§ Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Gulland.]
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
May I ask the Prime Minister if he has any information on the coal crisis to give to the House?
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
Mr. Speaker,—The Prime Minister and other representatives of His Majesty's Government had interviews this morning with the Consultative Committee of the coalowners, and the Executive Committee of the Miners' Federation. It appeared as a result of the proceedings of the meetings that the coalowners of practically the whole of England and North Wales have accepted the proposals of His Majesty's Government. The South Wales and Scottish coalowners decline those proposals on the ground, amongst other reasons, that they art bound by existing agreements. The miners' representatives decline the Government proposals on the ground that they are unwilling to submit the minimum rates of wages for coal-getters that were finally adopted and claimed by the Miners' Federation on 2nd February, in negotiation with the coalowners, or to any form of revision. Under these circumstances it was felt that no useful purpose would be for the moment served in continuing the present conferences between the Government and the parties.
1772 I hope to be able to make a further and fuller statement to the House on Monday.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
Would the House allow me to put a further question to the Prime Minister, or, perhaps, the Secretary for Scotland, that is to ask him whether a certain circumstance connected with this dispute has been brought before their attention? The circumstance is this: As hon. Members who know the Scottish habit of payment of wages are aware, there is a "lie back week" which is kept in the hands of the employer, that is to say, that when the miner works his first week he gets no pay, and he only gets paid for that week when he is leaving his employment. Then there is payment once a fortnight. At the end of the fortnight the miner gets the back fortnight's pay. He may get some credit if he asks for some advance, but generally there is three weeks' pay in hand. It has come to our notice to-day that the Summer Lea Iron Company, which also owns mines, has kept back the whole of the men's back pay, that is to say, the fortnight and the week, and has given as a reason the fact that the men are in houses belonging to the company, and therefore sums ranging from 30s. to £2 and £3 are being kept back in respect of possible rent, which amounts to anything between 2s. 6d. and 2s. 9d. and 3s. 6d. per week. The rent is not due. The rent may be due. It is fore-handed payment, as we say in Scotland, and the question I want to put to the Government is whether this circumstance has come to their notice, and whether, in view of the desirability of both sides doing everything to maintain good feeling, so that there may be no breach of public order, it would be possible for the Government to do some- 1773 thing in a friendly way to see whether this little grievance could not be removed by payment being made by the company to the men.
The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. McKinnon Wood)
My attention has been called to the statement made by my hon. Friend, but it is only within the last few minutes. I am sure my hon. Friend will not expect me, not having been able to make inquiry, to make any statement to the House.
And, it being after Five of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at Twenty-five minutes after Five o'clock till Monday next, 4th March.