§ The following Amendments stood on the Order Paper in the name of Sir HENRY SLESSER:
§ In page 3, line 5, at the beginning, to insert the words "For the purpose of removing doubts."
§ Page 3, to leave out lines 5 to 36.
I do not propose to select the first Amendment standing in the name of the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser). I think the next Amendment standing in his name should prove a suitable Amendment upon which to found a general discussion.
I was going to raise that point, Captain FitzRoy. I think the second Amendment in the name of my hon. and learned Friend does provide sufficient scope for a general Debate such as we have had on other Clauses. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"] If the second Amendment provides sufficient scope for the general Debate, and it meets with your wishes, and meets the general convenience of the Committee, I think it will be for the benefit of all if we take the second Amendment and raise the whole issue on that.
The second Amendment certainly furnishes sufficient scope for a general Debate. I shall only put the Amendment down to the words "It is hereby."
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
I beg to move, in page 3, to leave out lines 5 to 36.
This afternoon we open a discussion on the application of the second principle laid down by the Government. We have been told that four principles are involved in this Bill, the first being that a general strike should be made illegal, 1670 and the second, as I understood the Prime Minister, that intimidation should be made illegal. With regard to the first principle, although the Government told us it was their intention to make only the general strike illegal, after about a week of cross-examination we extracted the fact that they were making most sympathetic strikes illegal; and, therefore, we approach the second principle with a similar suspicion, and we think that if it is compatible with the integrity of the Government to represent the first principle as being something quite different from what it is, it is likely they may be trying to play a similar trick upon the Committee with regard to the second principle. This is the suggestion which I wish to make to the Committee, that the application of the second principle goes very much beyond any legitimate attempt to interfere with possible intimidation. The present law does in terms prohibit intimidation in connection with trade disputes. The Act of 1875 says so in terms. The law states that if anyone, with a view to preventing any other person from doing any act,Wrongfully and without legal authority uses violence to or intimidates"—those are the words of the existing law—any other person"—that that person commits a crime under the existing Act of 1875. I find with interest that the Home Secretary, in speaking on this very matter in connection with the Emergency Powers Regulations on the 30th August, 1926, said it would only be fair that the country should know what is the existing law; and he went on:It is quite true that, under the Act of 1906, peaceful picketing for the purpose of peaceful persuasion or imparting information is permissible. But the Act of 1906 does not in any way do away with the Act of 1875. What was illegal under the Act of 1875 is still illegal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th August, 1926; col. 19, Vol. 199.]Under the old law, said the right hon. Gentleman, speaking last July,any form of violence, or intimation is illegal. If a man uses violence or intimidates a person he is, under the Act of 1875, guilty of an offence.He went on to say:Watching or besetting is a criminal offence to-day, and if a number of men persistently beset the house of a miner who desires to work, that is an offence under the law as it stands to-day.1671 Therefore it is not necessary for me to take up the time of the Committee by arguing what the existing law is, because the right hon. Gentleman himself as recently as last July told this House that intimidation and watching and besetting were already illegal under the existing law. That being so, we may properly ask ourselves what is the object of the Government in altering or attempting to alter the existing law? If the law prevents intimidation, the object of this Clause must be to do something more, something other than the prevention of intimidation, and what I going to suggest to the Committee and what we are suggesting to the country is that under this Clause, just as in the case of Clause 1, under the guise of preventing intimidation, which everybody agrees it is a very real necessity to do——[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I agree, and the present law adequately provides for that, as the Home Secretary himself has said. I say that under the guise of that preventing intimidation the Government are really introducing language here which will make illegal the process of peaceful persuasion, and make picketing illegal also.
It is the same method which is sometimes employed on a racecourse, where one pea is placed under a thimble, and later on another pea is deftly substituted. On the first Clause, under the plea of dealing with a general strike, we have had sympathetic strikes, placed under the thimble; and here, under the plea of dealing with intimidation, we are having substituted a law which will prevent peaceful persuasion altogether. I do not believe that fulfils the intention which was expressed by the Prime Minister in his speech. Just as he intended to deal only with a general strike, so he intended to deal only with intimidation. He did not wish, possibly, to embark on this undertaking at all. I do not believe the Prime Minister intended to deal with anything else but intimidation. He was like the unhappy Aeneas who left Dido with such reluctance and sadly gave instructions to his fleet to leave the port.Sic Fatur lacrymans, classique immittit haberasThus weeping he spake and ordered out the Fleet"—But the Prime Minister is not in charge of the ship now, it is under the control of the Attorney-General and the Home 1672 Secretary, and they and the Government must take the responsibility for what is here proposed. We know, as a matter of fact, that the word "intimidation" is susceptible of many meanings. In a sense practically no mercantile industrial or financial process goes on to-day without some form of coercion or intimidation. I put down an Amendment on the Paper to protect private employers who are being coerced and intimidated by associations that keep up rings for fixing prices and the like. In a sense any pressure put upon another person, legitimate or illegitimate, may be called a form of intimidation. The law, which has always been wiser and more conservative than the Government, who say that we do not consider intimidation in a vague or general sense, but we are going to say that it means violence or threatening people with violence.
The law of 1875 has construed the word "intimidation" to mean violence or threats of violence, or something of that kind. The Home Secretary and his friends propose to extend in this Clause the definition of intimidation very considerably, and they are going to allow the individual employer to coerce and intimidate by rings or trade associations or motor trade associations or any other society by putting them on black lists if they sell goods below a certain price. While the Government are indifferent about all these things, they do not intend to deal with that class of trade union under this Bill, but they single out one particular form of pressure which is now considered legal and attempt to make it illegal under this Bill. And so you get a piece of class legislation saying that intimidation does not mean what it has meant since 1875, that is actually intimidation in the form of violence or threats, but it is extended in such a way that no picket will ever know when he starts picketing whether he will not be inadvertently committing a criminal offence, although he may not he intimidating anybody at all. Everything turns upon the word intimidation at the end of Sub-section (2). It means:To cause in the mind of a person a reasonable apprehension of injury to him or any member of his family.The most innocent action might cause in the minds of somebody else a reasonable 1673 apprehension of injury, and when we remember that it includes "other than physical or material injury," it means that if any person, possibly quite inadvertently, causes in the mind of a person who is picketed a reasonable apprehension of mental injury, something which it is impossible to identify in concrete terms, he becomes thereby a criminal. Therefore, to that extent under the present law if a man really intimidates somebody else and threatens him with violence or the consequences of violence he is committing an illegal act, and to that is now added after communication with another man either communicating information or peacefully persuading it becomes a criminal act if the other person who is peacefully persuaded reasonably gets in his mind an apprehension that he is going to suffer an injury which need not be either a physical or a material injury. No responsible advisers, in view of Clause 1, could possibly tell anybody in a sympathetic strike that he would not be held to be committing a crime, because he could never feel sure that somebody might not have a reasonable apprehension of injury in his mind.
The method which is employed here is precisely the same method as is employed in Clause 1. The language I used in reference to Clause 1 is equally applicable in this case because the provisions put the trade union in peril and jeopardy. A man will never know when he starts communicating information or peacefully persuading someone else whether the person he is picketing will not subsequently be able to satisfy a magistrate that in consequence of that action he had a reasonable apprehension of injury of a material or a, mental kind. Therefore we are up against the danger which was pointed out by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) when he said that the whole of this Measure depended on the motive of somebody else. Imagine one of these cases coming into Court. A picket says to a person, "If you go to work in that particular works the strike will be broken and your wages will fall." That would be to produce in the other person's mind an apprehension of mental, physical, or pecuniary injury. The very purpose of picketing is to tell a man, "If you go on with your evil course 1674 you will suffer loss,'' and that will give him an apprehension of injury and bring him under this provision.
Therefore it is considered to be an injury to tell a man that he will suffer or to cause him to apprehend that he will suffer, and that if the strike be broken his wages will fall. That is what the picket goes to do and his very object under this Clause will be to cause apprehension of injury to the person picketed, and it will be illegal under this proposal. I do not know whether it was the intention of the Government that picketing of that kind should be made illegal, but that is the result of the Clause as at present drafted. I do not know how or why the Government put this extraordinary bad drafting before us, but the result is that peaceful persuasion and communication of information which has been allowed ever since 1875 are made, if not illegal, at any rate in the highest degree perilous as being a crime. In one respect this Clause will actually make the position of the picket worse than it was in 1875, because from the year 1875 to 1906 a communication of information was lawful but peaceful persuasion was sometimes held to be unlawful. In 1906 Sir Lawson Walton pointed nut how absurd it was that a man should be allowed to communicate information but when he came to persuade he should become a criminal.
Even since 1875 the communication of information has been a lawful act, but under this Bill it will no longer be so. Directly you can show that the communication of information is going to produce an apprehension of injury in the mind of the person affected, it will became a criminal act, and, therefore, not only will the position of the picket, after this Bill becomes law, be worse than it was under the Act of 1906, but, once you can show that the communication of the information is calculated to produce a reasonable apprehension of injury in the mind of the person affected, you actually put the picket in a worse position than he has been in since 1855 under the Molestation of Workmen Act. Therefore, just as Clause 1 of this Bill very largely undoes the Workers Combination Act, 1925, so Clause 3 not only repeals the protection of the Trade Disputes Act, 1906, but actually goes so 1675 far as to repeal the protective provisions with regard to the communication of information in the Act of 1875. Of course, the hope of the Government, and the hope of the Conservative party, is that this matter is so technical and difficult to understand that the country will be led to accept, under the guise of certain vague propositions with which we all agree, such as that we object to intimidation, what really will be a complete reversal of the existing law. Therefore, it is one's duty, even at the risk of being a little technical, possibly at the risk of being scorned and scoffed at later in the Debate for being a lawyer, which I cannot help—at the risk of all that, we have got to get down to the real meaning of this Clause, and, if this Clause does in fact make the communication of information so perilous a procedure whenever anyone is able to allege that communicating information will cause a reasonable apprehension of injury to another person, then I say you have done away with the rights given to the trade unions, not only under the Act of 1906, but also under the Act of 1875.
Where, really, do we stand in this matter? We have these principles advanced—excellent principles, to which no one can take the slightest objection. Principle No. 2 is, "We wish to prevent intimidation," but we had the Home Secretary saying in this House last August that the present law does prevent intimidation. I have just read what he said. Therefore, the Home Secretary admits that the principle which the Prime Minister seks to achieve is already achieved by the existing law. Then, we ask the Government, what is the reason and purpose of this Clause if intimidation is now illegal? If, as is the fact, many prosecutions did take place during the recent coal dispute on this very matter, then we do ask, and we require an answer to the question, why is it necessary to alter the existing law? It has been said by eminent people inside this House and outside this House that, if there be any intimidation to-day, it is due, not to a defect in the law, but to faulty administration. That is no reflection on the Home Secretary, or even on his Department—I do not think he has control over the administration of 1676 the police outside the Metropolitan area; but, if there be intimidation, it is not that the existing law, as the Home Secretary himself said last August, does not afford adequate protection against intimidation; it is because, to put the matter baldly, the police do not do their duty properly. Assuming that that is the case—I do not say that it is or that it is not—how are people going to be protected any more under this provision than they are to-day?
What is going to happen under this provision is this: We all know that during the last coal dispute there were several cases in which local magistrates convicted wrongly, under the enthusiasm raised by that affair. There was one case which went to the Divisional Court, in which, notwithstanding the provision in the Emergency Powers Act that persons might lawfully assist in strikes during that dispute, a man was prosecuted and convicted under the Act of 1875, and the Divisional Court upset the finding of the local magistrates. Are the magistrates really competent to say, in such a case, whether a person has a reasonable apprehension of injury? I would very much like to know, if the Government are really sincere in this matter of stopping intimidation, whether they are going, for instance, to provide that a vendor of motor cars who is told by the Motor Trade Association, as they do tell people, that he will be put on a black list and no one will deal with him if he continues to sell his cars below a certain price, and he has a reasonable apprehension of injury. Is not that just as much intimidation as waiting at the lodge gates, even if it is done to a great extent by correspondence? Then there have been cases in which the British Medical Association has told doctors that, if they take salaries lower than a certain rate at infirmaries, no other doctor will be allowed to consult with them. [interruption.] Oh, yes, there was the case of Pratt v. British Medical Association, in which the British Medical Association, for telling doctors that they might not consult with Dr. Pratt at Coventry, were fined £1,000 or £2,000 in damages. Case after case of professional coercion and intimidation has occurred, and, if the Government are really so apprehensive of intimidation and coercion of all kinds, so sensitive about the mind 1677 of man being coerced by any external power, if they once depart from what I think is the salutary principle of limiting the application of the Statute to preventing violence and threats of violence, I say, why stop at the working man, why stop at picketing outside the lodge gates? I believe there are thousands of private employers who would welcome a provision which would help to protect them against the tyranny of these employers' combines, but they are not dealt with in this Bill; there is not a word in the Bill which deals with intimidation of that kind.
I am not so enamoured of the intervention of the State as the hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten), and I think it would be a mistake for the State and the police to deal with those cases; I think it is certainly better to stand on the old Conservative principle that has existed ever since the decision in Curran v. Treleaven under the Act of 1875. It is much safer to confine the terms "violence" and "intimidation" to certain things which can be proved as specific objective acts, and not go roving about into the minds of other people, so that, for instance, a prosecutor could ask a lady, "Do you think you were intimidated on such and such a date?" or, "Did you have a reasonable apprehension of injury, or did you not?" Directly you embark on such speculations in criminal matters, you get into a most fearful state of confusion and put the subject into real peril. The law has always said in these cases that, when you prove a specific act of violence, or when you prove a specific threat of violence, the law should apply, and, apparently, the Home Secretary agreed with that last July. I should like to know, among other things, has anything happened since last July to change the opinion of the Government? Indeed, when I say last July, I am understating the case. On the 30th August, practically at the end of the coal troubles, or when the end was approaching, he seemed to assume that the present law was adequate. The Attorney-General is not free from being involved in this matter, because he issued a very instructive pamphlet explaining the law at the time. When I asked the right hon. Gentleman at that time under what authority the leaflet from the Home Office was issued explaining the law at that 1678 time, the right hon. Gentleman replied that it had been issued with the authority or with the knowledge of the Law Officers.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
I think there is a difference of opinion in regard to dates. The hon. and learned Gentleman probably means the Circular that I issued in December, 1925.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
That is the one. I had finished with what the right hon. Gentleman said on the 30th August, and was saying that the Law Officers of the Crown were not immune in this matter, because the Attorney-General himself approved of a Circular issued in 1925 explaining the existing law. That Circular, if I remember rightly—I am sorry I have not got it with me—explained that mass picketing was illegal, and explained that the Act of 1906 in no wise made intimidation legal, and that even under the Act of 1875 intimidation was illegal. That was the opinion of the Attorney-General at the end of 1925. It was the opinion of the Home Secretary in the middle of 1926 that the law prevented intimidation. That being so, something has happened inside the Government to make them change their minds since that time. I think, again, that the Prime Minister is not quite master in his own house. I gave the right hon. Gentleman some Latin on the subject just now, but I will also give him a little Greek, if he will bear with me. He will remember how Heracles complains that, although he was a god, he was merely a servant in the house of Admetus. He said:Oh house of Admetus, in which, although a god, I served as a slave.or words to that affect. Although the Prime Minister might be compared as a chief, he is but a slave in the die-hard house, and the same persons who told the Prime Minister that you cannot prevent a general strike without drafting a Clause which makes sympathetic strikes illegal, have also told him that you cannot have peaceful picketing without drafting a Clause making it illegal. I can only say, O sancta simplicitas! This Clause will make peaceful picketing impossible. The right 1679 hon. and learned Attorney-General seems a little worried himself, because he has omitted from his first draft the words:apprehension of injury includes an apprehension of boycott, or loss of any kind, or of exposure to hatred, ridicule, or contempt.Those words were in the original Clause, and I think I am not wanting in respect when I say that people who have produced a Clause, after six months of deep thought, as we were told by Lord Birkenhead, may be said to be a little worried when, in the middle of the Debate, they withdraw those important words. I do not think that the situation is very much improved from the point of view of the picketer, because we lave still got "apprehension of injury other than physical or material injury," and it is still possible for one to say that he apprehends injury.
Therefore, the position that we have is not as the right hon. Gentleman will say when he speaks, or, as will certainly be said by some of his supporters, that we wish to support, encourage or connive at intimidation in trade disputes. It is because we say that the present law, in the words of the Home Secretary, prevents intimidation to-day, that this Clause is unnecessary, oppressive, and brought in for the purpose of deceiving people into thinking that it is limited to intimidation. The right hon. Gentleman is carrying out the desire of the Conservatives, as expressed at the Scarborough Conference, really to make the communication and peaceful picketing ilegal. It is for the reason that this Clause, like Clause 1, is directed to the destruction of the rights, liberties and legitimate operations of trade unions, that we propose to give it relentless opposition.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
[HON. MEMBERS: "Say it again."] I know I am quoting probably the only line from Homer which my hon. Friends opposite remember. The last speaker apologised for being a lawyer. After his speech, I think I must apologise, too. We have heard a great deal about the rights of trade unions and what they are. There is a right to picket and to picket peacefully. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] 1680 That is what they maintain that the present law is. It appears to me that they are more anxious to protect the large bodies of men who go out picketing than they are to protect those who are their victims and who are intimidated by them. Therefore, I have no hesitation is saying that my sympathies are with the men who are picketed. I do not understand the morale of picketing at all. All I can say is this, if I, personally, were being picketed, it would take a good big crowd of my fellow lawyers to carry it out with any success. I do not mind one or two men. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about doctors?"] It is all very well to talk about the doctors; I am quite in agreement with hon. Members that doctors have far too much power. I think that the British Medical Association is the most tyrannical trade union we have, and I should be delighted to see some Clause introduced which would prevent these trade rings which the previous speaker mentioned because they just victimise the whole of us, and they will have to be dealt with at some time or other. Here we are dealing with a specific instance. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) must have been living in the legal clouds, and he has never come down to the clear effects of picketing. His friends must have been keeping him living in a fairy paradise when they represent that every time a picket goes out, it goes out just peacefully one or two in number, and says, "Oh, Mr. So and So, do you not know that there is a strike on?" That is communicating information, and that is the way it is done, according to my hon. and learned Friend. Does he not know perfectly well that there is nothing worse than a crowd of men going out to picket a person? They may set out with a most peaceful intention but, in the twinkling of an eye, they may turn into a, menacing mob. I have seen it again and again in my experience, and it always leads to a clash between the pickets and the forces of law and order.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Take the Kirkconnel pits, in the strike of 1912, where a picket of between 600 and 700 men set off for Kirkconnel from Cumnock. Down they went, along the road, and the police waited in the village of Kirkconnel to intercept them. There was a clash, and 1681 several hundred young lads got very badly hurt. There were only 22 policemen, but several hundreds of these young miners who would never have been there had they not been encouraged by the Act of 1906, went out peacefully to picket and got very badly hurt. They were run in; as many as the police could carry.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
With those facts, does not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the existing law would have made such an Act illegal?
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
No, I do not think so. I doubt it very much. The theory was that there should be one or more persons, but the Act of 1906 does not put any limit to the number. It does not say whether there should be five, six, seven, or how many. If a large picket could go out and be guaranteed to be absolutely peaceful, as this picket set out with peaceful intentions——
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
When you have a big crowd of men and a body of police, there is almost inevitably a clash. In the days of sham fights, when the Territorial forces are opposite each other, you cannot let them come too close, or they will come to blows. That is the inevitable result of big mobs. Therefore, in the interests of the pickets themselves, they should know beforehand that if they set out in large numbers it is wrong and is bound to lead to a breach of the peace, even though they may set out singing "Onward Christian Soldiers." Therefore, it is a protection to the strikers that they should know that picketing is to be done in small and reasonable numbers such as are not likely to cause in the minds of the person picketed reasonable apprehension. There is no use sneering at the word "reasonable." We all know what the Homo Sapiens is—the man of a reasonable frame of mind. If you get a man unduly subject to nerves he might easily be intimidated, but this Bill cannot cover him. The ordinary reasonable man would not be affected or intimidated by a picket calling on him. As for the provision:an apprehension of boycott, or loss of any kind, or of exposure to hatred, ridicule, or contempt,those are ordinary, well-known phrases of law, which have been used in jury trials 1682 for many years, and have been interpreted over and over again by the Courts. We know perfectly well that in the recent disturbances there were such cases of pickets, and that scores of young miners languished in jail for some months——
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
We opposed it in Committee. It was the responsibility of this Imperial Parliament. It encouraged them to go out and make these breaches of the law. I do not care which party it was; it was a disgrace to the British Parliament to pass such legislation. Parliament ought to have stood between the workmen and have given them the same liberty and protection as the rest of the people. This Clause is only to restore the liberty of the workman, and it in no sense interferes with legitimate communication of information so long as it is done in a peaceful, quiet and friendly manner; and it is in the interests of the working men themselves. When you get a picket accompanied by mass picketing, or anything that savours of intimidation, that shows that it is a minority strike and that the men are not at the back of it. If the men were in the majority, picketing of that sort would not be needed. This Clause is aimed to preserve the freedom of the working man both to go to work and to refrain from work as he chooses.
§ Mr. HARNEY
The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) has told us that this Clause does go further than the existing law. The right hon. and learned Attorney-General puts the Clause forward as being declaratory of the existing law. Both cannot be right. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire that it goes further than the existing law. I also agree with what was quoted as the statement made by the Home Secretary, that 1683 intimidation is unlawful to-day. Of course it is, and the real way that this Clause enlarges upon the existing law is that it gives to the word "intimidation" a meaning which it has never had before. There can be no doubt as to the meaning of the word "intimidation" for the purpose of trade union legislation. I am not falling back upon a dictionary. I am falling back upon a definition of the word that a special Court of five Judges gave, called together by reason of the fact that there was a difference on the bench as to what really this word meant. Here is what they said intimidation means. This decision was given in 1891:The Statute 33, 34, and 35 Victoria is not indeed conceived in any weak spirit of tenderness to workmen, but the second Sub-section of the first Section limits intimidation to such intimidation as would justify a magistrate in binding over the intimidator to keep the peace towards the person intimidated, in other words, to such intimidation as implies a threat of personal violence.So the law to-day is that the intimidator must do something that implies a threat of physical violence, and the law in this Bill is that he need only do something that implies a threat or apprehension of something other than physical or material violence. You could not get it more distinct. Under the existing law, to intimidate is to threaten physical violence. Under this Clause, to intimidate is to threaten violence to the mind. The last words have been struck out—'apprehension of injury' includes an apprehension of boycott, or loss of any kind, or of any exposure to hatred, ridicule or contempt.I agree with the ex-Solicitor-General that striking them out may save the Government from being held up to hatred, ridicule or contempt, but they really very little alter the meaning of the Clause as it stands, because I do not know how a person can apprehend injury to the mind other than by apprehending something that will cause him to be held in dislike or jeered at, or something of the kind. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Argyllshire has very naively reminded us that there is nothing extraordinary in those words. They are the ordinary words used in libel and slander. So they are, and it is a very great pity 1684 that these quaint words were torn from that rather meaningless and antiquated setting in which they are still found. But does the hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that when a person has to pay damages for holding another up to hatred, ridicule and contempt under the law of libel and slander, what he does there is behind the person's back to hold him up to hatred, ridicule and contempt in the eyes of another? What is said here is that, though neither libel nor slander can be charged against you, unless you say bad things of a man to a third person, you are a criminal if you hold a man to his face up to hatred, ridicule or contempt. There is the difference. That is the existing law.
Why is this change made? It can have no other effect than to make the most peaceful persuasion fraught with danger. As far back as 1825 it was allowable to persuade men, though you could not molest or obstruct them. There was some doubt, owing to a judicial decision, and an Act was passed in 1859 which said specifically, "You shall not intimidate men, but you may persuade them not to go to work." 1871 emphasised it. The Dunedin Commission of 1903 said in very strong language, "We recommend that a Statute be passed making it clear beyond controversy that a striker is to be at liberty to use every legitimate argument to persuade a non-striker to cease work." The Act of 1906 only gave effect to what a Conservative Committee recommended in 1903. What will be the effect? I do not mind what actually happens. The hon. and learned Gentleman gave us a very gloomy picture of what is done. I am not concerned with that for the moment. I am concerned with what the effect of this Clause will be if it becomes an Act of Parliament. At present, two, three or four men can go up to a non-striker and say, "Look here, Bill, do not be a fool; join in with your fellows," and it is quite right that they should say so. Under the new law, these three or four men, or one man, dare not do so. He is guilty, even one—though I should like to draw attention to the quaint words that are here:it is unlawful. … for one or more persons. … to attend in such numbers"—How one can attend "in such numbers" I do not know, but everything in this Bill is unique. Under the Clause this 1685 will happen: Here is a non-striker, a man who has departed from the esprit de corps of his fellows, a man who has failed to fall into line with the corporate sense of his union. Whether you praise him or not, every man in the union is right in thinking of him a renegade from the cause. That is not confined to dockers or railwaymen or colliers. It is common to human nature. If barristers, by a majority, for some advancement of their personal interests, made up their minds that something should be done and two or three said, "We will not join in with you," what would the rest of us think of those two three? [An HON. MEMBER: "Would you intimidate them?"] I would intimidate them absolutely, and so would you, in accordance with the meaning that is given to intimidation in this Clause. From the beginning of time to the end of time, triumphant majorities will always make recalcitrant minorities feel. It is human nature. And those who are in the minority know in their own consciences that they have, perhaps out of a sense of martyrdom or a sense of strong conviction—if so, let them have the credit for it—called down upon themselves the ridicule, the contempt, the jeers and glances and avoidance of the majority. In any club in London, show me a man who does something that is a departure from what the club believes to be in its interests, and how is he treated? It is true you do not hit him in the nose, or use language to him which would make him hit you in the nose, but do you stand him as many drinks, do you ask him as often to your house, do you look friendly at him when he is passing by, do you restrain the manifestation of your disapproval of his conduct? The law that would ask you to restrain that manifestation is a law that it is impossible to fulfil, because it is contrary to a higher law than man can make. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do you injure the mind?"] Certainly, it would be a very great injury to my mind if I were a member of a club and you had been in the habit of asking me to play golf with you and you said immediately after my conduct, "No more golf with you, Mr. Harney."
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman, in the illustrations he gives, not forgetting the legal brocard, "Lex non favet delicatorum votis"?
§ Mr. HARNEY
If I did something that I felt would call down upon me a manifestation of the disapproval of other members of my club in such ways as I have mentioned, it might well be said that their conduct would cause an apprehension in my mind that what I was doing would hold me up to hatred, ridicule or contempt. I am not here as an advocate for intimidation. I believe every man ought certainly, without molestation or hurt, to be free to take his own course, but I equally believe that every man who chooses to take up an attitude opposed to that of the great bulk of his fellows ought manfully to bear the consequences of doing it, and it is only grandmotherly, foolish law to say, "My poor fellow, though you have taken up an attitude, through conviction or anything you like, which makes you rather shunned by the rest of them, we will say to the rest of them, 'If you show your disapproval by a look you will go to gaol for three years.'" The whole Clause, as it stands, is absolutely a reduction of legislation to a farce. What line can we draw at which we can stop the manifestation of men's feelings towards their fellows? The law for a hundred years has said, "We must draw it at that point, and we cannot go an inch beyond it, where the manifestation of feeling other than physical would provoke a breach of the peace." It is said we never can go beyond that, because we feel it is impossible to do it. This tries to go beyond it. At this moment, under the Act of 1875 and 1906, if one, two or three men go to a non-striker and, without physically injuring him, and without touching a hem of his garment, so behave themselves that their conduct is likely to provoke a breach of the peace, they are intimidators, and are punishable.
You want to make punishable the doing of something infinitely less than that. You want to make the punishment such that the prosecution would say to the tribunal, "The old law was that their conduct had to be of such a character that it would prevent a man hitting back, but the new law is intended, Mr. Judge, to go further, and, therefore, you must be satisfied that the evidence is not of a character that you, as a reasonable man, would say might possibly result in some sort of rough treatment, but of a character that would arouse mere apprehension in the mind." It is very 1687 easy to arouse apprehension in the mind of a man who already is full enough of apprehensions. You know, if I did something that was out of line with the conventions of society, and I was in a railway carriage trying to get away, it would not need half a dozen policemen to stick their heads through the window. The sight of the helmet of one of the policemen a hundred yards off would set me all of a tremble.
For these reasons, I shall vote against this Clause, not, I say again, to emphasise that I would justify intimidation. I do not. Not that I think it right that 10 or 20 men, with a threatening attitude, should go to one non-striker. I do not. But because I know that the law covers that kind of thing at this moment, and that it is unfair and shows a poor knowledge of human nature to say it is punishable merely if you display an attitude of resentment in your look, in your manner in the way you pass a person, so as to make him say, "Hullo! I notice that I shall get a hot time when I get back." That is all you have to do to come under this Clause. If this law stands, it will be absolutely impossible for any strikers to approach within 50 or 100 yards of a house or place where a non-striker resides. That is unfair. We are dealing with strikes that are lawful. We are not dealing with illegal strikes. We are dealing with lawful strikes, and I say it is unfair that if 10 or 100,000 men are lawfully out on strike, and a few thousand of them remain in, the great bulk should not be at liberty to say to the few thousand who want to remain in, "Look here, men, do you think you are acting wisely and that it is good for the interests of the whole community that you should remain in? We want to reason with you, and ask you to join your fellows." Why should not they be able to do that. Are we not living in a free country? Is there to be no persuasion at all? In this House of Commons, do the majority always reverence and safeguard the wishes of the minorities? Do they ever fail to take advantage of an opportunity of triumphing over the minority and making the minority feel that they are despicable compared with themselves? For these reasons, I intend to vote against the Clause.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr Harney) has been rather obsessed with the difficulties which may occur. I should like to say at once that, under the provisions of the Bill as it is now drafted, and as it is hoped it will be passed, the hon. and learned Member need be under no apprehension as to his colleagues in a club that they will be committing an offence if they do not offer him as many drinks in the future. I should like to ease his mind still further. He concluded his speech by the kind of rhetorical peroration which, I am afraid, he is meditating on the public platforms in the next few weeks. He said, "If so many hundred thousand men were out and so many thousands remained in—is this not a free country? May not some of those who are out go to some of those who are in, and say, 'It is better you should come out? Do you not think it would be wiser that you should come out? Do you not think that it is in the interests of the whole community that you should come out and join the strikers?'" And then, says the hon. and learned Member, "Peaceful persuasion of that kind is going to be made illegal by this Bill." It is not—clearly not. There is nothing whatever in the Bill to make this illegal. I would like the hon. and learned Member, speaking as one of the much despised tribe of lawyers, to read in cold blood to-morrow morning what he has said this afternoon.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I do not want to be misunderstood. What I wished to say was that under this Bill it would be so risky for anyone to approach a non-striker at all that they would not do so, and, therefore, peaceful persuasion is, for practical purposes, done away with.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
It may have been what the hon. and learned Gentleman intended to say. Even then, I say there is absolutely no justification for making that statement at all—absolutely none. There is nothing in the Bill which would prevent a man, who desires peacefully to communicate information to nonstrikers or peacefully persuade a non- 1689 striker to come out, from doing so. There is no reason whatever. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser), in the opening speech, was good enough to quote from a speech of mine made on the 13th August last, and also quoted from a Circular I issued in December, 1925, and, I think, inferentially, the hon. and learned Member agreed with the statement of law I made in that speech in August last. I am very glad I was able to put before the House a statement as to the law with reference to peaceful persuasion and picketing which receives the approbation of so high an authority as the hon. and learned Member. What was the statement I made, and what is the difference between the law as it is to-day, and the law as it will be if the provisions of this Bill are passed by the House of Commons and by the other House, and carried into law? If there is a real, vital difference which will make peaceful persuasion or peaceful communication of information illegal, then I agree we are going far beyond the needs of the case and far beyond anything that has been stated, either by the Prime Minister, by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, by myself in my previous speeches, or by any other Member of the Government.
We are not against the kind of peaceful persuasion or peaceful communication of information to which the hon. and learned Member referred. The best statement of the law—I hardly like to say the best statement of the law, because it is contained in the Circular of the 30th December, 1925, issued by the Home Office—in that Circular there was a statement of the law as to the difference of the Act of 1875 and the Act of 1906 in order to make the law clear for the information of police, of magistrates, and of the ordinary human being, who might be engaged in a strike, and it is very remarkable that large numbers of men who were involved in legal trouble during last year either in the general strike or in the coal stoppage frequently came before the Courts and said: "I thought that what I was doing was legal. I thought it was perfectly legal for me to do so and so." I will give a few instances in a moment or two. We think that it is very highly desirable that the law as explained in the Circular of December, 1925, that the law as explained in the speech, with which 1690 the hon. and learned Member agrees, in this House in August, 1926, should be embodied in this Bill.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that this Clause embodies what he said last August?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The hon. and learned Member is really jumping at conclusions. I am going to explain to the Committee exactly what this Clause does. Sub-section (1) is purely declaratory. It makes no alteration whatever in the existing law. I want the Committee very carefully to consider, in the light of the speech that has been made by the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down, what the provisions of Sub-section (1) of this Clause are. It declares, I think in the simplest way, what is unlawful. The man-in-the-street very often wants to know whether he can do this, that or the other. In order that he should know:It is hereby declared that it is unlawful for one or more persons. … to attend at or near a house or place where a person resides or works, or happens to be, for the purpose of obtaining or communicating information or of persuading or inducing any person to work, or to abstain from working, if they so attend in such numbers or otherwise in such manner as to be calculated to intimidate any person in that house or place, or to obstruct the approach thereto or egress therefrom or to lead to a breach of the peace.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
If he reads the phrase "intimidated" with its present meaning—yes, but the word "intimidated" is to be read with a new meaning.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
As far as this Sub-section goes, that is a declaration of the existing law. I think that it is highly desirable that that should be declared and embodied in an Act of Parliament in order that everybody may know exactly what the law is. The hon. and learned Gentleman himself in the excellent book on "Trade Union Law"—I always study his books as well as his speeches—I think, would not differ from 1691 what I have said up to the present moment. He says:The immunity afforded by the 1906 Act must be strictly limited to peaceful picketing. Watching, besetting, or trespassing or any other improper act is still unlawful. A prosecution for obstruction under the Highways Acts will still lie. …That is the present law down to the point at which I stop. I do think that it is desirable that that explanation of the law as it stands to-day should be put into the forefront of this Clause in regard to intimidation.
§ Mr. HARNEY
The Bill declares the law as it is to-day if you give to the words the same meaning as they have to-day, but you cannot say that because I use the same phrase "intimidation" you do not change the law.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The hon. and learned Member is only saying what the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds said, perhaps in more classical language, a few minutes ago. It is desirable that the law as it stands should be embodied in the Bill. I find, for instance, that the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) made a speech on the 2nd June, 1926. In that speech he said:A body of men were called upon to do peaceful picketing. … the only possible means of carrying on their legitimate duties. … was to call upon motor-lorry drivers to stop."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd June, 1926; col. 852, Vol. 196.]You may ask a motor lorry driver to stop; but there was a difficulty in regard to a knowledge of the law on the part of scores of poor fellows who were prosecuted because they thought they were entitled not merely to ask a lorry driver to stop but to stop him by standing in front of his lorry. It is the law to-day, and it will continue to be the law after this Clause has been passed, that if a lorry driver, say, is going slowly you may walk alongside him and say, "Bill, old fellow, we wish you to stop." That would be perfectly legal under the old law as it exists to-day and under the law as it will be when this Clause has been passed.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
But supposing the lorry driver satisfies the Court that when the man said to him, "Bill, old fellow, will you stop?" he had reason to fear 1692 injury. That would be illegal. It would depend upon his state of mind.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am going to deal with the other Sub-sections later, but I want to carry the Committee with me in saying that we found very large numbers of men who acted wrongfully because they had no knowledge of the law. Some of them put barriers across the road in order to stop lorries. Some of them not only stopped vehicles but they went so far—I think that one hon. Member mentioned this-as to unharness the horses attached to certain vehicles, and in that case the coal cart tipped up and the coal fell out.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
They exposed themselves to prosecution and conviction because, unlike the hon. and gallant Member for South Hackney (Captain Garro-Jones), they did not know the law. They thought that it was possible for them to do this kind of thing under the guise of peaceful picketing. I want to make the law quite clear in order that in any future strike the strikers may know that they may not do these things violently and that they may know the limits of peaceful picketing. It is for that reason that we have put in Sub-section (1) a declaration of what the law is up to the present moment.
Then comes Sub-section (2). That Subsection, I admit, gives a new meaning to the word "intimidation." The hon. and learned Member for North-East Leeds quoted, quite correctly, the decisions in the case of Gibson v. Lawson and Curran v. Treleaven, which were decisions of the Courts given years ago which made it quite clear that in order to constitute intimidation within the meaning of Section 7 of the Act of 1875 there must have been some form of intimidation as would justify the magistrate in binding over the intimidator to keep the peace. It has been decided in other cases that to constitute intimidation personal violence must be threatened. I join issue with the hon. and learned Member for North-East Leeds and the hon. and learned Member for South Shields on this point.
1693 I am not satisfied with a law which merely confines intimidation to the rough and ready method of saying, "I will break your neck if you do not come out," or, "I will cause physical violence, or I will behave in such a manner that the magistrate will be justified in binding me over to keep the peace."
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The hon. and learned Member understands me. I am glad that he understands me. The Government do not want this Clause to go through under any misapprehension. We say, quite definitely, that the subtler forms of intimidation are much worse than the open bludgeon forms suggested by the hon. and learned Members. A striker may go to a non-striker and say, "Why do not you come out? We want you to come out. You are not behaving squarely to your fellows who have been working with you in the same mine. You have a daughter who has a job in the local cinema, and if you do not come out we will go to the cinema people and get her sacked." Is the hon. and learned Member for South Shields going to justify that?
§ Mr. HARNEY
The right hon. Gentleman challenges me to justify that. I certainly justify that as I do many other forms of argument. I have heard it used in this House. It is only a question of degree.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I do not think the hon. and learned Member has improved his position one bit.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
Does the right hon. Gentleman know that the House of Lords have decided that that very act done by one employer to another, or by one trade unionist to another, is perfectly lawful, in the case of Sorrell v. Smith?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am here to ask the House of Commons to make the law such as justice and common sense say it ought to be. The hon. and learned Member for North East Leeds is not right in his view of the Clause. The Clause is bi-lateral; it applies perfectly equally if an employer goes to a man who is out on strike and says, "You have worked for me for a good many years, you have upset my works by leading men out on strike. If you do not come back, I am going to the cinema and will get your daughter sacked." That is illegal under this Clause. The hon. and learned Member for North-East Leeds says that the Clause is not bi-lateral. It is. It is equally sauce for the employer as for the workman. We all know that during the recent struggle there was not merely one illustration but there were many cases of wives and children who were intimidated at home. There were many cases of the intimidation of tradesmen, clubs and publicans to compel them not to deal with or serve certain men. There were threats of pressure brought upon the families of workers. There was the chalking up on the homes of certain men of abusive and threatening notices as to what would happen if they did not come out on strike.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
Does this Clause include the case of a combination of employers who are trying to deal with one employer who refuses to join in a lock-out, and where that combination of employers, whatever form it may take, says to this one individual employer or to this one firm, "If you do not join in the lock-out we will do this, that or the other"? They may threaten action of a commercial or industrial kind, such as the supplying of goods or the refusing to buy or sell. Would a case of that kind, a combination of employers of that kind, come under this Clause?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I do not think it does. The point I was making is that the Clause applies equally to an employer who makes covert or avowed threats of injury against the striker as it does to a striker who makes a threat against a man who will not come out.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
The right hon. Gentleman's argument so far has been to deal with the case of strikers dealing with non-strikers. The question which I put to him dealt with the position of employers dealing with those who do not fall in with them.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I have answered the hon. Member's question. I have said that this does not deal with an association of employers. This Clause applies only to employers and strikers or strikers and non-strikers, and it is equally fair with regard to them. Let me give an actual case which occurred during the last strike. It is very doubtful whether a conviction would have been sustained in this case. A lad, aged 17, a pit pony driver, went back to work. A striker asked the boy if he knew the danger he was in in going back to work. He said that in neighbouring villages roofs had been pulled off houses and that if he kept at work groups would go over and stone his home. He went to the boy's mother and said, "If you value your son's life, keep him at home." Under the circumstances, the mother said, "I do value him so much that I will keep him at home." There is a further case which would come under the provisions of this particular Clause. The Wigan Irish Labour Club and the Bolton Irish Labour Club issued a circular which said:If it so happens that you have been misled"—this was addressed to those who had gone back to work—make good. Come out now! This is our first and last appeal. A list of those who ignore this appeal will be sent to the Irish Transport Workers' Union at Dublin and published in the Irish and American Press. Records will also be kept in the Irish organisations and Labour clubs in Great Britain and Ireland for further reference.We have heard a great deal about victimisation of various kinds. There have been the most distinct threats of victimisation by strikers against those who remained at work during the great coal stoppage. I often appealed to the House in my speeches last year to try to get these miserable trade disputes conducted fairly and squarely on both sides. I stand by the interpretation of the word "intimidation" in this Clause. It is the crux of the Clause, coupled with Subsection (4), which we cannot discuss under this Amendment, but which will 1696 be discussed to-morrow. In spite of any speeches which the hon. Members opposite may make, I am quite prepared to stand in the country upon this claim, that we have got long past the old days when personal violence is the only method of intimidation. In a modern 20th century dispute my view is that the mental intimidation—the intimidation that is likely to happen to the wife and the child of the non-striker—is far more serious and far more brutal than the intimidation which says, "I will break your neck if you do not come out." That is the kind of intimidation which is struck at by this Clause. Hon. Members opposite may make whatever speeches they like in the country, but I am prepared to go to the country and to make speeches justifying the inclusion of mental intimidation within the provisions of this Bill.
§ Mr. B. SMITH
Will the right hon. Gentleman develop the point to which he acquiesced when he said that the Clause applied equally to employer and workmen? Take the case of an employer during a strike sending round a letter to Tom, Dick or Harry saying that if they do not return to work they will be discharged. Would that be intimidation?
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
If an employers' federation acted in such a way as to intimidate one of their members who would not join in a lock-out, I think that would come within the provisions of this Bill.
§ Mr. SMITH
Take the case of an employer intimidating his own workmen who may be on strike, by sending, as is done very often, a circular letter telling them that unless they returned to work, in defiance of the strike, on a given date, they would be discharged from their employment. Is that intimidation?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The men have discharged themselves by ceasing to work on existing conditions. Supposing that an employer comes to the conclusion that in, say, ten days' time he will be able to reopen his works; that it will be for the benefit of himself, of his employés and of the country, he is entitled to send out a circular to those men who may have served him faithfully in the past, and say to them, "I am opening my works, and I will get people to work for me, but I will give you this final opportunity 1697 of coming in to resume work." It would be perfectly justifiable for an employer to issue a circular of that kind.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Yes, they could say, "We will not work for you any more, and unless you accept our terms within 10 days we will never work for you again." The hon. Member does not seem to realise that all the rights are not on one side and all the wrongs on the other. This Clause is trying to hold the balance perfectly fairly, arid I believe it is a perfectly fair one. I believe it is in accordance with the ideas of modern life, and I shall be prepared to support it on any platform in the country.
§ Mr. LAWSON
It seems to me that this Clause is not only an injustice to the great mass of the workers; it is not only an example of class vindictiveness, but I think it is the most perfect piece of hypocrisy that has ever been brought before this House. What we are doing here is to lay down the law for punishing workmen for doing certain things that everyone in this House knows are done by every class and profession in the country. Example after example has been given of how employers in the shipping trade, employers in various industries and people in various professions not only lay penalties upon those who do not keep their rules and act upon them, but that they intimidate them to the point of driving them out of the industry, the trade and sometimes the profession. I remember when the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Spencer) was making his speech in this House, to the accompaniment of cheers from the other side, that, as I looked round at the various hon. Members who are interested in various trade and professions, I said to myself, "I wonder what would happen to him if the hon. Member for Broxtowe belonged to the profession or industry represented by certain gentlemen whom I see opposite." I see the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. Davies), who is a member of the medical profession. He asked me what I thought of the speech of the hon. Member for Broxtowe, and I replied, "What would happen to him if he had been a doctor instead of a miner, and if the British Medical Association instead of 1698 the Miners' Federation had been dealing with him?" He would have been driven out of the Medical profession.
There was a celebrated case which commanded the interest of the whole country, the whole Press and the whole British public, and in spite of what everybody else thought, in spite of the fact that it was universally agreed that that doctor was intimidated, the British Medical Association not only carried on its work in regard to him but did it by legal authority. That was the case of Dr. Axham. In our part of the country, in the mining district, we have not always had the kind of medical service that we consider good enough, and we have brought in doctors. We have given them infinitely better salaries than they were getting elsewhere; we have given them better instruments and medicine, but, though we have given them these conditions, I do not know a single case where the British Medical Association have not stepped in and used threats to prevent those doctors practising under these conditions.
Dr. VERNON DAVIES
Do I understand that the British Medical Association have definitely threatened these men, or that they have simply offered them advice not to undertake the work?
§ Mr. LAWSON
All we ask is that the Government shall leave the average worker, the common toiler, in the simple position he is now in, to offer advice. These professional men to whom I have referred have been advised. They have been brought down to meet the representatives of the British Medical Association in the country. They have put their cases, and have defended themselves, and I say there is not a single case where they have not been driven out and intimidated. Does anyone say that that stands by itself? The hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) gave an illustration about lawyers. If anyone broke the laws of his organisation, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General would be a strike-leader himself. He would be one of the chief intimidators. He expects and demands, as a legal right for his organisation, infinitely more than he is making illegal for the common toiler. Take any industry you like. Hon. Members opposite are nearly all members of organisations that are practicing 1699 every day the thing that they are making illegal on the part of the workmen. It is a piece of social snobbery—not only class bias, but social snobbery, which one would have thought had departed from this country long ago. But it is still there. Hon. Members opposite meet us on this side as equals in this House, and they treat us as nice fellows and as hail fellow well met, and we receive the courtesies of the House, but if, at the next general election, we were to fail to retain our seats, and we had to work with our hands as we did before we came to this House, then we would feel the application of a law which is based on the assumption that we are an inferior species, that, because we work with our hands, we have not a right to equality before the law in this country.
When I first read this Clause, I was reminded of a well-known Army regulation about "dumb insolence." The soldier was punished because an officer assumed he was thinking something that he really was not thinking. That is the situation under this Bill, if somebody happens to think that there is "an apprehension of boycott" or "exposure to hatred, ridicule, or contempt." If the wife of a striker happens to say of the wife of a man who is at work, that she does not like the hat of that woman, that would be bringing her into contempt under this Bill. It is almost impossible for the worker in any industry to strike in these circumstances. I think that is what the Government aim at. The Government want to rob the average worker of the right to refuse to sell his labour, but they dare not do it; they have not the courage to do it, and so they begin to hedge it about and, in doing so, they not only punish the workers but they do something which, I venture to say, will not have the consent of the great mass of the people of this country even in the professional classes, that is, they subject the worker because he is a worker in the lower grade industries to penalties for doing things which are done by employers and professional bodies. No one has met that fact yet. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) gave case after case of companies and employers pursuing members and intimidating them, and so far the Government has never attempted to meet the case which has been put forward on this point. 1700 What has been done is to give a legal right to the professions of this country, to the architects, the dentists, the lawyers, and to the industrial captains to do what is now to be considered illegal on the part of the great mass of the workers. It has been said by an old writer: "A rich man's wealth is his strong castle, but the poverty of the poor is their destruction."
Dr. V. DAVIES
The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) seems to be suffering under a slight misapprehension so far as his observations in regard to the British Medical Association are concerned. The British Medical Association is a voluntary combination of a number of medical men in the country. There is no compulsion upon any man to join, and any man who chooses to join is not compelled to obey their rules and regulations. I have been a member of tile British Medical Association ever since I went into practice, and as often as not I have been opposed to their policy. In this House on Committees I have opposed their policy, and yet I have not been penalised in any shape or form, threatened, or interfered with. I have given my point of view. I have said, "I believe you are wrong. I shall fight you." I have fought them, and I have not suffered. Cases have been mentioned where the British Medical Association has interfered with certain appointments. All they do is this: They say, "We are an association of medical men out to protect the interest of the medical men and the public. We think a certain job is worth a certain amount of money. This particular society or company is advertising a job at a rate of remuneration which we think is too low. If you accept it you will be very foolish, because if you stick out you can get more." Suppose the man takes the appointment. Nothing is done to him. All that the British Medical Association do is to say that if he is satisfied with a lower rate of remuneration they cannot interfere. They say, "We cannot penalise you; we cannot turn you out of the association, and we cannot advise anybody to have nothing to do with you."
Not at all. That is where hon. Members make a mistake. 1701 He has taken the position, and he is responsible for accepting a lower remuneration. All that the British Medical Association says is "More fool you, if you are prepared to work for lesser wages." But they cannot, and de not, penalise that man in any shape or form.
Lieut.-Colonel WATTS - MORGAN
Will the hon. Member take it from me that I can give him four cases of doctors who have accepted appointments and have been boycotted by all the medical men in the neighbourhood, who have refused their assistance in operations and in cases in hospitals? If that is not intimidation, Heaven knows what intimidation is.
I am referring to the British Medical Association. It may be that the local doctors did not agree with these men accepting appointments at a lower rate of remuneration, because it would tend to bring down the rates of remuneration. All they say is, "We do not approve, and socially we will not meet them," but professionally they are bound to meet them, and if any doctor refused to meet his professional brethren in consultation he would not receive the backing of the British Medical Association or any medical man.
I am quite prepared to give the hon. Member the names so that he can prove my statement.
§ Mr. MORRIS
The Home Secretary in defending this Clause said that the first Sub-section is merely declaratory of the existing law. I think that is the case, with this qualification, that the word "intimidate" is for the first time given a new meaning. Subject to that qualification, the first Sub-section is merely declaratory, and if it went no further it would be, perhaps, a great benefit to the country at large. It might, indeed, if it had been declaratory prior to the circumstances of last year, have saved a good number of prosecutions, which were taken as a consequence of that event. In the Courts one heard, time after time, the defence put forward by men who had gathered in large numbers, sometimes as many as 3,000 and 4,000, and had visited certain houses, with no weapons, unarmed, that they thought 1702 that because they were unarmed and doing no actual violence they were perfectly entitled to amass in such large numbers at these houses. They thought they were engaged in a perfectly lawful act, and perhaps no one was more surprised than they themselves when they found, as a result of conviction and sentence, that the whole of the time they were really engaged upon an act which was criminally illegal. I have previously pointed out how the existing law met the situation which arose during the general strike. The law was powerful enough to cope with the situation, and if the Bill did nothing more than to declare the existing law, it need add nothing to its power, it would make known to people, who would not otherwise have known, that they were doing an illegal act, and save them subsequent prosecution and sentence. But the second Sub-section goes a good deal further than that. It not only makes it illegal to exercise violence or threaten to commit violence, but it introduces these words:To 'intimidate' means to cauce in the mind of a person a reasonable apprehension of injury.It is true that "reasonable apprehension" has a definite legal meaning although if you turn to a legal dictionary to find out what "reasonable" means, it says:It is unreasonable to give a definition of 'reasonable.'This Sub-section says:to 'intimidate' means to cause in the mind of a person a reasonable apprehension of injury to him or to any member of his family or of violence or damage to any person or property, and the expression 'injury' includes injury other than physical or material injury.The right hon. Gentleman gave the case of a boy of 17 who started work during the last general strike. Someone went to his mother and told her that if he continued to work the same result would befall her house as had befallen the houses of other workmen in a neighbouring village. What had happened there, according to this man, was that the roofs of the houses of the people who had returned to work had been taken off. Assume, for a moment, that the mother took this as an unfriendly act. If the facts were as stated, that the roofs of these houses had been taken off, it might he that the act on the part of this picket 1703 was a friendly act, and not an hostile act at all. He might be giving a warning to the mother as to what might happen. If the mother was hostile or misinterpreted, quite honestly, the action of the picket, the result would be that under this Clause the man could be placed in the dock for doing what was actually a friendly act. That is the difficulty you have immediately you get into the realm of motive. One of the great benefits of the criminal law of this country, is that it is certain in its operation, that everybody knows at all times that it is going to be the same in its effect. Under this Bill you introduce a strong element of uncertainty. It will depend largely on the man A or B as to whether he is intimidated or not. It depends on the man as to whether he has a "reasonable apprehension of injury other than physical or material injury."
§ Mr. MORRIS
It is the mind of the man who brings the charge. The man A might be a strong-minded man and would not be affected by the action of the picket. But B might say, "I reasonably apprehend injury." The picket is not committing a criminal act when talking to A; he is only committing a criminal act when he talks to B. Why is he not committing a criminal act when he talks to A? It all depends on the mental attitude of the person who brings the charge. There is another grave objection to it, quite apart to that. When the case is brought, as I understand will be the law under this Bill, all that the prosecution need do is to call the person who apprehends an injury, and all he has to say is, "I reasonably apprehend that injury is going to be caused." What is counsel for the defence going to do? How is he going to cross-examine the plaintiff on that statement? He can cross-examine on surrounding facts, but the judge can direct the jury that affirmative evidence has been given by the witness to show that he did reasonably apprehend harm was going to befall him and no evidence has been brought forward to deny that charge. I do not think anyone in this House, no matter where he sits, can justify intimidation in any circumstances, or will seek to justify intimidation, but this Sub-section goes 1704 far beyond that. The other instance which the Home Secretary gave was that of a number of workmen, and he asked the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) whether he justified the action in that case. I am sure my hon. and learned Friend will not go so far as to justify the circumstances which were placed before him by the Home Secretary.
If these men, said the right hon. Gentleman, go to a workman and say, "If you continue work your daughter, who is engaged in a cinema, will lose her job. We shall go to the cinema and see to it that she loses her job." The question put to my hon. and learned Friend was, "Do you justify that set of circumstances?" I do not think that those circumstances can be justified. But how are you going to prosecute in respect of them? You will have to prosecute the Chief Whip in this House, because there is intimidation here; there is no better case of intimidation than in many instances when the Whips are placed on in this House. How often have I heard it said in this House, "If the Government Whips are not put on, the vote will be very different." What does that mean? That there is a reasonable apprehension that unless the Whips are obeyed some injury will be done, and at the next Election an hon. Member might find himself opposed by another candidate. Some of us know that it has happened as a fact, and we may be faced with that situation again. That is intimidation. If you are going to prosecute for intimidation it must be remembered that you cannot engage in a criminal prosecution on men's motives alone. You should reserve the criminal dock for overt acts or threatened acts. If it were an action for damages, how are you going to assess the damages? You can only do it if there is some physical suffering. For merely mental apprehension you cannot assess damages, for what is the measure of the damage? If you cannot do it in a civil action, how can you do it in a criminal prosecution? If there be intimidation, prosecute. There should be no intimidation in any instance, I agree. Many prosecutions were launched in the dispute of last year, and the law was found to be powerful enough as it existed. In the name of commonsense and justice do not go beyond a declaration of the existing law.
I am sure the House must have been impressed by the remarks of the last speaker and by those of the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney). They admitted that in cases of severe intimidation prosecution is justified. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields referred to golf among other things. I do not think that this legislation is intended to deal with cases of that sort. We are here trying to deal with men who wish to work for their living, and are prevented from doing so by intimidation. I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for South Shields has left the Chamber, but I can develop my argument in his absence. The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Morris) said: "By all means prosecute if you have a bad case." I would like to have his views on a case which I trust I may have permission to present to the Committee. It is a case from Glasgow, and deals with intimidation or pressure on workmen. It began, in the first instance, by the withdrawal of labour in connection with the building of Weir houses. No doubt that was thought justifiable from the labour point of view, though I cannot see the occasion for it. In this case it was thought desirable by the woodworkers to withdraw their labour, and the following was the result. The Joiners' Society instructed the joiners of a certain firm not to do any more work on any material for these houses. The joiners were much annoyed at the instructions, as they realised that it probably meant orders for the work being placed abroad. The Joiners' Society, however, next endeavoured to get the machine men to refuse to handle the timber required for the houses. Pressure was brought to bear on the Machinists' Society by the National Federation of Building Trade Operatives, to whom they were affiliated.
It was foreseen that the timber would all be ordered abroad. The machinists refused to agree to the request of the joiners, and they were threatened with expulsion from the federation. The machinists thereupon took a vote of their members, and they decided that they were not going to dictate to their employers as to whom they were to supply timber to. I am glad to say that they had the courage of their convictions. The 1706 Machinists' Society was suspended from the National Federation of Building Trade Operatives. Following this, a delegate of the Joiners' Society called on the firm and informed them that his society was going to call out the firm's joiners. A strike of joiners began. The joiners who were called out were not engaged so much on the timber for the houses, but chiefly on Admiralty contracts for boxes.
On a point of Order. What has this to do with intimidation as mentioned in this Clause? The hon. and gallant Member is now repeating what we heard last week on another Clause, Clause 2. It was then not, in order. The hon. and gallant Member is now detailing to the House something which has no bearing whatever on Clause 3.
I trust that I am not out of order. It is a case of pressure being put on joiners and machinists against their will. It seems to be a case of the kind to be dealt with in Clause 3. The learned Attorney-General has explained that active cases of compulsion are easy enough to deal with, but cases of pressure of this sort seem to me to justify legislation more than anything else. I trust that I shall be allowed to refer to the last part of my story, which relates to indirect compulsion. In addition to the joiners being called out, the Joiners' Society, without previous intimation to the company, sent notice to all employers of joiners——
I again rise to a point of Order. The hon. and gallant Member is reading a document which has no bearing whatever on Clause 3. The Clause dealt with cases of intimidation as between workmen and workmen, when there is a strike or lockout in progress. The case put by the hon. and gallant Member has no bearing whatever on the Clause and the hon. and gallant Member is reading his statement.
I really have not gathered the point of the hon. and gallant Member's argument, and that is why I have not called him to order. I understand there have been references 1707 to intimidation by employers, and I assume that the hon. and gallant Member was proposing to give cases in reply.
The only questions directed to the Home Secretary were questions asking for information as to whether Sub-sections (1), (2) and (3) of this Clause would apply equally to employers and workmen. The case that has been cited by the hon. and gallant Member is the case of a dispute entirely between various organisations within a federation in Glasgow, and it has no bearing whatever on a strike or lock-out or intimidation, and is purely a domestic matter between workmen there.
§ Sir GERALD HOHLER
I understand that my hon. and gallant Friend is proposing to cite a concrete case of what happened at Glasgow with a view to illustrating the importance of the words in the Clause "injury and apprehension of injury."
With all due respect to the hon. and learned Member, the hon. and gallant Gentleman has done nothing of the kind. He has simply recited from a document a case which was refused a hearing last week. It has no more bearing on this Clause than it had on Clause 2. I respectfully call the attention of the Committee to the fact that we are wasting time in discussing the case. It might be in order on Clause 8.
I shall be able to decide for myself whether we are wasting the time of the Committee if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will give me a little more to go upon. I can decide then also whether he is in order or not.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to think that my remarks are not relevant. It may be a local case that I have mentioned, but it is one of the worst cases of intimidation that have existed for some time. The case does refer to a strike, because the joiners in question withdrew their labour. The intimidation in the case was the calling out of the machinists and others who were unwilling to come out except on the pressure and compulsion that was put on them. It seems to me that that is indirect intimidation if it is anything at 1708 all. In addition to doing what I have stated, the Joiners' Society sent notice to all employers of joiners advising them that their men were not to handle any timber supplied by this firm on penalty of their being withdrawn. The result is that the company is now getting the wood returned. That is intimidation. If it be not considered intimidation I suggest that the Attorney-General might be well advised to alter Clause 3 so as to cover cases of that sort. It is clear from the experiences we have had that some form of legislation on this subject has been justified, and I think all will agree that when there are these difficulties the more they are cleared up and the clearer the law is made the better it will be for the trade unions as well as others. No one who has the interest of the unions at heart will object to legislation which will make the law clear. There are to-day large numbers of men who do not know the situation.
§ Mr. B. SMITH
On a point of Order. This Clause deals with individual victimisation or intimidation. The hon. and gallant Member when speaking on Clause 2, which deals with sympathetic strikes, was ruled out of order. He is now discussing internecine difficulties between union and union, which the Attorney-General has agreed are legitimate under Clause 1. I respectfully beg you to take notice of the irrelevancy of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
Has it not been decided in the Courts that such instances as those quoted do not form intimidation?
§ Sir HENRY CAUTLEY
On reading the first three lines on this Clause I see that they do refer to persons acting on behalf of a union.
The instance which the hon. and gallant Gentleman was quoting was ruled out of Order the other day because we were then dealing with illegal strikes, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman's quotation dealt with an ordinary strike which was not illegal. That was why it was ruled out of Order on that occasion; but that is not the point at issue in the present instance. The question here is one of intimidation, no matter by whom, and I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech is in Order.
§ Mr. B. SMITH
The Clause lays it down that if one or more persons, whether acting on behalf of a trade union, or an individual employer, or firm, do certain acts, it is intimidation. It does not deal with the legality or illegality of strikes at all. This is a question of intimidation of workmen by workmen or of workmen by employers, or even of employers by employers, according to the Home Secretary. The hon. and gallant Member is quoting the case of a strike which took place in connection with the building of the Weir houses, prior to the general strike with which this Bill is presumed to deal, and I respectfully suggest that the whole discussion of that is irrelevant and out of order.
May I point out on behalf of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick and Haddington (Colonel Crookshank) that a little observation on the part of hon. Members opposite would have enabled them to see that he put aside the paper dealing with the case referred to, and had taken up his own notes of the further part of his speech.
In this particular Clause there is no question about whether a strike is legal or illegal. The question is whether there is intimidation, either in the form of picketing or in any other form, by workmen or by employers, or even by trade unions, and I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech is entirely in order on that Clause.
§ Mr. B. SMITH
The argument of the hon. and gallant Member has had nothing to do with "watching and besetting" a man's house, or exposing him to ridicule, or anything of that kind. It deals with the case of two or three unions on strike in connection with the building of the Weir houses, and it cannot be a question of intimidation.
In the third line of Clause 3 will be found the words "on behalf of a trade union." I have quoted a case where one union called out the men of another union to assist them in their adventure, and I have described the circumstances and I suggest that, if it does not constitute intimidation, the matter is one which ought to be further looked into.
Lieut.-Colonel WATTS- MORGAN
attention has already been drawn to the fact that these particular cases were tested at law, and it was found that there was no intimidation; and, in the case quoted, information with regard to the action taken was sent to the employer not on behalf of any single individual, but on behalf of the men engaged in each department. How can that have any bearing on the question of intimidation?
I think the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and Haddington (Colonel Crookshank) was seeking for information as to whether this particular case was intimidation or not.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
It has been held that this case, or a similar case, did not constitute intimidation. That is the finding of a Court of five Judges, and how can the hon. and gallant Member refer to it in connection with a Clause dealing with intimidation?
It is because this Clause extends the law as regards intimidation, that the question may be a different one to a case decided previously.
I was referring to a case which had been mentioned by previous speakers, and it seems to me that in that case there was intimidation. The joiners and machinists concerned wanted to continue work, but they were threatened with expulsion. This Clause refers to action on behalf of trade unions, and it seems to me that cases of the sort I have described are covered by the Clause. If not, the matter ought to be considered and looked into.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE rose——1711
I beg pardon, Sir, I had not concluded my remarks. I was only dealing with the point of Order.
I thought the hon. and gallant Member bad finished. The point of Order has been disposed of, Colonel Crookshank.
On a point of Order. Do the Standing Orders provide that, if an hon. Member has resumed his seat and you have called upon another hon. Member, it is possible to restore the right of the first hon. Member?
I think the hon. and gallant Member had better wait until he is in my position before laying down those rules.
It seems to me that the case which I have mentioned is a case to be considered and, as trade union officials opposite seem to object to any reference to it being made here, I think we must assume that there is some point in it which requires elucidation. I feel that this legislation is thoroughly justified, and I hope that while putting an end to abuses, it will at the same time have the effect of strengthening the trade unions themselves. There is no attempt on the part of those who support the Bill to smash the trade unions. This Measure will enable the unions to see how they stand, and I think, from every point of view, it will be regarded as desirable. No better tribute could be paid to this Measure from the point of view of hon. Members opposite than that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), who, speaking on 1st May, said it would produce a Labour Government. It seems rather extraordinary that he should follow that up by declaring that they moment they got to power they would repeal it. That does not seem to be very generous, but at all events it does give some reason for this Bill. We, on the other hand, wish to encourage willing workers, and I hope hon. Members opposite will persuade their unions to look at the matter in that way. The general public will be pleased 1712 to think that some action is being taken to prevent pressure, whether by personal intimidation or otherwise, on those who want to continue at work, to prevent them doing so.
§ Mr. PETHICK - LAWRENCE
The speech of the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down was held by your predecessor in the Chair, Sir, to be in order, and I will not so far offend as to say that his remarks were irrelevant. But I may be permitted to say that they had no bearing whatever upon the point which we have been discussing in this Clause. The Home Secretary dealt with two Sub-sections of this Clause. The first one, he said, merely restated the law, and he defended the insertion of this long, and rather wordy, Sub-section on the ground that large numbers of people did not understand the law and that it was important to bring it home to them. I suggest that, if we are to restate the law over and over again because there happen to be people who do not know the existing law, we shall very much increase the labours of the House of Commons. I should have thought that the right course for the Home Secretary, when confronted with a crisis in which large numbers of people did not know the law, would have been to issue some form of circular or memorandum or something which would be known, to state an interpretation of the law. It would be easy in a case of this kind for the right hon. Gentleman to make it perfectly clear that stopping a motor-car, or an omnibus, or a lorry, by such action as he described, is illegal. Not only is it going to give us a great deal of trouble to keep on restating the law because people do not know it, but it will not be effective. If the law, as it is, is not known, we may pass Statute after Statute and at the end of it all, the general public will be equally unaware of the minutiæ of the law. I think the Home Secretary himself will agree that a great deal of our labour in the House of Commons is not known and recognised by the general public, and if by means of this Bill the right hon. Gentleman hopes to make it recognised outside, then that will be largely due to the attention drawn to the Bill by His Majesty's Opposition. Therefore, I think, on his own showing, the Home Secretary owes to Members on these 1713 benches a great debt of gratitude for calling attention to this Bill in the way we have done.
Now I come to the second Sub-section. The Home Secretary frankly admits that it is not a restatement of the law but is the putting forward of a new law, and he defends the loose words of this Subsection by saying that the law needs amendment and does not go far enough. Our case with regard to that is twofold. We say, in the first place, that the law which the Government are endeavouring to create in this Sub-section is not applied equally. The Government propose to introduce in these words an entirely individual definition and to apply it only to one set of people, namely, trade union pickets. But we say further that these words are thoroughly ambiguous, and I believe they go a great deal beyond anything which the Home Secretary suggested in his speech. The Home Secretary, in order to make his point clear, quoted an imaginary case. He asked us to suppose that a workman was out on strike, and that pickets came to that workman and said, "If you do not go back to work we shall pursue your daughter who is in some other job, at a cinema, or elsewhere, and we shall take care that she is thrown out of that employment." Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman of the words of the Subsection:In this Section the expression 'to intimidate' means to cause in the mind of a person a reasonable apprehension of injury to him or to any member of his family or of violence or damage to any person or property, and the expression 'injury' includes injury other than physical or material injury.What is the necessity for these very strong words? The, case which the Home Secretary quoted is surely perfectly well covered within the termsmaterial injury to any member of his family.I think those words would be held to cover loss of employment by the daughter of the striker. But the words of the Subsection go much further. They go to show that it includes injuryother than physical or material injury.6.0 p.m.
It is not necessary that physical or material injury should be inflicted on the man, but it is suggested that the apprehension of injury on his part will bring 1714 such a case within the Clause. If the apprehension refers to injury which is not physical, and not even material, that seems to go a great deal further than any law which we have at the present time. It would be quite enough to bring a case within these words if it were be said to a man, "You are making yourself ridiculous," or, "When you go down to your club, men will turn their backs upon you." That would be an injury. The mere apprehension of that injury, which is neither physical nor material, either to the man or any member of his family, but something quite vague and nebulous, is for the first time, I believe, in English law made a reason for bringing a person under the criminal law by this Bill. Is this bringing of a purely nebulous, uncertain element into this Clause intentional or unintentional? If it is unintentional, we ask the Government to tell us what they mean exactly, and what comes within the provisions of these very nebulous words. If it is not unintentionally ambiguous, then it is intentionally ambiguous, and I am bound to say, with every desire to be charitable to the Government, that these words are intentionally ambiguous. The Attorney-General smiles at that, but I have every intention to be charitable to the Government, and if I could think that in using this extravagant language, they had some definite meaning for it, I would not impute motives. I do not think I have ever imputed a motive to Members opposite unless, after exhausting the probabilities of a reasonable and fair interpretation, I could not find it well founded. In the case of this Clause, I am bound to say that I am unable to find a charitable motive, and it seems to me that these loose and nebulous words are the result of an intention to bring all pickets into the arena of doubt. Is it not possible that any person on whom a picket calls may say he has a reasonable apprehension that some ill-defined injury, not physical nor material, either to himself or his family, may possibly be caused? If that can be held, the picket is to be punished for intimidation, and in these circumstances I feel that this Clause, drawn in this way, ought not to be accepted by this Committee.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
The main difficulty of hon. Members opposite in understanding 1715 our point of view is that they have Probably never been on strike, and we have. They have probably not as much affection for an organisation as we have for our trade union; and they probably have never had the necessity to do things in order to maintain their standard of life, as we have. Therefore, they cannot understand that we are not prepared to sit quiet and allow things to be taken away from us which are now perfectly legal and which are going to make potential criminals of people whom we know and with whom we have worked and are working. I have been on picket, and I have been on strike. I believe my first strike was about 30 years ago. I had 17s. 6d. a week, and we came out for £1. The boss said he would never give it, and he did not. We got 19s. 11d. after we had been out for two months, and he said he had won. I was on picket in that dispute, and it was my job to find a few people who would persist in remaining at work in order to try to induce them to leave work, so that we could win. We needed to win, and we needed every power, every privilege, every little bit of the law in order that we might win.
I want hon. Members opposite to look at another point. The hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) said that if a majority of the people were not in favour of a strike, we had no right to intimidate or speak to those who were working, but has the hon. and learned Member never heard of professional scabs and professional blacklegs? I have known dock strikes where professional blacklegs have been brought in from other ports and put on a ship and kept purposely for that job. If an angel from heaven came down to try to persuade those people that they were acting contrary to the best interests of the whole of the workpeople, he could not convince them. I doubt if even the hon. and learned Member for Argyll could have convinced those people that they were acting contrary to the best interests of the whole of the workpeople, and I object very strongly to our people being made into criminals by the passing of a new law at this time of day. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) spoke of the possibility of a barristers' strike, and we have had some talk about a doctors' strike. If it were the law that apprehension of intimidation was to make an offence, I 1716 wonder what would happen if there were a barristers' strike and Lord Carson went on picket. He would only have to look at anybody, and he would get two years' imprisonment. His record of intimidation and of personal beauty is such that he would not need to speak to anybody, but he would immediately cause apprehension of injury in the mind of any person at whom he looked.
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, with his knowledge of the law, knows very well that if a picket goes to do his work and uses quite reasonable arguments, it does not always depend so much on the reason in his arguments as on the look that accompanies the words. He may be built to look rather aggressive. It was not his fault, but it will be his misfortune once this Bill becomes law. If a rather aggressive looking person goes up to a striker and tries to speak to him, and if he causes apprehension in that person's mind, the picket is at a great disadvantage. Is it the policeman who is going to decide whether or not he is causing apprehension, or is it the person who says he has got the apprehension who is going to decide it? I think that is a fair question to ask. When the supposed intimidator is taken to the Police Court, he is immediately under a handicap, because he is in the dock, and the other chap is in the witness box. This Clause does not say how much a man is going to be injured, and I put it to the Home Secretary that to define intimidation by apprehension is a dangerous weapon to put into the hands of a minority, who in a dispute are not fair to the large majority of the people. If a man goes on picket, as I have done, at 5.30 in the morning, that man cannot be brought before the Court unless he is challenged, and if it is an unfriendly policeman, that policeman can charge him with intimidation. If he is backed up by a man who, I say, has no sense of honour or he would be in work, and the picket is taken to the Court, there is not one magistrate in twenty who dare do anything but convict, and even if that magistrate did not convict, there would be an appeal by the chief constable. I say, therefore, very sincerely, that it is too dangerous a weapon to put into the hands of either a blackleg or a policeman, and it is too dangerous a weapon to put into the hands of a magistrate.
1717 The Home Secretary might leave the Bill where it is. It may be that the first part of the Clause is declaratory, but, if so, I suggest that it would be much cheaper to issue a leaflet rather than to pass an Act of Parliament. What is a reasonable apprehension of injury? I think the words that were in—"hatred, ridicule, or contempt"—were stupid. A person who is on picket cannot help feeling hatred for the man who is robbing him of a decent standard of living and of the opportunity of fighting for that decent standard. The man on strike may be misguided and wrong, but at all events he thinks he is right, or he would not be out, and it is impossible for him to feel other than "hatred, ridicule or contempt" for the man who is away out of the firing line. I do not know what kind of feeling hon. Members opposite would have if they had witnessed strikes such as we have witnessed, where men have been brought in to work at £1 and 25s. a day and kept in board and lodging, when the men out on strike were getting only 5s. a day. How is it possible for an individual to feel anything but "hatred, ridicule, or contempt" for men of that description? I could say outside this House what I feel about it, but if I said it here, probably hon. Members would not understand my language.
I would like to know what is a reasonable apprehension and who is going to decide that question. It depends not only on the person to whom the picket may go, but it depends on the kind of picket. If you had a timid man and an aggressive picket, there might be a reasonable apprehension, but if you had a timid picket and a strong blackleg, the whole thing would put a magistrate into a position of not knowing what to do. The removal of those words, stupid as I think they were, is going to leave the whole thing so nebulous that nobody can define what is a reasonable apprehension and what is an injury. It will be worse still, because I think there will not be many cases left to the magistrates. It is bad enough for a man to be fined £10 or sent to prison for three months, but if a case goes to the Assizes or to Quarter Sessions, it will make worse criminals than ever. I submit that the position of working men is quite bad enough without it being made worse, after the statement made by the right hon. Member for 1718 Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson), who gave quotations and read letters from employers and replies from employers' associations—one might almost call them employers' assassinations—to the effect that the employers of men on strike wrote to employers and their federations all over the country and got promises of assistance from those employers not to employ the strikers. It means that because these men think an employer is wrong, and because they have dared to disagree with their employer, and to refuse to sell him their labour, he gets an agreement from employers' associations all over the country, naming the men, that they will not employ them if they leave, say, the south of England and go up to Tyneside or Teesside. What provision is made in this Bill for dealing with employers who engage in such deliberate victimisation, intimidation and actual starvation of men, and of their women and children, who do not agree with the employers' point of view?
I suggest that this Bill is not fair and not just, and some of us who have been in disputes know what will happen. If men or women want to go on strike they will go on strike. If men or women want to picket they will picket. If men and women feel so strongly that they want to intimidate they will intimidate. The Home Secretary purses his lips. He knows human nature as well as I do. I will not refer to the things which the Home Secretary has apologised for in this House, saying he was sorry for the form of intimidation he practised, but he knows as well as I do that in war—and a strike is neither more nor less than a miniature war—when tempers run high and feeling is rising, it is impossible to tell people to be sensible and to keep within the law. Whatever the coolheaded trade union official who knows his responsibility may say, if a number of workpeople say that a factory must be stopped it is 100,000 to one that the factory will stop. It will not be done on the advice of the trade union official, but it will be done because people cannot control their feelings. By this Bill we are going to make these people criminals.
I have in my mind the case of a factory where a lot of the women decided that it must stop. They were only about one-twentieth of the people working there. When it was known that the pickets were coming along to stop the 1719 factory there was an immediate apprehension in the minds of the workpeople—even before the picket had left to go to the factory; there was apprehension before any intimidation was practised. How is a case of that kind going to be dealt with? If hon. and right hon. Members opposite had had as much experience of trade disputes as we have, and if, what is more important, they had had as much experience of human nature while strikes are in operation, they would not have introduced a Clause of such a scope as I have indicated this to be.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder) has stigmatised this Clause as a dangerous piece of legislation, and has also spoken of it as unfair and unjust. We on this side think that the action of certain friends of his is dangerous, unfair and unjust. I do not think anybody in the Committee could help feeling sympathy with the hon. Member when he referred in such moving words to the strikes in which he himself had taken part. Everybody in the country is sympathetic towards a strike for better wages or for shorter hours. When it is a question of anybody, as the hon. Member said, of being robbed of an opportunity of securing a decent standard of living, one's sympathy always goes out to the aspirants for that improvement in their position; though whether it is always possible to grant it is a different matter. But the hon. Member must know that the majority of strikes are not strikes for a better standard of living or for shorter hours. The "Ministry of Labour Gazette," published three or four days ago, shows that, apart from the coal strike and the general strike of last year, only 40 per cent. of the men on strike came out for better hours or better wages; 60 per cent. came out on trade union matters, came out on personal grounds, came out on grounds in no way concerned with the standard of living, but generally in regard to matters of what in trade union circles are called discipline.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman referring to numbers of strikes or numbers of people engaged in strikes?
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
The number of people engaged in strikes. The figures in relation to the number of strikes are similar but smaller; they are more pronounced as regards the number of people engaged in strikes. In the last few days I have had brought to my notice a very striking case in my own constituency which I think will interest the Committee. It concerned a strike at the works of a small firm employing 80 to 100 men, and with a turnover of £40,000 or £50,000 a year. It was not a strike for a better standard of living, but purely in what is called the interests on discipline. The strike arose through the sickness, lasting 18 months, of a lame man. After the lapse of 18 months this man, who was a member of the union, was as well again as he ever had been. He was not a man wounded during the War, but was a pre-War employé of the firm. On his recovery he offered himself for re-employment. In the meantime the firm got very busy and his place had been filled, and the firm were not in a position to give him employment. The firm, therefore, replied, "No," saying that his particular work at the moment was so arduous that he could not do it, and that they would have to employ two men instead of one. They added: "If we get slacker again, so that we can use this disabled man, we will take him on." That would not suit the union officials at all, in spite of the fact that the men who had been taken on in his place were union men, they called out on strike the men engaged on this work. That is a perfectly legitimate thing to do. Why should they not do it? They are quite at liberty to do that. It is the way they conducted the strike to which I should like to call the attention of the Committee. The statement I have is:On Monday, 4th April, a non-union man commenced and was met in the morning by the pickets. As he left at mid-day he was molested and the police had to interfere. He was pestered on his return in the afternoon and drawn into an argument and called after in the streets as he returned home at night. His house was visited by members of the union in the evening and he dared not start with us on Tuesday. He is now on the Labour Exchange. The same afternoon an applicant from Nottingham, where we had been forced to advertise, applied for an engagement. Officials of the union pestered him between our premises and the railway station when he returned after his interview.1721On Tuesday, 5th April, to avoid trouble, he arrived in Leicester by an early train and was met at the train by union officials, who continued their activities of the previous evening.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
Yes, I know it is forbidden by the law, but this Bill is partly declaratory and partly to extend existing powers, and I maintain that it is useful in both its functions.Other applicants during the day were questioned by the pickets and in some cases warned off. Another local man also started. At the end of the day there was a party of 11 or 12 pickets scattered about in twos and threes outside, and we had to appeal to the police to escort our men off the premises in safety.On Wednesday, 6th April, our second local man was absent and we had to engage other applicants from Notttingham. We engaged a number in Leicester, but it appeared as though only those from outside, who could not be intimidated at their places of residence, dared stay with us.On Thursday, 7th April, our men were met on arrival and the police had to call one of the chief trade union officials to order for accosting them on their way to work.On Friday, 8th April, the men were met by members of the union at the station in the morning, and they were similarly met out from work at night. I am informed by one of our workmen that one of the members of the union accompanied them on to the platform, bawled after them, used objectionable language and made so much commotion in their compartment till the train left that passengers in the next carriage came out to inquire what the trouble was.I submit that that is in no way an extraordinary case, but a very typical case of what happens throughout the length and breadth of the country every week. It is very, very wrong that we, the nominally free people in England, should have to submit to what can only be called tyranny of this kind. The present Clause does not, in my view, put a dangerous weapon into the hands of either employers or magistrates. We know, and hon. Members on all sides of the Committee know, that in no country in the world has the law ever been administered so fairly and so equitably as it is in England. Undoubtedly we are putting certain additional powers into the hands of those who administer that law for us; and I submit that they 1722 are very well capable of administering that law properly, and I whole-heartedly support the Clause.
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
The hon. and gallant Member for South Leicester (Captain Waterhouse) has, it appears to me, made the same mistake in discussing this Clause as has been made by almost every other speaker from his side of the House. He has set himself to prove that intimidation is an undesirable thing. I do not know that any hon. Member disputes that. What are the questions before us? How far is the law as it stands to-day sufficient to deal with that intimidation? How far is that law known to the people whom it concerns? The Home Secretary made it perfectly clear in his speech that in his earlier days he was a member of the legal profession, because he sought to make use of what is known as the alternative defence. He said, first, that the law is insufficient, and then, if the law is sufficient, it is not known. This method of the alternative defence, if pursued, leads into some very awkward situations. There is the case of a man charged with receiving goods for which he has not paid, who can quite legally plead, first, that he never received the goods, second, that if he did receive them he has paid for them, and, third, that if he did receive the goods and has not paid for them he retains them because he has a lien upon them.
The Home Secretary said the law is insufficient as it stands to-day. Let us examine that plea. I have here a list of the acts of intimidation which are illegal under the present law and I am going to read them:(1) Using violence to or intimidating a person or his wife or children. (2) Persistently following from place to place. (3) Hiding tools, clothes or other property. (4) Watching or besetting the house or other place where a person resides or works or carries on business or happens to be. (5) Following a person with two or three other persons in a disorderly manner in or through any street or road.I maintain that those prohibitions cover every form of intimidation which it is practicable for the law to deal with. It is perfectly true that under the Act of 1906 those prohibitions were not withdrawn, only modified. It was said that none of these prohibitions was to prevent a man from going to the house of a striker and endeavouring peacefully to 1723 persuade him to abstain from work; but although that modification was made, those original prohibitions stand in their entirety, and I claim that under one or more of those provisions of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act it is possible to bring into Court any case of intimidation which is really triable. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, Did he bring into Court during all the events of last year a single case of intimidation which failed owing to the inadequacy of the law? I do not believe a single case has so failed. I believe the law as it stands is sufficient to deal with intimidation, and if there has been insufficiency it has been on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, of the police and of the Public Prosecutor in not administering the law as it should have been administered.
That is how I would reply to the statement that the law is sufficient as it stands to-day. We have been told that the law is not sufficiently well known. There is an old legal maxim, Ignorantia legis neminem excusat, which means that ignorance of the law excuses nobody, and it will not excuse anybody after we have passed this declaratory Clause. If it is not known now, is it going to be known any better when we have passed a Clause like this? It is true that the Conservative Central Office has distributed 5,000,000 leaflets, but the effort of those leaflets to declare the law has proved to be nugatory, because they do not describe the Bill which is now before us. Since those leaflets were issued, the Bill has been riddled through and through, and already it has been amended in many important particulars in such a way that it is discredited by the country. I remember a particular case in which 14 persons were charged and imprisoned for following a person from place to place, and that shows that such methods of intimidation can be dealt with. I know there are other forms of intimidation which cannot be got at, and they have not been dealt with by the law as it used to stand. May I say that they will not be dealt with by the law as it is now proposed?
Will the Home Secretary tell us what is the most deadly form of intimidation? I submit that the most deadly and cruel form of intimidation is what is known as boycotting, but this Bill does not deal 1724 with that at all. I will give a typical example which has come under my notice. It is the case of a milkman who refuses to deliver the milk to a striker for a period of three months. If traders refuse to sell goods or if persons who come into the same room where there is a non-striker get up and walk out, they are not committing an offence, but they are subjecting that striker to a form of intimidation far more deadly than anything that is dealt with under this Bill. The truth is that in its attempt to deal with every kind of intimidation this Clause will prevent peaceful picketing of every kind. I do not believe that the Home Secretary could quote to the House a single argument which he could definitely say could be addressed to a striker without making him liable to a prosecution under this Clause. The right hon. Gentleman gave many arguments which would make the striker liable, but can he give one argument which is free from any kind of intimidation and which a picket could address to a striker and be safe from prosecution under this Clause?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
There is no difficulty about that. If a man goes to a non-striker and says, "We have been friends for years; we belong to the same chapel and the same trade; come out and help us in this fight," that would be perfectly legal.
Suppose a man goes to a non-striker and says, "You and I have been friends all these years. We have associated together and our wives know each other. I am fighting for another 2s. a week to keep my wife and children. I want you to join me in this strike, and if you do not I am sure my wife will never invite you to come to our house to tea again." Would that be intimidation under this Bill? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer!"]
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
Even that case contains a subtle threat that friendship is going to be withdrawn, and it suggests that the striker might fear the loss of the friendship of the person he is trying peacefully to persuade. You, really, cannot find a definite and valid argument which will carry any weight that a man on strike can use without rendering him liable to prosecution under this Clause. I know that leaflets sent out by the Conservative Central Office are not supposed to represent the highest 1725 form of political probity. Here is a leaflet dealing with picketing. It forbids the intimidation of persons willing to work, and it gives a large number of reasons dealing with the same thing in a different form. It says:Men who ignore these threats are beaten and isolated, and their lives made impossible by mobs of persons egged on to violence by Communist agitators.It is their whole case to lay down certain undisputed propositions, and then to cheer them. No one disputes that, but those offences are punishable already, and it is absurd to circulate an offence of that kind which is already illegal under the law as it stands. This Bill is going to withdraw privileges which were conferred on trade unions under an Act passed by the Liberal Government in 1906 with the consent of Mr. Balfour, or, at any rate, he gave his consent to the passage of the Third Reading. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Duff Cooper) was one of the most persistent agitators for legislation of this sort, and he said:We must have the law amended, but you must not withdraw any of the privileges conferred on trade unions by the Act of 1906.He also said that if you withdraw any of the privileges conferred by the Act of 1906 you will make enemies of every trade unionist in the land. The hon. Member for Oldham spoke in those terms, but let me also read what Lord Lansdowne said in the House of Lords in 1906 when the privilege of peaceful picketing was granted to trade unions:I cannot help thinking that whatever our opinion may be of this Pill, the voice of the electors has been heard with regard to it, and if your Lordships refer this Bill back to the country, what would be the result? We can have no doubt as to what the result would be. I believe we should have a demand for a similar Bill renewed with greater intensity and in a form embittered by the suggestion that the House of Lords was in conflict with the general desire of the working men of this country.If we take away the privilege of peaceful picketing, I believe we shall have to renew it again in a form which will have the disadvantage of enabling the working men of this country to say that their aspirations are in conflict with the views as expressed by the House of Commons.
§ Mr. DIXEY
I rise to support this Clause. Although I am quite prepared 1726 to admit that there is a law at the present time which should prevent intimidation in regard to picketing, unfortunately it is not sufficiently clear, and I think it is highly important that once again it should be perfectly clearly stated that no law should prevent a man who desires to work, however contemptible he may be, from doing so. Such a man is entitled to the protection of the law in a free country, and he should be free to work without being threatened in any way. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite argue in a way that seems to me to attempt to justify any amount of intimidation. We have had several speeches from hon. Members opposite, and I know, and they know, that a large number of the leaders in the trade union movement do try to justify intimidation. In the recent strike the miners' representatives in this House know quite well that the leader they served and supported, Mr. Cook, justified intimidation in more than one speech, and, in fact encouraged it. It is absolutely absurd for hon. Members opposite to come down to this House and state that there is no intimidation on this question, because that is quite untrue, and they know it as well as we do.
Many cases have come to my notice, as well as to that of other hon. Members on these benches in which men have gone to take up work which, from a sporting point of view, they ought not to do. Nevertheless they have done so, and they have had to undergo extreme suffering, and by intimidation they have not only had themselves to suffer, but their wives and families have also had to suffer. I support this Clause because I think it will put more fear into the pickets up and down the country, and I am encouraged to say that because I think it is highly proper that more fear should be put into some of the pickets who take part in strikes. As far as the law is concerned, hon. Gentlemen opposite tell us one thing in this House, and they say quite another thing in the country. They tell us in this House that the Labour party has never stood for intimidation, but they do not say that on the platform up and down the country. I have yet to hear a speech made by any prominent Socialist in which intimidation has not been openly advocated. I have heard speeches which have been prefaced by apologies to trade unionists, and then there has followed an 1727 onslaught on the blackleg question in which intimidation has been more or less justified. In the same way hon. Members always find justification for their supporters interrupting Conservative meetings. As far as I and a large number of my hon. Friends are concerned, we shall press the Government to stick literally to every word of this Clause.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
It has been said that this Bill would be rightly termed "A right to work Bill." I have read a few leaflets on this question, and, after doing so, I think this Bill might more correctly be described as "A right to work Bill for blacklegs during trade disputes." My point in rising was to refer to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman during his speech this afternoon. I had not the privilege of listening to all that the right hon. Gentleman said, but he quoted from a speech made by me in the House on the 2nd June last year, on one of the occasions when we were dealing with the question of the retention of the Emergency Powers Regulations. I gather from my hon. Friends that, in his quotation this afternoon, he not only failed to make the quotation in as lengthy a form as it might have been made, but he omitted to make any sort of allowance for the extraordinary circumstances obtaining at that moment, and the extraordinary incidents that were dealt with in my observations on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that, because of some statements I made during that speech, I must have been under a serious misapprehension as to the law of picketing in this country at that moment; and he said that people who were carrying out the duties of pickets were also under a misapprehension, and that Sub-section (1) of Clause 3 of this Bill was justified by the lack of knowledge on the part of those people to whom I was then referring. The quotation referred to by the right hon. Gentleman reads as follows:A body of men were called upon to do peaceful picketing. They were out on the roads past midnight, and the only possible means of carrying on their legitimate duties in accordance with the provision in Section 21 of these Regulations was to call upon motor-lorry drivers to stop.On the basis of that quotation, the right hon. Gentleman said that not only was 1728 I under a misapprehension, but also the people who were picketing, since to call upon a motor driver to stop his lorry was an illegal thing. That may or may not have been the case, but I want to submit that, if a picket is carrying on his duties in a perfectly legitimate manner, and if either two or three pickets are charged with the duty of approaching lorry drivers, they must of necessity speak to those lorry drivers, and, if possible, they must ask those lorry drivers to come to a standstill, so that the conversation could take place in a perfectly normal and sensible way. I went on, and this is what I want to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to—[Interruption]. I think that if the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson) will hold his peace for a moment, he will change his tone. I continued as follows:This had taken place and nothing untoward had happened until an individual came along, driving a lorry, and immediately pointed a couple of revolvers at a considerable number of pickets who were on the road."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd June, 1926; cols. 852–3, Vol. 196.]And, because of the lorry driver pointing a revolver at those persons, certainly, acts of indiscretion, and, possibly, violence, took place. What the right hon. Gentleman did not tell the House was that I attempted to say during my speech, not that violence was legitimate, or that violence could be condoned, or that violence ought not to meet with its due reward, but rather that not only one, two, three or four persons were hauled before the Court, but every one of 15 persons who were apprehended were taken, and they were all sentenced to three months' hard labour, without so much as being called upon to say which one or two of those people were the legal pickets carrying on their duties in a perfectly legitimate way, and which section of this crowd were in no way officially appointed as pickets for that particular duty. I want to say, further, that, if the majority of those cases had been dealt with under the Common Law, the sentences would not have been nearly so brutal.
I was, therefore, under no misapprehension with regard to the legitimacy of intimidation of the kind referred to. I was perfectly clear that intimidation, particularly in a violent sense, was not permissible under the then existing law, 1729 and is not permissible to-day; that it was punishable then, and is, indeed, punishable to-day; and, because the existing law does not permit intimidation of that kind, I, with the rest of my colleagues, declare that there is no point in Sub-section (1) of Clause 3 of this Bill. The interpretation of intimidation read out by the hon. and gallant Member for South Hackney (Captain Garro-Jones) clearly indicated that not a single case has been brought to the notice of the House where a person who in any way intimidates cannot be brought to book under the existing law. Does the right hon. Gentleman want to argue, or does he suggest, that the mere passing of this Bill is going to clarify the minds of millions of work-people who are never called upon to examine an Act of Parliament, who know little or nothing about Acts of Parliament, because of the very mediocre education they get before they are called upon to start earning their livelihood? This Clause is designed, with the rest of the Bill, for one very definite and specific purpose—to rob the workers of this country of their bargaining power with their employers.
Clause 1 prevents the appointed officials from carrying with them, when meeting employers, their normal united power, in that in future they will not be permitted to withdraw their labour on occasions when employers refuse to treat them with decency; and the employer, knowing that the power to strike is limited because of this Bill, will do in future just as he has done in the past, namely, treat with bodies of workmen in accordance with the power they have to withdraw their labour at any given moment. Clause 2 follows Clause 1, and Clause 3 is consistent with the first two Clauses, because of the doubts created under it. Obviously, picketing in future is going to be absolutely impossible. No man, or no two men, could go on picket duty feeling that they were going to be permitted to find their way back to their homes after they had performed their duty. It is fair to assume that a man who is selected to perform picketing duty is going to meet a person whom he knows for the moment to be acting diametrically in opposition to the interests of the organisation of which they are both supposed to be members. Apprehension is there before the man's mind at the door, and, consequently, 1730 the very doubts created by Sub-sections (1) and (2) of Clause 3 make picketing impossible, put another handle in the hands of the employers, and further reduce the bargaining power of the workpeople; and, of this one-sided Bill, this Clause is, perhaps, the most one-sided Clause of all.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman one question. His lengthy experience and comprehensive knowledge of mining districts and other districts in Great Britain will at least have taught him how some mining villages have been built, with rows of houses one after another like rows of Grenadier Guards on parade. It is utterly impossible, for many people in a mining village, to reach their homes without passing dozens of other miners' doorsteps. Try and imagine that the country is involved in an industrial dispute, and that for the moment one is residing in one of those mining villages. A person has gone to work before a settlement is reached. He passes along the normal miners' road. Miners are sitting on their doorsteps who are keeping loyal to their organisation, and, under this Sub-section, every man, woman and child can be prosecuted for sitting and besetting those blacklegs on their way to and from home. Is it not true that in Staffordshire, during the last dispute, men who sat on their doorsteps and did no more than merely play a mouth-organ to amuse themselves were prosecuted for sitting and besetting, and were sent to prison for indulging in that sport? How would it be possible, in case of a miners' dispute, for any person or persons to retain their freedom and avoid conflicting with Clause 3 of this Bill, unless they remained inside their homes and never dared to venture out during the hours when they knew men were going to or returning from work? It would be utterly impossible for sitting and besetting to be avoided.
I suggest that this particular Subsection in no way clarifies the law. It does not improve the law; it does not increase the power over wrongdoers; but it does increase the doubt, it does reduce the bargaining power of working men, it does increase the power of employers, who will not hesitate to use it further to depress the already miserably low standard of life of the workpeople. I suggest that when the right hon. Gentleman 1731 quoted the speech I made here on the 2nd June last year, he ought in fairness to me, and, indeed, to the Committee, to have rememberd the exceptional circumstances that obtained at that particular moment in some mining districts out in the country, and to have remembered that the mass of the workers were locked out—that they were not on strike, that they were not fighting the nation or aiming a blow at the community, but were resisting the miserable conditions that the coal-owners, jointly with the Government, imposed on them at the end of the dispute. It was because of the exceptional circumstances, and the vicious sentences inflicted upon some men who may have been innocent, or were not nearly so guilty as the worst, and the fact that the common law, apart from the Emergency Regulations, could and should have been used for dealing with those cases, that some of the statements were drawn from me which I made on that occasion. To-day, as on the 2nd June last year, I do not welcome intimidation either by workmen or by employers, and I do not welcome the one-sidedness of this Clause, which further manacles the workpeople and, strengthens the employers giving them more power in the future over their miserable slaves than they have at this moment.
§ Mr. AUSTIN HOPKINSON
I think the speech to which we have just listened justifies this particular Clause in a way which I should have thought would have been impossible. It is quite certain, from what has just been said, that clarification of the existing law is highly desirable. The hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) has quoted some remarks that he made on the 2nd June last year, and I well remember his making those remarks, because his argument then, in which he persists on this occasion, was truly the most remarkable, and at the same time, perhaps, the most amusing, argument that probably has ever been put forward from any benches in this House. The hon. Member's argument is that, in order to carry out their duty as pickets, and to carry out the perfectly legal process of peaceful persuasion, these unfortunate men who were prosecuted 1732 were obliged to break the ordinary law of the country—they were obliged to stop motor traffic on the highway in order that they might carry out their perfectly legitimate object of peaceful persuasion.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
May I correct the hon. Member? Surely, he cannot ride away on that horse. I said that, if the pickets were to have conversation with the drivers of motor lorries they must either have that conversation as the lorries were moving or in order to have a perfectly useful and sensible conversation they must request the drivers of the lorries to stop; but if the lorry driver refuses to stop and the picket attempts to compel him to stop, then of course he breaks the law, but not until that moment.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The hon. Member did not give us to understand that, either last year or this evening. He attempted to justify those particular pickets and to throw the blame upon the Courts who found them guilty of stopping traffic on the highway. If we take his argument to its logical conclusion it has a remarkable effect. For instance, if a man happened to be in his house at night and pickets, carrying on their proper legitimate duty of peacefully persuading him not to go to work next morning, came to his house, they would find it difficult to address their peaceful arguments while he was in bed at midnight. Therefore, under the same argument, they would be perfectly entitled to break into his house and peacefully persuade him not to go to work next morning. In view of the arguments we had before us last year and again this afternoon, it is highly desirable, whether we pass this Clause or not, that we should make an attempt to clarify the law as regards peaceful picketing and intimidation.
Another point which the hon. Member put forward is one which it is perhaps rather unkind of me to take seriously, as he is only repeating the usual rigmarole and conventional claptrap. He pointed out that, if the Clause were passed, the wicked employer, who, I understand from him, is in the majority, and whose sole delight is to see his men starving and miserable and their children thrown on the streets, is to be put in a position by this Clause to fulfil those ambitions to grind down the workers. The only point I bring against the Clause is that every 1733 single employer of labour I have consulted—both here in London and in the North, and in the various coalfields which I have visited—has told me he does not like this Bill a bit. That being the case, it seems to me that a good deal of the latter half of the hon. Gentleman's argument falls to the ground when we employers of labour, who wish to grind the faces of the poor even more than at present, who wish to reduce them to a state of misery, subjection, starvation and slavery, having those ambitions, object to this particular Bill. That is a fact which I think should be taken into account by the hon. Member and his Friends when they begin to consider the Measure calmly—a process of thought which at present does not seem to occupy their time to any considerable extent.
Clarification is obviously necessary in view of the speech we have listened to last from the hon. Member who showed such an utter lack of ability to understand the state of the law at the present time. That any man, having such a muddled idea of the condition of affairs while there is a trade dispute in being, should presume to come to this House on behalf of thousands of unfortunate trade unionists in his own district, seems to me a perfect scandal, and one that should be put a stop to at the earliest possible moment. If the miners of Yorkshire cannot return to this House men who have some sort of understanding——
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. James Hope)
I do not see that the question of persons inside this House is relevant to a Debate on intimidation outside this House.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
A lot of the Debate has turned on the functions of this Clause in clarifying the existing situation and making perfectly obvious what is legal and what is illegal. I submit I am entitled to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that one Member at any rate, presuming to speak for a trade union, obviously has no idea of what the state of the law is at the present time, and that therefore a declaratory Clause is highly desirable and that every effort should be made to pass this Clause.
§ Mr. PALIN
One thing has been made clear, if nothing else has emerged from this Debate, and it was most clearly put 1734 by the hon. Member for Penrith (Mr. Dixey) when he told us that he wanted to put fear into the hearts of the people. It seems to me that the whole Clause is intended to intimidate. Personally I would not feel at all alarmed if, when the next lock-out or strike took place, every workman went to bed and stopped there, because I am quite satisfied that, so far from intimidation being required, a good deal of persuasion would shortly be required on the part of the employers. It seems to me impossible under this Bill, if it becomes law, for anyone to know when they are within the law. A workman can understand that if he hits another man on the nose he is committing a breach of the law, but how is he to understand when he has created some apprehension in another person's mind? If he is to be hauled up, fined and imprisoned for creating apprehension in another person's mind, the workman and those who are associated with him will come to the conclusion that they might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb. Instead of this Clause preventing disorder, it will create more disorder. It is not fair, like the whole of the Bill. This Clause exempts from its operations all the machinations of the employers to persuade men to go to work and break a strike. The small shopkeeper is used by the employer to refuse further credit to the men. The Nonconformist ministers and those of the Established Church are used, to a very great extent, to persuade the men. If he is a married man with a family, the Lady Bountiful, very often the wife of the Tory candidate, who gives out the blankets, is called in to threaten him that, if he persists in remaining on strike, he will not get any more blankets or coal, or the beautiful smiles with which he is met when he goes down the village street. What is going to be done with all those people? The employer generally, as was done to a very great extent during the coal dispute, says that, if the man does not return to work, he is going to lose an opportunity of a good working place or some future opportunity of promotion. Is not that creating apprehension in a man's mind? If it is, why is it not just as punishable as the apprehensions created by a man saying to another, "I will not go to tea with you next Sunday"?
It will be very difficult, indeed, after the Home Secretary's illustration, to go 1735 about picketing. It may be, of course, that a great many of our working people are afflcted with poverty of language, but I am afraid that in the strenuousness of a dispute much stronger language would be used, even with kindly intensions. The last hon. Member who spoke having been a private soldier will have a knowledge of the kind of language that is used with the best of intentions at all times. The language that a private soldier may use to another, although accepted as being perfectly kindly or almost affectionate, sounds far worse when retailed in a Court of Justice, than it was intended to be at the time it was used. That is going to be the whole trouble. The Emergency Regulations, and the way they were administered last year by the Courts, is an illustration of what is likely to take place under this new Measure. I would suggest that the same disqualification ought to apply in the case of a colliery owner or person owning shares in a colliery or business involved in a trade dispute in the case of their sitting on a bench dealing with matters arising out of the dispute, as applies in the case of a Member of the House sitting on a Local Legislation Committee, which is considering business in which he is personally interested. Sometimes, one gets a collier being tried by a bench of colliery proprietors. Prejudice does enter, and the man is not going to get the fair crack of the whip. As far as picketing is concerned to-day, in 99 cases out of 100, it is properly carried out. In times of excitement, when employers have tried the methods I have described and induced men to go back on their fellows, feelings are aroused and breaches of the law take place. All the lawyers in the House know the law is perfectly strong enough to deal with those breaches of the law when they arise, and the workman is perfectly well aware that they are breaches of the law.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I was not suggesting that the ordinary miner was not quite an intelligent man and able to see what the law was, but only that one of his representatives was not.
§ Mr. PALIN
I know the hon. Member is quite capable of suggesting anything, and some of the suggestions are not as 1736 kindly as would appear on the surface, and will, perhaps, illustrate to the Home Secretary how peaceful picketing could be carried out if we could only get pickets of the type of the hon. Member. It is no good disguising the fact that the hon. Member for Penrith (Mr. Dixey), although he may not be as high in the councils of the party opposite as the Home Secretary, has this afternoon spoken the mind of the party to the people of this country far more clearly and plainly than the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General. I hope there will be no more hypocrisy about it. You can use your majority and carry this Clause. Whether the law will have the same respect in the future as in the past, is a matter the future will decide.
I should like to express my appreciation of this Clause, because I think, from what I hear from my constituents, it is the one that is going to be must appreciated. I gathered from the Home Secretary that the first Sub-section is merely declaratory of the present law, and the extension that we get in the second Sub-section is due to the fact that nowadays we have passed rather out of the sphere of intimidation by merely personal violence. As civilisation and industrial conditions have improved, so it is much less probable that people will go about threatening to punch each other's heads. There will be a more calculated form of intimidation, of which we have already heard a good many instances quoted. I was surprised when the Mover of the Amendment developed his argument that the position of the non-striker who is in a minority was one that was very despicable, because the majority rule in the trade union should apply, and if the large bulk of his fellows wanted to go on strike, it was rather a bad and unworthy thing for the others to express a contrary opinion.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman ever known any case in his own Division where any trade unionist has intimidated anyone?
That has nothing whatever to do with the point. I am referring to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney). It ill becomes anyone to take that view, because what the Bill is aiming at largely 1737 is to give some form of protection to minorities, and that is a very deserving object in any legislation, and I should think one that, in present circumstances, would particularly appeal to the Liberal party. Moreover, it is not only a question of majorities intimidating minorities. What happens in some of these unfortunate disputes is that there may be a very aggressive minority very nearly intimidating the majority. That might easily occur, and it seems to me that is one of the cases with which the Clause is trying to deal. May I give a small illustration of something that happened recently before the Bill was brought in? A constituent of mine, a stranger to me, said he understood the Government was bringing in a Bill to deal with trade, disputes and asked me if it would contain a Clause dealing with intimidation. He said whatever else it did, provided it had a Clause which did something to remedy the position of people who were intimidated, although he had been a lifelong Liberal, and all his friends were of that political opinion, the Government could be guaranteed of their full support in their efforts to put the Bill on the Statute Book. I give that for what it is worth. It struck me that that was a concrete case of a man who might himself have been intimidated, or, at any rate, had ample evidence and information from friends in his own kind of work. We have unfortunately had a great deal of suffering in my constituency from time to time owing to trade disputes, and if he of his own free will could make a statement like that to his Member, speaking on his behalf and on behalf of very many of my constituents, who look on the Clause as one of the most important and valuable in the Bill, I entirely endorse it. There is one question, however, I should like to ask, because the wording is not quite clear to my reading. It says:It shall be unlawful for one or more persons whether acting on their own behalf or on behalf of a trade union or an individual employer or firm.When it speaks of an individual employer or firm, does it mean it shall be unlawful for them to do these things vis-a-vis an employé or vis-a-vis a fellow employer? Perhaps it covers both, but I should like to have an explanation. It is a small point but it affects the excellence of the Clause, which I heartily support.
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has, obviously, tried to intimidate us on these benches in a very delightful and subtle way. He has illustrated the difficulty I find, not being a trade union leader nor a legal expert, in giving my support to the Clause. I am opposed to the Clause as drafted for five reasons, first, because it is a new definition of intimidation; second, because, as I read it, it is a wider definition of intimidation; third, because, as I sum up its effect, from what knowledge I have of industrial life, it will be a dangerous new definition of intimidation; fourth, because I believe it will be an unenforceable definition of intimidation; and, last, because there is in the last four lines a mass of verbiage which the Government have realised as being foolish and unintelligible by putting down their Amendment. I am not surprised that the Home Secretary has been put up to defend the Clause. About three weeks ago I asked him how many prosecutions took place during the recent dispute, either under Common Law or under the Emergency Powers Act. He said the total number of cases was 2,288, and he analysed the Sub-sections of the various Acts under which they took place. It is obvious that he has been impressed with the extent of intimidation that takes place in disputes. I was not surprised that he indulged in a very dangerous form of argument. I have always understood it to be very dangerous to base your case for an alteration of the law upon hard cases. In this new definition he has been much more subtle than the Attorney-General. For 2½ days the line of argument pursued by the Attorney-General was that Clause 1 did not make any alteration. The right hon. Gentleman has been more frank. The words in Sub-section (1) declare the existing law, but he admits that Sub-section (2) gives a new interpretation of the word "intimidation," and a wider one. It is going to be very dangerous indeed to have this wider interpretation, because I understand the Judges have always refused to go one inch over the frontier that has now been drawn in the reported cases, namely, either physical violence or threats which may lead to a breach of the peace.
In the recent dispute I took the trouble to go to every coalfield in the country. 1739 I was at Mansfield when the open intimidation took place that was referred to by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Spencer). Six weeks after I found myself in the Welsh mining village of Treorchy, where I spoke at a meeting of miners, who gave me a perfectly respectful hearing, though my views did not agree with those of their leaders. Just before I got there, two small pits had been opened, where the miners living in the village were at work in small numbers. When the men came back from work the whole village was out, the women standing at the doorways. No word was spoken and no overt act committed, but the effect upon my mind was far more of an intimidatory nature than that of the overt violence at Mansfield. That type of thing the Home Secretary cannot stop. It is impossible. If in a mining or any other area there is, during a dispute, strong feeling against the minority, any form of words you put into a Bill to deal with hard cases such as the right hon. Gentleman quoted, will inevitably bring within the net the fish you do not want to catch. What you will do is to curtail perfectly legal action. You will make freedom of picketing much more dangerous. It seems to me very dangerous to cross the frontier of overt acts or positive threats into what may be called psychological phraseology, because, as I understand the Clause, it is really trying to handle intimidation in the realm of psychology.
There was a very eminent French psychologist who held that the way to keep physical health was to say to yourself, "Every day and in every way, I feel better and better," and the very Reverend Gentleman the Dean of St. Paul's said that meant that a man put his head under the bedclothes and lied to himself vigorously and more vigorously every day. As I read the Clause, all a man has to do is to say he feels in his mind a reasonable apprehension of intimidation and to say in every way and every day he feels it more and more. He may not feel it, but if he only puts his head under the bedclothes enough and says it, it is a kind of inverted Couéism. He goes into Court and states before the magistrate that he feels this mental apprehension, and no evidence can possibly be called to rebut the statement. The Home 1740 Secretary quoted, probably, the worst case from his dossier out of the 2,288, and in trying to deal with it, what he will do is to put fear into the pickets. But the Prime Minister has expressly 'stated that the Bill is not designed to cripple the ordinary activities of trade unions. It is only designed to deal with these overt acts and to make illegal things that are not legal now. It is obvious the Government think they have got to take out these ridiculous words "hatred" and "contempt." These things have gone, but the words "reasonable apprehension" on the one hand, and "other than physical or material injury" on the other, seem to me to be very wide and very dangerous. For one case of overt violence there are tens of thousands of pickets who go about their work in the normal way and cause no apprehension or injury in the minds of their fellows who may be blacklegging. For the reasons I have given, I shall feel compelled to vote against this new version of intimidation.
Mr. ROY WILSON
I am one of that numerous and unanimous body of supporters of the Government who give their unstinted approval to the Bill, and there is no Clause in it which calls for my greater admiration and support than this. I represent a mining constituency. There are some 13,000 miners in it, and I came in close contact with them before, during and after the recent stoppage. I want, if I can, to explain quite simply to the Committee my own experience during the strike of some forms of cruel intimidation which were prevalent in my constituency and which, I profoundly hope, may be stopped, or, if not stopped, will be checked in future by means of Clause 3 of this Bill, During the month of June I was asked by the owner of a colliery employing some 1,300 men to go down to one of my mining districts. I was asked to go down by that owner to talk to his men and try, if possible, to persuade them to go back to work. This was the history of this particular mine, and the men knew it quite well. The owner was on the best possible terms with his men; he had always treated them extremely well. During the summer months he frequently stacked a large amount of his coal to keep his men fully employed, and he told me that he was quite certain that a large majority of 1741 the men would go back to work if they could be talked to quietly, and have all the facts submitted to them. I went down. I had a very wonderful meeting. There was no disturbance at all. I found, just as I expected, that the employés in this colliery had a sincere affection for their employer.
The result of our little meeting—and I would take no credit for it myself, I think it was largely due to their employer—was that some hundreds of these men went back to work within a very few days of our meeting. This is the point I want to make before I conclude this little story. Those men realised, as I am perfectly certain a very large number of the men employed in the mines realised during the strike, that they were being led to disaster. They were perfectly certain in their own minds that the leadership during the coal strike was going to bring a settlement which could only result in disaster and misery for the men. Some hundreds of them went back to work. What was the result? Within a week of these men going back to work, dozens of speakers were sent down to this little mining village, hordes of men came in from adjacent districts, and by gross forms of intimidation—and I say this because I know the facts—scores of these men came out again with resulting disaster and misery to themselves. My point is, that in the month of June large numbers of those men went back to work; some of them—quite a fair proportion—who went back were persuaded and were intimidated to go out again and were out until November—five months of misery and disaster to the families and the children of those men due—and I say it deliberately—to intimidation. That is a position which, I am certain, cannot commend itself to any sane trade union leader in this country. I am equally certain, that if the miners of the country during the coal stoppage of last year had been asked by a secret ballot, "Are you in favour of so-called peaceful picketing and the forms of persuasion and intimidation going on throughout the country?" there would have been a unanimous vote on the part of the miners against such forms of peaceful picketing and intimidation.
That is why I say, and sincerely believe, that this particular Clause will commend itself whole-heartedly to the miners. I 1742 know it will to the miners in my constituency. I have been there very recently, and know their opinion. I know that there are thousands of homes in my constituency overburdened with debt and with no prospect of getting out of it for years, due entirely to the stupidity of leadership and the fact that these men were not allowed to go back to work when they wanted to go. I am not going to trouble the Committee with the forms of intimidation that I saw myself in my own district, except, to give this as an example. One man, a decent hard-working man with a family, who had been an employé of this colliery for years, and who would not come out, had the door of his little cottage and windows covered with tar during the night as an example to the rest of the neighbourhood that he was going back again to work. I must say, having listened to a number of speeches, I am amazed that anybody should object to this Clause which prevents, or tries to prevent, that sort of thing. I fail to understand the mentality of members of the Liberal party who have said, "Well, we think the present law protects these people." If there is any way of strengthening the law, if there is any method at all which can be adopted by this or any other Parliament to put down intimidation—I do not care what the law provides to-day—I say, let us have further legislation to protect the workers and their little homes that are suffering to-day, and which for years will have to suffer from the incidence of the last stoppage.
§ Mr. D. WILLIAMS
I have listened with considerable interest to the efforts of the legal Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee to elucidate Sub-section (2) of Clause 3. I have done so because I have had considerable experience in the Labour movement, though I have not been a Labour leader in the accepted sense of the words. I have been a member of the trade union movement for 35 years, and I can only recall one instance when I have been called out on strike, although I have been in every strike which has taken place in my town. I want to know what is the legal position so as to be able to regulate my conduct when this Bill becomes law. I must confess that I have had very little information from the legal Gentlemen who have attempted to elucidate this Clause. 1743 "Causing reasonable apprehension"—I should like to find out what this really means. Perhaps I can best illustrate that point by an incident which happened in my own life within the last 18 months. I am very well known in my town as one of the leaders of the political Labour movement. One day I was leaving my house to go to business in the usual way. I heard a noise at the bottom of our terrace, and, like every boy—because boys of all ages from eight to 80 when they see a crowd or hear a noise want to know what is going on—I went to the crest of the hill, looked down and saw a crowd. I went down the hill, and for two minutes I had a conversation with the men assembled. Pressmen were present, and it was reported in the evening papers that among those present at the ejectment was "Councillor David Williams, M.P."
The sequel was this. Three weeks after the incident, and arising out of that particular ejectment, a case was heard at the County Court, and the Judge hearing the case made use of these words, or words similar to them: "I understand that there was in the assembly that morning when this took place a man holding a very important and lofty position in the country. I want to warn him that I would have no hesitation in dealing with him as I would with any other man who is there to resist the law." Assume for a moment that that was a trade union strike, I would have been judged and sentenced without even being heard. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I think that is the position. That was the statement that was made. A great deal depends upon the comprehension and the mentality of the person who is picketed, or on the reputation of the person who is picketing. A guilty conscience makes cowards of us all. Some people apprehend evil of every honest man who might put up his hand against them. If I went to picket an individual whom I knew to be working against the interests of the trade union movement generally he would apprehend that I intended some evil towards him.
I want to put this point. What is going to be the result of this Bill when it becomes an Act? Do you think you are going to promote unity in the world? Do you think that I can carry on with a man whom I know is not only doing 1744 me down for the moment, but is doing me down for the future? I have been 35 years a member of my trade organization—and trade unions exist not only for promoting strikes and conducting strikes but for the purposes of benevolent benefits—and in two years from now I shall be entitled to my superannuation, for which I have been paying during this period. Do you think I can be friendly with a man who, I know, is going to rob me of my benefits, because it is actually provided in this Measure that he can rob me of my benefits? No one loves a burglar except his wife, and that is only the love of convenience, and certainly not of affection. I would certainly not be disposed to love a man, who, I know, is not only depriving me of immediate advantages of organisation, but also of benefits for which I have been paying over a long period of years. I want to be quite sure how we stand. I have been connected with a number of strikes associated with my own society, and it is on record that on every occasion I have exercised restraint to prevent violence as far as possible. I received letters after the last strike expressing thanks and gratitude to me because I was able to exercise a restraining influence over the men.
If this Bill becomes an Act, I shall no longer feel under an obligation to use any power I may possess to restrain the men from doing anything that they think necessary in order to win a strike, or whatever it may be. I was hoping when I listened to the speech delivered here some time ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, when he prayed for peace in our time, that there was a real desire on his part to create the conditions of peace, but, instead of that, we get the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Bill. I should like, in conclusion, to commend to the right hon. Gentleman and those who are acting with him another prayer taken from the same source, that "It may please Thee to give to all nations unity, peace and concord," and to ask the Prime Minister and those associated with him whether, when they seriously think over the matter, this Bill is calculated to bring peace, unity or concord, or if, on the other hand, it will not create discord, disunity and a class war.
§ Mr. KELLY
This is a Clause not only to prevent intimidation but to prevent 1745 the imparting, the conveying, the communicating or the obtaining of information with regard to a dispute. Most hon. Members opposite endeavour to ride off on the claim that picketing is resorting to violence. Not one speaker this afternoon from the Government side has suggested that picketing is other than an attempt to do violence to those who happen to be working during the time of a dispute. The hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Roy Wilson) referred to many instances, but the only specific instance which he gave was the case of a particular individual who, when he was about to return to work, found his windows and the door of his house tarred. I have some recollection of Members of his party painting the doors of Members of the party who sit on these benches, and doing that more than once without even waiting for a trade dispute. If that is the most violent action which the hon. Member could find in regard to the dispute of last year, there were not the serious attempts in his division that he tried to make the Committee believe.
§ Mr. KELLY
There may have been. I am only dealing with what has been stated this afternoon. If the Government intend to put an end to all picketing, if it is the determination of the Home Secretary to stop all endeavour to impart information that a dispute is on, why should not the Government be honest enough to put down a Clause stating that all picketing, the conveying of information that there is a dispute in a particular industry or in a particular firm or shop is not permitted? Let them be straight, instead of hiding and sheltering behind the statement that they are endeavouring to protect the workman who desires to go to work. We have heard that there is an endeavour to protect the man's home, so that there may be no visit there of one or more persons indicated in this Clause. I notice that this Clause speaks not only of the home but of the "place" where the blackleg happens to be. I wonder how far it is the intention of the Government to carry that. The Home Secretary, this afternoon, replying to an interjection, stated that a picket might go to a blackleg and say——
§ Mr. KELLY
I have seen some blacklegs, and I realise that there are some people who are misled. I have heard employers refer to these people, and I have never met an employer in this country who had anything but utter contempt for them. [Interruption.] I have been negotiating for the last 30 years in the engineering, shipbuilding and chemical trades—I notice that employers have kept out of this discussion to-day—and I have never heard employers speak of this type of person except with the utmost contempt. I will not put the word "blackleg" into the Home Secretary's mouth, if he resents it. In the legal profession you have no difficulty in distinguishing a blackleg, you have a rough-and-ready method of dealing with the blackleg in that profession, and one need not be very choice in the use of words in regard to people who do not play their part in a dispute.
§ Mr. KELLY
The Home Secretary drew me away by his interjection. The right hon. Gentleman said that in the event of a man being approached at his chapel or church and asked to take part in a dispute, that that would be legal; but I suggest that at that chapel or church the great bulk of those who are on strike might happen to be attending. I would ask the Home Secretary whether it is intended in this Clause to define that a chapel or a church is a "place" where the blackleg happens to be. The Government have taken precautions to make it quite clear that the blackleg must not be approached at any time, whether at a football match in the north country, where so many attend, or in the street or in a place of refreshment or a place of amusement, or wherever he happens to be. It will be as great an offence to approach him there as to approach him at his home.
§ Mr. GROTRIAN
Does the hon. Member consider a church or chapel an appropriate place to approach a man in order to intimidate him?
§ Mr. KELLY
I only fixed upon a chapel or a church because that illustration was used by the Home Secretary this afternoon. 1747 I would suggest to the hon. and learned Member that it would be proper to say that a chapel or a church would be a place indicated in this Sub-section. That is the place where he happens to be.
§ Mr. KELLY
I would join with the hon. Member in saying that probably it is a most unsuitable place for the blackleg to be. Some resentment was shown over the statement made by the hon. Member for East Swansea (Mr. D. Williams), as to a man being sent to prison without being given a chance. That is not unusual. I remember a case in the Manchester Police Court where a man of very slight physique was charged, without any of his friends knowing. The police charged him with having struck and shown violence towards a man who was working during the time of a particular dispute. One of the two men was 5 feet 2 inches in height and the other was 6 feet high. The man who was charged was the smaller man, and he was sent to prison. Later in the day, we discovered that he had been sent to prison. He was not given a chance of sending for his friends or of having counsel to represent him. We made an appeal to Quarter Sessions, so that we might obtain his release from prison and that he might be represented by counsel at the Sessions. At the Sessions, the Recorder of Manchester dealt with the case and he sent the man to prison. Here is where the prejudice of the Courts comes in. Somebody suggested that this particular man had said, "If you continue at work you will be a marked man," whereupon the Recorder of Manchester decided——
§ Mr. HANNON
Is it in order to refer to the conduct of the Recorder of Manchester in administering justice in the Court?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I was waiting for the hon. Member to finish his sentence. It is not in order to censure any Judge or magistrate, except by Resolution.
§ Mr. KELLY
I was using the illustration in connection with the statement made by the hon. Member for East 1748 Swansea, and I was showing what happened at that particular Court to prove what takes place in the sentencing of men, with little opportunity of defence, and by reason of certain prejudice caused in a dispute.
§ Mr. HANNON
The hon. Member has just stated that he and his friends took every precaution to give this man assistance in his defence.
§ Mr. KELLY
After he had been convicted. We managed to secure a reduction of the sentence. He was sentenced because someone said that he had stated that if the man continued at work he would be a marked man, and the Recorder said that that remark meant that they intended by some sharp instrument to mark the man's face so that he would be a marked man for the rest of his life.
§ Mr. HANNON indicated dissent.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. KELLY
The hon. Member for the Moseley Division of Birmingham shakes his head. I was present throughout the hearing at the Sessions, and I confess that it did not give me any great regard for the Law Courts of this country, when I saw what happened. I quote that to show that there is prejudice with regard to trade unionists when they are brought into the courts, and when a suggestion may be made that somebody apprehends that they are going to meet with injury, physical or other injury. It would be far more honest on the part of the Government to say that they are determined to do away with all picketing and all methods of conveying information to people concerned in a dispute. The hon. Member for the Mossley Division (Mr. Hopkinson) stated that he had met many employers in the coal trade and other trades and every one of them was opposed to this Bill. I do not know where he met those employers, but I do know that the Confederation of Employers—not the Federation of British Industries-with which the coal, engineering and other trades are connected were in favour of a Bill being promoted, and actually put some pressure on the Government during last autumn so that such a Measure might be brought forward. I am not making any appeal to the Government. It is no use making an appeal to the Government at this time. They have made up their minds that they will run 1749 this Bill through. If, as the hon. Member for East Swansea suggested, they are determined to have this Bill on the Statute Book, and if they are determined to prevent the communicating of information, then those of us who are engaged on the conciliation boards, and on the Whitley Councils, will have some reason to consider our attitude. I am convinced that this suggestion of peace in industry from the other side, when, at the same time, they are putting forward such a Measure as this, has not a very sincere ring about it. It looks like a determined effort on their part to keep the people in the low-wage position operating at present, to keep them in the bad conditions which are now operating in industry, and to use the power of the majority of those sitting on the other side to prevent the improvement which could come if only opportunity were given to the two parties to go ahead.
§ Mr. HANNON
I would not have intervened in this Debate had it not been for the speech which has just been made by the hon. Member opposite. One would imagine from that speech and from the speeches which we have heard from the opposite benches, that the leaders of trade unionism, during the process of a dispute, are the mildest possible set of police protectors, engaged in protecting the interests of every family which is in danger of being interfered with, and duly discharging the ancient obligations of promoting peace. That is not at all times the outstanding quality of hon. Members opposite. Nobody could have had any experience of the general dispute of last year and have retired and reflected upon what actually took place, without having substantially and emphatically the contrary point of view. Has the hon. Member heard of what took place in certain of the Nottingham and Derby coalfields or at Cannock Chase, during the process of the general strike and subsequently during the process of the coal dispute? I call it a "dispute" out of courtesy to my hon. Friends opposite, because I think they will admit that I have done my share in trying to bring about peace in industry during the last two years. Have hon. Members forgotten the speech which we had the other day on this question from the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Spencer)? They do not seem to remember that speech. They do not seem 1750 to remember what he personally suffered because of the attitude taken up by trade unionists and trade union leaders in that part of the country.
The whole pretence that trade union leaders are trying to steady the attitude of strikers towards those who remain in employment, to protect their homes and to advise their families that they are not to be interfered with and that their children are not to be disturbed in their attendance at school, is the merest of shallow pretences in the light of the experiences of last year. I hope this country will never go through another nine days such as we had in the month of May last. Nobody has mentioned his name in this House, nobody ought to mention his name at all, but, at all events, we have had one exponent of extreme trade unionism who just kept within the limit of the law, and the interpretation of whose words might have led to violence and assault. The hon. Member who has just sat down has talked about the attitude which he and others will take up in the future towards the Whitley Councils, industrial peace, conciliation between employers and employed, and so forth. I would like to ask hon. Members, what have they done in the past when real peace efforts were being made between employers and employed to establish some policy of permanent peace in industry? Almost every attempt that has been made—except in the case of the railwaymen, where some qualities of statesmanship were displayed in the establishment of the National Wages Board—towards peace has been frustrated by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. HANNON
No; the hon. Member said that he and his friends would take up a different attitude towards the activities of the Whitley Councils in the future than had been the case in the past. I 1751 say that there is a number of instances where the efforts of the Whitley Councils have been frustrated by friends of the hon. Gentleman opposite. This question of preventing intimidation during the process of an industrial dispute is, in my judgment, the most important feature of this Bill. It is quite true that it is of primary importance to establish the principle that the general strike should be illegal, but, following upon that, it is of great consequence to the future maintenance of the liberties of this country that the families and the homes of the working man should be kept sacred. Hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about blacklegs, but they quite forget that they are not carrying with them in this Bill the public opinion of this country in the attitude which they have taken up.
§ Mr. HANNON
The hon. Member for St. Helens, the most charming and kindly Member of this House, says, "How do you know?" I sit for a division of Birmingham, and I am a member of a Council of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. I am a director of enterprises employing 20,000 persons. I have never heard, except from leaders and officials of trade unions, a single indication that there was any real substantial support on the part of organised trade unionism in the opposition to this Bill.
§ Mr. HANNON
I have had the courage to meet them and I have also had the courage to defeat them in Debate ocasionally. Only a few weeks ago they invited me to debate what is practically the substance of this and more particularly the substance of this particular Clause of the Bill dealing with the intimidation of families in a dispute. They had a public debate in Birmingham. We met, and at that meeting, which was largely organised at the instance of leading Socialists, we carried support for the Bill. It was one of the largest meetings I have ever seen at a public debate in Birmingham, and we carried support for the Bill by 129, I think it was, to 37. Although many of those present were trade unionists, they voted in favour of this Clause to the tune of the figures 1752 which I have just given. Believe me, any Member of this House who takes the trouble to discuss with a trade unionist in his ordinary employment, with his work fairly secure, and whose mind goes back to the struggle of last year, will find that that man is not in a great hurry to support hon. Members opposite in getting up a great national agitation against this Bill. There never was a greater delusion on the part of hon. Members opposite if they think that the mass of the trade union organisation is behind them in their opposition to this Bill. On this Clause dealing with intimidation they have been plodding the country for weeks. They have made speech after speech asking trade unionists to support them in carrying the fiery cross against this Bill. What support do they get? Some of their meetings have been the merest reflex of what should have been a powerful expression of trade union opinion according to their statements against the Bill. I have had an opportunity of discussing this particular Clause with trade unionists who have seen what happened in the general strike of last year. They all agree that this peaceful persuasion, this kind and genial way in which the trade unionists in the past operated should no longer be the hammer and tongs method of trade unionists, but that peaceful picketing should be brought as near as possible to the intention of the original Act. Talk of peaceful persuasion—the saying to a man that the comfort and convenience of his family are in jeopardy, and perhaps his own life is in danger and perhaps his children are to suffer calumny in the schools and the grocer is to tell his wife that she is not to get her food from him any more—is that system of peaceful picketing to be continued? That interpretation of peaceful picketing ought to disappear. To that extent this Bill, for the first time, makes adequate and appropriate provision.
All this talk in this House of interfering with trade union rights and privileges and of curtailing the operation of an ordinary legitimate strike as some reason why this Measure should not be introduced, is really not fair to this House on the part of hon. Members opposite. They know perfectly well that the time has come when there must be some provision 1753 which will vindicate the liberty and the rights of the people of this country to work, just as they wish to vindicate the rights of men to withdraw their labour if they want to do so. They cannot have one law to allow a man to withdraw his labour and another law which says that a man is not to be amply protected if he decides to work. That is the principle underlying this Clause. That kind of attack is always painful and always cruel. It is that kind of peaceful persuasion which we desire to prevent by embodying this particular Clause in this Bill. Nobody could have heard the statements made by those who suffered in the strike, by those who had the courage to assert their challenge of the honesty of the leaders who advised them to go out, without feeling that the time had come when the law of this country should be so modified as to give them ample and adequate protection in the future. This Clause in particular will, I hope, do what is desired by this House. Indeed, I think trade unionists themselves, those who are face to face with the problems of industrial organisations in their respective applications, will be the first to applaud the courage of the Government in bringing forward this Measure of protection. I support this Clause, and I am sure it will have the support of every honest citizen of this country.
We cannot allow this continuous interference with the liberty of the subject to go on witout some definite and positive action to prevent it. Hon. Members opposite when they stand on public platforms are the warmest advocates of liberty. They say that liberty is the primary attribute of British civilisation, and yet they are not prepared themselves to extend to their fellow citizens, their fellow trade unionists, who differ from them on the merits of a particular dispute, the same right which they claim for themselves. Is it not a sad and sickening state of affairs that they are not prepared to extend to others that which they claim for themselves? Trade unionism under this Bill, and particularly in regard to the operation of this Clause, will be a healthier and more wholesome institution than it has been in the past. At all events, the Attorney-General is placing trade unions in the position of saying that we observe those principles of liberty towards those who differ from us as we respect them ourselves; we are prepared 1754 to concede that a man may work at his employment in safety and security just as a man may withdraw his labour in the full protection of the State. This Clause really is a charter of future safety for the home of the British worker, and on that ground I am prepared to vote for it.
§ Mr. ROBERT YOUNG
We have listened to a somewhat remarkable speech from the hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon). He appears to be under the impression that we on this side are labouring under the delusion that there is no opposition to this Bill in the ranks of the workers of the country. The hon. Member I think will find before long that it is he who is labouring under a delusion. The meeting which he attended must have been a very small one. I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of protest at which some 1,300 delegates were present, and I had the pleasure also of attending a general meeting at which 1,600 people were present to protest against this Bill. I can assure the hon. Member that before this Bill is finished there will be many more protests made. That is not the most remarkable part of the hon. Member's speech. He spent a great deal of time in denouncing what he calls intimidation. He related to the Committee what he understands by intimidation——
§ Mr. YOUNG
He tells us what he has seen; but the hon. Member does not seem to realise, that what he has seen and understands by intimidation is already expressly forbidden by the law. May I quote for his education a Section of the Act of 1875, which says:Every person who, with a view to compel any other person to abstain from doing or to do any act which such other person has a legal right to do or abstain from doing, wrongfully and without legal authority—
- (1) Uses violence to or intimidates such other person or his wife or children, or injures his property; or
- (2) Persistently follows such other person about from place to place; or
- (3) Hides any tools, clothes, or other property owned or used by such other person, or deprives him of or hinders him in the use thereof; or
- (4) Watches, or besets the house or other place where such other person resides, or works, or carries on business, or happens to be, or the approach to such house or place; or
- (5) Follows such other person with two or more other persons in a disorderly manner in or through any street or road."
§ Mr. HANNON
The hon. Gentleman will not object to making the Act of 1875 still more clear in the present Bill?
§ Mr. YOUNG
This Bill, and particularly this Clause, seeks to extend the law as we understand it to-day. I have been a trade unionist for many years, and I have had the misfortune to be in a big dispute and to be for 20 weeks on the street. In the first instance, it was a strike in London, ultimately, it became a lock-out throughout the whole country. I am referring to the eight hours dispute in the engineering trade. I am wondering what has occurred since 1897, during all these years up to the present, which necessitates the strengthening of the law in relation to intimidation. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) said that he believed the Government's intention was to stop all picketing. I agree that this Bill really does stop all picketing for all practical purposes. The intention is to hinder information being given in certain circumstances. Although the Government has introduced the lockout into the Bill, we know perfectly well that this Clause will not affect that. It is to be illegal for those who are engaged in a dispute to send a deputation to request the individual who has not come out to come out with the other workers, or to give information that might lead him to come out. That is prohibited. On the other hand, the employer will be able to send his letter, or his emissary, and his emissary will be able to say, "If you come to work, we will give you a job, a better job." That is not dealt with by this Clause. The man will know perfectly well that if he does not accept the invitation, he is a marked man for ever. I do not say that on mere supposition. It took place in 1897.
§ Mr. HANNON
Surely the hon. Member will admit, for no one knows it better, that the relations between employers and employed in the engineering trade have improved enormously since those bad times.
§ Mr. YOUNG
I am not speaking only of the relations existing in the engineering trade, although I should be glad to see them improved in the matter of wages. What I was pointing out is that what actually took place is likely to take place again. A man who comes out may receive the offer of a better job, and if he refuses to take it he is a marked man for ever after. I say that because I know it took place in 1897. It may not take place in the engineering trade again, I hope it will not, but that does not mean that it will not take place in other industries. I know of cases in which men who were offered jobs refused to return to work. Some were stopped from entering the same employment again; and some of those who did get in were kept down without any chance of promotion whatever. Therefore, I agree that, so far as the trade union side of this Clause is concerned, it does make picketing impossible.
After all, what is the meaning of "calculated" to intimidate people? We have an idea of what intimidation is. Perhaps we are like the Attorney-General, in that we know it when we see it. He said it was difficult to define a general strike, but, he added, "We know it when we see it." On the question of intimidation there is evidently a difficulty in definition, but they will know it when they see it. To prevent waiting to see it the word "calculated" has been put in, and it will mean anything at all in relation to those who are inclined to have a reasonable apprehension of injury. I have heard some references to these words "reasonable apprehension of injury." I would like to know what they mean. A reasonable apprehension to me may not be a reasonable apprehension to the hon. Member for Moseley. A reasonable apprehension of injury to him may be no reasonable apprehension to me. It is a matter of temperament or feeling or outlook. During the early stages of the War, I went down to the aircraft factory at Farnborough, my business taking me there as General Secretary of my trade union. The gentleman in charge of 1757 the factory asked me if I would like a flight. I undertook to enjoy the experience, and while in the air, without my knowing what was to happen, the pilot looped the loop and did other tricks which were very dangerous in those days. But I had no "reasonable apprehension of injury.'' I do not say it egotistically, but when I came down in the evening I got an ovation from the workers in the factory, and when I asked the reason for it they said, "We regard you as a hero." I said to them, "Would you not go up?" They said, "No." I asked, "Why?" They might have replied, "We had a reasonable apprehension of injury because these machines were made by piecework." So they preferred that their General Secretary should go up to test the machine.
It seems to me that before we part with this Clause the learned Attorney-General, or whoever is to reply, should make clearer to us what these words mean. For my part, the word "calculated" seems to be capable of very wide interpretation. A smile may be regarded as something which indicates injury as much as a scowl. There are some people whose smiles we do not like, and some people for whose scowls we do not care a rap. Consequently we would like to know exactly where we are in this matter. I am certain that when it comes down to "reasonable apprehension," we still require even closer definition of what it means. All these years have passed since the Act of 1875 was passed. During that time there have been great disputes and there have been cases of intimidation. But the Act has been found sufficient to cover them and to penalise men for wrong conduct. The Act could do that without restricting what was regarded as legitimate picketing. With this Clause in operation I am certain that picketing will be regarded as illegal from the beginning. The learned Attorney-General may say that that is not the Government's intention, but on the very reading of the Clause, trade unionists who are in responsible positions and have some regard for their members would be in a difficulty in telling, their members how they were to picket anyone It has been said that we could not tell them at all, and that is probably true. They would ask, "How are we to picket?" I would not like to take upon myself the responsibility of advising them, 1758 because I would be a person who would come under the Attorney-General's ruling to be penalised in some way.
It should be within the power of those who are engaged in a trade dispute to send to any person who is still at work a deputation of one or two or more persons to ask that person to come out and join his fellows in the dispute. Nobody intimidates a Cabinet Minister in forming one of a deputation to that Minister. Surely Ministers are beyond intimidation? The purpose in both cases is the same—to secure something from the Cabinet Minister or the head of a Department or the person interviewed. Surely that ought to apply in the same way to those of us who are engaged in an industrial dispute. As far as I can see, we are prohibited from seeking to picket in any direction. Surely if the Government want to deal with questions of intimidation, there are other things waiting to be solved. During the past week I was asked by a, curate of the Church of England whether the Labour party, if returned to power, would pass a Bill penalising the intimidation of curates who become members of Labour organisations. There is intimidation there and very serious intimidation. I am not going to suggest a boycott, though I know that that has taken place in relation to ministers of the Church of England and in the Nonconformist churches as well. The right hon. Gentleman knows that intimidation is going on in those and in other directions. In the medical profession we see it in relation to aæsthetists, and also in relation to the legal profession.
I claim to be one of those who have always stood for the maintenance of peace in industry, who have always thought that the best place to settle industrial disputes was this House, by seeking to pass legislation necessary to prevent industrial troubles. In this Measure as a whole and in this Clause in particular we have an attempt made to prevent us from going to our fellow workers and pointing out that the dispute we are engaged in is one that they can reasonably join, not only for the purpose of ending the dispute, but of obtaining power to secure rectification and reform. There is no possibility of dividing the political from the industrial side in many of these questions. There is the eight 1759 hours day in the engineering trade, for which I was 20 weeks in the streets. Ultimately it became a political question, and by becoming a political question it was mainly instrumental, with other things, in returning Members to this side of the House in the numbers in which they are to be found to-day.
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
When the hon. Member for the Moseley Division (Mr. Hannon) was speaking, he was very bold because he had had a public debate with someone else on this particular Bill and had secured a majority. Birmingham is the exception in everything. I invite the hon. Member to come to my Division and debate With me on this Bill at a public meeting, and although I am a very poor man I am prepared to stake every bit of property and clothing I have and to give him a pound for every vote that he gets in excess of me.
§ Mr. JONES
I can guarantee that the hon. Member will be as safe when he leaves as when he arrives, and that he will leave a wiser man. I submit that this Clause is quite unnecessary, because there is ample power in the existing law to cope with any serious breaches of the law with regard to intimidation and picketing by workmen of workmen. It would be very remarkable if there were a dispute involving hundreds and thousands and sometimes millions of men, unless you had an exception to the rule and a few men broke away from discipline. That you have to expect on the workmen's side as on the employers' and the existing law is stronger to deal with that than this Measure. Consider the period of the general strike and the miners' lock-out. That was a lock-out unprecedented in the history of industrial disputes in any country in the world, and the fact that there were so few serious breaches of the law compared with the magnitude of the dispute and the number of people engaged in it is the best possible tribute to the law-abiding instincts of the great mass of the working class in this country. It was not the intervention of the Government; it was not the Emergency Powers Act; it was not the police force which maintained 1760 law and order at that time; it was the discipline of the trade unions themselves. I would advise the Government to leave well alone. There is not a single Amendment put down by the Government to extend the prohibition of of intimidation and victimisation so as to include employers, against whom this provision should be enforced just as it is proposed to enforce it against workmen.
It may interest the Committee if I give them a few hard facts as to what I discovered in my own Division during this last week-end concerning intimidation and victimisation of coalminers by coalowners. Showing that if this Clause is to be operated with any sense of equity or fair play, words will have to be included applying it as forcibly against the employer as against the workmen. My Division, in the main, is a mining Division and the great bulk of the people are miners, and during the week-end I personally investigated the position at a number of the smaller collieries in that part of the South Wales coalfield. I discovered at a small colliery known as the Raglan Colliery, near Bridgend, the colliery company had absolutely refused to reinstate any of the workmen employed prior to the lock-out who were in any way acting then on behalf of the miners. The chairman and every member of the lodge committee are still idle and men from outside have been brought in to take their places. The company have also refused to reinstate the check weighers employed there formerly although this House has passed repeated Acts of Parliament giving the coal hewers the right to appoint check weighers who check the weighing of the coal gotten from the seam. The refusal of this company to reinstate these check weighers is part of the intimidation of the miners. Moreover the officials of the collieries are touting for members for the new scab union which has arisen in South Wales known as the Miners' Industrial League. The emphasis is laid on the word "industrial" because, they say, the trade unions should take no part in politics. The officials of the colliery companies are being used to try to intimidate the miners who have remained loyal to the South Wales Miners' Federation to join this new union and companies are refusing to employ any who adhere to the Miners' Federation. Every man 1761 employed at this particular colliery has to give an assurance that if he is employed he will join the new scab union and he has to sign a form in the colliery office that he is willing that contributions shall be deducted weekly from his wages towards this new union which is arising in competition with the Miners' Federation.
There is another colliery known as the Werntarw Colliery, near Bridgend, where the officials are doing the same thing, and at both these collieries the colliery companies are deliberately refusing to operate the price lists. The price list is the list of prices agreed upon between miners and mine owners as the cutting prices for each ton of coal gotten in each seam worked. That is the foundation of the wage paid to the miners in every coalfield in Great Britain and these price lists are the result, sometimes, of years of negotiations between the companies and the representatives of the men. I have given the names of these two companies and I welcome any inquiry by the Government as to the accuracy of my statement when I say they have refused to operate the price lists and have refused to allow the check weighers to be employed so that under Act of Parliament they can test the weight of the coal on which the miners' wages are returned. These two companies are actually robbing every miner cutting coal of one, two or three shillings per shift worked, because they are flouting these price lists and taking advantage of the present weak position of the miners' organisation. They have also refused to recognise the miners' lodges that have been established for many years. They refuse to recognise the local federation and they refuse to recognise Mr. Ted Williams, the miners' agent for that district and have ordered the police to keep him off the premises when he seeks to come there to negotiate with the company on the grievances the miners.
These are two striking examples out of many which could be given. I want to give a third example, which is even worse, because it concerns a very large colliery, the Meiros Colliery, at Llanharran, where some 500 men and boys have been employed for years past. Prior to the miners' lock-out last year about 400 of these were financial members of the Miners' Federation and the other 100 1762 were attached to the miscellaneous unions which cater for certain grades in the colliery world. This particular colliery produces one of the best qualities of gas coal in the world; they have always made very good profits and have a ready market for all they can produce, and they are doing exceedingly well just now. Yet the officials of this large and substantial concern, which has been working for over 40 years, are now touting for members for the Miners' Industrial Union as against the South Wales Miners' Federation. The miners at that particular colliery had a ballot vote of the men and boys employed, on the issue of which union they would belong to, and 250 voted in favour of adhering to the Miners' Federation, while less than 50 voted in favour of joining the new scab union. From that day to this the chairman and committee of the lodge, still representing the vast majority in the pit, are ignored and not allowed to negotiate on the grievances of the men, while the miners' agent, the same Mr. Ted Williams, has been refused access to the pit top ever since work was resumed this year, although, previously, he used to go there every other day in the week.
There is at the top of this pit a wooden shed, built by the Miners' Federation out of Federation funds, which has been in use for many years. The men on the Friday when they got their pay used to pay their weeky contributions to the Miners' Federation in this shed, which is the property of the Federation, but the colliery officials have prohibited the use of that shed by the Miners' Federation men. They are not permitted to collect any monies at the colliery at all, as in the old days, and this same company is allowing the officials and members of the new scab union to use the Miners' Federation's shed to collect money for the scab union. That is an instance of intimidation that is going on.
I have allowed the hon. Member to give a number of illustrations, but I am bound to say that none of them has had much to do with the Clause now under discussion. I do not think the hon. Member ought to proceed on those lines.
§ Mr. JONES
These things are intimidation on the part of employers against 1763 the men, and my grievance is this, that the Government have taken no steps to insert words in this Clause to make it impossible for employers to intimidate workers in this way. We have had nothing from the other side except intimidation of workmen by workmen, but if this law is to be equitable and to be applied to both sides, words must be inserted to cover the kind of cases I have given. I should be obliged if you would be good enough to allow me to use this further illustration from this colliery.
The words of the Clause are:inducing any person to work or to abstain from working.
§ Mr. JONES
I will give an illustration of how this particular colliery company is intimidating the men to prevent them from working. This company having developed a new seam of coal within recent months, the men employed at the collier belonging to the Miners' Federation have been seeking to negotiate a new price list for the cutting of coal in this seam, but the company has refused to negotiate with them and has actually negotiated and signed a new agreement with the portion of the men who belong to the new union. The officials have been going round the coal face a week last Wednesday and a week last Thursday telling the men—each official has said to the men—" I do not want to intimidate you, but I advise you to sign that price list." The plain English of that is that if those men refuse to sign that price list, negotiated by a small minority of the men employed, they will be given the sack, and under pressure of the fear of losing their jobs, a majority of the men by to-day, I am afraid, have signed that list. How can we expect that the men at this colliery should remain satisfied when they are working on a price list which is disagreeable to them, which is unfair because it is unreasonably low, and which has been carried through because these few men, who are the favourites of the colliery company, have been used as tools against the majority of the men in agreeing to that price list? There you have a case of a company deliberately intimidating these men and telling them, in effect, that they will lose their jobs unless they agree to this new arrangement.
1764 I will give a case of a man refused work by this colliery company. He was employed up to the lock-out in this pit from boy to man. For 26 years he has worked at that one colliery. He is a skilled workman, he is a man of excellent character in every way, he is a local preacher, he has a family of six children, and he was induced or encouraged by the same colliery company, prior to the lock-out, to purchase one of the company's houses, in which he resided. He did so, with a little saving and a large mortgage. He has not been allowed to resume his work at the pit, although the particular workplace in which he worked when the lock-out started is now occupied by another workman, who has come in from outside the district altogether. Naturally, being out of work, he has not been able to maintain the interest charges on the mortgage on this house, and he has now received a written notice from the company that unless he pays his interest charges they will foreclose upon him and also evict him from the house. That is a case with a vengeance of intimidation of a workman, who is ready to work at the same employment in the same pit, and there is nothing in this Bill to protect workmen against employers of that sort.
Now I want to come to another illustration, from another colliery, also in my division. At the Lanelay Colliery, Llantrisant, there is a worse state of things even than that to which I have just referred. Prior to the lock-out, the total number of men and boys employed at this colliery was 120. At present, they are in the exceptional position of having 250 employed, or more than double the previous number, an exceptional case of development in one part of the coalfield. It is necessary, in order to complete this illustration, to explain that in this colliery the coal seams are very steep and require special skill on the part of the miners to work them efficiently, in their own interests and those of the company, yet out of the total number employed to-day, only 20 of the old employés are working at the pit, and the vast majority are men who have come in from outside, many of them without any previous experience at all of the steep seam measures in South Wales. That is a very serious thing, because it has resulted already in a very big increase in the accidents in this particular mine.
I cannot see how this illustration is connected in any way with this Clause. Indeed, I do not think the hon. Member has read the Clause. If he will do so, he will see that the illustration has nothing whatever to do with the Clause.
§ Mr. JONES
With all due respect, I think it has a very important bearing on the Clause, because the whole question of the relationship between employers and employed is one of justice and good will, and unless they obtain, and unless the Clause which is introduced to prevent intimidation applies to both sides, my point is relevant. Had the Government inserted an Amendment meeting my case, I should be satisfied, but I think I am justified in pressing my point in the vain hope that the Government will bring in words to protect workmen from employers. Only last week, at this particular colliery, two men were killed by a runaway tram, and it is very doubtful whether it is not the lack of the skilled men who were there before which was the cause of this accident. In this colliery the chairman of the lodge and all the committee members have been refused employment by the colliery company, although they have been old workmen there, some of them employed for 10 or 20 years, in one case for 30 years, and in another case for 40 years. Here again the chairman of the lodge is one of the best types of miners you could desire.
I should be very unfair to other hon. Members if I allowed the hon. Member to proceed with his illustration. It really has nothing whatever to do with the Clause.
§ Mr. JONES
I will certainly obey your ruling, and I do not challenge it, but I regret it, because it does limit the Debate and the expression of opinion on this question of intimidation. This Clause touches very closely those of us who are engaged in the coal industry and who have had practical experience of it, as well as theoretical experience, and I understood that if one could show that workmen were being intimidated by employers, it was still open for the Government to draft words which would meet the point I have been making. I, therefore, ask the Attorney-General whether, at this stage of the Bill, the Government 1766 are prepared to introduce an Amendment which will make it clear that intimidation can arise on the part of employers as well as of workmen, and whether he will protect workmen from employers just as he states he is protecting workmen from workmen.
There has been criticism to the effect that the Labour party have been encouraging intimidation and have not got the courage to say they are against intimidation. I venture to say that every member of the party in this House is strongly opposed to intimidation, whether by workmen against workmen or by employers against workmen. None of us seeks to encourage it. As a matter of fact, most of our time in industrial disputes is taken up in discouraging it, and I myself have been busy during the lock-out period in that kind of thing, as practically every other Member on this side has. I believe the Home Secretary on one occasion started to try to show that I had been encouraging intimidation in a speech I made in my Division during the lock-out, but on account of interruptions or something else, he did not pursue that allegation. I hope he will revive it in the Debates on this Bill, and let us know where he gets his evidence from—and I hope it will be more substantial than the Arcos evidence which he is going to produce to-morrow.
The leaders of the Miners' Federation in South Wales and throughout this country have always discouraged intimidation, but I would ask hon. Members to keep in mind the circumstances of the miners' lock-out and the general strike, in which 2,500,000 were involved and in which there was very intense feeling. It must be remembered, too, that the miners honestly believed at the outset of the dispute that they had been intimidated by the employers. They had been given a fortnight's notice to terminate their contracts, and were told that if they wished to resume work on the 1st May they would have to accept new wage terms laid down by the employers. The miners throughout England, Scotland and Wales took the view that those terms were humiliating, and would so reduce their standard of living that they could not accept them, and they stood out against them for seven months. More than 1,000,000 miners were involved, and huge meetings were held day by day and week 1767 by week. Towards the end men in certain coalfields began creeping back to work under the pressure of starvation and intimidation and threats that there would be no employment for them in future, and it was very natural that the great mass of men who still stood out, honestly believing that they were fighting for a living wage and decent living conditions, should resent any of their number going back to work and betraying their cause. It was very natural that men in those circumstances should look upon the others as traitors, as blacklegs, as men who were robbing them of their future livelihood.
When it is remembered that the trade unions of this country collectively are a force which, slowly but surely, has been growing until it is almost as important and influential as the Government of the day, one cannot expect that in a great dispute such as that of last year every individual among all those involved can be kept under strict control. When we remember the magnitude of the dispute, its long duration, and the bitterness that would be engendered by the sight of men going back and thus undermining the bargaining power of the rest, the remarkable thing to me is not that there were certain breaches of the law, certain threats and intimidation, and some wrongful picketing here and there, but that there was so little of it. A tribute is due to the law-abiding instincts of the trade union population of this country, which have been fostered as much by the discipline of their own organisation as by the law of the land. To reduce the power of the unions in this way, to rob them, as this Clause does, of the right to interview workers who seek to betray their cause, is a very serious mistake. This Clause will not stop intimidation, it will create intimidation. In future disputes, which in the ordinary course of things are bound to arise, if under this Clause trade unionists are prevented from using the powers they have used up till now, it will be found that the leaders and the officials of the unions will not be able to control the men and to maintain discipline as they have done in the past, and we shall be going back to the conditions of open riot, destruction of property and bloodshed which prevailed in this country up to 50 years ago. In the interests of peace and order, and in the interests of the attempt to maintain good will in industry, 1768 it is inadvisable to press this Clause as it now stands. Before the Government, with their majority, steam-roller us, and force the Clause through, I would again ask the Attorney-General to consider the desirability of introducing words which will limit the power of the employers to intimidate and remove the scandal which exists not only in my Division of South Wales but in every mining Division throughout the land, in a greater or lesser degree. The Government would be well advised to listen to that plea.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Captain BOURNE
The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Mardy Jones) has delivered one of those speeches with which he made us so very familiar during last Session, but it was not very appropriate to the Debate, and I think I should be out of order if I pursued him in his arguments. Anyone who has read the evidence of the Dunedin Commission will realise that there is a very strong divergence of opinion between the views of keen trade unionists as to their rights of picketing, and the view of the rest of the community. I do not blame the hon. Member for holding the views of extreme trade unionists, but I suggest that his view is by no means universally accepted, and if this Clause is carried, as I believe it will be—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear !"]—I am very grateful to hon. Members opposite for expressing their agreement with me. When it is carried, it will be found to be far more in accordance with the view of the average individual than perhaps with the view of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for the Newton Division (Mr. R. Young) said it was difficult to decide what might be correctly calculated to act as intimidation, and he gave a personal story to enforce his argument. Hon. Members who recall the time when he occupied the chair in Committee will agree that he is one whom it would be very difficult to intimidate, but I think that the wording of the Clause is pretty clear on the whole, and that it will really not be so difficult to give a definition in practice. It struck me during his speech that he had forgotten that Clause 2 of the Act of 1906 modifies somewhat the Act of 1875. I believe that since the Act of 1906 was passed, a great many people have been under the impression 1769 that because it wipes out a certain section of the Act of 1875. It wiped out the whole of it, and there has been a very strong tendency, possibly through misconception, to imagine that they were given rights which the Act of 1906 did not in fact give them. I think that has been a genuine misapprehension, and I for one welcome the Clause because it will bring back to people's minds that the Act of 1875 is fully operative.
§ Mr. R. YOUNG
The whole of these five Clauses of the Act of 1875 were put into practice in the eight-hours' lock-out dispute of the engineers.
§ Captain BOURNE
I willingly accept what the hon. Member says, but I think that dispute took place in 1897. The Act of 1906 was passed subsequently to that date, and it does repeal a certain portion of the Act of 1875—I think it is that part dealing with watching or besetting the place where a man happens to be, but as I am quoting from memory the hon. Member will forgive me if I am wrong. There has been an impression on the part of people engaged in picketing that the repeal of that portion of the Act of 1875 went a great deal further than is really the case. I do not want to deny that the Act of 1875 was put into operation in the dispute of 1897, because I was only a small boy at that time, and my memory will not carry me back to the events of that dispute; but I am certain that people have thought that the effect of the 1906 Act was to give them greater power than it does give them. I rose to ask the Attorney-General whether in drafting this Clause he has not left a loophole which will enable people to avoid the 1906 Act and this Bill on the ground that they may be acting in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute? The 1906 Act in the second Section provides:It shall be lawful for one or more persons, acting on their own behalf or on behalf of a trade union or of an individual employer or firm in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute to attend at or near a house or place where a person resides or works or carries on business or happens to be.By implication it would make it illegal for anybody to picket unless they were acting in furtherance of a trade dispute. I take it as a general principle that when an act which is not generally legal is made legal for a specified number of people, by implication it is illegal for anybody else 1770 to do that act. I want to be quite sure that this Sub-section will not make it legal for other persons to go beyond the limit laid down by this Clause for picketing. The point I wish to be made quite clear is that a person cannot avoid the provisions of this Sub-section by saying that he is picketing on behalf of the British Fascisti, or on behalf of the Communist party, the Tariff Reform League, or the Free Trade League, or some other body which is not directly concerned in the dispute, and has no immediate interest therein. I am not quite clear that the Clause, as worded, would not permit these bodies to picket. I wish the law to be made clear that a man cannot avoid the charge of intimidation by saying he is picketing on behalf of an absolutely outside body altogether. I think the limit should apply equally to all people, and that outside bodies should be discouraged from using trade disputes to their own advantage.
§ Mr. SEXTON
During the discussions which have taken place up to the present we have found it very difficult to reconcile the various suggestions put forward in the Clauses of this Bill. Elaborate provision has been made in an attempt to cover the whole of the ground. In what I am going to say I will endeavour not to transgress your ruling, Captain FitzRoy, but it is very difficult to approach the provisions of this particular Clause without making some reference to other Clauses in the Bill. If I refer to some other Clauses I hope I shall not overstep the latitude which you have allowed up to the present. It is a stupendous task to endeavour to reconcile the inaccuracies and inconsistencies of this Bill. Let me call attention for a moment to Clause 3 which we are now discussing. It says:(1) It is hereby declared that it is unlawful for one or more persons (whether acting on their own behalf or on behalf of a trade union or of an individual employer or firm, and notwithstanding that they may be acting in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute) to attend at or near a house or place where a person resides or works.Now I turn to Clause 2. We have already decided in Clause 1 that there can be no trade dispute except under certain conditions. If those conditions are not fulfilled, then the trade dispute is illegal. In Clause 2 it is laid down that it applies to all disputes, and that certain 1771 actions are not deemed to be a trade dispute unless certain conditions are fulfilled. I suggest to the Solicitor-General that this requires some further explanation. We decide that there can be no trade dispute under certain conditions. We then settle the conditions, and now, in Clause 3, it is laid down that there can be no trade dispute at all. I may be dense but I ask the Solicitor-General to reconcile those two statements. As for intimidation, may I put a case to the Solicitor-General? I came across a case, after the general strike, of two men living in the same house. There was the husband and his wife and a brother-in-law. The two men were working on the same job. The general strike came on. They were living in the same house and eating at the same table. The husband came home to convey the information to his brother-in-law that he should not go to work the following morning as there was a strike, but the brother-in-law went to work. The husband then instructed his wife not to supply his brother-in-law with any food, and the wife carried out religiously the instruction given her by her husband. That would be intimidation under this Bill, because it would be held to be holding up to ridicule and inflicting other than physical injury.
Hon. Members talk about the freedom of men from intimidation, but what freedom is there for a man who has only one alternative before him, that is, he must either accept the unjust terms offered to him by his employer or starve? In those conditions, if he refuses to work he does not get unemployment benefit. It is difficult to dissociate the provisions of this Clause from some of the other Clauses, because they are all based upon the points which I have raised. It is either intimidation of the community or coercing the Government, and that is the basis of the whole Bill. Therefore these questions must be dealt with in connection with this particular Clause. In the case I have mentioned, a man would not be able to approach his own house because he was engaged in a trade dispute. If he did, he would be liable to a fine of £20, or two years' imprisonment.
Let me give another case on the other side. As employers as well as workmen are now included in this Bill, let me 1772 refer to the case of the multiple shop. I could give more than one case, if the right hon. Gentleman requires it, where a multiple shop owner has gone to the owner of a small shop, wanting to extend his trade tentacles, like the octopus, all over the place, and has said to the small shop owner, "I want to buy you out." The small shop owner, having grown up in the business, and his father and grandfather having had it before him, naturally has an affection for it, and wants to stick to it. The multiple shop owner does not say anything, but goes away and uses his accumulated profits and his wealth and influence to kill and crush out the man who would not agree to the terms he offered. Would the right hon. Gentleman apply the term "intimidation" to a case like that? If it is justified in the one case, surely it is justified in the other.
There is one remarkable feature of this Bill that has struck me during the discussion, and that is the supreme contempt which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have for the law of evidence. There has not been a tittle of evidence from the beginning to end to support this Bill. We hear that Jack So-and-so, who lives in such-and-such a street, has heard So-and-so, who lives in another street, say something to somebody else somewhere else. That is the strength of the evidence—and the right hon. Gentleman is a brilliant lawyer. I want to ask him what reception he would give to that kind of evidence in any court of law. Supposing that the opposing counsel brought forward a witness who said that So-and-so, who lives at So-and-so, told him that someone else had said something else to someone living with someone else, what would be the position of the right hon. Gentleman in a court of law, nay, what would be the position of the Judge? It would be scooted out of court. And yet there is not a point or a case which the right hon. Gentleman has attempted to bring forward that has had any stronger evidence for it than that. Perhaps, when Clause 4 comes on, I may have an opportunity of developing that argument a little more. So far as I can gather from this Clause, it does not leave a scrap of defence even in the case of a legitimate trade dispute. Perhaps I may be permitted again to illustrate what I mean. Clause 3 says:It is hereby declared that it is unlawful for one or more persons (whether acting 1773 on their own behalf or on behalf of a trade union or of an individual employer or firm …. to attend at or near a house or place where a person resides or works or happens to be, for the purpose of obtaining or communicating information or of persuading or inducing any person to work or to abstain from working"—and then it goes on to say:if they so attend in such numbers or otherwise.Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will enlighten us by telling us what that means. First of all it says that, if one person, or more than one person, attends, and that is qualified lower down by saying,if they so attend in such numbers or otherwise.Does it mean if one single person attends at the house? If so, what is going to be the position of the man I have mentioned and his brother-in-law? I want to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that this Bill is so badly drafted that it will be simply impossible to put it into operation at all. I have attempted seriously, during the discussion, to find some ground of justification for it, because let me say, not for the first time, that if this Bill were aimed at stopping irresponsible, unofficial strikes, I should be the first to back it up. I have had nearly 40 years in official trade union positions, and the greater part of that time has been spent by me, not in fighting employers, but in fighting my own people and preventing unofficial, irregular and irrational strikes. This Bill does not stop that kind of thing; as a matter of fact, it protects it. Intimidation! The responsible trade union official is intimidated every day of his life by men of this character. I regret to have to come to the conclusion that the only justification for this Bill is that it has been conceived in deliberate malice against genuine trade unionists, and fathered by the right hon. Gentleman in legal and educated ignorance of the psychological position of the trade unions of this country. I want to say again, without any heat and quite seriously, that, if the provisions of this Bill, modified as they have been in the first two Clauses, and modified still further as they may be in this Clause, contain the principle of putting obstacles in the way of responsible men and members of trade unions of protesting against injustice, I want to add to the testimony that has 1774 already been given by men who cannot be accused of being extreme men, and I shall certainly do my best in making impossible the application of this Measure in any and all circumstances.
§ Sir WALTER GREAVES-LORD
I only rise to call attention to one rather curious position which arises from the speeches of hon. Members opposite. There has been, throughout their speeches, a continuous suggestion that this Clause in particular is one-sided, and that there is nothing in it which is directed at intimidation by employers. I can understand that, if one takes Sub-section (1) of the Clause, many hon. Members may be forgiven for saying that the Clause has very little application to employers, because the types of intimidation which are dealt with in Subsection (1) are not quite the types of intimidation which might be practised by any body of employers. Therefore, I could understand hon. Members opposite if they said that it is no use starting Sub-section (1) of Clause 3 by saying that, if one or more persons, whether acting on their own behalf or on behalf of a trade union or of an individual employer or firm, do these things, and saying that that applies the law equally to employers and workmen, because, if one analyses the Sub-section, one finds that the things aimed at in it are attending at various placesin such numbers or otherwise in such manner as to be calculated to intimidate.I suppose hon. Members opposite would say that employers are not found attending in that particular way at a man's place of business or wherever he happens to be, and, therefore, I suppose there would be a certain amount of justification for saying that the application of this Sub-section is not quite the same in the case of the employer as it is in the case of the workman. But hon. Members opposite seem to have forgotten that one of the most important parts of Clause 3 is Sub-section (2), which certainly gives a much wider definition of intimidation than has been given before. It is quite true that that follows the recommendation which was made many years ago by the Royal Commission presided over by Lord Dunedin, and it would have been a great deal better for this country if that definition had been adopted in 1906, instead of the confusing language actually used in the Act of 1775 1906. I gather, however, that hon. Members opposite seem to think that that definition is far too wide. Their main criticism of it is that it is a definition which widens the law of intimidation with regard to trade unionists and trade union leaders, while at the same time, they say, it apparently has no application to employers.
One has heard quite a lot of illustrations coming from the other side of the House where hon. Members have said, Would you prohibit this type of practice or that type of practice if it had been actually carried out by the employers? It would be intimidation within this definition, but you apply it to the workpeople and do not apply it to the employers." The fact is that hon. Members opposite have never attempted to find out whether that definition is applied to employers as well as workpeople, and if they had only read Sub-section (3) of Clause 3 a little more carefully, they would have found out that that definition of intimidation, which they say is too wide because it is applied to the workpeople and not to employers, is, in fact, applied by Sub-section (3) to employers. The effect of Sub-section (3) is to read into the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, 1875, that the definition of intimidation means:to cause in the mind of a person a reasonable apprehension of injury to him or to any member of his family or of violence or damage to any person or property, and the expression 'injury' includes injury other than physical or material injury.In order to find what the effect of that is, it is necessary to look at Section 7 of the Act of 1875. [Laughter.] I can quite understand hon. Members opposite laughing, because they have never looked at the Section; otherwise they would have seen what the effect is. The effect is to say that:every person"—and that includes both employer and workman,who with a view to compel any other person to abstain from doing or to do any act which such other person had a legal right to do or abstain from doing wrongfully and without legal authority uses violence to, or"—incorporating here the present definition,causes in the mind of a person a reasonable apprehension of injury to him or to any member of his family or of violence or danger to any person or property …1776 is guilty on conviction to a penalty not exceeding £20 or to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding three months with or without hard labour.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
Will the hon. and learned Member say what right I have to compel an employer to employ me?
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
Exactly the same right as he has to compel you to be employed by him—and that is none. The hon. Member has a perfect right in this country to say that he will not be employed by anyone, and he has a perfect right to say that he will not be employed by any particular employer. Equally the employer has exactly the same right to say he will not employ any individual workman. But, on the other hand, the point I am dealing with is that, if an employer, after this Clause has been passed into law, does any act which is liable to cause reasonable apprehension of injury within this Clause, that employer is guilty of intimidation under the Act of 1875 in exactly the same way as any other member of the community is guilty of intimidation.
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
Exactly. The hon. Member seems to think that a black list, if issued by an employer, would not be likely to cause reasonable apprehension of injury of a physical or material character or some other character. He knows perfectly well that it would, and that in the mind of every reasonable man it would. The result of Sub-section (3) of this Clause is that that would be intimidation under the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, 1875.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
May I ask the hon. and learned Member a question? I think he will agree with me that what he is saying is immensely serious. We have been discussing a great deal this afternoon the habit of employers' associations to place firms on a black list, and intimate that if they are on that list no other person may deal with them. Is the hon. Member suggesting that that practice would be an illegal act under the Act of 1875, under this extended definition of intimidation? If so, he is saying something of enormous and far-reaching consequence?
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is quite capable of interpreting this Clause and of understanding that a black list apparently has some purpose. If the purpose of that black list is to compel an employer who is placed on it to do something which he has a right to abstain from doing, or to abstain from doing something that he had a right to do, after this Clause is passed that will be intimidation within Section 7 of the Act of 1875. To adopt any other construction would be to outrage the English language.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
This is very important. I want to know exactly what the hon. and learned Gentleman is telling us. If an employer has a dispute with some men, and those men are not working for him but are on strike, and if the employer causes apprehension in the minds of those people by writing to employers in the North of England asking them not to employ them, is that breaking the law after this is placed on the Statute Book?
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
If he does any act likely to cause a reasonable apprehension—[Interruption]—I understood that the hon. Member who asked the question thought it would cause a reasonable apprehension in the mind of a man if one employer wrote to another, or to a ring of employers, and said that because this man would not do something he was entitled to say he did not want to do, or because he would not abstain from doing, something he had a right to do, that, therefore, he requested the other employers never to employ him for the future——
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
It is quite possible under the laws of evidence to prove an intention. If you found the names sent by post with no explanation, and the effect of it was that it had been sent as a result of an agreement between employers, it would be quite possible to prove that the sending of names meant that the man should not be employed for the future merely because he had refused to do that which he need not do unless he chose to do it, or because he had refused to abstain from doing that which he is legally entitled to do, and 1778 then you have completed the evidence necessary to substantiate an offence of intimidation under this Clause. In these circumstances, Sub-section (3) has a very far-reaching effect. But what I cannot understand is that, when hon. Members opposite know perfectly well, and must have been advised by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser), that that is the effect of the Sub-section, they have put down an Amendment to leave it out. I suppose it is because some of them realise that its effect is to make the law of intimidation exactly equal as between employer and employed, and they fear that if it goes through they will have lost a grievance, and they want to perpetuate it and keep it alive. But do not let any one of them think, in the House or in the country, that if they were to succeed in deleting the Clause they could say it was the fault of this party that the law did not apply equally to one and to the other. As the Clause will go through, it will apply equally and impartially to employers and employed—to intimidation by the employer and by the employed. Hon. and learned Members opposite may not like having got rid of what they consider a grievance, but it will be got rid of, and the law will be even and impartial as between all classes.
§ Mr. CHARLETON
But for the fact that the Home Secretary has denied a good deal of what the hon. Member has affirmed, I should be almost persuaded. I cannot, of course, go as far as to back my own intelligence against that of a trained lawyer, but if he had been in the Committee earlier in the day he would have heard the Home Secretary subjected to a close cross-examination by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), the hon. and learned Member for North Shields (Mr. Harney), and one or two others below the Gangway. When the case of the employers was put, we got quite a different answer from the Home Secretary. With a smile he spoke of the real good, kind employer who during a trade dispute would go to a man's home and say, "Now, Jack, you have worked for me for 20 years. I am going to start the works on Thursday and if you do not come back you will never get another job." He said this Clause would not deal with that case, and I am sure it will not, 1779 in spite of the very ingenious case the hon. and learned Gentleman built up. Another thing that has amused me very much is that hon. Members opposite have been trying to make us believe that this Clause is to help us. They say, "You poor, ignorant trade unionists do not understand what the law is, and we want to make it so clear that he who runs may read." I have been in one or two strikes long before I came to this place. When, as an ordinary engine driver, I was out on strike, I and my colleagues made quite sure we would know exactly what we could do and what we could not do, and if we had any doubt on the matter we laid our difficulty before the Chief of Police in the district, who always tells us exactly what the law is. Our men all over the country, if there is any difficulty on any point of law, do not go to the lawyers—they have to pay for that—but to the police and get their information free, gratis and for nothing. We always have co-operated with the police and that is why we do not get into trouble.
The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), with a sob in his throat and tears in his eyes, spoke of the man we call a blackleg doing his best for his wife and family. The reason men go on strike is because they are doing their best for their wives and families, and the man who will not support his fellows and is prepared to stab them in the back is not doing his best for his wife and family. If he submits in the end he is doing them a very bad turn, so I do not think that argument ought to go very far. The hon. Member also spoke about the frustration of the efforts of employers to set up Whitley Councils. My experience is quite the other way. You do not get the machinery where the employés are in a weak position. Usually you only get it when you are in a strong position, and I speak of what I know, because my 40 years' experience on the railways takes me back to the days when we were not admitted into the counsels at all, when our unions were not recognised and we had to fight every inch of the way. When we won they said, "We have always been your friends." Part of our trouble on this Bill is the fact, as brought out by a very eminent leader of the party opposite, now long dead, who spoke of the two Englands. We still have two worlds and 1780 neither of us knows very much about the other people's world. Hon. Members opposite, having heard of our world, think they know all about it and know exactly how we live and what we want. It is often said fools rush in where angels fear to tread. I do not know whether hon. Members who say this Bill is wanted by the trade unionists really mean it, or whether they are saying it with their tongue in their teeth, but they do not want it. I was amused to hear the Home Secretary talk about men being stopped on a lorry. He said the picket would say to the lorry driver, "Stop, Bill, old fellow, and hold your hands up." The lorry driver would not understand that language. It is not in the vernacular. The lorry driver would probably say, "Come off it, Joe." We do not talk to each other in that way. Hon. Members opposite do not understand the class of people they are dealing with, and cannot legislate for them in a true sense.
Then there is the question of intimidation. That, as the right hon. Gentleman said on the Front Bench, is a comparative thing. There are some men you could not intimidate whatever you said to them. I remember 17 years ago when I was going the rounds as an officer in charge of a picket happening to be outside the gates of the shed where I was employed and a big fellow over 6 feet high came down to go to work. He had been a very active trade unionist and had been the means of a large number of members joining the union. The picket interrogated the man. They did not touch him but he went green end shook like a leaf. His lips were so dry that he had to lick them before he could get a word out. He had his wife with him, a little woman, and she enacted the part. I said, "For God's sake let him go or he will die and we shall be had up for murder," because I knew the Act. Intimidation is one thing in one case and another in another, and who is to decide? The Bill does not lay it down and you cannot tell what intimidation is. I heard a lawyer the other day say, "We are on a good thing here. There is money in it," and there is. That, of course, is the greatest blessing the Bill has for the other side.
§ Mr. CHARLETON
He was a solicitor. I will not give his name. I have an apprehension of intimidation. But he said it at a public meeting. I should like to know how this Bill affects employers as I have known them, where, when a strike or dispute was being talked about, the employer or the official of the railway company called the men into the office one at a time in order to ask them what they were going to do. And it must be remembered that on the railway, men are not always promoted by seniority, but for other reasons. Is this sort of thing affected by the Bill? If in future a railway official calls the men into the office one by one, will that be intimidation or not? It does not say so, and we think there is very little hope of the employer being included in this Bill. Take, for example, a case with which I dealt during the miners' strike—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—lock-out last year. I am not the only one who has made a slip. I was confusing the great strike with the miners' lock-out. How some hon. Members opposite do jump at the smallest crumb. It is not worthy of them, really. But this case is that of a poor crippled girl, a typist in the City. Her father was a railwayman on strike and the employer heard of it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Lock-out."] Oh, no, the father was on strike. He was a railwayman. He was not locked out. This girl tried to get a ride once or twice, and she was advised by the police where she lived that being a cripple she ought not to attempt it. She wrote to her employer, and explained the position, and because her father was on strike and because of what he said to the girl, he discharged the girl. That seems to me to be intimidation; yet the Ministry of Labour refused to do anything other than write these people a letter. It seems to me, we are not quite doing the genuine thing when we allow that sort of thing to go on, and take no interest in such a case. The hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon)—He was the representative of the chambers of commerce—knows as well as I know that for a long while the chambers of commerce wanted such a Bill, and they have done a good deal with regard to it. One chamber of commerce, the annual meeting of which I attended a little while ago, had a Clause in their annual report which hoped that better trade would result from this Bill. I wonder why? Surely it means what 1782 has been preached from the other side so often, namely, that the cost of production has got to be brought down, and that this Bill, and this Clause especially, will give the employers the opportunity to economise in the only way they can see of lowering wages and extending hours. That is why this Bill is wanted. Further, the same report had the audacity to seek to interfere with the political side of our work.
§ Mr. CHARLETON
I was merely following the hon. Gentleman, and I must apologise. The hon. Gentleman also paid a tribute to the railway trade unions. I would say this, that it was not all on one side—it was mostly on the side of trade unions—that machinery now exists. As a matter of fact, it took a strike—the strike of 1911—to get the machinery. We had no machinery before 1911. I would also say that that machinery rests upon the 1906 Act, and if you destroy that by this Bill, I cannot answer for the relations continuing. Talk about intimidation! If you hear anything of a university rag you say, "Oh they are dear young men, full of high spirits. They are bound to kick over the traces." But if during a dispute any of our men break a window, it is hooliganism. It is the point of view which one takes. I am convinced that this Clause is designed at the behest of those who want to make picketing impossible. That is the only reason for it. It makes practically impossible any picketing, and that is what I believe the Clause is designed for.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I only wish to occupy the attention of the Committee for a very few minutes, but I do not wish to give a silent vote, because it seems to me that when the serious arguments about the principle of this Clause are sifted, it is extremely difficult to persuade oneself that if there is going to be any Bill at all, a Clause dealing with this subject should not be included in it. There seem to be me to be four arguments which, it different forms, constantly recur, and they are all, of course, arguments well worthy of consideration. There is, first of all, the contention which, I believe, is perfectly well-founded, that trade union leaders do do their very utmost to discourage violence. It is perfectly true, as anybody who considers the 1783 record of industrial controversy in this country well knows. But, as far as it goes, it is not really a reason why a Clause declaring the law should not be indicated if indeed we are going to have an Act of Parliament at all. In the second place it is said, and I think it is equally true, that generally speaking, pickets—persons who are acting in the interests of those who are out—behave no doubt strongly in the interests of their own side, but none the less reasonably in their efforts to support their own side. I do not think that Englishmen, as a general rule, are at all likely to be bullied. In the part of the country I know best, I do not believe that if pickets were attempting to bully right or left, they would get very much support. I do not think they would do it. But I do not believe on those grounds that such cases can be said never to have occurred.
Nobody who takes a fair view of our industry can doubt that there have been a number of cases of that sort, which, I am sure, the leaders of the trade unions movement honestly deplore. It is the commonest reason for endeavouring to lay down a rule, to say it is doing nothing more than to lay down a rule which the mass of decent people want to observe, but which a limited number of people fail to observe. It cannot be any reason for refusing to pass such a Clause as this to say, as I certainly say and honestly believe, that the great mass of action taken by strikers in a strike is nothing more than what, in the circumstances, everybody must put up with. It is an old maxim and a perfectly true one—I remember it created a great disturbance in the House of Commons when it was said—"Minorities must suffer." Minorities always will suffer. The force of public opinion, the disapproval of your neighbours and those who know you is a far more potent force in influencing people's conduct than the casual acts of threatening or bullying. That has nothing to do with the question as to whether or not you should or should not indicate, in a declaratory form, words setting down as plainly as one can a rule which all decent people want to observe. In the third place, it is said, "Well, what about employers?" Are there any cases of victimisation perpetrated by employers? Are there any 1784 cases of bullying and harshness which can be laid at the doors of employers?" No doubt there are, though, in the main, I think it would be wholly untrue to say it is the general practice of the employers of the country, just as it is untrue to say it about the general mass of workpeople. But it is not an argument against this Clause to call attention to that. It is a matter which may very properly be the subject of debate and analysis and discussion to accept the principle that the pot is always at liberty to call the kettle black. We do not get any further by arguing on that subject.
Then comes the fourth argument, which seems to me to be the only serious argument in the matter and one which certainly has given me some concern, and it is this: this first Sub-section which we are considering is, in substance, the principle of the Clause, and, in substance, it declares the law as it is to-day. It says so. We are told by the highest authorities in the House that that is correct, and I am quite willing to believe it. It may be said, and with a great deal of plausibility, "If that is the case, why say it over again?" If we were discussing here the Second Reading of some Bill, and deciding whether there was to be a Bill at all, that argument would have a great deal more force than it has now; but we are proceeding on the basis that, at any rate as far as the Second Reading is concerned, the principle has been settled, and we are now debating a Clause, or portion of a Clause and, unless I misunderstand the procedure, the present question is whether or not, in the opinion of the Committee, if we are going to have a Bill, a declaration on this subject is something to which objection should be taken. I am bound to say that I do not think so. As a matter of fact, there are, I think, if you could get appropriate words, some reasons why it might be quite expedient to do so. There are two reasons, at least.
It does appear to me that there is not quite so universal an understanding of what the law does permit as the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) explained was the understanding in his own case, and, no doubt, in the case of those for whom he was speaking. He said, very sensibly, "If I want to know how I stand, I go and ask the police." He could not ask any better body of people. I am convinced 1785 that the real explanation of the most regrettable incidents of the abuse of trade union rights by individuals a year ago proceeded far more from a general belief that in a strike people get a very wide latitude as to what they can do, than from any other source whatever. I cannot think that it is against the public interests to do all that we can to put down—I should like to put down by the common consent of all people in all parts of the House—what every decent citizen knows is the rule which we expect everybody to observe, whatever his politics, and whatever his class.
The second reason is, and the real truth is, that since this subject first became the topic of legislation and debate circumstances have imperceptibly but quite steadily changed. In the days when we first began to speak of attending a man's house for the purpose of obtaining or communicating information, we were dealing with an era where very often the strike was of a purely local nature, an outbreak which was quite limited in character, and where very often it was done for the bona-fide purpose of informing persons who did not know that there was this controversy, and pointing out to them that if they took the place of the men who were out, they would be doing something which was injuring their fellows. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) smiles. If that were not so, I should like to know whether he could avoid smiling a little when he claims the privilege of attending for the purpose of obtaining or communicating information. It seems to me that it is rather an archaic way of describing what has happened. [Interruption.] I do not think the hon. Member who interrupts me understands what I am saying. If he does not choose to understand, it does not matter. What I am saying is, that these words are words which go back to an earlier age when, very often, these things were extremely local. There is not the slightest doubt that there were cases in the old days when men were introduced into a town and offered employment for the purpose of taking the places of their fellows, and it was a perfectly proper and natural thing to point out to those people that, if they did so, they were failing to stand by the very men they ought to help.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Then I agree that it is a proper case of attending for the purpose of obtaining or communicating information. But that is not the situation in substance that we have to deal with here. With modern methods of communication, when nearly every cottage has wireless, with modern newspapers, the case does not very often arise when that is really the reason for these activities, and I regard it as the height of pretence to pretend that it does. Therefore, it seems to me that there is a good deal to be said for the view that one ought, in the fairest and plainest terms possible, to have a declaration which says, by the common consent of all reasonable people in the House of Commons, what it is that people are expected to do, and what it is that they cannot be excused from doing. I am as willing as anyone to look at the origin of this Clause with suspicion, but when I am asked whether a declaration on this subject is something that ought to be resisted by horse, foot and artillery, I find it quite impossible to say so. I leave those who say that that is a good ground for objection to object, as they are entitled to do, but for my part I do not find it possible to take that view.
§ Sir J. SIMON
As regards Sub-section (2), the hon. Member is entirely mistaken if he supposes that that is what the Debate is about. We have been told, and I agree, that in this, as in some other parts of the Bill, the Government's second thoughts are a good deal better than their original proposal. I entirely agree that there were words at the end of Sub-section (2) which were calculated to raise a smile, but we have been told that that Sub-section is to be amended It is useless to resist what is the real issue here involved, as it presents itself to my mind, and that is, are we going to have or are we not going to have a declaration on the Statute Book of the difference between intimidation and peaceful persuasion? For my part, I am entirely in favour of putting such a declaration on the Statute Book.
I am quite sure that the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) will, after 1787 his speech and its reception, clearly appreciate his position in this House. It is significant that he was absent this afternoon when various hon. Members spoke for the Liberal party. They indicated in clear and precise terms—numbers of them are now present, and they acquiesce in what I am saying—that their objection to this Clause was that it was repealing a condition laid down and clearly expressed by a previous Liberal Government. The right hon. and learned Member will observe that the acquiescence and support for his views and his attitude find considerable favour, not on this side of the Committee, but with what I very much regret to see is his ultimate destiny on that side. I have heard the right hon. and learned Member express his views on this question and this Bill very clearly, but he never expressed them more clearly than he has done on this Clause. Originally he said that the one support that he gave to this Bill was because it declared what was his view that a general strike was illegal, and, secondly, on the Clause that we are now discussing he forgot himself by saying that the Labour party were going to the country to declare that they were in favour of intimidation. [Interruption.]
As I indicated, it is evident that there is common agreement between the right hon. and learned Member and hon. Members opposite. Therefore, what we are discussing at this moment is not merely, in the language of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that we are merely declaring the existing law. I am at the moment engaged in negotiating a number of cases that arise out of this Clause. Last night at about this time I was speaking in Edinburgh and the speaker preceding me spoke for 12 railwaymen. [Interruption.] I spoke in Edinburgh and Leith. The speaker preceding me spoke for 12 railwaymen who had five, ten, and in one case, 30 years' railway service, but who heard that a train was running during the general strike. They unwisely, in my opinion—not only expressed here but expressed to them clearly and emphatically; I told them they were wrong—they all stood at a level crossing with a view to persuading the level-crossing keeper that he was doing wrong in working. The whole of them were 1788 hauled up before the magistrate, they were all fined, and they were all dismissed by the railway company under the existing law. I am not arguing the rights or the wrongs of the case. I have never hesitated to say publicly and to my own people that I would not only not justify intimidation, but that I believe it to be wrong. But I have equally said the same about, and given illustrations of, the intimidation of the employers. I am now dealing with the right hon. Gentleman's contention. Not only are there twelve railwaymen, but there are at least at the moment over 400 railwaymen, who have not only been fined but some have been imprisoned and all have lost their jobs. I see the hon. and learned Member for Swindon (Mr. Banks) in his place. Some of those men are his constituents.
They are good men, and the existing law has not only determined their position, but the existing law has resulted in their being indicted and prosecuted. We have the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who is at the moment Leader of the Liberal party, making it clear that his only anxiety to-night is to make a declaration in favour of the existing law. I said on Friday, when dealing with another Clause, that I deplored this Bill in the interests of industrial peace. The weekend has confirmed that view. I ask the Committee to remember this. The Home Secretary this afternoon gave an illustration. He said that if John Brown goes to Bill Smith and says, "Bill, you must remember that we are on strike; play the man," that is perfectly legal. I think that is a fair interpretation. Then I put to him a question and I asked him if Bill Brown goes to Jack Smith and says, "Jack, you and I have been pals for years. Your wife and I have had tea together."—[Interruption.] Supposing Bill Brown goes on to say, "No longer will you be an honoured guest in our humble home." The question I put to the Home Secretary is this: If that man goes on to say, "You will no longer be a guest, because my wife feels that you are doing something that is depriving her and her family of their legitimate rights," is that illegal under the Clause? That is illegal. That 1789 is intimidation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] A large number of Members did not hear what the Home Secretary said. The Home Secretary did not acquiesce, but it is not the Home Secretary who determines what is legal or illegal. If it were the Home Secretary, I am quite prepared to believe that he would welcome Mrs. Brown to his house. I am dealing with the magistrates, who do not take quite the same view of Mrs. Brown. During the general strike, and the miners' lock-out, there were not only hundreds but thousands of prosecutions, some of them, within our own knowledge, unfair, some of them vindictive, and some of them which included within the net innocent men, and they were all instituted under the existing law. Surely that in itself is sufficient protection. I am content that when the Division on this Amendment is taken the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley will be able to appreciate the exact position of the Liberal party to-day. He will be able to understand why there is not only suspicion but dismay in their ranks at his own attitude, and, furthermore, hon. Members opposite, when they go into the Division Lobby, will be consoled with this knowledge—whatever consolation they may get outside—that the only fortification for this Clause is the support of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who was the first to tell them that the last general strike was illegal.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Douglas Hogg)
I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) who has so courageously announced his view about this Clause, is likely to be intimidated by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). It was a surprise to me to learn from the right hon. Gentleman that those who spoke for the Liberal party have been telling the Committee that this Clause repeals a provision laid down in a Measure passed by a Liberal Government. I have heard most of the speeches but I did not hear that one; I accept, of course, the right hon. Gentleman's statement. But in as much as there is general agreement that the Sub-section by itself is merely declaratory of the law as it stands, and in as much as there is nothing in any Act of Parliament which is repealed 1790 by the Sub-section, I confess I am a little surprised that the Liberal party should take that view, and I am not astonished at hearing the distinguished legal representative of the Liberal party, whom we all recognise as a very great authority on the law, dissociate himself with what I regard as a gross travesty of the position. I have listened to the criticisms upon this Clause and I am bound to follow the example of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and repeat something which I have said about the previous Clauses. When we were discussing Clause 2 on Friday I had to point out that the Socialist party, having failed to find much wrong with the Clause as it actually was, were busily engaged in attacking a Clause which is not there.
The same tactics are being repeated this evening. We learn from one speaker after another on the Socialist Benches that one great objection to this Clause is that it does not apply to the owners, and we were challenged by hon. Members opposite as to whether we would not put down an Amendment to include the employers in these provisions. Of course a most rudimentary study of the Clause would have shown them, if they had looked at line 8, that the Clause referred just as much to people acting on behalf of an individual employer or firm as to one acting on behalf of themselves or trade unionists; and if they had looked a little lower down they would have found, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord) said, that the definition which is so much attacked in Clause 2 is incorporated for the future from the Act of 1875, and that, as the Committee will remember, applies toEvery person who, with a view to compel any other person to abstain from doing or to do any act which such other person has a legal right to do or abstain from doing, wrongfully, and without legal authority.intimidates such other person. Even the Socialist party, I suppose, will allow an employer to come within the term "other person." The real criticism was apparently that of the hon. Member who desired an Amendment not because this Clause did not apply equally to employers and workmen, which it manifestly does, but because it did not penalise certain acts of employers which he resented, and he gave us particularly some account of 1791 cases in the mining industry, where mine-owners apparently preferred some modern industrial union to the old South Wales Miners' Union, which seems to have been singularly unfortunate in the matter of producing good will in that district. The hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that the Bill does not prevent an employer from preferring to deal with one union rather than another.
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
Would the Attorney-General say whether the Bill prevents an employer from doing what I complain that employers are now doing, namely, victimising men and refusing to employ them, and so on?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
It does not prevent an employer from refusing to employ anyone; it does not prevent his preferring to deal with one union rather than another, nor does it prevent any trade union victimising a non-unionist by refusing to work for an employer who employs him. Then the criticism went on to say that this Clause was objectionable because it forbade all picketing. Of course the short answer is that it does not. What it does is to take the exact language of Section 2 of the 1906 Act, which permits peaceful persuasion, and to point out what lawyers knew but what a great many other people did not know, that that Clause does not legalise intimidation. The right hon. Member for Derby said, "Oh, that is all right, because you have been able to prosecute and convict a lot of people who honestly thought they were doing what they had a legal right to do, and they have paid the penalty for their mistake." As I said before, that is an argument which does not in the least appeal to me. I do not think it is in the least true to say that, because a great many people, acting under an honest mistake as to their rights, have committed a criminal offence and have been punished for their crime, that is a reason why Parliament ought not to try to make the law plain. We are anxious, just as much in the interest of the strikers who are pickets as in the interests of the men who want to work, to make it clear how the law stands, and we have stated it in language which I do not think will be challenged. It is also said that we are altering the law in the direction of strengthening the 1792 meaning of the expression "intimidation," and that is perfectly true. We have done so, and when it is suggested that the law was strong enough before, I would remind hon. Members who are so fond of referring with approval to the Royal Commission of 1906, that that Commission specifically pointed out that the law was not strong enough and required strengthening. Then we are told that we are using a most difficult expression when we speak of "reasonable apprehension" and that nobody can understand what would be a "reasonable apprehension." At present the law is that it is an intimidation to use such language as will cause in the mind of the person to whom it is addressed a reasonable apprehension of personal violence. All we have done is not to introduce "reasonable apprehension," but to alter what it is of which the person is reasonably to be afraid. There has been no alteration in the test of whether he is reasonably alarmed or not; the only difference between hon. Members opposite and us is that they say they ought to be free to threaten anything except personal violence.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Well, then vote for this Clause. At present you can threaten him with anything but personal violence with impunity. Under the Clause it will be as illegal to threaten a man with driving him out of work and on to the streets and into the workhouse, and making his wife's life a misery for her, as it is to make a personal attack upon the man, and I am not ashamed of it. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
As the Attorney-General did not reply to what I said about victimisation in South Wales, may I ask him does this Clause protect those workmen who have been told by the officials at the Meiros Colliery last week, "We do not want to intimidate you, but if you do not sign this price list you know what will happen"? What does that mean but intimidation? It is telling a man that he will get the sack if he does not approve of a price list which is being forced upon him by the contrivance of the colliery company, with a small minority of the scab union to which I have referred. Does this Clause make it illegal for a colliery official to do that?
§ Captain GARRO-JONES
The 1906 Act specifically allowed peaceful persuasion, and Sub-section (2) of this Clause is drafted so vaguely and widely that I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to point to a single argument showing that any striker who attempts to persuade a man will not come within the prohibition. That is why I submit that this Clause, in effect, repeals the 1906 permissive provision as to peaceful persuasion. It is perfectly true to say that Sub-section (2) withdraws the privilege explicitly conferred on the trade unions
§ by the 1906 Act after a General Election, and I think any lawyer who studies the matter closely and honestly must agree with that.
§ It being half-past Ten of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 16th May, to put forthwith the Question on the Amendment already proposed from the Chair.
§ Question put, "That the words 'It is hereby' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 284; Noes, 125.1795
|Division No. 147.]||AYES.||[10.30 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Crawfurd, H. E.||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend)||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Atkinson, C.||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Galnsbro)||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.|
|Balniel, Lord||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Dixey, A. C.||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Duckworth, John||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Eden, Captain Anthony||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Berry, Sir George||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Ellis, R. G.||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||England, Colonel A.||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S|
|Brass, Captain W.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Everard, W. Lindsay||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Fenby, T. D.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Fermby, Lord||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen-H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Fielden, E. B.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)|
|Buchan, John||Forestler-Walker, Sir L.||Illffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Forrest, W.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Fraser, Captain Ian||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Frece, Sir Walter de||Jacob, A. E.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merloneth)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Ganzoni, Sir John||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Gates, Percy||Kidd, J. (Linilthgow)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Kindersley, Major Guy M.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Cassels, J. D.||Goff, Sir Park||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Gower, Sir Robert||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Grace, John||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Christie, J. A.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Grotrlan, H. Brent||Loder, J. de V.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Clayton, G. C.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Gunston, Captain D. W.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||MacIntyre, Ian|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hammersley, S. S||McLean, Major A.|
|Cope, Major William||Hanbury, C.||Macmillan, Captain H.|
|Couper, J. B.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Harland, A.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Maltland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Malone, Major P. B.||Remer, J. R.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Rentoul, G. S.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)||Waddington, R.|
|Meller, R. J.||Ropner, Major L.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Merriman, F. B.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Meyer, Sir Frank||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Rye, F. G.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Moore, Sir Newton J.||Sandeman, N. Stewart||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Moreing, Captain A. H.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Wells, S. R.|
|Morris, R. H.||Sandon, Lord||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple-|
|Nelson, Sir Frank||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Neville, R. J.||Shepperson, E. W.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Skelton, A. N.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Smithers, Waldron||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Oakley, T.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Penny, Frederick George||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Womersley, W. J.|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Perring, Sir William George||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Storry-Deans, R.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Pilcher, G.||Strauss, E. A.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Pilditch, Sir Philip||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Preston, William||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Styles, Captain H. W.|
|Radford, E. A.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||TELLER FOR THE AYES.—|
|Ramsden, E.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick||Major Sir George Hennessy and|
|Rees, Sir Beddoe||Tasker, R. Inlgo.||Captain Lord Stanley.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Harris, Percy A.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Scurr, John|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hayes, John Henry||Sexton James|
|Ammon, Charles George||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Barnes, A.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smillie, Robert|
|Barr, J.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Batey, Joseph||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snell, Harry|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Briant, Frank||Kelly, W. T.||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Broad, F. A.||Kennedy, T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Bromfield, William||Kirkwood, D.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Bromley, J.||Lansbury, George||Taylor, R. A.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Lawrence, Susan||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Buchanan, G.||Lawson, John James||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lee, F.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Clowes, S.||Lindley, F. W.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lowth, T.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cove, W. G.||Lunn, William||Viant, S. P.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Mackinder, W.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||March, S.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Dennison, R.||Maxton, James||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Duncan, C.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Gardner, J. P.||Murnin, H.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Naylor, T. E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gillett, George M.||Oliver, George Harold||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Gosling, Harry||Palin, John Henry||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Paling, W.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Greenall, T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Potts, John S.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Groves, T.||Riley, Ben||Windsor, Walter|
|Grundy, T. W.||Ritson, J.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rose, Frank H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hardie, George D.||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
|Harney, E. A.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Whiteley.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[The Attorney-General.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.