§ On the Motion for the adjournment of the House,
§ *MR. J. RAMSAY MACDONALD
called attention to the state of affairs existing in Belfast that day. They had information that the soldiers had again interfered with pickets legally pursuing their duties as pickets. He would point out that the military had been called out to interfere with a trade dispute before there was any systematic disturbance of the peace. Since the military had been called out there had been only two isolated cases of disturbance. The military had been called upon in anticipation of trouble. While he and his friends were perfectly willing to admit the plea that there were special circumstances in Belfast, they did urge that, if the military were to be used, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary should use every particle of influence which he possessed with the view to the settlement of the dispute. At the present time the military were being used not to maintain law and order, but for the purpose of protracting a dispute in the interests of the employers [Cries of "Oh "]— that was their information—and to intimidate the strikers.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (MR. BIRRELL, BRISTOL, N.)
said he was always willing to give the fullest information that came to him in his official capacity. In this matter he should like the House clearly to understand that the primary responsibility for maintaining order in Belfast rested with the local authority, and it was they who 1019 had requisitioned the aid of the military. He could not say a word by way of interference with the local authorities in the discharge of their difficult duties. But he kept himself fully informed of what was taking place in Belfast, and from telegrams he had received it appeared that all parts of the town were quiet, and that the situation was unchanged. The military at the docks were reduced yesterday, and they were to be still further reduced to-day and tomorrow. This had been done after consultation with the Mayor. He had telegraphed for information during the day, and had received a reply stating that no pickets had been arrested to-day, and there wore no detectives in disguise. All had passed off quietly except for the arrest of a non-union worker. The policeman who arrested him was struck over the eye, and he was treated at the hospital, but not detained. He believed the local authority were acting with considerable wisdom and discretion. His experience of life had led him to the conclusion that his good offices in the matter would be useless unless they were invited by all parties in the dispute.
§ MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S)
said the circumstances in Belfast at present were exceptional. The local authority had considered it necessary that the military should be called out. The greatest difficulty at present arose out of the belief entertained in some quarters that both the police and the military were interfering with legitimate picketing. He asked the Chief Secretary to consider whether instructions could be given to the authorities in Belfast as to what constituted legal picketing during a trade dispute. If that were done misunderstandings and mistakes would be avoided. He sincerely trusted that the 1020 local authority in Belfast and the right hon. Gentleman would use all the influence they possessed to bring this lamentable strike to an end.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)
said that this subject had been sprung upon the House without notice being given to the Members for Belfast except the hon. Member for one division. His own constituency ran into a part of Belfast, and he might be permitted to say that Belfast was very well able to take care of itself. It had a reputation which was the envy of the loss industrious parts of Ireland. There were very few cases of industrial strife in Belfast, and those which had occurred in the past had always been peacefully settled. He was glad that the Chief Secretary was leaving the authorities on the spot to deal with the present conflict, and to know that the right hon. Gentleman was on the side of law and order.
§ * MR. STAVELEY-HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)
hoped that some further time would be afforded for discussion of matters connected with Home Office Vote. The police of Staffordshire had some right to be heard on the question which had been under discussion.
§ MR. MARKHAM (Nottinghamshire, Mansfield)
joined in the appeal. There were many questions of industrial importance that required discussion.
§ *MR. J. A. PEASE (Essex, Saffron Walden)
said these representations should be conveyed to the Prime Minister, but that in his absence it was impossible for him to in any way commit the Government to afford further time for the discussion.
§ Adjourned at fourteen minutes after Eleven o'clock.