Open main menu

Arthur Jenkins (3 February 1882 – 25 April 1946) was a Welsh trade unionist and Labour Party politician.

Jenkins was a coal miner's agent who studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and at Ruskin College, Oxford, before becoming Vice-President of the South Wales Miners Federation. At the 1935 general election he was elected to the House of Commons as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Pontypool, replacing former Labour minister Thomas Griffiths. He held the seat until his death in 1946 at the age of 64.

Arthur was born at Farteg, Abersychan, Monmouthshire son of Thomas Jenkins and wife, Eliza Perry. He left school aged 12 to work down the pit at Viponds. It was there he became actively engaged on district trades and labour council with trade union business. He attended night school, learning enough to gain a scholarship from the Eastern Valley Miners educational group to go to Ruskin College. He remained a member of the NUM all his life. In 1909 he went on strike over the dismissal of militant Marxist teacher Dennis Hird. Partly in disgust at the way socialists were treated in higher education, he transferred to the Central Labour College, and from there to the campus in London. He had not completed his studies at Ruskin when he left for Paris. In 1910 Jenkins returned to the valleys to work as a miner and teach evening classes in the mining village of Garndiffaith.

On 2 October 1911, Arthur Jenkins married Hattie Harris (1886-1953), the daughter of a local steelworks manager from Blaenafon. She worked in a Pontypool music shop.

Their son Roy Jenkins (1920–2003) was a Labour, SDP, and Liberal Democrat politician, serving as Home Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and President of the European Commission and as Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords.

Jenkins quickly became very active in local politics serving the Labour party on Monmouthshire county council. But he was also a strongly militant socialist agitating for rapid and violent change. During the General Strike of 1926 he was arrested on disputed charges, hauled before the magistrate, and sent to prison for nine months. This did not prevent him from returning to the National Executive Committee. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s he continued to promote the sectional interests of miners and the Labour movement. He was elected to represent MacDonald's Labour Party at the 1935 General Election in one of the party's safest seats. By July 1945 his share of the vote had risen to 77%. With the rise of totalitarian dictatorships during 1930s his interests spread from coal and unemployed miners to poverty more generally and education, through to foreign affairs. Rearmament and the threat of global conflict attracted the attention of Clement Attlee in 1937 for whom he worked as PPS.

Arthur Jenkins and the Indemnity Act 1941Edit

During the war Jenkins worked on industrial tribunals for the Royal Ordnance Factory, Glascoed, for which he needed legal dispensation from parliamentary privilege because he was an MP. He accepted the chairmanship of a local appeals board created under the Essential Work (General Provisions) Order 1941 for a Royal Ordnance Factory, ROF Glascoed. The role entitled him to a small payment per sitting, which, however, he did not accept. Nevertheless, the position was deemed to be an office for profit under the Crown, therefore leading to Jenkins vacating his seat in Parliament.[1]

Although the House of Commons Disqualification (Temporary Provisions) Act 1941 had been brought in to remedy such situations, it applied to MPs who had accepted offices of profit between the start of the war and the passing of that act. Jenkins took up the chairmanship of the appeals board after the act was passed. The Temporary Provisions Act also permitted the Prime Minister to issue a certificate to an MP to permit them to take up an office for profit without losing his or her seat. Unfortunately Jenkins had not done so before taking the chairmanship, and was thus no longer an MP.[2]"...it does seem hard and unnecessary that he should be pilloried by losing his seat and incurring penalties," remarked Sir William Davison, a Conservative MP.[3]

The Indemnity Act therefore operated to restore Jenkins to his seat in the Commons. In March 1945 Jenkins was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning.[4] Suffering from illness he was forced to retire from the Attlee government in October 1945 before being able to assume his rightful position in the cabinet. He died at St Thomas Hospital, London on 25 April 1946.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Arthur Jenkins Indemnity Bill". 9 December 1941. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  2. ^ "Jenkins, Arthur". newruskinarchives. 24 November 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Arthur Jenkins Indemnity Bill". 9 December 1941. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Lord Jenkins of Hillhead". Guardian.com. 6 January 2003. Retrieved 8 September 2018.

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Thomas Griffiths
Member of Parliament for Pontypool
19351946
Succeeded by
Daniel Granville West
Trade union offices
Preceded by
James Winstone
Agent for the Eastern Valleys District of the South Wales Miners' Federation
1921–1933
Succeeded by
W. J. Saddler
Preceded by
S. O. Davies
Vice-President of the South Wales Miners Federation
1934–1935?
Succeeded by
W. J. Saddler