§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, I believe if this Bill passed we should have a conclusion of the strike in 105 a very few days. The effect of the Bill would be to prevent peaceful picketing, and also to render the funds of the trade unions liable if they should commit any tortious act. That the state of affairs is very bad now is evident from the fact that the strike is extending. Taxi-cab drivers have struck to-day, and I am informed by a member of this House that on Wednesday the horses of the Great Western Railway had neither been fed nor watered for twenty-four hours. It is worse than the strike of 1919, because in that strike, although they did not in any kind of way clean or groom the horses, they did feed and water them.
I am not alone in my opinion that the passing of this Bill might effect a very great change in the situation. I have received a letter from a very well-known member of this House, connected with a large number of industrial associations, in which he says:—If you could persuade the Goverment to repeal the peaceful picketing portions of the Trade Disputes Act the strike would be over in a day or two thereafter.We have thousands of men who would return to work if they and their families were left alone.''I have shown this letter to my noble friend the Leader of the House, and it can be shown to anybody who wishes to see it. But I understand that the Government are desirous that the Second Reading of this Bill should not be taken to-day, and as I believe that it is the duty of everyone to support the Government in this crisis, I will, if my noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury will tell me that it is the wish of the Government that the Second Reading should be postponed, postpone it until this day fortnight.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I am very much obliged to my noble friend for deferring to the strong wish which I expressed to him that the consideration of this Bill should be postponed. I have a great confidence that nearly every member of your Lordships' House will think that no legislation affecting this industrial crisis ought to be dealt with except upon the responsibility of His Majesty's Government. I do not express any opinion upon the merits of the Bill, either for it or against it. In view of what I am say- 106 ing, that would, of course, be very improper. But while I carefully abstain from expressing any opinion upon the merits of the matter, I do most earnestly hope that your Lordships will support the Government in the suggestion I make.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Marquess is taking a wise course. A great deal of attention must be given to the subject with which this Bill deals. The Trade Disputes Act was passed by an enormous majority in the House of Commons, and even by your Lordships' House. You have to go back into the circumstances of the Taff Vale decision of this House, which gave rise to that Act, and certainly it is true that the Government should be the persons responsible for any such Bill as the noble Lord opposite proposes. I therefore feel that the course which is proposed is the right course to take in the circumstances.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I beg to postpone the Second Reading of this Bill until this day fortnight.
Motion for the Second Reading accordingly put off till Thursday, 20th May.