§ Debate on the Motion of Lord BUCKMASTER—viz., "That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the present industrial and economic conditions—" resumed (according to Order).
I think your Lordships will agree that, since this debate was initiated by Lord Buckmaster, among the two most interesting speeches delivered to this House were those by Lord Leverhulme and Viscount Haldane, though from perhaps somewhat different points of view. The speech of Lord Leverhulme, I think, was a relief to the House generally, and to those of us who have been having our flesh made to creep by gloomy pictures of industrial unrest, by the spirit of optimism which pervaded it. I think it was a consolation to us to feel that at any rate so far as his experience went he did not think the British workman to be at all unreasonable, or that adjustment with him in labour troubles was impossible. He rather felt that most of his demands had a good deal to be said for them, and that if met in a reasonable spirit he would behave reasonably to his employers. Perhaps it was a little more optimistic in tone because he had not, in his own particular business, been brought so much into contact with the engineering trades, which are responsible for a good deal of the trouble and unrest.
My noble friend Viscount Haldane reminded the House that it was not quite certain how much we should be able to teach labour in this matter. He was dealing with several speeches that have been made which contained a suggestion, not that everything would be all right, but that we should go a considerable distance towards making everything all right if we could get labour to understand really 284 the facts of the case. He reminded the House that labour was, in fact, fairly well informed on this subject—I venture to think probably rather better informed than most of your Lordships—and that there were to be obtained within a few minutes of this House pamphlets and other productions of the Fabian Society and more serious works by persons of academic distinction, which deal with these labour problems exhaustively and give to labour a great deal more knowledge than perhaps from the selfish capitalist point of view it is convenient that labour should have. If I may say so, perhaps the chief use of a debate of the character we have been having is not to educate labour, but to educate your Lordships and politicians. I think it is important that we should learn what we certainly do not know—that is, what are the grievances of labour, and what there is at the back of the demands which appear in the newspapers as labour unrest, and which in some cases are reflected in strikes.
I propose to deal for a few moments with the causes of labour unrest, and I should like to say, by way of preface, that I associate myself entirely with what was said by Lord Buckmaster in initiating this debate, that labour as a whole is certainly not anarchic or revolutionary. I think we may rely upon labour to be as sound as we generally are in this country in matters of this sort. That being so, I would deprecate in any of these controversies the use of Bolshevik or Bolshevism as applied to any section of our own community. That word is associated—and rightly associated—with excesses of the most terrible and horrible description, with uncivilised and savage actions, and I should be sorry to think—and I do not think—that any section of my countrymen, however extreme, are anxious to be associated with actions of that kind. Therefore, even when we are complaining of extreme action, we should try and avoid the use of a foreign word implying a foreign and Russian state of mind which I think is entirely alien to any section of the British people. I am not quite so optimistic as Lord Leverhulme who went so far as to say that there was no such thing as a revolutionary British workman, and that none of them were anarchical syndicalists. Some of them certainly are; some of them go to great extremes, but generally do not let us introduce these foreign words with which to tar some of our own countrymen who quite 285 possibly may prove amenable to reason, and who in any case I am convinced are not anxious to run a course of bloodshed through the country.
I think that the cause of labour unrest is not a thing of yesterday, not a thing of last year, not a thing even of the war, but that it dates back for at least a generation. It dates back, my Lords, to the time, really more than a generation ago, when industryas we know it now began in this country, and when employers and capitalists recklessly and thriftlessly took to using and exploiting the manhood of this country for the purpose of making profits, when the old doctrine of industrial competition took no account whatever of the lives and bodies of the working men who made those profits and who carried on those industries. We exploited in those days—it is useless to deny it—the lives of these people, and this has to some extent come to be realised. It is not forgiven, and I do not think it is likely to be forgotten. What was the life of the working man? Your Lordships heard what Lord Leverhulme told you about two classes of men in a cotton district, I think it was—the bow-legged and knock-kneed. But what was the useful life of the working man in those days? It began perhaps at eighteen, and finished perhaps at forty-five or possibly fifty. And, from the point of view of the employer—and I think we might well say from the point of view of the State also—did anybody care what happened to him either before he began his work or after he had finished it? He was used, and he was then thrown aside on to the scrap heap of society, very often driven to the workhouse to end his days. We all recognise now that that is a state of things which is not good from the purely selfish capitalists' point of view, but much more so is it not good from the ethical or moral point of view. Moreover, what we now recognise as the duty of the State is that it is an immoral proceeding which the State should rot countenance, a proceeding which does not make for the well-being and for the prosperity of the country as a whole. Out of these men so employed we made large profits, and to this day large profits are made out of the employment of workmen by the diversion to the employer or capitalist, or whatever you like to call him, of a proportion of the earnings of each man so that the one man at the head of the business draws a large profit from the labour of those employed in the business.
286 I do not subscribe for a moment to the doctrine of Marx that labour and labour alone is the source of all wealth. I am rather apt to think in these days, or at any rate in this country, that labour itself has begun to recognise that that is not a complete statement of the case, and that many other things besides mere manual labour are required before you can produce wealth in a country. But I think that labour has realised that it is a very important and essential contributing cause to the production of wealth, and it intends to have a fair share of that wealth. Consider the question of conditions. Your Lordships have had some extracts read to you already during this debate on housing conditions as they existed quite recently, and you know something from the Army statistics about the general health of the proletariat of the country. It is not a thing for us to reflect upon with pride that those who have been known as the governing classes of this country for so many years have only been able to produce, or have been content to allow to continue to exist, a state of things in which insanitary hovels are regarded as proper places in which to house a man who is contributing to the nation's wealth, in which his health is neglected, in which a large portion of the population is attacked with tuberculosis and other diseases, and in which the opportunities of the working class for recreation have been unduly limited. These things have happened in the past. To some extent they happen to-day, and I think it is the culmination of all these things which has produced the present state of labour unrest and the present demand on the part of labour.
We have had sweated industries. Your Lordships quite well remember the example of the chainmakers who before the war, even after all that had been done for them, were still receiving a miserable wage. The labourer has not had that amount of leisure for recreation, that amount of opportunity for advancement, which a wise and paternal Government would have given him. We have put up with the existence of slums in our great cities. We have passed Acts of Parliament about them comparatively recently, but we have done very little more than the passing of these Acts. We have not, each one of us separately and all of us collectively, said that we will not tolerate that state of things any longer, that we will not sit down com- 287 fortably under it, that we will not regard it as possible to live our own lives while such things co-exist with our lives.
Look at the conditions before the war of low wages and housing—15s. a week, and I believe in some counties even less, for a man to bring up his wife and family upon, and to support life. Is that a thing on which we can reflect with any degree of pride and satisfaction? But that was not altered voluntarily by the governing class—by the class which had the money. That it was not is something, I think, which redounds to our discredit, and a fact for which I believe we are now suffering. Housing in the country was in most cases inadequate, in many cases quite insanitary; and if I am told—as I may be told by subsequent speakers—that there have been many excellent landlords who have built many good cottages, who have had model villages and things of that sort, I frankly and fully admit it. There have been individuals—I am glad to think a growing class of individuals—whose own conscience has been so shocked by this state of things that they have even been prepared to remedy it at their own expense, regardless of the fact of whether it was profitable to do so or not. But that is not quite my point. My point is rather that the cummunity as a whole has remained selfishly happy and contented with its own enjoyments and with its own leisure, while things of that sort were allowed to go on unchecked. These, I think, are the things for which labour finds it difficult to forgive the capitalist class.
Did capital and did the community ever really wake up to its responsibility, and ever really take these matters in hand except under pressure and under threats? There has been good will, there have been good words and good intentions, but have those who have control of those conditions made serious efforts to alter them until They were forced to do so? Has every pulpit occupied by every parson resounded with denunciations of that sort of thing in every parish Sunday after Sunday until it was remedied? Has every politician, whenever he has spoken, said "I will not consider that my work is done until those who work for this country are properly treated and properly housed? No, my Lords, we know that that has not happened; we know that, in spite of philanthropists, and in spite of a good deal that has been done, the general social 288 sense of the community has not really been pricked and stirred to such an extent as would make it take active and definite action. And I think it is for that supine content that we are very largely suffering to-day.
I do not think that the reason why we did not do these things was due to ill-will on our part; in fact, I think I may say that, with regard to the majority of landowners, certainly with regard to a great many of what may be called capitalists among the industrial classes, it was not due to ill-will. Nor do I think that it was due altogether to mere laziness; but it was due to what we as a nation suffer from a great deal, and that is a want of imagination, a want of picturing to ourselves conditions with which we are not immediately familiar and with which we do not come directly into contact. There is none of your Lordships, on seeing such things as you read about in Reports, but will say "This must be remedied; I cannot sleep comfortably unless it is corrected. "I think we all feel like that But when a thing is not before us we do not think about it. We are content to think of labour as of a man who checks his time on by a clock in the morning and cheeks it off in the evening; and, for the rest, we do not much know, we do not much care; we merely hope he will come back next morning. I think it is things like that, coupled with the increasing independence caused by the war, and coupled with that general sense of upheaval which no doubt is present in the world at large, that has led to the stormy sea of unrest which surrounds us to-day.
What was the panacea which we were offered on the first night of this debate in the speech by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, whom we have recently welcomed to this House? So far as I could make out, it consisted shortly in this, "Trust the Government. We have not had much time, but every remediable wrong will b3 righted; trust the Government." That seemed to me a little like an invitation which we used to hear in nursery days, about opening your mouth and shutting your eyes and seeing what would come to you. Labour, I think, has got a little beyond being invited to trust a Government, or to trust a Commission, or to trust any body of people, however eminent or however well meaning.
The King's Speech contained what seemed to me some very significant words 289 with regard to the spirit in which this has to be met, with regard to the putting aside of vested interests and vested prejudices and really shaking ourselves free of those traditions, meeting it in a new and a broad spirit. When I considered who was responsible for the phraseology I could not help feeling that some of those to whom sentiments of that kind would normally appear to be alien must have been rather terrified and rather frightened before they gave their assent to phrases of that character; and I only hope that the history of this Parliament will succeed in persuading the masses that those phrases are genuine, that they will be lived up to, and that they do express the spirit of this House of Commons. I should not have guessed it. I should not have guessed it from the composition of this House, and I should not have guessed it from the speeches which were made during the Election. Many unfortunate things were said—some of them by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack himself; and I think that the people were promised many things which will not be performed, and were led astray in some directions in which that leading astray, will probably cause trouble later. I do not know who in the labour world trusts either the present Prime Minister or the present House of Commons. I think, if they did, there would be a better hope for the future. I wish that they did.
As a symptom of the sort of feeling of unrest and independence of which I spoke, and of the way in which it is growing, I would mention what struck me as rather significant. I purchased the other day on a bookstall one of those illustrated magazines which one gets in order to while away an hour on a railway journey—a magazine which one has never hitherto associated with labour questions, or serious questions of any sort, and in which one certainly has not expected to find any indication of anything resembling a social revolution. In the pages of this normally harmless magazine I found an article about "The Black-coated Man," an article which said with great vehemence—Mr. Black-coated Man, we have done with you. You stayed at home; you did not suffer the risks of the war. You were our master; you made the money while we sweated and toiled. We have finished with you, Mr. Black-coated Man; we are coming back, and coming into our own.The article was, I think I may fairly say, revolutionary in sentiment, and it was 290 somewhat significant, that in an organ of that kind we should find sentiments of that sort expressed.
I think it is not so much labour that wants education (although a great deal of education is wanted there, too) as it is the class of capitalists and the governing bodies of this country themselves. Our newspapers do not give—practically never give—a fair representation of labour conditions or of any labour dispute. The chief organ of this country, The Times, has lately changed that policy, and has had, I think I am right, in saying more than one leading article advocating that the cause of labour should be presented quite as strongly and quite as clearly as the case of the capitalist. That is a sign of the times, but it is a rare and a novel thing; the ordinary paper that is read by the man in the train, the ordinary paper that is read by the clerk in the street, or going home in the evening, has seldom, indeed hardly ever, anything but a sneer for any demand of labour, or anything but a gibe at the attitude of labour, or its method of demanding something new. Labour can no longer be met with sneers and with gibes, and it would be well that these journals, which belong to and are controlled by the capitalist class, should seriously give their mind to dealing with these questions as if they were questions at least equally important with the franchise or something of that kind.
A great deal depends on the point of view with which these things are approached, and I think one very useful thing about this debate has been that, so far as I can charge my memory, not one single noble Lord who has taken part in it has in any way flouted the claims of labour, or has in any way treated labour as a whole as being an irresponsible and unreasonable body of men. That, I think, is a very useful feature of this debate, and will have a good effect. But when I say labour should be educated, how can you educate a distrustful labour? How can you educate a person who does not believe a word you say to him? How can you educate a person who sees in every agreement you make—and not altogether, I am sorry to say, without reason in the past—some loop-hole, some way in which he thinks he is going to be done later. Look at the tube strike the other day. There was untold inconvenience to millions; and why? Because the men understood 291 they were to have something which the actual written letter, perhaps, did not give them. That appears to have been, so far as I can make it out—although I share the difficulty of my noble friend on the Front Bench—the principal reason of that strike.
And Labour feels this. It feels that when new arrangements are made about piece-work, about hours, about any sort of settlement, it is always running a risk of being in some way gerrymandered. It suspects your Statutes; it suspects, I fear, your Commissions. I see that it is divided even against the Bill which is now before Parliament. Then there is a complaint that the crisis has come upon us suddenly; that we are taken unprepared; that it has been unreasonable in the point of view of time. I do not think that this complaint is well founded. I believe that many of the demands that are now being put forward have been put forward not only for months but in many cases for years; that they are not novel; that they are not a surprise; and that the material with which to answer them—be it by granting them, or be it by saying that they are impossible to be granted—could be, ought to have been, should have been, ready in the Government's possession the moment they were challenged.
Let us consider the question of the coal-miners, which is, perhaps, the most urgent of the problems before us. We are all agreed, I think, that work of that character is arduous, unpleasant, and, more than that dangerous both to life and to limb. So much is that so, that I have been told to-day that many of those who before the war worked in coal mines, having had an experience above ground, are unwilling and reluctant to return to those conditions. We shall none of us deny that. The noble Earl, Lord Brassey, who spoke from this bench, told your Lordships that he himself knew the conditions. If that is so, we shall all agree that an industry of that character should have as short hours and as adequate remuneration as it is possible to give it. The demands which they made have been made for some time. I do not think that on the whole the Government would be prepared to say that the leaders of the coal-miners have been unreasonable. I read with great care, as no doubt all your Lordships did, that very interesting discussion which took place between the Prime Minister and Mr. Smillie; and the effect 292 that it left upon my mind was that Mr. Smillie's answer was, "You ask us now at the last moment to hold our hands, and you say it is unreasonable that we should not hold our hands for a fortnight. But my answer to that is that these demands have been before you for some time; that you have never given any serious attention to them unless you were forced and unless you were pressed to do so; and that if you now ask me to hold my hand I do not feel any confidence that you will give any attention to them in the future, or those behind me do not feel any confidence that you will do so."
That is how I read the situation. Whether I am right or whether I am wrong, I do not know. But if that is so, if this Commission is unable to report in time—and really on a subject of this character I do not know how any useful Report can be produced in a few days—if those for whom Mr. Smillie is responsible, but who, after all, have the control, are not amenable to his advice—for I believe that the leaders of the miners would anxiously advise them to avoid precipitating a conflict—but if they prove not amenable to that advice we shall have upon us a strike of a very serious character, not only a strike of a very serious character to industry itself, not only of a serious character from the actual privations to which it will lead, from the loss of business to which it will lead and the injury it will do to the country, but of a very serious character because we do not know how such a strike may spread and what will be its end. I think that everything that can be done should be done to avert such a calamity. I hope and believe that the Government fully recognise the seriousness of it, and that they will do all they can. But I think they have to be blamed to some extent for supineness and inertia in the past for not foreseeing this situation, for not getting ready to answer demands which are not altogether novel.
There is one matter on which I think the Government could do something. I believe—there seems to be a general belief—that if the Government were prepared to announce the nationalisation of the coal-mining industry in this country, this would so far satisfy the miners that at any rate they would be willing to hold their hands until the whole question were looked into and fully investigated. I must assume that the Government have 293 considered that; but I am of opinion that we are entitled to ask whether they do take that view or whether they do not.
if we are told that this is a matter which will be discussed by the Commission, then I should respectfully demur to that. Nationalisation is not a question of fact to be found by a Commission; it is a question of high policy to be decided by the Government of the day; it is for them to come to the decision, and not for anybody else. But if it be true that the taking and the announcement of such a decision would avert this threatened calamity, then I think the Government would be very ill-advised not to take that step.
The other suggestion which I have seen made in the Press is sonic kind of joint working arrangement between the coal-owners and the coal-miners, a kind of profit-sharing enterprise on a large scale. I do not for a moment believe that an arrangement of that sort will work well; I do not for a moment believe that the men will think they are being treated fairly under it; there are so many things which they do not know and which they will find it difficult to check. But whether that be so or not, one thing I think we can all say with certainty—namely, that such a system obviously could not be as economical, and therefore as beneficial, for the country as a system of unified control and unified management of all the coal pits in the country for a common national purpose.
It may be said that such a scheme is Socialism. Well, my Lords, what many of the workers are asking for is Socialism. What many of them are asking for is that the whole of the material of industry should be placed in the hands of the State; that the right of any man to work should be dependent on the caprice of no individual employer or company. But they are not pressing you for it yet on a universal scale; and you may be wise to give it in instances of this sort, if thereby you will succeed in doing something which is economical and beneficial, and which will avert such a great danger as is now before us. I should like to ask, when it is said—as no doubt it will be said by those who speak for the Government—that all these 294 matters have been fully considered and gone into carefully from every point of view, whether among those Fabian pamphlets I have mentioned there has ever been seriously considered by a Government Department, and worked out with facts and figures, a book called "How to Pay for the War," which suggests the nationalisation, amongst others, of the coal industry and of the railway industry? A perfectly clear suggestion is made there by which the hope is held out that these industries by amalgamation may make such economies as will enable them to pay larger wages and to have a surplus over towards the payment for the war. That statement may be true or it may not be true; it may be a chimera.
Noble Lords, who have no doubt worked out the facts and figures, say it is not true. What I desire to ask is whether His Majesty's Government have ever thought it worth while to examine a statement of that sort which is put forward by a very considerable section of the community and which is believed in by a very large section of the community; because if they have not considered it, then I think they have been rather blind to a matter which ought to have been one of the first things considered with facts and figures by a Department; they ought to have been prepared with an answer if it is not true.
There is another point as to which we have had no definite announcement from the Government, but I think it is a thing which might be mentioned at some time or other, and that is the super-power schemes for the use of coal. If coal is to cost so very much more, does it follow necessarily, as I think was said last night in another place, that no industry can be run and all must suffer? Is it not possible, by the constitution of these schemes of generating power at the pit head, or the economical use of coal, to make it go a longer way? I do not think any definite announcement has been made as to whether the Government are going to put these schemes in hand, and whether, if they are put in hand, they will be private or national enterprises.
Now, my Lords, as to the railways. Happily the unrest there has for the moment subsided. Several times in this 295 debate we have asked, and neither of the Government speakers has answered, a question as to the nationalisation of the railways. I will put this question once more. Is the utterance of Mr. Winston Churchill during the Election adopted or not by the Government as official? Are the railways to be nationalised or not? If they are, I think the sooner an announcement is made the better. Some ingenious analyses were made of capital profits, and notably among others by Lord Emmott—the matter was also touched upon by Lord Leverhulme—with a view of showing that the workman would have been much worse off if he had taken the excess profits rather than an increase of wages. He also made the point that only about £100,000,000 of extra profits went into the pockets of the capitalists. I do not think the workman cares about that. He says "You have made £450,000,000 extra profit, and I do not care whether the Government took it or it went into your pocket." I do not think that it is an answer to deal with the matter on a financial basis; nor do I think we can always deal with the matter on a question of percentages or a question of gross profit. The workman is inclined to think, now-a-days, that the share to which he is entitled in industry is a very much larger share than he has received in the past, and not only is he inclined to think it but employers very largely, I believe, recognise that he means to get it, and that a condition of the employers survival is that the workman should get it in the easiest way and with the least possible friction.
Social revolution has come, and it is impossible to meet it with any sort of chicanery or smooth words, and still less is it possible to meet, it with anything in the shape of force. If once we recognise this and then face the facts, I think we shall have some chance of doing better than if we continue to live in a world that is past and to apply remedies that are no longer adequate. The capitalist mind itself must undergo revolution, in order to march with the times. Exploiting has come to an end. The remedy is greater efficiency and increased production. Nothing is more true than what was said by Lord Leverhulme and others—namely, that we do not produce anything like what we ought to do per man and pet machine and factory in this country. Our economic position, we recognise, is as bad as it can be. Wealth has been destroyed by thou- 296 sands of millions and has to be replaced, and it can only be replaced by work, hard work, and only in these conditions by increased production. This is a question very largely, as Lord Haldane said, of mind in industry, but the workman must also do his share. He must recognise that unemployment is not going to be destroyed by the sort of fallacious remedy he adopts, of working half time himself in order that there may be work for others. That sort of thing makes the country poorer; and it is an argument based on the same kind of fallacy as that which possesses the mind of the Tariff Reformer.
The economic position of the country is a very serious one. The pre-war budget, roughly speaking, was £200,000,000; the post-war budget will be, roughly speaking, £800,000,000. Where is that additional £600,000,000 to come from? It cannot conic out of labour, except to a very small extent. It must come from us, the capitalist class, who have the money, and it cannot come out of us, the capitalist class, unless you have a revival of industry—shipping going to and fro full, factories and warehouses full, and everything going at full pressure in the industries of this country. For otherwise we shall have no money to pay any taxation, no matter what our nominal possessions may be. We must all work with a new spirit and with a sense of communal responsibility. The thunders of the Defence of the Realm Act have frequently been directed against those who say anything about recruiting. We shall do well to direct, not the official and legal thunder, but the moral thunder against anybody who thinks that labour can be dealt with by lip service, or by any sort of sneer against workmen, upon whom we all have to rely in the last resort for the restoration of this country to a condition of prosperity. If labour problems are dealt with in this way, and if labour once feels it can trust those whom it is entitled to trust and those responsible for the Government of the country, we shall have made a great advance towards the solution of unrest in general.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
My Lords, speaking with eloquence, and if I may say so with the clarity which is even better than eloquence, the noble Earl has said that no member of this House who has taken part in this debate has, so far, uttered an unsympathetic word towards the claims of labour. I hope to do nothing 297 to disturb that good record. In what I propose to say I shall be seeking at all events to improve it. I hold no brief for the Government, but it is to be remembered in the present situation that we have before us the claims of the miners and other industrial groups on the one hand and upon the other hand the claims of the great unorganised mass of the majority of the population; and for that great unorganised body of persons we have no champion, no protagonist, no advocate, except the actual Government of the day. It is for them to put forward arguments, to produce facts, to exercise if possible the persuasion which alone can bring an end to our present troubles.
Since this debate was opened by the eloquent speech of the noble and learned Lord on the bench below me, the great fact which has happened is one which has given us much reason to think, and that is that by, I think, a majority of five to one the miners have voted in favour of a strike, and that we are told this is substantially a large proportional vote of the total number of persons that might have been polled. I could wish that the speech of the noble Lord who opened the debate had done more to promote the appeasement which might have averted that result. What I mean when I say this is that I could have wished that he had not represented the Government as having met the demands of the miners merely with dialectics and an attempt to score off what they had said. I think that was not just.
I have looked again, as I had looked before, at the only two documents of which that could have been said. On February 13 there appeared the case of the Government for instituting the inquiry with which they proposed to meet the demands of the miners. On February 17, I think, there appeared the complaint of the Minister of Labour that the ballot paper put before the miners to enable them to make their choice did not fairly represent the issue as between the two contending parties. I say—and nothing will change my opinion—that from the beginning to the end of either of those documents there was not. a single provocative word. They dealt with the highest and most important matters of substance, and they dealt with them temperately and in a conciliatory manner. If I am to be told that there was something in the tone or in the language which left an impression, all I can say is 298 that I think the occasion was not one to be auscultating for hidden tones, or to be so particular in discovering a sense which actually was not there.
Various noble Lords and others who have taken part in industrial debates lately have sought to trace the causes of industrial unrest. The noble Lord who began this debate assigned only two, think. He spoke of the promises during the Election that the German indemnity was going to pay a large proportion of our war debt. I do not know whether those things were said so crudely as that, but I am bound to say I think it is rather far fetched to attribute our industrial discontent to anything of the kind. There was a complaint also of the time and manner of taking a General Election. I really do not know when the General Election could have been taken except when it was taken, if I am to be told that that is part of the causes contributing to the present industrial discontent. We had made an unexampled effort in the middle of a great war to extend our franchise. Sonic politicians forget that when you extend the franchise you thereby impliedly condemn as insufficient the representative character of the House of Commons that you have got. You could not have held your new elections before the new registers were completed, and it was highly desirable that you should not go into the Peace Conference which was immediately to come on with nothing at your back but an unrepresentative House of Commons.
I turn to what I think are more likely to be the true causes of industrial unrest. I come to the speech of Mr. Thomas in the House of Commons. It would be possible to entertain you, were it worthy of the occasion, with the misuse—the constant, misuse—in political dialectics of the word "labour"; but in speaking of Mr. Thomas we know we are speaking of a real Labour Member who can tell us at first hand what it is to belong to a particular class. The first cause that he assigned was the existing unemployment. I am speaking of the debate on February 13, and, in connection therewith, of his statement that the unemployment grant had been in some cases withdrawn upon the mere pretext that an offer of employment had been refused which amounted to no better than an offer of sweated employment. None of your Lordships wishes the unemployment 299 grant to be taken away on any such ground as that. He spoke of "profiteering" and of high prices. I do not profess to be able to deal so well as much better qualified persons, such as Lord Leverhulme and Lord Emmott have dealt, with such matters as the profits of the Maypole Dairy Company or the Lancashire cotton spinners. At all events, an answer has been forthcoming. Mr. Thomas spoke of the secrecy which attended the negotiations. It has also been pointed out that not only has secrecy attended the deliberations of the Government, but that a great deal of secrecy attended the deliberations of the miners themselves before they agreed on this programme and determined to force it upon the community. We do not know now whether the decision was unanimous, or, if it were not unanimous, in what proportion the voting took place, although an invitation by certain newspapers was made quite prominent that these facts should be told the public.
Mr. Thomas went on to say that there was dissatisfaction because the Whitley Councils have not been put into existence. I hope they will be. They have been brought into existence in some cases already, but we must not hope for too much from them because, after all, they will amount to very little more when brought to the fullest action than did the Conciliation Boards which, your Lordships may remember, were in existence at the time of, and even before, the railway strike of 1911. They were blown away by that strike at a breath, and not a thought was given to the possibility of resorting to them by way of averting the strike of that year. Mr. Thomas said that the working classes were disappointed because they had not a share in the management of industrial concerns. I, for one, should like to see them have a share in management. I believe that if railway men took their seats on the boards of railway companies they would learn something to their advantage; directors would learn something to their advantage, and the public would reap much to its advantage. He complained also that concessions, when made, were made in a grudging manner, and in connection with that he spoke of the five minutes for washing hands that used to form a part of the conditions of the railway men's work which had been interfered with in some way in the new so-called eight hours' arrangements. That is important, no doubt. Incidentally, I think it is important that 300 your Lordships should know that that point of five minutes did not enter at all into the question between the employers and employed in connection with the Tube Railway Companies where the strike took place the other day.
I think I have read the whole of the grievances that were put forward in the debate by Mr. Thomas when he had the opportunity, and was probably interested, to say all that he could say. It is possible to think of some other causes. There is another very important cause, and that is the incitements to unrest. There is a Conference sitting which is doing its best at Paris to make impossible in future wars between nations, and what one finds so shocking is that even amongst (and I might say especially amongst) those in this country who have been most forward to condemn wars between nations you find men—not all of them Britishers, some of them foreigners, but some, I am sorry to say, countrymen of ours—who are apparently ready to begin a war between classes at home, and indeed ready to wade in the blood and tears of their fellow-countrymen for no more noble a purpose than to have a clean slate on which to write their new constitution.
I do not know whether your Lordships saw a letter in The Times from Sir Lynden Macassey, whom I quote as having a special experience of industrial disputes. He says he knows of the existence of attempts to poison the minds of the young in what are called socialistic Sunday schools—Question—Who is your enemy? Answer—The employer.I cannot believe that the future deliberations of the League of Nations, seeking to prevent war, will not probably have something to say to the future efforts of German politicians to foment hatred of England in German schools. I am told that even up to quite recent times in America a not very complimentary form of the account of British behaviour in past wars and diplomacy is put before children in American elementary schools. We ourselves pay considerable and substantial sums of money in order to have books put before the children in Irish schools which actively teach disloyalty to, and hatred of, British policy and Government. I think there is a very proper and fruitful field for efforts to prevent international strike and internal discontent between classes in the future. 301 At the risk of making my list perhaps a confusion of causes and effects, let me add also the phenomena which we now see too plainly, the general discontent and suspicion which seem to actuate large sections of the industrial classes towards democratic systems, towards Parliamentary institutions, towards, of course, a fortiori, all employer classes, towards arbitrations, towards commissions of inquiry, and towards Ministers and Ministries, even when the latter are recruited from the ranks of so-called Labour men themselves.
I really think we can do no more than put our trust in what Viscount Haldane said, which is to make these things more and more a matter of the mind. It is really a question of confidence and of knowledge, whereby alone you can counteract the kind of distrust I have mentioned. We have got somehow or other to mitigate this class consciousness, and teach if we can conceptions of citizenship, and indeed it has to be said of humanity—and it is not alone to the working classes that humanity has to be taught. The noble Earl who spoke last referred to the doctrines of certain superior persons in the nineteenth century. Those doctrines were very persistently held. Mr. Disraeli condemned them, and he was put down with patronising smiles by the superior persons. The significant thing is that the political successors of those who held these doctrines are now among those who wish to put them on one side. I thank my stars that throughout my whole political career I have never belonged to a political party of exact thinkers. When you have on the one hand a party, or a set of doctrines, you may call it the Manchester School or laisser faire. which says you must leave everything to the free play of economic forces, you then know that what is proposed is to leave everything to the free play of man's vilest passions. I never have been, and never will be, a party to that kind of doctrine, and that is what I meant when I spoke of the politics of humanity. If you go and make your set of political doctrines one which squares with all the mathematical theories in books, you will find you have left out the one thing you ought to have kept in—the plain simple thing which is called human nature. In that way alone I believe we shall arrive at something like conciliation, and we may be able to induce that larger production by which alone we can escape national bankruptcy and thereby reach that popular contentment, which at 302 the lowest estimate is the interest of all political parties and is the only sound basis of national welfare.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, this very important debate has served to emphasise the earnest desire of all members of this House that every grievance of what is called labour shall be removed in so far as it is humanly possible, and that a larger share of profits shall be granted to labour in all cases where profits are produced. I suppose that the criticism of this debate will be that there have been not many practical proposals made for remedying the evils which we all feel so strongly, and I am afraid this is inevitable because the causes are so many and there are so many untoward circumstances at the present moment that are combined to bring about the unrest which is threatening our national solvency.
I am doubtful if the physiological effects of the overstrain during the war have been sufficiently considered. On three or four occasions during the war I ventured to draw attention to the excessive hours which the people were working in munition factories, and to the fact that the output was being diminished. Latterly there would seem to have been an improvement, but after more than three years of war Sir George Newman's Committee reported in these words—Taking the country as a whole, it would seem that the munition workers in general have been allowed to reach a stage of reduced efficiency and lowered health which might have been avoided without reduction of output by attention to the details of daily and weekly rests. The signs of fatigue are now more noticeable in the case of managers and foremen, and these practical results are probably more serious than in the case of the workmen.These are very grave words, and you will note that the overstrain seems to have fallen more heavily on the non-manual workers. It is impossible that the effects of this overstrain of brain, nerve, and muscle are not enduring up to the present, and they must help to account for the irritable mentality which we see so plainly and must also create favourable conditions for revolutionary propaganda. Working hours can in most cases be reduced and working conditions improved by applying the knowledge we now possess, and this can be done without reducing wages, with actually increasing wages, if only every worker will put forth his full efforts during the limited time which has been calculated 303 to secure him from the effects of cumulative industrial fatigue. In some kinds of work six hours is quite enough, but there are other occupations in which six hours would hardly be sufficient to keep the man in good mental and bodily health.
I read the interesting speech of Lord Leverhulme with great attention, but I confess there are some passages in it which did not in any way convince me. I am quite certain that the noble Lord is right in all that he says when he speaks from his great experience, but I think he rather forgets the very favourable circumstances under which his business is carried on. He is working now, I believe, on a capital of £60,000,000. He has a partial monopoly in a product of prime necessity alike in peace and war, and he is able to employ machinery to a very large extent, so that, like Mr. Ford, he can do some things which are really not possible in less favoured enterprises. But I should like to say that that great business which he has built up is a striking example of the immense benefit which capital, wisely and generously used, can confer upon what is called labour. Working hours and some other matters of great importance must, I believe, be settled in groups of similar industries by a frank and free conference between employers and employed. It is not only inhuman, but it is economically disastrous, to keep hours which can possibly inflict permanent injury to the health of the worker, and the advantage of shorter hours honestly worked, giving time for healthful and improving recreation, is inestimable.
It seems to me that the psychological causes of unrest are in a great measure due to misunderstandings that have destroyed the mutual confidence which ought to exist between employers and employees. There are some economical fallacies on both sides, and both sides need education in certain respects. It is a great advantage of this debate that it has laid throughout great stress on the vital importance of getting at facts and making facts known. The Royal Commission which is about to be set up will ascertain facts which are not known to the Government, not known to the coal-owners, and not known to the workers—facts of great importance in the coal industry. But that is only one case in which more information is required. We shall, I hope, from that Commission get the knowledge we wish in order to 304 do justice to the coal workers. Everybody wishes to do them the fullest justice possible, but we must know the facts before we are in a position to pronounce judgment. This National Conference which is to begin on Thursday should throw a fresh light on much that is still obscure, and ought to help to remove some misconceptions. I only wish that this National Conference could have been suggested some time previously.
Another source of psychological unrest is the belief in profiteering going on upon a vast scale. That belief is widely held, and it is quite naturally the cause of bitter resentment. No one defends profiteering, but some of the profits which fall under that head have automatically risen out of the control which it has been necessary for the Government to exercise during the war. The high prices of food at the present time are certainly the cause of unrest, and I hope that the Government as soon as possible will take steps to reduce those prices. Then, as Lord Emmott suggested, the Government might give figures which would reduce matters to something like true proportions. I believe that it would be found that profiteering is confined to not very many persons, and that for every non-manual worker who has made large sums during the war there will be a great number of persons who have been pinched by the war, and who will remain pinched to the end of their lives. But, my Lords, these people are not organised, they have not complained, and we have never heard their voices raised. Again, figures could be given showing the immense part which capital has played during the war, and proving that but for accumulation, which after all is what capital is, the Germans must have beaten us. Lastly, it might be explained how very large the number of capitalists is in this country, and how many capitalists are persons of very small means, in many cases with incomes which range considerably below the earnings of the skilled artisan. I hope that the Government will carefully consider the question of making public certain basic financial and economical facts, such as those which the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, so earnestly pressed for the other day. But it is necessary to take special means that your facts shall be made known, and that they shall reach the classes which are now in danger of being misled.
305 One most important suggestion was made by Lord Islington, who proposed that the Whitley Councils should be statutory. I am afraid that I do not agree as to that, but I believe that the Government might make a very strong appeal to employers and to employed themselves to set up Councils with the least delay, and they might at once in the undertakings which they are themselves controlling set them up without further delay. The effect would be to enable workers to have a real voice in settling the conditions of their employment, and I believe that we all think that there is nothing so urgent at the present day as to bring the employer and the employed together in a Council.
I cannot help thinking that some speakers in this debate have not, perhaps, realised how serious the revolutionary movement is. It was going on long before the war, and it has received an immense impetus since the war. As the noble Lord who has just sat down pointed out, socialist Sunday school were at work for many years before the war, teaching the doctrine of the red revolution to quite little children, and many thousands of men and women in this country have been induced to believe that the employer is the real enemy, and that if only all capital were destroyed universal prosperity would at once follow. Let me quote the words used in a leaflet which was widely circulated by the National Socialist Party about two years ago—circulated not only among the poorer classes but also among our soldiers. These are the words—Millions of you are now armed, trained, and disciplined. You have the power if you have the will to sweep away your enslavers for ever. Then take final control of your country, and all that it contains. Wealth may be made as plentiful as water if you will but seize the enormous engines for making goods at the disposal of man in society.That is a dangerous appeal to the passions of ignorant people, and the sad thing about it is that it is so absolutely false.
I could quote many more appeals of that kind. We cannot expect our workers to have studied the French Revolution, to which the noble Earl the Chancellor of the Duchy referred the other day. In Russia exactly the theories which were tried in the French Revolution have again been put to the test, with the result, as we all know, of murder, ruin of the working classes, and starvation on a large scale in a country which has food enough to support itself. 306 In Russia a deliberate attempt is being made to kill off the comparatively small class which could in time rebuild a new Russia on the ruins which the Bolsheviks have brought about, and that was the object of the Germans in carefully selecting Lenin from other competitors in Switzerland and sending him to Russia. Apart from these frightful atrocities which are really unrivalled even in darkest Africa, the whole thing is so tragically stupid.
Surely it is a serious portent in this country that the achievements of the Bolsheviks are acclaimed and some of our people are directly called upon to imitate them. The other day there was a large meeting in the Albert Hall. The object was to protest against any interference with the activities of the Soviets, which apparently are believed to be setting up a sort of earthly paradise for the working man. Violent speeches were made on that occasion, Bolshevism was cheered, and the Red Flag was constantly in evidence. At that meeting Mr. Zangwill is reported to have said—Bolshevism is only Socialism in a hurry.That is perfectly true, but I think a good many Socialists will not relish that truth. Does such a meeting as that mean simply the existence of gross ignorance of the plain facts which the noble Earl has stated in this House? Or does it mean that there is a real wish on the part of a certain minority of people for bloodshed and civil war? If it means the first, then surely full publicity of the terrible situation in Russia is urgently needed. Because we must remember that all these atrocities are being denied. This is what a paper which preaches revolution said last week—The tearing and raging propaganda against the Bolsheviks was started in the Press and on the platform. No slander was too vile, no calumny too mean, for them. Tales of murder or outrage, of nationalisation of women, were coolly invented in the newspaper offices, and all this was done to create an atmosphere.We have evidence of these facts from all sorts of sources—not from Russian sources only, but from Englishmen like Colonel Ward, who have seen atrocities with their own eyes, and then we have the deliberate statements of Lenin and Trotsky themselves. The facts should be made known as widely as possible. But if there are people—and there are some among us—who really are preaching doctrines of murder and civil war, then surely the doings of these people ought to be carefully watched at the present time.
307 The democracy of America apparently proposes to take special steps against revolutionary propaganda and to prevent the display of the Red Flag, which since the French Revolution has been the emblem of murder and violence. Revolutions are always made, as history teaches us, by very small minorities, and these minorities become reinforced by masses of ignorant people who are led astray, either by excitement or by predatory instincts, into actions which become irreparable.
Meanwhile this industrial unrest is causing unemployment among us. It is shaking our national credit, and it is adding to the tremendous difficulties of the recovery of our overseas trade. I do not think it is quite sufficiently recognised by our workers that our overseas trade is vital. Without the overseas trade these islands could not maintain the population that we have at present. I agree with Lord Emmot that our financial position is appalling, but I do not think that it is desperate at the present moment. We won our great victory solely because we maintained our national unity throughout the war. We can rebuild our prosperity if we maintain that national unity, and if there is effort and sacrifice on the part of all classes. There is no other way to reconstruction.
And there is before us a great historical example. France was beaten to her knees in 1870–71, and directly peace came she was faced with a Bolshevist rising in Paris which led to atrocities just like those which are being perpetrated in Petrograd to-day. France was also shorn of two fine provinces and was burdened with the heavy cost of the war and with an indemnity which was deliberately calculated with a view to crippling her national life. Then France sternly repressed the Commune and set herself to the task of reconstruction, and by sheer hard work and by thrift she succeeded in a very few years. I believe that the people of this country in victory—their greatest victory—will show themselves as wise, as sane, and as patriotic as did the French people in the days of crushing defeat.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
My Lords, I hesitate after so many able speeches to intervene in this discussion. I cannot speak as an expert; I can only 308 speak as one whose work makes him familiar with all sorts and conditions of men in the industrial North of England, and who knows a great deal of what is passing through the minds of those men. At this stage of a prolonged but most interesting and important debate it would be tedious to attempt to resume the discussion of the causes of the present so-called unrest, and if I do so it is only to lead up to the main point which I shall endeavour to put before your Lordships, which is this—that it is not enough for us at the present grave juncture in the industrial history of this country to analyse the causes of unrest and disturbance, or to remedy isolated grievances, but to recognise plainly, frankly, and courageously that the time has come when we must prepare the way for the introduction of a new spirit and system into industry as a whole.
What I think is most mistaken is the idea that this unrest is directly due to what is called the strain upon the national nerves brought about by the tension of the war. It has already been pointed out by several noble Lords that unrest was acute and menacing before the war, or even the threat of war, had burst upon our national life. In 1913, I think, 1,497 strikes were begun, as compared with 531 in 1910. No doubt there were many who supposed that after the war and after the comradeship which had been established among all classes, and not least among employers and employed, there would be a wholly different attitude in the industrial world, and that we should be allowed to begin the absolutely essential stage of increased production in the spirit of good will and common fellowship, created and deepened by the experiences of the war. In some respects I believe that that has taken place. I believe that there is, in spite of economic tension, a better personal feeling between employer and employed at the present time than there has been for a very long time. But what it is important for us to remember is that the utmost possible good will, personal regard, gratitude, even in some cases affection, between masters and men does not in the least blunt the determination of the men to do what they can to change a system which is quite independent of those kindlier personal relations.
There are three ways, I think, in which the war has definitely affected the spirit of the present industrial unrest. In the first place, as we must have all recognised, 309 workmen who have gone through sacrifices so great with a spirit of such splendid tenacity and patriotic service are very naturally determined (though it was not for this object that they waged the war) that, having wrought so much, they shall be entitled to a larger and fuller share in the rewards of industry than they have had in the past. In the second place, there is no question that the whole class of workers have been stirred and roused by the promises so freely given of a better England. I do not think that this was ever intended to be merely an election cry. I believe there is no one in your Lordships' House, even the least emotional and demonstrative, who did not feel during the war that almost the one thing that would make up for the sacrifices which had been offered throughout was the creation of a better England. But the great masses of our working people are fearful lest in the stress, which they recognise to be inevitable, of greatly increased production rendered necessary by the war, the hopes and desires of that better industrial England should be forgotten. In my judgment one of the reasons why strikes have been proposed and organised on so large a scale is that these workers can give, so to speak, forcible and dramatic notice to the community that no pressure of production will be allowed to put aside these claims, not here and there to an addition of wages or a shortening of hours, but to a different and better industrial England in the days that are to come.
In the third place, I think there is no doubt that the great bulk of our workers—not extreme men only, but in my experience some of the quietest, most thrifty, and steadiest of workmen—are profoundly stirred by the upheaval of new forces in every part of Europe, and, indeed, of the world. I think it would be quite untrue, as a great many noble Lords have already said, to suggest that there is any kind of desire in any responsible section of British workmen, even the most extreme, to imitate the barbarous and unspeakable methods of Russian Bolshevism. But I believe that there is, far more widely diffused than perhaps we appreciate, a great common emotion in the minds of the working classes, both here and elsewhere, which leads them to think and to say to one another that the hour has struck when a definite and united movement must be made for a reconstruction of the whole 310 basis of national industry, that this time must not be allowed to lapse but that it must be seized. Therefore what I would venture to press upon your Lordships is that, so far as one can judge a very complicated situation, holding great strikes in their hands is intended to be an announcement to the whole community, to all classes within it, that the great bulk of our workers, thoughtful responsible men, are determined that there shall be no return to the industrial condition which marked the nineteenth century.
I do not think that any of us could feel that this was an unnatural determination. Allusion has already been made more than once in this debate to the conditions under which great numbers of our working citizens were living before the outbreak of the war. Allusion was made to the condition of housing to a large extent in that part of Scotland where admittedly at the present time the feeling is most bitter and extreme. But your Lordships will remember that even more emphatic testimony was borne to the condition of housing, not so much in regard to overcrowding as in regard to sheer squalor and hideousness, in the case of the miners in South Wales. I do not propose to say another word about that. But even as regards wage-earning before the war it would be the greatest mistake to suppose that, in spite of the advances that had been made in real let alone nominal wages before the war, there was anything like a widespread sufficiency of life among masses of decent and hardworking people.
Take, for instance, such admitted facts as these in the figures of eight great staple industries in 1907—cotton, woollen, worsted, tailoring, boot and shoe, building, public utility services, engineering, shipbuilding, and railways. In each of these eight staple industries more than one-third of the adult male workers were earning less than 30s. a week; in two industries the proportion earning less than 30s. a week was over two-thirds, and in three others more than one-half. Or to take another simple and concrete instance—mentioned because it is the result of careful and scientific investigation—of four industrial towns. In Northampton, Warrington, Reading, and Stanley it was found that taken together under one-third of the working classes, or 32 per cent., were earning prior to the war less than 32s. a week; and in one town, 29 per cent., or 311 more than a quarter, were in receipt of an income so low as to be insufficient as to provide the necessaries of healthy physical existence. I could go on piling up the list, but it is enough to say that I do not think there is any one of us—as indeed Lord Russell has said in his most able speech—who does not share with the great bulk of our workers the conviction that in some way or other it is true that a new era must come, and that to that industrial condition permitted in the midst of all the growth of wealth and luxury and comfort in this country in the nineteenth century there is and can be no return.
What I wish to emphasise to your Lordships to-night is that we should make a great mistake if we supposed that the great mass of our thoughtful workers desire a mere increase in the comforts of life, a mere increase in the rate of wages, or a mere shortening of the hours of labour. I do not think anything was more truly said in the admirable speech of Lord Leverhulme the other day than when he said we must remember that the workman is not a machine to be kept well oiled by high wages and smoothly running by good housing. Nor is he a person who is going to be deflected from loyalty to what he believes to be the claim of the class to which he belongs by the most kindly interest in his welfare that may be taken by individual employers, or by the amenities which in the ample kindness of their hearts they provide for their work-people. As I said before, that certainly gives him a great personal regard for his employer, but it does not affect his belief that the system itself and his place in it needs seriously amending. In other words, it is the human element in this matter which is, after all, fundamental. The feeling among our working people, and indeed among an increasing section of our employers, is that what was wrong in the characteristic tone and spirit of industry in the nineteenth century was that it dehumanised workers, and that what is needed in this twentieth century is a reversal of the process, and a steady attempt to humanise workers in the whole system of industry in which they are engaged.
Let me give what I thought, when I heard it, was a good illustration of that psychological element which underlies the unrest. At a great engineering works in the North, when shorter hours were introduced, the management very naturally 312 were anxious to get the largest possible output out of the shorter hours, and accordingly gave orders that the moment the clock struck the hour for opening the shops the iron gates were to be shut on whoever happened to be outside. Hitherto there had always been an allowance made of a few minutes for the men to enter. The result was that a large number of the men came, as usual, a few minutes after the hour, and found the iron gates clanged in their faces. The men struck. The management said, "We suppose this is due to the slackers." "No," said the union representatives, "the men who have struck are the best and most industrious of the workers. They have struck because they feel it is an indignity which they do not want to suffer that the gates should be shut in their faces, and they should be sent home to Their wives to tell them that they have lost a shift." And the representatives added, "When men are late in the office, or directors are late, there may be expostulations but the gates are not shut in their faces." That is a sign that there is this human element behind all these economic arrangements. In other words, what the workers ask is that their position in industry shall be something comparable to that position of responsibility and trust which is given to them in the citizenship of the country.
I dare say your Lordships have noticed some words used in a letter to The Times newspaper the other day by Lord Robert Cecil. With those words I would venture to associate myself. He said—I am convinced that I am speaking the opinions of many others in all classes. It is unreasonable to ask the working man to accept his employers view as to what is a fair wage and what are fair conditions of labour unless he is given, not only full opportunity for assuring himself of all the relevant facts in the case, but also some share in the management of those matters which are of even greater importance to labour than to capital.I believe that what we have to do primarily is to acknowledge the justice of this demand, that industry shall in its characteristic system and features no longer reflect autocracy, with all its efficiency, benefits, and success, but much more closely reflect democracy, with all its risks and imperfections, yet with the status which it gives to human nature.
I think there are three ways in which this would largely meet the difficulties expressed in this debate. Everywhere it has been 313 acknowledged that there is a grievous misunderstanding between labour and capital. It is deep and sometimes it seems to be invincible. The truth is that the representatives of each seem to be living in different worlds, and when one passes, as in former days (and frequently even now to a large extent) I have been able to do, from the one to the other, it is just as if you pass from one continent to another. There is no lack of kindliness and good will and interest. It is lack of imagination and intimate knowledge of the circumstances of daily life. The miners, for instance, live in a world completely isolated and apart. As a rule their communities are distinct from any other class, or even any other trade, and they live, move, and have their being in a world exclusively confined to miners and their families. It is not unnatural, in these circumstances, that their whole outlook is conditioned by the limited range of their daily vision. It is not much otherwise with a large part of the world of employers. I am not speaking of those who have addressed your Lordships' House, but of the typical employer world. Of course, in a manner, they know their men and are able to boast that all their lives they have known how to deal with working men, but they have dealt with them from the point of view of the management of the works, and not from the point of view of those who really understand where is the pinch, sometimes of want and often of indignity, with which the workers have had to deal.
As there are two worlds, so there are two literatures. The Press which one sees is different from the Press which the other world sees, and when you read both, as I have tried to do, it is almost impossible to suppose that you are perusing literature which professes to be dealing with the same subject. Of course, a great deal of this misunderstanding can only be removed if we can overcome that division of class, in residence and occupation and interests, which occurred in that century of mingled prosperity, and I had almost said shame, which has passed. Even now it might be possible in the mining communities, and elsewhere, if it is backed up by recognition of the need of partnership in industry, to create such social intercourse between different classes as existed in sport and which did so much to promote good fellowship in country life.
What I want to point out is that this misunderstanding can only really be re- 314 moved in one way. It will not be removed by repeating, publishing, and propaganding those, to me, most striking figures about profits and profiteering laid before this House by Lord Emmott. And I am sorry to say that the reason is just that which was indicated by Lord Russell—namely, that somehow or other these men, thoughtful and reasonable men, do not trust the statements, and that the reason they do not trust them is that they and their fathers listened to those statements made about every single advance in wages or reduction of hours during the whole of the last century; that hardly has any attempt been made to get an increase of wage or a shortening of hours but they were told on all sides that it would ruin industry and drive capital out of the country. Therefore, I do not myself attach much importance to a propaganda of figures and economics based upon them.
But there is one method and the only method which holds any prospect of success, and that is the method of education, not by that kind of propaganda but by responsibility and experience. Get these men with their masters round the table where they discuss day by day and week by week not merely causes of dispute but the whole business in which they are engaged; get them together and let them listen to the kind of conversation which Lord Leverhulme outlined in his speech the other day; get them to know side by side what are the real facts of the business; then you will find that these men are intelligent enough to understand. But they must get at the facts because they are partners, not because they are told to remain quiet and trust the Government or take the figures as they are given by the employers. I hope I have not put the point too strongly, but I am sure that is the only way economically to overcome the misunderstanding which all speakers have mentioned.
Every speaker in this debate has been agreed as to the absolute need of increased output. No words are needed to emphasise that point. It is vital and fundamental to the whole future history of this country. Everything depends upon it. Because everything depends upon it, it becomes a question of first-rate importance how is it to be secured? And the answer is obvious. It can only be secured by the good will of the worker. It cannot be secured—in spite of what has been said, partly I think 315 by Viscount Haldane—only by greater application of science and by greater skill in management. These things are good and necessary, but it can only really be carried out if the worker will co-operate. It depends upon his good will. And he will not give his good will in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. He will only give his good will to this demand for increased output℄the force and justice of which he recognises as much as anybody℄if he has some means of being assured that he will get his due share of the increased product when it is made, and that he will have some voice in determining the conditions under which the production is carried out.
Of course, there are risks℄there must be risks℄in any such determined attempt at joint control. There are great risks which many here will appreciate much better than I can. There are risks involved in the publication of profits. But can any one doubt as to the answer he would give to this question, Is it better for industrial peace that profits should be kept secret or that the real facts of any business or trade should be made known to the workers? I do not think there is any comparison in the risks that would be involved. If you keep profits secret the fact may help financial transactions, but if you do not publish the real facts of the case you simply preserve perpetually an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion. Then, again, there are risks℄patent risks℄in relation to efficiency of management, but the real question is not what management would desire but what labour is willing to give in co-operation. In other words, it comes round to the point which I made a short time ago—that your power of getting a better output from the workers really refers itself back again to your willingness to give them an ever-increasing share in the management and control of the business.
Further, there has been universal agreement as to the danger of, and the need of combating in every possible way, what has been called during the debate, and what I think ought not to be called, the spirit of Bolshevism. As I said, while there may be great sympathy with the ideals which the Bolshevists have in view, except in a little ring of fanatics and cranks among the working people I believe there is complete and entire abhorrence of their methods. Let us call it the spirit of the extremist—the extremist spirit—or what you please. 316 The way to cure it is not to denounce it and to prove that economically it is bound to fail—which it certainly will—but rather to remedy the grievances which it exploits and to recognise the aspirations to which it appeals. I feel sure it is not a hazardous proposition to say that in these coming days industry must increasingly move along the channel of increased control by the worker. I do not think it is possible to resist that tendency without involving industry in the perpetual continuance of this atmosphere of suspicion and these outbreaks of strikes which paralyse capital and jeopardise the whole employment of our people.
As we cannot resist, it is, I think, better that we should simply accept, and then proceed to guide, to prepare the workers, to educate them (in the only way in which free and responsible men can be educated) by experience to take their share in the great industries of this country. It will enable our employers—in taking what the the best of them know to be the surest path of safety and of success—to use the best and most responsible leaders of labour, to get alongside them in a new sort of fellowship as men who are standing for the same thing—output, production and steadiness of employment, as against class antagonism and anarchy. We do not want employers to detach these men from labour but to use them as a means by which labour will be brought into the council chamber and made to understand the real responsibility of the industry in which it is engaged. That is why we are all agreed on the principles of the Whitley Councils, and we wish they could be widely extended.
Some of us will go further. Though I have not time to criticise the actual proposals made by Lord Islington—and I think by Lord Sydenham—yet I share the hope that there might be evolved from them, or inaugurated as part of the scheme to which they belong, a League, a permanent Industrial Council representing the employers, the workers, and the Government of the country. I wish that in time such a permanent Council could acquire authority enough to play the part in industry that the League of Nations is designed, or at least is desired, to play in the life of nations. I would hope that such a council would in time develop its organisation, would become a great steadying force to which increasingly either of the three parties—employers, employed, 317 or the Government—would make reference, whose decisions or recommendations would be increasingly respected, and to whom the public (with whom, after all, the ultimate verdict in these industrial disputes rests) would turn for guidance and information. While the employer must keep ultimately his right to lock out and the worker retain his right to strike, for you cannot deprive free men, compulsorily, of the right to withhold their work or labour as they please, I hope that there will be less and less recourse to force before there has been an appeal to a permanent and abiding tribunal representing the best brains of the Government, employers, and employed.
Indeed, I think that on those lines there might even now be made some effective to the miners, about whom we are all thinking and concerning whom I will not hesitate to say some of us are praying that that they may be guided by a wiser and deeper spirit than any of us, Government and employers and employed, can attain at this absolutely critical moment. I think it could be said to them, as the Prime Minister said in his discussion with them, that they might at this time vindicate in industry the principle for which they are all contending in the world of international life. Mr. Arthur Henderson said that the League of Nations was the keystone on which the workers, as a class, meant to build a better social order. The very principle of such a League is that a man, a nation, a class, shall be willing to forego the right of being the sole judge of the justice of his own case. I read, as we all read, Mr. Smillie's speech in answer to the Prime Minister. It was, as we would expect, frank, straightforward, determined. But one could not help feeling all the way through that he was insisting on the right of being the judge in his own case, and surely if the Commission that is to be appointed shows that it means to be thoroughgoing and sympathetic, willing to take every possible fact into consideration, the miners of the country will not set at defiance the principle to which they are appealing in international life and have recourse to force before they have submitted their claims to the arbitrament of an independent tribunal.
One word more. I hope that I shall not be misunderstood or felt to be going beyond what I have a right to say, but I cannot but share the hope that was expressed by Earl Russell that this Commission will not merely 318 pay lip service to the proposals for the nationalisation of the mines, but will go into that matter with a directness and an intention to find a practical answer such as has not always been forthcoming when questions of the nationalisation of industry have been at stake. I have no brief whatever in the matter, and I recognise most fully the objections to State management which were summarised by Lord Brassey. I do not think either that the bulk of our workers want State management. I think the bulk of the workers are set upon the management of each trade by those who work them either in the way of management or of labour; and after the experience of the war they are not probably enamoured of State management. But there is a great difference between the ordinary industries and those from which go, like the coal trade, the life-blood of industry, or along which, like the transport trade, that life blood is reaching industry—and I think it is well worth while asking the question. The future in any case is doubtful. Will it be more doubtful if you leave it to the chance of this perpetual uncertainty?
In your plea to the miners you say, "Remember that coal concerns the whole community, and therefore you must not be selfish and exploit the coal industry for the raising of your own wages and the shortening of your own hours." Their reply to that always is, "We could understand that if the element of private profit is eliminated, if we knew that it is really for the community we are working and not for private profit." That might be a steadying factor in these industries which concern the whole industrial and social life of the people.
My Lords, I have spoken longer than I intended, and I hope I have not in any way spoken as a partisan. I am only asking your Lordships what I have asked myself to do, and that is to look with new eyes upon a new world and to recognise that it is not enough faultlessly to analyse the causes of this distrust and point to the manifold ignorance and shortsightedness of the workers of this country and of their demands. What we have to do is to endeavour so far as possible to transform the industrial system of the country into the likeness of the political system upon which its freedom is based. Some noble Lords have been pessimistic. I think there are good grounds for hope. I meet continually a new class of younger employers 319 who are really looking at things from a new point of view and often surprising the older members of the Employers Federation. I believe that if the younger employers at the present time could have their way in managing this great Employers Federation the chances of conflict would be much less than they are. Also there is, I think, a growing sense among the older workers of the perils to which they and their own ideals of responsible industry are being exposed by the spirit of irresponsible anarchy. If employers with a new point of view and the union officials, recognising the dangers to which their own principles are exposed, can be brought together and kept together on a basis of increasing joint control, then I think there is still good hope for the future of industry in this country.
Yet, my Lords, after all there is not one of us here who does not know that what really matters is what it is impossible in this House to put into words. What really matters is not the machinery but the spirit with which it is to be worked. What we need in industry is a new spirit. With that, machinery however simple, will succeed; without that, machinery however elaborate will fail. And in our heart and conscience we know that the spirit which industry needs is the application of the principles of Christianity to economic and industrial life which have been banished from it too long. Thither they must return. They will make it plain that every single human life has a supreme value, that every man is an end in himself, and not a mere means for the use of others, and that the supreme motive of industry must be no longer competition for private gain, whether in the way of profit or of wage, but co-operation for the common good.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, if the Archbishop of York had some diffidence in intervening in this debate, my own diffidence is very much greater, especially after the powerful speech to which we have just listened. I think that those who study this debate will be very glad indeed to find that your Lordships have followed the advice which was given by Mr. Burke when he said, "When the nation finds itself in a particular difficulty the best question you can ask yourself is not how to get out of the difficulty but how you got into it." With regard to getting out of the difficulty, that 320 seems for the moment to be in the hands of those who represent or purport to represent a section, or it may be the whole, of what is called organised labour, and the Prime Minister speaking on behalf of the Government. We do not know what the end of that struggle will be, but we hopeߞat least I doߞthat we shall not be told one morning that the whole thing has been settled, and shall learn afterwards that it has only been settled at the cost of a major operation on the social welfare of the country which it will take us a very long time to get over. There might, my Lords, be worse things than having a struggle now, and seeing who is going to get the best of it, though I do not desire to approach the matter with the hope that that will be the end. I trust that Some means will be found whereby it will be settled, but not if the price to be paid is too great.
I am not going to follow those noble Lords who have examined in such very able speeches the whole ground of how we got into this difficulty, but I was glad to hear the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, in which he said that this is not a thing of yesterday or the day before, but is the accumulation of a great number of years. This is one of the symptoms of many years of struggle on the part of labour in this countryߞa legitimate, natural, and honourable struggleߞto secure for itself a certain status in the enjoyment of the good things of life, and in the position which it ought to occupy in a great community like this. I have nothing but honour for them in what they are striving to get, but it is the fashion to say that they are ignorant and suspicious. Suspicious they certainly are, and in a great many ways greatly suspicious. It is true that there has been a certain amount of ignorance; and if they are indeed ignorant, whose fault is it? It is not their fault; it is the fault of those who ought to have been their leaders, whether Minister or employers, or what is called capitalists, and it is the fault of those who have had a better education and ought to have taken them into their confidence and pointed out the right path along which to go. They have been rightly suspicious.
I do not think that the record of the late Government before the war, and it may of the Government before thatߞI am not going to try to make any Party capital out of what I am to sayߞhas been of a kind to engender confidence, because Governments have not taken the people into their con- 321 fidence. You may date it from whatever time you like—from the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, or the Boer War, or any other landmark—but during the last thirty years the labour movement was gathering strength in this country, and either one Party or the other in the State was responsible during that time for the conduct of affairs and the leadership of thought. After the year 1897, which we may take as a convenient date—I am not going into a lengthy historical analysis—we displayed the British Empire as in a highly satisfactory condition, and asked the whole world to come and see it. A few years afterwards we were plunged into the Boer War, and there began to be a doubt whether the British Empire could function as rapidly as it ought. Since that time we have had two Governments in office. We had the Conservative Government which came in at the Khaki Election in 1900, and we know what the history of that Government was. It did not contribute very much towards consolidating national thought.
Then we had the great victory of the Liberal Party in 1906, which afforded the finest opportunity for setting our house in order that anybody ever had. That Party were returned to Parliament absolutely free from any clique or combination of cliques. I am not going to use the language of recrimination this evening, because the matter is much too serious. But you cannot say that the Party which was in office from 1906 until the Coalition was formed in 1916 really had a record which would engender confidence among the working classes of this country who were promised every conceivable thing. All the phrases then used are fresh in everyone's mind, and I need not repeat them. Everyone knows the phrases and promises to which I refer. In the meantime the Government was sustained—wrongly sustained—by the very thing that we have now found to be such a fatal mistake, and that has been so rightly denounced by many speakers in this debate—that horrible thing called class warfare. At the same time the nation was kept in ignorance regarding its military and naval responsibility, with the result that we were plunged into the war in 1914 to the great surprise of the, vast majority of our fellow-countrymen. The war has brought about a more satisfactory position as regards the national spirit, but with respect to industrial conditions in this country there is still a great deal of ignorance on both sides.
322 Lord Haldane, in a speech he made at the beginning of this debate, indicated that the ignorance among the Labour Party, about which people complain, is not so great as many people think, because they are sustained by studying the Fabian Research Committee's writings and other literature of that kind. While I cannot pretend to a very intimate knowledge of that particular literature I can deal with another complaint of the noble Viscount's, and that was when he said that, in spite of their reading the Fabian Committee's literature, they did not believe a single word that anybody told them. The noble Viscount is not in his place, and so I cannot say what I was going to. I do not know whether he referred to the speeches of Ministers or Members of Parliament, but if he does refer to the speeches of Ministers and of Members of Parliament and complains that the working classes do not believe those speeches, then I am entirely on the side of the working classes, because I believe very few political speeches, except those speeches which I hear in your Lordships' House, and occasionally even with regard to those a doubt may arise in one's mind.
But I say that in spite of this Fabian literature—which, I do not for a moment question, is absolutely genuine, and I have not the slightest doubt that they think they are perfectly right—I believe that if you were to print and circulate the speeches that have been made in this debate (I will say nothing about the speech which I am delivering at this moment) among those who are really thinking about the labour trouble to-day, you would do almost as much good as by all the writings that have ever come from the doctrinaires of either University, who supply the literature for the Labour Party at the present moment.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
I am glad that that meets with the approval of one noble Lord, at any rate. There is a literature of an infinitely more mischievous kind than the literature of the Fabian Research Committee—if indeed that be literature, and I do not desire to say hard things about it. In my military capacity it was my duty to overhaul and to read an enormous amount of pamphlets, leaflets, and literature, which was disseminated with the sole object of setting 323 one class against another. That literature was anti-national in the highest degree, and the Government will do no good unless some means are taken either to prevent its being circulated—which, as the most rev. Prelate said, is probably not the right way—or to counteract it by something of a different spirit and of what we conceive to be a better kind.
I was very glad to hear the noble Lord on the Woolsack, in the powerful speech which he delivered earlier in the debate, advocate our having propaganda of the right kind. But it is no use talking about having a propaganda unless you decide what you are going to propagate. I think the propagation of sound Tory principles is the only think that will be of the slightest use. Do not laugh, my Lords; every speech that has been delivered in this debate has been a sound Tory speech and a complete vindication of the principles of Lord Beaconsfield. Go and read—as I dare say some of you did long before I was born—Lord Beaconsfield's works and you will see what I mean. I ran tell you, in case anybody has any doubt. What I mean by Tory principles is not Party principles at all, not leaflets of the Tariff Reform League or the Fabian Research Committee, or anything of that kind. Tory principles are national principles, and we have not had any great political leader for a great many years in this country who has continually addressed his fellow countrymen from the national point of view.
And side by side with the enunciation and explanation of the industrial truth we must have the proper spirit from the point of view of racial responsibility. Mr. Lansbury (who is a long way from Lord Beaconsfield) put this exceedingly well in an article he wrote in the Herald last week—a paper which is widely read by the working classes of this country and therefore worth considering. The dominant note of that article was that what we want in this country is knowledge plus good will, Knowledge by itself of economic truths is no good unless you have good will to carry them out. And with all the good will in the world it is not the slightest use making phrases and expressing good intentions unless we have economic truth at the same moment. Now we want knowledge and good will, and I will try and state what I understand by Tory or national principles. The first thing is that every man, woman, and child in this country is a partner to a 324 racial responsibility. We are responsible to Divine Providence and to mankind for raising the race to which we belong to the highest point of moral and material efficiency, and in order to do that everybody ought to have a good start in life, to have decent and dignified and sanitary surroundings, and be brought up in the ideas of duty, responsibility, good will, and hard work. We do not hear these doctrines preached. Neither political Party has taken the trouble to initiate or to carry out any leadership in thought in this country, and until we get a body in the State who will disseminate the right kind of thought and knowledge from the national point of view, all these efforts anal all these meetings between Mr. Smillie and Mr. Lloyd George, and so on, will not do the slightest good.
I hope that you will not think me impertinent if I say that since listening to the speeches in this debate it is perfectly obvious, as speaker after speaker got up, that this is the one body in the country which really understands these things, and if when we conic to handle legislation later on we only give effect by deed, as well as by thought and word, to the principles which your Lordships have been laying down in this debate we shall deserve well of our fellow-countrymen, and I believe we shall have their confidence.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I beg to move that the debate be adjourned until this day week—Tuesday, March 4.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned.