HL Deb 06 March 1891 vol 351 cc345-78

, in rising To call attention to the strike of railway servants in Scotland, and to the system of picketing, and the outrages by which it was accompanied; and to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they would take such measures as would in all future strikes ensure due protection to Unionists willing to work and to non-Union workmen, said: My Lords, although I imagine that few of your Lordships will assent to the dictum of Sir William Harcourt "that we are all Socialists now," I apprehend we must all agree that home politics in the main tarn upon social questions in which the working man is the prominent figure. I mean the working man as generally understood, though I think there are many of your Lordships who may lay claim to the denomination, who work overtime, and are as hard worked as any of Her Majesty's subjects. This question which I venture to bring before your Lordships is one, I think, of great national importance. It is easy to understand why social questions occupy the strong position they do. The other day a Member of the other House, whom I have not seen for some years, met me in the street, and we got discussing this subject. My friend said, "The fact is, the working man now takes a greater interest in politics than he did." My answer was, "Pardon me. I think it is the politician who takes a greater interest in the workman since he has had a vote." This is nowhere more strikingly exemplified than in the railway strike, to which I am calling attention, for politicians of every kind—Home Rulers, Disestablishers, politicians lay and clerical—have rushed wildly into the fray and expressed their sympathy in words and something more substantial with those who were on strike. Let me show the sort of language which has been used with reference to the strike by politicians. Let me take a distinguished friend of mine, an ex-Minister and an ex-Governor-General of India (the Marquess of Ripon). He writes to the Glasgow Committee sending a subscription of £25, and he says that the position taken up by the Directors—mark the word "position," it is not what the Railway Directors have done as regards overtime, or long hours, or anything of that kind, but that the position taken up by the Directors of the North British Railway, and of the other railway lines in Scotland with reference to this strike—is unjustifiable and universally condemned. I think my noble Friend ought to be very much obliged to me for giving him an opportunity of explaining publicly to the House in what respect the position taken up by those Directors was unjustifiable. As to the statement that the action and position of the Directors was unjustifiable, I leave him to settle that with the Chairman of the North British Railway (the Marquess of Tweeddale), whose action is impugned. Then you have Members of Parliament. Take one of them, Mr. Cunninghame Graham. This is the language he held to these poor men on strike, who were suffering many privations. Mr. Graham pointed to the Clerkenwell explosion, and the legislation which followed the agitation among the Highland crofters, and then he said—"I do not wish such things to happen in connection with the railway strike as occurred at Clerkenwell and in the West Highlands." What is this but the old philanthropic advice—"Mind you do not nail his ears to the pump." Then you have Mr. Munro Ferguson, who warns the railway servants to be slow in entering into a fight, but, having entered, to fight it out—mark the words—"with whatever weapons come to hand." Was it surprising the men should have been stimulated to action by such advice? I shall presently have to call attention to the outrages which have taken place, and though, of course, we cannot actually trace them to those words, it is not unnatural that the men should have been urged on by such language as that. One of the great points in the Scottish strike was the breach of contract. And yet you have one of the many clerics who rushed into the fray justifying the breach of contract by saying that "Matthew, when keeping his accounts and making up his books on the Sea of Galilee, when called on broke his contract." That is the sort of rubbish that has been talked during the course of this strike. Now, let us see what was the nature of the strike. I certainly have hearty sympathy with the men who thought that they were over-worked and had to work those long hours. No doubt the safety of the travelling public is more or less dependent upon the hours which these men work, and doubtless much of the' sympathy of the public was due to the question of their own safety. The railway servants complained of their long hours. They wanted a ten-hours day, with overtime. The Executive of the Union did not wish the men to strike until they had all sent in their notices, as they were serving under contracts from one week to a month; but the men took the bit in their mouths, and struck on the 24th December, at a time of the year when a railway strike would cause the greatest inconvenience and would be felt in every home. It was hoped by their striking without notice, and without completing their contracts, that the whole public would be brought to their knees, and that trade, industry, and commerce—everything—would be paralysed. The result of the strike was the loss of something like £1,000,000 sterling to Scotland in trade, manufacture, and commerce, and the railway it is said lost £200,000 or £300,000. So much for the action of the railway servants. What was the position taken up by the Directors—the position which my noble Friend the Marquess of Ripon considers to be unjustifiable? They were ready throughout to meet and to discuss the grievances of the men, and mind I do not speak as a Railway Director, I speak as one of the public. They were ready from first to last to meet the men and discuss the grievances of which they complained, and they had, in fact, settled grievances in some of the branches of railway work; but on principle they objected to professional outsiders taking par in the discussion, as my noble Friend himself I am sure would do in the case of any dispute with his own gamekeepers or workmen. And they insisted on the men who had broken their contracts returning to work. But the men refused to meet the Directors on this footing until the 29th January, when they accepted the terms offered them by the Railway Directors, that is to say, they were prepared to discuss the matter on the terms which had been refused at the commencement of the strike. So far the strike has happily ended. But I want to call your Lordships' attention to what were the accompaniments of the strike. There were outrages, picketing, and what I may call a state of siege on the part of the railway servants. On the North British Railway there were 16 cases of intimidation, 25 cases of outrages on the person, 12 cases of outrages on property, and 16 cases of outrages on public safety. I have them all here, but I do not desire needlessly to trouble your Lordships with all the details. Here are some of the cases of outrage. William Oliver, engine-driver; James Lightbody, fireman; Robert Allison, conductor of North British passenger train from Hawick, molested on arrival at Newcastle by servants of the North Eastern Company, who shouted and threw coal and slag at them, and otherwise annoyed them. On January 11 Robert Anderson, signalman, and John Denholm, pilot guard, both loyal servants at Sighthill, attacked by Thomas M'Killop, Caledonian engine-driver on strike, who was apprehended. On January 15th Alexander Bowman, loyal engine-driver, knocked down and severely injured when crossing the Links at Burntisland on his way from work to his house by William Millar, coal trimmer at Burntisland Dock, and two men unknown. On the same date, January 15th, David Marshall, loyal engine-driver, molested by a crowd of men, women, and children when on his way to St. Margaret's Locomotive Works, Edinburgh; they followed him from his house to the works gates, hooting, pushing, and jostling him, and were accompanied by a piper. On January 17th, other cases occurred. George Mitchell, loyal engine-driver, struck by stone and collar-bone broken. This was a remarkable case, because notwithstanding this man had his collarbone broken, when passing Cadder Bridge, near Bishopbriggs, with an express passenger train at 50 miles an hour, he brought it safe into the station. But I might go on multiplying examples. Of outrages on property there were 12. I need not trouble your Lordships with them, but they were all in the same direction. Sixteen of the cases I have got on the North British Railway were outrages on the public safety. This is the sort of thing that was done. I mention these cases because they affect the whole travelling public, not merely the servants of the Railway Companies. On December 31st pieces of slag were placed between the switches and points at one of the junctions—culprit not discovered. On January 21st two spraggs were placed on the line; January 22nd points tampered with, engine turned on to other line and collided with another—culprit not discovered; on another occasion a railway chair was placed on the line and caused obstruction—culprit not discovered; again on January 16th a large rock which required several men to move was placed on the Highland line. Thus your Lordships see the safety of the travelling public was endangered in every direction, and there was besides what I have mentioned a good deal of stone-throwing. As regards the question of picketing, there were 32 cases of picketing, and it was only by the system of picketing that the strike was maintained. Here is a case of a man who states that the picket entered his signal box and so threatened him, he being the signalman, that he had, for fear of personal violence, to leave his post. In another case a door was forced and three panes of glass were broken by a band of pickets. On January 4th a loyal signalman was molested at his house. At the principal locomotive depôts, and other centres, large picketing parties assembled both by day and night, and did their best to intercept and prevent men getting to their work and to persuade others at work to leave. No violence was openly used, although there were many instances of loyal men being attacked outside and annoyed at their homes. The wives and children of the men on strike also caused great annoyance by hooting and jeering and stone throwing. That was the state of things which existed during this strike. Now, what is the state of the law with reference to Trades Unions and combinations of workmen? Before the Royal Commission which was appointed to consider these questions in 1868 there had been more than 30 and 40 Acts passed at different times. That Commission, in considering this question, sat for two years, and they came to the conclusion that it was desirable that the laws with regard to combinations in restraint of trade should be altered and repealed. The result was an alteration of the law. At the same time the Commission, while recommending that the combination of workmen should no longer be considered to be in restraint of trade, expressed itself in the strongest possible way against the abuses of picketing and interference with the workman who declined to join these combinations. The whole law on this question of the right of picketing, and the right of a man to the free exercise of his liberty, was laid down by my noble and learned Friend Lord Bram well before that Commission sat in the famous cases arising out of the Tailor's Strike in London. The charge of the noble and learned Lord to the jury, and the sentence, are appended to the Report of the Commission in a footnote. That Commission sat in 1868 and 1869. This is what the noble and learned Lord says in his charge, and I think these are words which ought to guide us in all our dealings with this most vital question. He says— The liberty of a man's mind and will to say how he should bestow himself and his means, his talents and his industry, was as much a subject of the law's protection as was that of his body. Generally speaking, the way in which people had endeavoured to control the operation of the minds of men was by putting restraints on their bodies, and therefore we had not so many instances in which the liberty of the mind was vindicated as was that of the body. Still, if any set of men agreed among themselves to coerce that liberty of mind and thought by compulsion and restraint, they would be guilty of a criminal offence, namely, that of conspiring against the liberty of mind and freedom of will of those towards whom they so conducted themselves. Then he goes on to say what the state of the law was, and he ends with reference to picketing that he was of opinion that— If picketing should be done in a way which excited no reasonable alarm, or did not coerce or annoy those who were the subjects of it, it would be no offence in law. It was perfectly lawful to endeavour to persuade persons who had not hitherto acted with them to do so, provided that persuasion did not take the shape of compulsion or coercion. Now, the action of the pickets which I have referred to was more or less coercive; there were outrages upon property, there were outrages upon the person, and there was intimidation. It appears to me that a state of things of that kind should not be allowed to continue. If the law is sufficient, let the law be administered uniformly and firmly. The Royal Commission which sat in 1868 and 1869 accompanied their recommendations, as I have said, with the strongest possible expression of opinion that the abuses of picketing should be uniformly and carefully repressed. My belief is that you cannot have picketing without abuses such as those to which I have referred. You talk about moral suasion; but the fact of the matter is that picketing represents the power of the Union that is at its back—the coercive will of those men by whom it is directed. What I think is: that if the law is sufficient, it ought to be enforced. If it is not, in that case it ought to be strengthened. All the more should it be strengthened in the cause of liberty, because you have to deal now, in the case of the Unions, with a new spirit which has risen up—the spirit of what is called the New Unionism. With the old Unionism of the time of the Com mission a strike was a last resort. They endeavoured to get what they wanted in the interests of the workmen without having recourse to a strike, which, in nine cases out of 10, is accompanied with great misery, great loss, and very bad feeling. They were anxious to get what benefits they could for the working men without having recourse to this ultima ratio. Mr. Macdonald, who subsequently became Member for Stafford, and of whom I used to see a great deal at that time—I am talking of 22 or 23 years ago—explained how Trade Unions, which were, besides, benefit societies, were for the general good and improvement of the working classes; and how it was through their influence that we have the Factory Acts and the Masters and Servants Act. He also referred to many other Acts passed for the benefit of workmen by Parliaments, which at that time were supposed to be capitalist Parliaments, and we had evidence given by Mr. Macdonald to the effect that the Parliament of the day, both Commons and Lords, was ever ready to lend a willing ear to any complaint on the part of the workmen, and to remedy any evil which they suffered from, which appeared to be a genuine evil, and required a remedy. That was the character of the old Unions. But the new Unions are of a totally different character. So far from discouraging strife, the new Unionism fosters strife; the new Unionism is more of a political organisation than an organisation like the old Unions for the improvement of the condition of the working man. The new Unions foster strikes. They are, as it were, a Labour Land League, or rather I may put it better by saying they are a Labour League on the principle of the Land League. As the Land League was instituted to make war on the landlords, so this new Unionism under its leaders endeavours to make war on capitalists, the object being to get all the instruments of production into the hands of a labour-governed State. Therefore, I hope no approval will be given to anything like this new Unionism, and that the Government will resist it, for I believe that liberty in this country is as dear to the working man as to any other member of the community. I do not know what the proportion now of men not in the Union is to men in the Union, but I know at the time to which I refer—I am talking of 22 years ago, when the Royal Commission upon the question sat—it was 17 men out of the Union to one man in the Union. But I hold this is not a question of numbers. It is a question of principle—and if there is one man who objects to join the union the whole power of the State and of the Empire ought to be brought to bear for the protection of that man regardless of what the majority may be on the other side. If that man is not free, as my noble and learned Friend (Lord Bramwell) said, to dispose of his labour and whatever he has wherewith to gain his livelihood to the best of his knowledge and ability, supposing he does no harm to anybody else in so doing, he is entitled to the protection of the State, even though he may; be alone. And unless this be so, we are no longer a free people. This question is at present, as we know, a very grave one. I am inclined to think that the present law, if properly administered, (is sufficient, and I am strengthened in that view by a pamphlet which has been written by the Professor of Political Economy at Glasgow (Mr. Mavor) on the Scottish strike. He thus describes the present law— 7. Penalty for intimidation or annoyanc, by violence or otherwise: Every person who, with a view to compel any other person to abstain from doing or to do any act which such other person has a legal right to do or abstain from doing, wrongfully and without legal authority—(1) Uses violence to or intimidates such other person or his wife or children or injures his property; or (2), persistently follows such other person about from place to place; or (3), hides any tools, clothes, or other property owned or used by such other person, or deprives him of or hinders him in the use thereof; or (4), watches or besets the house or other place where such other person resides, or works, or carries on business, or happens to be, or the approach to such house or place; or (5), follows such other person with two or more other persons in a disorderly manner in or through any street or road; shall on conviction thereof by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction (in Scotland the Sheriff of the county or any one of his substitutes), or on indictment as hereinafter mentioned, be liable to pay a penalty not exceeding twenty pounds, or to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding three months, with or without hard labour. Attending at or near the house or place where a person resides, or works, or carries on business, or happens to be, or the approach to such house or place, in order merely to obtain or communicate information, shall not be deemed a watching or besotting within the meaning of this section. In the recent strike there can be no doubt whatever that the law was contravened by the picketing which occurred. A state of siege was established. The loyal servants of the North British Railway Company had to be housed and fed within the property of the Company. At Cowlairs there were 180 beds and food was supplied to 270 men; at the Haymarket, in Edinburgh, there were 20 beds, and food was supplied to 90 men; at Kipps there were 24 housed and 48 boarded; at St. Margaret's 140 men were housed, and 230 boarded; at Dundee there were 80 men housed and 54 boarded. In speaking of Dundee, I should explain that in the early part of the strike nearly one-half of the railway employés would have been willing to accept the terms of the company had they been permitted to do so, bat they were not allowed to come in. Lodgings were also provided outside the company's premises for a number of men at Kelso, Hawick, and other places. At Cowlairs the company employed cooks and provided provisions. I believe the purveying was generally done by hotel-keepers and restaurateurs. It was simply a state of siege. All those servants were simply sticking to their duty and endeavouring to fulfil their contracts. They were free men, and were entitled to protection. The other servants who had broken their contracts swarmed outside the railway property, insulting and injuring the loyal men. Such a state of things is disgraceful, and it never was intended by the Legislature that it should exist; and if the law is not sufficient it ought, as I have said, to be amended and strengthened. I have spoken about the old Unionism and about the new Unionism, and I have endeavoured to put before your Lordships very cursorily the state of things which now exists; and if your Lordships would allow me to say a few words more I should wish now to explain my position, for I am anxious that my motives should not be misinterpreted or impugned. I should be sorry if it went out that in taking up the cause of free labour against this tyrannical exercise of power I am hostile to Unionism. Far from it. I should be sorry if it were thought that I am in any way unfriendly to the person who is commonly called the working man. I think I have already given substantial proof to the contrary. I was intimately associated with Mr. Macdonald in making that alteration in the law of 1857 which put master and servant upon a fair footing, and I have served on the Trade Union Commission for two years. Previously to the passing of that Act masters could only be dealt with in disputes with workmen for breach of contract civilly, while the workmen were liable to be taken into custody on a criminal charge, handcuffed and sent to prison. As I have said, I got the Bill through the House of Commons, which put the master and servant on a fair and equal footing. Both are now treated on an equality, and the question of imprisonment can only arise where fines are not paid, as would happen in any other case. Upon the Trades Union Commission I was most heartily in favour of doing away with the prohibition against combinations of the men as being in restraint of trade. All along, however, I have felt that anything which interfered with a man's freedom or will and action to bestow his labour as he chose, ought to be, as the Royal Commission recommended, uniformly and carefully suppressed. We have now a new Royal Commission in prospect. We do not yet know the terms of the reference; but I hope whatever they may be that the Commission will find what is so much wanted—namely, a modus vivendi between capital and labour. I doubt very much whether this Commission will be able to collect any information or come to any conclusion very different from the Commission of 1868 and 1869. That Commission had its origin in the Sheffield and Manchester outrages. It recommended the relaxation of the law coupled with the suppression of the abuses of picketing, and it went into the different suggestions which were in vogue at that time for establishing a modus vivendi between labour and capital. It went into the questions of profit-sharing, arbitration, conseils de prudence as in France, and conciliation. The conclusion to which the Commission came was that not in co-operation or arbitration or in the French system was the remedy to be found, but in conciliation. The last paragraph of the Report, and I am thankful to say that I was the means of introducing that last paragraph into the Report, ran thus: I will venture to read it to your Lordships because what I believed was true then I believe to be true now, and I shall be disappointed if we do not find that this Commission when it concludes its labours comes very much to the same conclusion and endorses the views of its predecessor of 23 years ago. This is the conclusion of Sir William Earl's Report: The establishment of Boards of Conciliation such as those brought before us in evidence by Mr. Mundella and Mr. Hollins seems to offer a remedy at once speedy, safe, and simple. These Boards require no complicated machinery, no novel division of profits, no new mode of conducting business; they need no Act of Parliament, no legal powers or penalties. All that is needed is that certain representative employers and workmen should meet at regular stated times for 'table talk' and amicable discussion around the table of the common interests of their common trade or business. There is not a trade or business in the United Kingdom in which this system might not at once be adopted, and we see no reason why in every case results should not follow from the establishment of Boards of Conciliation as satisfactory as those at Nottingham and in the potteries, to which we have before referred. If this Commission were to have no other result than to be the means of drawing attention to this simple, speedy, practical way, not so much of settling as of anticipating and preventing disputes between masters and workmen, and of establishing lasting friendly relations between capital and labour, we believe our time will not have been misspent, and that good will come of our inquiry. That, I believe, was founded upon this fact, that a Committee was brought together in Edinburgh in 1867 of eight representatives of the coal industry, owners, lessees, and here are the Resolutions that they passed— (1) That a Board be formed to promote friendly intercommunication in the iron and coal trades; (2) that the object of said Board shall be to consider and determine the rate of wages and all questions affecting the iron and coal trade between employers and employed, and to secure a salutary means of preventing disputes; (3) the Board shall consist of employers and employed, to be elected by district meeting, and shall deal with matters between employers and employed, and by conciliation put an end to disputes. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that I think the word "employed," which is used there, is a much better word than "employé," which has got into use. I forget the circumstances now, I do not remember at this moment why nothing came of that, but I imagine it was in a great measure owing to the fact that some of the large coal owners did not at the time come into it. It is a long time—24 years ago. But, as in 1867, I venture to think that a Conciliation Board, meeting round the table in the way suggested, is the real solution of the labour problem, and I hope my noble Friend (the Marquess of Tweeddale) will say something on this subject before the close of the Debate. I believe he has since the strike met the employed of the North British Railway Company round a table, and I hope they will be able to come to a satisfactory solution of the question which led to the strike. I do not know what the objects and duties of this new Royal Commission will be, but I hope and trust they will consider amongst other things the state of the law as it at present exists, whether it is sufficient or insufficient for the protection of those who decline to join Unions and who are willing to work when there is a strike, or of Unionists who do not desire to come out on strike. I hope the Royal Commission will inquire into this subject. At any rate, as regards myself, it will be a satisfaction though what remains to me of life to feel upon this vital question of capital and labour that I have, by the favour of your Lordships' kindness, availed myself of an oppor- tunity of putting in, not as against Trades Unions, but in the interests of all labour, a plea for liberty.


My Lords, to the abstract proposition in the elaboration of which my noble Friend has taken up some little time, namely, that every man should have the right to make the best bargain he can for his labour which is his own property, and should be protected in the enjoyment of that property as he is protected in the enjoyment of all other legal rights, I do not suppose any of your Lordships will have any objection to make. That, I think, is a proposition which nobody will traverse. But the noble Lord goes a great deal further than that, and by his question assumes that the proper protection has not been given to those whom he terms the "loyal" workmen employed upon these Scotch railways. I submit that my noble Friend has not substantiated that proposition. He read out a certain list of cases of what he called "outrages" which have been committed, but although I listened very attentively to what my noble Friend said I could not discover that in any of the cases he showed any proof whatever that those outrages were caused by the men on strike.


Oh, yes; I mentioned several specially which had been committed by men on strike.


My memory no doubt is deceptive, but I do not remember them.


I will give you the list.


In my opinion, the worst case which my noble Friend mentioned was that of the engine-driver who was accompanied home by a crowd, who shouted at him, and were preceded by a man playing on the bagpipes. If that engine-driver had been a free-labourer imported from England I could imagine that the procession headed by a bag-piper might have had an intimidating effect upon him; but if he was an engine-driver who had been previously in the employment of one of these Scotch railways and was a native "to the manner born," I scarcely think an incident of that kind deserves to be placed in the category of intimidation and outrage. The noble Lord also refrained from giving your Lordships any information as to how many of these cases had been brought before a Court of Law, and how many convictions had been obtained, or in how many cases the defendants had been discharged. I venture to think that if statistics were forthcoming upon those points your Lordships would find that the number of cases in which it was claimed that persons had been injured or intimidated, which were brought before the Courts of Law were very few, and that in a large proportion of those cases the defendants were discharged. But I do not wish to go at any great length into that point, and I would only say that I, for one, strongly object upon such evidence as has been produced before your Lordships' House to asking Her Majesty's Government to do what my noble Friend suggests; that is to say, to take such measures as will in all future strikes ensure due protection to workmen. That is tantamount to saying that in the present strike Her Majesty's Government have been remiss and that due protection was not accorded to those persons. Does my noble Friend mean to say there was not sufficient police protection? If so, did the proper parties apply that the soldiers should be called out—that the military forces of the Crown should intervene in the disputes? If not, I fail to see what reasonable ground of complaint there is. As a matter of fact, having read the newspapers very closely during the whole period of these strikes, although I have no facts or figures or statistics to lay before your Lordships' House, my belief is that the force of police was certainly, in the great majority of cases, amply sufficient to afford protection. Undoubtedly there was a certain amount of intimidation in certain cases. I remember cases where the wives of the men who were unemployed threw stones, and there can be no doubt that in some cases intimidation was used. But in view of the enormous magnitude of the considerations, in view of the large number of men on strike, I submit that the amount of intimidation practised was very small, and I further say that the police protection was, as a general rule, sufficient. As far as can be judged from the speech of my noble Friend, there is no reason for assuming that ample protection was not given in those cases, and, therefore, there is no ground for the question which my noble Friend asks Her Majesty's Government. Now, I would like to make a few remarks upon two points which were raised by my noble Friend. He has stated that the Railway Directors were in all cases ready to hear complaints. The complaints of these men were, if I remember rightly, of three kinds, and mainly complaints as to long hours. I do not think my noble Friend or any Member of this House will deny that, as far as we can tell from the evidence which was made public, the hours worked on some of these railways were inordinately long; and the fact that a Commission has been granted by Government in the other House to inquire into that question may be taken as substantiating the fact. Another ground of complaint was that grievances would only be heard on the part of individual persons employed through the head of the particular grade or department to which he belonged. Tour Lordships must understand that, rightly or wrongly, working men seriously believe that they endanger their future prospects by making complaints. They consider that in being compelled to make their complaints, not to the Directors or even to the General Manager, which they cannot do, but to the subordinate officials, they become marked men; that they are marked out for future vengeance, and that they are likely to lose their employment and means of livelihood. What the men desired was that they might be heard through persons who were not directly interested or in the employment of the companies—I might almost say that they might be heard by counsel; and, considering all the circumstances of the case, I confess that appears to me to be not an unreasonable proposition. These complaints were formulated over and over again for, I think, a period of two or three years, but no action was taken in the matter and no relief was afforded. Then my noble Friend commented very severely upon what he calls New Unionism. I do not pretend to know what is the exact difference between New Unionism and Old Unionism, but my noble Friend said the object of the New Unionism is this: that they are political organisations, and their object is to foment strikes. Now, I think that is a hard thing to say. I am not here to defend Unionism of any kind——


I said on the part of leaders.


But in view of the facts that the strikes to which my noble Friend alluded were rushed by the men, and were entered upon in direct opposition to the advice of the leaders, I think it is rather hard to say that the object of the leaders is to foment strikes. My noble Friend is, I think, perfectly aware that the executive of the Working Men's Association were strongly opposed to the men leaving their work except at the expiration of their notices, and that the strike was, as I say, rushed, and undertaken contrary to the advice and wishes of the executive. It appears to me to be a little hard, under those circumstances, to brand those men with a desire to create and foment strikes. I entirely agree with everything my noble Friend has said as to the hopes we may all entertain in the future that some means may be devised for settling these most serious trade disputes without friction. The amount of money involved in these contests is gigantic; and, what is much more serious than the mere money value, all the industries of the country were for a time paralysed. The strike did not merely affect the railways; it affected the comfort of everybody. It affected mining operations, shipbuilding, ironworks—it affected, in fact, the whole industries of Scotland; and I think that it is little less than a scandal that at the close of the 19th century we have been unable, with all our ingenuity, to devise any means by which differences of opinion of this kind between man and man can be decided except by the rude arbitrament of force. In all that I entirely agree with my noble Friend, and I agree with him in hoping that the time may not be far distant when some means of settlement may be devised. But I do not agree with my noble Friend in what he has said as to the lack of adequate protection in these strikes; and although I am entirely of opinion, as is he, that all due protection ought to be given to every man in the legal exercise of all his rights and privileges, I should be sorry to ask Her Majesty's Government the question which my noble Friend has asked them, as it appears to me that in doing so I should be expressing my opinion that Her Majesty's Government have been remiss in this matter, and that proper protection was not afforded to the people who were not on strike.


My Lords, I do not rise for the purpose of prolonging this discussion for any length of time, because I have no doubt that while Her Majesty's Government will in all probability say that they desire the existing law to be firmly and duly enforced, I do not anticipate that they will be in the least likely to say they propose to introduce fresh legislation on this subject, or to abandon the policy which was adopted in 1868, for which the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India received such well deserved credit. But as the noble Lord on the Cross Benches has thrown his fly over me, I think it would be scarcely as respectful in me as I desire to be to him if I were to remain silent and not to answer the question he has addressed to me. Before I do so, I desire to say that it seems to me very unjust that my noble Friend should have attempted to throw upon the whole of the men who went out on strike in Scotland upon the occasion referred to the blame for the more serious part of the outrages which he has mentioned. I do not at all believe that those men did give, or would give, any real encouragement to the serious part of the outrages which my noble Friend has described. I do regret exceedingly one portion of his remarks, in which he seemed to bring some charge against Mr. Munro Ferguson, as if he had used words lending encouragement to the violations of the law, which my noble Friend referred to. My noble Friend knows, I am sure, that nothing could have been further from the intention of that gentleman than anything of the kind. With regard to the question which my noble Friend has addressed to me, what I have to say is this: I quite admit that I feel a deep and earnest sympathy with the desire of the railway employés for shorter hours; so does my noble Friend on the Cross Benches himself, as he has said; and so does the whole of the House of Commons, for they have recently passed a Resolution on the subject and appointed a Committee to see how those hours can be shortened. Under those circumstances, it was natural I should take an interest in the strike which was going on in Scotland; but my noble Friend objects to my having said that I thought the position taken up by the Directors of the railways was unjustifiable, and I will explain at once in what respect I thought, and still think, that that position was unjustifiable. Railway Companies seem to me to stand in a somewhat different position from ordinary employers. They have been entrusted by the public with large powers and privileges; they are, to a certain extent, public servants, and have important public duties to perform; and anything which tends to prolong a dispute of this kind, which imposes heavy loss and great inconvenience upon the public, anything which tends to increase that loss and inconvenience unnecessarily, is in my opinion unjustifiable. In two respects especially the Directors of these companies took up a position which cannot, in my opinion, be defended, and which tended to prolong the strike. In the first place, I do not think they were right in refusing to meet the officials of the Trades Union. My noble Friend says he is quite sure that if I had a difficulty with persons in my employ I should certainly refuse to discuss the question in dispute with the officials of any Union. In that he is wrong, for I should in these days certainly not take that course. If there was (which there is not) a Labourers' Union in Yorkshire, and a strike were to take place among the labourers in my employ in connection with that Union, I should think it my wisest course, and I should certainly adopt that course, to go at once to the officials of that Union and deal with them. They would be the men who would have the most influence with the labourers, who might very likely have had a hand in getting up the strike in order to put forward whatever demands they might have to make or to remedy any grievances they might wish redressed, and the wisest course, I am confident, would be to go at once to those officials and enter into communication with them. I think, therefore, that the refusal on the part of the Scotch Railway Directors was wrong, and, under the circumstances, unjustifiable. Then, further, I think myself that the demand which was made by them that the men should return unconditionally to their work after the strike commenced without having the questions in dispute settled, a demand which put an end, as I believe, to the various attempts at conciliation which were made, was wrong. I felt that that demand was one which the Directors had better not have made. The strike having taken place, I think if they desired, in the interest of everybody to bring it to an end, their wisest course would have been to enter into communication with those who were the representatives and had the confidence of the men, with the view of coming to such terms as might upon fair and reasonable grounds bring the strike to a termination as soon as possible. Those were the grounds upon which I gave expression to the opinions to which my noble Friend has alluded. I adhere to those opinions now, and I say specially, in conclusion, that it does appear to me to be most unwise, and if I may be pardoned for saying so, most foolish in any body of employers in these days to attempt to ignore the existence of Trades' Unions. They exist, and will continue to exist. They have conferred great benefits, I believe, upon the community, though they may have made, as all other bodies have made, mistakes from time to time; and I am quite certain that the only wise course for employers in the present day to pursue is to acknowledge the existence of the Unions and to work with them as far as they can.


My Lords, I should not have thought it necessary to trespass on the time of your Lordships if my name had not been referred to by my noble Friend on my left (Earl Wemyss); and if the noble Lord who has just spoken had not attempted to explain the remarkable expressions which he used in a letter upon the subject, characterising the position taken up by the Directors of the North British Railway in connection with this strike as unjustifiable. I have no right to speak for the other companies; but I may say in respect to them that the attitude which they took up was identical with that assumed by ourselves. I have no desire at any length to occupy the time of the House, and I shall confine myself as far as possible simply to a statement of the position taken up and the circumstances under which it was taken up. It has been the invariable practice of the North British Railway Company, on occasions of complaints being made connected with the service, to receive the representative of the particular grade or department in which the complaint has arisen, and to discuss the complaints, and, if well founded, apply a remedy for them. This practice has been often adopted. In 1883, for instance, the different departments of the Railway Company approached the Directors, and, on that occasion, various concessions were made. Early last year similar approaches were made by one or two of the departments, and concessions were again made; but on that occasion several of the departments refused to approach the Directors in the manner in which they had been accustomed to bring forward complaints, and insisted that they should be received together en masse, headed by the Secretary of the Associated Societies of Railway Servants in Scotland. Now, whether rightly or wrongly, the Directors decided not to receive the men en masse, and not to receive them headed by the Secretary of the Associated Societies of Scotland. Your Lordships will easily understand that decision in respect of the fact that the grievances of the different departments are not the same. The duties are very different. Take, for instance, the grievances of the signalmen. They desired that more of their number should be included in a working day of eight hours, and even less. That was a totally different question from the question raised by engine-drivers, goods guards, and others. It was, therefore, for the advantage of the men, as well as the companies, that the complaints from those grades should be heard by the heads of the different departments without the presence of the Secretary of the Societies of Railway Servants. With regard to the representative of the Associated Societies, I desire, for myself, to say that I have no abstract objection in the least to receive a gentleman who might be regarded as an outsider, who really represents the views of the men, and who may be in a position to bind them to any agreement which might be come to between them and the company. But in this particular instance the Directors had no reason to believe that the individual in question did adequately represent the men. No better evidence of that can be given than the fact that this gentleman, Mr. Tait, was entirely opposed to the strike. He took what may be described as a plébiscite of the men; it resulted unfavourably, and his decision was that there should be no strike. Now, what use would it have been to enter into negotiations with an individual who, in such an important matter as that, was unable to bind the men to an agreement? I think, therefore, the Directors were wholly justified in the attitude they took up with respect to those points. But then it has been said that the action of the men was justified morally, if not legally and technically, by the excessive hours which they had been required to labour. I am not going to dispute the fact that in some instances, not in so many as may be supposed, excessive hours of labour do occur; but that opens up the great question whether, even admitting everything that has been said as to the grievances of the men, the servants of the North British Company were justified in doing what they did and in ignoring and disregarding the agreements they had entered into voluntarily with the company, knowing all the circumstances connected therewith? Are there any circumstances which would justify such a breach of their agreements? I doubt it. If we can judge from what appears in the newspapers, the Army, the Navy, the Civil Services, and a variety of other branches of employment have just as many, and in some cases greater, grievances, but surely nobody would say that would justify either a mutiny or a strike in those employments. Now, I agree with the language which was used by a very important official of the Government in dealing with the Savings Bank clerks. What was the language which he used with regard to his conduct on that occasion? I am quoting now from the speech made by Sir Arthur Blackburn to the Savings Bank clerks a short time ago. He said— There may be, no doubt, in the conduct of the affairs of a great Department, and in the discharge of its multifarious duties, occasions for difference of opinion and even for grievances to arise at different times; but there are legitimate ways of adjusting these differences and of remedying these grievances. As, unfortunately, now a very old Civil Servant, I desire to express my opinion, in which I believe you will all concur, that the very last resource which a servant of the State ought to employ is that of refusing to obey orders. In the case of railway servants I should adopt every word of that language, merely altering the last words and saying that the very last thing a railway-servant should have recourse to is striking without any notice, and committing a breach of his agreement. With regard to these hours of labour, I would venture to point out, and I have a Return here which I think your Lordships will be of opinion justifies what I am about to say, no doubt the hours of labour were excessive. That I will admit, to a certain extent; but what I dispute is that they were anything like of a nature to justify the conduct of the men. I have made an extract of cases in which railway servants have worked more than 12 hours at a time from the last Return submitted to Parliament. I have taken three companies for comparison, and I may say I have not picked them as being in favour of the North British Railway Company—it would be impossible to give them in the cases of all the Railway companies. First, I will take the case of the goods guards on the North Eastern Railway Company: of these there were in March 85 per cent. who were occupied on duty for over 12 hours; on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway there were 96 per cent., on the Great Northern 88 per cent., and on the North British 70 per cent.—that is to say, 26 per cent. lower than the highest in the other Companies, and considerably lower than any of the others. Taking the case of the engine-drivers and firemen on the North Eastern there were 81 per cent., on the Great Northern 86 per cent., and on the North British 70 per cent. In the case of signalmen there were on the North Eastern 8 per cent. who were occupied for over 12 hours; on the Lancashire and Yorkshire 18 per cent., on the Great Northern 9 per cent., and on the North British 5 per cent. That is to say, in March last the North British Company compared favourably with those three companies in respect of the number of hours worked by goods guards, engine-drivers, firemen, and signalmen who were, I may say, the principal men by whom questions were raised in connection with this strike. Now, it has been said that this matter of excessive hours has an important connection with the question of danger to the public. It is a very remarkable fact that if you look at this Return of the summary of circumstances which contributed to accidents in the year 1889, in comparison with the 10 preceding years, you will find that there were 113 accidents in that year, and those are divided by the Board of Trade into 14 classes. You would naturally expect, if you judge from what has been said in respect to the danger incurred through long hours, that a large proportion of these accidents would be shown here to have been due to that cause; but what is the case? Out of 113, seven only come under this class, which is not all comprised of long hours, the different classes being insufficient establishment, long hours, or inexperienced servants. That is to say, out of over 100 cases, seven only are included, and not really the whole of the seven, as due to excessive hours of working. Then your Lordships have heard it stated very often—and as I have not had as good an opportunity of refuting the statement as on this occasion, I will, with your Lordships' permission, take advantage of it—that the North British is one of the greatest sinners, if I may use the expression, in respect of the overtime question. What is the case in respect of danger to travellers? I find from this Return that of the 69 investigated train accidents, the largest number occurred on other railways, and only two were on the North British, with a mileage of over 1,000 miles, and a train mileage of 13,720,000. In respect to immunity from danger to passengers, you find that the North British—and I am sorry the representative of the Railway Department is not here, because he would, I am sure, confirm what I am saying—stands in the very first rank, and that in some respects it is in a higher rank than any other line. I have referred to that circumstance because it is one of the things most prominently put forward, namely, that the strike was justifiable—although not technically—morally, and in reality in the interest of the general public. That makes me regret somewhat the Resolu- tion which was come to in another place the other day, which described the great danger to the public through the system of working overtime, and so forth. The fact is, that it has little or no connection with the subject in the management of railways. Now, I do not dispute that at one period when signalmen were kept a long time on duty, danger might and did occur; but in these days, when safety depends so much upon the appliances in use on railways, I think if gentlemen who take an interest in railway matters would turn their attention to requiring Railway Companies to use more efficient brakes, they would be better occupied than in denouncing the North British Railway or its directors. My Lords, the question really which we had to consider was this: In acceding to, or refusing, the demands of the men in the way in which they were made, we really had to consider whether, as directors appointed by the shareholders who provide the capital with which these railways are made, we in future are to direct the management of our railway ourselves, or whether the management of the railways throughout Scotland was to be handed over to gentlemen in the position of Mr. Tait and Mr. Burns. That was really the issue, and in deciding that we should refuse the demands of the men, made as they were, and that we would only receive them in the manner I have pointed out, I believe we took up a perfectly sound attitude, and one which is perfectly justifiable. To the general question of length of hours and the great questions of capital and labour, it is not my intention to refer now, more especially as a Committee has been appointed to deal with the one and a Commission to inquire into the other. But I must beg to be allowed to express my own humble opinion of these inquiries that very little will be shown by them beyond the fact that labour will always find its best friend in capital, and that however cunningly you may devise your legislation you will do very little in reality to affect the terms upon which capital will employ labour whether in regard to hours or in regard to pay.


I would ask your Lordships' indulgence while I offer a few remarks. I must say I was surprised to hear my noble Friend Lord Dunraven answer my noble Friend on my right by saying that he seemed to give no evidence for his statement. I, on the contrary, understood him to say he was quoting documents which had been supplied to him by the North British Railway. As out of the great number of instances of injury to property and of intimidation, and even injury to individuals, he in several instances said that no culprit was identified, we could not expect to receive accounts of trials in those cases; and really when we find cases mentioned of points disarranged and of obstructions placed on the rails, capable of overturning trains, whether those acts were done actually by men on strike or by sympathisers, it seems to me that the sympathies of the traveling public at least ought to be strongly enlisted against strikes carried on—I will not say by such means—but aided by such nefarious practices, or, rather, intended to be aided by such nefarious practices. When we are told of insufficient evidence of injury to individuals, surely the heroic courage and energy of a man who persevered with his work and went on managing his engine, though his collar-bone was broken, must not be forgotten. The man himself, I suppose, knew best whether a stone that was thrown at him had that effect; and surely those other instances of personal injury—I am not speaking now of abuse and insult—are quite reasonably stated by my noble Friend as affording a just argument that in some way or other insufficient protection was given to those who were engaged in the important public service of labouring in different capacities on the railways. And here I must be allowed to say in answer to the noble Marquess who contended that Railway Companies were placed in an altogether exceptional position and that they were bound to see that public danger and inconvenience do not result from strikes which take place among their servants, that surely if there are public obligations upon the Railway Companies, who are the employers there must be in the interest of the public corresponding duties and obligations on the part of their servants. The very important service of the railways was interrupted. We hear it stated that it is established that something like £1,000,000 was lost on account of that strike in Scotland, and this strike took place (this has always struck me as a very important feature in regard to this case) on the part of men who deliberately broke their contracts to go on strike. Well, the Railway Companies can hardly do more than make contracts with persons, not permanent contracts, but contracts terminable at a longer or shorter period for the performance of certain services; and I do not see what better precaution they can take than by making such terminable contracts. Surely they are not responsible or blameable for not immediately yielding to the demands of men who did not wait until the termination of their contracts before they suddenly threw up their work and discontinued their services at the moment when it would cause not only the greatest possible damage to trade and manufactures, but also inconvenience to private families all over the land. I, as a consistent Liberal years ago, remember supporting Lord Shaftesbury in his endeavours to prevent helpless children from being overworked in factories. I followed in that the lead of other consistent Liberals like Lord Russell, Lord Palmerston, Sir George Grey, and Mr. Macaulay, and we had the support also of men like Lord Beaconsfield (then Mr. Disraeli) and Lord John Manners—Conservatives—though it was against the Conservative Government we had to fight including Sir Robert Peel, Sir James Graham and their then Colleague Mr. Gladstone. But though it was thought necessary to take additional measures for the prevention of injurious overwork in the case of helpless children we at the same time equally maintained the principle of non-interference with adult labour, or the contracts which adult labourers made with employers. Liberals heartily rejoiced, I heartily rejoice for one, that the laws relating to employment as between employers and employed were put on a juster and better footing very much by the labours of the noble Lord, Viscount Cross when in the other House. But if it is right that the liberty of men of the wage class to combine and to unite for legal purposes should be protected; on the other hand it is as essential that the liberty of working but not uniting with the majority of other working men in the same business or in other businesses should be equally protected. I pro- test earnestly against the tyranny of those who wish to curtail, under the disguise of a humane interference for the protection of the helpless, the liberty of adults of sane mind to labour for whom they please, in what manner they please, and when they please, under contract with their employers; and to give notice at the end of their contracts that they will cease so to labour. But I hold that it is essential for the maintenance of law and order and, in the long run, of liberty that contracts should be enforced and protected between adults of sane mind, capable of making contracts.


I wish to say a few words to your Lordships upon this subject more to lament the existence of what I believe to be a very great evil and mischief than to suggest a remedy for it. I have always said and held that by the common law of the land there is nothing unlawful in a Trade Union and now there is nothing unlawful in it by statute. I have said the same thing of strikes; they are not unlawful and they are not even without, in many cases, great justification. I see nothing immoral in them where the only object is to raise the wages of the strikers, and as the noble Marquess has said, I have said and do say there is nothing unlawful in picketing provided that it is lawfully practised, but that is what it never is. I do not know the particulars of the Scotch strike or of the Scotch picketing, but I do not see how your Lordships should reasonably have been led into a discussion whether it was a laudable strike and laudable picketing or not, because I should suppose that some of that picketing of which we have heard could not have been lawful I under any provocation. If the men received any provocation, about which I express no opinion, the remedy was not to break the heads of those who did not choose to join them, or throw stones at engines and demolish stations. Their remedy was a different one. If the picketers had only done what they pretend and nothing more, that is to say, if they had merely met their fellow workmen in a friendly way and asked them to join, with nothing but a kind persuasiveness in their manner nobody could have objected to it; they would have a perfect right to propagate their own opinions and try to get persons to ally themselves with them. But that picketing would not pay; it would not be worth the trouble to picket in that way. The picketing must be of such a character as to inspire terror. That is the object of picketing, and it is one which succeeds tolerably well in many cases. Your Lordships have heard that I tried—I am sure I do not know how many years, I believe 20 years ago—a picket case in connection with a tailors' strike, which as far as I remember was for no other reason than an increase of wages. They would, I dare say, have said that they had picketed in the mildest possible way. My noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack was one of the counsel that defended one of the picketers, and got him off, and he will be able to tell your Lordships whether I am exaggerating. The men who had not joined in the strike were in such terror of these pickets that they did not dare to take their work home to the master tailors; they got their wives to do it in many cases, and it was pitiable to see the women in the witness-box—they were in the greatest possible terror, and described the treatment they had met with to be of such a character that it was not surprising they were in that condition of alarm in which they exhibited themselves. It matters not that there is no blow given—though I believe there are few cases of extensive picketing in which there is no blow-given; if the conduct of the pickets was such as to excite terror in the minds of those picketed, and to deter them from doing their lawful work, I say it is an intolerable wrong and mischief both to the men who desire to work and to the community at large. It would be bad enough if it were some benevolent, intelligent autocrat who terrorised over people in this way; but when you consider that the tyranny is exercised by people who are actuated by ignorance and greed it is insufferable, even though there may be no blow proveable. I have said I do not know what the remedy for this is. You could not put down Trades Unions if you would, and I for one would not; on the contrary, I take the liberty of saying before your Lordships what I have said before in open Court, if I were a working man I should be a Unionist. I think that Trades Unions are useful institutions, and I would strike for good cause. You cannot get rid either of Trades Unions or of strikes. You have got now an excellent law against unreasonable intimidation—if one may use such an expression, if we can suppose there ever was any reasonable intimidation; the difficulty is in reaching the offenders and protecting those persons who are injured and oppressed by it, and the only thing that I can suggest as a remedy for what I believe to be a most serious mischief is that the persons picketed, those who do not agree with the pickets, should be carefully protected, and that that remedy should be applied which the noble Marquess has so well administered elsewhere, namely, that the law should be enforced, and people taught that they could not safely break it.


My Lords, I have to ask your Lordships' indulgence in saying a few words on the important Debate which has just taken place. I confess, on reading the Notice of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches, I thought he had introduced the subject of the Scotch Strikes simply as a peg on which to base the discussion he has raised on the general question of strikes. I have not been disappointed altogether in that; but, as the Debate has turned so largely on the subject of the recent strikes in Scotland, I would ask to be allowed to say a few words. I think your Lordships will agree that the speech which has just been made by the noble and learned Lord has gone very far towards answering the speech made by the noble Lord on the Cross Benches, for he—having, perhaps, more experience than anybody else in your Lordships' House in cases of this kind—has emphatically stated that he sees no remedy, except, perhaps, additional police protection, for those who may be subjected to and suffering from the picketing system. I should like to say a few words more, particularly upon two suggestions which have fallen from the noble Earl. I shall not go into the question which has been raised by Members of your Lordships' House in reference to the origin of the strikes—whether the Directors of the Railway Companies were justified in the action they took in not meeting their employed in the way in which they desired; or, on the other hand, the position taken up by the noble Marquess opposite (Lord Ripon), that he thought the Directors were not justified in that action. The question of the strikes and of what led to them is, I think, entirely outside the question put by the noble; Earl. As I understand that question, he asks Her Majesty's Government whether they are prepared to take any measures; in future to prevent the scenes which took place during the recent strikes in Scotland from recurring in future strikes. The noble Earl, in addition to that, made two suggestions. One was that the law as it at present exists is sufficiently strong (and I think he himself rather inclined to that view); and the other was, that if the law is not sufficiently strong, fresh legislation should be initiated in order to strengthen it. I will take the earlier suggestion first—namely, that the law is sufficiently strong, and consequently, as the noble Earl implied, was not sufficiently enforced. I desire most emphatically to repudiate any suggestion of the kind. The noble Earl knows, I think, as well as anyone that the initiation of criminal proceedings in cases of this description rests with the Lord Advocate, who, as the representative of Her Majesty in cases of public prosecution, is bound to see that all necessary proceedings are taken where the law has been broken; and I do not imagine that anyone who knows the present Lord Advocate will think for a moment that he is not likely to discharge the duty to the fullest extent. But apart from that I think the noble Earl must also be aware that the enforcement of the law in the different districts of Scotland rests with the Sheriff or Magistrates for each district. Let me take the case of Lanarkshire where the most important breach of the law took place—at Motherwell. When those disturbances began, the Sheriff, with the greatest promptitude, asked for assistance from Glasgow in the form of an additional Police Force. The additional Police Force that was supplied from Glasgow for Motherwell was not sufficient to meet the difficulties which had arisen, and a force of, I think, 119 men was obtained from Lancashire, I think, for the purpose of stopping the disturbances and, in addition, a troop of cavalry was sent from Glasgow, and on their leaving another troop was sent from Edinburgh. So that a sufficient force was sent for the maintenance of law and order in Motherwell, where the only disturbance really that occurred, I think, during the strikes took place. That it was amply sufficient to maintain law and order was shown by the fact that no further disturbances took place after the arrival of those various forces. The noble Earl has also pointed out that there were a great many cases in which personal violence was offered to the loyal servants of the Railway Companies. He has made that statement, but I should like very much to be informed if he or anybody else who is interested in the case can point out any case where information was given or where it was known that violence was intended to loyal servants of the Railway Companies, and whore no steps were taken in consequence for their protection. I am quits sure the noble Earl will find that it is impossible to Joint out such a case. I would also ask whether it is possible that additional legislative powers could have any effect in such circumstances? As far as I know, wherever any breach of the law took place, ample precautions were taken for the protection of those who were threatened, and proceedings were initiated in regard to any violence committed. As the noble Earl knows, no doubt, proceedings are pending in Scotland at this moment, in reference to the action taken by people in those strikes. Then the noble Earl also referred to the subject of picketing. I have already referred to what was said on that point by the noble and learned Lord who spoke just now. It is a question of enormous difficulty and one beyond the powers almost of the legislature in any Act of Parliament to deal with. As the noble and learned Lord said, every one of these picketers is presumably, according to their own statement, acting in the mildest and most reasonable manner possible, that is their own statement in almost every case. In a very large number of cases, to my own knowledge, tickets have been issued to those who were engaged in the picketing stating exactly what is the condition of the law, and exactly what they were to do. Probably the noble Earl knows that also. Surely this makes it very difficult to prove against them cases of breaking the law; it affords primâ facie, evidence that they have kept themselves within the limits of what they are legally entitled to do, and it is therefore much more difficult to prove a case against them. As the noble and learned Lord has told us, when about 20 years ago he acted as Judge in some picketing cases arising out of the tailors' strike which were brought before him, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was able to make so good a case for the accused persons that he got them acquitted. That is with regard to the existing state of the law, and the presumption of the noble Earl that the law, as it is as present is sufficiently strong to do what he desires is, I think, correct. With regard to his other proposition that if not strong enough Her Majesty's Government should take measures to ensure due protection in future strikes, I think the noble Earl has conclusively answered his own argument. At the close of his speech he strongly urged the constitution of Boards of Conciliation. I feel sure he does not propose that those Boards should be initiated by Her Majesty's Government, for in that case their influence might be destroyed altogether.


Self-originating I meant.


I do not think I misunderstood the noble Earl. He also made allusion to the Commission which is about to be appointed to inquire into the labour question, and the noble Earl said he hoped that Commission would inquire into all questions between capital and labour, with a view to their settlement as soon as possible. Until the Commission has completed that inquiry, at all events, I think it would be quite impossible for Her Majesty's Government to consider anything of the kind. Speaking for myself, no one can possibly be more anxious that the relations between capital and labour should be organised on such a footing as was alluded to by the noble Earl (Fortescue), namely, that all labour should be absolutely free, and that everything which would interfere with that freedom, in the case of adults of sane mind, should as far as possible be done away with. That is my own view, and I am sure it is the view of all your Lordships; but to try and bring about that result by legislative measures would be, as the noble Earl must know, a most delicate and difficult, and almost impossible task.


My Lords, it is only by courtesy that I may be permitted to say a few words in reply to what has just fallen from my noble Friend and also from Lord Dunraven in the earlier part of the Debate. The noble Earl implied that whatever cases I mentioned in illustration and support of my argument were not of much importance, and that I had failed to bring home the fact that this picketing and this system of intimidation which has been established has interfered with the freedom of others. The argument of my noble Friend who has just sat down was this: that the law has been enforced to the full extent, even to the extent of calling out the military at Motherwell, where there had been a disturbance. But it is not only a question of what may be done when there is a disturbance, or what is commonly called a disturbance; what I have said is, of two things one—you are, in fact, on the horns of a dilemma—either the law is sufficient, but has been insufficiently enforced, or it is insufficient and ought to be strengthened. Looking to the Act of 1875, "watching, besetting, or following" is a crime; that is to say it renders the person doing so liable to a penalty; and that if properly enforced must be sufficient. But that does not really cover such a case as occurred at Motherwell, where a sort of civil war went on for a time, where hard fighting took place, and the soldiers had to be called in. However, that is not so much the sort of case I mean as that of St. Margaret's Station, where the so-called "loyal" workmen were actually beleaguered. There it is very plain that the law, if sufficient for their protection, cannot' have been properly administered. That is a matter for the authorities to decide. I say that if you have in a free country such a state of things as existed at St. Margaret's Station where there were men willing to work either with Unionists or not, willing to come and do the duty of those who had left, who had to be bedded, boarded, and protected, you evidently require to add another word of prohibition. To "watching and besetting" yon would have to add "beleaguering," and make beleaguering an offence. Do not tell me that watching and besetting being made illegal is sufficient if, whoever is responponsible for administering the law in Scotland can allow such a state of things to occur as a station to be actually beleaguered by a crowd of men "watching and besetting" those who are shut up within.

House adjourned at half-past Six o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.