HC Deb 24 March 1908 vol 186 cc1211-3
SIR BERKELEY SHEFFIELD (Lincolnshire, Brigg)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received from chambers of commerce and similar bodies with regard to the Coal Mines (Eight Hours) Bill; and how many of such chambers have announced their support of the measure.


I have received deputations representing the Shipping Federation, the Railway Companies Association, the British Iron Trade Association and other similar bodies, besides many chambers of commerce. Numerous written resolutions have also reached me. I have not received from these or similar bodies representations in support of the Bill. These deputations and resolutions have been concerned with the possible economic effects of the Bill in increasing the cost of production and hampering commerce and industry. In almost every case their forecasts are founded on a basis which is not the basis of the Bill, and are consequently erroneous. I may say that I have laid and am paying the closest attention to the probable effect on output of any given limitation.


Will the fact of there being no support of this measure have any effect upon the right hon. Gentleman?


I pay more regard to the fact that the Bill imposing the eight hours limitation was twice read in this House without a division last year and the year before.


Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been called to the fact that contracts for the future delivery of coal have been entered into with a proviso in them that if this Eight Hours Bill becomes law the coal will be 1s. 6d. to 2s. per ton higher in price?


If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will bring to my notice any such contract I shall be glad to consider it. I am aware that statements have been made that such contracts have been proposed. I have made considerable efforts without success to find out whether such contracts have been made.


Is it not a fact that the Newcastle-under-Lyme Board of Guardians yesterday accepted a contract with those condidions?


The hon. Member must give notice of that Question.

MR. W. HARVEY (Derbyshire, N.E.)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Trade Union Congress, representing over a million people, are unanimously in favour of your Bill?


Yes, Sir.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the mining constituencies at the last election at least 100 Unionist candidates had this proposal on their programmes?


My hon. friend may feel quite confident I am carefully looking into that.

MR. WATT (Glasgow, College)

Does the right hon. Gentleman think the present moment opportune for bringing in this measure?


Certainly. Why should it not be?

MR. PIKE PEASE (Darlington)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the miners of Durham and Northumberland are not really in favour of this Bill?


There has been a continuous movement in Durham and Northumberland towards an attitude favourable to the Bill.

Several Members rising to put supplementary Questions to the Home Secretary—


Order, order. I think the rest of this debate had better be taken on the Bill.

MR. CHARLES McARTHUR (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he can say whether the Second Reading of the Coal Mines (Eight Hours) (No. 2) Bill will be taken before Easter.


I hope so, but I am not yet in a position to say definitely.