§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
My Lords, on the, Motion to go into Committee I wish to make an observation or two and to conclude with a question to the noble Marquess opposite [the Marquess of Salisbury]. This Bill creates a very large number of new crimes, and one of our contentions is that those crimes are very ill defined in the Bill and persons likely to commit them have very little chance of knowing what they are from the language of the Bill. There are various Amendments on the Paper, some of them designed to remove that particular fault. We frequently hear from noble Lords opposite of the very useful function which this House performs in acting as a revising Chamber to the Commons and putting legislation into its best form before it receives the Royal Assent. I shall be interested in the course of our proceedings to see whether that revision is applied to a Government measure—a Conservative Government measure—and the question I want to put to the noble Marquess is this: It is rumoured and has been said semi-officially, that the Government do not intend to accept any Amendment to this Bill, however reasonable and however much it may be proposed to improve, it. If so, we shall be entirely abrogating the function of revision and of putting Bills into better shape. I should like to ask whether Amendments will be considered, or whether they will be ruled out of order by considerations of time or of the Government's convenience.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I think the noble Earl will feel that the proper time to see what is going to happen to 338 Amendments is when they are argued in Committee. Of course, your Lordships are entirely free to put what Amendments you think fit into the Bill, but I hope that the House will not put in Amendments merely designed to wreck or to break the Bill. That would be a great pity. The noble Earl and his friends are fully competent to argue the Amendments on the Paper and to convince your Lordships if they are good.
§ LORD ARNOLD
My Lords, the noble Marquess in his reply has really done nothing to remove the uneasiness felt on this Bench in regard to this important matter. He has not intimated that the Government would be prepared to accept any Amendment. He has merely said that we can discuss them and that the House can put them in if it likes. We all know what that means in your Lordships' House. We have had, as my noble friend Earl Russell said, a semi-official indication in The Times this morning that, practically speaking, no Amendments are to be accepted.
A NOBLE LORD: In The Times?
§ LORD ARNOLD
My experience is that announcements appearing in that way in that part of The Times nearly always prove to be correct. I cannot recall an instance where it was wrong.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I have the greatest respect for The Times, but I am not responsible for anything in it.
§ LORD ARNOLD
We have heard these disclaimers frequently before, but in these cases The Times frequently proves right. Therefore there is great uneasiness in this matter. We are not without some precedent, so to speak, in this matter. I remember very well on the occasion of the Committee stage on the Lead Paint (Protection against Poisoning) Bill last November, that your Lordships were specifically informed by the noble Lord who was in charge of the Bill as early as November 18 that the Government were not going to accept any Amendments because, if they did accept Amendments, the congestion of business in another place, and so forth—the suggestion was that it would be awkward as regards the Christmas holidays. I am afraid that will prove to be the governing principle in regard to this measure. I am afraid that what the Government have mostly at heart is that we have got to be away by 339 July 30. Therefore, with that goal before them, they will be very reluctant to accept Amendments which may lead to considerable discussion in another place. It is an extraordinary state of things, because the constant complaint in this House is that there is not enough to do here. Then, towards the end of the Session, when something important comes along, we are told that we cannot accept Amendments because if we do we shall not be able to get away by such and such a date. I will say for the Government—it is very rarely I can say anything in favour of the Government and on the almost unique occasions on which it can be done I am quite prepared to do it—that it is true that this Bill has come to your Lordships a little earlier in relation to the suggested ending of the Session than is sometimes the case. It is now July 12 and it is proposed, I understand, to adjourn on July 30. There are, therefore, still eighteen days, which is rather more than is often the case with regard to a measure of importance. And there is no reason why the Government should adjourn on July 30. We did not formerly adjourn so early.
§ LORD ARNOLD
We are prepared to sit well into August. The noble Marquess is quite wrong. This is really a Bill which requires careful revision. The statement made about this Bill in another place by an influential supporter of the Government was that when this Bill was introduced into another place it was the worst drafted piece of legislation ever presented to the House of Commons.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
I did not wish to make a discourteous interruption. What was in my mind was that a schedule of time was provided for the convenience of the noble Lord's colleagues in the House of Commons and, though they complained bitterly of its inadequacy, such was their bankruptcy in debate that they found themselves quite unable to consume the time allowed.
§ LORD ARNOLD
The noble Earl is absolutely incorrect in that statement. So far from their being unable to consume the time very many important Amendments were never reached at all. Some of them we have put on the Paper in the hope that they may be discussed here. They are Amendments of great substance. I think it is generally recognised that when the guillotine is applied to an important Bill there is an additional duty on this House carefully to discuss that measure. Three prominent Unionist legal members of the House of Commons, all K.C.s, stated from time to time that they did not understand what Clause 1 meant. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, who made such a powerful speech last week, used, in relation to the drafting of this Bill, stronger language than I have ever heard from a man who has held such high position. Therefore there is every reason for careful consideration. We have put down Amendments. There are over 600 Conservative Peers. I think three have put down Amendments—a total of four Amendments. Here you have an important Bill practically reversing the legislation of a century and that is the contribution made by these 600 Conservative Peers. I think that is an eloquent commentary upon the way in which Conservative measures are considered in this House. I hold that there is an overwhelming case for the most careful consideration and for revision. I hope very much that the Government will accept some of the Amendments and that this House will perform at any rate some of the functions usually associated with a Second Chamber.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, I had no idea that this matter was going to be raised, but I do think, in view of what has been said, that we should have some assurance from the Government that they do mean to consider the various Amendments put before the House, and that there is not going to be a negative opposed to every Amendment from every quarter of the House. One of the most important Amendments comes from the noble Earl opposite, Lord Halsbury, a supporter of the Government. Two Amendments have been put down by my noble friend and myself, and they are 341 certainly Amendments which, if not Amendments of substance, deserve consideration. It will not be sufficient for us to be met with the chilly courtesy of a refusal upon every occasion to consider the matter on its merits. I leave aside entirely—for I do not agree with what was said by the noble Lord who has just sat down—the question of the adjournment of the House on July 30. The matter is very much more important than that.
Noble Lords are frightened by the possibility of Single-Chamber Government. Your Lordships, in a matter of this importance, must be allowed to pass Amendments, or we are singularly near to a condition of Single-Chamber Government. For my own part, I do not claim for your Lordships equal authority or an equal right to discuss the Bill at such length as was done in another place. We are not altogether fitted for it, and many of these Amendments are rather of a legal character and are very difficult for us to argue before your Lordships' House. But, however that may be, I say that this House does deserve consideration, and it is not fair to ask your Lordships to attend for two or three days or longer if no notice is going to be taken of Amendments beyond the chilly negative of which I have already spoken. I do not know what step the noble Lord below proposes to take but if, in default of any assurance from His Majesty's Government that Amendments may be possibly accepted, he goes into the Lobby against the Motion "That this House do now resolve itself into Committee," I shall certainly support him.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT CAVE)
My Lords, is it really necessary to pursue this discussion? I should not dream of coming to this House in charge of a Bill with any idea of declining to accept any Amendments at all. That view would be wholly impossible, besides showing a want of courtesy and a want of consideration to this House. I have always been ready to consider every Amendment on its merits. I do not know if the noble Lord will need that assurance.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:342
§ [THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Illegal strikes and lock-outs.
§ 1. (1) It is hereby declared—
- (a) that any strike is illegal if it—
- (i) has any object other or in addition to the furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry in which the strikers are engaged; and
- (ii) is a strike designed or calculated to coerce the Government either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community; and
- (b) that any lock-out is illegal if it—
- (i) has any object other than or in addition to the furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry in which the employers locking-out are engaged; and
- (ii) is a lock-out designed or calculated to coerce the Government either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community;
§ For the purposes of the foregoing provisions—
- (a) a trade dispute shall not be deemed to be within a trade or industry unless it is a dispute between employers and workmen, or between workmen and workmen, in that trade or industry, which is connected with the employment or non-employment or the terms of the employment, or with the conditions of labour, of persons in that trade or industry; and
- (b) without prejudice to the generality of the expression "trade or industry" workmen shall be deemed to be within the same trade or industry if their wages or conditions of employment are determined in accordance with the conclusions of the same joint industrial council, conciliation board, or other similar body, or in accordance with agreements made with the same employer or group of employers.
§ (2) If any person declares, instigates, incites others to take part in or otherwise acts in furtherance of a strike or lock-out, declared by this Act to be illegal, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ten pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years:
§ Provided that no person shall be deemed to have committed an offence under this section or at Common Law by reason only of his having ceased work or refused to continue to work or to accept employment.
§ (3) Where any person is charged before any Court with an offence under this section 343 no further proceedings in respect thereof shall be taken against him without the consent of the Attorney-General except such as the Court may think necessary by remand (whether in custody or on bail) or otherwise to secure the safe custody of the person charged, but this subsection shall not apply to Scotland or to any prosecution instituted by or on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
§ (4) The provisions of the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, shall not, nor shall the second proviso to subsection (1) of Section two of the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, apply to any act done in contemplation or furtherance of a strike or lock-out which is by this Act declared to be illegal, and any such act shall not be deemed for the purposes of any enactment to be done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute.
EARL BUXTON moved to leave out subsection (1), and to insert:—
() It is hereby declared that, notwithstanding anything in the Trade Union Acts, any combination, whether of employers or of persons employed, the main object of which is to coerce the Government or Parliament as distinguished from furthering a trade dispute by means of concerted or simultaneous refusal to continue employment or work is an unlawful conspiracy.
§ The noble Earl said: I dislike this Bill very much, and in my opinion it is a great mistake on the part of the Government to introduce it at this moment. I will not, however, discuss that point on my Amendment, and I can assure the Government that in moving it I accept the principle that was discussed on the Second Reading and that this Amendment is one of substance which, I think, deserves the consideration of the Government. My sole object in moving it is to protect the interests of those who have to obey this new law, which creates new criminal offences. I trust, therefore, that it will come under the category of Amendments referred to by the Lord Chancellor—namely, those which the Government will really consider on their merits—and will not receive a mere negative because they desire no Amendments to the Bill at all.
§ It is admitted, I think, by everyone that the question with which the Bill deals is a very difficult one and that this subsection of Clause 1 was a very difficult subsection to draw and must admit of various interpretations in its application. The serious part of the matter—as, indeed, of the Bill as a whole—is that this measure creates for the first time new criminal offences, and that the 344 person who breaks the law is liable, not only, to a fine, but in many cases to imprisonment. The new crimes do not concern criminals so much as law-abiding citizens, who in the ordinary way would desire to obey the law and will now be brought, often without their knowledge and certainly against their will, within the meshes of the Criminal Law and be liable to fine and imprisonment. This Bill is so drawn, as I shall show in a moment, that it will be very difficult indeed for the layman to understand what its effects will be in operation. In reading Clause 1 it will be difficult for the ordinary person to know beforehand whether or not he is likely to become a potential criminal. It seems to me that, if new crimes are created by a Bill of this sort, its language ought to be clear, precise and definite, so that everyone who is affected by it may know exactly how he stands.
§ I contend also that this clause of the Bill ought not to go one jot beyond the object which the Government announced as having in mind when they introduced the Bill. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General more than once said that the object of the Bill was to prevent any future action such as the General Strike. I need not enter upon a definition of the General Strike. Various noble Lords have endeavoured to define it, but we all know what the phrase means. It means the Strike that we had last year. It undoubtedly was directed to the coercion of the Government and to the disadvantage of the public. It is the proposed object of the Government to deal with the General Strike and to prevent its recurrence, and that is the test by which this Bill must be judged.
The noble Marquess who so ably leads this House referred on the Second Reading to the fact that a colleague of mine in the Liberal Party, Sir John Simon, had introduced certain Amendments, some of which the Government had accepted, and referred to his unrivalled political learning and legal sense. I am able only to speak as a layman, but I am now proposing for the acceptance of the House a clause which Sir John Simon proposed in the other House. Speaking as a lawyer of unrivalled ability and legal sense, he considered that it would simplify this subsection and make it much easier for the ordinary person to
understand. With the leave of the House I should like to read the Amendment that I am proposing. It is as follows:—
It is hereby declared that, notwithstanding anything in the Trade Union Acts, any combination, whether of employers or of persons employed, the main object of which is to coerce the Government or Parliament as distinguished from furthering a trade dispute by means of concerted or simultaneous refusal to continue employment or work is an unlawful conspiracy.
That is a simple proposal, and those who run can read and understand it.
§ The alternative is the present subsection, which is difficult to understand. Certain conditions have to be satisfied before the question of illegality can arise, and there are one or two phrases which are open to various interpretations. The Bill speaks of a dispute "within the trade or industry in which the strikers are engaged." It has always been up to now a very moot point what is the particular trade or industry in which employees are engaged. It has given rise to much doubt in many eases that are on the border line, and certainly, when you come to deal with the sympathetic strike, it is excluded from this definition. Then the clause sneaks of "inflicting hardship upon the community." Again, it is very difficult to define exactly what is hardship to the community, when this hardship ceases to be legal and becomes illegal, and to what extent the strike depends upon it. A further difficulty is that the subsection uses the phrase "designed or calculated." "Designed" is clear, but when you come to the word "calculated" it is impossible really to know what is intended. A striker may have been perfectly innocent in his original calculation, and suddenly find it is designed in a different way, and he becomes a criminal.
§ The Court which has to decide these questions will have difficult conundrums to deal with, and questions which are difficult to answer. It will have to decide in the first instance whether it is a strike or lock-out, and then whether it has for its object any purpose other than the furtherance of an industrial dispute. Then it will have to decide whether those engaged in the dispute are engaged in the same trade or industry. It will have to decide whether it is a primary strike or complicated by being partly a sympathetic strike. Then it will have to decide 346 how far it is inflicting hardship upon the community, and whether the hardship is sufficient to bring it under the category of illegal strikes. Then it, will have to decide whether those engaged in the dispute have designed or calculated it with a view of coercing the Government. All those are questions which will be very difficult for the Court to answer. After all, the Court consists of trained lawyers, and we have in this House, and in the other House, trained lawyers who on these questions have expressed varying views. How is the unfortunate layman, the working man, to know before the strike how those five or six conundrums will be answered?
§ The real difficulty of this Bill seems to me to be this, that a man may in all innocence go into a dispute which at the beginning may be legal but which before very long, through developments, such as the number which come into it or some change in the intentions of those undertaking the strike, may suddenly become illegal and result in his coming under the law and being liable to fine or imprisonment. At what moment is a working man to know, having gone into the dispute perfectly innocently, that he has come within the law—that he has come within the toils of the Act? I know it is said, as a legal fiction, that every citizen of this country knows every Act of Parliament, and that if he does not that is his look-out. In such a matter as this it will be quite impossible for a working man, or I should say his leaders, to know how soon a strike which is legal when it is begun has become illegal. In the other House the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General asserted more than once that this clause would not interfere with the ordinary strike and would not interfere with the sympathetic strike; but I am bound to say, having read the debates, that under cross-examination they had to admit that in many cases an ordinary strike would be illegal and a sympathetic strike very difficult to carry through without its becoming an illegal act.
§ The case put in the other House more than once, to which no real answer, so far as I can ascertain, has been given, is the case of the miners. Suppose the miners desire to go back to the Seven Hours Act, to which they rightly attach 347 great importance. Undoubtedly that question will arise some day or other. Having been defeated in the last strike, and having lost the Seven Hours Act—they have a very strong sentimental feeling with regard to it—they will endeavour, when opportunity serves, to go back to a statutory seven-hour day. There will be no dispute with reference to the matter with the employers, because however much the employers voluntarily offer a seven or seven-and-a-half hours day, that is not the same thing to the miners as if they had a Statute enforcing the seven-hour day, and the employers themselves have no means of carrrying out a seven-hour day as a statutory measure. The only people who can do that are the Government themselves. Supposing the miners, therefore, in order to obtain their desire, strike with a view to putting pressure on the Government, in order to obtain a Seven Hours Act. Will it, or will it not, be an illegal strike? As I read the Bill, as a layman, it clearly will come under Clause 1 of this Bill, and all those miners, or rather I should say their leaders, will be subject to the penalties of this Bill. Surely, that would be a very outrageous position. The miners are perfectly entitled, if they wish, to endeavour to go back to a seven-hour day. Whether that would be wise or foolish is another matter, but I do not think any one would say that they have no right to make the attempt. Yet, as I read the Bill, it would be an illegal act on their part.
§ Then we come to the question of the sympathetic strike. So far as I can see, there will be little opportunity for such a strike in the future. I sympathise with the sympathetic strike, properly directed, because it means that where there is a dispute in one particular trade, those in another trade, without any hope or expectation of gain or advantage to themselves, come out in order to help their fellow workers. I think they ought to be applauded rather than prevented, subject of course to certain conditions. Under the Bill the first condition is that it shall be in furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry in which the strikers are engaged. Quite clearly that will generally prevent a sympathetic strike, because the whole essence is that those who are not in the trade or industry come to the support of those in the industry in which the dispute takes place. 348 Other conditions may be fulfilled which in certain circumstances may enable a sympathetic strike to take place, but I have turned it over in my mind and I can see no case in which a sympathetic strike of any extent would not be declared to be illegal under the provisions of this Bill. Indeed, almost the only case quoted and discussed in another place was the case, a very obvious one, where some of the transport workers came out and the railway men came out in sympathy with them, and held up goods. That, the Attorney-General declared, would be an illegal sympathetic strike, because it was an endeavour to hold up the public and coerce the Government. I am afraid that the sympathetic strike in the future will have little opportunity of being brought into operation.
§ If I may tell your Lordships, the first strike of importance in which I was engaged, now some forty years ago, was the Great Dock Strike in London, as it was called. The Lord Mayor, Cardinal Manning and myself were the Conciliation Board, endeavouring to bring it to an end. At that time the strike on the part of the workers was for an increase of a penny an hour, raising their wages from 5d. to 6d. an hour. I need hardly say that the employers at that time said that if this concession were given the trade of the Port of London would be destroyed, because they could not afford it. They are now paying at least three times as much, and the trade of the Port of London is very prosperous. However, that is incidental. But at that time, unlike the state of things at present, the dockers had their own trade union, and the stevedores, the lightermen and the others had their separate unions. They were therefore not involved; they did not come within the trade or industry in which the strikers were engaged. The dockers came out, and the others came out in sympathy with these men, and the effect of it was to inflict great hardship on the community by penalising the trade of London. Further, the intention, if it had gone on, was to coerce the Government. In that case public sympathy was very strongly with the strikers, and the effect of that was to bring it to an end, and this outrageous demand of a penny an hour was conceded by the employers.
§ But if this Bill had been law at that time there is little doubt, I think, that that sympathetic strike would have been 349 declared illegal, because it inflicted "hardship upon the community," it was not a strike "within the trade or industry" and it aimed, if necessary, at coercing the Government. I think it is a very serious matter that a Bill of this sort should be drawn in such a complicated way as to go considerably beyond what was the declared object of the Government—namely, to deal with a position such as arose during the General Strike—and largely to cripple and prevent ordinary and sympathetic strikes, which ought not to be illegal.
§ I have suggested these words which owe their parentage to Sir John Simon, and I am moving them as a substitute for subsection (1). I speak, of course, as a layman, but it appears to me impossible by words to modify or simplify the words of the Bill. They are so complicated and they touch on so many different points, each of which, I think, is open to various interpretations, that it would really be useless to attempt to amend those words. Therefore I thought the simplest way was to propose the Amendment, which will cover the object which I understand the Government have at heart, the object, that is, of preventing in the future a General Strike, and which any one reading it through can more or less understand. I have endeavoured to point out that the real difficulty of this Bill, apart, of course, from the principle of it, is the complication and the different interpretations to which the clause would give rise. I fear that that will lead to real hardship in the case of a vast number of innocent persons who desire to keep within the Act, and who after a short time will find themselves outside it, I venture to ask the Government not only to allow the Amendment to be considered, but also to look at it from that point of view. I assure them that it is not an Amendment directed against the principle of the Bill, but one intended to prevent hardship.
Page 1, line 6, to page 2, line 28, leave out subsection (1) and insert the said new subsection.—(Earl Buxton.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I quite recognise the spirit in which this Amendment is moved, and I know that the purpose of the noble Earl is not to destroy the Bill, but rather to improve its wording. We have considered the 350 Amendment very carefully from that point of view, but I have come to the conclusion that if the Amendment were accepted the Bill would not be improved, and indeed that the words which appear in the Bill are really better from every point of view—from the point of view of the employer, and also, as I shall show, from, the point of view of the workman. May I state what the Bill does, because we shall have this point arising again and again, as the noble Lords opposite proceed to ring the changes upon the language of this clause? We desire to declare a strike—a definite action or event—illegal, but on two cumulative conditions, both of which must be satisfied in order that the Bill may operate upon that strike—I leave out lock-outs for the moment. The strike must have an object "other than or in addition to the furtherance of a trade dispute" within the strikers' industry, and—and I want to emphasise that word "and," which I think the noble Earl has rather forgotten—it must be a strike "designed or calculated to coerce the Government." That, with all deference to the noble Earl, is a clear and definite thing which we seek to prevent, and I do not think he denies that that was just the thing which was done last year.
Now, let me take the Amendment. It proposes to declare that a combination, the main object of which is to coerce the Government, shall be illegal. I think that is a very suitable passage for a treatise on law or on economies. I think it describes with a certain approach to justice the principle which lay at the bottom of the Astbury judgment last year. But I suggest to the House that it is not at all suitable for a practical enactment in an Act of Parliament, because it is so vague that you would find it wholly impossible to apply it. To begin with, what is meant by a combination which is illegal? Is it the combination which is made when a trade union is formed? Surely not, because no trade union is formed with a view to coercing the Government. It must be the combination which takes place at the moment of the strike. What is that combination? Who are the persons combining? I can imagine long arguments about the effect of this word. What happens in a strike is not that a number of persons combine, but, that the leaders of a union declare a strike and the men have to obey. 351 It might very fairly be said that that is not a process properly described by the word "combination." You are seeking by the Amendment to penalise, not an act—that is the right course in English law—but an idea that passes through some persons' minds—whose minds I cannot, on the wording of the Amendment, undertake to say.
Then you have this other very vague expression, that it must be a combination "the main object of which is to coerce the Government." What does that mean? It means that you have to dive into the minds of a whole crowd of people, and say what is the main object, what is the preponderating idea which is in all those minds. That is a wholly impossible thing. It is much safer and much wiser to say that, if it fulfils the conditions I have named, it has a second object. Whether that be the greater or the lesser part of its purpose, it must have a second object, an object other than the trade dispute within the industry, and it must be a strike "designed or calculated to coerce the Government" or the country. Therefore I say that for those reasons the thing is really unworkable and you would not find it possible to apply the wording of the Amendment in any particular case, nor would it have the effect which we seek to attain by the Bill.
Let me put one further point. This Amendment is less favourable to the trade unionist and to the striker than the words of the Bill because, if the noble Earl's Amendment is adopted, it will be enough to show a coercive purpose—I mean a purpose of coercing the Government and the country. You would not also have to show, as our Bill requires, that the strike had some object other than or in addition to the furtherance of an industrial dispute. In a sense the Amendment is less favourable to the striker than the words of the Bill, and I really cannot think that that is the intention of the noble Earl or of those who support him. Let me take the two cases he put. As to the case of the miners, he said that, as the Bill stands, if the miners were to strike for a seven-hour day—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
For a Seven-Hour-Day Act, that must fall 352 within the Bill. If they struck for a seven-hour day I do not think he would say that falls within the Bill. That would be a strike in furtherance of a trade dispute within the mining industry and therefore would not fulfil the first condition in the Bill. If they said that they were not out for a seven-hour day in their own mine but were out to make the Government legislate for a seven-hour day, I am disposed to think that that would be an object other than the furtherance of a trade dispute, and if the strike was designed or calculated to coerce the Government or Parliament it would fall within the Bill. That is the view we have always taken. It ought to fall within the Bill because the object of a strike ought to be an industrial purpose. The strike is really a way of settling a dispute between employer and employed and is properly used for that purpose. It is not properly used for the purpose of starving or of putting pressure upon the whole community in order that the Government may propose legislation and that Parliament may pass it. It is there you come within the ambit of the Bill, and I think everybody would say that is properly laid down by the Bill itself. I must add, if the strike were a coercive strike, it would equally fall within the ambit of the noble Earl's Amendment because it is enough for him that the strike is mainly intended to coerce the Government or Parliament. That condition is in our Bill as well as in his Amendment. Therefore he would not better that in the least by his Amendment.
Let me take the sympathetic strike. I agree that, if a sympathetic strike is intended or calculated to coerce Parliament or the Government, it falls within the Bill, but if it is not so intended or calculated it does not fall within the Bill. The noble Marquess opposite was quite right the other day when he pointed out that the effect of the Bill was not what noble Lords constantly and obstinately say, that every sympathetic strike is forbidden by the Bill. If they would only give a liberal effect to the word "and," which I underline, they would have to admit that their view is wrong. It appears to me that the Amendment, if effective, would make things worse for the striker and the trade unionist than the Bill, and, if ineffective, as I believe 353 it would be from the vagueness of its language, it would be useless for any purpose.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I only intervene at this stage for the purpose of calling attention a little more closely to the provisions of the Amendment which is moved. I cannot help thinking, after listening to my noble and learned friend, that the object of moving the Amendment is not quite appreciated. For the present purpose I do not repeat one word of what I said on the Second Reading; equally I stand to every word I said on the Second Reading. Obviously we are here now in order that we may, if we can, improve the Bill. As I understand the view put forward by my noble friend who moved the Amendment, his object really is to simplify the Bill, to clarify its language, to enable the man in the street, as the phrase is, to understand it or at least to understand it better than he would be able to by merely referring to the words of the clause. Therefore this proposed new subsection was devised. It was moved, as we know, in another place.
The whole object of the Government—I think I am doing them justice in saying this—in reference to this clause is to distinguish between a strike which might properly be termed an industrial strike and a strike which might properly be termed a political strike. That is really the purpose which the Government had in view. Of course, it is extremely difficult to put it into language. I do not wonder at all that the Government and the expert draftsmen who assisted them had devised various forms of words before eventually, after a discussion in the House of Commons, they adopted the language which is in the present Bill. The object which the Government have in mind would be more rightly attained by adopting—I will not say the precise language of the clause which is at present before your Lordships, but that clause with such Amendments as the Government think necessary in order to give effect to its purpose.
There are passages in it to which my noble and learned friend Lord Cave drew attention. I cannot help thinking that the arguments he used showed us how difficult it is to construe the language of Clause 1. In many respects I am in complete agreement with him and perhaps 354 not with some of those who have spoken on my own side. I think it is quite right I should state my view where I do agree with them on the legal interpretation. Two conditions must coincide in the Government Bill before a strike can be declared illegal. That is quite clear. When I listened to the illustration that was given by the noble and learned Viscount in order to prove the point, I confess I was more puzzled than I have yet been—and that is puzzled to a very great extent—in being able to construe in any practical way the language of the present clause. I hope I understood correctly what my noble and learned friend said. I gathered from him that, if the strike among the coal miners was a strike for the purpose of reverting to a seven-hour day and that they struck in their industry to get a seven-hour day and consequently against their employer, that would be quite legitimate and would not come within the words of the clause. I agree with him. But he went on to say that if they struck against the Eight Hours Act in order to get their seven-hour day that strike would be within the clause. Is that really the position in which we are left under this Bill?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I did not quite say that. I said if they struck for the purpose of getting the Eight Hours Act repealed, and with that purpose designed to coerce the Government and Parliament, then it would be within the clause.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I so understood my noble friend, but he seems to me to leave the point exactly where it was. We really are considering a matter which is of importance, and if in anything I say I am misrepresenting or not understanding my noble and learned friend, I hope he will correct me. I am very willing to accept any correction he may snake, but the position remains as he has put it now. If the coal miners strike against a particular employer for the purpose of working only seven hours a day, then it is perfectly lawful and nothing short of violence or something quite outside the clause we are now discussing would in such a strike make any action of theirs illegal. But, with the Eight Hours Act in existence, if their purpose is to get rid of that Act and therefore to get back again to the seven-hour day, the strike is illegal. 355 That seems to me to be the oddest thing in the world. My noble and learned friend does not agree with me? I thought I was stating what he suggested just now. I will add, if he will permit me, the explanation that he gave me just now—"if it is designed to coerce the Government into repealing the Act." But I take that as meaning the same thing, for this reason.
Maybe their ultimate object in striking is to get a seven-hour day and in order to get that one of the things they find it necessary to do is to have the Eight Hours Act either repealed or amended. They come out in combination for that purpose. If they are merely combining for the seven hours and do not state as their object anything more than that, then they are within the law, as my noble and learned friend has said; but the moment they wish to get rid of the Act which enables the extra half-hour or hour to be worked—that is the Eight Hours Act—then they are committing a crime, because their strike then must be designed to coerce the Government in the sense of bringing pressure to bear. I am not sure what meaning would be attributed to the word "coerce" except to bring pressure to bear. In the Bill it says "to coerce the Government directly or by inflicting hardship on the community." They are both means of bringing pressure to bear on the Government, and a strike designed to bring pressure upon the Government to amend or repeal the Eight Hours Act, in order that the coal miner may be able to work only seven hours and not more, is illegal, and the persons taking part in it will be subject to the penalties and sanctions that are laid down in this Bill.
I cannot think the Government really intend that. When one is discussing matters of this kind in the House sometimes an instance is put to which an answer may be given that may not fully explain all that is meant, and it is sometimes very awkward to have an instance put; but it is a test. I am puzzled to see what is really meant by the Bill. To make my point quite clear I will give an instance of what I mean. If in some trade or industry other than the coal mining trade there was a strike for the purpose of getting the Eight Hours Act repealed, then it may be said that the workers 356 combining in that strike come under this Bill for taking part in an illegal strike because they have some object other than the furtherance of a trade dispute in the trade or industry in which they are engaged. That strike would come within the definition as laid down. It is the instance that we have bad given over and over again of the transport workers and the coal miners If the transport worker conies out in a sym pathetic strike for the purpose of helping the coal miner to get his seven-hour day and is intending to coerce, or his action is calculated to coerce, the Government, then it can be said that he comes within the Bill. But that is not the question we are discussing on this clause. What we want to know here is what is the position of the coal miner, because what the noble and learned Viscount has said to-day upon this is really a revelation. I never conceived that it was intended that the Bill should go that length, or anything like that length.
I referred to the classic instance merely because it has been taken by so many in argument. The instance of the transport workers and the coal miners was an instance in which the sympathetic strike was resorted to by the transport workers, who were not engaged in the trade or industry of winning the coal and therefore would come within the Bill. But we are dealing now with a totally different position. What I would suggest is that my noble and learned friend should consider whether words should not be introduced to make it clear that it is not intended that this clause should operate in the way I have suggested against the coal miner striking in order to limit his hours of work to seven per day. It should be made clear that this does not apply to him. The words that are used in the Amendment now being discussed are designed for this purpose—to show that the object of the strike is political and not industrial. I agree that one may make verbal criticisms of the wording and I should agree with some of them. It is not perfect, but I defy any one, however skilful, to devise words which will not be capable of misunderstanding and misinterpretation. The object which the Government have in 357 view is itself not clear and precise and consequently they cannot devise language to meet it.
The difficulty is not theirs. I am not for a moment suggesting that it is a thing which it is easy to do. Quite the opposite. I know that many have tried and that everybody has failed, and what we have got is some kind of substitute for the precise language which we are accustomed to have in an Act of Parliament that creates a crime and devises penalties for it. What I would suggest is that the language used in the Bill is capable of amendment and should be amended. I am quite sure my noble and learned friend would be quite ready to accede to any better language that may be proposed, but in any event we should direct our minds to making it clear that the object of the Bill is to render illegal, and to penalise, a political strike as distinguished from an industrial strike. That I do not think this Bill sufficiently does as it at present stands.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I find myself in nearly complete agreement with my noble and learned friend who has just spoken. He has succeeded in bringing out, by the interpretation which the Lord Chancellor has put on the words of the Bill, a point of real seriousness. A combination to obtain modification of the Coal Mines Act, or Eight Hours Act, of last year is to be a political strike and put within the prohibition of this Bill. That is very serious, because it is almost impossible, if the miners have any strike at all on the question of hours, to differentiate a strike over hours pure and simple from the legislation which is required. That affects not only miners but it affects every other industry in which hours have been fixed by Statute and in which in the past there have been repeated agitations to secure modification. My difficulty about this Bill goes even further. I am in sympathy with Earl Buxton's Amendment because of certain words which he has put into it and which seem to me to be very important words—the words "as distinguished from furthering a trade dispute by means of concerted or simultaneous refusal to continue employment or work."
What I have always thought to be a great difficulty about this Bill is the confusion of thought on which it is founded. 358 There are two wholly distinct things. To snake unlawful a combination of workmen to lay down their tools is one thing; to make unlawful disorderly acts following on such a combination is quite a different thing. My charge against the Government—I put it as high as that—I made in the Second Reading discussion. It is that, instead of devoting themselves to striking at illegal things done in the course of a strike or following on a strike, they have struck at the very right of combination, a thing which hitherto has been sacred to the workman. It is the sight of every individual workman to lay down his tools. It is the right of workmen in concert to lay down their tools. If there was any doubt that doubt ceased when Mr. Disraeli passed his Conspiracy Act of 1875. For he made the law perfectly clear when he said nothing was to be a conspiracy if done by a combination which could be lawfully done by a single individual. It has been declared by this House to be the right of workmen to lay down their tools. It was so declared by Lord Bramwell in the Mogul steamship case and I have never heard it doubted until the somewhat confused discussions on this Bill. I have never understood how the mere fact of numbers could make any difference to the law. It might make a very great difference to what happens. But do not take away the Common Law right of the workman, by himself or in combination, to exercise his freedom to cease work. Many other bodies have that freedom. The doctors have it. They threatened to cease work when there was the great panel dispute some years ago. The barristers have it, the clergymen have it. Why should you take it away from the man who works with his hands?
A strike is a very disagreeable thing and it may exercise a coercive effect upon the Government—I dare say it does when a great many people lay down their tools—but it is perfectly lawful. There was an instance given in the course of the Second Reading discussion which impressed me. I bad cited the decision in this House in Conway versus Wade. In that case it was decided that the meaning of the law was that the right to lay down tools extended not only to the persons engaged immediately in the dispute, but to those who were in sympathy with them, and so bringing about what has 359 been called, somewhat loosely, "a general strike." It was necessary for the House perhaps to make that declaration because the question was whether there was a trade dispute at all, and in order to tell whether it was a trade dispute it was necessary to understand the Acts of Parliament bearing on the subject. The Lord Chancellor gave an exposition of that, the terms of which I read to the House, and which clearly included a trade dispute—I will not quote it again, but I have it here—in general as well as a trade dispute confined to the industry within which it takes place. As I have said it was necessary that he should say that in order to make plain the reason why it was held that the dispute which was then under discussion before the House was not a trade dispute of which account could be taken. It was not a trade dispute at all in the view of the House.
What Lord Loreburn said was concurred in by Lord Macnaghten and not one noble Lord dissented from it. They could not have done so. It was the direct consequence of what Lord Bram-well laid down long before. And I was astounded to hear the doctrine, as far as I could understand it, challenged by the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the second bench opposite. He seemed to me to deny that it was the right of the workman to lay down his tools, and he seemed to me to deny that right when it was exercised by those who were in sympathy with a trade dispute which was not in their own trade, but was a trade dispute in which they were profoundly interested. Railway men might be profoundly interested in a coal strike or transport workers in a strike in the railway industry. He seemed to deny altogether the right of what is called a sympathetic strike, a strike by those who are in complete sympathy with the workmen engaged in the dispute, but yet not directly affecting their own trade or industry. I can only say that in my opinion it is clearly the law of the land at the present time—it is laid down in decisions—and I was astounded at what the noble and learned Lord opposite said, and somewhat concerned too, because these things are apt to go forth.
If there is any question as to law laid down even in debates here the question is apt to be repeated by those who come 360 to this House as litigants. Therefore it is highly important that those who are Judges in this House—I am not talking of Lord Chancellors or ex-Lord Chancellors, who by the necessities of their position are dragged into political discussions, I am talking of the Judges—should keep themselves quite clear of any proposition of law about which there is the least doubt and which bear on the rights of workmen. That was rigidly practised by Lord Blackburn, by Lord Watson, by Lord Macnaghten and is practised by my noble friend Lord Dunedin to-day, and I think it is one of the sources of strength in this House that Judges have kept themselves clear of politics. I want to say no more upon that rather painful subject, but I wish to say to your Lordships that I am perfectly clear in my own mind that it is the right of every workman in this country, whether alone or in combination, to lay down his tools for whatever reason. If he is engaged in a criminal conspiracy, and is doing this as a means of carrying out a criminal object, that is another thing. If this Bill had been a Bill to put an end to criminal combinations, that would have been something which it was quite legitimate to deal with. The clause that we have here is another matter. It is striking that in this clause, at least as it was interpreted until this afternoon, the men engaged in the miners' strike of last year are left intact in the possession of their rights. It appears now, from what the Lord Chancellor has said, that this is not so if that strike is directed to the purpose of getting the repeal of the Eight Hours Act. Perhaps the Lord Chancellor will make this clear, if we have misunderstood him. Otherwise we shall be under considerable misapprehension as to the meaning of what he has said.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Surely my noble friend does not misunderstand what I said? It is perfectly true that the Bill would leave the miners' strike of last year intact. It would not have interfered with it in the least. What I said of the Bill—and this applies with equal force, or indeed with greater force, to the Amendment—is that a strike which is intended to coerce Parliament is illegal and that the proper way to persuade Parliament is to convince the electors and not to starve the people into legislation.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
What is a strike to obtain the repeal of a provision in an Act of Parliament except a strike that is—calculated to coerce the Government either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community"?I should have thought that there was no doubt that such a strike as the noble and learned Viscount speaks of is what he calls a political strike, and is therefore struck at by the words of the Bill. A strike to obtain the repeal of the Eight Hours Act is surely a political strike within the definition that he has just given.
The point that I am making is that there has been no right hitherto known to the law to prevent workmen laying down their tools if they choose, even for such an object as that, and if you change the law, if once it gets about that you are taking away the rights of the working classes while not touching other bodies which may do just the same thing, and have threatened to do the same thing, as the doctors did in the panel dispute, you are raising a storm the effect of which you will not get rid of for a very considerable time to come. I think that this Amendment is a fruitful one, for it has brought to light the very important distinction between the general freedom that exists, for whatever motive it may be exercised, and unlawful things done as a result of that freedom, which are properly the subject of coercive legislation. If the noble Earl who moved this Amendment goes to a Division, I shall therefore follow him.
§ VISCOUNT SUMNER
The noble and learned Viscount was good enough to give me notice personally that I had better be in my place because he wished to refer to something that I said on the Second Reading with reference to the law as he quoted it in the case of Conway versus Wade. I did not quite anticipate that what he intended to say would take the form which it has taken, and, as I thought that the whole of that matter was concluded by the Second Reading debate when the principle of the Bill was approved by your Lordships' House, I did not quite see how it was to be brought in, since, as the noble and learned Marquess has justly said, our task is to improve the wording of this Bill, if it can be done consistently with the maintenance 362 of the principle that was recognised on the Second Reading. I now find what the object of this intimation was. The noble and learned Viscount had somehow persuaded himself that he heard me say things and lay down principles of law that astounded him. I think the acoustic properties of the House may perhaps be an excuse, and many of us are no longer as acute of hearing as we were in our more stormy and youthful days. But it still passes my understanding to conceive how the noble and learned Viscount really supposed that I had said those things with which he charges me.
It was pointed out to me that in a passage in his speech in the first day's debate to which I am afraid a wandering mind on my part had led me to pay less attention than perhaps I should have paid to it, the noble and learned Viscount had committed himself to a proposition to the effect that a decision of your Lordships' House had judicially laid down something in regard to a General Strike; and humbly conceive that, when it is a question of a judicial decision of your Lordships being made the foundation of an argument in an assembly of laymen, it is not out of place for a person who is trained as a lawyer and who has now been a member of your Lordships' House for a good many years to endeavour to see that there shall be no misunderstanding about that proposition. Conway versus Wade did not lay down that which the noble and learned Viscount quoted it as laying down. I am not going over the ground again. It did not lay that down, and I do not think that there is any lawyer who has read the case recently who would say that it did.
The noble and learned Viscount has now thought this a fit occasion to read me one of those lectures which he has endeavoured to read to me and to other persons in my position on a previous occasion and to suggest that, in endeavouring to correct a grave misstatement into which I think he allowed himself to be betrayed, I was in some way departing from my duty. I say that the use made of that quotation was disingenuous. I say that the attack upon me is disingenuous. I adhere to what I said, and I shall not condescend to carry the controversy any further.
§ LORD WRENBURY
I listened with interest to the speech of the noble Earl 363 who moved this Amendment, but he left me in the belief that he really did not appreciate the meaning and effect of the words that he has proposed. The Amendment speaks of two things: (1), a main object; and (2), the means of ascertaining what that means. We are to take care to see that the main object is "distinguished from furthering a trade dispute." If I start out with an object in view, I must discriminate between two things: my object and the means that I am going to employ to achieve that object. Suppose for a moment there is a trade dispute as to whether a particular servant has been improperly discharged. His fellows think that the employers have been wrong. There is a trade dispute and they set out to enforce the man's reinstatement in his employment. That, I conceive, is their main object. In order to achieve that main object I will suppose that they indulge in the idea of having what we all recognise as a General Strike for the coercion of the Government. They say: "Unless you restore this man to the place from which he has been displaced we will starve the nation, or stop all means of communication," or something of that kind. They would rightly say: "Our main object is not to coerce the Government. We wish we could do without it. Our main object is to secure that this man shall be reinstated in his place and the coercion of the Government is only a means to that end."
Read the Amendment in this light, and see in what circumstances you have an illegal conspiracy. The words are:—It is hereby declared that, notwithstanding anything in the Trade Union Acts, any combination, whether of employers or of persons employed, the main object of which is to coerce the Government or Parliament as distinguished from furthering a trade dispute by means of concerted or simultaneous refusal to continue employment or work is an unlawful conspiracy.Surely the persons who are striking would say: "Our main object is not to coerce the Government at all; our main object is to secure an increase of wages, or the reinstatement of this man in his place. That is not an illegal conspiracy." What is the answer to that? You have the definition here of what is an illegal conspiracy, and the facts do not meet it. They would be secure in saying: "This is not an unlawful conspiracy at all, because our object is not 364 to coerce the Government. We wish we could do without it. Our object is something else altogether."
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not wish to enter into the controversy between the noble and learned Viscount opposite and my noble friend on this side, because I have intimated that I agreed with my noble friend. The passage which he read is this:—I agree with the Master of the Rolls that the section cannot fairly be confined to an act done by a party to the dispute.That is to say, a sympathetic strike is justified.I do not believe that was intended.I do not wish to quote any further, or to carry that matter any further.
I must say that I am strongly in favour of the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, on the ground put forward particularly by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading—namely, that what we desire here is to amend the Bill—we have passed the Second Reading—and make it clear, and particularly to draw a line, if we can, between a strike for industrial purposes and a strike for a political purpose. Everyone must feel by this time that that is not an easy thing to do, but let us see how the matter stands. Lord Buxton was perfectly justified in saying that we were creating here a new crime. What is the new crime? To put it quite clearly, and putting on one side the question of a sympathetic or a General Strike, I will take a railway or mining strike, in which no other workmen are concerned except railwaymen or mining workers. They might desire to get some Act repealed, say, the Eight Hours Act, or to get other statutory conditions, in order to improve their position as workers. At the present time that would be perfectly legal. I am not now talking about a sympathetic strike, but an ordinary strike between particular employers and particular employed, because in the Trade Disputes Act of 1906, when this matter was thought to be finally settled, it is laid down that whatever an individual may do a combination may do, in furtherance of a trade dispute. The advantage of that is that assuming a trade dispute, which is the only condition precedent, no strike is other than legal at the present time.
365 That was a principle won after many years of contest by the working people of this country, and it is exceedingly important, because directly you come away from that single, simple principle you get into the very great difficulties indicated by the noble Earl and the noble Marquess. Take the case of a perfectly innocent man who joins in a strike. At the present time there is no illegality of any sort or kind, or threat of imprisonment. By Statute it has been held to be legal, by the terms of the 1906 Act, and apart from that we have such general statements as have been quoted from Lord Bramwell. What is the difficulty and confusion which must almost necessarily arise? A man joins in a strike which is now legal, but under this Act if there are two conditions combined—if he has any object other than the furtherance of a trade dispute—well, it is almost impossible to suppose when you have perhaps 100,000 men or more engaged in a dispute that some of them will not use language or do acts which may lead to the possibility of its being considered that they had some other object. I should have thought that that would occur in every big trade dispute.
With regard to the second condition, I do not care to dwell so much on the words "calculated to coerce the Government," although, as Lord Reading pointed out, of course, if you were striking in order to get the Eight Hours Act repealed it might be illegal. Quite apart from that, however, can you have a strike in any large general industry, such as railways or mining, which does not inflict hardship upon the community? Of course it inflicts hardship upon the community. You have to balance on one side the hardship upon the community and, on the other side, the valued privilege of the working man to strike as regards his particular industry. What happens? A man is taking part in a strike. He lays down his tools in a perfectly legal way, but things are done which may induce people to think that there are other objects involved than the mere furtherance of the trade dispute. As regards the other conditions, there is an absolute certainty of hardship upon the community. That cannot be helped, it is one of the unavoidable results of a strike, which is perfectly genuine and undertaken in order to improve trade conditions.
366 What happens? Whereas now a person who strikes is free, in the future he may go to prison for not less than two years, or, if summarily convicted, he may go to prison for three months, because either the magistrate, acting with perfect bona fides, or the jury, as the case may be, may come to the conclusion that in one or two particulars he has infringed the law and acted illegally. How can that be avoided?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble and learned Lord says that the striker may go to prison. That is not true. My noble friend has not read the Bill.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I have indeed. A striker may go to prison because he has done something which is not in furtherance of a trade dispute.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I have read it, Certainly a strike leader may go to prison, and after all a strike leader is entitled to his convictions. A strike leader may find himself, as regards matters outside his control, liable to imprisonment for a period of not less than two years. That is an extraordinarily serious position. It is a new crime; to use the expression which was used by the noble Earl, it creates a new form of criminal, that is, not a criminal in the ordinary sense at all. I suppose that the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, whom I see here, will be one of the employers. I do not know whether he is a member of the Mining Association or not, but he has very large interests in mining. He might be concerned in a lock-out—there is not the slightest doubt that that would cause hardship to the community; and, as regards the other conditions, it might well be said that the object of the mine owners was not an industrial object only. That was so in the last lock-out; the mine owners wanted to get rid of the Seven Hours Act. I take what the Lord Chancellor said. Supposing that the mine owners, in giving the notices, desired to get rid of the Seven Hours Act. Why should they not do that if they thought it was so uneconomic that they could not work under it? That would have been brought in as the political element, and there is not the 367 slightest doubt that it would inflict hardship on the community. I am sure no one would have sympathised more with the noble Marquess than I if he found himself in prison under those conditions.
And it is no fancy picture I am drawing, because—you have these conditions on both sides—people who are not criminals and have not the slightest intention of becoming criminals desire some change in their statutory political position, which they are quite justified in trying to obtain, but which they cannot obtain in these great industries without inflicting hardship on the community. What crime is there in it? I am sure I have never looked upon any mine owner as a criminal because he wished to get rid of the seven hours limitation. I have some experience myself in these mining matters, and why should any one who wants better economic conditions be treated as a criminal? It is a pure question of economic difference, on which either party is perfectly entitled to put its respective views. If they take action, and hardship ensues to the community, which is absolutely certain to happen, as any owner knows quite well, then these extremely harsh punishments come into operation.
One word on the Amendment. I doubt whether you can separate in these matters the industrial altogether from the political. Take the case of the hours, which was introduced by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading. I have tried pretty hard as a draftsman—and I have drafted as many clauses in Acts of Parliament probably as any living person—and I find it extremely difficult because the two things are not separable in their ordinary every day operation. They go together, and must go together. But as regards this Amendment, as the noble Marquess has stated, I think it very important to have in the word "combination." I did not understand what the Lord Chancellor meant in reference to that. "Combination" is the word you find in these Acts. "Strike," I believe, is almost, if not entirely, a new word. "Combination" we know perfectly well, and any combination in a trade dispute is legal if one individual would be entitled to take the same step. You cannot have a wider, more general, and easier definition 368 to apply for the ordinary layman. Then I think the words "the main object" are a great protection. "The only object" is hardly any protection at all. It is almost impossible so to differentiate matters of this kind that there is one object, and only one object.
And lastly, looking at it from the drafting point of view, I am strongly in favour of what the noble Viscount said, and I think that the words "as distinguished from" are of considerable importance and real value if you want truly to differentiate between what is political and what is industrial. It appears to me that in the Bill as it stands the separation is not made, and there is great danger of perfectly innocent persons, whether workmen or employers, becoming liable to a heavy term of imprisonment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to recall the Committee to the Amendment, because I think really there is some importance in that. The argument which has taken place has largely turned upon the comparison which the noble and learned Marquess drew between a strike against working more than seven hours, and a strike in order to induce Parliament and the Government to repeal the Eight Hours Act. What is quite obvious is that every argument which the noble and learned Marquess used against the Bill in this respect is fatal to the Amendment, because the words of the Amendment are "the main object of which is to coerce the Government or Parliament." Of course, in the instance referred to it would be the only object to coerce Parliament, in order to repeal a particular Act. Therefore it is quite evident that, upon the main argument that has been addressed to your Lordships by noble Lords in opposition to the Government, the Amendment is quite as bad as the Bill, and, in fact, as we contend, it is a great deal worse. Therefore I suggest to your Lordships that upon that argument the Amendment should properly be withdrawn, but, if noble Lords will not withdraw it, let us come to a decision upon it.
§ LORD ARNOLD
There are certain cases which I should like permission to put to the Lord Chancellor before the debate on this Amendment concludes, because the position has, with great 369 respect, got into one of inextricable confusion. The statements made by the Lord Chancellor are in contradiction of those made by the Attorney-General in another place.
§ LORD ARNOLD
Well, with great respect, I think I can prove that. I will take a simple case first before I come to this question of the miners. The Attorney-General was distinctly asked by one of the greatest authorities on trade union matters in this country what would be the position under this clause of a strike in regard to the Plimsoll line. Sailors might very well take the view that the Plimsoll line should be altered, that unless and until that was done they had not security at sea. That is not a fantastic illustration at all; it might very well happen. The question was put: "What, in that case, is the position? Will that not be an illegal strike?" Of course, it is perfectly clear from the view which the Lord Chancellor has put forward in regard to the miners' strike, that if a strike took place about altering the Plimsoll line, it would be illegal, because it would be held that it had an object "in addition to the furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry," that object being to coerce the Government. For it is only the Government which can give the necessary authority for altering the Plimsoll line. Such a strike might very well be "designed or calculated to coerce the Government … by inflicting hardship on the community." That second condition would be effective in a way so clear that I do not think I need dwell upon it.
That question was put to the Attorney-General, and it was pressed. He saw at once that he was getting into a dilemma. He was a little more cautious in regard to where he was going, and he drew back when pressed, and said that, in his opinion, it would not be an illegal strike on the ground that the quarrel would not be between the sailors and the Government but between the sailors and their employers. That position of the Attorney-General is quite untenable because obviously the dispute would be between the sailors and the Government. I believe I am correct in saying that the Plimsoll line can only be altered with the permission or under 370 the direction of the Government. It is, therefore, quite clear from what the Lord Chancellor said that, if the sailors struck in order to get the Plimsoll line altered and in order to coerce the Government to do that—because that is the only way they can get it altered—even though they thought it necessary for their safety at sea, they would be doing an illegal act. Why should they not be allowed to strike for that purpose?
Take the Agricultural Wages Act. Why should not the agricultural labourers be allowed to strike if that Act were repealed? Yet, according to the Lord Chancellor, if they did so, they would be doing an illegal act. You therefore get the position that, if Parliament repealed the Agricultural Wages Act, which is a great protection to the labourers, the labourers who are concerned would not be permitted to strike in order to get the Act or something similar re-enacted. According to the Lord Chancellor, that would be an illegal strike. That is going a very long way indeed and does unquestionably create a form of serfdom. These people are working in that industry under the protection of an Act of Parliament. That Act is repealed for some reason and they naturally want to restore the original state of affairs and strike. They are told that it is an illegal act and that they must accept what Parliament has done; their quarrel is not with their employers but with the Government. Take another illustration under the Factory Acts. The workers may very well feel that there should be an alteration, in regard to ventilation for instance. They wish to strike and, in one particular factory, an employer might say that he would like to meet them, but he could not afford to increase his cost of production unless other employers were equally affected and unless an Act was passed making the regulation apply to all employers. According to the Lord Chancellor, they cannot strike for the purpose of bringing pressure upon the Government because they would then be committing an offence and indulging in an illegal strike.
Take the question of the mines. The Lord Chancellor has laid down that in certain circumstances, which I will particularise in great detail because it is essential to be quite clear about the 371 point, the strike of last year by the miners—I am leaving out of account the sympathetic strike to help them which occurred—would under tins Bill be illegal. That could happen in two eventualities. In the first place, after the Eight Hours Act was passed, it could certainly be held by a Judge, and on the words of this Bill ought to be held, that when the strike was continued into the autumn one of its objects had to do with the removal from the Statute Book of the Eight Hours Act enacted by Parliament. According to the Lord Chancellor, that would be an illegal strike. Again, supposing the miners said that they thought that the Samuel Report should be put in force by legislation and the Government were not prepared to do it: if they remained on strike in order to force the Government to do that, that would be an illegal strike according to the Lord Chancellor. Under these rulings a very large number of strikes are necessarily going to be illegal.
I did not think that, within almost half an hour of the beginning of the discussion on the Committee Stage, the position would be so clearly given away by the Lord Chancellor as it has been this afternoon. He has gone very much further than was gone in another place. In another place the Attorney-General was asked this question on the miners' strike: "If the miners strike in order to get a seven-hour day, would that be illegal?" The Attorney-General said that it would not be illegal, on this line of reasoning. There was, he argued, at present an Eight Hours Act. It was quite possible for the miners to get a seven-hour day from the owners without legislation. Therefore they would not necessarily be held to be striking to coerce the Government, but they could be held to be striking to coerce the owners. Therefore, being driven into being a corner and endeavouring to extricate himself from what he saw would be a difficult position to defend, he said it would not be an illegal strike.
Let us look at that more closely. It may be true in theory that the miners could get a seven-hour day without the repeal of the Eight Hours Act, although in practice it is well known that for twenty or thirty years the miners tried to get uniformity of hours and it was found it could not be done without legislation. That was why the Liberal Government passed the Eight Hours Act. Suppose you 372 could get uniformity, the miners are quite entitled to say, after a strike which has meant tremendous loss and suffering to them: "The owners say they will give us seven hours, but how long is that going to last? The owners say they will give us a year's agreement, but what will happen then?" The miners ought to be in a position to say that they are entitled to have a Seven Hours Act on the Statute Book as before. That is a perfectly proper position for them to take up. According to the Lord Chancellor, however, they must not be allowed to do that because they are coercing the Government. That is a most astonishing state of affairs. This Bill began, so we were told, as legislation against the General Strike. What has any one of these illustrations got to do with a General Strike? They have not the remotest relation to or connection with a General Strike. This Bill has become far more extreme than even the most ardent partisan of the Government suggested. I do not think that the position can be allowed to remain where it stands at the present time. There will be other opportunities of pursuing some of those points and we intend to take them.
I think the points we are putting forward are points which ought to be considered and ought to be answered. We are accustomed from this Bench to put forward a great many points and we rarely have any of our points answered. I think on this occasion we ought to have some of them answered. We are accustomed to have our points misrepresented, but we are not accustomed to having them answered. I think the object of the Amendment may be to make what is called a political strike in contradistinction to an industrial strike illegal, but I am bound to say, with great respect to the noble Earl who moved it and to the noble and learned Marquess who supported him, that I cannot see that the distinction intended is necessarily implicit in the words of the Amendment. The noble and learned Viscount opposite criticised the Amendment on the ground that it was vague. We shall have something to say about that in future. When you come to think of the wording of the clause as it stands you find much that is vague. "Object of a strike." Who is to determine what the object of a strike is? People in Yorkshire may have a different object to people in South 373 Wales. Who is to determine? "Inflicting hardship on the community." Who is to determine what that means? What is "to coerce the Government"? Nobody knows. This Bill is an attempt to legislate against something which cannot be legislated against. It is an attempt to define something which cannot be defined. I think, however, the Amendment is rather more successful than the attempts of the Government. I do not think the wording of the Amendment is satisfactory, nevertheless we will support the noble Earl in the Lobby, not really because we agree with his Amendment—
§ LORD ARNOLD
With a little experience of Parliamentary life noble Lords know the position which again and again arises. We vote for this Amendment as the only way by which we can at this precise juncture express our disapproval of the original words of the clause and that really is what we are voting against.
§ EARL BUXTON
I will only detain your Lordships two or three minutes in reply. I think it has been a useful debate. I am very much indebted to my noble friend who has just spoken for the support he has kindly agreed to give me, though he seemed to damn my Amendment with faint praise. In my first speech I pointed out that the real difficulty of the situation is that occasioned by the interpretation of the words of the clause. The ordinary man who comes under the provisions of the Bill will be in a very difficult position as also will his leaders. He will not know whether or not he is acting legally or illegally. I will suppose that we had
§ three miners coming down to attend this debate in your Lordships' House. The first who heard the speech of the Lord Chancellor would go away absolutely convinced that it would be impossible for him and his fellow-miners to strike for the repeal of the Eight Hours Act' in order to impose a seven-hour day. We will suppose that the second miner arrived a few minutes later and heard the speech of my noble friend Lord Reading and of the noble Viscount, Lord Haldane. He would go away a happy man feeling that under no part of this Bill would he or his friends be committing any illegal act if they struck for the repeal of the Eight Hours Act and the imposition of a seven-hour day. The third miner, we will suppose, had the fortune or the misfortune to hear the whole of the debate. He would certainly go away a sadder, but I doubt whether he would be a wiser man. He would feel that this Bill was one which put him and his fellow-workers in a position of immense difficulty and that it was a Bill calculated to do a great deal of harm. Thousands and thousands of men who desire to remain innocent will find themselves, under this Bill, guilty.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
The Question is Clause 1, page 1, line 6 to page 2, line 28, leave out subsection (1) with the object of inserting other words. In order to secure a later Amendment I will put the question to your Lordships that Clause 1, line 6, stand part of the clause.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out stand part of the elause?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 102; Not-Contents, 36.375
|Cave, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Shaftesbury, E. (L. Stewart.)||Onslow, E.|
|Airlie, E.||Plymouth, E. [Teller.]|
|Balfour, E. (L. President.)||Bathurst, E.||Sandwich, E.|
|Birkenhead, E.||Stanhope, E.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Bradford, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)|
|Clarendon, E.||Yarborough, E.|
|Bedford, D.||Denbigh, E.||Bertie of Thame, V.|
|Portland, D.||Eldon, E.||Devonport, V.|
|Sutherland, D.||Halsbury, E.||Falkland, V.|
|Wellington, D.||Howe, E.||Falmouth, V.|
|Lindsey, E.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.|
|Bath, M.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Hood, V.|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.||Malmesbury, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)|
|Exeter, M.||Midleton, E.|
|Normanby, M.||Northbrook, E.||Peel, V.|
|Sidmouth, V.||Ernle, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Sumner, V.||Erskine, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Askwith, L.||Faringdon, L.||Queenborough, L.|
|Banbury of Southam, L.||Forester, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Biddulph, L.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Redesdale, L.|
|Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne)||Gisborough, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Carson, L.||Hampton, L.||Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)|
|Clanwilliam, E. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Hardinge of Penshurst, L.|
|Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Saltoun, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Clinton, L.||Islington, L.||Southampton, L.|
|Cochrane of Cults, L.||Joicey, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Danesfort, L.||Kenyon, L.|
|Darling, L.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)||Templemore, L.|
|Daryngton, L.||Lawrence, L.||Wargrave, L.|
|Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Lawrence of Kingsgate, L.||Wavertree, L.|
|de Mauley, L.||Leigh, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Lovat, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Dynevor, L.||Merrivale, L.||Wittenham, L.|
|Douglas, L. (E. Home.)||Merthyr, L.||Wrenbury, L.|
|Dunmore, L. (E Dunmore.)||Mildmay of Flete, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.)||Leverhulme, V,||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Southwark, L. Bp.||Northington, L. (L. Henley.)|
|Reading, M.||Olivier, L.|
|Aberconway, L.||Parmoor, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Anslow, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Arnold, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Shandon, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Boston, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Kimberley, E.||Cawley, L.|
|Russell, E.||Clwyd, L.||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Strafford, E.||Gainford, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Gorell, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Allendale, V. [Teller.]||Hemphill, L.||Thomson, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY had given Notice to move, in subsection (1), after "It is hereby declared," to leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert:
that a strike or lock-out is illegal if it has for its object or one of its objects to coerce the Crown or Parliament, whether directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community.
The expression 'the Crown' includes any person holding office under the Crown in respect to the exercise of the functions of his office.
§ The noble Marquess said: The Amendment which was moved by the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, was for the purpose of inserting words other than the words which have been devised by the Government in Clause 1. I voted against the Amendment because I venture to think that the Amendment I have put down is couched in better phraseology and covers the ground more adequately than the Amendment of the noble Earl.376
§ I would venture to put before the Government the suggestion that the words on the Paper should be substituted for subsection (1) as it stands at the present moment. I am sure no one can have listened to the arguments from those noble and learned Lords who have spoken without feeling that it is audacious on our part to venture into so intricate a controversy, but I approach the subject entirely as a layman. As your Lordships are aware, I did not support this Bill on Second Reading with any enthusiasm. I supported it because I believe that it carries out the wishes of the community after the General Strike of a little more than a year ago. The community, both in spoken word and in unspoken sentiment, were determined that the situation which arose a year ago should not be allowed to arise again if through the Government, they could give expression in a Bill to means to avert such a catastrophe. The criticism which we have heard in regard to this Bill is that it is much too complicated, that it is quite impossible to understand, and that even 377 if these proposals are carried into law, those whom they may influence or touch will not be aware whether they are breaking the law or not.
I have ventured to put down an Amendment which is simplicity itself as come pared with the subsection which has been put forward by the Government. It states
that a strike or lock-out is illegal if it has for its object or one of its objects to coerce the Crown or Parliament, whether directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community.
That is the Amendment which I venture, to move. The, second section of my Amendment as it appears on the Paper, I do not propose to move. This seems to me a simple Amendment and one which may commend itself to your Lordships. The noble Marquess, in his speech this afternoon, said that what we wanted to discover really was whether a strike was an industrial strike or a political strike. I am inclined to think that the difficulties which have been put forward as to discovering whether a strike is a genuine industrial strike or whether it is a political strike, are not so formidable as some noble and learned Lords would lead us to believe.
§ Perhaps I have a higher opinion of the Courts than one would judge from their speeches that noble Lords have, but I am inclined to think that if these cases came before them the Courts would not have this extreme difficulty in deciding whether a strike is industrial or political. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, ventured to suggest that I might find myself in a difficulty—in fact that I might find myself liable to two years imprisonment—if I followed a certain course. He was speaking of lockouts, and I am inclined to think—and this is going on every day—that it would be very easy for the Court to decide whether a lock-out was brought about by the owners for the purpose of coercing the Government or whether notices were given to the men because it would be impossible for the owners to carry on their pits—he was referring to the mining industry—and I think that if he will look through the newspapers he will see that notices are most unfortunately being given every day because it is quite impossible under present conditions for owners to carry on their business. Put this is a digression for which I will ask your Lordships' pardon.378
§ There is another point as to which I would suggest to the Government, if I may do so, that the clause as they have drafted it is in a somewhat clumsy shape. I think this is due to the fact that the suggestion that a lock-out should be placed on the same footing as a strike was omitted from the original draft of the Bill, and we now find the clumsy phraseology—I say this with diffidence and deference to the Government—that involves the use of paragraphs (a and (b). Your Lordships will notice that in the brief Amendment that I have put forward the strike and the lock-out are treated in the same paragraph. It is for these reasons that I move the Amendment that stands in my name.
Page 1, line 6, leave out from ("declared") to the end of line 5 on page 2, and insert ("that a strike or lock-out is illegal if it has for its object or one of its objects to coerce the Crown or Parliament, whether directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community.—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think that the very wide discussion that we had upon the last Amendment will enable me to be much shorter in dealing with this and some of the later Amendments. I think that the Amendment moved by my noble friend is a little better than that which your Lordships have just rejected, because, instead of requiring that the main object of a strike shall be to coerce the Government in order that it may be declared illegal, my noble friend proposes to say that a strike which has for one of its objects coercion of the Government shall be declared illegal. But otherwise it is much the same. Your Lordships will know exactly what I am going to say about this Amendment. My noble friend cuts out the condition imposed in the first paragraph of our clause, and so carries the clause much further than we desire to carry it. He would draw no distinction between a strike or lock-out confined to the trade or industry in which the dispute has arisen and any other strike or lockout. This would be directly against our intention. We want to leave untouched strikes that are confined to a trade dispute in the industry in which the strikers are engaged, provided that the only object of the strike is to further a trade dispute in that in- 379 dustry. We have set out to deal with what have been very fairly called political strikes, and not with industrial strikes; but this Amendment would bring within the ambit of the clause strikes in which the strikers have a genuine and valid concern. We do not want to touch those strikes, even if their necessary result is to put some pressure upon the Government, and I am afraid I cannot accept an Amendment which in this material respect alters the intention of the clause.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
The Government have now rejected the first two Amendments upon the Paper. The Committee stage in your Lordships' House is going very much as it was implied that it would go at the beginning by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. As a matter of fact, we on these Benches would support the Government in refusing to accept this Amendment. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, appears to be under the impression that the Amendment would really improve the Bill from our point of view and would at any rate help to make it clear. I am advised by those who understand the law much better than I do that such would not be its effect. I rose really because contradictory statements have been put before your Lord ships this afternoon, and I wish to give the Government a chance to clear the matter up. The Government have refused the Amendments that have been suggested, and yet there are very grave contradictions, to which I shall refer in a minute, before us, and I want to ask the Government whether they are prepared to clear up the difficulties raised by these contradictions.
Hitherto in the debates in another place, as the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, has mentioned, it has been stoutly denied by the Government that this Bill would affect a, miners' strike, and notably that it would have affected the miners' strike of last year. If the Lord Chancellor had not made on that point the statement that he has made I had intended to draw your Lordships' attention to certain remarks by Conservative lawyers in another place, in which they say quite clearly that they consider that all, or most, sympathetic strikes of any importance are prevented by this Bill, and I might have been able to go on and quote from the speech of the noble and learned 380 Marquess, Lord Reading, on the Second Reading, in which he said that all sympathetic strikes of any importance—
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I made, as it seems to me, a very vital distinction. I said that a sympathetic strike was not per se illegal, but nevertheless, as I understood the Bill, sympathetic strikes of real importance must become illegal under this clause.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
That, I think, is what I was going to say. But we have been taken further than that in the debates this afternoon. We have been attacking the Government for including the majority of what we call secondary strikes. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has this afternoon definitely told us that even primary strikes are going to be affected—strikes affecting only one industry. He mentioned the miners' strike and the Eight Hours Act. I need not go into the argument that the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, has already put before your Lordships, showing how almost inconceivable it is that the miners could obtain a return to the seven-hour day, on account of the diverse conditions of the industry, without a legal enactment. Apart from anything else, we all know that the miners are unwilling to conclude a national agreement. Further, Lord Arnold pointed out how, if the miners had done what the Government wanted them to do last year, that is adopt the Samuel Report as their policy, and they had been prepared to fight on that, then the strike would automatically have become illegal because they were fighting for an end which could only be obtained by compelling the Government to put that Report into operation.
Now I think your Lordships will see the point of my remarks. In a debate in another race Mr. Baldwin said definitely, with regard to the purpose of Clause 1: "What I should have liked, as a layman, to have said would have been 'that a General Strike shall be illegal.'" The Lord Chancellor, speaking in this House, said:I think I cannot begin better than by quoting the four propositions which my right hon, and learned friend, the Attorney-General, stated as the main purposes of the Bill. These are his propositions: (1), a General Strike is illegal and no man shall be penalised for refusing to take part in it.381 What I want to ask the Government is this. Are they prepared to show this House how the statement of the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the Lord Chancellor can be made to agree with the statement of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, this afternoon, that the miners striking for the repeal of the Eight Hours Act would be committing an illegal act? I do not want to argue the question whether they would be right in conducting that strike. However wrong we may think they would be, can we possibly say that a clause which prevented them from doing that is a clause which agrees with the purposes of this Bill as put forward by the Prime Minister and his colleagues? The Lord Chancellor has, as I have said, refused the Amendments that have been put before him this afternoon. I want to ask him whether he will either reconcile these alternative statements of policy or else give this House an undertaking that he will reconcile them in the near future on the Report stage? I put that forward as a definite challenge to the noble and learned Viscount.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am rather tired of contradicting these statements. The noble Earl used words in which he purported to reproduce what I said, but he did not reproduce what I said.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I have quoted from the OFFICIAL REPORT what the noble and learned Viscount said. Will he tell me how I have misquoted him? I was careful to read his statement word for word.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Earl has represented me as saying that a strike by miners, who could by agreement get a seven-hour day but would not accept it unless the Eight Hours Act were repealed, would be illegal. I did not say so. I said that if there was an intention to put pressure on the Government of the country by starving the country then that might become illegal. That is entirely what was said in the House of Commons time after time and there is no inconsistency at all.
My Lords, I was going to press the noble and learned Viscount to give the House some guidance on this matter, because I had very great 382 difficulty in discovering to what proposition he did assent and to what proposition he Aid not assent. I hope he will correct me at once if in anything which I say I misrepresent him. I now understand him to say that a strike confined to the mining industry alone, and conducted by miners alone, for the purpose of securing a seven-hour day, if it included putting pressure on the Government to repeal the Eight Hours Act would be illegal and would be within the terms of the clause. Have I represented the noble and learned Viscount correctly?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Except that putting pressure on the Government is not; quite the same thing as coercing the Government and inflicting hardship upon the community.
I do not wish to misrepresent. I quite agree that the words are "coerce the Government" or "inflicting hardship upon the community." That seems to me to land us in a position which really does justify the words with which I concluded my observations on the Second Reading, when I said that the Bill was very far from carrying out, simply and solely, those four principles which the Lord Chancellor had enunciated. We have got now very far indeed from a General Strike. We have got away from the sympathetic strike and have got to a strike confined to one industry, and primarily and legitimately seeking something connected with that industry—namely, shorter hours. We are now told that if it inflicts hardship on the community—probably every strike inflicts hardship on the community—and if the result of that is that it coerces the Government, then that strike is illegal.
The noble and learned Viscount was anxious that I should quote exact words, and I do so, but I do not know now, and I should be glad to be told, what coercing the Government is. I cannot give it any possible, clear meaning. I do not know what coerces a Government. Armed rebellion may be said to do so. The results of three or four by elections may be said to coerce a Government. What really is coercing a Government? Will the noble and learned Viscount agree with me so far as this, that the clause as it stands is one as to which no lawyer can predict with certainty what its meaning will be 383 until the Courts have decided upon it, and that it is more than likely there will be conflicting decisions until some higher authority has decided what it really does mean? The noble and learned Viscount shakes his head. I presume he means that the clause is clear and intelligible, without any necessity for legal decision. I hope, then, that at some stage we shall be told what "coercing the Government" is, and whether the test of coercing the Government is merely that hardship—no excess of hardship, no great hardship, but merely some hardship—is inflicted upon the community. Is that the test of coercion? If it is not, what does coercing the Government mean?
I think we are entitled to ask, what did ask in the few observations which I ventured to make before going into Committee, that when you are creating new crimes those crimes should be clear and definite, beyond question. Several illustrations have been given to your Lordships, and I wish to put another, and to ask the noble and learned Viscount to direct his mind to the illustration which I am going to give. Your Lordships are aware that there is an industrial disease called "phossy jaw," which is, or was, common in the match-making industry, and is a form of phosphorous poisoning. I am right, I think, in saying that that is now controlled by regulations under Act of Parliament, which have the force of law, and that that industrial disease has been very largely put an end to. Now let me ask the noble and learned Viscount to consider what the position was before that legislation was enacted. Imagine that that legislation was not in force. Imagine that people were working at this dangerous industry, and imagine that as the result of the greater education of the working class they had come to realise that this disease was preventible, but they were convinced that on grounds of economy of manufacture it was not prevented and never would be prevented until it was legislated for.
Now suppose those people met together and said: "We do not care to work in any industry in these conditions." Let me put the case in two ways. Let me suppose that in the first case they do not say: "We will coerce Parliament, we will ask for legislation"; but they merely say that while these conditions obtain with 384 reference to this industry in which no one ought to work, and all their trade union leaders so advised them, they will simply withdraw their labour, and do not work. Now, let me suppose that they go a little further, that after that has gone on for some time they thought that Parliament really ought to take this up, and they combined with that abstention from work a political agitation. Is that or is that not an illegal strike under Clause 1? It seems to me to be on the same basis as the miners and the Eight Hours Act. They are inflicting, I suppose, some trifling hardship on the community: there may be a difficulty in obtaining matches or people may have to pay more for them. I do not know what strike does not inflict some little hardship on the community—and there is no quantum of any sort mentioned in the clause. I do hope that the noble and learned Viscount will give some guidance to the Committee because alternatives are being proposed to this clause, and I think the object of both the noble Lords who moved alternatives was honestly to try to get the thing clear. Without any question of political argument, as a lawyer, perfectly honestly, I am not satisfied with this clause as it is. I cannot make out what it means, and I do hope, if we are to retain this clause as it is, something will be said and, if possible, some words will be added to let us understand what the new criminal offence is which is being created.
§ LORD ARNOLD
Before I say a word upon the Amendment itself I should like, if possible, to try to get the actual position a little clearer, because at the moment there is great confusion. I will not go again over the question of the miners and their hours, although there is this disparity between the position of the Government to-day and the position taken up in another place, that, whereas the Lord Chancellor may say that if the miners go on strike to secure shorter hours and the repeal of the Eight Hours Act, that that is legal—but I may say that of course it does not at all follow that the Courts will decide so, because the question is not what the noble and learned Viscount will say, but what the Judge will say on the words of the clause—however I pass that for the moment, but he has said that if the miners strike in order to get the Eight Hours Act re- 385 placed by a Seven Hours Act, which, for the reasons I gave on the last clause and which have not been replied to at all, I hold that they are perfectly entitled to do, that is coercing the Government and that that would be said to be illegal. That is a very serious matter.
Let me take another illustration. Take the question of pit inspectors. The miners might very well say: "We are not prepared to go on working in these mines unless there are more pit inspectors." It is well known that in many of the mines there are conditions which are up to a point dangerous, and I am afraid it is only too true that the number of pit inspectors is not equal to the work which ought to be done to secure the safety of the mines. Then the miners would be perfectly justified in saying: "We are not prepared to go on working in those mines"—if I were one of them I should certainly say it—"unless we have better inspection, and better ventilation." So far as the inspection is concerned, it may well be said that that is not a matter between miners and mineowners, but a matter between the miners and the Government. According to the Lord Chancellor, the miners cannot strike to secure those better conditions, though they might hold those conditions to be necessary for their safety and security. I ask again what on earth has that got to do with the General Strike?
The Government when they first introduced this Bill took up the position, incredible though it now seems, that the Bill did not alter the existing law. Will the Lord Chancellor say that now? Does he say that it would have been illegal for the miners to have struck in order to get better pit inspection? Because everybody knows that it was not illegal at all; it would have been a perfectly proper thing for them to do. They ought to have the right to do it, because under this Bill you are actually compelling them to remain in conditions of work which they hold to be dangerous. I know the Lord Chancellor says that the individual striker will not be sent to prison. In the original Bill the individual striker would have been sent to prison. That was the mentality of the Conservative Government at that time, but it was too much for them and they had to take that out.
386 But that is not the end of it. If the men strike, first their funds, which they have slowly and painfully and with great sacrifice built up, will be in great jeopardy. They may lose their benefits—not merely their funds for fighting the employer, but their benefit funds of various kinds. Those may all be taken under an action which may be brought against them for a strike which the Lord Chancellor says would be illegal under this Bill. That is a very serious matter. Moreover, although the actual penalty for the strike leaders is imprisonment but not for the men, we shall show, as we go into further Amendments, particularly in regard to picketing, that the vast majority of the men, owing to the change which this Bill makes in the law about picketing, will be in grave jeopardy of committing a criminal offence. As I read this Bill, if a strike is mooted or started, and a man says to his mate: "Are you coming out, Tom?" he can be held to be instigating another man to strike, and he would be liable to a penalty. In regard to the penalties which will be, or may be, imposed on the strike leaders, I will not speak for the moment, because I think we might deal with that more properly later on.
But let me take another illustration, the lead paint industry. That is a very dangerous industry so far as interior painting is concerned. We had the various points in regard to it discussed at some length in your Lordships' House when the Bill dealing with that matter was introduced. We were not at all satisfied that the procedure by regulation was sufficient for the circumstances, and we were able to adduce the highest medical evidence to show that the position of the Government in that matter was untenable. Their own expert resigned from the Civil Service, because he held that the Government were not keeping to a bargain, and that under their Bill there was grave risk indeed in certain eases of very serious suffering, and, I am sorry to say, in some cases of ultimate death to men because the Government were proceeding by regulation instead of by prohibition.
Suppose the men in that industry took the view that they were not prepared to go on under those conditions unless the Government passed a more complete 387 Act, an Act of prohibition such as the Government ought to have passed under the pledges of this country in regard to the Geneva Convention. I will not say that according to the Lord Chancellor that necessarily would be illegal, because it might be held that it was not inflicting hardship upon the community sufficiently, as it is not a very essential industry, but it probably would be held to be illegal. Apart from this illustration, there are in any case plenty of illustrations that could be adduced where there could be no dispute that the strike was inflicting hardship upon the community. According to the Lord Chancellor, these men must stick to that work. If they strike they are committing an illegal act, their leaders may be sent to prison, all their union funds may be taken in damages, and they may find themselves in a much worse position than at present.
That is a very serious matter and it is not a state of things that could continue indefinitely in this country. It furnishes an almost unanswerable reason why the Government ought, while there is still plenty of time, to agree to put in words in the Bill which will make it clear that strikes of this description are not illegal. The Lord Chancellor said that what they really wanted to do was to legislate against political strikes. Are the illustrations which I have given on this and the last Amendment—the Plimsoll line, the Agricultural Wages Act, the Factory Acts, pit inspectors, lead paint—are those cases political strikes? It is carrying the word very far to say they are political strikes. They are strikes for better industrial conditions. Yet, according to the Lord Chancellor, they are illegal. That is a very serious state of things. I cannot agree that this Amendment is an improvement upon that moved by the noble Earl or even upon the clause itself. Its words are altogether too vague, particularly the phrase "one of its objects." With that phrase in, it is not a question of the main object as in the last Amendment, but, if one of the objects is to coerce the Government and that wakes the strike illegal. I have no hesitation in saving that every strike of a considerable size in a primary industry—
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
If the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt him, the Government have refused 388 to accept my Amendment and I propose to withdraw it at the earliest opportunity.
§ LORD ARNOLD
That is interesting, but it is desirable to elucidate the point, and I should also like to elucidate another point not yet touched upon. The noble Marquess implied that under this clause an Amendment had been inserted since the Bill was introduced which put a lock-out in the same position as a strike. Somebody also suggested that in certain circumstances the noble Marquess might find himself liable to a penalty of as much as two years imprisonment. As I read this Bill the noble Marquess is perfectly safe. A strike and a lock-out are not on the same footing, as I shall be able to demonstrate when we come to the definition of a lock-out. There is a very serious disparity between the meaning given to a lock-out and the meaning given to a strike and, unless the Government agree to put that matter right, the lock-out and the strike will not be on the same footing and therefore the consequences of the one would not necessarily obtain in the case of the other.
But, assuming for the sake of argument that they were on the same footing, let me put this point. Noble Lords on the other side have not perhaps realised the implications of this Bill and how it might perhaps affect some of them. They would be wise to look very carefully into its provisions and see what their own position might be. For instance, if a Government were to pass a Four Hours Act for the agricultural industry at the same time fixing wages at double the present rates, then, if an Amendment is inserted to put the lock-out and the strike on the same footing, the position would be that it would be illegal for the employers to lock-out in protest. In that case, assuming that the strike and the lock-out were put on the same footing, which at the moment they are not, it would certainly be held by a Judge that the lock-out had an object other than or in addition to the furtherance of a dispute in the trade or industry. It could certainly be held, especially if it had to do with the agricultural labourers, that it was a lock-out that inflicted very great hardship upon the community. So that yon get to the position that in that case some noble Lords who employ a great deal of labour for agricultural purposes 389 might find themselves liable to serious penalties and to imprisonment not exceeding two years. That is no fanciful case.
§ LORD ARNOLD
Certainly, because this Amendment deals with strikes and lock-outs. I am pointing out to the noble Marquess what the effect of his Amendment might be. Having made the point I am prepared to leave it at that. I would be very glad if the Government would make some reply in order that we may be clearer than we are now as to what the position is.
I venture earnestly to make an appeal to the Government because they do not seem to have appreciated the very great uneasiness that has been aroused by the words that fell from the noble Viscount on the Woolsack. For the first time in the whole course of the discussion on this Bill we are told that a strike within an industry may in certain circumstances become illegal. That is wholly new as far as I am aware and raises very pertinent questions. For instance, when a strike begins on a perfectly legal basis and later it is found that the objects cannot be achieved without Government interference, it may therefore be held that pressure is being put upon the Government by the continuance of the strike. We have not been told by any spokesman for the Government how it is attempted to reconcile that position with the real intentions, as we understand them, of the Government. I venture earnestly to hope that before the debate upon this Amendment comes to an end, some spokesman for the Government will be able to enlighten us and relieve uneasiness which is not confined to the noble Lords who sit behind me, but will, I am perfectly certain, when the results and the facts which have come out in this evening's debate become generally known and understood in the country, cause very great, uneasiness to millions of people in the country.
Before the Amendment is withdrawn I would repeat my appeal to the noble and learned Viscount opposite to deal with the points I put to him. I think we are entitled to some 390 guidance from him. I endeavoured to put the points as concisely and clearly as possible and I think, with a view to discussing the rest of the clause, we ought to have some reply, because, this Amendment being withdrawn and other Amendments probably being rejected, we are going to be thrown back upon this clause. I do ask the noble and learned Viscount to make it a little more clear.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not want to be otherwise than courteous to noble Lords opposite, but I certainly think the whole of this discussion is quite irrelevant to the Amendment. I did not think this was the right point at which to answer their criticisms. What I have said throughout is this. The purpose of the Bill is to make illegal a strike which has no industrial purpose but which has nothing but a political purpose and which, as my noble and learned friend Lord Wrenbury pointed out, works through the method of an attack upon the country itself and upon Parliament. That is the point. The illustration put by myself and others is this. Supposing the workman, whether he be a miner or a chemical worker or other worker, can get just what he wants from his employer but says: "No, I won't take it from my employer unless I can get the law of the country altered." Obviously his object is political. I do not believe such a thing could occur. I do not think miners or any other workers are so foolish, while they can get what they want by agreement with their employers, as not to take by agreement what they can get, but to insist on having the law altered. That is all I said. In a case where they can get what they want by an agreement, but nevertheless strike, plainly their object must be political. With great respect to noble Lords that really is not the point now. If anybody proposes an Amendment on which the question arises I will do my best to deal with that Amendment, but it has nothing whatever to do with this Amendment.
If this Amendment is rejected we are thrown back upon the clause. We have before us one alternative, and it is reasonable to inquire what the other alternative means. I think I am in order, and I rose to ask the noble and learned Viscount whether he really did not make a mistake in the early 391 part of the debate when he said what the Bill did was to penalise strikes which had no industrial purpose. There is nothing in the Bill about "industrial purpose." A strike may have 95 per cent. of an industrial purpose, but so long as there is some object in it that is political then it is illegal. Surely that was a slip on the part of the noble and learned Viscount?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD ARNOLD had given Notice to move, in subsection (1) (a), after "(a) that," to insert "on and after the first day of January, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-three," and to leave out "is" and insert "shall." The noble Lord said: This Amendment raises a great many points of principle in connection with the clause and I should have preferred myself to have adjourned at this stage for dinner, because I am afraid I shall have to trouble your Lordships for some time in putting the various points which I think should be put. But the Government did not agree to that suggestion, which was made through the usual channel and, therefore, I will proceed with what I have to say. It will, of course, be recognised that an Amendment of this character is put down with a double object—not merely to secure the postponement of the operation of the clause but also to raise various points of a general character which apply to the clause as a whole, and which can best be discussed, at any rate in the first instance, in what I may call a sort of general discussion.
§ However, in the first place, I address myself to the precise words of the Amendment, the effect of which is to postpone the coming into operation of the clause until 1933. I have chosen that date because I consider that the question of a mandate, about which something was said upon the Second Reading, was by no means fully replied to and it is important that we should be clear about the position in regard to date. As I hold that the Government have no mandate for the Bill, I seek in this Amendment to postpone the operation of the clause a sufficient number of years to allow a Labour Government to come in and repeal the Act. Therefore, if this Amendment is carried, there is every probability that the Act would not come into operation, because it would be repealed before 392 1933. The noble Marquess, on this question of mandate, cited some quotations from a book published officially by the Conservative Party, called "Looking Ahead," and he seemed to think that justified this clause. With great respect to the noble Marquess, he was, I am sure unconsciously, in error in what he said about that book. I think he stated once or twice that the book was published on the eve of the Election as if it was a sort of official manifesto. According to my information that is not so. It was published in June, 1924. Nobody knew then when an Election was coming. It might not have come for two or three years and, as a matter of fact, it did not come until the end of October. Therefore to adduce that as evidence that there was a mandate is clearly open to very great criticism.
§ The point which we stressed on this side was that there was no reference to any clause like this or any Bill of this character in the Prime Minister's Manifesto. It was that point that was put by the noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading. A Prime Minister's Manifesto really is much more, or should be, the basis of a mandate than a book published some months before when nobody knew when an Election was coming. Moreover, books of that character, which may be authorised by the Prime Minister—that was the statement of the noble Marquess—are constantly authorised by Prime Ministers. On the basis of the argument of the noble Marquess we in the Labour Party could justify a great many things for which we should not have a specific mandate at the next Election. If the argument of the noble Marquess were to hold good we should have a mandate for bringing forward a measure to deal with certain vested interests if a booklet had been published some months before an Election on that subject, although nothing was said about it in the Manifesto of the Prime Minister. That is how the matter presents itself to me.
§ As regards the clause in general I would like to put this point again to the noble and learned Viscount. I have put several points to him, I venture to think careful points, points not put forward in the slightest degree with any intention of obstruction. I give your Lordships my word for that. I have given illustrations of various strikes which 393 under his ruling would be illegal, which nobody knew before this afternoon would necessarily be illegal. He has not deigned to reply to a single one. Not a single remark has he made in reply. I have also asked whether he now says what was said by the Government when they first introduced the Bill. Does he now say that this Bill does not alter the law, that it is merely a declaratory Bill? I think we ought to have a statement about that, because, of course, in point of fact the Bill alters the original law, especially as interpreted by the Lord Chancellor this afternoon. It alters the original law to a degree which is very great indeed. About that there can be no dispute.
§ On the question of sympathetic strikes—which perhaps we may discuss in detail a little better on another Amendment—I would say this: The Lord Chancellor said in his first speech this afternoon that noble Lords on this Bench obstinately stated and kept on stating that all sympathetic strikes would be illegal. As far as I am aware that statement has not been made by noble Lords on this Bench. Certainly I have never made the statement and I have never thought it. I will tell the noble and learned Viscount exactly what I do think about that when I come to another Amendment I have put down. I dare say that detailed discussion of a particular point should be taken on an Amendment dealing more immediately with that particular compartment of the subject. What we have said—and this is perfectly clear—is that every sympathetic strike on a considerable scale is in the gravest jeopardy, and it seems to me that on the words of this Bill no Judge could rule otherwise. Every sympathetic strike, obviously, as regards those industries taking part in it which are not the primary industry concerned, must have an object "other than or in addition to the furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry in which the strikers are engaged." There cannot be any dispute about that.
§ Any sympathetic strike of any size is clearly a strike which would inflict hardship upon the community and could be held, because it must do that, to be "calculated to coerce the Government either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community." In those circumstances 394 I do say that a sympathetic strike of considerable size is in the gravest jeopardy. That, of course, is a great blow at the solidarity of labour. Last year it seemed to be taken for granted, when the railwaymen and the transport workers came out to help the miners, that they had nothing really to do with the miners' quarrel. As a matter of fact they had a great deal to with it, because they knew perfectly well that if the miners were worsted in the conflict, that if their wages were forced down, as unhappily they have been, they themselves would not be in nearly such a good position to maintain the standard they had reached. I say these two conditions, which will bring in nearly every sympathetic strike of considerable size, aim a great blow at the solidarity of labour.
§ As regards strikes in single industries, the ground there has been largely covered, but not entirely covered. There is one illustration which I should like to put to the noble and learned Viscount, which I think is one of extreme importance. Again, it has to do with miners, though not with their hours. It has to do with their wages. In 1912 there was a strike by the miners to secure a minimum wage. That was the reason for the strike. It would certainly have been held by a Judge that the strike was intended to coerce the Government. As a matter of fact, it did coerce the Government because after some weeks of great loss to the community the Government legislated and passed the Minimum Wage Act, 1912. That Act secured for the miners a minimum wage, and I am quite confident that without that Act they would not at that time have got a minimum wage. I suppose the Lord Chancellor would argue there that that strike was not necessarily illegal. But look at the position. Suppose the owners had been willing to give a minimum wage to the miners, which at any rate is theoretically possible, surely it could not be wrong for the miners to say "No, we have suffered a great deal during the past few years owing to lack of this minimum wage. We have had this strike, which has decimated our union funds. We have had all this loss and suffering to ourselves and our families. We have now at last got the owners to agree to a minimum 395 wage for six months, but what guarantee have we that at the end of that time the owners will not withdraw it? "Surely the miners would have had the right to say: "We must have what obtains in many other industries. We must have protection by Statute so that we shall not find ourselves at the end of a few months with the result of all our efforts undone"?
§ I do not think, with great respect to the Lord Chancellor, that he has given reasons why that position of the miners is one which should be made Illegal. I am perfectly certain that if I were a miner I should take the view that it was necessary to have it on the Statute Book in black and white. I cannot see anything wrong about that. I cannot see anything in that which should call for penalties by imprisonment and so forth for the leaders, or call for the other losses which would occur under this Bill. We do not know, nobody knows for certain, nobody can know for certain, how the Judges will interpret this clause. That is one of the difficulties with which we are faced. But in view of what the Lord Chancellor has said this afternoon the position in regard to that is blacker, very much blacker, than I had thought possible. If that is the Lord Chancellor's view, I am afraid that the Judges, or some of them, may be disposed to take the same view or even, in some respects, to go further. And on the words of the Bill I do not think that the Judges could be blamed. In certain cases, at any rate, on the words of the Bill they could adduce many reasons to justify decisions which will be extremely harsh to the workers.
§ One of our quarrels with this clause, and one of the things which we urge upon the Government, is that it is ambiguous and that it does establish a great degree of uncertainty as to what, the position is. The noble Marquess who leads the House has said—I have heard him myself say it—how important it is that your Lordships' House in revising Bills should put in words which are clear, which do not admit of ambiguity, and he has properly called attention to the trouble which may ensue from ambiguous words, to the uncertainty created for those concerned and to the conflicting decisions that may arise. I have already pointed out that the drafting of this Bill has been most severely criticised by supporters of 396 the Government in another place. It has been said that this is the worst drafted Bill ever presented to Parliament, and eminent legal gentlemen supporting the Government have said that they are not clear whether this clause carries out the intentions of the Government or not. I believe—I do not think that it applies to this particular point—that in certain respects the Bill was, and in some parts still is, actually ungrammatical.
§ I submit that these matters ought to be most carefully considered, because after the Taff Vale decision the losses of the unions through the uncertainty created were enormous. At that time the present Earl of Oxford and Asquith, who was then Mr. Asquith, used words to the effect that he was unable to advise any strikers that they would be free from that decision. Certainly, in regard to this measure, a statement has been made by those who have had lifelong experience of trade union law that they do not know what the position is in certain respects. All they can say is that in practically every strike, with some small and insignificant exceptions, the workers are in peril. Take the decision at Taff Vale. The calculation has been made by one of the foremost authorities on trade union law, that owing to the Taff Vale decision the railwaymen alone in the course of a certain number of years were worse off in wages to the extent of something like £50,000,000, the reason being that they did not know where they stood and were afraid to strike lest their funds should be impounded. It is quite true that the Act of 1906 was passed, and that might have put the matter right. The point is that the unions were discouraged and injured by this decision, and it took them some years to recover their strength. That statement has been made by one of the foremost living authorities on trade union matters. I should think that there has rarely been a Bill in which so much is left vague and so much is left to the Courts.
§ The Lord Chancellor said on the Second Reading that the Act of 1906 remains. Technically, of course, that is true, but I really do not think that, taking a comprehensive view, that position is really in accordance with the facts, because the majority of strikes, and certainly nearly all sympathetic strikes, which were perfectly legal under the Act of 1906, are 397 in grave jeopardy under this Bill, and if they are pronounced illegal they will not get the protection of the Act of 1906. Accordingly that Act, although it may remain upon the Statute Book, is to a large extent nullified so far as the protection that it gives to the workers is concerned. Something has been said about the new criminal offences created by this measure. The noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading, has spoken of them two or three times. This is a very serious matter. This Act has unfortunately created new offences, and it is, I think, going a very long way to make the leader of a strike that may be adjudged illegal under this Bill liable to two years imprisonment. In some unions, at any rate, the leaders are merely carrying out the instructions of the rank and file, and it is not they who make the strike necessary or call the strike. In that case it is going a long way to make them liable to the extent of two years imprisonment. The question of the furtherance of a strike will, however, be dealt with in a separate Amendment, and a great many points come in there which I think should have the most serious consideration of your Lordships' House.
§ This clause, which purports to deal with a General Strike, obviously goes a great deal further. Nothing has been said this afternoon about the Emergency Powers Act. If there is a General Strike, or what is called a General Strike, the Emergency Powers Act can be invoked, and even without that Act the Government have the widest powers to deal with the situation. If the position of the Government is that, because of something that happened last year, the so-called General Strike, this legislation is necessary, I say that it is a position that has never been really established, because it is well known and has been admitted that, having regard to the magnitude of the dispute—it was not a General Strike—there was almost unexampled peacefulness in the country. Accordingly it seems to me that the Government is in a very weak position in asking, as the result of what happened then, that a Bill of this character should be passed and that this clause should be passed with its very serious penalties. It will undoubtedly bring about most serious consequences to the trade unions of the country. That being so, I venture 398 to submit that there is a very strong case for postponing the operation of this clause until the country has had time to pronounce upon this measure. It has been supposed to be the function of your Lordships not to pass a Bill the principles of which have not been approved by the people, and I say that here is an opportunity of putting that principle into effect by accepting this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 7, after ("that") insert ("on and after the first day of January, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-three"), and leave out ("is") and insert shall be").—(Lord Arnold.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
When I saw this Amendment upon the Paper, I did not think that it could be seriously meant, but now the object with which it was moved is quite plain. The noble Lord moved is in order to make a Second Reading speech on the Bill and, under the free rules and somewhat lax practice of debate in this House, to refer to other clauses of the Bill and to repeat every argument that has already been put before the House. He will not expect me to give a detailed answer to his speech, still less to accept his Amendment. If I may paraphrase his Amendment, it means that, as matters stand and for five years, it shall be lawful for any body of persons to hold up the essential services of the country—light, food, fuel, transport and the rest—in order to serve their own political ends. We hold that this should not be lawful, and therefore I hope that the House will very quickly reject this Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
LORD THOMSON moved, in subsection (1) (a) (i), to leave out "has any object other than or in addition to the," and to insert "is not in." The noble Lord said: The Amendment which stands in my name deals with very much the same topic as has been so lengthily discussed under previous Amendments. It is a small sloop, so to speak, compared with a couple of three-deckers, but I really think that, after what the noble and learned Viscount said on the Amendment of the noble Marquess, there is something to be said for this Amendment. After all it simplifies paragraph (a) of subsection (1) and it puts into effect
almost exactly—and I followed him very closely—what the noble and learned Viscount said in the course of his last remarks. As amended, the paragraph would read—
(a) that any strike is illegal if it—
(i) is not in furtherance of a trade dispute ‖.
It simplifies the paragraph and leaves us to deal with the illegal sort of strike under paragraph (a) (ii).
§ Personally, I do not believe that if a lot of men went on strike in this country, for the various reasons which have been put before your Lordships, having, as a collateral objective, some political action, such as a remedy for phossy jaw, or pit-inspectorships, they would be regarded or proceeded against as having committed an illegal act. But the phrase as it stands now in the Bill gives many loopholes for proceeding against them. Surely the suggested simplification is an Amendment that the noble and learned Viscount might accept in the light of his own remarks. It seems to me that we could have omitted a lot of the discussion if it had been possible to put this Amendment down before, because it almost exactly coincides with what I gather to be the views of the Lord Chancellor in his own disclaimer of the motives, or rather the sense, attributed to his statement.
Page 1, line 8, leave out from ("(i)" to ("furtherance") in line 9 and insert ("is not in").—(Lord Thomson.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It is a pleasure to listen to the noble Lord, who supports his Amendment by argument, but I think he has overlooked one point. A strike may be partly in furtherance of a trade dispute and partly for political ends. For instance, it may be partly to get better conditions and partly to force nationalisation of the industry upon Parliament, and it may further be intended or calculated to coerce the Government or Parliament. In that case if his Amendment were adopted that strike would be legalised. I do not think that would be right. It is easy to produce a trade dispute. If you have a political end you may easily add to it a trade dispute, and if this Amendment were accepted the leaders instigating the strike would take cover under that added trade dispute and 400 so pursue their political ends by coercive means. So, I think, it would be quite possible to repeat the experience of last year if such an Amendment as this were accepted.
We protect a purely industrial strike in an industry, even although it is what I call "coercive." In the case of a strike partly industrial and partly political we still protect it, if it is not intended or calculated to coerce the Government or the nation; but if it is a political strike which has some object other than industrial, and is designed, or calculated, to coerce the country, then we desire to bring it within the terms of the Bill. I think the noble Lord will see that his point has been fully considered, but I am afraid I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I have no intention of discussing this question at length, because, I think, it has been the subject of discussion on the Second Reading and on the earlier Amendments to Clause 1, but I do wish to say this, that it is another illustration of how this Bill is going to act in the way of altering the law. You take a strike and you say that if it is anything else than the "furtherance of a trade dispute" then it is to become illegal, but if it be the law that the workman has a right to lay down his tools, then you are altering the law and putting difficulties in the way of combination for collective bargaining. We have already had all this out, and I am not going to repeat it, but I cannot assent to the opposition to my noble friend's Amendment, which I think is a good one.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ LORD ARNOLD moved, in subsection (1) (a) (i), to leave out "within the trade or industry in which the strikers are engaged." The noble Lord said: On this Amendment I should like to put four questions to the Lord Chancellor. We have had some discussion on the question of the sympathetic strike, and I have no intention of repeating what has been said before, or of using arguments which have been already dealt with. If, however, old points have not been replied to, then I feel it my duty to put them again. I did state, broadly, what I consider to be the position with regard to the sympathetic strike, on a previous Amendment, and I should like now to put three or four simple points to the 401 Lord Chancellor. The first is this: Is it not the Government's position that this clause is supposed to legislate against a General Strike? Is that not the reason which was adduced for this clause Secondly, is it not the case that if railway men come out to help the miners, and that is only a sympathetic strike, then that is not a General Strike?
§ Thirdly, is it not the case—and indeed the Attorney-General has said so, and I think the Lord Chancellor said so to-day—that this clause makes it illegal for railwaymen to come out to help the miners? Is it not the Government's view that in future railwaymen would not be at liberty to come out to help the miners? As a matter of fact, the Attorney-General at one point went so far as to say that not only did this Bill in his opinion make that illegal, but that it was illegal without this Bill. That was an extraordinary-statement because, I think, under the 1906 Act such a strike was specifically allowed, and nobody has questioned the legality of it hitherto. Fourthly, to put these questions together, is it not the case that this clause goes far beyond the alleged object of the Government? If so, is it not the case that this Amendment, which would put the matter right, so far as a sympathetic strike is concerned, ought to be accepted, if the Bill is intended to carry out the avowed intention of the Government and not go a great deal further? Those are perfectly clear questions and I should be very much obliged to the noble and learned Viscount if he would give a reply to them.
Page 1, line 9, leave out from ("dispute") to ("and") in line 11.—(Lord Arnold.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I remember a Minister in another place who was asked a string of questions and who got up and said: "The answer is in the plural." I will not give that answer, but really the noble Lord has asked me a series of questions, many of which are purely hypothetical, and I think that it is generally better not to reply to questions of that kind. But I will answer as best I can. He says: Is this legislation against a General Strike? "General strike" is not a term of art; it is not the kind of expression you can put in an Act of Parliament, but we are legislating against the kind of things 402 here described, that is to say, strikes having a non-industrial object and intended to coerce the nation. He says: Is a sympathetic strike good? Certainly it is good if it does not come within condition 2. He asked if the railwaymen could strike. Certainly they could strike if they did not come under condition 1 and condition 2. They very often have an interest to enable them to strike. If they have such an interest, or if they do not come within the second condition, they can strike as they can strike to-day. The last question is whether this goes beyond our intention. The answer is: No, it exactly carries out the intention we have in our minds.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
This is a matter which goes to the very bottom of the thing in dispute between us. It affects workmen who are not engaged in the industry in which the dispute takes place, particularly those, it may be, who are not protected. It is the old question of whether what is called a General Strike, or sometimes a sympathetic strike, is to be prohibited. It is plain that it is the intention of the Government to make it unlawful.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ EARL DE LA WARR moved, in subsection (1) (a) (ii), to leave out "designed or calculated," and to insert "intended." The noble Earl said: The point dealt with in this Amendment is also covered by Amendments standing in the name of Lord Parmoor and the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp. It is, I think your Lordships must admit, a constructive Amendment. It is virtually the same as an Amendment that was moved in another place from the Conservative Benches. It is designed to remove a word that does undoubtedly at present create confusion—the word "calculated," which is the word that Lord Beauchamp proposes to leave out. This word has aroused a great deal of confusion in the minds of members on all sides of both Houses. It has been mentioned repeatedly in your Lordships' House, notably by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading. It has also aroused a certain amount of doubt in the mind of the Attorney-General, because, speaking on the Amendment, he attempted to define this word, and said:
"Similarly in the Patents Designs and Trade Marks Act, 1883, there was the same
expression 'calculated to deceive.' Lord Halsbury, in discussing the words 'calculated to deceive,' said:
'The truth is that when one comes to see what the real question is, it is, in a single sentence, "has it a name so really resembling the name of another firm as to be likely to deceive?"'
Then the Attorney-General went on:
Lord Lindley, in dealing with the expression—
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I apologise. I did not know that. Considerable mention has been made, however, of opinions expressed in another place. Perhaps I might quote from Lord Lindley, and perhaps I might be allowed to mention that the Attorney-General has also quoted from Lord Lindley. Lord Lindley said:A mark is within the section calculated to deceive when that mark is so like the mark on the register that the one is likely to be mistaken for the other.I read that in order to demonstrate that apparently the Attorney-General is of opinion that the meaning of this word "calculated" is "likely"; but later on in the debate the Attorney-General said that he preferred Lord Oxford's definition, which is "intended by its inevitable results." I think your Lordships will admit that there is a considerable difference between the word "likely" and the words "intended by its inevitable results," and it is because there is this difference and this distinction that I move this Amendment, in order to try to clear up the point which has caused all the legal minds in both Houses great confusion, and even greater confusion to the trade union leaders. The Attorney-General was asked to insert as an Amendment the words which he himself preferred—"intended by its inevitable results," but when it actually came to the point he said that after all he did not think that "inevitable" was a word which he could insert in an Act of Parliament. Therefore, he left the matter in a state of even greater confusion, because, having said that he preferred a certain definition, he said that he considered it unsuitable for use in an Act of Parliament. I would therefore ask the Government to meet the point by accepting either my Amendment or one of the two others on the Paper.
Page 1, line 12, leave out ("designed or calculated") and insert ("intended"l.—(Earl De La Warr.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
It is perhaps desirable, as my own Amendment has been mentioned, that I should say something on the point. We have been discussing this Bill now for nearly four hours and have only discussed six lines of it. I am very anxious to forward business and to help the Government. It seems desirable, therefore, that my Amendment should be moved on Third Reading or on Report stage, if there is one, which I do not anticipate. That seems to me the best thing.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I regret what the noble Earl has said. I wish to deal with the words "or calculated." Those are not words of definition nor are they legal terms, though they raise certain questions of fact. It is most important to get as close a definition as you can and as little doubt as you can. I would ask the Lord Chancellor, therefore, if he could not accept the omission of the words "or calculated."
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
This is a serious and important question and I must deal with it, although I may have to look forward to another discussion in future. I do not know why the noble Earl assumes there will be no Report stage. If there is, he can move it then. The point is that with the word "designed" you cannot establish an offence unless you dive into the minds of all the people who are concerned in the strike or lock-out in question. You hate, somehow, to prove that they intended these consequences and that all of them, at all events the directing minds among them, intended these consequences. That is a thing almost impossible to do. Therefore the word "calculated" is added. If your Lordships will look at Clause 8 (2) (c), you will see there the definition of "calculated":—A strike or lock-out shall not be deemed to be calculated to coerce the Government unless such coercion ought reasonably to be expected as a consequence thereof.Now if a man does an act which has certain consequences which ought reasonably to be expected, surely that is enough to show that the thing the man had 405 in view, or ought to have had in view, was the thing that must happen by reason of what he did; in other words, was the coercion against which the Bill is directed? It is quite impossible to be content with only the word "designed" or only the word "intended." I hope the House will keep in the words "or calculated" which give effect to the view I have expressed.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I am sorry the noble Viscount has not accepted my Amendment. He referred to the alteration made in another place—"ought reasonably to be expected." That really leaves us worse off. Take the effect of this Bill upon the country. I know your Lordships find it hard to think that we are really as distressed about its effects as we say we are. We say that the inevitable result of this Bill is that it is going to create chaos in this country. Your Lordships expect the Bill to do good in the country and are quite convinced it will. I urge that point because it shows that here we are, two bodies of perfectly honest men, expecting absolutely different results from this Bill. It is easy, of course, after the event to look back and say that a certain result could easily have been expected. It is bad enough using the word "designed" or the word "intended." It is again so easy to look back, but when you come to the even vaguer word "calculated," I do submit to the noble Viscount that it ought to be omitted and I hope that, if an Amendment is moved on Third Reading or before then, he will reconsider the point in order to try to meet what I really feel is a very reasonable point.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ [The sitting was suspended at five minutes past eight o'clock and resumed at half past nine o'clock.]
§ LORD GORELL moved, in subsection (1) (a) (ii), after "coerce," to insert "by exercising unlawful compulsion on." The noble Lord said: I imagine that every noble Lord who puts down an Amendment considers that, his Amendment is of extreme importance, but I hope I may be forgiven for saying that I think the discussions that have taken place throughout this afternoon have emphasised the importance of the Amendment I am now moving. In the long discussions which took place on the first and second Amendments 406 there was constant references by, I think, every noble Lord who spoke, to the difficulties that are created under the present text of the Bill by ignorance as to what exactly is meant by the word "coerce." My noble friend Lord Russell pressed the Government to give some explanations of this word, which is not defined in the Bill at all, but, as in the case of a number of the other points raised from this side of the House, no answer of any kind was given.
§ It has already been pointed out that this Bill creates a number of new crimes and that it is of great importance, if possible, to clarify the language of the Bill. The object of my Amendment is not in any way to destroy the clause. I accept the fact that the main principle of the Bill was agreed to by your Lordship the other day, and the Amendment that I desire to move is, therefore, solely for the purpose of trying to throw light upon what is meant by the expression "coerce." It has been stated by a number of noble Lords that they are completely in ignorance as to what is meant by the phrase "coerce the Government." Everybody who in any way whatever brings any pressure to bear upon public authorities is, in a sense, coercing those authorities. In this particular case I think it is of supreme importance that some explanation should be given of this word. The noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading, in speaking on one of the Amendments, interpreted the word "coerce" to mean "to bring pressure to bear." That, in itself—if coerce menus no more than that—is so extremely vague that I hope that the words which I wish to insert will at any rate not meet with that polite, but absolute, refusal with which all the other Amendments have been met.
§ I even venture to think that this Amendment may be regarded as in some nature a test of the Government's sincerity. They have told us that they will welcome any endeavours to improve the Bill. The explanatory words which I desire to see inserted are by way of interpreting the word "coerce," and I take it that that word "coerce" can only mean what I am endeavouring to make clear, because bringing pressure only. I should imagine, cannot be in the meaning of the Government unlawful. I am endeavouring to insert words which shall make it quite clear that coercion in the sense of 407 the Bill shall mean unlawful coercion. We have had in the course of this after-noon's debate a great many arguments derived from the mining industry with regard to the Eight Hours Act and the attempt, or the possible attempt, of the miners to obtain shorter hours than under the Eight Hours Act. I should like to know whether, in the event of a strike by the mining industry to obtain shorter hours, which I understand is undeniably a legal strike even within this clause, if, in the course of that strike it was pointed out to the miners who were on strike by one of their leaders that it would be quite impossible to get the shorter hours without an Act of Parliament and therefore that that might be so construed as to mean bringing pressure to bear on the Government, that brings that strike at a subsequent stage within the definition of an illegal strike under this clause.
§ I hope that by inserting such words as I suggest some of the doubts and vagueness may be removed The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, in reply to the noble Earl, Lord Buxton who moved the very first Amendment, criticised that Amendment and its use of the word "main" as being rather vague. I do not see how it is possible for any spokesman of the Government to criticise that Amendment as being vague and at the same time refuse to clarify in some way or another the words at present in the clause, which are most undoubtedly vague. I say "undoubtedly vague" because a great many noble Lords spoke earlier in the evening and they all were in doubt and put different constructions upon this word "coerce." Therefore, I do urge that this Amendment shall not be treated as the other Amendments have been treated, and that it shall receive the very earnest and serious consideration of your Lordships. I do not necessarily attach too great a value to the actual words that I have chosen. It may well be that better words could be framed to make clear the meaning. My point is simply this, that coercing the Government by itself and in itself cannot possibly be held to be an illegal act. In various ways, great and small, everybody who wishes to see any public change, attempts to coerce a Government and the only meaning that can be attached to this word in this clause is "putting unlawful compulsion 408 upon." Therefore it is with that object, in order to make clear what I feel sure must be the real intention of the Government, that I venture to move the insertion of these words.
Page 1, line 13, after ("coerce") insert ("by exercising unlawful compulsion on").—(Lord Gorell.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I rather understand from the speech of my noble friend that he is not much enamoured of the terms of his Amendment. Really I am not surprised, because if the Amendment were carried the Bill would declare that a strike is illegal if it is a strike intended or calculated to exercise unlawful compulsion upon the Government. Surely it is not necessary to declare that an unlawful act is unlawful. If the object is to exercise unlawful compulsion on the Government surely it must be in itself illegal. It is defining idem per idem, as the lawyers sometimes say. Just consider what it means if the Amendment is carried. You would first have to prove by considerations outside the Act that there was illegality, and then, and then only, it would be illegal under the Act. That surely is absurd. Our desire is to lay down as clearly as possible in the terms of the Bill what kind of strike is illegal, and the whole subject would be thrown back into confusion if it were made necessary to decide without any assistance from the Bill what methods it is lawful to employ. It is really impossible to put into any Statute words of that kind.
The noble Lord says that he does not know what "coercion" means. I sometimes think that noble Lords opposite know the English language better than they would have us believe. We all know what to coerce is. It is to compel; and you have a very plain instance before you in the General Strike of last year. The admitted first object of the strike was to make the whole country so miserable as to compel any Government to take legislative action, either by granting a subsidy from the public funds or in some other way. That was obviously a method of coercing the Government. Many other instances might be given, but I cannot conceive that noble Lords do not know what coercion means. If they have any other better word I shall 409 be very glad to consider it, but I certainly cannot accept an Amendment which would make the Bill ludicrous.
§ LORD THOMSON
Perhaps I may be permitted to say that we have heard some of the most eminent legal luminaries during the course of this debate and none of them have agreed as to what "coerce" does mean. We have heard the noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sumner, and my noble and learned Leader, Lord Haldane, and to an ordinary layman at this moment the word "coerce" does not convey much meaning. I am almost certain that not one of us here present would really treat as illegal a strike of seamen because the conditions of their life were dangerous, and yet those conditions could probably be remedied only by political action, and their action in striking would be to this extent illegal, that it would not be obviously industrial. As regards the noble and learned Viscount's remarks about the repetition of the word "unlawful," I am, of course, speaking with the utmost diffidence in his presence, but I would ask him whether lawyers do not sometimes accept idem per idem in their conduct and in their phraseology.
I have raised the question of this word "coerce" before, and I have listened with the utmost care to the noble and learned Viscount. I do not think I understand yet what the word means. He says, as I understand him that, it means "to exercise compulsion upon." Even "compulsion" is a very doubtful sort of word. There is the compulsion of a bayonet pointed at your breast or a revolver in the back of your neck. That we can all understand to be compulsion. There is also the comparatively slight pressure of a body of electors who declare that they will vote against you in your constituency. That is frequently used as a form of compulsion and if compulsion simply means pressure brought to bear upon the Government—but I take it that the noble and learned Viscount does not really mean that, for he corrected me before when I used the word "pressure" as an illustration. He means something more; but what exactly does he mean? I quoted the instance of 410 a strike in the match trade. He will not suggest that a strike of match-makers would bring any serious compulsion to bear upon any Government. The numbers would be too few and the results too small. If that is the only definition, will they be outside this clause or inside it?
And when exactly does coercion begin? Does it begin when the community are deprived of the necessities of life, or when they are deprived of only conveniences? If a strike occurs of people who make motor cars and of people who repair them, so that private motor cars cannot be used, would that be putting pressure upon the Government in the form of unlawful compulsion? The thing is so vague that, although the noble and learned Viscount does not agree with me, I still think that until it has been defined by legal authority, and probably redefined and examined in more than one Court, nobody will know what the process of "coercing the Government" is. Pressure may be brought upon a Government in all sorts of ways, some more and some less agreeable, but so far as I know the only way in which unlawful compulsion can be brought to bear is one which involves use of force. I understand that the noble and learned Viscount says that the withholding of labour may be coercion upon the Government and he proposes to leave the word undefined.
The reply of the noble and learned Viscount leads to this conclusion. If he will not accept the words "unlawful compulsion" obviously the only inference to be drawn is that the subsection is designed to prevent the exercising of lawful coercion. I do not believe that is the intention of the Government, but that is the only inference that can be drawn. I cannot see that the argument that the Amendment is unnecessary can necessarily be an argument for its rejection. If it is unnecessary it at least does no harm and that goes counter to the rest of the argument, that the noble and learned Viscount cannot accept it because it is out of keeping with the clause.
Then he gave an explanation of what he understood by compulsion by referring to the General Strike of last year. The Strike of last year most people, I think, would agree was an instance of 411 compulsion, but I think it has also been stated by many noble Lords and not denied by anybody that this clause as at present drawn goes far beyond the object of preventing a General Strike. The noble and learned Viscount earlier this afternoon gave us a definite example of how it might operate to make illegal a strike within a certain industry, and therefore I cannot help but think that analogies based solely upon a General Strike are misleading. I venture to press for some definition of this word. The noble and learned Viscount said I was not enamoured of my Amendment. I will only say that it is quite possible that some better definition might be obtained in other ways, but I think that I have suggested a good way and I hope your Lordships will accept it.
§ LORD OLIVIER
The noble and learned Viscount is apparently determined to leave us in despair about this word "coerce." It is perfectly clear that the word "coerce" means to compel. These strikes are not intended to compel but to influence strongly, and to give persuasive reasons for doing something. The most recent instance that I can remember of an intention to coerce the Government occurred in Kenya Colony, when it was proposed to give certain political rights to Indians, to which Lord Delamere and his friends objected. They organised a scheme to kidnap the Governor and coerce the Government. That was an intention to coerce the Government, but, short of that, you have an entirely indefinite category of objects which every one will admit are perfectly legitimate. We contend that the word "coerce" is quite unsatisfactory and leaves us in despair as regards the interpretation of the Bill. I appeal to the noble and learned Viscount either to accept the Amendment or give some definite guidance as to what the application of this Bill is to be.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
It may be perfectly true that the word "coerce" is rather difficult to define. But the words "peaceful persuasion" are also somewhat difficult to define, and that is a matter that has to be taken into consideration. I do not suppose that anybody on either side of the House would consider that two people going for the purpose of peaceful persuasion, and offering their arguments perfectly quietly, 412 could possibly be taken to have done anything that they had not a perfect right to do. But supposing that eight thousand people came—and I have known more to come—is there any doubt whatever that that is not peaceful persuasion? Has the noble Lord any doubt that that is coercion? And in the cases that I have in mind it was left, and left very properly, I think by the Judges who tried those cases, to the juries who had to try them as a question of fact, having heard all the circumstances of the case. Was that or was that not coercion, or was it peaceful persuasion? In some cases the jury found that it was peaceful persuasion: in others, I regret to say, they had to find that it was coercion.
I do not know whether the noble and learned Earl thinks we are on Clause 3, but we are not. We are not on the question of intimidation or coercing workmen; we are on the question of coercing a Government, which is a very much more difficult thing to explain. I really do not know where you are to draw the line between ordinary, legitimate political pressure and physical coercion. Physical coercion, of course, is everything that it should not be; it is seditious and illegal in every way. But political pressure by other people than workmen is legitimate, and in some cases must be legitimate by workmen. I think it has been agreed that it might be legitimate by workmen apparently in all cases except where they withhold their labour. I take it that the word here does not mean political pressure of that kind. The noble and learned Viscount must intend it to mean more than that. How do you coerce a Government? Can the Lord Chancellor give us any instance of the compulsion of a Government by means of a strike other than a General Strike, which is undoubtedly intended to influence, and influence apart from reason, a Government. But what about an ordinary strike?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Of course, you can coerce a Government in all kinds of ways, but this is only to prevent the use of the strike weapon to coerce a Government. The strike weapon is quite legitimate for the purpose of putting pressure on and coercing employers. This Bill does not interfere with that, but the use of a strike for the purpose of coercing 413 a Government is surely illegitimate. I do not know of a case where a single strike has coerced a Government. I quite agree with the noble Earl there, but a strike of the character which we had last year was designed and intended to put unfair pressure upon the country and the Government. That is the kind of thing we are after, and I really am unable to give any further elucidation of that which is a very common English word, and which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, would be able to understand if he thought over it a little to-night, and he would then come tomorrow with a full comprehension of it.
It may be observed that the noble and learned Viscount has used almost the exact words which I have put down in my Amendment. He says "unfair pressure"; I say "unlawful compulsion." I really cannot see the difference. If that is his meaning, why cannot he accept my Amendment?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, a little while ago on a precious Amendment the noble and learned Viscount admonished one of the learned Lords on this side for repetition. What are we to do if we cannot get our questions answered? We cannot vote you down, we cannot in any way bring any sort of coercion upon your Lordships to answer our questions. All we can do is to go on repeating them. Of course, I quite agree with the noble and learned Viscount. If we go on repeating points already made and answered, it would be legitimate to say we are abusing the privileges of the House, but we have not done so. I am not going to repeat the questions put by the noble Lords, Lord Russell and Lord
§ Gorell, but I am going to ask the noble Lord quite definitely to answer them, so that if he does not answer them he will be in the position of admitting he is unable to answer them.
§ The noble Earl, Lord Russell, put the case of the match-makers and admitted that they were not in a position to coerce the Government by reason of the importance of their industry. On the other hand, we have an industry such as the coal industry which, by reason of its importance, is able to coerce the Government. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, then gave certain intermediate industries. One he mentioned was the motor-car industry and I noticed, when he mentioned that, the noble and learned Viscount shook his head angrily, but he did not answer the question. I ask him to answer the point put by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, about the intermediate industries and to give us some sort of definition which will enable us to know what industries are going to be affected by this Bill and what industries are not, and what industries are going to be put into a position to coerce the Government and what powers they will have.
§ LORD ARNOLD
When the noble and learned Viscount says he cannot given an example of a single industry coercing the Government, he forgets the miners' strike of 1912 which coerced the Government and coerced them into passing an Act of Parliament.
§ On Question, Whether the said words shall be there inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 7: Not-Contents, 60.415
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Haldane, V.||Gorell, L. [Teller.]|
|Russell, E.||Olivier, L.|
|Arnold, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Cave, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Halsbury, E.||Falkland, V.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Falmouth, V.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Onslow, E.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.|
|Plymouth, E. [Teller.]||Hood, V.|
|Sandwich, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)|
|Wellington, D.||Stanhope, E.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Sidmouth, V.|
|Bath, M.||Yarborough, E.|
|Banbury of Southam, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Bertie of Thame, V.||Biddulph, L.|
|Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Hanworth, L.||Queenborough, L.|
|Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Clinton, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Cranworth, L.||Kenyon, L.||Ruthven of Gowrie, L.|
|Daryngton, L.||Lamington, L.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Lawrence, L.||Southampton, L.|
|de Mauley, L.||Lawrence of Kingsgate, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Merrivale, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Douglas, L. (E. Home.)||Merthyr, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Erskine, L.||Monk Bretton, L.||Wavertree, L.|
|Forester, L.||Newton, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||O'Hagan, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Gisborough, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)||Wynford, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
LORD OLIVIER moved, in subsection (1), before "For the purposes of the foregoing provision," to insert:—
Provided that it shall be legal to commence or continue to apply any sums in furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry out of or connected with which such illegal strike shall have arisen.
§ The noble Lord said: I think the reasonable, innocuous and necessary character of this Amendment will be manifest even to the noble and learned Viscount opposite. It seems to be clear that if you have had a strike begun, say, in the railway industry, which is perfectly legal, and then the transport workers or the workers in some other associated industry come in out of sympathetic motives with, as the Courts hold, the intention to coerce the Government, then it will be impossible to discriminate between the legality of the original strike and the accessory strikes unless we have protection of this kind against the original strike being held to be illegal because of the other strikes, which, if run in organisation with the original strike, may affect its legality and render the original strike liable to be incapacitated by the confiscation of funds. I think it is impossible after secondary strikes have broken out to say that the continuance of the original strike is not intended to coerce the Government, because its very continuance in association with the other strikes must add to the coercive effect. But, surely, it would not be fair to make their funds liable to embargo, having regard to the original character of the strike? I consequently beg to move the Amendment the terms of which are perfectly clear in intention and, I trust, will be sufficiently clear for the purpose.
Page 2, line 8, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Olivier.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
There is something wrong about the drafting of this Amendment, but I do not want to dwell upon that. I think the Amendment is founded on a misapprehension. The noble Lord seems to think, and I gather from his speech that he does think, that if there is a perfectly legal strike which is followed by an illegal strike, or a series of illegal strikes, that these illegal strikes will, somehow, make the first strike itself illegal. Surely that is not so. Take the case of the miners' strike last year. The miners' strike was a legal strike which was followed by a strike of transport workers, railway workers, Post Office workers and so on, which, under this Bill, would be, and I think probably in any case was, an illegal strike. That did not reflect upon the legality of the miners' strike. There was no question of the legality of the miners' strike, though there was a question about the others. The original strike would not become illegal under this Bill merely because other strikes which are illegal broke out. I think if the noble Lord will consider that point he will be satisfied that I am right, and that his Amendment is unnecessary. I think it is also not quite innocuous. It would create confusion and would lead to the inference, which I think is a wrong inference, that such a strike as the miners' strike was itself illegal because of what followed. I would not like to accept an Amendment which might have that effect.
§ LORD OLIVIER
The noble and learned Viscount has quite stated my view that the original strike would not be illegal. But when it is reinforced by other strikes that are calculated to coerce the Government how would it be possible for any Court to say that the continuing miners' strike was not calculated to coerce the Government? Of course it will have an influence and 417 I want to prevent this infection of their original rights by any Court which declares that the whole thing is a General Strike and is illegal. I do not think that they are protected at present.
There are several words here just before the proviso to which I called attention on the Second Reading and which the noble and learned Viscount has not fully explained. I do not quite know how far this application of "any sum in furtherance or support of any such illegal strike" goes. I asked then, and I should like to ask again, whether it applies to benefit which it seems to me it is clearly intended to hit by these words. Noble Lords know that strike benefit is intended to enable a man and his family to live when there is no other money coming in. Is it contemplated that the clause shall apply to funds from which money is paid to the strikers to keep them from falling upon the rates and becoming paupers? That seems to me to be the result of these words. "In furtherance or support of" are the widest possible words and could cover all kinds of things, even subscriptions to a distress fund for the strikers.
Of course it arises out of this Amendment. If this proviso is not sufficiently well worded another may be desirable, and in any case I presume that there is no reason why we should not have an answer at this stage to the question that I asked.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I must really be allowed to put a point to the Lord Chairman. As I understand it we are discussing the Amendment moved by Lord Olivier on line 8, page 2. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, is discussing, or trying to discuss, some Amendment on lines 6 and 7.
Those cheers on the other side were a little previous, as was the noble Earl's intervention. If he will take the trouble to look at the Bill and the Amendment he will see that the Amendment is a proviso and concerns the words which it immediately follows, and the question of what the words of the proviso should be and what proviso 418 is necessary or desirable must depend upon the meaning of the words that come before. I am strictly in order.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
No doubt that is perfectly correct, but really noble Lords must have some elementary idea of the rules of order. We have now reached line 8 of page 2 and the noble Earl's colleague, Lord Olivier, has moved to insert a certain proviso at that point. We are not discussing what is in the Bill before that.
If I cannot make it clear to the noble Earl that the words of the proviso must depend on the meaning of what goes before I must leave it there. Perhaps when he has thought the matter over and taken advice he will find that it must be so.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I have been trying to find out what is wrong with the terms of my Amendment. Would the noble and learned Viscount he good enough to indicate what fault he finds with it?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think the noble Lord has misread the clause. He seems to think that the preceding words arethat it is illegal to commence or continue to apply any sums.He has left out one word "or" which alters the whole meaning of the sentence. But it does not really matter. It is a small point and I do not want to deal with it.
I do not want to take up time unnecessarily, but I cannot quite understand the Lord Chancellor's objection to the Amendment. He says that the Bill, in fact, does not make illegal any strike which when it was begun was legal, and he said that the proviso was innocuous. I have always understood the word "innocuous" to mean something that could do no harm.
Then I do not understand it. It seems inconsistent with the argument that a strike which was legal remains legal. The Amendment was moved to ensure that a strike which was legal when it began should remain legal.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I have said that I think it was unnecessary for a reason which the noble Lord fully understands, and also that it was not innocuous because it introduced confusion into the clause.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
EARL RUSSELL moved to leave out subsection (2) and insert:—
If any person instigates or incites others to take part in a strike which he knows to be illegal under this section he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ten pounds or on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.
§ The noble Earl said: I have been asked to move this Amendment for my noble and learned friend Lord Parmoor. If your Lordships will look at subsection (2) you will see that it is a subsection which begins "If any person declares, instigates, incites others to take, part in or otherwise acts in furtherance of a strike or lock-out, declared by this Act to be illegal" he shall be liable to certain penalties, with a proviso that no person shall be deemed to have committed an offence under this clause or at Common Law by reason only of his having ceased work or refused to continue to work.
I called attention to the word "declares" on the Second Reading. I do not know now what "declares" means. It hardly seems to be English, but I assume that it means declares a strike. I should have thought that every person who goes out of employment declares his own strike. He declares that he is on strike. In any case the words seem much too wide and vague, and the words suggested in the Amendment, your Lordships will note, are:—
If any person instigates or incites others to take part in a strike which he knows to be illegal under this section he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ten pounds or on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.
I think those words are better than the words in the Bill. They appear to me to be clearer, while at the same time they seem to me to cover the same point as the Bill covers. I do not see why the Government should object to them, because the words in the Bill are a little vague. There is this important difference, of course, that the words in
the Bill are these: "a strike or lockout, declared by this Act to be illegal." The words in the Amendment are: "which he knows to be illegal." That is clearly an important difference, but I suppose nobody ever will know whether, under this Bill, a strike is legal or illegal, until the Attorney-General has made his application to the Court and obtained its decision.
Page 2, lines 29 to 39, leave out subsection (2) and insert the said new words.—(Earl Russell.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I could not accept this Amendment. The effect is to omit first the word "declares," which makes a person liable for declaring a strike. The knowledge of the noble Earl of the English language has on this occasion failed him, but I think that every trade unionist to whom this Bill is directed knows what declaring a strike is. It is desirable to keep that word in the clause. Then again the words "acts in furtherance of a strike or lock-out" are well known words, which occur in many existing Statutes, and I think they ought to remain. But the noble Lord would strike them out. The other element of his Amendment is that the penalties would only apply to a man inciting or taking part in a strike which he knows to be illegal. That means that you must look into the mind of every trade union leader, find out what he knows about the law, and prove to a jury that he knew the strike was illegal. Surely that is not right. After all, these discussions on this Bill will be pretty familiar to everybody engaged in trade union work, and it is hardly necessary to invoke the common maxim that everybody is supposed to know the law. They will at all events know what this Bill declares to be illegal. I am afraid the effect of the Amendment would be to destroy the meaning of the subsection, and I cannot advise the House to accept it.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
About the word "declares" there is not very much to be said. It is obviously a piece of bad drafting. The word "declared" appears in the third line of the subsection in a different sense and a different context. I should have thought "instigates" or "incites" covered everything that is intended to be covered 421 by "declares," but observe how serious you are making the offence. The Amendment proposes to lighten the penalty, to reduce it to six months imprisonment, which I should have thought enough, instead of imprisonment for two years. You cannot pile these things up and expect that people will be indifferent to them. They will sink into the public mind, and produce a very heavy reaction against this Bill.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I should like to call attention to the very vague phrase about which I think nothing has been said, "or otherwise acts in furtherance of a strike or lock-out." Those words would cover almost anything in connection with one of these strikes which are declared to be illegal. Unquestionably, if there is a relief fund and a person subscribes to that fund, he may at law be held to be committing an offence under this clause. There can be no dispute about that. The noble and learned Viscount may say that is fantastic, but can be give us any guarantee that it would not be applied in that way? It is very undesirable for Parliament to put in wide words of this kind with a very heavy penalty, which may mean severe suffering for people who are doing a perfectly proper and, indeed, humane act. But that might certainly happen under this subsection. Again, take the words "incites others to take part." What exactly does that mean? It is a very favourite phrase in this connection. Suppose, for instance, that a strike is in process of being started and a workman says to his mate, "Aren't you coming out, too?" That might be held to be inciting. It is too vague.
Then there is the second part of the subsection which was inserted in order to take out the penalty, which in the first instance was in the Bill, against a mere cessation of work. Actually as this Bill was introduced in another place if a man laid down his tools for legitimate purposes he could have been sent to prison. You were opening up a position under which potentially 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 men might have been sent to prison. The Government gave way on that, and they hit upon the idea, which this subsection is supposed to enforce, that at any rate the leaders might be sentenced. In the first place, I very much question the wisdom of that. If you 422 want to have bad feeling in the country, one of the worst things you can do in the case of an industrial dispute is to arrest one or two of the leaders. It was well known in the dispute last year that one of the safest men in the country was Mr. Cook, because the Government dared not arrest him. Moreover, the leaders may in some cases be only carrying out the decision of their union expressed through a ballet. If that be so, why should they be more culpable than the men who made the decision? That is a point to which no logical defence can be set up. We ought to have some further explanation from the noble and learned Lord.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I do not know if the noble Lord who has just sat down has ever had any practical experience of a strike or what happens in a strike. I cannot conceive the suggestion that the ringleaders are not the persons to attack and that it is not wise to attack them coming from anybody with practical experience of a strike. I am not talking of the accredited leaders of a strike, but of the leaders of disorder, who mean to be the leaders of disorder and mean to put great difficulty in the way of some of the really accredited leaders who desire order. They are the people you want to get and they are the people you can get by the wording of this subsection. I can assure the noble Lord that anybody who has seen the practical working of a strike will see the value of going for the ringleaders of that class and not for the unfortunate people who have merely obeyed their orders.
I cannot help thinking there is some slight confusion in the mind of the noble and learned Earl who has just sat down. He seems to have omitted to notice that the clause begins with the words "If any person declares." He seemed to think that the unofficial leaders were the persons meant and spoke favourably of the accredited leaders. But under those words, if anybody is to be hit, it will be the acredited leaders. Therefore it seems to me his intervention was against the clause.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I was answering on the point of "in furtherance of a strike or lock-out," which the noble Lord was pointing out was the one phrase he objected to.
We must take the clause as it stands. It says that "If any person declares," and that means that it would be the accredited leaders who would suffer. As to "in furtherance of," the noble Viscount said those words were well known and did not require elucidation, but they do need elucidation for a lay mind. Would anybody who wrote in support of a strike be held to be acting in furtherance of it? Or anybody who spoke from a platform? No answer has been given to the question about anybody who subscribes to a fund. In the ordinary meaning of the words in English, all those things would undoubtedly be acting in furtherance of a strike. Is it the intention of the Government that anybody who does any one of those things may be liable to be sent to prison for a period not exceeding two years?
§ LORD DANESFORT
The noble Lord, Lord Arnold, who rose to support the Amendment, can hardly have read the Amendment. He objects to the phrase in the Bill "If any person … instigates … others to take part in a strike," but he apparently lost sight of the fact that those very words are in the Amendment he is supporting.
§ LORD DANESFORT
I hope the noble Lord will not ride off on that excuse. He objected to those words and they are in the Amendment which his own friends want to put in the Bill. What appears to be the really objectionable part of the Amendment is the phrase "which he knows to be illegal." In other words, no one is to be convicted of an offence under this proposal unless the prosecution can prove that he knows it to be illegal. How are you to prove that? A man goes into the witness box and says," I did not know this was illegal." It is impossible to prove what his knowledge is, yet the Amendment suggests the man should get off unless the prosecution can prove his knowledge that it was illegal. The real truth is that the object of this Amendment is to relieve everyone so far as possible from the consequences of their evil-doing. Now we know pretty clearly what the object is, and for myself I should have no hesitation whatever in opposing this Amendment as contrary to the whole object and spirit of the Bill and directed for a most mischievous purpose.
§ EARL BUXTON
I think that on the whole the wording of the Government's clause is better than that of the Amendment for various reasons which have already been pointed out. But that is not what I am interested in. I should be glad if the Lord Chancellor could satisfy me on this point. The assumption of this clause is that a particular strike or lock-out is at the moment of its inception illegal. That being so those who take part in it or further it are committing an illegal act. But that would not be the case in the majority of strikes if this Bill passes. A strike will begin legally by persons in the trade concerned and they will receive sympathetic assistance, possibly, from outside. Almost inevitably a strike will develop from a legal into an illegal strike. I want to know at what moment those persons who have furthered or assisted in that strike which began legally will find themselves in the position of having furthered or instigated an illegal strike. Having been innocent people at the beginning at what moment will they come under the criminal provisions of this Bill because the strike which they have furthered or assisted has developed into an illegal strike? It will be hard on these people if they should suddenly find themselves in an illegal position.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I find it difficult to understand how that question could arise. If a strike is legal at its commencement those who instigated it are in no sense committing any breach of the law. The noble Earl supposes a case where a strike, originally perfectly legal, becomes in itself illegal.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I should think that would hardly ever happen. Illegal strikes may grow up round a legal strike, but the original strike could hardly be illegal unless the whole purpose and object of it were changed; unless the leaders of it said: "We will no longer struggle for an industrial object; we will turn this into a strike against the Government." It might then become illegal, and from that time people had better abstain from taking part in it. It is only those who then take part after it has become illegal who 425 can be hit by the clause. I do not think any jury would have any difficulty in saying where the dividing line is to be found.
In the debates in another place it was, if I remember aright, suggested that for the purpose of preventing people from being taken by surprise the provision in Clause 7, for the Attorney-General applying to the Court, would be a useful one, because quite early in the strike people would have notice of its legality or illegality. If that were so they would be in the position of knowing whether it was legal or illegal. The noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, objected passionately to a man being convicted for doing what he knows to be illegal. He desires, apparently, that he should be convicted for doing what he does not know to be illegal. I myself do not altogether blame the noble Lord for sticking to this form of words. He asks how a striker is to know whether he is acting legally or not. Apparently neither he nor any other lawyer in this House can tell whether a strike is legal or not, so I do not wonder that he does not wish a, striker to have that knowledge.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ EARL RUSSELL moved in the proviso in subsection (2) to leave out "only." The noble Earl said: This is a very small Amendment. Your Lordships will notice in the proviso that a man is not to be deemed to have committed an offence by reason "only" of his having ceased work. Is there any real point in the word "only" there? Does it not mean exactly the same if you leave it out? If it is left in does it not suggest, or tend to suggest, to the Court that there may be something suspicious about it? It does not seem to me to add to the clause. I therefore move to leave it out.
Page 2, line 38, leave out ("only").—(Earl Russell.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It is the common and ordinary way of putting it. It means that a man does not commit an offence merely because he ceases work or refuses work. But if he commits some other offence against the Act then he may be liable although he also ceases or refuses 426 work. I think the noble Earl on reflection will see it is hardly worth while to take out the word.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD OLIVIER had given Notice to move to insert at the end of subsection (2):—
Provided also that it shall not be deemed to have been illegal to commence any strike or lock-out which while legal at the date of such commencement shall thereafter become illegal by reason of any contravention of this Act subsequent to the date of such commencement on the part of any person other than the person charged with an offence under this subsection.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment and the subsequent Amendment are both of the same character as the one I moved earlier. It is designed to prevent a legal action being made retrospective or infectively illegal by subsequent proceedings or by the proceedings of other persons. If I had a clear assurance that that was not the intention and could not be the operation of the Bill, I should not desire to proceed with the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD GORELL moved to omit from subsection (3) all words after "Attorney-General." The noble Lord said: I do not feel there is any need to detain your Lordships at any length on this Amendment. I do not feel that anything that may have been said against the decisions of the Attorney-General is really justified. I feel that whatever may be the political complexion of the Attorney-General, one can rely upon the fact that in exercising what here would be practically judicial functions, one may be assured that anyone holding that office would exercise his judgment impartially.
§ But the Attorney-General is a very responsible member of the Government, and sometimes at any rate is in the Cabinet. That position is some guarantee 427 of the reasonableness of his actions, but I do not think that anyone can feel the sane at all if the exception as worded is still part of this Bill. The Court, presumably a Court of summary jurisdiction and possibly someone of prejudiced opinions, or at least not a highly-placed, influential and responsible official of the Government, is to have the power of deciding whether anyone accused under this Bill—and your Lordships now know that many millions of fellow citizens may accused—shall remain in custody or on bail, apparently indefinitely. This is lef[...] at the sole discretion of the Court. I hope that the noble and learned Viscount will be content to omit these words from the Bill.
Page 3, line 1, leave out from ("Attorney-General") to the end of the subsection.—(Lord Gorell.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The purpose of the words proposed to be omitted is quite clear. A man may be engaged in instigating acts which are plainly illegal and have been declared illegal, and it is desired to stop him. A summons is taken out, and these words merely mean that pending application to the Attorney-General for his fiat the man may be remanded in custody or on bail—in most cases he will certainly be remanded on bail. This is to secure his presence when the proceedings come on again. The Attorney-General is always very prompt in giving his decision. But it may take a day or two to get the fiat. Surely it is reasonable that during that time the prosecution should make sure that the man will be there to answer for his acts. As regards the latter part of the subsection, Scotland is excepted because in Scotland the consent of the Lord Advocate is always needed for these prosecutions. The Director of Public Prosecutions is excepted because he always acts under the direction of the Attorney-General, and it is needless to apply the clause to prosecutions that he institutes. The noble Lord will therefore see that these words, which are in common form and are found in other Statutes, should be allowed to remain.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
LORD THOMSON moved, in subsection (4), to leave out "nor shall the second proviso to subsection (1) of Section two
of the Emergency Powers Act, 1920." The noble Lord said: This Amendment is apparently simple, but it really involves a most complicated question. I approach it with great diffidence, for I have had my faculties blunted during twenty-six years of military life and I am not at all sure that I am competent to deal with it. But soldiering makes one charitable, and I am disposed to think that the words which I propose to omit have been left in by the Government inadvertently or by an oversight. The words that I wish to omit are:—
nor shall the second proviso to subsection (1) of Section two of the Emergency Powers Act, 1920.
As I understand the history of this matter it is this. Under pressure in another place the Government added subsections (2) and (3) to this clause, and the intention of those two subsections was obviously to give some protection to individual strikers in the case of subsection (2) and to limit prosecutions by the Attorney-General in the case of subsection (3).
As subsection (4) stands at present the second proviso of Clause 2 of the Emergency Powers Act is suspended. With the permission of the House I will read that proviso. Clause 2 of the Emergency Powers Act reads as follows:—
Where a proclamation of emergency has been made, and so long as the proclamation is in force, it shall be lawful for His Majesty in Council, by Order, to make regulations for securing the essentials of life to the community, and those regulations may confer or impose on a Secretary of State or other Government department, or any other persons in His Majesty's service or acting on His Majesty's behalf, such powers and duties as His Majesty may deem necessary for the preservation of the peace ….
"Any other persons," I submit, may include a constable, and the person against whom a constable may take action is any striker. I presume that when this Emergency Powers Act was drawn up the very wide scope of those powers was appreciated. And this proviso was put in:—
Provided also that no such regulation shall make it an offence for any person or persons to take part in a strike, or peacefully to persuade any other person or persons to take part in a strike
That proviso did place a certain limitation upon action taken under the Emergency Powers Act. Under subsection
(4) of Clause 1 of this Bill that proviso is suspended; in other words, what I would like to call the good intentions of the Government in subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 1 of this Bill are entirely nullified by the presence of the words of subsection (4), which my Amendment suggests should be omitted.
§ The two sets of ideas are so contrary to one another, they stand in such flagrant contradiction to one another, that I am sure I am not over-charitable in supposing that the presence of those words in subsection (4) is due to an oversight on the part of the Government. I therefore trust that the noble and learned Viscount will see his way to accepting my Amendment, because it is entirely, as I understand it, in accordance with the intentions of the Government when they inserted subsections (2) and (3) in Clause 1 of this Bill.
Page 3, line 8, leave out from ("not") to ("apply") in line 9.—(Lord Thomson.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord is quite peculiar in this respect, that he is the first of noble Lords opposite to give us credit for any good intentions at all. He points out that in the proviso to subsection (2) we have said that… no person shall be deemed to have committed an offence under this section or at Common Law by reason only of his having ceased work or refused to continue to work or to accept employment.Then he points out, and with truth, that if these words stand in the Bill without any qualification the effect may be that a regulation under the Emergency Powers Act may make it an offencefor any person or persons to take part in a strike, or peacefully to persuade any other person or persons to take part in a strike.He says in effect that the proviso in this Bill ought to be extended to the proviso in the Emergency Powers Act. Up to a point I agree with him. I do not agree with him as regards peacefully persuading a person to take part in an illegal strike. I think it ought to be open to the Government of the day by regulation in an emergency to forbid people to persuade others to take part in an illegal strike, whether the persuasion is peaceful or warlike.
On the other hand I feel that there is a great deal in what the noble Lord 430 said, that it would be more consistent with the rest of the Bill that the regulation should not make it an offence for any person merely to take part in a strike. I do not for a moment believe any such regulation would be made, because, if it were made, the matter would come up far discussion in either House of Parliament, and I am sure that if any Government sought to impose such a restriction Parliament would at once take objection to it. But we are so anxious to meet any reasonable fear which may be felt that I should propose in some way to meet this point by amendment. What strikes me is that rather than leave out the words altogether I would keep them in, but, if the noble Lord agrees, would insert at the end of this proviso a subsection having similar effect to the proviso to subsection (2). Roughly it would run somewhat in this way:Provided that no regulation under the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, shall make it an offence for any person or persons to take part in a strike.I expect the noble Lord would like to consider the exact form and put down an Amendment himself, but, if not, I will undertake to have an Amendment put down at the proper time.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I think the Lord Chancellor has given a very reasonable answer. This is a difficult point and it may well be that it has not been sufficiently thought out. The proviso says that:—… no person hall be deemed to have committed an offence under this section or at Common Law by reason only of his having ceased work or refused to continue to work or to accept employment.But then subsection (4) enables the Emergency Powers Act to be applied in a way which would cover what is declared to be lawful under that proviso. I think that on the whole it would be better if the Government would put down an Amendment on Report which make the thing clear. Then we could consider it and see if we cannot agree with them about it. We are at one on the principle of the point and it ought not to be difficult to adjust words.
We are entirely in the hands of noble Lords opposite in these matters, but we have succeeded this time at any rate in persuading the noble and learned Viscount that the Bill 431 was in this respect not perfect and capable of amendment. I am very much obliged to him for his offer. Without looking a gift horse in the mouth I would like to ask him this. He says the only point of keeping in these words is in order that you may make a regulation against peacefully persuading a person to take part in an illegal strike. Peacefully persuading a person to take part in an illegal strike is already illegal under an earlier part of this clause and you do not strengthen it by making a regulation under the Emergency Powers Act. Would it not be better to leave it out and consider before Report whether anything need be put in?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am afraid that that would not be giving effect to the offer I made. I want to make it clear they do not have the effect which the noble Lord fears.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
We have come to the end of the clause now and, though it has not yet been amended, we have at any rate one Amendment in sight. The clause stands practically as it came to your Lordships and I must vote against it. I still think that its proposals are objectionable. The definition of an illegal strike is vague, it goes an enormous length beyond the General Strike and beyond the first principle that we were told of in the Lord Chancellor's speech. The more we look into it the further the length we find it goes. We have now found it might apply to strikes in all conditions. We find that the definitions of "coercion" and "hardship upon the community" remain indefinite and uncertain, and that the clause creates a new criminal offence so vague that it is not suggested that it is possible that anybody should know he is guilty of an illegality, or at any rate it is not thought that it is possible to prove it.
In the subsections you provide the various words about the person who is to be liable to punishment under the Act and you have the proviso which is supposed to let off all those except the ringleaders. We on this side still think that this clause is a derogation from the hard-won rights of trade unionists and a derogation 432 which goes far beyond the rights of the case. By doing this the Government are deliberately and wantonly engaging in a class battle against the workman, putting him at an improper and undue disadvantage going far beyond normal illegal acts and beyond acts of public disorder. For that reason we think it is impossible to assent in any way to this clause becoming law, and in view of its interference with these hard-won rights your Lordships can hardly wonder that those who represent the trade unions and their interests have declared that as soon as they have the power this clause will disappear from the Statute Book. We could have had legislation quite sufficient to meet all the four points raised which would have been settled upon a reasonable basis. There might have been something which I think almost every Party in the State might have agreed to, but instead of that we have this clause which we regard as a menace and weapon flung at our heads and we are not going to be a party to it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Of course we cannot complain of the noble Earl making a speech of the kind to which we have just listened. We know that he objects to the Bill altogether and therefore he objects to its principal clause. I do not think your Lordships would wish me to make another defence of the foundation of this Bill, but may I say this in reference to what has just fallen from the noble Earl? In effect, he said: "I think a Bill could have been arranged if the Government had behaved differently; if they had not brought in this Bill some other Bill could have been agreed to between the Parties." How can the noble Earl say that when he knows very well that long before the Labour Party knew what was in the Bill they denounced it and expressed their determination to oppose it? I am quite sure the noble Earl, on reflection, will see that in order to justify themselves to their extreme supporters the Party to which he belongs felt compelled to oppose any effective Bill on this subject which the Government would produce.
To say that it is these precise words that he and his friends oppose is to ignore the recent history of this question. I never have concealed from your 433 Lordships that this kind of legislation is very difficult and that you do approach border cases that are very difficult to distinguish. I do not think anything is to be gained by pretending there are not great difficulties attaching to this subject, but we were driven to legislation by the emergency with which we were confronted last year and by the determination of the country that such an emergency must not occur again. We have had to face immense difficulties. I do not say the Bill in this Form is perfect, but I say that legislation on these lines was necessary and the fact that the noble Earl and his friends are opposed to it does not very much disturb us.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
The noble Marquess is wrong in saying that we were forced into this by the extreme supporters of the Labour Party. This is a Bill which opposes our conviction in this matter that you will never make things better by attempts at coercion. You ought to have spent your time in endeavouring to get rid of causes of friction, instead of wasting it in passing the Eight Hours Act last year. You ought to have applied your minds to getting rid of the causes of disorder, instead of bringing in a Bill which excites every prejudice and is looked upon by a section of working men as violating their rights. But we have made that point again and again in the course of these discussions.
I only want to say that the noble Marquess is far from the truth when he thinks it is the extreme members of the Party who are forcing us to oppose this. I myself joined the Labour Party because I saw that neither of the other two Parties was in the least cognisant of the great change which has taken place in the direction of democracy. I saw that democracy could be led into much better paths and to much higher ideals. Whether it will be I do not know, but at least there is an opportunity and it is one that rests with the Labour Party. It is because the Labour Party is in contact with modern democracy of the kind that I think is not realised by those who oppose us that some of us feel that there is no alternative Party to belong to at the present time.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
It is very seldom that I am able to agree with the noble Viscount who has just sat down, but on 434 this occasion he has told us he objects to coercion—the coercion contained in this Bill. I also object to coercion. I object to the coercion which his friends tried to exert on the country in the course of the General Strike last year. I object equally, I admit, to the coercion contained in this Bill and I confess this kind of speech rather fills me with despair. In the General Strike, which we all agree in condemning, we have the foundation of this Bill to which I also object. It does seem to me that the pendulum swings from one side to the other. I object to all these extremes, whether on one side or the other.
What I do hope is that either noble Lords here or the Government may one day agree that they will not stimulate this opposition of the one side and the other side, that they will rather try to see whether the two sides cannot come together and abandon the idea that the wrongs of one side must be answered by something wrong being done on the other side. I confess it seems to me that this Bill, following the extreme wrong of the General Strike, errs to an extreme extent. Therefore it is that I have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Viscount who has just sat down. But I cannot help taking this occasion of saying that I do hope that we shall not always think in terms of extremes, that we shall see whether as time goes on we cannot come together and find some common cause of action agreeable to both sides of the House.
The noble Marquess the Leader of the House and also the noble Earl both talked at length about the General Strike, but our contention throughout the discussion upon this clause has been that this clause goes far beyond the General Strike. No observation of the noble Marquess in defence of the clause had any reference to that. One must remember that the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, himself stated earlier in the evening that under the text of this clause as it has emerged after all these discussions it will be quite possible for a strike within a single industry to be penalised under these provisions Therefore, I cannot help again reverting to what I said upon the Second Beading that it seems to me quite evident that the disturbances of List year—the General Strike, so-called 435 —are being used as a pretext for going very much further and for weakening the powers of trade unionism in a way that we on this side of the House and many millions of our fellow citizens think quite indefensible.
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Clause 1 agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 2:
§ Protection of persons refusing to take part in illegal strikes or lock-outs.
§ 2.—(1)No person refusing to take part or to continue to take part in any strike or lock-out which is by this Act declared to be illegal, shall be, by reason of such refusal or by reason of any action taken by him under this section, subject to expulsion from any trade union or society, or to any fine or penalty, or to deprivation of any right or benefit to which he or his legal personal representatives would otherwise be entitled, or liable to be placed in any respect either directly or indirectly under any disability or at any disadvantage as compared with other members of the union or society, anything to the contrary in the rules of a trade union or society notwithstanding.
§ (2) No provisions of the Trade Union Acts, 1871 to 1917, limiting the proceedings which may be entertained by any Court, and436
§ On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 77; Not-Contents, 10.435
|Cave V. (L. Chancellor.)||Falkland, V.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|Falmouth, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Balfour, E. (L. President.)||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Kenyon, L.|
|Hood, V.||Lamington, L.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Lawrence, L.|
|Inchcape, V.||Mildmay of Flete, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Peel, V.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Sidmouth, V.||Newton, L.|
|Bath, M.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.||Askwith, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Biddulph, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Shaftesbury, E. (L. Steward.)||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Airlie, E.||Queenborough, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Clinton, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Cranbrook, E.||Cranworth, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Grey, E.||Danesfort, L.||Ruthven of Gowrie, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Daryngton, L.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Southampton, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Stanley of Alderley, (L. Sheffield.)|
|Midleton, E.||Douglas, L. (E. Home.)|
|Onslow, E.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Swansea, L.|
|Plymouth, E. [Teller.]||Erskine, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Sandwich, E.||Faringdon, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Forester, L.||Wavertree, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Wharton, L.|
|Wicklow, E.||Gisborough, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Yarborough, E.||Hanworth, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Haldane, V.||Gorell, L. [Teller.]|
|Buxton, E.||Olivier, L.|
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Arnold, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Russell, E.||Clwyd, L.|
§ nothing in the rules of a trade union or society requiring the settlement of disputes in any manner shall apply to any proceeding for enforcing any right or exemption secured by this section, and in any such proceeding the Court may, in lieu of ordering, a person who has been expelled from membership of a trade union or society to be restored to membership, order that he be paid out of the funds of the trade union or society such sum by way of compensation or damages as the Court thinks just.
§ (3) As respects any strike or lock-out before the passing of this Act but since the first day of May, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, which, according to the law as declared by this Act, was illegal, this section shall have effect as if it had been in operation when the strike or lock-out took place.
§ EARL DE LA WARR moved, in subsection (2), after "sum," to insert "not exceeding ten pounds." The noble Earl said: Admitting that Clause 1 has been passed, which we are in the unfortunate position of having to do, of course we 437 have also to go on and admit that no man should be compelled to take part in breaking the law, or should suffer for refusing to do so. That is, of course, irrespective of whether the law is fair or unfair. My Amendment is a very simple one. Under subsection (2) it is proposed that; a member of a trade union who does in any way suffer should be paid out of the funds of the trade union or society such sum by way of compensation or damages as the Court thinks fit. Your Lordships will see there that the liability of the trade union is unlimited. My Amendment proposes to limit that liability to the sum of £10. Of course if the noble and learned Viscount would be prepared to accept some different sum by way of Amendment we are in your Lordships' hands—we are only too pleased to get anything out of your Lordships when we can—but I understand that usually in relation to these cases of obtaining compensation or damages there is some limitation or else some definite statement to the effect that the compensation or damages should not exceed the amount of the damage done. I would appeal to the Government to consider sympathetically an Amendment on these lines and see whether some concession can be made.
Page 3, line 38, after ("sum") insert ("not exceeding ten pounds").—(Earl De La Warr.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
This clause refers to the man who has been victimised for refusing to take part in an illegal strike. He may be a man who has been expelled from his union for that reason, and may be ordered to be restored to his union, but there are many cases where restoration is not really an effective remedy for the worker. It may be that if restored he would be persecuted, and he would have an unhappy life. He may prefer to submit to remain out and to accept instead compensation or damages for his expulsion. The noble Earl wishes in such a case to limit the compensation. I fail to understand why. A man may have suffered substantial damage, he may have lost benefits much exceeding in amount the trifling sum of £10. Why should the union in such a case—the union which, on hypothesis, has done wrong in expelling a man for exercising his legal rights—be limited in 438 its responsibility to £101 The noble Lord suggests as an alternative that we should say that the compensation should not exceed the damage done. Well, it never can exceed the damage done; that is the ordinary rule of law. The amount of compensation or damages is always measured by the amount of harm done to the person claiming relief. That already is implied in the Bill and is common practice, but I do not see in the least why the amount should be limited in the way suggested.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
The noble and learned Viscount was careful to say that the limitation is implied in the Bill. It is certainly nowhere expressed. This is damage for a tort, and what the County Court Judge may think it right to give by way of damages for a tort I do not know. They may partake of a vindictive character. But at least this is apparent. The damages are to be recovered from the trade union funds. These funds include its benefit funds—funds which are there for the purpose of providing for the sickness and old age of persons who may have had nothing to do with the offence—people who may have given no authority and, in fact, you raise the old grievance of suing a trade union in tort—a thing condemned by the Royal Commission of 1867 and which was a grievance ever since until it was repealed by the Trade Disputes Act, 1906. I really think it would be worth while for the Government to consider whether they cannot find words which will produce a result less alarming and less far-reaching to the trade unions.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
It is quite true that the Royal Commission of 1867 said that they were not in favour of allowing a trade union to be sued in tort. They did not condemn it; they said at that time that a trade union was an illegal association, and consequently could neither be sued nor sue. It was no condemnation. When the noble Earl said that it was usual in these cases to put a limitation in the amount of damages, I rather wondered what he meant, because at the present moment no trade union is allowed to be sued in tort nor is any trade union allowed to be sued for any benefit due to a member.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I do not quite follow what that means. Workmen's compensation cases? It is quite true that in them there is a limitation of £300 if a man is killed, and if he is not it will cost you much more. To tell your Lordships' House that it is usual in these cases to limit just damages found by the Judge to be incurred by the man who is suing seems to me to be monstrous and, with the greatest respect to the noble Earl, I cannot conceive any class of case where there is a limitation put.
I listened to the Lord Chancellor's argument with great care. There might be a great deal of force in it but for the presence of these words "or damages." He said compensation would be compensation and would be limited in itself by the fact that it was compensation. Does "damages" mean damages in an action for tort. If so, they would be entirely at large and might be any figure that a Judge or a jury might award. Is a man to be allowed to sue for the injury to his reputation or status for ceasing to be a member of a trade union, or is he to have compensation for his benefits on an actuarial basis? I do not see what the suggestion is unless these are damages in tort and that would be introducing a new principle.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I thought I had answered that. Damages are always measured by the injuries suffered. The County Court Judge will say: "This man has suffered such and such an injury. Exercising my power as a judge of fact I will fix a sum which will represent the actual amount this man has suffered."
Let me restate what the Lord Chancellor has said. First of 440 all, these damages will be damages in tort; and secondly, they will be at large. If that is agreed to we know where we are.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ LORD THOMSON moved to leave out subsection (3). The noble Lord said: My amendment is designed to remove the retrospective character of this clause which might lead to grave injustice. In the events of last year, a large number of trade unions did act, if not in innocence at any rate in partial innocence. They may have offended innocently to the extent that they did not know they were acting illegally. After this Bill is passed the innocent offenders will be far more numerous. Trade unions will then be liable retrospectively as far back as May, 1926, to penalties of an indefinite amount and for an indefinite period. There are many unions which may be liable under this Act to penalties of an absolutely indefinite amount and they will go on being liable for an indefinite period. That may cause injustice which would be removed by this Amendment.
Page 3, line 40, leave out subsection (3).—(Lord Thomson.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
For once I do not think the noble Lord quite follows the meaning of the Bill. This subsection only affects Clause 2, and the effect of it is that a member of a union who has been expelled from his union or deprived of his benefits because he refused to join in the General Strike, may claim restoration or recover compensation for his expulsion. That is not penalising the unions for taking part in the strike it is compelling them to make restitution for expelling men who very courageously and very patriotically refused to take part in an illegal strike. Why should not that be done? The Prime Minister said at the time that every man who did his duty by his country and remained at work or returned to work during the crisis would be protected by the State from loss of trade union benefits, superannuation allowances, or pension, and that he would take whafever steps were necessary, in Parliament or otherwise, to secure that result.
441 What we are saying is that no man shall be victimised for refusing to take part in the General Strike of last year, and that if he has been penalised he shall either be restored to his place in his union and so to the enjoyment of the benefits for which he has paid for so many years, or shall have compensation or damages for the loss he has suffered or the injury which has been done to him. I do not wish to be taken as saying that many unions have victimised their memhers or at all events that many unions have refused to restore their members who were expelled because of the General Strike. I know that many trade unions have since the strike taken a reasonable view and have restored their members to membership, but there are cases outstanding to-day in which men have suffered for their loyalty and have not been readmitted by the unions on request. We want to make sure that these men shall have a remedy and I feel sure the House on reflection will be willing to give it to them.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ LORD THOMSON
After what the Lord Chancellor has just said I feel that there is very little use in moving this second Amendment of mine to omit this clause; I will be brief. The man who does not come out with his fellows, who shares all the benefits that the common action of the union obtains, who accepts in time of peace the rules and regulations of the union, but who, when the fight comes, deserts to the enemy, is regarded as guilty of conduct which in a soldier would be considered contemptible, and I am sorry to say the position of trade unions to-day is that of armies fighting against a common enemy, the employer. The main part of the population affected by this Bill consists of trade unionists. This is a Bill designed to deal with trade unions in the mass and I submit that it is undesirable to make part of the law of the land clauses such as these which are designed to protect the minority of men who are the object of dislike and contempt to their fellow-workers for the reasons I have attempted to explain. You protect that minority as no minority elsewhere is protected. 442 Why, the small minority to which I belong in this House is only protected by the clemency of the noble Lords opposite. We have no sort of other protection. We have to sit down under any rules and regulations the House likes to pass. It is the same in another place. In the trade union world you are really protecting a minority in a very special manner, and a minority which irritates the majority more than one can imagine. One has only to mix with these people to realise it. I hope that the Lord Chancellor will be more kind to me on this occasion than he was on the last.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Of course we stick to the clause. The noble Lord has used of men who kept to their work last year and refused to take part in a grossly illegal action terms of abuse such as that they deserted to the enemy.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am surprised that he as a soldier should even quote such words, by whomsoever they may have been used. I would rather say these men stuck to their duty to the State and refused to be coerced—I hope the noble Lord now understands the word—into a breach of the law.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
They did not take the advantages. They remained at work upon the terms which were offered to them throughout the strike. The noble Lord says they are a minority. Is that a reason for not protecting them? If they are a minority, more credit to them for sticking to their colours and doing what was right. I am sure the noble Lord upon reflection will not like even to vote against the clause.
§ LORD OLIVIER
The Lord Chancellor has imposed upon us the statement that these men struck against an illegal action.
§ LORD OLIVIER
In some cases contracts may have been broken, but it has never been demonstrated in a court of law that the action of people who simply took part in a sympathetic strike was 443 illegal. You are making it illegal by this Bill, and you are trying to, apply retrospectively a law which you create by this Bill to a case where the law did not apply at the time and to men who believed they were acting perfectly legally. You have never proved according to the law that they were acting illegally. The Prime Minister says that, because he promised that men should get compensation out of the unions to which they were not entitled, the Government must make illegal that which was legal at the time. Trade unions have a right to make what rules they like and their members are bound to adhere to those rules. If they do not then they are legally discharged from membership. All this is perfectly legal, as has been proved again and again. Yet the Government choose to say that this is an act of illegality and disloyalty to The State—which we deny—and that they have a right to penalise trade union 444 funds. If they want to penalise any funds at all, if the Prime Minister wants to be generous at the expense of somebody, let it be at the expense of the Exchequer. That is the only fund with which he should be generous.
§ On Question, Clause 2 agreed to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I think your Lordships will probably feel that we have done a certain amount of work—perhaps not too much—and that it would be well to take a few hours repose. I beg to move that the House be resumed.
§ Moved, That the House be now resumed.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and House resumed accordingly.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes before twelve midnight.