HC Deb 29 November 1951 vol 494 cc1849-73

10.23 p.m.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Antony Head)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 22, at the end, to insert: or (c) to carry out duties in connection with an industrial dispute. I think it would be for the convenience of hon. Members that we should also consider the Amendment of the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor)—in page 2, line 34, at the end, to insert: (8) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, no member of the Home Guard shall be required to perform, as a member of the Home Guard, any duty in any industrial dispute.

Mr. Speaker

I think that may be a convenient course, if the House agrees that is to say, to have a discussion which embraces those two Amendments. If these two are discussed together I shall not, of course, allow separate discussion upon the Amendment of the hon. Member for Eccles, but I should, if he desired it, allow a Division upon it.

Perhaps it will be convenient if, at the same time, I state that I do not pro pose to call the manuscript Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) or that of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman). I think the discussion which I have outlined may embrace the points made in both these manuscript Amendments.

Mr. Head

The Amendment which I am moving is consequential on the Amendment originally moved by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). The only change is in the drafting. When the right hon. Gentleman put down his Amendment, I undertook to see if I could find a form of words which would be satisfactory. I hope that he will agree with me that the words proposed in my Amendment have an almost identical meaning, but are more satisfactory in relation to the Bill.

The Amendment is not quite so simple as the few preliminary remarks I have made, because, in fact, the Amendment originally tabled by the right hon. Gentleman, although almost identical to my own, is very different in effect from the Amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor). I think, therefore, that it is only right that I should go into the differences between the two Amendments and make some attempt to explain the reasons why I am fully prepared to meet the right hon. Gentleman and why I cannot accept the Amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Eccles.

The difference is this: The Amendment tabled by the right hon. Gentleman was put down to ensure that in time of peace, that is to say, before the Home Guard is mustered, there should be no question of the Home Guard in time of peace taking part in any way in carrying out duties in connection with an industrial dispute. That has been met, and, indeed, the Amendment makes it quite clear. But the Amendment of the hon. Member for Eccles goes very much further, in that it provides that the Home Guard should not take part or carry out duties in an industrial dispute, not only in time of peace, but also in time of war.

I am well aware of the anxiety, especially among hon. Members opposite, concerning the Home Guard taking part in an industrial dispute under any circumstances whatever. I am quite certain that many of them would with reluctance allow a Bill to go through Parliament which even allowed the Home Guard to take any part in an industrial dispute even in war. I shall attempt to make clear to the House why I cannot accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Eccles.

It will be appreciated that one of the major reasons for the Measure now before the House is that the Home Guard should have the task, among others, of guarding vulnerable points, and that precautions will be taken in order to secure that certain factories and other installations essential to war-time production—and I am now talking only about war—shall be secured against any possibility of sabotage or other forms of injury or destruction

10.30 p.m.

What I want to put to hon. Gentlemen opposite is that if I accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Eccles I do not believe that it is at all unfair to suggest that we can visualise circumstances in time of war where—taking an imaginary industrial town—we might have considerable industrial disturbances. In those circumstances, there might be riots and so forth. I know I am taking a dismal view, but we had better face the fact that it is possible. In those circumstances we cannot really exclude the possibility that in those riots a particularly dissident and violent element, possibly inspired by Communist leaders or elements, might incite certain measures which might damage or affect installations such as a factory guarded by the Home Guard.

I hope hon. Gentlemen will excuse me from the charge of making a far-fetched point. They will appreciate that the dividing line between industrial disputes and civil disturbances is very difficult to define. It is very difficult to say where one starts and the other ends, and if we have a Home Guard with a liability in war-time to guard vulnerable points I suggest that if we were to include the Amendment of the hon. Member for Eccles it would be more than doubtful whether that particular guard on a vulnerable point would be justified, in the event of unrest in a city, in resisting certain steps taken by rioters, or in a civil disturbance, which might result in the damage of that factory.

I have been very well aware throughout all stages of the Bill of the anxiety of the Opposition that the Home Guard should not, in any way, be a strike breaking organisation. I think the words we propose to put into the Bill make that impossible in peace-time, but I ask hon. Gentlemen to consider very closely the effect—when we are at war and the Home Guard has this liability of guarding the vulnerable points—of putting words in the Bill which might invalidate that point which we consider to be an extremely important one as far as the Home Guard is concerned.

I do not wish to make any Committee or cheap points on this subject, but I would inform hon. Members that we have followed absolutely the Amendment put forward from the Opposition Front Bench. I am not trying to score a point, but the right hon. Member for Easing-ton did agree, and did recognise, that in time of war the Home Guard might have to play a part in civil disturbances.

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington) indicated assent.

Mr. Head

I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman nods his head. To try and define the dividing line between industrial disputes and civil disturbances is extremely difficult. In putting forward this Amendment, what I have attempted to do is to give assurances that the Home Guard will on no account take part in industrial disputes in peace, and in war they will be scattered and confined to the duty of guarding vulnerable points. But if I were to include the Amendment of the hon. Member for Eccles, I might well invalidate one of the main purposes for which the Home Guard is being formed.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

The right hon. Gentleman referred to Communist-inspired disturbances. Are we to assume from that that Communists will not be allowed into the Home Guard?

Mr. Head

It is very difficult to recollect one's speech, but I think I said a Communist-inspired movement against the Home Guard. I said it was possible, in a state of great tension and civil disturbance, that a situation might arise in which Communist-inspired riot or civil disturbance might result in some action against the vulnerable point guarded by the Home Guard.

Mr. Hughes

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question.

Mr. Head

There are to be certain precautions against who joins the Home Guard. There are two types of Communist: those who openly say they are Communists, and I do not regard them as a fruitful field for recruitment, and those who do not say they are Communists—what might be called crytoCommunists—and it will be our endeavour to prevent that type from joining the Home Guard.

Mr. Shinwell

The right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to approach this difficult question with a desire to reach a solution. During the Second Reading debate he appeared to me to acquiesce in the view expressed on this side that the Home Guard should not be used for strike-breaking purposes. He gave us assurances to that effect, and I ventured to say to him that asssurances were not adequate in the circumstances because of the strong feeling that existed on this side, and among trade unionists in the country, and that therefore it would be desirable to embody words in the Bill to make the meaning and intention clear beyond doubt.

He is entitled to reproach me, and he has done it mildly and with courtesy, for having agreed to introduce an Amendment which followed upon his declaration that he was ready to find a form of words that would meet the views expressed on this side of the House. I confess frankly that some confusion arose, unwittingly, because we inserted the Amendment in the wrong part of the Bill. We did not take note of the fact that there was a dividing line as between peace-time and an actual state of emergency. This is in relation to the question when, in the opinion of the Government, the Home Guard should be mustered.

In war-time the Government do not require this provision at all. The Government could obviously exercise the powers that would be vested in them under the Defence of the Realm Act, or Emergency Powers, to ensure that any force could be used to deal with an industrial dispute. Difficulties might arise—there might require to be discussions with the trade unions, and the employers, but the Government could if it cared exercise such powers in the interests of the country and for the prosecution of the struggle in which the country might be engaged. If the Government is in possession of such powers this provision becomes superfluous.

The right hon. Gentleman agrees that the Government do not intend that the Home Guard should be used in peace time in an industrial dispute. He does not propose that the Force should be raised for such purpose. But the Bill does proceed—and here is a point of real substance—even in this amended form with the words he suggests should be included, to provide for the mustering of the force if there should be apprehension in the mind of the Government of a possible emergency. In other words, mustering might precede the actual outbreak of war, and if the words which he seeks to insert in the Bill were accepted, then the Home Guard, with the country still in a condition of peace although with a possible emergency in the future, could be used in an industrial dispute.

Mr. Head

The right hon. Gentleman has touched on a matter raised during the Committee stage last night, namely, how far back can apprehension go? I gave an undertaking last night that I would try to find a form of words to limit apprehension in order to ensure that the General Officer Commanding should not apprehend an attack so far back that one got a condition which the right hon. Gentleman fears. We discussed the point at a very late hour last night, and the fact is that we were not in time to get that Amendment on to the Order Paper. But I can tell him that we have got an Amendment which I am putting forward through another place; and I would explain that that Amendment, in which I have the greatest confidence, and about which I have an optimistic feeling, will meet the point.

It is that the Home Guard shall not be mustered except when a Proclamation is made ordering the Army Reserves to be called out on permanent service, or except when men of the Territorial Army are called out for actual military service. These two circumstances are such that there is no possibility whatever that the Home Guard would be mustered before, if I may be permitted to use a colloquialism, "the balloon goes up." I think that the form of words will be found to be a clear expression of a state of emergency, and I hope that the kind of occurrence about which the right hon. Gentleman worries could not happen. This form of words sees to it that that could not occur.

Mr. Shinwell

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's attempt at solution, and even at conciliation; but what I proposed was that the gap should be narrowed between the actual mustering and, if I may also use the phrase, "the balloon going up." To that extent, we appreciate the compromise, but I doubt if it goes really far enough; because it might well be, although I am only voicing a suspicion, without using the word "suspicion" in any sinister sense, that a Proclamation calling out the Reserve and Territorial forces might precede by some weeks the actual outbreak of war, or, for all we know, some months. It is in the interregnum, the peace-time interregnum, that we are concerned about the possible use of the Home Guard for strikebreaking purposes.

10.45 p.m.

I want to add one more thing, and then I will conclude, because I believe than hon. Members in all parts of the House are anxious to come to a decision. It is perfectly true that on Second Reading—and I think it was referred to again in the Committee stage—I said there could be no objection to the use of the Home Guard in actual war conditions to deal with civil disturbances, not for strike-breaking purposes, but in the event of a civil disturbance taking place. I perhaps spoke for myself, but I believe that many hon. Members opposite were associated with that view.

But, of course, civil disturbances, it seems to me, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, are somewhat different from an industrial dispute. I can conceive of circumstances where perhaps some commotion may have arisen due to the dropping of bombs, or some attack on the country, or some disturbance may have arisen out of war conditions where it may be required to use members of the Home Guard to deal with the situation. Police and Regular soldiers may not be available. But strike-breaking is an entirely different matter.

I conclude by saying that we are anxious to help the right hon. Gentleman. We do not want to provide an impediment to the building up of the Home Guard as and when, in our opinion, or in the opinion of the Government, it is required. But I agree with my hon. Friends that there is a strong sentiment among the trade unionists of the country in this respect, and if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to create a Home Guard without difficulty, it is as well to make the position clear, in view of that sentiment, that the Home Guard will not be used for strike-breaking purposes.

I would beg the right hon. Gentleman, in view of his desire to find some solution, to reconsider the matter, and when the Bill comes back from another place he may find the form of words, in addition to the form of words he has already discovered in connection with the issue of a Proclamation, which may assist us in reaching a satisfactory solution.

Mr. W. T. Proctor (Eccles)

I am bound to stress the importance of this matter. This is one of the results of rushing legislation through the House without having the proper time to consider the vital issues which are at stake. I am resting my case on the assurance given by the Secretary of State for War at an earlier stage of the proceedings. That assurance was given to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) in circumstances which I shall not recall because I want this to be a perfectly unanimous arrangement this evening. It was: I can assure the hon. Member that there is absolutely no intention in the creation of this Force of forming any strike-breaking unit."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1951; Vol. 494, c. 591.) There is no reference there to peace or war; a complete and categorical assurance that it was not intended to use the Home Guard for strike-breaking purposes. Therefore I say that if that assurance is carried out, then something similar to the Amendment which I and my hon. Friends have placed on the Order Paper must go on the Statute Book.

I want to point out that once this Bill goes from this House to another place we have lost any power of influencing the action of the Executive. Therefore, it is of supreme importance tonight that we should consider the whole of the possibilities—and we cannot take the Bill as anything other than what it is.

The Secretary of State for War gave an assurance that he did not want the Home Guard to be used as a strikebreaking unit. In the Bill as it stands today the Government take power to use the Home Guard as a strike-breaking unit. I want to point out that the very form of words which he uses in the Bill makes it a strike-breaking unit. As I read the provision as it will be after the Government Amendment is carried, it will be this: …shall not require members of the Home Guard to carry out any duties in connection with an industrial dispute except during any period during which the platoons or other part of the Home Guard to which they belong is mustered. All that it is necessary to do in order to use the Home Guard in an industrial dispute under this Bill is to muster them.

I must call the attention of my hon. Friends to the words in the Bill—now. at this moment, when it goes from here, not when it comes back from another place.

These are the words in the Bill: The expression 'mustered' means mustered for the purpose of resisting an actual or apprehended attack by a foreign Power". I have consulted the dictionaries in the Library, and the Oxford English Dictionary, giving the meaning of the word 'apprehended", says "to anticipate with fear". So all that it is necessary for the Secretary of State for War to do is to "anticipate with fear" an attack by a foreign Power and he can muster the Home Guard. That is, it is sufficient only for him to have fear in his own mind.

Nuttall's Standard English Dictionary says "being inclined to think" that there would be an attack. I also consulted the Modern Library Dictionary of the English Language, and one of my hon. Friends said "you had better be careful of that Dictionary; it's an American one". That is more conclusive still, for it says, "to entertain suspicion or fear of". That is all that is necessary and you can muster the Home Guard.

We cannot let this go from this House under these circumstances with a power vested in the hands of the Executive, given by the Members of this House, that can be used on such flimsy evidence as that. That is our duty. If the Minister will give me here the assurance that he gave before, when he said, I can assure him that there is absolutely no intention in the creation of this Force of forming any strike-breaking unit. then the position will be different. But he has gone back on that assurance and has actually placed a form of words in the Bill that gives him that power in war and in peace.

Mr. Head

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I have not in any way gone back on my assurance. My assurance to the right hon. Member for Easington was to find a form of words for his Amendment which meant the same thing and put them in the Bill. It is only fair to myself to say that that has been done.

Mr. Proctor

I am not responsible for that assurance. It has been gone into very carefully and I shall not go into it—I shall not take up the time of the House. The assurance the Secretary of State for War gave to the House was: I can assure him absolutely there is no intention in the creation of this Force of forming any strike-breaking unit. That is the assurance.

Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

May I interrupt the hon. Member. If he reads at the bottom of the column he will see that my right hon. Friend was referring to anything dealing with the outbreak of war—that this Home Guard was definitely not going to be mustered until there was an outbreak of war. The assurance definitely referred to peace and not to war.

Mr. Proctor

There is no question of peace or war. The assurance there is categorical. What I am pointing out is that the Bill as it stands refers to peace or war. I want to put this point to the House—it is a very wise one. We are a democratic nation. The trade union movement and the Labour movement to which I am proud to belong accepts this democratic basis.

We know our liberty rests on the sovereign power of the House of Commons, and we know what forces the House of Commons has at its disposal—the Regular Army, the Air Force, the Navy and the Police. All these forces at the disposal of the House of Commons can be used as the House of Commons decides, either in industrial dispute' or in anything else. Here we are creating tonight, when we pass this Bill, a new force—for the first time in our peace-time history that I know of we are creating a Home Guard.

It is a different force. It is a force that lives in the homes of the people. A member of it can be a worker in a factory in the morning and, if it is mustered, a member of the Home Guard in the afternoon. I believe I am speaking for the trade union movement when I say that unless we can get a categorical assurance that this Force will never be used on the authority of this House in an industrial dispute, we shall be unwise to part with the Bill.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent. South)

May I interrupt the hon. Member? I have great respect for the case he is putting and the responsible position he has held for most of his working life. May I submit that an assurance in a matter of this kind is not good enough. What matters is what is going to be in this Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament.

Mr. Proctor

I quite appreciate that. The Secretary of State for War put the point that only if a state of war breaks out do we want this Force. Still I say the Government of the day must take the responsibility for acting in any way they do. The Government with the authority they possess could in half an hour get from both Houses of Parliament all the power they want. I say that is the one reason why we should not give it to them tonight.

I believe that this very vital issue is the touchstone of the success or otherwise of this Bill and this Home Guard. If the Minister of War is prepared to go all the way and back up his previous assurance, then I believe it will be a success. But if there rests in the minds of millions of trade unionists in this country that this Home Guard can be used for industrial purposes in industrial disputes, I say you cannot make it a success.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)

There is one point of definition which I should like to put to my right hon. Friend. My experience is that, among, the duties of the Home Guard in the past, the guarding of factories was an important part, and, even if the Home Guard may not be mustered, I assume that it may be its duty, on a roster system, to guard factories. Indeed, there used to be sections and platoons trained in such factories for the purpose of guarding them.

The question I want to put to my right hon. Friend is one concerning the definition of "in connection with." Let us assume that, unfortunately, a strike were to break out in a factory of great importance at which guard duties were necessary. In that case, under the Amendment we are now discussing, would it mean that the Home Guard would have to be withdrawn from their guard duties? If so, I believe it would be unfortunate. Possibly, the Home Guard would have a duty to do in that case.

Mr. Head

I would ask my hon. Friend whether he is referring to war or peace?

Mr. Roberts

At the present moment, I am referring to the period before the war actually occurs.

I should like some enlightenment on this. It is stated that the Home Guard is not to be used to give whole-time service, or to serve away from home or carry out duties "in connection with" industrial disputes. Is it then envisaged that, before mustering takes place, no duties of any kind will be carried out, or will there be duties?

Mr. Head

The whole point about this is that the Home Guard cannot be called upon to do whole-time duty, or the type of duty which my hon. Friend mentions, unless it can be mustered, and mustering can only take place in the event of apprehended attack. The period about which my hon. Friend is talking is the time, so to speak, a long way from the apprehension of attack, or, to put it in crude words, a long way before the balloon is likely to go up. It is very difficult to legislate for the period when peace turns into war, but, as far as possible, we have made provision for that in terms of mustering.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I would remind hon. Members that we are now on the Report stage.

Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)

May I put to the right hon. Gentleman that the real issue here is that, in forming a Home Guard, we want to get the maximum of support in the country? The right hon. Gentleman has recognised that there is this feeling among trade unionists. I suggest that he is really taking too much trouble to preserve a power which it is very unlikely he will ever want to be used. The apprehension is that it might be used in the kind of twilight before the main war, and it is a little difficult, because the power of mustering has been given to local G.O.Cs. In the event of war, the Government has the power to call on citizens to perform all kinds of duties.

The effect of the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) is that they should not be called upon as members of the Home Guard. The right hon. Gentleman says they will be guarding some points, and that is one thing. It is quite another thing to be brought in to work, let us say, a big power station, which could be guarded by the Home Guard. It would be quite unlikely that he would want the Home Guard to work the station, because naval ratings would probably be brought in.

I think the right hon. Gentleman is rather in danger of forfeiting the support of the trade union movement, or at least of causing suspicion, by trying to take power he will not want, because, when war actually comes, the whole matter will be covered by Defence Regulations, and people can act as citizens. The one point in the minds of my hon. Friends is that they should not do it as members of the Home Guard.

Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)

During the course of the Committee stage I mentioned to the right hon. Gentleman the fact that many of the Home Guards during the war were, in fact, factory guards peculiar to one factory, organised within one factory, and so on. He was good enough to indicate that the Government were thinking in terms of continuing that type of thing when the Home Guard reached a certain strength. I wish to put this point to the right hon. Gentleman, a point which I regard very seriously, and in doing so to support my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor).

If, in fact, we reached the emergency stage, it is highly probable that once again we should have Essential Work Orders covering all factories and industries essential to war purposes. Within these Essential Work Orders would be certain penal Clauses which would place a veto on certain rights to strike of people working in such factories and industries. But it may well be that the very people who will then be members of a factory Home Guard would, in fact, themselves be strikers if a dispute arose within that factory.

We would then be in the ridiculous position that not only would the people who were striking be liable to civil prosecution for contravening an Essential Work Order, but that the very people who were striking and who were members of the Home Guard could be mobilised owing to the war emergency—which I envisage would then be on—and would, first, be liable to prosecution as strikers, and secondly. as they would by that time be under military law, could be ordered to suppress the very strike in which they themselves were taking part.

It is for this reason that I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who, I am quite certain, has gone out of his way to meet so many of the difficulties posed from this side of the Committee, will see that the distinction which he draws between peace and war is not acceptable to us, and because it is in this very period of emergency, that is, of war, when he would have the power to mobilise or muster the Home Guard. That of itself would place the factory Home Guard under military law, and he who may then be a striker would be forced by military law to suppress the very strike he himself was supporting.

It is because of that type of situation that we fear the distinction which the right hon. Gentleman draws between peace and war. I am satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's assurance, and, indeed, with the provisions of the Bill, that he could not possibly muster the Home Guard unless there was an emergency, but I hope he will see that why we are so afraid of the period of emergency is because it is at that very time that some Minister of War could use the power to force the factory Home Guard man himself to try and suppress his own mates when engaged in a strike in which he himself believed.

Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)

I wish to say one other word in support of this argument and to quote in support of it a very respected right hon. Gentleman opposite, the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). When he spoke a few words during the Committee stage the other night, I thought I detected warm approval of them from all sides. He said that he was speaking from his own experience in the Didcot area in the last war with the Home Guard which was guarding vital factories. He observed: I think that the Committee ought to realise that it would be impossible to utilise the Home Guard in any way effectively unless its members were assured that they would not he used in cases of industrial disputes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1951; Vol. 494, c 1268.] He was not talking about peace-time, but about war-time. He said that from his own experience of the last war the effectiveness of the Home Guard in his area was due precisely to the assurance that it would not be used in the way which my hon. Friend was describing a minute or two ago.

They knew they were not going to be used in industrial disputes. That is why they could join, and that is why they could join in a factory guard. The trouble with the right hon. Gentleman's assurance is that so far from assuring it removes the assurance we might have had if he had not written it in the Amendment. If the Amendment had never been discussed maybe it would not have occurred to anybody that his intention was to use the Home Guard in industrial conflicts during war.

The right hon. Gentleman said he gave an assurance. If he had given the assurance in the form of, "I do not intend to use the Home Guard in industrial disputes until I have mustered them", it would not be much of an assurance but that is precisely the only assurance he gives in the Amendment before the House. It simply says, "I shall not use the Home Guard in industrial disputes in peacetime." That is no assurance. On the contrary; it has the implication in it which decreases our confidence that he will not use it in war-time. If the right hon. Gentleman's desire is that it should not be used in war-time, then he cannot give exclusively an assurance about peace-time. If he wants people to join the Home Guard, once this issue has been raised he must not limit his assurance to peace-time. He must give the general assurance, whatever happens.

As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition pointed out—and I agree with him—the object is to describe the function and purpose of the Home Guard. It is not to describe exactly what a citizen may have to do qua citizen in war-time, but to tell what the Home Guard is for. It may be that individual members of the Home Guard, as civilians, may be called upon in civil disputes but the right hon. Gentleman would not use the Home Guard.

In a dock strike it may be necessary to use a soldier to assist in unloading, but one. would be a lunatic to use the Home Guard for that purpose because it is likely to be mixed with people concerned in the strike. No sane Government would think of using a local organisation because every industrial dispute is in that sense local.

Mr. Lee

The point is that during a period when the Home Guard is mustered, if those Home Guards are in fact the Home Guard for that factory, they are the only ones the right hon. Gentleman can use. They are the ones to defend that factory.

Mr. Crossman

I do not want to detain the House. I believe that on this point the right hon. Gentleman is actually reducing the effectiveness of his pledge by not making it general and supporting the Amendment on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor).

Mr. Head

By leave of the House I should like to speak again. I should feel only too pleased if I could now make a statement which would not only reassure hon. Gentlemen opposite on the fears they have expressed but also make them feel any doubts they have concerning the feelings of trade unionists and so forth in this matter were resolved.

But, speaking again on this rather difficult point, I should like to make clear the reasons why I cannot do that. I hope hon. Members opposite will give me credit for having thought about this matter. The Home Guard, as we are reorganising them on a cadre basis, on a voluntary basis, now, are members of His Majesty's Forces. That is in the Bill. As such it will be one of their duties, apart from their duties to protect aerodromes and so forth, to protect vulnerable points and factories. In that capacity they are members of His Majesty's Forces. If war breaks out one of the first tasks they will have to fulfil is this guard over vulnerable points. Hon. Members are asking us to say they must not take any part in war in an industrial dispute.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Shinwell

I think we have pointed out—my right hon. Friend and I have ventured to point out—that the right hon. Gentleman can exercise emergenecy powers without any difficulty.

Mr. Head

The right hon. Gentleman and the Leader of the Opposition have asked, Why must we have these powers now, because if and when war comes we shall have them anyway? It seems to me that in a sense that argument suggests that whether we make the Amendment to this Bill or not the situation will be the same either way.

Hon. Members


Mr. Attlee

The whole point really is this. The object of my hon. Friend's Amendment is, that the man should not operate qua Home Guard. The right hon. Gentleman is putting him in as a member of the Home Guard and, therefore, subject to military discipline for this purpose, whereas if we put him in as a citizen he comes under the ordinary law of the land.

Mr. Head

I am very much obliged to the Prime Minister—[Laughter.] I withdraw that unreservedly. The qualification the right hon. Gentleman has made really, in a way, reinforces what I was saying. What I am trying to explain to the House is that the Home Guard will be fulfilling the function—or one of the functions—for which we are introducing this Bill, namely, the guarding of vulnerable points. He is not a citizen, and he is not intended to be a citizen. We do not want to change him from being a member of His Majesty's Forces into being a citizen. His function is to guard vulnerable points.

If I accept the Amendment and say no Home Guard can take part in an industrial dispute, I come to this fundamental point. It is almost impossible from the legal point of view—and I have had advice here—to say exactly where an industrial dispute ends and a civil disturbance begins. They are not things one can draw a line between easily. A man in the Home Guard, a member of His Majesty's Forces, guarding vulnerable points may be in a situation in which, in order to fulfil his duties as a mustered man of the Home Guard, he may be required to act.

If I accepted the Amendment we might be in grave difficulty. There is a feeling in the House that the Home Guard in war may be not guards of vulnerable points but—[An HON. MEMBER: "Strike breakers."] Exactly—down in the docks unloading ships, and so forth. That is not the reason why we are creating this Force.

We are creating it for three reasons. One is guarding aerodromes; the second is vulnerable points; and the third is as assistants to Civil Defence. But it is not any part of the conception of this Force that they are going down to the docks to unload ships. In war-time the differentiation between the fears hon. Members opposite have and the actual functions for which we are preparing this Force for the guarding of vulnerable points is incapable of definition. I do assure hon. Gentlemen that it is absolutely impossible of definition.

I do assure hon. Gentlemen and the trade unions that this is the reason fur the creation of this Force, the reason why the Home Guard is now being placed in a condition of increased readiness, the reason why we have a nucleus so that at short notice they can fulfil this function. If it had gone a bit further, where the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) is concerned, he would have found it impossible to guarantee in war-time that this Amendment could have been accepted because it is impossible to differentiate between the two.

The only assurance I can give to the House is that this is a matter of intention, and it is one not capable of legal interpretation. What I do say is that I hope hon. Members will have some forbearance in this particular matter. If we could find a form of words I should be willing to consider it, but I have taken legal advice on the matter. I have met the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington up to the hilt as he suggested in his Amendment. He said that where civil disturbances were concerned he recognised the difficulties, and I am sure there is no prospect of my being able to accept an Amendment which would debar this duty entirely.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, I think I should say to him that we are really at a point where we might bridge the gap between us. He says that he wants the Home Guard to guard vulner- able points in war-time. I think we are all agreed on that. He says also it is not the intention that they should be used in what is commonly called strike breaking—say in the unloading of ships. He says he does not want them to do that, and we are all agreed on that point.

But his difficulty, he says, is to devise a form of words stating that they can guard vulnerable points but cannot do the actual work of strikers. He said at one time it was "almost impossible," and at another time it was "absolutely impossible" to do it. Is he not exaggerating the impossibility? Is it "absolutely impossible" to say in an Act of Parliament that the Home Guard may not do work, during an industrial dispute due to a stoppage of work, which would be done, but for the dispute, by the people engaged in the dispute? That surely is the only point that divides us.

If the right hon. Gentleman can find a form of words which will prevent a man in the Home Guard during an industrial dispute doing the work which the strikers would otherwise be doing, and make it apply in war-time, he will still have his power for the Home Guard to guard vulnerable points and protect factories against riots and violence. However difficult the drafting, it is worthwhile bridging the gap between us. Can he see that that is overcome, and since it cannot be done here and now will he -see it is done in another place?

Mr. Head

A point immediately arises. I have gone into this matter. The hon. Gentleman asked if we could not arrange for the Home Guard not to do a job which someone striking is doing. We immediately come up against the question of the excellent system of factory guards instituted during the war. Hon. Gentlemen will see there that in the event of defection on the part of a factory guard you might well ask a member of the Home Guard to do a duty normally performed by him, and then we are right up against my difficulty.

Mr. Wallace (Walthamstow, East)

In an actual industrial dispute in peace-time there is clear understanding that any duties normally done by the strikers are not to be done by others. There is no dispute about guarding docks. I served in the Home Guard during the war. There was no difficulty then. It was always understood that we should not do work normally done by the dock workers. In an industrial dispute you cannot call upon the Home Guard to do this. You would not get 20 per cent. of the men to do anything concerned with an industrial dispute. Why not come to the simple straight declaration that the Home Guard shall not be used in an industrial dispute'?

Mr. Ellis Smith

I did not intend to speak, because I thought the right hon. Gentleman had gone a long way towards meeting us, but after the speech of the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) I can see that there is a good deal more in this than I had thought. May I reinforce what he said, and also make it clear that the gap is not as narrow as some hon. Members think? My hon. Friend was chairman of a works organisation in an establishment where in war-time between 20,000 and 30,000 persons would be employed. They had a Home Guard of their own. These men have proved their loyalty by their record. In a large establishment like that there are bound to be day-to-day difficulties, such as disputes about piece-work prices. My hon. Friend was called upon time after time to visit department after department with his colleagues to prevent trouble. It can be depended upon that if in that establishment there was a dispute over piece-work not one tap would be done, because the men are so loyal to each other, and because it means so much. If the right hon. Gentleman can give the people confidence on that, he will get the support he seems to desire to get by the way he has handled this Bill.

Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)

I agree that the point is not so narrow as it was said to be on this side. I am thoroughly alarmed by the statement the Minister has made. He may have received legal advice, but he is desperately lacking in industrial experience or knowledge of how working men and women behave in circumstances such as the House is trying to envisage.

Assume that we were at war, and that there was a strike at a colliery. One version of it was that sabotage was going on, and that some miners had sympathies with a foreign Power. But one never gets a clear, black and white situation like that. What one gets is what there always will be somthing wrong with wages, or working conditions, and if hon. Members opposite want to maximise trouble for themselves, let them try to bring in any outside force. Call it the Home Guard, or whatever one likes, take it to the pit head, and let hon. Members opposite understand the consequences.

11.30 p.m.

Another complication is that we are assuming that the Home Guard will be taken from the locality where the work is carried on. But hon. Members opposite should realise that there can be a mining village, while two or three miles away there is a community with a totally different political and social outlook. It would be the easiest thing to bring a Home Guard from a few miles away to create at once the worst feeling and maximise any trouble. I cannot understand why we are making a comparatively simple matter so complicated. Why cannot we have a straightforward, unequivocal statement that the Home Guard will not be used in war or peace in any industrial dispute?

Sir Patrick Spens (Kensington. South)

I speak as a former officer of the Home Guard from the Dunkirk period. At that time, I was outside Ashford, where there was a Home Guard detachment, with another inside the railway works nearby; and that latter detachment was recruited entirely from persons employed in the works. We were never mustered; this mustering is a new phrase, but we went on duty, and for the remaining two years and seven months before I went to India, the men served well both inside and outside the railways works.

There would be any amount of incipent industrial disputes, but the railwaymen were the most helpful in the world. None of the disputes developed, but it would be perfectly possible for any lawyer to have said that on any one night there was an industrial dispute in those works. Yet, not one single man in the Home Guard there ever hesitated to go on duty to protect those works.

We were in the danger area of southeast England, and those men regarded it as their duty to protect the works; they protected what went in and what came out, and despite many industrial disputes, there was never any trouble. If the Amendment proposed by hon. Members opposite was accepted, the moment there arose anything like an industrial dispute, it would mean that such splendid men as those to whom I refer, could not go on duty.

The Leader of the Opposition has said that the Minister might call the men up as individuals, but that as organised members of the Home Guard, they would not be able to do duty, nor perform any routine action. If that is the suggestion of hon. Members opposite, and had it been operative in the days of which I speak, then it really would have been quite impossible to carry on in that part of south-east England in the earlier days of the war. I might be one of those whom the hon. Lady who just spoke described as knowing little about industrial conditions; but I have lived and worked with these men, and gone on duty with them in the Home Guard, and in the interests of such men, I beg the House not to accept the Amendment of the Hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor.)

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 25, at end, insert: and shall not require members of the Home Guard to serve outside the United Kingdom.

Amendment proposed: In page 2, line 34, at end, insert: (8) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, no member of the Home Guard shall be required to perform, as a member of the Home Guard, any duty in any industrial dispute."—[Mr. Proctor.]

Question put, "That these words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 137; Noes, 170.

Division No. 24.] AYES [11.37 p.m.
Acland, Sir Richard Blackburn, F. Chapman, W. D.
Adams, Richard Blenkinsop, A. Chetwynd, G. R.
Albu, A. H. Bottomley, A. G. Collick, P. H.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Bowden, H. W. Cove, W. G.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Bowles, F. G. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)
Awbery, S. S. Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Crosland, C. A. R.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F J Brockway, A. F. Crossman, R. H. S.
Bence, C. R. Brown, Thomas (Ince) Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.
Benson, G. Callaghan, L. J. Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Castle, Mrs. B. A. Davies, Harold (Leek)
Bing, G. H. C. Champion, A. J. Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)
Deer, G. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Delargy, H. J. Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Driberg, T. E. N. Lewis, Arthur Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Ede, Rt. Hon J. C. Lingdren, G. S. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Longden, Fred (Small Heath) Sorensen, R. W.
Field, Capt. W. J. MacColl, J. E. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Flenburgh, W. McLeavy, F. Sparks, J. A.
Finch, H. J. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Fletcher, Erie (Islington, E.) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Foot, M. M. Marquand, Rt. Hon H. A. Swingler, S. T.
Freeman, Peter (Newport) Mayhew, C. P. Sylvester, G. O.
Gibson, C. W Mikardo, Ian Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale) Milner, Maj. Rt. Hon. J. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Mitchison, G. R. Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Hamilton, W W Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Hargreaves, A. Moyle, A. Wallace, H. W.
Hastings, S. Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Watkins, T. E.
Hayman, F. H. Orbach, M. Weitzman, D.
Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth) Padley, W. E. Wells, William (Walsall)
Hubbard, T F Pargiter, G. A. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Parker, J. Wigg, G. E. C.
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Pearson, A. Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Peart, T. F. Williams, David (Neath)
Hynd, H (Accrington) Plummer, Sir Leslie Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton) Williams, W. R. (Droylesden)
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Proctor, W. T. Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Janner, B Pursey, Cmdr. H. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Jeger, George (Goole) Reid, Thomas (Swindon) Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Jeger, Dr Santo (St. Pancras, S.) Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Wyatt, W. L.
Johnson, James (Rugby) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Yates, V. F.
Jones, David (Hartlepool) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Ross, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
King, Dr. H. M. Royle, C. Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Wilkins.
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Shackleton, E. A. A.
Aitken, W. T. Fell, A. McAdden, S. J.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Finlay, G. B. McCallum, Major D.
Alport, C. J. M. Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale) McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)
Arbuthnot, John Gage, C. H. Mackeson, Brig H. R.
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Garner-Evans, E. H. McKibbin, A. J.
Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton) Godber, J. B. MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wycombe) Gough, C. F. H. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)
Baldwin, A. E. Gower, H. R Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)
Barber, A. P. L. Graham, Sir Fergus Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Baxter, A. B. Gridley, Sir Arnold Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Markham, Major S. F.
Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston) Hare, Hon. J. H. Marlowe, A. A. H.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) Marshall, Sidney (Sutton)
Birch, Nigel Harrison, Lt.-Col. J. H. (Eye) Maude, Angus
Black, C. W. Head, Rt. Hon. A. H. Maudling, R.
Bossom, A. C. Heald, Sir Lionel Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Heath, Edward Medlicott, Brig, F.
Boyle, Sir Edward Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Mellor, Sir John
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Molson, A. H. E.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.) Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Holland-Martin, C. J. Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Brooman-White, R. C. Hope, Lord John Nabarro, G. D. N.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Nicholls, Harmer
Bullard, D. G. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Nicholson, G.
Bullock, Capt. M. Howard, Greville (St. Ives) Nield, Basil (Chester)
Burden, F. F. A. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.
Butcher, H. W. Hulbert, Wing Comdr, N, J. Nugent, G. R. H.
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.) Oakshott, H. D.
Carson, Hon. E. Hutchison, Lt.-Com, Clark (E'b'rgh W) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.
Cary, Sir R. Hutchison, James (Scotstoun) Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)
Channon, H. Hylton-Foster, H. B. H Partidge, E.
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Jenkins, R. C. D. (Dulwich) Perkins, W. R. D.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Peyton, J. W. W.
Cole, N. J. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Pitman, I. J.
Colegate, W. A. Keeling, E. H. Powell, J. Enoch
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Cranborne, Viscount Lambert, Hon. G. Profumo, J. D.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Lambton, Viscount Redmayne, M.
Crouch, R. F. Langford-Holt, J. A. Remnant, Hon. P.
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Leather, E. H. C. Renton, D. L. M.
Cuthbert, W. N. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H Ropner, Col. L.
Digby, S. Wingfield Legh, P. R. (Petersfield) Russell, R. S.
Doughty, C. J. A. Linstead, H. N. Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)
Drewe, C. Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S. W.) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Smithers, Peters (Winchester) Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Snadden, W. McN. Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway) Wellwood, W.
Spearman, A. C. M. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr R. (Croydon, W.) White, Baker (Canterbury)
Speir, R. M. Tilney, John Williams, Charles (Torquay)
Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.) Touche, G. C. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Turner, H. F. L. Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.) Turton, R. H. Wills, G.
Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K. Wood, Hon. R.
Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Studholme, H. G. Walker-Smith, D. C. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Summers, G. S. Ward, Hon. George (Worcester) Major Conant and Mr. Vosper
Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne) Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)

Question put, and agreed to.