act, I trust it will not be imputed to me for unrighteousness. I should like to look at the Bill on its merits. I favour the repeal of Section 1 of the 1927 Act for the reasons I have just given, that if nine or 10 million men want to strike, nothing on earth will stop them. No law will ever stop them. But if we try to stop them by law, we may do something else. We may make what might otherwise be ordinary industrial disputes into illegal and unconstitutional conflicts with the State. It ought to be an axiom that we should not place on the shoulders of the law a bigger burden than the law can discharge. That deals with No. 1. Principle No. 2 is that 425 you do not unnecessarily want to create offences out of what may not be offences at all. For those two reasons I support the repeal of Section 1 of the 1927 Act.
There is a second Section that I want to repeal, that dealing with the position of civil servants. And on this I do not know that I have got very much to say. The hon. Member whom I congratulated a few moments ago on his maiden speech put the heart of that case extremely clearly, if I may say so. The heart of his case was that it is entirely anomalous to treat civil servants as part of the working classes for the purpose of settling their wages, but to deny them the right of associating with the working classes in their capacity as trade unionists. That is the anomaly in a single sentence. There are other anomalies about this thing. Here I want to turn, if I may, with great respect and the affection born of long years of warm-hearted fighting with him, to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities. Let me say that there was a great deal of that speech with which I agreed. I could say with even greater emphasis what he said about the undesirability of a politicalised civil service in Britain.
There are two sides to that business. If we have one Government making its appointments on the basis of political allegiance, the inevitable and unanswerable result of that is that another Government will make its appointments by throwing out the earlier appointees and putting in men of their own political colour. What is the result of that? We have seen it over and over again in our lifetime. We saw it in Italy when Mussolini seized power and purged the Italian Civil Service of anybody with opinions anything more to the Left than the Primrose League. We saw a similar purge in Nazi Germany when Hitler took power. Again, in America, a country which I do not know well, but whose Civil Service I know pretty well, we had the alternating throwing out and calling in of supporters of each party, as that party in turn was victorious or defeated at the poll. It did not work there. The biggest obstacle to the carrying through of the relief plans over there was the absence of a non-political Civil Service, and it led to the decision, which came into operation some years ago, to remodel the 426 American civil service on the lines of the British Civil Service. To the extent of about 78 percent., that has now been carried out. They are to be appointed in future on the basis of merit tested by examination rather than by patronage operated by political interest.
I would like to underline what the right hon. Gentleman said in that particular respect. We must have a Civil Service which can be relied upon to carry out the policy of whatever Government is in power. But what conclusion does the right hon. Gentleman draw? It is that, because of these two things, we must have no affiliation between the organisations of civil servants and outside industrial and political bodies. I accept his premises, but I resist the conclusion that he draws from them.
§ Sir J. Anderson
Will the hon. Member forgive me? I did not draw that conclusion at all. I set several arguments in juxtaposition. I said I thought there was a matter for inquiry, though there may be difficulties, and I regretted that the discussions which had been entered upon some time ago had not been carried further.
§ Mr. Brown
For a Scotsman, an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, and especially for the right hon. Gentleman, that is a very definite statement indeed. I hope that one of these days the right hon. Gentleman will say "Yes," without suffix, affix, or prefix. I want to remind the House, that before 1927, the Civil Service organisations were affiliated to political bodies. My own Union was affiliated to the Labour Party. The Union of Post Office Workers was so affiliated, and the list is too long that I need not mention them all. The question is whether affiliation would somehow undermine the way in which they served the Government. Take the postman. Are we to suppose that a postman, being, say, a Labour Party supporter, and finding 427 on his rounds that he had to deliver letters to the house of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), would say, "Blimey, this letter don't go to him; down the drain with it "? Can we imagine a telephone operator, listening in to a request for a call to Granthan 700, promptly making the observation, "I am not putting anybody through to the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Kendall); he is an Independent "? We are in the realm of fantasy here.
Civil servants know perfectly how to distinguish the duties of their jobs from their private political and personal point of view, and they are capable of maintaining the separation between the two. The general strike not only does not destroy my case; it proves it. If, at a great crisis in history, when feelings were engaged on a depth and scale without parallel in the social life of this country for decades, no single civil servant left work, but carried on, can there ever be a greater test imposed on a body of men than that was? But they survived it triumphantly, keeping the distinction between their jobs, as civil servants, and their freedom, as trade unionists, to put their hands in their pockets and hand out their money? Surely, it is a most convincing demonstration that we need no law to make civil servants do their jobs? So, I would like to see repeal of these two Sections.
I think the Foreign Secretary made a great case today for a sort of dramatic verdict of history to undo the stigma of 1927, and, if it gives him any satisfaction, he has my blessing in doing so, but I would add this. From this point onwards, I expect loud cheers from this side of the House and active dissent from over there. When we have got the removal of this stigma, I beg the House to look objectively at the effect of this repeal. I think the case for repeal is overwhelming in the two Sections I have mentioned. But I am not at all sure that the case for the substitution of contracting in is at all overwhelming. I doubt whether, if that were the only thing in the 1927 Act, we should be bothering about it. The truth is that, in either system, an awful lot of wangling goes on. Personally, I hate wangling and all its attendant phenomena. [Interruption.] Well, I think I can say that hon. 428 Members may disagree with what I say but they cannot deny that I say it, and with some clarity. It is my opinion that, on the whole, contracting in is better than contracting out. I would like to see contracting in, on two grounds. The first is that, when one is asked to do something slightly out of the ordinary, it is only fair to the individual to make him realise that he is doing something out of the ordinary, so that his choice is a deliberate one. That gives a slight bias in favour of contracting in, as against contracting out. The second ground is this. If I go into a grocer's shop to buy a pound of tea, I do not think it is fair to have thrust upon me a pound of coffee that I do not want, if I do not sign a form to say that I do not want it. I do not want it thrust upon me. On the whole, I should have been inclined to leave contracting in and contracting out where they stand.
My views upon Section 6 of the 1927 Act are not tepid. They are very strong. I would like to keep in being Section 6 of the Act. That is the Section which makes it an offence for a local authority to compel any man to be a member of a trade union as a condition of being employed by that local authority. I would keep that Section. Why? There are two reasons—one, my general philosophy of life, and two, my attitude to the "closed shop." On the first point, I do not think that any employer, private or public, has the right to say to a workman, "You shall, or shall not, be a member of any trade union," or "You shall or shall not be a member of this union instead of another," or to determine the political and industrial affiliations of whatever union a man wishes to join. I hold that view just as strongly as regards local authorities as in the case of private employers. The second reason is that, speaking as a trade unionist of 30 years' standing, and perhaps as one of the very few trade union leaders now living who built up his own union and did not inherit it from somebody else, I tell the House that I regard the "closed shop" as an evil thing from the trade union point of view, and from a number of other points of view.
I hold first that trade unionism should be a voluntary combination of free men for the protection collectively of the rights that they are powerless to enforce individually. If it ceases to be that, it is 429 in grave danger of becoming something else. Trade unionism is not necessarily a good thing; it can be good, bad or indifferent, according to the quality of the men that lead it, and the men who make up its membership. It may be anything from a harmless goose club to an effective combination, a spearhead of attack, in the battle of righteousness, and in extreme cases it can be an instrument for selling the men up the river. The only way you can guard against that, is to allow the same laws of freedom to operate in the growth of trade unionism as operate else-whree. Where a union is a bad union, it is a good thing if another should rise in its place. A man not getting the satisfaction from a union that he considers his right should be free to leave and join another.
Sir Patrick Harmon (Birmingham, Moseley)
Can the hon. Gentleman give the House an example of a good union rising from the ruins of a bad union?
§ Mr. Brown
I could, but I am certain that if I started discussing the merits of particular unions Donegal Fair would be a peaceful Saturday afternoon in comparison. I will not follow up the point, if my hon. Friend will forgive me.
I conclude by repeating that I do not like the closed shop. It facilitates, in the case of bad men, the selling out of the rank and file. Here I would remind the House of an experience in America three years ago, in which, I am sorry to say, a man named Browne was involved. But he had an "e" on the end of his name so we do not regard him as a member of the family proper.
§ Mr. Brown
It was a peculiar situation, arising out of American trade union law, under which immediately a union has organised a certain proportion of employees, it can go to a Government Department to obtain an order for a closed shop, which means that the employees who have not joined the union, and who may be in the majority, are compelled to join, whether they want to or not. There is a second feature, which is this. Having established the closed shop, the union may then apply for what is called the "check off," which means that the contribution to the union is deducted from the member's pay packet, and paid over to the 430 union in bulk. This is the closed shop carried to its logical conclusion, and all that is needed then is a corrupt leader, which is what happened in the case with which I am dealing. A proportion of the men in the cinema industry were organised in this way, the union applied for and obtained a closed shop and the "check-off." Then the two leaders, Messrs. Browne and Bioff, went to the employers and said that if they were "kept sweet," there would be no trouble with wage demands from their members. They were kept sweet, but either the price of "sugar" rose alarmingly, or something slipped up, so that the story came to light and Messrs. Browne and Bioff are now serving a term of imprisonment.
Anything that gives the employer the right of imposing the closed shop whether that employer is a local authority or not, is a thing I dislike. [An Hon. Member: "Not up to your standard."] An hon. Gentleman says that my argument is not up to the usual standard, merely because he happens to disagree with it. It is true generosity to recognise an argument as being well up to standard even when you do not like it. This is the sort of thing that can happen in a closed shop. Here is a paper—not part of the capitalist Press—called "The Word." and edited by a man whose name will be well known to hon. Members opposite, Mr. Guy Aldred. In this week's issue it quotes the following case. Four men, it says, were employed by Messrs. Anderson Bros., engineers, of Coat-bridge—a "closed shop."When their union membership lapsed because of arrears of contributions, the district committee of the A.E.U. asked the management to dismiss them. This was done on the grounds of ' industrial misconduct.' At the appeal, which was dismissed, Councillor Filson, himself a trade unionist, pleaded that union arrears were not ' industrial misconduct,' and that the case was one of grave constitutional importance.I agree, but the appeal was dismissed. So we get a situation in which trade unionists are compelled to pay their contributions through a "closed shop," operating in conjunction with the union and supported by the Ministry of Labour I am saying what I feel about this, and I maintain that it is just as much tyranny as the Oddenino circular we were discussing last night. Tyranny does not cease to be tyranny, because it comes from a trade union, and not from a 431 private employer. If we are to make progress we must recognise the rights of liberty, even when it is for the other side. I say that that case is a judicial scandal, if the facts are as stated in the newspaper. And I shall give the Minister of Labour an opportunity of informing the House how his appeal board came to turn down the appeal. As I say I think it is a judicial scandal of the first magnitude and I intend to ventilate it as thoroughly as I can.
I apologise for keeping the House, but I do think we should try to form an objective judgment on some of these sections and cast a vote according to their merits or demerits. I know the Government wants to remove the stigma, and it will achieve that with the passing of the Second Reading tonight. I may say that I shall go into the Lobby in support of the Second Reading. When we come to the Committee stage—I do not know the Parliamentary mechanics, but perhaps one of the Ministers will advise us—it may somehow be possible so to discuss Amendments as to enable us to deal with the merits of contracting in and contracting out, and to consider whether we want to abolish Section 6 or to keep it. I am certain that in the long run that is the best parliamentary procedure. If there is one thing I have learned in my 30 years leadership of a trade union it is this. It is better to have nine tenths of what you want with the active support of the membership, than 100 percent. of what you want with their subterranean discontent and disapproval. Therefore, while we give this Bill its Second Reading, which we shall do, I hope we shall so comport ourselves in the Committee stage that, when the Bill becomes law, it will be one that we can justify, not only on the grounds that it has removed an unjustified stigma, but that it has put the law in proper relation to the commonsense necessities of the trade union situation in Britain, and the interests of society as a whole.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)
I crave the indulgence of the House in this my maiden speech, and I hope I shall be pardoned for introducing some personal notes and experiences. I have had the fortune to be an employer as well as an employee. I know what it was to be 432 sacked at 16 for helping to form a trade union and significantly, at the same time, on the same day, my father came out of work and we trudged the roads of the Colne Valley together looking for work. As an employer I can claim that I am speaking for my own employees, since they played no unimportant part in returning me at the by-election at Ashton-under-Lyne. It is because of a promise to them that I determined, if at all possible, to speak for them in this Debate for a few minutes.
I realise that the legal aspect of this Bill is very important, but, to my mind, in spite of what the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) has said, there has been a sense of unreality about the whole proceedings since this Debate was begun yesterday. It does not seem to bear any relation whatever to the way of life of the white-faced men and women who work in the cotton mills at Ashton-under-Lyne. In my opinion, the Act of 1927 was born in corruption. It has as its background the cessation of acceleration in trade, the dirty coat of finance which was trailed over my constituency and Lancashire, and also the fact that although manufacturers in Yorkshire made money during the war, they failed to put it back into their industries. They were stupified by the fact that acceleration had ceased and they did not know how to counter it except by the reduction of wages. It came to a head in 1927 by the passing of the Act, and in my particular industry it was not more than two or three years—in fact, in 1929—before it was taken advantage of, when the industry to which I belong—the woollen industry—was locked out. That lock-out carried on for many weeks and resulted in the reduction of wages throughout the whole length and breadth of that industry. I did not lock my men out but, instead, raised their wages, and I have never looked back, from that day to this.
The reduction of wages was one of the prime features of the propaganda at that time, and it ran on into the years after the 'thirties. Apathy became the rule on the part of the workers. On the part of the employers there was fear of revolution which resulted at the time of Munich in members of the trade unions in Lancashire—married men with three, four and five children—working for 30s. a week, and on the employers' side there was the fear of losing their businesses. If it had 433 not been for this war, there is no question that 30 to 40 percent. of the wool trade would have been closed down. This war saved the wool trade. At the moment, there is a lot of talk with regard to cooperation in industry. I will not keep the House more than a few minutes, but there is one speech to which I would like to refer. It was delivered in Liverpool last week by Sir John Hobhouse, the manager of the Ocean Steamship Company, addressed to the Liverpool Economic and Statistical Society. Referring to the trade unions, he said they had enormous blocking powers without any real responsibility. He said their position was now secure and they would, he believed, use their great power for good. The "Observer" on 3rd February said:New positive functions, instead of mainly defensive functions, must be found for the Unions if their resources and enthusiasm are to be fully enlisted on behalf of high output and prosperity in the exacting years ahead.There is no question, nobody knows what yardstick to apply to trade in the next five years. It will need in the coming years all the ingenuity and co-operation of every person, whether he is employed or an employer of labour, and this sort of argument which we have heard in the course of this Debate will do nothing towards helping it along. If we cannot have co-operation in industry we shall have death to industry in this country. I wish to appeal for a real united endeavour to put this Bill through.
.I conclude by quoting a progenitor of mine who was a Chartist. He was a contemporary of Hardie, and O'Connor. He said, writing to the "Star":Peace cannot be got between us by fine talk. You have to convince men they are having a fair, square deal and you cannot do that until you have created the right atmosphere.That is as true today as it was then, and we have an opportunity to help by passing this Bill.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Maude (Exeter)
It falls to me as my very pleasant privilege to offer to the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) the hearty congratulations of the whole House on his most excellent and cogent maiden speech. I can only say this as well—and I say it from the bottom of my heart—that he will find the married state very much less easy than that of maidenhood.
434 I want to deal with two matters; first, something that the Foreign Secretary-said, and then something that the Attorney-General said. So far as the Foreign Secretary is concerned, I noticed tonight one of those pieces of information as to the policy of the Labour Party which emerge, every now and again, in the midst of a mass of details and discussion, when he referred to the objective of the Labour Party—to produce a classless society in which we are all equal. That,. of course, was no novelty; it is a very old idea, and the right hon. Gentleman will not, in spite of his position in the Foreign Office, make the historical approach to these matters. I can assure the House that within these walls it is possible to find details of a case of no little interest, one which I am sure will appeal to the President of the Board of Trade, in which the matter was tried out under the most perfect conditions. The circumstances are these. In the Kingdom of Tibet in the year 789 a.d.—it was about the time of Charlemagne—there was a king called Muni Po. On succeeding as king he was determined to raise all his subjects to the same level and enacted that there should be no distinction between poor and rich, humble and great. He compelled the wealthy to share their riches with the indigent and helpless, and make them their equals in respect of the comforts and conditions of life. He repeated this experiment three times, but each time he found that they all returned to their former condition, the rich becoming still richer and the poor still poorer. After the third experiment, his mother poisoned him.
I pass from these elementary matters, on which history has such terrible lessons to show, to deal very much more seriously with the Attorney-General. If in fact there is no 1927. Act—and it is quite clear that it is going to be taken away—then, as we understand it and as we are taught by the Attorney-General, we are back to the law as it stood. What was that? Is it certain? I ask this in the hope of getting a specific answer from the President of the Board of Trade. Is it really certain what the law was before 1927? The speech of Sir John Simon has been referred to, and my recollection is that during the general strike—or national lockout, or whatever one likes to call it—until that speech was made there was a feeling of uncertainty about the matter. It may well be that 435 the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues think that Sir John Simon was wrong, but it is surely fundamentally inaccurate to tell the House that there is any certainty about the matter now.
I propose to quote from what the learned Attorney-General said yesterday on three occasions to show that it will be an extremely dangerous thing to put the country back into a state of complete uncertainty The Attorney-General says first of all:From one point of view it is quite academic to discuss what the law will do in regard to this matter when this particular Section is repealed,"—academic, he thinks it—but the House is entitled to know our view upon it, and I will endeavour to explain it. Let me say at once, quite frankly, that it is a matter which is not free from doubt.If one turns over to column 201, he says:I speak about this matter with a great deal of hesitation and diffidence, and I hope that the House will not consider me guilty of impertinence if… I suggest that there is an element of doubt about the matter.At the bottom of the column he says—and this is the serious part:When we approach the circumstances of the general strike— —that is what he calls it—of 1926. we get, as I think, into that intermediate field between, on the one hand, the obviously revolutionary strike… and, on the other hand, the normal industrial strike…It is a question of fact in each case."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1946; Vol. 419, cols. 200–202.]I am sure hon. Members will agree that this is put forward as a matter of reasoning, but if that is so, suppose that one day we had a general strike again. I do not suggest for one moment that it will be a general strike engineered by the trade unions as we know them today, but it is not immaterial to quote from one case from which the Attorney-General himself quoted but did not name. Nevertheless, it is quite obvious what it was; it arose in the North of England, and will, I think, be of great interest to hon. Members opposite—it was the Tearse case. If in fact a general strike came along today, organised by bad men, for all men are not of the same mind as hon. Members opposite—what advice would the Attorney-General give to the Cabinet? He would have to go to them and say, "I 436 think it is a question of fact, I really do not know whether this is an illegal matter or not, it is one of those borderline cases." I feel that in a way he would be delighted, because once he has got rid of this Act, he has got rid of a great safeguard in these matters. If we look at Section 1, Subsection (3), we shall find that no further proceeding can be taken without the consent of the Attorney-General. The Government in the future will find themselves in a position of having to rely on the utterly odious procedure of prosecutions for criminal conspiracy—not the simplest, easiest and best method of dealing with the persons with whom they may have to deal. In circumstances such as those, will he turn to the Minister of Labour and ask his advice? We learnt last night that the right hon. Gentleman, whose patriotism is not in question at all, had in fact no idea that the action of his union was likely to coerce the Government. He had no idea whether it was legal or illegal. Consultation between those two would be quite hopeless, and, therefore, I ask the President of the Board of Trade to say, when he comes to reply, whether that is so.
I should like to quote—it is inevitable that somebody should—what Lord Justice Asquith said when he was Mr. Cyril Asquith:To legislation defining the laws of general strikes there can surely be no objection, either in principle or expediency. A country whose law gives no clear answer to the question whether a general strike is legal or not deserves a succession of general strikes to concentrate its mind.That of course is true. What we propose to do now is to take refuge in what the right hon. Gentleman thinks, without reference to those who will inevitably follow after—because they all go, sooner or later. We shall find that there will be no more thought about the impossibility of controlling human movements. There will be quite a different state of affairs; they will be saying that human movements of this kind really must be controlled, we must do something about it, we cannot allow this state of affairs. Conciliation has broken down, a great wave of sympathy which seems to be out of control is sweeping the country and we must do something about it, we must lay our hands on those persons who are undermining our authority.
437 Indeed, to say that human movements cannot be controlled is surely to underestimate the people of this country, who are reasonable, law-abiding and loyal. If the right hon. Gentleman will tell them tonight that, in fact, circumstances are such that general strikes are illegal and will not be allowed, they will understand it. There will not be an emotional wave, prompting the people to do something which the Labour Government, with all their power, say is illegal. But they have not said anything like that in this Debate, and one cannot help feeling concerned about it. May I use as a quotation the writing of somebody whom, I think, all hon. Members on the other side of the House would admire, a person who gives a perfectly honest opinion on a matter such as a general strike, who is one of their own number, and who at the present moment is acting on behalf of the Government in most important work—the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman)? I have not been looking about everywhere to find something of this sort; it is taken from a book I have had for some time and which I prize—" Government and the Governed," by R. H. S. Crossman. When we listened to the Foreign Secretary tonight we forgot all about direct action—those two words have never been used. This is what the hon. Member for East Coventry wrote:A variant of anarchy was the philosophy which, between 1905 and 1926, aroused the only truly revolutionary movement in Britain since the Chartists. British syndicalism saw no hope of revolution in the Labour Parliamentarians, and conceived the proletarian revolution in terms of direct action by the Trade Unions themselves. The strike was their weapon of emancipation, and the general strike their moment of revolution. Recognising that the anarchist abolition of central government was Utopian, they conceived of a new type of industrial democracy in which a Parliament representative of the producers should replace the bourgeois House of Commons. But the bulk of British workers remained true to the individualism of the Liberal tradition and the failure of the general strike in 1926 marked the end of the attempt to substitute direct industrial action for the political methods of Parliamentary democracy.I suggest most humbly to the back benchers on the other side—I can see quite well the difficulties in which the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench are placed over this Bill, and how they might possibly think it would have been better to have a different Bill and not 438 simply a straight repeal—that they should look into the future and see what may happen. It cannot always be summertime and roses. There are wicked people. I would like to give an exampleߞ1 will not be long, because I know there are many who are anxious to speak—an example which the learned Attorney-General spoke about. He did a little less than justice to the facts in one part of his argument, when he said that in fact this Section is so much dead wood. He went on:It is a striking commentary upon this Section that in the only case in which it has been sought to apply it to an actual strike, the decision of the judge and jury at the assizes was upset by the Court of Criminal Appeal on a point of law, with the result that the strikers were able to go away and laugh at the law. As this Section is a piece of mere dead wood upon the Statute Book we propose to get rid of it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1946; Vol. 419, c. 199–200.]What are the facts? He did not give them, but I happen to know them; a pupil of mine was engaged in the case and happened to get the alleged delinquents off. The case was The King versus Tearse and others—of which hon. Members will be able to find a report in the Library. It is an extremely interesting case to the Labour movement. It was a case in which members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, whom the learned Judge said called themselves Trotskyists and who operated through an organisation called the Militant Workers' Federation, were stirring up apprentices serving in shipyards on the Tyne. That is what those gentlemen were up to. The apprentices were much disturbed because they thought they might have to work in the coalmines. What in fact happened in the Court of Criminal Appeal was simply this. The persons who appealed had been convicted for acting in furtherance of an illegal strike, and the learned judge made a mistake. He laid it down that one could do an act in furtherance of a strike when in fact the strike had not started—a preliminary act. The Court of Criminal Appeal said he was wrong and had made a mistake, and that is all.
I can assure the House that that sort of thing is happening day in and day out. Judges do make mistakes, but that does not mean that the Act is unworkable; nothing of the kind. It is quite wrong to use that case to try to persuade hon. Members of this House that that section was a bit of dead wood. It is absolutely 439 contrary to the facts. It is an astonishing thing, in view of that decision in the Court of Criminal Appeal, and it is a lamentable thing, to hear the Attorney-General of England say that "this Act has caused a feeling that the courts of their country had been turned against them." Nothing could be more false; there has hardly been even an attempt to use it. Indeed, the Act was used in a manner which I hardly think hon. Members opposite would say was improper, if they will read the case. It was hardly likely that anybody could tolerate the kind of action that was going on. But a slip in law by the learned Judge is used to convince those who are not legally minded that it is a hopeless and unworkable Act.
The Government, no doubt, hope that there will not be anything in the nature of a general strike. I have no doubt that the Government also pray that that will be so. But if, in fact, it does come about, in my submission and in my honest belief, those who tonight are going to take away this present Statute and go back to the bad old days of criminal prosecutions for conspiracy will be cursed for doing it. But they have led hon. Members to the position of having to carry this through, when indeed there were many matters which could have been kid before them. It could have been stated that there was a great deal more in it than they might realise, there was a great deal in the Act that was worth while, but they have led hon. Members to the point when, before the clock reaches 9.30, we shall be going back into a fog in the law, which, I venture to predict, will not be altered by any single thing the President of the Board of Trade has to say tonight. If he were to make a pronouncement that a general strike was illegal and could not be tolerated, it would be the act of a great statesman, but to leave it in this hopeless condition is exactly the contrary. It will be intolerable and lamentable, and indeed, the fog will be far worse than anything surrounding this House at this moment.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Captain Gunter (Essex, South Eastern)
It is almost impossible to be completely obedient to that happy convention of this House which requires that one should be non-controversial in one's maiden effort 440 and, at the same time, to participate in the Debate on this Bill. I can only hope that amidst the grim growlings of the great cannons in front of us, the small arms section behind will be forgiven any indiscretions they may commit. It was said by the acting Leader of the Opposition yesterday that the presentation of this Bill was unworthy of the hour. I suggest to hon. Members opposite that the approach they have made to this subject has been unworthy also. I believe it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) who, in recent days, stated his opinion that the introduction of this Bill was naked power politics. Consequent upon that, various statements have been made from the Opposition benches from which we may deduce that it is a generally held opinion on the other side of the House that the Government are ruthlessly imposing upon the nation legislation for which there is neither general desire nor justification. Perhaps more important, it is alleged that the Government are seeking to use their great majority on these benches to obtain a sordid and unworthy benefit for their own Party needs, that they are seeking to obtain in this sordid fashion, the financial gain of their own Party, and are unmindful of those broad principles by which conscience and individual liberty are safeguarded.
It is to me, as a trade unionist, a tragedy that the approach of the Opposition to this subject should have been couched in such harsh terms. I feel that in view of the relationships that have grown up during the last 15 or 20 years, in view of the different flow of forces that has operated during that period, we might have expected, especially from certain Members of the Opposition, a more understanding approach to this problem. I have no hesitation in saying that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden is held in great respect by many on this side of the House. We had hoped, we believed in fact, that when this problem came to be considered, he would have had influence upon those from whom we expect very little, and we hoped there would be no repetition of the acrimony and bitterness of the atmosphere in which the 1927 Debate was conducted.
§ Captain Gunter
I submit that if this Government or any other Government set out to repeal a 19-year-old Act in a spirit of revenge, and with an unworthy desire to score over weakened political opponents, it would rightly deserve the condemnation of every thinking citizen of this country. There should be no place, in my opinion, in our public life for any person who would prostitute and debase this legislative Chamber to that end, however vindictive or malicious his opponents might have been. This Bill is nothing of the sort. While we have listened with considerable interest to the many speeches from the opposite Benches, while perhaps we would agree that they did not lack comprehensive knowledge of the many technicalities of the 1927 Act and that in many cases they have been erudite, I submit that there has been shown a complete and absolute ignorance of the real kernel of this problem, a complete failure—because of lack of experience, I assume—to understand the foundations of the trade unions and to understand how those organisations actually operate. We are compelled to ask, in consideration of these matters, not what the lawyers are thinking, not what they foresee, not what they understand. The real kernel of this problem is what the ordinary man, the ordinary sober trade unionist thinks about this matter. Let us dispense with legal quibbling of what is and what is not intimidation, and consider what the trade unionists think about it. I would admit there would be no great passion aroused in the mind of an engine-driver or a bus driver about the legality of striking or otherwise, or intimidation.
What has made the demand come forward, year by year, from our trade unionists for the repeal of this Act? That is something which, in my opinion; is essentially British, something arising from the deepest instincts of the British people, something that arises from the heritage that the trade unionists have obtained. It is an active and, I hope, an eternal rebellion against the authority of the State being used in an unjust and inequitable manner. Restrictive legislation, in the minds of the trade unionists of this country, has been imposed upon one section of the community, while other sections have not been brought within the meaning of this Act. That is the essence of the problem with which we are faced. In 1927 there was imposed upon certain 442 of our national institutions a new conception of government. It was something that had not been imposed upon all the institutions of our country. It must be confessed that the trade unionists of this country, at this time believed that there was a grave injustice done to them. The safeguarding of their members, and the improvement of the standard of their members, are the objects of trade unionists, and in the pursuit of those objects, they were compelled, by the very logic of events, to enter the political sphere. Does anyone in this House or outside imagine that the working-class organisations of this country could have got anywhere, had it not been that they themselves made possible political action? The power of those from whom they sought decency, the power of those from whom they sought the good life was too strongly entrenched in this very Chamber and, therefore, they were driven into the political field.
No one can deny that in modern conditions there is an increasing necessity for the State to be concerned with our industrial life. That very fact forced the trade unionists into politics. There was no other way. The power of the State at that time was almost completely in the hands of those with whom we had sought to contend. Therefore, in pursuit of their legitimate objects the trade unionists used the political levy. The government of the unions was and is democratic. It has at its foundation the opinions of the rank and file of its membership. I submit, in consideration of this operation of the Act, that the minority have always had freedom of expression, and in my experience have not failed to use it. They could and, in fact, did, abstain from paying their political contribution. There were those who completely abstained from trade union membership. But if the benefits arising from political pressure accrue to those people, I cannot for the life of me understand why this form of government was deemed wrong in 1927 when the policy was determined by ballot of the members, and when there was specific provision made for persons in a minority, to abstain from paying for a policy from which they dissented. This was a form of government in the best tradition of our country.
The sensitiveness to individual liberty is, in my opinion, wholly good. This, in 443 my view is paramount, provided the persons whose liberty and conscience you are mindful of, the persons for whom the Conservative Party was so anxious to legislate, do not debase the liberty given them by sordid selfishness; provided this minority does not obtain the benefits others have paid for, by a hypocritical new-found faith. There was this opportunity before the Act of 1927. Why this desire, in 1927, to change the conditions? Because at that hour, as has been repeated from these Benches so often, the Labour movement was weak and the opportunity had come. It was another challenge to liberty. It was not a hurt to conscience or threat to liberty that the Government of 1927 saw in the trade union movment. They, in my opinion, mutilated the highest conceptions of ordered government and liberty by this Act. They imposed upon trade unionists a mechanic of government that they did not impose upon any other organization. There is a conviction in the minds of many hundreds of thousands of trade unionists that this was a punishment. The action now being taken to remove it is good, if for no other reason than that from the minds of these hundreds of thousands a sense of inequality and injustice will be removed.
Tonight and yesterday we have heard much about 1926. Those are far-off unhappy days. It is my conviction that we all have made immeasurable strides forward in the last 20 years in the realm of conciliation, in the realm of negotiation. We have come a long way. We have learnt much in that time. The problems at this time are many and grave. The relationship between the State and State employees, provides us with a complex problem, but I wish that the Opposition would remember that so much that is good in our Constitution is the outcome of reliance on the loyalty and common sense of the ordinary folk of this country. You cannot legislate for every possibility that may arise in the modern State, but I am convinced that the inherent decency of our people will make restrictive legislation unnecessary. So I submit that in repealing this law, which was conceived in bitterness, we are removing a festering sore, and one which if left, would do untold damage to our efforts to solve the ever growing governmental problems of tomorrow. If, in the years that lie ahead, 444 the complexities of modern government demand clarification of the status and responsibility of organisations of employers and employees; if their relationship to the central government of the State is in some way to be defined, let us approach that problem with a common desire to see justice and equity as the foundations of our legislation. But these problems, that must inevitably arise, cannot be settled and hammered out so long as this festering sore remains inside the trade union movement. We have to remove it. In good will and understanding and in a widening conception and understanding of our responsibilities in the State we can approach this matter with common sense.
In conclusion, I submit that the trade unions revealed during those past and desperate days a deep understanding of true national interest. They have clearly shown that they will not be the puppets of any ambitious politicians. They seek to exercise their functions with reasonableness and discrimination, and I submit that they are the outcome of the best in our history. Let us, then, remove those things that rankle in the minds of so many; let us remove this constant source of trouble; let us give to the trade unions and to the community that justice which is all that the trade unions ask—equality before the law. I commend the Government for having brought before this House, at this time, a Bill that will open the door to fresh and enlightened understanding of the problems of tomorrow.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
I have great pleasure in offering the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex (Captain Gunter) the congratulations of the House upon his maiden speech. He began by asking for avoidance of acrimony, which was welcome to the ears of most of us, and he finished up in a temper of good feeling and with the language of conciliation. That is a good beginning, if he will permit me to say so. It is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary had not heard him and taken an example from the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I fancy that the speech of the Foreign Secretary will go down in history as one of the most amazing, unjust and inappropriate outbursts ever delivered in this Chamber. It contained a series of the most violent personal 445 attacks on the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), in his absence. I wonder if he gave the right hon. Gentleman any notice? The Foreign Secretary had better watch his step when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford returns. There was one thing about the Foreign Secretary's speech to be commended. He let the cat out of the poke. He made it abundantly plain that there is no reasoned case for this Bill at all.
The only excuse for the Bill, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman himself, is that certain trade union leaders suffered personal pique at the time of the general strike, which touched their pride and has rankled in their hearts ever since. The Foreign Secretary told us, in the bluntest language, that the Act of 1927 has done the trade unions no harm. Then what is wrong with it? He told us: it left a stigma upon him, Ernest Bevin, the great Foreign Secretary of this country. I say, with great respect, that I hope that the same attitude of personal pride and pique on the part of the Foreign Secretary will not damage our relations with other countries in the critical debates now taking place.
The right hon. Gentleman gave us another home truth. He made it abundantly clear that he neither apologises for nor regrets in any way the General Strike of 1926, which he described as a strike not against the State at all. It was, in the Foreign Secretary's view, a sympathetic strike of which he approved. I am not to be the judge of the right hon. Gentleman's actions, but I quote the testimony of a colleague of his to show whether, in fact, this strike of 1926 was such an innocent thing as the right hon. Gentleman wants us to believe. I should have thought that Mr. Cramp knew something about the strike of 1926, and this is what he said:In order that the General Strike might be successful it was necessary to enforce (sic) the resignation of the Government.I invite the House to listen carefully to these words which follow:In spite, therefore, of the General Council of the T.U.C.'s denials made during the strike, and obviously for the purpose of reassuring the timid, the issue was a constitutional one.So the statement by the T.U.C. was merely bluff. He added that, if success- 446 ful, that strike did involve a revolutionary change in their methods and it was well to face the fact.
§ Mr. McAdam (Salford, North)
Does the hon. Member suggest that at that particular time Mr. Cramp was a colleague of Mr. Bevin?
§ Mr. Stewart
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that Mr. Cramp did not speak with some authority in Labour and trade union circles?
§ Mr. McAdam
The question was that Mr. Cramp at that time was a colleague of Mr. Bevin. My point is that Mr. Cramp, at that particular time, was not a colleague of Mr. Bevin, because Mr. Cramp was not a member of the British T.U.C. General Council.
§ Mr. Stewart
I do not think that the House wants to quibble about this matter. The Attorney-General in his speech yesterday not only confirmed the views that many of us have held, and which are embodied in the Amendment on the Order Paper in the names of myself and hon. Friends, he not only said that the state of the law in 1927 was in doubt but, what is much more disturbing, the Attorney-General let it be clearly understood that, at least, he was in doubt whether the general strike of 1926 was a thing to be condemned, a thing that was unconstitutional, an action that was wrong. Let me be plain about this. I speak as a Liberal and found my views on the declarations of Liberal leaders. During the course of the general strike, on 8th May, 1926, Lord Oxford wrote:A general strike, such as that which is being sought to enforce, is directly aimed at the daily life of the whole community.… We should have lost all sense of self-respect if we were to allow any section of the community at its own will, and for whatever motives, to bring to a standstill the industrial and' social life of the whole nation. It would be to acquiesce in the substitution for free government of a dictatorship.That was the Liberal view then, and I and my hon. Friends stand by that Liberal view now. I regret that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) did not appear to be quite clear on that Liberal principle yesterday. It is no use, as an hon. Member said yesterday, to say that the general strike was merely a great spontaneous emotional effort on 447 the part of the workers. It will be within the memory of hon. Members opposite that as long ago as 1919—two years before the time from which the Foreign Secretary began his history today—Mr. Clynes discussed this very matter at the Trades Union Congress at Glasgow and said:. I have no doubt that we shall be told that this new-found and ill-digested policy is worth a trial. Those who have thought this matter out know that in giving it a trial they would begin by paralysing our industries and our whole social system. That paralysis would affect first and worst, the masses of the poorer population. You cannot do it without anticipating a condition of civil war.Let us therefore be clear that this strike of 1926 was a long premeditated effort. It is this premeditated, unconstitutional act, which, in itself, is a challenge of the sovereignty of this House, and it is a challenge that we who sit on these benches seek to make impossible of repetition. There is no doubt at all that is the traditional Liberal view, but it was also the view the Labour Government had in 1931. It is interesting to note that in 1930 within the first year of the Labour Government's term of office the Labour Cabinet, impressed with the events of 1926, itself decided to retain in the Bill the definition of an illegal strike. The Attorney-General said:My object is to prevent and render illegal the political strike and to safeguard the industrial strike."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd January, 1931; Vol. 247, c. 399.]He laid down as his first proposition, that any revolutionary or political strike or lockout was illegal. Why do the Government take a different view today? Has anything arisen to alter their view? Is it as the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) said yesterday, that the Labour Party has one set of principles when in power, and another set of principles when in office. If that is so, it is an unworthy Party to occupy so great a position in our land. It is true the Liberal Party opposed the 1927 Act on Second Reading, but it is also true that they did their best by putting down an Amendment to Clause 1 of the Bill to set out what the country clearly wanted to be done.
§ Mr. Stewart
They opposed the Second Reading because they thought Clause 1 was not adequate and they put down an 448 Amendment which was supported not only by Sir John Simon, as he then was, but also by Mr. Lloyd George and other Liberal leaders. The Amendment was in these words:notwithstanding anything in the Trade Union Acts, any combination, whether of employers or of persons employed, the main object of which is to coerce the Government or Parliament, as distinguished from furthering a trade dispute, by means of concerted and simultaneous refusal to continue employment or work, is an unlawful conspiracy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1927; Vol 206, c. 663.]That was the Liberal view then, and I claim on behalf of my hon. Friends that it is the true Liberal view now—
§ Mr. Stewart
—and a correct definition of Liberal policy. Why was the Amendment moved? [Interruption.] I have very little time left and I promised Mr. Speaker to occupy only a certain time. I am doing my best to keep to that undertaking. I know that the Liberal Party at that time spoke for the greater part of the nation. May I quote from what Lord Simon said in supporting his Amendment?It is a declaration which some people, at any rate, think might be of some use, if a situation arose like that which, in my view, did arise not so long ago, when all the wisest and most moderate leaders of the trade unions were wholly opposed to an extreme measure which was being urged by people much more foolish than themselves, but when they, at any rate, had not got a clause to which they could point and say: ' You must remember that, for good or for evil, this is quite plainly recorded by the Statute law of the land as a thing which is not within the law."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1927; Vol. 206, c. 668.]There is no doubt at all that when the Astbury judgment was announced, eight days after the general strike, it had a profound effect upon those conducting the strike. I quote from Viscount Samuel's-latest book. As hon. Members are aware he was in the closest consultation with the trade union leaders at that time. He writes:On May 11th Mr. Justice Astbury, trying, a case arising out of the general strike, pronounced that it was not ' a trade dispute ' within the meaning of the law, and that the leaders could not claim immunity under the Trades Dispute Act, 1906. This created a very serious situation for the members of the T.U.C. Committee and their supporters.449 There is no shadow of doubt that that judgment brought the general strike more quickly to an end. History proves and justifies that a prohibition set in a Statute of this House has the effect of causing men to hesitate before they do something which is going to be wrong.
I have just a little time left and I propose in a few words to deal with two other matters in the Bill. As regards the Civil Service, I stand here to express the same Liberal view as that expressed by the Party in 1927 and later. I very much desire the Civil Service to have that freedom that all other men enjoy, but it is against all sense and it is against all proper administration to open the doors so that the Civil Service may go to a trade union or other conference and express their views upon political matters, and upon political figures, including Members of the Government. It is an impossible situation and has always been declared wrong, not only by the Liberals, but by sensible men within the Labour Party itself. The present Lord Chancellor made his own view very clear in 1931. He said:I entirely agree that we must keep the Civil Service outside the storm and stress of Party politics.…And I invite hon. Members opposite to listen to this view of the present Lord Chancellor who, as Sir William Jowitt, was Attorney-General in 1931:… any Government which introduced what is called the ' spoils system ' into this country would not retain the confidence of this House for a day."…[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd January, 1931; Vol. 247, c. 413.]I heard some of that "spoils system" advocated yesterday at Question Time by hon. Members on the Labour benches. It was a disturbing experience.
In regard to the political levy my Friends and I take the view that a political levy is not altogether dissociated from the wider question of intimidation. We stand here for the old-fashioned liberty of the individual and I make no apology for doing so. I say that the political levy as it was employed up to 1927 did in many cases cause intimidation as well as mental agony to many.
§ Mr. Stewart
The anti-intimidation provisions included in the 1927 Act were supported by the Liberals and will be supported by them 450 now. There are two other comments which I wish to make. In the Amendment which is on the Paper, but which you, Mr. Speaker, found yourself unable to call, we make it plain we thought a great opportunity had been lost by the Government at this time. Since 1927, there has been immense change in the status, power and responsibility of the trade union movement, and we must face the consequences of that. The unions are taking a supremely important part in the almost day-to-day administration of our affairs. There is scarcely a matter of importance coming before the Cabinet which does not affect trade unionism, and on which the unions are not in fact consulted. They have risen to such a state now that they are invited to become part of the United Nations Organisation.
I and my hon. Friends welcome the opportunity being given to organised workmen, and employers, too, to take part in the government of their country. This ought to have been the occasion for the whole relations of the trade unions with the Government to be codified. Let us give them all the opportunities and possibilities. But in the codification there must also be set a limit to their rights and duties. That is vital. My hon. Friends and I are prepared for that, and regret very much that this Government have failed to take this great chance of offering the trade union movement the charter which they deserve at this time.
We cannot look at this Bill without looking at its background, and the circumstances which surround it. During the Election, we were told by Labour candidates that if the mines were nationalised, the psychological effect on miners would be so marked that more coal would be produced. That has not proved to be true, and the reason is because no one in the Labour Government understands psychology. They did not understand it then, and do not understand it now. I have just come back from my constituency. The people there do not want this Bill. What they do want, as was mentioned in the Labour pamphlet at the time of the Election, are homes, jobs and work. What do they experience now? Half the fishermen in my constituency are idle; 25 percent. of the workers in the largest industrial town there are idle. Hundreds of sites have been serviced ready for houses, but we can get no houses because the Ministry of 451 Works will not provide them. We are sitting on a coalfield from which supplies are less than ever before. These are the conditions which the people suffer. This Bill is a gross misuse of Parliamentary time. It should be thrown out and we shall do our best to that end.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)
The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) will forgive me if I do not attempt to follow him in what he has just said, except to say that his speech reminded me of the fact that the Kingdom of Fife is variously represented in this House, and that his great illusion that he is a Liberal, can cause us no real harm. I do not wish to speak for long, but I want to deal particularly with one matter which has been touched upon in the Debate, namely, the question of the legality of the general strike. The Opposition, of course, are in a considerable dilemma, because if they argue that the general strike of 1926 was legal, and do not want it to be legal, and, therefore, want to oppose this Bill, then they throw over all the great Tory lawyers who said that it was illegal. If they stick to their lawyers, and say it is illegal, then their reason for getting anxious about this Bill is very much diminished. I could as a matter of fact quote from plenty of Tory lawyers, who say that the general strike was perfectly legal, if I wished, but I do not want to trouble the House now.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) made an appeal to the Government to make the law clear. That was the sort of notion which can be forgiven in a layman like the temporary Leader of the Opposition, but can hardly be forgiven in such Members as the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) and the hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Nield). They were in error in thinking that you can sit down and make a law to deal with a complex situation, which will not only be clear in its expression, but will enable you to decide, by putting a penny or a guinea into a slot, whether a strike is legal or not. The truth is that, when you come to the actual application of these things, the task is difficult and complex. You have to ascertain the motive of the strike, for instance, and whether it is likely to intimidate the Government. I am reminded that George Bernard Shaw once described democracy as "intimidation of 452 the Government by the governed." The demand to make the law clear in that sense is one which cannot practicably be met. The hon. Member for East Fife said that it was a gross waste of time to introduce this Bill when the Government ought to be introducing another Bill, and asked why the Government did not use their election-sent opportunity to deal with the whole of the law, and clear it up. One answer is that if the Opposition think that they will persuade this Government with their big programme, to use their draftsmen and lawyers to draw up a great new mass of legislation for the trade unions which would take weeks of Parliamentary time, then they are very naive. The Government are very much more intelligent than to fall for that one. The answer may very well be that the Government are pledged to this repeal, and mean to carry it through.
If we go back to the law as it was before the 1927 Act was passed we shall not go back to a legal position that is very bad. We know that nobody, in 1925–26, clamoured for amendments in the trade union law, and that the strong Conservative Government of the day did not think of altering the law at that time. They claimed, stoutly, that the law was sufficient to deal with a general strike, and in view of that I do not need to say much more about it.
It was said by the Opposition that the Government, by legislating in such a way, were thereby encouraging strikes. It might as well be said that by better equipping an Army you were thereby making it much more likely that there would be war. There are moments when that happens, but there are moments when it does not. The plain truth is that it is very likely that by making a just, freer, and easier law, which makes it easier for workers to strike there will be far fewer strikes. Workers might have a sense of grievance and frustration, but they have knowledge that, if it comes to a necessity, they can do what they do not want to do—strike. For every strike that happens, there must be hundreds of thousands of disputes which are settled in the light of the knowledge that men can strike. If the law is free and reasonable, then you are assisting in a just solution not merely of one strike, but of a thousand and one disputes.
One or two speakers were good enough to tell us that they gave the trade union 453 movement this or that freedom, and pointed out that the Conservatives had passed far more social legislation than the Labour Party, when the Labour Party were not there, and far more social legislation than the Liberals, when the Liberals were there. In fact, the Tories never gave the workingclass anything. The workingclass fought and struggled for what they could get, and now what they are going to get will come in an orderly, full, flow, because they have wrenched political power from the Tories. The nearest approach the Tories ever got to giving anything to the workers which was not wrenched from them was when they thought they could spite Liberal factory owners by doing so. We have heard a lot of sanctimonious nonsense about terrible hardship, brutality, and intimidation to the working man who is told, "Join this union. If you do not want to subscribe to the Labour Party because you are mad enough, or indifferent enough, to want to subscribe to another you must say so, even though perhaps the man in the street will tell you that he thinks less of you for it." What do employers, producers and manufacturers do? They say, "Join our union, or you get no supplies, no licence, if we can stop it." That is called freedom, and I have not heard anybody on the opposite side of the House suggest that a Bill should be brought in to legalise the intimidation of manufacturers by other manufacturers.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Colonel Ropner (Barkston Ash)
Much as I am tempted to reply to the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) I hope he will forgive me if I do not do so on this occasion. There is often room for compromise between the conflicting views of Members who sit on the benches opposite and those who sit on this side of the House, but in my view there is no room for compromise in the principles contained in the main enactments of the 1927 Act. I believe, and I think all Members on this side believe, that the main provisions of the 1927 Act were just and right and, conversely, that this Bill, which seeks to repeal that Act, is wrong and unjust.
Those who were in this House in 1927 and were Members of the Labour Party at that time, and who spoke and voted against the Second Reading of the 1927 Bill, had at least this excuse04— hat they 454 did not understand the contents of the Bill, and were unable to appreciate accurately what would be the result of the Bill after it had been enacted. There were, I think, two reasons which accounted for the confused and ill-advised judgments which they passed on the 1927 Bill. In the first place, the phraseology of that Measure was ambiguous and uncertain in many respects, and it was necessary, as in fact happened, that it should be amended in Committee. Secondly, the Bill had been condemned in advance by the Labour Party with such vehement hostility and prejudice-that they were rendered quite unable to bring any reasoned criticism against it. In spite of the assurances which were given by the Government that every consideration would be given to Amendments in Committee; in spite of assurances concerning what was really intended by the Bill, such was the extent of the misunderstanding or misrepresentation or self-deception with regard to its provisions that the Labour Party in this House persuaded themselves but not, I think, the electorate, or the rank and file of the trade union movement, that their fears were well-founded.
May I give the House three extracts from speeches which were made by Members of the Labour Party during the Second Reading Debate in 1927:… it will no longer be within the power of a workman, except at the expense of becoming a criminal, to terminate his contract."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1927; Vol. 205, c. 1374.]There can be no strike, legal or illegal, under the present Bill."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May,1927; Vol. 205, c. 1505.]The Bill as it stands makes it utterly impossible for any strikes of any substantial magnitude to take place at all."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1927; Vol. 205, c. 1583.]I have many other quotations here which, in the light of experience, sound positively fantastic today. After 20 years experience of the working of the 1927 Act, we are able to say that those fears were completely unjustified, and have not been realised. There can be no excuse for hon. Members opposite repeating them in this House in 1946. In my view, there is no demand from the rank and file trade unionists for the repeal of the 1927 Act. On the contrary, I believe that those who remember the general strike as well as I do, and remember the tyranny which was exercised over trade unionists before 455 1927, are grieved at the folly of the Government in introducing this Bill, in order to fulfil a pledge which was given 20 years ago without any sort of experience of its enactments, and which was actually given before the Bill had been printed, let alone studied or understood. If there is any demand for the repeal of the 1927 Act, it comes from the trade union bosses. We heard a trade union boss making a speech earlier today from the Government Front bench. The Foreign Secretary admitted that he had kept that speech in his pocket for the last 20 years, and those who heard it appreciated that it was far from applicable to the circumstances of today.
Let me quote some words used by Mr. Sexton in the 1927 Debate. It is true that he was not talking about trade union leaders, but I think the cap fits very well:They think that their own particular little circle is the whole world and they form their opinions accordingly."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1927; Vol. 983, c.1506.]The fact is that just as the German war lords never forgot, and planned to revenge, the defeat of 1918, so the field marshals, the air vice marshals, and the admirals of the trade union hierarchy have not forgotten their rout by the supporters of constitutionalism in this country in 1926. I think the simile might be taken a little further. Just as the Kaiser ran away after defeat in 1918, so the leaders of the trade union movement ran away after defeat in 1926. Again, intimidation was one of the chief weapons in the armoury of the National Socialists in Germany— intimidation not only of men but of their wives and of their children. The most sinister forms of intimidation will again be legalised if the 1927 Act is repealed. And again, Germany waited 25 years, years of preparation, before plunging the world into a second general war. I ask the Government to say categorically whether or not this is the first step in preparation for a second general strike.
There is one other striking similarity between the methods of the National Socialists in Germany and the Socialists of this country. The Germans made a levy to pay for rearmament. The levy, needless to say, was professedly voluntary, but, still more needless to say, it was in fact compulsory." Guns instead of 456 butter," was the cry of the National Socialists of Germany. "Guns instead of dried eggs," is the cry of the Socialists of this country. The pennies of the trade union movement to support the big guns, the big bosses of socialism, but no dried eggs for the people of this country, and very little of anything else.
There will be many opportunities in Committee of discussing all the Sections of the Act which this Bill is seeking to repeal, but in opposing the Bill now I close by repeating that I believe that its provisions allow of no compromise and that we on these Benches have the support of instructed and unprejudiced opinion in the country, and, not least, within the ranks of the trade union movement, which I have always sought to foster and encourage.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)
During the Debate we have heard that when members of a trade union had the opportunity to contract out, there was a good deal of intimidation and coercion. What are the facts? Despite all that has been said the registrar had only 66 complaints of that nature for the 12 years prior to the 1927 Act out of a total of 5,000,000 trade unionists. The 1927 Act opened the way for Quislings to take action against trade unions, and in my own organisation a Quisling, prompted and helped by a Tory newspaper, instituted an action against my union. Among the serious charges he made was that the union had actually taken shares in the "Daily Herald." We had to appear before the registrar, who said that he read the "Daily Herald" regularly, along with other newspapers, and that the only complaint he had against it was that in that morning's issue it had failed to report the Eton and Harrow match of the previous day. Despite the fact that the registrar gave us a clean bill of Lealth, this Quisling fought the case in court, and, although we won, it cost us no less a sum than£ 5,106 9s. Id. Because he was a man of straw, nothing could be got out of him— not even the odd penny.
If a union considers that political action to improve conditions is preferable to strike action, then I maintain that the union should be free to spend its money as the majority decides, free of all this contracting in and contracting out. Every time a Bill comes before this House that 457 affects vested interests we are bombarded with leaflets and pamphlets. But do the shareholders of those firms have to contract in or out, before the firms take political action? I say that we should be as free as they are. In conclusion, I express the hope that we shall have an immense majority for wiping this Act from the Statute Book.
§ 745 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
We have had a long and interesting Debate, and it is part of my duty to sum up the case as we see it from this side of the House. I feel sure that the main impression that has been left on our minds, apart from a few irrelevancies, perpetuated mainly by senior Cabinet Ministers, is that the ordinary rank and file of this House have carried through the Debate with a deep sincerity of feeling, and I will, if I may, deal with the important issues before I deal with the irrelevancies of the Cabinet Ministers, notably the Minister of Labour and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, at the end of my remarks.
First let me refer to a maiden speech made by an hon. Member, one of the rank and file on the other side of the House, who sits for my own county, the hon. and gallant Member for South East Essex (Captain Gunter). I feel certain that the House will be with me in congratulating the hon. and gallant Member on his maiden speech, which was not only clear but had that ring of sincerity in it which is always appreciated by this House. He was good enough to make some reference to me, and said that he was surprised that I had definite views on this subject. I can only tell him that, in the course of political life, we cannot always be agreed on one side of the House and the other. I have had the honour of being in close agreement with many trade unionists in the course of my public career, particularly upon the education proposals, and I say, without hesitation, that without the trade councils and the trade unions, it would not have been possible for me to reform the law relating to education in the manner I desired. I feel sure that that co-operation will continue in the many fields in which we desire to bring about reforms of that character, and I feel sure that the long period of co-operation between the House and the trade union movement will continue on things which really matter. But when we come to con 458 sider a matter of this sort, where in our opinion the Government are performing a purely political act, for the benefit of their own supporters, it is not surprising that some of us, who have been nurtured and brought up in beliefs which we hold equally sincerely with them, should have equally sincere ideas upon this question. It is therefore in that mood, invited by the hon. and gallant Member, that I proceed to an examination of the subject this evening.
The first matter to which I wish to devote my attention, is the speech of the learned Attorney-General. He spoke with great modesty and with that fervour which one always associates with the convert. He spoke with great feeling. I notice that his attire is more suitable today and that the red tie has departed now that he has performed his noble duty. It is usual on these occasions for the Attorney-General to have what is known as a benefit. I am not referring to the Insurance Bill, but to the term taken from football. This was certainly the case in the 1931 Bill, when it was introduced by the then Attorney-General, who has now risen to the giddy height of Lord Chancellor— to which, no doubt, the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite will rise himself. He certainly will if he maintains the standard of his opening speech on this Bill. This was his benefit, and he spoke at as great length as his predecessor did in introducing the Bill of 1931. It is therefore necessary for me to examine first his arguments which were, on behalf of the Government, somewhat related to the Bill, and that is more than one can say for any of his distinguished colleagues in the Government who have taken part in the Debate. I trust that the other Member of the learned profession who is to succeed him tonight, with his well known legal skill, will devote at least part of his speech to discussing the Bill for which his Government are responsible, and which they have brought to the House this evening.
What was the case put by the Attorney-General? Surely it was one of the most remarkable cases ever introduced by a learned Attorney-General in this House. To sum it up, the learned Attorney-Generalwas asking Parliament to declare that weapons which it has sought throughout our history hitherto to put into the hands of Englishmen so that they might defend their liberty, namely, the laws of this land, are of little or no account in this 459 vital constitutional matter. That is a most extraordinary case for an Attorney-General to put forward. I am not at all surprised that he had to devote a great deal of time and the maximum of dialectical skill to this impossible task. He took the view that the law was of no more value in this case than a pea-shooter would be in dealing with a rocket.
For the leading Law Officer of the Crown to come to the House on his "benefit" night and make that sort of statement is, naturally, to cast great doubt into the minds of the body of citizens of this country as to whether he or the Government for whom he was speaking are responsible people to whom the government of this country can be entrusted. What becomes of the rule of law in the face of this extraordinary statement of the Attorney-General? How often, during the past few weeks and months, when he has been doing his yeoman service abroad, has he, and have other Members of the Government, quoted the importance of the rule of law? How often have they referred to the remarkable fact that three countries came together in this island and how we ourselves, within the confines of our own land, depend absolutely upon the rule of law? How often have they appealed to foreign nations to join together in the United Nations and make the rule of law prevail in international affairs as it does in our affairs at home? In passing, let me say that I would not be speaking tonight if it were possible for my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), the former Attorney-General, to come back from Nuremberg to take part in this Debate. I should like to pay a tribute to him, and I hope that he may come back soon.
I would go on by saying that the learned Attorney-General really should try to be a little more consistent in his utterances about the rule of law. He is quite right to bring a human touch into his speech. It is always successful in this House. No doubt that extra grain of salt helped us to digest his remarks and make them more agreeable. The Attorney-General said that it was common sense not to try to stem a great human movement simply through the agency of a Bill or of a Section of the law. One certainly cannot stem a tidal wave by a hastily made sea-wall, or by the more familiar 460 method of sitting in a hole in the dyke. It is not usually successful, and it is damp, unpleasant and ineffective. That, we agree, is true, but, on the other hand, it is equally true that immense confidence is given to the citizens in low-lying-countries— here I would hasten to say that I am not referring to His Majesty's Government— thanks to the defences which are erected against the encroachment of the sea and which have been built as a series of tiers by the generations who have gone before. In exactly the same way the citizens of our country must not have their confidence shaken in the general defence of the body of law.
That is a mistake, and I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is to reply tonight will take the earliest opportunity of explaining why the Government have adopted this new policy. If the point of view of the Foreign Secretary is correct, that to remove a stigma is more important than to put the law right, I repeat that the Government are unfit to govern and to give guidance to the country in these critical times. On our side of the House we insist that the law should be as strong and clear as possible. On these matters we can speak with absolute and definite sincerity, just as can hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in this Debate. We do not for a moment accept the claim of the Attorney-General that the law as it will be left is strong enough to deal with what are admitted to be unconstitutional methods. My right hon. Friend the Member for Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) said weighty words to support that contention. In our view, the Executive must be properly armed.
The Attorney-General referred to this matter in his speech yesterday. He said:That is not to say, of course, that it is not the duty of the Government to deal with any strike situation which may arise.That is the difficulty into which those who adopt dialectical methods always get. In the end they are caught up. Although the learned Attorney-General made an attractive and successful speech, from the House of Commons' point of view, I maintain that it was fundamentally and absolutely unsound, thanks to some words that he used later on in the same column. He said:If the Government of the time, faced with any emergency of this kind, found that their existing powers were not adequate to deal with 461 the situation, then they could come back to Parliament and ask for whatever additional powers were necessary in the circumstances of that situation."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1946; Vol. 419, c. 203.]Surely, that is a classical example of bolting and barring the stable door once the horse is out. The Attorney-General has to acknowledge that it is necessary to come to Parliament for powers, after he has made an elaborate speech explaining that the law was not important. It is the height or depth of disingenuousness. to assure Parliament that, in the end, one would have to come to Parliament for the making of laws, but that you can only come after the event and when the general strike has been declared.
That is not the position that we adopt. I maintain that the speech of the Attorney-General, attractive and successful though it may have been, is completely holed by that statement. The Government should have come here and explained to us what law they want in substitution for the present law. They have given us no adequate answer on that point. The Attorney-General, as was pointed out in a most able speech by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude), has made it clear to the House and to the country that the law is to be left in a state of fog and uncertainty as a result of the Government's demarche which is most regrettable, as I shall show, at the present time in the history of trade unionism.
If the Government are forced into this situation, let us see where they are landing themselves. The Government have made a great case that Tory Measures in relation to trade unions are repressive. Their great case is that they are suffering from a stigma. Why do they not come to the House with a one-Clause Bill to remove the stigma, a declaratory Bill? Would not that be sufficient for them? It would leave the law as it is. Are the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is to reply to me, and the learned Attorney-General, really interested in the law or not? They must have some little vested interest in the law. I hope when the right hon. and learned Member replies he will tell us a little bit about the situation. I am a mere ordinary person, compared to the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is to reply, but the state of the law, as revealed to the layman upon the repeal of the 1927 Act, is that we go back to the fundamentals of trade union law, namely, to the Act of 462 a Conservative statesman, Mr. Disraeli, introduced in 1875, and to other Acts introduced by reputable and distinguished figures of what almost amounts to antiquity, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Mr. Asquith.
Is this all the modern Labour Administration can achieve.on this all-important subject? All they can do is to put us back to Acts framed by the statesmen of the past. On this vital question, so keen are they to make political capital with their own supporters, to remove some supposed stigma, that they have had to restore the antique four-poster bed designed by Mr. Benjamin Disraeli, with posts and hangings by Liberal leaders. Surely that is not the sort of couch on which we would expect the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General to place his frame. I know I have the sympathy of the leader of the Liberal Party on this matter. This is the sort of repose that the modern Labour Administration desires. We should not be surprised if this was a subject of little interest to the Labour movement. In the past, it might have been the prerogative of the Conservative Party, but in fact it is a subject which is of the most vital interest to the Labour movement. The Coalition which we see opposite is largely made up of members of trade unions. We reflect with some satisfaction on the stresses and strains which exist in the party opposite, on the rise of the "old school tie" on the benches opposite, and the rise of other elements. Trade union Members realise for the first time in the history of the Labour movement that they are not so sure about their majority within the Parliamentary Party, though, for the first time, they are certain that they are about to be made the main paymasters under this Bill.
If that is the position to which the Labour movement goes back, I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is to reply to give me a specific answer on the points raised by my right hon. Friend the acting Leader of the Opposition in his speech yesterday. Will the right hon. and learned gentleman tell us why, when the Labour Government was in office in 1931, he was prepared to bring a Bill forward amending the law in a manner with which we did not agree, but which did, at least, take some care of the legal position which would arise? Why was he prepared then to introduce 463 a Bill which in fact made a general strike illegal? Why is he prepared today to leave the matter completely vague in the "words acknowledged by the learned Attorney-General, and to leave the whole position totally uncertain? I trust that he will give us an answer.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) used a phrase which I should like to support. He said that the trade union leaders must be buttressed by the clarity of the law While some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen were getting their last refreshment snacks during my opening remarks, I claimed that we on this side of the House had, in many ways, most close association with the trade union movement, and that I, in my particular case, owed them a very real debt. That is the spirit in which we speak. It is in exactly the same spirit that we would desire to buttress the trade union leaders against the uncertainties and risks, which we believe quite sincerely— and this is a most serious argument— do threaten the movements at the present time. It is in our interests, and the interests of hon. Gentleman opposite, that in the trade union movement, constitutional and normal developments should continue, that its relationship to Parliament should be healthy.
We believe and hope that the issue of the trade unions versus Parliament has been settled. Again, we believe that, in the words of Disraeli, the trade union movement is a new repository of power. Hon. Gentlemen who remember Disraeli's writings will remember that he described the various repositories of power which have succeeded one another in the history of England— the barons, the Church, the King, have all succeeded one another, and Parliament finally remains the repository of power, with the trade unions working with it. They must work with Parliament if they hope to be a repository of power. I believe that this is an eternal truth. I regard it as most important that there should be frank speaking between Parliament and the trade unions— in fact that Parliament should do its job properly, that is to make the law clearer, so that the trade union movement and its leaders will know where they stand.
The Foreign Secretary is a great believer in frank speaking. Parliament should be 464 frank and not nebulous, as the bringing in of this Bill suggests. We would have understood the situation far better if the Government had taken the trouble to clarify the law; we could at least have debated it. Why is it that we want the trades unions buttressed? Because we honestly believe, and I think any sincere believer in trades unions on the other side would not disagree, that at the moment there are certain grave dangers to the movement. I have only a limited experience— but two short periods with the Ministry of Labour, and I also had the ordinary experiences of all of us in the industrial and political life. It has always seemed to me that the danger of the trade union movement is the rise of the various minorities. That, I believe, is the real danger in the breasts and mind? of the trade union leaders.
Reference has been made to the dock strike. I saw an article the other day in a document or newspaper, which I confess I do not regularly receive, and which is called "The Socialist Appeal." It is the organ of the revolutionary Communist Party, and here I do not think I need incite the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) unduly. It is the issue of November, 1945. If my documentation is correct, I must confess that this article contains some very alarming statements, to which even the most irresponsible Minister of Labour must pay some attention. It says:Never has a national strike movement in Great Britain shown so good an understanding of the role of the union leaders and the methods of combating their policies. This Donovan and the bureaucrats at Transport House have learned to their sorrow. Donovan organised a series of meetings, at which he tried to persuade the dockers to return to work. The Strike Committees of London and Liverpool made an excellent reply. Every branch member attended the union branch meetings. Donovan and the union officials were swamped out. This is the beginning of the end for trade union bureaucrats.Anyone reading that, must take it very seriously, and I wish to say quite seriously that we, on this side of the House, are absolutely at one with the trade union leaders in their attempt to combat that sort of thing. We believe that the constitutional role of the trade unions is most important, and that they cannot perform their task, unless they know where they stand vis-a-vis the law. That is why we are most anxious, in the face of the rise of 465 these minority movements, to see that the trade union movements have a strong law behind them, to enable them to deal with the difficulties which must be faced.
I want now to deal with one of the fundamental things in this Bill, and that is the profit motive. The learned Attorney-General and his friends opposite have come to this House because they know that there is a profit motive in this Bill. That is the increase—
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
On a point of Order. A withdrawal had to be made from these benches this afternoon of an insinuation that Members on the other side had a profit motive.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I have noted what the hon. Member said, and cannot accept it as a point of Order.
§ Mr. Butler
I withdraw nothing and regret nothing. I was about to make it clear that there is a definite profit motive in this business, through the. repeal of the system of contracting in and the substitution for it, of the system of contracting out. There have been various arguments used in this matter. The learned Attorney-General thought it right to say that we should be ruled by a majority rule, and that the minority must toe the line. The Foreign Secretary put it in another way. The Foreign Secretary asked, Was there any Tory club in which the system of contracting out did not apply? My answer is that there are thousands and, indeed, millions of trade unionists up and down this country who are not members of the Socialist Party, and it is we who speak— or try to speak, because we may not be worthy to speak— for them. We base ourselves upon the fundamental view of trade unionism— and this fundamental view was expressed by Sidney and Beatrice Webb in their book on "Economic Democracy" on pages 832 and 833, and surely nobody can object to or impugn the repute of these excellent authors. They said:Members of trades unions are not drawn as trades unionists unreservedly towards either individualism or collectivism. It is in their capacity as citizens, not as trades unionists, that the manual workers will have to decide between the rival forms of social organisation.We believe, in fact, that the Webbs were perfectly right when they claimed that the fundamental duties of the trades unions 466 are industrial. Nobody has any desire to keep them from the political field— it has certainly never been our aim— but their fundamental duties are industrial and we regard it as unjust that a majority rule should apply in this matter.
Now majority rule may be all very well in deciding matters through the ballot box, but in questions of taxation and finance, there is another old British rule, which is that there shall be no taxation without representation. Now if it be the case that this matter is absolutely fair, why is it that the trades councils— and I can quote a case in my own constituency— ruthlessly turn off their bodies a member who has political views other than their own, as has been done in the town of Halstead where I live? Why should that be? It means that the party opposite wish to coerce and impose their views upon minorities, and take their money at the same time. I am absolutely certain that the result of this policy of coercion— which the honest Conservative trades unionist naturally does not like, and against which he will rebel— is not British and it will not be successful. I tell the party opposite— because I am not talking to the Government but to the party opposite— that the result of this policy of coercion, the result of the hon. and learned Attorney-General calling in aid the vis inertia, which he mentioned will be to create yet one more big minority movement in the trade unions which they will have to beware of, a minority movement which will grow. That minority movement will be composed of Conservative and Liberal trade unionists, who resent the system under which they are obliged to pay into the funds of the party opposite.
I ask the party opposite just one more question. Certain of the unions are at the moment in danger of Communist usurpation. If they are taken over in any case by Communist leadership, what happens to the party funds? Under the majority rule they would have to go to the Communist Party—
§ Mr. Butler
Then we shall see the party opposite regretting this system of contracting out, in which they will have to indulge themselves.
§ Mr. Butler
I am afraid I cannot give way to the hon. Member. I have to give way very shortly to the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is to reply, and I have still a great deal to say.
§ Mr. Butler
I want to say a word about intimidation and the local authorities before dealing with the speeches of the Minister of Labour, whom I am glad to see in his place, and of the Foreign Secretary.
The question of intimidation is one upon which we have very deep feelings on this side of the House. We consider that the effect of the Act of 1906, read with the Act of 1875, allows the besetting of a man's house for purposes of peaceful persuasion. The great value of the Act of 1927— and this we feel most sincerely on this side of the House— is that it keeps the picketers away from the man's house in the numbers which we were warned by the Commission of 1906 were most dangerous to a man's individual liberty. There is no doubt that hon. Gentlemen opposite sitting here tonight may not think that peaceful persuasion, as it will be denned by these two Acts read together, is in the least dangerous, but we have had the testimony of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) tonight, in which he told us of the cases that were available at the Home Office. Similarly, we could all bring cases of our own to bear, but perhaps the most eloquent testimony is again the words of the Majority Report of the Commission of 1906— and this was signed by Mr. Sidney Webb, as he then was:A considerable proportion of the cases of physical violence which occur during times of strike arise directly or indirectly out of picketing. At the same time all the witnesses admitted that the real vice of picketing consisted in illegal intimidation,—These words are important because they deal with the Attorney-General's second point:that is to say, introducing in the mind of a person apprehension that violence will be used to him or his wife or family, or damage be done to his property, and some witnesses thought that picketing by one or two persons could not produce any injurious effect.That is a completely independent source, and that is the source from which the words "in the mind," to which the learned Attorney referred, were drawn to 468 be inserted in the Act of 1927. This was no act of Tory repression; it comes from the Ark of the Covenant, Mr. Sidney Webb, and the Commission of 1906. That shows precisely the loose form of argument that has been used on the opposite side tonight, and I think it indicates once and for all that if we depart from the law as we know it at present, the Englishman's home will not be his castle, and the form of mental intimidation which is even worse than physical intimidation, will be able to be indulged in.
I have no time to dwell upon civil servants, dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities. I simply want to say a word about local authorities. I believe we have a very important point of principle here, and in my discussions with hon. Gentlemen opposite, Members of the Labour Movement, I have often come to find that this is a point upon which they are a little bit shaky themselves. Is it, or is it not right that, when a man works for a local authority, if he be minority-minded, he should be coerced and forced to be the member of the trades union which the local authority designate? Is it right that any man working for a contractor should, automatically, become a member of a certain union? We claim that this is wrong in principle, that it is difficult to work out in operation, and it will only add, in our view, if the Act of 1927 is repealed, further difficulties to the general working out of the housing and other programmes, and to the work of contractors under local authorities. I think it is most regrettable that we should be obliged to submit to the repeal of anything of that sort.
Further, I would like to ask the Government whether it is their intention, in Committee, to listen to any suggestions for the replacement of Subsection (4) of Section 6 of the 1927 Act. In Subsection (4) it is laid down that certain services of local authorities, such as transport services and health services, shall be treated on the same level as gas and electricity are treated under the ordinary law. Surely it is unwise to let that go, because the citizens of this country have been suffering recently from strikes which have intimately affected their domestic life, and we consider that the same protection should be given to these services as are given to gas and electricity. 469 Now I come in conclusion to the highly irresponsible speeches of the Minister of Labour and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The Minister of Labour really showed himself a highly irresponsible Minister in closing the Debate last night The Minister of Labour, as we well know, is armed with certain powers by the previous Parliament, fought for and won by his friend the Foreign Secretary, namely, the Catering Wages Act of 1943. The Minister of Labour must know perfectly well, as everyone knows who has been at the Ministry of Labour, that if we want to put right conditions in the hotel and catering industry, the way to do it is through the Trade Board set up under that Act deliberately by Parliament, and not by irresponsible statements of a Minister which go behind the work done by his agents in this field of conciliation, and which naturally catch the front pages of the more sensational newspapers.
What were the claims the right hon. Gentleman put forward? This is a matter which the Opposition will press on future occasions. There was only one case in which we had the name of a certain restaurant, and we find that the form which he read out, is no less than 10 years old, that the practice to which he referred no longer exists, and that there is nothing whatever in the claim he is making in regard to the management of that institution as it is run today. We regard it as highly irresponsible, and if we are not much mistaken, when we press that the further papers he mentioned should be laid, and that the further cases he quoted should be cited to the House with names and instances; we shall, no doubt, find that the right hon. Gentleman has been as irresponsible as we feared he had been when making his remarks. What that has to do with this Bill I absolutely fail to see. Why in the eyes of the country the procedure of Parliament should be so travestied— and that is the main impression readers of certain newspapers have gained— I cannot make out. It is for the Opposition to get a statement from the Minister of Labour as to what he is getting at. He may take it for granted that in reforming abuses, we, on this side of the House, are entirely with him, but we would like to do it in the proper manner which is fair to those involved.
The whole case of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, after 20 years in 470 which he had waited to make his speech, was not that he is going to reform the law, which is his duty as a Minister of the Crown, but to wipe out a stigma. I think it is about time the Foreign Secretary got rid of his inferiority complex. I think he should realise that he is now on top, and that, while on top, he should speak with words that match his stature, which we have learned to admire in another connection. But what is the truth? The truth is that today is the birthday of the Labour Party, the 40th anniversary. It was essential for the right hon. Gentleman to get a little red meat for his supporters behind him, so that on this occasion he could, for once, have their warm and whole-hearted cheering. How often have we heard him enunciating his views on foreign policy, amid the frigid silence of those who sit around him? He indulged in a speech which was as wholly political and as wholly irrelevant as it would be at any other time during the last 20 years as it was tonight. I am sorry the speech was made. It seems to me that his idea of politics is totally false. If the right hon. Gentleman has been giving reminiscences I can give reminiscences. I might have been very young in those days, but I have some. idea of the motives of one man working in this matter.
The right hon. Gentleman made great play with a certain article referring to the monarchy. Now the Prime Minister at the time was Mr. Stanley Baldwin— now Earl Baldwin— and there was no doubt that his attitude was not one of vindictiveness. I know it is not customary for a junior to defend a senior statesman, but I propose to do so. Hon. Members on this side of the House, and on that side, know that Earl Baldwin's contacts with the Labour movement were not only sincere but effective. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite is going to give us reminiscences, I can say that this idea that the Act of 1927 was conceived in vindictiveness is a further piece of Socialist propaganda. Those who live by propaganda shall perish by propaganda. The right hon. Gentleman gave a totally false view of the general strike. In fact, he knows it is false and will have to confess it one day. What were the views of Mr. Cramp? I would like to read the views of a prominent official of the N.U.R. at the time: 471In order that the general strike might be successful it was necessary to enforce the resignation of the Government. In spite of the General Council of the T.U.C.'s denials made during the strike, and obviously done for the purpose of reassuring the timid, the issue was a constitutional one. If successful it did involve a revolutionary change in their methods and it is well to face the facts that in the circumstances prevailing during the general strike there is no half-way house between the ballot box and the machine gun. Where as we expected food supplies to grow scarce in a couple of days and business to come to a standstill.….That is the view of those who animated and inspired the general strike, and we maintain on this side of the House that the country wants no more of that and the country and housewives of the country have been quite sufficiently tired and put out by the strikes they have gone through recently, in the docks, the gas and electricity industries. This is no time for the Government to come to the House with a Bill which weakens the legal position, renders it uncertain, and makes doubtful what powers the Executive have in dealing with these matters. The truth is that the Government have decided to rely on the method of coercion rather than the method of Government by consent. They claim majority rule and they seem to desire the suppression of minorities. This is, as has been stated by me before, an act of power politics and of plutocratic politics rather than parliamentary government.How hath power corrupted, and how shall the mighty fall!
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Sir Stafford Cripps)
This Debate has now proceeded for two days and has in-included the contributions of several maiden speakers to whom I would like to offer my congratulations. Some of them came from my own trade union, and others from other trade unions and, not unnaturally, perhaps, they spoke on both sides of the House. But a great deal of the discussion is really irrelevant to the true issue raised by this Bill.
In 1927 a Second Reading was given in this House to a Bill which became the Trade Disputes Act of that year by a majority of 388 to 168. A confident Conservative majority then felt that it could safely revenge itself upon the Labour and trade union movement for the challenge to its power which had been evidenced by 472 the widespread sympathetic strike of 1926. Warning was given at the time by the then Opposition that the working class movement would not tolerate this piece of vindictiveness, and that as soon as the people gave the then Opposition power, the would remove that Act from the Statute Book. After 18 years that time has now come, and the claim for the reversal of the policy which has been put forward by the Labour Party at every Election since, during those 18 years, is now being presented to Parliament. It has received a clear mandate for that repeal.
That is a simple historical fact, and no amount of careful and legalistic argumentation can alter it. If anyone doubts that interpretation they have only to read the Debates which took place in this House in 1927 for so many days, when it became absolutely clear what was the basis of that legislation. It is indeed because of the inter-relationship between the trade unions and political development that has greatly grown over the last century that legislation on trade unions and their activities always raises such interest and engenders such warmth in this House of Commons.
We are not tonight discussing merely how best to regulate trade union procedure or organisation. We are discussing quite a different question— whether the workers are to be given every opportunity to maintain their power in our democracy or whether they are to continue to be hampered, as it was intended that they should be hampered, by the Act of 1927. Let me remind the House that the Act of 1927 was not an essay by Parliament to arrive at a just law for trade unions Legislation upon that topic had been a recurring incident of Parliamentary activity for nearly a century, and gradually, often happily in times of calmness, Parliament had worked out a series of rules and regulations by the 1920 S which had become recognised on all sides as tolerable and fair. The most recent Act then was that of 1913, an agreed solution of a difficult problem by all parties in the House of Commons, and the most basic Act was still that of 1875. These, together with the Act of 1906, formed a general accepted code which had been worked out in wisdom rather than in vindictiveness. There was no occasion for any general review of this satisfactory code of law, nor indeed did 473 the Act of 1927 attempt any such review. There was no Royal Commission or Committee which considered the matter or made recommendations upon it in 1926 or 1927. The trade unions were not consulted or asked for their advice or views.
The Act of 1927 had its origin in the fears and the head office of the Conservative Party, and was intended to alter what was the generally accepted law at that time in favour of one party, both politically and industrially. Surely, this unsavoury origin is in itself a sufficient condemnation, and a strong enough argument for its complete removal from the Statute Book, and for the return, not to some partisan legislation, but to that which all parties had accepted as satisfactory up to 1926. We are not suggesting now, as some people would seem to put forward, that a specially favourablelaw for trade unions should be passed by a Labour Government; far from it. We merely suggest the reversion to the earlier agreed laws passed under more reasonable Conservative and Liberal Governments than that which was in power in 1927.
The futility of any attempt to legislate against strikes and strikers has, surely, been amply shown during the course of the war, when all strikes of every sort and kind have been declared illegal, and when it has never been possible, even if anybody thought it desirable, to take any effective penal action against those taking part in a strike. Strikes will be stopped by good conditions of employment, decent and fair wages and proper treatment of the workers, and not by any laws passed or perpetuated by this or any other House of Commons.
There is one admission I am prepared to make on this matter, that is, that the Act of 1927 failed to achieve its objective. It has not prevented the winning of a large Labour majority in this House of Commons, as it was hoped by its promoters that it would. Despite their efforts to curb the power and influence of the trade unions and the political party to which they are generally affiliated, the Conservatives were soundly defeated at the last General Election, and the issue of the repeal of the Trade Disputes Act of 1927 was one of those elements of policy which led to their defeat. As was stated in the Labour Party's Election manifesto: 474The freedom of the trade unions denied by the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act of 1927 must be restored.There is one observation I should like to make on the course of this contest between the parties, which has been continuing since 1927. Twice in that period of 18 years the Conservative Party has had an opportunity of arriving at a compromise, once in 1931, when a mild compromise Bill was introduced by a minority Labour Government, a Bill which was distasteful to many who supported that Government, but which would then have been accepted as a compromise, but which was turned down by the Conservatives, and eventually defeated in a Committee of the House on the orders of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who, I very well remember, on that occasion, ended his speech with these words:Take it upstairs and—and as Hansard reports it—— cut its dirty throat." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th January. 1931; Vol. 247, c. 1022.]
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
I do not want to interrupt, but I well remember that was the advice given by the Leader of the Liberal Party to the Labour Prime Minister of that day.
§ Sir S. Cripps
That was the advice given by the right hon. Member for Wood-ford to the House of Commons. I was sitting there when he gave it. As a matter of fact, I think the reporter made a mistake about the penultimate word. From what I remember about the conversation it was something with a rather more sanguinary connotation. It is right in Hansard, but I was there, and the reporter made a mistake, according to my recollection.
The second time was during this last war, when an attempt was made to arrive at a compromise settlement, which the Conservatives again would not face, and they cannot now blame anyone but themselves if, tired at attempts at compromise, and consistent with their promise to the country, the Labour Government bring forward proposals for the direct repeal of the Act of 1927. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Wal-den (Mr. R A. Butler), with all that care which we know he feels and exercises for the health of the trade unions and their leaders, suggests that the party opposite 475 are largely actuated by their fear that if this repeal goes through, something may weaken the great trade unions of the future— infiltration of the Trotskyites, or something of that kind. Quite frankly, on that matter we prefer the advice of the trade unions and their leaders. They are certainly anxious that we should proceed with this repeal. A good deal has been said in this Debate about mandates and the verdict of the people, and the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) made the very surprising statement— perhaps not surprising from him but surprising otherwise— that mandates were of very little importance or interest in a democracy. I suggest to the House that that is rather a dangerous point of view.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
The right hon. and learned gentleman does not like being misquoted himself. Would he be kind enough not directly to mis-represent what I said last night?
§ Sir S. Cripps
If I made a mistake, I am only too willing to put it right. The hon. Gentleman must have said he attached great importance to mandates in a democracy.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Apparently then, the hon. Member does not know whether it is important or not. Whatever may be the general rule as regards that matter, in this case there is obviously peculiar importance attached to the decision of the electors— for this reason. During the days, as I have mentioned, of the Coalition Government, there was this attempt to arrive at a compromise. When that failed the Leader of the Opposition stated that it failed as a result of the refusal of the Conservative Party and told those who were then pressing for some modification, that the best way to decide it would be at the forthcoming General Election. He it was who suggested to the trade union representatives that that was the right occasion for decision. He stressed this as the way out of what otherwise might have been a difficult dilemma, and I am sure if he were here today in his place he would not deny two facts, first, that he asked 476 for a decision by the people and, secondly, that the decision was given against the Conservative Party with no uncertain voice.
In those special circumstances having been asked for by the Leader of the Opposition, it seems to me it is impossible for anybody to deny the validity of the decision which has been come to by the people of this country, unless, of course, one takes the view that one only approves such a decision when it agrees with one's own point of view, but that is not democracy.
Now let me come to the arguments which have been brought forward as regards the different Sections of the Act of 1927 which is to be repealed. We have heard over the years a great deal of erudite argument as to when is a strike a general strike, and is, or was, a general strike legal or illegal. I have already said that that point seems to me largely academic. Action by strike, or sympathetic strike, has long been regarded, and is now regarded, I hope, as the one legitimate weapon in- the hands of the workers against oppression and unfair treatment. As long as that instrument is used for industrial purposes, despite the discomfort it may cause to others, it is a legitimate weapon. The use of that weapon, though not to be encouraged, is certainly to be safeguarded so long as capitalism and private enterprise persists. It arises out of the struggles between the employers and the employees. If the employees themselves, say, in a syndicalist regime, were to take over the factories, obviously the strike factor becomes entirely unnecessary. Anyway, I am quite satisfied to argue this on the basis that capitalism will exist for another year or two in this country.
On the other hand, the attempt to usurp the power of the Government, whether by strike or any other form of revolutionary action, is, and always must be, contrary to the law of any democracy. It is in fact a revolution, and as such it depends for its success in setting aside the law. It has always seemed to me it is quite futile to try and stop revolutionary action by declaring it illegal, since it is the object of a revolutionary movement to set aside the law and it cannot have the slightest effect to make it illegal once more by so declaring it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden praised, 477 as I am glad to hear him praise, the rule of law. The rule of law does not depend upon everything being set out accurately in a Statute. Our Constitution is not written anywhere, but it is all part of the rule of law, and it is not always desirable, when we are dealing with difficult problems like conspiracy and matters of that kind, that they should be elaborated in a Statute. It is better, very often, that they are to be interpreted by case law, as they have been in so many cases in this country.
The danger of the Act of 1927 was not that it declared a revolutionary strike illegal, which everybody agreed was the case already, but that it brought, by an extended definition, a lot of strikes that were and should be legal into the ambit of illegality. That is what must be repealed because it does, as it was intended to do by its promoters, render illegal strikes which are perfectly legitimate so long as any strikes at all are permitted by law.
I was asked by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), and also reminded of it by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, whether I stood by my statement as regards general strikes that I made in a speech on the Act of 1931. Well, although I am now 15 years older, and perhaps not less stupid, I certainly do stand by that statement and I would remark that I never said then or at any other time that I thought it right to amend any part of Section 1 of the Act of 1927. That Bill of 1931 was a compromise agreed with the Liberal Party. They subsequently defeated it in Committee, but never mind; it was the best we could do to get, in the existing circumstances of a minority Government, some relief as regards this Act.
The Liberals, as they were perfectly entitled to do with that minority Labour Party, insisted upon maintaining a definition on making the general strike illegal, and, knowing myself at that time how large a part this issue had played in the by-election which I had just fought and in which I had been returned to this House, I certainly though that half a loaf was better than no bread. But, now that we can have the whole loaf, the half-loaf ceases to attract us. It did, in fact, then provide the greatest practicable relief which we thought, wrongly, as it proved, 478 we could get, and I believed them, as I believe now, that the proper way of dealing with this matter is by clean repeal and reversion to what was, on the whole, a satisfactory state of the law in 1926 before the passing of the Act of 1927.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) appealed for a greater certainty of the law. The law is certain enough within the ambit of legislation. It was only when we got to those novel conceptions which were sought to be introduced at the time of 1927 that there were uncertainties as to the application of the law to the facts. If anyone asks whether the strike of 1926 was legal or illegal, the first thing one would answer is, "Tell me the facts as regards the strike before I can give you an answer," and nobody can legislate for the facts of the strike of 1926. It would be far too complicated a piece of legislation, and, when one had done it, it would be quite useless
Let me pass to the question of intimidation. A complaint is here made that, by the repeal of the 1927 Act, the home of the worker who blacklegs will be liable to molestation and. his family to duress. No one can prevent the perfectly understandable resentment against the man or woman who will not join his or her companions on strike in a trade dispute. No law can make one man behave in a friendly way to someone he does not like-or whose behaviour he resents, but what the law can do, and has done since 1875, is to prevent any citizen from doing or threatening violence to another person. There were plenty of strikes between 1875 and 1927. There was a great deal of discussion over the subject matter of peaceful picketing, and, eventually, it was decided and laid down in 1906 that peaceful picketing, as there defined, was legal, and that was not questioned in this House until 1927.
The object of the Act of 1927 was not merely to repeat the known law as it existed in the earlier Statutes, but to introduce a completely new crime of the vaguest nature, and not directly and openly to introduce it, but to introduce it by a new definition of intimidation and injury. The passage which the right hon. Gentleman read out of the Report of 1906 was nothing but a recital of pre-existing law. It only covered threats of violence already covered by the law before 1927, 479 Apart from that new definition of intimidation, the rest of the Section is a mere declaration of the existing law. That new definition was included in order to weaken the trade unions in their power of peaceful persuasion. Intimidation was made to includecausing in the mind of any person a reasonable apprehension of his losing his employment or occupation.That is pretty obvious; it. did create apprehension if it was a question of a strike. It covered other points equally-absurd, one of which was illustrated by the case quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities— the Chester case. The right hon. Gentleman was right in his recollection of that case, except, I think, on one point, and that was that the interview was between one person and a recalcitrant trade unionist. It was supposed to have been a friendly interview, and all he told him was that, if he did not join the union, which he had a perfect right to refuse to do if he did not want to, he would have to report the matter to the employer, who would take action against him. That simple, friendly statement by one man— [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh but it was far more friendly than a lot of things that the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech. He intimidated the poor trade unions frightfully in his speech. Fortunately, he made it in this House; if it had been outside, he might have got five years.
The trade unionist is fully entitled to do what he can to try to persuade men to lake action to prevent a strike. He was perfectly entitled to do it, but. for so doing, was held to be guilty and the sentence was upheld by the Court of Criminal Appeal. Surely, any right hon. or hon. Gentleman must see that that is a fantastic and ridiculous result? Do they mean to say that a works manager may send for a fellow in his room and say to him, "Now look here, these people are likely to strike if you do not join the union. I am awfully sorry, but, unless you join the union, I am afraid we shall have to get rid of you." Is that intimidation? It certainly should be, if it is in the other case. Obviously, or it would not balance with this ridiculous position which had reduced the people to feel that the object and idea of intimi- 480 dation was merely to prevent people using or threatening violence. That was the satisfactory state of the law before 1927, and it is a state of the law which we believe should be repeated or returned to now.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
What about the position which may or may not arise as regards any industrial dispute? Would the right hon. Gentleman apply the same argument to local government?
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am afraid this does not apply to local government. It would apply to a local government employee, but not to local government. It would apply exactly to the same kind of people, whether private or public employers, and the intimidation Section does not make any difference one way or another. I am, for the moment, dealing with the intimidation Section, not being capable of dealing with two things at the same time. I am dealing with a different Section of this Act. I have dealt with the general strike, I have dealt with intimidation, and now I come to deal with the other points. Directly one gets out of this defined area, one gets into the vague area of psychological speculation, which is what is introduced by this new definition, which is quite unsafe for legislation and which we should keep outside the law. We certainly cannot base our law upon what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities suggested was the difference between a warning and a threat. That is a difference which, if the right hon. Gentleman tries to put it down on a piece of paper in the form of drafting, he will find very difficult. If I say to the right hon. Gentleman that, if he does not pay his Income Tax next year, he may get into trouble, is that a warning or a threat?
May I now come to contracting out and contracting in? This is a point that has been argued with considerable emphasis as to the unfairness to the individual trade unionist who is forced to contract out— or will be in the future if this Act is passed— instead of contracting in. This method was discussed and carefully worked out, as I have stated, by agreement with all parties, at a time when there was no excitement about this matter, in order to get the fairest decision. The decision come to was incorporated in the 481 Act of 1920, and I am not aware that the Act of 1927 made two pins of difference to that decision. Indeed, it was only when the strike of 1926 suddenly alarmed right hon. Gentlemen opposite, or their Party, because they saw the growing political power and consciousness of the workers and knew the workers were not behind them, that they said, "Ah, here is our opportunity. If we can change this round, we may be able to deprive our political opponents of some of the support which they would otherwise get." Indeed, they were so completely defeatist in their hopes of ever getting the trade unions to support them politically, that they sought to diminish the trade unions political fund, knowing there was no hope of their getting the benefit from it. It was, in fact, one of the most barefaced attacks on the resources of a political opponent that there has ever been in the history of this country.
Of course, both methods— contracting in and contracting out— secure the right of those who do not want to contribute, not to contribute. Both, equally, separate the sheep from the goats. Whether you mark the sheep or the goats, does not make any difference for the purpose of separation. And when a trade union has, by secret ballot, voted for a political levy, and a majority, therefore, have expressed themselves in favour of it, it is against all reason to put that majority to the further obligation of having to sign an individual form. It is unexampled in any other form of democratic institution in this country. It is, indeed, contrary to all democratic practice, because what you are doing is giving to the minority the privileges of the majority, and taking away from the majority their privileges and giving them the position of a minority. That, of course, was the very reason why this was agreed on the contracting out basis in 1913, and the only conceivable reason for changing it is the one I have already given. Does anyone believe that if the political funds then being dealt with had been the employers funds, a Conservative Government, or a Conservative majority, would ever have dreamt of dealing with them_ otherwise than by the 1930 Act, that is", by contracting out?
Now I come to the question of the Civil Service. The loyalty of the civil servant— which no Government has ever doubted— is not dependent upon his or 482 her trade union activities. It depends upon the traditions and the regulations of the Service itself. Now this is a curious fact. Civil servants are allowed to belong to political parties; they are allowed to mix in the milieu with people from outside, what ever their occupations may be. Why, then, should they be restrained in regard to the persons with whom they can mix on a trade union level? Surely, it is the purpose and not the trade unionism that is alleged to be dangerous? And you have this extraordinary anomaly. It is even more ridiculous if it is remembered that even at that date, in 1927, practically half the civil servants were not established and, therefore, not covered by this Act at all. Consider the position of two men working in one room, one of them allowed to join a trade union associated with the T.U.C. and the other one not so allowed, but both of them equally important from the point of view of their loyalty to the Service. The Act of 1927 did not stop civil servants striking. They could have struck either before or after the Act equally well if they had ever thought of doing so. All it did was to prevent them, on pain of loss of their established rights, from joining a union with membership from outside their own ranks or from associating with such a union in such a body as the T.U.C.
What factor had come to light in 1927 to make it either wise or right to impose that insult upon the civil servant? The answer is, of course, absolutely none. The loyalty of the civil servant has always depended upon the other factors I have mentioned, and no one imagined before 1927, even during the period of the strike of 1926, that there was any danger of a strike of the Civil Service, or that they were going to be adversely affected in their loyalty by associating with people from outside the Civil Service in trades union activities. The whole object of that part of the Act was to try to weaken the Trades Union Conference by withdrawing from it a very large body of civil servants such as Post Office unions and similar organisations. We prefer— and I believe the bulk of the civil servants take the same view— to return to the more sensible and dignified arrangement which ruled before the ill-tempered and irresponsible excesses of the Tory Party in 1927. The insult to the loyalty and intelligence of the Civil Service has, in our view, 483 already been too long on the Statute Book.
One of the points with regard to the Act of 1927 is the question of employment by local government and similar bodies. There the point is a very simple one. What reason is there to apply a different law to persons employed by a local authority to that applied to persons employed by some private employer? There has never been an answer to that question. There is no answer. If it is right, in one case, to say that we shall not make trades unionism compulsory, then it is right in both cases, but there is no conceivable reason for distinguishing between the two. Therefore, we say that this distinction between the two, again brought in merely with a view to try to pinprick and weaken the unions, I presume, is one that should not remain upon the Statute Book.
The hon. Member for Oxford, who entertained us with a turn last night, at one moment lapsed into a serious vein, and asked the Government what their views were upon four points, which were— quite fallaciously, I may say— put forward as the basis of the 1927 Act, I believe, by his noble and most illustrious father. I would like to answer his question in a very few words, because I have already gone into the argumentation about the question. The first point was that a general strike is illegal. As I have said, if by that is meant a strike aimed at the revolutionary purpose of upsetting the Government by extra Parliamentary means, we agree it is illegal. Everybody agrees it is illegal; it has always been illegal and always will be as long as we have a democracy. If, on the other hand, is meant a widespread series of sympathetic strikes for industrial purposes, then we do not regard them as illegal, and they were not illegal before the Act of 1927, however great the inconvenience they may have caused to the public. It is not the size and extent of a strike that creates its illegality, it is the purpose of the strike. A small or a large strike may be illegal or legal, according, as the Attorney-General stated yesterday, to the fact of its particular purpose.
The second point was, that intimidation is illegal. We agree. That was clearly stated in the Act of 1875 and again in 1906, but we do not agree that the purely artificial additions made by the Act of 484 1927 are either necessary or desirable. Thirdly, no man shall be compelled to-subscribe to the funds of any political party unless he so desires. We agree completely with that proposition, which has been the law since 1913, and will remain the law. The only change that the Act of 1927 made was the one I have already mentioned. Perhaps I might mention this, that hon. Members must not be too depressed about these trade union finances, because there have been cases, and I believe still are, where trade unions have supported in this House one Conservative, one Liberal and one Labour Member, and have done that with their political funds. So hon. Members opposite do get a little bit out of it. Finally, the fourth point was that any person entering the established Civil Service must give undivided allegiance to the State. I have already stated, as regards that, that of course we agree with that point. Why I say those points were fallaciously put forward is because they were a compendium of the law as it already existed before 1927, and that was not the basis of the law of 1927. The basis of the law of 1927 was the desire of the Conservative Party, at that time, to make things more difficult for the trade unions of this country.
Let me say, finally, that there is one objective which I hope is shared by the whole of this House. It is that we should get through these difficult years ahead of us with as little disturbance, unrest and delay in our industrial life as is possible. That will depend very largely upon the degree of co-operation between both sides of industry and the Government, and that co-operation, and its intensity, will depend very much on the sense of justice or injustice that affects the various parties. I feel convinced that the clearing away of the remains of past hostilities— which we are doing tonight— will be a not unimportant factor in creating the possibility of wider confidence and trust on all sides in the industrial field. It would, indeed, have been a happy gesture, if the House could have acted in this matter as a whole, wiping out the slur cast on trade unions in the past, and on the Civil Service, by the Act of 1927, and inviting the employers and trade unions to concentrate their abilities, freely and frankly upon a concerted effort to rehabilitate and improve 485 our industrial efficiency. We cannot afford waste by friction in industrial relations, any more than we can afford to waste our power by friction in machinery. I am confident therefore that in passing the Second Reading of this Bill to repeal the Act of 1927, this House will be doing something positive towards helping forward the efficiency of our industries in the difficult years that lie ahead. It is in that spirit, and in that hope, that I commend the Bill to this House.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Whiteley)
rose in his place, and claimed to move, " That the Question be now put."
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 369; Noes, 194.489
|Division No. 78.]||AYES||[9.15 p.m.|
|Adams Capt. Richard (Balham)||Collins, V.J.||Gunter, Capt. R. J.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Colman, Miss G. M||Guy, W. H.|
|Adamson, Mrs. J.L||Comyns, Dr. L.||Haire,Flt.Lieut. J.(Wycombe)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Cook, T F.||Hale, Leslie|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Cooper, Wing-Comdr.G.||Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Corlett, Dr. J.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)|
|Allighan, Garry||Corvedale, Viscount||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Cove, W. G.||Hardman, D. R.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Crawley, Flt.-Lieut A||Hardy, E. A.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Attewell, H. C.||Daggar, G.||Haworth, J.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Daines, P.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)|
|Austin, H. L.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Ayles, W. H||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Hicks, G.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Baird, Capt. J.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Holman, P.|
|Balfour, A.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Horabin, T L.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||House, G.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hoy, J.|
|Bartor C.||Deer, G.||Hubbard, T|
|Battley, J. R.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Beattie, J. (Belfast, W.)||Diamond, J.||Hughes, Emrys|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Dobbie, W.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Belcher, J. W.||Dodds, N. N.||Hughes, Lt. H. D. (Wolverh'ton, W.)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Donovan, T.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)|
|Benson, G.||Douglas, F. C. R.||Hynd, H (Hackney, C.)|
|Berry, H.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Beswick, Flt.-Lieut. F.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Irving, W. J.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Dumpleton, C. W.||Isaacs, Rt Hon. G. A|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Durbin, E. F M.||Janner, B.|
|Bing, Capt. G. H. C.||Dye, S.||Jeger, Capt. G. (Winchester)|
|Binns, J.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St, Pancras, S.E.)|
|Blackburn, Capt. A. R.||Edelman, M.||Jenkins, A.|
|Blenkinsop, Capt. A.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Blylon, W. R.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Jones, D T.(Hartlepools)|
|Boardman, H.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Jones,Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Ewart, R.||Keenan, W|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Fairhurst, F.||Kendall, W. D|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l,Exch'ge)||Farthing, W. J.||Key, C W|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||King, E. M.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Follick, M.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr E.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Foot, M. M.||Kinley, J.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Forman, J C.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Foster, W. (Wigan)||Kirkwood, D|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Lang, G.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||Lavers, S.|
|Buchanan, G.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J J.|
|Burden, T. W.||Gaitskell, H. T N||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Burke, W. A.||Gallacher, W.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Leonard, W.|
|Byers, Lt.-Col. F.||Gibbins, J.||Leslie, J. R.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Gibson, C. W.||Lever, Fl. Off. N. H.|
|Chamberlain, R. A||Gilzean, A.||Levy, B. W.|
|Champion, A. J.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)|
|Chater, D.||Gooch, E. G.||Lewis, J. (Bolton)|
|Chetwynd, Capt. G. R||Goodrich, H. E.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Clitherow, Dr. R.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A||Lipson, D. L.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Grenfell, D. R.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Grey, C. F.||Logan, D. G.|
|Coldrick, W.||Grierson, E.||Longden, F.|
|Collick, P||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Lyne, A. W.|
|Collindridge, F.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanally)||McAdam, W.|
|McAllister,G||Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Popplewell, E.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Thomas, Ivor(Keighley)|
|McGovern, J||Price, M. P||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Mack, J. D.||Pritt, D. N.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Proctor, W. T.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)|
|McKinlay, A. S.||Randall, H. E.||Thorneycroft, H.|
|Maclean, N. (Govan)||Ranger, J.||Thurtle, E.|
|McLeavy, F.||Rankin, J.||Tiffany, S.|
|MacMillan, M. K.||Rees-Williams, Lt.-Col. D. R.||Timmons, J.|
|McNeil, H.||Reeves, J.||Titterington. M. F.|
|Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Tolley, L.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Rhodes, H.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Richards, R.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Robens, A.||Usborne, Henry|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Roberts, Sqn.-Ldr. Emrys (Merioneth)||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Viant, S. P.|
|Martin, J. H.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Walkden, E.|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Walker, G. H.|
|Medland, H. M.||Rogers, G. H. R.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Messer, F.||Royle, C.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Middleton, Mrs. L.||Sargood, R.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Scott-Elliot, W.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Mitchison, Maj. G. R.||Segai, Sq.-Ldr. S.||Watson, W. M.|
|Monslow, W.||Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Montague, F.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Weitzman, D.|
|Moody, A. S.||Shawcross, Sir H. (St. Helens)||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Morley, R.||Shurmer, P.||White, C F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Morris, P. (Swansea, W)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Simmons, C. J.||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B|
|Mort, D. L.||Skeffington, A. M.||Wilkes, Maj. L.|
|Moyle, A.||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Murray, J. D.||Skinnard, F. W.||Wilkinson, Rt. Hon. Ellen|
|Nally, W.||Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Neal, H. (Claycross)||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E (Brentford)||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Noel-Buxton, Lady||Snow, Capt. J. W.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|O'Brien, T.||Solley, L. J.||Williamson, T.|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Sorensen, R. W.||Willis, E.|
|Oliver, G. H.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Orbach, M.||Sparks, J. A.||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J|
|Paget, R. T.||Stamford, W||Wilson, J. H.|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Steele, T.||Wise, Major F. J|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Stephen, C.||Woodburn, A.|
|Palmer, A. M. F||Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)||Woods, G. S.|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Strachey, J.||Wyatt, Maj. W.|
|Parkin, Flt.-Lieut. B. T.||Strauss, G. R.||Yates, V. F.|
|Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Stross, Dr. B.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Paton, J. (Norwich)||Stubbs, A. E.||Younger, Maj. Hon. K. G.|
|Pearson, A.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Zilliacus, K.|
|Peart, Capt. T. F.||Swingler, Capt. S.|
|Perrins, W.||Symonds, Maj. A. L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Piratin, P.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Mr. Mathers and Mr. Whiteley|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Challen, Flt.-Lieut. C.||Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (City of Lond.)|
|Aitken, Hon. M.||Channon, H.||Duthie, W. S.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Clarke, Col. R. S.||Eccles, D. M.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Scot. Univ.)||Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Cole, T. L.||Erroll, Col. F. J.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Fletcher, W. (Bury)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Foster, J. G. (Northwich)|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)|
|Birch, Lt.-Col. Nigel||Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.||Gage, Lt.-Col. C.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Cuthbert, W. N.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.|
|Boothby, R.||Darling, Sir W. Y.||Gammans, Capt. L. D|
|Bowen, R.||Davidson, Viscountess||Gates, Maj. E. E.|
|Bower, N.||De la Bère, R.||George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Maj. J. A.||Digby, Maj. S. W.||Glossop, C. W. H|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Glyn, Sir R.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G-|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Dower, Lt.-Col. A. (Penrith)||Gridley, Sir A.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Dower, Eric L. Gandar (Caithness)||Grimston, R. V.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Drayson, Capt. G. B.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Drewe, C.||Hare, Lieut.-Col. Hn. J. H. (W'db'ge)|
|Carson, E.||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Harris, H. Wilson|
|Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Marples, Capt. A. E.||Savory, Prof. D. L|
|Head, Brig. A. H.||Marsden, Capt. A.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Herbert, Sir A. P.||Marshall, Comdr. D (Bodmin)||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Shepherd, Lieut. W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Hogg, Hon. Q.||Maude, J. C.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Hollis, Sqn.-Ldr. M. C.||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Hope, Lord J.||Mellor, Sir J.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Howard, Hon. A.||Molson, A. H. E.||Snadden, W. M.|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Spence, Maj. H. R.|
|Hulbert, N. J.||Morris-Jones, Sir H.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Hurd, A.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Hutchison, Col J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Jarvis, Sir J.||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Jeffreys, General Sir G||Neill, W. F. (Belfast, N.)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Keeling, E. H.||Neven-Spence, Major Sir B.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Nicholson, G.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W H.||Nield, B. (Chester)||Teeling, William|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Nutting, Anthony||Thomson, Sir D. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Langford-Holt, J.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Orr-Ewing, I. L||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Osborne, C.||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Touche, G. C.|
|Lindsay. Lt.-Col. M. (Solihull)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Turton, R. H.|
|Linstead, H. N.||Pickthorn, K.||Vane, Lieut.-Col. W. M. T.|
|Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Pitman, I. J.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Lloyd, Brig. J. S. B. (Wirral)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Poole, O. B. S (Oswestry)||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Lucas, Major Sir J.||Prescott, W. R. S.||Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Ramsay, Maj. S.||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|McCullum, Maj. D.||Rayner, Brig. R.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|MacDonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Macdonald, Capt. Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.|
|Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.||Renton, D.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)||York, C.|
|MacLeod, Capt. J.||Robertson Sir D. (Streatham)||Young, Sir A S. L. (Partick)|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland|
|Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Ross, Sir R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Sanderson, Sir F||Mr. James Stuart and Mr. Buchan-Hepburn|
Question put. and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.— [Mr. Pearson.']