§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ MR. FELL (Great Yarmouth)
said he understood if he moved the Motion standing in his name, "that the Bill be re-committed in respect of Clause 2," it would prevent the hon. Member for East Marylebone moving his Motion. Under the circumstances he would not move.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
said that for the same reason as that given by his hon. friend he would not move that the Bill be re-committed in respect of Clause 3.
§ LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)
moved that the Bill be re-committed in respect of Clause 5. This clause was one of the most important in the Bill and also one which, owing to the course of the debate, had received the least discussion. The part of the clause to which he wished to draw attention was not in the Bill as originally printed, or when it. was discussed in Committee. It was an Amendment introduced on the Motion of the Attorney-General during Report, and was not reached until a late hour in the evening, and in point of fact, was not discussed at all. Therefore, he did not think his Motion was an unreasonable one. The clause in question contained the definition of "trade dispute," which expression occurred in all the operative clauses of the measure, and the meaning to be attached to the expression was of enormous importance when they were construing the Bill and endeavouring to ascertain exactly what it d d. For instance, Clause 1 was an Amendment of the law of conspiracy, providing that an act done in pursuance of an agreement or combination of persons should not be illegal if when done by one person it was not illegal. That was to say, the mere question of combination was not to turn a legal act into an illegal one. An instance of the enormous change that that would make in the law was in respect of what was known as exclusive dealing. It was quite true that an ordinary shopkeeper was not bound to 857 sell to any customer, but if all the shopkeepers in the Kingdom combined to deprive any individual of the goods which they sold it was quite plain that a very serious state of things arose, and if the combination were complete enough the obnoxious individual might run a serious risk of starvation, or, at any rate, very great hardship. The only limitation on the important change in the law made by Clause 1 was that it must be done in furtherance of a trade dispute. The definition of a trade dispute was a very wide one. Definitions in modern legislation were often designed—and accomplished that design—of giving to a word a meaning which in the English language no human being would give to it. He thought the definition in Clause 5, although perhaps unintentionally, belonged to that class, because it said, among other things, that the expression "trade dispute" should mean any dispute connected with the employment or non-employment of any person. Therefore the Bill laid it down that whenever they had a dispute of any kind which concerned the employment or non-employment of any person, that was a trade dispute and the provisions of the Bill applied to it. At the most the dispute must have in some way or other an industrial character, and it must be a dispute which concerned the employment or non-employment of some person. Any dispute which had in some way or another an industrial character, and concerned the employment or non-employment of any person, would come within the definition of a trade dispute in this Bill. He instanced the exceedingly common case of a dispute arising because an employer desired to employ a man who was not a member of a trade union, and the other employees adopted some method in order to enforce their view. They would be entitled to use powers under Clause 1 to bring pressure to bear upon the employer to dismiss from his employment the man to whom objection was taken. Let them conceive the existence of something in the nature of an agricultural trade union. If a dispute arose because the landlord desired to employ some labourers who were not members of the union, it was plain that such a dispute would be a trade dispute within the definition of this clause, and the Bill would be applicable to it. 858 A very large number of disputes that had arisen in Ireland were trade disputes in that sense. An exceedingly common type of dispute in Ireland had been that of a landlord desiring to employ emergency men because unable to obtain men who were members of the Land League. That had been the immediate cause of the system known as boycotting. Boycotting in its initiation was precisely such a conspiracy as would be made lawful by the first clause of this Bill. He quite agreed that, if developed, boycotting became a much more serious matter, but in its earlier stages it was often put forward, and correctly in many cases, as exclusive dealing. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford the other night made a speech of great warmth in answer to a speech delivered by his hon. and learned friend the Member for Cambridge University in regard to the past and present condition of Ireland as a result of boycotting.† The description was hotly denied by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and was denied with even greater vehemence by other hon. Members from Ireland. He was one of the last persons to complain of vehemence. If a man thought strongly he had a right, within the rules of the House, to speak strongly; but he did say that he was altogether at issue with them upon the facts of the case. He considered that the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University was correct in every respect. Every statement he made was amply borne out by recent history. If that were so, even hon. Members opposite would agree with him that it was a very serious matter, and that earnest consideration should be given before passing this Bill in the shape in which it now stood. If it was really true that trade disputes would include all the disputes that had arisen in connection with the employment of emergency men, for instance, then he did not see that it could be denied that Clause 1 would legalise boycotting and facilitate all the consequences of which boycotting was the precursor. The statement made by his hon. friend as to what had taken place in Ireland had been established in numerous legal proceedings in the Courts of Ireland, but it did not entirely rest† See (4) Debates, clxiii., 1393, et seq.859 on those proceedings. It had been established before the Parnell Commission.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I fail to see how this inquiry into the history of Ireland in the past can be relevant to this matter.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said he was anxious to show that it was a very serious matter that this Bill should apply to such disputes as he had alluded to, and he could only show that by controverting the hon. and learned Member for Waterford who said with such vehemence that there was no truth in the statement of his hon. and learned friend the Member for Cambridge University.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
It seems to me to be perfectly relevant to say that these things might happen, but to proceed to show that these things did happen seems to me to be irrelevant, and would lead the House into a discussion of past history which would be quite irrelevant.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said he bowed of course to the decision of the Chair. He would endeavour to put the matter as it might happen now rather than as it had happened in the past. He would not refer to the Parnell Commission, as that he understood would be irrelevant, but he might say that if anyone desired to ascertain what might happen in the future in Ireland, the only true criterion was what had happened in the past. He did not wish to transgress in any way the ruling of the Speaker, and he did not think he would be doing so if he ventured to read to the House a description of what boycotting might be and of what boycotting should be. given by an extremely high authority on the subject.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said he could not agree with the noble Lord. He was attempting to revive ancient controversies which everybody was anxious to forget. If the noble Lord assumed for the sake of his argument that boycotting was the worst thing that he could imagine, and then proceeded to show that it was legal or to be legalised by the Bill as it stood, that part of his argument would be relevant, but to go back and 860 harrow up the feelings of the House by these old stories was surely irrelevant.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said he was put in a great difficulty. They had had the most positive statements that the whole of this fear was a figment of their imagination. It was said that such a thing could not occur and never had occurred, and by the Rules of the House he was precluded from showing that that denial was founded upon an entire misapprehension. He could only ask the House to assume that that denial was mistaken and that boycotting was a cruel and wicked form of intimidation and pressure exercised upon those who were unpopular by the dominant party in Ireland. He must ask the House to assume that the policy of boycotting was outrage and murder, and assuming that was true—he must ask the House to assume it, although he could prove it if he were in order—assuming that to be true he had to show to the House that that was the kind of thing which would be legalised by the first clause of this Bill as interpreted by the fifth clause. For the purposes of his argument he must ask the House to assume all that he had said. ["Oh."] He could not prove it then, but he could do so if he were allowed. He was not afraid of facts.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said that if he was not able to go into that part of the argument he must ask the House to assume for the purpose of his argument that he could establish it. He had already pointed out how Clause 5 would apply to the employment of men who were unpopular and not members of the National League in Ireland. How could it be argued for a moment that a trade dispute would not include such cases as that? What was to prevent the National League calling themselves to-morrow the National Agricultural Union and bringing themselves within the four corners of the Bill? It would be precisely the same organisation. Then they would have the case of a farm occupied by a [man from England or Scotland who was not a member of the National 861 Agriculatural Association, and the local branch would pass a resolution calling upon the landlord to dismiss that man from his employment and condemning him if he did not. That would be precisely analogous to the employment of a black-leg in England, and this legislation having been passed there would be then in being a dispute as to the employment or non-employment of a person and a dispute about an industrial concern, a dispute about the greatest industry in this country, the agricultural industry, and a trade dispute in the sense in which it was defined and used in this Bill. They could not compel a person to sell a loaf of bread to another, or to allow his children to associate with another man's children, but if questions of this sort were dealt with by association it formed a conspiracy and the most wicked form of oppression that one could imagine, but it came within the definition of Clause 1. Did the House wish or intend to legalise a system of that kind? Hon. Members knew what had happened in the past. What possible guarantee had they that this clause would not lead to similar disasters in the future? He appealed to the Government and to those Members of it who had been credited with impartiality on this particular question to put into the Bill some definition such as that which stood in his name to guard against the extension of the principle. Words of that kind would not affect hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, and would not cut down the force of the Bill in the least, as far as an ordinary genuine trade dispute, as we understood it, was concerned, but it would be an outrage if this House, under the pretence of granting liberty to trade unions, were to grant a charter of lawlessness to the excitable peasantry in Ireland.
§ MB. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
seconded, and said what he and his friends wanted to know was whether or not the Bill before the House applied to agrarian disputes. Supposing that it did apply to such disputes, the second question was whether it was the desire of the House that it should so apply. With reference to the first point he could only say that he had read the Bill very carefully and could not see 862 anything in it which would prevent its applying to such disputes. He believed the Bill had received consideration of a large number of eminent lawyers in that House, many of whom believed that it would apply to disputes of an agrarian character. He therefore thought it was quite a proper joint to raise. A more important point, however, was whether it was the intention of the Government that the Bill should apply to these disputes. The Attorney-General the other day had said that the Bill did not apply to agrarian disputes in Ireland, but he thought that that hon. and learned Gentleman on further consideration would see that as it stood the measure would so apply. The request that the noble Lord had made was that words should be inserted in the Bill to make it certain that it would not apply. That was surely a reasonable request and one which would carry out the desire of the House. While the Bill was being discussed in Committee it was never intended or foreseen by Labour Members, whose Bill it was, that it should apply to agrarian disputes such as had been experienced in Ireland. He was still more certain that hon. Members on the Government side, looking at the measure from the point of view of a Trade Disputes Bill, never thought for one moment that it would, and never intended that it should apply to agrarian disputes either in Ireland or elsewhere. That being so, he submitted that the present was not the time suddenly to change the entire character and intention of the Bill. If it had been intended that agrarian disputes in Ireland should be included in the operation of the measure, a full discussion should have been had on that most important point in Committee and on the Report stage. Suddenly to enlarge the scope of the Bill on the Third Reading would be a travesty of justice and a violation of Parliamentary traditions. The House would agree that the question of trade disputes as applied to agriculture was far too complicated and important a matter to be legitimately and properly dealt with in the present Bill. It was likely to create questions which were quite as important as those definitely dealt with in the Bill. If he and his friends could get a declaration from the Attorney-General that he would accede to their request 863 and put something into the Bill which would prevent its applying to this particular form of dispute in Ireland they would be satisfied and the discussion on that point would come to an end. He hoped the Attorney-General would take an early opportunity in the debate of making that statement. The hon. and learned Gentleman had stated that he considered the Bill would not apply to these disputes. It was the duty of himself and his friends to convince the House, and especially hon. Members on the Ministerial side, that as the measure stood the Attorney-General was mistaken. He had one case before him which he thought would show exactly the class of case to which the Bill might be construed as applying. It was with regard to the proceedings at a branch meeting of the United Irish League held in the West of Ireland on July 22nd last. A local newspaper contained a report, which stated that a long discussion took place over planters—that was, persons whom they were pleased to call "grabbers "— and people in the country associated with them, and it was unanimously resolved—That any shopkeeper supplying goods to, or any tradesman working for, or any person assisting such obnoxious persons as planters, grabbers, or expelled members of the League be summoned before the branch for an explanation of their conduct.What followed was the important point—The branch established a vigilance committee to watch those persons when they came into town and the houses they frequented, and it is proposed to put this resolution stringently into force.That appeared in the Connaught Champion, a Nationalist paper in the West of Ireland. That was a case to which the Bill would exactly apply if it became law in its present form. It was a case of a proceeding which at first sight appeared to be the same as took place in ordinary trade disputes. There was no difference in the proceeding—pressure upon an offending party, watching his house, and what in this country, but not in Ireland, would be called "peaceful persuasion" not to repeat the offence. The radical difference between the two cases was not in the procedure but in the cause of the dispute. The cause of the dispute in question was transgressing the rules and regulations of the United Irish League. 864 It was quite easy to give a suppositious case. The instance which he had cited on a former occasion was that of a bootmaker who had made himself obnoxious to the United Irish League for some cause or other. There were thousands of ways in which a man could make himself obnoxious to the League. A man applied for work to a bootmaker in a town in Ireland, and the bootmaker was informed that he must not have anything to do with him. That was the case of a person who was refused work on account of the pressure of the United Irish League being brought to bear. A man might have made himself obnoxious by calling a certain branch of the League a set of fools, or be might have offended the League in a large variety of ways. It was quite clear to members of the House who read the Irish. newspapers dealing with these questions that the ways were numberless by which persons might get into the black books of the United Irish League, and having got into that position they were pursued by the League with relentless cruelty. The case which he had given as an example of the methods pursued by the League would come within the four corners of this Act. He held that some words should be introduced declaring that the Act would not apply to such a case. He could not help referring again to the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford with reference to the recent speech of the hon. Member for Cambridge University. † The hon. Member for Cambridge University drew a picture of the state of affairs†
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I have already pointed out to the noble Lord who spoke before the hon. Member that the re-discussion of this matter is not relevant.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
said that one of the points which he had endeavoured to impress upon the House was the extraordinary danger of allowing this Act to apply to Ireland. He had tried to convince the House that that would be dangerous and inequitable. In arguing that the Act should not apply to Ireland he was endeavouring to show that the class† See (4) Debates, clxiii., 1393 et seq.865 of cases which were now illegal, would, if the Bill were passed as it now stood, be included within its scope. He should be allowed to show the true state of affairs. It was only by showing the truth of the allegations made by the hon. Member for Cambridge University—
§ *MR. SPEAKER
It appears to me that the truth or falsehood of these allegations is utterly irrelevant. The hon. Member is endeavouring to show that certain things happened five and twenty years ago. Whether certain things did or did not happen seems to me to be wholly irrelevant. In my judgment I do not think the hon. Member has any right to attempt to raise under this Bill an Irish debate of the character we had a good many years ago.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
said he, of course, bowed to the ruling of the Chair. He had no desire to raise a debate of the nature indicated further than was necessary to impress on hon. Members opposite that the class of disputes to which he referred should be excluded from the purview of the Bill. He had no intention of raising an Irish debate. One of his chief objects was to show that cases of boycotting in their inception might appear perfectly harmless, but that they grew and gathered strength and bitterness, that they often ended in the most horrible outrages, and that, as the hon. Member for Cambridge University had pointed out, they frequently ended in the most horrible of all offences.
I shall have to ask the hon. Member to resume his seat if he does not abide by the ruling I have laid down two or three times.
§ ME. CHARLES CRAIG
said he had every desire to abide by the ruling. He was endeavouring to show that the action of the United Irish League in this case closely resembled the action taken by a trade union in the case of a trade dispute in England. He and his friends submitted that if the persons against whom was brought a charge relating to such conduct as he had described, pleaded in a Court of law that they were acting 866 within their rights under this Act, there was a strong probability, and in any case a possibility, that those who administered the law would take the view that it did come within the description of a trade dispute as defined by Clause 5. He would bring his remarks to a close, as a great part of what he had intended to say had been ruled out of order by the Speaker.
§ ME. PAUL (Northampton) ,
rising to a point of order, asked Mr. Speaker whether he had not ruled that the Bill could not apply to any agricultural combination, either in Ireland or in any other part of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG ,
also rising on a point of order, asked if the question whether or not an Act would apply to a certain thing was one, not for the Speaker, but for the Judges of the land.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The last observation is quite correct. It is really not my business to interpret what this Bill when it passes into law will do. I am not in the position of a Judge, and I am not called upon to interpret it, but certainly when this Bill was last before the House the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord was out of order. The Amendment which the noble Lord now proposes is of a rather different character from that which he submitted on a former occasion, and therefore I have permitted the Motion to be made.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
expressed the hope that the Attorney-General would give an assurance that the Bill would not be allowed to apply to a class of cases to which, he submitted, it was never intended to apply.
To leave out all the words after ' be ' and to insert the words 'recommitted in respect of Clause 5.' "—(Lord R. Cecil.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ ME. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said that the Motion and the speeches to which they had just listened 867 were certainly provocative to Nationalist Members, but they had no intention whatever of being influenced by that provocation, [OPPOSITION ironical laughter] and not even the unmannerly interruptions of hon. Members above the gangway would make him depart from that resolution. The House was now engaged in discussing in its last stages, so far as this House was concerned, what a vast majority of the Members thought was a great and necessary Act of protection and emancipation to the toiling masses of this country; and they would not be entrapped by any form of provocation from the enemies of the emancipation and protection of the working classes into discussions which might delay the passing of the Bill. He would not have spoken at all that day, nor would the hon. Member for Waterford on a previous occasion, if the initiative had been left to them. The speech of his hon. friend to which the noble Lord had alluded more than once, was in answer to a challenge and an attack. What would the noble Lord have thought, if in the discussion of a Trade Union Bill, anybody had endeavoured to drag from the dead and gone past some of the disasters and crimes associated with labour disputes in this country? The noble Lord was as much entitled to raise this question in regard to Ireland as he would have been to raise the question of the crimes of Broadhead and others in Sheffield and elsewhere in connection with trade disputes in England; but if good sense and good manners would prevent such an act in regard to England, why should references only calculated to engender party bitterness, be made to the sad past in Ireland? The pretence had been made that the Attorney-General had not been sufficiently explicit in regard to the point now under discussion; but in language as clear and distinct as he could use the hon. and learned Gentle man had over and over again declared that this Bill did not apply to the kind of disputes in Ireland to which the noble Lord had referred. His (Mr. O'Connor's) complaint was not that the Bill applied to those disputes in Ireland, but that it did not.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said the noble Lord cheered that observation, but he could not have it both ways. The noble Lord could not by implication denounce him for wishing that those disputes in Ireland had been included in the Bill, and at the same time denounce the Bill for failing to provide against their inclusion. lie thought he had as much logic as the noble Lord, and that the noble Lord would see the particularly foolish position he was in. The noble Lord had attempted to quote from a speech made by the hon. Member for Kildare, and if Mr. Speaker had not ruled that that quotation was out of order he might have had the opportunity of quoting to the House from a speech delivered by the noble Lord's distinguished father at Newport at a time when the relations between his Party and the Irish National Party wore not quite so strained as they were now. A good many ignorant people in the country reading the speech of the noble Lord would be inclined to think that his case was against Ireland and not against this Bill, and that it might be justified by the state of affairs in Ireland at the present time. He had before him an article which appeared the other day in the Saturday Review, which showed that the statistics of crime in Ireland were really remarkable; they proved that the police could scarcely discover any criminal, and that the prisons were almost empty. It was stated that —Roughly speaking, the convicted criminals in Ireland were in proportion only about twelve to every thirteen in England, and of three to every five in Scotland. The British Parliamentary Estimates for 1905 were drawn up on the basis of there being 120 more prisoners per day in Scottish prisons than in those of Ireland.Yet England and Scotland were often referred to, and he imagined with justice, as the most law-abiding nations in Europe, and yet at a moment when Ireland was a pattern to the world in the matter of crimelessness the noble Lord brought an indictment against the character of the Irish people. He understood and appreciated the object of the noble Lord. It was on a par with the proceedings of the previous night. It was part of a policy to stand in the way of a majority of this House carrying out the work it had been elected to do. He would not help the 869 noble Lord; and he held that it was deplorable and detestable that at a moment when the people of England and Ireland were approaching a settlement of their long and lamentable struggle, men like the noble Lord should devote their great talents to thwarting the happy consummation.
§ *MR. CLAVELL SALTER (Hants, Basingstoke)
said that he did not want to use words of a provocative character. He had taken an interest in this particular Amendment, because, to his mind, it was a matter of real importance, affecting the definition of trade disputes in this Bill. He happened to have been the first Member who, in the course of the debates, had called attention to the fact that there was in the Bill as originally drafted no definition of trade disputes; and he thought that the debates which had already taken place showed that that omission was a very serious matter. He wished that he could avoid all reference to Ireland in the few words he wished to address to the House. Ireland was not the only place where agrarian disputes took place; and if this definition of trade disputes stood in the Bill as the Attorney-General had left it, Ireland would not be the only place where this Bill, when it became an Act, would be invoked in regard to agrarian disputes, a result which he was sure the majority of the House would think highly undesirable. The hon. Member for North Kildare was the only Irish Member who took part in the discussion on the First Reading of the Bill on 28th March last, and a considerable part of his speech was devoted to the question whether this Bill could not reasonably be extended so as to cover a certain kind of combinations and disputes that prevailed in the county he represented. The hon. Gentleman contended that this alteration in the law should extend generally to the law of conspiracy—He trusted that at all events the title of the Bill would enable them to move an Amendment that would extend the law of conspiracy generally, because although it had been laid down by many speakers in the debate that the law of conspiracy should be so altered as to apply only to trade unions, there were cases of great hardship in Ireland where, if the law was not generally extended, the present state of things would continue. At present it was quite legal 870 for a man in Ireland to decline to pay his rent to his landlord if he regarded it as an exorbitant rent, but if, say after Mass on Sunday, he should meet his neighbours outside the church, and if they should hold a meeting and pass a resolution that instead of this one man declining to pay his unjust rent to the landlord they should all decline to pay such rent, they at once came within the scope of the general law of conspiracy. Quite recently there had been prosecutions, and men had been sent to prison because they decided to do collectively what one man could do without any punishment whatever. Would not the Attorney-General take this opportunity of so framing the clause with regard to conspiracy as to comprehend within its scope the kind of case he had mentioned? Surely a body of men who were federated together with a view to bring about a better state of things were as much entitled to protection as the trade unionists themselves." †What to his mind was significant about that passage was that his hon. and learned friend had not in fact found it necessary to move the Amendment therein suggested.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said the reason suggested by the hon. Member was not the correct one. He himself had communicated with the Government and used all his influence to induce them to extend the measure in the direction indicated, but he had failed altogether. The Nationalist Party did not move the Amendment, not because they thought it was unnecsssary, but because they felt that they could not carry it, and they did not desire to assist those who were bent on wrecking the Bill.
§ *MR. CLAVELL SALTER
said he was obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his observation; but his view was that the definition since formulated and included in the Bill wa3 so wide that hon. Members from Ireland might think that their object had been accomplished. In dealing with the Amendment of the noble Lord he asked the House to notice how exceedingly narrow it was in its terms. There was, first of all, an Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Cambridge University that this Bill should not apply to Ireland. Then the matter took a somewhat more restricted form in the Amendment of the noble Lord which was ruled out of order. He called the attention of the House to the fact that the Amendment which had been† See (4) Debates, cliv., 1349, 1350.871 permitted was an Amendment in exceedingly restricted terms, and applied not to agrarian disputes generally, but to one particular kind of agrarian disputes about employment. The only question which the House had to determine was whether hon. Members desired the immunities and privileges of this Bill to extend to the particular kind of dispute which the noble Lord had in mind. That kind of dispute came under the definition of "trade dispute" as it stood in the Bill. What was the case they had to deal with? It was a case where there was a dispute about land in which the owner of the land, being unable to let it, was attempting to work it by labourers directly employed by himself. The owner of the land had no dispute with those labourers in the ordinary sense, either about wages, hours of labour, or the efficiency of the implements supplied to them. If the people generally in the district objected to the employment of those imported labourers and had a quarrel and dispute with the owner of the land because he was seeking to work his land himself, they might desire to bring pressure to bear upon him in that agrarian dispute. In spite of what had been said to the contrary, he ventured to assert that that was a trade dispute connected with "the employment of persons." It certainly did not come under the other portion of the definition: it was not a dispute connected with the terms of employment or with the conditions of labour. But clearly it was a dispute connected with the employment of persons. The owner of the land said he would employ those men, and the neighbours said he should not. If the definition stood as it was left by the Attorney - General his contention was that this particular case came within the definition of a trade dispute. The point was whether the Bill was desired by the House to apply to such a case. He regarded the Amendment as a test of the sincerity of hon. Members opposite, who had declared that their desire was simply to secure the right of trade combination, that they had no other desire than that, and that they did not wish to enter into the domain of agrarian disputes. He was aware they had been told that the Attorney-General 872 said this Bill would not affect agrarian disputes. He did not believe that statement, but even if the Attorney-General had said it, it was not a matter of what the Attorney-General said, but a question of the plain reading of the Act. He did not think the Attorney-General would say that the case which was the subject matter of this Amendment did not fall within the definition of a trade dispute as at present laid down in the Bill. If hon. Members opposite were sincere in their desire to restrict the operation of the Bill to trade disputes they should not seek to extend it to a dispute which, though technically a trade dispute, was essentially agrarian in character.
§ *MR. NICHOLLS (Northamptonshire, N.)
said that after listening to the speech of the hon. and learned Member opposite he began to see what was intended by this Amendment. He had in mind some of those difficulties. Let them suppose for a moment that a landlord had a dispute with some of his tenants, it might be on politics, or on religion, or any other thing, and he wanted to get rid of them; they might be large or small holders of land, and there might be as many as 600 or 700 small holders or allotment holders in one district. If there was a dispute amongst them, and the landlord, desiring to clear them out, gave them notice, saying "I am going to farm this land myself; no more small holders for me," did non. Gentlemen opposite intend in those cases that no organisation should be able to come along to assist those small holders or allotment holders? Did he understand that the Agricultural Labourers and the Small Holders Union, with which he had something to do, would not be allowed to have something to say? He understood that where they had a trade union they might have a trade dispute, whether it was in an industrial centre or in an agricultural district. In the case he had instanced was he to understand that he could not arrange with his union and through the union to prevent blacklegs going down to that district and working on the farm for that landlord who meant to get rid of those men as soon as he could? Of course the means by which those men could be got rid of was that the landlord should be able to import men not interested in the dispute or belonging to 873 the trade combination at all, but simply interested in having a jolly good time of it for a few days. What he was anxious about was that, whether it was a farm or a factory that was affected, they should have a free hand, so that whenever there was a difficulty the workmen should feel quite free to use their organisation. If he read this Bill rightly, it appeared to him that if this Amendment were passed the Agricultural Labourers and Small Holders Union would be practically done for. Considering that there were 1,500,000 agricultural labourers, he claimed that they should have as much freedom as the industrial workers; they ought to be able to come down in any constituency where the landlord did not mean to allow the men to have a free hand, and say, "You have had your way long enough, and we are now going to help these men who have as much right to be here as you have." He hoped hon. Members would look twice before making a rule of this kind. The eyes of the agricultural labourer were upon them, and if they were going to give to the industrial workers more than they were prepared to give to these men in the villages and small towns, who had struggled and suffered so much in the past, he thought the Government would surprise those who worked so hard for them at the last election. He knew something about the agricultural labourers and their sufferings, and what they had gone through this year had led them to be far more keen on this question of organisation than they had ever been before. A labourer said to him the other day—We had at one time to face in the history of this country the war lords; then came the landlords, then the capitalist lords, and in many districts the sporting lords, and we cannot hold our own until we organise as a solid body.All he wished was that they should give the agricultural labourers the same freedom as they gave to the workers in the industrial centres.
§ MR. BARRIE (Londonderry, N.)
said they ought to make it quite clear in this Bill that they were not by a side wind legalising boycotting. He was glad to see the issue before the House had been limited. They had the assurance of the 874 Attorney-General that there was no desire or intention to legalise boycotting. He believed that the hon. and learned Gentleman was sincere in making that statement, but against that opinion they had the declaration of two hon. and learned Members sitting on the Opposition side that this measure might be held to legalise boycotting. He submitted that in view of this diversity of opinion among the legal Members of the House, the Attorney-General ought not to hesitate about inserting a few words which would remove all doubt upon the question. He was glad the Amendment of his noble friend had given an opportunity to Leaders of the Nationalist Party to let in some light upon their relations with the Government, and he was pleased to know from the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, that they had been unsuccessful in their endeavour to persuade the Government to go as far as they wished in this matter. He would not reply to the vigorous speech of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division, to whom he always listened with genuine pleasure, and whom he welcomed back to the House from the field of his labours on behalf of the League, of which he was a conspicuous Member, in circumstances that made his exuberance excusable.
§ THE ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir JOHN WALTON,) Leeds, S.
said that the assurances which he had given on this subject had been somewhat vaguely construed, therefore he would at once say what he wanted to convey when he said that the Bill was not intended to affect the operations of the United Irish League. The Bill was a Bill relating to trade unions, while the Land League of Ireland, which was a league of tenants engaged largely, but not necessarily, in agriculture, related to the terms of tenure of land. The operations of the League, therefore, in no sense came within the definition of trade disputes in the Act of 1875 to which this legislation was directed.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
said members of the League were drawn from all occupations, some having nothing to do with land tenure.
§ SIR JOHN WALTON
said the scope of the operations of the United Irish League was clearly not the scope of the operations of trade unions within the conception of this legislation, and no attempt had been made since 1875 to include such operations within the definition of the Act of that date. A trade union was defined as a combination, whether temporary or permanent, regulating, the relations between workmen and masters, between workmen and workmen, or between masters and masters, or for imposing conditions on the conduct of any trade or business. That definition had never been sought to be applied to the various agrarian combinations that had been formed in Ireland in the past, and he did not think there need be any anticipation that any attempt would now be made. The Bill left the definition of a trade union entirely unaffected. The words in the Bill would not apply to the various combinations having for their object the amelioration of the system of land tenure in Ireland, and could not, therefore, have such results as the noble Lord contemplated. Another definition that became important was the definition of a "trade dispute," because that definition was very inclusive. The definition he had framed made it clear that a trade dispute must be a dispute in regard to the conditions of labour within the definition. The noble Lord had pointed out that it was possible that a dispute in Ireland— which he had called agrarian, but which should be called agricultural—as to conditions in the employment of agricultural labourers might be a trade dispute within the scope of the definition. This was accepted. A dispute in England, Scotland, and Ireland in regard to the terms and conditions of agricultural employment would be a trade dispute. It was the intention of the Government that it should have that character. Was it seriously to be argued that the whole of the agricultural labourers of England and Ireland should be excluded from the provisions of the Bill, as they would be under the Amendment? The noble Lord had framed his Amendment without distinct reference to Ireland, and therefore the whole of his boycotting argument was foreign to the terms of his 876 Amendment, which applied to the whole of the United Kingdom. The speech of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire disposed of the Amendment because, as he had pointed out, if it were accepted the whole of the agricultural labourers of this country would have their hands tied and the Union of Agricultural Labourers would be exposed to all the harassing enactments of the common law if its members took any step to ameliorate the condition of labourers. The law of conspiracy was re-framed by the Bill, and in relation to combination of any kind the definition was general. In making that declaration he had the support of high judicial authority, to which the attention of the House had on more than one occasion been drawn, and, move than that, the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the subject had. almost in terms, been followed. The Government, therefore, in that matter had been guilty of no novel departure, and certainly of no extravagant proposals. Then what was the position of persons forming a combination to influence conditions of employment of the agricultural labourer? Assuming that to be a trade dispute, which he thought it would be, in the first place they would be limited in their action by the consideration that they must not as a combination do anything which would be a tortious act if done by an individual. That was the first restriction. In the second place, they would be subject to the very severe restrictions of the Act of 1875. If they sought to coerce the free will of any person, by following him about, by watching or besetting, by hiding his tools or property, by intimidating his family, by injuring his property, or using violence, they violated the law. The law in relation to all other industrial employment would apply to agricultural employment whether in England or Ireland.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
said the hon. and learned Gentleman had clearly indicated the intention of the Government, but did not seem well to apprehend the character of the objections which some Members felt very strongly. He had stated that the Government desired that the Bill should extend to all 877 employees in agriculture as an industry, and all were agreed that that form of industry should not be excluded. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire seemed to fear there was some desire for the exclusion, but no one had suggested it from the Opposition side of the House. It was quite clear that to pass a law of this kind in relation to industries carried on in urban areas and not to apply it to outside areas would be so irrational and illogical that the House of Commons would never do it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he went perhaps too far when he said that the House would never be so irrational as to draw a distinction between urban and rural areas. He had forgotten that the Government had introduced a Bill which did make that wholly irrational distinction. The Attorney-General had said that the effect of the Amendment would be, in fact, to exclude from the advantages, if they were advantages, conferred on associations of workmen under this Bill those associations which had to work among agricultural labourers. That was not the object of his noble friend, and he did not think it would be the result of the Amendment. The intention of his noble friend, as he understood, was to exclude certain disputes which, by their own admission, the Government did not wish to come under the operation of the Bill—namely, the ordinary agrarian dispute in Ireland, with which, unhappily, they had been too familiar for many years, he had almost said many generations. In these disputes there might be, as it were accidentally, involved certain interests which did deal with the employment of labour; there might be disputes in which a particular employer who required the services of a certain number of men did, on a matter unconnected with the interests of those he employed, get into trouble with the Land League. It was the object of his noble friend to exclude such cases from the Bill, and the Government also wished them to be excluded. The Government, 878 as he understood, were entirely at one with his noble friend in thinking that, if there was a dispute between, let them say, the Land League and a landlord in a certain county in Ireland, and as an incident of that dispute certain labourers were prevented from working for a certain employer, that should not come within the provisions of the Act. It was not an agricultural dispute in the sense in which the Attorney-General used the expression. That was their policy and intention. The only question his noble friend raised was, Was that policy and intention carried out by the Bill; had they so framed the definition clause as to carry out their desires and intentions? They on that side of the House could not help fearing that the language had been so loosely used that, as a matter of fact, these agrarian disputes might be dragged, technically and accidentally, within the meshes of a Bill intended to deal with a wholly different class of cases. The Attorney-General had made no defence on that point. The defence of the hon. and learned Gentleman was on the policy of the Government, and with that policy in this respect they did not quarrel. What they did hope was that when the Attorney-General rose he would say, clearly and explicitly, that by the language of this definition clause, taken in combination with the language of Clause 1, the cases both he and they wished to exclude were, in fact, excluded from the four corners of the Bill. That was the whole question between them. He must frankly say that, entirely as he agreed with the general intention and scope of the Bill as the Attorney-General defined it, the hon. and learned Gentleman had not relieved the doubts which he and his friends felt as to the actual wording of the clause carrying out that policy.
§ Question put.880
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 220; Noes, 46. (Division List No. 391.)881
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Gilhooly, James||Menzies, Walter|
|Agnew, George William||Gill, A. H.||Micklem, Nathaniel|
|Alden, Percy||Ginnell, L.||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Astbury, John Meir||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Mond, A.|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Montagu, E. S.|
|Baker, Joseph E (Finsbury, E.)||Gulland, John W.||Mooney, J. J.|
|Baring, Godfrey, (Isle of Wight||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Barker, John||Hammond, John||Murray, James|
|Barnes, G. N.||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Myer, Horatio|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Napier, T. B.|
|Beale, W. P.||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)|
|Beaumont, Hn. W. C. B. (Hexh'm||Hart-Davies, T.||Nicholls, George|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Nicholson, Chas. N. (Doncaster)|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Haworth, Arthur A.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Bennett, E. N.||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Nuttall, Harry|
|Billson, Alfred||Hedges, A. Paget||O'Brien, Kendal (Tivperary Mid)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Boland, John||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||O'Connor, James (Wilckow, W.)|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Henry, Charles S.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Brigg, John||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)||O'Dowd, John|
|Brodie, H. C.||Higham, John Sharp||O'Grady, J.|
|Brooke, Stopford||Hobart, Sir Robert||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Bryce, J. A. (Inverness Burghs)||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.|
|Burns, Rt Hon. John||Hogan, Michael||O'Malley, William|
|Byles, William Pollard||Holland, Sir William Henry||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Cairns, Thomas||Hooper, A. G.||Paul, Herbert|
|Cameron, Robert||Horniman, Emslie John||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Hudson, Walter||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight||Hyde, Clarendon||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Idris, T. H. W.||Pearson, W. H. M. (Suffolk, Eye)|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Illingworth, Percy H.||Price, C.E.(Edinburgh, Central)|
|Clarke, C. Goddard||Jackson, R. S.||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Cleland, J. W.||Jacoby, James Alfred||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)|
|Clough, William||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Redmond. John E. (Waterford)|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J (S Pancras, W.||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Corbett, C. H (Sussex, E. Crinst'd||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Rees, J. D.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Ridsdale, E. E.|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Jowett, F. W.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Joyce, Michael||Robertson, Rt. Hn. E.(Dundee|
|Crooks, William||Kekewich, Sir George||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd|
|Crosfield, A. H.||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Cross, Alexander||Kincaid-Smith, Captain||Robinson, S.|
|Crossley, William J.||Laidlaw, Robert||Rose, Charles Day|
|Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster||Rowlands, J.|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Lamont, Norman||Samuel, Herbert L.(Cleveland)|
|Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Seely, Major J. B.|
|Delany, William||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Shackleton, David James|
|Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lehmann, R. C.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Dolan, Charles Joseph||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Levy, Maurice||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Duckworth, James||Lough, Thomas||Smyth, Thos. F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||Lundon, W.||Snowden, P.|
|Edwards, Clement (Denbigh.)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Stanger, H. V.|
|Edwards, Frank (Radnor)||Lynch, H. B.||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Elibank, Master of||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk B'ghs)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End.)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Maclean, Donald||Sullivan, Donal|
|Evans, Samuel T.||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Summerbell, T.|
|Everett, R. Lacey||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.||Sutherland. J. E.|
|Faber, G. H. (Boston)||MacVeigh, Chas. (Donegal, E.)||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Fenwick, Charles||M'Crae, George||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Ffrench, Peter||M'Micking, Major G.||Thomasson, Franklin|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Mallet, Charles E.||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Marnham, F. J.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Meagher, Michael||Ure, Alexander|
|Fullerton, Hugh||Meehan, Patrick A.||Verney, F. W.|
|Walsh, Stephen||Waterlow, D. S.||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)||Young, Samuel|
|Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Ward, W. Dudley (Southampt'n)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)||TELLERS FOB THE AYES—Mr.|
|Wardle, George J.||Wilson. Hn. C. H. W. (Hull, W.)||Whiteley and Mr. J. A.|
|Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)||Pease.|
|Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hn. Sir Alex F.||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H.||Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan||Nield, Herbert|
|Balcarres, Lord||Fell, Arthur||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (City Lond)||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Forster, Henry William||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington|
|Barrie, H. T.(Londonderry, N.)||Hamilton, Marquess of||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Harrison-Broadley, Col. H. B.||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Hervey, F. W. F.(Bury S. Edmd's)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Hills, J. W.||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Liddell, Henry||Valentia, Viscount|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Lockwood, Rt. Hn Lt-Col. A. R.||Wilson, A. Stanley) York, E. R.)|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Younger, George|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Lord Robert Cecil and Mr.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Meytey-Thompson, E. C.||Charles Craig.|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
Bill read the third time, and passed.
§ Main Question proposed.
§ *MR. FELL (Great Yarmouth)
said that, although he approved in the main of the objects and principles of this Bill, the manner in which it had been passed through the House up to this stage, and the exceptional circumstances under which it passed through Committee, compelled him to call attention to the facts, especially with regard to Clause 2. When that clause, which was known as the picketing clause came before the Committee it was to render it lawful for one or more persons to attend peaceably and in a reasonable manner at or near the house in which a person resided. To that clause there were many Amendments put down, most of which were abandoned, dropped, or negatived for the reason that it was held by the Committee that as the clause contained the words "peaceably and in a reasonable manner" it was governed by those words. Every argument advanced at the Committee stage in favour of any Amendment by limiting the number of the pickets was met by the answer that the matter was sufficiently provided for by the words "peaceably and in a reasonable manner," and that those words included "a reasonable number." Not only was that the expressed view of the Government, but the hon. and learned Member 882 for Reading, whose opinion on a question of law every man of the House would agree was sound, also was of opinion that those words would cover all the points raised in the debate. That was the position at the end of the first portion of the Committee stage. There was then a week in which the hon. and learned Attorney-General had an opportunity to consider whether the words "a reasonable number" should be incorporated in the Bill, and on the resumption of the Committee stage he expressed the opinion that he could not accept an Amendment limiting the number of the pickets, because the clause provided that the picketing must be done in a peaceable and reasonable manner, the reasonableness of it being dependent on various circumstances. The result of the discussions was that the Bill left the Committee with the words "peaceably and in a reasonable manner" in the clause. Nothing further was heard of the matter until the Report stage, when he was absolutely amazed to see upon the Paper in the name of the hon. and learned Attorney-General an Amendment to omit those words. He really could not believe his eyes. He said to himself, "But these are the exact words with which the hon. and learned Gentleman met my Amendment." But for some reason in the interval between the Committee and the Report stages 883 the hon. and learned Gentleman had decided to omit these words, which formed, as he had said in the Committee stage, the safeguards of the people. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame."] They might well say shame. It was hardly the course one would have expected the hon. and learned Gentleman to take. It was hardly credible. It was not what one would expect in business or private relationships. If such a change occurred in business, if a man obtained an agreement under a clause in which he promised certain things, and if afterwards he did not put them in the agreements, he might have a chance of doing it once, but he would not have a chance of doing it again. If the Government passed Bills through the Committee stage with arguments that certain words in the clause met all the Amendments, and then proposed on the Report stage to leave out those words, he could hardly describe such procedure in language that would be in order. For that reason, although they might agree with the greater part or even the whole of this Bill, having regard to the fact that it was passed through the Committee stage by he might almost say absolute misrepresentation, in his opinion it ought not to be read a third time. Therefore, as it could not be sent buck to the Committee, he should show his disapproval of it by voting against the Third Heading.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (City of London)
said he had listened with great attention and with much pleasure to the speech of his hon. friend, but there was one portion of it with which he did not agree. If his hon. friend had been an older Member of the House he would not have been amazed at the action of the Government with regard to this particular clause. It was only part and parcel of the whole of the behaviour of the Government throughout the Bill, to say nothing of other matters in which they had shown the same want of tact. The ostensible object of the Bill was to put the law in the state in which it was before the Taff Vale decision. He proposed to show that the Bill went much further than its avowed object, and he desired to question the fact that the Taff Vale decision made any alteration in the existing law. Previous to the Acts of 1871 and 1875 trade unions were illegal 884 associations, and could neither sue nor be sued. After the passage of those Acts trade unions were recognised. He thought he was correct in saying that under those two Acts trade unions were for all practical purposes recognised as legal combinations, with the result that they acquired the advantages and disadvantages attaching to such combinations. It was evident to everybody that the Acts of 1871 and 1875 refused to recognise the immunity of trade unions; it was held that if trade unions were recognised they should have equally with their rights to answer for their wrong doing, if they committed any wrong. He had no hostility to trade unions as such. He thought in many cases they had done good. In many cases they were absolutely necessary for the well-being of the working classes. But he did not admit for a moment that, trade unions were always perfect, or that they were like the King and could do no wrong, which was what this Bill practically said. They had committed tortious acts in the past and would no doubt commit tortious acts in the future, and under those circumstances it was absolutely necessary that, while they received recognition from the law, they should at the same time be made amenable to the law. It had been said that Parliament in its wisdom intended in 1871 and 1875 that the trade unions should not be suable and that they should be immune from the law. But it was an old proposition that Parliament was to be judged, not by its intentions, but by its Acts. Hon. and learned Members of the House would bear him out when he said it was no evidence in a Court of law to say that the hon. Gentleman in charge of a particular Bill intended to do a certain thing, neither was it evidence to produce a copy of Hansard and say not only did the hon. Gentleman intend that, but said it. That was not evidence in a Court of law. All that had to be done was to turn to the Act and see whether there was anything in the Act to sustain the view put forward. He did not remember that even in this House an hon. Member had produced a copy of Hansard and said there was anything in the debates on those Acts to justify the opinion that the Legislature intended to make trade unions or trade union funds immune from the law. Upon this point the whole Bill really turned. He was sure that it would 885 not be maintained that no Act passed by this House should ever be amended, but putting that aside he wished to ascertain what foundation there was for the assertion that had been made. He did not think it would be possible for anyone to go at length through the pages of Hansard and find anything to justify the position taken up by hon. Gentlemen opposite and hon. Members below the gangway. There was ample evidence to show that the statements and opinions of hon. Gentlemen who held that the law was changed by the Taff Vale decision were wrong. The Royal Commission, on which were some of the ablest Members of the learned profession, went very fully into this question, and were satisfied that the law laid down by the House of Lords involved no new departure and was not inconsistent with the legislation passed in 1871. As a matter of fact trade unions were subject to the law, and the Taff Vale decision did nothing to alter the law. It was quite evident to anyone, whatever view he might hold, that a trade union should not be liable for the act of its agents unless it was conclusively proved that the union had authorised those agents to do the things complained of. Equally he thought a trade union should not be liable for the acts of its executive unless it was proved that the trade union had authorised its executive to perform certain acts. If the Bill provided, as the original Bill did, that the funds of trade unions were to be exempt from seizure, or that the executive of a trade union should not be liable unless it was proved that the executive had actually sanctioned the particular act, he would have been one of its most earnest supporters. He found that no less a person than the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 6th February, 1903, at the Eighty Club dinner, which he believed was attended by all the leading members of the Liberal and Radical Party said—He had told his trade union friends that the common sense of the community would not be easily convinced that an association of persons—whether incorporated or not, made not the slightest difference—wielding great power, controlling considerable funds, should not be legally answerable for the conduct of their agents.Therefore the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed that the proper course 886 would have been to bring in a Bill exempting the agents, unless acting directly under the orders and with the sanction of their trade union. But that was not all. The Secretary of State for War, speaking on 22nd January, 1906, said—He saw that Mr. Keir Hardie had written to the new-papers threatening Mr. Asquith and himself with all sorts of retribution if they would not toe the mark by voting for the particular proposition which Mr. Keir Hardie wished to see carried out in regard to trade disputes. He was sure that neither himself nor Mr. Asquith would budge one inch in the direction of Mr. Keir Hardie's demands. To make the kind of preposterous proposition which Mr. Keir Hardie put forward was only really to show how very feeble was the position which he held in the House of Commons.Later on the Attorney-General himself asked them not to create a privilege for the proletariat, declaring that this claim for immunity on the part of trade unions had not been made until quite lately, and he did not know even then whether it was the demand of the Labour Party as a Party. The hon. and learned Gentleman knew now that it was the demand of the Labour Party, and in consequence he had eaten his words. He thought he had shown that he was not alone in the opinion he held that the proper course would have been to introduce a Bill to amend the law of agency. He only wished that it was in his power to use eloquent language, for then he might be able to make some conversions among hon. Gentleman opposite. But after all, eloquence did not mean much if it was not accompanied by backbone. He was against this Bill because it created a privileged class. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh."] He had always been against creating a privileged class, no matter whether they were landlords, capitalists or working men. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Or stockbrokers."] Or stockbrokers. He had always thought that the House of Commons during the last 150 years had done its best to do away with privilege. This democratic Parliament, returned to remedy all the abuses to create a new heaven and a new earth, had commenced by making two privileged classes, working men belonging to a trade union and capitalists. He was not at all sure that the capitalists might not also abuse their powers just as much as trade unionists, and he did not wish to put such powers into their hands. He thought the very fact that this Bill created a privileged class ought to be sufficient 887 argument against the Third Reading. For argument's sake he would assume that prior to the Taff Vale decision trade union funds were immune from the law. Was it a fact that this Bill put them back into that position? Was it not proved that this Bill gave them any number of privileges which they did not enjoy before? He did not propose to go at length through the various privileges granted by the Bill. It might be that he was wrong and that hon. Gentlemen opposite were right, but no man could deny that this was one of the most important Bills that had been brought before the House of Commons during the last ten years, and therefore it was absurd to say that it should not be criticised, especially when it was borne in mind that on the Committee Stage the Government took advantage of their number to closure the small minority who were fighting against it, and to pass the Bill by brute force.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY
said that Bill was not closured after a few days discussion, but even if it had been, two wrongs did not make a right. This Bill gave trade unions far greater privileges than they ever possessed before the Taff Vale decision. Upon a previous occasion, when the question of leaving out the words "peaceably and in a reasonable manner" was under discussion, the Attorney-General had said—It was impossible to accept the Amendment because the discussion had been con-ducted all through on the assumption that there was this provision in the Bill as it stood." †Those words were very simple and much to the point. They were very brave words, and on the strength of them many members of the Opposition supported the Government in the division that followed. It was almost inconceivable that, having stated that he could not accept the Amendment, he should afterwards come down to the House and accept it. In doing† See (4) Debates, clxii., 1636.888 so he had not the excuse he had in March this year that he did not know what the opinions of the Labour Party were. He had voted against the Amendment, but had afterwards and completely thrown over his own statement, although he had practically assured the Opposition that the words should remain in the Bill.
§ SIR JOHN WALTON
was understood to dissent from the hon. Member's description of the course he had taken in this matter. He also pointed out that it was quite open to him to move the Amendment on the Report stage.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY
said the Amendment to which he referred was that moved by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean to omit the words "peaceably and in a reasonable manner." It was the hon. and learned Gentleman who, having refused to accept the Amendment, came forward on the Report stage and moved to omit those identical words. The Members of the Opposition could, of course, have moved to put in other words, but what would have been the use of their proposing Amendments to be rejected by, say, 340 to 56? He had great respect for the Attorney-General, but he did not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman was very grateful; for on Friday, the 3rd of August, it was the Opposition that saved him from defeat on that very Amendment. He had endeavoured to show, first of all, that there was no foundation for the statement that the Taff Vale decision altered the law; and, secondly, he had shown, he thought unanswerably, that the Leaders of the Radical Party favoured the view which he himself held that what was necessary was an alteration in the law of agency. He had further shown that this Bill went very much further than the ostensible object of hon. Members below the gangway. Not only did it put trade unions back in the position in which they thought they were before the Taff Vale decision, but it gave them a great many other privileges. [A LABOUR MEMBER: "No"] He said "Yes." It had legalised picketing, boycotting, and several other things, none of which any reasonable man could consider reasonable and proper. What would be the result of this Bill in the country? The result would be to create two privileged classes, and the effect 889 would be disastrous. He did not know whether they were going to divide on the Third Reading. Personally he should like the House to divide. He had no fear of being in a small minority. He had been in a great many small minorities in his life, and most of them had been in the right. He was of opinion that if they did divide on this Bill those who voted for the Third Reading would in a few years regret it. He did not think altogether that it would be the capitalists who would regret the decision. The only result of the Bill would be to create such friction between capital and labour that capital, whether it liked it or not, would have to combine to protect itself, and that at a moment when we wore engaged in competition with every other country in the world, and when every other country in the world was increasing in commercial prosperity in a very much greater degree than we were. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] There was no question about it. That was the moment chosen to initiate struggles between capital and labour. Capitalists would lose, but they would not lose everything they had got. They could go to another country, but workmen could not. If business and trade departed from this country, the workman would lose all he had, because his stock-in-trade was his labour. Before five years wore out, his prophesies would be found to be correct, and hon. Members below the gangway, and still more, hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, would regret that they over saw this Bill, or that, having seen it, they made the fatal and foolish surrenders of which their front bench had been guilty.
§ *MR. SIMON (Essex, Walthamstow)
said two things came out in the speech of the hon. Member for the City of London. The first was that this Bill was, in his opinion, going to complete the destruction of British trade, and especially to do irretrievable damage to the interests of the working classes; and the second was that it was not quite certain whether the hon. Baronet and his Party were going to vote against it.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY
I am sure that the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent me. I said I would vote against the Bill. I am not the Leader of the Party, and I do not know what they are going to do.
§ *MR. SIMON
said he was sorry he had not understood what the hon. Gentleman intended to say. Time would make clear his doubts on that matter. But a point of greater importance which emerged from the speech of the hon. Baronet was how far hon. Gentlemen opposite were justified in denouncing the situation which the Bill would create as one of grave injustice and inequality for which they themselves would never accept the responsibility. He submitted that whatever else was doubtful about the Bill one thing was clear, and that was that it was an attempt—an honest and generous attempt, as he believed—to get back to a position which the public had always understood was secured by law to trade unions. The hon. Member for the City of London had assured the House that he was not a lawyer, and he himself shared with the hon. Member the regret that lawyers should have taken so largo a part in these discussions; but a man who was a lawyer and had applied his mind to the history of this matter could not doubt that from the year 1871 down to the Taff Vale decision in 1901, a period of thirty years, although trade unions had constantly boon the object of criticism and attack, and although they were bodies which employers would have been very glad to assail, yet in no single case, in no single Court, and on no single occasion, did any lawyer over advise an action against a trade union. When the hon. Gentleman opposite asked for proofs that that was the popular notion and the legal notion of the situation trade unions occupied, he invited him, and he invited hon. and learned Members on the opposite side of the House who knew the care and precision with which the members of the legal profession gave advice in the important matter of litigation, to explain why it was that for thirty years no action had ever been brought against a trade union? The explanation was perfectly simple. It was not, of course, that the Taff Vale decision had altered the law. Judges did not alter law; they only interpreted it; but the interpretation put by the House of Lords on the law was one which changed the whole state of affairs. An analogy stood ready to their hands. This was not the only occasion on which great Courts and great Judges had produced great surprises by their interpretation of some of the legislative efforts of this House. It was 891 wonderful how quickly lawyers could persuade themselves that they had never held opinions which subsequently proved to be erroneous. He looked forward to the day when the noble and learned Lord the Member for East Marylebone would get up and assure them that he always perfectly understood that the Education Act of 1902 did not permit public money to be used for dogmatic education. The surprise created by the judgment in the West Riding case was not greater than that created among the vast majority of legally trained gentlemen when the Taff Vale decision was given. But there was a much more important question than what the opinion of lawyers was on this subject, and that was, what was the opinion of the country, what was the opinion of the public, on this question from 1871 onwards? The hon. Gentleman had referred to the Report of the Commission which investigated this subject, quoting the statement of the Commissioners that it had been the popular view that trade union funds were immune. The important thing for the House to keep in view was not the technical legal view; they had to ask themselves what was the popular view—what was the view upon the faith of which trade unions had grown up—and if it were beyond dispute, as it was, that that view was that the funds of trade unions were protected, then the Bill was only restoring a position which the country at large had thought trade unions already occupied. If that was so, he would point out a very curious anomaly in these debates. It had been not uncommonly asserted by the Tory Party for the past twenty years that it was to the statesmen of that Party that labour and trade unions were indebted for their secure position. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, whose absence everyone regretted, speaking to his own people in 1900, said—Just consider for a moment to whom you, the working classes of this country, owe all the legislation which has really made a difference in your condition.He was not concerned at present to criticise the justice of that claim. The importance and the relevancy of the matter was that the claim was made on behalf of the Party opposite. When these claims of having effected legislative changes in the interest of labour were advanced on behalf of the Conservative 892 Party, what was the situation to which they referred? Surely it was the situation which was commonly understood to exist before the Taff Vale decision. If that were so, what was to be said of the extravagant denunciation which had been poured on the Bill by hon. Gentlemen opposite? The Party represented on the opposite benches was responsible for the legislation of this country for a large part of the last generation, and if they were of opinion that the immunity of trade union funds was an outrage and an injustice, they had had plenty of time in the past to rectify that injustice. He for one could not understand how a body of men who claimed that the position of trade unions—which meant the position as it was commonly understood—was due to their own efforts could consistently attack the present Bill. They all accepted the view which had been exploded on the country by the House of Lords. All that Bill was attempting to do was to recover from the effects of that explosion. Just as he should have expected the present Leader of the Opposition, if he had been in power, to have come and required the House to make good the mischief that was revealed in the Education Act of 1902 by the West Riding decision, so the Liberal Government was entitled to call on every Member desiring to see made good the belief held by the past generation as to the position of organised labour to help to pass into law a Bill that simply restored trade union funds to the position they were already thought to enjoy.
§ *MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said the criticism of hon. and learned Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House had been mainly directed to the words "reasonable manner," and, of coure, they had tried to make the most of them. There was no doubt that those words were inserted for the definite purpose of making it as clear as possible that the action of pickets should be peaceful and conducted properly. He and his friends were convinced that the words in the clause as now printed were quite satisfactory, and sufficient to meet all the doubts. So far as he and his friends were concerned they attached the greatest importance to the fact that in the Courts of law they would have in the interpretation of this Act to face a body of men, 893 against whom they had nothing to say personally, but whose sympathies on all these points were not with them. It was a well-known fact that whether they went to the bench of magistrates or to special juries, they were against trade unionists. No workman, or any person near the status of a workman, ever found a place on special juries, and whether the action of members of trade unions was for the purpose of peacefully persuading or communicating information there was a disposition not in favour of workmen in any trade dispute. There was the fullest guarantee in the clause for the peaceful carrying out of picketing. He appealed to the House to remember that this was not an ordinary question between two traders, nor a question of an ordinary commercial transaction; it was a question between workmen and employer, and the jury to try the question was composed entirely of employers. Trade unionists wanted no words inserted in the Bill which would hamper them in any way. On the other hand, it was far from the aim or object of trade unionists to encourage anything in the nature of unlawfulness. They had held their position for years with honour to the community and with honour to themselves, and it was absurd to say that the leaders of the operatives would do anything of an illegal nature. They knew perfectly well that all their actions in the futures would have to be as carefully guarded as their actions in the past had been, and there was no intention on their part to go one hair's breadth outside the conditions of the Bill, or that their work should be performed in such a way as the House did not intend. Some hon. Gentlemen seemed to imagine that this was the only Bill that was going to regulate the conduct of trade unionists in the future, but he would remind the House that it repealed only a small section of the Act of 1871, the rest of that Act remaining operative. The Bill only gave effect to the Act of 1875, and allowed peaceful picketing which judicial decisions had made illegal. At present, trade unionists were not allowed to approach workmen when a dispute was going on to give them information, unless these workmen came and asked for it. Non-unionists did not like to do that. He maintained that it was most unreasonable that they should not be in a position to approach these workmen as well as to be 894 approached by them. He contended that trade unionists were entitled to use persuasion, and to take reasonable action to acquaint people that there was a trade dispute in progress. But what was the position? If a dispute took place in the engineering industry, which was pretty well distributed over the country, or in the cotton industry, which was confined to a few districts, an employer could put into any local newspaper an advertisement for workmen to take the place of those with whom he was in dispute, giving the name of the firm, stating the good wages which would be paid. But trade unionists dared not put an advertisement in the newspaper in reply except in general terms. Newspapers absolutely refused to run the risk of inserting a counter advertisement setting forth the cause of dispute, giving the reason why workmen should not accept employment with a particular firm, or in a particular district. He held that that was most unfair, and this Bill would give trade unionists an equal right with employers in that respect. But employers need not advertise at all; they had other means of using their influence. He held in his hand a copy of a communication issued by a combination of Yorkshire employers which stated—No strike hands from any part of the country to be employed under any circumstances by any member of this association.And a resolution was come to by the same combination—That a list of names of strike hands be from time to time printed, and sent by the secretary to each member of the association.The employers could do all that with-out getting members of the trade unions know anything about it; and surely trade unionists also should be allowed to do these things publicly with out violating the law of the land. Several years before the Taff Vale decision, a Royal Commission was appointed over which the Duke of Devonshire presided, and on which two labour men were allowed to sit. The majority of that Commission reported—In order to enable trade associations to enter into collective legal binding agreements with the consequence that in case of breach of contract they would be liable to be sued for damages, payable out of their collective funds, it would not be sufficient to repeal sub-section (4) of the Act of 1871. Even if that legislative incapacity were taken away, the trade association would be prevented by their want of legal 895 personality from entering into such an agreement, or suing, or being sued, except with regard to the management of their funds or real estate.Surely that was sufficient evidence that the position which trade unionists held, and still hold, was a right one; and notwithstanding what some legal gentlemen might have said to the contrary, the ordinary common sense of the country was with them. In a passage in a decision given by the Master of the Rolls, the following statement occurred—For instance, in the Company's Act of 1862, 25 & 26 Vie. by Section 6, it is enacted that seven or more persons may be registered, and the section goes on to enact further that after registration they should form an incorporated company with, or without liability. The first part of the section is re-enacted in the Trade Union Act of 1871, but the last part about incorporation is pointedly omitted.For his part, he had no doubt as to what the intention of Parliament was; and the principle of this Bill had been adopted by the House on more than one occasion. In the last Parliament a majority of over 200 sanctioned its principle; and he felt certain that the present House, by passing the Third Reading by an overwhelming majority, would give general satisfaction to the labouring classes of the country, would in no way endanger public order, or encourage illegal action, and† would strengthen trade unions, which were recognised on all sides as having had some considerable part in removing the sorry state of things existing previous to 1871. Might he give a few figures as to the progress of trade unions during the last thirty years? In 1874 the trade unions numbered 147; in 1904 they numbered 646. The membership of these unions in 1874 was 285,563, and in 1904, 1,544,461. The organisation of trade unions had been used in the past primarily for the furtherance of the interests of workmen. He confessed that quite frankly and without shame. But he believed that by its action on behalf of workmen, and by combined action on behalf of employers, a better state of things and a higher standard of living had been attained without the least risk to the country as a whole. He trusted the House would that day pass the Bill by an overwhelming vote, for he believed that, without any reference to other matters which might go to another place, no one, either here or else- 896 where, could say that the country had not decided in favour of this Bill.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
said that no one could have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Clitheroe without being greatly impressed by it. The work which the hon. Member had done for his own class was familiar to everyone. He might, if he were magnanimous, congratulate the Labour Party on the triumph they had achieved, not by methods of peaceful persuasion, but by coercive persuasion. [MINISTERIAL and LABOUR cries of "Oh, oh!"] They had induced the Government to believe that they were representing the opinion of the country. What he wished to ask was why if it was the opinion of the workers at large, of the legal profession at large, and of the Liberal Party at large, that the Taff Vale decision ought to be reversed, did not the Government bring in a Bill which embodied what was now embodied in Clause 4 of this Bill? The Attorney-General, who was a great lawyer, came down to the House early in the year and introduced a Bill in a speech in which, to his credit be it said, he declared resolutely against the clause which was now accepted by the Government, pressed on the House, and presently would be signed, sealed and delivered. The hon. and learned Gentleman was then speaking from conviction; he was standing by the profession to which he did great honour; he had put his principles on what appeared to be tables of stone, but they had proved to be like the wax of Egyptian records. He would not press the Attorney-General further on this point, for he was quite certain that the Attorney-General had suffered sufficiently for his lack of decision, and the lack of decision of the Government. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh, oh," and "Shame."] The Labour Party thought they had got all they wanted.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
They have got from the Government what they were at first not prepared to give.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said that the trade unionists had got immunity for their funds and they had got clearly established in what manner they could persuade; but he did not believe that in Clause 3 they had yet quite clearly established how far they might induce other workmen to break their contract of employment. Having read the speeches of the Attorney-General and other lawyers, he was convinced that the House itself could not be clear in its own mind as to what the clause really meant. The hon. Member for Clitheroe had drawn an illustration as to how he himself and his trade union were put under a grave disadvantage when he was endeavouring to persuade to reconsider their decision certain men who had come to take the place of strikers, because the workmen who had struck did so on account of the inadequate and poor material with which they were supplied. He thought that the whole House would agree that that was an instance in which the hon. Member was entitled to state his case to the workmen who had come to take the place of the strikers; and the Attorney-General put it that under the law as it stood the proceeding of the hon. Member for Clitheroe was actionable.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said that what the Attorney-General had stated was that "to be actionable, conduct must be malicious, which either meant without just cause, or with an indirect motive." He asked the Attorney-General if, under Clause 3 as it now stood, would the action of the hon. Member for Clitheroe be legal?
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
then took the case in which the South Wales Miners' Federation sought to induce workmen to break up their contracts, and so limit the supply of coal, and asked whether such an act would under Clause 3 be legal? The view of the Attorney-General was that this clause did not really change the law but simply defined 898 it, whereas the late Solicitor-General, who was an authority on the law, said—If it was only going to cover a case where it was a breach of contract lawfully brought about, and if all these words meant was that it should be lawful hereafter to do what had hitherto been lawful, then he would not oppose the insertion of the words, but his own opinion was that there would be a very strong argument upon the word 'hereafter,' and how it would be decided he did not think any lawyer could say.On Monday last this clause was discussed very inadequately, and the feeling was that its real meaning had not been made sufficiently clear, and that there would be wrangling in the future over its interpretation. Then there was the case of "Quinn v. Leatham." That was illegal under the old law. It was a law that had been lately evolved into a branch of law by itself. The question he wished to ask was, would such a case as that of "Quinn v. Leatham" be possible under this Bill when it became law? If it was possible, then, in his opinion, the House had not as gravely considered the point as they should have done. He put these cases because they covered a very wide ground connected with the conditions of labour and employment in the future, and with trade unions and trade disputes. The Labour Party had got all they asked for. They had immunity from an action against their funds. They had it clearly established how they might proceed. But he did not believe that under this clause it was clearly established that they might induce men to break contracts. It was because he felt that uncertainty, and was interested in the progress of labour and employment in this country, that he as a Member of Parliament who had to record his vote, asked the Attorney-General to give some exposition as brief as might be of this clause. By so doing he would clear the minds of many who opposed the Government of an anxiety as to what the clause really meant, and as to whether it did not go much further than many on both sides of the House were willing that it should go. The Amendment of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean brought this clause to an issue on the question of the breaking of contracts, and the right hon. Gentleman did not divide the House because he believed it would necessitate the reconstruction of the Bill. He (Sir Gilbert Parker) 899 believed that this was the most important clause of the Bill. Clause 4 was important because of the immunity it gave from civil action, but the most important question no doubt was the breaking of contracts. Was the clause in such a position now that the actions which he had described might take place and not be described by the Judges as malicious? If such actions were to be legalised, if they fell within the bounds of Clause 3, then in his opinion the House were going to an extreme degree in the facility given with regard to breach of contract; That was all he had to say with regard to Clause 3. The hon. Member for Leicester had given the true definition, not only of trade unions but of this Bill, when he described trade unions as an engine of war, not necessarily an engine of strife. He did not believe that the hon. Member for Leicester intended to represent that they were an engine of strife, but they were an engine of war and a most effective one. The Labour Party bad been able to impress the public, and in this House the Liberal Party as a whole, with their view that the funds of trade unions should be immune, that breach of contract should be permitted, and peaceful persuasion within limits established. He congratulated them on a work successfully accomplished, although he questioned the wisdom of this particular clause. He thought wisdom had come late to the Attorney-General. He did not think the hon. and learned Gentleman would receive in the future the thanks of the Liberal Party for having bowed to the will of those who were masters of the situation, by which action he had perhaps endangered his reputation as a great lawyer. Nor did he think that the hon. Gentleman would receive the thanks of labour. The trade unions did not represent all the labour of this country, and this Bill if it brought any benefit at all would bring that benefit to trade unions and not to labour as a whole. He apologised if in any sense he had seemed to speak strongly of the action of the Attorney-General in this matter, but he spoke with a sense of responsibility to this extent, that in his constituency there were many workers in the cement works outside the union, and they took strong views on this question. He had not always agreed with those views, but he 900 had felt it his duty to express himself on this the last opportunity concerning this Bill, and to say that while he had voted against it before, and would vote against it again for one thing, and one thing only, namely, the clause giving immunity to the funds of the trade unions in civil actions, in all other respects he agreed with the Bill, and to-day had no intention of going into the lobby against it.
§ MR. PAUL
thought the reputation of the Attorney-General ns a great lawyer was well able to take care of itself. The question raised, and which was to be decided by this Bill, affected the industrial history of this country for all time. He was, of course, quite unable to reply to the legal conundrums which had been put by the hon. Member, and he had always noticed that there was nobody quite so technical as a layman who talked law.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said he was not talking law, but asking some pertinent questions, and in asking those questions he had not intended to enter into any legal argument.
§ MR. PAUL
said he wished to consider this matter for a few moments as it appeared to the ordinary politician, or the ordinary member of the public. It had been denied, and was still denied, that this Bill put back the law to the position in which for thirty years it had been supposed to be. He did not think he could adduce a better argument in proof of their proposition that it did than the fact that the decision of the House of Lords in the Taff Vale case reversed, to the general surprise of the legal profession as well as of the public, the decision of a very strong Court of Appeal. Hon. Gentlemen who had taken part in opposing this Bill had said that the Party opposite were the friends of trade unions. There was no better friend of the trade unions in this country than Lord Cross. According to the hon. Member for Gravesend the Government had submitted to pressure and coercion. He was not aware that the Government were dependent upon the Labour vote. The hon. Member had assured the House that there were far more non-unionists than unionists. If that were so, why should the Government be so anxious to 901 sacrifice their principles and reputation and throw over the hon. Member for Gravesend in order to obtain the votes of a miserable minority? There was a time when trade unions did threaten to be a very serious danger to the community. That was in the days when Mr. Cobden said he would rather live under the Bey of Algiers than under a trade union. Trade unions at the time were small, scattered, isolated, imperfectly organised, with inadequate control of their own members. They were not recognised by law, and were liable to be indicted as criminal conspiracies. The Act of 1895 gave them a status and it was to the honour of a Conservative nobleman still living, that even after the Sheffield outrages he introduced and carried a Bill which for the first time in the history of this country placed workmen and their employers upon an equal footing. Since trade unions had had these powers, which up to the present time had not been adequate, but were greater than before, what had been the experience of the country as compared with the time when the trade unions were small and weak? There had been no more Sheffield outrages, no more murders, no more riotings. Every strike in this country had been peacefully conduced, and a far larger number of disputes had been settled by arbitration. The very Judge who tried the Taff Vale case, a most learned and experienced lawyer, Mr. Justice Wills, had said that if he had a dispute with anybody he would like it to come before the arbitration of the senior Member for Derby, a man who could stand up not only against his own class, but against his own association in this matter. Was it against such men as the hon. Member for Derby or the hon. Member for Clitheroe that the people of this country required the protection of criminal law? Did those of the Conservative Party who were present in this Parliament think that there could be a better guide in legislating for the future than the experience of the past? Was it wise, was it statesmanlike, was it conservative, to disregard that experience? Why should they not all rejoice, to whatever class or party they belonged, that the experience of the past proved that large masses of our fellow countrymen had wisely used and scarcely ever abused those powers which they, with the 902 universal consent of laymen and lawyers alike, had for a whole generation possessed and enjoyed?
§ MR. CLAVELL SALTER
said that reference had been made to the course which the Attorney-General had taken in this matter. Perhaps the House had had enough, by this time, of references to this Minister and to that. He was honestly convinced, however, that this Government as a whole had suffered more discredit in the country from its conduct of this measure than from any other matter which they had taken up since they came into office. Not only had they suffered great discredit, but he believed they had suffered that discredit without reward. It was possible that a member of the legal profession was better able to realise the great effect of the change which this Bill would produce on the daily life and labour of the people than a layman could do. The time for taking up the attention of the House over details had passed, and there- fore he wished to say only a very few words. He believed that this Bill would make a very drastic and undesirable change in the law, not merely in that part of it which would fix the attention of the public, the immense position in which it placed trade unions, but in other parts of the Bill. With regard to the first part of the Bill, the fact which impressed his mind and filled him with apprehension for the future was the undefined nature of the change which it was proposed to make. Not even the most experienced of men could form the slightest idea of who were the persons who by this Bill would be clothed with those great new powers which the Bill undoubtedly conferred. Those powers were not restricted to the parties to these industrial disputes. The definition of "trade dispute" was so wide that it was impossible to say who were the people who would be licensed to persecute and who were the people who would be persecuted. It impressed his mind very strongly that the circumstances and conditions under which these new powers were to be exercised were of the most delicate character. This Bill gave power which was not at present enjoyed by anyone in this country—power of interference with people in their work and in their 903 homes; power to interfere, to cajole, and to coerce, in circumstances in which Englishmen, and English workmen above all, were apt to resent interference in the greatest degree. For his part he seriously thought that when these new powers of doing what was now illegal began to be put in force in industrial warfare the men against whom they were put in motion, deprived of the legal protection which they now enjoyed, would defend themselves and retaliate on their assailants. He feared that those men would be likely to retaliate by means which were violent and disastrous. The House knew something about American methods of conducting industrial disputes. They knew of combinations of men who, by reason of their great wealth and great organisation, had succeeded in practically emancipating themselves from the operation of the law, and had made it difficult to apply the law to them. They knew what the particular consequence of a strike was in the States, and what strike making and strike breaking meant as those operations were there carried out. His anticipation and his fear was that the result of this Bill becoming law would be the introduction into this country of the mischievous methods of American industrial warfare. He honestly believed the passage of the Bill would not close this matter, and that in a time not far distant, as they measured time in this House, Parliament would be called upon to deal once more, in the light of very un-happy experience, with the question of industrial warfare and the legal status of trade unions. One other thing had impressed itself upon his mind and he believed would impress itself upon the mind of every Member of the House, namely, that when this Bill became law, if a servant of a trade union by his negligence caused the death of a man, the representatives of that man would have no redress against the trade union; or if the trade union through its representative obstructed a man or cut off the water supply to his house that man 904 would have no redress; neither would he have any redress if a trade union printing and publishing a newspaper published a libel against him, and if they insisted on a continuance of the publication of that libel he would have no right and would not be allowed an opportunity of going to the Court and obtaining an injunction to restrain such publication. No man could say that changes such as these were not serious. Yet these were the changes proposed to be made by this Bill and proposed to be made, as he submitted, without a mandate from the people. The Attorney-General, in speaking of his own clause, had said that it carried out the mandate of the people. Organised labour found itself to be strong —possibly stronger than it had realised before, and advantage was taken of that strength to increase its demand. A special alteration of the law of agency was not enough; the demand was made for the exemption of trade union funds altogether. So a clause was introduced to that effect. Appetite came from eating, and trade union leaders, warming to their work, said that even this would not be enough, and that they must be exempted altogether from the operations of the Courts. And so the last stage in this matter was reached. The hon. Member for Clitheroe had complained of the unfriendliness of the tribunal. If the desire were for a friendly tribunal, let them alter the constitution of the tribunal, but not place trade unions outside the operation of the law. Not only was it done with no mandate, but with no precedent. No one could point to any instance in which Parliament had enacted that any class should be placed outside the operation of the ordinary law. Nothing approaching the invidious privilege it was now proposed to give had been ever before conferred on any class. Not only was it without precedent, but it was without principle. No right hon. or hon. Member had laid down any intelligible principle that could be universally applied by which 905 it could be shewn to be right to place trade unions or any other class outside the operation of the law. The Attorney-General had drawn a distinction to the prejudice of the House of Lords between the Court of Appeal and the decision of the House of Lords in a well-known case He could not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman into those invidious distinctions. He had not much difficulty himself in choosing between the highly subtle and technical judgment which the House of Lords gave in the Taff Vale case and the wide principle which was laid down. Not only was the proposal in this Bill done without principle, but it was done in violation of every principle. It was done in violation of the two principles laid down by the House of Lords, which principles Parliament, in his judgment, would have done well to follow—first, that where there was an aggregate number of men recognised by law as owning property and employing servants they must be held responsible; and, secondly, a still more valuable principle, that there should be no exception to the liability of all individuals and all recognised legal entities for the wrongs they did by their servants. He was well aware that the passage of this Bill was a foregone conclusion, and that upon the Opposition Benches opinion was varied and divided upon the matter. For his part he felt honestly and deeply upon the great principle involved in this clause, much more than upon the effect it might have on trade unions or industrial disputes, and he could have wished that that great principle had found more authoritative, more adequate, and more frequent expression upon those Benches. He believed that the Government would be found in the end to have made a great sacrifice in this matter. They would be found to have sacrificed much in the way of consistency, much in the way of Liberal principles, without, in the end, receiving much reward, or 906 having appeased or disarmed even for an hour the hostility of Socialism.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he could hardly let this debate come to a conclusion without saying a word on a subject which had so long engaged the attention of the House. It was inevitable that comments, not always of a favourable character, should have been made by Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House as to the mode in which the Government had chosen to conduct this Bill and the rather violent altercations to which they had had from time to time to submit in the course of these debates. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies, in astrain of unconscious humour, had informed a great audience in Glasgow that, so far as this measure was concerned, the trade unions supplied the steam and the Government supplied the direction. He did not at all deny that the trade unions had supplied the steam, but he did not think that even the most favourable critic of the Government would suggest that the Government had supplied the direction. The Government had given with great ability arguments in support of a policy pressed upon them, but much as he admired the ability of hon. Gentlemen, he could hardly admire the navigating skill, the resoluteness of purpose, or the fixity of policy which had animated the Government since this Bill received its First Reading. They had heard two very interesting speeches this afternoon, one from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow and the other from the hon. Member for Clitheroe. These two speeches really summed up the case for the Bill; and they employed arguments which, so far as they went, were not in his opinion susceptible of effective answer. He did not mean to say that on that account they were conclusive of the whole question, but the contentions advanced by the hon. Member opposite and the hon. Member for Clitheroe were, as far as he was aware, broadly speaking, 907 true as far as they went. The first argument related to the condition of the law. It had been alleged constantly by the supporters of this Bill that as the law was thought to be left in 1875, so would the law be if this Bill were passed. He should imagine that in detail that statement might be susceptible of some doubt. There might be here and there some differences between the law as it would be if the Bill were passed and the law as it was thought to be under the Act of 1875; but, leaving those details on one side, he imagined it was true that the law which stood for nearly thirty years from 1875 was very much in the condition in which it would be left if this Bill were placed on the Statute-book. Unquestionably that fact, if it were a fact, as he thought it was, did raise a point of considerable difficulty, because they were asked, "Do you prefer the law as this Bill will leave it to the law as the House of Lords has declared it to be?" That was a plain question of high policy. But the question was this: "Do you think it necessary, do you think it right, to leave the law where the House of Lords has left it, but where it was not thought to be for thirty years, and where during those thirty years nobody has alleged it produced any very serious consequences?" The argument of the two hon. Gentlemen he had referred to was unanswerable so far as it went. He had listened in vain during these debates for any specific case in which harm was done by the fact that the law was supposed to be what it was going to be made. They, therefore, had not the plain issue before them which they would have if the Government had come forward and said, as an entirely new proposition, "We mean to ask you to make this change in the law." That was not what the Government had done. They had put a more complicated question. They had said, "The law has been thought to be of such a character for thirty years. It has been universally acted on by employers and employed for 908 thirty years, and we ask you to restore it." The question was therefore of a kind he did not remember ever having heard debated in this House before, because there were cross-currents and difficulties raised by that double issue which rendered the position far more complicated than it would have been under more normal circumstances. That was the first point raised by the two hon. Gentleman. The second point was as to trade union funds, and it was on that that he believed there would be absolute unanimity in the public mind, though there might be great divisions of opinion as to how that opinion should be embodied in a statute. He went unsuccessfully through a general election in January last. and. like other members, for purely working-class constituencies, he was, of course, pressed a great deal on this subject. He certainly said nothing then which was inconsistent with any line he had taken in the House since, and he refused then to commit himself to agree to the restoration of the law as it was supposed to be after 1875. But he had always admitted, as he thought every man had to admit, that some modification of the conditions with regard to trade union funds must be carried out if they were to deal equitably with their property, which was not subscribed wholly, or mainly, for the purpose of carrying on trade warfare, but largely for a benevolent and most excellent object—that of providing for men out of work and when they were sick. The Government might possibly have enabled them to deal with that issue separately. The Bill might have been so framed that they could have accepted that part of it which protected trade union funds from this point of view, and considered in isolation and without prejudice any one of the changes they proposed to make in the law. But the Government had not so framed their Bill, and they were now face to face with the Bill in its last stage, which was the only possible method open to the 909 House for giving that protection which he believed everybody thought ought to be given to the benevolent funds of trade unions. The Government were responsible for placing the House in that dilemma. He thought they might have adopted a course which would have saved them from the difficulty of deciding whether they were to make a great modification of the law of England while seeking to protect trade union funds, or whether they should leave the law as it was. Therefore anybody who voted against the Bill not only voted against a modification of the law as to trade union funds, but placed those funds on their benevolent side in peril. He could not make himself responsible for that. He told his constituents that he would do everything in his power to see that the benevolent part of trade unions funds should be protected, but he confessed that the action of the Government had placed him in a very difficult position. The considerations put forward in the two speeches to which he had referred, though he thought that as far as they went they were unanswerable, did not relieve his mind of all the misgiving to which he had more than once given expression. If they got their whole idea not only of the present but of the future, from such speeches as that delivered by the hon. Member for Clitheroe, no one would have the slightest hesitation about dealing with trade unions or associations of employers. He thought there was no real immediate danger that there would be any serious abuse of any privileges which this House might give to combinations of either employers or employed. They had listened to a great many speeches, mostly conducted by lawyers on the Opposition Bill, and he did not think a single Gentleman had risen from the other side—and there were a large number of employers among them—to suggest that in their view there was any danger, so far as capital was concerned, attaching to the privi- 910 leges which this law gave. He was told that there was great dislike of this measure among the employing classes. Then why did not that dislike find expression in the House? He could not believe they were under the impression that the responsibility which belonged to them should be laid on the shoulders of other people in another place. That was a policy so foolish and so mean that he would not for a moment suggest that it could be the policy of any body of opinion in this House. The House was aware that his remarks had quite as much reference to combinations of employers as to combinations of workmen. He did not like the idea of putting these great and growing associations in an exceptional position. When they got to this point they were apt to get into technicalities. He was not sure that there were not a large number of associations which were not corporations which were nevertheless perfectly capable of doing a wrong act in their corporate capacity and were not capable of being sued. He had heard the case argued from both sides and he did not think that was a desirable position. His objection, however, was quite outside technical and legal considerations. If was surely obvious that by this Bill they gave to combinations of employers and combinations of workmen enormous powers, and whether they were corporate or incorporate in the eye of the law, they were associations, capable, working in a single organised body, of following a policy which as an organised body they might have determined to pursue. He did not like great powers of that kind being given to any body of men without any power of making them answerable for the result of their action. He did not think it was possible to avoid dealing with the immediate and pressing difficulty of the trade union funds, because of the remote danger that might be in front of us, and which might be likely to menace us in the future. There 911 were those who thought that trade unions had shown such self-control in the past, had so improved the relations between employers and workmen, that they had nothing to fear from them in the future. There were others who said with equal confidence that employers were showing more and more generosity and public spirit in their way of conducting business and that there was nothing to fear from any combination they might enter into. He hoped these things were true. He could not help having some doubts on the subject. His best hope was founded on the fact that Englishmen had on the whole shown themselves so far capable of exercising great powers with moderation. There was a natural good sense and moderation about the race in its corporate dealings which might be able to resist the temptation given even by a wide Act of Parliament. They had reached a stage in this discussion when it was only on such hopes that that they could rely. It was too late to change the Bill. It was too late to reject it. The Bill, as it had gone through must be, in his opinion, accepted. A great responsibility rested on the Government which introduced it. A great responsibility rested also upon the Party which had insisted on carrying it through in its present form. Still greater responsibility rested upon the trade unions of both men and masters as to how they would use these powers in the future. That they might use them with good sense, with justice and moderation, with all regard to private rights and private liberty, and with a wise consideration of those great trade interests in which masters and men were equally concerned, must be the prayer of every man in the House. He hoped that the sanguine anticipations of those who had pressed on this measure through all its stages into its present shape might not be disappointed by the actual progress of events.
§ SIR JOHN WALTON
said the Government did not shrink from the responsibility which the right hon. Gentleman said attached to them, and they were quite prepared to press for the Third Reading, and afterwards to witness the practical operation of the Bill now before the House. But he might perhaps be allowed to ask the right hon. Gentleman what he thought was the responsibility resting upon him as the Leader of the Opposition, having regard to the methods by which this Bill had been resisted. The right hon. Gentleman had managed to retain to the very last moment the secret approbation with which he regarded the measure.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. and learned Gentleman is mistaken. All I have said about trade unions and about making trade union funds safe, all my hopes and fears, have all been expressed to the House on previous occasions.
§ SIR JOHN WALTON
said that certainly very few of these encouraging declarations escaped the right hon. Gentleman's lips while they were fighting the very active opposition of his Party on the various stages of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had preached the doctrine of consistency, but he would find it very difficult to reconcile what he had said during the course of the Bill with his declaration that he would not vote against the Third Reading. The right hon. Gentleman had accused the Government of being inconsistent. He would like to know why. The true complaint against the Government was that they left to the House the choice between two methods. If they were wrong in leaving that selection to the House, the proper moment for making the protest was when the House was invited to decide the question. If they were right in leaving the question to the House, why were they to be reproached because they accepted 913 the opinions of the great majority of the House? He challenged any hon. Member to point to any dereliction of principle in the course the Government had adopted. He knew of no method more statesmanlike in dealing with a question of this kind than to ask the House to choose between a course which had the advantage of precedent and one which had some theoretical advantage, and when that choice was made between the one method and the other to accept the decision and act upon it. The notion that the great aims of statesmanship were to be sacrificed on account of some pedantic desire to protect the supersensitive self-esteem of Ministers was hardly worth a moment's consideration. As for himself, so far from shrinking under the abuse—for it had reached the pitch of abuse—which had been loaded upon him he should always look back with satisfaction to the time when he was able to use his influence in passing a piece of legislation which had been framed with such success that the Leader of the Opposition got up and said he was not going to vote against its Third Reading. The right hon. Gentleman had talked about the dictation of the Labour Party. He was present in the House when the hon. Member for Clitheroe Division rose and reminded the right hon. Gentleman that he was trying to destroy the great boon which the Conservative Party had given to the working classes in 1875, and from that moment he had noticed a significant weakening of the opposition to the Bill. The fourth clause, which was supposed to create this immunity for trade unions, was a clause which sought, and, successfully sought, to put into plain language the results of the settlement of the Liberal Party in 1871, which Lord Beaconsfield afterwards adopted in 1875. The right hon. Gentleman properly shrank from the reproaches which would be made in the country if his Party to-day should destroy the charter of Labour, the credit of which they had 914 hitherto claimed. Did this measure, against the Third Beading of which the right hon. Gentleman would not vote, contain any dangerous innovation? Was there any startling revolution involved in its provisions? The law of conspiracy had the definition recommended to them for adoption by the Commission which the right hon. Gentleman himself appointed, and over which the Tory statesman, Lord Dunedin, presided. The definition of picketing followed the precedent of 1858 and 1875, and it certainly was as stringent in its present form as it was in the form in which the Government originally proposed it. As for the fourth clause, the right hon. Gentleman had made a most admirable speech in its support. For what had he said? He had said that in establishing the relationship of agency between the contributors to trade union funds and the persons who managed them we were resorting to a mere legal fiction which had no basis in fact. Thousands of individuals up and down the country contributed small sums to these funds— in some degree for benefit purposes and in some degree for fighting purposes—and the persons who managed those funds and who conducted the affairs of the union were not in any real sense of the term under the control or guidance of the contributors. Therefore, as the right hon. Gentleman had pointed out, there was a strong argument for saving those funds from being involved owing to the mistaken conduct of persons, who, though necessarily in positions of responsibility, were only agents in a purely technical or legal aspect. The right hon. Gentleman also pointed out that so far as the unions were not liable for actions for injunctions the Government were restoring the settlements of 1871 and 1875, because the essence of that settlement was the non-suability imposed on the character of these unions. They are not corporations. It was not intended they should be legal persons, or legal entities. But 915 the responsibility of individuals was retained and against the individual the law was sharp. He trusted that the House had now taken part in a final settlement of this question. He thought all the elements which should be present in a final settlement had disclosed themselves during these debates, and were most conspicuous at this moment. The majorities in support of the Bill had been signal, and they were all the more striking when compared with the miserable fraction of support given to the Party opposite. He did not think it was a fact to be ignored that this proposal was cordially accepted by those in whose interest it was made, and surely a measure which was strongly supported in this House as a final settlement, accepted as such by the representatives of Labour on both sides, and not voted against on the Third Reading by its opponents, was a measure which might be sent to another place with a strong claim to be passed without amendment into law. He appealed to the Leader of the Opposition. He had influence elsewhere. He appealed to him to use that influence to prevent the rejection of this Bill. It was easy to destroy it. In an unreflecting moment the fabric which this House for some weeks had been engaged in erecting might be dashed to pieces. But sooner or later on the ruins that had been made the structure would have to be re-erected if this question was to be laid at rest.
§ *MR. BELL (Derby)
said that as he was, he believed, the first victim who had brought about the decision of the House of Lords which necessitated this legislation he had some claim to say a word, and he hoped the last, in regard to this Bill. He had listened with great pleasure to the concluding remarks of the ex-Prime Minister, in which he admitted that the opposition which he felt to this Bill had largely diminished. He supported the appeal made by the hon. and 916 learned Attorney-General that the right hon. Gentleman would use his influence in another place to insure the passing of the Bill. The conduct of the trade unions in the past when everybody believed they were free from the law was such that the right hon. Gentleman himself failed to find fault with them, and he need have no fear or apprehension that worse would happen in the future. The experience of the past ought to be some guide to what was likely to happen in the future, and should have encouraged the right hon. Gentleman to come to a conclusion in this matter, but during the last four years when he was in power he neglected to bring in any Bill to deal with it. In 1902 when the Labour Members endeavoured to obtain a Committee to investigate the decision of the House of Lords the right hon. Gentleman refused it. Since then the Labour Members had introduced a Bill every session, and he was pleased to see that the efforts had culminated in this Bill. He had no apprehension of the future. All the unions desired was that there should be fair play for them to fight the employers, and so far as individuals were concerned the law would punish them for any wrongful acts that they committed. That would be sufficient to prevent any individual members of the unions from doing harm to anyone. He trusted this Bill would come back from the House of Lords in the same condition as that in which it left this House.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Resolution of the House of 4th August last.
§ Adjourned at two minutes before Five o'clock till Monday next.