§ 22. Mr. Stratton Mills
asked the Minister of Labour if he will set up a commission, to sit in public, to inquire into Communist activity in the trade unions and through unofficial strikes.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
If there is evidence of Communist activity, as the right hon. Gentleman and Lord Carron have both suggested, ought there not to be some sort of formal procedure so that the evidence can be examined and the persons who are pilloried may have a right of cross-examination and so that the nation can see the disruptive activity which is going on?
§ Mr. Gunter
I am not sure what evidence the hon. Gentleman requires. I thought it had been self-evident for 30 years that the Communist Party has plotted to infiltrate the trade unions. I cannot go through all the names specifically. As to what I said in my speech—and I am amused at the response it has received—first of all I am told that it is nonsense and the second argument is that it is not new. I never said it was new. All I said that that it was dangerous. The Communist Party is not doing anything illegal. It is planning to feed on the wounds in industry, which is very apparent this winter.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris
I do not want to add to the Minister's troubles and difficulties, but surely this is a case for urgent public inquiry, as, for example, in the London unofficial dock strike, 21 where they are holding the country to ransom? Surely there should be some quick system of going into it?
§ Mr. Gunter
The London dock strike is led by the Communists. They are not doing anything that is illegal, so what is there to inquire into? All they ought to inquire into is their irresponsibility in challenging agreements which the unions have entered into. There is nothing illegal about that, any more than there is in Northern Ireland where I am told that there are plots. I am told that sometimes there is a plot that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister shall be got out of this place. I am told by my better educated friends that the word I ought to have used is "planned"—not "plotted". I do not know what the difference is, but they say that if I had said that these people were planning a winter of disruption it would have been far better. I have lived with these people too long/ They plot.
§ Mr. R. Carr
If the present Government had asked a Royal Commission several years ago to produce an interim report, might we not now have had reforms which would have made this sort of trouble less likely?
§ Mr. Gunter
It should, at least, be said—I put it seriously to the right hon. Gentleman—that the question of whether we should have a Commission or an inquiry was discussed by many Ministers of Labour before I took my present office. My immediate predecessor started discussions and got into trouble, so he did not pursue it. At least, we got the Commission off the ground.
§ 23. Mr. Marten
asked the Minister of Labour whether he will publish the evidence in his possession of attempts to cause disruption to the economy in the coming months.
§ Mr. Marten
Does not the right hon. Gentleman recall that his speech at Gillingham, a copy of which I have here, referred to a specific plot by the Communists this year? He cannot wriggle out of that. The Prime Minister told us that he had abundant evidence of it. Why on earth is this evidence not being given publicity? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, unless it is given publicity, 22 there will be an assumption drawn that the Labour Party is more interested in protecting the Communist Party than in the economic welfare of this country?
§ Mr. Gunter
I would not wriggle out of anything. What I am a bit sorry for is that I made those remarks at the beginning of my speech, so that the main part of my speech was lost sight of. The hon. Gentleman has the speech there; it is no good his shaking his head. I was reminding the trade unions of this country that, unless they had the proper channels of communication and kept in touch with their members, then, inevitably, the Communists and the Trotskyists would feed on any wounds which developed. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that they do not start the trouble, but what they do is to make it a damn sight more difficult for me to solve it in the end. They keep feeding on it.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser
In view of the matters raised in this Question, will the right hon. Gentleman now arrange for the publication of Cabinet minutes?
§ Mr. John Lee
Would not my right hon. Friend agree that there is also a plot by Sir Leslie O'Brien, and will he include that within the scope of his investigation?