HL Deb 16 August 1911 vol 9 cc1135-6

I beg to ask the noble Viscount opposite a Question of which I have given him private notice. I am sure all of us must have read with the gravest concern and apprehension the reports in the newspapers to-day with regard to the state of things in the industrial market. We read not only of serious events which have taken place, but of not less serious events which appear to be impending unless the spirit of conciliation fortunately comes over those most concerned. I would venture to ask the noble Viscount whether he can tell us anything of interest either as to the facts or as to the precautions which His Majesty's Government are disposed to take in the event of the aspect of the case becoming more serious. The noble Viscount will understand that at such a moment I should not think of pressing him to give to the House any information which it might be in the public interest not to give, and it is with that limitation that I put the Question.


I may say this. About the question of the railway companies it is not desirable that I should say anything. The Board of Trade is engaged in conference with those concerned and has been busy all day; indeed, it has been so from early morning to midnight for some few days in dealing with this question. What the outcome may be we cannot tell. As regards the general situation in the London docks, all I can say is that the situation to-day is no worse. There is a good deal of business going on. There has arisen, unfortunately, a difficulty over the claim of the men employed at the Albert Dock to be engaged at the gates. The object of that is obviously that only union men shall be engaged, and over that friction has arisen and controversy is proceeding. Passing to Liverpool, your Lordships were informed by the newspapers of what happened yesterday, and the accounts are substantially correct. A violent attack was made on the prison vans and had to be repelled by force. The troops were used and firing took place, and unfortunately life was lost; but no further disturbance occurred during the evening, and this morning, according to a telegram which I have had, all has remained still quiet. Convoys of food are being got out regularly. If violence of that kind—utterly unreasonable, turbulent violence—is repeated the policy of the Government is to put it down and to use all the force necessary for the purpose, and the disposition of both police and troops ought to be adequate for the purpose. As regards Manchester, business is practically at a standstill there, although there is no disturbance. Two battalions of Infantry and a Cavalry regiment are at hand and ready to be moved in if it should prove necessary. I trust that it will not prove necessary, for the use of military force is to be deplored if it can be avoided. At the same time, with scenes such as we have witnessed there may be no other way. As regards other places, at Cardiff last night there was a disturbance, but this morning all was reported quiet. These are the salient features of to-day's situation. We are watching very closely what is going on, and we are in constant communication with all parts of the country where disturbance is apprehended, and all precautions that we can take are being taken; but it is well, I think, to say no more about details which change from hour to hour.

House adjourned at twenty minutes past Five o'clock, till Tomorrow, a quarter-past Four o'clock.