HL Deb 30 April 1946 vol 140 cc916-1006

2.54 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. In moving the Second Reading of a Bill before your Lordships' House, I always make a point of telling your Lordships whether the Bill is or is not controversial. Carrying out my usual practice, let me assure your Lordships that this Bill is controversial in every line and every comma. It is, however, short and clear, and it has, therefore, the merits of brevity and clarity. Some of your Lordships may think those are the only merits it has, but it certainly has those.

On a large variety of topics, although we come to different conclusions, we are well able to understand each other's point of view. I do not suppose that if I had the eloquence of a Demosthenes and a great deal more time than I intend to occupy, I could convince all your Lordships, or perhaps even the majority of your Lordships, that this is as good a Bill as it in fact is. But at least I think I can get your Lordships to appreciate the point of view of those who are putting forward the Bill. We had a speech only a few weeks ago from the noble Lord, Lord Cornwallis, in which he said this was a Bill for "bigger and better strikes." He attributed all sorts of strange views to the Labour Party, but he was so obviously enjoying himself that we enjoyed it too. That is one view; that this is a Bill for bigger and better strikes. On the other hand, there is Mr. Churchill's view, put forward in one of those election speeches which set the key in which the election music was going to be played. This is what Mr. Churchill said: I declare to you that the freedom of the wage-earner to choose or change his employment or to use collective bargaining by that means, including the right to strike, runs absolutely counter to the Socialist doctrine and theory of the State. I know less about racing than any single member of your Lordships' House, but I understand that there are some circumstances in racing where you are running two horses and where you have to declare to win with one or the other. Whether you are going to declare to win with the horse called "bigger and better strikes" or the horse called "no strikes at all," I do not know. It is pretty obvious that they cannot both win, and I venture to think they are both of them rank outsiders.

In the last few days I have had the doubtful privilege of reading and rereading the debates of 1927 and 1931. I do not wonder that the view was expressed in another place that we should avoid what was called another "lawyer's benefit." I am bound to record that on neither of the last two occasions, so far as I know, did anybody hand the hat round. The speeches reminded me rather of Euclid's definition of a line—my own, perhaps, more than any other. They were very long and I do not think they had very much breadth. Though I must, I am afraid, be rather long to-day in expounding this Bill, I hope I shall achieve a little breadth. The long and short of the matter is this. There are two approaches to his topic. You may approach it from the legal point of view—and, of course, as Lord Chancellor, I cannot overlook the legal point of you may approach it from the human point of view. I venture to think that in this controversy both sides have tended to over-emphasize their own point of view and to neglect the point of view of the other side. If I remind your Lordships of how the strike arose, I hope I shall not create the impression of giving a lecture to the fourth form, because when the fourth form is mentioned my natural place is amongst the pupils. But, after all, it happened twenty years ago, and some of your Lordships at any rate were then schoolboys, so perhaps you will forgive me if I recall a few salient points.

It was in July, 1925, that the Royal Commission was appointed—a Royal Commission which was presided over by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel—and the Government of the day, after considerable hesitation, decided for some nine months to pay a subsidy, and the subsidy came to an end in April, 1926—I think my dates are right.


This very day, April 30.


It cost some £24,000,000. The position of the millers in the list of wage-earners before the trouble arose was, I believe, 65th. They perform a not very pleasant task, and it is a task which is absolutely fundamental to all industry. It is a task which perhaps has the highest accident rate of any trade or industry in the country. They were threatened with a further substantial loss in wages, and it would have meant they would have gone down very much lower than even 65th place. The consequences were quite easy to foresee. You were never going to get out of your mining trouble on those lines at all. Recruitment to the industry would become absolutely impossible; you would not get young people into the industry. That is how the other industries saw it. They also saw it from this point of view because, after all, it was not Hitler who was the first person to invent the "one by one" technique, that is to say, dealing with your adversaries one at a time while giving the others smooth promises. The other industries thought that if there were to be an attack on the miners' wages and the miners were dealt with first of all, their wages in due course might follow suit. Consequently the other industries were determined to support the miners in resisting the attack which was being made upon them.

So arose what was called the General Strike. I believe it is a fact that only twenty per cent. of industry struck. I will say at once, as I said many years ago, and have always said, that strike was ill-advised and ill-considered. I think it would have been, if only from the point of view of tactics, far better for the other industries to stay in and levy themselves to support the miners, but I do not regard it as discreditable that they should have sought to protect the miners against the attack. One of the well-known trade union leaders said, after the strike, that what happened was "Our hearts ran away with our heads." I think that is about true. It may be very unsatisfactory that hearts should run away with heads, but it is better than that the heads should so control hearts that the ordinary emotion of the heart is buried underneath a mass of technical formulae. I think that in calling the strike wholly insufficient regard was paid to the constitutional issues involved. But there it was, the strike came. It lasted for some nine days, and I think it came to an end on the 12th or 13th of May, 1926.

We had all heard of this General Strike before; we had all heard of the monster, which frightened the spinsters of both sexes; of this dragon bringing in its train red ruin, with the breaking of laws and all the rest of it. After some nine or ten days, if we are quite candid, we all saw that this monster of the General Strike was rather a knock-kneed thing which had not been able to stay the course. In all human probability on the 12th or 13th of May we had heard the last of the General Strike. Now, what was to be done? A message coming from a source far above party controversy was read in both Houses of Parliament, and this was the burden of the message: Let us forget whatever elements of bitterness the events of the past few days may have created, only remembering how steady and how orderly the country has remained though severely tested, and forthwith address ourselves to the task of bringing into being a peace which will be lasting, because, forgetting the past, it looks only to the future with the hopefulness of a united people. That, I believe, was true wisdom: Forget the past, and look to the future, with the hopefulness of a united people. Mr. Baldwin, who was then Prime Minister—and I refer to him as Mr. Baldwin, as he then was—said: This is neither the occasion for malice nor recrimination nor for triumph. I cannot imagine that there will be an attack on the trade unions as such; I could not countenance it. There are some who like fishing in troubled waters. Let us get the waters calm as soon as we can. In a somewhat long recollection of public life, I should say—and I think many of your Lordships will agree with me—that one very often sees cases of people who do not know when they have won. If ever there was a case when a battle was won, it was then. If ever there was a case when magnanimity and generosity would have paid, it was then. If ever there was an occasion when it was foolish to rub the noses of the defeated adversary in the mess of their past follies, that was the occasion. But it is quite obvious there were two schools of thought in the Government of the day. Mr. Baldwin explained that he was pressed to introduce legislation before Christmas, and he said that had he consented it would have been far more drastic than anything he had ever contemplated. He was urged to do something, and he added this: I felt that if the country had a little breathing space during Christmas time, and the papers were talking a lot about Christmas, we might come back in a better mood. I cannot help feeling rather sorry for a Prime Minister who had to rely on Christmas to try to get his extremists back in a better mood. Mr. Churchill had, no doubt about his attitude and he explained it in this way: It was upon the morrow of this cataclysm"— that means shortly after the General Strike was over, I suppose— that the Government began to consider the necessary curtailment of trade union privileges—not rights—which bitter experience had shown to be necessary. Your Lordships will remember that phrase—"which bitter experience had shown to be necessary." As I go through some of the provisions of this Act I shall ask what bitter experience had shown those provisions to be necessary, and in the course of this debate, which will last for two days, we shall no doubt get an explanation.

When it became known that legislation of this sort was going to be introduced the Liberal Party took a strong line and a united line. Lord Grey and Mr. Lloyd George both made public statements to the effect that it was appalling folly to bring in legislation to deal with this matter. Let me record the fact that on the Second Reading of the 1927 Bill, as it then was, not one single member of the Liberal Party went into the Government Lobby in favour of the Bill. There were certainly some abstentions, but those young, stalwart Radicals like Lord Hutchison, Mr. Ernest Brown and Mr. Hore-Belisha, all voted against the Bill. There had been no consultation with the T.U.C. They had never been given a chance to make any representations, and they had never been given an Opportunity to make any explanation. The National Industrial Alliance, composed of representatives of the employers and the men, protected against the introduction of the Bill. Men like Sir Hugh Bell, Sir Arthur Pease, and Sir Edward Manville, from all Parties, said that it was extremely unwise, and so far as the Labour Party were concerned Mr. Clynes, speaking for that Party, made the position quite clear. He said: It would be the duty of the Opposition when, in the natural order of things, it becomes a Government, no matter in what form this Bill may pass, to repeal that Act and we make that declaration now. That was the inevitable result of bringing in at that time, when you had won the battle, a Bill which was bound to be a highly controversial Bill.

Was it vindictive? It is not my habit to impute motives to anybody, but I say it argues bad knowledge of psychology to bring in that Bill at that time. What did it do? Well, the first thing it did, and did beyond all question, was to make any such strike as took place in 1926 illegal. There have been, as some of your Lordships will remember, confident assertions by very eminent people—including one of His Majesty's Judges—that it was illegal in the then state of the law. I might rest on that, and I might, therefore, argue that it was quite unnecessary to bring in this Bill. I am not going at this stage—and indeed I hope at no stage of the Bill—to become embroiled in a legal controversy. We do not want to have a lawyer's benefit. But may I assert what my own view of this matter has always been? I believe that the uncertainty arises not so much from any difficulty in formulating the legal position but from differences as to the true inference to be drawn from the facts. Was a large-scale strike, or rather I should say a series of sympathetic strikes, each one of which was in furtherance of the existing trade dispute—that dispute being between the miners and the mine-owners—legal? There can be no doubt about this, I think: You could have a sympathetic strike in those conditions perfectly legally, if it was in furtherance of a dispute existing in some other trade, although there was no dispute in the particular trade which called sympathetic strike. If, on the other hand, on a true view of the facts it was clear that the motive, the real underlying object, of these strikes, was to try to substitute the rule of Transport House for the rule of law, I have no doubt at all that the strike was illegal.

Might I give your Lordships an illustration? Take, for instance, the strike that was called on the railways. Section 3 of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act of 1875 is as follows: An agreement by two or more persons to procure to be done any act in furtherance of a trade dispute shall not be indictable as a conspiracy if such act committed by one person would not be punishable as a crime. And there is a similar provision with regard to civil liability to be found in the Trade Disputes Act of 1906. If a man is to be convicted he must first of course be indicted. Now suppose one of the railway leaders had been charged with a crime or sued for damages. In my view the Judge would have had to address the jury in this way: "You have to make up your minds as to whether what this man did was in furtherance of a trade dispute. If so, then he is not guilty of any crime and he is not civilly liable. If, on the other hand, you think that that was not his real motive, if you think that he was trying to overthrow the institutions of this country or the Government of the day, you will find him guilty of crime or civilly liable, as the case may be."

My noble friend Viscount Simon, for whose legal views I have profound respect, said this: Every trade union leader who has advised and promoted this course of action is liable in damages to the uttermost farthing of his personal possessions. I think the noble Viscount expressed that opinion because he formed the view on the facts—whether he formed it rightly or wrongly I am not now concerned to argue—that the trade union leader to whom he referred was not acting in furtherance of a trade dispute.

May I conclude (I do not want to get technical about this) by reading a short passage from an article written by a very distinguished man with whom I had the great honour and privilege to be first instructed in the Common Law—Professor Holdsworth. The Professor, after referring to the views of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, writes: It is by no means certain that that view of the Jaw is correct. The true view of the law depends at bottom on this short point. Was the proclamation of the General Strike an act done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute? It seems to us that to answer this question correctly we must distinguish between a strike and the object aimed at by the strike. Clearly the strike itself did not arise from a trade dispute between the strikers and their employers. But it does not follow that the act of striking and all the consequential acts were not done in furtherance of a trade dispute. Obviously they were done in furtherance of a trade dispute, to wit, the dispute between the coal owners and mine workers. If the strike itself and all other consequential acts were done in furtherance of a trade dispute they are protected by the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, and the bottom is knocked out of Sir John Simon's argument. He then goes on to a further comment on Sir John Simon's and Mr. Justice Astbury's view of the law: "To acquiesce in Sir John Simon's and Mr. Justice Astbury's view of the law, to suppose that it is incontrovertible, may well be to enter into a fool's paradise."

I am not sure that there will really be very much controversy between us now. When I declared that this was the correct view of the law in 1931 I was roundly told that I was a disgrace to my profession, notwithstanding that Professor Holdsworth had taken this view, and also Professor Goodhart, in a very interesting essay in his book, Essays on Jurisprudence and Common Law, which it may be of interest to consider. In the recent debates in the House of Commons no one disputed this view. Therefore I feel that that matter may be left to the judgment of posterity. I believe the judgment of posterity will be that before the 1927 Act, the question as to whether a man was acting illegally or was liable in damages depended upon the answer to a comprehensive question of fact as to whether he was or was not acting in furtherance of a trade dispute. One man might have been found guilty having regard to speeches he made, whilst another one would not.

The Act of 1927 certainly cleared that matter up, but any certainty gained there was only gained at the price of a very much greater uncertainty on the law as it stands under the 1927 Act itself. In effect the 1927 Act says that every sympathetic strike is illegal, because if it is on a large scale it is inevitable that it will tend to coerce the Government by inflicting hardship upon the community. Just imagine yourself in the position of a Judge dealing with, shall I say, a small scale sympathetic strike; for example, coastal shipping people coming out on strike in support of railwaymen. The Judge, in order to determine whether that strike is legal or illegal, has to say "Is it or is it not likely to coerce the Government, either directly or by inflicting hardship upon the community?" Well, my Lords, some Governments are much easier to coerce than others. How on earth is a Judge on an affidavit to decide whether it inflicts hardship on the community, or on a section of the community? To tell me there is no ambiguity there is to tell me something I cannot believe. Lord Reading, who spoke in the debates in this House, and who had served as Lord Chief Justice, said that the Bill "is so indefinite, so vague, so lacking in the precision required when creating a criminal offence as to be quite unsatisfactory." Therefore I say to your Lordships, you will be far better under the old system of law than you were under the ambiguity imposed upon us by the 1927 Act.

Now a word or two about intimidation. It is really an insult to trade unionists to suppose that they want to employ the weapon of the bully and the blackmailer. It is not so. Intimidation has always been a crime. What the 1927 Act did was to create a definition of intimidation which made the whole thing completely vague. Now the artificial definition of intimidation says "to create in the mind of a person"—(it is subjective, you see)—"a reasonable apprehension of loss of income or occupation." There was this case, the only case I know decided under this clause. There were eight men working at Chester. Seven were members of one union and the eighth was either a non-unionist or a member of some other union. The seven men were minded to strike. They saw the employer and told him the situation. His reply was "Very well, I shall get rid of this non-unionist so that you can carry on." Therefore one of them went, perfectly peacefully, to the non-unionist and said: "Look here, trouble is brewing up, and my mates are not going to work with you, although there is no reason why you Should not join our union. That will get rid of all our trouble." That was held to be a criminal offence. The limit of this thing is difficult to see. Take the case of an ordinary canvasser who goes round, knocks at a door and asks "How are you going to vote?" The canvasser then says: "If these wretched Labour people get in, your savings will be in jeopardy." Under the strict wording of this Act, that is a criminal offence, because it might create in the mind of the person a reasonable apprehension of loss of income. It does not matter very much because, thank goodness, juries and judges alike have a good deal of common sense in administering the law and therefore it would not be employed in cases of this sort.

I am fully aware there are much more subtle forms of intimidation. Old friends may give you a cold look instead of a friendly glance; your wife may not be asked out to tea; your daughter may be given the sack from the local cinema; there are hundreds of ways in which this form of intimidation can be used. All I say is this. Let us never make the mistake of thinking that the area to be covered by the criminal law can be co-extensive with the area to be covered by the moral law. It is only with the cruder forms of intimidation that the criminal law can deal, and with these it should deal drastically; and the law as it was before the 1927 Act was passed contained all the necessary provisions for doing so. It is absolutely foolish to think that you can bring within the area of criminal law all sorts of caddish behaviour, which is the subject of moral law and not criminal law.

Contracting in is my next topic. You know the position about trade unions. Before a union can have a political fund at all it must have a secret ballot and must secure the approval of the majority of the members. Every member of that union has the right to contract out if he so desires. What evidence was there that undue pressure, intimidation, or duress, was placed upon these men? If trade unionists are to adopt this sort of method why cannot they do the same sort of thing and force a member to contract in? What was the "bitter experience" that Mr. Churchill referred to here? (because this question has to be answered, if you say this Act was not vindictive). The long and the short of the matter is that most of our fellow countrymen have an instinctive horror of filling up forms, and consequently there are a great many people who do not feel very strongly about a thing and therefore will not fill up a form. The difference between contracting in and contracting out is that you get the benefit of the inertia of those people who will not take the trouble to fill up a form. We say it is right that where a union has had a policy, and has had a fund, that the system of contracting out should apply.

I come next to the established civil servants. Take the Post Office workers. For years they had been affiliated to the T.U.C. They behaved quite well in the strike. They did not come out. What was the bitter necessity which convinced you that they were no longer to be affiliated to the T.U.C.? Was it an endeavour to denigrate the T.U.C., or what have Post Office workers done? (because the wages of Post Office workers and other Government servants are fixed in relation to wages paid outside). One always quotes the figure of what other people are getting when we discuss wages of Government servants. What was the reason to prevent Government servants then becoming affiliated to the T.U.C.? They were prevented under the doctrine of what was called undivided loyalty to the State. That is a doctrine which I absolutely repudiate. It smacks too much of the Fuhrer principle. The difficulties of life come from the fact that you get divided loyalty. There is no general principle of one loyalty to take precedence over another unless it be the loyalty which is referred to in the quotation: To thine own self be true … Thou canst not then be false to any man. Then there was the question of the local authorities who were deprived (what was the necessity I do not know) of the right which ordinary employers had of saying that their men must join a trade union. I say quite frankly that if I were a member of a local authority I should be very hesitant about exercising any such right. But if public utilities and corporations have it, why should not local authorities have it? So much for the Act of 1927.

I will now say something of the history after the Act was passed, and first of all I would remind your Lordships of a saying which I came across recently in John Morley's recollections, where he said: Even the heathen make a point of not keeping their war trophies in repair. I thought that was a very wise saying—if only the Conservative Party had not been so insistent on keeping their war trophies in repair! When I was Attorney-General in 1930 I was entrusted with the duty of dealing with this matter. I will be quite frank with your Lordships and tell you something which has not been revealed before. The Bill I drafted was the Bill as it is here to-day. The transitional provisions were slightly different, but that was the Bill. But the political circumstances of the time were such that that Bill did not commend itself to a majority of the House. Consequently I had to set about drafting some kind of compromise measure. It was a very difficult task and I am not at all sure I succeeded. Anyhow, in introducing my Bill I made it quite plain that I was inviting criticism and help, and was willing to modify and improve the Bill if I could. Those of you who happen to read these debates have realized that this much is plain: I certainly got no thanks. Indeed, the official Conservative spokesman said it would have been much better in the interests of the community if I had gone for a straight repeal. When Mr. Churchill said that the Bill was to be taken upstairs and its dirty throat cut, that was regarded as a piece of scintillating wit. That was my attempt at compromise. Standing here as Lord Chancellor I have got no dispatch box to thump. I have only got the head of the noble Lord on my left. If I had a dispatch box I could thump it, and say that so far as I am concerned, I shall not myself make the smallest effort at compromise again.

During the war we tried—I think everybody agrees that the trade union leaders were doing their part in the war—to see if we could not get some com- promise then. We were told the Conservative Party would resent any tinkering with the Act. We must go to the people. We have been to the people, and the Bill which we are proposing today is the result of the mandate we have received. We are proposing—and I want your Lordships to understand this in deciding whether or not to give this Bill a Second Reading—a straight repeal. We shall be content with nothing short of a straight repeal. And we want it because, if I may use ecclesiastical language, we regard this Act on the Statute Book as a stumbling block in the way of the co-operation between management and men which we so sadly need.

Of course, I realize the importance of the law to the ordinary citizen. Thank God we are a law-abiding race of people and I hope we shall always remain so. But I believe there is something even more important than formal declarations of the law, for after all, during war-time, when the law said that all strikes were illegal, we did not avoid strikes. I believe, therefore, there is something more important than formal declarations of the law. I believe that the people of this country know that from Parliament they can always obtain justice, that Parliament is here to redress grievances, that Parliament will hold the scales evenly and fairly between all sections of the community, and that Parliament will not pass vindictive or repressive laws. That is more valuable than formal declarations of the law and it is because Parliament, by passing the Act in 1927, rightly or wrongly in the view of a very large number of people in this country, did fall from its own high position, that this feeling has arisen. We ask you to remove this Act, root and branch.

There comes a time in the history of nations, as it does in the rebuilding of cities, when the true task of statesmanship for the moment is to destroy, but to leave a site on which in the future some better building can be erected. So long as the Act of 1927 encumbers the ground, that is impossible. Once this Act is removed, what sort of building are we to try to erect? In the first place, it is quite plain it must be a building erected with the consent of both sides in industry. Secondly, I believe myself that for a long time ahead the right to strike must remain, but it must be in the background, and not in the foreground. That, I think, is very important. If we can re-establish and re-assert the authority of the trade unions over their members, which this Act did so much to destroy, if we can speed up the conciliation procedure, if we can bring about a state of affairs so that resort is always to the conciliation procedure before the use of the crude weapon of strike, those are the lines on which I would like to proceed. If we could do that, the interval of time which would be involved might lead in time to the abolition of strikes without notice, and might render innocuous the immunity in respect of the procuring of breaches of contract which has always seemed to me the most questionable of the trade union privileges.

For the rest, it is obvious that the Government of the day must have the most ample powers. We have them under the Emergency Powers Act of 1920. As I said years ago, so I say now, that, it these powers are inadequate, we should make them stronger. The Government must see that its lieges are protected from hardship, and so on. That is our position. I hope I have made it plain that I do not want this Bill because I want bigger and better strikes. I do not ask you to pass the Bill because I want no strikes at all. I believe that if we are successfully to get out of the grave difficulties which confront the nation to-day, we cannot afford the luxury of all the trade disputes which we had in the old days. We must, therefore, not only get conciliation machinery. The machinery is no good without good will behind it. We must establish good will, mutual confidence and trust among all sections of industry, and it is because I am certain that you will not establish that good will, you will not establish that mutual confidence and trust so long as this Act remains on the Statute Book that I beg leave to move the Second Reading of this Bill to repeal that Act.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

3.39 p.m.


My Lords, we have become so familiar with the adroitness and the finesse with which my noble friend the Lord Chancellor is accustomed to present to this House Bills which it is expected the majority of the House will not like, that it is almost superfluous to say we all recognize that he has made a most moving and powerfully construc- tive speech. His method varies with the occasion. There was an occasion, not so long ago, when he moved the Second Reading of a Government Bill of which he said he hoped that for the rest of his life he would never have to move another one like it. It was a very conciliatory way of proceeding! I think I recall another occasion when he told us that he was not very proud of the Bill and took a great deal of objection at any rate to the form in which it appeared.

Now let us at least be at one at the beginning and agree that the Lord Chancellor has shown great aplomb in presenting his arguments to-day, for he has a past in the matter. He referred to it briefly as the period when he had become Attorney-General in the Labour Government. I was one of those in the other House with him and. I very closely followed those proceedings. What he was then doing, on behalf of the Labour Government, was proposing certain Amendments in this Act of 1927. I am not concerned to say that there may not be respects in which the language of the Act can be improved. But what is very remarkable to me is that on the last occasion when he took part officially on behalf of the Labour Government in proposals for legislation on this very difficult subject of trade disputes he should have been responsible for a Bill which his own colleague, his own Solicitor-General, explained would make a General Strike illegal, and which preserved, quite untouched, very important parts of the Act of 1927—not, I feel sure, because my noble friend had a twinge of Liberal feeling that such proposals were justified, but because they plainly were justified and are justified now.

Therefore, though I have listened with the attention which it is always right to give to what he has said, and while I greatly admire the course of his arguments, I must say that for my part I thought the most convincing part of his speech, though it was a brief part, was that in which he claimed that the present Government had a mandate for the Bill. There he may be on pretty sound ground. I do not think that the mass of the electors, if they were set a short examination paper on the contents of the Act of 1927, would have got full marks. I doubt very much whether on any side in the Election controversy this formed a very leading feature of debate. Mr. Ernest Bevin made very powerful speeches at the Election; but it was not at the Election, it was on the Second Reading of this Bill in another place the other day that he declared that the real reason for the Bill was not to change the law but to remove what he regarded as a slur upon himself. That was not an Election argument. I do not think any of the legal gentlemen who were supporting the Government at the late Election used the argument which has since been used in another place by the head of the Bar to the effect that it is no use having legislation like the Act of 1927, for if people did not choose to obey it of course they would disregard it. I do not recall these very remarkable statements being urged during the Election.

I wish to be perfectly fair about it, however, and what is true is that the repeal—and my noble friend is perfectly right in insisting upon that word—of the Act of 1927 was made part of the Labour programme which was very widely distributed to many people who are not supporters of the Labour Party. That is perfectly true, and what is also true is that a number of Labour members or candidates—I think the figures are something like one in twenty—actually mentioned it in their addresses. I do not consider it would be candid or that it would correspond with the facts of the case as I understand them if I did not go further and say that I have no doubt that it has been the purpose, and sometimes the declared purpose, of the Labour Party, if they came into power, to repeal the Act of 1927.

Well, I do not know whether you call that in the full sense a mandate. I think I should call it a sort of a mandate. Some of the older of your Lordships may remember that when the Boer War was supposed to be over, the Conservative Party of that day—it was in the year 1900—had a Khaki Election, and won it handsomely. The only inconvenience was that after the Election the Boer War went on. When the Lord Chancellor's predecessor was challenged on that subject, however, he gave a very effective answer. What Lord Halsbury said was: "You may not call it a war, but it is a sort of a war." I may say, in the same way, "You may not call it a mandate, but it is a sort of a mandate." I take the view, and I think it is the view taken by my noble friends around me, that we have to accept that position and that we ought to accept it, because undoubtedly, examining the result of the Election and the appeals made to the electors, that was in substance the authority which the Government then obtained.

But that is a very different thing from saying that debate on the subject is useless, or that even vox populi is enough to make Parliamentary analysis redundant. One of the duties of a Member of Parliament, I suppose, is to use whatever skill or experience he has to show what is the real nature of legislation that is proposed. On the present occasion I think your Lordships' House has a special duty to do so, for there is this very remarkable contrast between the Act of 1927 and the Bill now before us: the Bill now before us was disposed of in another place in, I think, two days' discussion on Second Reading, three or four days in Committee and a Third Reading, whereas the Act of 1927, first and last, occupied twenty-eight days of Parliamentary time. It is true that a good deal of that time was occupied, as I well remember, by the most respectable and honourable members of the Labour Opposition prophesying that that Act would put a stop to trade unionism; that it was an assault upon working men's combinations, and I do not know what else—language so absurd that it is not necessary now to rouse feelings by reminding people of it. In point of fact, the Act of 1927, which has been on the Statute Book for nineteen years, has not inflicted any injury on the trade unions, unless you regard it as an injury that trade unions should have to get the approval of a member before a contribution can be exacted from him for a political fund. With that single exception, I do not think it can be seriously said that the Trades Disputes Act of 1927 has obstructed the trade union movement. That movement has gone from strength to strength, and more and more it speaks for the labour and industry of the nation.

As the noble Lord Chancellor said, this measure now proposed has indeed the merit of brevity and clarity. Nothing could be more brief and nothing could be more clear as far as it goes. If you look at it—and this is all you will get from the Printed Paper Office or from the Table of the House—it merely says "The Trades Disputes and Trade Unions Act, 1927, is hereby repealed." That is all. No doubt it was very brief and clear when the Duchess shouted "Off with his head," but that was not really an argument in favour of the course so briefly expressed.


The Red Queen.


I am greatly obliged. I apologize to all Duchesses, whether in their own right or otherwise. It seems to me that in order that we may look at This matter fairly there is really no course more useful to take than to look at this Act of 1927, to which the Lord Chancellor has referred, and to call attention, as objectively and accurately as possible, to what in fact it provides. It is on the Statute Book and it is now proposed, nineteen years after its enactment, to get rid of it, lock, stock and barrel. You will not get any information from looking at the Bill now proposed. Your Lordships are under a certain disadvantage; you cannot do on this occasion what is done on most occasions, that is, get the Bill before the debate begins, examine its clauses, form a broad view of what the purposes of those clauses are, and then prepare to hear the debate in detail in order to make up your mind whether the Bill is justified or not. This all refers back to the Act of 1927 and I propose to call attention to the sections which your Lordships' House is now invited to repeal.

Apart from the short title, there are seven sections, and each of them is important. If you take those seven sections together, you find they form a very considerable part of the trade union code. The idea that you are really getting rid of some provision about a General Strike—the words "general strike" do not occur in the Act of 1927—is a complete delusion. Here you have a section first of all endeavouring to define what strikes and lockouts are illegal. For the sake of brevity I will say "strikes" hereafter, but the term includes lock-outs all the way through.

It is admitted by the spokesmen of the Government that some strikes are illegal. Although I do not think the noble and learned Lord Chancellor used it, the phrase which is current amongst supporters of the Bill is, "We admit that a revolutionary strike is illegal." At this time it might be useful to inquire what is a revolutionary strike. At any rate it is admitted that some strikes are illegal, and it is further admitted, I should think, that after the events of 1926, and indeed during the so-called General Strike, there was a great difference of opinion as to whether or not those particular events constituted an illegal strike. Quite naturally, the Lord Chancellor used a few quotations designed to show that the view that it was illegal was mistaken, and very possibly it was, although there is plenty of high authority to the contrary. But that is not really the point; the point is that after the events of 1926 it was clear to everybody that there was a great deal of honest dispute, misunderstanding and vagueness in the country as to whether events like those of the General Strike were legal or illegal. I merely point out to your Lordships that the first section of the Act of 1927 which is now to be repealed is a section which defines, as well as it can, what an illegal strike is. I can perfectly well understand the action of the present Lord Chancellor when he was in another place in 1931 and when he proposed to amend that definition. It did not appear to some of us to be a very wisely drawn amendment, but that is what he attempted to do. He never suggested that it was a good plan to leave the law on this all-important subject in a state of doubt.

What are the particular circumstances in which this doubt arises? I have not the faintest doubt in my mind that there, were hundreds of thousands of people who took part in the General Strike of 1926 who believed they were doing something which was perfectly lawful from beginning to end. I am very glad to see my noble friend Lord Walkden opposite me and to learn that he may take part in this debate. We have all learnt to know him and to respect him. If he took part, as I believe he did, in the General Strike of 1926, from what I know of him I am perfectly convinced that he believed he was doing the right and lawful thing. There were hundreds of thousands of people who, rightly or wrongly, were under the same impression. Is it really tolerable that on a matter of that importance, when there was shown to be so wide a difference of opinion, the course taken by the Labour Government because it has the power should be to say "Let us wipe away all definitions of an illegal strike; let us leave the working people of this country in the future in the same state of confusion and doubt as they were found to be in in the year 1926?" I say that is not fair and that there is no subject on which it is more obvious that there ought to be a wisely devised definition than on a subject of that sort.

I am not going to follow the noble Lord, the Lord Chancellor, though it tempts me very much, in spending some time on quotations about the legality or illegality of the General Strike. As I have said, that does not seem to me to be the real point to-day. The real point to-day is that there were two opinions about it, there was doubt about it, and hundreds of thousands of people did not know whether they were doing right or wrong. I say it is not right so to change the law as to make that position again as obscure as it was in 1926. However, I hope I may be forgiven if I indulge in three quotations, for it is twenty years ago. It is agreed that a revolutionary strike is illegal, and I select as one of my quotations a declaration made by a very well-known Labour leader, the Industrial Secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen, after the strike was over. Three-quarters of a column of The Times newspaper was occupied with his speech in August, 1926. He was a member of the General Council of the T.U.C. which took over operations, and he was the head of one of the two great railway trade unions.

This is what Mr. C. T. Cramp said on August 18, 1926, to a Labour summer school. He was referring to the General Strike and how he understood it. I would ask attention to these words: In order that the General Strike might be successful it was necessary to enforce the resignation of the Government. In spite, therefore, of the General Council of the T.U.C.'s denials being made during the strike—obviously for reassuring the timid—the issue was a constitutional one. I recall that my noble friend, in his speech just now, said that he thought not sufficient attention had been paid to the constitutional issues. So it appears. Mr. Cramp went on: If successful, it did involve a revolutionary change in their methods, and it was as well to face the fact. In the circumstances prevailing during the General Strike there was no halfway house between the ballot box and the machine gun. Then came an expression of the natural disappointment that these designs had failed— Whereas we expected food supplies to grow scarce in a couple of days and business to come to a standstill, nothing of the kind took place. One of the leaders who took over the direction of the strike, one of the half-dozen men who were really deciding the issue, said, in August, 1926, what I have just read. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, was very well justified when he said just now that not enough attention had been paid to the constitutional issue. The truth, as it seemed to me and to many others, though not everybody agreed, was that in fact the action that was taken in calling the General Strike was an endeavour to bring such pressure upon the community and the Government so as to compel them to give way in the direction which the T.U.C. required. People may have different views as to whether that is a lawful use of power, but that that is what was intended is, I think, beyond any question.

I now give my second quotation. The Daily Herald, which dealt with this matter very fully and, as far as I know, quite accurately, published an hour or two before the General Strike was proclaimed these sentences which I have extracted from that newspaper: At midnight tonight, unless the Government"— mark you, the Government— changes its position on the mining lock-out, a great national stoppage of industry will begin. All forms of transport, printing (including all newspapers), the iron and steel and applied industries, together with the supply of gas and electricity for power purposes, all building other than housing and hospital work are to stop. I am perfectly willing to be told that in the view which I formed, and thought it my duty to express, I was forming a judgment on a matter of fact, and that is true. It is quite true that before you can say that operations of this sort are illegal operations you must, as the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, very kindly recognized, come to a conclusion on a fact. Sometimes you need to empanel jurors and hold long inquiries before you can ascertain a fact, but in the face of that declaration, and in the face of what Mr. Cramp afterwards said, is it a very difficult conclusion to draw? Is it not as plain as the nose on your face that in point of fact, no doubt without realizing all its implications, what was being done at that time was to attempt to hold the community up to ransom?

I will say two things about that. First of all, I have not a shadow of a doubt so far as my personal judgment is concerned that an attempt thus to hold up the community to ransom is against the law, and secondly, if by any chance it is not then it certainly ought to be. It is in these circumstances that the Government come forward and say: Away with any definition of an illegal strike. We are not going to amend it; we are going to get rid of it. We are going to leave people where they were in 1926. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, used some strong expressions about where they were, and I hope he has got sufficient absolution for the purpose. He described them as having acted ill advisedly and without consideration, with wholly insufficient regard to the constitutional issues involved, and said that what they produced was a knock-kneed thing. With reference to this Act, while he thought it was rubbing somebody's nose into it, what was the nose being rubbed into? He said it was the mess that they had made.

The third quotation, and the only other I would ask to be allowed to make, is a clear statement made in this House by the Earl of Oxford and Asquith. He was not only a great master of speech but he was a very profound constitutional lawyer, and I have never seen any adequate challenge to the statement he made. I will read to your Lordships: what the noble Earl said while this General Strike was going on: Now there is a very broad and obvious distinction between a General Strike and those particular strikes or lock-outs in various industries which have from time to time taken place and which have been painfully frequent in our own industrial annals. What distinguishes a General Strike from all others is this, that it is a blow, not struck at one combatant or the other, but directed, whether in intention or not in intention, by its inevitable results at the very vitals of the whole community. Is there any noble Lord opposite who had any part or lot in the General Strike who will deny that the General Strike was a blow directed at the very vitals of the community? You cannot stop all the newspapers of the country; you cannot stop all the transport of the country, and you cannot stop all the iron and steel trades of the country—


Or the coal.


You cannot do those things without striking at the vitals of the community. My noble friend makes an interjection, and it leads me to say one thing more on that before I pass to the next point. The noble Earl gave a short account of what preceded the General Strike, and rightly referred to the Royal Commission over which my noble friend Lord Samuel presided. The Government of the day, in order to give that Commission every chance to find a solution, did a very extraordinary and a very unusual thing; it provided out of public funds a substantial subsidy which would enable the existing of miners to be continued to be paid for another nine months. I think 70 per cent. of the wages paid in that interval were in fact thus made possible. Then my noble friend Lord Samuel just before April 30, just before the nine months expired, reported and I invite the House, although it is twenty years ago, to remember what Lord Samuel's Commission reported.

First of all, it is interesting to notice, it rejected the solution of nationalization unanimously. But that was twenty years ago. Sir William Beveridge was one of the Commissioners. Secondly, it recommended that the State should secure the royalties in coal. And that has been done. Thirdly—and I call particular attention to this—it insisted that the subsidy must be ended. I quote a sentence: … We think its continuance indefensible. The subsidy should stop at the end of its authorized term, and should never be repeated. And it did stop on the 30th of April—just twenty years ago to-day. Fourthly, my noble friend Viscount Samuel's Commission came to this conclusion. This is how it is put: We come reluctantly but unhesitatingly to the conclusion that the costs of production, with the present hours and wages, are greater than the industry can bear. That was the result of their impartial inquiry. The Government made very great efforts to try to find an adjustment or compromise. The story of their efforts is available and it is well known. Many of your Lordships no doubt have studied it. It is no good asking why or how at this stage, but there was not an agreement. The result was that you had this proclamation by the Trades Union Congress.

I say it is my firm judgment on very plain facts that they were in fact endeavouring to put the maximum amount of pressure on the whole community in general, and on the Government in particular, in order to force a continuance of the subsidy. That was not trying to make the owners do something; it was trying to make the Government do something. I will never subscribe to the doctrine, however powerful a trade union may become, that it is a lawful use of trade union powers to bring overwhelming pressure to bear on the community or Parliament for the purpose of getting its own way. Once that doctrine is accepted as constitutional we shall substitute government by the T.U.C. for government by Parliament. Therefore I venture, with great respect to those who take a different view, to assert that there is no excuse at all for saying: "Let us get rid of all definitions of illegal strikes." To do so, I maintain, is not to do what is the business of Parliament when it legislates—namely, to clarify the law. It is doing the exact opposite and is throwing this most important subject back into the fog of doubt and dispute which existed when the General Strike took place.

Much more briefly, let me refer to these other sections of the Act of 1927. Some of my noble friends who will speak hereafter will deal with them in more detail. Let me take Section 2. I do not think the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, referred expressly to it. Section 2 of the Act which the Government wish to repeal is the section providing for the "protection of persons refusing to take part in illegal strikes or lock-outs." That is a perfectly accurate description of the section. I hardly think that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, can be very proud of fathering a Bill which aims at removing that protection. There are great penalties which can be imposed if that provision goes. You can forfeit a man's rights, you can expel him from your union, you can turn him, against his will, into a blackleg, all because he refuses to take part in an illegal strike. That is one section which is to be got rid of in this brief and easy manner.

Section 3 of the Act deals with the prevention of intimidation. Here I would like to ask the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, to be good enough to check what I say and tell me if what I am stating is not his view of the matter. I will only take a minute or two, but I want to know if I am not right. Section 3 (1), as I understand, did not change the law. It was an attempt, I think, and on the whole a very good attempt, to bring together into one subsection clauses which have to be found in various places including the Act of 1875 and, I think, the Act of 1906. These were clauses which, as they stood, had very frequently honestly misled workmen who were acting on pickets. There is plenty of evidence of that. On subsection (4) I shall value the Lord Chancellor's concurrence in my view that it was new law. Let us see then what is this subsection (4).


Is the noble and learned Viscount quite right? I had thought that there was provision in the Act of 1875 to deal with cases of anyone watching or besetting houses.


I do not think so, but we will not, of course, argue it now. I have looked at this with some care, and I think that others of my noble friends will also have something to say about it. I suggest that this was new law, an additional protection which by this repealing Act is going to be withdrawn. Let us see what it says: Notwithstanding anything in any Act, it shall not be lawful for one or more persons, for the purpose of inducing any person to work or to abstain from working, to watch or beset a house or place where a person resides or the approach to such a house or place, and any person who acts in contravention of this subsection shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months. In my belief—and I am quite willing to be corrected hereafter if I am wrong, but I have had occasion to study this subject—that was new law. It is being taken away by the Bill now before the House, and when one considers what it means to watch or beset a house for the purpose of inducing any person to work or to abstain from working I should like to ask if my noble friends opposite are feeling very happy.

We will not argue, but suppose for a moment that I am right—after all, I may perhaps be right sometimes. Are my noble friends opposite really very happy when they are repealing that law? Watching or besetting a house or a place where a man lives, where his wife lives, where his children live! Watching or besetting a house for the purpose of inducing any person to work or to abstain from work! I know very well that there are noble Lords sitting on the Benches opposite—good trades unionists—who would never demean themselves by taking any sort of action which might seem like compelling a wife or frightening a child. I am sure of that. But what do you mean by repealing a thing when there it is on the Statute Book as a warning that people with less control than you are not to indulge in that particular form of persuasion or inducement?

I take Section 4 very briefly indeed. It deals with contracting in and contracting out. Here I have a confession to make. I originally thought, and thought for some years, that the distinction between contracting in and contracting out was not very important. It is I, if I may say so to the noble and learned Lord Chancellor, who was the author or inventor of the phrase about the benefit of inertia. I used to take the view that probably it was just slackness which caused a number of trade unionists not to subscribe to their union. They had no objection to subscribing but, as my noble friend said, they did not bother and would not fill up forms. As long as it was plausible to think that, I expressed the opinion that it might well be that the position under which people were required to contract out was just. But, really, it is quite impossible to hold that simple view any longer. The real motive behind some of the enthusiasm for this Bill is the intention to collect money for the political purposes of a trade union from people who are not willing to give it. Undoubtedly that is true; it is for your Lordships to judge whether such a provision is just. I content myself with two simple figures, both given by Labour Ministers. In 1926, so the present Lord Chancellor informed another place when he made a speech in 1931, the numbers of registered unions which had political funds at a time when members had to pay unless they especially contracted out was 77 per cent. That is one figure. Now we have been told by the Minister of Labour that if we take the number of registered unions having political funds, when there is a requirement that members must contract in, the figure is 43 per cent.

What is the explanation of this difference? Obviously there is only one explanation. That is; that as long as a man must contract in there are a very large number of people who will not make the contribution. As long as you say "If you want to get out of this contribution you must contract out—give me your name and I will mark it on the list; never mind about the Ballot Act, that does not apply"; as soon as that happens you get a situation that is wholly different. I have come most clearly to the opinion, as I told another place, that it is quite impossible to suppose that this is merely due to inertia. I is due to the fact that there are a large number of members in the trade union movement who do not want to have their money taken for political purposes, which at present means for Labour purposes. And some day it may mean for Communist purposes. They intend to keep their money for themselves. I wonder whether we really are to understand in this House that the position of trade unionists is so precarious that it is necessary to indulge in this highly profitable change.

Perhaps I might ask one further question, without being too pressing. Even if it is a profitable change, is it just? Is it just that you should say to a man, who no doubt ought to be a member of his trade union as he receives the services of the union and perhaps a pension system, as well as help from the secretary "Ah, but there is another thing. We have a political fund. This political fund goes to help finance the most wealthy party in the State—the Government in fact—and I am sure you would like to subscribe to our political fund. It would be much nicer for you if you did." it is very embarrassing, I am sure, for any individual to find that he is to be a marked man, as a person who will not undertake to do this. I really think that that is, in some respects, the most deplorable part of what I regard as a very deplorable Bill.

Clauses five and six, which deal with established civil servants, and with what a local or public authority is allowed to do in making it a condition of employment that a person shall or shall not belong to a trade union, I leave to some of any noble friends to deal with hereafter. They do not seem to me to be unjust. I cannot conceive that they are any slur on Mr. Ernest Bevin. They seem to me a reasonable provision which, standing by themselves, might be accepted. I come to the last, and in some respects the most anxious of all parts. This Bill of 1927 which was carefully drafted, contained at the end what is most necessary in Acts of Parliament—a section supplementing the declaration of what was lawful and what could be done by a clause which provided the machinery for finding out how the clause was to be applied. It provided that the Attorney-General might apply to the Courts for an injunction restraining any application of the funds of a trade union in contravention of the provisions of Section 1; that is to say, if they were being used for an illegal strike. If you do not have a provision of that sort you may beat the air with general Acts and sections, but in the end you will be defeated because you have no machinery by which you can get a doubtful case decided. The object of this Section 7 was simply to secure that if a situation should arise in which it was doubtful whether or not a strike was illegal there should be as rapid as possible a method of finding out. The Lord Chancellor wants to repeal that section. He admits there are such things as illegal strikes; at least (I will not put it personally) the Government admit there are such things as illegal strikes. The Government are unable to substitute a better definition than the definition in the Bill.

I will put this question and then I will conclude. Let us suppose there occurs again in this country an incident corresponding to what is commonly called the General Strike of 1926—holding up essential services, stopping all transport, forcing typists and hairdressers, as we saw twenty years ago, to walk miles and miles from their lodgings to their work. Let us suppose that that all happened again, and that the Government of the day, the Prime Minister of the day, turns to his Lord Chancellor and to his Attorney-General to ask "Is this legal?" What is their answer to be? Their answer will be: "Do not ask me; I do not know." That is the only answer they can give. The essence of these General Strikes is the suddenness with which they take place. It is their "Blitz" quality that is their danger. And here you have deliberately removed from the Statute Book the provision by which the responsible legal adviser to the Government may go to the Courts and say: "These are the facts as we understand them. We have served notices, and we want to know whether this strike is legal or illegal." Under the Act of 1927 you could do that. The Government is now quite deliberately proposing to get rid of that section as well as every other section.

I claim to have shown at least this, that there are very serious objections to the repeal of these sections and putting nothing in their place. I am not denying at all that amendments here and there might be improvements. But that is not the point. For the Government quite deliberately to say, as my noble friend has told us, that they are going to have the repeal, and nothing but repeal, and let the devil take the hindmost—I say that by so doing you are perverting the proper use of Parliamentary powers. The duty of Parliament, when it passes an Act, is to try to make the law clearer. Here you are quite deliberately making the law more vague, more doubtful and more difficult. Let it be granted that my views of twenty years ago may have been wrong. That does not matter at all. The greatest Common Law authority of the time, Sir Frederick Pollock, happened to think I was right, but what does that matter? The point is that there was an honest difference of opinion, which the Act of 1927 cleared up. How can it be right for that difference of opinion to be restored? I say again it is a cruel thing to change these provisions for the protection of persons refusing to take part in an illegal strike. I say it is an unjust thing to remove any portion of the protection in Section 3 of the Act in respect of intimidation in a man's own home. That is not quite correctly expressed. Intimidation in any case is unlawful. What I mean is that you should not permit pickets to attend at a man's home in order to try to persuade him that he ought to join in a strike. Picket the factory gates, if you like, picket the public-houses if you like, but at any rate protect the wives and children from that sort of pressure which this kind of thing inevitably involves. I say that, as things are, there is no justification, except the justification of increasing the funds of trade unions, for turning contracting-in into contracting-out. I say, although it sounds a small point, it is a very big one; that just as serious as the others is the deliberate removal of Section 7 by which, and by which alone, a Government through its appointed Law Officer can do its utmost to find out quickly whether a terrible disturbance such as there was in 1926 is within or without the law.

It is twenty years ago, within a few Clays, that I thought it was my duty to make a speech on this subject. It was not made with any sort of enmity to trade unions. The very first thing I ever did in my Parliamentatry life was to argue in favour of the Trades Disputes Act of 1906, and Mr. Balfour, as he then was, was good enough to say that the argument then advanced was one which could not be resisted. Trade unions have been given immense and special powers. Their funds are absolutely safe from being touched, whatever be the civil wrongs they inspire. Their leaders, who persuade other people to break their contract, cannot be used when they attempt so to do. I thought those provisions justified because I thought trade unions, as they had grown up, had always believed that was the law in their favour, and I still abide by that. But with regard to this measure, it seems to me now that the hackneyed quotation which I remember using twenty years ago in the House of Commons is the best quotation to sum it up: O, it is excellent To have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous To use it like a giant.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, the House has listened with interest to two speeches from great legal luminaries who have illuminated this subject with lights of different colours, and I am not quite sure whether at the end we see more or less clearly than we did at the beginning. The Lord Chancellor is always suaviter in modo. In view of his remark about thumping the box, on this occasion I was glad he was not fortiter in "Rea"! He made clear a fact which many of us suspected before, that this Bill was a controversial Bill. Whenever a controversial Bill comes before this House we have in these days to consider two quite distinct questions: First, the merits or demerits of the particular measure and the desirability of rejection or amendment or passage; secondly, what the action of the House of Lords should be in view of the political conditions of the country.

We have a Parliament of two chambers, the one wholly elected, the other consisting of members two out of three of whom sit here by hereditary right. Although in very many cases they have personal qualifications of a high order, that is what one might call only a fortunate by product, and is not a requirement. In the elected House we have at the present time a Labour Party majority of two to one. In this House we have a Conservative Party majority of three or four to one. In these circumstances, if there were a chronic divergence between the two Houses, it is obvious that the Constitution would not work, and before long there would be a great contest, which history shows would be likely to and only in one way. Therefore, on an occasion such as this, what is likely to prove decisive is the advice which is given by the leaders of the Conservative Party to their supporters in this House with regard to the action to be taken on the Second Reading. I gather from the speech which has just been made by the noble and learned Viscount that that advice is not to challenge the passage of this Bill. That seems to me to be right in the circumstances of the case.

There is no doubt that the Labour Party made clear before the last General Election, that one of their first acts would be the introduction of precisely this measure, and one must therefore expect a Bill of this character to be introduced by a Labour Government. Some one has written that you cannot have Falstaff and have him thin. Well, you cannot expect to have a Labour Government and that they should leave the Act of 1927 as it was. Consequently, so far as any definite action is concerned, our present debate is really academic. Nevertheless it is desirable that we should express our several opinions, because they may help to guide public opinion in the country at large and because they will remain on record in view of discussions on any later measures dealing with the same subject. So far as the Liberal Party is concerned, as the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has stated, we were against the Act in 1927. Mr. Lloyd George, who was then leader of the Party, denounced it on the Second Reading in the House of Commons. Viscount Grey also, in a letter to The Times on April 11,1927, said with regard to its introduction that he thought it was "a mistake fraught with real peril to the interests of the country," and he gave his reasons. For my own part, I was not then in the House of Commons, but I made a speech in the country in which I said I thought the attack on trade unions was both unwise and unnecessary; I deplored the introduction of the Bill and said that if I were a Member of the House of Commons I should vote against it on Second Reading. When that Bill came before your Lordships' House, Lord Reading, then the Leader of the Liberal Party here, spoke against it, and he and Lord Grey and the Liberal Party in general divided the House on the Second Reading, and many of them also voted against it on the Third Reading. Consequently to-day we are not likely to be greatly perturbed about the repeal of an Act the original passage of which we so strongly resisted.

Now with respect to the effect of the Bill on the position regarding the General Strike, I most vividly remember the first week of May twenty years ago. The strike had been declared and there were no negotiations proceeding for its ending. The Government of the day—Mr. Baldwin's Government—had said that until the strike was called off they would not resume any negotiations for the ending of the dispute in the mining industry; while the Trades Union Congress said that until negotiations were opened in the mining industry they would not call off the General Strike. The deadlock was complete. At that juncture, being, as has been mentioned, the Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry whose Report had considerable relation to the events that were then happening, I intervened as an individual, and I had an opportunity, through the intermediation of Mr. J. H. Thomas, of meeting the Working Committee of the Trades Union Congress. We met morning after morning for several days, secretly, at the house of Sir Abe Bailey in Bryanston Square, in the somewhat incongruous surroundings of a millionaire's drawing room hung with great old masters, and on one occasion we met also the leaders of the Miners' Federation. Those negotiations were, in the end, successful, not in persuading the miners but in persuading the Trades Union Congress to call off the strike; and it was called off on May 12.

Now the principal reason why that strike ended was, in my view, that the public opinion of the nation had declared itself against it, and not least amongst the working classes, whose homes were subjected to great hardship through the gradual cessation of supplies. The Trades Union Congress was surprised that the sudden shock of the great strike had not resulted in an immediate victory, but as it did not, the current was all against them and they saw, all over the country, men going back to work in greatly increasing numbers. They were anxious to end the strike and were grateful to anyone who would provide them with a ladder down which they could climb. But also one of the causes, I have no doubt at all, was the discovery by the trade union leaders that, in all probability, their action was illegal, as Lord Simon had said. They had not anticipated that it would be declared in any quarter that this was not a trade dispute within the meaning of the Trade Disputes Act and thought therefore that their action was protected; and when the noble Lord himself, Lord Simon, speaking with the authority of an ex-Attorney-General, declared publicly that the very leaders whom I was meeting in that room were liable in damages to the uttermost farthing of their personal possessions, it was a very unpleasant situation for them to be in.

The trade unionists of this country are average, sensible British citizens, not in the least revolutionary, and they had no intention of engaging in any defiance of the law and Constitution. Consequently they were greatly perturbed at the position in which they found themselves and were only too anxious to find some way of escape. Doubts have been expressed to-day as to whether such a strike was in fact illegal at that time. Lord Haldane in this House declared that it certainly was legal, and he quoted various authorities to that effect.


Lord Buckmaster declared it was not.


I know there was a complete divergence of views, but still the fact remains that at the outset and during the strike the predominant view, especially in view of the judgment of Lord Astbury, from which there was no appeal and could not be an appeal; it was an ex parte action—well, I do not know whether I am right in saying there could not be an appeal, but at any rate there was no appeal—was that it was illegal; for that judgment, which carried great weight, declared in categorical terms that the whole proceeding was illegal. Now if in fact the strike was illegal, as Lord Simon declared at the time—and I do not know that he has since changed his opinion—and as Lord Astbury declared, then on the passage of this Bill before the House it remains illegal still.


It remains in doubt.


If the noble Lord doubts his own judgment, he will say it is still doubtful. Other people, he will say, might doubt or question his opinion. I quite agree it would be better to remove doubts now that we are legislating, and to make the law more tidy than it would remain if this Bill is passed simpliciter: but I imagine the Government would say they have no time to be tidy, that it would take a great deal of Parliamentary time, and that the legislative timetable is far too crowded to enable this to be undertaken. For my own part, speaking personally, I do not think it matters very greatly one way or the other, for I hold that public opinion would certainly decide any similar event in the future as it did on the last occasion; and that if such a strike were disapproved by public opinion it would certainly fail, even if it were legal, whereas if it were approved by public opinion it would certainly succeed, even if it were declared illegal. That is the very essence of the whole matter.

The Act of 1927 includes several particular points, and its repeal therefore raises a number of separate considerations. I shall not myself deal with any of those matters—they may be dealt with perhaps on Committee stage, if any noble Lords put down Amendments—with one exception, which indeed is not a minor point but is of great importance and which when you come to examine it raises constitutional matters which are perhaps of fundamental importance. My only remaining observations will be directed to that point, and it is the question of contracting in or contracting out. Let us view this matter in the first place historically and see why it is that trade unions have a special place under the law in matters that are political and not merely industrial. When, after 1832, this country set itself to establishing a democratic Constitution, it gradually, stage by stage, enlarged the franchise until, irrespective of class, it included all grades of the community, and further more the House of Commons was left open without any property or other qualification to any citizen who could secure nomination and election. But it was soon found in the working that that is not enough to establish a democratic Parliament. Universal franchise and the absence of any restrictive qualifications were not enough because it was found in fact that the House of Commons was not the Commons House; its membership consisted almost entirely of members of the class of landed gentry, leaders of commerce and industry, lawyers and other professional men, and the workers who were in the vast majority in the population had hardly any representatives amongst the representative assembly at all.

That was no doubt primarily, or at any rate partly, because Members of Parliament were unpaid. John Stuart Mill wrote that an unpaid Legislature was a contrivance for keeping the Legislature securely in the hands of those who could afford to serve without pay. He went on to say that of the able men the country produced, nine-tenths at least were of the class who could not serve without pay. Then there were also election costs, which were very heavy, and the politically minded workman found his access to the House of Commons absolutely closed by those financial considerations. The only way in which he could overcome those obstacles was by the help of the trade unions, large bodies of men with very large funds, which could afford themselves to pay Members of Parliament and their election expenses.

In 1913 the Liberal Government, of which I was a member, passed the Trades Union Act of that year which enabled a political fund to be established by any registered trade union if the majority of its members agreed. That Act provided that any person who wished not to subscribe to it could be exempted by contracting out. That was the law then; but in 1927 it was turned the other way about and it was decided that any person who did wish to subscribe to the political fund must take action on his own motion and contract in. The Bill which is before us this evening is a Bill to revert to the earlier law. After thirty-three years experience of the Act of 1913, for my part I find myself in the same position as the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, in thinking that the matter should be reconsidered. It is no longer essential that the trade unions should have great political funds in order to obtain access to the House of Commons for the working classes. Members of Parliament now are paid salaries—again owing to the action of the same Government at about the same period, 1911—and those salaries are now about to be increased. Official election expenses have been placed upon the public charge and are no longer paid by the candidates, and in other ways, by free postage and so on, election expenses have been reduced. Therefore, in general, there is not the same overriding necessity to provide political funds of that character.

Furthermore, there is a constitutional point to which I would beg very earnestly to invite the attention of your Lordships, for it is one which, so far as I know, has not yet been raised in Parliament and very seldom outside. It relates to the constitution of the Labour Party. It may be said that this is merely a domestic matter for the Labour Party and is not our concern outside, but that is not so, for on it depends the way in which we are governed and the whole working in practice of our democratic system. The Labour Party deals, of course, as a party (as any political party would) not only with industrial matters but with all questions of State, home and foreign. Its supreme authority is the Labour Party Conference, which in the last resort determines the policy of the whole party. That conference—and here I am coming very soon to the precise point with which we shall be dealing in this Bill consists of representatives of the trade unions, of the constituency Labour parties, of the area federations of the Labour Party, of various Socialist societies such as the Fabian Society and one small Co-operative Society. Last year the Conference consisted of 557 delegates. Of those delegates, 393 were trade union representatives and 164 were not.

But when it comes to a vote, there is an even greater authority in the power of the trade unions. Voting is on the basis, not of the number of representatives present, but of the number of persons whom they represent, on the footing of one vote for every five thousand persons represented. On that footing, the trade unions can poll 2,400,000 votes in the Labour Conference, whilst all the others put together—all the political Labour parties throughout the country and the Socialist societies—have only 573,000 votes. Therefore in the ruling body of the Labour Party the trade unions have a majority of four to one. But not only that; the five largest trade unions, if they vote together, have by themselves a majority in the whole assembly. The five largest trade unions can, in the Labour Party Conference, cast as many votes as all the rest of the small trade unions, all the local Labour Party constituency associations, all the area federations and the Socialist societies put together. The Big Five have a veto, if they wish to exercise it, as complete as the veto which the Big Five have in the United Nations. Consequently we have in this country at the present time in our Constitution two separate methods of control. We have the ancient constitutional system by which the House of Commons of 640 members is elected by some 30,000,000 voters divided into geographical constituencies, the members making pledges to their constituents and being responsible to them. In addition, we have a different authority; we have the Labour Party Annual Conference which controls the policy of the Party inside Parliament and its presentation to the country, and in that conference the trade unions have a majority of four to one over everyone else.

The trade unions were originally formed to promote the industrial interests of their members, to promote their welfare as workmen in their several trades and to improve their conditions of employment. In other matters, political matters generally, their members were on the same footing as all other citizens; they could intervene on any question, whether it was our relations with Russia, conscription or whatever it might be, as citizens, as voters, in the ordinary way. The law then recognized the trade unions for industrial purposes; it gave them registration, facilitated their work and protected their funds. Then owing to the essential need which I have mentioned of securing to the working classes access to Parliament, the law gave the trade unions also these political functions and allowed them to raise a political fund. That is how the system now works. On such matters as, for instance, our relations with Russia or conscription, the trade unions have an absolute majority in the Labour Party Conference, and the Labour Party Conference exercises a moral, and in fact a very real, control over the policy of the Party as a whole. Let us imagine that as applied to some other party. Most employers of labour in this country are Conservatives, although not by any means all; the great majority belong to and support the Conservative Party. Their representative body is the Federation of British Industries. Suppose we knew that the Federation of British Industries had a four to one majority in the annual assembly of the Conservative Party. There would be instantly the most vehement protest against any such influence being exercised over a political party. I am not sure that it is any better if such control is exercised by the trade unions.

I am the last man to be animated by any prejudice of any kind against trade unions. On the contrary, I am very proud to think that my first activities in public life, as a young undergraduate, were to act as a trade union agitator and to go about the villages of South Oxfordshire stirring up the farm labourers to join the Dockers and General Workers' Union. All through my life I have supported all the legislation that has been introduced for the assistance of the trade unions, including the Act of 1913. I do not believe the trade unions, except in the one lamentable instance of the General Strike, have in fact ever abused the strength that they possess, and I do not think there is any likelihood that they will do so to-day.

All this talk that we heard at the last General Election about trade union dictatorship, a Socialist Gestapo and so forth, I should stigmatize in somewhat strong language if it were not for the illustrious source from which it emanated. I will be content to say that it seems to me to have no substance whatever. Nevertheless, it is contrary I believe to sound political principle that we should have this second channel of control apart from the electorate, the members of Parliament and the Government, through trades unions, the Parliamentary Labour conference and the Labour Government.

The trade unions, therefore, are put in a highly exceptional and privileged position so far as the government of this country is concerned. No industrial organization has any such powers or any such functions, and neither has any profession. The lawyers, for example, could not as a profession, or the doctors as a profession, exercise control over any particular political party and create a party which has a class basis of this character with a four-to-one majority and with the greater part of its funds provided from the same source: As the law stood until the Act of 1927 was passed, and as the law will stand when this Bill passes, every member of every trade union who has become a member for industrial reasons, because he is an engineer, because he is a railwayman, or because he is a carpenter, or whatever he may be, having joined the trade union for those industrial purposes, finds himself, unless he takes, definite action to the contrary, obliged by the rules of his union to subscribe to a political fund for a particular party. He is liable to be sued for the sums he owes if he does not so subscribe, unless as I say he declares himself, so to speak, a conscientious objector, and contracts out. That is a very invidious decision to require him to take.

The late Lord Fisher, in a letter quoted in a book which I happened to come across, wrote, in quite a different connexion, these words: This free country, where every man can do as he likes, and if he doesn't, he's made to. I think there would be a good deal of that in the trade union world when it comes to this question of contracting out. When the only access to Parliament was through political funds of trade unions, that was perhaps the overriding consideration, and I for one and the Liberal Party in general supported the principle of contracting out. But as I say, after a third of a century of experiencing its working, we realize that A is wrong in principle, whether it is applied to an organization of work-people or to an organization of employers, or let us say to an organization of an ecclesiastical character such as prevails in some other countries, that such an organization as such—I emphasize "as such"—should exercise control from within over any political party in the State.

Therefore, if we were legislating afresh, we ought not in my opinion to include this provision, necessitating a contracting out, but should leave this inertia—an important factor, as there is apparently £25,000 worth of inertia in this matter—to function not on behalf of the very exceptional position allowed to the trade unions, but on behalf of the normal political situation in the country. The Liberals in the other place, on this Bill, moved an Amendment to that effect, and it was on that Amendment that a debate took place. They were, of course, defeated. In the House of Commons the Conservatives and the Liberals, if they do act together in any particular matter, are still far too few to have any effect, but in this House the Conservatives alone, and still more the Conservatives and the Liberals acting together, are too many to allow them to venture upon action at all. Consequently we have this strange paradox that we are a Second Chamber which has become impotent through possessing too much power.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, anyone who has read the debates on this Bill in another place must, I think, have been struck by two things—first, the difficulty of distinguishing between speeches on Second Readings and speeches in Committee; and secondly, the curious disparity between the speeches by lawyers and by laymen. With regard to this second point, a challenge by laymen is very rash in another place, where the legal luminaries are almost like Wordsworth's daffodils, Continuance as the stars that shine and twinkle on the Milky Way. Let me get on to the other point. It is very difficult to distinguish between Second Reading speeches and Committee speeches because of the nature of the 1927 Act which has not got any unity of substance. It has a unity, I think, of panic, of fear. I am not necessarily saying it was vindictive, because I think I can understand and, to some extent, sympathize with the attitude of the Government at that time. I think they said to themselves: "We have escaped from a great danger; we have been very fortunate, and the country has been very fortunate; and we have done that by the magnificent behaviour of everybody concerned"—I think they were quite right to say that—"but that may not happen again. Therefore, let us try and do what we can in order to make that impossible again." I hope noble Lords on the other side who were in the Government at that time will not think I am being unjust in thinking that something like that was probably in their minds. I do not want to make a point about the technicalities of the General Strike, because I think what they may well have said is that the law, as it looks from the point of view of lawyers and as it looks from the point of view of the ordinary person, is not the same thing. If you solemnly declare that a General Strike is illegal, it may make people, in any form of general strike, whether revolutionary or not, say: "Look here, some of us had better think twice." Though I will not dispute what happened in 1926, such a consideration might do something, and the fact that it did something might be held to be in its favour.

The argument I want to develop before your Lordships I put with some fear and trembling, because I think it is quite clear that almost no one will agree with me, and some of the things I say go profoundly against what seems to be the general opinion of the House. But I feel very strongly in this matter. I think as so often happens, Parliament at that time prepared against the last war; they guarded themselves against dangers which had disappeared, and they paid no attention to dangers which were in the future. It is about that that I feel very strongly. May I just remind your Lordships that something happened in 1933—not in this country but in Germany. Hitler got into power by using legal forms. We blame the Germans for not stopping him. How could they have stopped him in any way but by an immediate and "blitz-like" General Strike? The tragedy is that there was not in 1933 a General Strike in Germany. I do not want to speak lightly about a General Strike, for, as Viscount Simon has said, when you embark on such a strike you are doing something very serious indeed. But I think it is a safeguard—and I know something about this—that people who want to undertake a General Strike have got to undertake it at the cost of very great sacrifices and very great risks. They will not do it lightly. I think that our danger now is not that the Government should be too weak but that the Government should be too strong.

I think that the dangers which we face in the future are those of totalitarianism and mass democracy. And I think that these are very serious dangers. I would invite noble Lords just to think about what has happened not only here in 1927 and in Germany in 1933, but in France in 1940. In 1940 the legal Government of France betrayed the country. I was very much struck by what a distinguished Frenchman, a man who joined the underground movement, said when I saw him in this country. "Alas," he said, "what happened was that we Frenchmen had forgotten the duty of resistance." He said that seriously, and I think it is true. He no doubt was thinking of a famous passage, the last article of the Declaration of Rights of 1793: When Government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for the people and for each section of the people, the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties. Very beautiful, very revolutionary and very French. But I do say very seriously that there is something in that. What has now happened is that the technique of revolution has changed. Up till really the final defeat of the General Strike in 1926 there had been for a very long time a notion that the General Strike was the ideal revolutionary weapon. Your Lordships will remember that the distinguished French author, M. Sorel, wrote a book Reflections on Violence in which he re-referred to the myth of the General Strike. General strikes were defeated in Sweden, in Australia and in this country in the only way in which a General Strike ought to be defeated—that is, as Viscount Samuel has said, by the people as a whole showing that in that matter they were behind the Government and not behind the people who were acting against them.

But there might be occasions when you wanted the other thing demonstrated, when you wanted it demonstrated that the people as a whole thought that the Government were exercising their powers in such a terrible and revolutionary way that they ought to be resisted. Noble Lords may say: "Ah, yes, but this could not ever happen in this country—this blessed country in which, of course, nothing of that kind can ever happen." But, after all, that was Sir Oswald Mosley's concept. He proposed to get into power by legal means and then to make it impossible for there ever to be an alternative Government. He quite seriously had that intention. I agree that it is very unlikely, but I do not think it is altogether impossible that at a time of crisis you might get a situation where a Government, with the law behind it, was doing things which would pervert the Constitution unless it were resisted.

I think that the 1927 Act is a totalitarian Act. I think it neglects our whole traditions. Totalitarianism acts in two ways. It wants undivided allegiance of the people to the Government, which I think is a dreadful and horrible doctrine, and it wants there to be nothing except the territorial constituency between the individual people and the Government. I am most grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, for raising that last issue, though I disagree wilt almost every conclusion that he drew from it. But I am going to follow him in dealing with it. I ask noble Lords to consider and remember what happened in this country in 1926 and compare it with what happened in Germany in 1933 and with what happened in France in 1940. Will it not make them even prouder than ever of this country and its behaviour, because it was prepared, however mistakenly, to say there are occasions when the only thing to do is to try to stop the Government by means of a strike: That was a serious thing then and it would always be so. But what I have outlined is, I think, far the most important danger against which we must guard, and readiness to strike would be the only way to guard against it.

I know that there might be occasions when I should feel it my duty to strike in such a way as I could, or to do such illegal action as I might, in order to stop the Government. I am sure that that is true, and I think that tie state of mind which has legality too much imposed upon it in these fundamental matters is not a good state of mind. I would remind noble Lords that the French Government which betrayed their country was the very Government which a few years before had passed an Act insisting that all individuals in France must owe undivided allegiance to the State. That of course is against the traditions of this country. It has been the great division between the British and American democracies on the one hand and the Continental democracies on the other that British and American democracies have always believed in divided allegiance. Both our forms of democracy learned from noncomformists—the Puritans on the one hand and noncom-formists on the other with some help from sections of our Church—that there were societies to which you owed as primary an allegiance as you owed to the State, that there were times when you had to support the State against those societies, and also, though you prayed that this would never happen, that there were times when you had to support those societies against the State.

If I may say so with very great respect I think that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, speaking as he has done, has forgotten, for a moment, the rock from which he was hewn. I have not done so and I do not propose to. I think a State which too much stresses this view of undivided allegiance is just asking for trouble. The philosopher Hobbes—if I may be pedantic for a moment—the most un-English and Continental of our philosophers, and one who has never had any honour in this country but is adored in Germany, spoke of associations as "worms within the entrails of the body politic." When I read the debates which took place in another place and listen to some of the speeches in this House I am reminded of Karl Marx's statement that Thomas Hobbes was the father of us all. By "us all" he meant Materialists and Communists. When I read these debates I feel that, as befits a friend of Charles II, Hobbes has left his descendents in unexpected places.

May I now say something, because it has been raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and discussed by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, about contracting in and contracting out? What surprises me in this discussion, although I am not a lawyer, is that we have heard nothing about the Osborne judgment, because before that judgment it was taken for granted that if a trade union's essential purpose included the taking part in public affairs, then of course it could use its funds for political purposes. Of course difficulties would arise over the dissentient individual, but they are bound to arise and are allowed for if any association is to do something as an association.

I have the honour to be a vice-president of a body called the Workers' Educational Association which, like the Labour Party, consists of bodies, largely trade unions, co-operative societies, working men's clubs and other things of that kind, and many individual members. The trade union world, so far as education is concerned, is divided between support for the Workers' Educational Association, which stands for scholarly and impartial education, and a body called the National Council of Labour Colleges, commonly called the N.C.L.C.—which stood, although I have not known it for some time, for class war and dogmatic Marxian teaching. I have no doubt that there are some members of the unions which support the N.C.L.C. who think its doctrines are as pernicious as I do, but I do not think these members have any remedy except that of conversion. And I do not think they ought to have. It is important and vital—it is not a matter of funds—that trade unions as trade unions should regard education as their business, and I see no fundamental difference between that and politics.

In those fortunate days when I had a modest motor vehicle—it had only three wheels, but it was my own property—I belonged to the Automobile Association, because for various reasons I practically had to. It was almost as compulsory as membership of a trade union. That Association took funds, which I partly subscribed, although not largely, to promote things which I, as a member of the Pedestrian Association, regarded as disgraceful. Had I any remedy? No. Ought I to have had? No. I am sure there are members of the British Medical Association who do not approve, on the whole, of the line the British Medical Association is taking about the National Health Bill. Have they any remedy? Yes—to convert their institution. Ought they to have any other remedy? No, because it is worse that the B.M.A. should not concern itself officially and as a body with great matters of this kind than they should go against the minority of members. That was all taken for granted before the Osborne judgment. What, I believe, are called the rationes decidendi in the Osborne judgment I think differed. They were not the same. I refresh my memory by reading from a pamphlet by the late Professor Geldart. On the whole, the factor which carried the day was that the trade union had not the right, as a trade union, to concern itself in politics.

I think that the opposition to this Bill and the defence of the 1927 Act, largely arise from people who think that industrial action by trade unions is good, and that their political action is bad. That is really the issue. If you think that a trade union should take part in politics, and has a right to do so, then the 1913 Act was a compromise with the position before the Osborne judgment. It provided, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said, for the conscientious objectors, and I do not think it was at all unreasonable as a compromise. But the 1927 Act took away that compromise altogether and it took a line only justifiable if you believed that trade unions had no right to take part in politics. I remember Professor Geldart, Vinerian Professor of English Law at the time of the judgment, talking to me about that judgment. He did not think that it was an easy question. He thought that the right solution depended upon the kind of organization which you believe a trade union is. That determination, he admitted, was not easy. He thought there were two kinds of association, but that the Osborne judgment had put trade unions in one and they ought to have been put in the other. I cannot remember his legal terms of art, but the main distinction between the two categories was quite clear and I think this distinction is partly an answer to what has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel.

The two categories of association are these. There are associations which you may call primarily interest groups, and these are associations of the kind which, if you belong to them, cause you to think more of the interests of the association, and less of the interests of the community, than you would if you thought as an individual. But there are other associations, such as those affiliated to the National Council of Social Service for example, which are training grounds in politics and in political thought. I do not think anybody who knows anything about trade unions can deny that they are training grounds in political thought. I have had the honour to be very closely connected with adult education for nearly forty years, and I have found it almost invariably the case that where you have strong trade unionism you have a strong and lively interest in all questions of citizenship. The remarkable growth of adult education in this country which has done more than anything else to prevent this country from succumbing to the evils of what is called mass-democracy is due to the interest in citizenship inspired by membership of a trade union. Men learn to think together as neighbours. You cannot think together as a crowd. There is a famous passage is Burke—a name which should appeal to noble Lords on the opposite Benches—where he says that men learn public concern first in the small unit before they learn to think of the State as a whole: To be attached to the sub-division, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a Jove to our country and to mankind. That is most easily done in neighbourhood groups. It can still be so done in a Swiss commune, or in many villages of this country. But in the frightful, urbanized communities in which we live to-day the links are sometimes very weak and other groups like trade unions have to take their place. I do not know if any of your Lordships have read a bock which came out in the twenties by the great Spanish author, Ortega-y-Gusset, called Revolt of the Masses. He prophesied what would happen, because he showed how, as de Tosqueville said one hundred years ago, a mass democracy leads straight to dictatorship. Hitler began his preparation for mass democracy by breaking down and distintegrating all the social groups in which men learned public affections. I think that that is a matter which really is the concern of us all.

I read the other day in the Spectator a moving article by Lord. Hinchingbrooke, for whom I have a very great respect, about the Conservative task, which he said was to meet the challenge of Communism with every weapon in their armoury and every fibre of their being. If it is to attempt to do that, I would say, "more power to their elbow." But it is not a very good omen for this crusade which calls on us, if I may quote his glowing words: not to bend the knee be ore a spurious collection of aliens who have no knowledge of England, no roots in our history, no regard for our traditions. The one measure in opposing which the Opposition in another place has shown real passion is this Bill, repealing an Act based upon totalitarian principles which have no roots in our history and no regard to our traditions. I say that quite solemnly. The great Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, saved the Constitution of the United States by that famous judgment, in Marbury versus Madison, by delivering a judgment against the immediate interests of his party in order to establish securely the fundamental principles for which his party stood. I commend his example and its success to noble Lords opposite.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, you have listened to an extremely interesting speech from the noble Lord who has just sat down. I, for one, can say, if I may, with respect, that my appreciation of it was in no way dulled by the fact that I disagreed with almost everything he said. We have heard memorable speeches from noble Lords who participated in the events which took place in 1926 and in 1927, but I believe that much of this Act is the province of the layman, as it is that of the great lawyer. I was very young at the time of the 1927 Act. Perhaps I, and those of my age, may claim to approach the subject with a slightly greater degree of impartiality for that reason. Those of us who were young at the time and did not go through these days form three schools of thought with regard to the Act of 1927. Some are in favour of it; some are against it; and some have not read it.


And then what?


Noble Lords will remember that up to the beginning of this century, the trade unions were in need of the protection they could receive by legislation. The Conservative Party can justly claim to have afforded them a great measure of that protection by legislation. After the turn of the century, the trade unions grew so greatly and so speedily in stature that in 1927 this Act was passed which clarified many points regarding their position and also clarified the position regarding trade disputes. Now we are faced with a Bill for the repeal of that Act. To some extent the issue has been prejudged. The Press of all denominations has run riot throughout the country. Supporters of total repeal must contend one of two things: either that the Act was a just and fair one when it was passed and that changing circumstances have rendered it a present anomaly, or that the Act was always wrong and unjust and should not have lived as long as it has lived. To that latter argument His Majesty's Government incline.

If the Act is wrong and unjust, it must be wrong in every section. The Socialist Government in 1931 were content merely to seek to amend it. Now the Socialist Government, differing from their predecessors, attempt its repeal, root and branch. His Majesty's Government in the speeches we have heard, contend that the effects of that Act have been bad, but there is no scrap of evidence of any trouble or confusion which has arisen directly from its provisions. Since it was passed trade unions have prospered. Labour relations have bettered. Those who were responsible for the passing of the 1927 Act said that this would be the result. The Government cannot now say that it has not been. The object of that was not to put the large number of people who took part in the 1926 General Strike in the wrong, but to clarify the law. In the many strikes that have taken place since, no striker has been unfairly hampered or penalized. It set out the law quite clearly. In Britain we like our laws to be clear-cut. There is a great respect for the rule of law in this country. It is the one quality for which other countries admire us more than any other. If your laws are not clear-cut you have some difficulty in obeying them and they and those who made them fall into disrepute.

What are the arguments so far advanced for repeal? First, there is stigma. Stigma is a state of mind. It is not an argument. It is like beauty. It is in the eye of the beholder. It will not look impressive as a motive for legislation in the history books of the future. After all, we have suffered from people who were under delusions with regard to stigmas in recent years. For six years the world has been in convulsions because one man persuaded himself and then persuaded a once great country that the Treaty of Versailles had set a stigma upon them. Then, again, it has been said it was an attempt to cripple the trade unions. Not only has it not had that effect, but, if you examine the Act, it could not possibly have had it. There is nothing in the 1927 Act that could conceivably hamper the legitimate life and functions of the trade unions. Then, again, it has been alleged it was a punitive measure, and was rushed through. The fact that the Government of the time waited the long period that it did in order to allow the heat and emotion that surrounds the General Strike to die down, and to allow the issue to be more coolly debated, was, I think, an effective answer to that. As to being rushed through, it received some four or five times the period of consideration in another place that the Bill for repeal has been accorded.

Last of all, let me take that ancient and honourable expression, the electoral mandate. It is an honourable expression, becoming somewhat tarnished, I feel, by its very frequent use. Was this really one of the measures which the Government was determined to carry out? The Party manifesto made very small mention of it. A few Socialist speakers mentioned it in their addresses. Are members of either House importuned on this matter in greater or equal proportion as they are importuned regarding housing, demobilization, fuel or food? I doubt it. The noble Lord who will wind up this debate will no doubt enlighten us on some of these points. What is the real argument that is behind this? Because after all, this Bill has been launched at seemingly a very inopportune time. It is using up that highly rationed commodity, Parliamentary time, on a measure that can bring no immediate material benefit to the nation in relation to the nation's pressing material wants.

I will glance briefly, with my layman's glance, over the sections. I will omit the first three—they have been dealt with very completely and I think they are in the province of the lawyers. Let me take section 4, dealing with the political levy. The system of contracting in introduced by the 1927 Act was attacked as a system to cripple trade unions. When you subscribe to a political party or any other object with which you are in sympathy it is a voluntary and deliberate act. Contracting in is a highly reasonable method; contracting out, on the face of it, is not—it means that a man, in order to avoid payment, has to go to lengths of inconvenience and perhaps incur notoriety which he does not wish to court. It cuts across the rights of an Englishman to make his politics his own affair, and that, I feel, is one of our most-treasured rights. It has been contended that the difference in ethics, in logic and in reason between the two systems is really minute; that there is no difference. If that is the case, why should this section be repealed.

But there is a reason. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, gave you figures which made this very clear. I might, with respect, give you two more. In 1927 there were 78,000 trade union members who did not contribute to the political fund; in 1943 there were something of the order of 3,375,000 who did not contribute. Sixteen per cent. less contributed in 1929 than in 1926, the year before the Act: was passed. On this side of the House we are frequently criticized for believing in the profit motive, but ours is rather a different one. We believe in fair profit as a reward for energy and enterprise. These, however, are the spoils of man's inertia. His Majesty's Government—and I say it in all respect—in their praiseworthy attempts to find a short cut to heaven, are a little apt to forget some of the teaching of history. They are a little apt to believe they will always be in power. You do not have to look far back in history to find that political fortunes in this country change, and change with most bewildering rapidity. Who may be garnering these spoils of inertia in fifteen, ten or even five years' time? On these Benches we have an old-fashioned idea, an old-fashioned belief in the liberty of the individual. You will remember that in the old days at a Parliamentary election the voter had publicly to declare his vote at the top of his voice. It was then recorded. That conflicted with the right of a man to make his politics his own affair, and it was changed to our present system of a secret ballot. For exactly the same reason contracting out was changed to contracting in.

I will trouble you with just two more sections. The first relates to civil servants, who stand, to my mind, in exactly the same relation to the Stare as do the Armed Forces, in that they must have only one loyalty. I was a civil servant myself some years back and I know a little about the subject of which I speak. If they are affiliated to political bodies you have a political Civil Service. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who I see is absent for the moment, said on January 22, 1931: "I entirely agree that we must leave the Civil Service outside the storm and stress of Party politics." I entirely agree with him, and so, I imagine, do most noble Lords on these Benches. But I think there was a case for an Amendment of this section. The words "Civil Service" and "civil servant" have become, after all, somewhat inelastic for our present needs, after nineteen years. It is contended by the protagonists of repeal that the 1927 Act cast a slur on civil servants and trade unionists alike. Well, if this section is repealed, what is the result? It is practically nothing, until you amend and alter the Civil Service Regulations in tune, as I imagine they will be altered. Now how will they be altered? We have a right to know this. Will membership of the Civil Service unions be confined to servants of the Crown? Will they be allowed to have political objects? Will they be allowed to strike, and will they be allowed to affiliate to outside bodies? We have a right to know the answers to those questions, and I trust the noble Lord who will wind up this debate to-night will furnish them. One more matter while I am on this section. The Trades Union Congress in the past at different times have been at odds with the Government of the day. If civil servants are allowed to affiliate with bodies who owe loyalty to the T.U.C., and the T.U.C. are at odds with the Government of the day, those loyalties are irreconcilable. That can only redound to the detriment of the State.

Last of all let me take Section 6, dealing with the right of an authority to make it a condition of employment that a man should belong to a trade union. By "authorities" I presume is meant also public authorities, which would include the nationalized industries. On this side of the House we regard this as a rather obnoxious form of compulsion and, apart from its face value, which is not pleasant, I would draw your attention to the possibilities of its abuse. If it is possible to insist that a man must become a member of what is supposed to be a voluntary organization, it may, with a little abuse, be possible to insist that he should belong to a certain party, and then you are on the road to One Party Government, of which the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, warned us so carefully. The organization that a man may join is, in my opinion, his own affair. Surely the trade unions must have sufficient faith in the justice of their cause to rely on attracting members to their ranks, rather than on any form of coercion. That is very briefly the section, glanced at by a layman.

The noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, spoke very interestingly on the ethics of a General Strike. To my mind, to remove a specific Statute that prohibits a General Strike is to countenance a power set above Parliament, and if you countenance a power set above Parliament you have no faith in Parliament and not much in the country which that Parliament rules. Some say that legislation can never hold back the great tidal wave of emotion which is pent up in the circumstances that may lead to a General Strike. I would remind your Lordships that in this country, as in no other in the world, there is a great and deep respect for the rule of law. It is a quality which other nations admire in us more than they admire any other and it was magnificently demonstrated in 1926. On May 4 the General Strike began, on May 11 it was declared illegal and on May 12 it stopped. That was a great tribute to our reverence for the rule of law. If this Bill goes through it will throw us back to the confused state of the law before 1927. To say that the 1927 Act was a slur on the trade unions is no argument, but to say that it was a wrong and unjust Act is an argument. If it was wrong and unjust, surely it is better to change the law rather than to repeal it and put nothing in its place.

There are one or two conclusions from which I cannot escape. One is that His Majesty's Government are rather enamoured of the role of St. George. You cannot be St. George unless you have a dragon, and if you have not got a dragon you must invent one. If you repeal this Act to satisfy the amour propre of the trade union leaders it will set a very poor Parliamentary precedent and will exchange the practice of the Mother of Parliaments for that of its least successful imitators. This is legislation by catchword and war cry. If we are assembled to-day to hold two minutes' silence for an imaginary wrong allegedly carried out nearly twenty years ago, against the background of a world striving to recover from its ruin, it makes a shoddy spectacle. In this His Majesty's Government, I say with respect, has deserted Parliamentary principle, and history relates that no Party which has deserted principle has long endured in this country. The historian's verdict on Acts of Parliament is not based on the quantity of the legislation but on the quality and on its effect on the lives of the people of the nation. It has been alleged that this was a stain upon the Statute Book, but history may well relate at no distant time that the stain was not upon the Statute Book but on the hands of those who removed it.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, the more I listened to my noble friend, the more I liked listening to him and the more I disagreed with him. But I listened to him with respect. In somewhat sepulchral tones my noble friend, gazing round the House, said "Who will be garnering the fruits of victory if this Bill is passed?" He foreshadowed the downfall of the Labour Party, which I hope will never occur except by the votes of the people. If the Party to which he belongs wins and garners the fruits of political victory—bur I need not pursue that. The Conservative Party headquarters have already come to the conclusion that the Labour Party is in for the next fifteen years.


Certainly not.


There is a difference of opinion on that, but that is the considered opinion of the pundits of what used to be St. Stephen's Club. I do not know whether they still meet there, but that is by the way. My noble friend has been talking about contracting in and contracting out. I would like him for a minute to imagine that this noble House is a political club. If we took a secret ballot of the 840 of us 775 would vote for affiliation to the Conservative Party, 30 of us on this side would vote solidly against it, and the Liberals would be divided, except for those Liberals without suffix or prefix. After that secret ballot my noble friend would give to the Horatios holding the bridge here, and also to my Liberal friends across the way, a freedom of conscience to be conscientious objectors and to refuse to affiliate to the body to which he undoubtedly would want all those shillings to go, the Grand Council of the Primrose League. The same position will arise if we pass this Bill and revert to the 1913 position.

I do not want to dwell too much upon past history, but I would remind your Lordships that this House has played a great and honourable part in remedying injustices by setting its seal of approval upon two Acts. The first, was, I believe, in 1906, and followed the Taff Vale decision. I think that was in connexion with the Osborne judgment.




I will not dwell on that, but we had at any rate a Bill in 1906. Then we had a later Act which this House accepted and which was irresistibly pleaded in the lower House by my noble friends Viscount Simon and Viscount Samuel and, incidentally, by Mr. Churchill—no mean propagandists for what they believed to be justice. I emphasize the word "justice" because my noble friend put it in that way. That is why I wish to emphasize that this House gave justice to the members of the trade unions by enabling them to take a secret ballot to decide in a democratic way whether they would agree with a political levy. This House agreed to that provision, and this House properly said that if the majority decided upon a political levy (with that sense of justice which is part of our tradition) and if there are any members of that trade union, the minority, who did not wish to subscribe-to the Labour Party but to subscribe to the Primrose League, they should have perfect liberty to do so. That was, as far as I understand it, the 1913 Act.

One thing I have liked this afternoon is the fact that there was hardly any legalistic argument in what the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, had to say. He emphasized the human side. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, in opening the debate, emphasized not whether the thing was legal or illegal, but the psychological and human side of it. That is why the Labour Party insist that the 1927 Act shall go. The reason why it has to go—and here I speak not as cue of the leaders of trade unions, but as one knowing the rank and file, by mixin.:2-, with them—is that the 1927 Act is locked on as a reprisal, and the very word "reprisal" smells, it stinks, in the mind of the average Britisher. He does not like it, The Act of 1927 has got to go for that reason. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack did not put on a white sheet, but he certainly apologized for introducing a Bill in 1931. I was a Member of that House, where we were in a minority, for two-and-a-half years, which seemed to me like nearly two-and-a-half centuries. I am very pleased now that Mr. Churchill's dictum was obeyed, and that they did cut the dirty throat of the 1931 Bill, because it has provided this House with an opportunity to give its approval to the repeal of the 1927 Act. I feel certain that this House, with its sense of justice, is going to do so.

My noble friend Lord Tweedsmuir said there was a wave of emotion in 1927. There was not only a wave of emotion, but a surge of righteous indignation. You could not have got members of the N.U.R. and the other great trade unions to have gone on strike if there had not been a moral issue behind it all. Noble Lords will be conversant with what happened in the chapel in the Daily Mail office that night. I agree that those men behaved wrongly, but I do not apologize for it, and I hope no Englishman ever will apologize. If a man or woman is moved by righteous indignation you will have another strike in the future, but I hope that with more common sense we shall not.

There has been another criticism. The amount of money we receive has been rather exaggerated. Some unions levy one shilling, some rather more. But in Transport House—it may comfort the noble Lord to learn this—the contribution amounts to something like £56,000, the price of two baronetcies under the 1927–1932 régime, which went into other Party coffers. That £56,000 also goes into Party coffers. As the noble Lord quite rightly said, there will be another 25,000—to put it vulgarly—to go into the kitty. I hope so, although I do not touch any of it.

I am rather proud this afternoon to be in this House and to have listened to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, saying how he was betrayed by the Conservative Government after the time he spent in trying to heal the breach in the coal lockout. That was never a strike, and I want noble Lords to realize that those men, after the second week in May, when what was called the "Black Friday" occurred, were locked out until Christmas. Then the Conservative Party went carol-singing, because that is what it amounts to. They appealed to the faithful and so the miners were starved into submission. From that day to this, the findings of the Samuel Commission have never been honoured, but they are going to be within the next three months, because that is a mandate with which we have to deal.


The noble Lord did not recommend nationalization.


I stand corrected. I know my noble friend was in the Commission. What the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, did try to do was to give a square deal to the colliers, and he failed owing to the Baldwin Government.


My noble friend said I was in it, but he was on the other side. Let us be fair and accurate about this. I would challenge him to this: Is it not a fact that Mr. Baldwin's Government, of which I was then a member, agreed that provided the miners would accept the report, whether we liked all of it or not, we were prepared to accept and put into force the whole of the recommendations of the Samuel Commission?


That is so.


I expect the miners wanted rather a more full-blooded solution than that. The then Government, with its policy of appeasement, even in those days, gave a subsidy and then cut it off. Then, as I say, the colliers were starved into submission, and we have got that feeling to this very day. As I have said, I am glad and proud to be here this afternoon "garnering the fruits"—I like that expression of Lord Tweedsmuir's—


"Spoils" was the word.


Very well then, garnering the spoils—I will accept that. I am glad to be here to help in garnering the spoils of the victorious, because "the spoils to the victors" has been the slogan of the Conservative Party as long as I can remember and as long as I have been able to read history books. But I am speaking this afternoon as a peacemaker. Speeches to which we have listened this afternoon have been constructive. I am afraid that my own intervention may not be so constructive. But may I be allowed to say that this House has proved, within the last six or seven years, what a contribution it can make to healing and to promoting unity. This House has of late been carrying out the functions of an amending and healing Chamber. Noble Lords speak for all sections of the community, and not in a negative or destructive way. I am hoping, therefore, that a Second Reading of this Bill will be agreed to without a Division.

I do not know what will happen in the Committee stage, but when this and similar Bills come to this House I am hoping the House will follow the new tradition and not the rubber-stamp tradition which prevailed in the days when Conservative Governments simply told the House what to do and the House did it. If that went on very long in these days there would soon be no House of Lords. But that is not going to happen. I am confident that we are going to get a Second Reading of this Bill. I do not see how this measure can be amended because it is really the reintroduction of a Bill which was perfect in every detail, a Bill which had the advantage of being introduced by men like my noble friends Viscount Simon and Viscount Samuel, and one of the greatest Yorkshiremen that ever lived, the late Lord Oxford and Asquith. That Bill of 1913 was sponsored by those men. This House can now do no better than give it its blessing once more, and repeal this wretched piece of legislation of 1927. When that is done we can get on to other business.

6.15 p.m.


My Lords, I am not qualified in any way to deal with the legal aspect of this matter, and, indeed, it has already been most ably dealt with this afternoon. Nor do I want to refer back to the General Strike and to other things that have happened in the past. The question that is really worrying me is what is going to be the effect, in the future, of this piece of legislation on the working men of this country. In that respect, I admit that I am extremely apprehensive. The noble Lord who has just spoken, Lord Calverley, said that he spoke as a peacemaker. I came to the conclusion that he really was not awfully fond of the Conservative Governments we have had in the past, and that he was not considering coming over to this side of the House just yet. I shall speak as a peacemaker of the same kind, but I may say that I am not going over to that side of the Chamber.

I am very much worried indeed about the part of the Bill that deals with intimidation. We have been told that really it does not much matter repealing this clause with regard to intimidation and picketing because the substance of it is all in previous Acts. But when there was any effort to get it left out of this repeal Bill in the other place effort was resisted to the utmost. If it is truly of no effect why cannot it be left in? The withdrawal of these provisions against intimidation and against interfering with a man's house and home life are going to have a very great effect on the working men of this country. I think it was the noble and learned Lord Chancellor who said that there are many ways of intimidation, many ways of influencing a person, without breaking the law of intimidation. It is going to be virtually possible to boycott a man's house and to interfere with his home life.

If you pass this Bill—as undoubtedly you will—the security and the independence of the home lives of these working men are going to very seriously threatened. Their freedom and liberty, both on and off duty, are going to be threatened, and they are going to be controlled. That is the deliberate intention of this Socialist Government. And they claim that not only is it their intention but that it is the desire of the people of this country and that they have a mandate for it. With the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, I admit that there is a measure of truth in that claim, but I do submit that when they got that mandate from the country they got it by completely false representation of what this Bill meant. It was never represented to the people of this country that their freedom in their homes, their liberty of thought and their liberty of choice of the way in which they should live would be prejudiced. The Act of 1927 was represented to them as a stumbling block in the path of the trade unions. It was also described, I think, as a slur on Mr. Ernest Bevin. Moreover, the 1927 Act was represented at the last Election by the Socialists as a reprisal. Now nobody on this side of the House ever considered it a reprisal and it never was one. But, as I say, it was represented by the Socialists at the last Election as a reprisal which—I agree with the last speaker—stinks.

This Bill was never represented as a threat to the freedom of life of these people. That to my mind is a part of the whole aim and ambition of this Socialist Government. They have started with the nationalization of our industries. Control, of course, was not sufficient; they had to have complete ownership. But it seems to me that this ownership and control of our industries is not enough to give them that stranglehold which they intend to take on the complete life of this country. They have got to go further, they have got to obtain ownership, as it were, of the lives of the working men, and this is one way in which they are doing it—by interfering with the home life of the working men in this country. The working man must not be allowed to think for himself, or to choose his politics. If there is a strike he may not be allowed to abstain from it. His home can be pestered—I have forgotten the wording of the phrase, but virtually pestered and boycotted until he has to submit—


Would the noble Lord like me to read the words of the 1875 Act? The Act says an offender is a person who "watches or besets the house or other place where such other person works or resides or carries on business or happens to be" at such time. That is the old law of 1875, which has never been repealed and which we are not seeking to repeal.


I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. Even if a man is satisfactorily protected his house can be picketed, and all kinds of persuasion can be used on him in various ways—as has been said to-day—without breaking the law of 1875. My Lords, it is not enough. To control the industries of this country you have to control the lives of the working men, and the working men of this country have got to make themselves subservient to the Socialist State. To my mind that savours too much of Nazism. And there is one thing we must also remember—that it was Socialism which bred Hitlerism and the vile dictatorship.




Yes it was. It was a form of Socialism which bred Hitlerism. And that is what you are trying to do with the working men of this country, under the guise of telling them that it is removing a reprisal.


I do not wish to interrupt, but can the noble Lord substantiate his statement that it was Socialism which bred Hitlerism?


Nazism means National Socialism.


Again I do not wish to interrupt, but is the noble Lord telling us that Socialism necessarily begets National Socialism?


Not necessarily, but it is tending that way, and it very easily might. I do not want to be rude to the noble Lords opposite because I do not think they believe all that other members of the Socialist Party believe or are working for. I hate to say it, but I think you are being duped as much as anybody else. Seriously, I think repealing the 1927 Act is a morally evil thing to do. It is evil and it is dangerous to remove what is the protection of the individuals of this country. It cannot be denied that in the 1927 Act the individual working man of this country had protection. But it is intended by this Socialist Government that that protection should now be removed. It is pathetic to my mind to see certain members, leaders of the Socialist Party, yapping with joy over it and gloating over the power which they possess to work this evil. I am afraid that this Bill which we have before us to-day is an Easter egg which has taken just nine months to lay. But when that egg hatches out, and you see the results of this Bill to which you intend to give a Second Reading, the true intentions of the Socialists in this country will be apparent to the public. I do not think there will be any fifteen years of life for the people who introduce this measure.

I must apologize for having spoken so strongly, but I have spoken from a very firm conviction. I believe that it is time these things were said. I believe them, and I have thought over them. I believe that this Bill to-day is the greatest mistake that this Government have made. I believe that they will be called to account for it. I believe that it is an evil and dangerous measure. It is for those reasons that I have found myself frankly in a quandary—with some others of your Lordships—as to what to do with it, whether to oppose it actively on the Second Reading. I have given the matter very much thought and to my mind—and I think I am in agreement with Lord Calverley here—the function of this House is not to oppose the expressed wish of the people, especially a mandate (although it may be improperly represented to the people) which was obtained within the last year. I believe it is more important for us to continue to carry out our true functions, our obligations in this House, than to give way to what is an obvious inclination and to kick out—I mean to oppose—this Motion and throw out this measure. Therefore, I have decided—I can only speak personally—to say what I have said very clearly, although it is no intention of mine to vote against the Bill. I value the true functions of this House more highly than I do this most unpleasant measure.

6.27 p.m.


My Lords, I ask your Lordships' indulgence in rising to address you for the first time. I recently had a conversation with an old and distinguished member of this House and when I expressed to burn my admiration for the succinctness, clarity and brevity of the speeches which I had heard and read, he said: "Well, you see, members of the Lords do not, as a rule, intervene in the debates unless they are experts in the subject under discussion." As I am not an expert on any subject I felt that I was condemned to perpetual silence in your Lordships' house. But the repeal of the Trade Disputes Act is something which may affect every citizen in the land, and I hope that I may be allowed to say a few words as to how the repeal of this Act strikes an ordinary individual, who is not a legal expert, and to ask the Government a few questions from the point of view of the man in the street.

The first thing which strikes me is, what can be the objection to a definite declaration by Parliament that a General Strike is illegal? Is it not a first principle of all democratic government that the decisions of. Parliament, the body elected by the people as a whole, should be obeyed, and that the daily life of the community should not be held up in order to enforce the mandate of some outside body other than Parliament? If that is so, and I think your Lordships on all sides of the House will agree that it is, what is the objection to Parliament's removing any doubt in the matter and declaring anything in the nature of a General Strike illegal? Do the Government really desire that the uncertainty which undoubtedly exists in this matter, as was shown by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, most clearly in his quotations; and as was admitted by the Attorney-General, the principal Law Officer of the Crown, in another place, as to the legality of a General Strike, should be allowed to remain?

Next I ask: Do the Government approve of the intimidation, apart from violence, of a workman's wife and family? That has been alluded to very feelingly by Lord Chesham, who has just addressed your Lordships, and while it may be true as the Lord Chancellor has just indicated, reading the words of the Act of 1875, that the picketing of a workman's home and the causing of unhappiness or distress would be illegal under that Act, there is a doubt in this matter. What is the objection to taking away this doubt and making it clear that the picketing of a home and a man's wife and family is illegal and has been so decided and proclaimed by Parliament?

Thirdly, do the Government desire that a workman should be compelled to subscribe to the funds M. a political party unless he expressly signs a declaration which may be, as has already been pointed out to-day, very invidious? If you go to a man, who has received and hopes to receive benefits from a trade union, and say: "Well, now, we have a political fund; you will not object to giving a shilling or two a week—it is only a small amount—in support of the trade union to which you are so much indebted," it would be very invidious for that workman, or any person belonging to an association of that kind, to say: "No, I do not want to subscribe to that. In many ways I do not agree with all your political views, and I do not want to subscribe." Lord Calverley indicated that the amounts proposed to be raised were not so much as some people have said. I have heard it quoted on very good authority that the Socialist Party expect to receive about £100,000 per annum, and that meetings have already been held in order to decide how this very large amount should be divided up. The Attorney-General referred to the fact that the very large number of workmen who were not subscribing now was due to human inertia. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, did not altogether agree with that. I think there is a great deal in what Lord Simon said in his speech; there was more than inertia in not subscribing. Even if it was due to human inertia, is it right that this very large sum of money, up to, say, £100,000, should be poured into the coffers of a particular political party?

With regard to the local authorities, and the repeal of Section 6 of the Act of 1927, which your Lordships remember made it illegal for local or public authorities to make membership of a trade union a condition of employment, it was urged by the Attorney-General in another place that this procedure might be very advantageous, and that many industrialists had found that it was so. The fact is, however, that the repeal of this section does not enable employees to continue to belong to their own union or a particular union; it gives power to the local authority to order the employee to belong to some particular union that that local authority selects, and I submit to your Lordships that that is a very serious infringement of the liberty of the individual workman. With regard to the Civil Service, do the Government no longer desire that individuals entering the national service should give undivided allegiance to the State? Every noble Lord, and every member of the House of Commons, I should hope, desires that civil servants should give their undivided allegiance—


May I interrupt? There may be more than one allegiance. I have heard people say that they should obey God rather than man. There is that kind of allegiance.


Well, I am interested to know that there is one member of your Lordships' House who considers, with regard to State servants who are employed to administer Acts of Parliament which Parliament has laid down for the administration of this country and its affairs, that it should be open to them to have some other loyalty than loyalty to the Government of the day. When the first Socialist Government was elected the then Prime Minister testified to the fact that no body of officials, although they had been appointed under a Conservative administration, could have given greater help to a Socialist Government and to the plans which they were putting forward for the Government of the day than the civil servants of the various Departments.


May I just explain to the noble Lord? You can give service of that kind, with which I entirely agree, when you have not got undivided allegiance.


Well, I think I must leave it there. I have made my case very plain. We have it in the Bible that a man cannot serve two masters. A civil servant may belong to a trade union outside, and that trade union may desire something with which he may sympathize. It is very difficult for him—I do not say he would be disloyal to his allegiance, because they have got such a wonderful tradition in the Civil Service. It would take more than a little thing to overcome such a tradition, like that of the Indian Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary and other bodies which have a very great tradition. But I do not think it is desirable, I do not think it right, that temptation should be put in the way of the weaker brethren.

Another matter which puzzles me as a man in the street is that, notwithstanding the Government's complaint of lack of time to deal with urgent matters requiring immediate solution, the Attorney-General minimizes the importance of this Bill in repealing the Act of 1927. The whole tone of the speech of the Attorney-General, of which I heard a great deal, in introducing the Bill, was quite remarkable in this regard. He described it as really quite a modest little Bill, and not intended to make any great contribution to the building up of a new heaven and a new earth. "A modest little Bill!" Elsewhere he speaks of the Bill as "not being for any practical object", but—and here again I quote his words—"merely a psychological part in the Government's programme." So this Bill, which the Lord Chancellor has said is likely to arouse very strong feelings in the country, is being introduced by the Government, in the words of the Attorney-General, for a psychological object and without any practical object.

The Government, while admitting that the law as to trade disputes is doubtful in many respects, consider, as was stated by the Attorney-General in another place, that this position should not be clarified by Parliament. Will your Lordships allow me to quote a few lines again from his very remarkable speech in the House of Commons, when he said that the position should not be clarified by Parliament, but should be submitted to: the goad judgment and common sense of twelve men in a Clapham omnibus—in other words, by a common jury of the common people; they are the people who should decide whether or not particular persons indicted before them have had criminal intentions in regard to a strike or not. And again we are told that should the Government of the day be faced with the emergency of a General Strike and find that their existing powers are not adequate, all they have to do is to go back to Parliament and ask for whatever additional powers are necessary in the circumstances that have arisen. Meanwhile the General Strike would proceed. But it is surely desirable that the Government of the day should have legal powers to deal with such an emergency promptly and immediately, and that all concerned in it should know that they are breaking the law if they join in a strike of the kind we have been discussing. Flow leisurely are the proposals of the Government in this matter: the summoning of the twelve men in the Clapham omnibus, followed, if necessary, by a special meeting of Parliament! Meanwhile the public might be without bread and without transport.

The uncertainty of the position which would be caused by the repeal of the 1927 Act is emphasized by the fact that while the Attorney-General described the repeal of the Act as a matter of little importance, we find that Mr. Isaacs, the Minister of Labour in the present Government, referred to the Bill now before your Lord ships as "another milestone on the broad highway on which we are travelling towards the new freedom for which we, the Labour movement, have been longing." There is a very great difference between this "psychological measure of no importance" and the Bill that is "another milestone…for which the Labour movement have been longing."

And Sir Walter Citrine, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, in an interview published in January of this year, stated that while Parliament ought to have a brake on anything in the nature of a General Strike, there should in future be no law against a General. Strike. I think it is better that your Lordships should hear the words of these gentlemen rather than my words, because, after all, they represent the Government and the trade union movement. Sir Walter Citrine's actual words are these: Only in the most exceptional circumstances and when no other remedy appeared possible would such a method be employed. That method is the General Strike. Your Lordships will therefore see that according to Government spokesmen and the views expressed by Socialist leaders, in certain circumstances a General Strike against Parliament and the national Government is justified. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has quoted this afternoon the words of Mr. Cramp and also has read the article in the Daily Herald threatening the Government with what would happen if they did not give way. The threat of a General Strike is to be kept in hand in case the Government of the day refuse an urgent demand made upon them by some outside body!

I will not detain your Lordships more than a moment more, as time is getting on. As your Lordships are well aware and as has been pointed out to-day, a General Strike is different from all other strikes: it is not against an individual employer but is a strike by a section of the community for their own purposes against the Government and Parliament duly elected by the universal suffrages of the whole of the people of this country. The ordinary trade unionist is not a law breaker; he is a law-abiding citizen. If he knows for certain that he is breaking the law if he takes part in a General. Strike, he will hesitate to do so. But if the legal position is in doubt, he may easily be led astray. I would submit to your Lordships that in a matter of this vital importance to the maintenance of the supremacy of Parliament, it is essential that the illegality of a General Strike should remain clear without doubt. It is surely for Parliament to clarify the law, as it has done in the Trade Disputes Act which we are being asked to repeal. What 3 travesty on democracy to repeal that Statute in order to substitute for Parliament in clarifying the law the unrepresentative passengers on a Clapham omnibus!

6.46 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that however much the arguments which I am about to address to your Lordships in a moment may not find favour with some of you, you will unanimously agree with me in congratulating Lord Broughshane on the speech to which we have just had the pleasure of listening. The force and sincerity of his argument could not but attract the attention of those on this side of the House who are unable to agree with the substance of the arguments he addressed to us. He spoke hardly as one making a maiden speech but with a readiness to deal with interruptions which I am quite sure must have appealed to all those of us who not very long ago were in the same position as he was himself. I am quite sure we on this side of the House will look forward to hearing him again on subjects which are perhaps not quite so controversial and to which he can bring knowledge which does not involve perhaps so much legal acumen as the subject we have to discuss this evening.

Now I should like to comment, if he will permit me, on his speech and the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, who preceded him, and on the attitude they take up to the repeal of this Act of 1927. One would think, to listen to the force and vigour of their speeches, that the repeal of this Act of 1927 and the restoration of the law as it existed at that time and under which this country got on very well for a considerable number of years, was a revolutionary event. Surely that condemns itself as being obviously nothing of the sort, and the contention of the Attorney-General in another place that this is a comparatively minor Act is borne out by the whole course of trade union history.

I should just like to comment on one or two of the speeches which were made earlier. I must say that the attitude of the noble and learned Lord Chancellor in his speech seemed to me to strike exactly the right note for dealing with a subject of this kind, and in particular when he said, in regard to the General Strike, that it was a case where the hearts of the great mass of working people of this country got the better of their heads. How very true that was, and how much more important it is that the great mass of the working people of this country should be stout hearted than that they should be logicians and too intelligent! What would have happened in 1940 had it not been for the stout hearts of the working people of this country? If we had adopted a logical attitude towards the events of that time we should have thrown in our hands, just as people all over the world who took a logical attitude expected us to do. It was because we were stout-hearted, because our hearts were stronger than our heads, that we went on and eventually triumphed.

I should like, with his permission, to comment on a number of the arguments in the very subtle speech of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon. He said it was not so important to know whether a General Strike in 1926 was or was not illegal, as to get a clear definition of what was an illegal strike, and as far as that goes I think everybody would subscribe to that argument. But he entirely omitted to deal with the conclusive argument addressed to this House by the noble and learned Lord Chancellor to the effect that this Statute which was put on the Statute Book in 1927 did not accomplish that object. In fact, it left the law a great deal more vague than it was before the Act was passed. It did not, in fact, give us a clear definition. Lord Broughshane asked what was the objection to a Statute which declares a General Strike to be illegal. This Statute does nothing of the sort. From beginning to end it does not mention a General Strike; it adopts a form of words which was intended, and which was deliberately intended, to widen the area for attack on sympathetic strikes. If it had adopted a form of words which was genuinely aimed at a real General Strike it would have been a different kettle of fish altogether.

Just in the same way, the noble and learned Viscount produced quotations from speeches of trade union leaders like the late Mr. Cramp, as he was entitled to do. But, if I may say so, with the characteristic subtlety of argument which so many of us who were his juniors in days gone by learned to admire so much in the Courts, he went on from reading Mr. Cramp's statement that the object was to obtain the resignation of the Government—and surely it is a perfectly legitimate object—


By a strike?


To make it go to the country in order that the country might pass a verdict on this business. We are all occupying ourselves the whole time trying to bring pressure to hear on the Government.


Is that what the present Government are seeking to do and to legalize by this Bill?


My contention is that pressure on a Government, provided it is of a legitimate kind, is quite common. To withhold one's work is perfectly legitimate; anybody can withhold his work. The whole time the people are trying to bring pressure to bear on Governments to do this, that and the other; it is the whole business of politics. But there is all the difference in the world between that and what the noble and learned Viscount went on to say—namely, that it was holding the country to ransom. That is quite a different kettle of fish.

Then he went on to deal with coal, and it was characteristic that he moulded his arguments round certain proposals of the Samuel Commission. But of course the history of this coal business does not start at that time; it goes very much further back. It goes back to the time, and beyond the time, of the Sankey Commission and the promises of the Conservative Government of that time to implement the recomendations of that Commission. Those promises they never carried out; nor did they implement the most important recommendations of Lord Samuel's Commission.


The noble Lord will forgive my interrupting, but Lord Sankey's Commission recommended that the miners should give up the right to strike.


That is obviously a recommendation which no Government could adopt. That is characteristic of the way in which this business was handled in 1926 and 1927. Then the noble and learned Viscount went on to tell us how he had himself for a long time believed that the method of contracting out was the right one and how in his youthful days he had been a strong supporter of the Trades Disputes Act of 1906. It seemed to me that his conversion to this more reactionary way of thinking, if he will permit me to describe it in that way, was contemporaneous with his conversion to the politics of the Conservative Party. But I for one, at any rate, prefer the outlook which he had in 1906, at the time of the Trades Disputes Act, and the outlook which he had in 1913, at the time of the Trade Union Act of that year.


The date of any change in my opinions is of no importance to anyone but myself, but I am sure my noble friend will not mind my telling him that if he read Hansard in another place he would find when it was that I explained the reasons why I thought my original view on this point was wrong. It was long before any of the matters he is referring to now.


Obviously when one changes one's views one finds reasonably good arguments in one's own mind for doing so, but that is no reason why somebody who thinks that the earlier views were correct should not express himself to that effect. The noble Viscount said that in the uncertain state of the law as it would be, when the Government asked for the opinion of the Lord Chancellor or the Attorney-General of the time all either of them could say was "I do not know." The state of the law which will exist on the repeal of this Act will be exactly the same as it was at the time when he himself was a Law Officer of the Crown. I have no doubt at all that he would be prepared to advise the Government to the best of his ability, and that Lord Chancellors and Attorney-Generals will advise the Government to the best of their ability just as ably as they could have done at that time, and Judges will be prepared to lay down the law with all the vigour and conviction of Mr. Justice Astbury in the famous case of the seaman in the time of the General Strike.

The object of this Bill is a very simple one; it is simply to restore the legal position of the trade unions in the community to the 1926 position. At that time, after a great deal of legislative history and of judicial decisions, a modus vivendi had been reached which on the whole was not unsatisfactory, although it was not the ideal solution. I suggest to your Lordships it was unsatisfactory in a number of respects. The trade unions, although it is quite true they had in some ways received privileges under the legislation of 1906 in particular, were nevertheless in other respects still unprivileged. The privilege which an ordinary association has of using the money of the association in the way in which the majority of the members desire that it should be used has been taken away from trade unions. In other respects, as, for instance, in regard to the question of picketing, there were certain doubts and difficulties which no doubt made the law somewhat unsatisfactory.

It might have been contended that there was a good case for a tidying up of the law relating to trade unions taking place after a careful inquiry and after reasonable discussion on both sides, but that was not done at all in the Act of 1927. If that had been done there would have been a good deal to be said for it, but one of the grievances which the trade unions had in 1927 was that there was no attempt to make any such inquiries, there was no attempt to give any sort of real consideration to the pros and cons of the situation. Nevertheless, the trade unions on the whole were not dissatisfied with the law as it stood in 1926. They had obtained that situation as the result of enormous effort on their part by bringing continuous pressure to bear, particularly upon the Liberal Administration of 1906 to 1915. This modus vivendi was roughly, vindictively, and I should almost say insensately disturbed by the Act of 1927. Mr. Baldwin had been trying for a number of years to prevent the more extreme members of his Party from intervening in this situation. Until the General Strike occurred he had been successful, but the General Strike let loose passions in the Conservative Party which swept over the dams of common sense which had been erected by statesmen such as Mr. Baldwin, as he then was. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, has told us of the attempts he made to stave off this eruption of the tide of bitterness, hatred, and indeed fear. He failed. I suggest to your Lordships that hatred and fear are the worst counsellors one can take.

You may say that it is an exaggeration to talk about hatred and fear, but I challenge anybody to read those debates dispassionately—which as Mr. Eden in a recent debate in another place acknowledged were characterized by animosity—without feeling that fear and hatred had brought this legislation before Parliament at that time. Fear and hatred are evil counsellors, and every one of us who remembers that particular time must remember how a sort of shiver of fear passed over all sorts of people in the country. It was perfectly unjustified, because the amount of violence which occurred in connexion with that so-called General Strike was negligible, as was admitted by all afterwards. Yet I remember very well a little man who was attempting to teach me to drive a motorcar, explaining to me how he had taken the whole of his money out of the bank and how he was making inquiries at the travel agencies as to how soon it would be possible for him to get abroad. You may say that is an exaggerated case, but it was quite symptomatic of the way a very large section of the people in the community were stupidly frightened by the events of that time.

It was as a result of that fear and hatred that this Statute was put on to the Statute Book. Subsequently, as we have heard this afternoon, attempts were made to obtain some sort of a compromise, but unfortunately they failed. We need not go into the history of it in detail, but I regard that failure as a major calamity. If this compromise could have been obtained during all those years, when the trade unions were asking for it, then a great compromise could have been obtained. But this bitterness on the part of the Conservative Party stood in the way the whole time.

The Labour Party and the Labour Government are engaged upon a great enterprise, an enterprise which can only be 100 per cent. successful with the co-operation of all classes of the community. If it fails, that failure will be even more disastrous to the people who are opposing it than to the people who are carrying it through. This attitude of the Conservative Party, in my submission, is symptomatic of their failure to give willing co-operation to the work of the Government in their scheme, and I regard that as being one of the major calamities. If it is maintained it will lead to an exceedingly serious situation, and some of the speeches from the other side of this House this afternoon have made it clear that that may in fact be the case. Not very long ago I re-read the famous description by Thucydides of the Peloponnesian War. Just this sort of vindictiveness was largely responsible for the breakdown of that tine civilization—perhaps the finest the world has ever seen--which flourished in Athens and in Greece over those years. We must get a greater magnanimity. That was referred to by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, in his speech this afternoon, and I entirely agree with everything he said on that score.

The 1927 Act has remained to the great mass of the working people in this country the emblem of reaction. Noble Lords opposite regard that as an exaggerated view. It does not matter whether it is exaggerated or not, that is the feeling which exists among these great numbers of people. The reasons for it are not that they were beaten in the General Strike, or that many of them exhausted the funds which they had built up over long years of saving, although no doubt they felt that seriously. The reasons, I think, fall under two heads. There was this feeling of stigma which has been referred to, and there were historical reasons. I will not weary your Lordships by going into the history of the trade unions in this country, which is so much better known to noble and learned Lords like Lord Simon, but I would just ask you to think about a powerful speech made in another place. Mr. W. J. Brown referred to the ghosts of the Combination Acts, and of the To puddle Martyrs and the tailors of Tooley Street, and other passages in the history of the trade union movement. Go back a little more than a hundred years, and try to nut yourselves into the shoes of the working people at that time, with the struggles which they had to carry through against the violence of their employers and the cruelties of the Governments of those days, and you can understand something of the feeling which they had.

It was not until quite late in the last century that trade union law began to be a reasonable law. It was not until after they had secured enfranchisement that they were able to obtain even moderate privileges for the trade unions which they had built up with such difficulty and on which their livelihood and a possibility of reasonable standards of life in the future depended. As I say, by dint of astonishing exertions, they had succeeded in obtaining a modus vivendi. The ordinary workman in this trade union was not so privileged as all that; the position which had been obtained in 1926 was hardly a heaven upon earth, and this Act came along and seemed to shatter it. That is one of the reasons why this was a rankling sore among trade unionists. A long time ago, in a book which is almost as famous now as it was then, Disraeli said this was a country of two nations. That was a great truth. Even now there is truth in it. Now the under dogs, the nation below, had, during the earlier years of this century, begun to feel that that was ceasing to be true, and that there was really beginning 70 be a merger of the two nations into one nation. And then the Act of 1927 was brought in. One of the two nations, being in a political preponderance at that time, made use of its position to push the other nation underneath once more. Can you wonder that there has been great feeling about this among the working people of this country?

Now with regard to the question of stigma. Lord Chesham has said this was not a case of reprisals at all. But surely anybody looking at it in an objective sort of way must find it difficult to agree. First there is the General Strike and then, immediately after it, this, Act is passed which destroys so many of these privileges to which I have been referring. If that is not a reprisal, then what are reprisals? The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has said that he has no doubt that tens of thousands of men, as ell as their leaders, who took part in the strike of 1926, honestly and sincerely believed that they were doing what they had a right to do. Surely that was so, and yet ex post facto it was asserted that this was a criminal offence. The Government of the day said: "We declare that this was a criminal offence." That is a stigma. It is the stigma which the Foreign Secretary, in his speech in another place, said was being wiped away by the repeal of this Act. Of course it was a stigma. These men, some of whom had already held office in the Government of the State, and many of whom in years to come were to bear the greatest heat and burden of the day, men on whose ability, tenacity and courage the safety of this country was very largely to depend, were declared, in fact, to have been guilty of criminal conduct. Of course they want to get that stigma swept away and this Bill will sweep it away.

It is the psychological inability of the leaders of the Conservative Party—or some of them because I do not believe that they all take this view by any means—to understand this feeling which fills me with dread for the future. Cannot we agree to sweep this wretched legislation of 1927 away? Cannot we prepare the ground for a reasonable piece of legislation to be put in its place. It is absurd for members of the Conservative Party in the existing circumstances to expect of any Government which is committed to such a tremendous programme of social reconstruction, that in a few months they should be in a position to place proposals before Parliament for a really well constructed trade union law. If they are to carry out the mandate which they received from the people they have obviously got to sweep aside this legislation of 1927, at once and Quickly. If they did otherwise they would not be carrying out their promises to the electorate.

As one who took a considerable part in the last General Election, and who moved about a great deal among working people, I can assure your Lordships that this is a matter which is very much in the minds of the working people of this country. Reading the reports of debates in another place and listening to speeches which have been made by some of your Lordships this afternoon I cannot help wondering how much knowledge the Conservative members have of what goes on in the minds of the working people of the country. I do not think it would be possible for them to make the sort of speeches which they sometimes do make—speeches in which they say that this is a matter which is not deeply felt by the working people—if they really knew what working people think about. Here would have been a magnificent opportunity for the leaders of the Conservative Party to adopt a magnanimous course and say: "We do not agree with a great deal of the privileges which have been conferred upon the trade unions, but in order that the Government may go ahead and carry out the great programme of social reconstruction which is before us in the coming years we will agree that this Act of 1927, put upon the Statute Book as it was at a time when feeling was still high, this Act which at any rate was obviously the cause of a great deal of feeling and was open to a considerable amount of criticism from the working people and trade unionists of this country, should be removed from the Statute Book, and the way prepared for a new constructive Statute to be put in its place."

7.16 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a most interesting—indeed a wonderful—debate to-day. It has, I think, been one of the most interesting and important of this Session. For my own part I have enjoyed listening to all the speakers, both the newcomers and the older members of this House. To begin with, I would like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Broughshane on his maiden speech. It was full of his old-time vigour and was every bit as good as any I have heard him deliver in another place. In fact it was better than many of his past efforts. I hope that he will deliver many more speeches in this House now that he has broken the ice. I was sorry to note that he was so much concerned—indeed his whole speech seemed tinged with undue concern if I may say so—about the position with regard to illegal strikes. He thought we ought never to be the least bit uncertain about illegal strikes. The same note was struck by several other speakers. I assure them that there is no need to be concerned about this.

We know what an illegal strike is—everybody does. It is a strike against the State, an attempt to make the State do something by improper means; to get something done in an undemocratic way. I remember an instance in Belgium some Years ago when there was a carefully planned strike of working people to force a reform of the franchise. That clearly was a political strike, and we, in this country, would regard it as illegal. And may I say that I am sure that the people of this country are so right-minded that they would never dream of taking that sort of action to secure that sort of end? The idea that anything of that sort would ever be tolerated by any Government of this country need not unduly concern my noble friend or any other noble Lord. As your Lordships no doubt are aware, there have been one or two instances recently in which wrongful strikes have taken place. They have been unofficial strikes. They have been strikes contrary to the instructions and the advice of the men's unions as well as to the law of the moment which prohibits strikes during a war period and while the present regulations continue. I was very pleased that recently the Government when an unofficial strike occurred took action at once to see that food was not hindered in its transport to the people. I am quite confident that any Government in England would act similarly in the case of any such wrongful strike in the future.

How we shall stand in the future having regard to the Act of 1875 and the Act of 1906 has, I think, been made clear from the Woolsack. It has been shown that those Acts will meet the case against any attempted intimidation, violence or undue overbearing of people who differ from others when a proper strike is taking place.


May I be allowed to interrupt for a moment? I believe it to be true that it is illegal for members of certain industries, such as the gas and electrical industries, to strike under the Statute of 1875. I would like nay noble friend to tell us what action was taken against those who took part in the recent strike in the gas industry.


I am not aware that the Act of 1875 prohibited strikes in the electrical industry. If a strike takes place we shall have to see about it.


There was no electricity in 1875. Only gas.


There may have been a lot of gas strikes since 1875. If they have been mentioned in the Act of 1875 it only goes to show that you can make what laws you like but if the strike is right, the law will not run; that is all. There have been many cases in my time. It rather reminds me of the dear old lady and Thomas Carlyle. She asked him a question about the French Revolution and added: "Do you think there will be another revolution?" Carlyle's reply was: "There will be another if necessary; there will be as many as are necessary." There will be strikes in any industry, if there is gross injustice, law or no law. I warn you about that, and that it is quite wrong to make any other representation about industry. Greatly as we all respect it, law is not the whole of life. We in this country believe, and my noble friend Viscount Simon should know, from his great knowledge and from his antecedents, that a great deal of the progress of this country has been achieved through deliberately resisting unjust laws. He and I can remember the late Dr. Clifford, in the Nonconformist world, urging people in the chapels to resist an Education Act and to refuse to pay their rates. My father, a great Radical, said that that was fundamentally wrong and unconstitutional. But Dr. Clifford gave that advice, and the people's homes were sold up when they would not pay the rates.

You will gather from this that the law is not absolutely sacrosanct. There are some things greater than the law. While I was charmed, as I always am, with the noble Viscount's speech, with its beautiful dulcet tones and clear exposition of the points he was making, yet I was deeply grieved because he seemed to betray an absolute absence of regard to that great human virtue called sympathy. He is trying to uphold with his forensic eloquence an enactment which forbids people to be sympathetic to one another.




Yes. The 1927 Act forbids sympathetic strikes—never mind about political strikes. That is our reading of it. That is why people object to it. It prohibits the seaman from taking the part of the docker, and the docker from taking the part of the railwayman. He must not strike outside his own narrow range of work. That is certainly the main reason why trade unionists are bitter about this. And they are bitter; they have been all along. I do not think you will ever be able to stamp out sympathy from the human heart. I think this Bill will clean away a lot of bitterness, and leave our hearts free so that we can look at one another in industry as ordinary Englishman, not unduly tied by laws, but as people who understand one another. It would be a great roifortune to industry if it were run by people who took such a narrow view of life its my noble friend Viscount Simon. A great many men in industry are great-hearted fellows and they get on tolerably well with trade union leaders because of those qualities.

The noble Viscount referred to Mr. Cramp as having made a terrible disclosure or confession, and attached a good deal of importance to him. I venture to point out that the late Mr. Cramp—he was a very nervous man and he did not live very happily in the trade union world—was not a member of the trade unions' council and did not help to conduct the General Strike. He was not speaking for his union or the trade union movement. Whatever he said to a little group of students at Oxford was not responsible in any way, and should not be exaggerated as being a statement of any great importance.


My noble friend knows more than I do of this, but might I just ask him one thing? I happen to know that Mr. Cramp's signature was the first on the admission made on behalf of the railway trade unions at the end of the strike that they had been in the wrong. Is my noble friend really telling me that Mr. Cramp and Mr. J. H. Thomas, who signed second, were not the leaders of the railway movement in that connexion?


All I said was that he was not the leader of the General Strike. He was a leader in the railway men's union. It is true that he signed that document. I had to sign it. I am surprised the noble Viscount should have brought it up. From time to time we trade unionists do have to sign humiliating documents to get our men back to work. That was the position then, when there were thousands of men that the railways would not take back.


I am sure my noble friend wishes to be quite fair. I made the reference simply because I understood him to be representing that Mr. Cramp was quite unimportant. I made no reference, although I knew it perfectly well, to the terms of the conclusion but surely the person who led those signatures cannot have been of no importance. His statement was not repudiated.


We always try to avoid dragging disputes further. We do not always reply to one another. We endure things that are said wrongfully and let them pass. Mr. Cramp was in the second position and not in the leading position. And in addressing the students he was speaking on his own account, and not even for his union. Therefore I venture to put to the House that the statement which he made was not quite so important as the noble Viscount contended.

I could not possibly attempt to follow all the other points made by the noble Viscount. I will not call them quibbles, but legal points raised in fine detail. I think that they were all answered in advance by the Lord Chancellor. A good deal of the noble Viscount's contention is also covered in a general statement which I will make in a moment. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, made some reference, I am informed, to the position of the Labour Party. I am very sorry I was not present, as I had been called out of the House. I gather that he was rather concerned that some of the great trade unions—I think he referred to the "Big Five"—might dominate everybody, and develop a tyrannical position. There are five unions bigger perhaps than others, but they do not always agree, and do not usually agree. At trade union gatherings, at any rate, they often disagree; then things are thrashed out by the protagonists of the big unions, and settled by the majority of votes of the lesser unions. So far as the Labour Party is concerned, trade union power in the Party is not increasing so rapidly as the power of the local individual members who form the local Labour parties. Membership is growing, the members are subscribing more money to the movement, and they figure much more prominently in the conferences. If your Lordships will be kind enough to notice what happens on the reports at Whitsuntide from Bournemouth I think you will find that weight will be shown in the votes cast at the Labour Party Conference. I am sure the Press will analyze them and show the respective weights of the different sections. These local Labour parties have financed and run their own nominees, who in the majority of cases have not been trade union nominees. Indeed, in the House to-day in the Parliamentary Labour Party there is a substantial majority of non-trade union nominees, who are not responsible to trade unions but to the electorate in their constituencies.

There is no serious danger of a top-heavy balance of power by big unions, nor is there any serious danger of the likelihood of Communistic preponderance or control. That has been checked and held closely down in the trade union movement and in the Labour Party's political movement. The country should be very grateful to the men in these movements who have fought down Communism, because Communism is dictatorial and against the English way of life. For the twenty years during which it has been vigorously supported and financially supported in heavy measure from somewhere, it has not been able to secure any strong footing in this country. Whereas one sees all over Europe Communism getting in and becoming the largest single party or the predominant party, in this country only two Communists have been elected to Parliament. In this country they can not capture the trade unions, nor can they capture the Labour Party. We should be very grateful to the very brave men who have withstood many bitter, nasty and venomous attacks—men like Sir Walter Citrine and the present leader of the House of Commons, Mr. Herbert Morrison, who have all through the years fought these people just as cleverly as they have tried to beat us. They have kept them at arm's length, and this country therefore has been saved from being captured by the Communist movement.

I would like to refer to what Lord Chesham said. He proclaimed himself a peacemaker, for which I was glad. He concluded by making a very peaceful statement. In reply, I would like to say that I thought he was unduly pessimistic. I had no idea he was so gloomy in his heart about this or anything else. I was quite surprised that he should be so gloomy. I do assure him that what he is worried about will not occur in practice. He was terribly worried about working people intimidating one another. Well, they just do not do it. The working classes to-day are quite well-behaved people; they are quite fair to one another, and as to going and frightening a woman at her home and telling her she has got to compel her husband to do this and to do that, to join up and pay up, it really does not happen. Neither is our business carried on in the way the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, described. You do not get a man in the parlour, squeeze him, make do this and that, and intimidate him. If the man does not want to pay up, it is a matter of saying, "Very well, we will take a note. Sign this, and you need not pay any more." That is how it is done.

I think that covers the chief points. The question has been raised as to why we should bring in this Bill at this time and press it so vigorously as the Government are doing. For nearly twenty years, repeal has been pressed for and demanded by the trade unions as a whole. What Mr. Clynes said in 1926 has been the leading point so far as this matter is concerned throughout We movement all through these years. Specific unions adversely affected by certain sections of this Act have themselves been pressing us even more closely. There is the case of the Union of Post Office Workers, who have always been worried as to why they are not attached to the Labour Party and to the Trades Union Congress. They have approached the Conference of the Labour Party and also made direct approach to the Government. That has been going on until very recent times, right up to the Election. They have shown wonderful forbearance under continued provocation. They have made specific application to be allowed to join the Trades Union Congress. Many members of the Congress were quite prepared to accept them, but that would have been acting contrary to the Act of 1927 and in breach of that Act. Wiser and more constitutional counsels prevailed. They were persuaded to withdraw their application, and they did not insist. All those bodies now are plainly entitled to benefit from the democratic decision of the nation as given in the General Election.

In our view the Ad itself was a piece of very bad statesmanship passed by a feeble and vindictive Government. That is the common feeling in the Labour movement throughout the country. It was based on an industrial conflict nothing more. That was the pretext given for introducing this measure. That conflict, of course, took place in 1926, but the Bill went far beyond that pretext, and Sections 4 and 5 definitely sought to hamstring the Conservative Party's political opponents. It was political. It had nothing to do with industrial action at all.

Let us glance back at the great conflict that did take place. My first contention is that it was purely as industrial conflict, and was not political in its essence at all. It was nothing like the Belgian case. There was absolutely no thought of politics in it whatever. It began as a lock-out quite definitely instigated by the mine owners, and supported by their friends in Parliament. It began distinctly as a lock-out, exactly as a lockout is defined in Section 8 of the Act of 1927, which states: The expression 'lock-out' means the closing of a place of employment or the suspension of work, or the refusal by an employer to continue to employ any number of persons employed by him in consequence of a dispute, done with a view to compelling those persons, or to aid another employer in compelling persons employed by him, to accept terms or conditions of or affecting employment. Well, the coal-owners took up that position in connexion with a dispute between their workers and themselves. That is exactly how it began. They had posted notices, and in the industrial world it is a terrible thing for employers to post notices that changes have got to be accepted, whether negotiated or not. These notices terminated the previous rates of pay and hours of labour, and specified that the coal-owners' own worse working terms were to be imposed on the men up to May 1, 1926.

That was a very bad day's work by the coal-owners. In consequence the industry of the country has suffered badly from that day to this. Of course, the miners, finding themselves faced with a heavy worsening of their conditions of life, which are always hard, always very severe and difficult to bear, came to their friends at the Trades Union Congress and asked for help—quite a natural and right thing for them to do. The Trades Union Congress consulted with the trade union executives. Now spontaneous sympathy for the miners had already become overwhelming amongst all classs of the community, right up to eminent Prelates who occupied seats on the Benches on my left. No one was more sympathetic to the miners than the Bishops. They formed a little committee and the miners' leaders were in constant contact with them. Many eloquent sermons were preached expressing sympathy with the mine workers. That had become general with the leaders of all other bodies. Certainly the Roman Catholic hierachy were sympathetic with the miners, as were all other religious leaders.

Naturally the trade unions were equally sympathetic, and they agreed on intervention, first to prevent the stoppage, if possible; secondly, to secure a fair settlement; and thirdly, to prevent future trouble by urging the implementation of overdue reforms in the mining industry. Everyone knows those reforms were overdue and that the whole industry was terribly out of date. May I remind your Lordships that Sir Arthur Pugh was Presi- dent of the Trades Union Congress at that time. A thoroughly sound representative man, he dealt with the whole situation in a perfectly proper manner. Under his leadership and that of Sir Walter Citrine, an equally genuine and patriotic man, the Trades Union Congress decided to organize assistance for the mine workers.

The unions decided to take action if the coal-owners' notices were not withdrawn. Certain unions, but not all, decided to strike in sympathy if necessary. The Railway and Transport Unions in particular decided to help. The railway men remembered a stoppage in 1912 when the mine workers sought to secure a minimum wage of only 5s. a day. A Liberal Government was in power at that time. The mineworkers gave full notice of their intention to stop work unless they could have a minimum rate guaranteed of 5s. a day. The House at that time, under a Liberal Premier, resisted that very modest claim, and a stoppage resulted which lasted a great many weeks. The railway men remembered it because it held up the coal traffic of the railway service. The business of the railways consists roughly of one-third passengers, one-third general merchandise and one-third coal. When the coal was held up, a great many railway men had to be stood off and to lose their pay. That even went through to the clerical staff; men on regular salaries were given notice terminating their engagements with the railway companies, and were put on day-to-day terms. They were given one or two days' work a week and turned into casual workers. That was remembered, and if there was to be a long stoppage again in the coal world the railwaymen knew that that would be repeated. Therefore they wanted to secure a quick settlement. Their action was quite as much in their own interests as it was in sympathy with the miners.

Even the clerical staff of my own union, all salaried workers—perfectly sound and I might almost say highly respectable and very constitutional people—decided to act in sympathy with the other railwaymen and come out with the miners. They behaved very well on that occasion: they spent £250,000 of their meagre funds which they had been thirty years building up. I myself was their secretary, and it was no easy matter to get an organization of clerical workers together and persuade them to pay a contribution sufficient to build up funds. All those funds went. That is a fair measure of the depth of feeling at that time of the working people of this country, supported by the general public, and it explains the action of the miners and of the Trades Union Congress. To attempt to make out that that was a strike with political objects and revolutionary aims--and that was all the argument advanced in regard to this Act—was simply not true. The strike was a perfectly natural, ordinary, sympathetic strike such as had previously always been understood and allowed.

There was another reason. The coal-owners plainly intended to destroy the National Wages Board which had been set up for the mining industry. One may remember that the Agricultural Laborers' Wages Board was also destroyed. It was a period of rank reaction. The workers were greatly concerned. We in the railway world were very concerned. We had been given our Wages Board in 1921, and if that of the miners was destroyed we knew that ours might be also. Indeed, all the reforms dealing with the labour questions which had been initiated on the Whitley Report resulting from a Government inquiry into industrial conditions were thrown into jeopardy by the action of the mine-owners.

That is how the case developed. We all agreed to stand together and to endeavour to get a quick and fair settlement for the mineworkers. I am sorry the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has had to leave us—the hour is late. I wish to thank him for the very helpful action he took to assist us in trying to get a quick and fair settlement. He did his utmost, but his suggestions were not acceptable. The trade unions' suggestions broke down. Nobody seemed disposed to agree to anything--it was a dreadful time—and after nine days of this struggle we had to close up the General Strike. We had not been able to get the settlement we hoped to reach within a week, and we had to call the strike off and do the best we could. That is the story of what happened in 1926.

I say there was no justification for the Bill which became an Act in 1927, and it was not the way to deal with this great problem. The Government, instead of trying to be vindictive with the men and their movement, should have dealt with the industry—that is where the root and cause of the trouble was. The industry was out of date, stagnant, not properly conducted or organized. Its sales arrangements were all wrong. There were over 900 collieries competing with one another instead of being under unified control. The Government should have dealt with that and decided, never mind who agreed or disagreed, to carry out the recommendations of the Samuel Commission. That, however, was not done.

We have had examples of Governments handling situations of this kind. I have referred to recent troubles in our own country. The way the late President Roosevelt dealt with great stoppages in America was exemplary. He took hold of the industries themselves and provided for them to be run under Government ægis until arrangements were made to cure the troubles disturbing the peace and progress of the industry. I do not want to enlarge on that. We regard it as a shameful thing that, apart from bringing in legislation to deal with what was called the illegal strike, the Government, under Section 4, should have attacked the Labour Party by canceling the 1913 Act which arose from the Osborne judgment. That point has already been dealt with by my noble friend Lord Calverley, and I need not stress it further.

The Act of 1927 deprived the Labour Party, as it was intended that it should deprive it, of many thousands of pounds a year. It put trade union secretaries to endless trouble and labour and a big card index had to be maintained for each branch of each union. It was a purely political attack and was so regarded by the workers concerned. It had nothing to do with the strike, and, if my memory serves me correctly, remembering reports in The Times, Section 4 was put in, at the behest of the Tory Party agents in the constituencies, who wanted the measure of 1913 changed and contracting in istead of contracting out compelled.

So far as Section 5 is concerned, that equally had nothing to do with the strike. Section 5 prohibits Civil Service organizations from joining the T.U.C. or the Labour Party; but the Civil Service unions had not participated in the strike and were not expected to participate. Indeed they were advised not to contemplate participation. Why they should have been specially penalized by the Act of 1927 no one could understand. They certainly have resented it very bitterly ever since and they consider they are perfectly entitled to join the T.U.C. or the Labour Party. This exclusion debars them from many advantages and opportunities. The Trades Union Congress indulges in activities which spread in all directions, throughout the country and throughout the world. In the national sphere they provide people to serve on consultative committees, often established by the Government, and they have contacts with very important bodies like the British Medical Association and the British Association for the Advancement of Science. This section preventing those unions from participating in that work is resented very bitterly.

Perhaps this case will illustrate what it means. We had a very valuable man on the General Council of the T.U.C. His name was Bowen and he was the General Secretary of the Postal Workers' Union. In two or three years he would have been President of the Congress. He knew all the history and workings of the movement of that day and we were all very fond of him. But he had to leave, and his seat was kept vacant pending the carrying through of this Bill which is on the Table to-day. Although he has gone into retirement his successor will undoubtedly be welcomed back into the councils of the trade union movement. He was the member for Crewe and some of your Lordships may be able to recall him. On the international side it must be remembered that this Labour movement is a very great movement. It is not a localized thing; it is not a sectional workers' movement; it embraces workers of all kinds; and that is why its membership goes to millions. The position is utterly different from the position of the professional workers. The accountants, actuaries, lawyers and doctors are for themselves alone; they have no Congress; they never get together and concern themselves about the country as a whole or about the wide world. The trade union movement, however, does; its key-word is "Fellowship," not merely of all workers in our own country, but of all the workers of the world. It sends delegations all over the world. My noble friend Lord Ammon went to America in 1915 for the first time to represent the trade union movement. The present Foreign Secretary, Mr. Ernest Bevin, went with him, and that was the beginning of the development of his own marvellous knowledge of international affairs.

The Labour movement is an international movement; yet this Bill cuts away all right of participation on the part of unions whose membership consists of people in the public service. There is no reason why they should be penalized; there is no reason why they should be victimized or kept out of this wonderful movement—this movement which gives those who participate in it an extraordinary joy in life. It is something more wonderful than most Conservatives can appreciate. I am so sorry that they do not understand it. To me it is a lovely movement, and it gives joy and strength to all who participate in it.

Section 6 debars local authorities from deciding to employ trade unionists. I do not see why they should be debarred any more than other employers. There are good reasons why they should decide that they will have only trade unionists working for them, for if you have non-unionists amongst a majority of unionists in any employment there is always bad feeling and friction. What public authorities want in connexion with all their work is harmony; they want satisfactory working. It is all a matter of industrial psychology. If engineers and managers engage men for public employment under the municipalities they should be able to tell them frankly: "We would much rather you were in Mr. Will Thorne's union," or whatever union it may be. "The other men are, and they would not like it if you were not in with them. They all work together very well. We have a Whitley Council to deal with complaints. I come and sit on that Council every month or every three months and it is a means of working together pretty well. We would prefer it if you were in a union." If the man said "I will not join" it should be possible to tell him to go and get some other employment.

The municipal engineer should be free to insist, if necessary, and if he is desired to do so by his council, on the employment of trade unionists. There is a lot of sharp feeling in professional circles if people are not members of their professional associations. A doctor came to me last Sunday and told me how dreadfully he had been cut and cold-shouldered as he had ceased his membership of the B.M.A. because he dissented from their present policy in opposing the Govern-merit and asking every doctor to put up 25 to fight the Government. He did not agree with that, and now he is being cut and is feeling it very much. Yet a council may not require everybody to be in a trade union, although I should think it would require a professional man to have all the credentials that are usually expected in whatever line of business he may be qualified.

Finally, some scepticism has been expressed about our mandate for this Bill. No One can maintain an objection to our claim that we have a mandate. The repeal of the 1927 Act was demanded prior to this Election and prior to the war; I mean actually demanded in recent times, and considerable pressure was put on, particularly in the year 1939. We were fobbed off by one Prime Minister after another at that time and after the war broke out. As has been correctly described by my noble friend the Lord Chancellor--and this is what has often been attempted to be discounted—throughout the General Election itself at nearly all our meetings questions were pressed about whether we would take action to annul the Trade Disputes Act of 1927. I addressed quite a lot of meetings (I had nothing much else to do at that time and I was glad to go and help in the Election) and I was surprised at the persistence with which men came along and put that question, if it had not been mentioned in any of the speeches or by the candidate. I believe the men generally who came were postmen, because postmen feel very bitterly about it indeed. That large and very worthy body of men is adversely affected by the Act of 1927.

The repeal of the Act was demanded in the Elections of 1929, 1931 and 1935, and the Labour Party made it a cardinal item in their programme for the recent Election, the programme which was entitled "Let's Face the Future." The Government not only pledged themselves throughout the Election but they certainly are clearly mandated. The electors have settled the question decisively. I was very pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, say that for his part, and I gather it is the case with others, there is no intention to seek 10 frustrate the will of the people. Your Lordships will be well advised not to seek to frustrate the will of the people, which has been made abundantly clear.


My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Llewellin.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.

The LORD CHANCELLOR acquainted the House that the Clerk of the Parliaments had laid upon the Table the Certificate from the Examiners that no Standing Orders are applicable to the following Bill:

North West Midlands Joint Electricity Authority Provisonal Order,

also the Certificate that no further Standing Orders are applicable to the following Bill:

Great Western Railway,

and also the Certificate that the Standing Orders have not been complied with in respect of the Petitions for the following Bills:

Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital, Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital, Central London Ophthalmic Hospital (Amalgamation, etc.).

West Sussex County Council (Shoreham and Lancing Beaches, etc.).

The same were ordered to lie on the Table.



Examiners' Certificates of non-compliance with Standing Orders referred to the Standing Orders Committee.