§ The King's Speech reported by the LORD SPEAKER.
THE EARL OF LEVEN AND MELVILLE
My Lords, I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty thanking His Majesty for the most gracious Speech which His Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament. Owing to the regretted absence, through ill-health, of my noble friend the Duke of Montrose, it falls to-day upon me to have the honour of moving the Address, and I approach my task encouraged by the belief that I shall be granted that generous hearing which I think your Lordships always accord to one who addresses this House for the first time, and also in the hope that the House will deal kindly with my considerable inexperience as to what to say and my inability adequately to say it. Your Lordships have been reminded in the gracious Speech from the Throne that during the past year Germany has been enabled after a long period of waiting to enter the comity of nations. This addition has greatly strengthened the League of Nations in its work and has also increased the field of the work of the League. The addition should bring added strength in the efforts of the League to maintain a friendly feeling among the nations of the world.
Mention is also made in the gracious Speech of the situation in China, but since I understand that this subject will be dealt with at greater length in your Lordships' House in the very near future I propose, if your Lordships will allow me, only to touch slightly upon 5 this question. It appears to me that His Majesty's Government is faced by two main difficulties: firstly, by the fact that there is for the time being in China no really responsible Government with whom to negotiate; and, secondly, the great distance intervening between the two countries, which makes it necessary for preparations to be made far in advance to meet any possible eventualities. But I understand that His Majesty's Government is determined to enter into possible negotiations in a spirit of friendliness and conciliation, though your Lordships will readily appreciate that the Government must also be prepared, should the necessity unfortunately arise, adequately to protect all British residents in Shanghai.
During the past few days there has appeared in the Press a letter which seems to me so adequately to describe my own feelings on points in connection with China that I propose, if the House will allow me, to read from this letter a short extract. The letter was written by one who I understand owes allegiance to the political Party which is represented in this House by noble Lords opposite. After dealing generally with China the writer goes on to say:—The transitional period through which China is passing adds to the difficulties. Any action taken in this country likely to encourage the Nationalist leader to insist immediately upon conditions that would leave in jeopardy legitimate British interests means war.He concludes his letter as follows:—I cannot appreciate the mentality of those who refuse to put any trust in their own Government but who are ready to take at face value the promises of a foreign Government.I believe that a policy of conciliation, backed by a declared determination to protect the just rights of British nationals, will tend to raise rather than to lower our prestige in the eyes of foreign nations.
Reference has been made in the gracious Speech to the last imperial Conference and to the Bill which will shortly be laid before Parliament for the formal alteration of His Majesty's title and of the title of Parliament, rendered necessary by the decisions arrived at by that Conference. Your Lordships will know that as the result of this Conference the official status of the Dominions 6 has been subjected to considerable alteration, but there is every reason to believe that the feeling of friendliness between the Dominions and this country will remain as close as it has been in the past. It seems to me that these ties and bonds of friendship might be retained and strengthened in two ways: first, by the continued policy of trade preference between the Dominions and this country under the system of Imperial Preference; and in the second place, by the joint efforts of His Majesty's Government and of the Dominion Governments to maintain a steady and, if possible, an increasing flow of emigrants of a suitable type from this country to the outlying parts of the Empire.
Of the other Dominions I can pretend to have no personal experience, but I may perhaps claim to have a slight passing knowledge of South Africa and of the general principles of emigration by people from this country to that part of the Empire. I am convinced that to the man of energy and initiative who has sufficient capital to set up farming on his own, South Africa can offer substantial opportunities and prospects of a free and healthy life. In speaking of the bonds of friendship between this country and the Dominions I should like to seize this opportunity of adding that I believe that in years past nothing has done more to increase the feelings of friendship among the people of South Africa towards this country than the prolonged tour made not long ago through South Africa by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. I trust that His Majesty's Government will find it possible in conjunction with the Governments of the Dominions, to stimulate among many of our people the desire to try their fortunes in the Dominions of our Empire, taking care always that these settlers are kindly treated on their arrival on the other side and are given a clear and fair start in their new homes.
In view of the fact that I take my seat in your Lordships' House as a Scottish Representative Peer your Lordships will perhaps permit me in conclusion to turn for one moment to the question of the home affairs of Scotland. The gracious Speech refers to the fact that proposals dealing with the reorganisation of Government Departments in Scotland will be laid before Parliament in due course. 7 I trust and believe that these proposals will meet with the general consent and good will of the Scottish people. Your Lordships will remember that during the past year a Bill was passed through Parliament raising the status of the Secretary for Scotland to that of a Secretary of State. This Bill, I believe, has given very great pleasure to the people of Scotland whom I have the honour to represent, in however humble a degree and however inadequately, in your Lordships' House. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign.—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.—(The Earl of Leven and Melville.)
My Lords, in rising to second the Address I am very conscious that I am ill-fitted to perform so important a task. I have spoken on only one or two occasions in your Lordships' House and I am greatly honoured in being asked to second the Address to-day. I come from a very silent family. I notice that it is nearly one hundred years since a member of my family last took part in an important debate in your Lordships' House, but I also happen to notice that on that occasion such was the effusion of his eloquence that he occupied the time of the House for no less than two and a half hours. No wonder that since that time, after so great an effort, we have been recuperating in silence for a hundred years!
The noble Lord who has moved the Address has dealt so adequately with those parts of the gracious Speech that deal with matters of Imperial and foreign interest that I will confine myself to that part of the Speech that deals with home affairs. I am certain that your Lordships have been very pleased to see that mention was made of an improvement in trade. For the last two months we have anxiously looked forward to this improvement and it is indeed with great pleasure that we now really believe that it has set in. Many 8 of us remember that last year at about this time an improvement in trade appeared to be in prospect. Unfortunately, that hope was shattered by the events that subsequently took place in the industrial world. I am sure that your Lordships all sincerely hope that nothing will arise during the coming year that will in any way interfere with the improvement that we are witnessing at the present moment.
Your Lordships will also be very interested to note in the gracious Speech the statement that the Government propose to introduce legislation dealing with the question of industrial disputes. The last year has, unfortunately, been very remarkable for the fact that trade disputes have been on a bigger scale and more intense than they have been at any time in our history, and everyone, I think, feels that something must be done to deal with this matter of trade disputes and of the relationship of trade unions in general to such disputes. The history of trade unions has bean one of the most interesting features of economic history during the last one hundred years. Nobody looking back on that history seeing the struggle of working men in early days to obtain better conditions of work, better wages and shorter hours, can fail to sympathise most deeply with their endeavours, no matter to what part of the House he may belong. When we realise the conditions which existed in the period which is covered by what is known as the industrial revolution I think we must recognise what an immense triumph it was for the working classes to have passed the Trade Union Act of 1871. Of course, that Act enabled trade unions to gain better conditions for their people and also to enter into the industrial system of the country as legal entities.
Your Lordships will remember that in 1906 a Bill was passed which greatly increased the powers of the trade unions. There were some who argued that this measure would increase the sense of responsibility amongst the leaders of the trade unions and so tend to wise leadership and a reduction of trade disputes. There were others at that time who feared that with the granting of additional powers to trade unions trade disputes would be encouraged and that the Trade Disputes Act would be nothing 9 more than a Trades Disputes Encouragement Act. Time alone could prove which of those two ideas was right. I think that to-day we must look upon the Act of 1906 as a great experiment. The whole industrial system of the country was so novel then and it is so novel today that we have nothing to guide us. In dealing with these matters we are groping in the dark, as it were. Small wonder then that this great experiment which was tried twenty-one years ago should in some directions have failed to satisfy the high hopes of its original well-wishers. Unfortunately, during the last few years trade disputes have been increasing in number, and what is even more significant is the fact that trade unions are enabled by the Act of 1906 to put immense pressure upon their members to enter into a dispute although those individual members do not wish to do so.
During the last few years, and during the last few months, too, we have had a great many cases of so-called "peaceful picketing" which have not been peaceful picketing at all. Unfortunately, there have been cases of what may be termed gross bullying. We have also had too many cases in which the wives and families who have incurred the displeasure of the unions have been interfered with. That is a state of affairs of which, I am certain, none of your Lordships can approve, and I hope that in the legislation which is foreshadowed by the Government something may be done to meet this unsatisfactory position. The 1906 Act was not the last Act passed by Parliament dealing with trade unions.
As your Lordships will be well aware, in 1913 another measure was passed which dealt mainly with the political status of trade unions. This Act has been very detrimental to the interest of certain men of great independence, who like to exercise their own opinions. While granting political freedom to the trade unions this Act, unfortunately, had the result of considerably curtailing the political independence of individual trade unionists. I look upon freedom of thought and political independence and freedom of self-expression as the two chief rights of every Englishman. Any measure which in any way tends to interfere with the exercise of those rights must be looked upon as very reactionary 10 in character. I think it is very unfortunate that during the last few years many cases have arisen in which men have been compelled to support policies, and to subscribe to funds in support of policies, with which they thoroughly disagree. I sincerely hope that some means may be found of remedying this state of affairs.
Trade unions have done such good work during the past and form so useful a part of our industrial and social system that many acute observers view with regret their tendency to depart from the original purpose for which they were set up. The trade union world to-day is adrift upon a sea of difficulties very largely of its own creation. I sincerely hope that the legislation outlined in the gracious Speech will enable the leaders of the movement to steer the ship in this rough sea through which it is passing, through the dark and difficult passage on one side of which is the Scylla of Socialism and on the other the Charybdis of Communism and so into the haven of peaceful contentment, which we all hope to see in this country. Who is better able to help us in this matter than noble Lords opposite, some of whom have been brought up in sound Conservative principles and others of whom have been reared in sound Liberal ideas? I hope that they will give great, assistance in bringing this ship to harbour.
Your Lordships will, I feel, be very interested to see in the gracious Speech mention made of a Bill dealing with leasehold matters. There are good landlords and bad landlords, as there are good men and bad men in every walk of life. I belong to that poor, humble class the landlords, and so I fear that anything I say in their favour may be looked upon as tainted evidence. I shall, however, approach the matter from a rather different aspect because as a member of the London County Council I am associated with a body which deals with more landed property than any other body in the country, and in my experience as a member of that body I have been struck by the extraordinary fairness and justice with which we have been met by landlords in any difficulties which have arisen. It is true there are certain cases—nearly always of speculators—in which the landlord sticks out for his pound of flesh, but such a, case is the exception which proves the rule. 11 I welcome the proposal to introduce a Bill to make these bad, selfish landlords toe the line and adopt the system of fair play and honesty which is the pride of the landowning profession.
Your Lordships will, I feel sure, be very interested to see that the Government are going to promote a Bill dealing with the production and exhibition of British films. This is a matter which affects every man, woman and child in the country. Films are witnessed by thousands of people every month. The film world makes claim that the film is the university of the working man. How essential it is then that everything shown should make its appeal to what is noblest and best in the national character. Unfortunately, we know that this is not always the case by any means. Many films are shown to-day which tend to degrade all we most value in life—which tend to confound crime with courage, vice with virtue and lust with love. If this state of affairs is allowed to continue I am afraid that we shall find the moral fabric of the country being steadily undermined. In fact, there is only one good thing that may be said about many of these films and that is, thank God they are not made in England. This is a very serious consideration, because we are at the present moment being permeated from outside with ideas which reflect the view of alien minds—which in itself is very undesirable and I sincerely hope that His Majesty's Government will be able to introduce a Bill which will succeed in the desired result of permitting healthy British films to be shown to the British public.
It must be of great interest to all your Lordships to see mentioned in the gracious Speech that the Government intend to bring in Bills dealing with agriculture. During last Session the Government passed several useful little measures which, though they were not very spectacular, will, I am certain, bring a considerable amount of benefit to the farming community. I do not believe that the agricultural situation can ever be helped by any grandiose scheme, because if it is ever attempted to carry out any such scheme it must inevitably collapse of its own weight. We have the example of the Corn Production Act before us. But the policy of the Government in producing useful small Bills 12 is greatly helping farmers and will do much to bring about that healthy state of agricultural affairs which is so essential to the well-being of the nation.
If it is not considered presumptuous I should like to congratulate the Government on putting forward such a small amount of legislation for the forthcoming Session. Too often is the gracious Speech overloaded with a mase of Bills which can never possibly be digested. This produces a great deal of disappointment to various members of the community who are much interested in particular measures which they hope to see passed by Parliament. I feel confident that the legislation outlined in the gracious Speech will come into law during this Session and that when it comes into law it will contribute greatly to the welfare, the peace and the happiness of our Sovereign and his Dominions. I beg to second the Address in reply to the gracious Speech.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, the noble Earl who moved the Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne began on a note of personal modesty. I do not think it was really necessary, for he spoke in a tone so excellent, and the substance of what he said was so reasonable that in future—I am sure I am here expressing the sense of many of your Lordships—we shall look forward with pleasure to hearing him again.
Among other things which the words put by His Majesty's Ministers into the mouth of the Sovereign omit is any reference to the reform of this House. I observed that with sincere relief, because I felt pretty sure that any reforms such as were likely to be suggested would lead to a great deal of controversy—and bitter controversy. I have already given your Lordships from this place a piece of very conservative advice—namely, to let the question of the House of Lords alone. You have here a House, unduly large and filled with many who take too little part in its proceedings, but which has yet this singular merit, that it always acts moderately and does not interfere with popular decisions. If you reform this House in the way of making it stronger you will inevitably provoke conflicts which will be very far-reaching. There is an alternative, which is to introduce what would be the real measure—a measure substituting for this House 13 a body of more modern and popular character. Over such a measure I have often thought, and if it were proposed to amend this House as it stands simply by making it stronger I should feel it my duty to introduce such propositions as I have alluded to. But I hope that will not occur, and I do not think it need occur if your Lordships conduct, your proceedings in the spirit and in the fashion which you have done up to this time. The speech of the noble Earl who moved the Address in reply to the gracious Speech gives me hope that there will be that continuity of tradition in this House which his speech shows.
Then I come to the speech of the noble Viscount who seconded the Motion. His observations were directed mainly to the domestic legislation which is promised in this Speech. He left foreign affairs alone. The noble Viscount began, with a fine sense of humour, by slightly terrifying us. He alluded to his hereditary reputation, as the descendant of one who had addressed this House once, I think, only, and then for two and a half hours. We liked what we heard from the noble Viscount for ten minutes, and I think we should have liked it if he had gone on a little longer—I do not say for two and a half hours, but what he said was good. The noble Viscount brought another element in. He has had a large experience of municipal affairs, and municipal affairs in the Metropolis, and he is very competent to speak on such topics as one to which he alluded, the position of the leaseholder. When the time comes we shall hope to have something of his experience in these municipal matters for our enlightenment in dealing with that very difficult topic, to which I will make a reference a little later.
I now turn to what is the most important part of the Speech, the reference to China. I do not propose to address your Lordships at any length upon this, because to-morrow has been set apart for a discussion on the subject, and the noble Marquess who leads the House will probably desire to reserve what he has to say until he hears the case as it is stated by my noble friend behind me. But there are one or two points upon which I will just touch, because they are points on which I hope that to-morrow at all events the noble Marquess will enlighten us. The tone 14 of the reference to China is very good, and the speeches which have been made by the Foreign Secretary the other day and by the Prime Minister have been admirable in their tone. But, unfortunately, when a crisis arises in foreign affairs, a large number of people, in Parliament and out of it, think it their duty to intervene and take part. I wish there were, I will not say a law, but a self-denying ordinance, under which no Minister, except the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary, should speak on a delicate crisis while it is in existence. It might shut us out from the valuable contributions which the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, makes on such subjects—contributions moderate in tone and, if they do not always tell us very much, at least very soothing to us and to other people. I would rather have the rule, even at the sacrifice of that value exception, because there have been things said—said by Ministers, said in newspapers—which have caused a certain amount of alarm here, and which have been transmitted by telegraph to the Chinese vernacular Press, which have studiously reproduced them, with comments which do not make them any better.
We are a remarkable nation. We have many good qualities, but one of our good qualities has never been that of understanding foreigners. We have never realised the intense sense that there is in other people of their own nationality and their title not to have their personalities interfered with. That is the more remarkable because we ourselves lay the greatest stress upon it. If anybody proposes to interfere from abroad with our internal affairs there is a storm at once in the Press and speeches are made about it, but, if it is China, it does not seem to occur to people that the Chinese may be a very sensitive people and very apt to take fire if you put the tinder near them. I say at once that the situation with China just now is a very difficult one as well as a very dangerous one. I have not a word to say against the decision of the Government to take care of the women and helpless children and of the men who are our subjects in China. That is a moral obligation which nobody questions.
The whole point is how it is best done. When I consider what an expedition for the protection of these unfortunate 15 people means, I see in it something which may very easily defeat its own purpose. China just now is divided. She has sixteen Provinces as well as a Central Government, and these Provinces are ruled by Governors, who are largely military and who are very difficult to deal with. China herself is in a state of civil war just now and is split up into all sorts of sections and the one thing that can consolidate her is a supposed enemy who comes in to interfere in what she considers to be her internal affairs. That does not affect the title which we may have, in the Settlements and in other places belonging to ourselves, to protect our own people, but it does make it obligatory upon us to be extremely careful lest in trying to do good we do evil. Therefore, for myself, I would much prefer to have left this whole matter in the hands of the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister for them to deal with it in the conciliatory language which they have used and which to a large extent is used in the gracious Speech.
To send an expedition of a Division, calling it, as it has been called, an Expeditionary Force, is to do something which, in statement at all events, is very rash. It would have been much better, while thinking out the precautions that have to be taken—and no military or naval movements are worth anything unless the most careful thought is bestowed upon them beforehand—to have said nothing, to have preserved silence as to where it was going, to have got it near enough to be able to do something if something was necessary to be done, but above all to make it a merely secondary matter so far as statements in public were concerned. So far from that what people are mostly interested in at this moment are the proceedings of the expedition.
I do not for a moment join with those who think that this indicates some truculent mind on the part of the Government. I am as certain as I am standing here that there is nothing the Government desire so much as not to have to send any expedition, and that, if they could stop short and keep the thing as quiet as possible, they would do so. Unfortunately, there are the facts, which are misinterpreted by the Chinese with that sensitiveness which nations always 16 show when that sort of thing is done. It seems to me that the wisest course the Government can take is to think out how they can best conciliate and to give the fullest instructions to their most competent representatives, Sir Miles Lamp-son and Mr. O'Malley, to take that attitude. I think they have probably done so. At the same time they have complicated the business and made it more difficult for their representatives by raising these questions. It is far better that all the Powers should act together in counsel and that to the Chinese we should say in the most distinct way possible: "It is not merely a question of not interfering with your rights. It is not merely a question of leaving you free from all the old grievances, of renewing Treaties on an equitable basis, and of improving our future relations with you. We treat China as what she is, an independent nation, and we negotiate with you on that footing and only ask you to consider whether we have not a joint interest which requires, for your sakes as much as for our own, peace and good will."
I know that, even so, the difficulties are gigantic. What power has Mr. Wellington Koo, the Prime Minister, sitting at Peking, to bring about the acceptance of even the most favourable point of view? What power has Mr. Chen to control the people for whom he is technically responsible? Very little. That makes the situation one of the most difficult and one of the most delicate that any Government has to deal with in trying to bring about the resolution of this situation. I call it the resolution because to resolve it into something different is what you have to do. It is only by the most tactful negotiation and by abstaining in any way from a display of force that you can bring that about. I do not shrink from recognising the duty of this country to protect its own people. It is a very serious matter; it is a moral obligation which involves that you may have to take enormous risks, the gravest risks. There are worse things even than war and one of them is the ignoring of your moral obligation to the people who trusted you, but I am far from satisfied that a policy of demonstration of force will in the end prove valuable, and I earnestly and respectfully urge the 17 Government to rely to the fullest extent, not merely upon the kind of things that are said here but on the recognition of China as our equal as a nation to be respected and regarded as we respect and regard ourselves. That is all I wish to say about China and I do not expect the noble Marquess to enter into it on this occasion unless he desires to do so. To-morrow we will expect a statement which will relieve our anxiety on some of the points with which I have dealt.
I come now to some of the other features of the gracious Speech. The policy stated is remarkable, first of all, in many respects for its omissions. If there was one thing we expected to hear of in domestic legislation it was the Factory Bill. It has been promised, it has been discussed, it has been talked of, but there is not even the remotest reference to it in the gracious Speech. Again, there is another subject of which we heard a great deal. Where is the Poor Law Bill? No reference to that either. The newspapers and the speeches of Ministers have been full of it, but somehow or other it has dropped out. There are other questions, too. There is the question of the franchise. That has also been discussed. There are great inequalities between men and women which ought to be considered. I am far from saying that the Government ought to load their programme by bringing in a Franchise Bill at once, but I think they might take steps by way of conference, as on previous occasions, to see whether an adjustment is not possible by which this problem could be settled by general consent. Those are three omissions—and they are not the only omissions—which I note in the gracious Speech.
There are other things, to which I will now come. I pass by foreign affairs and what has taken place in the League of Nations. In regard to that I think the Government are very much to be congratulated. Germans has been brought in and the occupation of the Ruhr is coming to an end, and that is a distinct gain, and one upon which we may congratulate the Government and of which we are ourselves proud. But leaving aside external events, I come to what the noble Viscount touched upon, and that is industrial disputes. I say "industrial disputes" to emphasise the expression that is used in the gracious Speech. It 18 is not "trade unions." The noble Viscount talked a great deal about trade unions, not unnaturally, and I am not reproaching him, but industrial disputes is a larger and at the same time a vaguer expression. The term in the Speech may mean very little or may mean a great deal. The Act of 1906, as the noble Viscount said, was to some extent in the nature of an experiment. It was passed as the result of a violent reaction against the law laid down in the Taff Vale case and other declarations that had been made in the Courts. Whenever things go wrong, whenever you find a view taken too narrow to fit the facts, then inevitably you have a reaction and one of these reactions was the Trade Disputes Act of 1906.
I sat in the House of Commons at that time and took part in the discussion. You could no more have resisted that Act than you could have flown. Your Lordships did not resist it, the Conservative Party in the House of Commons did not resist it, at least not strenuously, and a good many Conservatives, if my memory does not deceive me, voted for it. Why? Because it had become a cry throughout the country that you must put right the position under which the trade union movement was imperilled and the funds which were intended for the sick and the unemployed were exposed to the vagaries of decisions in the Law Courts given against people who had no real authority to do what they did but who had acted in such a way as, in law, to commit the trade unions as their agents. Some of us wished at that time to restrict the law of agency in its application to trade unions. That might well have been done. We also wished to separate the benefit funds from the fighting funds. That might also have been done. But the decision of the constituencies was too strong and the Act of 1906 became inevitable.
There are points of the Act of 1906 which require consideration. The definition of picketing is not satisfactory and the definition of picketing is one which might very well be considered, but, speaking for myself, I should have greatly preferred to this some general undertaking in the gracious Speech. If the Government had said: "We are not going to act until we have inquired, quickly and competently, 19 say, by a Royal Commission of three members," I should have been satisfied with that. The Government have an admirable precedent for such an Inquiry in the Report of the Dunedin Commission which sat, I think, before the Trade Disputes Act was passed. That Report is full of very enlightened and far-reaching recommendations for the amendment of the law. Lord Dunedin, the late Mr. Arthur Cohen and Mr. Sidney Webb were agreed in certain recommendations which probably your Lordships have considered and which, at all events, afford materials for consideration.
I think it desirable that the policy with regard to trade disputes should be in the first instance one for inquiry not by a great mixed Committee or Commission on which discordant elements would be represented, but by a small Royal Commission. I have in my mind the names of men who, I think, would inquire swiftly into the matter and put us in possession of materials by means of which we could form, a judgment before we come to the conclusion that some sort of Bill is urgently required. How far such an Inquiry would deal with the unions as distinguished from industrial disputes I do not know. It depends on what is brought out in the Report of such an Inquiry. I am sure of this, that we should only make a mess of things if we proceed to legislate before we have the materials before us, and I am sure also that among the people with whom most of us in this House associate in every day life there are impressions about the spirit of the best of the working-class leaders which are not in accordance with the facts. Far better take those leaders into your counsel and confer with them before you start.
There is also the subject to which the, noble Viscount referred—the proposal for amending the law relating to leasehold premises. I wait with interest to see what that means. He did not tell us; probably there is no Bill which he has seen. I remember this: forty years ago when I was in the other House there was a great agitation to bring about what was called "leasehold enfranchisement." Every leaseholder was to be enabled to turn himself on proper terms into a freeholder and London and the other populous centres would have been dotted 20 about with small freeholders. Some of us resisted that strenuously and we were successful. We said: "We do not want another class of small landlords. If the freehold is to be in any body it ought to be in some responsible public authority rather than in some individual who may be good or who may be bad." As the noble Viscount said, there are good landlords and bad landlords. It is the bad landlords that it is necessary to deal with and the best way of dealing with them may be that the freehold, the fee simple title, should be in some body which is responsible to the public and will not let the policy go in a wrong direction.
Then we are to have Bills on the subject of agriculture. I have heard that statement before. Again I wait to see what they are. There is also a Bill dealing with insurance against unemployment. That will be a very interesting Bill, but we want to see it before we can make a pronouncement in its favour or against it. And next there is a British Films Bill. With regard to that I would leave it to the people who are mostly concerned with British films to produce some proposition before us on which we can pass judgment. I pay every respect to the declaration of the noble Earl who moved the Motion in response to the gracious Speech that the people of Scotland are interested in something, by which, I suppose, he meant what is covered by the words "reorganisation of certain of the Departments of Scotland." That is the phrase used in the speech. There are a great many things in the Scottish Departments which require reorganisation. I should be very much interested if they were reorganised, but I cannot say that I think the people of Scotland are deeply interested in them. We are the most conservative part of the United Kingdom. We have a strong liking for leaving people in possession of their offices and tend to favour what are called "jobs." I for one shall welcome these proposals for reorganisation, but I have watched for a long time the situation in certain of these Departments and found it almost impossible to move in putting them right. I hope the Government have been more fortunate. The Government have a powerful majority and may be able to do something. For myself, again, I can only wait and see.
21 The Speech, in fine, is a somewhat jejune document. It does not tell us very much, and it omits a great many things that we would have liked to hear of, but still if it be all carried out and if things be well done we shall be the better for the programme which it carries out. For the rest it is impossible I think at this stage to say more about it than that we wait and hope for the best.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, I am glad to associate myself with the complimentary references which were made by the noble Viscount who has just sat down to the noble Lords who moved and seconded the Address. Those members of your Lordships' House who have been here a good many years will remember the father of the noble Earl who moved the Address as one who commanded to a particular degree the respect and esteem of the members of your Lordships' House. He was a man of particularly sound judgment and ripe experience. Some members of your Lordships' House will remember the noble Earl who succeeded him and who preceded the noble Earl who has spoken this evening. He had, indeed, begun to take a considerable share in the proceedings of your Lordships' House when an untimely death cut short his activities in that direction. We shall all hope that the noble Earl who has spoken this evening will follow in the steps of his father as he has already begun to follow in the steps of his brother in moving the Address. I remember that the noble Earl's brother made a speech on the Address which at that time seemed in our opinion to show considerable power and ability. With regard to the noble Viscount who seconded the Address, I am sure your Lordships will all agree in hoping that it may not be another hundred years before a Viscount Falmouth addresses the House, but that he will himself often take part in our discussions.
I hope your Lordships will allow me to make another personal reference, which I think will meet with universal assent, and that is to offer congratulations to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House upon his return. Those of your Lordships who have any experience of this kind know that long absence from home and from family and friends, constant travelling, endless banquets, speeches day by day and every day are a real task and a real hard work 22 for anybody who takes part in such a tour. I think we may, in welcoming back the noble Marquess, offer him thanks for a real piece of good work done in the service of the Empire.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
Then, my Lords, I should like to say a few words upon the speech we have just listened to from the noble Viscount who leads the Labour Party in this House. He has spoken, as he always does on these occasions, with peculiar moderation. He praises many things which are absent from the Speech and hopes that what is there will ultimately redound to the advantage of the nation. I am not quite sure whether the mildness of his criticisms accurately reflects the opinion of his Party outside this House, but I should like, if I may, to suggest to the noble Marquess who leads the Government that on another occasion he might somewhat shorten our proceedings by asking the noble Viscount either to move or second the Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. I am quite sure that if he were to adopt such a course the noble Viscount would have to make very few alterations in the speech which he usually delivers on those occasions.
The noble Viscount who has just spoken referred, naturally, chiefly to the question of China and I associate myself gladly with all he has said with regard to the Despatch of, and the speech made by, the Secretary of State. We wish the ebullient Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for the Dominions could have followed the example of the Secretary of State in the moderate language which has been used by him throughout there discussions. I think I may say, indeed, that what has been written and said by the Secretary of State does generally command confidence throughout the country. It is when we turn to what has been done that great differences are likely to arise. It is, I think, quite impossible for anybody to accept any responsibility who does not know the full facts of the case and it is quite obvious that it is impossible for the man in the street to know a number of very important facts that must have a vital bearing on the situation. We mad about a Chinese 23 General at Shanghai. If the information is at the disposal of the noble Marquess I hope he will be able to tell us something more about that General, whether he has forces at his command, whether those forces are reliable, whether the General himself is likely to be well-inclined towards the keeping of order. All these things are things we should very much like to know something about.
But with regard to the manner in which the Defence Force was announced and its despatch I confess I do regret the flourish of trumpets which accompanied its appearance in the Press. It gave to the despatch of that force—which was intended, I am quite sure, merely for defence—almost an appearance of aggression. That is an unfortunate circumstance which cannot, I fear, fail to have a bad effect on the negotiations. Indeed, we know already that these negotiations have been hampered by the aspect which was put upon the despatch of the force in the Chinese newspapers. I am not quite sure if in connection with this matter transports would not have been as much use as warships.
Then I turn to the various measures which are mentioned in the gracious Speech dealing with trade unions, or rather with industrial disputes, with leaseholds and with agriculture. With regard to the first, may I say that I do somewhat regret the precipitancy with which His Majesty's Government seem inclined to act? It is quite evident when one reads the newspapers, that there are considerable movements within the trades unions themselves, great searchings of heart, inquiries as to whether they pursued a wise course or not in the course of last year. There are movements in different parts of the country for the formation of new unions, there are other movements for the formation of societies within the, trade unions, the effect of which will be to make each individual trade unionist more free than he has been in the past. I cannot help asking myself whether it would not have been wiser to give these movements a little more time, because any reforms introduced which command the consent of those within the trade unions are far more likely to be effective and lasting than those introduced from outside and against the wishes of the trade unions.
24 With regard to the leasehold and agriculture Bills, your Lordships will readily understand that the reference to them in the gracious Speech tells us very little indeed about what is likely to be in either of the measures. I do not suppose that they will go so far as many noble friends of mine and I myself would like. But I cannot fail to note that they deal with subjects which have been for some time matters of inquiry amongst the Liberal Party, and if it would be of any help to the noble Marquess who leads the Government I should be happy to offer him the Brown Book and the Green Book dealing respectively with the urban and rural side of these problems, unless, indeed, he has already studied them and made the, subject his own.
There is one point regarding foreign affairs which is not mentioned in the gracious Speech but upon which I venture to ask the noble Marquess if he can give us any information. I refer to the evacuation of Germany. Your Lordships will remember that evacuation is to take place in three stages. The first evacuation was delayed for more than a year because, in the opinion, if I remember rightly, of the Allied Commission, certain necessary conditions had not been complied with by the German Government. They were later complied with and, indeed, they have so far been complied with that now, as I understand, the Allied Military Commission has been dissolved and the question of whether Germany is observing her obligations has been transferred to the League of Nations. It is in those circumstances that I venture to ask whether there is any prospect of evacuation being hastened, an object which, I confess, we might well desire even upon the lowest grounds, because it is quite obvious that as soon as evacuation takes place more money will be available for Reparations.
Reference has already been made to the various omissions of a number of subjects from the gracious Speech from the Throne, such as factories, the Poor Law, and the House of Lords. On those subjects, in view of the fact that they are not mentioned, it is not necessary for me to detain your Lordships; but I should like to say a word in regard to the franchise. Your Lordships may 25 remember that in 1925 the Home Secretary said:—We can set up the Conference in 1926—it will take a few mouths to go into the questions which hon. Members desire to be included in the terms of reference—and bring in a Bill in the following year.On May 8 he said:—The House knows that we propose to ask Mr. Speaker to call a Conference next year upon women's votes.I hope that the noble Marquess will be good enough to explain the reasons for that delay and to say whether it is intended to set up that Conference during the present year. If the Conference is set up during the current year, the further question arises whether His Majesty's Government will be content to leave the Conference to deal only with the question of an equal franchise or whether they will submit various other matters, as they did to the first Speaker's Conference which was held on this subject some years ago.
There is, in addition to the question of the equality between men and women, the very striking fact, which was new to me until it was brought to my notice, that there are over two million women over thirty years of age who have not got the vote. The conditions regarding men and women are so different that we have this very large number of women who are without votes at the present time. There is also the question of the methods of election, and if the noble Marquess can tell us if there is any idea of referring that vexed question to the Speaker's Conference I am sure that many people will be interested to hear what he has to say on the point.
There is one other subject that was not mentioned in the gracious Speech, but has been mentioned in more than one gracious Speech for which His Majesty's Government have been responsible: I refer to the question of economy. In December, 1924, these words were used in the King's Speech:—The present heavy burdens of the taxpayer are a hindrance to the revival of enterprise and employment. Economy in every sphere is imperative if we are to regain our industrial and commercial prosperity.Admirable sentiments! At the time when they were expressed the Budget amounted to £704,000,000 a year. Last year the Budget amounted to 26 £824,000,000, in addition to which there was a Supplementary Estimate of no less than £5,000,000. It is because I agree so heartily with the view expressed in the first gracious Speech that I shall venture to quote a few figures to your Lordships. In 1913–14 the Expenditure was £197,000,000; in 1925–6 it had grown to no less than £826,000,000. The rates—and after all we must include rates when we are beginning to consider the burden upon industry—the rates, which in:1913–14 were £82,000,000 have grown by 1925–6 to no less than £166,000,000.
It is quite obvious that trade cannot improve so fast as it ought while this crushing burden rests upon it and, if the fact that economy was recommended by His Majesty's Government on a previous occasion was followed by a still heavier expenditure, may we hope that the absence of mention on this occasion may lead to some real economy and that we may find that in the course of the next twelve months, while not talking too much about it, we may get some real performance? I am sure that this is more than overdue, for even the reduction of £10,000,000 a year which was promised at one moment by the Chancellor of the Exchequer has not materialised.
Some very remarkable figures were given in a letter to The Times on Friday last from Mr. Francis Hirst, which I shall venture to quote to your Lordships. In the United States the 3½, per cent. Liberty Loan stands at 101; in this country the similar 3½; per cent. Conversion Loan stands at 76. This shows, I think, the difference of the financial position of the two countries in the public estimation. As the Loan was offered at 85 per cent. this really indicates a complete failure on the part of His Majesty's Government to deal with this question of finance; and, since it was offered at 85 per cent. instead of 100 per cent., as could have been done in the United States, a further burden upon the taxpayer of £30,000,000 was imposed. Again, the National Debt in this country works out at £168 per head; in the United States it is only £34 per head. Taxes in this country amount to £15 per head, as compared with £9 per head in Australia, £6 in the United States and £5 in Germany. These figures speak for themselves and show the urgent necessity 27 that His Majesty's Government should not merely preach economy but should really try to practise it.
There is only one other matter to which I desire to draw attention. I refer to the passage of a Bill in the concluding days of last Session—the Judicial Proceedings (Regulation of Reports) Bill. This Bill reached your Lordships, I think, on December 13, and passed its Second Reading, Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading all in the same afternoon. An Amendment was introduced with which one of the Public Departments was not satisfied, and accordingly an Amendment, which was not printed, was moved to that Amendment, and really I do not think that there was anybody present in your Lordships' House, except perhaps the noble Earl, the Lord Chairman, who really understood what was happening on that occasion. I do want to say that I think it is deplorable that your Lordships should be asked to pass legislation in such a fashion as that. I do not stand in a white sheet, for I did complain at the time and said that I thought that the responsibility should be assumed by His Majesty's Government. They did assume it.
"While the cat's away the mice will play." There is nobody more jealous of the proper procedure of this House than the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, and I am quite sure that if he had been present this would not have happened. I do hope that we may have some assurance from him that the proceedings in this House will not in future be conducted with so much haste. This was a Private Member's Bill, and I see that already the President of the Divorce Court has made some remarks which, I understand, already seem to deprecate the Bill itself, and certainly reflect upon the haste with which it was carried.
Finally, may I say one other thing to the noble Marquess? It is that the Speech is a very short Speech, remarkable for its omissions rather than for what is in it. It is evident that we ought to be able to bring this Session to a conclusion at an unusually early date, in spite of the opposition which is very likely to be raised to the legislation dealing with industrial disputes. The newspapers have told us that it is the intention 28 of the Government to bring about an alteration in the sittings of Parliament—to bring the Session to an end comparatively early in July, and to begin another Session in the autumn. If anything of the kind is in contemplation, it would be a great convenience to the House if the Government could communicate its intentions at an early date to Parliament, in order that members may be able to make their necessary arrangements for the rest of the year. For myself, I think I am in favour of the plan, and obviously it is so important for us to know what is in the mind of the Government that I venture to ask the noble Marquess to let us know as soon as he possibly can if anything of the kind is in prospect.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I have in the first place to thank the noble Earl who has just sat down for his very kindly references to myself. I have a very strong feeling that I did carry with me, in my travels, the good wishes of the House, and I say so without any reference to the part of the House in which your Lordships sit, because I was accompanied by a Delegation belonging to all political Parties, and I can assure your Lordships that so far as we were concerned there was no difference of opinion. Personally, of course, we were very great friends, but even politically there was no great difference appearing when we were brought face to face with the great Imperial issues and matters of Imperial interest which presented themselves every day during our stay in Australia. I will not detain your Lordships longer with references to that matter, but I only wish that there were more opportunities for members, not only of this House but of both Houses of Parliament, to see the working of these great Dominions. I am perfectly certain that all such experiences will redound to the welfare of the Empire as a whole, and, if I may say so with great respect, to the education of your Lordships and of members of the other House in particular.
We are in one respect in rather adverse circumstances, for a perpetual menace hangs over us in modern society. The germ of influenza has worked its wicked will upon your Lordships' House, and I have in the first place to deplore that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor 29 is not able to preside over our proceedings to-day. We have a very worthy substitute for him in my noble friend, but we shall all be very glad when we know that the Lord Chancellor is out of the grip of the fiend and once more among us. Not only is the Lord Chancellor absent but the noble Duke (the Duke of Montrose), who had had the intention of moving the Address, is, as your Lordships know, laid low by the same complaint.
We are very much to be congratulated upon the fact that we have had a very efficient substitute this evening. The noble Earl who moved the Address showed, I thought, how competent he was to come to the rescue of your Lordships in an emergency, for the bad news as to the Duke of Montrose only arrived forty eight hours ago, and the noble Earl was yet prepared to take his place. Any one who listened to my noble friend will have realised that we have in him a real addition to our personnel. He not only made a very adequate speech but he showed that he had an interest in those very Imperial matters to which I have just been alluding, and by his own personal efforts has contributed, as I know, to the solution of this great question of emigration from the Mother Country to the great Dominions. He has shown that he is conversant with the very difficult details which attach to that process, and he has shown thus actively that he is interested in Imperial matters.
Then my noble friend, the noble Viscount, also made a most admirable speech—a very thoughtful speech and a very humorous speech. He showed that he is well versed in local affairs and is able to advise your Lordships upon them. Not least was I pleased by the passage in his speech in which he referred with so much sympathy to the trade union movement. He had, of course, something to say about the legislation which is indicated in the gracious Speech from the Throne, but he prefaced it by expressing what I am sure all good Conservatives feel—namely, strong sympathy with the trade unions themselves, and a strong hope that by judicious measures, if possible from within, they may be purged of certain evils which have lately been displaying themselves with regard to them.
30 I turn to the speeches which followed those of my two noble friends. I have to thank the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane, for his very moderate criticism of the Speech from the Throne. I think he approved of a good deal of it. He approved, for instance, of the apparent absence of any intention, so far as the Speech is concerned, to deal with the question of House of Lords reform. I should like your Lordships to remember that the question of House of Lords reform was the subject of a deputation which waited upon my right hon. friend the Prime Minister last year from members of both Houses of Parliament, and that in a reply to that deputation my right hon. friend declared that he adhered to the pledge he had already given, that this subject should be dealt with within the limits of the present Parliament. That was very specifically said by him and I have not the least doubt that it is his present intention.
But, because a matter has not been mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, that does not prevent the possibility of discussions on the subject taking place in this House. Personally, I very much hope they will take place. I think it is a great mistake to imagine that the Speech from the Throne is to be encyclopædie, and to include every subject which can be, or is likely to be, discussed during the ensuing Session. Absence of mention in the Speech from the Throne undoubtedly does mean that there is no intention to carry through any reform of this House in the present Session. If that had been the design of the Government, of course the subject would have found a place in the Speech. One noble Lord—I think it was the noble Earl—said that it might be necessary to have a preliminary discussion on House of Lords reform. I agree with that view, and I see no reason in the world why we should not look forward to that taking place.
I take the subjects more or less in the order in which the noble and learned Viscount brought them under your Lordships' notice, and I turn for a moment to China. The noble and learned Viscount was, of course, fully justified in saying that, having regard to the fact that a Motion stands upon the paper in the name of a noble Lord—as a matter 31 of fact, one of the noble and learned Viscount's colleagues—specifically calling attention to China to-morrow, it would be contrary to the practice of Parliament and of your Lordships' House to anticipate that discussion by going into the question of China in any detail at the present moment. When that subject is brought up to-morrow my noble friend the Lord President of the Council will no doubt deal with it in the very competent way which we always look for from him. For the present I shall confine myself to very few observations.
Both the noble and learned Viscount and the noble Earl complained of speeches made by members of the Government in the country. I was not aware that any indiscreet speeches had been made. I do not pretend that I read all the speeches of my colleagues—perhaps I ought to do so, but I do not pretend that I do; and I was not aware of it. But I was certainly aware of this, that there have been some very indiscreet speeches made by other kinds of politicians in the Albert Hall. I think it a most astonishing thing that the noble and learned Viscount should stand at that box and deplore the indiscreet speeches of irresponsible, or of less responsible, persons when he is aware that of all irresponsible acts the active intervention of extreme members of his own Party in the conduct of most delicate foreign affairs, even to the extent of communicating with authorities who are in difficulties with the Government abroad, is about the most extreme form of the evil of which the noble and learned Viscount complained that the mind of man could conceive. No. Let the noble and learned Viscount address those speeches to his own colleagues. Let him go down the corridor and ask to be heard at the bar of the House of Commons, and let him there explain how wrong it is to make indiscreet speeches about foreign affairs, and then we shall listen to him. We always listen to him with pleasure, but then we should listen with more patience to the little homily which he delivered this afternoon.
Then the noble Earl asked me to tell him something about the evacuation of Germany. I do not know that I can tell the noble Earl very much that he does not know already. He is, of course, aware that the negotiations at Thoiry 32 led to nothing. They had to do with domestic politics in France, into which it would not be very discreet for me to enter, and about which the noble Earl knows as well as I do. But they led to nothing. As regards the actual law and rights of the matter, of course there can be no claim made for complete evacuation until all the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles have been fulfilled. That is the actual provision of the relevant Article of the Treaty. But I quite agree with the noble Earl that it would be a very good thing if that could be anticipated. That has always been the view of His Majesty's Government, and so far as our power and our influence are concerned we have always used them in that direction. But it is a very difficult and complicated subject. It requires the active co-operation of Germany herself in the negotiations and in the conditions which the negotiations might lead to, and the co-operation of other countries besides Germany and besides his Majesty's Government itself. That is a matter which cannot be hurried, it must be the subject of negotiations; but, speaking for His Majesty's Government and, I believe, for all Parties in this country, we should be very glad, of course, to see at any rate a reduction of the forces of our former Allies and of ourselves in the Second and Third Zones of the occupied territory as soon as it possibly can be managed. Whether that can fake place soon or not I really am not in a position to say. All I can assure the noble Earl is this, that, so far as the good will of His Majesty's Government is concerned, that has already been obtained.
I turn then to the next subject, which is a subject on which the noble Earl made merry, the question of economy. Is it necessary to repeat what I have often said in your Lordships' House, and what it is quite obvious that the events of last year have only made more relevant? The coal strike and all the industrial unrest of last year have only made the claims of economy stronger than they were before. Of course, it is most essential that we should economise and, difficult though it is. I am quite certain that my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will do his very utmost to economise. I do not want to make any promises, because no one knows better than I do—for the reason which 33 perhaps the House knows, that I formed part of a body which inquired into the subject—how very difficult it is, when you go into details, to secure the economy that you wish. But I am perfectly certain that this country ought to economise, and I yield to nobody, certainly not to the noble Earl, in the conviction that the utmost economy that is possible ought to be practised in every part of the Government, and not only in respect of Imperial Expenditure, but, even more perhaps, of local expenditure as well.
I have a word now to say upon the prospects of the present Session. The noble Earl asked me to tell him what were the intentions of the Government about the present Session. He was, I think, a little sarcastic over the brevity of the Speech. It is a brief Speech. I think my noble friend the mover said that the intention was not to put down in the Speech anything which we did not intend to early through. Certainly in that respect it is a very different Speech from most of those which I have heard and read since I have been a member of either House of Parliament. It is the intention, of course, to carry through all the legislation, the legislation of moderate dimensions, which appears in the Speech, and I do hope that, being moderate in dimensions, it may be possible to pass it into law at a reasonable period in the summer. In that event we intend, not to adjourn, as has been usual, in the summer, but to prorogue, and to begin the new Session in the autumn, or rather in the winter, and get on with the business of the next Session of Parliament before Christmas. That is the intention of the Government.
It is not always possible for a Government to carry out their intentions, as everybody knows; that depends upon a great many circumstances, but most of all upon the co-operation of members of both Houses of Parliament. If the Opposition, and especially the Opposition in the House of Commons, will be good enough to assist the Government to pass their legislation—it is almost too good to be true!—but if they will do that, then I am sure that that programme would be carried out. And then, when the new Session begins, let us say in November, the noble Earl will see those Bills of which he regrets the absence, the 34 Factories Bill and the Poor Law Bill, and we hope to make good progress with them in the new Session. That is the scheme of work which the Government have made out.
The noble Earl asked about the franchise and whether we were going to have another Reform Bill. He knows as well as I do what the promises of the Government have been on this matter. Those promises are maintained and we have the matter always before us. Neither the House nor the noble Earl should, however, think for a moment that it is as simple as he appears to think. To admit an enormous number of extra people to the franchise is not a thing that can be done straight off; it is a very complicated matter requiring a great deal of care and a great deal of inquiry. That matter is still under consideration and I cannot make any further promise in respect of it.
A word was said by the noble Earl and by the noble Viscount about the other Bills in the Speech. I am afraid that the Red Book, Brown Book or White Book—I do not remember the colour—which the noble Earl suggested I should have would be no use to me whatever. The agricultural Bills which are in contemplation belong to those modest matters which do not require Green Books or White Books or books of any other colour to help them. They are small matters of importance in agricultural administration which, I believe, do twenty times more good than the big measures so dear to the hearts of the Liberal Party. The Bills I am referring to are, many of them, uncontroversial and will not occupy the time of your Lordships for any length. Then comes the question of the leasehold Bill. I will not go into that Bill, for it would be very irregular, but I want to make one matter quite clear. The Bill which is in contemplation is not a Bill for leasehold enfranchisement and does not resemble it at all. As my noble friend the noble Viscount behind me said, it is a Bill to deal with cases of the misuse of their powers by land owners against lease holders. That is what it is to deal with. We do not think the remedy lies in leasehold enfranchisement and we agree with the noble and learned Viscount that that remedy would be worse than the disease.
35 Lastly I come to the question of industrial unrest. We do not want to take up any attitude of hostility to trade unions. Personally, I think trades unions are absolutely essential to the economy of this country and I make that statement without any qualification whatever. I do not believe it would be possible properly to carry on industry in this country for a year if trade unions did not exist. They are absolutely necessary, but no one can have passed through the experiences of last year without being convinced that some modification in the law is required and I do not think that the noble Lords opposite really deny that. I think they would not have denied it at any time. All the revelations since of the opinions of different sections of the Labour Party must have convinced anybody that the General Strike was wholly disapproved of by large sections of the Labour Party and that the conduct of it was a matter of profound regret to some of the best members of the Party which the noble and learned Viscount leads in this House.
Some change in the law is obviously required in order to protect the public and public opinion absolutely demands it. It is a very dangerous thing to ignore public opinion in a matter of this kind. Anybody who saw the way in which the public responded to the challenge of the General Strike must have seen how profoundly they were opposed to the misuse of the powers of the trade unions. Public opinion having so declared itself it would be a very dangerous thing, even if we thought it wise, to abstain from responding to that demand. The same thing may be said to a great extent in respect of personal intimidation. As to how far it may be possible to deal with it, I do not at this moment express any Opinion, but if it is possible to prevent personal intimidation in connection with strikes I am sure it ought to be done.
In conclusion, I would only say one word on this subject, and words to the same effect have very often been used in this House. I do not look to that kind of negative policy, for which we will make ourselves responsible, as the solution of that problem. It is necessary to restrain the excessive powers of a trade union organisation or of any other 36 organisation which misuses its powers, but that is not going to solve the problem of industrial unrest. You cannot do it by repressive legislation of that kind. What is wanted, as has been said over and over again, is a change of spirit and that change of spirit can only be obtained by bringing home to the working classes of the country that they are as much owners of industry as the employers, that it is their industry just as much as it is that of the employers. Until you can get the spirit of ownership and the pride of ownership into the minds of the working class you will never solve the problem. You know the phrase in connection with another part of our administration, the land: "the magic of ownership." That is what you want to appeal to in the working class. I do not believe there is any other solution of the problem. I am quite sure national ownership, which is advocated from the Benches opposite, would only produce the most awful confusion.
That the men themselves should be part owners would be the true solution. It is not a solution which the Government can bring about. There is not a very great deal that Governments can do in this respect; they can do a little. These things can be done by the employers themselves. They have it in their power to enlist the whole interest of their workmen in the conduct of the business, to give them an interest in its success, to make them responsible for its failure, and to make them as keenly interested in its fortunes as they themselves are. I earnestly hope that, before it is too late, employers will devote their unrivalled knowledge of the subject to trying to bring this about. In proportion as they do there will be, as I believe, a permanent solution of the industrial difficulty, but without it no legislation can avail. I am very grateful for the kindly way in which the House has listened to the Speech which the Government have ventured to put into His Majesty's mouth and I hope it is an earnest of the co-operation which we shall receive from your Lordships in the further conduct of business.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, I am sure my noble friend who has just sat down will not take it amiss, after the vigorous speech that he has delivered, 37 if I ask him to elaborate to a very small extent what he said upon a subject in regard to which many of us feel great disappointment because it is not included in the gracious Speech. I refer to the question of the relations of the two Houses and the reform of this House. Both speakers on the Opposition Benches dwelt upon this subject in different terms and my noble friend admitted in the clearest manner the pledge given to us by the Prime Minister that this subject should be dealt with within the life of the present Parliament. I think those who have been strongly urged to move the Government in this matter have a right to expect something more definite than that which fell from my noble friend.
It is possible for a Government with the best intentions in the world to imagine that the life of this Parliament will be longer than it may turn out to be. I do not think this is a subject on which the Government can properly gamble. I wish to remind your Lordships of what has already fallen from my noble friend, that a very large number of members of both Houses—I think some 300 or 400 in all—went to the Prime Minister and expressed a strong desire that this subject should be taken in hand. Every year that passes renders this matter more pressing. The relations of the two Houses have lately been of an extremely cordial and easy character, but we are all aware that if there should be a change in the Party in power we should be brought back to a much worse situation than that which was denounced by Mr. Asquith in 1910, when he said that so long as there was a Conservative Government in power there was no difficulty whatever between the two Houses, but that this House was absolutely master of the situation when a Liberal Government took Office. I do not think the difficulty that then existed was anything approaching the difficulty which might arise if a Labour Government should come into power. There were difficulties in the old days on great questions of principle, but those who have sat longer in this House than I have will bear witness to this, that in all the ordinary workings of the House a Government with one-third of the House only in Opposition was able to do what it desired.
38 When I listened to the noble Viscount just now I wondered at the attitude which he took up. It is almost impossible to believe that the noble Viscount, if to-morrow he found himself with a majority of his Party in the House of Commons, would feel it possible to carry on business here with only about ten members to support him out of 750 in this House. I would therefore urge upon my noble friend that this subject should be dealt with now when it can be dealt with calmly and considerately, when the question of the sphere of influence from which this House can properly be debarred can be put entirely apart from any measure which a new Government might desire to introduce and when the question of the outside representation that can be brought into this House can also be calmly considered. That would not be the case, and could not be the case, if the Party of the noble Viscount opposite were in power and the Government had no representation in this House except the very few noble Lords whom we see sitting opposite to—day.
My noble friend did hold out, if I may say so, a sort of olive branch to us. He said that although there was no promise of legislation it was not impossible that we might have discussion. Of course we can have discussion, but I read into my noble friend's words something perhaps a little more active. Did he mean that the Government have not shut the door to proceeding by Resolution in the present Session, or did he merely wish to indicate that they might further the question if private members were to formulate proposals for the consideration of the Government? I do not myself think that those are desirable methods by which to deal with this matter. I think this is a subject which must be dealt with by the Government on their own responsibility. We have had Committee after Committee, and Commission after Commission and a large body of members of this House has conferred with a large body of the members of the House of Commons. Views have been exchanged and all I can say is, whatever the Government think is most likely to facilitate their early action after this Session, those with whom I have been acting in this matter—and they are a large number—will be glad to assist them.
I know my noble friend is himself heart and soul in favour of dealing with 39 this question. Well, let us have the opportunity of dealing with it when we can do so quietly and considerately and arrive at some conclusion by mutual concession and not leave it for the difficulty to be encountered by a new Government after a General Election if that Election should result unfavourably to the present Government. Do not leave it to be dealt with by another Government side by side with measures on which there must be sharp controversy and at a time when Parliament will be ill equipped for that calm consideration of the question that should be given to it, especially seeing that it is seventeen years since a pledge was given by the Liberal Party that the question would be brought forward.
§ LORD GAINFORD
My Lords, I have on one or two occasions last Session dealt with the industrial situation and the reference to it in the gracious Speech—that there are encouraging signs of improvement in the state of trade and industry and also improvement in the volume of employment—causes me to rise for a few moments in order to say one or two words to-day. I do not want to strike a discordant note, but a note of warning. The General Strike and the long cessation of operations in the coalfield in this country during last year came as no surprise to many of us who were behind the scenes because we realised that false economic theories and revolutionary doctrines had permeated to a very large extent working-class labour. We watched with growing anxiety the control that was being secured by the Red element, the left-wing Communistic section of the Socialist Party in this country, and we had to suffer the disastrous results that accrued under the leadership of the Miners' Federation.
Although these pernicious influences to some extent have weakened the forces of unrest in this country that were to a very large extent responsible for the tirade disputes in the past, the question whether there will be a repetition of industrial strife seems to me to depend upon whether there is a rally of these somewhat disorganised forces with a view of carrying out their determination to destroy capital, or whether there is going to be a real effort made by those who hold sounder views in this country—and I am especially alluding to the working classes—to take their share in connection 40 with the trade union movement and to put that, trade union movement on a proper footing, not for political ends but, for the benefit of the industry with which they are associated and for their own prosperity and advancement. We have to rely upon the working man taking his part to a much greater extent in seeing that he is properly led than he has been doing in recent months. We must rely also upon proper education being given to the younger generation to take their part in teaching sound economic doctrine, and not leave it entirely to those of mature years in order to influence public opinion in connection with the economic theories which have been so disastrous and which have done so much to promote industrial strife.
I believe a great deal can be done by the spread of sound literature, and I think that many of these fallacies can be exposed if only the better element in the country would come forward and work as hard as those who have been spreading these pernicious doctrines throughout the country. The character of these dectrines is to me somewhat amazing. A week ago Mr. Purcell, the Member for the Forest of Dean, said:—Should war eventuate with China, we ought to do everything possible to prevent our army in China being successful. It is not a nice thing to say. It would mean, I am sorry to say, that our own men would have to suffer, but if we enter into war we must consider the proper side of it, and in my opinion the proper side in this instance is the Chinese workers. We must stand by them.Therefore some of these extremists are not out to support British interests and are not out to save the lives of our people in China. After all, we know by the gracious Speech from the Throne that the object of sending these men is to protect the lives of British and Indian subjects against mob violence and armed attack. Yet we have these extremists going up and down the country preaching what I call pernicious doctrines, which are most reprehensible and which all sound working men would admit themselves are reprehensible. I want these men to express their indignation at statements of that kind when they are made.
If Labour is to enjoy the prosperity which we all hope it may enjoy in the immediate future it must be by working hard, working well and doing good work. 41 We are glad to see that in the collieries the men are really getting the same amount of earnings as, and in many instances more than, they did before the cessation of operations. In the North of England at any rate they are working well and producing more coal per man per shift than they have done for a great number of years. That is the spirit which will enable them to enjoy the prosperity which we hope may be forthcoming in the coal trade and in the other industries dependent upon coal. In the coal industry the men are going to receive under the arrangement made in all districts 87 per cent. of the proceeds and the owners 13 per cent. We hope to be able to carry on on those terms, that capital will be steadily increased and put back into the business, and that the industry may get on a sounder footing. I welcome the concluding words of the noble Marquess when he referred to the importance of the working men having an interest in the concerns in which they are engaged. That is a spirit which encourages men in America all to become capitalists and that is the reason for the prosperity in America. If our own people would only do the same, try to become shareholders in the business and take an active part in it, I am quite sure the employers would welcome that spirit and do all they could to help it.
§ VISCOUNT FITZALAN OF DERWENT
My Lords, I only want to be allowed to say one word in support of what fell from the noble Earl with regard to the question of the reform of your Lordships' House. I am one of those greatly disappointed that no mention is made in the gracious Speech of this question. I admit, of course, the accuracy of what fell from the noble Marquess, that we had no pledge or promise of any kind whatever that mention of this question would be made in the present gracious Speech. All we had was the definite pledge and promise of the Prime Minister, speaking as Prime Minister and on behalf of his Government, that this question would be dealt with during the lifetime of the present Parliament. At the same time I am disappointed at any delay whatever occurring in regard to this question. I am one of those who feel really most seriously about it. I believe that there is real danger to the future welfare of this country in delay in dealing with this 42 question. Therefore I am most sincerely anxious that it should be grappled with as early as possible. For the moment we have to be thankful for small mercies, for what fell from the noble Marquess, but I hope as time goes on that what he suggested as being possible may be developed into something more definite in regard to dealing and making progress with this question in this present Session.
§ VISCOUNT YOUNGER OF LECKIE
My Lords, I should like to join in expressing regret that nothing at all definite is said about this question in the gracious Speech. I have had a long connection with the question of the reform of the House of Lords. I was responsible to a large extent for the point being raised in the joint manifesto which was issued by Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Bonar Law before the Election of 1918, and I had a good deal to do with the adoption of that particular measure by the Cabinet in, I think, the second year of its office during that Parliament. That promise to deal with the reform of the House of Lords appeared, I think, in three gracious Speeches during the existence of the Coalition and I have always thought it a matter of the very greatest regret that those Unionists who were members of that Government did not see that that particular measure was much better treated than it was by the Government at the time.
I have always believed and thought that we never could pass a measure of this kind in less than two Sessions of Parliament. Naturally it must originate in this House, and whatever views your Lordships may express in a Bill that you pass would no doubt to some extent be modified or altered by the House of Commons. It would therefore have to come back to this House and probably a compromise Bill of some kind would have to be brought in to settle the matter. That inevitably must mean two Sessions of Parliament. If any discussion or expression of the opinion of your Lordships' House should be postponed beyond this Session I think it would be very disastrous, and I am perfectly satisfied that not in the time of this Government would you be able to carry this measure. You must allow two Sessions for doing it; I do not think that it can possibly be done in less. I had great satisfaction in hearing the intimation 43 of the noble Marquess that some opportunity may be given, or may be taken by us, to deal with the matter this year in some way or other, so that at all events the intentions of your Lordships on the question may be thoroughly understood by the Government.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente, and Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.