HC Deb 14 August 1911 vol 29 cc1544-9

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction existing in Liverpool with regard to the recent formation there of the Trade Boards Act Committee; and whether he can state why persons who have an intimate knowledge of the occupations concerned and whose nominations were supported by the Liverpool Trades, and Labour Council and representatives of the sweated trades were not appointed?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)

I have received communications on the subject from the local branches of the Amalgamated Society of Tailors and from the Liverpool Trades Council. As regards the second part of the question, I can only say that the number of local workers' representatives to be appointed was very limited, namely, eight; and the area affected was extensive, comprising Lancashire, Cheshire, and North Wales. The nominations received from various sources within this large area were very carefully considered before the representatives of local workers were chosen.


Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed in the papers that there is general dissatisfaction in Liverpool at the present moment?


I have heard that, unfortunately, there is a good deal of unrest in Liverpool.


asked the Prime Minister whether he has considered the increased risks to the food supply of the people owing to dock strikes and other causes; and whether he proposes to take any steps to safeguard a regular supply?

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)

The whole question of the improvement of the means available for preventing or shortening industrial warfare is at present engaging the earnest attention of the Prime Minister in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that many of these strikes are due to a shortage of food among the wives and children of the men who strike for more money with which to buy it?


I beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that during the strike last week conveyers of food were compelled to obtain permits from the strike leaders to use certain streets in the Metropolis, and whether it is a fact, as stated in the Press, that an actual permit was granted to the Postmaster-General for the mails?


That clearly is a question which requires notice.


Will the right hon. Gentleman see that in any arrangement come to the rights of the British workman to strike remains untouched?

Colonel YATE

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether Mr. H. Gosling was appointed a member of the Port of London Authority by the Board of Trade; whether he is paid any salary, and, if so, how much; and whether, seeing that he is taking a leading part in the promotion of the present strike, the Board of Trade propose to take any steps with regard to this action as being inconsistent with his position as a member of the Port of London Authority?


Mr. Gosling was appointed a member of the Port of London Authority by the Board of Trade under the provisions of Section 1 (7) of the Port of London Act, which prescribes that, with a view to the representation of labour on the Port Authority, one of the members appointed by the Board of Trade shall be appointed after consultation with such organisations representative of labour as the Board think best qualified to advise them upon the matter. Mr. Gosling is unpaid. The Board of Trade have no control over the actions of the members of the Authority nominated by them. I do not propose to take any steps in the matter.


Has 1he right hon. Gentleman had any application previously to this for the removal of Mr. Gosling from his position, and, if so, what answer did he give.


Nothing has come before me on that matter.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further steps he is taking, or will take, in London, to insure the maintenance of order and thus permit a continuance of the supply of goods in the usual channels, so as to prevent unemployment arising in the retail trades?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)

I trust that, in view of the settlement reached last Friday, no special steps will now be necessary for the maintenance of order; but, if the necessity should arise, all the forces at the disposal of the Government will be employed to preserve peace and secure the observance of the law and the free working of the food supply of the people.


Are any of the Metropolitan police absent from London on duty at present, or is it intended to send any of them away?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if all the transport workers became passive resisters he has not got enough troops to supply food?


I do not think it necessary to answer either of these hypothetical questions.


asked how many members of the Metropolitan Police Force are at present employed outside the Metropolitan Police area?


The dockyard police and certain other officers are permanently employed outside the Metropolitan police district; but at present no members of the force are specially employed outside the district.


Is there any truth in the statement that members of the Royal Irish Constabulary are being brought over to Liverpool?


I have heard nothing of it.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary a question of which I have given him very brief notice, whether he can give us any information with reference to the course of events in Liverpool, and as to what has occurred?


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question, of which I have given him private notice—


Questions should be put one at a time.


I have a question supplementary to that of my hon. Friend (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) on the same subject which I wish to ask, as I understand an. answer has been prepared on certain points. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order."]


The hon. Member wishes to ask a question on the same point as the hon. Member for the Scotland Division.


My question is whether the right hon. Gentleman has any information as to the state of Liverpool to-day, and whether he can in any way supplement the statement published this morning as to how and why rioting commenced yesterday, and whether, in view of the practically unanimous condemnation of the action of the police for having provoked the riot, he will have a special inquiry made, and accept evidence from others than members of the police force?


I think it would be convenient for me to give an answer to the question of which I have received private notice. Reports received this morning from Liverpool are to the effect that there is no improvement in the situation. The dockers have not returned to work, and the shipowners have declared a general lock-out from this afternoon. There is a good deal of rioting and disturbance, and though it proceeds mostly from the hooligan class, who began the riot last night, it is serious in character, and throughout the town attacks are being made on warehouses and factories, and even private houses. The police are being assailed in the performance of their ordinary duties. The responsibility for maintaining order rests with the local authorities, but in these circumstances it is, in the opinion of the Government, essential that the police should have effective military aid, and that all necessary measures should be taken to secure the restoration of public order and the observance of the law. Orders have been therefore given for the movement of further troops, which will raise the force in Liverpool to a complete brigade of Infantry and two regiments of Cavalry. It is believed that this force will be sufficient for all emergencies. With regard to the second part of the question of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald), I would say that disorder appears to have been begun by some hooligans, but there is, I fear, no reason to doubt that many of the strikers joined them. With regard to the third part of the question as to the conduct of the police, I would observe that at the present time, when the police have so many difficulties to contend with, they require all the support which the Government and the public can give them, and that nothing will be done which would even have the appearance of weakening their authority. No facts have yet been submitted to me that call for any inquiry, and in any event no inquiry will be ordered until there is a complete cessation of all disturbance. I take advantage of this opportunity to repeat an earnest warning to all law-abiding and peaceable citizens not to mix themselves up with crowds on any occasion when disorder is prevalent, as they may easily involve themselves in serious trouble. The proper course for all peaceably disposed persons, when any riot arises, is to go back quietly to their own homes, unless specially called upon to aid the civil power.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has received a telegram from an hon. Member of this House, dated 12.54 p.m. to-day, in which he states that all business of delivering goods is at a standstill owing to threats of strikers to injure persons and premises; and what steps he intends to take to restore order?


That is covered by my answer.

Mr. W. R. PEEL

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many police have been injured in this strike during the last two days?


No statistics on either side have yet been furnished to me.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the presence of the military in Liverpool has not already caused provocation and exasperation to the people in some respects?


I believe that to be altogether untrue. I believe that the presence of the military has averted even more serious trouble than there has been.


May I ask the President of the Board of Trade whether his Department are taking such steps as are within their power to restore good relations between employers and employés?


In response to an appeal by the Lord Mayor, we sent one of our officers (Mr. Cummings) to Liverpool, on Saturday, and he has been in consultation with the Lord Mayor of that City. I have not received his report, but the Board will be glad in this case as in others, to give their good offices as far as they are able.


Is it not a fact that nearly the whole of the newspaper correspondents who have described what occurred, testify to the fact that the demonstration yesterday was terminating peacefully when the police took action which provoked the conflict?


I cannot possibly attempt to judge the merits of the evidence either for or against the action of the police or of the strikers, or of the crowd in Liverpool. When order has been completely re-established, if there is a primâ facie case for investigation, that will be the time for that matter to be inquired into. At present, I can only say that I am confident that the authorities have taken the proper steps.


Will the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that similar military precautions will be taken with regard to the disorder threatened by the Noble Lord, the Member for Oxford Univeristy (Lord Hugh Cecil).


I do not think they would need it.