§ MR. D. A. THOMAS (Merthyr Tydvil)
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he has exercised, and, if not, whether he will exercise, the powers conferred upon him by the Conciliation Act, 1896 (Clause 2, sub-section (a)), and inquire into the causes and circumstances of the differences at present existing between the majority of the employers and their workmen in the collieries of Monmouthshire and South Wales; whether the late Sliding Scale Committee was registered under the Act of 1896 as a Conciliation Board, constituted for the purpose of settling disputes; and, if so, whether its name has since its termination been removed from the register; and whether, as empowered by the Act (Clause 2, sub-section (b)), he will take such steps as the Board of Trade may deem expedient for the purpose of enabling the parties to the present differences to meet together by their representatives under the presidency of a Chairman mutually agreed upon, or nominated by the Board of Trade, or by some other person or body, with a view to the amicable settlement of the differences?
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
The Board of Trade have informed themselves as to the progress of events in the South Wales coal trade which have culminated in the present dispute, as will be seen from the reports recently published in the Labour Gazette. They will continue to watch the matter closely, but no formal inquiry appears to them likely to promote a settlement at present. The late Sliding Scale Committee was not registered as a Conciliation Board, under the Act of 1896, not having made the necessary application. The question of whether and when the Board of Trade should act, without having received any request for their intervention, is a delicate and difficult one. Premature action may have the effect, not of promoting, but of retarding a settlement. In the present case there is the less reason for the action suggested by the hon. Member, as the only obstacle to a meeting for the purpose of discussion seems to be the fact that one of the parties would not be empowered to settle, while the other would. I do not think it is unreasonable that both parties to a conference should be endowed with the same powers, and I earnestly hope that further consideration may lead to this result.