§ Amendment proposed [25th May]: In page 4, line 30, to leave out Sub-section (2)—[Mr. Mackinder.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'and,' in line 34, stand part of the Clause."
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think, perhaps, I ought to say that on the last occasion I allowed, with the general consent of the Committee, a discussion on the whole Clause, and that was because of a misapprehension that occurred. Really, it would not be in order now, but Subsection (2) is very wide, and, no doubt, hon. Members will be able to keep in order.
§ Mr. LUNN
The further we go in the discussion of this Bill in Committee, the more we see how far-reaching are its consequences to organised labour. We have restricted the power to strike, we have taken away the liberties of trade unions and trade unionists with regard to intimidation and picketing, and in this Clause we have gone beyond all that has been said in the speeches before the introduction of the Bill and on the introduction of the Bill with regard to the political levy. It was understood that we were only to arrange for contracting into the political fund, but we find in the Sub-section we are now considering that there is a distinction as to how the money shall be raised. We have decided how the money is to be used, and now we are laying down that a separate fund shall not only be established, but that it shall be levied in a particular way.
The Division which I represent has been represented in this House by a member of my union since 1881. Mr. 2334 Benjamin Pickard was an honoured Member of this House, and a founder of the Miners' Federation. He was elected to this House in 1886, and was maintained by the miners' organisation in Yorkshire. For 20 years he sat here attached largely to one particular party, the Liberal party, and, I suppose, if we had never formed a separate Labour party in this country, we should never have heard of Clause 4 of this Bill. If trade union leaders had retained their connection with other parties, as was the case many years ago, we should never have seen what we are discussing now. The Yorkshire Miners' Association paid Mr. Pickard out of its ordinary funds all that time, and I never heard a single member of that organisation complain against the small contribution which he made for politics within the trade union. I have never heard a complaint in this House as to the management or control of that fund in the county from which I come, or from the Yorkshire Mine Workers' Association. We continued in this way until the 1913 Act, and since then we have had a political fund. I do not remember meeting a single individual within my own organisation who has contracted out of the political fund.
We believe there is a great need for trade unionists to take part in politics, and we see the value of it in the discussions in this Committee day by day. There has been a great change in the Debates in this House during the last 25 years, and nearly every day is taken up with some discussion affecting the lives and the welfare of the masses of the people in connection with trade union matters, regulations for safety, workmen's compensation, and matters of that kind. Many other instances could be given of the value of the small contribution which we pay in this connection. We feel, after we have raised the fund, that we ought to be able to use that fund in any direction which we decide that it should be used. I do not know how this is going to work when it comes into operation, but the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Balfour) said the other night, in the discussion on this Sub-section, that when you have taken a ballot in a particular trade union, it is taken for granted that those who pay to the union, unless they have made a conscientious objection, are contributors to the political fund.
2335 That is so in my organisation. I do not object to it, and I do not see how there could be any objection, and it is the law of the land in nearly every direction. If a person wants to live in this country, he is not asked whether he likes the laws of the country; he is expected to obey them. We have an Act of Parliament dealing with the appointment and maintenance of checkweighers at collieries, and, however many new men come to the colliery, after a ballot has been taken and a man has been elected to that position, the workman is expected, and, indeed, compelled, to contribute towards the wages of the checkweigher, as he should do. There are very few Acts in which we provide for a conscientious objection, but, with regard to the political levy, we do provide for a conscientious objection, and, under the Act of 1913, any member who wishes to take advantage of that conscientious objection has the power and the right to do so. I do not know of any objection that has been taken in my experience, and, in view of the millions who, since the Act of 1913, have agreed to pay the political levy, and the few thousands who have taken a conscientious objection, there is no reason whatever for a Clause of this description.
As I have said, in my organisation we pay a contribution of 1s. a week, or 52s. a year. It may be that we should pay 1s. or 2s. for political objects. This Subsection says that it shall be levied separately. To-day, it is taken out of the general fund contributed to by members who are political contributors. That is what is the law, and what should be the law, as is the case with all the laws in this country. We resent this Sub-section, because we feel that the present method is the one which would, and should be, adopted by any organisation. Are we to levy an additional farthing a week upon the members? How are we to collect in that way? Are we to in crease the contributions by 1s. a year? We have no desire to do that; we simply desire to go on in the same way as hitherto. Even if Sub-section (1) of this Clause be passed, which provides for contracting in and for members saying that they give their consent, we know that our members will give their consent, and we shall see to that—[Interruption]—by the activity and by the propaganda which we shall carry out 2336 throughout the country. Miners' Members of this House are elected with enormous majority; they represent constituencies in which there are many thousands of miners; and their propaganda within those areas, covering, in the case of my own county, the whole of the mining districts, will be directed to seeing that members whom we believe and know to be favourable to work being done in this House, who believe such work to be of value to them, will contribute to the political fund. At the same time, we know that this is a violation of all that has happened before. I cannot understand why this Clause should have been included in the Bill; I agree with the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. O. Stanley) that it is a matter separate and apart from other parts of the Bill.
It is only two years since I listened to the memorable speech of the Prime Minister. I was very much impressed when he asked his party how they had been elected to this House. They had been elected with a majority such as they had never received before, and the Prime Minister said, "How did we get here?" It was not for the purpose of passing Clause 4 of this Bill. There has been no general election since then, and the by-elections have not given the Government much encouragement to introduce this Clause. If there be any sincerity in politics—and there ought to be sincerity in politics, as in every other walk A life—we ought to have had a general election for the purpose of considering this matter, and to have let the electors express themselves before such a Clause was put before Parliament, and Parliament was asked to express its opinion. The will of the people has not been sought since that declaration, and the will of the people ought to prevail in matters of this kind, when an alteration is being made in the law of the land with principles which affect millions of electors who have not been consulted on the matter. The hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Ellis) made a speech in the course of this Debate which showed that he was a wearer of coats of different colours. He repeatedly said that he had changed his opinion on this matter. I would say that, when a Member is elected to this House on any given principle, he ought, if he changes his opinion, to go to the electors to see whether they agree with him on the 2337 matter. If the hon. Member will give the electors of Wakefield that chance, I will promise him that he will not come back here, because the Division is in the midst of my own.
I think it is most unfair and insincere on the part of Members of this House and of the Government to have introduced this Clause, and particularly this Subsection, to narrow the position of trade unionists with regard to political activity in the manner in which they have. Further, it does not speak well for the party opposite, or for any party other than the Labour party, that a Clause of this description has been introduced. After all, the funds of the Labour party and of the trade unions are quite open for anyone to know how they are established, how they are worked, and how the money has been spent. Give us the opportunity of knowing how your funds are raised. You ought to do so; we ought to know. Many things are said from these benches with regard to your funds, as to the dishonour that there is in what are called honours. One has only to look round to see people with titles and marvel how they got them. As I sit on these benches and hear Members called by names that have been changed recently, I wonder what has happened that has given them their changed names. I cannot see anything to justify it, and I am bound to come to the conclusion that the only thing is that they are rich men, and have contributed very liberally to the party to which they belong. That, in my opinion, is a very dishonourable way in which to establish the funds, above all, of a political party, and it is a matter which Parliament ought to inquire into fully, in order that Parliament may be made aware of the facts. If this Clause be passed, I am sure that, when the time comes to give an opportunity to the electors to express their opinion upon you, you will get a very distinguished order. It will be the "order of the boot," and you will deserve it.
Dr. VERNON DAVIES
During the Debate last Monday, the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) made certain statements concerning the British Medical Association, to which I venture to reply, and I would ask the courtesy of the Committee to be allowed to make a personal explanation, as I find that some of the facts which I then stated were not quite accurate. The 2338 Medical Secretary of the British Medical Association read my remarks in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and sent me a letter which, I hope, the Committee will be good enough to allow me to read, as it explains the matter quite fully.
§ Mr. LUNN
On a point of Order. The hon. Member who is being challenged is, I believe, sitting on a panel upstairs dealing with a Private Bill. Would it not be in order, either that he should be made aware of this, so that he can be in the House, or that the statement should be left over until such time as he has an opportunity of hearing it? He is carrying out his duties as a Member of Parliament in another place in the building.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. Davies) wishes to make a statement which affects only himself, he would, of course, be perfectly right in doing so; but, if some other Member is involved who is engaged elsewhere on his duties, I think it would be better to defer it. When the hon. Member spoke to me on the matter, I did not understand from him that another hon. Member was necessarily involved. If another hon. Member is involved, I think—not as a matter of order, but as a matter of what may be called parliamentary comity—it would be better to defer it.
The other Member is not involved except to the extent that I made a statement which is not accurate, and I wish to withdraw it in fairness to the hon. Member and the Committee. I am not reflecting on him in any shape or form. I simply want to put myself straight at the first opportunity.
The letter I received states:In your references to the British Medical Association you made certain statements which are not borne out by the facts, and I feel sure you would like to be put right in case the question should arise on a future occasion. The form of application for membership of the British Medical Association which a man who wishes to join signs, says: 'I agree if elected to pay the subscription and to abide by the articles and by-laws of the Association for the time being in force, and the rules of the division or branch to which I may at any time belong.'2339 I stated that there was no compulsion upon a man to join, which is perfectly correct, but a man can be expelled.
In 25 years only 35 members have been expelled, and these have all been for conduct which has been declared after a careful inquiry to be 'detrimental to the honour and interests of the medical profession.' Then, you go on to describe what happens if a man takes an appointment to which the Association objects. You say the Association says, 'We cannot penalise you. We cannot turn you out of the Association and we cannot advise anybody to have nothing to do with you.' We can, as a matter of fact turn such a man out of the Association and very occasionally we have done so. As regards advising people to have nothing to do with him, there is the power, after a careful inquiry surrounded by all sorts of safeguards, and after declaring that the conduct of the practitioner has been 'detrimental to the honour and interests of the medical profession,' for a division to issue a notice to its members stating that 'It is undesirable that a member of the division should meet in consultation or accord any professional recognition (other than such as may be necessary in the discharge of an official duty by a public medical officer or in circumstances of great urgency affecting the life of a patient) to a medical practitioner who shall have been declared by resolution of the division to have acted in contravention of any rule or resolution of the division as to professional conduct, of which such practitioner shall be proved to have had notice in accordance with these rules, or who shall have been declared by resolution of the division to be deemed guilty of conduct detrimental to the honour and interests of the medical profession.' This action has only been taken with regard to seven practitioners since 1902. I think it only right that I should make clear to you that, like all other associations, we have certain legal powers of dealing with members whose conduct is considered to be against the interests of the Association, and we also have the right, as has been proved by legal decisions, both general and in our own case specifically, to decline to meet persons professionally after an inquiry made in a judicial manner and in accordance with rules which are carefully laid down.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I understood the hon. Gentleman wished to explain that unintentionally he fell into some inaccuracy before. This seems to be a long statement dealing with the disciplinary regulations of the British Medical Association. At any rate, it could not be discussed. If he wishes to make his own position clear he can, but it is really not relevant to the political fund.
On a point of personal explanation, I stated specifically that members were not expelled, and, secondly that they were compelled to meet professional men of whose conduct they disapproved in consultation when a case of life was at stake. This letter, which is an official letter from the British Medical Association, shows that to a certain extent I was wrong, and that members have been expelled from the Association, and also that they can withdraw their labour. It is only right that I should make that explanation, which is quite contrary to what I said before, in justice to hon. Members, and that they shall thoroughly understand what is the position of the Association.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Gentleman thinks it necessary from his point of view to read that, I will not prevent him, but it is a matter arising out of the discussion of a former Clause, and cannot be discussed any further.
I do not wish to discuss it any further. I thank the Committee for their courtesy in allowing me to make the explanation, and I offer my apologies to the Committee for having innocently misled them.
With regard to the Clause under discussion, the hon. Member who has just sat down, if I understood him rightly, seemed to imply that there was not any real desire amongst the trade unionists of the country for this Clause. The Constituency I have the honour to represent is an industrial Constituency, and it was a very vital point at the last General Election. I was asked over and over again, "If you are returned to Parliament, will you do all in your power to see that contracting out is done away with and contracting in is substituted in its favour?" That was in 1924, and ever since that time in my Constituency it has been a very vital question, and when this Trade Union Bill was introduced and they saw that contracting in was one of the Clauses, they were filled with delight. But I must say I was not able to appreciate what the benefit was going to be to the trade unionists of the country to have contracting in instead of contracting out, and I took the opportunity of meeting my Labour Advisory Council, which consists entirely of trade unionists. I addressed them on this point and had a long discussion, but, un- 2341 fortunately or fortunately, I was not able to convince them. They were absolutely certain that contracting in would be of very material advantage to them, and that contracting out was at present a great disadvantage. I was given definite instances in which contracting out had been made, shall I say, difficult. In saying this, I should like the Committee to understand that I think the difficulties are not always known by the head officials of the organisation, but are perhaps more or less local.
A case was brought to my mind specifically of a certain trade union where 50 men in December, 1924, sent in their forms for exemption. At the end of the year, too late to rectify the mistake, all these forms were returned and objected to because they were signed in pencil. The Secretary said, "These are illegal; I cannot accept them," and for 12 months those people were not allowed to claim exemption from subscribing to the political levy. I shall be pleased to give particulars of the case. [HON. MEMBERS: "What society?"] The Rochdale Spinners' Union. The Secretary's name is Albert Holland, and it occurred in December, 1924. The objection was that the notices were signed in black-lead. They were kept some time by the Secretary, and when they were returned it was too late to have them rectified. Other instances were brought before me. One was that a man claimed political exemption, and when it was due the Secretary told him, "You cannot withdraw this money. By our rules it must be transferred to the general fund." This was, of course, absolutely illegal. I submitted this case to, I think, the President of the Board of Trade, and it was referred to the Registrar of Friendly Societies who wrote to the Secretary informing him that his action was illegal and that the money must be refunded to the claimant, which was done. But there were several other eases in exactly the same position, and I took it up with the Registrar, and said, "Can you issue a general instruction to the Secretary that he is to allow all these fees back? He said, "No, I can only act upon specific complaints," and it meant that every man in the Union who wished to reclaim would have to write specifically, making a definite Complaint, before the money could be returned. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It is a fact.[Interrup- 2342 tion.]I am simply referring to specific instances.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member dealt with a specific case, and gave the name of the organisation, the name of the person and the date, which was perfectly correct. Then he proceeded to say that in every single case in that organisation a similar process will have to be followed. I say that is contrary to fact. Once the General Secretary of the Organisation received his instructions in one specific case from the Registrar of Friendly Societies, the local organisation would deal with future cases on the basis of the Registrar's advice and recommendation.
I am speaking of the specific instance of a local secretary who, I understand, did not carry out the instructions of the registrar. He repaid that one man, but did not repay the others. It simply meant that every man who did not wish to pay would have to write specifically and forward his complaint. Another difficulty in the way of obtaining the repayment of political levy, is that people are asked to go every quarter to the district office of the Trade Union to draw the money. It may be 2½d. or 3d., a very small amount, and the cost of collecting that sum is more than it is worth, and so a large number of people say, "I am not going to pay 3d. or 4d. for a tram ride in order to draw 2½d." This simply means that the money is left in the fund. I would like the Committee to understand that certain local officials do sometimes make it a little difficult for people to obtain the refund of their money [Interruption.] During the discussion of this Clause I have been rather struck by the absence of opposition from the Labour party. They seem to have taken to this Clause very much better than to some of the other Clauses of the Bill. There has not been quite so much violent opposition, if I may say so. Looking through the Clause carefully, the impression I have formed is that the Labour party and the Trades Unions will be no worse off under this Clause than they were before, that this so-called contracting is not going to be of very much benefit to the trade unionists of the country, and that the Labour party have sufficient sense to recognise this. What has been the difficulty in the past? It 2343 is that a class of people who wish to claim exemption, have not had the moral courage to do so, because they are afraid of a certain amount of intimidation.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
Will the hon. Member tell the Committee whether the British Medical Association pay any of the election expenses of doctors who sit in this House; whether they keep their funds separate, and whether any member can reclaim?
I think that is wholly irrelevant, but I have not the slightest objection to referring to it, if I am in Order. The British Medical Association—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member for the Hillsborough Division addressed the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. Davies). He did not address me, and I did not hear what he said.
I think it better, for the moment, to ignore it, but I shall be very pleased to give the hon. Member for Hillsborough the information afterwards, so that he may pass it on to his friends.
I was saying that there is a certain section of trade unionists who are morally intimidated. They themselves have confessed this to me, and I have said, "Why have you not the courage simply to say, 'I wish to withdraw'?" They replied that there is a certain amount of mental intimidation to which they object, and that rather than suffer that they would prefer to pay the political levy and not withdraw. There is nothing in this Clause as it stands which is going to help those, people. What is going to happen? As I visualise it, it will simply mean that the trade union will appoint an official or the secretary and say, "Now, you must see that every trade unionist in this district signs the form to contract in." People who are active politicians will, of course, sign without any trouble at all. The Liberals and Conservatives will refuse to sign, and the Socialists will sign quite readily. Then you come to the class of indifferent members—the "inert mass," as you term them. The agent will go round with the forms and will say, "Do you mind putting your name to this?" They will say, "What is it?" "Oh, simply, 'Are you willing to pay 2344 the political levy'?" The man will sign, innocently or otherwise, and the unions will get a certain number of signatures. Ultimately, the agent will come to the class of people who have not the courage to object, and he, perhaps, will go to their houses, because they have rather a funny system in Lancashire of collecting subscriptions at the workers' house. [Interruption.] I am speaking of my own constituency.
Do they collect the political fund from the houses, and will the hon. Gentleman tell me the name of the secretary? I challenge the statements he has made.
I am speaking of the Rochdale Spinners' Union, the secretary of which is Mr. Albert Holland.
As a rule, in Lancashire, subscriptions are paid by the wife. The man after earning his money keeps a certain amount of it for his legitimate personal expenses, and hands the rest over to his wife. Out of that sum, the wife has to pay all the expenses of the house, the doctor's bills, very often for the man's tobacco, etc., and his subscriptions. It is quite possible that if agents go round the houses collecting signatures to these forms the wife may turn round and say, "No, why should I pay this shilling out of my own pocket?" and the Labour Party may lose a certain amount of money for that reason. When it comes to the people who are nervous, or are afraid of being intimidated, what, I am sure, will happen will be this: The official will go to members' homes with a large bundle of forms and say, "Now, look here, I want you to sign this paper." What does it mean?" "Oh, it is to pay the political levy." "I would rather not pay it; I do not believe in it." Then the secretary will say, "But look at this list of the members who have paid. You are in a minority. Hundreds have paid!"
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member wishes to express opinion when on his legs, he should not express them when he is not on his legs.
I was simply putting before the Committee what I visualise will be the result. I think it will be found in Lancashire that the class of trade unionists who have not the courage to refuse to sign will be no better off under this Clause than they were before; that the contracting-in will be a farce. The only suggestion I can make to obviate that difficulty is that no trade union official should be allowed to canvass in any shape or form for the signing of these forms.
I wish that hon. Members bers would forget for the moment that I am a medical man, and recognise that at the present moment I am speaking as the representative of an industrial constituency with a very intimate knowledge of the industrial and social life of the workers, as a factory surgeon, and also with a certain amount of knowledge as to what happens in trade unions in Lancashire. The number of trade unionists who can be intimidated may be small, but I am speaking from experience. Hon. Members seem, by their clamour, to have a suspicion that the suggestion which I am making may be true, and that by going round with these forms, a certain amount of pressure may be exercised. If no pressure can be exercised, why object to the Bill stating that these forms should be sent by post to every trade unionist and should be returned? If any agent of a trade union is to be allowed to interview these men and peacefully to persuade them, we shall find that a very large number will sign the forms against their will. Some of these men have had the courage to acknowledge to me that they are afraid not to do so. Unless something can be done to prevent this canvassing, I am certain that this Clause will be of no practical value to the trade unionists of whom I am speaking, and that it will cause a great deal of disappointment among the Conservative and Liberal trade unionists. I would ask the Attorney-General to bear this point in mind. If the main idea of the Clause is to prevent intimidation, and with that 2346 object in view there is to be contracting-in instead of contracting-out, certain specific provisions must be made to see that intimidation cannot be exercised upon people, and that no canvassing in any shape or form should be allowed with the object of persuading or compelling men to sign the forms.
§ Mr. TINKER
I wish to compliment the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. V. Davies) on having the courage to come before the Committee and rectify a mistake which he made. I wondered after he had made that apology, whether he would have the good sense not to go into is imagination again. If what he has described bears out his imagination, it is in need of some change. He mentioned certain things that are happening because people go round collecting contributions. As far as my knowledge goes, very few of these cases happen in Lancashire. Speaking for the mining industry, I can say that that state of things does not obtain in one case, and, as far as the other industries are concerned, I have very little knowledge of anything like that happening.
§ Mr. TINKER
I think Royton ought to get on to a better footing and have the contributions collected in the place of work. That is the right place. In regard to the political levy, the hon. Member tried to tell us that the Medical Association have certain strict regulations. There is no suggestion of altering the regulations connected with the medical profession. The hon. Member, however, is trying to do as much as he can to alter the regulations of other organisations. I would ask the hon. Member and the Committee to remember that the whole of this question was discussed in 1913, and what we are attempting to do is to try to get the Committee to allow things to remain as they were after the passing of the Act of 1913. The hon. Member pointed out that there has not been as much show of feeling on these Benches in regard to this particular Clause as on the other Clauses. I do not know what he wants us to do. If we express ourselves forcibly, we are told that we do not know how to conduct ourselves in the House of Commons. If we try to conduct the debate in the right way, we 2347 are told that we are not showing fight and spirit. I would like Members on this side to conduct themselves properly in debate, and try to show to the House that we have the right feeling as well as anybody else. I hope we shall not be carried away by the suggestion of the hon. Member that we should show our feelings in some stronger manner.
I should have expected that the House of Commons would not attempt to touch the political levy. When the Home Secretary made his speech on the Second Reading, he tried to show that the reason for bringing in Clauses 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 was because of what happened in the general strike. There may be some justification in altering a law when you can bring forward cases to show why it should be altered, but there is no hon. Member on the Benches opposite who has been able to bring forward any strong case why Clause 4 should have been introduced. One would have expected that during the period that has passed since 1913, much stronger evidence would have been adduced for the altering of the existing law. It is not because the Government and their supporters have not tried; we know very well that attempts have been made everywhere to get information. Certain figures have been given, but it is only on the slightest evidence that the Government are acting. They have no case to offer. On these grounds, we strongly object to any change in the law.
I am not concerned very much as to the results of this Bill on the trade unions. I believe we shall emerge stronger after the passing of this Bill than we were before, but my objection is that it is detrimental to Parliamentary procedure and to those who believe in that procedure. I tell our wild men that the real form of redress is through the House of Commons, but when I find that, without any justification, a certain Act is being altered in this way, it causes dismay in my mind, because it gives an opening to the opponents of Parliamentary government. These men will say, "You tell us to believe in Parliament. What have our opponents done in the House of Commons? Can you justify what they have done"? I cannot justify what the Government are doing. That is my feeling. I am not concerned that the Bill will affect trade unions, because if a man believes in the political levy, you 2348 cannot stop him paying to that political levy. We shall carry forward with greater enthusiasm than ever before. I say to hon. Members opposite that they are trying to stop this particular form of levy for ulterior motives. That is our strong feeling in this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "You are wrong."] I may be judging hon. Members wrongly, but one cannot take any other view after what has happened. The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mackinder) was challenged the other day because he said that the promoters of the Bill ought to have half a million complaints. I do not want to have half a million complaints to be able to change the law; but I would point out that if you have only had 33 complaints in 12 years and six for the last year—
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
The hon. Member must not forget that the hon. Member for Shipley gave 20 cases in his own area, but said that he would not take them because they were brought by a lawyer. If they had been brought the other way about he would have taken them.
§ Mr. TINKER
The hon. Member for Shipley may have made that statement, but he was not using that as a strong argument. He was trying to show that lawyers were interfering in matters where they had no right. From my knowledge of the House of Commons, I know that lawyers do interfere in matters about which they know very little.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Is the hon. Member suggesting that trade unions are not entitled to employ lawyers? I have been living half my life with them.
§ Mr. TINKER
My point is that Parliamentary Government is being used the wrong way in doing this kind of thing If the Government wanted to give liberty to trade unionists, as they profess, why did not they say that they would do a way with any form of political levy? The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. O. Stanley) gave his idea on this point. The hon. Member said that he did not agree with this Clause, and that if the Government proposed to put any restrictions on at all they should go the whole way. He also said that intimidation is still possible under the Clause as it stands. I agree with him.
§ Mr. TINKER
I will not say that, but there can be intimidation under this Bill. There will be no intimidation at all, because all we shall do is to tell our people what our political objects are and then if they believe in them they will support them. We have built up the trade union organisation since 1906 in spite of all the efforts of hon. Members opposite, and now, when the power of the Labour movement is making itself felt, they attempt to stop its development by this attack on the political levy. We shall go forward in spite of all the efforts of hon. Members on the other side. My protest this morning is not so much against this attempt to put a stop to the political levy as against the travesty of Parliamentary Government on the part of the Conservative party. The other week I had a letter from a man living in America, a minister of religion, who wished to be taken over the House of Commons. I took him over the House, and with pride I showed him this Chamber and said, "The laws of the land are made in this Chamber, and they are respected by our people." He replied, "Yes, wherever I have been I have been impressed by the way in which the citizens of this country respect its laws. In America our legislators are more stringent, with the result that the laws are ignored." The laws of this country are respected, but if this kind of thing goes on by a party returned to power on false issues, and which misuses the power they now possess the laws of the land will be dragged into disrepute, and it will be all the worse for the country.
§ 12.0 n.
§ Sir ALEXANDER SPROT
I desire to say a few words with regard to the assertion of hon. Members opposite that there is no justification for this Clause. Let me give my own experience in this matter. I was present at the Conference at Scarborough; I notice that all the references to that conference are received with laughter and sneers by the party opposite. A large number of resolutions were brought forward at that conference on the subjects dealt with by this Bill, speaking from memory there were at least a dozen, and those who supported them, particularly the resolution dealing with the point we are discussing at the moment, were all working men who told us with great sincerity what they had suffered and that they looked to the Conservative party to redress the injus- 2350 tice. It is all very well to laugh and sneer at a conference of the Conservative Party. The party opposite hold conferences very frequently, and why should not the Conservative Party hold conferences as well? I have attended, I think, almost every conference of the Conservative party since 1906, and on every occasion we have had at least one resolution on the question of the position of trade unions brought forward and discussed and passed, and in many cases they have related to the very point we are now arguing. This is not a question of yesterday. It has been before the country for many years, at any rate it has been before our party, and working men in every case have supported it.
Will the hon. Member allow me to ask him whether it is the fact that the mover and seconder of the resolution at Scarborough were both employers of labour and contractors in the mines?
§ Sir A. SPROT
In answer to that I can only repeat that there were about a dozen resolutions dealing with the same subject, and one of them may have been proposed in the manner the hon. and gallant Member has suggested, but the great bulk of them were proposed and supported by working men and trade unionists. That has made it quite plain to me that there is a desire on the part of working men and trade unionists for this legislation. I have also discussed this Bill with my own constituents. It is a working class constituency, and a mining constituency. At each centre in my own constituency I have discussed the Bill Clause by Clause. Of course, all my audience did not agree with me, but there was a large amount of agreement amongst miners and trade unionists on the proposals of the Bill, and especially with regard to the Subsection, the rejection of which is now proposed. I told them that in my opinion the accounts of trade unions ought to be properly audited by a chartered accountant, annually printed and circulated amongst the members and presented to the Registrar of Friendly Societies. That statement, whenever I made it, met with a large amount of support in this working class constituency. I am ready to admit that in many trade unions the management is 2351 quite correct and conducted in quite a satisfactory way; but there are exceptions. On one occasion some of my own constituents came to me and said that the secretary of the trade union there had not presented a balance sheet for the last seven years, and that he had gone off to America taking all the money with him. On another occasion a group of miners' wives came to me and said "This is what we have been wanting all along. We do not know where the money goes." At any rate this is a very popular proposal among the wives of trade unionists. I have one more point to make. I have said that there are good trade unions which manage their affairs properly, and that there are exceptions to that rule. It is not a sound argument for an hon. Member to say "Oh, but what you are describing is impossible, because in my trade union everything is done properly." Such a statement does not include the whole range of trade unions. With regard to what the Proposer of the Amendment said as to the Conservative party, and with regard to the statement of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), who accused the Conservative party of raising funds for political objects by improper means, by the sale of honours—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I really think that is beyond the scope of the particular Sub-section we are discussing, because there is no question of a levy on Conservatives for a political fund.
§ Sir A. SPROT
That argument was used by the Proposer of the rejection of this Sub-section, and that is why—
§ The CHAIRMAN
On the last occasion there was a general discussion on the Clause. Now the discussion is confined to Sub-section (2) alone, as I said at the beginning of the Sitting.
§ Sir A. SPROT
I bow to your ruling, of course, but I am sorry I am not able to say what I wish to say. My contention is that what applies to one particular instance, in the case of trade unions, does not necessarily apply generally.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must ask the hon. Member to address his remarks to me, and not across the Floor of the House.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I am asking whether the hon. member will give the name of the trade union to which he referred.
§ Sir A. SPROT
The hon. Member asks me to revert to something which I have said, and which he states is not true. I have not stated anything which is not true, and I shall be very pleased to tell him, if he wishes to know, the place where the incident to which I have referred occurred. The only point with which I am dealing is that there are undoubted exceptions among the trade unions, where things are not so well managed, and this Sub-section will prove to be very useful in regulating the management of union funds, keeping the political fund separate from the other; and I believe that it is desired by working men and by trade unionists.
§ Mr. CAPE
The last speaker seems to have very little knowledge of the work of the trade union movement. He rather amazed me when he said that certain trade unions do not make any return of their income and expenditure. If he knows anything about the trade union movement he ought to know that every registered trade union, before the end of May in every year, must make a full detailed return of its income and expenditure from all sources to the Registrar of Friendly Societies, together with a return of its political fund. If that were not true, can the hon. Member tell us how it was that the "Morning Post" about two years ago was able to make such an attack on the trade union movement? Of course the paper had been able to get hold of the figures published by the trade union movement. The hon. Member told us about a woman coming to him and about the Secretary of a trade union not having submitted a balance sheet for seven years and then having run away. But the hon. Member forgot to tell us the name of the union and the place where this Secretary was. It may be that a certain secretary has absconded with funds belonging to a union, but do not promoters of companies collect all the funds they can and do the same thing, and do we not then find them in the dock and eventually in one of His Majesty's Prisons? Hon. Members opposite should 2353 at any rate try to get some knowledge of the subject about which they are talking.
In regard to this particular Sub-section, hon. Members opposite, here and on public platforms of their party, have expressed a desire to protect the genuine British working man. At the same time, they are always emphasising the necessity of maintaining the constitution of the country. If that be their desire, what protection is given by this Sub-section? Even if all the charges of intimidation regarding the political levy which have been made—none has been proved—were true, this Clause is not going to prevent such intimidation in the future, because, as a matter of fact, we will know more in future about the men who sign the forms than we have known in the past; every man who claims exemption will be known by the central offices and by the district officials as well. Therefore, such men will not be protected by the Clause. I am amazed to find hon. Members opposite defending courageous Conservative working men who dare not claim exemption from their union. One would have thought that a man who was brave enough to be a Conservative working man would be brave enough to claim exemption. I challenge any hon. Member to bring forward the case of one man, in the union of which I am General Secretary, who has been refused an exemption form. As a matter of fact, one man in my area had to be shown by me how to fill up a form so as to get exemption.
Reference has been made to the Unionist Conference at Scarborough, and the last speaker said there were about a dozen resolutions appealing to the Conservative party to give some redress to Conservative working men over whom the unions tyrannised. I believe it is true that there were such resolutions, but can the hon. Member tell us how many men were behind those resolutions? Probably not more than a dozen in all; or possibly only the movers of the resolutions, and I ask if any one of the movers spoke on behalf of a bon fide trade union?
§ Sir A. SPROT
These resolutions were sent in by the various associations from all over the country.
§ Mr. CAPE
I agree that Conservative associations in every part of the country sent in resolutions, but my point is that no trade union or branch of a trade union sent in such a resolution, and I ask if the men who moved those resolutions were speaking on behalf of any considerable body of trade unionists. One of the things which we have always looked upon as part of the British Constitution is the principle of rule by majority vote. Our Parliamentary and municipal elections, the management of our friendly societies and trade unions have always been carried out on the principle of the majority vote. Under the law as it stands, it is necessary to have a majority of the members of a union in favour of the political levy, and the minority then have the right to contract out if they so desire. Under this Bill, the minority are to be protected at the expense of the majority. It will not be sufficient for the majority to vote in favour of a political fund, but the members of the majority must sign a declaration as well, and the minority are to be fondled because they happen to have the same political aspirations as hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Royton (Dr. Davies) probably spoke from experience as a medical man in the statement which he made to the Committee. It is a known fact that certain medical men have resorted to the methods of which the hon. Member spoke, not for political purposes, but for purposes of finance. When health insurance became compulsory in this country doctors who had been the medical advisers of men asked those men to sign forms so that those doctors might become their panel doctors. Surely the doctors will not object to others resorting to the same methods. I have always advocated that the workers should seek to right their wrongs by political rather than industrial action. The passage of this Bill seems to indicate that we shall have to change our methods. While we have honestly believed up to now that the way to remedy our grievances was by political action, it would seem that we are now to be deprived of the right of doing so, and we shall have to resort to industrial action to right our wrongs.
If hon. Members opposite are as anxious as they profess to be to protect those whom they call the honest working men, 2355 the men who want immunity from trade union tyranny, they are not achieving their object by this Clause. Every trade union must keep a record of its members, and this trade union will know every man who refuses to sign these political forms. Consequently, if it is as bad as hon. Members say it is, they are not making the position of such men any better, but, as a trade union secretary, I refute and deny the statement that such tyrannies have ever been enforced or attempted on any members. Probably it will be said that the Miners' Federation does not make a return to the Registrar. I say frankly that the Miners' Federation is an unregistered body, but every unit attached to that Federation has to make a return to the Registrar; and, therefore, while there is not registration in bulk, there is registration of the members through the various societies. I do not know of any trade union that does not make a return in accordance with the law of the land, and in the case of any union failing to do so, the Registrar can take action against the secretary. I hope in future hon. Members opposite will not speak on this subject without some knowledge of the trade union movement.
§ Sir ELLIS HUME-WILLIAMS
I have listened to the whole of this Debate, and I confess I neither share the apprehensions of hon. Members opposite, nor the hopes of hon. Members behind me, who think that this Clause is going to make a great deal of difference. A careful study of it should show hon. Members that there will be a very minute difference in future, if any, as a result of it. First of all, it is to be observed that the form which in future is to be filled in by the man desirous of subscribing to a political fund is not subject to any of the prohibitions contained in other Acts, and there is nothing to prevent the trade unions sending out this form to all their members accompanied by their own appeals or their own directions. There is nothing to prevent the officials of a union from speaking to the men or calling upon the men or even calling a meeting of the men and putting arguments before them as to the signing of this form. Under the particular Subsection with which we are dealing it is quite true some alteration in the manner of collecting and entering subscriptions may be entailed, and alterations may 2356 require to be made in what I have no doubt are the very businesslike book-keeping methods of some of the unions. Under Sub-section (4) any new rules which may have to be made, if passed by a majority of the members of the union, will be approved by the Registrar.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
Is the hon. and learned Member not aware that according to Sub-section (4) the Government are asking organisations of the kind in this country to break their own constitutions?
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
All I see in Sub-section (4) is that the power of altering rules or making new rules is given to the societies themselves, and after they have been passed by a majority of the delegates, the Registrar may approve those rules.
§ Mr. THORNE
Is the hon. and learned Member not aware that according to their respective constitutions some unions only have meetings for the revision of their rules every three years or every two years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or every four years."]
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
I am afraid that is another matter. Personally, and with great respect, I should have thought that three years was a very long time, before rules were brought under review. At any rate, what I have indicated is the provision of this Sub-section. The hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield) brought certain arguments before the Committee, with great clearness and common sense, if I may say so. Her apprehension seemed to be that the procedure of the union to which she belongs would have to be altered, and that the passage in this Clause, which provides for the delivery of the form at the head office or some branch office of the union, would cause considerable inconvenience to members. There is no reason why these notices, once they are signed, should not be handed in at a meeting of the branch, and the meetings can be held as heretofore at the head offices or the branch offices, and the member can bring his or her notice to such meetings. It is very difficult to understand what is the real objection to the alteration in the details of collection and bookkeeping which this Clause may bring about.
On the general scope of the Clause, what has determined me to support it is 2357 a plain common-sense argument. Originally, the existence of trade unions was a purely economic one. They were to protect men engaged in industry. I agree that as time went on political activities became necessary. It is quite obvious that this ancillary purpose, if I may so term it, had to be put into operation. What occurs to me is that if in any union or social club it is desired to depart from the original intention and scope of that organisation, and to extend it, then it is only fair that those who desire that should say so and should pay for it. Therefore those who desire this perfectly legitimate extension of the original purposes of the trade union should make that desire perfectly clear and support it at their own expense. In the instance of the social club which has already been mentioned, it would be obviously so. If the committee of a social club think it necessary to extend in some fashion the activities of the club, it has to be decided, and those who desire it have to pay for it.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
Would the hon. and learned Member say that in the ease of a social club—the majority of the members having decided to make an extension—another section of the members should be able to say, "We will only pay half of our subscriptions because that extension is your work and not ours."
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
In that case, the rules of the club by which every member would be bound, would lay down the amount of the subscription, and they could not increase that subscription without the consent of the members. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, by a majority,"] If one of the clubs in London wanted to undertake some ancillary purpose, the people who wanted it would say so, and would be prepared to pay for it.
I know something about social clubs, and as far as I know, all the expenses of the activities of Social clubs are borne by the whole of the members, although only a portion may use the club. The expense falls on the club as a whole.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
We are getting into a discussion on social clubs. Perhaps the fault is mine, but it is not quite relevant to this Clause. I submit 2358 that in this Clause there is nothing to prevent any form of proper pressure being brought to bear on trade unionists to subscribe to a political fund. There is a form to be signed which does not require renewal every year. Some misapprehension seems to have arisen on that point, but it seems to me that renewal of a form at the end of the year is only required in case of withdrawals. If there is any alteration in the bookkeeping arrangements, those alterations have to be covered by the rules made by the Members and certified by the Registrar. All that does not involve the consequences which appear to be hoped for by hon. Members seated behind me and dreaded by those who sit opposite. A good deal has been said during this Debate upon the suggestion that employers' associations should come under this Clause, and the Licensed Victuallers' Association has been mentioned as an instance. The Attorney-General has said that employers' associations will come under the Clause if they are trade unions. That is the difficulty which occurs to me. It seems to me that it would be a legitimate complaint of hon. Members opposite against the Licensed Victuallers' Association and associations of that kind that they were not trade unions. If hon. Members would direct their energies to making those bodies trade unions, obviously they would come within the scope of the Clause. But when one comes to examine this matter it is not so easy. The Licensed Victuallers' Association, so far as I know, is an association of men prepared to put up money to protect their own trade. After all, we can all do that. We can all subscribe to any purposes which we like. There are some hon. Members, possibly, who would like to subscribe to put up a statue to the Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) and there are hon. Members opposite who might like to make a subscription to present a travelling bag to the recently discovered "human document" who, like the waiter, will shortly be leaving us and hoping that he has given satisfaction. There is no end of the objects to which people will subscribe when they so desire, and the question is whether an organisation of employers concerned with a particular industry exists as a trade union or not. If so they would come under this Clause.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
If shareholders of a company, by the memorandum and articles of association, have authorised the directors to pay to a political fund, then they would obviously be liable for their share of the contribution.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
I suggest to the Attorney-General, with great respect, that it might be possible, before this Bill comes up on Report, if he thinks it desirable to do so, to introduce some definition to explain what associations of employers are trade unions. I think it would be helpful to those who belong to associations such as licensed victuallers, or, it may be, undertakers. It might be useful before the Report stage to include some helpful definition to make it clearer what associations do come under the definition of trade unions and, consequently, are covered by this Bill. I have given very shortly the reasons why I propose to support the Subsection, and I repeat that I cannot help thinking that when this Measure is in operation hon. Members opposite will find that their fears were unfounded as to the effect of the sub-section on the activities of their unions.
§ Miss WILKINSON
I want to put one point to the Attorney-General and, if I may, I will put it in the form of a question rather than of a speech, because hon. Members here are anxious to get on to another point. The Attorney-General or the Secretary of State for War has stated that 570,000 trade unionists voted against a political levy. Does that figure include those who, after voting in that way in one ballot, at some later date reversed the decision? The union of which I am an official refused in 1914 by a large vote to have any political levy. That was at a time when the Labour party were not so strong as they are now, and when the War was occupying the attention of the people. Some years later that decision was reversed by a still more overwhelming majority. I want to ask whether the figure of 570,000 includes those people 2360 who voted against the levy but, later on, reversed the decision; because if that be so, and the figures as to other unions have been given on that basis, then this figure of 570,000 is grossly exaggerated.
§ Mr. REMER
An hon. Member speaking a short time ago declared that this Clause would make the unions of this country stronger, an observation with which I am in complete agreement. They will be stronger because, as a result of this Clause, they will be industrial unions, and not, as at present, primarily political unions. It has been said that in war one volunteer is better than two conscripts, and if the unions have voluntary subscribers to their fund, those voluntary subscribers will be very much more valuable to the Socialist party. The hon. Member who moved the rejection of this sub-section told a story of how his predecessor had sat in this House since 1886 and was maintained by the Miners Federation, and said this Bill would never have seen the light of day if it had not been for the presence of the Labour party in this House. I venture to say that the real reason for this Bill is not the presence of the Labour party here, but the abuse of the trade union funds by the Labour party.
§ Mr. REMER
I shall make some observations upon that in a few minutes, He said that he had had placed before him no complaints of abuse of the trade union funds, and that he saw no reason why the trade union funds should be separated as is proposed in this Sub-section. I will give him a reason why they should be. In my constituency there is a union fighting me called the National Union of General Workers. The hon. Member for Plaistow (Mr. W. Thorne) is a prominent member of that union.
§ Mr. W. THORNE
He has been general secretary for 38 years, if you want to know—from the very inception of it.
§ Mr. REMER
The right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) is also a member, so also is the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones), and I believe, also, the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday). In the particulars of this union as filed with the Registrar of Friendly Societies we find that in 1925 the total income was £367,000, and the 2361 amount paid in salaries and allowances to the officers of the union amounted to £l23,000— [Interruption.]
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
On a point of Order. Have these statements about the application of funds to purely industrial purposes anything to do with the Amendment?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
I do not quite understand to what the hon. Member is referring. He is quoting figures as to the funds of trade unions.
§ Mr. REMER
The argument I am using is that, when this Sub-section is passed, the funds of the unions will have to be divided between their industrial and their political objects. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are now."]. At the present moment salaries are paid, and expenses in elections are paid out of the general fund—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If I am allowed to proceed I will give the figures concerning this particular union in the year 1925. In that year, in which £123,000 was paid in salaries to officers, including Members of this House, and their election expenses, and the expenses of fighting—[Interruption].
§ Mr. SEXTON
Surely this has nothing to do with the Amendment. Is it in Order for the hon. Member to deal with these points in a discussion on the political funds of the unions?
§ Mr. W. THORNE
On a point of explanation. I do not care what the hon. 2362 Member talks about. I will go down to his constituency and reply to him there.
§ Mr. LINDLEY
On a further point of Order. Is the hon. Member in order in deceiving the Committee by giving us a statement which is only partly true? [HON. MEMBERS: "You will get the rest."]
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is making his statement, and it will be for other hon. Members to reply to him.
§ Mr. REMER
I gave the figures. They spent from the accident fund £6,670, from the funeral benefit fund £32,000; and the other benefits were £4,000. From the political fund £12,000 was spent on salaries and allowances of officers who came down, very largely to fight hon. Members of this House in their constituencies. Their expenses were paid out of the general fund which is extraordinarily misused. It is for that reason that it is necessary to set the matter out clearly in regard to this and many other unions by means of proper accounts, in which the political funds are separated from the benefit funds, so as to prevent this gross misuse from going on.
§ Mr. REMER
They had 32 meetings last year, and we, the Conservative party, could not afford to hold 10 meetings. One would not mind if it were not for the fact that, very largely, the money is subscribed by men and women in other unions, who are also subscribing 1s. a year to the National Unionist Association in one form or another. There is no doubt in any reasonable man's mind that they are absolutely forced and intimidated into paying this political levy. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I have had two cases brought to my notice in my own constituency. One of them refers to another union, the United Garment Workers' Union. One member of that union, who was a Conservative and had the misfortune to have all his teeth out, was entitled to benefit from the union. When he went to the union, he was told that no benefit was available for him, yet in the same week that union had given a subscription of £l,000 to the "Daily Herald," and had paid £250 for the expenses of one candidate standing for Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "Will you give the name?"] I will not give the man's name, because I am not going to make his life a misery.
§ Mr. REMER
No, I am sure I am not. I should like to confirm what my hon. Friend below me has just said with regard to the Scarborough Conference. No one who attended that Conference, as did my hon. Friend and myself, could have been other than impressed by the sincere attitude of the Conservative working men there. What happened at that Conference? The right hon and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Sir L. Scott), moved an Amendment designed to postpone a decision until a later Conference, or rather to take a different decision from the very strong words used by the Conservative working man who proposed it. Those working men would not have she matter postponed for a minute longer. I have no doubt whatever that it has been from the bottom ranks of the Conservative party that this Bill has been brought to the light of day. My impression in my own constituency is that if there is a class war in this country and enmity against anybody, that enmity is not on the part of the workmen against the employers, but it is against the trade union leaders [HON. MEMBERS: "Put it the other way"] who have bled the working people of this country white, and in such a way that the working men are determined to see that they will get a charter of freedom and liberty which will release them from the tyranny under which they are suffering.
§ Mr. MORRIS
I have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer), and I confess that on this Amendment it appears to be wholly irrelevant. The issue is not whether trade unions in the management of their funds have been guilty of any abuse or otherwise. The whole question at issue is whether, in the event of trade unions having funds for a political purpose, it is not wise to set those funds in a general category, but rather to deal with them separately and to have a separate political fund. On the other hand, the other issue which has been raised, unfortunately, is that the Bill is really a bad Bill and that, because it is a bad Bill, nothing in it can be good. I listened to one hon. Member on the Labour benches who said that they were not all sinful, but had some virtues. That is perfectly true. As far as this Bill is concerned, although much in it may be sinful, it has some virtues. On the general principle, it cannot be gainsaid that if you are to have political funds for one definite, specified object, those funds should be kept separate. [An HON. MBMBER: "They are."] Very well, then, they are now; therefore this Sub-section does not change the law. It merely states what is the existing practice and law, and merely declares the existing position.
When hon. Members opposite say, "Look at the abuse of the political fund," that really is an argument which can be used by any one of the political parties in this House. One misfortune, as I have seen it work out in practice, is the development of the caucus system in politics. Representation in this House is based actually on the right of the people to be represented by constituencies, and on the freedom of choice of the constituencies to return their own members. The development of the caucus system by both the older parties of the State has interfered seriously with the right of the Divisions to send their own representatives free and unfettered to this House.
§ Mr. MORRIS
I quite agree. I share the hon. Member's condemnation without any qualification at all, but it lies very ill in the mouths of hon. Members opposite that they should condemn that party. It is an interference with a democratic House such as this that the con- 2366 stituents themselves should not have the right to determine the character of their representation. Now the Labour party has taken a step in the right direction. They have made their funds separate and distinct, and I should be sorry to see that separation of the political fund interfered with. Restore the free and unfettered right of the Division, without being hindered by any caucus, whether central office or dictatorship, to choose its representative, and you will then make the House a democratic House. Although I cannot see much good in this Bill as a whole, I cannot find myself in a position to vote against this Sub-section.
§ 1.0 p.m.
§ Major COLFOX
Personally, I do not like the Clause, and I cannot persuade myself to support it. I oppose it not because it is unjust or unfair or because any of the other epithets used by the party opposite apply to it, but because I do not think that it will meet the evil it is designed to cure. I believe and acknowledge that there has been a very great deal of tyranny, coercion and victimisation of the rank and file of trade unionists by the trade union bosses. I do not think that this policy will provide a cure. When this policy is in operation, it will not materially affect the situation as it exists to-day. It will be, in my belief, just as easy to victimise and tyrannise them as it is to-day and, moreover, I do not think that it will affect the amount of money which flows into the political funds more than to a very small extent. A very large amount, both of support and opposition to this Clause, comes from a misapprehension of what is likely to be effected by it. The Socialist party appears to be opposing this Clause through a fear that it will diminish their political funds; a section of those who are supporting the Clause appear to be supporting it for the same reason. It would be a pity if the Socialist party were to find themselves short of the sinews of war, because I think that the best way of countering and defeating their misguided policy is by doing so openly at election times and between elections by doing it quite above board and without trying to curtail their resources.
There is another worse effect which is likely to come from this Clause. We are not in any way concerned with the attitude adopted towards this Clause by 2367 Socialist Members opposite. In this connection their views seem to me to carry very little weight at all because, after all, they are the receivers of the political fund and not the payers of the levy. One must, however, ask oneself why it is that it has been considered necessary to advocate the policy at all. Obviously the reason is because the trade union bosses have usurped to themselves too much power over the rank and file of the trade unions, and it is rightly urged that the rank and file do not, and cannot exert themselves against the oppression which is exercised against them. Therefore, to right the evil, steps must be taken in some way or other to curtail the power for evil, which is now exercised by the bosses. This is not a matter which can be satisfactorily effected by legislation. It is essentially a matter which must be solved, and which can only be solved satisfactorily by the trade unionists themselves. Recently there has been a growing and a most healthy tendency on the part of the rank and file of trade unionists to exert themselves to an increasing extent in the management of their own affairs and the affairs of their union. Until recently there had been a lamentable lethargy and apathy on the part of individuals, who have not bestirred themselves either to attend the meetings of their lodge, or to vote in the ballots of their union, or to take any part whatever in the transaction of business. There has been recently a slight but increasing tendency in the other direction, and I strongly believe that it is in encouraging that tendency that the cure for the admitted evil can be found, and in that direction alone.
It has been urged to-day that the accounts and balance sheets of political funds ought to be made public property. Although I disagree fundamentally with members of the benches opposite on most points, I do agree with them there. Not only do I agree that it should be done, but in so far as it lies in my power it has been done. In my own constituency, for a great many years past, we have annually published the receipts and expenses in full of every sixpence of the party funds of the constituency. It does not, of course, lie with me to control or to have any say in the control of 2368 the party funds of any other place, but in so far as it does lie with me this policy has been adopted and with marked success. Since we have regularly published our receipts and expenditure, two things have been borne in upon the electorate of the Division. These two things show the necessity for subscribing to the political constitutional party, and the way in which the money so subscribed has been spent. The result has been that the subscription list has gone up very largely, and I hope I am right in saying that it is still continuing to increase. I do not believe that the Government are proceeding on the right lines in this Clause. I believe the Bill as a whole is not only admirable but necessary. This Clause seeks to remedy an admitted evil, and if I thought that the method proposed really would remedy that evil I should support it. It is because I do not think that it does in effect remedy that evil, and because I feel that to enact this Clause will have the effect of curtailing and limiting the present healthy interest taken by the rank and file of trade unionists in the management of their unions that I oppose this Clause.
§ Mr. NUTTALL
So far as I understand this Clause, it says, in the first place, that it is not lawful to require a man to subscribe to the political fund unless he has signed a form stating his willingness to contribute. In the second place, it is provided that the political fund should be collected separately and administered separately. Is there any great hardship in that? I do not see any. Hon. Members know full well that at present a trade unionist is taken to be subscribing to the political funds unless and until he has signed a form in writing stating that he does not wish to subscribe. I cannot help feeling that since the Act of 1913 we have had a great deal of experience in this matter. That Act was largely in the form of an experiment. When we are asked what has been our experience we can only come to one of two conclusions. The first is, since 1913 there has been, quite rightly, a very great deal of pressure brought to bear by trade unions upon those within their ranks, because trade unionists were unwilling to work alongside non-union workers. There has been growing up in the country among quite sensible people a suspicion that undue pressure has been brought to bear 2369 on people not to contract out. I do not think there is any reasonable doubt that that suspicion is there.
The second point is that people are coming to believe that trade unions are using too much political force and are paying too much attention to political work. They believe that the unions are not paying as much attention as they ought to do to their proper function. I do not say whether that suspicion is well or ill-founded, but it is very largely held throughout the country. Ever since the Act of 1913 was passed there has been a constant agitation among Conservative and Liberal trade unionists in regard to contracting-out, and at every political conference connected with the Conservative party this question has been raised by Conservative trade unionists. Of course agitation on this question is not likely to come from the Socialist party.
Supposing this Clause comes into effect, one of two things is going to happen. Either the political funds of the union will remain very much as they are, and if that is so then the suspicion of the country on this point will have been ill-founded. If, on the other hand, the political funds of trade unions go down considerably, then we must conclude that that suspicion has been well-founded, and that people have had undue pressure brought to bear upon them in the past. Personally I do not think it would have been wise to bring in this Clause on its own, as I say quite frankly that I think most trade unions are unduly suspicious and touchy. When we are dealing with the whole of the trade union law and making certain quite distinct alterations, this is the time when we should see if we cannot put our house in order.
My last point is that I am certain that this Clause may do a great deal of good, and it certainly cannot do any harm. Surely the Socialist party does not want to collect money from anybody who is not willing to subscribe to the political fund. As far as separation of the political and the industrial fund is concerned, if I understand the Clause, it merely says that an unregistered trade union shall be placed on the same basis as a registered trade union. The registered trade unions have always kept these accounts separate, and I see no hardship in placing 2370 unregistered trade unions under the same rules. For these reasons I shall support the Clause, and I think it will do a great deal of good.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL: (Sir Douglas Hogg)
I do not think it will take more than one or two minutes to answer the points which have been raised. I understand there are other matters which the Opposition desire to raise. I do not think it would be courteous to pass over the arguments which have been addressed to the Government. I have much sympathy with the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Morris) in regard to the points in this Sub-section which he has been discussing. We have had arguments about there being no compulsion at present. We have had a discussion as to whether compulsion is right, and whether it is not majority rule. We have had a discussion as to whether, if there is compulsion, it will not still go on, and whether this is not wholly ineffective to bring it to an end. I would only observe that that seems rather a contradiction to the suggestion which hon. Members opposite are so fond of making, that there is some sinister design in this Clause to try to destroy the political funds of those on the other side. We are quite well aware, as hon. Members have said, that coercion will still be possible, that methods of canvassing such as were referred to by one hon. Member may still bring pressure to bear; but we have deliberately restricted our legislation to the narrowest possible limits, in the hope and belief that trade unionists on the other side will all in future carry out what I quite believe a great many of them carry out to-day, and that is to ensure that compulsion and coercion in fact shall not take place. So far as the actual Clause is concerned, I really should have thought it was not so very controversial. At present there is a provision for a political fund. It may be levied with the general fund, or it may be levied separately. When it is levied with the general fund, we are informed by those who are best able to judge—by the Registrar and others—that it is almost impossible in practice to be sure that transfers from the general fund to the political fund are correctly and accurately made, and it is quite impossible to secure that political 2371 objects shall not be financed, in effect, by a charge on the general fund.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
That is the information. All that we are doing here is to ensure that the two funds, which by law at present have to be applied separately, shall be kept distinct, so that moneys which are subscribed for benefit purposes shall not be used for political purposes. That seems to me to be a very reasonable and modest proposal. We are merely asking that, since the law already is that the political fund only shall be applied to political purposes, the legislation shall be so framed as to secure that the two funds shall be kept distinct from their inception until their end. There are three Amendments which I have on the Paper, and which I can explain in as many sentences. They are all Amendments designed to facilitate and protect the existing position of the trade unions. The first one is, in this Sub-section, to leave out the first "or" in line 36, and insert the wordsand no assets of a trade union other than those forming part of the political fund shall be.Its object is to meet a point which was raised by, I think, the hon. Member for Orkney (Sir R. Hamilton) on the preceding Amendment, and to make it quite clear that, although only the political levy may be applied to the political fund, if there are moneys outside the trade union, subscribed either by donations or subscriptions, or by someone paying more than the minimum amount of the levy, those can legally be included in the political fund and applied to political purposes. As the Clause was originally drawn, it was open to the construction that only the political levy could go into the political fund, and that, if any other sums were given, there might have been a question whether, on the strict construction of the language, it would have been possible to use them for political purposes. We want to make it quite clear that the political fund is at liberty to have any moneys which anyone chooses to give it.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Surely, there must be something wrong, if I understand aright the Amendment with which the right hon. Gentleman is dealing. I was 2372 afraid that this Amendment was intended to tie up the general funds of the trade unions, as well as the political fund, to even a greater extent than the political fund is at the present. That is to say, that it will not be possible to hold any meetings at all under trade union auspices to deal with wages and conditions if they are in any way affected by political action, or to pay the expenses out of the general trade unions funds in such cases. Let me give a concrete case. Supposing a trade union wants to hold a meeting for purposes of protesting against the wages rates paid under a Trade Board. That would obviously be both a political and an industrial issue. I thought the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman to mean that, in fact, the trade union would have to divide the expenses of that meeting as between the industrial and political funds. I may have read it wrongly, but I really think we ought to have a little further explanation on this important point.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I am very glad to make the explanation, because there is always the risk that we may not have time later on, and I am very glad on that account that the matter has been raised. The object is exactly opposite to that which the hon. Member suspects. The Clause as it stands says:No assets of the trade union other than the amount raised by such a separate levy as aforesaid shall be carried to that fund or directly or indirectly applied or charged in furtherance of any political object.It might be stated, for instance, that the interest on investments which constitute the political fund were assets of the trade union which had not been raised by the separate levy. I do not think it would have been said, but it was open to that possibility, and it is to avoid that and to make it clear that anything that is in the political fund can be used for political objects, whether it was raised by a separate levy or received by donations or subscriptions or anything else, that we are altering the language so as to make it read:And no assets of a trade union, other than those forming part of the political fund, shall be directly or indirectly applied.The alteration is that, instead of saying no, assets except raised by a separate levy shall be applied to a political object, 2373 we are saying no assets except those that form part of the political fund shall be applied to a political object. That enables any moneys which are the property of the political fund, whether they come from a separate levy or not, to be applied to political objects. That is the only purpose and the only effect of it.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think it would be better to defer the discussion of this Amendment until we get to it. We had better dispose of the Amendment before the Committee first. We shall reach the point almost immediately.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I did not know which Amendment you, Sir, were going to call next and I was anxious to explain the three Amendments, which might otherwise pass without discussion. The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) asked me whether in the figure of 574,000, given by the Secretary for War as being the number of those who voted
§ against a political fund, were included the cases of those unions which have had two ballots, because that would mean that the same figures would be included twice. I have made inquiries and I find there were only nine unions out of 111 which had a second ballot and they have not been counted twice. Only the figure of the last ballot has been included, so that the figure may be taken as the most accurate we can get, though, of course, some of these ballots were taken a good many years ago, and there are many members of trade unions to-day who have never had an opportunity of voting one way or the other. They are the most authentic figures we are able to get because they include one only for each union.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'and' in line 34, stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 178; Noes, 90.2375
|Division No. 156.]||AYES.||[1.26 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Albery, Irving James||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. Hackney, N.)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Iliffe Sir Edward M.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Dixey, A. C.||Jacob, A. E.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Edmondson, Major A. J.||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Bennett, A. J.||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Berry, Sir George||Ellis, R. G.||Lane Fox, Col. Bt. Hon. George R.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. sir Philip|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Everard, W. Lindsay||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vare|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Fermoy, Lord||Lynn, Sir R. J.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Finburgh, S.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Ford, Sir P. J.||McLean, Major A.|
|Briant, Frank||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Fraser, Captain Ian||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Frace, Sir Walter de||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Malone, Major P. B.|
|Brooks, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Gates, Percy||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Gilmour, Lt. -Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Burman, J. B.||Goff, Sir Park||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Grant, Sir J. A.||Morris, R. H.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Murchison, Sir Kenneth|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Neville, R. J.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hon. W. G. (ptrsf'ld.)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hammersley, S. S.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Clayton, G. C.||Harland, A.||Nuttall, Ellis|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Harrison, G. J. C.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hartington, Marquess of||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hawke, John Anthony||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Cooper, A. Dull||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Peto, G. (Semerset, Frame)|
|Cope, Major William||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crawe)||Hegg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Ramsden, E.|
|Remer, J. R.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Rice, Sir Frederick||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)||Strauss, E. A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Ropner, Major L.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Templeton, W. P.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Rye, F. G.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Sandeman, N. Stewart||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Savery, S. S.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Smith, R. W. (Aberd' & Kinc'dine, C.)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)||Major Sir George Hennessy and Mr.|
|Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Wells, S. R.||Penny|
|Sprot, Sir Alexander||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hirst, G. H.||Sexton, James|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Attles, Clement Richard||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Barnes, A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snell, Harry|
|Batey, Joseph||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Kelly, W. T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Broad, F. A.||Kennedy, T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Bromley, J.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Kirkwood, D.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lansbury, George||Taylor, R. A.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, John James||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lee, F.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lindley, F. W.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lowth, T.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lunn, William||Varley, Frank B.|
|Dennison, R.||Mackinder, W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Duncan, C.||March, S.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dunnico, H.||Maxton, James||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D.(Rhondda)|
|Gillett, George M.||Mosley, Oswald||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Oliver, George Harold||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Palin, John Henry||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Hall, F. (York., W. R., Normanton)||Potts, John S.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Hardie, George D.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Hayes, John Henry||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Rose, Frank H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scrymgeour, E.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
I beg to move, in page 4, line 36, to leave out the first word "or" and to insert instead thereof the words:and no assets of a trade union other than those forming part of the political fund shall beThis Amendment was in process of explanation by the Attorney-General during the discussion on the last Amendment. The sole object is to prevent what might possibly—though I do not think it would, happen—be a narrow construction of the Bill as it now stands. It might conceivably be held that the interest on any invested political funds, money arising from the political levy, which might not be wanted for a month or two and was invested meanwhile was not raised by a levy and therefore was not available for the use of the political 2376 fund. The result of the words we are putting in to meet that point is that no assets of a trade union other than those forming part of the political fund shall be applied as in the Bill. It does not now say only the money raised by a levy. It says, assets belonging to the political fund, once they are there in that political fund, can be applied to political purposes.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I am much obliged to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for the explanation he has given. He has, I admit, thrown some light upon the Amendment which I failed to secure beforehand. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will, I feel sure, pardon a little suspicion on our part when an Amendment to this Clause comes from the Government Benches. I thought, at first, there might be a catch 2377 in it, and my supicions have not entirely been removed yet. If we can get a little more enlightenment from the hon. and gallant Gentleman we shall then understand what the Amendment is about. What we really want to know is, whether the words which are to be introduced by way of Amendment will provide for any interference with the general or industrial funds of a trades union? The abject of the Sub-section, naturally, is to divide the funds of a trade union into two parts. After the discussion this morning and the speech we heard from the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) and the very vigorous speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir A. Sprot), we became a little suspicious that the Conservative party were anxious to interfere with all the funds of our trade union organisations. If we can be assured with regard to that, it will satisfy me, at all events, for the time being.
Let me put a specific case. Supposing the textile operatives in Lancashire, on the introduction of a Factories Bill into this House call a branch meeting in the ordinary way to discuss the Bill. A Factories Bill—whether it be a Conservative Bill or a Labour Bill, the latter, naturally, being the better—would affect the actual working conditions of the textile operatives. If the Operatives' Union call an ordinary branch meeting to discuss the contents of the Bill, are they to be called upon to charge the whole of the cost of that meeting, or any percentage of the cost, to the political fund of their organisation; or can the cost, as is now the case, be debited entirely against the general fund of the organisation? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will, I am sure, understand why we are, once again, a little suspicious of what the Government are doing in this connection. Once the two funds have been separated I feel sure that not even this Government would like to interfere with the general funds of the trade union movement. I think it would be a great pity, once we had decided to separate these funds, to allow any undue interference with the industrial side of the unions by any Government Department. My final word is to ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to give us an assurance that what he is now doing may not be regarded as an invitation to a malcontent who might be instigated, by the way, by any other party in opposition to the trade 2378 union movement to take advantage of the words he is now proposing. As far as his explanation goes, I am satisfied, unless there is, as I have already hinted, a catch about it.
§ Mr. MARCH
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, may I also put another question to him in connection with the trade union fund and the political fund? Take, for instance, the Traffic Bill of the Minister of Transport which is now before the public. I belong to a transport organisation. To get the views of the members of our organisation, we are calling meetings for the purpose of considering the effect of this Bill, and I should like to know whether the expenses of these meetings must be contributed out of the political fund or the general fund of the union. This Bill will come before the House at some time or other and will, probably, become an Act of Parliament, and our members will have to submit to its provisions. We should, in the ordinary way, pay all the expenses connected with the calling of such meetings out of the general fund. We should not expect that they had anything to do with a political matter. We should like the position to be made clear upon that point. With regard to the question of assets, if money obtained for the political fund is put into a bank until required, it is only right that the interest so derived should be left in the fund. I have belonged to an organisation for 26 years, and we never had a Political Fund, although we used to obtain money and allocate it for political purposes. We used to get the money in various ways. We used to arrange voluntary concerts, and whatever sum was derived was placed, in accordance with a resolution, into a, fund for political purposes. If we extend this sort of thing, surely you are not going to interfere with us.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I am not going to question the object of the right hon. Gentleman, or the object of the Attorney-General. This Bill is full of objects and objections. I want to take the literal wording of the Bill. It is not what the right hon. Gentleman may think its object may be, but how the Courts will interpret the Bill. It appears to me, looking at this Bill from the point of view of the ordinary layman, that the same objection will be raised in regard to this Clause as I raised on a previous occasion. I belong to the same organisation as my hon. Friend who has just spoken. Before we joined the Labour party we had no protection from the law. The employer was not even under the obligation of making out a return of his men. We were outside the Factories Act, we were outside the Truck Act, we were outside every piece of legislation passed for the benefit of the working classes. Since the inception of Labour politics, we have always been included. We educated our members as to the necessity for political action, direct political action, because it is no use going to a Government like the present Government to ask them for Labour reforms when you know they are out to abuse them. The only thing you can do, and must do, is to call your members together and tell them that the only way to remedy their grievances is to send to Parliament men you believe to be heart and soul with you. Suppose you call a meeting with the object of endeavouring to secure an Amendment of the Workmen's Compensation Act, the Unemployment Insurance Act, the National Health Insurance Act, surely that cannot be described as political propaganda? We ought to be entitled to say that the only way to remedy our grievances is to send men to the House of Commons who we believe will endeavour to remedy them.
If I read these words aright, I am convinced, from painful experience of the Law Courts, that the interpretation that would be put upon them by the Judges, as it has been in the past, will be that a political meeting held with the object of promoting legislation for political purposes or for industrial purposes will be an infringement upon the provisions of the Act with regard to the political levy. The political levy may be called upon to pay the expenses of an in- 2380 dustrial meeting called to discuss legislation, and you cannot separate the two. It is mentally and physically impossible to do so. You may call a trade union meeting, but you must not discus politics. The very existence of the trade union in itself is a political one created in an atmosphere forced upon us by bad economic conditions, politically created in this House and administered by employers on the benches of magistrates and by Judges. How can we separate the two? I am not satisfied with the assurances of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not doubt his honesty. I think he has been very charitable in trying to get the Prime Minister and his colleagues out of the intellectual morass into which they have fallen, but I am not going to accept this, even with his assurance, and with ail his legal acumen. The road to a certain hypothetical region is paved with good intentions. Unless the proposed words are altered, they will cripple the trade unions.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Hon. Members have asked me several questions which have nothing to do with the Amendment. The hon. Member for South Poplar (Mr. March) did ask a question which illustrates well what the Amendment will do. He stated that the political fund of his union was raised at one time by concerts, etc., and the proceeds were paid into the political fund. There is just a doubt under the Bill as originally drafted whether such funds would be able to be used for political purposes, but the Amendment makes it clear that there can be no doubt that in future those funds could be used for political purposes. The hon. Member also asked whether meetings held In respect of the Factories Bill, or the Ministry of Transport Bill, could be paid for out of the industrial fund, or must be paid for out of the political fund. The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Sexton) asked the same question with regard to meetings as to Workmen's Compensation, National Health Insurance, and so on. Those questions do not arise on this Amendment. All that this Amendment does is to allow not merely the money raised by the political levy, but any other funds that are properly payable to the political fund, to be used for political purposes. I should have expected that that would have been welcomed by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
If the right hon. Gentleman will tell the Committee what is a political object or a political purpose, we shall know which funds can be used for what we know as a political object. It seems to me that such questions as compensation, factory legislation and conferences organised to deal with questions of that kind might, according to the account given by the right hon. Gentleman, be deemed as political purposes.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON -EVANS
Fortunately it does not depend upon my mind, but upon the action taken by Parliament in 1913. The Act of 1913, Subsection (3), defines what the political purposes. This Amendment is not adding to or taking away anything from that Act. The Act remains exactly as it is in that respect.
§ Mr. WEBB
I agree that it is extremely important that trade unions should know what they can spend out of their industrial fund and political fund respectively, and I think we may be assured that this particular Clause does not make any difference to that boundary line. Therefore, those considerations are not really relevant to this Amendment. I should like to raise the point as to what the Amendment is going to do. I am net unduly suspicious, and I think I understand what the right hon. Gentleman is trying to do; but I would ask him to consider the technicalities which are raised by the words in the Clause and the words which he proposes to insert. The Subsection as it stands provides that:… no assets of the trade union, other than the amount raised by such a separate levy as aforesaid, shall be carried to that fund.that is, to the political fund. The first part of the Sub-section provides that all contributions to the political fund from members of the trade union who are liable to contribute to that fund shall be levied and made separately from any contributions to the other fund of the union. There are two questions raised. First, the irregular contributions which are obtained by parties or concerts or anything of that sort, even from members of the trade union who are liable to contribute to the funds. That is raised by the words,… no assets … other than the amount raised by such a separate levy as aforesaid.2382 I think that cuts out the tea party and the concerts. The Amendment says:and no assets of a trade union other than those forming part of the political fund shall beapplied to a political object.no assets of a trade union other than those forming part of the political fund.If the right hon. Gentleman will consider the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton), he will find that that refers to gifts or legacies to the political fund. It is common ground that this is not intended to exclude gifts or legacies from the political fund, but the Clause, even without the Amendment suggested by the Attorney-General, would read that no assets of a trade union, other than the amount raised by such a separate levy, as aforesaid, shall be carried to the political fund. I submit that a legacy made to the political fund cannot be made to the fund but must be made to the trade union, or as a gift to the trade union official. In that way it becomes part of the assets of the trade union, and is then entered and credited to the particular fund. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman means to exclude that, but it might seem so from the words… and no assets of the trade union, other than the amount raised by such a separate levy,shall be carried to the political fund. I submit that some additional words are needed in order to take care that the proceeds of tea parties, on the one hand, and gifts or legacies for the political fund, on the other hand, are covered. I think the right hon. Gentleman means to cover them. The Sub-section provides, however, that… no assets of the trade union, other than the amount raised by such a separate levy, as aforesaid, shall be carried to that fund or directly or indirectly applied or charged in furtherance of any political object.I am not a lawyer and, honestly, I cannot understand how the proposed additional words will provide that the assets of a trade union can be carried to the political fund, other than those raised by the separate levy. I do not think the words proposed to be added to enable the interest on the political fund to be used for political purposes. This interest is part of 2383 the assets of a trade union, and the Clause will say that no assets of a trade union, other than the amount raised by a separate levy as aforesaid, shall be carried to the political fund. Unless the right hon. Gentleman holds that the interest on the investments of a political fund is not an asset of the trade union, which it obviously is, I do not see how the trade union having received that interest can add it to the political fund under the words of this Clause. There is no requirement that the political fund shall be separately invested. It may be most inconvenient to make a separate investment, and, as a matter of fact, the political fund in most trade unions is not separately invested. If it is intended to require a separate investment that must be provided, but if the investment is not a separate one and is included with the surplus funds of the union, the interest or dividend on that investment is not distinguished physically, from the interest or dividend on all the rest of the assets of a trade union and, therefore, when it is received it has actually to be carried to the political fund.
But the right hon. Gentleman is asking the Committee to say that no assets of a trade union's funds separately levied shall be carried to the political fund. It does not help to say that no assets other than those forming part of the political fund shall be applied. That does not enable a trade union to transfer some of its assets—namely, the interest on the political fund to the political fund—and consequently I submit that these words want reconsidering. It is purely a technical point. The Secretary of State for War quite definitely said that he wanted any funds other than the industrial fund of a trade union to be applicable to the political fund, if they were so intended, not merely the levy but any other fund, and that, of course, is desirable. I do not imagine the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General wants to starve the political fund. All he wants is to prevent members being levied who ought not to be levied, and therefore other funds of a trade union, which have not been levied, are entitled to go to the political fund, if it is within the object for which the funds have been given or acquired in any way. I submit that instead of saying, "All contributions to the political fund of a trade 2384 union from members of the trade union," you want to say that no levy shall be made on members for the purpose of the political fund other than the separate levy, but that any other fund which can be obtained from the sale of honorary membership of the unions, or presidencies of the unions, or honorary vice-presidents—I do not call that a sale of honours—should be carried to the political fund. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will see my point.
§ 2.0 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
It may be convenient if I answer the right hon. Gentleman at once. I fully understand the point he has put forward, and I feel it the more because it was the point which occurred to myself and which I put to the draftsman before I allowed the Amendment to be put down. What the right hon. Gentleman says is that this Amendment does not enable any of the assets of a trade union to be transferred to the political fund, and that it provides that only the political fund shall be applied to political objects. I agree it does do that; and unless you can get the tea party fund and the legacies into the political fund the Amendment would not help. That is the point I raised. The answer given to me is this. You create by a separate levy the political fund. You cannot transfer other assets of the trade union funds, but there is nothing to prevent that fund accumulating its own interest, because it is already in the funds, nor is there anything to prevent anybody who wishes to raise or give money to the political fund. The reason is that moneys so raised or given are not assets of a trade union until they have been paid into the political fund. You are not transferring money to the trade union political fund; you are raising funds for the express purpose of the political fund, which do not ever become assets of the trade union except to the extent that they become assets of the political fund. I will rediscuss and reconsider the Amendment in the light of what the right hon. Gentleman has said. He has read the whole purpose of the Amendment quite correctly, which is to ensure that such funds as he referred to shall be free for use for political objects. I think it is clear that if we did not make the Amendment the result would be that they could not be so applied, even if they 2385 got into the political fund, because the words would beno assets of the trade union other than the amount raised by such a separate levycould be applied to political objects. In order to avoid that, we alter the wording so that only the assets of the political fund shall be applied to political objects, but the assets of the political fund, although they cannot be replenished from the general fund, may be replenished from any fund outside the general fund, by interest on money from gifts or sums raised independently of the purposes of the general fund. That is the answer. I hope it is clear, but I will discuss it again in order to ascertain whether any doubts still remain.
§ Mr. WEBB
I thoroughly understand the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, but I venture still to submit to him that the Clause, as it will read, will say thatno assets of the trade union other than the amount raised by such a separate levy as aforesaidshall be carried to that fund. I want to remind him of the interest. He intended to include the interest. But supposing the interest is that of an undistributed fund? There is no requirement that the fund shall be separately invested, such a requirement would be onerous and objectionable, and it is necessary to separate the interest which a trade union receives and carry it to its appropriate fund. That is what every institution which has a number of separate funds has to do. I submit that that interest, when a trade union receives it, is an asset of the trade union, and if it is to be carried to the political fund there is a definite statement in the Clause that no asset "other than the amount raised by a separate levy" shall be so carried. Surely it should be turned round, and the Clause should say that all the assets which a trade union chooses to put to the political fund, other than those levied on the members for the industrial fund, may be taken to the political fund. Why should there be this desire to limit the political fund to the amount of the political levy? I submit that the Clause should provide that all the assets not otherwise charged on the industrial fund may be carried to the political fund, if a trade union chooses.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
Take the fund of my own union. I want to put the practical way in which we operate. We find ourselves, let us suppose, on the 2nd May after the first quarter, with a balance of £200,000 in the general fund of the union. That is a balance of the union's funds for all purposes. Book-keeping purposes never enter into the matter. On 2nd May we decide that we will invest £200,000 in War Loan or some Corporation stock, and that is done. Then we jump to December, when the balance sheet is made up. We will assume for practical purposes that the amount standing to the credit of the political fund on 2nd May, when we made that investment, was £30,000. When the total balance sheet is made up we will assume again that £30,000 is the amount which stands as surplus on the political fund. That has been invested as bearing 5 per cent, interest. I want to be perfectly clear as to how the allocation is to be made. At the present time, we allocate the interest on £30,000 of our £200,000 to the political fund. There will be £170,000 to the general fund, and £30,000, plus interest, to the political fund. I want to know exactly what the situation would be.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I think the answer is that the situation will be exactly as it is. That is the intention, and I believe that the Amendment carries it out. Under the Bill the political fund and the general fund have to be kept separate. As a matter of book-keeping for any accounting purposes, or for the purpose of ascertaining what balances there are, the two accounts must be kept quite separate. They have, therefore, to show how much of any particular investment belongs to the political fund, or belongs to the other fund. When the interest on an investment of £200,000 in stock comes in—of which £30,000 belongs to the political fund and £170,000 belongs to the general fund—the interest on the £30,000, the moment it is received, although it is in the same cheque and goes into the same bank, belongs to the political fund. It never becomes part of the general assets of the trade union and would not properly be used for that purpose, just as the income on the £170,000, which is an asset of the trade union, could not go to the political fund, because from the moment it is received, it forms part 2387 of the general assets applicable to the general purposes of the union. The intention and, I beleive, the effect of this Clause is not that you cannot credit to the political fund the dividends on such investments as belong to the political fund, but merely that you cannot take moneys out of the assets, the trade union funds which have been received from the other sources, and apply them to political purposes. If any moneys are representing the political fund, the dividends on those investments always belong to the political fund from the moment they are received. If anyone gives money for the purpose of the political fund, that never becomes an asset of the trade union until it becomes an asset of the political fund, and only belongs to the trade union because it is an asset of the political fund. That is protected by the wording of the Clause.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I would like to put another question. Every Session of Parliament railway companies introduce Bills in this House for extended powers and so forth, and it is part of our obligation as a trade union—never mind whether a man is exempted from the political fund or not—to examine how far these Bills affect the interests of the members. Suppose we have this sum of money, £170,000, invested. Can either the interest or the capital of that sum be used by my union either to instruct a lawyer to prepare a case against all the railway Bills in Parliament or can we pay moneys out of the political fund for the purpose of protecting our members?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
My right hon. Friend is getting free legal opinion, and I hope that on that account it will not be unreliable.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The question asked is a little outside the scope of the discussion for it has nothing whatever to do with the Amendment or the Clause that we are discussing. The right hon. Gentleman appreciates that in the Clause we are not altering in any sense what is a political object. That is laid down in the Act of 1913, and we are not altering the language of that Act at 2388 all so far as the definition is concerned. Probably my short answer to the right hon. Gentleman is that if his union is able to do it to-day out of its general funds, it will remain able to do it in the future, and vice versa. In answer to the question concerning Parliamentary Bills and seeing how far they affect the interests of the railwaymen, clearly that would not be a political object within Section 3 of the Act of 1913, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman could spend his general fund, capital or interest, on that purpose.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I beg to move, in page 5, line 10, at the end, to insert a new Sub-section:(4) Notwithstanding anything in this Act, until the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and twenty-seven, it shall be lawful to require any member of a trade union to contribute to the political fund of the trade union as if this Act had not been passed.I do not think this Amendment will require much discussion. It, again, is designed to protect trade unions against any difficulty which might otherwise be experienced during the transition period, and the effect of it is to provide that, although we are changing from contracting out to contracting in, until the end of the current year, the existing law shall remain operative as far as raising a political fund is concerned. That is to ensure that during the whole of the remainder of this year members who are at present liable to pay the political levy shall remain liable to do so, although they have not expressed any willingness to contribute.
§ Mr. WEBB
These words I recognise as being a matter of consideration on the part of the Attorney-General, who does not want to upset the existing machinery more than is needful and if I rise to say anything on this Amendment it is only to call his attention to a variation in phraseology as between the Amendment and Sub-section (2) which we have just been discussing. This difference is not quite so unimportant as it may seem. The Amendment proposes thatit shall be lawful to require any member of a trade union to contribute to the political fund.2389 That is all right, but in Sub-section (2) the words areAll contributions to the political fund from members of the trade union who are liable to contribute to that fund shall be levied and made separately.This Amendment relates only to what may call compulsory contributions to a political fund. Sub-section (2) seems to me to include voluntary contributions, the words being "All contributions to the political fund." I am not raising this point with regard to the present Amendment. I am raising it in order to point out that there may be voluntary contributions over and above the amount of the levy, and surely it is intended that these should go to the political fund. It is not worth raising the point on this Amendment, but I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to make the language identical in these two places. If he wishes to exclude voluntary contributions under this Amendment, surely he ought to exclude them also under Subsection (2)? There are such things as voluntary and spontaneous contributions to the political fund from members, over and above what they are "required" to pay. I do not bother about this voluntary contribution for this year, but I suggest to the Attorney-General that it is not necessary to prohibit them under the Sub-section (2).
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The Amendment is a purely transitory one, and only applies to the position up to 31st December, 1927. It merely provides that contributions shall be transferred to the political fund as usual and that the legalised exaction of contributions—I use the words in no offensive sense—the compulsory levy of political subscriptions under the existing law shall continue up to the end of the year. If anybody likes to give additional amounts to the political fund, nothing in this Sub-section, or any other, will prevent his doing so. This Sub-section is merely to render it possible for the compulsory levy to continue on the existing basis until the end of the year. To refer back to Sub-section (2), I certainly do not intend to prevent any voluntary gifts to a political fund, and I do not think that is the effect of the Sub-section. I pointed out that a voluntary gift to the political fund never becomes an asset of the trade union until it becomes an asset of the political fund, 2390 and there is nothing in the world to prevent the making of a gift, either by weekly subscription or by a lump sum donation, to a political fund by anybody who desires to make it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The next Amendment, No. 161, in the name of the right hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson)—in page 5, line 10, at end, to insert new Sub-section:(4) Notwithstanding anything in this Section it shall be lawful to require any member of a trade union to make a contribution or contributions to the political fund of a trade union in respect of the year nineteen hundred and twenty-seven, in accordance with the provisions of The Trade Union Act, 1913,"—is covered, and I understand that No. 163, in the name of the right hon. Member for line (Mr. Walsh)—in page 5, line 11, after the word "that," to insert the words:in the case of a trade union having rules made and approved in accordance with the requirements of Section three of The Trade Union Act, 1913,"—is also covered by that in the name of the Attorney-General.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I beg to move, in page 5, line 15, after the word "purpose," to insert the words:by the executive or other governing body of such a trade union.This is to meet the point which is raised in a previous Amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for line (Mr. Walsh), and the point is this: Under the Clause as we have it in the Bill, the rules have to be altered by a vote of the members of the trade union. Some criticism was hinted at that earlier, and it was thought that we were doing something very revolutionary in providing for such an alteration in rules, but I can reassure the Committee by saying that that Clause, as we drafted it, comes almost word for word out of the corresponding Clause—Section 4, I think it is—of the Act of 1913. The object is simply to protect the position when, as may sometimes happen, it would be a lengthy business to get the actual form of approval. The right hon. Member for Ince suggests—and we think it not unreasonable to accept the view—that since the change of the rules, where there has 2391 been already a ballot and contracting-in, it is more or less formal, and if the union should desire to do it by the machinery of their own executive, instead of having to go through the lengthy and perhaps expensive process of calling a general meeting of their members, it should be possible to allow them to act in that way. Accordingly, we have put down an Amendment, which is substantially in the same terms as that of the right hon. Member, and it provides for that position and facilitates making the alteration.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The next Amendment, No. 310, in the name of the right hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson)—in page 5, line 21, at the end, to insert new Sub-section:(5) In Section three of The Trade Union Act, 1913, and this Section, the expression 'trade union' shall include any company or any association or body of employers, and the expression 'member of a trade union' shall include any person holding shares in any company or any member of an association or body of employers,"—must be raised on a definition Clause. The one following, No. 166, in the name of the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Bromley)—in page 5, line 25, to leave out the words "so far," and to insert instead thereof the word "except"—is really a negative to the provisions of the Bill. Amendment No. 167, in the name of the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. F. Roberts)—in page 5, line 27, at the end, to add new Sub-section:(6) The provisions of Section three of The Trade Union Act, 1913 (which limits the application of funds to political purposes) and of this Section shall apply to all associations and bodies whether corporate or unincorporated,"—is outside the scope of the Clause, and that also applies to No. 168, in the name of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd)—in page 5, line 27, at the end, to add new Sub-section:(6) In any public issue of capital made by or on behalf of any company incorporated by charter or under the Companies Acts the prospectus or invitation shall notify unions interested in such issue, through the employment of their members in the company or the industry of which it is directly or indirectly a part, that they shall have preferential allotment as far as possible and within the amount of such issue.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
The Clause as it now stands has been amended in several parts, and before I deal with it as amended, I should like to put one ox two specific points to the Attorney-General. The Clause refers to rules, which will be regarded, I suppose, as the rules governing the new separate political fund of a trade union. We have just passed an Amendment also to provide that the executive of a trade union shall alter the rules so as to comply with this Bill when it becomes an Act. I take it for granted that there will be a set of model rules issued in conformity with the provisions of this Clause, and, if I am correct in assuming that, the next question is: Will the trade unions be supplied with those model rules? If so, will they conform, more or less, to the model rules under the 1913 Act? I should imagine that there will be very little alteration in the rules, except the fundamental difference as between contracting-out and contracting-in, because, after all, I take it that the Government are not desirous of making it awkward so far as the machinery of the trade unions is concerned. We differ fundamentally on the main principle, but it would be a vicious thing indeed if the Government, after defeating us on main principles, were to clog the machinery of the trade unions for the collection of political funds.
As I said the other day, I regard this Clause as extraordinarily important as far as the trade union movement is concerned. Now that we have come to the Clause itself, and are permitted to be, I take it, a little more general in our observations than we were beforehand, might I say that I have a feeling that the Government have introduced this Clause not merely because of the growth of the Labour party, not, in fact, because there has been a political sentiment developed in the trade union movement. I have a strong suspicion that the Conservative party in this country not merely fear the growth and power of the Labour movement outside; their main objection to us is that we have so educated public opinion as to make an indelible impress upon the legislation of this land, whereby working people are better cared for 2393 through legislation to-day than ever they were before. Let me try to prove that It has been my personal interest for some time to trace the growth of social and industrial legislation in this country and in other countries too, and to analyse the intimate connection between the gradual alteration in the complexion of industrial and political movements in this country.
The legislation that has been passed in this House during the last decade is simply wonderful. Shall I put it in this form? Before the advent of the Labour party, this House had existed for about 500 or 600 years. With the emergence of the Labour party, there was an alteration in the conception of the duties of this House to the people, and I may emphasise that point by giving a concrete case. Up to the advent of the Labour party, the only legislation that catered for the very poor and destitute of our people was the Poor Law system, and neither of the two older political parties in the State had taken much interest beyond that in the social welfare of the people by legislative enactment until the emergence of the British Labour party. The first Act of Parliament that was passed as a consequence of this independent political force among the workers was the Workmen's Compensation Act. I am sure Members opposite will say: "Ah, but it was not a Labour Government that passed that Act. It was a great Conservative statesman from Birmingham"—to whom I will gladly pay tribute—"who had a great deal to do with the bringing of that Act on to the Statute Book." But the claim I make is this, that were it not for the existence of political consciousness and of independent political thought among the working people of this country as a driving force behind the statesmen of the day, we would not have had even the Workmen's Compensation Act placed on the Statute Book.
I have studied what has happened in other countries too in this connection. There are countries still, where there is no labour organisation of any kind in existence, and in those countries there is not a single piece of legislation which favours the working classes in any shape or form. The growth of social and industrial legislation in the countries of the world coincides exactly with the growth 2394 of independent political action among the working classes. Consequently, I say that I apprehend that the Conservative Government of to-day, as opposed to the Labour party, have introduced this Clause because they do not want the State to take so much interest financially in the welfare of the working people of the land. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who I am sorry is not in his place to-day, brought into this House the National Health Insurance Act; that was the beginning of the Unemployment Insurance Act too. There is a great deal of credit due to him, and I feel sure that he would claim that he was mainly responsible for putting the idea of Health and Unemployment Insurance into legislative effect. But I venture to claim, too, that were it not for the growing power of organised labour even the right hon. Gentleman and Parliament would never have thought for a single moment of anything of the kind. What I am trying to prove, therefore, is that the Government and their followers are opposed to us, not merely because of our political power, but because we are now able to wring from Parliament some concessions for the working classes which they were unable to secure before.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I presume the hon. Member is going to connect these contentions with the voluntary or otherwise nature of the political fund.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Yes, I am coming to that. The political funds of the trade unions, therefore, are very necessary in order that the unions should be represented in Parliament; and I think it is well for the State that the trade unions are represented here. For illustration, there are Members here, textile operatives, coal miners, teachers, men and women, who are representative of the people, who are of the people, and who have lived with them and worked with them all their lives, and, if I might repeat, I think the State is better and healthier because there are working men and women in Parliament. I am one of those who believe that in the contest between industrial and political action the working-classes can get more by the latter than by the former. Consequently, I say that we should do nothing in this House to prevent the proper development of political action 2395 among the trade unions. This Clause violates one vital principle. That principle is this: I tried to touch upon it briefly the other night, and I may be pardoned for developing my argument now for two or three minutes. What the average trade unionist will fail to understand is this, that among the large number of other benefits he is able to secure by trade union action, this one particular benefit of political action is singled out in connection with the trade union upon, which the majority rule is not to prevail.
Let me run over some of the benefits paid by trade unions. They provide legal aid in workmen's compensation cases; some provide legal aid even in the case of damages at common law; and what the average trade unionist will be unable to understand, as I have said, is why majority rule should prevail in connection with unemployment, vicitimisation, sickness, out-of-work, disablement, and the other multifarious provident benefits that are provided by the trade unions, but not in connection with this one important benefit of political action. I venture to say that to single out that benefit from all the others provided by the rules of a trade union will be a sufficient indication to the average trade unionist of the subtle desires of the Government in connection with this Clause. The Government will carry this Bill into law. I shall be very interested to see what the result of it will be. I do not think I shall be saying anything too strong if I declare that, whatever nice words may have been spoken from the Government Bench on this Clause, it is undoubtedly the desire of a large number of Conservative Members that the trade unions should not, in future, be able to function politically at all. The intention deliberately is to prevent the trade unions being a power in this House and becoming the Government of the land. I am sure the working people of this country will take that view. They will say that they have paid their small contributions in order to send ordinary working folk to this House. In the years preceding 1913 they used to send their masters, their employers, their landlords, men who had sufficient money to pay their own expenses. Now they will rightly say, "Because we have seat ordinary working 2396 men and women to the House of Commons, the rich people of the land are becoming jealous." It will be a sad state of affairs if they are driven to take that view.
We are opposed to this Clause because it destroys majority rule in the conduct of trade unions. It introduces contracting in instead of contracting out, and, for the several reasons I have already given, we shall vote against this Clause; we shall speak against it; we shall fight against it; and we shall work assiduously in order that some day we may achieve sufficient political power to make this Clause and the whole Bill void, and to remove it once for all from the Statute Book.
§ Mr. VIANT
This Clause has been amended in various ways, but none the less, the average trade unionist will feel that it is in no way more acceptable. The Act of 1913 introduced what trade unionists feel was an innovation into the methods followed in the conduct of trade unions. Previously it had been the custom in friendly societies, in trade unions and in most organisations in the country to decide questions at issue by a majority vote. When exception was taken to the political activities of trade unions, trade unionists felt that they were not being given the same treatment as other sections of the community received, that they were being unjustly treated and that the working of the machinery of the trade unions was being interfered with unduly. This Clause goes a step further. What the average trade unionist says is, "We have to contribute to the revenue of the State, we have to contribute to the revenue of local authorities; we even have to contribute to funds for local and national purposes to which some of us take conscientious objection."
As an illustration of this, one has only to think of vaccination. It is true that a citizen may get exemption from vaccination, but that does not free him from having to contribute to the cost of providing that service for other members of the community. Others have a conscientious objection towards contributing towards the maintenance of the Established Church, but they cannot contract out of their obligations, and they will ask why an exception should be made in respect of trade unions. The only conclusion to which they will be forced is 2397 that this exception has been made with the deliberate object of hampering the development of the political activities of trade unions. I feel convinced that in spite of the action that is being taken with the object of making it more difficult to engage in political activities, this Clause will bring many people who in the past have been somewhat apathetic into line with the majority, and that as a result there will be an increase in the number of trade unionists in this House.
The question of intimidation has been raised in connection with this Clause. I have been a member of a trade union for 26 or 27 years, and have associated myself with the working of the machinery by which that union functions along political lines, and I have yet to learn of any objection having been taken by a single member of the union or of any evidence that intimidation has been practiced. If intimidation does exist, this Clause will not modify it in the least. Instead of having to contract-out members will now have to contract-in, and if, as some assert, the method of contracting-out has enabled intimidation to be practised, intimidation will still be possible under the system of contracting-in. Therefore, the Clause does not meet that objection in the least. It has been generally agreed that a certain amount of apathy exists, and what will happen is that we shall have to perfect our organisation in order to overcome that apathy, to tighten up the organisation in order to make sure that the indifference of apathetic members does not defeat the aim and the objective of the majority. As we claim to be one of the most democratic countries in the world, I should have thought we should have been prepared to rely upon the rule of the majority, with what, up to now, have been accepted as adequate safeguards. Where a majority has let its desires be known we have been content to allow the view of the majority to obtain.
I do think that it is going a little too far to make provisions to pamper the desires of the minority. Those who are associated with me in this House are perfectly justified in opposing this Clause; in opposing it not only with our votes, but on every opportunity in the country, on our political platforms and in our trade unions, in order that we may hasten the day when we shall repeal this Act, repeal 2398 this Clause, and rely wholly and solely on the purely democratic machinery of allowing organisations to determine their objects and their purposes by a purely democratic body taken on the decision of a majority.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
The speech to which we have just listened appears to furnish an excellent argument in favour of the Clause now before the Committee. The hon. Gentleman would place the statutory obligations of local government on a par with trade union regulations. That has been a principle that has run through a number of the speeches to which we have listened from that side of the Committee. Local government was established by statute: trade union regulations are established by trade union officials, and the two are not comparable. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), roamed over a wide field and I dare say I shall be out of order if I endeavour to follow him, but perhaps I may be allowed to remind him that when he speaks of all social legislation, of all industrial legislation, as being due to the influence of Labour Members in the House of Commons, he forgets that in 1924, when the Socialist Government were in office, they, did not introduce a Measure to grant pensions to widows and orphans.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think that it would be in Order for the hon. Member to go further into that matter, as it is entirely outside the scope of the Clause.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I admit that in replying it is here a little difficult to keep within the limits of Order, but I thought I might be allowed to make that one answer to the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westhoughton. It is true that all parties were committed to that Measure but the party opposite had a surplus of £32,000,000 which they might have applied to such a scheme. Listening to the speeches on this Clause, one would fancy that the proposal of the Government was to abolish the political levy. The proposal of the Government is to change the procedure and why is there opposition to this change of procedure? The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) has said that we are influenced by ulterior 2399 motives in this matter, and that that is at the root of this proposal. What is at the root of the proposal is the insistent demand put forward by Conservative and Liberal trade unionists all through the country that the law should be put on a proper footing. The hon. Member made the illuminating remark that intimidation would be just as bad under the procedure proposed. [HON-MEMBERS: "He said, 'could be'."] He said "would be." He corrected himself afterwards. He said it would be as possible under the procedure proposed by the Bill as under the present procedure, and one of his colleagues underlined that remark by saying that it would be worse. That shows that hon. Members know perfectly well there is intimidation under the present system [Interruption.] I was talking to a trade unionist the other day, and he said to me "If I contract out, I am a marked man and my foreman, who is an official of the union, will say, when men are to be stood off, 'Well, Jim, I am very sorry; there is no job for you next week.' I know perfectly well why that is done, but I have no redress." I said "Well, if you do not contract in, you will still be a marked man?" He said "Ah, there will then be so many of us that we shall protect one another." That may or may not be so, but that was what the trade unionist told me.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) told us this morning that the result of this Bill would be that we should get the "order of the boot," as he graphically expressed it, at the next election. We are not afraid of that threat, and it is the less likely that that prophecy will be fulfilled if accusations such as were made yesterday by the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition (Mr. dynes) of mendacity are made against the Prime Minister.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I really think that the hon. Member is again getting entirely beyond the scope of the Clause.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I apologise. Seeing the right hon. Gentleman before me, I could not resist saying that. I will only say that remarks such as that one will do very much to lessen the chances of the prophecy coming true. The hon. Member for Leigh said that the trade unions would emerge stronger from this 2400 trial. I agree with him. Beal trade unionism for industrial purposes will emerge stronger, and there will be less possibility for trade unions to apply the money of Conservative and Liberal working men to their Socialistic purposes than before, and, therefore, there will be lees temptation to engage in political enterprises instead of confining themselves to their proper industrial purposes. There is something more which will emerge stronger from, this trial, and that is the party which has the courage and the strength to make trade union rules lawful and fair as between men of all political parties. Behind this Clause there is a volume of trade union opinion that will be of the greatest value to the Conservative party.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
The hon. Member who just resumed his seat has discovered something absolutely new. It is rare, in a Friday afternoon Debate, that we hear something that is absolutely new, but the hon. Gentleman has discovered that if you are not an active trade unionist you are likely to be victimised by the foreman. We have been of the opinion, on this side, that is was precisely the active trade unionist and the Labour man who were always victims, and that the man who took the view of the employer was the man who got away with the best of the work given by the firm or the foreman. I congratulate the hon. Member on discovering a new mare's nest, the only one discovered during the Debates on this Bill. We have listened to extraordinary speeches from the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams) and the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer). The hon. and learned Baronet, owing, I suppose, to his legal training, was seductive, and, in his free and pleasant language, he asked us to what we could find to take objection. The hon. Member for Macclesfield, with out the skill of dialectics of his learned Friend, told us the reason. The reason given was an illustration from his own division to the effect that the Labour party could hold more meetings in the present circumstances than he could. That is really the reason for this Clause. The hon. Member knows very well that we have every reason to object to the whole of this Bill and the whole of this Clause. Let the House remember that the 2401 four grounds were, first, that it was to prevent a general strike, and not to interfere with the ordinary or sympathetic strike. We know now that is not true. It has been admitted from the Government Benches. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
§ The CHAIRMAN
The last speaker went beyond the Clause, and now the right hon. Gentleman seems to be going back to Clause 1.
§ Mr. SHAW
I apologise. I will get on to the ostensible grounds given for this Clause. The grounds given were that there was a great deal of forced contribution from people who were unwilling to pay to the political funds. Why, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War discovered that 150,000 were forced to pay against their will, because nearly 150,000 had voted against the levy.
§ Sir W. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to quote figures, he will probably like to quote them correctly. There were 577,000.
§ Mr. SHAW
That only makes the statement nearly four times worse. The fact of the matter is, the right hon. Gentleman had no ground at all for that assumption. It is a well-known fact to all those who know what the Labour movement is, that there were many people in that movement who believed that this method of raising political funds was wrong. They were in favour of political action, but a much more intensified political action than that which they thought would come from this method. Thousands of these people voted against the political levy, because they were in favour of different methods, but they adopted the wish of the majority. The fact is, that with all the money that has been poured out to get these people not to pay the political levy, you have discovered one case per million per year where there has been something in the shape of oppression. One case per million per year! That is the fact, and the other statements are merely assumption. On that flimsy foundation is built a case in which you shed tears of sympathy with the poor oppressed people who only exist in your imagination. That is where the poor oppressed people exist.
The hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams) asked us why we did not try to get the em- 2402 ployers put on exactly the same footing, if that were possible, as ourselves. Personally, I would not waste a second in trying to put employers on this platform, because I do not believe anybody ought to be. I believe that employers' associations or trade unions have the right, or ought to have the right, to spend their funds on political action if they so desire. I hope to see the time come when all political parties will do their work as openly as the trade unions do, and when we shall know where the funds come from and whether they are collected in pennies and shillings from working men, or collected in £20,000 or £30,000 from titles given to many-times shady financiers. I think it would be a very good thing if you knew from where the funds came and I am certain that the Labour party has no need to stand in a white sheet so far as its political funds are concerned.
What actually takes place under the present laws? I was the Secretary of a branch organisation with something over 6,000 members. In connection with our membership, we had a ballot and there was a very large majority in favour of political action. Out of 6,000 members—speaking from memory, but I am right within a unit or two—there were 16 who did not want to pay to the political fund. We had to take a form to the whole 6,000 whether they voted in favour or not, under the present law. We had to take the form to the 16 who filled it up. The forms wore put in closed envelopes and brought to the office, and nobody outside the staff knew who these 16 persons were. That has gone on to this date, and to-day out of more than 8,000 persons. I question whether there are 20 who do not pay to the political fund, and there has never been the slightest pressure put on anybody to pay the political fund, and neither has there been the slightest attempt to victimise anybody who does not want to pay.
That is the fact of the matter as it applies in my own experience, and when the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw said it is quite a simple thing, and why do we object, I will tell him why I object. I object to over 7,000 members having to go to this inconvenience because it suits the Conservative party to say, without 2403 grounds, that somebody is oppressed. I object to these 7,000 or nearly 8,000 having to be made, as it were, the people who have not only to find their majority before they can move, but having found it, to have to go to this inconvenience and expense.
But there is a more serious thing than that. The way in which this Clause is likely to leave the Committee will mean that we shall have to adopt in that Society an entirely new method of bookkeeping. Instead of the ordinary member's card with the contributions entered in the ordinary way, with the members who have determined to ask for exemption simply not paying a part of their contributions once a quarter, there will have to be 8,000 registries where there were less than 20, and a separate account kept. I cannot see how it can be worked without keeping another special office to do the book-keeping in connection with that method. And all for what? We have got the trouble and expense because somebody alleges that somewhere there has been some opposition. Hon. Members ask why we object. What right, I ask, has the Government to interfere with our work in this way? Why should we be picked out for this kind of treatment? I know you can trot out, as it is often trotted out, that, somewhere in Durham, some years ago, there was a case in which some men came to the Branch in order to get their money back and the chairman and officers were there. That is a flimsy case on which to build, that somewhere in Durham, some years ago, a number of men had to go and get their money back, and the chairman and officers were there to look at them. What is the need to cause trade unionists all this trouble and expense? What a humbug it is, after all, to pretend that all this is without any political motive, and that it is simply in order to guarantee the liberty and safety of certain people. Everyone in his heart of hearts knows it is a political move, and a dodge from end to end, and that it is merely done because it is known that it will cause a lot of trouble and expense and very great difficulty indeed in administering these affairs.
I have no time to go fully into details of the Clause. If I had, I could demonstrate that the way in which the Clause 2404 is drawn will make it very difficult indeed for trade unions to determine out of which funds certain expenses should come. There is scarcely a case which comes before the trade unions of any kind that has not got something in it that can be claimed to be political. From where are you going to get your money? Here the weavers of Lancashire meet together. Now, under the Factory Act—which I may give as an illustration of what this Clause means—the Home Secretary can insert a Clause dealing with the threading of a shuttle by hand, instead of the dirty, disgusting, dangerous and unhealthy method of sucking the weft through by the mouth. Suppose he decides that he will not put it in and the weavers say, "We must see the Home Secretary about this. Surely he does not understand the position, or he would never have left this out of the Bill." If they send a delegation to the Home Secretary, is that a political object or a trade union object. That is the position in which this Clause will put those men.
This Bill has been deliberately drafted to make it impossible for trade unionists to know whether they are doing right or wrong, and every time we have tried to make the Bill more clear, the Government have opposed us. I am going to vote against this Clause, because I believe it is an unwarrantable interference with the liberty of trade unionists, and when you once start putting your paws on other people's business, they are always dirty paws. Trade unionists are now being asked to do more than any other organisation in the country. As a matter of fact, the man who does not want to pay his contribution towards the political levy has any amount of protection. This Bill will throw a great deal of expense and work upon the trade unions which ought not to be incurred, and, for these reasons, I shall certainly vote against this Clause.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I do not want to repeat any argument which I have used before, but I would like to refer to a suggestion which has been made by the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. Davies). The hon. Member knows the Lancashire cotton industry very well, but his speech is indicative of how little he knows about the trade union movement when he says that collectors go from door to door, and the wives of trade unionists pay 2405 the rent, buy the grocery, pay the insurance money and the trade union contributions for their husbands. That is pretty indicative how much hon. Members know about the trade union movement, and it seems that there is no stick too dirty with which to beat the trade union movement. I wonder what will happen if, when we get into office, as we shall, we start interfering with the licensed victuallers, the Primrose League, or secret funds. Hon. Members opposite would at once say that we do not know anything about, that we have no right to interfere and we ought to keep our hands out of other people's business. I want to repeat that the Government by this Clause are giving us a really good precedent.
I took the pains to read up the Debates on the 1913 Act in order that I might thoroughly understand the meaning of it. I had to administer that Act in 1914. I take it that the 1913 Act was the best agreement which could be secured from a minority against a majority. The only evidence that has been brought forward here in support of this Clause has been a few obscure cases. We have heard a good deal from the lawyers about this, that and the other, but no evidence has been brought forward. And now we have the lamentable ignorance of the trade union movement capped—and I am very emphatic upon the lamentable ignorance as compared with our knowledge — [Interruption.] We have been reared and brought up in it; it is our living. For fourteen or fifteen years some of us have spent ten and twelve hours a day working in the trade union movement, and it is only right that we should say we have the knowledge, and that all that you have is lamentable ignorance. There is only one trade unionist on the other side of the Committee unless I include doctors and lawyers. Therefore, you do not understand the movement. The hon. Member for Royton caps it by saying that there should be no delegation to anybody to collect the funds—that all we have to do is to advertise in the newspapers that you can contract into the fund, and leave it at that. We are not even to be allowed to send our agents to ask people to sign the form, or to offer them the form to sign—we shall even be debarred from doing that.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
The hon. Member says, "Hear, hear!" That is about the limit. It shows what the Tory party would do if they could further interfere with the trade union movement, and it only emphasises our opinion that the first part of the Bill is a deliberate and definite attempt to cripple the opportunities of the trade union movement to fight for an advance in wages, while the second is an attempt to cripple their political levy. Hon. Members are always avowing their good intentions, but the road to Hades is paved with good intentions. We, the working classes, know you. We know that it is quite a prominent part of the Tory organisation to send out propaganda to say that the only way is for the working classes to work longer, to work harder, and to work for less wages. I believe that this Clause is an attempt to cripple our opportunities politically. I think that this Bill and this Clause are the beginning of a definite attempt to reduce wages on a wholesale scale, and to reduce our opportunities of being in the House of Commons to prevent politically that which you have crippled our opportunity of preventing industrially. Stories have been brought about intimidation, but there is not a single lawyer in the House who could not bring forward some machinery to prevent that intimidation if it exists. I do not say that in isolated cases there may not have been over-zealous trade unionist officials, but, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, one proved case per million is no reason for introducing a Clause of this description.
Then there is the case of the unregistered union. It was only after great difficulty that we induced the Government to include employers in this Bill, and I think the Attorney-General might tell us what he proposes to do with employers' associations. Are they going to be classed as trade unions, or is the trade union movement going to be left to litigate in order to find out exactly what an employers' trade union is, or is there going to be some definition in the Schedule which will go to substantiate the statement of the Conservative party that they want to be fair? If they want to be fair, if they want to place all trade unions on a level, since the Bill pretty well describes what is a workmen's union, will the Attorney-General describe in the 2407 Schedule what is going to be an employers' trade union? If he will do that, it will at least give some semblance to the statement that they are honest in their intentions; but, if we are not told what an employers' trade union is, it will leave us under the impression that this is a deliberate act against one section of trade unions, namely, the workmen's section. Then, when that has been done, perhaps the Attorney-General or the Government will tell us what is the political fund that is going to be established by employers' associations.
It was very interesting to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) read the balance-sheet, which I read some time ago, of the Municipal party in Sheffield, showing the contributions that were made for political objects by employers' federations. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are all voluntary."] Of course they are voluntary, and, when this Bill is carried into effect, you will be giving us the right to do something which we are able to do without the Bill. When this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, we shall be allowed to do something by Act of Parliament that we can do now without an Act of Parliament. It will be all voluntary when this Bill is passed. There will be nothing to prevent any trade unionist in this country from volunteering to give a half of his wages every week for political objects, and, that being so, why is it necessary to introduce a Bill to allow us to do that? I see an hon. Member opposite shake his head, but no Member on the other side can give a reason for the introduction of this Bill to allow us to do something which we can do without an Act of Parliament. Of course, the object is to smash us—
§ Major ROPNER
The object of introducing this Clause is to give trade unions the political freedom which is enjoyed by every other member of society.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
You are introducing a Clause to give trade unions political freedom, and they have it now. I suggest to the hon. and gallant Member that, before this Bill is passed, there is nothing to prevent a trade unionist from signing a form saying he will give £l a week to his union, and yet you are passing a Clause which will enable trade unionists to pay 1s. a year. What is the meaning of it, except to alter the present Act, 2408 which makes it easier for him? I have said before in the House that I am one who believes in political action. There are only two courses open to trade unions and to working people—either industrial action or political action. Industrial action is war. I do not care for war, and I prefer political action. As a result of the political opportunities that we have enjoyed since 1906, when a man whose memory 1 venerate came down here as a lonely pioneer, the Labour party has been growing. Honestly, I believe that the party opposite fears the growth of our party. Who would resent our interference with the funds of the party opposite more than they would? We say that some of those funds were got in an illicit manner, were got by the sale of honours. I do not want to introduce that subject now, but if we, when we become a Government, were to introduce an Act of Parliament insisting on the funds of other people being as open to the daylight as ours, you would object. I say that the Labour party's funds are the cleanest political funds of any in the country, and you compel us to prove that by making us exhibit a balance sheet. When the party opposite will exhibit a balance sheet of their party funds, then we shall believe that their party funds are clean.
An hon. Member said only the other day—and he was proud of it—that the only difference between him and Members on this side is that he gets his money out of the rich and we get ours out of the poor. All his election expenses, he said, were paid by rich people, and all the election expenses of working-class Members on this side were paid by poor people. I am proud of that; I am more proud of it than the hon. Member was. I say, as one who has had some experience, both industrially and in administering political funds, that this is going to make it difficult for us, but you are not going to keep us out; we shall go on for ever. The first time I fought an election was in a Division of 40 square miles. We had £18 to start with, and like good Yorkshiremen, we made a profit of £46 on the first election. We had to do some scrounging; we did some collecting; we sold toffee, and so on; and we nearly won the election—we reduced the majority of the other side very considerably. When we get into power we shall not only repeal 2409 this Measure, but we shall see if we cannot do something to bring to the light of day the political fund of the party opposite.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
May I first answer the question put to me by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who asked whether or not there would be model rules which could be available? I have consulted the learned Registrar-General, and he tells me there will be no difficulty at all about preparing and supplying such rules. I come to the arguments which have been adduced. The hon. Member for Westhoughton gave us an honest and original view of social legislation, in which he explained that there had been no social legislation of a useful character except through the pressure of the Socialist party, and only as and when they came into Parliament. I should be out of order, and I should take a great deal more than ten minutes, if I were to recite even some of the more important Measures of social legislation for the benefit of the working classes which were passed long before the mischievous nostrum of Socialism had ever found its way here. The truth is that social legislation is carried not because of, but in spite of, the Socialist party, because if on co we had them in power why there would have no money to be found for this purpose. The hon. Member says it is a Tory platform. When you have hon. Members opposite seeking to use it as a Socialist platform, it is at least permissible to reply to them.
I pass to the two arguments between which most of the objections have oscillated—the argument that there is no compulsion at present, and so it will make no difference, and the argument that the effect of this legislation will be to compel the party opposite to resort to all sorts of other devices to raise money or otherwise cease to exit. Both these positions cannot possibly be true. If it be true that at present only those who want to pay are paying, then it will make no difference. If, on the other hand, it be true that there is compulsion, coercion and prevention of the free exercise of the right of exemption which has been so often illustrated during the Debate of the last two days, no doubt to the extent to which that exists there will be a diminution of the funds, and although the hon. 2410 Gentleman who has just sat down said he was proud to be kept by the contributions of the poor, I doubt whether he would be proud of accepting from the poor contributions which they do not desire to give. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Who says he does; do you?"] Those hon. Members opposite who suggest that the effect of this legislation will be to cripple the trade union funds and to prevent the return of hon. Members opposite are saying it.
We were told by the hon. Member for Westhoughton that the effect of this Clause would be to prevent the majority rule from prevailing. One would have thought the hon. Gentleman had forgotten the effect of the Clause, because at present, according to him, there is nothing which enables the majority rule to prevail in the sense of compelling the minority to pay. That is their case. All we are doing, is not to introduce a new principle of exempting the minority, but only to ensure that the existing principle shall be effective. And when hon. Members opposite claim that the majority rule ought to prevail and that the minority ought to be compelled to pay, then I say they are mixing up two wholly separate things when they compare this with friendly society benefits and the like. A more accurate comparison in matters of political faith would be with matters of religious faith. I wonder whether any Member opposite would justify the majority of a trade union making a compulsory levy upon the Church of England or upon the Church of Rome?
Is it not a fact that a very large majority of people who disagree with the right hon. Gentleman are obliged to contribute towards his salary and the expenses of his Government?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
No, Sir. The hon. Member is now placing the trade unions not only above the law but above the whole administration of the country. He is treating trade union funds as though they were rates and taxes. The right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) complained that we have deliberately made this Clause vague, so that trade unions would not know what were or were not political objects, and whether or not they could 2411 safely spend their money on such objects as the extension of the Factory Acts, and the like. It so happens that the definition of "political objects" is not in this Bill at all, but in the Act of 1913, which the party opposite regard as their charter, and the people who deliberately made it vague, if it be such, were the Members of Parliament who passed the Act of 1913. We have made no alteration in the definition of political objects by this Bill. All we have done is to provide, by simple machinery, that only those who want to subscribe to political funds shall be compelled to do so. The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Mac-kinder) said that there were no cases of grievance. Hardly one hon. Member has got up who has not been able to give us some cases of coercion or of abuse. The hon. Member himself gave us 25 from his own experience. He told us of one case where 25 different persons had signed forms claiming exemption but they had been refused exemption because a lawyer presented the forms at the office.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I said that the lawyer had not only collected them but had asked for the forms and sent them in, which is wrong. He had no right to do that.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
A lawyer has exactly the same right to ask for forms and send them in to the union as, for instance, a shop steward will have the right under this Bill—[Interruption]. Whether he is a member of a, trade union or not, he is dealing in such a case not for himself, but for members of
§ the trade union. If it happens to be done by a trade union official, it is all right, according to hon. Members opposite, but it becomes a crime if it happens to be done by anybody else. The hon. Member went on to say that after great difficulty, the Government had been persuaded to include employers' unions in the Bill. I think he was hardly fair, because he must remember that we have made no alteration in regard to that. The employers' unions are in the Bill not by reason of any Amendment which we have made, but by reason of the original language of the Bill. Then he went on to say that we have not defined what is a trade union. He is wrong. If he looks at Clause 8, he will find that this Bill is to be read as one with the preceding Trade Union Act, and he will find that the Trade Union Act, 1913, which expressly defines a trade union, applies equally to employers' and workmen's organisations. The truth is that what we have sought to do in this Bill is to meet an existing defect in the law. If it be true, as is sometimes said, that there is no compulsion at the present time, then no harm will be done to anybody, but if, on the other hand, it be true, as there has been a large amount of testimony to prove, that there is compulsion at the present time, then it is only right that we should restore to the trade unionists the liberties of which they have been deprived.
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 228; Noes, 103.2415
|Division No. 157.]||AYES.||[3.30 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.|
|Albery, Irving James||Brass, Captain W.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)|
|Alexander, E. E.(Leyton)||Brassey, Sir Leonard||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool. W. Derby)||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Briscoe, Richard George||Clayton, G. C.|
|Atkinson, C.||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Buckingham, Sir H.||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Burman, J. B.||Cope, Major William|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)|
|Berry, Sir George||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Caine, Gordon Hall||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Campbell, E. T.||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Carver, Major W. H.||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Jacob, A. E.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Roberts, sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Ropner, Major L.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Rye, F. G.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Salmon, Major I.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)||Lamb, J. Q.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Savery, S. S.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Fermoy, Lord||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Luce Major-Gen. Sir Richard Herman||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Lumley, L. R.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Lynn Sir Robert J.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Macintyre, Ian||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||McLean, Major A||Stanley, Col. Hon. G.F.(Will'sden, E.)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Macmillan, Captain H.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Gates, Percy||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I,||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Macquisten, F. A.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Malone, Major P. B.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Goff, Sir Park||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Margesson, Captain D.||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Greaves-Lord, sir Walter||Meller R. J.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Merriman F. B.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Meyer Sir Frank||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Milne J. S. Wardlaw||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E (Bristol, N.)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Moore, Lieut., Col. T. C. R. (Ayr)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Moore, sir Newton J.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Morden Colonel, Walter Grant||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Moreing, captain A. H.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Morison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Wells, S. R.|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Hanbury, C.||Murchison, sir Kenneth||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Harland, A.||Nicholson. O. (Westminster)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Harrison G. J. C.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Nuttall, Ellis||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Harvey, Major. S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||O' Neill Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Winby, Colonel, L. P.|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxford, Henley)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon Barnstaple)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Pilditch Sir Philip||Wood, E. (Chester, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||power, Sir John Cecil||Wood, Sir S. Hill,(High Peak)|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Ramsden, E.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Remer, J. R.|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Rentoul, G. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Illffe, Sir Edward M.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Major Sir George Hennessy and|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Dunnico, H.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Kennedy, T.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Gardner, J. P.||Kirkwood, D|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Lansbury, George|
|Batey, Joseph||Gibbins, Joseph||Lawrence, Susan|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Gillett, George M.||Lawson John James|
|Briant, Frank||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Lee, F.|
|Broad, F. A.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coins)||Lowth, T.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lunn, William|
|Buxton, Rt Hon. Noel||Groves, T.||Mackinder, W.|
|Cape, Thomas||Grundy, T. W.||MacNeill -Weir, L.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||March, S.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hardie, George D.||Maxton, James|
|Cove, W. G.||Harris, Percy A.||Morris, R. H.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Hayes, John Henry||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Mosley, Oswald|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Hirst, G. H.||Palin, John Henry|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Dennison, R.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Duncan, C.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Potts, John S.|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-it-Spring)||Stephen, Campbell||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen.|
|Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.B., Elland)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Rose, Frank H.||Sullivan, Joseph||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Saklatvala, Shapurji||Sutton, J. E.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Salter, Dr. Alfred||Taylor, R. A.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Sexton, James||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Sitch, Charles H.||Thurtle, Ernest||Wilson C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Snell, Harry||Varley, Frank B.||Mr. T. Henderson and Mr. A.|
|Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Viant, S. P.||Barnes|
|Stamford, T. W.||Walihead, Richard C.|
§ 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 upon Monday next.