§ 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, and further discussed yesterday.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, I feel that on any other occasion it would be necessary for me to apologise to your Lordships for rising to speak on a Bill which has already been debated in your Lordships' House for two days, but it is felt by those who sit on these Benches that this Bill is of such importance and that its passage or its failure to pass means so much to the future of this country, that it is our duty to miss no opportunity of attempting to press on your Lordships the gravity of the task which you are undertaking. We on this Bench are few in numbers, but we are sometimes right. Your Lordships have had an experience of that in the last few days. I know it is always very pleasant but it is not always very wise tactics, to say "I told you so." During the debate on the reform of the House of Lords those who sit on this side of the House were, it is true, out-voted by very great numbers, but we were right, and the Government have had to admit it, and they are going to drop their scheme.
Let me, however, turn to the Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, in his speech last night, dealt very thoroughly with what the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, speaking for the Government, called the four main principles of the Bill, and I think he showed very clearly that those four great principles are really very little more than platitudes with which few of us can disagree, and, furthermore, that they have quite amazingly little to do with the Bill. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I pass over them. What is it that must have impressed all who have followed the debates both in another place and in your Lordships' House? I think it is this, that we have listened to lawyer after lawyer in both Houses, speaking from both sides, all giving opinions completely at variance with each other and all endeavouring in vain to give this Bill some definite meaning. We have seen all the time that their efforts have been quite futile, and, indeed, we have realised that 119 even if they can, at the very best, arrive at some agreed interpretation—which they have never done yet—every single question of importance is going to be left to be settled by the Courts.
There are such questions as what is a sympathetic strike, and what is not. How does it escape from the machinery of this Bill if it concerns any industry of national importance? The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, yesterday told us that he considered it could not escape. To what strikes do the words "hardship upon the community" not apply? What are the men's motives, real or professed? Will they be judged by some leader's propagandist speeches or by the professed objects of the union? Further, how far does the word "calculated" go? Is a man to be condemned by circumstances over which he has no control? Then there are the words "trade" and "industry." Nobody has been able to define words which are admittedly key words in Clause 1. These are a few of the questions which I, as a layman, making no profession to know anything about law, have picked out from the debates. I am not going to attempt to answer them. It would be impertinent if I did. I am not going to attempt to analyse them.
The question which your Lordships—most of whom I have no doubt have already made up your minds to vote for this Bill—have got to answer is this: If the cream of the legal brains of this country, to be found in the House of Commons and in your Lordships' House, is unable to interpret this Bill, what on earth is going to be the position of the unfortunate trade union leader who is not a lawyer at all? Yet how, without knowing the answers to these questions, will ha be able to declare a strike without rendering himself liable to criminal prosecution ending, perhaps, in imprisonment for two years? No lawyer that he can consult will be able to help him. If the lawyers of these two Houses cannot interpret the Bill, how can a lawyer outside interpret it? Consequently, as my noble friend Lord Parmoor said, a trade union leader in future will not only have to know his job as a trade union leader but, in addition to qualifying as a lawyer, will have to qualify as a prophet.
I come back to the point which I made at first. The noble Lord who speaks for the Government may try to answer some 120 of these questions. He may do so to his own satisfaction, to the Government's satisfaction, perhaps even to your Lordships' satisfaction, but his interpretation will not be of the slightest value. The only interpretation that matters is the interpretation put on the words when they are considered by the Courts. Rightly or wrongly the trade unions have a rooted distrust of the Courts. It was a distrust which, until quite a short time ago, was shared by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am not going to discuss the merits of that distrust. Let it suffice to say that, whether it is right or wrong, it is one of the psychological factors in the situation. The Trade Disputes Act, by stating the law definitely, recognised the justice of the trade unions, took away from the power of the Courts, and stated the law definitely. Parliament had twice been in the position of having to reverse a decision of the Courts, first of all after the Taff Vale judgment and then after the Osborne case. It determined in the Act of 1906, and later, in dealing with the political levy in 1913, that the law should be on a certain and sure basis. This Bill deprives the trade unions of that certainty of what the law actually means, and sends them back to a chaos worse almost than that which existed before 1906.
Further, when it is remembered that this decision of the Courts may not be given until after the strike has started, or even until after it has ended, your Lordships will realise the chaos that may result. By Clause 7 the Attorney-General is entitled to obtain an injunction against the use of trade union funds for the purposes of what he considers is going to be an illegal strike. After days, or perhaps weeks, or even months, the Court may give its decision and may state that the case of the Attorney-General, upon which he asked for an interim injunction against the union, was wrong. But what is the use of that? The men have already been deprived of the right to strike. They have been defeated. They have had to return to work, if they ever came out, on the employer's terms, and there is no redress. Can we wonder that the trade unions laugh in our faces when we tell them that Clause 1 is designed merely to prohibit a General Strike? It has very often been said of the anti-drink legislation in America that once a man has had an 121 illicit drink and has become a law-breaker he has very much less respect for the law generally than he had before. We have never brought the law in this country to a position of contempt. Trade unionists have always been law-abiding citizens, in spite of what the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, said. The conduct of the General Strike was subject to international comment. We read of it in the foreign Press. Its conduct and the manner in which it concluded were the best proof that we could offer of the essential law-abiding character of our people.
I know that the noble and learned Earl, Lord Halsbury, gave certain examples of breaches of the peace during the coal strike, but we have been repeatedly told by members of the Government—whether they are right or not is another matter—that the coal strike has nothing to do with this clause. Moreover, what the noble and learned Earl said merely strengthens the point that I wish to make, that if you give the impression to trade unionists and working men in the country—and I do not think very many noble Lords would care to deny that this impression was undoubtedly given last year; you may say wrongly given, but it was given—that the whole forces behind Government, the whole forces behind law and order, were concentrated against them on the side of the employers, then you will have breaches of the peace. Surely, this respect for the law is a national possession that we have to guard very carefully. We must not allow it to be destroyed by legislation such as this—legislation which, by its deliberate loose drafting, makes it probable that men will in future be prosecuted for what we have hitherto considered perfectly legal actions and recognised as such by the law since 1875. Destroy the faith of trade unionists in the law and you will inflict infinitely more hardship on the community than could a hundred sympathetic strikes.
If trade unionists maintain their faith in the law, the effect of this Bill will be to paralyse the actions of their leaders, and it will at the same time close up hitherto perfectly legitimate avenues to negotiation. What will this mean? It can have only one effect. It must bring the existing elected leaders of the trade union movement and their methods of 122 arbitration into contempt and disrepute. The fighting strength of those who wish to conduct negotiations with a view to peace and of those leaders who wish to obey the law will be weakened. They will get less good terms for their men, and eventually they will be thrown over. What will this lead to? It can only lead to the men looking to other methods, to ca' canny, to lightning and unauthorised strikes, led by men of a very different character (mark you) from those who control the trade, union movement to-day. Let any of you ask any of the great employers on the railways, at the docks, in the transport industry—perhaps there are some here to-day—whether they would rather negotiate on a national basis with men like Mr. Thomas and Mr. Bevin or with the type of man who is going to get intermittent and sectional control after the passage of this Bill.
So much for Clause 1, which, as we see, is by no means limited to the prohibition of a General Strike. It will prevent—or it has been so contended by lawyers of unquestioned reputation — almost all sympathetic action in any important industry, and it will even make the legality of any strike in any great essential industry a matter of very great doubt. It may even operate to prevent a legal strike. How? Because men, when they are considering whether to declare a strike or not, will have to take this question of legality into consideration. They will say to themselves: "We believe this is a border-line case, and we think it is very risky to go into it." The result is that they will not strike. How are we to know, how is anybody to know, that the case that they were discussing was that of a perfectly legal strike which they had a perfect right to declare? We see that, if trade unionists in future respect the law, they will be at the mercy of their employers, and I want to put it to your Lordships that any of you who vote for this Bill will have no right to be surprised if leaders arise in the trade union movement who preach that in order to be effective they have to forget their respect for the law. The result can only be chaos and loss for everybody concerned. We know that. Some of you will probably speak of the wickedness of the agitator and even suggest that money is coming from Russia. The real criminals and the real agitators are the 123 Government that upset the peaceful laws and institutions of this country by legislation of this character.
I turn to another point. Let us take the Prime Minister at his word. If Clause 1 really is designed against the General Strike, or indeed against any strike for political purposes, presumably the implication is that trade unionists should be encouraged to look rather to political than to industrial methods for the attainment of their ends. I think that this is a fairly obvious implication. With such a desire no member of the Labour Party could disagree. It constitutes one of the basic reasons for our very existence. But what you have to ask yourselves is this. If it really is your desire that the working classes should be encouraged to make use of political rather than industrial weapons for the attainment of their aims, why do you choose this moment for attacking the political funds of the unions? I know that the Government excuses itself on the ground of sympathy with the working class, of a desire to secure the working man's happiness and his freedom of conscience. But can you really blame us, when you look back and examine the social record of this Government, if we look elsewhere for their real motives?
After all, I think it is beyond dispute by members of any Party that this Government has cut down expenditure on almost every form of social progress—education, unemployment grants, health insurance, unemployment insurance and housing—and that this Government last year, by introducing the Eight Hours Bill against the advice of its own Royal Commission, and by its refusal to organise the mines of this country on a proper basis, have helped to bring the miner into the degrading condition of life that he now occupies. And by its repeated postponement of such moderate legislation as the Washington Convention and the Factory Bill the Government has made any one who cares for social progress despair. When such a Government makes such a claim can you really blame us if we look elsewhere for its motives? The time has come when we have really to be frank with one another and, perhaps I might say, frank with ourselves. What is the position with regard to the political levy to-day? Is there anything in that position which could have aroused 124 the excitement which does exist in the Conservative Party on the basis of sympathy for the Conservative working man? I believe that after a short examination, no fair-minded man will be able to discover any reason that would justify all this moral indignation.
After all, every union, before it becomes a collecting agency for the political fund, has to hold a ballot of its members and has to contract in as a body. The decision having been made in favour of the proposal by the majority, the minority has a right to contract out. A trade unionist can first vote against the union taking action. He may in the first case vote against the union making a contribution, and then, having lost his case, he still has the right to contract out. We are told that he does not dare do this. Your Lordships have only to examine the figures given in the other House eighteen months ago to find that he does so, and in considerable numbers. In the last fourteen years there have been thirty-three cases substantiated of complaints of intimidation of abstainers. We are told that methods of intimidation are more subtle. In another clause dealing with intimidation it is implied that social ostracism is a form of intimidation which must be stopped. If we admit that form of intimidation, what does it amount to? Something, surely, which we have always known—namely, that it is not particularly easy to disagree with your class. I can tell your Lordships, speaking of political intolerance, that it is not only confined to members of the working class, and if a man cannot stand up for his political opinions I do not think he is worth very much.
I am very surprised that the Conservative Party should pick on that particular section of the working class as the only section to which it is going to give its protection. And, turning again to the Bill, is it fair that a union which has voted for a political levy by a large majority should then have to go to the expense of printing, distributing, and collecting forms for its members to contract in for doing what they have already by their votes agreed should be done? It is argued that in some unions only a small proportion of members vote. When has a small poll been considered a reason for reversing the decision of the majority? Can your Lordships name any certain vote in this House which 125 would have the slightest value if the small poll were taken as cancelling that vote? Moreover, the fact that many members do not attend lodge meetings goes to prove satisfaction rather than dissatisfaction. Why, then, all this cry against the levy? Are your Lordships absolutely sure that your indignation would be quite so great if trade unions made their contributions to the Conservative and not to the Labour Party? After all, nothing but their corporate opinion, ascertained by ballot, prevents their doing so. Trade unions always have had political activities, but it was only when the Labour Party was considered to be really dangerous by its opponents that there was any complaint or talk about the political activities of the trade unions.
I assert that it was not until the Conservative Party had realised that its policy had definitely alienated the trade union vote that it sought to cripple their political fund. We, the Labour Party, alone of the three political Parties, have nothing to be ashamed of in our finances. We publish our balance sheet every year, and print the sources from which we obtain our funds. We receive contributions from our supporters, giving nothing in return but political services. Let the Conservative Party put itself in the same position as we occupy. It refuses to do so. It refuses even to bring the Employers' Federations within the Bill or to make them disclose the amount of, and the uses to which they put, their political funds. Perhaps they are quite right. It might be rather awkward if the public knew how far the Government Party was dependent upon the great vested interests for its funds. It might even be more awkward if it were realised how many seats in this House, had been purchased by contributions to Party funds. The balance sheet of the Labour Party is clean. It is for the Government to show that their thousands of pounds are equally clean before they try to take from us the pennies and shillings—I am not exaggerating, for it is collected in pennies—which we gain from our supporters.
Lastly, has any case been made out for this Bill on the ground of what we may call high policy—the ground on which the Prime Minister asked the 126 House of Commons, in 1925, to reject the Political Levy Bill. Let us assume for a moment that this measure had not been criticised by us, and that it satisfies the Government's arguments for a revised system of trade union law. Is the nation likely to gain in prosperity or stability as a result of the passage of this Bill? The Prime Minister was quite definite on that point in 1925. He realised that industry was changing far too rapidly, and wished to give new developments time to take form without anticipating them by premature legislation. He recognised that peace was essential. He further realised that his mandate was for peace, and he refused to fire the first shot. Since then, he tells us, we have had the General Strike. Does that make peace any less essential? Has that altered his mandate for peace? Of course it has not. But if that is his excuse, why wait till months afterwards when the battle is over and won, when the community has quite definitely asserted its right and its power to protect itself, thus dragging up a dead dog to bait it for the pleasure of the more reactionary elements in his Party?
He was perfectly right in 1925. But this Bill is in every essential a direct contradiction of everything that he then said. It plunges us into new legislation without any regard for the existing state of trade or the existing demands of trade, without any regard for the future developments of industry—legislation based, not on partnership out on conflict, and legislation of a most partisan character. From the first clause to the last is shows the complete inability of the Government to look anywhere but in a backward direction. There is not a single proposal of a constructive character which tends to an extension of organisation for peaceful settlement or for such an improvement of working conditions as will lead to an increase of good feeling in our industrial life. I know it will probably be thrown at us—I think it has already—that the Government have offered a Committee to inquire into the establishment of improved industrial relations and we have refused. Can any of your Lordships imagine France invading England and occupying Kent and Sussex and then asking for a disarmament conference? That is exactly what the Government have done.
127 The Bill throughout disregards any claims of industry for peace. It assumes a state of war and concentrates on preparing to carry that war to success. Such a clarification of the issue may well be very pleasing to certain members of the community who are commonly known as the Die-hards, and also to the Communists, but I very much doubt if anybody else welcomes such a clarification. I do not think I am exaggerating in saying that it constitutes a definite acceptance by the Conservative Party of the Communist conception of class war. Recognising that the unions are growing in strength the Government seek to weaken the power of the strike; seeing that the Labour Party has been building up a great political organisation in the country they seek to cripple that organisation by attacking their funds; and, further, fearing that perhaps in spite even of these attacks we may still gain our end, your Lordships have lately been discussing how to juggle with the Constitution in such a way as to make even constitutional progress impossible.
Mr. Baldwin has either been swept aside—and I hope it is that—or else he has changed his mask. Conservatives attack the idea of class war, but it is they who are provoking it in spite of the protests of the Labour Party. Conservatives complain of the extremists of the Labour Party. Why, all Parties have their extremists, and why should not they? They provide a healthy stimulus to thought and action. The extremists of the Labour Party have never controlled the policy of their Party so completely as the extremists of the Conservative Party are doing to-day. This Bill is the price that this Government have had to pay for a continuance of their extremists' support, and the tragedy is that the price is going to be paid in ruin, not only by the Conservative Party, but by the nation as a whole.
§ LORD ASKWITH
My Lords, the noble Earl disclaimed any knowledge of the law and any intention of going into the legal aspects of this Bill, but in the long and interesting lecture which he has given to the House he has shown considerable power of dissecting the various clauses of the Bill. The rest of his speech he has taken up with the impressions that may be made upon the minds of trade unionists. Of course, the importance of 128 the impressions on the minds of trade unionists is great, but there are impressions on the minds of other people, and last year some trade unionists came forward and challenged, knowingly or unknowingly, the position of the Government and the country itself. The General Strike was defeated. It was defeated at the common wish of the majority of the people, and many people state that it can never occur again. It is denounced now by many trade union leaders themselves, and, although a few speak of its coming again, the majority of them seem to think that it was a grievous mistake. But the event occurred, and it would be almost impossible, in view of the majority that opposed this General Strike, that some registration of the feeling of the country should not be reflected in Parliament and in this Bill.
The avowed objects of the Bill are perfectly clear. They were mentioned by the Attorney-General in another place. They were quoted by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack here, and they were brought forward again by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, last night—the General Strike, the political levy, civil servants and intimidation; those are the four main points. I could wish that there had been added to them some clause, if it had been within the purview of the Bill, on the lines of that which Sir Leslie Scott proposed in another place. I could wish that it had been possible to have some clause with regard to a secret ballot, which would have allowed the unfettered judgment of the men to be taken before a strike could take place. And I could have wished, too, that soon after the General Strike the whole of our trade union law had been referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills in order that we might have seen exactly what we were dealing with. But, as it is, the Bill has come with those four things before the House, and the Opposition in the House of Commons seems to have petered out to a very great extent directly it was made plain that the sympathetic strike was not intended to be hit in ordinary cases by this Bill, and that Clause 1 did not prohibit it.
The noble and learned Marquess, who spoke so eloquently yesterday, seemed to think that the sympathetic strike was not prohibited by this Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, differed from him. I would invite the noble and learned Mar- 129 quess, if he thinks it is not prevented by this Bill, to exercise his great ingenuity in drafting, and try to bring up some Amendments which would make it perfectly clear. There is no doubt that, although the avowed intentions of this Bill are so clear, the drafting is extremely difficult, and that the exact meaning of some parts of it cannot be known until they are interpreted by Courts of law, and until actual events take place which are brought up before a jury or a Court to see what the interpretation may be. The difference might be illustrated by such a statement as I once heard made by a single picket to a whole trainload of men when he informed them, with some small expletives to begin with, that there were certain men outside with nuts and bolts in their hands, that, if they went to the docks, they would have to pass through them and, if they got through them, they would have to go to the dry docks, into which it was very nasty to fall. Was that a threat or was it merely giving information? It led to the whole trainload of men remaining in the train; not one of them left the station.
This General Strike, it may be said, will not occur again, although it had been preparing for some time and although it was put off by the War. In 1913 Mr. Larkin, from Ireland, endeavoured to get the Trade Union Congress to endorse it. The railwaymen were not ready and the miners' leader turned it down emphatically. He is reported to have made these remarks:—'We are not in a position to vote on the question of a general stoppage.' … When the time came either to face a General Strike or to take action which the miners' organisation was tending in the direction of, that was the knitting together of the miners, the railwaymen, and the transport workers for common action, it would not require to be done in a slipshod fashion. It would require to be done after full discussion and negotiation between the representatives and the rank and file of those organisations. If such a step was taken, it would have to be the final step by which they would win.That suggestion about knitting together progressed and we saw and learned about the Triple Alliance. The Triple Alliance did not come off and men, somehow or other, got into this General Strike. My own opinion is that some 130 of them did not really know what was coming, but they tried it and found themselves in the position of being opposed to the Government of the country. That may not occur again even with a new generation that knows not what happened in this. To my mind it will be an advantage, although I do not place very much stress on that clause myself, that it should be on the Statute Book that such a thing is illegal.
With regard to the other clauses, there is the question of the political levy, which was dealt with by my noble friend Lord Buxton in 1913. It was at a time when there was a great movement among the trade unions to press everyone to become a unionist and the idea was that they should become unionists by everybody being compelled to pay. Lord Buxton made a compromise which has lasted from that day to this. This clause is intended to alter it, but the actual practical effect of it will not be very great. As to the Civil Service, that is a comparatively minor matter, but the criticisms of Lord Russell ought to be looked at, because he made some trenchant criticism as to the positron of tradesmen who might be in the Civil Service, and as to what their position might be.
I support this Bill because of the intimidation provisions. I think they are of practical use and by far the most important in the Bill. During the time I have been interested in labour disputes I have, seen the forms of intimidation change. As to intimidation by employers, there were such things as black-listing, refusal to reinstate and closing of factories in sympathy with other employers. Those tactics have largely gone. If any of them remain now they will be quite as much hit by this Bill as any intimidation by the men. The employers, as a rule, find it unwise to try to bring in trainloads of free labour and to break a strike by that process. They have found it better to lie quiet until the breeze has gone by. With regard to the men, it is not the intimidation of the employers that they have proceeded with, but intimidation against their own people, often assisted by outside persons who have nothing to do with the strike. It is against their own people and more often than not without the wish of their leaders. Was 131 it with the wish of the leaders that women and others in Hull almost proceeded to loot shops or to set fire to various places in the City? Or could it be said, when the tramwaymen were pulled off the trams in Liverpool, because they had had to carry soldiers upon those trams, at the very time when the leaders were negotiating for the reinstatement of the tramwaymen, that the leaders really endorsed the action of their followers? More often than not the leaders would be engaged in the conciliation room arguing and persuading. Over and over again, I have found that employers have come to me and said: "We cannot go on, we cannot attempt to negotiate if this intimidation proceeds."
It has been a difficult task for the leaders and I am quite sure that some of those leaders, when there is talk of repealing this Act, will be the first to recognise that they have been aided by it. They should be aided by it because two methods, which were unknown at the time of the earlier Bills, have been brought in to a considerable degree since. Lord Halsbury gave some instances of them. They are picketing by masses of people and the insidious form of home picketing. Both of those are dealt with in this Bill. In 1903 I was the first witness before this Royal Commission, which has been alluded to so much, and I was examined and cross-examined as to the case law on the subject for nine days. I do not think that in all the cases cited on that occasion I alluded to any instance of the kind of picketing which has grown up since. It has become a very serious matter. The first instance that I remember of mass picketing was in the music hall strike of 1907, and the first instance of which I know of this insidious home picketing occurred in Manchester in 1911 or 1912. It has gone on and has been found to be effective. I am sure that from practical experience of the matter it will be eventually found greatly to the advantage of those trade union leaders who would wish by persuasion, argument and negotiation to conclude a trade dispute, to do it by that method rather than by the terrorism of numbers, by the undirected, perverse hooliganistic aid of outside people as well as some of the 132 more uneducated of their own, and by methods which bring misery and fear to women and children.
THE LORD BISHOP OF DURHAM
My Lords, I am neither a lawyer nor a politician, but Bishop of Durham, the most distressed part of His Majesty's dominions. In the short period during which I have been Bishop, I have lived through two great strikes and watched them closely. Living as I do in the midst of a great artisan population, I must see at close range the whole process. The impressions made on my mind are quite indelible and they lead me to support the Bill which is now before your Lordships. I beg leave to remind your Lordships that interst in economic conditions is the tradition of the great see which I have the honour to hold. My predecessor, Bishop Barrington, a century ago had the honour of being the founder of co-operative societies and he is said to have been the author of the famous phrase heard later in politics that "three acres and a cow was the desire of even the poorest." My great predecessor, Bishop Westcott, to whom I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, made some reference, had the great honour of playing a part in bringing to an end a disastrous strike of miners a generation ago. But since those days there has been a great and sinister change in the condition of artisan life.
What I will take leave to call the disintegration of citizenship has gone far amongst our industrial population. There is a sharper segregation of classes, there is a disappearance of those mitigating local conditions upon which Bishop Westcott could count in his peace-making efforts and which make it possible to bring some human influences to bear upon economic conflicts. Large theories of social reconstruction, chiefly of foreign manufacture, now fill the mind of Labour leaders, who are, as often as not, men who have but slight personal acquaintance with the actual economic conditions of the country. I will take leave, I trust without offence, to comment on the change in the great Labour leaders themselves. I intend to relate to your Lordships a little episode which made a great impression upon me. I happened to be living in the City of Durham and I had as my neighbour the well-known Labour 133 leader, Mr. John Wilson, who was greatly respected amongst the mining population of the North.
He was for some months before he died very ill, and I used to call and sit by his bedside and talk with him. We discussed the character and the probable future of the Labour movement. I remember well his saying to me: "Burt, Fenwick and I were religious men, we were old Methodists, we feared God and we honoured men; but these new men who are coming on the scene fill us with fear; they neither fear God nor respect men." I am bound to say, having had some opportunity of watching working class life during now, I am sorry to say, more than forty years, that I have come to the conclusion that what Mr. Wilson said is true, that to a very large extent the leaders of Labour in the localities are men who are a very sad change from the leaders of former times. One more influence of the most sinister character I must ask your Lordships to notice. The Party Press has come into existence which sets out to create in working men's minds that temper of ill will which Carlyle called preternatural suspicion, which is the very temper of revolution, so that nothing is believed which is not directly congruous with the Party interests, the interests of Labour. That is by way of introduction, with your Lordships' kind indulgence.
This Bill seems to me to have two characters. It is a measure for public safety and it is a measure for the enfranchisement of the working classes, and I hold that in both those characters the Bill is most necessary. The noble and learned Marquess who addressed to your Lordships so remarkable and powerful a speech yesterday afternoon, objected to this Bill as superfluous, as obscure, as provocative, as prejudicial to the recovery of the national trade, and as a pledge of future bitterness. I must needs think that the noble and learned Marquess was mistaken. I think he was in some of his observations unfair and I am sure, so far as this Bill goes, he was unduly pessimistic. I think that the Bill is not superfluous. I think the remarkable speech which the noble and learned Earl, Lord Halsbury, addressed to the House showed that. If it be obscure—and lawyers of great distinction tell us that it is—Committee is the place in which that obscurity may 134 be remedied and I think that the legal ingenuity and ability which this House possesses is abundantly capable of removing that obscurity.
To say it is provocative is to be very unfair to the Government which is responsible for this Bill. I have no interest in the Government, I stand outside politics, but I cannot shut my eyes to what actually happened and I know perfectly well that the leaders of the Labour Party, before they had seen the Bill, had taken up an attitude of unmitigable hostility towards it. It seems to me to be playing with words to blame the Government in view of such an attitude as that on the part of the Labour leaders. With regard to the prospect of the Bill bringing additional bitterness into economic life, I think noble Lords on the Bench opposite are mistaken. I do not find, from what I can hear—and I make careful inquiries—that this Bill is unpopular with the working people. On the contrary, I think they are rather glad in their minds to think that there is some protection for them against the bitter experiences which they have so recently traversed.
I pass to the question of public safety and I ask: Is this legislation necessary? The answer will turn largely upon the answer that we return to another question, which is this: Is another General Strike likely to happen? I cannot find—and I have followed their public utterances very carefully—that the responsible leaders of Labour have really repudiated the General Strike in principle. Although some of them have said with great emphasis that it was futile, that it was a practical blunder, that it was premature, they have never said that it was intrinsically wrong. The failure of that General Strike has been made the basis of much confidence—I think excessive confidence—in the general body of citizens, for the favouring circumstances in which that Strike happened are never likely to recur, and if the country was able, as it was, to come out of that crisis safely, it was largely owing to a combination of circumstances that was unique.
Just consider the situation for a moment. The General Strike of 1926 fell out at a time of the year when the inconvenience to the public was at its greatest. It took place after a period 135 of nine months' truce, purchased, I admit, by the subsidy, during which the Government had tried to make ample preparation; a strong Unionist Government was in power, backed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons; there were no foreign complications; and, above all, the Strike was generally unpopular among the rank and file of the trade unionists. I believe they speak but the truth when they say that if they made the Strike they were very largely the Strike breakers. I have been assured—I have not had the opportunity or means of checking the statements—that men from our own northern railways were engaged in working the railways in the South of England, and that kind of arrangement was very largely used; in fact, the irrepressible civic loyalty of the working man went far to remedy the position into which the conduct of his leaders had put him. I conclude, then, that some legislation in the interest of the State is really necessary, but it is still more necessary in the interest of the working people themselves, and it is to this that I wish particularly to address myself.
This Bill, as I said just now, and I repeat it, is a Bill for the enfranchisement of the working man. Trade unions may be needed, they may be serviceable and salutary in the process of our industries. I pass no judgment upon that, but I do say that in becoming, as they have become in recent years, political instruments they have grown into—I measure my words—a ubiquitous, cruel and continuing tyranny, degrading to the character of their members and very perilous to the State. I would ask your Lordships to realise how helpless is the ordinary working man. Consider the circumstances in which he lives, in which he grows up, in which he works, and realise how hostile, monotonously hostile, they are to his independence. He is educated in great schools where individual treatment is almost impossible to the most devoted teachers. He lives in long rows of little houses where his wife and his children must needs be under the close constant oversight of their neighbours. He works in teams and gangs, sometimes in the bowels of the earth, as in the great industry with which I am most connected, and he is never out of touch, hearing or sight of his fellow workers. In these circumstances 136 how helpless he is if there be any decay of the sense of justice in the minds of working people, if there be any sinister organisation trading on their prejudices, trading on their fears. This tyranny is pervading and degrading to a degree which it is almost impossible to believe.
I would ask your Lordships to accept from me a single illustration. During the long stoppage or the General Strike, there were a certain number of privately owned little surface mines which were working. A certain number of the men did go to work to make what they could for their wives and families. Clergymen were brought up against this position in my diocese. One member of the choir would go to work; the rest of the choir would go to the clergyman and demand his dismissal as a blackleg, which the clergyman refused. There are great Bible classes—there are many such—in our mining districts which the clergy carry on. A similar thing happened. One or two members would go to work. The rest of the men would go as a deputation to the clergyman and demand that they should be dismissed. He refused and of course the class was for the time being broken up. In a certain parish there was not a single confirmation candidate. Why? Because the clergyman's action in refusing to do this brought upon him the censure of the general body of his parishioners. I only ask your Lordships to note that as illustrating the extension of the tyranny from the economic sphere to every department of social life. The State owes to these workmen all the protection possible. That is not much, as I have shown, but it is something. Because I believe this Bill does go some way towards restoring liberty to the British workman and efficiency to his trade union I am going to record my vote in its favour, with complete assurance that I am thereby serving his best interests.
All the four objects of the Bill, as stated by the Prime Minister and repeated in this House, command my complete approval. They include the definite branding as illegal of the General Strike, the restraint of the brutal terrorism known as "peaceful picketing"—that is long overdue—and the protection of the trade unionists against the misapplication of their funds, which is a matter of common justice. I was much interested to hear from the noble Earl who first 137 addressed your Lordships a handsome certificate to the financial rectitude of the Labour Party. But the value of a certificate depends entirely upon the independence of the individual issuing it and so I must say that the value of that very handsome testimonial did not seem to me to be very great. If your Lordships will permit me to indulge in a theological reminiscence it reminded me of an eccentric figure of the Seventeenth Century. A sort of theological Diogenes, seeking to find some individual morally and spiritually competent to administer baptism to him and failing, decided to baptise himself and so became known as John Smith the Se-Baptist. I suggest that the noble Earl perhaps took that individual as his model. The noble and learned Marquess said that this Bill contained—I took down his words—"not one single ray of light for the working man" I read the Bill differently. To my view it opens to men bound under a harsh yoke of oppression a promise of liberty—liberty to think and act as self-respecting men and inheritors of all that makes British citizenship a proud possession.
§ LORD OLIVIER
My Lords, there is one clause in this Bill, Clause 5, in which I am perhaps more interested than any other member of your Lordships' House, because I suppose I am one of the members of this House who have served longest in the Public Service both in this country and abroad. I want, therefore, to deal with that particular clause which deals with the position of civil servants. The noble Viscount on the Woolsack in introducing this Bill commented on this clause, but it seems to me that he rather directed a pleasant and persuasive appeal to the good feelings of his audience instead of dealing with the merits and the facts of the case.
The noble and learned Viscount said that:—servants of the Crown were subjected to pressure by their own unions, or by the Trade Union Congress to which those unions were affiliated, to turn against the State, or at least to refuse to volunteer their help in maintaining the essential services of the country. Most civil servants, of course, refused to give way to that pressure and loyally joined in the efforts that were made to deal with the serious situation. But some took the other course and in any case the position is, I suggest, quite intolerable. The established civil servants have special privileges. They have security 138 of tenure, they have a right to pensions and so on, but, above all, they are in a position of trust and their first duty is to be loyal to the State that employs them.The position of officers of His Majesty's Service or of His Majesty's Household is in some respects peculiar. They are under the duty of all citizens to be loyal to His Majesty and the State, but as regards any other matters their duty is simply to be loyal to the duties of their office. The conditions in the Army and Navy are naturally somewhat different, but with regard to the Civil Service the obligation of the civil servant is to be prepared to give the whole of his time to the Public Service for the duties of his office, and not to go round with milk or anything of that kind.
That is the distinction, and it cannot be said properly that a civil servant is disloyal because he chooses to take one side rather than another in an industrial dispute. I put it to the Lord Chancellor—and I wish that the noble Marquess the Leader of the House were here also—that this is a fundamental principle. It is true that under an Order in Council special obligations may be put upon civil servants, and under Departmental Regulations special duties may be put upon certain servants of a particular Department. But outside those duties their obligations are precisely the same as those of any other citizen under the Common Law. If the Minister of any Department makes Regulations or if His Majesty makes an Order in Council laying down rules regarding the public Service, that is perfectly constitutional, and any civil servant in any public Department disobeys those rules at his peril and may be dismissed from his office, and, as this Bill proposes, may be disqualified from being a public servant. But while the civil servant has, as the noble and learned Viscount says, certain privileges, he has also the very great disability that if he is so dismissed he has no remedy whatever except to proceed by a Petition of Right against the Crown, and in order to do so he must have the fiat of the Attorney-General. He is under that special disability if he refuses to obey any Regulation made by the proper authority, the head of this Department, who is an officer of His Majesty's Household. Civil servants of the Crown are not the direct servants of Parliament.
139 This brings me to another point. As the Bill is at present drafted it includes language with regard to making Regulations for the Public Service which I submit—and I think that on consideration the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, must agree—is unusual and should not be included in an Act of Parliament. The Bill says in effect that the Minister shall make Regulations. I think that this is quite unprecedented. Parliament can say that His Majesty's Ministers may make Regulations and that those Regulations shall have the force of law, while they remain subject to challenge in Parliament, but I submit that it is quite unusual to say that His Majesty's Ministers shall make Regulations for the governance of the duties of public servants in the service of His Majesty. They are technically His Majesty's servants, and the House of Commons cannot say that they shall do this or that. I submit at any rate that this clause is irregular in form and will have to be modified in Committee by substituting "may" for "shall."
On the substance of the matter, let me say that this clause, so far as the discipline of the Service is concerned, is totally unnecessary and superfluous. His Majesty's Ministers have the power, or may by any Order in Council that they choose to issue obtain the power, to make Regulations doing all that is purported to be done by this Bill. If an Order in Council were issued proclaiming a State of Emergency it would be possible in that Proclamation to say that it would be the duty, for instance, of the Home Office or of the Ministry of Health to take steps for distributing milk, and in that case, if an officer of the Ministry of Health were directed by his superior officer to distribute milk, it would be his duty to do so. But it is an entirely new infraction of and encroachment upon the ordinary Common Law privileges of the civil servant—who can hold what political opinions and what views on social and industrial conditions he likes and give what support he chooses to any industrial body that is in conflict with any other industrial body—to put words such as this in an Act of Parliament. I say that in the first place it is quite unnecessary, and in the second place it is a very serious infringement of the hitherto recognised Common Law privileges of civil servants.
140 As for the claim that civil servants should not be members of any political organisation, that principle is already recognised in the established orders of the Civil Service, although I think the word "political" is rather too wide, because everything is political. Nevertheless it is a principle that I should endorse myself that a civil servant should not publicly take part in any organisation for the purpose of promoting the political fortunes of any particular Party in the State, and he certainly should not take public action in political matters which in any respect concern the affairs of his own Department. For instance, an officer of the War Office ought not to take part in a conference urging the reduction of armaments, but I should think that an officer of the Ministry of Agriculture who wanted to further the work of beating swords into plougshares could quite appropriately take part in a public meeting of that kind. Rules made by Ministers can be as stringent as Parliament will allow and will always be subject to the criticism of Parliament, but this clause is absolutely unnecessary, is unconstitutional in form and proposes to encroach, though in a very vague way, upon the established privileges of members of the Civil Service.
§ VISCOUNT SUMNER
My Lords, I have a small quarrel with the noble Lord who has just spoken. I have been waiting patiently, enduring the eloquence of others for three nights, to get an opportunity of referring to something that was said by the noble and learned Viscount who leads the Opposition, and in whose presence I desired to say what I have to say. Two minutes ago I noticed that behind the back of the noble Lord the noble and learned Viscount rose and went quietly out of the House.
§ VISCOUNT SUMNER
I have no doubt that he is coming back. I am dreadfully afraid that his convenience will be disturbed by his being brought away from the interview, doubtless an important one, which is taking place outside, only in order that he may listen to me. I see that the noble and learned Viscount is returning. Let me thank the noble Lord who went out to fetch the noble and learned Viscount and the noble and 141 learned Viscount himself for being so good as to break off what was happening outside and to come back in order that I might make this point in his hearing. I will make it as briefly as I can.
Your Lordships, if I may take you back to Clause 1, will recollect that at the beginning of this debate the foundation of the main attack upon the Bill rested upon the proposition that it is the settled law of this country that trade unionists have the right to engage in what is called a General Strike, that this has been decided in a case in your Lordships' House and that sound lawyers, respectful of the Common Law and of the decisions of this House, must therefore recognise that this Bill is an unwarrantable and deplorable invasion of the rights of trade unionists. You have already heard that this is not a view which is entirely shared even by noble Lords on the other side of the House, because when Lord Parmoor had given his concurrence to what had been said by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane, the noble and learned Marquess who followed was careful in guarded language, but in quite distinct language, to dissociate himself from that view.
With regard to the case upon which the noble and learned Viscount founded his proposition, may I say a word or two? It is the case of Conway versus Wade, and it is quite true that in one speech, and one only, in the course of that case the phrase which was quoted by Lord Haldane was used. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Loreburn, said:—A dispute may have arisen, for example, in a single colliery, of which the subject is so important to the whole industry that either employers or workmen may think a general lock-out or a general strike is necessary to gain their point. Few are parties to, but all are interested in, the dispute.That has been taken, by those, who adopt the view of the noble and learned Viscount, as being a proposition laid down that in certain cases where the matter is important to the whole industry the workmen may—that is, may legitimately—think that a General Strike is necessary to gain their point.
What were the facts about which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Loreburn, was addressing the House on that 142 occasion? They were almost ludicrously distant from anything to which the expression "General Strike" can be said to belong. An action had been brought by a workman who had been dismissed by his employers for no fault whatsoever, but because the defendant, against whom he brought his action, went to the employers and threatened them that it they did not dismiss the man he would call out all their workmen. The jury found that there was no dispute in existence or in contemplation at all, and the only reason why this piece of tyranny had been resorted to was that the defendant, a trade union official, remembered there was an outstanding fine which this man had never paid, and he made up his mind that he would get that money in. Accordingly the defendant went to the employers and said: "Out that man goes or out your men come." After that you cannot be surprised that the ultimate decision in the case was that the workman was entitled to recover damages.
§ VISCOUNT SUMNER
That was what I was saying, if the noble and learned Viscount had attended a little more closely. There was no trade dispute. How then can a statement in the speech of Lord Loreburn, about the possibility of a General Strike, be held to lay down anything whatever.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
It was Concurred in by Lord Macnaghten and others, and followed by the Court of Appeal, and was also adopted in the Mogul Case.
§ VISCOUNT SUMNER
I am afraid I shall have to detain your Lordships a long time if I am to be engaged in controversy. It is true that Lord Macnaghten and Lord Shaw and Lord Collins and another noble Lord were parties to this decision, but no other noble Lord referred to a General Strike at all, and what I am endeavouring to tell your Lordships is that the decision was not a decision upon a General Strike but a decision in a case where there was no strike at all. The case is a complete authority with regard to what it decided, but it decided nothing about a General Strike, nor did it state what a General Strike was, nor lay down any proposition with regard 143 to it at all. It merely contains what, so far as I know, is the only instance of this expression having been used in the Law Books.
Lord Loreburn said it was quite possible that in certain circumstances the workmen or employers might have thought that a General Strike would be necessary. The passage with which he continued his judgment would, I think, have been worth quoting. He said:—If, however, some meddler sought to use the trade dispute as a cloak beneath which to interfere with impunity in other people's work or business, a jury would be entirely justified in saying that what he did was done in contemplation or in furtherance, not of the trade dispute, but of his own designs, sectarian, political or purely mischievous, as the case might be.Conway versus Wade is, of course, an authority for what it decided, but it is not, I am sure, in the opinion of the great majority of the profession, a case which touches the doctrine of the General Strike in any way whatever, though I am aware, of course, that Lord Parmoor, and two distinguished writers whose pamphlets I have not had an opportunity of reading, have argued that it has something to do with the legality of a General Strike.
The general proposition of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane, is this, that every workman has a right to refuse to work if he does not break a contract; that every workman has the right to do the same thing, and that if all exercise that right together, even if they agree to do it together at the same time, they are not collectively doing wrong if each man is doing something within his rights. That is, of course, a quite familiar form of reasoning, but how does that lead up to the proposition that it is lawful for every trade unionist to do that which is struck at in Clause 1 of this Bill? The fact is, we introduce obscurity into this discussion by insisting upon talking about General Strikes and sympathetic strikes, and asking: "Why do you not define 'General Strike'?" or "Will this interfere with a sympathetic strike?" Upon this last point the noble and learned Marquess was clearly of opinion that it would not. It is a pity, I think, first of all to attach an adjective to your strike and then try to make its indefinable character the whole point of your discussion.
144 The only strike that the Bill deals with is a strike that I will venture to call a Clause 1 strike, and your strike will be illegal, not because it is sympathetic or because it is general, but because it comes within the terms of Clause 1. We have had a good deal of difficulty in this and previous discussions in ascertaining whether noble Lords on the Front Opposition Bench do, or do not, approve of General Strikes in general and the General Strike of last year in particular. But we have at least got a doctrine laid down by the noble and learned Viscount which is positive and which is somewhat remarkable. I think that doctrine may be stated in this way. It is the right of every workman and of workmen generally to resort to such a strike as Clause 1 would hit at. If he does so he does a deplorably foolish thing, he does a thing which can do him no good and can do nobody else any good, and is therefore very silly and worthy of censure. Everything that is launched and cannot succeed, says the noble and learned Viscount, is foolish—a way of looking at public action which is interesting but peculiar. But at the same time the principle is: Let it be as foolish as you will, it is part of the sacred right of trade unionists to do this, and it is an outrage upon them to take away that right.
§ VISCOUNT SUMNER
To prove that I am not mistaking anything in what I have said I am gratified in being honoured by the distinct and repeated cheer of the noble and learned Viscount. There is a question that I should like to put to those who denounce this Bill, who excommunicate it from head to heel, who go through it clause after clause and say: What does this mean? and What does that mean? who dwell upon the studied and calculated obscurity of its language, who say that it intrudes upon the rights of civil servants, that it makes worse the case of intimidation, that it destroys the hopes of the working man, and so forth. The question is this: Do you really mean to say that you think it right, that trade unionists should be entitled to strike with objects other than the furtherance of trade disputes in their trade or industry, which are "designed or calculated to coerce the 145 Government, either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community "Is that what you want? Is that what you claim to be the inalienable right of all trade unionists—that an object which is not confined to a trade dispute or to trade or industry, but is an object other than that, or that a method which is "designed or calculated to coerce the Government" is a legitimate object of the activities of trade unions? Again, "inflicting hardship on the community"—do you really think they ought to be entitled to do that, and that it is illegitimate and an invasion of the rules of statesmanship to interfere with that? The answer must be "Yes, that is what we do think," otherwise it is impossible to denounce this Bill as they do. And at the same time—
§ EARL DE LA WARR
The noble and learned Viscount has asked a question. The reply is perfectly simple, and it is one we made in all our speeches. His question means nothing, because he does not tell us what "trade or industry" means, he does not tell us what "hardship upon the community" means. In other words, he does not tell us at all what he is after.
§ VISCOUNT SUMNER
I could wish that that answer, interjected in the middle of my sentence, had come from a member of the Front Opposition Bench as to whom I feel less scruple about answering harshly. I think the answer is an insincere answer. And as I gather it is the collective answer of seven noble Lords on the Front Opposition Bench, including the one who has not addressed us, I think I have the right to say that if they seriously tell us that they do not know what "trade or industry" means, that they do not know what "designed or calculated to coerce" means, and that therefore they refuse to say "Yes" to this proposition because it has no meaning, they really are unworthy of the high position to which fortune has raised them.
The difficulty of applying a clause like this is not to make out what it means, but to say whether a particular case when it has arisen falls within it or not, and that depends on the evidence. I refuse to endeavour to define these words, because although I do not expect to live 146 long enough to have to express any judicial opinion about it, still things might so fall out that I should find myself in the position of having a speech quoted out of the OFFICIAL REPORT against me. But I am satisfied that any Judge on the Bench would find no difficulty whatever in giving a direction which was perfectly clear, for these words are clear words, and the difficulty, such as it is, of saying whether they fit the case or not will be one that applies to all cases, and will be solved in the ordinary course by a Judge or jury, as the case may be.
To go back to where I was. As it appears to me to follow necessarily that those who have based themselves upon the argument propounded by the noble and learned Viscount must approve of the maintenance of a right to do something which they at the same time denounce as foolish, something which is "designed or calculated to coerce the Government" although it is constitutionally the Government of the land, and to do something that either directly—that is, by bullying the Government to their faces — or indirectly, by "inflicting hardship upon the community"—that is, my Lords, you and myself and other inoffensive persons like us—as they are prepared to say that, I submit that they are deliberately prepared to undermine the peaceful Constitution under which we live, in order that they may be able to say to their followers, the trade unionists: "We have defended your last privilege, your most absurd privilege, your most deplorable privilege, to the very last breath in our bodies."
§ LORD ARNOLD
My Lords, the conclusion of the debate has nearly come, and I do not think it is necessary, in speaking last for the noble Lords on this Bench, that I should apologise for the fact that in the course of the discussion there have been several speeches made from this quarter. I think it is certain that we are now speaking for a larger number of electors than any other Party in the State. If an Election took place to-morrow it is virtually certain that the Labour Party would poll about 6,500,000 votes. On the other hand it is virtually certain that the Conservative Party would poll decidedly less than 6,500,000 votes—perhaps less than 6,000,000 votes. So I 147 say that we are speaking for the largest Party in the State, and it is therefore not unreasonable that we should occupy a fair proportion of the time of this debate, more particularly as the subject of this Bill is one which affects so vitally the interests of those who support the Labour Party at the polls.
I should like first to make one or two remarks about the course of the debate. It has been in many ways a notable debate. It has been notable for some of the speeches that have been made, and notable for some of the speeches that have not been made. As regards the latter, I would draw attention to the fact that the only contribution to the debate from the Episcopal Bench has been the speech which was delivered to-day, a speech strongly in favour of the Bill. This is a Bill most adversely affecting the interests of the workers. It is a Bill which is a serious set-back to industrial freedom, and not a syllable of opposition to it has come from the Episcopal Bench, only one speech in strong support. The last time the right rev. Prelate addressed your Lordships he gave as one reason for doing so that he desired to remove from the Episcopal Bench an appearance of delusive unanimity. So long as the right rev. Prelate sits on that Bench he may rest assured that, without his telling us, we shall know quite well there is not, and there never will be upon it, unanimity, whether delusive or otherwise. So far as the speech to-day is concerned, I hope it is on this occasion an evidence of delusive unanimity, because, if it is not, if all the Bishops are in favour of this Bill, I should think that a very regrettable state of things, and if all the Bishops were to make speeches such as the right rev. Prelate made, I should think it still more regrettable, for if that were the position it would, I think, do something to explain how it is that the Church has so little hold upon the workers.
Now I come to the noble and learned Viscount who spoke last. He was really trying to do something which nobody yet has ever been able to do. The Attorney-General has not been able to do it; the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has not been able to do it. He was trying to explain to Parliament what Clause 1 means. He told us, coining a new definition, that the kind of strike which this Bill deals with is a Clause 1 148 strike. That does not carry us any further at all. That is the difficulty. He endeavoured to reply to certain observations made by my noble and learned Leader with, I thought, a singular lack of success. He also said my noble and learned friend behind me, Lord Parmoor, had dissociated himself from my noble and learned Leader.
§ VISCOUNT SUMNER
I did not say that at all. It was the noble and learned Marquess who would not have the noble Lord's law. It was Lord Parmoor who took it down and assented to it in terms that showed he had not recently read the case.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I withdraw that. It was an error. I consulted with my colleagues on this Bench and we understood him to be referring to my noble and learned friend behind. I knew he meant the noble and learned Marquess. The best place to clear up this matter, if it can be cleared up, and as a matter of fact it cannot, will be when we come to Committee on Clause 1. The speech of the noble and learned Viscount was not a Second Reading speech but a Committee speech. We shall have ample opportunity in Committee. There will be Amendments of various kinds and the whole matter can be discussed again and again. The noble and learned Viscount did not seem to be really clear about the point of my noble and learned Leader. His point was that it is perfectly lawful for workmen to lay down their tools and for all the workmen in the country to lay down their tools at one time, but you must not muddle that up with the consequences that might ensue from that state of things. If, as a result of that state of things, there comes here and there violence and crime, that, of course, would not be legal, but we must keep the two matters separate. I do not profess to be a lawyer, but the noble and learned Viscount did not traverse the authorities which my noble and learned Leader had brought up. His speech was evidence, if any were required, how in your Lordships' House he does not help us to elucidate anything of a political character and often does not carry us very much further in our debates.
As to the other speeches made in this debate, the most extraordinary was the speech of the noble and learned Viscount 149 who sits upon the Woolsack. I have now had a fairly long Parliamentary experience of about fifteen years and I have never heard a speech from a Cabinet Minister which had so little relation to actualities, which had so little relation to things as they are, and which had still less relation to things as they will be. When the noble and learned Viscount sat down I understood how it had come, about that a fortnight ago, in his plan for the so-called reform of your Lordships' House, he had so completely misjudged the opinion even of his own Party. I will only quote one sentence from his speech. He told us that this Bill cannot be harmful to anybody. The noble and learned Viscount has left the Woolsack and therefore he cannot reply to the question I would have asked him had he been there. I would have asked if he really meant that. Those words mean that the opinion of able, very experienced and not extreme trade union leaders like Mr. Thomas, Mr. Clynes and Mr. Gosling, who spend all their life in trade union matters, is all wrong when they say that the Bill will be highly injurious to the interests of the trade unions and the workers.
It means that they do not know anything about it and neither does the noble and learned Marquess, who condemned the Bill root and branch, who spoke of the harm which it would do, and who dwelt eloquently on the penalties it imposed and the offences it created. I have never heard from a man, who has occupied the highest legal and judicial positions, stronger language than was used by the noble and learned Marquess, yet every syllable was justified. He would not have used such language if it had not been justified. Yet, according to the Lord Chancellor, all this counts for nothing and the Bill will not do any harm to any one. He made it clear, as the, Attorney-General did in another place, that even yet he has not fully realised the implications of this measure. We shall have no difficulty in demonstrating that in Committee and for the moment I leave it at that.
I now pass on to say a few words about the question of the mandate for this Bill, which was so well treated yesterday by Lord Gorell in what was a small House. It has been a notable feature of this debate 150 that for the most part the attendance of Conservative, Peers has been extremely meagre and that, when my noble friend was dealing with this very important matter, a mere handful of Peers were present. In circumstances like the present it is particularly important to consider this point. This House, if it is to discharge the ordinary functions usually associated with a Second Chamber, has the duty imposed upon it of ensuring that no important legislation shall be passed unless it has been approved by the will of the people. That is the doctrine upon which the House of Lords has from time to time founded its own defence for its actions and its position. Let me examine the position in the light of that doctrine. It is perfectly certain that there was no mandate for this Bill at the last General Election, because it was never mentioned on a single platform, and therefore there was no mandate there. It has been proved, beyond the possibility of doubt or dispute, that at the by-elections since the Bill was introduced the people were overwhelmingly against it. Since this Bill was introduced the results of the by-elections have not merely been bad from the Government point of view but unprecedentedly bad. I say, speaking as a lifelong student of electoral statistics which have been a hobby of mine, that there has been no parallel in modern times to the result of these by-elections.
The noble Viscount, Lord Peel, in an incautious moment yesterday and with that inaccuracy that characterises so many of his speeches in regard to figures, said that since the General Election the Government, had lost one seat. They have lost six seats. I do not base my case on that, though it is a high proportion, since, as regards the vacancies, fewer than usual have been Government seats. The real test is the plebiscite, the poll of the people, and, looked at in that way, there has been nothing approaching it in modern times. In three of the elections since the Bill was introduced the Government polled about 12,000 votes out of 75,000 votes. When the right rev. Prelate says he cannot find evidence that the people do not like the Bill, I say to him that there is evidence. There has never been anything like it in the history of by-elections. Yet it is in the face of this most unmistakable expression of opinion that this Bill is being forced 151 through Parliament without a mandate, and with a majority obtained by means about which the less said the better. In these circumstances I say, without using the language of exaggeration, that it will be nothing less than an outrage to pass this Bill and put it on the Statute Book.
My noble friend Lord Gorell most properly called attention to what the noble Marquess who leads the House said at Sheffield. I will not quote all his words, but I will quote only those which are most relevant. I do not quote all of them because I do not wish to take up time. The noble Marquess went to Sheffield as recently as Saturday week. He actually went to Sheffield two or three days after the so-called reform proposals had been introduced into your Lordships' House and, as the noble Lord, Lord Gorell, pointed out, with a psychology which it is difficult to understand, said that "until we are sure it is the will of the people we will suspend some particular act of legislation." Is the noble Marquess sure that this Bill is in accordance with the will of the people? How can he be sure of that in face of the fact that there was no mandate and in face of the by-election results? How can the noble Marquess possibly reconcile what he said at Sheffield with what he is doing now in passing this Bill through your Lordships' House? He cannot reconcile it, and nobody can reconcile it, because it is irreconcilable.
I ask the noble Marquess, when he comes to reply, to attempt to reconcile his statement at Sheffield with passing this Bill through your Lordships' House to-night. If he does not do it, or attempt to do it, then we shall know it is because the inconsistency is too flagrant to admit of any defence. Nevertheless, those words of the noble Marquess will not be forgotten. They will do duty on tens of thousands of platforms in the coming years and I think it will be found that his visit to Sheffield will be an expensive one for the Conservative Party. Nothing is more certain, if a General Election took place to-morrow, than that there would be found to be a large majority of the people of this country against this Bill. But even if some of your Lordships are not prepared to admit that, it must be conceded that it is at any rate extremely doubtful whether a majority would be obtained for the Bill. Surely, if there is doubt in an important 152 matter like this, vitally affecting the interests of millions of workers, it is the duty of your Lordships' House—it is so according to the noble Marquess himself—not to pass the Second Reading of this Bill.
Let me remind your Lordships, because it is very pertinent to the point at issue, what happened in regard to the Finance Bill of 1909. Instead of passing that Bill your Lordships passed an Amendment in these words:—That this House is not justified in giving its consent to this Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the country.But, in 1909, there was no adverse expression of opinion at by-elections about that Bill, rather the contrary; certainly there was nothing comparable to what has happened in regard to this measure. But your Lordships did not like the Budget of 1909 and that is why the Amendment was passed submitting it to the people. Your Lordships do like this Bill and that is why you will decline to submit it to the, people. Nevertheless, if it was felt necessary to submit the Finance Bill of 1909 to the people—a proceeding contrary to all modern precedents, because it was a Finance Bill—surely it is more necessary to refuse to pass this Bill till it has been submitted to the country. Otherwise, what becomes of all the talk indulged in only a fortnight ago in the debates on the so-called reform of your Lordships' House, about the necessity of ensuring that the House of Lords shall not pass a measure unless it has been properly approved by the people?
I sometimes wonder in the debates which take place here if words have any real meaning at all. I am unable to understand how the same people who used those arguments can pass this Bill through your Lordships' House to-night. Inconsistency, to use no stronger word, could scarcely go any further, and the position is made all the worse because of the meagre atendance of Conservative Peers for the major portion of this debate. Of those noble Lords who will vote for the passing of this Bill probably not more than about 20 per cent. have heard the speeches, not more than 10 per cent. will have read the speeches, and not more than 5 per cent. could pass an examination in the clauses of this Bill. My plea is very much strengthened by reason of the fact that there is no urgency 153 for the passing of this Bill. That has not been suggested by anybody. It has never been suggested by anybody that the set of circumstances with which this Bill is supposed to deal is likely to happen for a long time to come. Also—and this surely should give your Lordships pause—this is the first time for over a hundred years that legislation has been proposed abridging the rights and powers of trade unions. The real predecessor of this Bill is to be found about a hundred years ago.
During the past century Act after Act has been passed increasing the powers of trade unions. Public opinion has demanded that and the common good has necessitated it, and now you are asked at one stroke to put back the progressive legislation of one hundred years. I say that is a very grave step which you are asked to take, and in all these circumstances there is an overwhelming case for doing what the noble Marquess himself said ought to be done—namely, making sure first that the people do approve or this Bill. If they do, then it can be passed into law. If they do not—and it is virtually certain they do not—then obviously it would be a mistake to pass it now. If the Bill is passed now it will only be further evidence, if any is needed—and I do not think it is—that your Lordships' House does not act impartially as between Bill and Bill, that our Lordships' House is not really concerned, as the noble Marquess suggested at Sheffield, with interpreting the will of the people, but is much more concerned, as indeed everybody knows to be the case, with interpreting the will of the Conservative Party.
As regards the Bill itself, I am not on this occasion going to discuss its clauses in any detail. There will be opportunities to do that in Committee; at least I hope there will be. I hope, as my noble friend Lord Gorell said, we shall have no repetition of what happened last year. I hope we shall be given full time, because last year the noble Marquess and the Lord Chancellor moved the Closure in defiance of all precedent, and their action in doing that has been censured by every constitutional authority of note. I hope we shall have full time on this occasion. As regards the Bill itself it is idle for the Lord Chancellor to say that it is not an attack on trade unions. That statement cannot be reconciled with 154 what has been said about the Bill by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead. It is inconsistent with what has been said about the Bill on the Government side in another place. The fact is that the Bill is as big an attack on trade unions as could be made in one Bill. What more could you do to hamper and cripple trade unions in one Bill short of abolishing them altogether?
If the Government really seeks to deal with what is called a General Strike it is not necessary to bring in a Bill like this. As a matter of fact—and this will come out in Committee—no legislation can stop a General Strike, but in so far as an attempt is made to legislate against the General Strike that could be done in a one-clause Bill, but it would have to be a very different clause to the one in this Bill. Broadly, as I understand the position of the Conservative Party, it is that the so-called General Strike of last year was an attack upon the community, was an attempt to coerce the Government of such a kind that this Bill must be passed to prevent anything of the sort happening in the future. I cannot take up time by going into that matter as closely as I should like. It would be easy to show—my noble friend Lord Thomson touched upon it in his speech last Thursday—that the so-called General Strike was not a General Strike at all, for about 80 per cent. of the workers remained at their work and only about 20 per cent. were on strike. Whatever else that is, it is not a General Strike.
However, what I really must examine is the entirely new doctrine given birth to last year that a large scale strike is an attack upon the community and an attempt to coerce the Government of such a kind that it must be made illegal. It has been pointed out already in this debate that every strike, if you choose so to argue, may be represented as a strike seeking to bring pressure to bear upon the community and, except as regards small strikes, an attempt to coerce the Government, because sooner or later the Government intervenes in every large strike. But if this kind of strike is to be made illegal you are to a large extent taking away the right to strike altogether. You are putting back the clock of industrial freedom, as I have said, for 100 years. You are taking away the great bargaining power of labour, 155 that is the right to withdraw labour. When you compel men, as this Bill does, under threat of loss, to continue at work—the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack may call it foolish, but it will not be foolish for men pinned to their work when they want to leave that work—you are creating a form of serfdom. It is no exaggeration to use those words.
Strikes have taken place in the past again and again and all these have been recognised as perfectly legal and constitutional. Governments exist to be coerced, if you choose to use language of that sort. Take what happened in the miners' strike of 1912. This has not been referred to in this debate as far as I know, and I think I do know because I have heard it all. In 1912 the miners wanted a minimum wage, and they struck in order to get it. That strike inflicted hardship on the community and put pressure upon Parliament and coerced the Government, so much so that the Government was forced to legislate for the minimum wage. I do not say that that legislation was all that the miners wanted—in some respects it was not—but the Government was forced to legislate. It is quite certain that the Minimum Wage Act of 1912 would not have been passed but for that strike, and it is equally certain that but for the Minimum Wage Act of 1912 the miners would not have got a minimum wage. All these are indisputable propositions. The Government was coerced into taking action. All that was perfectly constitutional. If the railway-men had come out on strike in support of the miners that also would have been perfectly constitutional and perfectly legal. Nobody suggested then that such a strike should be stopped in the future.
It has been left to the Conservative Party to discover unconstitutional action where none previously existed, and we are now faced with an entirely new state of things. The position seems to come to this. Apparently, when there is any pressure from some section of the community which the Conservative Party choose to describe as coercion, repressive legislation is to be passed to stop anything of the kind in the future. But for the Conservative Party to take up that position is, in view of certain happenings in the past, simply monstrous. All that happened last year was perfectly legal and 156 constitutional so far as what was called the General Strike is concerned. It was well within the limits of constitutional action. But I will give two instances where grossly unconstitutional and illegal action was taken to coerce the Government, action which did coerce the Government; yet there was no demand from the Conservative Party for anything to be done. There was no demand from the Conservative Party for any repressive legislation to stop anything of the sort happening in the future.
I need scarcely say that the first of these instances was the contemplated rebellion in Ulster in 1914. It will not be denied that rebellion was contemplated, and the shocking revelations just published in Sir Henry Wilson's diary give pregnant details of the plans and preparations that were made. We did not hear anything from the Conservative Party then about coercing the Government, about bringing pressure to bear on Parliament or about the necessity of vindicating the supreme authority of Parliament. We did not hear anything of that sort then. This sort of thing is to be reserved apparently for a strike by the workers. In 1914 many highly placed personages ought to have been prosecuted, and I do not think some of them will deny that themselves. They were not prosecuted; nobody was prosecuted. The Government was coerced and not a syllable of condemnation of the events of 1914 has ever been uttered by any leading Conservative, or, as far as I know, by any Conservative at all. Yet there could not be a clearer instance of illegal action coercing the Government, of unlawful pressure coercing the Government.
The second instance is not so well known, although it is probably known to most of those to whom I am speaking. It has to do with the happenings in Kenya Colony in the early part of 1923. About that time the Government here at home—it was a Conservative Government—was contemplating giving some representation to Indians on the Legislative Council in Kenya Colony. Some of the white settlers out there were not prepared to agree to anything of the sort. Counter steps were taken against any action of that kind by the Government here at home. I do not think it is going too far to say that those counter steps contemplated the use of force. I need 157 scarcely remind your Lordships of the well-known resolution passed at the meeting at Nakuru, Lord Delamere being present, a resolution which was intended to coerce the Government and which in certain contingencies threatened the use of physical pressure. Statements about these various matters in Kenya Colony at that time which appeared in Dr. Leys's book have received striking confirmation in a letter which was recently published in the Manchester Guardian from Lieut. Commander J. R. Warburton. In this letter Lieut.-Commander Warburton acknowledges that armed resistance to the claims of the Indians was being planned. I have the letter, but I will not read quotations from it unless I am challenged. Suffice it to say that the letter frankly acknowledges that rebellion was planned in Kenya Colony, and it states that the same hand had been dealt, played and seen in Ulster in 1914. In short, Ulster was the model.
Again I ask, what happened? Was anything done against these people? Not a bit of it. Nothing whatever was done against them. Not a syllable of public condemnation of their action has ever come from any member of the Conservative Party, still less was there any call for action or has there been any demand for repressive legislation to stop such things happening in the future. On the contrary the threat of physical pressure was successful. It completely succeeded. The Government here at home was coerced. The proposed reforms were not given to the Indians and the white settlers did not suffer in the slightest degree. Lord Delamere remained a member of the Executive Council of Kenya Colony nominated by the Crown, and I believe he is so to this day. He did not suffer. It was the Indians who suffered. I will give a further instance of the mentality of the Conservative Party in regard to such matters when the action is done or instigated by people who are highly placed. In February this year I brought before your Lordships' House a resolution dealing with affairs in Kenya Colony and in the course of my speech I referred to the events which I have just now touched upon. What happened? The most rev. Primate, who was present that day and who made a long speech in the debate, seemed rather shocked that I had referred to the matter at all, and 158 so far as the Government is concerned not a syllable of condemnation of these events, or even of comment upon them, came from the Government Bench in their reply.
Just look at the contrast. It is this sort of thing which produces in the minds of the workers a feeling that there is not fair and equal dealing as between class and class. I wonder what would have happened if last year some of the trade union leaders had been contemplating action or taking steps like those which were taken in Kenya, or had been drilling and arming men, as was done in Ulster in 1914, or had been engaged in sedition in the Army in the criminal way now revealed in the Wilson memoirs. Does anybody suppose that nothing would have been done about it? I said that I wonder what would have happened, but I do not wonder: I know that many men would to-day be undergoing penal servitude. And it is this kind of thing which leads to the impression, shocking though it is to mention it in your Lordships' House, but it is nevertheless true, that there is in this country, in certain respects, one law for the rich and another for the poor. This Bill will greatly foster that feeling, and that is the unwise thing, or rather one of the unwise things, that your Lordships are doing in passing it. It bristles with unfairness and class: discrimination.
Before I sit down there is one matter about which I mist say a few words. I refer to the political levy clause. The noble and learned Viscount behind me described that clause as mean. It is mean. There is nothing more mean in the whole Bill than this clause. It is the worst example on record of a Government abusing its powers in the endeavour to injure its opponents. The position of the unions has been made quite clear by my noble friend Lord De La Warr, and I need not go into it again. It is already, under the Act of 1913, hedged about in a manner that does not apply to any other organisation or body of men using money for political purposes. If the position is as the noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack stated it when he spoke last Thursday, why did not the Government legislate in 1925? They were pressed to do so by a large section of their own followers, and they did not do so. The Prime Minister—this was before he had been captured by the "Die- 159 hards"—refused to legislate and said in effect that the Conservative Party had not been elected to do the very thing that they are now doing. In other words, they had no mandate for what they are now doing, and that is exactly what I have been saying. We shall show in Committee how very-unfair this clause is and how stringent is the Act of 1913. That Act provides for regulations to be made in regard to the political levy which must be approved by the Registrar General. There is full publicity and close supervision, as has been made clear by my noble friend behind me Lord De La Warr.
What a totally different state of things exists in regard to the political funds of the Conservative Party! Is everything open about them? Do they publish a balance sheet? Are they supervised by the Registrar-General? It is well known, as my noble friend said, that a large proportion of the funds of the Conservative Party has come from the traffic in titles. That there is this traffic is not denied. I have a long sheet of quotations from speeches made about it in your Lordships' House by many noble Lords. I think there is something extremely mean in the spectacle of the Conservative Party, the so-called "Gentlemanly Party," whose vast wealth is largely obtained by these underhand and discreditable means, seeking to injure their opponents, who are already a very poor Party, and to cripple them by this clause of the Bill. There is something excessively shabby in this action of the Conservative Party, when you think of their vast wealth, of the advantages which they have got from vested interests built up over a thousand years, of their almost complete monopoly of the Press and of the way in which they get so much of their own money. If their funds are got by clean means, why will they not publish a balance sheet? This question was put by my noble friend Lord De La Warr, and perhaps the noble Marquess will reply to it. They will not do it because a proportion of their money is got by means which will not stand the light of day.
As the noble and learned Marquess said yesterday, this Bill is a mistake. I will not go into its other clauses now. There will be an opportunity of doing so in Committee. We shall then be able to show that, whereas every clause will do a 160 great deal of harm in many ways, scarcely a single clause will, as a matter of fact, achieve its alleged object. The Bill is a mistake. It is the negation, it is the bankruptcy of statesmanship. To talk about peace and good will in face of a Bill like this is merely to be provocative. It is a mockery. When members of the Government suggest in the course of this debate that the Bill is in the interests of the unions, it is really difficult to believe that they suppose that to be the case, because they must know that the Bill is bound to injure the unions most seriously. That is really why it has been brought in. As my noble friend Lord Russell said yesterday, this Bill was born in fear. The Conservative Party lives in fear of the Labour Party and is determined to cripple its opponents industrially and politically while there is still time. That is the present situation, and your Lordships know in your hearts that what I say is correct.
My last word is this. It is in order to refer in this connection to the so-called reform proposals regarding the House of Lords. It was done on the Third Reading of this Bill in another place, and the two things go together. When my noble friend Lord Gorell yesterday referred to the matter the noble Marquess opposite did not like it and rather suggested that it was remote from the subject. We can quite understand, in view of the happenings of the last few days, that the noble Marquess is very sensitive on the point, but it is in order to refer to it. It was pointed out on the Third Reading in another place that this Bill does not stand alone, that there is a double attack on Labour, though I am happy to think that the second part of it, the so-called reform proposals of the Lords, has badly miscarried. There are some things that are too unscrupulous even for the Conservative Party to do.
§ LORD ARNOLD
When I suggest that the proposals are unscrupulous, I merely repeat the language of one of the most distinguished Conservative journalists of the day. Indeed The Times this morning, in its leading article, goes further and uses language that I myself would scarcely have used. It virtually suggests that, in part, the proposals are insane.
§ LORD ARNOLD
The double plan has been revealed. Labour was to be crippled industrially by this Bill and politically by the so-called reform proposals. Your Lordships are going to pass this Bill.
§ LORD ARNOLD
Yes, you remember nothing and forget nothing. We now know that the so-called reform, proposals have been scotched. It is only necessary to read the leading article in The Times this morning to see that most of them, despite whatever make-believe may be indulged in, are already as dead as Queen Anne, which is a very severe rebuke to the noble and learned Earl who keeps on saying "Hear, hear," and to the noble Marquess who leads the House and to the noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack. If they are pleased with their performances during the last fortnight, they have a strange standard from which to judge events. Although these proposals have been scotched and, unlike this Bill, cannot be passed through the House, we know what they are. We have had this double challenge, and it may well be that the ultimate end of this conflict will also bring the end of the House of Lords. It is that prospect which means that the present situation in regard to this Bill is by no means without its consolations.
§ LORD JOICEY
My Lords, we have certainly had very interesting and eloquent speeches from great lawyers—
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I am very sorry to stand between my noble friend and the House. There is no member of the House who enjoys so much respect as the noble Lord, but I think that at this late hour your Lordships expect me to say a word or two on behalf of the Government before we go to a Division. We have listened to a very remarkable speech from the noble Lord who has just sat down. He will be surprised if I tell him that we do not consider that he and his friends on that Bench are the only people who represent the working classes in this country. We 162 enjoy a very large majority in the House of Commons. We could not have had that without enormous support from the working classes, and we know, as a matter of fact, that we do represent, and we believe represent faithfully, the wishes and interests of the working classes of this country. But the noble Lord is always quite certain he is right. I wonder whether he will take it from me that pontifical assertion and self-assertion are no proper substitutes for argument, and that the noble Lord does not know everything about Elections and about constitutional authorities, and about the way in which the Conservative Party gets its funds for electoral purposes. He is, however, quite certain of all these things. I venture to leave him with that conviction for himself. We do not admit his assertions, but we contest them severally and together.
Now, I will try to address myself to one or two of the observations which the noble Lord made in the course of his speech, and also to the observations made in a very different speech, by a noble Lord who sits beside him, in the debate yesterday. Lord Gorell referred to certain observations of my own, and he did it in a very proper spirit. The two noble Lords both reflected upon two observations which I had made in a recent debate, and in the country, upon the necessity of safeguarding the considered judgment, of the people. That is a very different thing from saying that we subscribe to the doctrine of mandate, and certainly to the doctrine of mandate in every circumstance. The two things are quite distinct and we make no such admission. I would like to call your Lordships' attention to a document which was issued just before the General Election. It appears to me that noble Lords, who are always telling us what the Government said before the General Election, have never read the essential documents which we published.
Let me refer again to the book called "Looking Ahead," which contains the official programme of the Conservative Party as it went to the Election. I know that the noble and learned Marquess said that books were not the same thing as speeches, though I cannot conceive why he made that distinction, but I should like to call your Lordships' attention to the form in which this book was 163 issued to the country. It had a foreword by the Prime Minister, and he said:—We have also endeavoured to reduce the Unionist position into the more concise shape of a paragraphed statement of our views. We trust that this document, together with the less formal exposition contained in my speeches, will meet the wishes of our supporters and will afford them that guidance for which they have been asking.Those are the actual words of the Prime Minister. He was not, of course, as I shall show in a moment, acting in the face of a General Strike, but he dealt with the question of industrial peace, and in doing so he said:—Whilst recognising the value of collective bargaining and the essential usefulness of employers' associations and trade unions in this connection, care must be taken that the interests of the public are not prejudiced by the abuse of the powers possessed by the organisations on either side.I want noble Lords to realise the meaning of that.
Of course it is couched in very courteous language — very different language to that used by the noble Lord opposite—but it is quite clear that the Prime Minister, having consulted all his colleagues, issued this document to the country, stating that so far as the Conservative Party could compass it there was to be no abuse of powers by the trade unions. To quote his actual words again:—.… care must be taken that the interests of the public are not prejudiced by the abuse of the powers possessed by the organisations on either side.That was a definite intimation to the country as to what was in store for those who abused their powers, whether they belonged to one side or the other. As I said just now, that was not issued in the face of a General Strike. The General Strike came afterwards, and was a new fact. Does the noble Lord and his friends say that the Government and the country were not bound to act upon an emergency? Do they drive the doctrine of mandate so far as to say that even in the case of emergency nothing can be done without the direct mandate of the people? Of course to say so would be absurd. If I required any illustration of that statement consider what happened in the Great War. Of course, the emergency which brought on the Great War could not be submitted to the people.
There can be no question of a mandate. That is absolutely clear. But, 164 although there was no electoral mandate, I venture to say that in respect of the General Strike the popular feeling was quite apparent and overwhelming. Is that denied? Is it denied by any responsible man in your Lordships' House that popular feeling was dead against the General Strike? I do not believe even the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down—I am told he is not learned; I beg his pardon, his omniscience deceived me for a moment. Of course popular feeling was overwhelming, and therefore we addressed ourselves, from the very moment that the General Strike was finished and we had time to look round, to the consideration of what ought to be done in consequence of it. At the close of this debate I want to bring your Lordships back to the consideration of how very grave the General Strike was, and what a very serious emergency was involved in it. I listened, of course, with the greatest attention to the speech of the noble and learned Marquess last night. He was not in England, and it is very likely that he missed the full significance of the Strike.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Well, I was trying to make excuses for the noble Marquess. But I will refer him to his own leaders, and I do so because I do not want to quote an obscurantist Conservative, one of those reactionary people whom the noble Lords opposite despise so much. This is what the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, said, speaking at the moment of the General Strike:—What distinguishes a General Strike from all others is this, that it is a blow, not struck by one combatant at the other, but directed, whether in intention or not, in effect by its inevitable results, at the very vitals of the whole community.No language of that kind from the noble and learned Marquess yesterday!
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I particularly did not dwell upon the details of the Strike. The expression I used was that I condemned it root and branch without hesitation—those were my words. I never said one word to justify it. I am as strongly against it as the noble Marquess himself.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not doubt that the noble Marquess was 165 against it, but his whole speech was to deprecate action in respect of the General Strike. I wanted to show him by recalling what was said at the time, how very much more grave the General Strike was than he appeared to imagine, or than was imagined on the Benches opposite. Let me quote another Liberal leader. This is what the noble Viscount who is present in his place, Lord Grey, wrote at the time of the General Strike:—The General Strike has raised an issue in which the question of miners' wages is submerged. The issue now is not what the wages of miners should be, but whether Democratic Parliamentary Government is to be overthrown. It is by this Democratic Government that liberty has been won, and by this alone can it be maintained.So that those two noble Lords, Lord Grey and Lord Oxford, were of opinion that the General Strike struck at the very vital interests of the country, and that if it had succeeded it would have been fatal to the democratic Constitution of the land. Could you find language to describe more seriously the situation as it was then found to be?—the language not of Conservatives, but of these gentlemen who hang between the Conservative Party and the Labour Party—the Liberals, men of independent judgment.
Were we to do nothing in the face of this blow and the capacity for repeating this blow against the vital interests of the country and against the democratic Constitution which we enjoy? Were we to sit absolutely with folded hands? Were the Government of this country to take no notice of it? A reproach is made to us that it was not done immediately, that there was a delay. The delay took place in order that we should not act impatiently, that we should have full time to consider it, and do it circumspectly and without passion—for no other reason in the world. And I am perfectly confident that if the noble and learned Marquess had been in office, as we were in office, or if the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, had been in office, they would have been the first to see that things could not be left as they were at the close of the General Strike. No, it is one thing to strike against an employer or against a number of employers, it is quite another thing to put the State under duress, to force by violence what you cannot achieve by argument.
166 One noble Lord, speaking from the Bench opposite, said that the General Strike was quite constitutional. I am quite sure that even he could not reconcile such a sentence with the extracts which I have read from the opinions of noble Lords representing the Liberal Party. It is the negation of the Constitution. The methods which the Constitution provides in order to make a change in the law is, of course, the ballot box at a General Election. It is not the General Strike. We have therefore provided in the Bill that a renewal of this effort to coerce the State should be recognised under certain conditions as illegal. But we were so anxious that there should be no violation of the true rights of labour that we have expressly provided that an individual may withhold his labour whenever he pleases. We have also provided that a combination of labour engaged in a controversy with employers may withhold their labour if they please. But when you go a step further and the controversy is not between labour and the employers, but between a certain minority in the country amid the State itself, then we say it must be held to be illegal, and that is provided in the first clause of the Bill. I do not see what other course could possibly have been adopted by the Government.
Now I turn for a moment to the other clauses of the Bill. There is intimidation. No noble Lord on the opposite Bench defended intimidation, but their argument always was that you cannot provide further protection for the community against intimidation. That is an assertion of impotence to which certainly we on this Bench will not subscribe. Why should it be said that we cannot provide against intimidation? And that there is intimidation no one who has listened to this debate can doubt. No one who has heard the speech of such authorities as my noble and learned friend Lord Halsbury and my noble friend Lord Askwith, can doubt that the evil of intimidation is a real existent evil. No one who heard the extremely brilliant speech of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham can doubt, from the account which he gave of his own knowledge and experience, that intimidation is a very grave evil. Does the 167 noble Lord who has just sat down think that we required a mandate in order to deal with intimidation?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am quite certain that the noble Lord will deal with it in Committee. But he seemed to think that no legislation was possible except on a direct mandate from the people, and I wanted to know whether he included intimidation as a subject which required that preliminary process. It is the business of all Governments to protect the community against crime, and if the present provisions of the law are not sufficient to protect the community against crime it is our business to amend them. And that is what Clause 3 of the Bill does. Then the noble Lord said that the clause against the political levy was very mean. Why should it be mean to protect people from being compelled to subscribe to a political Party with which they do not agree?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Lord is quite certain. That is one thing you can count on, that on every subject the noble Lord is quite certain. We shall also be able, I suppose, to deal with that in Committee. I do not believe that we can stop intimidation altogether, but we can improve the law which protects the community against intimidation. But when you combine the intimidation which undoubtedly exists, and which I am afraid will continue to exist to a certain extent even after this Bill passes, when you combine that with the condition of the law as to the political levy, that does constitute a most serious grievance to the working class community. What chance has a man under the law as it stands in asserting his right to refuse to subscribe to a political Party in which he does not believe when it is combined with the kind of intimidation which was described by the noble Lords, Lord Halsbury and Lord Askwith? It is clear that he is at their mercy. We believe we are perfectly right in protecting the working man. Indeed, I have been told that the feeling is so strong in some 168 parts of England amongst the working class in favour of this protection that a very grave disappointment would have followed if this Bill had not contained the provisions which are to be found in Clause 4 of the Bill. I think the noble Lord who is so certain said we had no mandate for this—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
On the contrary, he authorised this paragraph to be written just before the Election and to be published all over the country:—It is the right of every citizen to support the policy and the Party in which he believes; to use an industrial organisation in order to make him contribute out of his earnings to the funds of one political Party, regardless of his private views, is an infringement of that right, and strikes directly at the political liberty which is one of the most treasured possessions of the British people.That was written on the eve of the Election. Upon that point the answer is absolutely complete.
I would like to say in conclusion that I fully recognise that this kind of legislation is difficult. What I thought we might expect was to receive the assistance of noble Lords, especially noble and learned Lords, sitting in all parts of your Lordships' House in order to make this legislation as good and as watertight as it can be. That was the course followed in another place. A very distinguished political colleague of noble Lords sitting on that Bench, Sir John Simon, gave the full benefit to the House of Commons and to the Government of his unrivalled political learning and legal sense in helping to mould this Bill. He had great weight with the Government and a great many of his ideas were followed. So much so that when the Bill reached its third Reading he pronounced himself as satisfied with it. I commend that observation to the noble and learned Marquess. His colleague, his very intimate colleague at one time, and, if he would allow me to say so, as great a lawyer as himself, has, after the efforts which the House of Commons have ex- 169 pended in moulding this Bill, said that he is satisfied with it. I do not apologise in the least for the changes which took place in the, Bill in another place. A noble Lord opposite rather reproached us with the changes that have taken place. Of course, that is the whole advantage of Parliamentary discussion. That is why we have it—in order that Bills may be perfectly moulded and put into the most perfect shape we can find. We are satisfied that that was the right course and we submit with confidence this Bill to your Lordships for your assent.
I quite agree that the Bill ought not to stand alone. I have said so personally over and over again and so have my right hon. and hon. friends. The kind of legislation which it represents, though absolutely necessary, is not the cure for industrial unrest. That was never suggested. The noble and learned Marquess made a very eloquent plea for industrial peace. Nothing is more dear to our hearts than to secure it, if we can. I entirely share that view, but it is a deep disappointment to us that we have not been able to obtain the assistance of the Party to which noble Lords opposite belong in taking the first steps to secure this industrial peace. Is it the language of statesmen to say that.
§ because this particular Bill is passed into law, therefore members of the Labour Party will take no share in a Committee to look into industrial conciliation? Is it really their last word that, because this Bill is passed, representing, as we believe, the interests and wishes of the country, they will therefore sulk and not take any part in an effort to secure industrial peace? That surely is not the language of statesmen. No, though it may be necessary to pass legislation, such as is now upon the Table and to which we ask your Lordships' assent, we do look forward to conciliation as the proper end of all industrial policy and we earnestly hope that, when the temporary irritation of this legislation has passed away and noble Lords opposite are able to look at the matter quietly and patiently, they will be of a better mind and join with us in doing our utmost for our country and especially for the working classes in producing better conditions industrially, conditions more calculated for peace and prosperity than those which prevail at the present time.
§ On Question, Whether the word "now" shall stand part of the Motion?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 152; Not-Contents, 26.171
|Cave, V. (Lord Chancellor.)||Eldon, E.||Hambleden, V.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Inchcape, V.|
|Balfour, E. (L. President.)||Grey, E.||Peel, V.|
|Howe, E.||Sidmouth, V.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Lichfield, E.||Sumner, V.|
|Lindsay, E.||Templetown, V.|
|Lindsey, E.||Ullswater, V.|
|Argyll, D.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]|
|Bedford, D.||Macclesfield, E.||Durham, L. Bp.|
|Marlborough, D.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Northumberland, D.||Mar and Kellie, E.||Annaly, L.|
|Portland, D.||Mayo, E.||Askwith, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Midleton, E.||Atkinson, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Morton, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Biddulph, L.|
|Bath, M.||Onslow, E.||Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)|
|Camden, M.||Plymouth, E. [Teller.]||Carew, L.|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.||Powis, E.||Carson, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Sandwich, E.||Charnwood, L.|
|Normanby, M.||Scarbrough, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Zetland, M.||Selborne, E.|
|Stanhope, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Stradbroke, E.||Clinton, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Cornwallis, L.|
|Birkenhead, E.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Bertie of Thame, V.||Cranworth, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Burnham, V.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Devonport, V.||Danesfort, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Dunedin, V.||Darling, L.|
|Derby, E.||Elibank, V.||de Mauley, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Falmouth, V.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Digby, L.|
|Dynevor, L.||Kylsant, L.||Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)|
|Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Lambourne, L.||Phillimore, L.|
|Ernle, L.||Lamington, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Lawrence of Kingsgate, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Forester, L.||Leconfield, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Leigh, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Lovat, L.||Ruthven of Gowrie, L.|
|Grimthorpe, L.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)||Sackville, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Merrivale, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Hanworth, L.||Merthyr, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Methuen, L.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Mildmay of Flete, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Harris, L.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Hastings, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Hayter, L.||Monson, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Heneage, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.||Sydenham of Combe, L.|
|Hindlip, L.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)||Templemore, L.|
|Howard of Glossop, L.||Mowbray, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.||Newton, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Hylton, L.||O'Hagan, L.||Wittenham, L.|
|Islington, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)||Wolverton, L.|
|Joicey, L.||Ormathwaite, L.||Wyfold.|
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.)||Stamford, E.||Morris, L.|
|Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Allendale, V. [Teller.]||Northington, L. (L. Henley.)|
|Reading, M.||Grey of Fallodon, V.|
|Haldane, V.||Olivier, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Parmoor, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Arnold, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Braye, L.||Shandon, L.|
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Clwyd, L.||Shaw, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Gorell, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Russell, E.||Hemphill, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative accordingly, and Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.