1920s >> 1929 >> no-304-december-1929

The I.L.P. in Parliament

 It is argued on behalf of the I.L.P. that their propaganda methods are justified by their success. As proof of this they point to a relatively large membership and to the fact that more than 200 of their members are Labour Party M.P.’s. How hollow is this success can be seen from the inability of the I.L.P. to control its members in the House of Commons. Mr. Maxton, Chairman of the I.L.P., criticised the Labour Government’s Unemployment Insurance . Bill, and threatened to oppose its second reading. The prompt result, as reported in the Daily Herald of November 19th, was that,

    between 50 and 60 I.L.P. M.P.s last night signed a memorial repudiating the right of the I.L.P. officials to speak on their behalf.

 Moreover, Mr. W. Leach, M.P., who prepared the memorial and is himself an I.L.P member, explained that he had not approached any of the 80 holders of offices in the Government, and could have obtained many other signatures (apart from the 80 referred to) if he had had more time to approach Labour M.P.’s not immediately available. (Daily Herald, 20th November.)

 The following day, November 19th, Mr. Maxton stated his case against the Government’s Bill at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. The Daily Herald reports that he received the support of only half a dozen M.P.’s (Daily Herald, 20th November); this, although over 200 of them are members of his party, the I.L.P.

 The same evening he stated his case again at a meeting of the I.L.P. M.P.’s, but was turned down by 41 votes to 14 (Daily Herald, 20th November).    

On November 20th, Mr. Maxton and his supporters put their names to an amendment, as follows:—

      This House records its profound regret that the Bill, while abolishing the fourth statutory condition for the receipt of benefit, imposes a new condition, which still leaves the burden of proof of his search for work on the applicant for benefit; which does not provide £1 a week for the adult unemployed man, 10s. for his wife, and 5s. for each dependent child, but leaves young persons inadequately provided for; and which fails to restore the waiting period of three days as in the Act of 1924.

 It will be noticed that the demand of the “rebels” differs little from the offer of the Government. They only ask for 2s. more per week for an unemployed man, and are presumably of the opinion that £1 a week is enough.

 Mr. P. C. Hoffmann, one of the 33 signatories (32 Labour M.P.’s and one Independent, Mr. Scrymgeour), explained to a Herald correspondent that “if the motion were one for the rejection of the Bill, or if it were a vote of censure on the Government, I should have nothing to do with it.”

 That many others of the 33 were in the same boat and were counting on the amendment never going to a division is shown by the fact that 12 of the signatories withdrew their names next day (see Herald, 23rd November). Finally they all voted for the Government Bill. What is obvious is that the members of the I.L.P. who have scrambled into Parliament on the non-Socialist votes of Labour Party supporters are not controlled or controllable by the I.L.P. Elected on the Labour Party’s non-Socialist programme and dependent on the machinery and on the financial support of that party and of the trade unions, these M.P.’s are powerless to work for Socialism.

Edgar Hardcastle

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