HL Deb 07 May 1924 vol 57 cc288-91

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Askwith.)


My Lords, the Government are still of the opinion that their first-diagnosis of this Bill is correct and that its effect, if it is passed, will be to increase the number of strikes instead of diminishing them. The noble Lord thinks otherwise, and if the House chooses to pass the measure they will, of course, do so. I have only to add that, the Government holding this view, I cannot hold out much hope that there will be any facilities for its further passage into law.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF DOXOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Amendment of 9 & 10 Geo. 5. c. 69.

1. From and after the passing of this Act the Industrial Courts Act, 1919, Part II, shall be amended by the insertion of the following subsections at the end of Section four of that Act, viz.:— 4.—(6) Where the Minister has referred a trade dispute as provided by subsection (1) of this section to a Court of Inquiry, it shall be unlawful, prior to and during that inquiry and prior to the report thereon to the Minister, for any employer to declare or cause a lockout or for any workman to go on strike on account of such dispute: Provided that except where both parties to the dispute agree to an extension of time, nothing in this Act shall be held to restrain any employer from declaring a lock-out or any workman from going on strike after thirty days from the date of the reference of a trade dispute to a Court of Inquiry by the Minister. 4.—(7) Any employer declaring or causing a lock-out contrary to the provisions of this Act shall be liable to a fine of not less than twenty pounds nor more than two hundred pounds for each day or part of a day that such lock-out exists, and any workman who goes on strike contrary to the provisions of this Act shall be liable to a fine of not less than two pounds nor more than ten pounds for each day or part of a day that such workman is on strike. 4.—(8) Any person who incites, encourages or aids in any manner any employer to declare or continue a lockout or any workman to go or continue on strike contrary to the provisions of this Act shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of not less than ten pounds nor more than two hundred pounds. 4.—(9) The procedure of enforcing penalties imposed or authorised to be imposed by this Act shall he in manner prescribed by Sections sixty-one, sixty-three and sixty-seven of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1887.


My Lords, I have one question to ask the noble Lord with regard to the new subsection (8) which provides that any person who incites, encourages or aids in any manner to declare or continue a lock-out or strike shall be liable to special penalties. I have an open mind on the matter, but I would ask him to give us more reasons for this provision than we have had up to the present. I think it is taken from the Canadian Act, on which the Bill is founded. The first part is very simple. Any person who takes part in any strike before the period named has elapsed is liable to a penalty. There can be no doubt about the question as to whether a particular person has taken such a part, but this subsection is more complicated and, I think, more dangerous because it provides a special penalty for any person who incites, encourages or aids any one to declare a strike or lock-out. It will raise very difficult legal questions, and instead of strengthening the Bill this particular provision will, I think, make it much more difficult to work. How is any one to prove that a particular person has encouraged others to take part in a strike? He must have done it by speeches, and that will involve the pernicious system of the police attending meetings and taking down speeches. If he does it in any other way then it will be much more difficult to prove. I am putting this point as a supporter of the Bill, not as a critic, and I would ask the noble Lord to give us some additional reasons why he has included this particular subsection in his Bill.


My Lords, I will endeavour to answer the noble Earl on this point. This clause is taken verbatim from the Canadian Act; I think it is Section 60. It is really directed against the maintenance or support of a strike or lock-out by other people, or, indeed, a sympathetic strike. The Canadian Act has worked in two ways. Trade union secretaries and leaders, as moderate men, have been able to tell their followers that if they desired to strike then they, the leaders, would not endorse their action, because the result under this section would be that if the penalties were enforced they would suffer far more than those who wore following them. In another way it has prevented outside organisations coming in and maintaining a strike. There was an interesting case in which a local mining union in Nova Scotia was on strike and where the United Mine Workers of America, an alien union, came in and sent down an agent to the place who gave tickets for food and goods only to those men who were in their union. The employers prosecuted the leader of the alien union, or the agent whom they had established in that place. He was convicted and fined. An appeal was made by the alien union but the conviction was upheld by six Judges, and the local union were quite satisfied with the result

There is no doubt that the penalties would not be enforced against a large number of people. It is not done in any country where they exist, but inquiries that have been made show that a judicious enforcement has often been found to be valuable. In Australia, although the penalties are general, they have not been often enforced because the fact that a reasonable time has to be given by law has caused men to give that time —and that is the object of this Bill. The same thing has occurred in Canada. I hope that this explanation will answer the question which the noble Earl has raised, and will show him the reason for the inclusion of this subsection.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.