§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD moved, That the Emergency (No. 2) Regulations 1966 made by Her Majesty in Council on June 22, 1966 under the Emergency Powers Act 1920, and laid before the House on that date, shall continue in force subject to the provisions of Section 2(4) of the said Act. The noble Earl said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Stonham, who will wind up the debate, I beg to move the second of the Motions standing on the Order Paper. This asks the House to confirm that the Regulations made in consequence of the declaration of the State of Emergency shall continue in force for another month.
§ My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has been speaking on this subject this afternoon, and the House will, I think, expect me to keep very closely to his words. I shall somewhat abbre- 596 viate his speech, but that does not mean that my speech will be in any way short. It is a grave and important subject. The House will be aware that recently there have been hopeful moves in the direction of a settlement, and this debate takes place against a background of negotiations which are going on at present and which we all hope will speedily reach a successful conclusion. I would, however, point out that even if agreement had been reached a day or two ago it would still have been necessary to commend these Regulations to the House. For the time being it may be necessary to keep the port emergency committees in being, with power to regulate shipping in ports. But the Government would hope, if the House agrees to the continuance of these Regulations, that an early ending of the strike would mean that the Proclamation could be revoked and that the Regulations could lapse at the earliest possible moment.
§ While all our thoughts and hopes will be concentrated on the negotiations now proceeding, it is not perhaps too early to begin to consider some of the lessons of this dispute. The seamen's industry has been virtually strike-free for many years. This particular strike has no single, simple cause: it is, in the first place, the result of the accumulation over many years of grievances and frustrations which we as a nation—and we must all share some of the responsibility—should not have allowed to develop. For many years a large part of the membership of this Union increasingly felt that the Union was not adequately discharging its responsibilities. In consequence, these grievances and frustrations were allowed to grow and fester, and to suppurate.
§ Another lesson from this dispute is a fact which emerges from the Report of the Court of Inquiry: that a great deal is amiss in the efficiency with which this industry is conducted. It is clear that the earnings of British seamen fall below those of many of their foreign counter-parts. With those factors in mind the Government, as the House is aware, have decided to set up, as a matter of urgency, an independent Inquiry into the structure, organisation and efficiency of the industry.
§ The third lesson must relate to the organisation of the Union and the problems presented in terms of industrial democracy. One of the problems in this 597 dispute is a new-found militancy of the Union. In saying that I am not attacking militancy as such: I am only pointing to the situation which arises in this particular Union at the present time. No one will underrate the difficulties of democratic organisation, or an attempt at democratic organisation, in a Union catering for seamen. The difficulties of communication are of a different dimension from those experienced in any other trade union. The present Executive Council was elected (I am not saying this in any critical sense, but just to point to the difficulties of communication) by only 5,000 out of the 65,000 members. All these are points and difficulties to be borne in mind. But, superimposed on these difficulties, which can easily be expanded, there is a further problem, to which I must now turn.
§ I begin with what has never been challenged: that there are no Communists on the Executive Council of this Union, and that the number of Communists among the membership of the Union is extremely small. It is questionable whether, for example, the Communists would be able to man more than one or two picket lines. In addition, we must be extremely careful to distinguish between the external influences and the quite real feelings of tens of thousands of the Union members that they have had a raw deal for so many years in the past. We have to distinguish between the genuine grievances and the genuine expression of those grievances, on the one hand, and the deliberate exploitation of those grievances by outside influences, on the other.
§ Again, it would be wrong to suggest—and I know that the Prime Minister is stressing this point—that members of the Communist Party, and particularly dedicated Communist seamen, are not deeply concerned with these grievances and the problems that have to be settled. I should add that there was, and is, no question of impugning the integrity of the Executive Council. What the Prime Minister was referring to in his Statement in that connection eight days ago was their lack of guts.
§ But the House will be aware that, unlike the major political Parties, the Communist Party has at its disposal an efficient and disciplined industrial apparatus controlled from Communist 598 Party headquarters. No major strike occurs anywhere in this country, in any sector of industry, in which that apparatus fails to concern itself. In special cases it has been seen at work—for example, in the Electrical Trades Union, where it made a successful takeover bid, if not of the share capital, at any rate of the management of that Union, lasting for some years. No other political Party is organised on these lines, and it may be because of the political, as opposed to the industrial, impotence of the Communist Party that it has sought expression in industrial organisation. Noble Lords would delude themselves if they imagined that there was not the most efficient organisation on the industrial side; if they did not realise that it has full-time officers ready to operate in any situation where industrial troubles are developing. And we should underrate equally its power if we did not recognise that, however misguided we may consider their objectives or their methods, they, in their own way, desire to see an improvement in working-class standards, and would not be effective if this were not so.
§ One other thing I want to make clear. None of this is in any way illegal. In a free society—it may be different in a Communist society—they have a legal right to do it. And there is no evidence at all that in pursuance of these aims, so far as the seamen's strike is concerned, they have committed any individual acts of illegality. Equally, I should make it clear that there is no suggestion of any interference in this strike from overseas. Whatever has been done is indigenous in character and is rooted in our own doctrines of freedom of association and action.
§ But if those who act in the way I am going to describe are within their legal rights—and I take it that, whatever recommendations the Royal Commission may make, none of us would wish to curtail the basic legal rights of freedom of speech and action in a democracy—if, I say, they are within their legal rights, equally those of us who regard their activities as harmful have our rights, including the right to take such action as we may think appropriate. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has thought a great deal about this in recent weeks, and his Statement eight days ago 599 was, I can assure the House, not made without anxious consideration. Not only have some of us in the Government an equal right to take any action within our power to ensure that these activities are known and understood for what they are, but we—that is the Government—certainly have a duty to exercise that right.
§ For some years the Communist Party have had as one of their objectives the building up of a position of strength, not only in the Seamen's Union but in other unions concerned with docks and transport. They are engaged in this struggle for power in the Seamen's Union because they recognise the facts I have outlined to the House. The Communist Party recognise not only that democracy is shallow-rooted in this Union, but also that grievances and exploitations have festered for many years; and they recognise that the facts of seagoing employment make infiltration easier than in other industries. This bid is directed to next year's Conference, at which the rules can be changed and, equally, steps taken to change full-time officers, who for the reasons I have given, have an unusual degree of power to influence the conduct of the Union's activities, even if this power has not been much exercised of late.
This is a take-over bid, and take-over bidders on all sides of industry are notorious for their single-mindedness and ruthlessness. The whole formidable power of the industrial apparatus has for some time been directed towards this end, and the seamen's strike, with all its background of justification, has provided the ground. This has been known for some time. A seaman who had played a leading part in the localised strikes of 1960, and was a former Chairman of the National Seaman Reform Movement, made a long statement in the January, 1965, issue of the Seaman, in which he set out the way in which this take-over bid was being organised. And, having given details of what was being done on the North-East coast, and in the Mersey area, he summed up in this way—and now I quote:
Thus the Communists are in a position to use the movement for their own purposes; and all British seamen know what this means. In particular, Gordon Norris and some well-
known Communists on the North-East coasts are going around all ports to ensure that the Communist Party keeps a firm grip on the movement
That is the end of that part of the quotation,. He then went on, in this very long statement, to advise his fellow members how to counter what he called this
…very small group of active Communists who are working for their own interests and those of the Communist Party.
My Lords, that concludes the quotation.
§ The central figure in the operation is the Communist Party's industrial organiser, Mr. Bert Ramelson, who in January succeeded Mr. Peter Kerrigan. Mr. Ramelson has three full-time officials on his staff, and in the London area, where the docks provide his hunting ground, his principal lieutenant is Mr. Dennis Goodwin. Round this full-time nucleus has been gathered a small group of active trade unionists in the National Union of Seamen and other unions. I referred a moment ago to the Communist Party's numerical weakness in the membership of the National Union of Seamen. Yet, despite this, as soon as the strike began, they were successful in ensuring that the chairmanships of strike committees in the country's two major ports, London and Liverpool, were taken by two dedicated Communists, Mr. Jack Coward and Mr. Roger Woods. Again, in the Union's negotiating machinery a leading member of the negotiating committee, not himself a member of the Executive Council, who was elected from the floor of the Annual General Conference, was also a highly articulate and effective Communist, Mr. Gordon Norris, who in certain of his activities also operates under the name of Mr. George Goodman.
§ The objectives of the Communist Party throughout this dispute were, first, to influence the day-to-day policy of the Executive Council of the National Union of Seamen; secondly, to extend the area of the stoppage; and, thirdly, to use the strike not only to improve the conditions of the seamen, but also to secure what is at present the main political and industrial objective of the Communist Party—the destruction of the Government's prices and incomes policy.
§ Let me first deal with the organisation of the Union and of the strike. I have 601 referred to the Communists' success in capturing two of the major strike committees. They are also effectively represented in other areas. When Mr. Norris, who has not paused in his activities during the last six weeks, visited Glasgow he made it his business to contact certain members of the strike committee, but he omitted to get in touch with the secretary, who happened to be an efficient and loyal member of the Seamen's Union. At various stages since the strike began, those I have mentioned have met and decided their policy, and have sought through whatever means were open to them, to influence the Executive Council. They started with a disadvantage, that there were no Communist members on that Council. What they had to do was to operate through any who were responsive to their suggestions, including a circle of members whose conception of the seamen's strike made them amenable to the type of proposals the Communist Party were advocating. I have already referred to the difficulties of industrial democracy in the election of the Council, and one must recognise the effects of the history of this Union in the inexperience of many of its members. This political and industrial inexperience of some of its members—which you would not find in most of our other unions—meant that a small number of men exercised an influence far beyond their numbers.
§ If I have to refer to Mr. Joseph Kenny and Mr. James Slater, neither of whom is a member of the Communist Party—may I repeat that: Mr. Joseph Kenny and Mr. James Slater, neither of whom is a member of the Communist Party—one must acknowledge their political and argumentative skill. The Prime Minister has had five meetings with the Executive Council, or with committees appointed by that Council, and he can testify to their ability, to their mastery of the details of seamen's complaints, to their ability to absorb skilled briefings, and to their dominance among their colleagues. They live in Liverpool and South Shields respectively, and over these past few weeks when they have attended Executive Council meetings in London they have stayed at the same flat as Mr. Jack Coward. During the strike Mr. Ramelson has visited this flat when Mr. Kenny and Mr. Slater were staving there, and Mr. Norris, of course, has also been in constant touch with them. They have, in fact, 602 been in continuous contact with Mr. Ramelson and Mr. Norris. The Prime Minister has had enough first-hand experience to recognise that these two have dominated the Executive Council throughout the negotiations. Again, they were predominant in the Executive's brusque and unanimous rejection of the appeal which the Prime Minister made to the Executive a week last Friday.
§ The House may well ask how influences of this kind, even exercised through a small number of highly articulate and experienced members of the Executive, could have so long secured acceptance, unanimously and almost without rebuttal, from a Council of 48 members. But first let us recognise that the views which the militant members of the Council were expressing fell on fertile ground because all their colleagues were aware of the feelings of the seagoing community. Let none of us underrate the extent to which moderate members of the Executive Council, no less militant in their objectives than their militant colleagues, would be subject to pressures which many of us would find distasteful, and perhaps almost irresistible. The treatment which those who advocated a return to work have received on occasion in the last six weeks might have daunted the toughest of us.
A long article in The Guardian last Saturday indicated the pressures to which any moderate member might be subjected in his strike committee, in his home port, and (let us not underrate this) in the treatment he might receive when he returned to his ship. That article referred to the fact that at many of these meetings they will recognise
men who are not in the N.U.S., but are members of other Unions …
It referred to the organised pattern which could be discerned, their aim being
to keep the temperature of meetings running high; to inflame the legitimate grievances of seamen by intervening with abrasive slogans shouted at appropriate moments.
I would commend to noble Lords the evidence produced in that article, but I will not spell it out at greater length here. Time and again in this dispute the Communist Party's objectives havevery rapidly become the policy of the Executive. This is particularly true in relation to the determination of the Party to spread the strike. This was, it is true,
the policy of the National Union of Seamen; it was not the policy of the T.U.C. or of any of the other unions affiliated to the T.U.C.
When the State of Emergency was declared, the Morning Star, with which is incorporated the Daily Worker, declared—and I quote:
…no self-respecting trade unionist will work in co-operation with the Army and Navy
every trade unionist must rise in solidarity in support of the seamen.
That is the end of the quotation from the Morning Star. This was a clear invitation to extend the dispute, and obviously the most likely area of extension wasthe docks. This was, in fact, the policy pursued by Mr. Ramelson and his colleagues; it was not the policy of Mr. Hogarth who, though his presence at the dock meeting had been announced, knew that, in accordance with the usual rules with which the T.U.C.would be concerned, it would be utterly wrong for him to appeal to the members of another union except with the approval of the executive committee of that union.
§ The policy of extending the dispute was, however, conducted by Mr. Ramelson, Mr. Goodwin, anda number of other influential Communists whose influence extended to unions beyond the National Union of Seamen. The most prominent of these was Mr. Harry Watson, the President of the Lightermen's Union, and such well-known figures as Mr. Jack Dash and Mr. Danny Lyons, who are both members of the unofficial liaison committee in the London docks, together with Mr. Gordon Norris and Mr. Jack Coward, representing the seamen. I have referred to Mr. Dash, but I should say that he has taken a more moderate linebecause he was torn between his loyalty to the Party and his loyalty to his union, which was resisting all pressure to take the Communist line.
§ The House will have followed with interest the course of events in the week in which the Pearson Report came out. There is much to suggest that the rejection of the Interim Report was virtually a fait accompli before the Executive had even seen the text of the Report. Inaccurate accounts of what the Court of Inquiry was likely to recommend were 604 circulating on the night of Tuesday, June 7, and were almost certainly known to some of those I have mentioned. On the Wednesday morning, the Executive received the text of the Report and rejected it with their customary unanimity, after the most perfunctory discussion. From then on, the emphasis was on widening the dispute.
§ On June 13 a meeting of about 1,500 workers, chaired by Mr. Jack Coward, was held in the London Docks and was addressed by Mr. Watson, Mr. Norris and Mr. Dash—the first two with great enthusiasm, and the third with lesser enthusiasm—commending a resolution to "black" all British ships in the London docks. But a fourth speaker, Mr. Munday, the official representative for the Transport and General Workers' Union, took the opposite line. In the event, the resolution was carried, and two hours of confusion in London Docks followed while the dockers sought advice from those able and competent to give that advice. And because of the resolute advice given by Mr. Munday, on behalf of the Transportand General Workers' Union, the dockers, despite that resolution, were by 12 o'clock hard at work on the ships. This was a turning point in the history of the strike. But another turning point was the rejection by the International Transport Federation, whose British representatives include all Britain's transport unions—the railway unions, the Transport and General Workers' Union, the Merchant Navy Officers' Association, as well as the N.U.S.—of the National Union of Seamen's request that they call on foreign seamen's unions to take corresponding action to prevent the movement to Britain of foreign-owned ships.
§ The last hope of those who sought to extend the strike, to extend the damage to Britain's economy, let alone to bring the nation and the Government to a state of surrender, was the meeting two days ago of the Management Committee of the International Transport Federation where, though an appeal for financial help was approved, moves to extend the strike were finally buried. Once June 13had passed, the emphasis shifted to the talks which the Prime Minister and the Minister of Labour were holding with the unions and the employers. I believe that there came a point where there was 605 a widespread recognition that the strike had reached a point of diminishing returns.
§ The purpose of Her Majesty's Government was to see whether there was a way to meet their concern about the question of leave arrangements—at no additional cost beyond what was contemplated by the Court of Inquiry, and at no additional cost in terms of a national incomes and prices policy. But political rather than industrial counsels won the day. The Government appeal to the Executive again met with the most brusque of rejections. This may have been connected with the intense and active canvassing of a substantial number of Council members on the night of Thursday, June 16. However that may be, that rejection was clear-cut and, as I have said, unanimous. Yet a large proportion of the Executive, almost certainly a majorityon the previous Friday, if they had voted according to their considered opinions would have voted for a return to work, or at least a return to negotiations on the basis of what the Prime Minister and the Minister of Labour had said to them. One result, however, of what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said last Monday, is that the moderates have now become articulate, and in doing so they represent the majority of the rank-and-tile members of the union, particularly those who have—and I should pay tribute to them—suffered great hardships for the cause in which they believe.
§ I know that there will be those who say that it is not the duty of the Government, or of anyone who holds the responsibilities that the Prime Minister holds, to be concerned with such matters; that our duty is to remain aloof. But having regard to the great economic dangers to this nation, having regard to the determined battle we are fighting for economic solvency, I have no doubt myself—and I hope the House will have no doubt—that it was the Prime Minister's duty to take this action. I have no doubt, moreover, that his action has had a beneficial and crucial effect. This is not the moment to anticipate the findings of the Royal Commission, which will be concerned with legal and constitutional matters, and also with deep problems of human relations. But I would, in conclusion, say one final word which does not occur in the Prime Minister's speech.606
§ He pays tribute, and I would join the Prime Minister in paying tribute, to the splendid work of the Minister of Labour in recent times and earlier, and we shall all wish him a speedy recovery from the ill-health which has temporarily overtaken him after all his exertions. But, in addition, I should like to record my strong personal conviction that the Prime Minister has rendered an immense service of permanent value to the nation, and particularly to our workpeople, by his candid and highly instructive words last week. It needed true courage to speak as he did, and as time passes it will become, I believe, ever more clear that we should all be wholeheartedly grateful to him. My Lords, I beg to move that these Regulations be approved.
§ Moved, That the Emergency (No. 2) Regulations 1966 made by Her Majesty in Council on the 22nd June, 1966 under the Emergency Powers Act, 1920, and laid before the House on that date, shall continue in force subject to the provisions of Section 2(4) of the said Act.—(The Earl of Longford.)
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, we are all obliged to the noble Earl the Leader of the House for what he said, and for the care and trouble which he has taken in repeating to your Lordships the substance of what the Prime Minister has said in another place. All of us, wherever we sit, are equally disappointed that the signs of an end to the strike are now less hopeful than they were at the week-end, but we still do not know what is going to happen when the seamen's Executive meets.
I do not wish to comment on the terms which have been offered, or the attitudes taken up by the parties concerned. We greatly regret the continuation of the strike. I do not believe that while negotiations are in progress there is anything to be gained from criticising the conduct of the negotiations by any of those involved. I shall therefore reserve anything I might have to say about that until after the strike is over. But there is one aspect upon which I do wish to make a comment. I feel very critical of the Government in not having brought home, either by their speeches or by their general attitude to this strike, the seriousness of the situation and the economic 607 damage which will be caused to the nation. For example, it was very noticeable in the Prime Minister's statement on Monday, June 20, that until the very last half of the last sentence of his statement—which was a long one—there was no mention of the danger to the economic welfare of the country. And, indeed, if what the noble Earl has said this afternoon is a true guide to what the Prime Minister has said in another place this afternoon, there was only one sentence which referred to the consequences—and what I believe may be the disastrous consequences—of this strike.
I think the Government are particularly at fault in this sense. By the very nature of the strike itself, its effect has so far not been at all evident except in very rare cases, either by shortage of goods or by hardship to individuals. For instance, I do not think that the casual visitor to London would find a shortage of anything in the shops, nor would he find an awareness that a serious strike was going on and that it was in its sixth week. It is, of course, far too early to say what the economic consequences will be, but of one thing there is no doubt, and that is that they will be very grave indeed. To take but one example, we have been doing a good deal of trade promotion recently in Australia and New Zealand. All, or very nearly all, British goods shipped to Australia and New Zealand travel by British ship. No ship has left for many weeks. Our competitors will not be slow to take advantage of the interruption in the stream of British exports. There must be cases in many other parts of the world where non-delivery of British goods, as a result of the strike, has affected the future purchases of our exports.
The strike has now continued for so long that, even if it ended to-day, it would take in some cases up to twelve months to reposition the ships of the lines affected, and the effect of that will last a very long time. It may be true, too, that some British companies will find it difficult to recapture some of the trade that they have lost, and it may even be that some of them will not find it possible to carry on at all.
Taken together, all these things may have incalculable effects on our economy. Yet we have seen on television or heard 608 in Parliament or elsewhere very little stress laid on this most serious aspect of the strike; and, if I may say so, my Lords, members of the Government so articulate in other respects have been strangely silent in this one. Public opinion can usually play a very large part in settling a serious strike. If the overwhelming majority of the people of this country were wholly and vocally against the strike, who knows what the effect would have been, and would be, on the seamen and their families? It is very difficult to stand up to the disapproval and hostility of those whom one meets in daily life. I think the Government have failed. They have failed to make the nation aware of the gravity of the situation—and, indeed, have perhaps failed to realise it themselves. In my view, they must take a share of the responsibility for the continuation of the strike.
As for the explanation given by the noble Earl of the Prime Minister's references last Monday to Communist influences and to how far members of the executive are their own masters in taking their decisions, I would wish to study very much more carefully what he has said, because he made a long Statement. A preliminary comment, however, is that I was a little uncertain of what he said about the executive not being able to take their own decisions; but perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, could clarify that point when he comes to wind up. As indeed the noble Earlhas said, it is fairly obvious that Communists and extreme Left-Wing and militant agitators do what they can to make trouble. It is, of course in their interests to do so; and though, as the noble Earl has said, it is not illegal, and in this country the Communist Party is not illegal, it is deplorable that they should seem to wield so much power and to have so much influence. We shall certainly have to question the Government very closely on what they intend to do in the future about the unions, and what proposals they have for speeding up the report of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions.
In the light of what the noble Earl has said, I think there really should be an inquiry into the circumstances which have been revealed—perhaps under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, or possibly under some other procedure 609 which may be equally appropriate. But I do not think that we ought to leave things as they are after what we have been told this afternoon. In the meantime, of course, we support the extension of the Emergency Regulations, and hope that common sense will prevail and that the strike will soon end.
§ 5.43 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to join in thanking the noble Earl for his Statement and for revealing what the Prime Minister has said in another place. It was not a very surprising Statement. I think all of us could have anticipated much of what he said. On the other hand, he said a good deal, and I therefore do not think it is suitable to turn this into a debate on the details of the matter in question. I think all of us on this side of the House must have a great deal of sympathy with the second point made by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. We really are guilty—or perhaps one should say the Government have been rather guilty—of fiddling while Rome burns.
The noble Earl said that this "sad and regrettable position" had been "allowed to grow and fester and suppurate" for years. My question is: Why was it allowed to do that? I think both the Parties who have recently held the reins of Government might have done something more, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said, the position is not that of a domestic difficulty. Its effects are world-wide, and are damaging our commerce and ourselves to the very roots of our being.
The fact that only 5,000 delegates out of 60,000 members elected their executive seems to me a very bad state of affairs indeed, and I would support the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in pressing for some sort of inquiry into this state of affairs and into trade unions in general—trade unions which we on these Benches support wholeheartedly as a matter of principle—so that the trade unionist, poor chap!, gets a fair deal and does not have some of his leaders rather exploiting him and the employers thereby having to take a more hostile line than they otherwise would.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, I must say that I regret the Statement made 610 by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and regard it as extremely disquieting. I am very grateful to him, as I am sure we all are, for giving us the information he did, but I think it discloses a situation of very great gravity. I agree with all that my noble friend Lord Carrington has said about the serious consequences to the nation which will inevitably flow from this strike not having been brought home to the people. They will, of course, affect everyone in this country, and great injury has been done to the prospects of the nation.
I suppose most people think that the right to refuse to work, if one wishes to refuse,is an essential feature of a free society, though many may regret that this weapon is now sometimes used, so far as one can judge, for wholly inadequate reasons and without regard to the damage done to the nation. But that kind of strike action is surely of a very different character from strike action fostered, maintained and pursued, not just on account of a trade dispute but because, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has said, behind the scenes there are a group of people intent on damaging the nation for their own political ends. Strike action of that kind is of a very different character and constitutes a real threat to the nation. I see that Mr. Woodcock described such conduct as a crime. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, has said that it is not illegal. I do not propose to express a view upon that, because it is not really upon that that I rose to address your Lordships.
I would not for one moment wish to suggest that what the noble Earl has said to us this afternoon, what I gather the Prime Minister has said in another place and what the Prime Minister said eight days ago, is inaccurate in any particular; I should not like to be thought to be questioning the accuracy of any of the information which has been given. But there are many in this country who will. There will be a great many people who will not accept what the noble Earl has said. A great many people, or some people, will seek to challenge it. If what we have been told is true, as I believe it is, then it seems to me of vital importance that that truth should be established in the most convincing way possible. I may be wrong, but I do not 611 think that in these days people are so ready to accept statements made by politicians unsupported by evidence, whatever eminence those politicians may have.
Therefore, I support most strongly the suggestion put forward by my noble friend that there ought to be an inquiry into this matter. I do not think—I never have thought—that an inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 ought to be lightly undertaken—we have had several in the last few years—but if ever there was an occasion for the appointment of a tribunal to inquire into these matters and to report to the country, this, I believe, is the occasion for it. I cannot myself but believe that the report of such a tribunal would be much more widely and generally accepted, after the tribunal has inquired into the matter and heard evidence, than any statements made by anyone in either House.
What reasons can be advanced against it? It may be said that some of the information which we have been given has been derived from secret sources and it is not desired to compromise those sources. That is no argument for not appointing such a tribunal, because we have had tribunals which have sat in camera—and they should sit in camera when matters of secrecy are involved—and we have had tribunals which have sat sometimes in camera and sometimes in public, and their reports have been published and made known.
There will be many, I have no doubt, who will seek to contend that what the Prime Minister has said and what the noble Earl the Leader of the House has said has been said inaccurately and is wrong. If the Prime Minister has been misled or misinformed, by all means let that be established; but if he has not, then let that be established as conclusively as possible. If it be the case that there is this conspiracy, this network of people belonging to a political Party seeking to infiltrate into our industrial organisation and seeking, whenever they can, to damage the prospects of the nation, the sooner that is made public in a form which is widely accepted and acceptable, I believe the better. When the facts are fully known I cannot help thinking that, though what has been done by these in- 612 dividuals, as the noble Lord has said, is not now illegal, certainly there ought to be consideration of the question whether such conduct should not be made illegal; and I hope that the Royal Commission will have regard to that.
My Lords, in recent years, indeed, in recent months, one has heard the word "traitor" used repeatedly and, I think, very inaccurately and wrongly. I am not going to use that word in relation to the kind of activities to which the noble Earl referred; but at the same time I should think that with the country in this present economic situation, there are few activities that could be more damaging to the prospects of the whole of this nation than the kind of activities to which the noble Earl has referred. It is for those reasons—and I do not want to pursue the matter—that I press the noble Earl and the Government to give serious consideration to the desirability of appointing a tribunal to operate under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ LORD CITRINE
My Lords, I wish my first words to be words of sincere congratulation to the Prime Minister for the courageous action he has taken in dealing with some of the influences which are behind the seamen's strike. Like other Members of your Lordships' House, I will not say anything about the merits of the strike. But I have been very much concerned, as I have in my trade union career, with the obvious evidences—to me at least—of Communist and external interest with the conduct of the strike.
Some of the statements made by the Prime Minister reminded me very forcibly of a pamphlet I wrote in 1927. Perceiving the menace to the trade union movement in the activities of the Communist Party in the industrial world, I wrote that pamphlet, which I called, Democracy or Disruption, and in it I gave first-hand evidence from Communist sources, international as well as national, of the existence of the Communist Party's disruptive operations. Unfortunately, there are a large number of people in the Labour movement of this country whose sympathies with anything in the way of working-class action are so strong that they confuse Communist operations with trade union or Labour militancy—something which I think is perfectly legitimate 613 and inseparable from the operations of trade unionism. But there is all the difference between the organised operations of the Communist Party to seek to control the operations of the trade unions in the industrial sphere and the militancy which has been characteristic of the trade union movement throughout its histroy.
My Lords, the Communist Party has shown its inability to succeed in the political sphere directly by the election of its members to Parliament; and it therefore approaches the matter in a quite different way. It seeks to gain, not massive support by individuals in the trade union movement joining the Communist Party, but by getting its candidates into key positions inside the unions. That has been the Communist Party's considered policy ever since I can remember; and my experience runs back over 40 years or more. That policy has operated very largely because of the apathy in the average trade union on the occasion of electing its officials. I gathered from the Statement read by the noble Earl that the Prime Minister has made some reference about the smallness of the voting in the Seamen's Union for the election of the Executive Council. That is not peculiar to the Seamen's Union: it exists in some of the largest unions in the country. The Amalgamated Engineering Union seldom gets more than a 10 per cent. vote of its members in electing its officials to the highest positions, and in the Electrical Trades Union the Communist Party specialised in methods of securing people, who would otherwise be minority candidates, to succeed to their positions because of that apathy. They are out to capture the leadership of the trade union movement. That is what they are concerned with. Once that is done, the obtrusiveness of the dictatorship method in which they firmly believe is clearly discernible to those who follow their operations.
It can be taken for granted that in nearly every large-scale strike in this country there is, somewhere or other, a Communist nucleus at work. The strike may be because of legitimate grievances—as I believe is so in the present case—but it is quite different, on the one hand, to strike to secure redress of legitimate grievances and, on the other, to disrupt industry, and to disrupt, in the course of 614 those strikes, a trade union for the purpose—to my mind remote and impossible—of somehow securing the overthrow of capitalism. It is absolute nonsense to use phrases of that kind; but unfortunately it happens to be true that that is the objective of the Communist Party even to-day.
The shop stewards of this country have been organised by the Communist Party over a long period of years into a sort of rival leadership to the ordinary elected leaders and appointed leaders of the trade union movement. One finds time and time again in the operations of the shop stewards all the evidences of Communist infiltration and leadership. The difficulty is one of proof. I am not a lawyer, but I know sufficiently well that a fact may be clearly established in a person's mind, yet he may not be able to produce the evidence of it. There may be all sorts of reasons why that is not possible; but, in regard to the Communist Party's activities in the industrial sphere of this country, the evidence is ample. It was so in my time; it remains true to-day.
It should be remembered that it is a perfectly legitimate principle of the Communist Party which enables its members to deny their membership. It is the Jesuitical doctrine, "The end justifies the means"; and as they do not believe in what they call capitalist morality, what is wrong with a member, in the furtherance of the objects that he and his Party stand for, denying his membership of the Party? We in the trade union movement long suspected certain people who were Communist in every way, except in their admission that they were members of the Communist Party. I hope that will not be overlooked.
What is going on is a definite and sustained policy for the capture of the trade union movement, to make it an instrument of Communist domination. I heard—at least I think I heard—the Prime Minister's reference to the fact that no sort of assistance (I am paraphrasing, of course), no sort of intervention—shall I so put it?—in this strike had come from abroad. Are we absolutely sure of that? Have we never heard of a body called the World Federation of Trade Unions, of which I was the first Chairman in the days of 1945 and 1946;when we tried to organise something in the way of a democratic organisation to cover the 615 whole of the world's trade unionists? That organisation was subsequently disrupted after I left it, by Communist machinations inside that body for political ends. I had indeed predicted, in February, 1945, that if political issues and tactics were employed in the International, it would go to pieces; and it went to pieces in 1949. My membership and my connection ceased in 1946.
So I wonder, are we absolutely sure that there is no sort of connection with any objectives abroad in this strike? I am perfectly sure that the members of the Executive of the National Union of Seamen have no such objective. I am satisfied that taking them as a group (I do not know what individuals may want), as an executive body, they have one sole purpose; and that sole purpose is to secure the redress of their grievances and enhance their conditions of employment.
Before the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the Leader of the Opposition, and the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, spoke, I had written down the words, "Inquiry into the industrial operations of the Communist Party". Therefore, so far as I am personally concerned (I speak for myself, and I know that there will be dissension outside this House over some of the things I have said), an essential feature which has been revealed to public attention by this strike is that an inquiry should have taken place years ago. I tried to do a little investigating in the Law Courts, in a libel action that I took, with some very surprising results.
My Lords, how does the Communist Party obtain its funds? How is it able to run a staff of industrial organisers? How is it able to have those men posted all over the country to take advantage of grievances and industrial disputes which may arise? Where do they get the money? That has always been the problem, and to me it was one of the biggest problems when, in pursuing the proprietors of the Daily Worker into bankruptcy, I found that the paper was legally owned by a clerk who was in receipt of £4 per week. Where do they get their money? It is beyond the resources of the Labour Movement as a whole, industrial and political, to run a daily newspaper, a national daily news- 616 paper; and yet here is a Party, of small membership, fractional membership compared with the others, the big Parties and the big trade unions, which can do so.
Just one or two words in reference to what has been said from the opposite side of the House. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, thought that the economic stresses on the country had not been sufficiently emphasised by the Prime Minister and also in respect of the television interviews which have taken place. It is not the purpose of the National Union of Seamen, I am perfectly sure, to create damage and loss to the country as a whole, but how can they possibly pursue a strike without creating that loss? How is it possible? They believe that the owners could give them greater concessions than those which have already been offered, but what other weapon have they at their disposal to secure that the owners sufficiently feel the losses that are inevitable from a strike so as to induce them to make greater concessions?
If that reasoning by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is correct, does it not follow that any large strike of any kind, by the seamen, or any other kind of strike, ultimately has the object of inflicting economic loss, not on the country—that is something which happens indirectly—but on the employers direct? I do not know. It is a doctrine we have to be a little careful not to stress too far. I am sure that if any other method were open to the seamen, they would try to use it. It is a natural consequence of strikes that economic loss is inflicted on your opponents. Here the opponents happen to be the employers and, unfortunately, indirectly the country as a whole. Nor do I think it wise to overstate the influence of public opinion on a particular dispute. Public opinion, in the sense of an inquiry and the facts revealed by that inquiry, may be a very formidable factor indeed, but in respect of a trade union dispute it is my experience that if the union is in a strong position, public opinion is of little importance to its members. I am now, of course, talking about the individual rank-and-file members who carry on the strike.
My Lords, I conclude by saying that I hope that an inquiry will be set up. I should prefer it to be into the industrial operations of the Communist Party, but it may have to go wider than that. I 617 most certainly hope that no expedient, such as referring this matter to the Royal Commission, for example, will be employed. It would be a vague inquiry; it would not be a precise inquiry; it would be an inquiry which was lost in a large measure by the multitude of other questions with which the Royal Commission is grappling. I say, and I repeat, speaking for myself, that I sincerely hope that the Government will, when this trouble is over, launch an inquiry, a well-meditated inquiry, with proper and adequate terms of reference and proper personnel, into the operations of what has been the most insidious force, so far as I know, inside the industrial world.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I shall detain the House only for a very few moments. I agree with a good deal of what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, but I disagree very emphatically with his criticism of my noble friend Lord Carrington for what he said about the duty of the Government to bring home to the nation the economic damage. I think that I have spoken and written as much as possibly anybody in this Chamber in support of the right to strike. But, my Lords, the right to strike does not mean that it is improper to point out the consequences of a strike when they are so ruinous to the nation,
The noble Lord, Lord Citrine, was quite right to point out what is the problem of the trade union seeking better terms for its members. It is operating directly against the employers; but if it involves the nation in immense loss, it is, I think, the task of the Government to point out that loss to the nation which is so deeply concerned. It does not mean, of course, that the justice of the claim put forward by the trade union should be ignored. But it does mean that the propriety of continuing the strike after just terms have been offered for a settlement ought to be considered in the light of the effect the continuation of the strike is having on the nation.
It is curious for me to hear the sudden discovery of the effect of the activities of the Communist Party, which are now being pointed out in various quarters, for I was saying all these things in speeches and writing nearly twenty years ago. The most astonishing of all surprises is that people point out, as though 618 it were a great discovery, that the Communists do not succeed in getting their members openly returned to the House of Commons. They are not even particularly eager so to do. What they are aiming at is what the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, pointed out, the capture of key positions in which they can make their will and their action effective.
Many years ago, I remember debating at the Cambridge Union against the late Mr. Harry Pollitt. I congratulated the other side in having their foremost speaker to represent the cause and asked my audience not to be put off in any way by the fact that he had never been elected to the House of Commons. The reason was that, whenever he had stood for election, the electors had been allowed to vote for somebody else. The Communists, of course, were going to do away with all that nonsense. In every county where Communism triumphs Communists are the only people for whom it is legitimate to vote. The idea that the strength of the Communists depends in any way on political success in entering Parliament is an illusion.
In common with the noble Lord, LordCitrine, I strongly support the plea that has been made by my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne, but I do not think that the inquiry can be into the activities of the Communist Party. I think that they would be involved, but I do not think that would be the subject matter of an inquiry. I think that the subject matter must be the charges made by Her Majesty's Government. I am not judging on the truth of these charges at all. It seems to me, from what I know, that it extremely likely that these charges are completely true, but there are those in the trade unions concerned—honest men—who will say that these charges are smears—in fact, it has been so said—and many will believe that.
I think that the subject of the inquiry for which my noble and learned friend has asked so persuasively must not be directed in terms to the activities of the Communist Party. There is nothing new about them. The subject matter must be the charges which have been made by the Prime Minister and Her Majesty's Government on what they have been doing on this occasion. That will involve the inquiry for which the noble 619 Lord, Lord Citrine, has asked, but I do not think that what my noble and learned friend was asking for was a general inquiry into Communism, but an inquiry into what the Government say has happened in this case.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I do not want to crow but I feel vindicated, for ever since I came into your Lordships' House I have been speaking on this subject of the infiltration of Communism into industry, as noble Lords will see if they read back Hansards. I have also given plenty of instances. But no one ever took it seriously. I am extremely glad that the Prime Minister has had the courage to bring this out into the open at last. It is most cheering from my point of view. And I have not the least doubt that what he says is completely true.
Regarding the excellent speech of the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, I could tell him where before the war the Communist Party got their funds. It was through a certain timber importing firm. I can tell him the name in private, if he would like to know it. I have always taken a great interest in the Communist Party, as I have always realised their extreme danger to the cause of freedom in this country. If freedom is not cared for, freedom will destroy itself. And I have often pointed out the great danger of the Communist Party's gaining control of the unions.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD STONHAM)
My Lords, my noble Leader in his full Statement deployed a great many of the facts and most of the arguments in this matter. It will only be necessary for me to reply as briefly as I can to some of the points that have been raised in the debate.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was very critical of the Government and accused the Government of not having brought home the seriousness of the strike and its economic consequences to the nation. The noble Lord, Lord Rea (who advised me that he had to leave), even accused us—it was most 620 unlike him—of fiddling while Rome burned. It is not asking a great deal of noble Lords to cast their minds back some six weeks to the start of the strike, when the Prime Minister spoke to the nation an television. I do not think that anyone can possibly say that he did not, in the gravest terms, point out to the whole nation the serious nature of the problem which confronted us and the serious economic consequences to everyone throughout the nation if the strike continued. Indeed, he was criticised by many people for having made such a grave statement.
Ever since then, at every possible opportunity, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, and all other Ministers, have not ceased to printout these facts. In particular, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Labour, in all their discussions with the executive of the Seamen's Union, have pointed to the seriousness of the consequences. I think it is grossly unfair to make this charge. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that the casual visitor to London would not find a shortage of anything. I agree that that is so. But that, in a way, is a tribute to the arrangements that have been made, and also a tribute to the way in which other trade unions have discharged their responsibilities and kept essential supplies going, so that it has not been necessary to use the Emergency Powers which we took four weeks ago.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, the noble Lord has misunderstood what I have said. What I was saying was that, because there was no shortage, and you came to London and did not find a shortage of anything, people were not aware that a strike was going on, and this made it doubly important for the Government to bring home to the people of the country the seriousness of the economic consequences of the strike.
§ LORD STONHAM
It may well be that a visitor from abroad would be in some doubt about it, but anyone who has mixed with the people of this country will be well aware that they are all extremely conscious of the strike and anxious about it, and the one thing that has surprised them is that there has been, so far, less personal hardship than they had expected. But that is not a matter with 621 which to reproach the Government. Certainly we have done everything possible to bring the consequences of this strike and of its continuance to the notice of the people.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that public opinion could play a large part in fighting a strike. I entirely agree. But the noble Lord will be aware that at the commencement of the strike there was a large body of opinion which had considerable sympathy with the seamen's case. Neither the Prime Minister, nor anyone in the Cabinet, has ever denied that, and, indeed, have often said that the seamen have a very strong case. That continued for several weeks of the strike Indeed, I think one of the factors which is now altering the situation, and is responsible for the welcome change of attitude on the part of the members of the executive of the N.U.S., is the change in public opinion: because the good will of a large number of the people has been eroded by the constant succession of instantaneous refusals to consider what appeared to be, not only to the general public, but to the T.U.C., constructive proposals which, it was thought by objectively minded people, formed a basis for discussion. Therefore, we certainly agree that public opinion in this matter is important.
I think the most important point that has been raised in every speech, except the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, is the demand for an inquiry. There is unanimity among those who have spoken about an inquiry. But there is complete disunity among all four about what the inquiry should be about.
§ LORD STONHAM
I listened to all four, and if noble Lords will just listen to me, I will say how I heard it. First of all, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, asked for an inquiry into the circumstances which have been revealed—and they are either his exact words or a fair paraphrase of them. My noble friend Lord Citrine asked for an inquiry into the effects of Communist activity in industry. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, asked for a tribunal of inquiry under the Tribunals and Inquiries Act; and, as I understood him—and certainly as his noble friend Lord Cones- 622 ford understood him—into the legal aspects of the matter.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
Not as regards the legal aspect of the matter, my Lords You do not appoint a tribunal of inquiry under the 1921 Act to find out what the legal aspects are You appoint one to find out the facts. And the facts that ought to be investigated are the very same facts for which my noble friends Lord Carrington asked; that is, the full circumstance of what has now been disclosed by the Prime Minister and the noble Earl the Leader of this House. That is exactly another way of expressing what I, and my noble friends Lord Conesford, were asking for.
§ LORD CITRINE
My Lords, may I join in that? I thought that what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, had said in regard to the circumstances of the strike opened up the operations of the Communist Party in industry as a whole. Surely that is a feasible and proper deduction from what was said.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord why he said that I do not want an inquiry? I certainly want an inquiry.
§ LORD STONHAM
I left the noble Viscount out because he got up and said in terms that he knew all about it, and, indeed, had conveyed all the information, and would convey it again privately to my noble friend. Obviously, if he knows all the answers, there is no need for an inquiry. I think, if your Lordships study Hansard to-morrow, not merely what was originally said, but what has been said now, you will see that there is justification for my view that in the speeches we have listened to we have heard a virtually unanimous demand for an inquiry, and considerable differences of opinion as to what the inquiry should be about.
§ LORD STONHAM
Well, that is my view as I heard it. May I remind your Lordships that we have now the Court of Inquiry under Lord Pearson, which will continue and complete its work and make recommendations with regard to legislation? We decided to set up a separate independent inquiry into the 623 structure, organisation and efficiency of the industry. As well as these two major and essential inquiries, we have also the Royal Commission on Trade Unions which, in many of its aspects, will certainly be relevant to what we have been discussing. I have to say, in answer to noble Lords' questions, that the Government have no intention of setting up any other inquiry.
§ LORD STONHAM
I have made the reasons clear, because I have given the nature of the inquiries now going on, including the Royal Commission on Trade Unions; and the Government do not intend to have any other inquiries.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? As I understand it, the Pearson Committee are inquiring into the industry, and there is the Royal Commission on Trade Unions. What my noble friends and I were asking for (and, of course, the terms of reference would have to be settled at a later date if there were an inquiry) was an inquiry into the circumstances which the Prime Minister has revealed. This is not touched on by the other two inquiries.
§ LORD CITRINE
My Lords, are we to understand from the noble Lord that the Government, before hearing a word of the debate in this House, have made up their mind? If so, I protest most strongly against it.
§ LORD STONHAM
Well, my Lords. it is the case, also, that a number of noble Lords had made up their minds to demand an inquiry before ever they heard a word of the debate.
§ LORD CITRINE
Well, do not include this noble Lord in that. I wrote out my points while the debate was in progress.
§ LORD STONHAM
I have one or two more points that I should like to deal with which were raised during the debate.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I should like to make the same disclaimer. I did not even know that the request for an inquiry was going to be made. I had had no conversation whatever with any of my noble friends. I decided that there ought to be an inquiry when I listened to the speech of the noble Earl the Leader of the House. What I had in mind was that everything he said might be absolutely true and relevant. Of course, I knew that he thought it was. But I also had in mind, as one who has in the course of time met many trade unionists and trade union leaders, that the trade union concerned and many of its members might say, "This is a smear". I thought that, if they did, as I believe they will, these allegations should be the subject of an inquiry.
§ LORD STONHAM
I do not doubt that there are people who would say that what has been said is a smear. They are likely to be people who are affected by the truth, and we should be quite unmoved by statements of that kind. On the point about not having prepared any of this, I hope that my noble friend Lord Citrine and the noble Lord, Lord Cones-ford, will acquit me of any kind of slur. I, too, am speaking without any kind of notes, except those I have taken down during the debate.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, is the noble Lord trying to suggest that I have come here with the completely preconceived idea of asking for an inquiry? That seems to me to follow from what he has said. After the Prime Minister made his statement eight days ago, I thought that there might be need for an inquiry into those allegations so that they could be established beyond any doubt. That is what I should like to see. When the statement was made to-day by the Leader of the House, I was confirmed in that impression, and I should be grateful if, as a matter of courtesy, the Government would say why they have rejected my suggestion flatly and straight away—I asked that it should be 625 thought about—without giving any reason. The noble Lord will bear in mind that the Prime Minister has been challenged to say outside this House what he has said inside, obviously with a view to bringing the matter before the courts. If he does not repeat it outside, great capital will be made out of that fact. I do not want to cast the slightest criticism on the Prime Minister for what he has said. I want to see it established conclusively and convincingly by an independent tribunal, because then it will carry weight.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for repeating again what he said in his speech: that he has no doubt about the accuracy of what has been said. But he did say, or suggest, that there might be many people who would question that accuracy; and he has said it again. I do not think the Prime Minister's words, which have been repeated by my noble Leader, will be questioned by any but a small minority of people in this country. Remember, my Lords, that the people have seen and heard on their television screens, very convincingly, the words and actions of many of the people to whom reference has been made. They are aware of these things, and I do not think they will have any doubt at all from their own knowledge that what has been said to-day, both here and in another place, is absolutely true and has been submitted in very restrained terms.
The noble and learned Viscount said that the conduct about which we have been talking to-day should be made illegal. I have nothing to say on behalf of the Government about that.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt again, but with great respect I did not say that. I said that consideration should be given to that question. I was not expressing a view on it.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, before my noble friend leaves the question of an inquiry, I should like to ask whether I understood him correctly when he said that all these matters could be investigated by the Royal Commission. Was he suggesting that that is an alternative way of 626 carrying out the inquiry? If that is so, is not the real question which of the two methods is the more satisfactory?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, to quote my noble friend, I did not say that all these matters can be considered by the Royal Commission. What I said, and would repeat, is that there are many implications in the present circumstances which it would be natural for the Royal Commission to inquire into, and which may well guide them in any views they may express. But we certainly could not, and should not, attempt to anticipate what the Royal Commission might say.
I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Citrine for his speech and for reminding us that as long ago as 1927 he published a pamphlet called, as I understood him, Democracy or Disruption. My Lords, that is nearly forty years ago, but that is what this whole dispute is about: it is a choice between democracy or disruption. It is quite clear from what my noble Leader has said this afternoon, and from the facts that he has given—and again they were confirmed by my noble friend Lord Citrine out of his forty years'experience—that what he described was the calculated and sustained policy of the Communist Party to capture the trade union movement and use it for the furtherance of Communist policy. What that means is that it is an attempt to create industrial chaos in which they think Communism may breed and flourish. That is what makes the Statement by the Prime Minister on June 20 of such outstanding importance. As my noble Leader said, it took a great deal of courage to make that statement at that time, and to say what has again been said to-day. But the Prime Minister decided that he would not be doing his duty if in this matter he stood aloof.
It is absolutely vital that we fight and win the fight for economic solvency. In order to do that, the unions and the public must be informed and aroused to the need in a free democratic society for them to be active all the time, and to defeat the few organized wreckers in our midst. In other words, as my noble friend suggested, people have to decide as much in 1966 as in 1927 whether it is to be "democracy or disruption". In nothing which has been said by the Prime Minister, and certainly in nothing which 627 has been said by my noble Leader, has there been any attack at all on trade unionism or on militancy. What we are doing is attempting to create the right conditions for constructive trade union action on behalf of trade unionists and the nation.
I welcome the hope of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, which we all share, that this disastrous strike will be settled soon on the fair terms which are available, and have been available for a long time. But it does not rest entirely with us; it certainly does not rest entirely with the Government. It is our duty, and will be our continuing duty, so long as the strike lasts, to take whatever action is necessary to preserve the interests of the nation and our people. In making the statements that have been made, the Prime Minister has been fulfilling his duty to the nation, and in that fulfilment he has the right to expect the wholehearted support of every one of us. I am quite sure that he will get that support.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.