§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, I have the honour to move the Second Reading of this Bill, the scope and purpose of which it is necessary I should try and explain to your Lordships in a very few words. This Bill comes from the other House of Parliament, having passed through all its stages, I was going to say without comment, but certainly without any kind of Amendment. It was introduced on March 21st;† the Second Reading took place on April 9th;‡ it was on four separate days in Committee,Ş and it was read a third time and passed on May 8th ŞŞ Not a word was uttered either by the present Home Secretary, by the Under-Secretary for the Home Department, or by the late Home Secretary against the Bill, and it now comes before your Lordships almost as a white Bill without any kind of blot upon it introduced by factious opposition. Under those circumstances perhaps it is necessary that I should all the same explain what the object of this Bill is.
It will be familiar to most of your Lordships that in the Aliens Act of last year certain regulations were laid down under which alien immigration should not be permitted. It was first set forth that an immigrant should not be admitted if he had not the means, or was not in a position, decently to support himself. It was secondly laid down that he was not to be admitted if he was either a lunatic, an idiot, or diseased; and, in the third place, it was set forth that if he had been criminally convicted in his own country he should also be debarred from landing on our shores. Then there was a fourth proviso, that he should not be allowed to remain if an expulsion order had, under the Act, been made against him. The Bill which comes before your Lordships for Second Reading now is to add to that last proviso words to the effect that an alien shall not be admitted if he has been brought into the United King-† See (4) Debates, cliv., 398.‡ Read a second time without discussion, unopposed, after midnight.Ş See (4)Debates, clv., 1587;clvi., 124; 668.ŞŞ See (4) Debates, clvi., 1288.594 dom under contract to take, or has the intention of taking, the place of a workman during a trade dispute.
This question is not a new one. It was debated at very great length in the House of Commons during last session. It was first of all mentioned on July 3rd, in a preliminary debate on the Aliens Act, and there was an Amendment moved on July l0th† to carry out the very object which is set forth in this Bill, and at that time the then Prime Minister used these words—Although he opposed the Amendment, lie admitted that the Act limited the power of employers by providing that they could only bring in foreigners at wages that would enable them to decently live.Therefore, he admitted that the Act was a restriction on the importation of foreign labour. It is difficult to say, when one remembers this fact, that an extension of that principle is in any way a derogation of the main purpose of the Act. The extension of that principle is demanded by all classes of labour in this country, and when one examines it fairly it is an extension to which I think no reasonable exception can be taken.
The Amendment to this effect moved during the last session of Parliament was supported by Members on both sides of the House. It went to a division, but it was not a strict Party vote, and it was rejected by 215 to 144. The matter came on again on the Report stage. ‡The same Amendment was moved, and on that occasion the figures were 230 as against 163. That there was and is a very strong feeling on this subject cannot be doubted, and I will give a single proof of that. Amongst those who were the most strenuous opponents of this Amendment was the Member for Stepney, Sir William Evans-Gordon, one of the most ardent promoters of the Aliens Act of last year. Sir William spoke and voted against this Amendment last session; but when the General Election took place I presume he came into closer contact with his constituents and found how strong the feeling was. The result was that on the very first opportunity, on the debate on the Address, an Amendment to the Address was put down in the terms of this Bill—put down by whom?—not by the representatives of labour, but† See (4) Debates, cxlix., 131 et, seq.‡See (4) Debates, cxlix., 921 et seq.595 by Sir William Evans-Gordon, the Conservative Member for Stepney, and seconded by Sir William Bull, the Conservative Member for Hammersmith.†
It is true that this Amendment to the Address was not pressed, but why was it not pressed? It was not pressed as it was then announced that the Labour group in the House of Commons were about to introduce this Bill, and it was said by the various Ministers and ex-Ministers concerned in this matter that they reserved their criticism for the opportunity which would shortly be offered to them when this Bill came before the House. The Bill did come before the House. Neither the Home Secretary, as I have said, nor the Under Secretary for the Home Department, nor the late Homo Secretary said one single word in opposition to it. Consequently, I think I have a right to contend that a Bill brought into this House under circumstances like this does merit the attention, and I was almost going to say the sympathy, of this House.
Is this a matter which is of no moment and of no importance? I venture to affirm that this question of importing foreign labour at a time of trade dispute or strike is one of the most important and one of the most strongly contested questions at the present time. It is not confined to this country. I read in a leading Gorman newspaper that at this very moment there is a shipping strike at Hamburg. This newspaper states that 3,000 of the workmen imported by the ship owners to take the place of the German workmen on strike were Englishmen, a circumstance which not unnaturally had provoked lamentable racial antagonism and bitterness. It is to avoid a similar condition of things in this country that this Bill has been introduced by the Labour Members in the House of Commons and has been carried to its present position.
There are undoubtedly two objections to this Bill which may, and probably will, be made in the course of this debate. The first objection is that it very largely increases the responsibilities and the duties of the Home Department and of that particular Department which has to deal with the immigration of aliens. I†See (4) Debates, clii., 851 et seq596 am an opponent—and I state it without the smallest reserve—of the whole principle of the Aliens Act, but so long as that Act is the law of the land let it be an Act which carries out all the objects for which it was contemplated; and, having set up that machinery, it ought without much trouble to be able to be so expanded as to prevent the immigration of workmen under contract at the time of a trade dispute. A trade dispute is a matter of common notoriety. Every one knows when there is a strike, and the workmen engaged in that strike would be on the watch to warn the authorities that an attempt was about to be made to introduce foreign labour, and therefore the plea that it is too great a responsibility to throw on the Home Office is not a substantial plea and ought not to be considered.
The second objection is that the Bill is a Labour Bill. I hope; that is not the argument which is going to be employed in opposition to it. We all heard a good deal at the opening of the session about the young lions of the Tory Party. We have not, happily, heard much of their roar hitherto. This, it appears, is to be their first descent into the field of action. They choose for it a Labour Bill. It will lie indeed a sad day for this country, a sorry position for this House, if it once becomes a rooted belief in the minds of the workers of this country that the House of Lords is not a Chamber in which their demands will be fairly mid temperately considered, but an assembly to be regarded as a crematorium or cemetery in which all their legislative proposals are to be summarily and barely decently interred. I appeal to your Lordships to to give this measure, as a Labour Bill promoted in the interests of labour, the fair consideration it deserves, and to give the Bill, passed unanimously and without a single comment or protest: by the House of Commons, the Second Beading to which it is entitled.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Weardale.)
§ VISCOUNT RIDLEY
My Lords, I have put down an Amendment on the Paper, as the noble Lord will have observed, that this Bill be read a second time this day six months. I think, if I may say so, that the noble Lord who has 597 just addressed the House has given us in his speech proof that ho is a worthy representative of the class of which he has spoken, and has urged his case for the Bill in a more ample form at anyrate than was the case in the other House. When I put down my Amendment with reference to this Bill, I did so not only on account of the provisions contained therein, but also in view of the fact that, as the noble Lord has truly observed, not one syllable was uttered on any single stage of the Bill during its passage through the House of Commons. Whatever your Lordships' House may think of this Bill, I venture to say that when a principle of this kind is proposed, when a great change in the law of the country and in the principles governing the law of the country is put before this House by a private Member, it should be given the fullest consideration, and we should, at any rate, have the views of His Majesty's Government upon it.
The noble Lord who moved the Second Reading observed that he would explain the objects of the Bill, and he explained them, if I may say so, in the most courteous and temperate manner; but, while giving us the objects of this Kill, he did not state one single reason for the adoption of those objects. The objects are perfectly clear. They are to keep out foreign labour coming into this country to take the place of English workmen during a trade dispute. There is no doubt about that; but I venture to think we ought to have some definite reason given other than the general plea of the interests of a particular class. We should have some proof that this change in our system would work to the advantage of the country, and also that there have been cases—and so far as I am.aware there have been none —brought to the notice of those who ask for this Bill which go to show that this change in our legal system would be of benefit to the country. Now, what is proposed by this Bill is an advance on the Australian lines of labour legislation. It is for your Lordships to say whether that is right or wrong. The experience of Australian labour legislation has not altogether been a happy one, nor do I think the Australian Labour Party are altogether satisfied with the tendency of the legislation which they themselves have passed. 598 Before this House takes a step in the direction of Australian labour legislation for keeping out contract labour we should give it the most careful consideration; for this measure, though it appears ostensibly as a Bill to amend the Aliens Act, is really one embodying a totally new principle and going beyond the scope of the Act which was passed by the late Government, The noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs observed, in a debate in this House earlier in the session, that there was no doubt that the Aliens Act was working badly in certain respects, and equally no doubt it would have to be amended; and in the debate on the Address the Home Secretary, I will not say resisted the Amendment to the Address moved on the lines of the present Bill, but, speaking to it, he observed that he did not oppose it on the ground that it was a wrong one or that he objected to it in principle, but simply and solely on the ground that it was inopportune. The Government, he said, had so much in hand that they could not do it at the moment.
What this House has a right to know is whether this Bill is one of the Amendments to the Act which was mentioned as probably necessary by the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; whether this is the kind of Amendment to the Act which His Majesty's Government think desirable in the interests of the country. The noble Lord has told us that the Bill is desired in the interests of all classes of labour, and I think that if your Lordships will take the trouble to look at the names at the back of the Bill you will see that all the interests of labour are represented among the backers. There is no other name on the Bill except that of Sir William Evans-Gordon who, I admit, is a gentleman of great authority on this particular question. What we desire to know from His Majesty's Government is, what attitude they are-going to take up on this Bill. We ask them whether they are going to desert their followers or desert their principles. Hitherto we have been able to congratulate them invariably on the great moral courage they have shown in throwing over their principles in order to run after their followers. Are we to congratulate them again on throwing over 599 every principle they propounded during the debates upon the Aliens Act, and again this session through the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in order to let through a Bill which is admittedly in the interests of a large section of their followers, if followers is the right term to use for the Gentlemen whose names appear on the back of this Bill?
Let it be clearly understood that this Bill goes beyond the province of the Aliens Act. The principle of the Aliens Act, so far as I understood it, was not a protective principle. The idea was to exclude—and the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of this Bill expressly enumerated the reasons which were to count for exclusion—aliens landing on our shores, He enumerated the reasons which made an alien undesirable, such as poverty, crime, or disease. Are we to travel beyond the principles enumerated in that Act and make it into a protective measure and a protective measure for a particular class? I would remind your Lordships that throughout the debates it was with the greatest difficulty that the Liberal Party were persuaded to consent to even the smallest instalment of the Aliens Act. They were opposed to it in the interests of free trade. Just as they were ready to admit all kinds of alien goods into this country free, so they were ready to admit all kinds of alien labour, presumably in order to swell the ranks of the Cobden Club. Is their new attitude to be a different one or not?
I confess that approaching the subject from the point of view from which I regard it, I am not without sympathy with some of the ideas underlying this Bill. I am one of those who regard it as the duty of this country to protect itself against a certain form of foreign invasion, but the Party opposite are taking one particular instance and one particular class and protecting that in one particular way. I say that it would be wiser to proceed upon some general principle than upon piecemeal legislation of this kind. After all, I what is the particular class you are going to benefit? You are going to benefit a particular class of trade unionists at the very moment when you are proposing to confer extraordinary powers upon them and to place them in an exceptional position. I ask the House to consider very carefully what they are doing before they pass a Bill which, 600 however much we may sympathise with some of its provisions and may desire to see some protection given to the industries of this country, proceeds against the principle of any measure which is at this moment the law.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, I rise to reply to the speech of the noble Viscount, and I have to say, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, that they propose to treat the Bill in this House in exactly the same way as they treated it in another place. They took no part in the discussion in the other House, and I rise to say—though it may seem somewhat Irish to say it—that His.Majesty's Government do not propose this afternoon to take part either on one side or the other.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
This is a Bill introduced into this House as it was into the other House by a private Member, and under these circumstances it is not proposed to exercise any influence His Majesty's Government possess over a small band of faithful followers in this House either to vote or abstain from voting on this occasion. If it is any satisfaction to the noble Viscount, I am happy to add that it is perfectly true that in the last session of the last Parliament an Amendment to the Aliens Act on the lines of this measure was moved in another place and supported by the whole of the Liberal Party; and I shall be very glad indeed, speaking for myself, to support my noble relative in the division lobby on this occasion. I would like to enter one word of protest against the reflection which it seemed to me the noble Viscount cast upon legislation of a similar character which has been passed in our Colonies. I do not think that the experience which we have been able to gain of similar legislation, either in New Zealand or more especially in Australia, would lead anybody to believe that it had been such a failure as the noble Viscount suggested. The noble Viscount taunted us with inconsistency. Surely we may say there is some inconsistency in his own position. The Chairman of the Tariff Reform League moves that a Bill, the object of which is the protection of an important class in the community, should be read a second time this day six months. It 601 seems to me to be proof of a contention, which was often advanced in the course of last year by various Members of the Liberal Party, that the Tariff Reform League is more anxious to protect a certain section of the community, and that section the manufacturers, than to benefit the organised labour of this country. I can promise the noble Viscount that he will not be allowed to forget his opposition to this Bill, either by myself when similar questions arise or by a very large number of people throughout this country.
THE MARQUESS OF LONDON DERRY
My Lords, I confess I am not absolutely surprised at the reply which has been given by the representative of His Majesty's Government. The go-as-you-please principle seems to be the principle by which they have been actuated since they have been in power. When this Bill was put down for Second Reading by the noble Lord opposite, who has had considerable experience of cooperating with the Labour Party, I thought we should hear from him some explanation of this Bill. So far as discussion goes we are, as the noble Lord admitted, in absolute ignorance. This Bill passed through the House of Commons without discussion. Is that absolutely consistent with the conduct of the present Government when in Opposition last year? The Members of the present Government, when in Opposition, opposed the Aliens Act of last year tooth and nail, and yet we now find them endeavouring to make an addition to it by adding a provision which was not contemplated when that Act was passed. I venture to think I am justified, therefore, in saying that the opposition given to that Act in the House of Commons last year was not absolutely conscientious.
I ask noble Lords opposite to remember on what grounds the late Government introduced the Aliens Act. They introduced it on the authority of the Report of the Royal Commission, which declared that the unrestricted admission of aliens was injurious to the country. The Commission considered that it was the cause of overcrowding in our thickly-populated centres, and that the admission of aliens suffering from disease, and also criminals of the worst kind, was ab- 602 solutely injurious to the interests of the country. The Royal Commission, therefore, recommended that some action should be taken, and the Act of 1905 was passed accordingly. But for this Bill no reasons have boon advanced, not even in the House of Commons, by those responsible for it. Therefore, I had hoped that we might hear from the noble Lord in charge of the Bill, or from one of the representatives of His Majesty's Government, some reasons for the necessity of this Bill.
The ex-Home Secretary is a Member of the House of Commons. If he was opposed to the principle of this Bill why did he abstain from saying a single word upon it?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I do not think you can accuse the Opposition with regard to what took place. There was no discussion.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
It was in view of that fact that I expected to hear a full explanation of the Bill from the noble Lord. I congratulate the noble Lord who introduced this measure on the temperate character of his speech, but I cannot congratulate the noble Earl on having given us any exposition on behalf of His Majesty's Government. I conclude that we shall hear from noble Lords opposite some clear exposition of the Bill and the reasons which have led them to support it in a rather half-hearted manner. This is a very big question. I know that in the other House Mr. Keir Hardie moved to include amongst undesirables such as are brought into this country under contract or to take the place of workmen during a trade dispute, and that he subsequently agreed to the omission of the word "or."
The question of employment under contract is one of an important character into which I do not propose to enter to-day, but the Amendments moved by Mr. Keir Hardie struck me as constituting the thin end of the wedge with regard to employment under contract. We have seen this course of action pursued unsuccessfully in the United States of America. We have seen it pursued unsuccessfully in Australia, where it has produced great 603 complications. While I do not wish to enter into that question, I think your Lordships should realise how unsuccessful has been this principle in the United States and in Australia, and consider whether you will allow the thin end of the wedge to be introduced in this country. We have had experience here of strikes of various kinds. We have had strikes in which only individuals or companies have been injured, but we might have a strike of a gigantic character. There might perhaps in the future be a strike in some great industry with which is associated the welfare of the whole people, and in such cases would it be wise to forbid the introduction of men into the country who would keep the industry going?
I am the last person to encourage the employment of foreign labour. I am a large employer of labour myself, and can speak highly of British workmen. It will be regrettable if the Labour Party consider that this House will ring the death-knell of their hopes and aspirations, and I was very sorry to hear the noble Lord make that observation in moving the Second Reading of the Bill. Many of us are closely associated with trades, and sympathise with those who work in them. The noble Lord in the first speech which he has made in this House has stated that the House of Lords has no sympathy with the labouring classes, but I think he will, before he has been many years in this House, have cause to regret that statement. The policy of the Government, to borrow an expression from the game of bridge, is "Leave it to you." There was once a Government known as the "Who, who?" Government, and, if this Government continue to be guided by their followers instead of guiding them, I prophesy that they will be known to posterity as the "Leave it to you" Government.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (The Marquess of RIPON)
My Lords, the noble Marquess who has just sat down might almost be held to be in the error that this was a Government Bill. It is not a Government Bill. It is a Bill which has come up from the House of Commons under peculiar circumstances, to which I shall allude in a moment, and which is brought forward by my noble friend 604 behind me, of whoso speech I will only say this, that I did not in the least understand him to say that he thought this House was likely to throw out this Bill because it was a Bill affecting labour. All that he did say was that if they threw it out they might be supposed to be open to an imputation of that kind.
What is the history of this Bill? Its history is this. It passed through the other House of Parliament, without any opposition, without a single division, and I believe almost without criticism. It re a Bill which might have afforded to the Opposition in the other House that which most Oppositions delight in—namely, an opportunity for wasting time without being able to be accused of unnecessary obstruction; but even that delightful opportunity did not tempt them. They did not raise the smallest objection to this Bill. The occupants of the Front Opposition Bench in the House of Commons said nothing about it. They sent it up to this House as a Bill unanimously passed by the House of Commons. Noble Lords opposite seem to think that there is something inconsistent with the principles of their Aliens Act in this proposal. I am one of those who, like my noble friend behind me who introduced this measure, dislike the whole of the aliens legislation. I have always been opposed to that legislation, and if it had not been passed I should have been no advocate for this Bill. But, my Lords, you have had your aliens legislation; you have passed your Aliens Act; and this Bill conies up to us under circumstances which seem to mo to make it reasonable to suppose that it is a consistent addition to the Act of last year.
Who was the protagonist of the Bill of last year? No man more distinctly than Sir William Evans-Gordon, and I find from The Times this morning that upon the back of this Bill in the House of Commons was to be found the name of that Gentleman. Therefore, my Lords, my noble friend, in offering this Bill to your Lordships for approval, is only doing so upon the recommendation of one of the foremost of the advocates of legislation in regard to aliens. It looks to me very much as if the course taken by the Opposition in another place, of letting this Bill come up without opposition to your Lordships' House, was taken because it 605 was not convenient to oppose this Bill in the House of Commons, and because they thought they might safely leave it to he thrown out by the House of Lords.
To that sort of proceeding I, in the interests of this House, enter my protest. I do not think that a great Party ought to send up to the House of Lords, without uttering a single word of disapprobation, a measure which they hope your Lordships will reject; and for that reason, if it stood alone, I should vote for the Second Beading. I think by so doing I should vindicate the true course of proceeding between the two Houses of Parliament. The noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill took a line which, coming from him, I confess filled me with great astonishment. The noble Lord is the Chairman, I believe, of a famous association of which the head is Mr. Chamberlain. I should very much like to know from the noble Lord whether, in taking the course he is now pursuing, he is quite in accord with the views of Mr. Chamberlain.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
The course which the noble Lord has taken is highly inconsistent with those principles T have understood him to profess. He thinks it it inconsistent on my part to support this Bill because I am a free trader. I am for free trade in fiscal matters. I have never been for laissez faire in matters which relate to the interest of human beings. I draw the broadest distinction between those two things, and mainly, I confess, because of the mode in which this Bill has come up to us on this occasion it is my intention to vote for the Second Beading.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the speech to which we have just listened has not, I venture to think, greatly assisted your Lordships in endeavouring to deal with the extraordinary and difficult situation which has been created by the conduct of His Majesty's Government in regard to this Bill. Not for the first time during the course of the present session have we found ourselves confronted by the announcement that, in regard to issues of the utmost 606 national importance, His Majesty's Government had no views of their own, but wore content to leave the decision to the discretion of Parliament. That Laodicean treatment of great measures is, I submit to your Lordships, neither convenient nor altogether dignified.
In the case of this Bill the attitude of His Majesty's Ministers seems to me particulary inexcusable. The Bill is a small one, but it carries within it a new principle, and a principle of the greatest importance. To the best of my belief this is the first attempt that has been made in the history of our legislation to place restrictions upon the free movement of labour. What this Bill in effect says is that, if there be a labour dispute in this country, the employers of labour are to be precluded from employing men taken from beyond the limits of these islands. That is an entirely new departure. It seems to mo to proceed upon the assumption that in these disputes the blame must necessarily lie on one side. The dispute may, however, be one in which either the employers or the workmen may be to blame, or it may be a dispute in which a genuine misunderstanding has arisen and neither side is to blame, and in such a case the greatest inconvenience might be created by a sudden cessation of the works upon which employers and employed have up to the present engaged their activities. What right have we, in such a case, to lay down that under no circumstances is a workman to be recruited from a foreign country—a workman who may be an absolutely respectable and harmless member of society, and who, therefore, clearly does not come within the categories we desire to exclude by the existing Aliens Act?
Observe what His Majesty's Government are doing. They are proposing, by other measures which are now before Parliament, to legalise what I believe is known as peaceful persuasion during strikes. They are proposing to extent to the funds of trade unions an immunity enjoyed by no other organisations, and now upon the top of all this they propose further to load the dice by intimating to employers of labour that, however blameless their conduct may have been, they are not to be at liberty to take the only measure which, perhaps, may enable them to extricate 607 themselves from a great difficulty which suddenly confronts them. These are proposals which it would, in any case, be difficult for His Majesty's Government to justify; but they seem to me to be still more open to objection on account of the fragmentary way in which this great subject is being dealt with under the Bill on the Table.
I well recollect, both when the Aliens Bill was before your Lordships' House and again when the aliens question was discussed on the Motion of my noble friend Lord Newton, that noble Lords opposite, members of His Majesty's Government, made no secret of their dislike to the Act and of their opinion that it required alteration and Amendment. My Lords, that attitude I entirely understand. It is to my mind perfectly conceivable that the Act may be capable of amendment and improvement, but if it is to be amended and improved, let it be done by His Majesty's Government and on the responsibility of His Majesty's Government. We have been already told during this discussion that one of His Majesty's Ministers announced from his place in Parliament that it was too soon to undertake the task of amending the Aliens Act, and I think that was a perfectly sound opinion. Any of your Lordships who have followed the discussions to which the administration of the Aliens Act has given rise will have seen that there is a great deal to show that the hardships which have arisen in connection with the administration of the Act—and I quite admit that there have been hardships—are of a kind which are inseparable from the operation of a newly introduced statute. Therefore, I think the Minister who asked for time before undertaking the amendment of the Act took a reasonable view of this important question.
But what his Majesty's Government are doing is this. They are, so far as I can make out, in the first place, doing what they can to knock the bottom out of the Act by administrative action, and now they come forward and propose to your Lordships that we should graft on to it this grotesque excrescence—that is really the only phrase I can find to describe it—which has nothing whatever to do with the purport or policy of that Act. It is to that proposal we are invited, on the Motion of a private 608 Member, to agree this evening. If I were not unwilling to detain your Lordships, I would ask you to glance for a moment at the solitary clause of which this Bill is composed. I would ask your Lordships how the Bill is likely to operate if it becomes law. It is proposed to enact that a man is to be liable to exclusion as an undesirableif he is being brought into the United Kingdom under contract to take, or with the intention of taking, the place of a workman during a trade dispute.Now, my Lords, supposing that were put upon the Statute book. Conceive the position of the official or the Department called upon to ascertain whether a particular foreigner came into this country with the intention of taking the place of a workman who had gone out on strike! The existing Act has been severely criticised, and perhaps not entirely without reason, because it contains some provisions which are not very easy to administer or to apply. But, my Lords, what was called by one of His Majesty's Ministers the "dangerous legal laxity" of the Act is nothing to the dangerous legal laxity of the words which I have just ventured to read to your Lordships.
The question we have to consider is how we who sit on these benches, after the extraordinary statements to which we have listened, are to deal with the Bill before us. I would remind your Lordships again that it comes up to us as a private Member's Measure. We have been told two or three times to-night that it is not a Government Bill. I feel very strongly that, particularly in this House, we ought to think twice before we reject proposals made by the responsible Government of the day, particularly when they deal with questions affecting the welfare of a great body of our fellow subjects. I say that if this Bill, bad as I believe it to be, is presented to us with the full and deliberate approval of His Majesty's Government; if they will make themselves responsible for it; if they will undertake to see that it is properly drawn and, if necessary, to introduce Amendments with the object of making it a workable measure —if they will do these things, then I would venture to appeal to my noble friend and suggest that we should allow the Bill to pass, at all events, through this stage, and consider what further 609 action may be necessary when we know more of the manner in which it will be handled by His Majesty's Ministers. But, if we are unable to elicit any such intimation from His Majesty's Govern merit, if they consider the question of so little moment that they are ready to leave it to the judgment of the House, if they invite us to go as we please, then, having from them that distinct intimation, that distinct implication that the matter is not in their opinion an essential or vital one, we can have no other course but to vote with my noble friend behind me and to ask your Lordships to reject this ill-considered and unfortunate proposal.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I venture, even at this last moment, to appeal to His Majesty's Government. We desire on this side of the House to pay every deference to any Bill which comes up to us from another place. But we desire to be guided as far as we can by the noble Marquess opposite, whom we acknowledge to be the Leader of your Lordships' House, and we ask him what action the Government propose to take in regard to this measure. Is that an unreasonable demand? There has been nothing said in defence of this Bill. How can you ask the House of Lords, with nothing said on behalf of the Bill and without the responsibility of His Majesty's Government, to assent to so great a change in the principles of our legislation?
I have made myself acquainted with what passed in another place, and I believe it to be true that, with the exception of a very few observations made by the present Postmaster-General during the discussions of last year, no member of the present Cabinet has really defended this Bill. The present Home Secretary no doubt spoke a few short sentences upon the Amendment to the Address to which reference has already been made, but in those observations, beyond expressing a bare approval of the principle which we are now discussing, he entered into no defence whatever of the provisions of this Bill or of the Amendment which embodied the principles. So that we have no guidance whatever. The only material observation which the Home Secretary made was the one referred to by my noble friend behind me, that ho thought it was too soon to reopen 610 the Aliens Act. That is the only intimation we have received from His Majesty's Government in another place of their view of this Bill, and to ask us to assent to it in these circumstances seems to me a parody of legislation.
If His Majesty's Government will put up one of their number now to say, "We will make ourselves responsible for this Bill, and will see that it passes in a reasonable shape, that it does not disgrace the Statute-book, that it is not unworkable and impossible of enforcement, and that, responsible as we are for the conduct of business in your Lordships' house, we will see that your Lordships do not make fools of yourselves"—if they will say that, there will be no desire to press this Amendment. But if they leave us to go as we please with regard to a Bill which it is impossible to enforce, and upon a principle for which they will not make themselves responsible, I venture to think public opinion in this country will never call the action of your Lordships' House into question if, under these circumstances, we find ourselves unable to assent to the Second Beading of this Bill.
When I look at the benches opposite I have a suspicion that, instead of there having been a whip issued in favour of this Bill, there has probably been one issued against it, or a hint to the effect that noble Lords who support His Majesty's Government would do well not to be present. When the noble Lord in charge of the Bill was accusing noble Lords on this side of a desire to come into conflict with the Labour Party in another place, I noticed that there were only nineteen noble Lords opposite ready to support him with their presence, and I do not think much of the defence of the Labour Party which the noble Lords opposite present, and the Government themselves are not able to say one word in defence of this Bill. Are they not ashamed of themselves? What will be thought by their Labour friends in another place when they read that His Majesty's Government were unable, as a Government, to support this Bill, that they were unable to give any guidance to your Lordship's House in this matter? I do earnestly hope that in the interests of the dignity of the House of Lords one of the members of the Cabinet will get up and say 611 what line they, as a responsible Government, propose to take. If they do that, I can assure them, on behalf of noble Lords who sit on this side of the House, that we shall place no further obstacle in the wav of the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ LORD JOICEY
My Lords, I am not surprised to hear the speeches on this question which have been delivered by noble Lords on the front Opposition Bench. It is another of many illustrations I have seen with regard to legislation which has been brought forward by one Government or another. When I had the honour of a seat in the other House I opposed the Aliens Act. That Act was brought in by a Conservative Government, and, as is the case with all Bills which are brought in by a Conservative Government, they never intended legislation to go beyond the actual Bill that they drafted; but from my experience I have always found that once you admit a principle that principle goes into various quarters that were never intended. Had the Aliens Bill not been rushed through the House of Commons we should not have had such a Bill as this brought before us. I consider, therefore, that this Bill is entirely the result of the action of the Conservative Party.
I am surprised at the position which noble Lords who oppose this Bill have taken up. They do not appear to object to the principle of the Bill. What they say is this. If His Majesty's Government will father the Bill, then they will not oppose it. It is not that they oppose the principle itself. They oppose the Bill because it is brought in by a private Member. I fail to see any difference whatever in the principle, whether the Bill is brought in by the Government or by a private Member. I cannot help thinking that noble Lords
§ who oppose this measure do so on other grounds than principle. I have an idea what those grounds are, but I am not going to state it. I think the probability is that they are considering what effect their action will have on the country.
§ I do not view this Bill with great alarm. I am an employer of labour, but I have never known a case in connection with the great industry I represent where any attempt has been made to bring foreign labour in to compete with the home market. I cannot think that this measure will have any very serious effect one way or the other. Another reason why I do not hesitate to support this measure is that it was passed unanimously by the House of Commons. I am somewhat surprised to find noble Lords opposite offering such strong opposition now to the measure, when their colleagues in the other House never said a single word against it. If the principle is so bad—and I am not going to defend the principle—that it is likely to lead to serious results, I fail to understand why it did not meet with strong opposition from the Conservative Party in the House of Commons. I certainly cannot take the responsibility of helping to throw out a simple measure of this sort when it has been passed unanimously by the other House, and on that ground I shall support the Second Reading.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord LOREBURN)
I did not understand whether the noble Viscount moved his Amendment.
§ On Question, that the Bill be now read 2a, their Lordships divided:—Contents, 24; Not-Contents. 96.613
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Boston, L.||Hemphill, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. President.)||Castletown, L.||Joicey, L.|
|Ripon, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Colebrooke, L.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Coleridge, L. [Teller.]||Lyveden, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Denman, L.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Russell, E.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Granard, L. (E. Granard.)||Weardale, L. [Teller]|
|Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Haversham, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Kinross, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Colville of Culross, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Goschen, V.||Leith, L.|
|Rutland, D.||Halifax, V.||Lovat, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Hardinge, V.||Ludlow, L.|
|Hill, V.||Macnaghten, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donough more)||Manners, L.|
|Salisbury, M,||Manners of Haddon, L. (M Granby.)|
|Camperdown. E.||Ridley, V.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Sidmouth, V.||Muskerry, L.|
|Carnwath, E.||Newton, L.|
|Catheart, E.||Addington, L.||Oranmore and Browne L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Aldenham, L.||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Allerton, L.||Poltimore, L.|
|Coventry, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bess borough.)|
|Dartrey, E.||Atkinson, L.|
|Devon, E.||Balinhard, L. (E. Southesk.)||Rathmore, L.|
|Ducie, E.||Barrymore, L.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Feversham, E.||Biddulph, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Borthwick, L.||Robertson, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.||Rosmead, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)||Saltoun, L.|
|Lauderdale. E.||Cheylesmore, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Clinton, L.||Savile, L.|
|Manvers, E.||Colchester, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Munster, E.||De Mauley, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Onslow, E.||de Ros, L.||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Powis, E.||Digby, L.|
|Rosse, E.||Faber, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)||Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.)|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Heneage, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Yarborough, E.||Kelvin, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)||Wynford, L.|
|Bangor, V.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)|