Employment Of Military
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department a question, of which I have given him private notice, namely, whether he will inform the House of any communications he has received from the Lord Mayor of Liverpool since Saturday last, and his replies to the Lord Mayor; and whether he can make any statement as to the position in Liverpool to-day?
In answer to the hon. Member's question, I received yesterday evening a telegram from the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, which is, I presume, the communication to which the hon. Member refers. In the telegram the Lord Mayor communicated to me resolutions from the Executive Committee of Justices, urging that the situation did not justify any relaxation of the military and police precautions, and, further, urging that Parliament ought to amend the law with regard to picketing, the present system of picketing and intimidation being, in the opinion of the Committee, the sole factor in preventing a settlement of trade disputes. My reply was to the effect that it was not intended to relax military or police precautions while the necessity for them existed; and, as regards picketing, I referred him to the recent Home Office circular, which explains that all forms of intimidation and violence in furtherance of trade disputes are illegal, and indicates the method of dealing with them. Reports received from Liverpool this morning indicate very little change in the situation, though hopes are entertained that the negotiations now proceeding may lead to a solution of the difficulties.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that men resumed work at various goods stations this morning, and were called out again by the Strike Committee?
I have not any fuller report.
I beg to ask the Home Secretary a question of which I have given him private notice—namely, Why the troops were sent to Manchester yesterday and set to guard the railway stations? Whether the Lord Mayor and chairman of the Watch Committee have protested against this step? Whether the Lord Mayor has not prided himself throughout all the recent disturbances in the great commercial city of which he is Chief Magistrate, that he has been able to cope with the disorder by the use of civil forces only, without asking the help of the soldiers? Whether the Home Secretary has not repeatedly said that the responsibility for applying for military aid rests on the magistrates, and in boroughs on the chief magistrate; and will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House precisely why this rule has been departed from, and at whose instigation the Lord Mayor's judgment has been overruled, and the troops have been sent to Manchester?
I have not received any notice whatever of the questions from the hon. Member.
I sent it to the right hon. Gentleman's room one and a half or two hours ago.
I have not received any letter at all, but I think I can give an answer, as I have been asked another question by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden), and the reply will probably cover the case.
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to put the question? I gave notice to the War Office, but I am told the Home Secretary will deal with the question. My question is to ask by whose authority troops were sent to Blackburn last Friday; if before the troops were sent the local civil authorities were consulted; if the War Office was aware at the time the troops were despatched that there existed no cause whatever for the presence of the military in the town; that there had been no disturbance nor any indications whatever of the likelihood of disturbance; that the sending of the military was strongly resented by the civil authorities and the public, and was regarded as a provocative act tending to a breach of the peace; and will the right hon. Gentleman also say what was the reason the troops were sent?
Will the right hon. Gentleman at the same time reply to a similar question of mine with regard to sending troops to Sheffield?
I think I can answer all three questions. The notice given me of the question of the hon. Member for Blackburn is so short that I have not had time to make special inquiry, but I have no doubt that the troops were sent to Blackburn by the officer commanding the troops in the district as part of his general scheme for the protection of the railways. The military authorities have complete discretion in this respect—[An HON. MEMBER: "Martial law."]—and are under no legal obligation to await a request from the civil authorities. I have not heard of any disturbance in the town of Blackburn, and I do not believe the presence of the military had any provocative effect.
May I ask a question, of which I have given private notice, namely, by whose authority soldiers were sent to occupy the Poplar electricity station last week, how long they stayed, and at whose request and for what reason they were removed?
I do not know to which of the electrical stations in Poplar the hon. Member refers, but may say that before troops were brought to London a list was prepared by the police and military authorities of the places to be specially guarded, because of the serious injury to the public which would ensue if damage were done by rioters. The chief electrical stations were on the list, and pickets were sent to them accordingly.
When a district is perfectly peaceful, is it at the whim or discretion of an officer commanding in the Army to draft in soldiers against the will of the local authorities who own these particular stations? Is it not a fact that the Poplar authority ordered the soldiers out, and they had to go out?
Without fuller notice than has been given me, I cannot speak as to the actual circumstances that occurred inside any particular station. But the rule undoubtedly which we have usually followed has been that soldiers should be sent in aid of the civil power when they have been advised by the local authority.
When advised by the local authority.
But in the present situation the military authorities have been charged with general duties for protecting the property of the railways and for securing law and order in the maintenance of traffic. For the purpose of discharging that duty it has been necessary to employ a large number of troops, and those troops have been placed under the orders of different generals who are responsible for certain areas in the country. Those officers in the discharge of their duties have been given and will continue to enjoy full discretionary power to move troops along the lines of railway to such points as may enable them to safeguard as far as possible the ordinary working of all necessary traffic.
Are we to assume from that reply that the Home Office have given authority to the military authorities to send troops where they like and when they like, without there being any indication of disturbance?
The military authorities always enjoy power to move troops in their own country—to move British troops about the country wherever it is found to be convenient or necessary, and the regulation which has hitherto restricted their employment in places where there was disorder until there had been a requisition from the local authority was only a regulation for the convenience of the War Office and generally of the Government, and has in these circumstances necessarily been abrogated in order to enable the military authorities to discharge the duties with which at this juncture they were officially charged.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give any precedent for these relations between the War Office and the Home Office?
They have all gone mad.
I do not think that any precedent is needed for matters which are entirely within the obvious scope and meaning of the existing law, and which do not go in any respect outside constitutional practices. But although no precedent may be needed, the conditions which have undoubtedly occurred in the last week have been without any previous experience in this country.
I would like to ask the Home Secretary, in regard to the importation of soldiers into the East End, whether the right hon. Gentleman intended that they should be sheltered only at the electric station—as there could not have been any other reason for them—and whether he is aware that in spite of the demand for special constables, only nine persons volunteered for special constable duty, throughout the whole of the East End, clearly demonstrating that those on the spot did not believe that there was any need for extra police—or the military either for that matter—why, in the face of that, have the military been imposed upon us?
Is it within the rights of the military officer, without any request, and against the will of the public authority, to occupy the premises belonging to that public authority?
I think that is a rather complicated question for me to answer, without being able to get legal advice on the special circumstances.
You did it!
So far as the general instructions which have been given are concerned, the House may be assured that everything has been done strictly according to the ordinary law.
Is it the ordinary law that the military officer commanding in the Metropolis can give an order to a squad of soldiers to invade the premises of the local borough council without their wish or desire? If that is so, why did the soldiers go away when they were ordered to go away?
I cannot discuss special cases without full inquiry into the particular facts.
I gave you notice first thing this morning.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking, seeing that there has been no disturbance in Manchester, and seeing that the civil authorities have amply coped with any symptoms of disorder, that the Manchester and Salford communities may, at any rate, be exempted from the general order given by the War Office?
In regard to Manchester, I did make some inquiries yesterday when I heard that the troops had been moved in, and I found that General MacKinnon had come to an arrangement with the Lord Mayor by which the troops were to occupy the railway station, because there was an almost complete arrest of the deliveries of goods from the station, and that the traffic was being wantonly interfered with to a degree wholly different from any interference with the traffic in other parts of the railway system where the military had already given protection. I understood also yesterday evening that the Lord Mayor fully concurred in the steps which had been taken, and that the result had been extremely beneficial in permitting free movement of necessary supplies.
I would like to ask the Postmaster-General a question of which I have given him private notice, whether he has received any complaint from any organisation of the railway strikers objecting to postmen putting the mails on to the trains, and whether he offered to prevent postmen from doing so in future if the Strike Committee would take all responsibility; and whether he considers that it is not the duty of postmen in charge of mails to deliver them into the trains; and whether it is a fact that he is prepared to hand over his responsibility for the safe conveyance of His Majesty's mails to the Strike Committee?
I am obliged to the hon. Member for asking this question, as it enables me to contradict a widespread misstatement. There was no such understanding as that suggested in the question with any Strike Committee, and there was no withdrawal of postmen from any work conditionally upon any action to be taken by strikers. The postmen throughout the country have performed all their ordinary duties, and in no case have I asked a Strike Committee for a permit to place parcel or other mails on the train, or for the safe conveyance of His Majesty's mails in any conditions.
May we take it then, according to the right hon. Gentleman's statement, that the complaints in the public Press are completely false?
Absolutely, yes. And those are not the only statements that are entirely incorrect. It is not the case that 600 soldiers have guarded the General Post Office; it is not the case that the military were asked for any such guard; it is not the case that we have been engaged in organising an aerial service.
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade: (1) Whether he is aware that the master coal lightermen of the Port of London refuse to abide by the agreement made between the master lightermen and the workmen at the Board of Trade office, and, in consequence, the whole of the seaborne coal trade of the Port is held up; and if he intends taking action in this serious matter? (2) If he is aware that the Disputes Committee of the Transport Workers' Federation, after two day's discussion, offered to the short sea traders the Rollit Award or arbitration as terms of settlement of the dispute in connection with ship and quay work; and whether he is aware that by the action of the short sea traders the whole port may be involved in another stoppage of work; and if he intends taking action in the matter?
I propose to give one general answer to this and the other questions of which I have had private notice, with reference to various phases of the present or recent strikes and negotiations. All possible efforts are being made, and will continue to be made, by the Board of Trade and other Departments to promote a general resumption of work, and a settlement of outstanding questions which might either impede such resumption or further enlarge the area of dispute. I do not think that this object will be advanced by detailed replies on points that are bound at the present moment to be controversial. I hope, therefore, that the House will be content with the general assurance which I have given.
Arising out of that answer can the right hon. Gentleman give the House any information in regard to the continuation of the strike on the North Eastern Railway; and may I further inquire whether he proposes to ask representatives of the North Eastern Railway Company and of the men to meet at the Board of Trade, with a view to settle the dispute?
May I suggest, in view of the negotiations that are taking place on this matter, that nothing should be said at the present moment?
I think my hon. Friend would rather desire that I should give the answer which I propose to give, which is as follows: I had an interview at the Board of Trade this morning, at my request, with the representatives of the joint executives of the railwaymen in reference to the North Eastern Railway dispute. I was also in communication with the manager of the North Eastern Railway. As a result of the negotiations, a deputation representing the executives was appointed, and have already started for York to confer with the representatives of the North Eastern Company with a view to a settlement.
May I ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he can furnish the House with a Return showing the number of railway servants, other than boys, on the systems of the United Kingdom who are in receipt of less than 20s. per week; and also a Return show- ing the number of carters and shunters, with the average number of hours they work, and the average wage they receive?
I have been very much pressed. Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to consider what information I can give and in what form?
Is it not a fact that the only figures published by the Board of Trade show an average wage on the railways of 25s. a week; if that be so, will the right hon. Gentleman take steps at once to have papers issued to enable hon. Members to become acquainted with the rates of wages connected with the railway systems of this country?
Before that is answered, may I ask whether the census of wages which has been in preparation for the last two years in regard to railwaymen is in a forward state; will it be presented to the House at an early date?
No doubt there has been a certain, but I do not think an undue, delay. The Return will be presented at the earliest possible moment. In regard to the other questions, I shall be glad to consider the matter and see what further information can be given to the House.
Is it not a fact that the statesman mentioned by my hon. Friend shows that the rate of 25s. has been stationary for ten years?
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade a question, of which I have given him private notice: Whether he is aware that there is great unrest among the tramway workers employed by the London County Council; that a ballot is now being prepared as to whether a strike shall or shall not take place; that the men are anxious that the Conciliation Committee should meet, but as the council is in recess this is not possible without a meeting of the Highways Committee; that four members of that committee have asked, in the manner prescribed by the rules of the council, that the committee be called together; but that so far the committee has not been summoned, and whether, under these circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman will use his influence to bring about a meeting of the committee in order to prevent the further spread of disaffection among the men?
I think my first reply covers that question and others with re- gard to this dispute. I should be extremely anxious at this moment, as these matters are under consideration, and are the subject of negotiation, not to express any opinion, and I hope, therefore, my hon. Friend will be content with my general answer.
I assume I am right in supposing that the Government do not proceed with any business to-day upon Paper, and that the Prime Minister will make a statement on the Motion for the Adjournment.
Yes, Sir. I rise to move, "That this House do now Adjourn until Tuesday, the 24th October."The Motion which I am making is identical in its terms with the Motion that appeared upon the Paper last Friday, but owing to the events which have passed and the disturbed condition of the industrial sky, the Government felt, and the House felt, that it would not be consistent with its duty for Parliament to adjourn for more than a few days. Happily the clouds have since lifted, conflict has ceased, and both parties, without abandoning their contentions, have agreed to the immediate investigation of the case by an impartial tribunal. In these circumstances, I have two observations, and, I think, only two to offer to the House. The first is one which, I am sure, will command universal concurrence, and that is that the thanks of the nation are due to all who in any quarter—and I make no distinction—have contributed directly or indirectly to the establishment of peace. My other observation is this: that, whilst none of us—I speak for my colleagues and myself, and I think I can speak for all concerned—have any desire or disposition to burke the fullest and freest discussion, this is a moment, having regard to the past, when the fewer words said the better, seeing that a Commission of Inquiry is about to start on a task in which it will be incumbent on all parties to give it their best co-operation. It is highly desirable, more than desirable, to all of us, that, if possible, that work should not be entered upon in an atmosphere charged with recrimination or echoing with controversy. The great point, as I hope, on which we shall all agree is not to apportion praise or blame or to debate what, if anything, might have been better done or better left undone at this or that stage of the dispute, or of the negotiations which preceded its settlement. I think I am speaking from the national interest when I say that the great point to-day is to make that settlement effective, or, at any rate, to give it its best chance by enabling the Commission to start free and fair upon its delicate and most responsible work, Sir, the Reference to the Commission is in these terms:
The House will naturally expect to be informed who are the Members of the Commission to whom this most important duty is to be entrusted. The Chairman will be: The Rt. Hon. Sir David Harrel, K.C.B., K.C.V.O., who was formerly permanent Under-Secretary for Ireland, and is a Member of the Board of Trade, Court of Arbitration (Panel of Chairmen), and has acted for the Board of Trade in several important arbitration eases. The other Members of the Commission are:— Sir Thomas Ratcliffe Ellis, who is Secretary to the Mining Association of Great Britain and the Federated Coal Owners' Association, and is a member of the Board of Trade Court of Arbitration. He is also Secretary of the employers' side of the Board of Conciliation for the Coal Trade of the Federated Districts. Mr. Charles Gabriel Beale, of the firm of Beale and Co., London and Birmingham. He is Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham University, and a Director of the London City and Midland Bank, and Chairman of the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company. Then, Sir, we come to the men's representatives: And the first name is that of my hon. Friend the Member for the Barnard Castle Division (Mr. Arthur Henderson). I say nothing as to his qualifications for the task—they are well known to Members on both sides of the House—and finally: There is Mr. John Burnett, who was Chief Labour Correspondent of the Board of Trade for a number of years past, and whose knowledge of industrial questions, not only from the labour point of view, but from every point of view, is almost without rival. We believe that this tribunal is well fitted for the special purposes, and that its members are men who have practical experience to deal with questions of this kind. The last word I shall say, em- phasising the appeal I have already ventured to make to the House, is that I trust I may say with confidence that both sides of the House and the country wish them God-speed in their work."To investigate the working of the railway, conciliation and arbitration scheme signed on behalf of the principal railway companies and of three trade unions of railway employés at the Board of Trade, on November 6th, 1907, and to report what changes (if any) are desirable, with a view to the prompt and satisfactory settlement of the differences."
I think it would be very undesirable if the House rose without some wider consideration of the events of last week than has been opened up by the Prime Minister. It has been a very important and a very trying week, but it ended with promises of a lasting peace, which I think must have been welcomed by all classes in the community and all sides of this House. I am bound to say that so far as I am concerned one of the most hopeful parts of that ending was this—that quite apart from the circumstances under which certain contests were carried on there was an overwhelming evidence that public opinion had at last come to the conclusion that the men without an adequate wage must be secured an adequate wage. I believe we have succeeded in converting the nation at least to this great fundamental truth of individual and national prosperity, that unless a man can possess enough at the end of the week to give his individuality free play, then you can talk about your constitutional liberties as much as you like, that man cannot possibly fulfil his duties as a citizen and his responsibilities as an individual. The very hopeful circumstances of the settlement of the great dispute which marked last week is that we have started, we have begun some sort of arrangement which will enable the poorer-paid servants of our national railways to enjoy some more results of the fruits of their labour than they have done hitherto.I respond most heartily to, and I agree most heartily with, what the Prime Minister said when he remarked that we should say nothing except what is of a peaceful and a unifying character. I think that is very necessary indeed, but I think that peaceful and unifying character of speech will be contributed to if we examine for a minute or two what has actually happened. Unfortunately, in various party organs issued on Sunday morning, again on Monday, and again this morning, the desire to smooth over difficulties is not so very apparent in some of them. I want to say, as one who has been in the negotiations right through from the very beginning, that so far as I am concerned, and so far as my judgment goes, the settlement is one which may be accepted by both sides as a guarantee for peace. Both sides, however, must carry it out honestly and completely. There must be no quibbling, there must be no red tape, and there must be no sacrificing of the spirit of the agreement to the letter of the agreement. I say that equally of men and of employers, and I hope that during to-day—unfortunately it was not the case yesterday—and during the remaining part of this week the agreement will be carried out in that way, so that we may begin laying the foundations of something that is really going to be lasting. The difficulty which we had to meet was a very great one. If the engineers come out for an eight hours' day and fight upon it it is an easy matter to settle when the moment for settling comes, because the problem placed before the negotiators is the simple one whether there is going to be an eight hours' day or not; but when we begin to deal with the railway circumstances, no such simple problem presents itself. The men in one town were out for one reason and in an adjoining town they were out for another reason; in the third town for a different reason, and in the fourth town they were out because quite properly they felt unless the stoppage was going to be general nobody was going to get what they wanted. As soon as we tried at the middle of last week to lay down on paper the heads of the basis of negotiations we found that it was absolutely impossible to lay down on that basis the specific points in respect of which many of the men have come out, and we had to lay down not grievances but a method of settling grievances in time to come. That, when it is settled, does seem a little unsatisfactory to a great many of the men. We knew that and we had to face it, but if the settlement is accepted with all that it contains, all its possibilities and, above all, with all the guarantees that were given over the green table and in the course of the very friendly negotiations which accompanied the settlement, I feel perfectly certain the men will find no reason to go back or to regret the acceptance by their four representatives of the settlement signed towards midnight on Saturday. I should like to say more, particularly if it is going to help on matters, that one of the fundamental difficulties undoubtedly was what is known as recognition. There are hon. Members in this House who are large employers of labour who have started in opposition to recognition with a sort of idea that if combined labour is recognised then that recognition will interfere with the working of industry and of business; but when experience has been acquired the men who are first of all opposed to it begin to see that it is to their advantage to deal not with great masses of disconnected individuals but with representatives of those great masses of individuals. 4.0 P.M. Of course, the railway companies have resisted that up to now, with the exception of the North-Eastern Company, and it was essential to any settlement that it should be negotiated by representatives of the men and representatives of the railway companies. This was very difficult to arrange, but I believe that now that it has been arranged it will be so accepted that it will never be undone; at any rate, I am bound to say this, that when the representatives of the two conflicting interests did meet, that the keenness in standing up for their own side shown by the representatives of the railway companies, coupled with their fairness in appreciating the difficulties of the other side, their even temper and good humour, lightened our labours and made a settlement comparatively easy. At the same time the representatives of the men were, by their firm quietness in negotiation and the clearness by which they realised precisely what they wanted, immediately put the case on a business footing, which made a successful termination of the negotiations possible. If the spirit that was shown on Saturday by both sides is going to characterise the relations to be established in future, I for one have no doubt whatever we have heard the last of railway strikes in our day and in our generation, and that whilst we have established a method of peace we have also done something more and something equally important: we have established, or we are about to establish, a method by which the grievances of the men may be adequately discussed and by which the legitimate demands of the men may be adequately met. After all, a peace which is a peace of repression, a peace which comes simply because railway directors have put their fingers in their ears and have closed their eyes when their employés were making representations to them, was bound to be a peace that only became more and more threatening to public security, and was bound to show itself in outbursts such as we had last week; but a peace which is a peace which will enable men to negotiate, to lay their cases before their employers and to get their demands agreed to when they are fair, is a peace which will be a lasting one. It is a peace of that kind, the basis of which, I think, was established on Saturday, for recognition is not an end in itself; recognition is a means to an end. I should like, if we were able, to stop here, but that is absolutely impossible. The Department which has played the most diabolical part in all this unrest is the Home Office. The Home Office has taken two departures, both of which ought to be censured by this House. First, it has been issuing what I might call strike bulletins informing us from day to day how the proceedings were going on. I do not object to strike bulletins of an official or departmental character providing they are well-informed and are accurate, but, if they are prejudiced, ill-informed and inaccurate, then I think the Home Secretary might allow the ordinary Press associations to do his work and not do it officially himself. The bulletins which he issued, particularly the bulletin of Saturday, which gave great offence and very much hampered us in our negotiations, ought never to have been issued by a Government Department at all. The statements with which it opened were inaccurate, the expressions of opinion in the middle were not sensible, and the effect at the end was simply to make the men more inclined to go on fighting than to induce them to come to any settlement, however honourable or satisfactory to themselves. I hope we have had the last of this fussy interference by people who do not understand the nature of the circumstances with which they have to deal, but who desire to find themselves in the newspapers day by day. The second point I want to raise is with regard to the reckless employment of force —the display of force in order to maintain law and order, or, in other words, to make it more difficult for those who do desire law and order to carry out our ends. There has been a new doctrine preached from that box—at any rate, it was a very unfamiliar doctrine to me. I always understood that the military have no right to quarter itself in districts where there was civil peace unless the authorities were first of all consulted, or unless it was in the ordinary operation of the drafting about from place to place of the military contingents. The right hon. Gentleman did my Constituency the discredit or dishonour of sending troops down there. I do not know if that was to maintain law and order. If the right hon. Gentleman wanted riots in Leicester, he just did exactly the thing that would produce them, and I think he ought to understand, and to understand very plainly, that if he is going to go on drafting his troops into Manchester without the consent of the Lord Mayor—I have just had a telegram, since the right hon. Gentleman made his statement, from a colleague, the Member for North-East Manchester (Mr. Clynes), that the Lord Mayor never consented to the troops being sent into Manchester—and if he tells us quite plainly that that statement which he made regarding the constitutional law and practice from that box this afternoon is going to be the rule of the Home Office in future, then we will understand what we will do. There is one thing we will not do. We will not allow the ordinary civil operations of strikers, of men on strike, to be hampered and interfered with by a needless display of force, simply standing by and watching things done.
Who are "we"?
Organised labour in the country will not allow it, and, what is more, I think every person who has got the least idea of what civil liberty is will support us.
Yes; the peaceful picketing in my district, about which I am going to speak.
There was a very interesting incident in the course of these negotiations to which I should like to allude. There was only one time during the whole of those trying days when some of us were inclined to give up negotiating altogether. I was going home on Friday morning close upon three o'clock, after a day's negotiation which had begun at six o'clock on Thursday morning—at it steadily every hour and every minute trying to hammer out a basis on which negotiations could begin, from six o'clock one morning till half-past two next morning—and when I got to Southampton Row I was held up whilst about 1,000 mounted men went past, going towards the East End. I never felt more inclined in my life to go home and simply stay in bed, knowing exactly what would happen. The right hon. Gentleman would have been rather sorry at what would have happened if we had stood aside and ceased those negotiations and allowed his preparations to have settled the strike. I want to put in the warmest and firmest protest I possibly can against this recurrence to rnedæval ideas of how law and order are going to be maintained. This is not a mediæval State, and it is not Russia. It is not even Germany. We have discovered a secret which very few countries have hitherto discovered. The secret this nation has discovered is that the way to maintain law and order is to trust the ordinary operations of a law-abiding and orderly-inclined public opinion. Every now and again you are going to have breaches of law and order. We know perfectly well every now and again you are going to have times of trade and political excitement. You are going to have occasional riots at declarations of the poll. You are occasionally going to have riotous proceedings at the declaration of, say, an election petition, and you are occasionally going to have troublesome proceedings when men are out on strike, but the way that is going to be handled, and the way that is going to be kept from spreading and becoming really serious is by the public authorities falling back upon the ordinary operations of civil law and civil authority. They, and they alone, are perfectly sufficient to do everything necessary in order to keep law and order in this country.If the Home Secretary had just a little bit more knowledge of how to handle masses of men in those critical times, if he had a somewhat better instinct of what civil liberty does mean, and if he had a somewhat better capacity to use the powers which he has got as the Home Secretary, we should have had much less difficulty during the last four or five days in facing and finally settling the very difficult problem we have had before us. I have spoken warmly, and I hope it may induce the Home Secretary just to think a little bit more before he starts drafting his troops into places where they are very unwelcome and unbidden guests; and before he tells his generals to do what they like in Leicester or Manchester I think he might consult people who know something more about the condition of those places and how to keep law and order in them. If it had not been for that unfortunate episode and the blundering conduct of the Home Office right through there would have been no discordant note to strike in the remarks that have to be made to-day. I go back to where I began. I am very glad the great and serious trouble has been got over for the time being, and I hope nothing will now occur which will make the settlement impossible of fulfilment. The most serious thing that can occur is if the Home Secretary continues the policy he has been pursuing the last few days.
I was ready to respond to the earnest entreaty made by the Prime Minister that we should not enter into a review of past events to-day. I agree with the Prime Minister the time has not come to apportion either praise or blame among those who were leading factors on one side or the other, or as Members of the Government, in the events of the past few days. The time will come when those matters will have to be gone into, but I am quite ready to allow the attempt to deal with them to-day would only fan into flames smouldering embers, and it would be easier perhaps to arrive at the truth and to secure a fair verdict from the House when we meet again than it would be on an occasion like the present. I had hoped that feeling expressed by the Prime Minister and shared by ourselves would have guided any speech made on the present occasion. I am quite ready to believe the hon. Member for Leicester in the negotiations which have taken place in the last few days has within the means of his power played the part of a peacemaker and done his best to settle the strike, and I am sorry he should have so far departed from that attitude as to make on this occasion the concluding half of the speech he has just delivered. It is not the time for considering—and perhaps the House is not at present in a position to consider—where lay the rights or the wrongs of the original strike, how far the railway men had real grievances, how far they had open to them a means of settling those grievances without the declaration of a general strike, or how far they were justified in calling, and calling at such short notice, for a complete suspension of traffic on all the railways. The time has not come for that, but the time has come, after the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester, to say that above and beyond the interests of the railway men on the one side and of the companies on the other are the interests of the general public. The hon. Member loses all regard for that; he treats this matter as if it concerned only the railway men, and he bids the Government stand aside while they fight it out with the companies. Our primary concern is the protection of the public; it is they who in the areas where the strike has been fiercest have suffered most. They have the first call on the assistance and protection of the Government, and if the Government were to blame—I do not seek to apportion the blame to-day—if they were to blame it was not for the measures that they took to protect the property, or the food, or the lives of the people; it was for not taking those measures earlier and for not making them more effective. The hon. Member for Leicester said: "We will not allow the ordinary civil operations of the strikers to be interfered with." What does he call "the ordinary civil operations of the strikers"? Reference has been made to the active resistance which has taken place in South Wales, to the holding up of trains, to the turning of the engines themselves into platforms for the intimidation of the driver and stoker while doing their duty at a time when they required protection in carrying it out. Is that what the hon. Member means by referring to the "ordinary civil operations of the strikers"? The right to work is not less sacred than the right to stop work, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will have all the assistance we can afford them in providing the necessary protection.My Friends on these Benches will afford all the assistance in their power to the Government in giving full protection to the men who, in the exercise of their free discretion, desire to work, and in protecting them and their homes against brutal intimidation and violent outrage. I say that no Government in this country could or should allow the railway system of the country to be at the mercy of any body of strikers. Strikers must obey the law; they may strike and they need not be interfered with; but no Government can submit to the great means of communication on which the life of our country depends being interfered with; and the authorities cannot put their liabilities on the shoulders of anyone else. The Government took, none too soon, effective measures for the protection of the railways of the country. I share the hope of the Prime Minister, and the hope to which the hon. Member for Leicester gave expression, that the Commission of Inquiry which is now appointed may have lasting results. I hope that the conditions of things everywhere may rapidly resume their normal aspect. But I would urge on the Government, as long as there is any fear to the contrary, that they are bound not to relax but to double their efforts to secure the protection of every law-abiding man, and to see that those who will work and are ready to work are not prevented by violence or intimidation from discharging their obligations. I hope that the negotiations may have the good effects that the hon. Member for Leicester suggests. He said it was a great point that the representatives of the railway companies had at last met the representatives of the trade unions. He at first said that such a thing had never occurred before, but then he qualified that statement by adding the words, "except in the case of the North-Eastern Railway." That was a not altogether happy illustration of trying to work with trade union leaders. I hope that the present effort may be more successful. I hope that the efforts of the hon. Member will be rather of the character of those which he used last week, but whether they be successful or not, the primary duty of protecting life and property rests on the Government. We hold that they must discharge that duty, and we will give them every support we can in fulfilling that very first obligation on their part.
I suppose if there is one Member of this House more than another is entitled to say that there is hope of peace it is myself. I am not only somewhat responsible for the war, but also somewhat responsible for the peace, and I say at once I fully appreciate and share the Prime Minister's sentiments in suggesting that the less that is said this afternoon about the causes of the dispute the better for all concerned. I desire, however, to point out that much can be said from the men's standpoint. I feel this afternoon that there is not only a grave responsibility resting upon the railway companies to discharge their part of the bargain but there is also a responsibility on our part to see that we faithfully fulfil our pledge. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) took exception to the statement of the hon. Member for Leicester in reference to the meeting of the railway directors with the representatives of the men. It is perfectly true that the North-Eastern is the one exception to all the other railway companies, but it is not true to suggest that the North-Eastern Railway Company, even at this moment, regret that they have recognised the men's unions. It is an easy matter for hon. Members not conversant with the details and knowing nothing of the circumstances to point out that there has been more strife on the North-Eastern than on any other railway system, but it is for them to remember that the recognition of the unions has not been the cause of the strife that has taken place. On the contrary, the recognition of the unions has been the means of stopping scores of strikes which would otherwise have taken place. When you remember that at this moment we are discussing questions with the North-Eastern Railway directors, and that with all their experience of the unions, and with all that can be said about the ill-advised action of the men, the directors, even at this moment, are as ready and as anxious to meet the unions as they were on the first day they met them, I think that is a sufficient answer to the suggestion that, so far as the North-Eastern is concerned, they have suffered as a result of this recognition.But I will go further than that, and I say unreservedly that the one fact of the settlement which must in my opinion have impressed the railway representatives was that it was not only to their advantage to recognise the unions, but that they could deal with the representatives of the men far better than with an unorganised mob. I fully associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Leicester in regard to that unfortunate Home Office Report, which, when it was read to the Executive Committee in the midst of the negotiations on Saturday, had a tendency to break off the negotiations and to induce us to go on with the fight. I can only say it was not only ill-advised, but that it was calculated to hamper the settlement that we eventually arrived at. As far as the men are concerned, and so far as we as representatives of the men are concerned, having signed that document, having pledged our men, and having taken the responsibility of saying that we accept this as a settlement, not because we believed it was all that we were entitled to, not because we believed for one moment that it was all we could eventually get, but because we were honourable parties to that settlement, we must show that we will compel our men, as far as possible, to recognise our decision. As we take that responsibility I do plead with any Member of this House who has influence with railway shareholders or officials to induce them as far as possible to recognise that the only way to make our path easy, the only way to make the settlement acceptable, and the only way to make it a lasting peace, is for the railway companies to recognise their obligations towards the settlement. I do not think for a moment that they will do otherwise. I want to say, candidly and freely, that I have nothing but respect and admiration for the manner in which the railway companies' officials have met us, and I feel sure that everything that was said and done by them was said and done because they were anxious to carry out their pledges, and I only hope that those whom they represent will prove as honourable as they were themselves. With regard to the latter part of the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester, I am not going to speak from what I have read or heard, but I am going to speak from my actual experience in the worst of the strike area. I was at Liverpool when the strike broke out; for eight days I succeeded in keeping over 80 per cent. of the railway men at work, and those who know the feeling engendered will appreciate what a difficult task that was. During the whole of that period I was pleading with those in authority. I said: "If you will only bring us face to face I believe we can settle this matter," but they would not. On the Sunday a demonstration was arranged, not in connection with the strike, not in the least in connection with the railway dispute, but for the purpose of celebrating the victory of the dockers, and a pledge was given by those responsible for that meeting that they would guarantee order. What happened? There were over 90,000 people there. From five platforms speeches were being delivered, and it is true to say that these disturbances originated, not with anyone connected with the meeting, but with five hooligans, half drunk, on the outskirts of the crowd. But instead of the police and soldiers recognising their responsibilities then and dealing with these hooligans by separating them from the crowd, they immediately drove them into the crowd and with baton charges mowed the people down. I have always opposed conscription, but I say fearlessly now that if we had conscription in this country things would have been worse than they were in Liverpool on that Sunday, because there is no doubt as to the temper of the people. To show that we could have controlled the situation, I myself was booked to speak at this meeting. The largest theatre in Liverpool was engaged, and the chief con- stable, in consequence of the riot in the afternoon, actually cancelled my own meetings. I said "I will hold the meeting and I will guarantee that there shall be peace if you will keep the police and soldiers away." The meeting was held, and the police and soldiers were kept away, and there was no sign of a riot even three hours after the bloodshed had taken place. That actually happened last Sunday week. On the Tuesday following that there was another meeting held with 5,000 men, many of them hungry, and whilst the meeting was taking place a convoy drove right through the crowd of over 200 military, some on horse and some on foot, though they could easily have been diverted. There was no other conclusion to be drawn than that it was a deliberate attempt to create a riot. I say with a full sense of responsibility that not only is this undesirable from the standpoint of the men themselves, but it is a dangerous policy for this House to sanction. We have heard much about intimidation on the part of the pickets. Please remember that there is another side to that. I could give scores of illustrations which happened last week of intimidation on the part of the employers. That would not help the situation in the least. It would not solve the difficulty, but rather aggravate it. I cannot help but deprecate the indiscriminate use that has been made of the police and military. I honestly believe it has aggravated our difficulties. I say, as one who has played some important part in it, that it has not made it easy for us to bring about a settlement. In spite of that. I say this strike has demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt the burning grievances of the railwaymen of this country. It has shown that the House must recognise its responsibilities to this important service. I sincerely trust that this will he the last railway strike. The best guarantee that it will be last is that this settlement will have paved the way, not only to peace, but to a general improvement in the condition of the railway workers. As far as I personally am concerned, I regret nothing I have done. I have laboured for peace. I helped to fight for my own class. I trust that railway directors and shareholders and Members of this House will do all that is humanly possible to assist in bringing about a lasting peace in the railway service of the country.
There is one point which, fortunately, can be discussed without adding to the heat of the situation. That is a point which has relation to the trade of this country, and the influence upon it of the question who is to pay for any better condition of labour secured by the settlement which we all hope for. I should like the President of the Board of Trade to tell the House exactly what is contemplated by the assurance which has been given to the railway companies that they will propose to Parliament next Session legislation providing that the increase in the cost of labour due to the improved conditions of the staff shall be a valid justification for a reasonable general increase of charges within the legal maxima if challenged under the Act of 1894. I need hardly say that this point is of vital importance to the trade of the United Kingdom. The general position at present is this. Our railway rates, unfortunately, are much higher than those of Continental countries or of our great rival across the Atlantic. In the United States you have private railway management as here. On the Continent, in most instances, we have National management, as in Prussia and Switzerland. But whether under National or private management foreign countries contrive to obtain lower railway rates, that is to say. a greater assistance for their trade than we enjoy in this country. The position under the Act of 1894 is this. No railway freight rate can be increased without the Board of Trade having cognisance of the fact and power to refer the matter for decision to the Railway Commission. I should like to understand clearly whether any assurance has been given that there is any intention of introducing legislation to override any decision of the Railway Commissioners in that matter, and to provide that any increase in wage or any betterment of conditions making a new charge upon railway companies' profits is to be charged to the traders of this country in the form of additional railway rates. If the right hon. Gentleman will give me an assurance that nothing of that sort is intended, and that the promise of the Government does not go so far as that, I am sure it will give a great deal of pleasure to a great many Members who are interested in what is, after all, the chief interest of the country. The facts are very plain. Recent railway dividends have not been falling. They have been rising. Railway profits last year were larger than ever before in the history of British railways. The net railway profits in 1910 were over £47,000,000. The increase in that one year was sufficient to increase the wages of every rail- way servant in the country by 2s. a week. If we take the increase in profits which has accrued since 1900, it has been enough to pay every railway servant about 5s. a week without diminishing the profits of the railway companies. What is the dividend? The railway companies put out to the papers, through their organ in the Press, the statement that the dividends amount to only 3½ per cent. There is a better source of information than a railway newspaper. It is the Board of Trade itself. I take this from the Board of Trade Blue Book:—
They go on to show that the real rate of dividend in 1910 was 4.15 per cent. per annum. That is a flat average rate of dividend taken over the whole of the debenture, preference and ordinary stock of the railways of the country, excluding only the watered stocks which were created by calling £100 worth of stock £200 or more. Surely it cannot be the intention of the President of the Board of Trade to do anything to give these railway companies the power to put a further screw upon the traders of the country, because our country is in a peculiar position in this regard. We depend for our manufactures almost entirely upon foreign materials. It follows that, whether we manufacture for home trade or for export, carriage enters very largely indeed into the cost of manufacture. We have to bring most of our materials from the ports, so that at every point in the trade of this country the railway companies have the opportunity of levying a tribute upon it. Under these circumstances I ask again whether it can really be the intention of the Government to make the traders of this country pay for any better conditions of the railway servants in spite of the enormous profits of which I have spoken. Especially in that connection I beg them earnestly to remember that German exporters not only enjoy the ordinary rates of Germany, which are lower than ours, but for export purposes they enjoy special railway rates. If they are exporting to the Levant, for example, they get a preferential rate, which gives them a great advantage in competing with the British trader. What is proposed apparently by the Government is that the railway companies are to be given power to add to the handicap which the British trader already suffers in this regard. If we glance at the German railways for a moment we get some useful guidance on this head. German railways not only pay a much higher rate of dividend than our countries—Prussian railways, for example, pay 7½ per cent. on the capital employed— but they contrive to raise the conditions of their railway servants. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] No question of fiscal policy can possibly affect the question, because here we have an absolute Government monopoly. The German railway companies in the last ten years have contrived to raise wages by 25 per cent., and although it is only fair to say that that leaves a margin between the British and the German wage, the gulf has been very largely crossed, and if the present comparative progress of German and British railways continues, we shall find very soon that the German railway wages are higher than ours. I should be false to my duty as a man who endeavours to inform the public if I did not seize every opportunity of directing attention to that, and I shall direct attention to it, even although hon. Members opposite may seek to found a false argument upon it. I am not concerned with their arguments. At this moment I am concerned with the facts as they bear upon the situation. I turn to the American railways. The wages there are from 100 to 150 per cent. higher than in this country. That has to be discounted by the fact that Protection gives them a higher cost of living. Again, I should not be putting the facts fairly before the House if I did not tell it that my information is that, whereas the cost of living is about 60 per cent., wages are about 100 to 150 per cent. higher than here. These are facts which have a very serious bearing indeed on the present situation, and while it would be unfair to press the comparison between this country and the United States too far because of the enormous difference of conditions, it is fair to press the comparison between Prussia and this country. It is fair to press that comparison, and if we can show, as it can be shown, that the Prussian National Railways contrive to give such special advantages to their traders that, as compared with our traders, they enjoy what may be called preferential rates, or to put it in another way, that our traders as compared with German traders suffer what may be called an export duty by reason of the existence of our private railway companies—I have put down on the Notice Paper to-day a Motion asking for a return from the Board of Trade to bring out these facts—if we can show these facts, and if we can also show—and I am sure the Royal Commission will investigate this part of the subject very carefully—that railway servants' wages here have been stationary during the past ten years, while the cost of living has been going up, surely we have a very strong case indeed for the consideration by this House of the nationalisation of railways. There is a growing opinion on this subject, and it is a growing opinion not merely in labour circles. I believe that a recent meeting of the Associated Chambers of Commerce a resolution was passed in favour of the nationalisation of the railways of this country. Traders in this country of the very highest experience, men like Lord Brassey and others, who have studied the conditions here in detail, have been driven to the same conclusion, namely, that you must assist the trade of this country as German trade is assisted. (Cheers.) Let hon. Members who cheer that observation remember that railways are an instrument of Free Trade. Every time goods are moved upon a railway you have really conducted a Free Trade operation. Every duty put on at ports is equivalent to a higher railway rate on imported goods and materials. Nearly all the materials we use in this country are imported from abroad. Remember, therefore, that the question of railway rates is of especial importance to us, and that situated as we are on an island with a great sea-board, no part of which is far removed from tide water, if we establish a properly organised system of National railways we shall have such facilities for trade and for production here, as are, perhaps unequalled in any part of the world. We have to regard excessive rates in this country as something deducted from the economic advantages we enjoy. I urge this consideration very seriously on the House. We have Tariff Reformers on the other side of the House and Free Traders on this side, but surely, whatever our fiscal opinions are, we may agree on this point, and give trade this assistance. Germany has, in addition to Tariff Reform, national railways, and I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to consult the authorities, and scan their opinions very closely before they decide that it is fiscal policy, and not national railways and other things which I could mention if it were in order to do so, which has to do with German progress. At any rate, we are faced with the fact that German wages are rising. It is for us to face the subject of wages as it has never been faced before. I do not desire to enter into any subject which will raise the temperature of the discussion or add to the heat of the deliberations which we are about to begin, but I should like to say that I do not think the Government has done all its duty with regard to railway wages. I remember months ago, early in this Parliamentary Session, I put question after question to the President of the Board of Trade, directing his attention to the fact that railway servants' wages in this country were stationary, and that the cost of living was going up. What was his reply? He or his spokesman said: "There does not appear to be a case for representation to the railway companies." Now I ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he or his spokesman still holds the same opinion. When I pressed for further information, the subject was not treated as a serious one at all. It was treated as a jocular subject, and one to afford the Parliamentary Secretary an opportunity to throw a jest over his shoulder. That is not the way to deal with the question of wages. I am convinced that not until this House faces this question seriously and earnestly shall we have an end of labour troubles in this matter. It is not a question of settling labour disputes, but it is a question of settling them fairly and justly. I earnestly hope that the deliberations about to begin will not only settle them, but settle them in such a manner as to afford maintenance and proper subsistence to the members of a trade which is admitted to be one of our most necessary trades— a trade on which the very prosperity of the country depends. A great deal has been said in the House as to the great inconvenience caused by the railway strike. T would like to point out that that very inconvenience is a measure of the convenience that we normally enjoy by reason of the labour of those men, and therefore it is very necessary that they should have proper wages, in carrying on the work in which they are engaged."On account of nominal additions to the capital of the companies, the rates of dividend or interest given in the above table are lower than they otherwise would be."
I only rise to make one brief observation on the remarks of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Chiozza Money) as to the phenomenon which he has described in his interesting speech with reference to the difference in the wages of workers on German railways and English railways. I would point out that that is not confined to railway servants' wages only. It exists in other industries where the difference between private enterprise and Government monopoly is not to be found, and therefore his remedy of railway nationalisation, whatever might be said for it on other grounds, has not that justification, and is not a remedy for the question of wages in this industry. The German railways do not pay their employés high wages because they like to do it. It is because the general course of wages has risen in Germany, while the general course of wages in this country has been stationary. In Germany they are compelled, if they wish to get good labour, to conform to the general rise of wages in the country, whereas in this country the railway companies have been able to get labour at lower rates. This question of wages is at the root of the whole problem. If you deal with it, you cannot deal with it as a railway question only. It is a question which affects the whole of the industries of this country. I do hope that the line of thought which is beginning to enter into hon. Members opposite will gradually bring them round to the inevitable conclusion as to which we on this side have so long been agitating.
In the remarks I have to make I will not break through the appeal which the Prime Minister addressed to us not to say anything which would make the discussions on which we are entering difficult. In all the speeches previous to that of my hon. Friend (Mr. Chiozza Money), hon. Members had not one word to say in regard to one subject to which I wish to refer. I heartily congratulate my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the President of the Board of Trade, and all the Members of the Government who worked so zealously to secure the very great triumph which they have achieved in saving trade from paralysis and the country from the evils of this great strike. Not a single word was said by the Prime Minister with regard to an announcement which I cannot but say my hon. Friend was perfectly justified in calling attention to. It is an announcement of a most portentous character, and, although I will not attempt to deal with the broad importance of it, I wish to make a protest in regard to it. I appeal to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade whether he cannot say a word in regard to it. What is the announcement? It is that the Government undertake to introduce a measure raising rates, and that they will consider the increase in the cost of labour due to the improvement of the conditions of the staff would be a valid justification for a reasonable general increase of charges all over the country. I think that is a very-far-reaching announcement to make. Let us look at one or two of the difficulties which it suggests. In the first place, it is perfectly unqualified. It says that if the railway companies are to give some more wages, then that will be recognised as a reason for a general increase of rates all over the country for passengers and goods. Let me ask the President of the Board of Trade how he will make sure that the increased rates will not far exceed the amount of benefit which the railway servants receive? I will not pursue that question further, but when such a large vista has been opened up by a general increase in rates, it seems to me that it will be extremely difficult to balance the two things together.This announcement says that all the railway companies have been equally blameworthy in this matter. Let me remind the House that nothing has been more gratifying to the general public than the fact that some railway companies have had no trouble at all. The servants of one great company, which pays an excellent dividend, did not come out at all. The increase in rates is to be general and spread over the whole country, and therefore companies which have experienced no difficulty will reap this great harvest just as the others. There are other points in connection with the matter on which I would like my right hon. Friend to say a word or two. It has been stated that the railway companies have done a great deal to improve the position up to the present. My hon. Friend has pointed out that while dividends have improved greatly, wages have hardly improved at all. While the railway companies have been able to do a great deal for themselves by amalgamations and economies which have increased the revenue, might we not say that they themselves might find the funds to improve wages without this large increase of rates which is contemplated? I say that I am the last to strike a discordant note, but I did not think we could separate without a protest being made in the name of the traders of this country against this proposal. There are many trades suffering from heavy rates, and they find it is impossible to deal with the railway companies. The companies appear to be able to charge whatever rates they like, and here we are told in connection with this great question that a large concession has been promised before the Committee has reported. I do not want to express any criticism on my right hon. Friend, but I think that if the Government would give a word of explanation as to why this was done, how far it is to go, and whether there is any qualification, it would be received with a very great deal of pleasure in the country, and would perhaps do something to heighten the general and great satisfaction as to the conduct of the Government during these negotiations.
I desire simply to ask a question as to what are the rights in connection with what is called peaceful picketing. I speak for my own Constituency. I find that within the last few days men who are anxious and willing to work have been forcibly prevented from doing so. Within 200 yards of my own house railway people, whom I have known for many years, have been threatened with murder by duly appointed bullies of the trade unions. I wish to know how far the Act of 1906 permits pickets to walk round signal-boxes and tell the men if they do not come out they will have their heads broken; and, worse than that, to go out of their way and intimidate them and threaten their children. The hon. Member for Leicester expressed the hope that peace will come after these negotiations, and he said that before peace could come it must be preceded by mutual consideration. But I ask that intimidation should be left out of it also. He expressed the wish that every man should be left free to give his individuality fair play. I go further, and will say that not only should every man be left free to give his individuality fair play, but if he wants to work and has no quarrel with his employers, I say that the House has taken upon itself an immense responsibility if by these means he is compelled to cease his employment.I have in my pocket a letter from eight of the chief employers in Liverpool lamenting the fact that while multitudes of their men are anxious to come back, they are prevented by intimidation from doing so. I am speaking from actual facts. Men within a few miles of my own house, for doing their usual daily work of bringing food to their ordinary customers, are now in hospital, having been dragged off their carts and ill-used in the public streets. In the case of a man who is enterprising enough to have two taxi-cabs in my neighbourhood, just because these cabs were used by people who had to get into business owing to the stoppage of the railway, he has been visited and threatened by the hired bullies of the unions. Were it not for the fact that volunteers, including clergymen and other people with what you might call more or less some social standing, have kept the electric light supply going in the city of Liverpool, that city would have been in darkness, and goodness knows what would have happened. Owing to the public spirit of these volunteer workers there are probably very many people now alive who otherwise would have been shot. In regard to the economic question, the purchasing power of gold has diminished, and as long as we cling to Cobdenism, the keynote of which is cheapness, which must mean cheap labour, you will have cheap labour, which, with money depreciating in its purchasing power, must bring consequent distress. I speak with no want of sympathy for men who are getting low pay, and who are trying to bring up their children on very small means. I know that we can never fight Germany nor maintain our position in the world with the children of men who are living in slums and earning not more than 15s. per week. I earnestly implore the Labour party, for their own good name, to endeavour to dissociate themselves from the violent scenes which we have lately witnessed. What can we say about people so foolish as to rush at carts containing food stuffs and tear the bags open with their knives and scatter the good food over the public streets; and doing this with laughter, which is more fitting to a lunatic asylum than to men professing to be civilised? Yet not one word of disapproval has come from the Labour leaders in this House or from Labour leaders in Liverpool. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is not true."] I have not heard it yet. One remarkable feature has been the extraordinary silence of the so-called Labour leaders in this House. The two captains in the labour world have been Captain Ben Tillett in the South, and Captain Tom Mann in the North. Surely the time has come to put the law into operation and not allow the continuance of such action by people who are preaching public sedition in the way they do.
Is the hon. Member aware that where Mr. Ben Tillett has been in London there has been absolutely no disturbance at all?
I am very glad to hear it; but that is not confirmed, I think. There may be fewer riots here, because the people are not so rough-and-tumble as they are in the North. But for the sake of public peace men come to submit to intimidation. They are so accustomed to law and order that when they are met by people and told they are not to work they are surprised and put down their tools and go away, partly through surprise and partly through discretion. That will surely not go on. Those men will band themselves together. The bolder spirits will stiffen the weaker ones and form a a committee of public safety and retaliate. The way you are working this strike, by bullying and intimidation of the grossest nature, will raise up the spirit in the country which will eventually have the result of civil war. I want to know from the Government to what extent do they allow peaceful picketing, so-called, under the Act of 1906? If necessary they should define it so definitely that peaceful country villages shall not be turned upside down by leaders who, whether self-constituted or not, come down and try to bully the whole community. And I say most seriously that if the leaders do not exercise themselves with greater care and deliberation we shall have much more trouble.You have stated that this labour strike has been settled, but you have not said anything about the condition of affairs in Liverpool, where the whole of the transport workers are still out. They came out to assist the railwaymen, and now the railwaymen have gone back and left them out. We have heard that there were Acts in existence which had some sort of influence on the Act of 1906, but that ought to be made clearer, and the Labour leaders would be well-advised if when they send their pickets they should notify the men's names and records to the constituted authorities, so that they shall be responsible people. At my own roadside station to-day the stationmaster told me that fifty men had walked up the line at two o'clock in the morning threatening the man in the signal-box. The railway stations in Liverpool lately have been filled by honest people who went away on their holidays to places like the Isle of Man. These people spend all their money when they are away, and come back with nothing but their return ticket. After all their money was spent there they were, men, women, and children, about the railway station, suffering from want of food and ending up their holiday with tears, misery, and actual hunger. That is one of the results of your action.
It is the managers of the railway.
It is not. On this subject of peaceful picketing the Government should make some definite statement so that people may know where they are, as otherwise they will organise themselves into committees of self-defence. [HON. MEMBERS: "So will we."]
The speech to which we have just listened I can only characterise as a curious jumble of irrelevance and inaccuracy.
What is there inaccurate about my statement? I can give you the names of the people.
I repeat that the speech to which we have just listened is a curious jumble of irrelevance and inaccuracy. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] The hon. Member has introduced questions as wide apart as Tariff Reform and peaceful picketing. Although he may know something about Tariff Reform from his own particular point of view, he knows absolutely nothing about peaceful picketing.
I have learnt it.
Nor do I know how Tariff Reform has any connection with the matter now under discussion or which is supposed to be under discussion. That is a matter for fair and square argument. I think that hon. Gentleman must admit that we at all events have never shirked. that argument. We have borne our share in the defence of Free Trade during the last few years. We have never hidden our colours nor are we disposed to do so. But Tariff Reform and Free Trade, so far as we know, have absolutely nothing to do with this Debate. Then the hon. Gentleman has charged the Labour party with standing by and condoning riotous conduct outside and with hiring bullies. He describes these men as the hired bullies of the unions. Sir, I repudiate the suggestion that the unions of this country hired any bullies to create any riot or disturbance or disorder whatever, and I say that if the hon. Member had the slightest knowledge of the working of the unions of this country, nay, if he had the slightest knowledge of the incidents of the last few days, he would not have made that statement.
I spoke from knowledge.
The unions of this country have a long record behind them, not of encouragement of disorder, but of maintenance of order during disputes, and not only so, but they have a long record of the settlement of disputes by reason and commonsense instead of disorder, a record of which they have reason to be proud, and I can assure him that we are not going to be sidetracked by any senseless talk into following any other methods of conduct. He has spoken of certain people having cut up bags containing food in carts on the public streets, and thrown the food about amid laughter, and by some extraordinary forces of reasoning that I cannot follow he has associated that sort of action with organised labour and with the recent strike. Of course, it has been brought about by the recent strike, in consequence of the provocation which was given afterwards, but I can speak with some little knowledge of the record of trade unions in this country and of their records, and I can assure the hon. Member that it was in those parts of the country where organised labour forces were strongest—nay, I go further, and say that it was just in those parts of the country where the labour forces politically organised were strongest that there has been the least disorder and the least of that sort of thing to which he refers.He spoke about Liverpool. Liverpool is an area given over partly to Tariff Reform and partly to sectarian differences and bickering, and it is largely in consequence of that, because of the fact that the working people of Liverpool have been foolish enough to be diddled by the hon. Member's friends, and that we have found disorder in Liverpool, while the places which are represented by hon. Members on these benches have, on the other hand, been nearly if not absolutely free from disorder of that character. For these reasons I invite the hon. Gentleman to just begin to think—I feel absolutely sure he has not yet begun to think—just a little about these disputes and a little about the underlying causes of these disputes, and a little about the underlying causes which are going to produce more disputes in the future. I invite the hon. Gentleman just to give a little thought to these matters before he again ventures to address the House of Commons. I have just come back from one of the strike areas, an area which I suppose has been foremost in this strike, and which, I am glad to say, when called upon to do so, last week came out almost to a man, and I might give some information to the House of the sort of feeling which I left there this morning. Following the statement which had been dealt with earlier in the day, I refrain from saying anything contrary to the spirit of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). Certainly he can contain himself and control himself a good deal better than I can, but possibly the moderate character of the speech which he has delivered to-day was because he had not been, as I have been, to the strike area. I may say something which is perhaps not in accordance with the request made by the Prime Minister, but I say it because I feel it strongly. The Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) and I myself have been in the strike area during the last two or three days. Since last Friday up to today, the time which we occupied in that locality might be divided into two classes. In the first two days and up to Sunday morning, we were seeing the men come out, and helping them to come out. We belong to the organised labour forces of this country who are banded together along with railway servants and other people to improve the conditions of life. We know from sad experience that these conditions of life are not going to be improved if people fail to show their strength, and I make no hearsay observations in saying that we were urging the people to respond to the call made upon them to leave their work. But that was comparatively easy. As a matter of fact, when we got down there last Friday evening we found that the men were all out before our arrival, and a clean sweep was made on Saturday. Our difficulties began on the Sunday. We had four very large meetings on Sunday, three out of doors, the whole of them extending from Merthyr down to Pontypridd. I venture to say that if the men in that area had known the full text and character of the settlement that was effected on Saturday night—I am not saying a single disparaging word about anybody who had any hand in bringing that settlement about; on the contrary, I endorse it—no re-starting would have taken place. I and my hon. Friend had some knowledge of what the settlement would be, because we left about midday last Friday, and, of course, we had some information as to the character of the negotiations, and knew, generally speaking, the nature of the settlement. On Sunday, addressing those meetings as we did—and I daresay there were very nearly, if not quite, 10,000 men, not all railway men of course, but the bulk of them railway men—we had, of course, to put the best face possible on the settlement. We emphasised, apart altogether from the settlement, the request that had been made to them to put their trust in their leaders, and I believe that it was largely owing to what my Friend the hon. Member for Merthyr and myself did—though it may be thought a most unusual rôle for my hon. Friend to play—that there was as complete a restarting as there had been a complete turnout during the two previous days. We have been moving about the district right up to this forenoon, and everywhere over the whole area, and in adjoining districts as well, so far as one can judge, one finds that there is—I will not say mistrust, that would be too strong a word to use—but keen disappointment that after all conciliation boards, Royal commissions, consultations, and all that sort of thing, are once more written all over this settlement, instead of something being written on it that is going to be translatable into bread and butter, shelter, and better living for the people than they have had hitherto. I talked with some of them, and one has only to come into contact with them to ascertain their feeling on the matter. I would add that one who has come from their own class and has lived their lives is better able than others to realise what the conditions are. This morning I was talking to some men in Newport, and what did I find? Newport is a town of over 100,000 population, and in a place of that extent one may assume that rents are considerably higher than in small places. A town of over 100,000 inhabitants is not a cheap town to live in. The men at Newport Station are employed by a wealthy corporation, who are in possession of a monopoly by virtue of something given to them by this House. Yet the men whom they employ are starving on the magnificent wage of 17s. a week. Out of that sum there is stopped 1s. 2d. for sick pay, widows' and orphans' fund. pension fund, and what not, all the money being administered by the company. Therefore. the men at this Newport Station, in this twentieth century, in spite of science as applied to industry, and the increase of wealth of which the hon. Member for East North- ampton (Mr. Chiozza Money) has told us, are receiving the magnificent wage of 15s. 10d. a week. It may be said that they get tipped. So far as I am concerned, when I give a man a tip I am ashamed both for myself and for the man who has to take it. Even if the tips amounted to a very considerable sum beyond the 15s. 10d. a week, it would be none the less discreditable to everybody who acquiesces in the system. But we will leave the question of tips and inquire as to the wages of men who have no tips. I find that the shunter in this same station who risks his life all the time he is working—the death roll is increasing year by year—starts with the magnificent wage of £l per week. I am not at all surprised that the men rebel. If they did not rebel I should be ashamed of them. I am only surprised they have stood it so long and so patiently. I hope, however, they will stand it a little longer so as to give this new arrangement a chance. I really do hope so, because I feel that, after all, a railway strike cannot happen every day or every year. We do not want railway strikes any more than anybody else. We do not want strikes of any sort; I was going to say we do not want them any more than anybody else, but we do not want them so much as anybody else. We know what they are. We have come to close quarters with them. We know the incidental sufferings which are borne by innocent women and children. Therefore we want no more strikes either on the railways or anywhere else, and I trust the railway men will give this new Commission which is about to be set up a really good chance. But I am going to say this, and I say it with a full sense of responsibility, that that Commission has got to get about its work quickly, and it has not got to concern itself only with matters of recognition and things of that sort, because after all recognition will not fill any cupboard. It has got to concern itself with increase of wages and reduction of the hours of labour, together with 'better conditions of life generally. If it does not do those things, then you may take it from me that we are going to have another railway strike, and I, for my part, will do nothing to stop it, but, on the other hand, do everything I can to help it. Conciliation boards are now on their trial. Up to, say, twenty or fifteen years ago trade unions were an aggressive and militant force in this country. We fought and trusted to fighting to improve our condition. We did not like it; we knew the suffering involved in it. Some fifteen years ago, or thereabouts, the employers of labour in this country were forced to the conclusion that they would have to give recognition to trade unions. Inasmuch as the employers of labour had themselves organised, and inasmuch as we had the necessary machinery in our trade unions to meet the employers and adopt reasonable means of settlement, if possible, we were induced to adopt conciliatory methods. We were induced to accept the Conciliation Board, but we have been wholly defrauded out of the good that might have arisen from those conciliation boards. I say without the least hesitation that conciliation boards are on their trial, and if there is not quickly some better result from conciliatory methods than there has been during the last fifteen years, then organised labour will have to throw overboard the conciliation boards and adopt the old militant tactics of fifteen years ago. We engineers have been accustomed to meeting conciliation boards, and, on the whole, we have been fairly successful in getting improved conditions through those boards, largely because we had the strength of our organisation behind us, and largely because the employers had the knowledge that there was something more than representation at the table of the conciliation board, and that there was the possibility and the probability of a strike behind it. But we have been diddled sometimes at those boards. I will give the House one instance. Some years ago we were discussing with the employers in the engineering trade the question of a rise of wages in the marine engineering industry. We were told by the chairman of the board, a very large shipowner, that instead of discussing the question of increase of wages at that particular time, from his knowledge of marine engineering, it would not be long before they would have to discuss the question, not. of an advance, but a reduction of wages. He said he was absolutely sure of that, and in consequence of his statement we were induced to withdraw our demand for an increase of wages at that particular time. But we found afterwards that, in that very year, the shipbuilding industry of this country turned out 17,000 tons more than in the year before, and, in the year following, there was a further increase of 74,000 tons as compared with the amount turned out in the year in which we applied for an increase of wages. This is the sort of thing, let me assure the right hon. Gentlemen on both Front Benches, that has sunk, and is sinking, deeply into the minds of organised labour in (his country. If that sort of thing is going to continue to emerge from conciliation boards, then conciliation boards are going to be thrown over in the near future, and the organised workmen are going to depend upon striking and all that it involves; are going to depend upon a greater exertion of their economic strength, so far as they can give it, rather than submit to action of that sort. I hope it will not be so. I myself am in favour of giving every trial to methods of reason and of common sense and of justice, and I hope that all those elements will enter into the settlement of the dispute to deal with which the Royal Commission is set up.
It is with great pleasure that I and others on this side heard the speech of the Member for one of the divisions of Northamptonshire as an adherent of the policy which we advocate on this side, namely, the policy of Tariff Reform, because if ever there was a speech made in this House which was a Tariff Reform speech, that speech certainly was; and not only was it a speech which, on the facts, will, I am sure, be very useful to us in the country, but it was a speech which appealed to certain criteria—for instance, for the verdict of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. If the hon. Gentleman will accept the Associated Chambers of Commerce as judges, they have pronounced in favour of Tariff Reform over and over again. When he turns to the German railways and says that they are in favour of the policy of nationalisation, which he advocates, I do not know whether he is in favour of the Government of this country adopting the procedure which the German Government did, of forcing the railways, then privately owned, into a condition of bankruptcy before buying them up, because unless he is prepared to accept that he will not bring his policy of nationalisation far. We have had a series of very interesting speeches from the other side, marred, I think, a little by the assumption of hon. Gentlemen on the Labour Benches that they are the only people who have taken any interest in this strike or knew anything of its conditions. I, like a great many other hon. Members on this side of the House, have been spending my time in my Constituency doing, like the others, all I could to assist those who were suffering and to assist to promote the settlement of the disputes which existed. I have been myself in Manchester and Sal-ford during the last few days, going about amongst the railwaymen, talking to the pickets, talking to the representatives of labour all over the place, and assisting to a certain extent at the big meeting that took place on Sunday afternoon.One thing is quite clear, and that is that the discontent, so far as it exists, amongst the railway men is discontent of the lower-grade men employed by the railway companies at wages of from 17s. to 22s. or 23s. per week. I must say quite frankly that I think those men have got a case for consideration. Their wages, coupled with the fact of the increase in the price of food, an increase which we enjoy in spite of the blessings of Free Trade, and the hours they work do to my mind give them a strong case for consideration. In the Report of the Departmental Committee set up during the present year to consider questions of amalgamation, a very admirable report and at which a great deal of useful evidence was tendered, evidence was given on behalf of men employed on the railways that the lower grades of railway employés were paid on a much lower scale than similar men engaged in parallel employment. I know that that was contradicted by the masters, and that evidence was given on the other side by the managers of railways that considering indirect advantages they had got that was not true. Into that rather vexed question I do not intend to go, nor do I think it necessary for the purposes of the argument I wanted to put before the House. What is quite clear is this. The railway companies are not making large profits. They are being managed with great economy, and amalgamations have led to greater and greater economy. But you cannot, if you are going to improve the conditions of the men and to give them increased wages—and the money has got to come from somewhere—it will not grow on the tails of the train, and therefore unless you are going to reduce the somewhat already exiguous dividends—and by the way the Report of the Committee does not at all agree with the figures given by the Member for Northants (Mr. Chiozza Money) as to the dividends—if you are going to increase the wages of the men you have got to make some provision for the source from which the money is to come. The suggestion of the Government is that the railway companies shall, if necessary, be allowed to increase the rates both on passengers, I take it, and on goods. I personally think that is the only possible solution. The reason why we are suffering in many quarters from discontent in the labour world is as the result of what I may call the cursed doctrine of cheapness which is the millstone which the Manchester school of economy has hung round the neck of industry in this country. That is the doctrine that the consumer is everything and the producer is nothing, that the person who uses the railways must have all the facilities and the person who works the railways must not be considered. It is the doctrine which gives us our nail makers at Cradley Heath, and which gives us our sweated shops, and it is the doctrine incidentally which gives us all the blessings of Free Trade. What I venture to suggest is this, that the Government, in spite of some objections which may be made on the other side, should go boldly forward into the policy which they themselves have sketched of, if necessary, advancing, and I think a very small advance would be all that would be necessary, the rates or giving the companies permission to advance the rates if they should find it necessary. That will, of course, mean a greater burden on those who use the railways, but it should be made quite clear that the condition of the wages and the general labour conditions of the lower grade of the railway workers shall be improved in proportion to the additional charges made. If that were done I venture to think it would remove the real causes of the discontent which exists, and which not only are felt strongly by the workers concerned, but which are the reason why the labouring classes as a whole who are not railway men have sympathised with the strikers in this case. If that were done I believe the cause of discontent would largely, if not entirely, be removed.
I think, after the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald), with its very pointed and direct reference to the Department of the Home Office, that the House will wish me, and will allow me, to make a few observations in explanation, and, as I consider, a justification of the course and of the measures which we have thought it necessary to take during the last few days. The duty which the Minister, whoever he may be, who is responsible for the administration of the Home Department has to discharge in times like these may not be as diabolical as the hon. Member for Leicester suggests, but it is certainly an unpleasant duty, and it is certainly a serious duty, and the only aspect which makes it easy is that it is so plain and so obvious. Sir, I have not been concerned with the negotiations which have been so happily conducted to their conclusion by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade. The Home Secretary is not a judge of the merits of the dispute; it is not for him to express his opinion as to the remedy. His views on that subject are not relevant to the duties which he has to discharge. He is concerned with the maintenance of public order and public security. It is for the nation to judge which of the parties in this matter, in this industrial dispute, is in the right and which is in the wrong. It is for the Commission which has been appointed to compose the differences which have broken out between them, but it is for the person who for the time being is in charge of the Home Office to endeavour to confine the dispute to limits which are not destructive of the public welfare. It is for Parliament to make laws, and it is for the Minister who is responsible to see that they are obeyed.The hon. Member for Leicester made two charges and accusations against me. The first one was so small and trumpery that I really wonder that he introduced it into a speech which otherwise was full of very grave and serious matter. He is apparently not satisfied with some expression or phrase or with the tone of the bulletins, or one of the bulletins, which was issued from the Home Office during the course of these disputes. Those statements were exactly similar to the one which I had been making in the House of Commons at the request of Members from day to day, and they were intended to do no more than to summarise the information which we had received from many parts of the country, and to publish it in such a way as to reassure the public and prevent the spread of unduly alarming rumours. Whether they have been well phrased or not or whether they may have contained some expression which the hon. Member did not like, it is quite unworthy of the importance of the subject or of the scale of the offence to have devoted so much attention to them, although no doubt it afforded him an opportunity of making a sneer at me. But I pass from that and I come to the principal charge which he has made. His criticism is directed to the measures which have been taken to maintain public order during the last week or so. Let me point out to the House at the very outset that no illegal or extra constitutional action of any kind has been taken. The law has been absolutely observed in all the measures for which the Government is responsible. All we have done is to make exceptional use of obvious and well-known legal powers, and that exceptional use we submit the emergency fully justified. Let the House consider what that emergency was. We were confronted with the National Railway Strike. That is a thing which has never occurred before in this country. At twenty-four hours' notice the railways of the country were to be brought to complete paralysis and rest. I am not going to animadvert on the conduct of either side in this dispute, I am only concerned with the actual fact, which was that we were threatened with a stoppage of all railway transit on twenty-four hours' notice. England, I think it is true to say, more than any other country in the world is dependent upon railways and open ports. It is true that all parts of England are not equally dependent upon railways and ports. In the Home counties, in the south and in the east, where agriculture has not fallen so far behind manufacture, the dependence upon railways and oversea importations is not so pronounced; but in the great manufacturing areas of England, in South Wales, on the North-East coast, and, above all, in Lancashire, Yorkshire and the North Midlands, there is an absolute dependence on railways and open ports for the whole means of industry and daily food. It was in these areas that the strike developed most effectively. Just in those very parts of the country which literally cannot exist without railways, there it was that the largest proportion of the skilled, indispensable railway servants came out on strike and the difficulty of maintaining the railway service was greatest. In fact, the danger was at its worst where the consequences would have been the most fatal. It is not in the agricultural regions to the south, where so many of the wealthy people live, that the pressure was brought to bear. The southern lines worked smoothly; the Continental services were scarcely interrupted. Motor cars rendered the well-to-do citizens practically independent of the railways. The agriculture of the southern counties and of the county districts can easily sustain their own population, at any rate for a time. There is no special need there for the daily importation of raw material to keep the industries going. Food prices would not have risen over large parts of the country, even if the railway strike had been protracted; and even if they had risen they would only have risen to a point which would have injured the poor, and of which the rich would scarcely have been conscious. No, it was in those very parts where immense populations of working people are concentrated together, who have come into existence as communities entirely by reason of the railways and overseas transport, that the pressure of a national railway strike would be, and had actually begun to be, powerfully exerted. And what a pressure! Had the strike proceeded for a week on the lines which its authors apparently intended—that is to say, had it succeeded for a week in producing an entire stoppage of trains in those parts—there must have been practically a total cessation of industry. Everyone would have been thrown out of work. Every mill, every mine, every factory must have been closed. The wages for the household would have ceased. Had the stoppage continued for a fortnight, it is, I think, almost certain that in a great many places to a total lack of employment would have been added absolute starvation. I have a right to ask the House to look at the emergency with which we were faced, and which alone would justify the strong and unusual measures which we thought it necessary to take. Let the House realise it. In that great quadrilateral of industrialism, from Liverpool and Manchester on the West to Hull and Grimsby on the East, from Newcastle down to Birmingham and Coventry in the south—in that great quadrilateral which, I suppose, must contain anything between 15 to 20 millions of persons, intelligent, hard-working people, who have raised our industry to the forefront of the world's affairs—it is practically certain that a continuance of the railway strike would have produced a swift and certain degeneration of all the means, of all the structure, social and economic, on which the life of the people depends. If it had not been interrupted it would have hurled the whole of that great community into an abyss of horror which no man can dare to contemplate. Let me remind the House that at this time, before the railway strike began, we had had a prolonged interruption of the entry of food supplies from Liverpool and Manchester; the ports on the other side were closed by the railway dispute, and the lines from north to south were being cut off. I am sure the House will see that no blockade by a foreign enemy could have been anything like so effective in producing terrible pressure on these vast populations as the effective closing of those great ports, coupled with the paralysis of the railway service. Meanwhile the populations of the south, the east, and the west, of this island would have remained comparatively unaffected by what was going on—not suffering themselves, and yet almost helpless to come to the aid of their fellow countrymen. The hon. Member (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) spoke of mediaeval methods. This is a new peril. I do not know whether in the history of the world a similar catastrophe can be shown to have menaced an equally great community. I remember a gentleman who had returned from the East telling me of the breaking of the great Nimrod Dam of the Euphrates in the fifteenth century. It had been built in times of antiquity, but had been neglected by the ignorant conquerors of the country. In the fifteenth century it broke, and there were no means of repairing it. Above the Dam there was a great canal running 300 or 400 miles, and along the banks of that canal four or five million persons lived in a fertile province. Immediately the Dam broke the water flowed out of the canal, and, though history gives no details, it is certain that that enormous population who lived by that artificial means, except for a few thousands who lived on pools by the canal or found their way across the desert, were absolutely wiped from the book of human life. These are the considerations which it is no exaggeration to say have to be borne in mind at this present juncture. Peace is restored. Thank God for it. The danger is removed. But last Friday and Saturday this sort of consideration began to stare in the face the people who were responsible. Of course, hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will say that it could never have happened. I agree. But why could it never have happened? What was it that could have prevented it? Not, assuredly, the people who were picketing the stations.
Nor the soldiers either.
Not, assuredly, the people who threw stones at the trains and cut signal wires. No, it would have been prevented because it was obvious and certain that any Government must, with the whole forces of the State, exert itself to prevent such a catastrophe, and because it was certain that in taking such action they would be supported by the good sense and resolution of the whole mass of the people. That was the emergency, and to avert such an emergency all useful and lawful measures must, if necessary, be employed by the Government. The railways must be kept running at all costs for the food supply. All other considerations, however important, fade into insignificance beside this paramount necessity. No Government could possibly sit still with folded hands and say, "A trade dispute is going on. We must remain absolutely impartial. We cannot possibly take any action which will have the effect of helping one side or the other." Both sides, employers and railway men, possessed the means to continue the dispute for a period far greater than the rest of the country could have lasted out without this frightful disaster to which I have referred. I say that no Minister, even the hon. Member for Leicester himself, if he sat on this Bench, would have hesitated to use the whole power of the State and direct the whole forces of the community to maintaining the vital service of the food supply and the scarcely less vital service of transport of the goods indispensable to the industrial production. The steps we took were, I admit, exceptional and of great extent. But they were nothing to the measures which would have had to be adopted promptly and without hesitation had the dispute continued and the scale of events become more tremendous. Employment, wages, food and the lives of many millions of people were threatened and at stake. Personal, political, and party considerations could not count for a. moment. It was not a question of taking sides with capital against labour, or with the companies against their employés. We took sides only with the public. We could not look on impartially and allow their vital interests to be affected. We became, and must always become in such circumstances, active partisans of the food supply.I was criticised very severely at the beginning of the year for trying to deal with the difficulties and troubles on the South Wales coal field without using the military forces. I think the House will admit that on that occasion, at any rate, I strained every effort in my power, ran considerable risk, and put the country to considerable expense, to try to substitute other means of maintaining order for the employment of the military forces. I can assure the House that the feelings with which I acted then have never departed from my mind. But Tonypandy was a small affair and produced no great national reaction, and when that took place we had other resources available. I had it within my power—by a very unusual step, I admit—to send a thousand, or, if necessary, two thousand Metropolitan Police to South Wales to stand between the people and the troops, and to put off the employment of the military to the last minute. But on this occasion, with the whole country in a state of disturbance, with disorder actually breaking out in scores of places, the Metropolitan Police would have been totally inadequate to render any assistance to the local forces. Even if they had been adequate, not one single man could be spared from his duty in the Metropolis. I recognise and wish to recognise, because my reports from many quarters confirm it, that the railway men throughout the country did not share in the discredit and disgrace of some persons for the riotous and disorderly scenes which have lately been enacted. Military officers and police constables alike send in their reports, and state in a great many of them that the railway men, while continuing their dispute, have been all for peace and order throughout. It is my duty in having to say some things which are not pleasant to put that also on record, in order that a self-respecting and respectable class may not be branded with the discredit in which the action of rowdies and roughs, and also of perfectly thoughtless and foolish people, might easily have involved them. 6.0 P.M. But when I have said that, it is quite idle for anyone to pretend that the strike was conducted peacefully and without violence. Even in the forty-eight hours which it lasted serious riots occurred in four or five places, and minor riots in twenty or more places. There were six or more attacks on railway stations, and a very great many on signal-boxes all along the line. I need not enlarge on the peril of driving people out of the signal-boxes at a time when even a few trains were running. There were nine attempts to damage the permanent way, of which we have a record at present, or to wreck trains, or to tamper with points. There were a great number of cases, almost innumerable in fact, of attempts to stop trains, and to stone them. I do not suppose the people of this country realise that these are a class of offences that the law says are punishable with penal servitude, up to penal servitude for life. There were many cases of telegraph and signal wires being cut. There were in several places gross instances of incendiarism, and in two cases in South Wales, at any rate, of wholesale loot by persons previously of good record. That is an amazing feature in the recent disturbances. I was told that at Tredegar there had been a case of anti-Semitism; and, quite peculiar and quite unknown in this country before, persons hitherto respectable were seen going home with bundles of clothes which they had taken from shops and which they were taking away as if they were not in the least ashamed of what they had done. I say that with that sort of disturbance going on all over the country, accompanied as it was by dangerous violence in many places, it is certain that if the local police only had been available, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester suggests ought to have been the case—the local police, sometimes not more than thirty or forty men in a large town with a great population of many thousands and crowds in the streets—then there would have been an immediate and absolute stoppage of the railways, accompanied in many centres by bloody riots, loss of life, and wholesale destruction of property. Not only would this have been the railway companies' property, but the property of small persons, in many cases quite unconnected with the quarrel between the railway men and their employers. To prevent this it was necessary to use the military forces of the Crown with the utmost promptitude. Let me say that when a task is entrusted to bodies of soldiers they must be left to carry that task out under their officers in accordance with the instructions given to them by the civil power. The task which was entrusted to the military forces was to keep the railways running, to safeguard the railways, to protect the railway men who were at work, to keep the railways running for the transport of food supplies and raw material. And it was necessary, if they were to discharge that task, that the general commanding each area into which the country is divided, the general responsible for each of the different strike areas, should have full liberty to send troops to any point on the line so that communication should not be interrupted. That is how it arose, of course, that on Saturday the soldiers arrived at places to protect railway stations, signal-boxes, goods yards, and other points on the line without their having been requisitioned by the local authorities. There is nothing against the law in that. Let no man imagine that there is. I should like to say, however, as I have been questioned on the subject this afternoon, that, so far as Manchetser is concerned, it is not true that the military have been sent there contrary to the wish of the Lord Mayor of Manchester. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester, after criticising me because of the Home Office bulletins, stated that he knew for a fact that the Lord Mayor was opposed to the sending of troops, and that they were there against his wish.
The statement was made in the "Manchester Guardian" this morning.
I cannot help where it was made. Let me read this telegram which I received:—
"In reply to your telegram of last evening, in reference to protection of railroads and railway men, and in view of rejection of the London settlement, I desire that Manchester be placed on exactly same-footing as other municipalities.—LORD MAYOR, Manchester."
What is the date of that?
Yesterday that telegram was sent. Let me say that the Government, having decided as a matter of policy to use the military forces to protect and safeguard the railroads and the movement of food supplies, the numbers of soldiers to be employed became an important point. If any soldiers are to be used for such purpose then I say to the House, without hesitation, the larger the number the safer and better for all concerned. There is no difficulty whatever in maintaining order. The difficulty which we have to face is how to maintain order without the loss of life. A few soldiers, a mere handful of soldiers, who look quite insignificant, can easily, if they use their weapons, quell a serious riot, but it takes a very large number of soldiers and policemen to control and stop a riot if it has broken out without resorting to extreme measures.The policy which we have pursued throughout was wherever soldiers were sent to send plenty, so that there could be no mistake about the obvious ability of the authorities to maintain order, and so that the soldiers themselves could be in sufficient force to do what was necessary without taking advantage of the terrible weapons which modern science had placed in their hands. That decision has been taken with a view to the prevention of loss of life. I believe that it has achieved the results which we had in view. Some loss of life has, unhappily, occurred. In what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester calls "the reckless employment of force," about twenty shots, carefully counted, have been fired with serious intent. Four or five persons have been killed by the military. The House sees these instances chronicled everywhere to-day. Their painful effect is fresh in our minds. What is not seen, what cannot be measured, is how many lives were saved and how many tragedies and sufferings were averted—that can never be known! But there are some things which indicate how great are the benefits which have been derived from the maintenance of order by the military forces. We know that people die from many causes. The death-rate in Liverpool has doubled during the course of these troubles. It is a death-rate which has not fallen upon those who live in the Toxteth district. It is contributed by the working-class children, who have suffered in the course of these disputes, and who would have suffered if the evils of the cessation of industry and of the stoppage of food supplies had been added to those of anarchy and riot. The House should remember that the Llanelly rioters, left to themselves, with no intrusion of the police, and no assistance from the military for some hours, in a few streets of the town during the evening wrought in their drunken frenzy more havoc to life and limb, shed more blood, produced more serious injury among themselves, than all the 50,000 soldiers who have been employed on strike duty all over the country during the last few days. That is the answer which I make to the criticisms and the attacks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester. I say on behalf of the Government that we will cheerfully, confidently, face any re- proaches, attacks or calumniations which anger may create, or malice may keep alive, because, as trustees for the people, responsible for their welfare and for their safety, thinking only of that and of their vital needs, we tried to do our duty.
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the words "Tuesday, 24th October," and to insert instead thereof the words "Tuesday, 29th August."First of all, in regard to the sending of troops to Manchester, as I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, the telegram was received yesterday (Monday). Troops were sent to Manchester either on Saturday night or Sunday. What connection, therefore, could there be in the telegram received last night and the sending of troops thirty-six or forty-eight hours before it was received is difficult for me to understand. I hold in my hand a copy of the "Manchester Guardian" of this day, in which there appears the following paragraph:—
And so on. Here is a case in which the facts virtually contradict the statement that the Home Secretary has just read to the House. The troops were not sent to Manchester at the request of the Lord Mayor, or of the Watch Committee, or of any other responsible authority."An inquiry at the Town Hall made the matter. To a reporter of the 'Manchester Guardian,' the Lord Mayor said: 'The troops had not come to Manchester through any word or actions of his.' The first intimation he had of their coming was from a telephonic message at 11.33 yesterday morning from General Burwey, who is in command of the troops in the district. The message was that the troops had arrived."
I never said that they were sent at the request! of the Lord Mayor. Never, never! All I said was that he concurred in the course that the General had taken.
Oh, yes, but I think the inference the House was intended to draw was that the troops were sent in response to that telegram. [HON. MEMBER: "NO, no."] Then what was the good of reading the telegram? What was it intended to convey? [An HON. MEMBER: "That the Lord Mayor concurred."] The point at issue was and is whether these troops were sent in response to the request of the local authority or in defiance of the local authorities. We say in defiance of the local authorities, and to read the telegram that he has read cannot, I think, help the Home Secretary in any way what- ever. Just another point before proceeding to the more general question. The Home Secretary seems to object to my hon. Friend beside me having complained about the terms of an official communication sent out from his office on Saturday. Here are the words complained of:—
"So far as present information goes, considerably more than two-thirds of the railway men are remaining at their posts.
The first statement that two-thirds of the railway men did not leave their employment is not true. The second statement that numerous applications have been received for employment is not true. The third statement that the number of defections from the service have not been in excess of expectations is obviously untrue, since the railway directors themselves openly boasted the day before the strike of being able to carry on the railways all right."Numerous applications are being received by the railway companies for employment. The companies report that the defections have not been in excess of expectations."
Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House what proportion of the railway workers came out voluntarily, and what under compulsion?
Yes, Sir, ninety-nine and three-tenths per cent, of the men came out spontaneously and voluntarily, and the proof of this statement is there were no pickets to bring these men out. The men voluntarily, cheerfully, and joyously resigned their services and came out on strike. If that is held to justify the employment of 58,000 soldiers, I leave the right hon. Gentleman whatever satisfaction it gives him. The other objection to the statement from the Home Office is that it was not an impartial statement, and that is proved by the fact that it was an employer's statement issued through the medium of the Home Office misleading the public, and therefore to that extent damaging to the men. The right hon. Gentleman referred to looting. It appears that at Llanelly there had been some looting from the railway station, and that some of the workmen's wives carried away clothing, and the Home Secretary looks upon that as a justification for the employment of troops. I wonder does he forget the situation that occurred at Pekin during the Boxer rising, when not only workmen's wives, but ladies of title, wives of foreign representatives and missionaries' wives, and other ladies of presumably good character looted the Palace to an extent that would shame the looting by wives of workmen, and carried off bundles of silk wrapped round their waists. I have not heard that any soldiers were sent to suppress that.I do not think the right hon. Gentleman understands the gravamen of the charge which my hon. Friend made against him. The duty of Parliament, the right hon. Gentleman said, is to make laws for the protection of life and property, and the duty of the Home Office is to carry out these laws. We all agree upon that; there is no dispute upon these facts in any part of the House, but our charge is that the right hon. Gentleman's confreres—I suppose the matter is one of Cabinet responsibility—have violated the law, have overridden the law, and suppressed civil government in this country without the consent or sanction of Parliament, and substituted military rule for it. These are the charges we make. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to state whether, within the laws of Great Britain there is to be found justification for the action he has taken in connection with this dispute. The special committee that was set up after the Featherstone shooting or murder, as we prefer to call it, to consider what should be the duty of the military in connection with labour disputes laid it down emphatically, and it is well known to the House, that the military should only be called in when the civil power was in danger of being overcome, and should only come in then at the request and demand from the civil authority. On this occasion, before a single man had gone on strike, troops were ordered out, ball cartridge was supplied to the troops, machine guns were lined up behind the regiments, and the military authorities—we have the statement from the Home Secretary himself—were given an absolutly free hand to act where they pleased and to do as they pleased in what they called the preservation of order. Talk about revolution! The law of England has been broken in the interests of the railway companies of this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no."] Hon. Members say "No." I shall put the matter to the test. What brought about the dispute? What was the twenty-four hours' notice given for? Not to get the railway men's grievances redressed, not to have wages increased, not to upset the conciliation boards. The one claim put forward by the railway men's executive was that the railway directors should recognise the trade unions of the men to the extent of meeting the officials of the unions to discuss grievances. I am certain I can assume that in every quarter of the House there will be agreement that that was a perfectly reasonable and justifiable demand to make. See what happened! So soon as the representatives of the men's unions made their demand and gave the railway directors twenty-four hours' notice that unless it was conceded they would call the men out, the Government invited the railway directors to meet them, and the railway directors came. What happened? All that we know of what happened is what Sir Guy Granet has told us. What did he tell us? That they had informed the Government that they would be able to run a somewhat restricted service and that the Government had promised them all the assistance needed to enable them to carry on their lines. What did that mean? Let the House note what it meant. It meant that if these railway directors refused to do what the Government itself does, namely, to receive the officials of the trades unions, the military forces were to be placed behind them to enable them to persist in their refusal. Then we are told that is not taking sides.
I think I ought to say I received a letter from Sir Guy Granet, in which he stated that that did not at all accurately represent any statement he made, and in particular that the phrase, "Every available soldier," ought never to have been used at all. I had intended to read the letter, but in the pressure it passed away. I know that Sir Guy Granet staled that that should not be taken as authentic.
That may be Sir Guy Grand's statement, and it may be that the interview did not quite accurately represent what Sir Guy Granet stated. I am prepared to accept that. But what action did the Government take with the directors? They may not have promised them the last soldier to back them up, but the last soldier was sent, and if Sir Guy Granet was misrepresented in what he stated, he has not misrepresented the intention or the action of the Government. That is the important point. The plea has been put forward that all this action was necessary to protect the food supplies of the people and to enable industries to be carried on. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcester—I am sorry he is not in his place at the moment—raised the point that all this was being done in the interests of the suffering poor. When millions of these same poor were dying of starvation from lack of employment, there was no tremendous zeal then to protect them or to provide food for them. I should like to have told the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcester to his face that the coat on his back has been partly paid for out of dividends won out of the direst poverty and the most sweated labour to be found in England and Wales, and for him to come here now to pretend to be anxious to look after the suffering poor appears rather curious.May I remind the Home Secretary and the Government of two things in this connection. First of all, the suffering poor whom they have been so anxious to protect did not ask for protection. The working men whom they wanted to supply with materials to carry on their work did not ask for protection. Not only that, but in my own Constituency, and this is typical of what is going on all round, these same working colliers whom the Government were so anxious to protect, when their employers offered to find blackleg labour to take them to their work by train, refused to go to their work with the aid of blackleg labour. The working classes of the country for the first time in our history have become united and solid, and therefore the Government might have waited until they were asked before they sent soldiers to protect the food supplies of the poor and to enable them to carry on their work. The disturbances that took place, and there were some, were of two kinds. They were first of all those due to hotheaded zeal on the part of certain of the strikers or certain of their supporters, very often ill-advised, to bring out all those who remained at work. There were a few disturbances owing to that. As everybody who has any experience of labour disputes knows, these things are always confined to the first few hours, or at most to the first few days, of the dispute. Take an example! Take Llanelly! What did the strikers do there? A train was coming along driven by blackleg labour. They did not go and shoot the driver or pelt the train with stones. They went and sat down upon the rails. There has been no finer example of heroism in British history than these men placing their lives in peril in order to advance the cause. Had that same thing been done on the field of battle hon. Members on both sides of the House would have shouted about the courage of the British bulldog. It has now been done in a battle that will have far greater consequences for our country than foreign wars, yet the Government sent soldiers to shoot these men for their action. I will now turn to the general question The calling out of troops hitherto has been a matter of very rare occurrence, and has always followed an outbreak of disorder. Even at Featherstone there had been some disturbance before the soldiers were sent, but the new régime begins with the right hon. Gentleman occupying the position of Home Secretary. The soldiers were sent to Tonypandy and Aberaman and other parts of South Wales in connection with what the right hon. Gentleman has described himself as a very small dispute. Some of us raised a protest then, and we did so on general grounds as well as upon particular grounds. It was perfectly obvious that if the Home Secretary and the War Office between them are to be free to send soldiers when and where they please, that the first action of the Government in any labour dispute will be to send troops. This railway trouble came along, and instead of the Government bringing pressure to bear upon the directors to settle the matter, they used all the forces of the Crown to intimidate the men. All the evils the Home Secretary has pictured—all the evils of starvation and of loss of employment—would undoubtedly have followed the stoppage of our railways, and just because these things would have followed it would have become imperative on the part of the Government to say to the railway directors: "You hold your railways as a trust from Parliament, and if you are prepared to maintain this awkward and foolish attitude, Parliament will intervene to take your powers from you." The use of the troops followed upon the refusal of the directors to recognise the men's unions. I have little more to say except that I think troops should only be employed—and I am sure every lawyer in the House will admit what I am going to say—to suppress disorder. It is no business of the troops to pursue a flying crowd, to clear the streets, and perform police work. At Llanelly there was no riot of any serious consequence, there was no looting or burning of railway wagons until the soldiers shot two men dead. That was the beginning of the serious trouble at Llanelly.
Take the case of a man who boarded an engine before the soldiers arrived and drew out the fires to prevent the engine proceeding.
They nearly killed the driver. [An HON MEMBER: "That is 'peaceful picketing.'"]
I will assume that the driver was assaulted. Surely that is a case for a police prosecution? It was only an offence where a young striker drew out the fire. This young man, after seeing the soldiers arrive and fearing lest they might fire upon the crowd, faced the soldiers, tore open his shirt front, and spread out his hands, and said "I have done the thing; shoot me if you will, but don't shoot my innocent comrades." Does that young man deserve the kind of treatment that was meted out to him? My point is that all disturbances of this kind die out after the first few days of a strike. The Home Secretary has admitted that the bulk of the strikers were orderly, and if that is so why could the right hon. Gentleman not rely upon the orderly spirit of these men? In those places where the police authorities refused to have any troops sent and appeal to the strikers to assist in maintaining order there was not a single case of outrage.
That is quite untrue.
Before the troops were sent there was not a single case of outrage. Take Tredegar. The soldiers were sent there, and what happened? Certain people in the town knew that a strike had taken place and they said, "Here is an opportunity to make money," In my own Constituency two firms put up the price of butter 4d. a pound, and it was the same butter they had in stock before the strike broke out. I had to use considerable influence to prevent some of the outraged people avenging themselves upon those two firms. Then there was the case of the rackrenters who have doubled and quadrupled the rents of the houses during the last ten years.These things were responsible for the outrages at Tredegar and had nothing whatever to do with the strike. They might just as well have occurred a month before or after the strike as the moment they did occur. But even then such outrages do not justify the use of soldiers. The police ought to penalise the people guilty of these offences, but the Government have no right, in order to prevent a few shop windows being smashed, to run the risk of shooting to death scores of innocent people. Two innocent people were shot at Llanelly and other similar outrages would have occurred if troops had been sent to other places. Our charge is that the Government have taken the side of the railway directors against the men. It is all very well to say they tried to hold the balance. Practically the Government said to the directors, "If a strike takes place, you get in your blackleg labour, carry on your restricted service, refuse to recognise the men's unions, and we will turn out every soldier in the country to assist you in your efforts to beat the men and keep wages low." There are no two opinions about it. The men who have been shot down have been murdered by the Government in the interests of the capitalist system. The intention was to help the railway directors to suppress this rising among the men. Another railway strike may take place and more troops may be sent out, and I tell the Government what is going to happen. Not only the railway men, but practically every organised trade in Great Britain will stop work until your soldiers are back into the barracks. Working men are not going to tolerate a Government using the military forces of the Crown to prevent them trying to improve their position and make their lot in life better. In order to give the House of Commons an opportunity of expressing its opinion on this question and to find out who are for the strikers and who are against them. I beg to move my Amendment to the Motion now before the House. The reply of the Home Secretary has made it quite clear that he repents of nothing he has done.
The trouble is not over, and there may be a fresh outbreak. The Commission has not yet got to work, and this House, as representing the nation, has no right to go upon holiday until we are certain that peace has been assured. We want the House to remain sitting so that if massacres should take place we should be able to bring those responsible to book in the proper place across the floor of the House of Commons. My Motion is for August 29th, that is Tuesday of next week, and I hope, just as the Government postponed the Adjournment last week from Friday to Tuesday under the pressure of events, so they will once more postpone the final Adjournment for the holidays until Tuesday next. If by that time the Commission is at work and the matter is more settled we can safely go for our holidays, but in the condition which things are now it would be unfair to the nation, and certainly unjust to the men, for us to adjourn until October 24th, meanwhile leaving the Home Secretary and his generals a free hand to carry out any policy they please.
I beg leave to second the Amendment of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. I believe the Midland Railway Company have accepted the terms which the other railways have accepted. In my own Constituency in the case of the North Staffordshire Railway Company the very same difficulties arose which arose in the case of the Midland Railway Company. The men found that the blacklegs had got their posts, and although they were promised that they would be reinstated they were not reinstated in the same positions. Of course, they objected at once. They saw the general manager, who immediately accepted the Government terms and put them back into their old positions. If they did that I think the Midland Railway Company ought to do the same thing. I am told that the Midland Railway Company have accepted the same terms. Then there is the case of the North-Eastern Railway Company. I think it would be unwise of this House to adjourn so long as a big company like that is practically closed down as far as railway transport is concerned. I do not think we ought, to adjourn indefinitely for another important reason. We found it stated in the terms of reference that were printed on Monday that the Government, in consideration of the railway companies granting bigger rates of wages would allow them to raise the transport rates on goods. This is breaking down a system which has existed for the last seventy years. The railway companies got their original concession and got their original Bills through this House and the House of Lords on the consideration that the rates charged for merchandise and for passengers should be as fixed by law. Certain maximum rates were laid down, and the railway companies had the opportunity of considering what the rates of wages would be, and whether the undertakings would pay when they made their original bargain. We are now for the first time, in order to induce the railway com- panies to put an end to a strike which they originally forced, granting to them the power to tax the people of this country, and to raise their rates, which are already higher than the rates in any foreign country. That seems to me to be a step which has not been justified by a single Member on the Front Bench. It is a step which is entirely new to the legislation of this country, and against it I think every Member of this House—certainly all those interested in business—will protest very vigorously when the legislation promised by the Government is introduced.There is another reason why it is essential the House should not adjourn indefinitely. We have had from the Home Secretary to-day a, very clear speech, and in all respects but one a very convincing speech. I had the privilege of being in the French Chamber of Deputies when M. Briand made an exactly similar speech justifying the use of the military in order to maintain the supplies of food at the time of the great strike in France a year ago as that which has been made to-day by the Home Secretary. The only difference between the two is that M. Briand was originally a Socialist, and the Home Secretary was originally a Conservative. The arguments of the two were the same, and the answer of the people supporting the strike was the same then as it is today. The Home Secretary made his position perfectly clear. He said, considering the enormous disaster that would result from a railway strike in the manufacturing districts of England—the absolute stagnation of trade and the rise in the price of food to starvation level—he was justified in doing his best to insist on the lines remaining open, irrespective of the strike and irrespective of the struggle between Capital and Labour that was going on. I do not know that anything would really justify making men work against their will, or the employment of the military as blacklegs, but, even assuming the Home Secretary is right and that illegal and unconstitutional methods are necessary in order that the safety of the State should be preserved, I say he has gone the wrong way about it and not the right way. That bulletin issued on Saturday really showed perfectly well that he tried to end the strike at any cost by backing up the masters. He has done everything he can to put an end to the strike by bringing pressure to bear upon the men. The right hon. Gentleman was, as I was, in South Africa, some ten years ago. He went through the war there, and he must have seen an enormous number of engines and trucks on the railway with the mystic symbol "Z.A.S.M." That stood for the South African Railway. It was essential that railway should be worked—exactly as it is essential the English system should be worked—in order to bring food to the vast army of occupation. They did not put soldiers on to work the trains, and they did not back up the railway company against the men. They put military people in the place of the managers instead of military people in place of the men. The right hon. Gentleman said he would take any step necessary in order to preserve food supplies, and he indicated perfectly clearly it was the troops who would do it. There was, however, the perfectly obvious alternative of going to the railway companies and saying: "The Government will take charge of the railways till you come to terms and will continue to employ the men and pay them the old wages. We will not charge anything. We will take the profits and pay the wages out of them. As soon as the railway directors come to their senses, and as soon as terms can be arranged, then we will consider handing over the surplus profits to the railway companies, or what compensation has got to be paid to them for this ultra-constitutional proceeding." Whatever you do is ultra-constitutional: whether you force the hands of the men or the hands of the masters. You can, however, force the hands of the masters just as well as you can force the hands of the men. This strike is not the last strike on the railways of this country. It has shown for the first time the extraordinary solidarity of Labour in this country, and I think it is worth the time of the Government to consider seriously what steps they will take in future when such a strike as we have recently experienced takes place again. Are they going on every occasion to use the Military Forces of the Crown to force the hands of the men, or are they going to take the place of the railway directors and run the railways as they did in South Africa and Cape Colony during the war? This is an important question for the consideration of the Government. Suggestions have been made in various quarters as to what is to be done in order to preserve the food supplies of this country if there should be a recurrence of the strike. It is a question which everyone who calls himself a statesman has to face. Mr. Harold Cox suggests making it a penal offence to break all contracts of railway work a year long. That is absolutely impossible, and it is an astonishing suggestion coming from such a man as Mr. Harold Cox. It is absolutely impracticable to imprison or to issue a mandamus against 250,000 men of this country. You cannot deal with the matter by making contracts indissoluble. You must deal with it on the basis of what power the-State is to use for the rationing of the people of the country. I do urge the Government to consider whether it might not be possible to bring pressure to bear upon the railway companies rather than upon the railway men in future. Until we get some sort of satisfactory statement from the Government that this problem will be reconsidered and that we-shall have strikes in future dealt with not by bringing pressure to bear upon the men but upon the masters, I think we ought only temporarily to adjourn. This big social struggle is just as important as a foreign war. It is a matter which is only beginning in this country. The extraordinary discontent of the working classes is growing, and it is absolutely imperative this House should consider every possible means of putting a stop to the more disastrous results of strikes. There is one other point which I think makes it advisable this House should not adjourn indefinitely. We had the other day from the Chancellor of the Exchequer a statement which to me was rather alarming. He raised the question whether, in order to put an end to these disputes in future, it would not be possible to introduce compulsory arbitration. He did not use those words, but I gathered from his answer to a question he was considering the possibility of compulsory arbitration as a means of putting an end to disputes in certain trades. I should like to say at once I think any form of compulsory arbitration which means making men work whether they want to or not is doomed to failure. You have to remember the workman's right to strike is absolutely as sacred as his right to live or his right to get up in the morning or to go to bed at night. It is a purely personal matter, and no amount of legislation will compel a man to work if he does not want to. That is a plan which will be opposed by every Radical in the House. The idea of forcing a man to work against his will has broken down everywhere in practice, because, when you come to putting large numbers of men in prison because they will not work, you fly in the face of public opinion, and the scheme breaks down at the first touch of opposition from the working men. It is because I think we want a clear and convincing statement about this idea of raising rates and taxing the people of the country for the benefit of the railway companies; it is because I think we want a clear statement as to the policy of the Government in case of future strikes; it is because we want an assurance that they will be either absolutely impartial as between the masters and the men, or, if there is a question of choice, that they will attack the masters rather than the men, and it is because I do not want the Government to introduce lightly next Session legislation to compel a man to work, whether he wants to or not, that I second the Motion objecting to the Adjournment of the House till 24th October.
I had no intention at all of intervening in this Debate, and I would not have done so had it not been for the extraordinary series of very dangerous misstatements made by my two hon. Friends who moved and seconded this Amendment. We have just effected a settlement of one of the most menacing industrial strikes with which this country has ever been confronted. The settlement is one which even my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) in a speech yesterday claimed, I think, as a victory for the men.
When I spoke I had not seen the terms of settlement, and the men I was addressing had not seen them. All we knew was that the representatives of the men's unions had accepted the terms, and I said they would not have done so had it not been a victory for the men.
That is not the only misstatement my hon. Friend has made, but I wish all his misstatements were as little damaging as that he made yesterday. What is still more important is the fact that the leaders of the men themselves claimed this as a victory. I want to say this. When the representatives of the men, partly through the good offices of the Government, have achieved what they regard as a victory, I think it a great misfortune that statements of this character—which may imperil that settlement—should be made, and I should like to speak with all becoming gravity and restraint, and tell my lion. Friends why I think it is a dangerous thing. It is true the great conflagration has been put out, but, while there are smouldering fires here and there across the country, I realise that at any moment they may burst out into a blaze, and I cannot think of anything which would be more disastrous for the men themselves. T cannot think of anything that could be more disastrous than that in a moment of exasperation they should thus throw away the fruit of what they had been fighting for. I cannot look upon that as statesmanship. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) stated that the Government had taken sides purely with the capitalists, and that they had used the troops for the purpose of shooting down men who were fighting for their legitimate rights by legal means. In that there is not a syllable of truth. I am here as one who has passed through the whole of it. I say there is not an atom of truth in it. I will tell the hon. Member what happened. The lion. Member has made a great mistake in imputing these words, which he himself, I will not say manufactured, but spun out of his own brain, to the Prime Minister. This is what he said yesterday to the men, and I propose to ask him if that is true. He said that the Prime Minister had staled that if there was to be a strike the Government would have the railways kept open even if they had to shoot down every striker. I ask him to produce any such statement made by my right hon. Friend. The hon. Member was talking 10 thousands of men at the time. Does he mean to say that my right hon. Friend used these words? If so, will he tell me where he used them.
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what I did say. At the interview between the railway men and the Prime Minister, which they reported to a meeting of the Labour party upstairs, they told us that the impression left on their minds—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh.''] Will hon. Members wait one minute. I told the meeting, and I repeated the statement three times altogether, that no shorthand note had been taken of the words used by the Prime Minister, but the impression left on the minds of every man present was that the Prime Minister told them that if there was a strike the whole forces of the Crown would be used to keep the railways open, and I added that that meant shooting down the strikers if necessary.
If anything could be worse than the actual statement it is the explanation.
May I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that an hon. Member has used a word most offensive by calling me a "traitor?" I wish to ask whether that is a term which ought to be allowed in this House?
I think the use of that word is much too general. When a word of that sort is introduced into the Debate, unless it is stopped on the first occasion it is apt to crop up too frequently. On the first occasion on which it was used, the House will remember, I think, that it was very difficult for me to interpose, but I do make a most serious appeal to hon. Members of this House to desist from using such a word in Parliamentary procedure.
I certainly withdraw it.
If anything could be worse than the offence it is the explanation. I say without hesitation it is contemptible. After all, the hon. Member himself is a colleague of the Prime Minister in this House, yet he goes down and addresses thousands of men and leads them to believe that the man who is at the head of the Government had said that he was prepared to shoot down every striker. All I can say is that there is no word within the category of Parliamentary language to describe such conduct. And he said that to my countrymen. It would be my delight to go down to his constituents to tell them what my opinion is.
You had your chance, why didn't you take it?
And the hon. Gentleman pursued the same course today. He was talking about "peaceful picketing" at Llanelly, and he says there was peaceful picketing when the troops began firing. Does he not know that that is not the truth?
Of course he does.
Here are the facts, as published in the newspapers:—
Is that peaceful persuasion?"A train was brought to a standstill when it was within a few yards of a bridge where large numbers had collected in order to watch the proceedings. Some of the more daring of the men jumped up on the footway and a fierce struggle took place. The engine driver was badly hurt, blood streaming freely from his head."
Is that from a Liberal newspaper, or from a Tory newspaper?
Let me give the House a few further facts:—
Where is the peaceful character of that proceeding?"Bricks were thrown The officer went there to try and pursuade the crowd to desist. He shook hands with some of them, but while he was so engaged more bricks and stones were thrown."
It is no use misrepresenting the facts. Let us have the truth about it. Let us judge of those facts. Remember it is very difficult for officers under such conditions as these to know what to do. Great excitement prevailed. I have here an additional report from Major Stewart, in which he says that the crowd commenced throwing stones and bricks at the troops, and that the engine driver of the train was injured. He endeavoured to persuade the crowd to disperse, warning them that he intended taking extreme measures. The stone-throwing desisted for a few minutes, but shortly it broke out with more violence than ever. One of the detachment of troops was knocked senseless. The Riot Act was read. Major Stewart again cautioned the rioters to disperse, and gave them a minute to do so. Eventually six or seven shots were fired, and finally the troops were withdrawn. Now there was undoubtedly a riot, and a very serious riot."Constant appeals were made to the crowd before there was any shooting."
Does the report say how many policemen or soldiers were injured before the. shooting took place?
At any rate, one soldier was knocked senseless. I will ask the hon. Gentleman this: Will he mind telling us what, if he were responsible, he would have done in this case. Were the troops to have cleared out, or were they to remain while stones were thrown at them? It is a sad story. The crowd were very badly led, they were very badly advised; but there is nothing worse than to justify certain proceedings of that kind in. such a way as may lead to a renewal, of the disturbances.
I do not like to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but the point is this. I was challenging the presence of the soldiers there at all. The engine had been stopped and the trouble was over. My theory is that had the soldiers not been there the stone throwing would not have taken place. The trouble had stopped.
Is that the explanation? What are the facts? The engine driver had been assaulted, blood was oozing from his head: he had been intimidated. He was physically unable to proceed, and the hon. Gentleman says the trouble was over. The line was blocked, the gates were closed, rails had been torn up, the rioters were in complete possession, stones were thrown at the soldiers and yet the hon. Gentleman says that, in his judgment, the whole trouble was over. Only one of two things could have been done. The crowd might have been left in complete command of what they had lawlessly possessed themselves of. That is all that could have been done if the facts were as stated by the hon. Member. But that was not the case. The hon. Gentleman's facts are wrong. He said that the Government had intervened purely on one side. That is grossly inaccurate. What did the Government do? In a case of this kind the Government had three responsibilities at least, and I will challenge the hon. Gentleman to get up and tell me where I am wrong. They were responsible for maintaining the law, and by maintaining the law I do not mean merely maintaining it in order to protect life and property and individual liberty, but also to maintain the law which gives the right of combination, and even the right of effective striking. They were prepared to maintain all these laws, and not merely one of them. In the second place they had to guarantee that there would be no famine in this country. Does anyone challenge our duty there? I should like to know whether it is challenged. If the hon. Gentleman himself had been Home Secretary would he have allowed the law to be set at defiance? Would he have allowed the whole food supply of the country to be paralysed, and a famine to be created throughout the country.
That is not a question of law.
I agree it is not a question of law, but it is a question of maintaining the food supplies so that there should be no famine. What is the third duty of the Government in this case? It is to use the whole of its powers to see that justice is done between the parties. Last week the Prime Minister in his statement laid down the whole of these propositions. I repeated it in this House, and I made it perfectly clear that in our judgment it was our duty not merely to repress disorder, but to redress wrongs. What have we done? We did not confine ourselves merely to protecting life and property. We did not confine ourselves merely to protecting the railways in such a way as to see that the food supply was continued. We took active steps to see that justice was established between the parties as well. We set up an impartial tribunal, a tribunal which has been accepted, appointed immediately, to act promptly and to report promptly. We did more than that. We said that we would act upon that report to the full extent of our powers, and if those powers were not sufficient we were prepared to ask for further powers. Then the hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie) said we brought no pressure at all to bear upon the railway directors. How does he know? He said we ought to have brought pressure to bear upon the directors to meet the men. Does he not know that we did it? Does he not know that as a matter of fact they met the men and in their statement they acknowledged that they met them because of the pressure which the Government brought to bear upon them?
We want to know what happened on Thursday afternoon before the men issued declaration of war.
I am giving the facts of what happened.
It is not the fault of the Government that we only had two or three days in order to deal with the matter. How can you bring the whole machinery of Government to bear when you only get twenty-four hours' notice to deal with a strike which has spread over the whole kingdom. We did it as promptly as any Government could have done it. We brought pressure to boar upon the railway directors to meet the men, and they acknowledged that it was only the pressure of the Government that induced them to meet the men for the first time in the history of railway companies in this country, as the hon. Member (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) admitted, and that is entirely owing to the action of the Government. Does the hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie) deny that?
Deny it, then.
The reason why the directors met the men was because the bulk of the men were on strike and they could not help themselves. Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to put this question? Is it the case that when the deputation from the railway men's unions on Thursday met the President of the Board of Trade and the Prime Minister, a question was put to the Prime Minister on these lines—Has the Government done anything, is the Government doing anything, does the Government intend to do anything to bring the directors and the men's unions together? And the reply was "So" Is that the case?
The Prime Minister says he has no recollection of that.
When I left the conference a message was telephoned to me from there that a question had been put by the representatives of the men as to whether the Government—I am speaking only from recollection—had done, or were proposing to do, anything to bring the masters and the men together. And the suggested answer, for which my approval was asked, was this, "We have not done so." We could not do so, this being one of the matters which was the subject of the inquiry before the Commission. In the circumstances it was the only answer I could possibly give.
I put this to the hon. Gentleman again. Does he still say, and if he does, I will put the same question to the hon. Member (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald), who knows, that the Government brought no pressure to bear on the railway directors to meet the men?
It is a pity that there should be a misunderstanding. I admit the later stages. My reference was to the first meeting of the railway servants executives with the Government, previous to the calling out of the soldiers. I was not present at the interview but a large number of trade unionists were. My hon. Friend (Mr. Ramsey Macdonald) was. The impression of the statement is that the Prime Minister's reply was in the negative.
I think I shall have to intervene. It is a great pity that this matter has been dragged in. But there is not the least doubt whatever —I say this quite categorically and I hope it will be accepted—that on Thursday we received a definite and categorical and decisive reply from the Government. The question addressed was this: "Has His Majesty's Government done anything, is it doing anything, will it do anything to bring the directors and the men together?" The question, according to what was told us, was not telephoned to Downing Street from the Board of Trade, but sent in writing from the Board of Trade to Downing Street and the reply was sent back in writing and that writing exists, and it was, "the reply is in the negative." I am sorry this has come in.
Whose fault is it?
I have been appealed to, at any rate. So far as I was concerned, I wanted to have let it all go under the very comprehensive word "misunderstanding," which was used before, but if it is going to be raised, that is the case.
I specifically ask the hon. Member does he say—and I am quoting the words of his colleague— that no pressure was brought to bear on the directors to see the men by the Government?
At the first interview.
He did not say that.
If I had not got up to challenge the hon. Member, what would have been the impression created in the country by my hon. Friend's statements? It would have been the impression that the Government had brought no pressure to bear on the directors to see the men. My hon. Friend (Mr. Wedgwood), who was perfectly straightforward, will, I am sure, admit that that was the impression left on his mind.
Before the strike.
Not a word was said about before the strike, and I am sure the impression in the country would have been that we had brought no pressure to bear. It was in connection with measures to be taken on Saturday. Pressure was brought to bear on them on the Friday, and still more on the Saturday, and my hon. Friend (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) knows it. The sitting took place on Saturday. On Friday and Saturday—I am speaking of what I know—pressure was brought to bear on the railway directors, and I am glad to have the admission of the hon. Member (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) that the statement of the hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie) is inaccurate on a matter which is of vital importance. We have done in this matter what every Government would have done. If the hon. Member (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) were at the head of administration he could not have done less. I submit that he could not have done more.
He would have done it sooner.
If he had had the advantage of the hon. Gentleman's advice he would no doubt have done it much quicker.
In view of what has been said as to the interview and the categorical statement that the Government were not going to bring any pressure to bear on the railway company, the whole difficulty had arisen, the troops were out, and the men were out before the Government acted.
I do not see what that has to do with the statement I was making. The statement which the hon. Gentleman made to this House was inaccurate.
It was not inaccurate. If the Government had brought pressure to bear the strike would not have taken place. That is what I say, and I stand by it. It is not inaccurate.
That is not the statement the hon. Gentleman made. He is just wriggling out of it by substituting another statement. I took down in writing the very statement which he made, and if that is wrong I will apologise to him tomorrow morning. This is the statement he made: "No pressure was brought to bear by the Government on the directors to see the men." That is a grossly inaccurate statement. I want to make that perfectly clear. I want to make it clear because it is so important, seeing that this matter is not completely at an end. I want to make it clear that the position of the Government has been one of strict impartiality throughout. We have maintained the law, and not merely the law that affects capital, not merely the law that affects life, not merely the law of individual liberty, but also the law of combination. We protected the rights of the men on strike just as much as we protected the rights of the others. We were pre- pared to do our best to see that there should be no famine in this land. No Government could have done less. We have done more than that. We have used every administrative power we have to seek redress for the wrongs which the men suffer if they establish them before the tribunal. We gave an undertaking to the House of Commons which the men have accepted, that if these powers were inadequate we would seek further power? It is the only thing which any civilised Government could do. We have done it impartially. We have done it fairly, and we have done it as promptly as circumstances would permit.
I do not often intrude on this House, but if the House would allow me to intervene for a few moments, I do wish to say that, though it is not often that I am in agreement with the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is with the utmost pleasure to-night that I associate myself with every single word he has uttered in replying to the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie). So much did I feel about that speech when I heard it that I fully intended to rise myself and make some reply to what he had said, and to express my opinion that it deserved the sternest reprobation of this House and of the people of the country, and for this reason. We met here this afternoon in the spirit of general conciliation indicated by the Prime Minister, and that, I believe, was the desire that prevailed on both sides of the House. But if there be anything in this world which more than another could have induced a continuation of the strike and of the miserable circumstances by which it was accompanied, it was the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. When he bandies charges of murder across the floor against the Government, I tell him, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, that in my humble opinion, if by any misfortune his speech should have the effect which I thought it was possible it would have, there would be no man in the country who would be more open to the charge of murder than the hon. Member after the speech he has made to-night.That is only one of the things which I should like to comment upon. The hon. Member said that this action which had been taken on the part of the Government was merely in order to back up railway companies and capitalists against the Labour party, while the words had not been out of the mouth of the Home Secretary many minutes that the Government had carefully avoided taking any side whatever but one. The right hon. Gentleman said the only side the Government have taken has been that of making provision for the food supply which is absolutely essential for the life of the people. When the hon. Member made that charge not one single word did he tell us to disprove the statement of the Home Secretary. I think it was before the Chancellor of the Exchequer came into the House the hon. Member charged the Home Secretary with violating the law. He stated that he had overridden the law, and had substituted military law for civil law without the authority of Parliament. To that the Home Secretary had already given an answer, which was that the emergency justified the action he thought it his duty to take. In regard to that action I venture to say, using the language of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, that ninety-nine out of every hundred people in the country would entirely agree. What I should like to try to impress upon the House is that this is no ordinary strike, and now I am speaking in the interest of the general public at large. This is a strike which has been carried on by waging war against the whole of Society at large in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Yes, that is perfectly true, and the object they had in view has been by trying to deprive Society at large of the very essentials for their existence, to wring concessions from the railway companies and the authorities. And in the interest of whom? One-third of the employés in the service of the railway companies of this country—a mere fraction of the community —and all that has been done, this war has been waged against forty millions of people in order to accomplish this purpose. What, has been the most potent weapon they have used? What they call "picketing," or what, according to the language of some, is called "peaceful picketing." The right hon. Gentleman has exploded that theory already. On that point I only wish to say this- and when I express my own strong conviction on the subject I am perfectly certain that I express the views of the vast majority of the people at large—the time has come when there must be some great change, some great modification, with regard to the law and practice of picketing as it stands at the present moment. In future the general public must be protected from the horrors we have seen in the last week or ten days. I could say a good deal more on this subject to-night, but I do not wish to delay the House. I must say this in addition. The worst feature in this case, as it always is in these cases, has been the stoppage of supplies for the people, with the. result that untold misery, even in a short time, has been inflicted on vast numbers of people, and, above all, on children. I would venture to press this consideration on the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, who supports the course that has been taken with such daring audacity. One of the saddest things I have read of in all these proceedings was the statement as to what occurred at, I think, Leeds. Hundreds of' milk-cans were emptied in the streets at a moment when there were thousands of children in Leeds in need of that particular article. I mention this to show to what length people will press strikes of this sort in their endeavours to win. I must say I thought it was one of the wickedest and cruellest instances that have ever come under my own observation, of what sometimes may be perpetrated under the guise of strikes which are waged in the interests of the working classes of this country. Most earnestly do I hope that their ways may be amended in this respect. We are told of grievances on the part of the working classes in the service of the railway companies. If there are grievances, in Heaven's name let them be remedied. No one on either side of the House desires to see any grievance perpetuated. We are only anxious that any real and just grievance shall be removed, and I go so far as to say let justice, and even generosity, be done in cases of this kind. That, I think, has already been under the consideration of the Government, as I gather from the terms of the agreement. I am sure it has had the care of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I should like to say one word in regard to the way in which the duties of the police and the soldiers have been carried out under the most trying circumstances. I am sure that the whole of the British public is enormously indebted to them, because had it not been for their services, the temper they displayed, and their patience and forbearance, we might have been in an infinitely worse position than we are at the present time. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil read a long lecture to the Secretary for Home Affairs. I have only this much to say in regard to that right hon. Gentleman. So far as I have been able to see, his language in this House, his demeanour, and his general attitude throughout the whole of these proceedings have been all that we could desire. I believe that in the attitude he has taken up he has been absolutely right, and what we on this side of the House wish to hold the Government strictly responsible for is this. If there should be any recurrence of the trouble we have had to face in the past, I hope that the language used by the Home Secretary in this House will be made good by him, and if it is we may look forward then to a cessation of these terrible troubles in future.
I was present at a series of riots on Saturday last, and therefore my experience as one who has witnessed these riots in the country may be of interest to the House. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) I think made perhaps the most cowardly attack that has ever been made on any Minister of the Crown. He had full opportunity to rise before the Home Secretary made his statement, and he deliberately did not rise in his place before that Minister rose. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil does not lack courage as a rule, but in this case the not giving of the Minister an opportunity of replying to the charges he was going to make was not in accordance with what we might have expected. He made not only one inaccurate statement, but his speech consisted of a long series of wholly untruthful statements to the House. The hon. Member asked why the Home Secretary could not rely on the strikers to support the civil authority because there was not one case where the strikers had not co-operated with the civil authority. That statement is wholly untrue. I can give instances of riots on Saturday night. On Saturday I addressed three meetings in my own Constituency where no disorder of any kind had taken place. On Saturday I sent a telegram to the Home Secretary stating that as no disorder had taken place, the sending of troops into the district would be resented as an insult. But what happened was that after the strike had been concluded, troops were actually sent for because of the disturbances which had occurred in adjoining constituencies. It is only due to the Home Secretary to say that so far as he himself is concerned he did his best-He sent my telegram to the War Office. Having given over the administration of the concentration of troops to the War Office he had to some extent divested himself from controlling the manner in which troops should be dispersed about the different parts of the country. I went over yesterday to see the officer commanding the troops that were sent into my Constituency, and I found that he had used great common sense. When he arrived on the spot he started to play the band, and he allowed all the people in the district to come around the camp. In fact, I am told that already he has obtained several recruits in the district, and the best of feelings exist between the military authorities and the people in my Constituency. But at the same time it was. pointed out to me by the officer commanding that the reason why these troops has been brought to this particular district was not for the purpose of overawing my Constituents, but of giving protection by being sent to different districts.If, however, it is shown to be necessary to bring troops into a thickly populated centre, and if troops can be moved by special trains, as they are moved, rapidly,, I should have thought it would be very much better to put these troops down in some country districts close to the thickly populated centre where they could be despatched quickly if required. But I say it is the duty of every civilised Government in the world to use all the forces it can. bring up against disorder. What happened after I had made these speeches on Saturday denouncing the Government in case they did send troops to my Constituency? I motored over to a place near Chesterfield about 14 miles from Mansfield, which I have the honour to represent. I arrived in Chesterfield about half-past nine on Saturday night. When I got into the railway station I found a crowd of some five or six hundred people whose temper I did not like. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."] I have been reported in the Press Gallery as always speaking like a trumpet, but I will endeavour again to raise my voice. I did not like the temper of the crowd. I went up to the police station in the town and gave information to the police that there might be trouble. Having left that message at the police station I went home.
I wish all the strikers would do that.
I had motored down from London. I had addressed three meetings and I had travelled all night and thought I might go to bed. However, I had not been long home before I received a telephone message that an organised attack had been made on the station, and I went outside the house where I was staying, a little over a mile from the town, and heard yells and shouts of disorder. I immediately proceeded to the town with my brother, who is mayor of the town. On arriving at the station the first thing I saw was five policemen, stretched out almost insensible, with their heads cut open, and bleeding from wounds, and a number of porters belonging to the staff of the railway company, and civilians also, who had assisted to repulse the attack on the station, were also laid out severely cut and injured. Outside the station there was a mob consisting of 4,000 or 5,000 people which had gathered in the space of about an hour and a half. Every single window in the station, including some 120 sheets of plate glass, had been destroyed in the riot. The rioters' had broken into the booking hall, but there were some policemen who, with some passengers and those people on duty, had enabled the attack to be repulsed. The total police force in Chesterfield consists of thirty-eight constables. The constables came down the back way and got on to the railway platform. Then they were faced by this mob, which kept throwing stones and smashing glass indiscriminately in the town and started to wreck all kinds of property, breaking shop windows with bricks and stones and destroying everything that might come in their way. These thirty-eight policemen who were in that position made five or six baton charges. Each time they came back the mob attacked them afresh, and those who were with the police and who were assisting them received showers of stones and bricks and other missiles. The position became so serious and the police were so weary that it looked that unless military aid arrived at any moment the station would be entirely at the mercy of the mob, who had already tried to set fire to it, and who had successfully fired a cabman's shelter which had nothing to do with the railway, and created destruction in every direction.I should say that the strikers and the pickets at Chesterfield co-operated with the police. They assisted the police as far as they could in this particular instance, working hand-in-hand with them to try and prevent this disorder. It was not the railway men who did the damage. The railway men throughout this strike, with few exceptions, have behaved in a manner which, I think, brings home to the mind of the general public what an admirable body of self-respecting men the railway servants are. I say that there is no body of men who have larger and greater grievances in the State than the railway men in this country. But I am not dealing with this aspect of the case. I am only replying to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil as to the question of military co-operation with the police for the preservation of order. After a long while my brother, as mayor, telephoned through the Post Office, asking for the military to come to the assistance of the civil police. He was constantly cut off, on the telephone, every three minutes. That happens constantly in this place. They do not recognise any Government duty whatever in the postal telephone system. At two o'clock in the morning the mob still continued wrecking and destroying. A company of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers arrived, and the mob continued to throw stones. My brother proceeded to read the Riot Act, a proceeding, in my opinion, wholly unnecessary. As soon as the Riot Act was read the bugle sounded, and the mob of 5,000 people who had been resisting the civil authority for a period of about five hours cleared instantly in all directions. They say there is no use in bringing in the military to assist the civil authorities. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil made a very remarkable statement. He said that troops can only be employed to suppress disorder. He will find these words to-morrow morning in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Does the hon. Member approve of the law? Does the hon. Member admit that it is the duty of the Government in such a case to bring in troops to assist the civil power?
What I want to know is, does the hon. Member approve of that? When I want him to clear up that point he shuffles. We are not at a street-corner meeting. We are in the House of Commons. I ask him this simple question: Does he approve of troops being employed to suppress disorder when the civil authorities are not able to deal with it? Let the House observe: here is a Member of the Imperial Parliament——
My complaint was not that the soldiers were brought in to suppress disorder, but that troops were sent out all over the country at the command of the military in defiance of the civil law.
Surely that is not the point. The point as to which I am asking the hon. Member is this: here you have had for the last week scenes of the worst disorder, culminating in loss of life. What is the alternative to the employment of military force? Does the hon. Member approve of the use of military force when the civil power is unable to deal with the situation? He will not answer, because he dare not answer! Here we have the misfortunes of the nation exploited at a time like this——
Exploited by you as well as other people.
By all this slobbering sentimentalism that we have had down here. The first principle of common sense, and what the people ask for in this country, is that there should be protection for law-abiding citizens. To my mind it is the duty of any Government in this country—I do not refer particularly to the present Government—to fulfil that obligation. The Government now in office should consider what ought to be done to alter the law in order to deal with cases of gross and monstrous injury inflicted on the public, on the citizens of the country. It seems to be thought that when the police are brought in to quell disturbance they are to have bricks and stones thrown at their head, their faces bashed in, and their limbs broken. And all this is apparently thought by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil to be perfectly legitimate. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO."] Then how are you going to meet this condition of things if you have not the aid of the military? I say it is perfectly monstrous that the police should be put in the position of having little sticks of an inch diameter to meet men who throw bricks and stones at their heads. The hon. Member may laugh, but how would he like to charge with a little stick against a mob who are throwing bricks and stones at his head?
I have been knocked down, not by a little bit of a stick, but by a walloping stick.
I can only ask this in conclusion. Will the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil answer one way or the other whether, when the civil power is overcome, as they were at Chesterfield on the occasion which I have described, the police, with the few people assisting them, are or are not to have the help of the military? It is all very well to attend meetings of working men and speak of the iniquities of the Government who brought the troops to "shoot down the people like dogs." That may be a very effective argument for some purposes, but it is one which disguises what the real facts are. I do think that the House owes a debt of gratitude to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having pointed out clearly and precisely the serious misstatements which have been made, and all I can say is that I would not remain a Member of this House for one day if my Constituents wished me to come here to support the giving of licence to have mob law in place of the regular law of the country.
If the hon. Gentleman is applying that remark to my Constituency, I have to say there was not a single case, with the exception of one boy who threw a stone, of violence of any kind-reported to the police in my Constituency.
I am rather glad to hear from the hon. Member that all these incitements of lawlessness and disorder have not reached Merthyr Tydvil, and that he has had a restraining influence. The hon. Member about a week ago gave certain information to the House in regard to Tredegar. I happen to be connected with a big iron and coal company, and I have a report written by the general manager relating to Tredegar which shows the serious position of things in Wales. Here again there was no question, as at Chesterfield, of trouble coming from the strikers themselves. It was a case of revolutionary anarchy. What happened down at Tredegar was that respectable people joined a mob in looting the shops of people in the town and carrying home from those shops all kinds of articles which had been looted. Does the hon. Member approve of general looting? Does the hon. Member approve of these people going into the shops of other people to loot?
was understood to say that it was always being said that the people were looting.
That is the opinion of the hon. Member, but I do not take all the opinions of the Labour party, which is the most ignorant party in this country.
Do not be ungentlemanly.
I just want to point out what happened in South Wales, for what was going on was not very creditable to working men. Perhaps the intelligence of the hon. Member for West Ham, if he goes down to South Wales, would enable him to bring these men back to the path of law-abiding citizens, as they had been, to my knowledge, for years past.
Does the hon. Gentleman know that there was no rioting in West Ham?
If the hon. Member will go down to South Wales and bring these people back again to the path of common sense he will do a public service. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why did you not do it at Chesterfield?"] The letter which I received states that serious rioting took place at Tredegar. [An HON. MEMBER: "Read it all."] You shall have it all if you wish it. The letter, dated August 21st, says:—
I only wish to say this in conclusion: that although I differ from the Home Secretary in many of his views, I do think—although the subject is an unpopular one, and one out of which to make political capital by drawing attention to the delinquencies of the particular Minister who is engaged on this question—the right hon. Gentleman has acted with courage, and those who do the right thing at the right time always, sooner or later, get their reward. After the condemnations we have heard against the right hon. Gentleman from hon. Members below the Gangway, I, at all events, lift my voice here and on this occasion and say that I admire the right hon. Gentleman for this more than for any other step he has taken since I have been a Member of this House."Serious rioting took place at Tredegar on Saturday and Sunday night. It would appear that on Saturday night, between 11 and 12 o'clock, an attack was made upon shops owned by Jews in the main street of the town. There can be no doubt that this had been pre-arranged, although the police had no knowledge that such an attack was likely to take place. There were only eight constables available, and they were quite inadequate to deal with the disturbance, and could do little more than look on at the wrecking and looting or eighteen shops owned by Jews or persons of Jewish extraction. At an emergency meeting of the magistrates held on Sunday afternoon, it was decided to ask the Home Office for military protection, as there were strong rumours of a recurrence of the riots that evening. About 200 military arrived in the town about 10.30 that night from Cardiff, but previous to their arrival a few scuffles had taken place with the police, and the wrecking and looting of two other somewhat large business premises owned by Jews was commenced. Fortunately the arrival of the military prevented further grave disturbances, but the two premises I have previously referred to were looted of everything they contained; respectable people to all appearances carrying off bundles of clothing quite openly, and apparently without shame. At one time a serious conflict seemed imminent, but by appealing to the crowd a large number were prevailed upon to go home, with the result that by the aid of the military patrolling the town and by police rushes, the streets were eventually cleared without serious mishaps other than broken heads and cuts from the baton charges. Had I not seen it myself, I would not have believed that such an occurrence could have taken place in Tredegar, and I am sorry to say that although undoubtedly started in the first stage by hooligans, there were a large number of respectable working men taking part in the disturbance…. As previously stated the feeling in the first case was against the Jews, but now it appears to be an outburst of lawlessness in all directions, and threats have been used against respectable tradesmen who have been in the town for many years."
As to the last remarks of the hon. Baronet, I need only remark that, whenever there has been any attack of this kind the person who has made the attack has been charged with doing it for the purpose of making political capital. I intended to read to the Home Secretary, who has just left the House, some remarks which were made during the Debate on Mitchelstown. I would recommend him, since I sec he has returned, as the son of a worthy father, to read the speech of the late Lord Randolph Churchill on that occasion and the answer made to him by the late Mr. Gladstone in this House. To those Liberals who have remained in the House I would like to point out, and more especially to the hon. Baronet (Sir A. Markham) that everything which he and hon. Gentlemen have been saying this afternoon, and everything that has been said from the Front Bench in defence of the employment of soldiers, has been said against their own party at the time the present Leader of the Opposition was Chief Secretary for Ireland. All through the Debate on the Mitchelstown outbreak, the Liberal party, from Mr. Gladstone and Sir William Harcourt (whose relatives are still in the House) downwards, the Liberal party being then in opposition, took the line that soldiers ought not to be used unless there was first of all some tumult. It may be said that you fear the growth of outrage, but the condition of England and Scotland last week is not to be compared with what was the condition of Ire- land during that period. No one in this House can say that a condition of lawlessness prevailed in the three Kingdoms such as prevailed in Ireland in 1887. The Liberal party of that day, whether they did it for political capital or not I do not know—the then Chief Secretary for Ireland said they did it for political capital, just as the hon. Baronet now charges us with doing it for political capital—held that the soldiers should not be called in until there was tumult. There was a Motion for the Adjournment of the House, or they spoke on the Appropriation Bill, in reference to the subject, and they took the line that it was infamy that firearms should have been used under the conditions which then existed. I have listened to this Debate to-day right through, and it appears to me, at any rate, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer apparently said one thing and then the Home Secretary emphasied that, but added something to it. I want to put a definite question to the Home Secretary. It is said that they did not want us to understand that the soldiers were to be used for working the railways. Will he tell the House what he meant when he said that not only were they going to protect the men who wanted to work, but that they were going, if necessary, to keep open the food supplies of the country? I cannot read into that anything else but that you were going to work the railways if the men refused to work the railways. There can be no other interpretation of your words. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to stand up and say that that is not the correct interpretation of his words. Other measures must have meant that.I do not disagree in the last resort with the Government keeping open the food supplies of the country, but I disagree emphatically with the method by which they were going to do that. I am a new Member comparatively, but I have sat in the Gallery a good many times, and I want to say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that his denunciation of my hon. Friend was quite unworthy even of him. After all, he knows perfectly well what it is when hooligans of another kind did not allow him to speak in Birmingham. Hooligans pelted me and others in Trafalgar Square, and I never heard the present Home Secretary stand up in this House and denounce lawlessness. He came down to Bow and Bromley and made a most infamous attack on the Liberal party and the so-called pro-Boers, and all the time he is talking of law and order now. Why is that? The reason is that he has not shed yet the old Toryism that is right deep down in him. Any man who sits in this House and who has got any intelligence knows that there is as much difference between his outlook on these social questions, especially his, and the present Prime Minister's outlook on these social questions, and that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as there is night from day. Everybody knows quite well that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) was telling the truth, and that it was not untrue when he said that the Government before the strike did definitely tell those executives that they did not intend to bring pressure to bear. Let anybody deny it.
That is not what the hon. Member for Merthyr said. The hon. Gentleman states he is referring to my condemnation of the statement of the hon. Member for Merthyr. The statement of the hon. Member for Merthyr is the statement which I have read out, and I say it is inaccurate. We did on both Friday and Saturday.
I disagree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer as much as any man in this House on a good many things, but there is not one of us would wish to detract in any sort of way from the tremendous efforts he put forward on Friday and Saturday to bring about peace. That, however, is another matter. In the discussion before the strike took place the Prime Minister of England declared that the Government was not going to take any steps to bring the directors to reason, and all that the right hon. Gentleman did was after the terrible calamity of the strike had taken place. That is the position, and no one here can contradict it. They may talk here about slobbery sentiment, but it is jolly good common sense. Therefore, what we have to say to the Government is that they allowed this calamity. No one can picture the calamity worse than the Home Secretary. No one can paint its horrors worse than he did on last Wednesday. I call the attention of the House to the fact that on last Wednesday he gave us that same picture, and yet in the face of that the Prime Minister could meet the men's representatives and tell them he was not going to use all the pressure and the power of the Government to compel those directors to come to reason. Therefore the people who are really responsible for the strike taking place are the Government, who intervened too late. We hear all this talk about the death rate and all this sloppy sentimentality about little babies dying. But how long have you woke up to this? Since when have your hearts been bleeding? Only when the workers refused any longer to be your slaves that you woke up. When they took things into their own hands, then the Front Bench pours out its sympathy, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin) gets up and pours out his sympathy. Has the Front Bench forgotten that the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman told us of millions in this country who are living just on the border-line of starvation? What have you done about it until those people woke up? Let us know.I sat here and heard the Member for Derby and the Member for Stockton and one of the Members for Newcastle-on-Tyne appeal to the President of the Board of Trade a few weeks ago on this very subject, and he took not the slightest notice, absolutely not the slightest notice, on this very question of railways. Now because the railway men refuse any longer to sit quietly down, what happens? We are practically told that they have not the right to strike. Are you going to deny those men the right to strike, and to say that because they run the railway system, which is necessary for the defence of the entire community, that they have not the right to go on strike? If you are, you have got to take the corresponding responsibility, which is that the Government must see that they are paid decently and work reasonable hours while they are carrying through that service. Until you are prepared to do that you ought not to allow your soldiers to coerce them in the manner they have been coerced during these two days. One word more about the soldiers. The right hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of the evening that he put all the troops and practically handed England over to a certain number of generals. I am not a lawyer, but I have had the advantage of reading statements of the late Sir William Harcourt and Charles Bradlaugh and Mr. Gladstone on this subject in the Debate on Mitchelstown, and they deliberately disagree with everything the right hon. Gentleman says. I have tried to think of what Act of Parliament there is which has been passed since 1887 which has given him the right to practically establish martial law in this country. I want to say that those soldiers——
They are under the civil and common law of the country. Every soldier, like every policeman, is amenable to the ordinary civil law in all respects. All his actions are to be judged by exactly the same tribunal as any other person in the country.
I would like to point out to the Home Secretary that that is all very fine, but when your house is occupied by soldiers and pulled about and generally upset it is very poor consolation to be told that the Courts are open to you. If you sit in a garden or on a garden wall on a Saturday afternoon and if your brains are blown out it is very poor consolation to your wife and children to know that the Courts are open to them. It is pretty nonsensical. I want to remind him, and I say it quite respectfully, that is what his father said when sitting on those benches in 1887, and it was that very statement which the late Mr. Gladstone controverted in this House. The whole of the Liberal party of that day stood against that doctrine and theory. The right hon. Gentleman's father said that the Courts were open. Whether the Home Secretary has been reading his father's speeches, and that is where the quotation comes from, I do not know; but as he has now joined the Liberal party the best thing he can do is to read what the Liberal leaders said in those days. For my part I do not understand where the difference comes in. I want to challenge one statement that was made in regard to the incident in Bow and Bromley, which is part of Poplar; the electricity station is in Bromley. We had had absolutely no disorder at all, but at the whim of a general the whole place was occupied by troops, and the authorities were asked to take them away, because if they had stopped they would have created disorder.I wish to say a word on the general question. Members are taking this business in one way seriously, but in another way rather casually. They are looking on it as a sort of thing that can be crushed out. A Liberal statesman has said that you ought not to attempt to use coercion when people are rising for the redress of grievances, that you ought only to use coercion after and not before the redress of grievances. In this House it appears to me that because of a Liberal Government being in power we are to have the doctrine enunciated that we are first of all to be bludgeoned into quietness and then our grievances are to be investigated. Let me say a word about the present settlement or want of settlement, or whatever it is. In France there has been a tremendous growth of syndicalism. There has been a great spreading of the movement towards abandoning Parliamentary effort, towards saying that Parliament is of no use. [An HON. MEMBER: "Anarchy."] The hon. Member is one of those people in this House who never mind anarchy when they are defending their own interests. Therefore he is not the man to talk about it. This movement is going on all over the world, and it has come to this land. Some of us are very glad that the working men are really awakening and showing their solidarity. Personally, I do not want the working man to lose their faith in Parliamentary methods. I do not want the toilers who work for miserable wages to feel that this House has become useless for the redress of their wrongs. It is because I feel that this Government, rightly or wrongly, in endeavouring to maintain order by their present methods are doing the worst service to Parliamentary methods in this country, that I am so bitterly and determinedly opposed to them. What is it the people are suffering from here? We talk about Tariff Reform and Free Trade. You know perfectly well that the people are suffering from the twin evils of landlordism and monopoly. You know that the people are driven off the land, and they sweat and starve in the great cities. This House, if it is to be of any value at all, if it is really to grapple with social questions, instead of grappling with them only when the people outside are violent and turbulent, ought to be glad to sit here and find out what it can do to remove unemployment, destitution, the causes of low wages, and all those things which depress our people. You talk about an Imperial race. Go into the slums of Bethnal Green or Bow and Bromley; look at the stunted and underfed people who elect us, and we are going on our holidays, satisfied that we have brought about a Commission to investigate why men should earn only 12s., 14s., or 15s. a week. It ought not to need any investigation. This House, if it was worth its salt to the working classes, would sit until it had passed such laws that every man and woman willing to work could earn a sufficient wage to enable them to live decently and well.
The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Lansbury) said that railway men work for very low wages. I quite agree, and the reason seems to me to be fairly plain. You cannot have high wages here if you have foreign competing goods coming in in the manufacture of which very low wages are paid. [Laughter.]
They have low wages in Tariff Reform countries.
That laughter really shows either that you do not want to know or that you are ignorant.
Hon. Members when addressing the House should remember that they ought to address the Chair.
I am very sorry. It is an, extraordinary thing that Labour Members in this House cannot understand that very plain fact. The hon. Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) said that the question of railway wages had nothing whatever to do with a tariff. It has everything to do with it. If we had a tariff that caused our people to get good wages and our industries to be flourishing, everybody knows that railway wages would go up very much in consequence. Why are they so high in America? Because you cannot get railway men there unless you pay high wages. It must be so. All the rest of the civilised world believe as I do. But Labour Members here think they know better than anybody else. That is what it comes to. It is either extraordinary ignorance or else you do not wish to know.
It must be ignorance.
Most people in this House-know that the real cause of the late riots is the fact that millions of workers in this country do not earn sufficient wages to enable them to live in decent comfort. Unless that is altered we shall have more strikes and more riots. We were told on Thursday by the Solicitor-General for Ireland that foreign prison-made goods were used in Ireland. I conclude from that that they are also used in this country. Will any Labour Members go to their Constituents and say: "We like foreign prison-made goods to come to this country and compete with your work?" They come from Germany and America, but the Labour people do not care. In America black and white convicts are hired very cheaply from the Government and used for manufacturing iron exported to this country. It looks to me rather as if the Labour Members were look- ing after themselves rather than after their people. I have taken a good deal of trouble during the last few days to find out what I can about these goods, which are either very cheap or prison-made, or perhaps both. And there has been established, and established lately in this country, a great organisation for selling an enormous quantity of goods at a penny apiece. These are goods which our people could certainly not make for a penny. They come from abroad. Most of them have got no mark. They are not marked "Made in Germany," yet in the shops they know perfectly well that they come from abroad. They are goods that it is perfectly impossible that our people could produce at the money. When you come to think that the foreigner has to make his profit, then that he has to send them here, then that the wholesale man has to get a profit, then the retail dealer, what sort of wages do you think the workman will get when the price of each article is a penny?
Made in Germany.
Yes, but those things are competing with the wages of the people of this country. I bought the other day a good tin pot for boiling potatoes in, a padlock, and a very good nail brush, all for one penny each. Other things are sold for one penny which by no possibility could be produced by workmen getting decent wages in this country. This thing is spreading. The organisation to which I referred is a tremendous one, and it has a lot of money behind it. Its shops are spreading all over the country. Now they are going to invade the villages. I know of various shops about the suburbs of London, and even by the seaside. They sell Japanese goods, made, I should think, in Japanese prisons. At all events, they look to me like it, because they look so good. The Labour Members are willing that that should go on all over the country. I hope that they will go and tell their constituents, and see what they say
I do not see how these matters can be dealt with without legislation, and they are, therefore, out of order.
They are prison-made goods, Sir, and there is also the Merchandise Marks Act. I thought these matters could be dealt with.
How can the evils of which the hon. Gentleman complains be dealt with without legislation.
I thought you were not allowed to send prison-made goods into this country. I thought all goods sent into this country from other countries had to be marked when sent in. However, I suppose I may say this: that the girls in the shops are paid sweated wages, and that the people who make these goods are paid very low wages. I do not think the Labour Members are doing their duty to their constituents unless they look at these things. The Labour leaders here really made very little protest against the Chinamen who took the place of British sailors on British ships during the strike. Labour Members here cry out, and say that the men should have high wages. Quite right, but they also want cheap foreign imports. You cannot have them both: they do not go together. The combination is impossible. I may respectfully add in conclusion that I think the Labour leaders in this House ought to reconsider their position in relation to Tariff Reform. If they do not do so they will find in the near future that they will no longer be leaders.
May I suggest to the House that we might now bring this Debate to a conclusion. The House was brought together specially to meet the emergency which had arisen, and we have had this Debate. I do not know that it will be fruitful to carry it further.
So far as I am concerned, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I mean to detain the House for a very few moments only, because I think there has been sufficient said on both sides. Of course, it is rather a difficult job for one who has a temper sometimes to hold it in, and during the last few hours there happens to have been some very strong language used on both sides of the House. I am very glad that my temper has been a little cool, otherwise I should possibly have exploded. One point I want to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to—although for the moment he is not here—is in regard to the statement made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie). My hon. Friend said that the whole of the disturbance down at Llanelly took place-after the two men were shot. That is perfectly correct. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary-will read "The Times" of Monday they will find that it was after the two men were shot on Saturday afternoon that the major part of the disturbance took place. It was after that those concerned started to loot the town. It was after that that they returned again to the railways. It was after that that particular magazine was blown up, when, unfortunately, four or five people were killed and a number of people injured. That was the only point I wanted to refer to so far as that particular question was concerned.Another thing I would like to bring before the notice of the right hon. Gentlemen is that in London during the last few weeks, as most hon. Members are aware, we had 125,000 men out, at one time at any rate, and upon our hands. We have held demonstrations in all parts of London. I think I am right in saying that last Friday week one of the largest demonstrations that has ever been held in London was held, and as a matter of fact there was not one single soldier there at all. Perfect order was kept by the police. I am perfectly certain that if the soldiers had been brought out during the time of the dock strike something very serious would have happened. I think, at any rate, those who were responsible for conducting that strike in London take some little credit to themselves, and on behalf of the men, for the magnificent way in which that strike was conducted during a very trying time. I want to give the Home Secretary some little credit in this matter. It is very seldom perhaps that some of us are prepared to give him credit. But I am prepared on this occasion to give him some little credit for what he has done on behalf of the dockers. The reason I say that is that the Board of Trade was absolutely ignored. A requisition was made by the Strike Committee to the Home Secretary, who was asked if he could see his way to bring pressure to bear upon particular gentlemen to see whether we could not arrive at a settlement, and the result was that in consequence of the requisition of the Home Secretary or the Under-Secretary that the shipowners were brought together, and after a few hours we had brought the strike to a satisfactory termination. The dockers had won a great principle for which they had been fighting for many years. Certainly the Home Secretary is entitled to a little credit for bringing about that satisfactory arrangement. Two very live questions are outstanding, and they may mean a general turn out at the Port of London. I do Hot know, of course, whether the Government can help us in the matter, but the Under-Secretary of State knows the details, and knows what we have been doing for the last two or three days. He knows that there are two sets of men who absolutely refuse to carry out the agreement, that has already been arrived at. The coal merchants and the lightermen refused to carry out the award, so that practically the whole of the coal trade is not working, and many barges are standing full of coal and cannot be unloaded, and unless the Government or the Home Office, or somebody of that kind comes to our assistance to bring about a satisfactory settlement, things will remain as they are. The short sea trade is not going on, and these people have refused to carry out the Rollit Award. The result is, and must continue to be, that unless we get a settlement for these short sea traders, it may be necessary that 25,000 men will be called out. That is the reason I rose in order to call attention to these matters, and I hope the Government will try and do its best to bring about a settlement.
I wish to state the reasons why I feel bound to vote for this Amendment. It is not because I want to censure the Government for any action they have taken, or that I condemn in any way the action of the Government in regard to this matter. On the contrary, I congratulate them most heartily. I believe that on an occasion of great difficulty they acted on the whole successfully and with great discretion, and if there have been mistakes now is not the time to raise questions about them. But I do feel that Parliament should not adjourn until October. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us we are still in a position of great difficulty and in a very critical situation. He said that great conflagrations had been put out, but that there are still smouldering fires, and he went on to say that the Government may have to come to this House and ask for further powers, and that further steps may have to be taken so that a satisfactory settlement of this dispute may be arrived at.
I see why the hon. Gentleman quarrels with this Motion. It is not with a view of censuring the Government, but because he thinks that it may not be desirable that the House should not meet earlier. May I point out to him that under an Act of George III., when the House is adjourned for a longer period than a fortnight, it is open to be summoned at any moment, and my hon. Friend may take this assurance from the Government, that if circumstances arise which in our judgment make it necessary that we should summon the House for the purpose of supporting any action which we may take, we certainly shall not hesitate a moment to summons it. All that is required is six days' notice. I hope my hon. Friend is satisfied with that.
I am exceedingly glad to hear that from the right hon. Gentleman, and I certainly think it does change the position. At the same time my right hon. Friend will excuse me if I disagree with him to this extent, that I think that at a time like this it is most important that the workers of the country should feel that their grievances should be fairly put in this House, and that the Government should take action, and that if they failed we should have an opportunity of calling them to order, and asking further reasons. In spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I think it is a pity the Government should adjourn the House just now, as the trouble is still so serious, and on these grounds I feel bound to support the Amendment.
I want to deal with one phase of this subject. It was very interesting during the discussion which has taken place to note the attitude of the Opposition with regard to the action of the Home Secretary in the employment of the military in civil disputes and in anticipation of possible disorder. The attitude of the Opposition was only to be expected, for they have been clamouring for the use of the military for weeks past, and promises of support from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire and from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon are not matters upon which Members sitting on this side of the House who wish to carry on the administration of the country on the lines of Liberal tradition should congratulate themselves upon. I think that the opinion of the Liberal party if given expression to would differ from those we have heard from the other side of the House in regard to this subject. I do not dispute the facts that mistakes have been made and not all upon one side. No one will deny but that for the terrible misunderstanding, amounting now almost to a tragedy, this matter might have been settled last Thursday, because even now it has really been settled upon the proposition then made. There is no getting away from that. Therefore there have been mistakes on both sides. I confess I do not like the way in which this dispute has been carried out and the way in which it was almost assumed from the first, even before the dispute arose, that the military would be used. When I looked at the newspapers on Thursday last I noticed it was stated that the Home Secretary had promised that assistance would be given to the railway managers to enable them to run their lines.
No promise of that kind was ever made by me. I never made any such statement.
I heard that statement to-day. I came into the House on Thursday last with the intention of verifying that statement, and I at once interjected a question asking the right hon. Gentleman if the statement made by the railway manager was true, that the Government had promised them every assistance to run a certain limited service of trains. There is no getting away from the fact that before the strike had begun such preparations had been made. For instance, on Friday morning when I came to Clapham Junction Station I found it picketed with soldiers. They were there with fixed bayonets; one of them was in the booking office; half-a-dozen of them were sitting on the kerbstone with their carbines across their knees. That was before the strike had really occurred and there was no prospect of any disturbance. There were no crowds, only gangs of boys and girls and children attracted by the unusual sight of seeing soldiers in charge of the railway station. I have spoken these few words as a protest against the idea that the moment there is a labour dispute you must at once bring the soldiers upon the scene. We do not agree with rioting. If the question which the hon. Member for Mansfield put to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil had been put to me I could have answered it in a second, without the slightest hesitation. I should have replied that I never saw any good cause supported by riot and disorder. I am not going to say that I do not occasionally see riot and disorder among other sections of the community who at least have education, but the thing I want to protest against is that, a Liberal Government should make it part of their policy that whenever a dispute occurs on a great scale the military must be brought in. I think that would be a wrong principle to lay down. I hope this dispute will never be considered a precedent for the use of the military. The fact is that the Opposition are the greatest enemies of trade unions, and are hostile to labour in every shape and form, and the pleasure with which they have goaded the Government to use the military is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the whole business. I only wish, when the benches opposite were crowded, that we could have got the names of those hon. Members opposite who cried out "Hear, hear" when the report was read out about the men having been shot down by the military.
That is not true.
The strikers are considered "hooligans" when they strike,
Division No. 340.]
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Hayward, Evan||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Henry, Sir Charles S.||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Hinds, John||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Howard, Han. Geoffrey||Primrose, Hon. Neil James|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts., St. George)||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Keating, Matthew||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Leach, Charles||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Bryce, John Annan||Lewis, John Herbert||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Lynch, A. A.||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Swift, Rigby|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)||Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Masterman, C. F. G.||Thynne, Lord A.|
|Fell, Arthur||Molteno, Percy Alport||Valentia, Viscount|
|Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Mooney, J. J.||Waring, Walter|
|Gretton, John||Morgan, George Hay||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Wiles, Thomas|
|Gulland, John W.||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C.||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Neilson, Francis|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Nolan, Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Master of Elibank and Mr. Illingworth.|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds.)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Alden, Percy||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Barnes, George N.||Lansbury, George||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Wardle, G. J.|
|Crooks, William||Parker, James (Halifax)||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-In-Furness)||Pointer, Joseph|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Wedgwood and Mr. O'Grady.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Snowden, Philip|
Question, "That this House do now adjourn till Tuesday, 24th October," put, and agreed to.
House adjourned accordingly at Six minutes after Nine o'clock, till Tuesday, 24th October next.
but they are "great citizens of a glorious Empire" when you want their votes. I hope the military will never again be used on such a scale. If there is necessity all force to maintain law and order ought to be used, but the moment there is a great struggle between railway companies and the trades unions the idea that, ipso facto, before the dispute occurs you must transport thousands of soldiers is a mistake, and it has proved very disastrous to the bringing about of a proper settlement of the points in dispute.
Question put, "That the words 'twenty-fourth of October' stand part of the Question."
The House divided: Ayes, 93, Noes, 18.