§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Amendment to the Motion for the Second Reading—namely, That the Bill be read a second time this day six months—moved on Thursday last, June 30.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, when the House adjourned on Thursday we had just heard what was, to my mind, a very important speech from the noble Lord, Lord Lawrence of Kingsgate. I am sure that as it, was the first speech he has made in this House, we shall all welcome, not only this speech but any other speeches which he may make at a later date. He made two points, and the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, made much the same points. The first point was that he desired industrial peace. I take it that every member of your Lordships' House desires industrial peace. It is not regarding the goal that we differ but the way of arriving at it. Then he paid a great compliment to the work of conciliation and the conciliatory methods which are associated with the trade union movement. The noble Lord has had great experience of railway matters, having been Chairman and Vice-Chairman of our greatest railway system before amalgamation. No one can have greater experience than he has had of these matters and I gladly welcome what he said, that if we look at the past we cannot help seeing that the principle of collective bargaining and the influence of trade unionism and of the leading trade unionists have all been in the direction of conciliation and conciliatory methods. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, expressed much the same views in regard to the mining industry. I think his knowledge and experience of mining is probably as great as the knowledge and experience of Lord Lawrence of Kingsgate in regard to railway matters.
Lord Londonderry took the same attitude and I am very glad he did. He, also, expressed a hope of industrial peace, and he, too, referred to the great benefit which the mining industry has derived from the conciliation and conciliatory methods which trade unionism has introduced. While he was speaking I could not help remembering, and I 49 have no doubt the noble Lord opposite will remember equally well, the great influence for peace in former days of Mr. Thomas Burt, who worked in close co-operation with the great Bishop of Durham of that day, Dr. Westcott, on whom he wrote a most delightful monograph. The noble Lord referred to what he called the deterioration of Parliamentary manners. Perhaps he has often heard, as I have, that one of the most refined gentlemen in the House of Commons was Mr. Thomas Burt, and I am quite sure that he never heard Mr. Burt embark upon what I might call provocative personalities, which are undoubtedly a frequent source of wrangles in matters of this kind and do not help true argument in deliberative assemblies.
Let me add a few words as to what, to my mind, constituted the great benefit of the trade union movement. In the first place—and this point was touched upon by the noble and learned Viscount, with whom I am in complete agreement on these matters—we have to consider the practical educational effect of the trade union movement. It brings about a sort of community life and a life of co-operation and combination among all the trade unionists who are working together, very often for a common unselfish end, and I should like to say in addition, since we often congratulate ourselves quite rightly on the non-revolutionary methods that have succeeded in this country, that surely this is largely due to the fact that the trade union leaders have had, and are having, great experience of the difficulties and responsibilities of a form of local government in connection with trade union management and rules. This to my mind is an extremely important point when one is dealing with this question.
There is one other point that, I think, has not been touched upon, and if I refer to it here I need not do so again. Your Lordships know that under Clause 1 (4) of this Bill certain provisions of the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, and the second proviso to Section 2 (1) of the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, shall not apply to any act done in contemplation of an illegal strike. During the War the trade union leaders played a great part in putting on one side their special rules and privileges in order to work in the national interest, and they were told, 50 as we were told, that if they did so all their trade union rights would be restored to them after the War was over. Accordingly, when the, Act of 1920 was passed, there was this proviso to subsection (2) of Section 1:Provided also that no such Regulation"—that is, a Regulation under the Emergency Powers Act, 1920—shall make it an offence for any person or persons to take part in a strike, or peacefully to persuade any other person or persons to take part in a strike.I think that the whole principle of this Bill is wrong, but it is certainly remarkable, when suggestions are made as regards the conduct of trade unions and trade unionists, to find a proposal to deprive them of a right to which they attach, and I think properly attach, the greatest importance. This is done in terms by repealing the proposal, regarding a strike said to be illegal, which is found in the Act of 1920.
I want to touch as shortly as I can—for I think this is the real point of criticism—on the position under the proposals contained in the Bill itself. What I think strikes one in the first instance—and I do not know what answer has been given to it so far—is that Clause 1 creates a new criminal offence, directly affecting trade unions and trade unionists, to which very harsh penalties are attached. It is known to all your Lordships that one of those penalties, that of imprisonment, can be extended to two years, which is the maximum punishment known to our law so far as imprisonment is concerned for a single offence. In addition, we have the creation of an entirely new criminal offence which is not now known to the law and which, as I hope to point out as shortly as I can, may be extremely harsh in its operation, especially against those moderate men who have done so much to keep the trade union movement on fair and reasonable lines. I think that one can state without any hesitation or legal discussion that at the present time all strikes of every kind undertaken in contemplation or furtherance of trade disputes are legal. There is no exception, and I think it is important to note that this principle was laid down in the Report of the Royal Commission of 1903, which was appointed by a Conservative Government and sat 51 under the able and impartial Chairmanship of Lord Dunedin.
This Commission referred to the very matters which we are now discussing. They heard a large amount of evidence and they came to a final determination. There was some question at that time as to whether trade unions were legal associations or not, because the complications of the old Common Law were rather difficult. I need not go into the remark of my noble friend Lord Haldane that since 1906 the legality of strikes has been established beyond all question, and not only of single strikes but of what are called sympathetic or secondary strikes. This was one of the very points referred to by the Royal Commission. The effect of their Report was that a Bill should be passed for several stated objects, including this:to declare strikes, from whatever motives or for whatever purpose (including sympathetic or secondary strikes), apart from crime or breach of contract, legal, and to make the Act of 1875 to extend to sympathetic or secondary strikes.We all know that the Act of 1906 in terms legalised what is called the sympathetic or secondary strike, and it was the very object of these recommendations to make this matter settled and definite.
When we are talking about a General Strike, it must be remembered that there is no difference between a General Strike and a sympathetic strike. A sympathetic strike is not the less sympathetic because the sympathy is widespread. If you have one sympathetic strike you may have twenty sympathetic strikes, and I think that the mistaken way of looking at these matters has arisen in this manner. It is not that the strike is illegal, but that the conduct of persons who take part in the strike may be made criminal by sedition or treason, or Common Law conspiracy, or by violence, or by some outside method of that kind. That is a fundamental matter that we have to keep distinct. Now, these strikes are legal; now, the trade unions, or trade unionists, have an absolute legal right to take part in them. Of course if, in taking part in them, they commit acts of violence, they are criminally liable, but that is an entirely different matter. It is a quite right principle that individuals should be liable for conduct of that kind, but 52 entirely wrong that you should put a new criminal liability of that kind upon the whole strike movement.
The third principle which was laid down in the Report of the Royal Commission over which Lord Dunedin presided was this:—To declare that to persuade to strike, i.e., to desist from working, apart from procuring breach of contract is not illegal.We are not dealing now with the question of breach of contract. That is dealt with separately. It is not the point here. Everybody knows that the great railway strike in 1920 was a strike as to hours and wages. Every one knows that the great mining strike was a dispute as to hours and wages, and the result is that that strike was absolutely legal in itself, apart, as I have said, from the bad conduct of individuals interested in it. And I think it is naturally a source of bitterness and distrust, as regards industrial relationships, to set back the clock on assumptions which I think are entirely false and which are certainly inconsistent with the cases quoted by Lord Haldane, in which this House laid down, as the ultimate Court of Appeal, what the law was after the passing of the Act of 1906.
I should like to say one word on the decision of Mr. Justice Astbury, because the Lord Chancellor referred to it. I have every respect for Mr. Justice Astbury. In the old days we worked together in hundreds of cases, I should think, but I want to say this: that decision, given on a matter not directly before the Court, which was not argued and in reference to which the authorities were not quoted, can never be accepted as an authoritative exposition of the law in any case in this country. That is a matter of primary and important principle. Of course obiter dicta—I see the obiter dicta champion there—may have their importance, but one thing is quite certain, and that is they never can, and never will, and never ought to be taken as laying down the law on some of these important points.
We come next to the penalty part of the clause. I would ask your Lordships to look at the penalty part of the clause before I go back to see what the Bill does in the prior part of the clause. It is extremely far-reaching and extremely indefinite. It is extremely far- 53 reaching because it refers to any person who "declares, instigates, incites others to take part in or otherwise acts in furtherance of a strike or lock-out." I am sure I do not know what the word "declares" or the words "in furtherance of a strike or lock-out" mean, unless you mean to include a vast number of persons who sympathetically, and from various points of view, desire very often to do what they can to assist those who have the burden and loss of the strike. After all, we have to remember this: that no one suffers from a strike so much as the strikers themselves. That is, I think, a matter which we have to bear in mind. I do not say that it would justify any man in doing what was wrong—I am very strong about that—but when you come to think of the inducement to strike, the reasons for striking, and the motives for action, you have to bear in mind that the strikers themselves are the persons who suffer most immediately and most acutely; and what I have always thought to be very unselfish action is what is called a "sympathetic strike," where the strikers suffer intensely, in many cases, in order to help their brethren in some other trade or industry.
What happens in the way of penalties? In the case of a summary conviction, if a strike is declared to be illegal, and they take part in it, they are subject to a fine not exceeding £10, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months. That means no certain matter. It means, of course, the point of view that a particular bench of magistrates may take in a particular case. Just take the mining strike. Suppose you had a working-man magistrate. I think he might find much to be said against every member of the Mineowners' Association. I will not call it prejudice, but you must have a bias of class in matters of this kind. In the same way if You take a bench of magistrates composed not of working class people, although no doubt—no one upholds more than I do the magistrates of this country—they would wish to act fairly, it must be difficult for them to act without bias and quite impartially. Then you may come to conviction on indictment. There you have a conviction leading to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. That is if a jury take a special view of your con 54 duct in a particular case; and how on earth beforehand, when men are thinking whether they shall take part in a strike or not, they can prophesy what the decision will be in the particular case, I am sure I do not know. And take sympathetic strikes. The provisions of the Report and of the Act of 1906 are altogether upset by this Bill.
Now let us come to the other part and take the case of an everyday strike. I have seen somewhere that of the negotiations carried on by trade unionists only 2½ per cent. of the cases have resulted in anything like a strike, and if you want industrial peace I should like to see improved industrial methods of conciliation, such as are adopted at Geneva between nations. Look at the words of the clause: "if it has any object other than, or in addition to, the furtherance of a trade dispute." Of course, in a large dispute, where hundreds of thousands may be engaged, it is always easy to allege, and difficult to disprove, that there may be other objects in addition to the one. Who is to decide that? I noticed that the noble Viscount on the Woolsack, than whom no one could be fairer, quoted, in order to obtain some view of a General Strike, speeches made by Mr. Snowden, Mr. Hicks and Mr. Pugh. Take a mining strike. Is that to be condemned as illegal because Mr. Snowden, Mr. Hicks and Mr. Pugh have used special language in regard to it? There is not a dispute in this country in which the wilder spirits, or even the moderate men, have not made suggestions that might come within the ambit of this clause.
What is the second alternative? A strike is illegal if it isa strike designed or calculated to coerce the Government either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community;Is there a single large strike which does not admittedly inflict hardship upon the community? Of course it does. The railway strike, which was one of the big strikes in modern times, inflicted hardship on the community. The mining strike inflicted hardship ion the community. If you apply that test, whereas at the present time all important strikes are legal, in the future all important strikes will be illegal. But what is worse than that is that taking part in or declaring a strike of that kind, and, still 55 more, instituting such a strike if you are a leader, renders you liable to criminal prosecution, with a very heavy sentence attached to it. I think that is a tremendous hardship, particularly in the case of moderate, law-abiding men. I take it as a matter of principle that we all understand, although we dislike, strikes, but if trade unionism is to be effective there must be an ultimate right to appeal to. That is a right which this Bill takes away unless a man likes to run the risk of two years imprisonment. Do you wonder in those circumstances that bitterness is created? How can you avoid creating bitterness? In 1906 all strikes were rendered legal: under this Bill all strikes are rendered illegal, with the result that every trade union leader, every member of a trade union council or trade union committee is subject to the heavy liabilities which I have indicated.
In my view the vice of this Bill really resides in this first clause. That it is which naturally excites irritation and distress among the leaders and others in the trade union movement. But, in order that it may not be said that I have overlooked them, I want to refer to the provisos, which appear to me to be quite illusory. I have no doubt they are intended to have some saving force, but for all practical purposes they appear to be wholly illusory. The first of them is thatno person shall be deemed to have committed an offence under this section or at Common Law by reason only of his having ceased work.…That is the very point. The very fact that the action of the trade union is illegal, which implies that it is moved not by one principle only, appears to me to make the application of this proviso in the case of the individual practically impossible. I do not know whether that is intended or not, but that is the effect of it. Then, if there is to be a prosecution, the Attorney-General has to give his fiat. I have great respect for the Attorney-General, but in these matters nowadays he acts largely under the direction of the Cabinet.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am glad that the noble Marquess interrupted me. I do not mean that he has not got an independent position, but in practice a matter 56 like the coal mining dispute would be discussed as a Cabinet matter, and the Cabinet would decide what their view of the policy is to be; then it comes before the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General acts in more than one capacity. I do not in the least want to suggest that he does not act quite fairly, but I should very much like in all these matters to have some quite independent outside authority. I have said that before, and I want to say it again.
The other proviso is that in reference to the Emergency Powers Act, 1920. What is the reason for making all these strikes illegal? "Strike" is not a technical term; you only talk about "combined action," but it is one of the forms of combined action which it is essential to maintain if the trade union movement is to have its fair power, both to protect the interests of the workers and to promote conciliation. It is essential for a trade union to be able to have a legal resort to a strike, whereas under Clause 1 every really important strike, it appears to me, must come under the disadvantage of illegality. Clause 2 only becomes necessary in the event of Clause 1 being passed, because it begins:—No person refusing to take part or to continue to take part in any strike or lockout which is by this Act declared to be illegal.…Therefore what you are dealing with there is no doubt a new matter. There is no offence now in taking part in a legal strike, therefore Clause 2 is levelled against a new state of things, which could not arise at the present time. I think myself that this clause demands most careful consideration, but it stands on a very different footing from Clause 1. In any case, I do not think it ought to be made retroactive. That is a mistake, because it makes people liable for acts which were legal when they did them, but which become illegal by subsequent legislation. Personally I think that all retroactive legislation of that kind is unjust.
Then we come to the prevention of intimidation. I am certainly no advocate of intimidation, but we all know that there has been great difficulty in drawing the line between peaceful persuasion or peaceful picketing and intimidation. It appears to me that the line has been very unfortunately drawn in this particular case. What my noble friend Lord 57 Thomson said was perfectly justified, that you have to recollect the conditions under which people live, either in these mining villages, to nearly all of which I have been, in South Wales, or in the low, continuous streets of some poor town. It is all very well to say that you must not "attend at or near a house or place," but when you live there you cannot help it. If one lives next door to a neighbour with whom one differs on a point of this kind, language of a harsh kind—I will not put it stronger—is not unlikely. According to Clause 3 of this Bill, one of the two competing viragos may summon the other and get her sent to prison. I hope this clause will be very strongly considered and drastically altered.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I was speaking of the phrase: "at or near a home or place where a person resides." It comes in again in subsection (4). It does not apply only to what some people object to—namely, numbers—but it applies to one person. One person living next to a neighbour is bound to see him morning, noon and night; yet, if that one person takes action which may be brought within the purview of this clause, he may be imprisoned for a terra not exceeding three months. The clause begins by saying that "it is unlawful for one or more persons," so I am not exaggerating. It would be difficult to exaggerate the absurdity of this clause as it stands.
As to Clause 4 (Provisions as to political fund), I wish that all corruption could be eliminated from our electoral methods, but we know perfectly well that it cannot be eliminated so long as it is necessary to have money and financial support in order that any Party may be properly represented in Parliament. I look upon this as an attempt to put the Labour Party, the poorer Party, in am invidious position. May I remind your Lordships that for a long time there was a contest as to whether a majority of trade unionists in a particular union were entitled to apply their funds for political purposes. That was ended by the Osborne case, to which the noble Viscount referred, where it was held, on 58 rather a technical and narrow ground, that it was ultra vires and wrong. That was followed by the Act of 1913, which was admittedly a compromise. That Act laid down that a trade union cannot ask to command these political funds on the mere majority principle, but that a provision must be made by which any person who likes can escape the liability of having his payment to the union used for that purpose. That was the compromise in the 1913 Act and I see no reason for upsetting it. The reason for this action is that you want to see that the easier way of escaping the disabilities of poverty shall not be open to the trade unions. I wish the whole principle of corruption was destroyed and that particulars of the political funds, that is the caucus funds, could be published and made public. I know from long experience, having raised the matter more than one in this House and in the other House, that that is not a reform we are likely to obtain as long as the caucus principle retains power in our political system.
As to the position of the Attorney-General in Clause 7, it seems to me a very harsh thing to allow the Attorney-General to intervene, as this clause would allow him to intervene, in the use of the funds of a trade union. It would be a stranglehold at the very outset. Long before a jury or a magistrate or anyone else had decided the question of legality or illegality, the matter might be brought under Clause 7 for the decision of a Chancery Judge. That is a very harsh provision. People may take the ordinary risks of expenditure of this kind; they know of course that the persons interested have a right to be heard and to intervene; but to allow the Attorney-General to intervene at the commencement is really a matter of throttling at the start all action which a trade union may desire to take in the case of an important strike. I do not pretend to go into any other matters in connection with this Bill. It is not that I agree with them all, but it would be an intolerable nuisance for one person to travel over the whole ground. I want industrial peace as much as any of your Lordships. I feel that the way to it, is not to distrust the trade unionists and the trade union movement, but to encourage them. That is a very wise principle in all actions and methods in life. Can you doubt that, if this first 59 clause is pressed forward, there will be distrust and bitterness, which is not likely to become less as the purpose and operation of this Bill are fully understood? I am afraid it is hoping too much that we shall succeed in postponing the Second Reading, but I am sure we shall hear a great deal about the proposals of this Bill both now and, should it become an Act, in the future.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, I rise to support this Bill, not because I agree with it in every letter and in every detail, but because I give my wholehearted support to the four principles which were laid down by the Attorney-General and which were quoted in this House by the Lord Chancellor on the Second Reading. I had not intended to mention Clause 1 of the Bill, because there is another clause on which it seemed to me that I might possibly be able to say something more useful, but the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down has provoked me into answering two arguments which he has put forward. If your Lordships look at Clause 1 you will see that "any strike is illegal if"—then come paragraph (i) and paragraph (ii). They are connected together by the simple English word "and." The noble and learned Lord has thought proper to put them forward as if they were alternatives. Does the noble and learned Lord wish to withdraw?
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
Either it is an alternative or it is not. As the Bill states them the conditions are cumulative; the strike has to conform to the two conditions before it becomes illegal. The next correction I may make is this. The noble and learned Lord said that every strike would be illegal if it inflicted hardship upon the community and that any big strike would do so. Nothing of the kind is in this Bill. The words are: "is designed or calculated to coerce the Government." It is illegal then and it is put in two alternatives, "either directly or by inflicting hardship on the community." But that is not merely inflicting hardship on the community; that is an endeavour to coerce the Government. The noble and learned Lord has said that this clause is provocative, and I shall be interested to learn 60 whether the Party which he represents, when it comes to an electoral campaign, will use the word "and" or will use the word "alternative" and will accept the noble and learned Lord's interpretation.
The principle to which I attach almost the greatest importance in this Bill is the principle which says that if a man desires to work during a strike he shall be entitled to work without intimidation and without violence being shown against him. I was in my place in this House on every occasion when your Lordships confirmed the Emergency Regulations during the strike and I was present at the beginning of the Second Reading debate on this Bill last week, and I think that on every one of those occasions, certainly on several and in particular last week, the noble and learned Viscount who leads the Opposition said that one of the most impressive things during the strike was the lack of violence. I wondered then, and I wonder now, where the noble and learned Viscount got his information; or, in the alternative, what the noble and learned Viscount had expected that had not happened. I was in a position to know something of the matter. There were nearly 900 cases during 1926 that were of sufficient importance to go to the Assizes in the South Wales Circuit. In more than half of those I prosecuted at the trial and in regard to the rest, although they were being prosecuted in the other Court, I had intimate knowledge of what was going on. Furthermore, I was in the closest touch with the Chief Constable and the superintendents of police.
But the matter did not begin there. In 1925 there was a dispute in the anthracite district and in connection with that there were more than 150 prosecutions at Assizes. I prosecuted in every one of those and I learned something of the practical methods of intimidation and of violence. May I say this at once? From my experience—and it is the experience, I think, of anybody who has been down there actively engaged in such matters—I know that it is wrong to be under the impression that any strong measure against intimidation and violence is going to be unpopular in the South Wales coalfield. It is not. The large bulk of the men detest intimidation and detest violence 61 and they are not the people who come out in these unfortunate disturbances. I said that I went down in 1925 and prosecuted a number of people. I then learned a very great lesson. The first lesson I learned was this. These people were largely lawless because they did not know what the law was. Section 2 of the 1906 Act was partly quoted by the learned Lord Chancellor last week, but he did not quote the important words. The important words of that Section are: "one or more persons" can attend for the various purposes. That "one or more" was construed in South Wales as one up to eight thousand, and very plausibly they said: "Well, bat the law says that it may be one or more, and we have only come out to have a little peaceful persuasion."
The matter did not end there. Supposing you marched up 8,000 men to the pithead and said: "We are going to have the workers out," what happened? Perhaps there were ten or a dozen safety men in the pit. Naturally they could not put up a fight against 8,000, and they came out when they were told to do so. I want to impress this upon your Lordships, if I can. Ninety per cent. of the men who were in the dock in that 1925 strike believed that if there was no actual blow struck they were within the law. If there was no actual violence they said it was peaceful persuasion. Of course it was not. It was no more peaceful persuasion than that used by a highwayman who points his pistol at your head and says, "Your money or your life," and, if you choose to give your money, states that it is being "peacefully" taken from you. These men said they believed it was peaceful persuasion and I believe they believed it was. I am not suggesting that the older and the more serious miners would believe such a thing if they were told it, but it was not the older and more serious of the miners who came out in those disturbances. The people who came out and who caused acts of violence believed, or at least 90 per cent. of them believed, that what they were doing was peaceful persuasion and I believed them when they told me so. Over and over again when I left the Court following the prosecution of these men many of them came up and told me that they did not know until 62 they had been convicted that they had done any wrong. On more than one occasion one or two of them from the dock sought to shake, and some of them actually did shake, my hand. I believed what they had said.
See what happened! The 1926 trouble comes, and not a single disturbance throughout the Ammanford Valley, and that in face of the fact that from the coalfield deputations had constantly gone to them and sail "Come out." Their answer invariably was: "No, you told us last time that it was perfectly legal; now we know that it is not and we are not coming out." I do not disguise the fact that the sentences which had been passed had had an effect upon some of them, but I am equally and honestly convinced that one of the great deterrents was the circumstance that by that time they did know what the law was. If there is to be an amendment of Clause 3 of this Bill I hope that the first amendment will be on the lines of the law being made perfectly clear to the men so that they may know what they may do and what they may not do. At the present time we have the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act of 1875 left on the Statute Book and we have Section 2 of the 1906 Trades Disputes Act also left on the Statute Book. That section clearly must be in some way modified by the present Bill, but the Bill does not state how. My suggestion is that in any amendment of Clause 3 you should first have in view that the men ought to be told what they can do and what they cannot do, and the police ought to be clearly told what Act they have to administer and what they have not to administer. That was the first lesson that I learned in the 1925 prosecutions.
Now we come to 1926. The 1926 disturbances were characterised by an entirely new method, and that is the new method of what is known as massed picketing. In the 1925 riots the matter was simple. A large mass meeting was called together by the ringleaders. By "ringleaders" I mean the ringleaders of lawlessness and disorder, not the leaders of the trade unions or the leaders of the strike. Unfortunately there were undoubtedly on both occasions leaders who deliberately fomented disorder. They did so by calling a large mass meeting. Then they made provocative speeches and then they marched the men 63 to the pithead. That was a very easy matter to deal with. Whenever that was the case, if you got the ringleaders you got the men you wanted to convict. But in 1926 the ringleaders set about their task in a very much more subtle way. What they did then was to have a mass meeting—I have never heard of anything that happened in a strike that did not begin with a mass meeting—and then, after making inflammatory speeches, instead of marching their men out they got a resolution passed.
That resolution was that the next morning there was to be picketing and they appointed their pickets, never more than two. That was apparently a perfectly reasonable and proper thing to do. They also announced where and when the pickets were to be on duty. Next morning the pickets were in their places. Quite by coincidence a crowd of four or five thousand people happened to have collected ten yards behind the pickets. The pickets said: "We have nothing to do with this crowd. We are sorry that it looks hostile, but it has nothing to do with us." You knew perfectly well that the organisers of the crowd were the men who meant to have mass picketing and that those who intended to use that crowd as a threat were the men on picket duty. You knew that the crowd, which chiefly consisted of youngsters, had been obviously brought there for the purpose of intimidation. To these youths it was mere fun and nothing else. Naturally one does not want to proceed against youths, though personally if I had to choose between a youth of seventeen and a leader of fifty throwing a stone at me, I should choose the leader of fifty every time, because I think the youth probably would throw harder and straighter. But these youths were there largely for the fun of the thing, and although you wanted to get the people who deliberately organised them, and although nine times out of ten you knew quite well that those who organised them were the people on picket duty, you found great difficulty in connecting them with the crowd behind. If an amendment is made to this clause, I hope that that matter, which is a most important matter for the preservation of law and order, will be taken into consideration.
There was a third matter that came out, and came out very strongly indeed. There were, as I have said, 64 ringleaders who deliberately promoted disorder. Everyone of us who had anything to do with the prosecutions on the South Wales Circuit knew that whenever inquiry was made about men who had got into trouble as leaders of these disorders it was found that they had no Welsh accent, were not natives of the district, and generally had not been there very long. Of course there were some who had been there some time, but it was not the natives of the coalfield who were really at the back of these disorders. The method of stirring up disorders was again a fairly simple one and a fairly effective one. Of course it is provocative if in a mining village or a small mining district you get a man going to work when the majority of his fellow workmen are on strike. Nobody denies that it is provocative, but he is perfectly entitled to do it. The sight of a man going to and coming from work, going down from the pithead or coming up to the pithead, walking from the pithead to his house, is of course extremely provocative. What was regularly done was to organise, either near the pithead and in full sight of it or on the road from the pithead to the workman's house, a large meeting, which was deliberately timed and placed so that that meeting after inflammatory speeches had been made should break up just at the moment that those who were working came into sight. The effect of that was naturally provocation of the greatest kind, which unfortunately led to disorder.
If I may be permitted, I will give your Lordships two instances of it, so that your Lordships may realise how people behave when they are deliberately given provocation of this kind. When, later, I shall point out to you what sort of men they are, you will realise the danger of it. On one occasion there were some people working at a mine. They were coming away from the mine and police came to give them protection. There were 25 police there, and they were attacked by a crowd which came from a meeting which had been deliberately convened quite close and had been deliberately timed to break up just at the moment that the workers were coming up from the mine. The result was that it took very little to get that crowd to attack the police. The police 65 were attacked by a crowd which at first numbered 3,000, and at the end 8,900 were stoning them for all they were worth. The police kept the crowd at bay for about an hour and a quarter until reinforcements arrived. By the time reinforcements had come up there were only seven police standing. The rest were laid out insensible in the mines office and the crowd were stoning them through the windows. I have deliberately not taken one of the worst riots. I have taken a bad riot, but by no means one of the worst. I am using it as an illustration to enable you to understand how disturbances arise when meetings are deliberately planned as to time and place with every provocation to disorder. I do not know whether the noble and learned Viscount thinks it sufficiently impressive. He may have expected more. In this particular case a stone went within a fraction of an inch of the telephone. If the telephone had been smashed there would have been no reinforcements and I do not know what would have happened.
I take one other instance. The police in another district were conducting two men back from work. It was a short half mile from the pithead to the house to which they were taking them and that short half mile went down a fairly narrow street. There was a crowd in it, and the police made up their minds to take the men back in a charabanc. They drove it through that street as quickly as they could without incurring the danger of running over any one. I suppose the vehicle went at about eight or ten miles an hour along that short half mile. During that time the crowd was throwing stones at the police in the charabanc with the object of injuring them and the two workers. Throwing stones does not sound very much. It seems an innocent sort of occupation. If a person is angry he may pick up a stone and throw it at somebody else. Conceive what happens when a stone is thrown at a charabanc. It is a high vehicle and if you are trying to throw a stone inside the odds are that most of the stones will go clean over to the other side. At the end of that short half mile they took the charabanc into a yard, deposited their men and picked out the stones that had actually fallen inside. They weighed them and found 66 that they weighed four and a half cwts., and the average stone weighed 2½ lbs.
Does the noble and learned Viscount still think that there was very little violence? I have given only two instances, but I could give fifty if he likes, and I have not taken the worst. The point that I am making, and the reason why I have taken these particular instances, is that I hope something will be done by way of amendment to Clause 3 which will at least make it more difficult to hold meetings under these conditions, because, particularly in an industrial strike, there are only three places where a crowd is a real danger—at the works, at the man's house and at a point in between—and if you could prevent crowds assembling at those particular places you would certainly diminish violence.
There is another side to the question, and I should like to dwell upon it because I hope that your Lordships, too, may be willing to dwell on it in considering whether or not this clause can be strengthened in order to do away with the violence and intimidation with which we were met in the last strike. As your Lordships are aware, if a person is convicted the Judge, before sentence is passed on him, desires as a rule to know something of his character. In these riot cases the police inspectors and superintendents were regularly called to say what they knew of the person who had been convicted. In 95 per cent. of the cases they reported that the prisoner was a very decent man, a married man with children, coming from a very decent family and very hard-working, and they would add that they were surprised to see him mixed up in a disturbance of this kind. It is quite true that they were people who ought not to have been mixed up in these things. Had they known the law, had they not been put in a position of great temptation by these provocative meetings, I do net say that you would have done away with intimidation or violence but you would have diminished it very greatly. Seeing these men, some of whom one knew personally and over 95 per cent, of whom were decent men, one felt all the time: "The pity of it! Why cannot they be told? Why should they be put in such a position?" For that reason I support this Bill wholeheartedly, and I ask your Lordships to 67 look at Clause 3 with some care and to consider if, even now, that clause is perfect or whether there might be inserted in it at another stage words which will even improve its present effect.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships must have heard the speech delivered by my noble and learned friend with great interest and, if he will permit me to say so as a much older man who had the honour of knowing his distinguished father, with great pleasure. Certainly, although I found myself in disagreement in some respects with the arguments that he addressed to your Lordships, he put the facts to us quite clearly and, as it seemed to me, with considerable force. The result of listening to the observations of my noble and learned friend was to strengthen my opposition to the Bill.
The noble and learned Earl recounted to us a number of instances which had come under his own observation, as I understand in his professional capacity, of certain criminal offences. Who will doubt that in times of passion, particularly when a strike has been continuing over a lengthy period, there will be crimes committed and offences against the law? I gathered from the noble and learned Earl's remarks that he was not referring to the General Strike. His observations and the instances that he quoted to us, if I correctly understood him, all arose out of the coal strike. I do not for a moment suggest that they were not germane to the discussion and also to the Bill now before us, but they at least merit, I think, the observation that the Bill was introduced for the purpose of dealing with a, General Strike. The arguments addressed to us quite legitimately—I am not for a moment suggesting that they were not legitimate—were confined entirely to matters that arose under Clause 3 of the Bill, which relates merely to intimidation.
One further observation with regard to the speech of the noble and learned Earl. Nearly all the instances that he quoted, especially those that rather horrified us of the stone-throwing and the number and weight of stones that were taken out of a charabanc, were instances of acts that would be offences under the law as it stands. There is not one word in this 68 Bill that is necessary in order to make them criminal offences. Accordingly it is a little difficult to understand the value of recounting to us a number of incidents in the police courts or in the High Court at Assizes relating to offences of a character with which everybody who has experience of the administration of the law must be familiar. They are not confined solely to strikes or industrial disputes.
I gathered that my noble and learned friend was most anxious that the law should be made clear, precise and definite, so that the working man who is not brought up in the study of the law may know quite clearly what the law is. Does the noble and learned Earl really think that such enlightenment is to be found in this Bill? We are presented with words which everybody admits are unsatisfactory. I am sure that much ingenuity has been directed towards devising language to fit a situation which in many respects baffles precise definition. Some of the best brains available to the Government and, indeed, to the country have been directed to finding words to define a General Strike. I think the result is that every one has failed. If I may say so with the greatest respect, the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, could not define to us a General Strike. No one could do so, because, in the strict sense of the words, I suppose that a General Strike is something that we shall never see. The only reason why we are discussing a General Strike is that when certain things happened in May of last year the leaders of Labour themselves called it a General Strike. In truth it was not a General Strike. A General Strike means, as I understand it, a strike in which all the working classes join—that is to say, a strike of working people generally.
I quite agree that this was a very serious strike, a strike of the gravest importance, but I shall not waste words in trying to define exactly what is meant when so many have devoted great thought and attention to it and when all the experts in draftsmanship have utterly failed to put down in plain and precise language what is meant by a General Strike. My opposition to this Bill does not depend en- 69 tirely, or indeed mainly, upon the language of the Bill, although I shall have some observations, very brief I hope, to address to your Lordships on that subject at a later stage. For myself I cannot but deprecate the kind of discussion engendered by this Bill both in another place and in this House. We have heard the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack give us his views upon the Bill. We have heard, on the other hand, noble and learned Lords in Opposition, who take part in the highest judicial decisions in the country—one of them has held the position of Lord Chancellor—differing entirely from what has been said by the Lord Chancellor. Who shall decide when doctors disagree? How are your Lordships, who are not lawyers, to come to a conclusion? Even more important, how is the public to come to a conclusion?
I do not make use of this argument because I want to add to the confusion. I myself arrived in this country only just at the moment when the General Strike began. My own view of it was then, as it is now, that it was to be condemned root and branch and without hesitation. We all know now that it is condemned in all quarters. I heard from some of my noble and learned friends, who spoke on the last occasion, that it was foolish and futile. When I heard them make those observations I could not but regret that either they, or perhaps others who were more directly concerned with Labour and its immediate leadership, had not expressed that view before the General Strike took place.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I am told that they did. If they did I do not think it was because I was on my voyage home that I failed to catch the echoes of it. If the leaders of the Party had said that the Strike upon which they were then engaged was foolish, futile and to be condemned, I cannot think it would have happened as it did, although I quite admit that attempts were made to stem the tide and that prominent leaders of the Labour Party took a very great part in bringing the General Strike to an end. It is 70 right to say that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald had distinctly stated that a General Strike was wrong, and that he thought that if it was continued it would destroy trade unionism. That is perhaps what my noble and learned friends have in mind.
My objection to the Bill is based not so much upon the language: I object to it because I think the Government have made a serious mistake in policy. They were wrong in my view in introducing this Bill before they had exhausted every means of reaching agreement by conference and discussion. I am not now attempting to discuss the clauses of the Bill. The arguments that I wish to address to your Lordships are based upon an opposition which is not so much to the actual words, or to the vagueness and indefiniteness of the language, as to the policy pursued by the Government. I should have thought that when discussing a matter of this kind, at a moment when industrial peace is almost an essential to us, when all of us ale really seeking to find a means of restoring our trade, of increasing our exports and of doing everything we possibly can to regain that commercial prosperity we knew before the War, and to take our part in the race of the world, the one element that should be sought in all these conditions that affect labour was to bring peace into industry instead of strife.
Therefore, it does seem to me strange that the Government, when it had this opportunity, never attempted, either by bringing the parties together or by calling into council and discussion the leaders of Labour and others, to arrive at some means of promoting greater good will between masters and men. I suppose there is nothing that is more definitely proved—I speak in the presence of many who are captains of industry and great manufacturers, who know far more about business than I do—than that the real objective to which we have to direct our minds, apart altogether from partisan or political views, is the reduction of the cost of production Aide maintaining and even enhancing, if possible, the standard of living throughout our world. That is the problem to which we have to devote ourselves, and unless we can reduce the cost of production and generally of carrying on business—I do not pause to con- 71 sider by what means—and unless we can get better conditions and have better relations between masters and men, we shall not regain the commercial prosperity we had before the War.
Instead of that, what has happened? The Government have introduced an element of bitterness into this question which was absent until the General Strike happened. Do not let it be thought for a moment that I am suggesting the Government have done this intentionally. Of course they have not, but that is the effect, and it is the effect which any reasonable man, I should have thought, might have foreseen. The conclusion we reach upon it is that now that this Bill has been launched questions we might have discussed together, and on which we might have reached a settlement or partial settlement, are beyond discussion. I should have thought that the Government would first have asked themselves how they could reach peace, before introducing a Bill framed by themselves without the assistance of any other Parties, and without calling into conference or consulting with any of those mainly interested. I should have thought that the Government would have said that they must first of all try what they could do by conference.
I can understand the Government not being sanguine with regard to the results. I can appreciate that they might have said: "What is the good of doing it? we shall arrive at nothing." Is that a reason for not doing it? I gather that in some quarters the view which I am now expressing is not accepted, but nevertheless I would ask: Is that any reason for not attempting it? Even if you feel you are not certain of success, or that you may only partially succeed, why not try? In the end you may have no success, but is that any reason for the Government, in a grave matter of this kind, not taking any steps? I cannot but think that it was a serious mistake to have made. Even if they had failed completely they would still have been better off. If they had partially succeeded and partially failed we should have had all the advantage in this discussion. If, in truth, they had succeeded and had arrived at an agreement we should all have had the benefit of it. I am not for a moment suggesting that all is right with trade union law. I 72 quite agree that the results which have followed the Act of 1906 show that there are certain provisions of the law that require alteration. But that is totally different from introducing a Bill of this character.
Supposing that the Government thought a conference was useless, and made up their minds to lose no time over it, then would it not have been of very great importance to your Lordships' House, and to each of your Lordships individually when considering this question, to whatever Party you belonged, to have had a Report from an independent and impartial Committee or Commission appointed to consider this very problem, and to report and make recommendations? Would we not have had the advantage of all the discussion as in past times when Commissions have been appointed? It may be urged: "Well, but after all, even though you had a Commission, there would not have been unanimity." It certainly would not disturb me that there was not unanimity. At least you would have had the calm and dispassionate inquiry which alone you could get from considering quietly round a table problems engrossing the attention of every lawyer. Even to-day we have heard opposite views expressed, and many of these differences would have been cleared away if only we had had a Commission and a Report. It would have shown where the law was defective, in what direction it could be strengthened, where the trade unions had failed to carry out the spirit of the law, and how the law could be altered so as to meet all kinds of evasions, some indicated just now, which always will take place.
The moment a law presses upon people experts direct their minds to finding some means of meeting the difficulty. It is not at all unusual. We are familiar with it in questions of taxation. There are discussions at the present moment in which means are being sought to evade what is thought to be, perhaps wrongly, the pressure of the law. It may very well be that there are directions in which the law might be strengthened—indeed I do not hesitate to say that there are—whether in relation to peaceful picketing, or watching and besetting, or inti- 73 midation, but these matters require most careful and searching examination, because nearly all the instances related to us to-day as offences come within the law as it already stands. And even after the investigation that has already taken place, after all these great minds have been directed to this very problem, my noble and learned friend thinks that the law still is not clear, that it still needs further exposition when the Bill gets to your Lordships' House, after many days' debate elsewhere. For this further reason I cannot help thinking that the Government made a mistake in not appointing a Commission.
The Government, with a great majority at its back in another place, and certain of being able to carry its measures in your Lordships' House, made a further mistake in producing a Bill simply repressive in its character. There is not one single ray of light for the working man in the whole of this Bill. He looks for it, and he is told that he will be protected against some form of intimidation. That is, no doubt, very useful. I hope your Lordships have understood that nothing I have said gives countenance to offences of that character. But if the working man is looking for peace, for some better method of settling industrial disputes than the clumsy, awkward, sometimes disastrous and even tragic, instrument of a strike, what assistance will he get from this Bill? I will assume that those who were setting to work to introduce this legislation had come to the conclusion that the step I have advocated could not be contemplated. They set themselves down to draft this Bill. The Bill creates new offences in law, new penalties, new sanctions; but, search it as you may, you will look in vain for some indication of a means of arriving at a settlement by conference, by delaying the strike for a short time, or by offering opportunites of arbitration. There is not the faintest ray of hope in that direction.
I am not unaware that when a clause of this character was proposed in another place—and proposed, it is right to observe, by a member of the Conservative Party—it met with considerable support, indeed, I think that probably it was the proposal which had the most 74 support in the whole House. Labour looked favourably upon it, subject to one observation, and even the Government towards the end said that they would make some inquiry and see whether anything could be done. But, unfortunately, when the general consensus of opinion was that some such measure ought to be introduced, either in this Bill or simultaneously with it, the leaders of the Labour Party refused to discuss any such measure so long as this Bill still remained. "So long as the Government intend to pass this Bill," they said, "it is hopeless for us to enter into any such discussion," and they refused to do it. That only illustrates what I was saying at an earlier stage. It may very well be said, and no doubt will be said by whichever noble Lord speaks on behalf of His Majesty's Government, that the Government were perfectly willing to do it, that the Government are now willing, and that the only reason why they cannot is that the leaders of the Labour Party refuse to join in it. I ask how it is that the Government are in that position. The answer is that it is because they have introduced a Bill of this character, because they have created the very bitterness they have desired to avoid, and because they have introduced the animosity between employers and employed which, above all things, was to be deprecated.
Lastly, I would ask your Lordships whether it is satisfactory to be asked to pass a Bill such as this in language so indefinite, so vague, so lacking in the precision required when creating a criminal offence. As the noble and learned Lord has told us, it should be made quite plain and clear so that even the uninstructed man may follow it. I turn to the Bill itself. I have no intention of discussing all the clauses. The observations to which I wish to ask attention are in the main in respect of Clause 1, the most important in this Bill. You have had a diversity of opinion expressed in regard to General Strikes. I confess that my own view is rather with the Lord Chancellor's statement of the law than with that I heard to-day, but I desire to express no final opinion on a question requiring much consideration and argument. We are dealing with a most difficult subject. I turn to the Bill 75 in order to see how the Government are meeting the difficulty.
In some respects I find myself not quite in agreement with my noble and learned friend Lord Parmoor in the observations he made in regard to the Bill. In order that we may clear the ground, for above all it is desirable that those who may chance to read or hear should not be misled in the matter, however inadvertently, may I say that it is quite wrong to assert that this Bill prohibits all sympathetic strikes? It is not fair to say it. I have read it from speakers on platforms, I understood it to be the argument used by Lord Parmoor to-day. The Bill only requires a cursory examination to show that that is not correct. A sympathetic strike, which is an industrial strike; even though it may coerce the Government, either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community, is a legal strike. I do not hesitate to make that statement and I am quite sure that no lawyer in your Lordships' House will contradict that, but that does not mean that every sympathetic strike is legal. On the contrary, what it does mean—and this is what I imagine my noble and learned friend was thinking—is that every strike of real importance would come within those words.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I did not catch it. If so, I agree with it. A strike may be a sympathetic strike, a secondary strike or whatever you choose to call it, that is to say, a strike by men not actually engaged in the particular industry, who will not be directly affected by the improvement or otherwise of the conditions which have led to the strike, but who come out on strike in order to use the only instrument they think they have to get better conditions for their fellow workmen, engaged either in another industry or in another department of the same industry. The moment you get to large questions then, of course, this Bill does hit them.
Let me take what may be termed the classic instance of the sympathetic strike. It has been used again and again in debate and it presents itself to the mind quickly. Take the case of the railwaymen and the 76 coalminers. The coalminers were on strike for something like seven months. The railwaymen are not engaged in the coal industry. Nevertheless they sympathise, I am assuming, with the coalminers and they wish to help the coal-miners to get better conditions of employment, in wages or hours, or whatever it may be. The railwaymen then come out on strike. Immediately they are striking with some, object other than the furtherance of a trade dispute in their own industry and consequently the railwaymen, as I understand the Bill—if I am wrong I should be glad to be told by those who have given more study to the Bill, although I have studied it very carefully—would be immediately guilty of illegality, because the object they have in mind is something other than the furtherance of a trade dispute in their own industry.
It is a trade dispute in another industry, the coalmining industry, and the effect of their striking is or would be calculated to coerce the Government, "either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community." Obviously that must be the result. What precisely these words mean it is difficult to say, but I have given an instance which I think will receive acquiescence from all who have studied this question. It is the instance that presents itself to our minds at once. It is the association of the transport workers with those who handle the coal, who have to win it and bring it to the pit's mouth, and so forth. That will be illegal under this Bill. Two conditions have to coincide and I have given an instance where they do coincide and, if the term "General Strike" could be used at all, this would be a General Strike under this Bill.
Now examine the language of the Bill. I pause only for a moment to discuss it because we shall have our opportunities later. I can follow, although I disagree with them fundamentally, the provisions of a Bill which says that, if a strike is designed to do a certain thing, it is illegal and that anyone taking part in it will be guilty of an offence. Design carries with it intention and by the law of this country we hold people responsible for their intentions. It makes no difference that a man may not have uttered his intention or written a document embodying it. We 77 hold him liable according to the Common Law of this country. But the word "calculated" is a totally different matter. You are creating a criminal offence directed against men who are not criminals in the ordinary sense of the term, with whom the employer has to work, with whom we all have to work, by the use of the words "calculated to coerce the Government. A man has to make up his mind. He may have one view. It has nothing to do with his intention. His intention may be as innocent as possible. If his act is calculated to coerce, then he may be held liable.
One can see in prospect the vista of litigation that will ensue in regard to a strike when there is no possibility of proving that it was intended or designed, and one can imagine the great expenditure and wealth of legal ingenuity directed to prove that a particular thing was or was not "calculated to coerce the Government either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community." This seems to be a very dangerous provision. It makes a man a criminal against his intention; it takes no note of his intention. And I have ventured to direct your Lordships' attention to it because I can scarcely think you would desire to put the seal of criminality upon men with whom you are accustomed to associate, who are the leaders of the largest community in this country, who are necessary to our existence, who have done so much not only for the workmen but for the industry of the country by leadership of trade unionism. It is very undesirable that those men should be made liable to the Criminal Law.
There is much else I could say upon this Bill. I am very puzzled by some of its expressions and, in particular, I find it difficult to understand exactly what is meant by the expression in regard to intimidation, that the injury need not be limited to "physical or material injury." I think I am quoting correctly the words of the Bill, which are "includes injury other than physical or material injury." If a man is threatening violence or anything that approaches violence, the law is quite strong enough as it stands to deal with him, for that is intimidation. The reason why we do not enforce the law is not that the law is not strong enough. Any 78 one who has had to do with the administration of the law knows perfectly well that it is not the law that is at fault; it is not even the administration of the law that is at fault. It is because it is not thought advisable in many of these cases to prosecute and to attempt to convict many thousands, it may be, of men, more especially in tunes when passion is dominant and when prosecutions may cause riots and bloodshed and other consequences not easy to foretell. That is the reason why we do not enforce the law perhaps as we should in regard to intimidation.
I should like to make some reference to what was stated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, in regard to the Attorney-General. I happen to have held that office and I see present my noble and learned friend Lord Birkenhead, who also has held it. I think one of the most salutary provisions in the Bill—a Bill to which I object strongly—is that it makes the Attorney-General the deciding factor as to whether a prosecution shall take place or not. I am not inclined to regard that protection lightly and I am not; directing my observations merely to the present Attorney-General, for whom I have a very high regard. I am quite certain that any lawyer who holds the office—the highest office he can hold whilst practising the profession—realises that the duties of that office are not limited merely to conducting or directing prosecutions. The Attorney-General stands in a judicial position; he has to determine in the interests of the public whether a prosecution should take place or not. It is for him to decide quietly in his room. I refuse altogether to subscribe to the notion that it is for the Cabinet to direct the Attorney-General. I believe that is wrong. I forgot to include the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack among the Law Officers. I am quite sure he will agree with me that nothing would be more conducive to mischief than, in matters of this character affecting the judicial administration, that the Attorney-General (who is a judicial officer in this respect) should be subject to the directions of the Cabinet instead of coming to his own conclusions, guided by principles which have been handed down and form, the traditions of the great and high office he holds.
79 I would add one further observation with regard to the Bill. In some respects I think it was improved in Committee in the other House. Certain alterations have been made that are an improvement on the original drafting. Nevertheless, when I take the Bill as a whole and look through it, as I have with great care, considering it clause by clause, I say without hesitation that it is a Bill which, in the language it uses, is more vague, more indefinite, more lacking in precision in respect of the crimes which it enacts and the penalties which follow upon them, than any Bill that I have ever seen or any Act of Parliament that I have ever had to construe, either as a Law Officer or as a Judge. I think that is a lamentable state of things. I know the difficulties; I am not for a moment referring lightly to them; but I come back to the observation that I made before and with it I will conclude. It is precisely because of those very difficulties that we ought to be anxious to settle them by agreement instead of introducing a measure which will always be regarded, however wrongly, as a partisan measure, as one intended to be punitive as retribution for what happened during the General Strike.
The conclusion to which I have come from the study that I have been able to give to this Bill is that the Government have made a serious mistake. They were confronted with two roads: one towards peace which carried out the views of the Prime Minister uttered in a memorable speech; the other which turned its back upon peace in our time. Why he was deflected from the course he had evidently mapped out for himself I do not know, but I think that for a long time to come, after this Bill becomes law, as assuredly it will become law if the Government proceed with it, we shall have troubles and difficulties instead of the better relations which we hoped to see established, and the Government will have retarded the commercial prosperity of this country instead of having done their utmost, as they should have done, to advance it.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (VISCOUNT PEEL)
My Lords, before I deal with some of the broader points of attack that were given utterance to by the noble Marquess who has just sat down, I should like to make one or 80 two comments on some of the criticisms of the Bill that have been made by noble Lords opposite. First of all the noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, made some observations about the document known as the Dunedin Report. He seemed to base a good deal of his argument about the Act of 1906 upon the Dunedin Report and he treated almost with the sacredness of Holy Writ some of the propositions there laid down. I was looking just now at the Report of that particular Commission and I found that so far was this Report of Lord Dunedin's Committee from being the foundation for the Act of 1906 that in one very important respect—namely, making trades unions exempt from liability in tort—they, in paragraph 32, expressly reported against that particular proposition.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not wish to interrupt the noble Viscount except to say that what I said was, so far as the matter we are now dealing with is concerned.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
And I am referring to another. If the noble Lord quotes one part I am in order in quoting another. The Report was directly and specifically against that proposition. Moreover, when the Bill of 1906 was introduced in another place it was introduced in quite a different form, and the Attorney-General of the day was thrown over by the Prime Minister. He had described this particular clause or an Amendment moved from the other side—by the Labour Party, I think—as creating "a privileged proletariat." Those were his very words. Nevertheless he was thrown over, and I believe it was the task of the Solicitor-General, at the instance of the Prime Minister, to throw over his own Attorney-General. I am very glad that there is one point which I need not answer, because it has already been answered by the noble Marquess, who, I see, has left the House. That was the attack or criticism made on the action of the Attorney-General in issuing his fiat. The noble Marquess pointed out—and I agree—what caution and what trouble the Attorney-General used when he was giving liberty to commence a pro- 81 secution. I am glad that he indignantly denied any suggestion that when acting in that semi-judicial capacity the Attorney-General, in his knowledge at least, ever acted under political influence or under the control of the Cabinet. I can think of no instance where that has been done, except a suggestion that it happened in a case very well known to noble Lords opposite—the Campbell case.
I am very much impressed by the lack of fire and passion which up to now has been displayed in the attack on this Bill by noble Lords opposite. It was denounced far more vigorously, I think, by the noble Marquess than by any of the noble Lords who have spoken from the Bench opposite. I was really rather amazed at the temerity of the noble and learned Viscount opposite, in leading against this Bill, which has been passed by an overwhelming majority in another place, a majority of 215—in leading against that great majority of the representatives of the people, his own hereditary legions. I was amazed—but perhaps I ought not to be surprised when the noble and learned Viscount is so satisfied with the composition of this House that he does not want any improvement or change in it—that his eleven followers are to put their will and their influence above the influence and the decision of the great majority of the House of Commons. But, indeed, I felt that the whole of his speech was not really a vigorous attack upon, or a denunciation of, the Bill, but rather a mild reproof of some of the passages in it. The noble Lord, Lord Thomson, seemed less inspired by the fiery cross of indignation than by the considerable effort he was making to find some arguments with which to condemn the Bill.
There has been—certainly up to the speech of the noble Marquess—really very little criticism directed against anything but the first clause of the Bill. There were some criticisms made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, and some I think by the noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, but it struck me that some of those criticisms were made on a partial and inaccurate knowledge of the Bill. I reflect that, after all, the Labour Party in another place denounced the Bill long before the Bill had seen the light, and I could not help thinking that some of the observations of the noble Lords opposite were 82 based on what they hoped the Bill would be rather than what it was when it was introduced. Lord Thomson used one very peculiar phrase. He said as regarded intimidation that if holding up to ridicule and contempt those with whom one differed was to intimidate, then we are perpetually intimidating one another. I have searched the Bill from end to end and I cannot find any phrase about holding up to ridicule and contempt.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
The noble Lord talked about holding up to ridicule and contempt, and, indeed, so far did he go that he compared the action of some old women on the steps of one house pitching into another with his own attack—a very unfortunate simile, I thought—on the Earl of Birkenhead and the Earl of Birkenhead's criticisms of himself. These passages are not in the Bill. The noble Lord has extremely curious views about blacklegs. He said: "I am not saying that all blacklegs are dishonest." I am sure that blacklegs must be very much gratified by that statement of the noble Lord, but what about his attitude towards men who take work? He agrees, no doubt, that men are able, when they want to, to refuse work, but does he agree that a man has a right to seek work when he wants it? Then he said in his speech that blacklegs often became blackmailers.
§ LORD THOMSON
I did not say that. I said this Bill might encourage blackmailing. What I said was that it was well known that a great many people would emerge from a sort of underworld who might take advantage of this measure to blackmail each other.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I should like to challenge the noble Lord whether he thinks that for a man to go to work is a crime.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
But he certainly suggested it. Then the noble Lord referred to civil servants, and said that under this Bill an individual civil servant could do as he liked but could not do the same thing in a corporate capacity. Of course that is not correct. All civil servants 83 are limited in certain ways as to their freedom of action. They are not allowed to take part in active Party political work. All that this Bill does is to state that organisations of civil servants are to be confined to certain objects, that they are not to trench on political objects and not to be affiliated or connected with outside unions. That is the whole ambit of the clause, and I think the noble Lord on reflection will think it a very wise provision, because without it you would have a tendency to introduce into this country something from which we might expect it had shaken itself free, the spoils system, under which, when there is a change of Government, there is also a change of civil servants.
There is another clause, which has been I think forgotten by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson said that if this Bill had been in force last year hundreds of thousands of innocent people would have had to go to prison. If he had looked at Clause 2 he would have seen a special provision thatno person shall be deemed to have committed an offence under this section or at common law by reason only of his having ceased work or refused to continue to work to accept employment—and it is made quite clear in the previous part of the clause that these penalties are limited to people who "declare, instigate and incite others" to take part. Surely the noble Lord is not going to tell us that hundreds of thousands of persons are engaged in declaring, instigating and inciting others? I submit that when he made that criticism of the Bill he had omitted to look at that provision, which entirely exempts from the operation of the Bill those persons who merely cease work.
§ LORD THOMSON
When I said that if this Bill had been in operation last year hundreds of thousands of persons would have had to go to prison, I was referring to persons going to prison because of intimidation.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
If the noble Lord thinks that there are hundreds of thousands of people who were engaging in intimidation in the strike of last year, 84 I think it is obvious that some strengthening of the law to prevent intimidation is absolutely essential. I was also much struck by some observations of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane, as to the Bill itself. He seemed almost to make some complaint that this Bill would not have dealt with the coal strike of last year. He said:—This is a curious Bill. … That—referring to the miners' strike—was the bitterest strike in the whole business, and one would have thought that if any strike called for the attention of the Government it was that strike which was the difficult one.And again, in dealing with Lord Banbury's views, he said:—Lord Banbury will be concerned to learn that the Trade Disputes Act of 1906, which he urged so strongly during the progress of the coal strike that we should get rid of, is left to operate untouched as regards the coal miners and as regards those who were engaged in the coal strike on the last occasion.Accordingly we have at least the testimony of the noble and learned Viscount that in his opinion, though we are told that this Bill is intended to smash the unions and to break strikes, yet so large a strike as that which he has mentioned would not come within the operation of the Bill. Indeed, I think the fact has rather been omitted from the speeches of noble Lords opposite that the Trade Disputes Act is left entirely unrepealed, that it still applies, with all its immunities and protections, to ordinary strikes, and that this Bill, which is so violently attacked for trying to smash the unions, has done nothing to make any inroads on the Act of 1906.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I will deal further with that point in a moment. I think the noble and learned Viscount will admit that there is no interference with ordinary strikes within the industry, or with sympathetic strikes within the trade or industry. If noble Lords will look at the definition of the "trade or industry," in paragraph (b) of the definition to subsection (1) of Clause 1, they will see that it is very widely drawn. It says:—… workmen shall be deemed to be within the same trade or industry if their wages or conditions of employment are determined in accordance with the conclusions of the same joint industrial council, 85 conciliation board or other similar body …showing that the area within which the strike is carried on, and within which the sympathetic strike, if you like, is clearly permitted, is extremely wide. The noble and learned Viscount does not deny that. But the Bill is far wider even than that, because sympathetic strikes, which are declared to be entirely condemned by the Bill, are not affected, even when they are outside the industry, if they are directed against the employers. They are affected only when they come within the terms of Clause 1. They must be an attempt to coerce the Government, either directly or by inflicting pressure on the community, and I think the noble and learned Earl, Lord Halsbury, has already clearly pointed out that they must come under both tests and not under one alone, as I suppose he thought that the noble and learned Viscount suggested.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
That depends upon the meaning you put upon the word "coercion." It was suggested by the noble and learned Viscount opposite that his speeches coerced the Government, but I think a mild form of coercion of that kind would hardly come within the denomination—
There is nothing in the Act about "attempting" to coerce the Government. "Calculated" is the word.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
"Calculated" is the other word, the definition of which also is in the Bill. The principle, of course, is an exceedingly clear and simple one. There is a clear line of division between legal strikes and illegal strikes, whether they are sympathetic or not, and the test is whether the strike is directed against the employers or against the State. The noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading, said that the language was vague and indefinite, and suggested that it might be difficult to decide in certain cases whether a strike was directed against the employers or against the State, through pressure on the community. I can only say that, if he desires to place an Amendment on the Paper which will make the matter more clear, I have no 86 doubt that it will, be very carefully considered, but I should like to quote a really eminent opinion on his own side, drawn from another place—the opinion of a man who certainly cannot be accused of any particular sympathy with this Bill. Sir John Simon said:—I do not myself see how it can be fairly said that Clause 1 as it stands to-day, if it be honestly and clearly applied, is going to prevent the things which as the law stands at the present moment it is lawful to do.That is certainly a very clear and definite opinion, from a very eminent lawyer of the same political persuasion as the noble and learned Marquess, that the Bill does not do what the noble and learned Marquess thinks it is bound to do on account of a certain vagueness of expression.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
We have given the fullest reasons, and quoted the authorities of this House, for a different conclusion.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
It cannot be said that he is a supporter of the Government. He may have voted for the Bill, but he is a very strict Liberal nevertheless. I am pitting one Liberal lawyer against another, and I would not suggest placing the opinion of a Liberal lawyer against that of a Labour lawyer. Again, the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Parmoor) has said that the General Strike is merely an extended sympathetic strike. That surely does not meet with the test that I have applied. The question is, not whether the General Strike is an extended sympathetic strike, but whether it is directed against the employers or against the State. I do not think that the noble and learned Lord fully considered that test when he made his criticism.
87 The noble and learned Marquess opposite made some remarkable observations about the nature of a General Strike, and perhaps he will allow me not to accept his definition of what a General Strike is. His definition of a General Strike seemed to be that it was a universal strike, which is almost an impossibility. I am confining it to what in popular language is extremely well known as a General Strike. The noble and learned Viscount, in that part of his speech which is given in column 19 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, told us that a General Strike was undesirable, because it could not succeed. His standard, apparently, in the case of a General Strike, is not whether it is advantageous or not to the community, but whether it is a success.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
Therefore, if in a General Strike the constitutional Government should be defeated and brought to the ground, and the leaders of the strike have to form a Government, I understand it would meet the approval of the noble and learned Viscount, because in that case he would consider it to be a success. May I ask for one moment why it was that the General Strike of last year did not succeed? It did not succeed for two reasons, and one was that the Government displayed a good deal of prescience in the matter, and prescience is so rare a quality in most Governments that I hope noble Lords opposite will not mind my taking some credit to the present Government for having displayed so remarkable a quality. Then it is worth while, I think, observing that in history the successful majorities have been organised, and the minorities have not, and organisation is the key of victory, whether in industry or in other affairs.
I think, however, that a far more striking reason why the General Strike was a failure was that the people of this country themselves rallied to the Government, fell into the organisation, and displayed by their extraordinary determination and patience a feeling that they were not going to be beaten by a General Strike. It is difficult to argue these things, but they seemed to feel instinctively that this was far bigger than a strike merely against employers, and that it was a strike against the organised 88 authority of the Government. Therefore they lent the whole weight of their force and activities to the Government, and it was due to that assistance and the admirable organisation of the Government that the General Strike was badly beaten.
We are asked why, even if the General Strike was inexcusable, was it necessary to legislate? Upon that point the noble Marquess made some very strong observations indeed. I have always felt that it would be intolerable if a Government were going to gamble upon the fact that a General Strike would never occur again. Moreover, if a Government so acts in the face of the living facts with which it is presented, then I think it is almost guilty of a criminal responsibility, because not only was it a gamble or a guess as to whether a General Strike would take place again in the future, but we have been told, on the authority of forcible and leading persons in the Labour Party itself, that the strike of last year was only a preamble, as it were, and that on future occasions they would be better organised, that they would profit by the blunders made on this occasion, and that next time it would really be a victory for the unions over the State.
In that case how was it possible for any Government to hesitate and do nothing? Must it refuse to profit by its experience? Must it turn its back upon all experience and go off into a comfortable slumber, in the hope that such matters will never occur again? On the contrary, I believe that the pressure of public opinion alone, even if the Government had been prepared to do nothing, would have forced this or any Government to take some action at least to try to prevent this tremendous evil ever occurring again in our midst. The noble Marquess complains that this is done against the wishes of the trade unions, but after all it is from trade unions and their ranks that we always have these attacks against what is called Judge-made law; and some very eminent authorities, like the two noble and learned Lords opposite, have been pouring some cold legal water upon the Astbury decision, and have suggested that it was not a matter necessary for him to decide. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane, suggested that certain decided cases were not brought to the notice of the learned Judge. 89 Therefore, in declaring the law and making it clear by Statute what can, or cannot, be done, we are really doing what trade unionists have demanded—namely, provided that the legality of their actions shall not depend upon the decisions of Judges but upon Statutes.
May I criticise an observation made by Lord Haldane, that this Bill takes away the rights and immunities conferred by the great Act of 1875, passed by Mr. Disraeli? I have looked up that particular Act and I find that it applied only in cases of trades disputes, and had no reference to a Bill of this kind, which applies not to a trade dispute, that is, a dispute between employer and employed, but to a dispute with the State itself. Therefore, there is no curtailment in this Bill of the provisions of the Act of 1875.
What I desire to call attention to next is this, that the Labour Party through their leaders, and by the mouth of Mr. MacDonald and other eminent members have declared their intention, as soon as they come into power, of repealing this measure if it becomes an Act. That is a very serious matter, because that, of course, would have the effect of declaring that General Strikes were legal. Trade unions have very greatly developed in the last fifty or sixty years. They have great power and considerable wealth. They exercise great authority and, even in the twenty years that have passed since the Act of 1906, they have enormously developed in power, range and responsibility. Is it right that these great bodies should have unlimited power at will to hold up all the activities of the country, to inflict immense damage on the community and really to challenge the State? Is not this a setting up of a rival power to the State itself? We saw examples of it during the General Strike. During the General Strike trade union leaders affected to treat with the Government as an equal power in the State. They tried to negotiate with the Government and treated it as an equal. They held up supplies and sometimes gave licences to pass supplies through districts in order that people might not be entirely starved.
Surely this is one of the most formidable forms in which direct action can be opposed to constitutional government. No doubt, as regards the relations of 90 politics and industry, it may be wise to get away from direct management of industrial affairs, but in that particular clause which has been criticised to-day there is no attempt, as Lord Parmoor has suggested, to prevent trade unions from raising their political funds. He told us that it was rather a mean attempt to handicap trade unions in raising funds for the purpose of running candidates, and so on. I need not explain that all that is done is to say that a man when contributing to those funds is to write and say so and no pressure is to be placed upon him to contribute when he does not agree with the political object to which those funds are applied. Therefore I think it is hardly necessary for me to say more on this so-called attack on trade unions. There is not the slightest attempt in this respect to repeal the Act of 1913. But surely it cannot be right to try and effect general policy, or large political ends, by using industry, with its organisations based upon industrial reasons, to secure these ends even against Parliament itself. There is in this country a way of securing constitutional ends—by its elected members in Parliament. Nothing can be more revolutionary than to try to substitute force, as applied in the General Strike, for constitutional action Such a course must give a death-blow to government by argument and opinion
I submit that the attack on this Bill has failed. Nothing was more striking in another place, I think, than the way in which the Opposition found it difficult to carry on the debate for the twelve days in Committee and the three days on Report, because really there was no fire or force of public opinion supporting those who were trying to throw out or destroy the Bill. I think a good deal of the failure has been due to the really grotesque misrepresentations and exaggerations of what the Bill was. I have here the whole collection of the documents that have poured out in great masses from Eccleston Square, headed "The Attempt to Smash the Unions by Law," and it is because the people of this country have fell, the ridiculous exaggerations and misrepresentations of those pamphlets that there has been so little force in the country behind the efforts of the Labour Party to throw out the Bill. I should like to quote what was said by Mr. Spencer, a Member of Parlia- 91 ment, whose speech has been reprinted, and who, as your Lordships know, made a most courageous speech in another place. He said:—The movement against this Bill has not sprung spontaneously from the working man".And, indeed, it would be strange if it had, because the Bill secures freedom to the working man, freedom from intimidation, freedom from repression. The noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading, said the Bill was entirely repressive, but I would ask him to go down to the country and express that opinion. I think he would learn from his audiences that, so far from finding the Bill repressive, many of them regarded it as a charter of freedom. The fact is that the electorate is too well-educated now to believe these general charges. They do not believe it when they are told that the Conservative Party is out to smash trade unions. They do not believe that a great popular Party could attempt that, even if it wanted to do anything so ridiculous.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
Anyhow, we have got the finest record in by-elections of any Government during the last thirty years—my memory does not go back farther than that. When the people find that these statements are exaggerated, when they find, as they will find, that strikes go on as usual, that their freedom to strike is not taken away, then they will turn in something like indignation on their leaders, and they will devote to very humble uses those pamphlets from Eccleston-square. It has been asked whether a Bill of this kind would have stopped the General Strike of last year. It is always very difficult to say whether a strike would have been stopped by an Act of Parliament, but it would, as Lord Halsbury in his admirable speech said, have made it clear, at least to hundreds of thousands of law-abiding men, what was and what was not the law; and if the masses of the people, including trade unionists, feel that a particular course of action is banned by the law, that has an 92 enormous influence on them. It appeals to their profound instincts, and establishes in a most clear and striking fashion that if they have a duty to their union they also have a duty to the State.
The noble and learned Marquess, in what was, I think, the most fervent part of his speech, strongly attacked the Government for using repressive action, and, as he put it, for turning away from the path of conciliation. I know that the noble and learned Marquess has been engaged in very distinguished ways in another part of the world, and if during the last year or two which he has passed with such distinction in India he had been immersed in our Party struggles at home I do not think he could have made that observation, because he would know that during the early years of this Government, right up to the General Strike, the one policy followed, notably by the Prime Minister and by this Government, was a policy of conciliation right through industry. He would know that the Prime Minister has been often attacked in some quarters for working for conciliation when others perhaps thought that the effort was hopeless; and that it was not until this great bombshell of the General Strike burst over the country, showing that his efforts in that direction were vain, and that there were sets of men in this country who were indifferent to conciliation, and determined to make war upon the community, that the Government felt that they must at least take some steps to protect the community against the attacks that might be made upon it.
Your Lordships will note that this is not a Bill brought forward in the heat and anxiety and indignation of the General Strike. If the Bill had suddenly been brought in at the end of last year and forced through Parliament it might have been open to criticism. But it was not. The Government took months to consider it, and after many months of careful reflection, when any feeling of indignation might be considered to have died away, they brought forward this Bill because they believed it was demanded of the Government by the great mass of the people, who felt, and still feel, the sufferings that they went through during the General Strike, and are determined that, if it can be done by an Act of Parliament, that kind of thing shall be 93 put a stop to, or at least its effects mitigated. We hear of how good natured and how kindly the people were. That was so because it is the character of the mass of the British people. But because they were kindly and tolerant and good natured it does not follow that they have forgotten what had happened. Combined with that tolerance and kindly feeling there was a deep conviction that that sort of thing must stop, and that in a civilised country depending, as this country does, on its trade, and especially its foreign trade, the intolerable burden of a General Strike must if possible be exorcised.
The noble and learned Marquess asked why we did not try conciliation at the same time as this policy which he calls repression—why could we not carry on both policies at the same time? The Government are not departing from their policy of conciliation, but this Bill, defining the rules and trying to limit opportunities for a General Strike, seeks to do what it can to stop industrial war. Take the larger scene of international affairs. Because you draw up your Hague rules for the mitigation of cruelty and brutality in war, that does not prevent Geneva and Locarno. The two policies can be combined together and carried on at the same time. One is in no way the opposite of the other; it is the complement of the other. The leaders of the noble Lords opposite say they are going to repeal this Bill. After all, its principles are very simple. It penalises illegal strikes against the State, prevents intimidation, allows more freedom in the collection of political funds, and tries to free civil servants from connection with outside political bodies. Those are the main principles on which it is founded and, if really—though I can hardly believe my good fortune—the Labour Party are going to make its repeal the principle plank in their platform at the next Election, I believe they will suffer as destructive and punishing a defeat as they suffered at the last Election through their foolish philanderings with Bolshevist Russia.
My Lords, any noble Lord speaking on such a subject as this from these Benches is faced with one great and almost insuperable difficulty and that is that, if he addresses his arguments to your Lordships with moderation, putting his case with 94 reasoned force as well as he is able, he has in the last two or three years invariably found himself afterwards called a cooing dove, whose flight is merely a screen for the hawks of the Party, and he is told that he is in no sense representative of the extremists. As if every Party did not have its extremists, notably the Conservative Party where the extremists have been extremely active in the last few days! If on the other hand he addresses your Lordships with vehemence, with that fire of the absence of which the noble Viscount complains, he is apt to be assailed afterwards with almost vitriolic verbosity and to have very harsh personalities delivered upon him in the place of argument. He is also apt to be told that that style is all very well for a public meeting, but that it will not go down in your Lordships' House—a strange saying, as it has been repeatedly disclaimed that your Lordships are either wiser or better than other men. Therefore one would think that arguments fit enough for the electors of this country would also be good enough for your Lordships' House.
At any rate, whether we address your Lordships moderately or vehemently, the result is exactly the same: the arguments addressed to your Lordships from this Bench are treated as if they had never been uttered at all. I can hardly think of a more clear example in the time in which Labour has been represented in this House than the speech of the noble Viscount. He did not attempt to deal in any serious or sober manner with the arguments addressed to your Lordships from this Bench. Part of his speech was taken up with what I can only call jocular cross-examination. The rest of it was devoted to that kind of declamation which, when it comes from other quarters, is said to be unworthy of your Lordships House. I do not consider that rhetoric and claptrap of the kind that has fallen from him is a worthy answer to the arguments used against this Bill by the noble and learned Lords behind me. That is the only answer so far from any noble Lord opposite. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, spoke in the fist day's debate and followed the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane. He did not attempt to deal with any of the arguments of the noble and learned Viscount. He merely 95 said he could not see a single proposal in this Bill to which moderate Labour could object. That was his contribution, although there had been a long speech immediately before pointing out the reasons why Labour, moderate or otherwise, objected to the Bill.
I did not rise at this hour of the evening under any delusion that anything I can say will alter by one vote the result of the Division to-morrow night. If I got up with any such delusion, the state of the Benches opposite would remove it. It is obvious that this time to-morrow night those Benches will be crowded with noble Lords who have not heard or read the speeches against this Bill. They will come here, if those much abused persons, the Party Whips, are able to compel a sufficient number of Peers to take the trouble to vote twice in a Session, to the tune of 200 at least. I only hope that there will be a sufficient number of Peers who realise that you cannot interrupt the business of this House from outside the precincts of the House. I only hope that, instead of 200, you will have the whole of the supporters of the Government here to-morrow. If you have 600, that will be a more decisive vote and will be so acclaimed by your Lordships' officers. But public memories are not forgetful entirely of the memorable words with which Lord Morley closed the debate on the Budget of 1909:The greater your majority, the greater the scandal.And the larger the number of noble Lords who will come down to-morrow night to vote against the rejection of this Bill, the more perfectly clear will it be that we are now suffering under what so many noble Lords so feelingly declaim against—namely, Single-Chamber Government.
I am not going to traverse the clauses of this Bill to-night. I object to this Bill wholly on its policy and its aim. I cannot possibly attempt to better the words of the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, upon that. It is perfectly clear at all events that noble and learned Lords and other members of the legal profession differ on the interpretation of the clauses of this Bill and that, whatever else it is going to do, it is going to give a great deal of remunerative 96 work to the legal profession. There will be plenty of opportunity, I presume, of arguing in detail the clauses of this Bill, provided that discussion is not curtailed as it has been in another place and provided that the astonishing precedent of last year over the Eight Hours Bill is not repeated in your Lordships' House. Your Lordships will remember that discussion was closured, not because there was no time—there is always plenty of time in your Lordships' House—but in order not to put noble Lords opposite to any inconvenience.
There is one clause, however, which I cannot pass by, Clause 4, relating to the political levy. The Lord Chancellor courteously informed me that owing to a public engagement he was not able to stay after seven o'clock. He did me the honour of telling me he knew I would be fair in what I indicated to him I desired to say. In regard to Clause 4, the noble Viscount, knowing perfectly well it was not really necessary to argue seriously the case for the Bill in your Lordships' House, dealt with it rather cursorily and confined his argument upon it to the fact that certain abuses in the political levy were well known and that Clause 4 was designed to remove those abuses. In the absence of the noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack I will give you the exact words that he used when he quoted a well-known authority upon the subject. He said:—Your Lordships may have read some articles contributed last year or early this year to The Times by Dr. Arthur Shadwell. They were the result of careful personal investigation by a highly skilled observer, and I think it is plain from what he said, and from much other evidence, that there have been cases of undue pressure upon a workman not to claim exemption from contribution to the political fund.Practically, that was the whole basis of the noble and learned Viscount's argument in favour of the insertion of Clause 4.
Your Lordships will observe that the noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack did not in so many words say that Dr. Shadwell was in favour of that clause, but, of course, that was the inference left by his words. There can have been no other inference, and it is perfectly certain the noble and learned Viscount would not have quoted Dr. Shadwell in that way unless he had been 97 of that opinion, in which case one can only say that the noble and learned Viscount cannot have read the articles in question and must have assumed that most of your Lordships had not read them either. I had the honour many years ago of knowing Dr. Shadwell rather intimately and of working in the same room with him. I agree that he is a highly skilled observer. He is no friend of the Labour Party, but I do think that, unlike some political journalists, he does try to set down fairly the convictions to which he has come and, therefore. I think his testimony upon this point is distinctly valuable.
In view of what the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said, I will venture to read, not the whole of Dr. Shadwell's article upon this point, but the conclusion to which he came. This is from The Times of January 22, 1927:—The remedy hitherto proposed has never seemed to me very happily inspired. It is called contracting-in instead of contracting-out. This means that a union would establish a political fund, as now, but that, instead of objectors having to give notice of exemption as now, only those would pay who gave notice of their intention to do so. It seems to me an irrational provision. Why should willing payers not only pay but give notice of their intention to do so. The paying is sufficient notice. It is so with every other voluntary fund; you either send your subscription or you do not.He goes on:—I would not for the reasons given, force the change on the trade unions. I believe it would not achieve its object and might even put the objector in a worse position than he now occupies, besides embittering relations, enlarging and per petuating friction.It is obvious that an argument for Clause 4 based on the information of Dr. Shadwell falls wholly to the ground.
I quote it not merely to correct what is a complete misstatement—I am sure the noble and learned Viscount would be the first to regret that he has unwittingly so entirely misled your Lordships—but because I take it as typical of the Bill. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, has pleaded for much more inquiry before any legislation is passed into law on this subject. Here, at any rate, you have one inquirer, whom you yourselves say is a highly skilled investigator, who comes to a diametrically opposite conclusion to that which you 98 have followed. No doubt you do not like inquiry too greatly upon this subject. When one highly skilled investigator, at any rate, tells you he considers your provision irrational and yet it is put in, can you wonder that up and down the country it is said that the spirit of this Bill is against trade unionism? That is the importance of correcting the misstatement of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack.
I am not referring to the other clauses at this stage; I consider it quite useless to do so, and I know that those who are going to vote will not pay any attention to what I say. My purpose in rising to take part in this debate is rather different. It is to try to point out the effect that will in fact be made by the vote that noble Lords opposite are going to give, argument or no argument, tomorrow night. Whatever noble Lord votes against the Amendment of my noble and learned friend it is perfectly certain that the noble Marquess the Leader of the Horse will not be able so to vote. The noble Marquess has a reputation for sincerity which is quite beyond question, and it is certain that in voting for this Bill you will not be able to induce the noble Marquess to throw himself over and you will, therefore, all be in the position of throwing over your Leader. But, after all, leaders are sometimes thrown over. Some of them have been drastically thrown over in the last few days. More than that, you will be throwing over the principles upon which the Conservative Party is said to rest. The noble Marquess only a very few days ago announced those principles to the applause of your Lordships—there was a full House of your Lordships because a Division was near—and that there might be no mistake the noble Marquess reiterated those principles several times and also followed them up by saying very much the same thing at a public meeting in the country two days later.
This is what the noble Marquess is reported as saying at Sheffield on June 25:—They must have somebody who was able to say, 'We won't resist the will of the people, provided we are sure it is the will of the people, and until we are sure that it is the will of the people we will suspend some particular act of legislation.' That was what gave the people real control 99 —namely, the appeal from a temporary majority to the considered judgment of the people.The noble Marquess used very similar words in your Lordships' House a few days before and no part of his speech was more applauded by noble Lords who sit behind him. He said:—That has always been our faith—that when the people have made up their minds, when they have had the matter properly laid before them, then their will is to prevail; and that faith we still hold. But, if possible, we hold even more strongly than we did that some kind of guarantee is necessary that it shall be the considered judgment of the people.I think it is a strange psychological puzzle how any man could make use of such words in support of a Bill to alter the Constitution of this country without any reference to the people at all. But I take it that the noble Marquess would say that he was then speaking only of what was announced as a proposal. One realised that the noble Earl, the Secretary of State for India, when he declared that of course it was the purpose of this Government to pass this Bill and he used those words "this Bill"—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I did not. I am most anxious to hear what the noble Lord has to say, but he knows that I have an important engagement and the noble Lord is now discussing a matter which we discussed three or four days ago and not the subject of the Bill at all.
If the noble Marquess had waited—I am sure that my predecessor took quite enough of your Lordships' time—he would have seen that I hold that there is a very strong connection between the two things. At any rate I regard the noble Marquess as a more receptive soul than the noble Earl, the Secretary of State for India, and I am quite sure that the noble Marquess realised that that pronouncement could not be taken seriously. We are now, as the noble Marquess intervened to tell me, discussing, not those tentative and vague proposals which have suffered so great an eclipse, but a Bill—not a minor Bill but a very important Bill—reversing or altering 100 nearly a century of legislation, and I think we are entitled to ask, in view of the general principles of Conservative policy enunciated by the noble Marquess, upon what authority he says that this Bill represents the people's will. Because you have a majority of 215 in another place—is that the argument? Your Lordships know perfectly well that that majority does not represent the majority of the country at all. If we take any test the figures of the last General Election show that the Conservative Party on this question—because on this question the Liberal Party and the Labour Party happen to be entirely agreed—are in a minority of over a million electors. How can you possibly say that you are sure that this Bill represents the will of the people? The noble Viscount spoke of by-elections. All I can say is that if he is satisfied with the result of by-elections he must be the most easily pleased of any member of any political Party.
Then in that case both Parties are happy. At any rate it cannot be pleaded that there is a large majority at by-elections in favour of this Bill. I understand that the Prime Minister has said he has a mandate for this Bill from the events of last year. How any one can argue that because of the distressing events of last year there is a mandate for introducing a Bill of this kind, which goes far beyond the events of last year, which traverses a great deal of past legislation, which makes the task of organised trade unionism far more difficult, passes my wit to comprehend. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, said that in his view and in the view of many people in this country the wrong way has been taken to deal with anything arising out of the distressing events of last year. It cannot be argued that this Government is in power with any sort of mandate to alter the trade union laws of this country. I looked at the Election Address of the Prime Minister. There is nothing whatever said about reform of the House of Lords or about amendment of the laws relating to trade unions. There is not a vestige of reference to them. The only possible sentence which could be taken as meaning something of the kind was in the peroration, in which the Prime Minis- 101 ter appealed for an independent majority in Parliament resolved to maintain the existing constitutional and economic liberties. Then he uses that majority drastically to try to limit those liberties.
It is idle to say you have a mandate from the events of last year for this measure. It is what the Conservative Party have been wanting to do ever since 1906. Your Lordships are told, both with regard to the reform of your Lordships' House and also with regard to this measure, that it is not the intention of the Government to repeal legislation. They are not going to repeal the Parliament Act and they are not going to repeal the Trades Disputes Act. No, they are not going to do so in so many words, but it is perfectly obvious that their proposals of last week and this measure are designed to drive great holes through this past legislation. Therefore I am entitled to say that the events of last year are simply being used as a pretext for a general weakening of trade unionism which they have desired ever since the Trades Disputes Act of 1906. I ask the noble Marquess: Do you still hold even more strongly than you did that some kind of guarantee is necessary that legislation should be the "considered judgment of the people"? What guarantee have you got about this Bill and how can it be argued for one instant that the people have passed their considered judgment upon it.
It is perfectly obvious that the words of the noble Marquess are the assertion of the rights of the Conservative Party to pass every Conservative measure through your Lordships' House, and through another place when they have a majority there, and to suspend legislation coming from any other Party. The noble Marquess continued:—Nothing is more apparent or more deplorable than the gradual predominance of the political machine in politics.I entirely agree. Nothing is more apparent than the predominance of the Conservative political machine to-day and I also agree that it is entirely deplorable. I cannot help feeling that legislation of this character, condemned by both sections of opinion on this side of the House, is based on the belief that the Conservatives will be permanently in power. The proposals to reform your Lordships' House I regard as part and parcel of the general strategy. Your 102 Lordships know perfectly well that every Leader of the Labour Party has declared that this Bill, if and when passed, cannot possibly be allowed to remain. It is obvious to anyone except the very innocent that the proposals to strengthen your Lordships' House are linked up with the passage of this Bill. Noble Lords opposite have the power now to pass this Bill into law, but they make a very big mistake if they think that is the end. Any idea of putting back the clock in 1927 after all the progress of human thought and all the experience of the years of war is one of the most astonishing exhibitions of political blindness that it is possible to conceive. It has been tried before in history and it has invariably been a failure. I end by quoting against this Bill the words of the noble Marquess: "We appeal from your temporary majority to the considered judgment of the people," and we have no doubts whatever as to what the ultimate result will be.
My Lords, I was going to begin my observations by apologising to the noble Viscount opposite for failing to give him the fire which he had demanded, but I am relieved from that because I notice he has had to leave the House. Indeed, it was hardly necessary for he seemed to warm himself up by his own eloquence, and at the end of his speech was tearing passion to tatters without any adventitious assistance from this Bench. It is rather interesting, I think, just as a casual observation at the beginning, to notice—what any one could easily guess from the appearance of the Benches—that we are not discussing the hereditary principle, or the reform of this Chamber, or even salmon fishing to-night, but that we are discussing merely a question relating to the whole of the trade and industry of this country and to the welfare and good will of every workman in the country. The Benches of your Lordships' House are a remarkable indication of the interest taken. I do not propose to deal with the noble Viscount opposite, whose speech did not appear to me to contain much matter and who might I think have followed better advice when gravelled for lack of matter than to take the points he did. I propose rather to follow the speech of the noble and learned Viscount who introduced the Bill.
103 He said—and it has been invariably said (he admitted he was quoting the Attorney-General); it has been adopted by every newspaper in the country which speaks from the point of view of the Government, and by every Party organisation—that this Bill is simply and solely to carry out four points and four points only. Those points are, first, that there shall never be a General Strike; secondly, that there shall be no more intimidation of one workman by his fellows; thirdly, that the political levy shall be free; and, fourthly, that the Civil Service shall be restrained from being affiliated to dangerous political activities. I propose, with your Lordships' permission, to examine the Bill for a moment to see how far it really carries out those principles and those principles only. Against the principles themselves there might not be very much to be said. Everything depends on how they are interpreted, and we have to look at the interpretation which is given us to-day in the concrete form of this Bill.
The noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, said in the country at a very much earlier stage that every line, of this Bill had been fully considered by the Cabinet and represented their mature and final judgment as to what were proper proposals to put forward. The Bill that I have in my hand now differs a good deal from that final and considered judgment. It is by no means the same, and, though this is a thing that we are not likely to be told, I rather wondered when I heard the noble and learned Viscount say that they had taken plenty of time since the General Strike, that this measure was not introduced in the heat of passion, that they had considered what it was wisest to do when heads were cool and passions had abated and they could look at the thing calmly—I wondered whether in fact the intention to put forward this Bill was arrived at immediately after the General Strike, and how recently before its introduction to the public it was decided that something of this sort should be done. I seem to have a- recollection that, at any rate as regards the political levy, there has been a Bill for some three years or more before the House of Commons in the name of Mr. Macquisten which was turned down every year by 104 the Prime Minister—turned down, it is true, with flattering and apologetic words, but quite firmly turned down—principally upon the very grounds upon which the noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading, objected to this Bill—namely, that it was unwise and provocative. I should like to know exactly when this Bill was decided upon.
Turning for a moment to Clause 1, the noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack, after quoting the clause accurately, as of course he would, went on to say that he called attention to the terms of the clause because—I believe that it forms a complete answer to the charge made by some people that we propose by this Bill to forbid genuine industrial strikes and, as it is somewhat foolishly said, to produce a condition of serfdom. No strike or lock-out is declared to be illegal unless it has some object other than, or in addition to, the furtherance of a dispute in industry.I call particular attention to the discrepancy between those last words and the words that the noble and learned Viscount had just quoted from the Bill itself. The words of the Bill in the first part of this combined clause are:—the furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry in which the strikers are engaged.That is a very different limitation indeed. I should hesitate, as would anyone, to differ from any exposition of the law given by the noble and learned Marquess who spoke this afternoon. He said that he thought that undoubtedly, from the true reading of this clause, a sympathetic strike would be possible. I have great difficulty in seeing how that is so because, first of all, the dispute is to be "within the trade or industry," and in the second place it has to be a strike "calculated"—I am entitled to leave out "designed," because the words are "designed or calculated"—"to coerce the Government either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community."
I suppose there is no strike that does not inflict some hardship upon the community, and there must be a great many strikes that one would think ought to be perfectly legal which undoubtedly might well be intended to coerce the Government. Suppose that in a couple of years time the miners were to strike with the object of having the Eight Hours Act repealed and the Seven Hours Act restored. That would be a dispute 105 entirely relating to the trade and industry and entirely relating to conditions of labour, but you might perfectly well say that, as regards one of its results or objects, it was calculated to coerce the Government to pass or alter an Act of Parliament. I find great difficulty in getting rid of the meaning of the word "calculated." So far as I read the debates in another place it seemed to me that the Attorney-General himself was by no means clear whether sympathetic strikes should be included or excluded.
Your Lordships were given one instance this afternoon as to railways and miners. Let me give you another instance. Suppose that the whole of the railwaymen are striking for better wages, shorter hours or whatever it may be that they think they cannot get without that form of war, and that they find themselves liable to be defeated in that industrial struggle by the competition of road transport. Is it not natural, as a, matter of class solidarity and trade union solidarity, that the road transport men should strike also in sympathy with the railwaymen? It is not a dispute in which they are engaged, it will not affect their hours of labour and it is certainly calculated to cause hardship to the community. Apparently, though I really do not know low these words are going to be interpreted, the test as to coercing the Government is whether the strike does or does not inflict hardship upon the community. Certainly I do not find any other test here. As I say, I differ with great hesitation from any opinion expressed by Lord Reading, but when the Courts come to construe this Clause I shall be very much interested to see what they make of it.
Let me give your Lordships another instance. There was, perhaps a matter of five years ago, a moulders' strike which lasted a great many months. These are the people who produce castings that are used by engineers. The engineers sympathised, or at any rate felt bound to support the moulders in whatever it was that they were trying to obtain by that strike, and they protested, and would have been prepared to protest possibly to the extent of striking themselves, against doing their work upon castings supplied from Belgium or other places where hours and conditions of labour were not such as trade unionists approved. If they were to strike it 106 would not be for different terms in their own industry, although you might say in this case that it was for something to do with their own industry, because they were refusing to work upon foreign castings. But these really are sympathetic strikes, and it is very difficult, to my mind, to see how this clause is going to fail to apply to sympathetic strikes.
When you have got this strike, all sorts of most fearful consequences are to happen. Let me take the question of the money. It is illegal—to apply any sums in furtherance or support of any such illegal strike or lockout.What is meant by "in support of" a strike or lock-out? I suppose that giving strike pay to a man who is on strike would clearly be to support the strike. Strike pay is a thing which is required to enable the man and his family to live during the period of the strike, and it is one of the objects with which he subscribes to his union. Do I understand that this means, acid is intended to mean, that no relief is to be given to the man by his union if the strike is of the character that is called illegal? Is he immediately to go to the guardians and to become a pauper, and to live upon that official charity that makes him a pauper, because his own union is not able to support him?
Again, what till meaning of the word "declares" in subsection (2) is, I really do not, know. The words are:—If any person declares, instigates, incites others to take part in or otherwise acts in furtherance of a strike or lock-out, declared by this Act to be illegal.…and so on. Does it mean "declares a strike"? I suppose that every man who goes out declares a strike, for he declares his own strike. It seems to me that, although we have been told that this Bill is limited to the ringleader, yet by that one word "declares," if it means anything at all, you will catch every man who goes out, because clearly that man declares a strike so far as he personally is concerned. I do agree very strongly with the noble Marquess that, if you are going to have a code, you had better make it clear, and I would support in this respect the argument of the noble and learned Earl opposite, Lord Halsbury, though I do not quite know what the speech of Lord Halsbury 107 was intended to tell us. He spoke of the vast number of prosecutions and of the intimidations met by prosecutions by the hundreds, but he did not tell us how many convictions. We gathered at any rate that there were convictions, and it seemed to me that if that proved anything it proved that the present law against intimidation was strong enough, and required no alteration. I do not think that the noble Earl intended it to prove that, but I do not gather what he did intend it to prove.
I shall come back to intimidation in a moment, but in Clause 2 you have that remarkable provision that any person who refuses to take part in a strike and goes to work is not to be expelled from his trade union, or to suffer loss of benefits, or if he does he is to have them restored to him by the Courts. You really cannot wonder, I think, that at any rate among strong trade unionists they are in the habit of referring to this Bill, and that clause in particular, as the "Blackleg's Charter." Noble Lords opposite talk with great indignation about the free and independent British workman who insists on continuing at work, and who ought to be protected. If there are such men, and they wish to go to work, I agree that they should be protected, but your Lordships cannot wonder at the feeling which exists against them. I ask your Lordships to consider what is the feeling against people in a club, for instance, or in a regiment, who, without breaking any law, do all the things that are disliked and disapproved of by other people. I would, ask you to consider the position of a subaltern who refuses to subscribe to the sports fund, or any of the other funds of a regiment to which subscription is entirely voluntary, and I would ask you if you do not think he might be looked upon askance and suffer injury of a material, if not of a physical, character in those circumstances.
Your Lordships must remember that trade unionists have the same feeling of solidarity and the same feeling of corporate existence. They feel that all the things which have been won have been won by united effort, and have to be defended by united effort. Therefore, you cannot expect them to look with favour upon people who depart from 108 them. The Lord Chancellor said that in this clause the Government were implementing the promise made during the General Strike, that any man who returned to work should be protected by the State against loss, and that the Government would take whatever steps were necessary. I am not sure that people contemplated that the step which the Government were going to take was to raid trade union funds by retrospective legislation twelve months afterwards. The Bill protects the man from loss, but the protection hardly seems to be by the State.
I now come to Clause 3, which deals with intimidation, and I say at once that to whatever Party I happened to belong I have always been opposed, and I trust I always shall be opposed, to intimidation by one man of another or by one body of men of another body of men. I have always been opposed to intimidation by landlords, when tenants have been turned out of their homes because they professed non-Church of England doctrines, or took lodgers, or for some other reason. Those seemed to me to be eases of intimidation which justly deserved the gravest censure. I think intimidation by one workman of another deserves censure equally grave, and I feel that, although there may be strong feeling, it is the duty of the State to protect the life and liberty of every limn while he goes about his lawful occasions, whether they be pleasing or displeasing to the majority.
What have you done by this clause? You have started here a number of new crimes, or a new definition of crimes, in which it seems to me that anybody can be held to intimidate anybody else if they happen almost to be anywhere near, because they are not to assemble. Even one person by himself is not to assemble, but certainly more are not to assemble in such a way as is calculated to intimidate. Then when you come to the definition of "intimidate" you say it means:—to cause in the mind of a person a reasonable apprehension of injury to him or to any member of his family or of violence or damage to any person or property, and the expression 'injury' includes injury other than physical or material injury.What on earth does that means? It will have to be construed by the criminal 109 Courts. What is injury other than physical or material injury? You suffer physical injury if you are attacked, and material injury if you are driven out of work or caused to change your place of residence.
What other injury is there? Is it intended to be the kind of injury for which you claim damages in a libel action? Saying of a man, "You are a blackleg," I suppose, may inflict upon him injury other than physical or material injury. It may hurt his feelings, as our feelings were hurt by the noble Viscount opposite by the unkind things he said, but we bore them. You are going a very long way if you are going to call that intimidation. Yet I do not know what Else the clause means, and I shall be glad if somebody on the other side, learned in the law, will tell us exactly what subsection (2) of Clause 3 does mean. What is this injury other than material or physical injury? I agree with Lord Halsbury that it is intimidation to attend with 2,000 men, some of them with stones in their hands, even if you do not lay a finger on the man. I should think myself that it is intimidation even under the present law. That is reasonable apprehension of physical injury; but apparently he is also to be protected from reasonable apprehension of some other kind of injury. Let us then be told what that injury is. Then the Bill goes on to say that any person who attends at or near a house is deemed to be watching and besetting. We have already had that dealt with, and I do not want to detain your Lordships further on it, but I am bound to say that the clause goes a good deal beyond the easy words of the Lord Chancellor, that you are merely carrying out these four great principles.
Now I come to Clause 4, which contains provisions as to the political levy, and I repeat that I should like to know what exactly it is that has caused the Government suddenly to introduce that clause after turning down Mr. Macquisten's Bill for several years. We shall be told, I suppose, that it is the General Strike. I need not deal with the reference to Dr. Shadwell, I read those articles in The Times at the time, and was very much struck with the fact that he came down against doing anything in that matter. But I should like 110 to ask what is the object of Clause 4, unless it is hoped to deprive trade unions of some funds? This is represented in the newspapers as being a "Workmen's Charter of Liberty," as saving him from being compelled to subscribe to things to which he ought not to be compelled to subscribe, and in an early article in The Times, almost on the introduction of the Bill, it was grossly misrepresented as giving the workmen for the first time the right not to be forced to give a political contribution of which he did not approve.
The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack was of course much more careful. He said:That right to claim exemption should surely be unfettered.…I do not know what he means by that. It is unfettered now. Any person can claim exemption. The instances which he goes on to give seem to show simply that a person who claimed exemption would be unpopular. That is not unnatural, because he says:—.… there have been cases of undue pressure.… A list of those claiming exemption has sometimes been put up at the headquarters.…There is not a word in Clause 4 to prevent that being done. There is not a word to prevent pressure being put on a man to sign a contracting-in form, not a word to prevent a list being put up at headquarters of those who have not signed the form. The only difference is that you are throwing the weight of the inertia of trade unionists against the political fund, instead of in its favour. If that is worth having a serious struggle with the trade unions over all I can say is that I wonder at the light-heartedness of the present Government.
On Clause 5 I wish to say very little. There are two distinct classes of civil servants. There is the class whom you may call the upper class of civil servants, who would naturally be loyal to the State or to their employer, either in the Civil Service or in any other service; and in their case this clause is insulting and unnecessary. Then there is the other class of civil servants, including the Postmen's Union, and including, in establishments like the dockyards, quite ordinary workmen—workmen of the kind who belong to trade unions as a matter of course, and whose natural 111 course is to join a trade union, who, unless they were born in the dockyard, would probably have belonged to a trade union before they came there, and who, if dismissed, would go to a trade union afterwards. What I understand is claimed is that divided allegiance is caused by the civil servants being allied to more provocative and more distinctive political associations. There may be somethng to be said for that point of view, but if you are going to create a special class of civil servants differing from other servants—and I think you may well be entitled to do so—the very least you can do is to promise them in return what is said to be the justification for it, security of tenure. I understand that some of these more humble people who are still what you call established civil servants have failed to get security of tenure under various operations of economy, and sometimes other people, under an operation which is called declaring a class redundant, have found their occupation terminated during their natural working life. If you are going to create this peculiar and privileged class, so bound to you, you must at least, I think, give them security of tenure.
But I see very great practical difficulties when you come to deal with a man who is normally an engineer, or a carpenter, or a shipbuilder, who belongs to the Shipbuilders' Union. There must be a great deal of difficulty, and you have done something in the Bill to meet it, but you are to be entitled to make regulations. What the regulations are going to be one hardly knows, but one hopes that they will be reasonable. I think it was rather unfortunate to mix up the Civil Service, with its traditions of loyalty and good work, with so contentious and so bitter a subject as these trade disputes and General Strikes. If you really thought it required dealing with you would have done much better to deal with it by a different Bill. We are told that civil servants were approached during the General Strike, and the Lord Chancellor complained because they were advised not to undertake duties which it was no part of their duty to undertake. I should like to ask what view is taken of that. These people are employed in a clerical capacity, let us say, and they are asked in a General Strike whether they will volunteer to 112 drive a motor lorry. I dare say a large number of them will, but is it really considered that the Civil Service ought to be looked upon as an official reserve of blacklegs, to break a strike when there is a strike, and to do some other work than that which they have contracted to do, and that they are to be blamed if they do not? Because that was all that the advice given to them came to. They were advised to do the work which they were engaged to do, and not some other work.
I think your Lordships ought to admit—although I know very well you will not—after this examination, that the Bill does not simply embody those four points which the Lord Chancellor suggested. The Bill has been conceived in fear. It is a Bill which is mean to your political opponents, mean and petty in the way in which it attempts to hamper their political activities and their exiguous funds. I was going to say something about the fact that after the General Strike, when the trade union leaders had learnt a very severe lesson from its disastrous failure, when the union funds were exhausted, when a great many people were disposed to be reasonable, you had an opportunity of considering this matter by means of a Committee or Royal Commission from which there might have emerged something that would have been of use. I have been happily saved from that by the admirable speech of the noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading, with every word of which in that respect I associate myself. I cannot help feeling that a little inquiry and a little more pursuit of the earlier Jekyll manner of Mr. Baldwin would have led to more results than the sudden planking down of this challenge to the whole trade union world—a challenge which they regard, and will continue to regard, in spite of everything that may be said, as an attempt to hamper and destroy them. I think this Government might well be known as the "Fearful Government." They have been full of fear in everything they have done. They seem to have been guided in all their actions by fear either of one thing or of another. Fear is a bad guide, and repression is a bad policy; and, so far as this Bill is concerned, I cannot help feeling that its introduction at this moment has been 113 wanton and most mischievous, has done the utmost possible harm to any chance of a revival of friendly feelings in industry, and has made it immensely difficult, for this Government at any rate, to do anything useful in promoting industrial peace.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned till to-morrow.
Moved accordingly, and on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at eight o'clock.