14 FEBRUARY 1903, Page 3

Mr. Asquith, in speaking at the Eighty Club dinner on

February 6th, dealt with the important subject of Trade- Union law. He maintained that legal recognition of free combination "had been a wise and a beneficent change in the interest of employer, of workman, and of the community at large." Despite the many and grave drawbacks in the work- ing of modern Labour combinations, the right to combine, when legitimately exercised, was one the State "ought jealously to safeguard and protect." Recent decisions, due to the bad drafting of modern Trade-Union Acts, created a fear lest this right should be placed in jeopardy, and it was necessary that the law of combination should be redefined and codified by the Legislature and not left to the Judges. Mr. Asquith went on to declare that the Taff Vale case cut both ways and would not be interfered with by Parliament. But it was necessary for the Legislature to supply a criterion that would decide when and how joint action by a body of men pursuing an object which each single man could lawfully pursue became unlawful. We agree that Parliament should see that the free power of effective combination is not whittled away, but Parliament must also protect free Labour. Taken as a whole, the speech was a most wise and useful one. Mr. Asquith never shows to better advantage than when tackling some big practical problem. He is brave, and in politics no quality carries a man further than courage.