HC Deb 22 March 1912 vol 35 cc2417-27

(1) This Act may be cited as the Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act, 1912.

(2) This Act shall continue in force for three years from the date of the passing thereof and no longer, unless Parliament shall otherwise determine.


I beg to move in Sub-section (2) to leave out the words "three years" ["continue in force for three years"] and to insert instead thereof "one year."

I would submit to the Committee, having regard to the fact that this Bill does constitute a tremendous innovation, and having regard to the fact that it has necessarily to be considered very hastily, and further that it is regarded on all sides of the House, in the words of the Prime Minister, as a temporary expedient, that we ought really not to bind ourselves for three years. If the Bill works satisfactorily at the expiration of twelve months then it would be the unanimous desire of this House to renew it. If, on the other hand, it works unsatisfactorily then I am sure it would be equally desired by the House to discuss it. In any case no harm would be done, and it would afford the House an opportunity of full debate and full inquiry into the working of the Act after twelve months' experience.


I am inclined to think that, so far as the opposite side of the House is concerned, it is rather unnecessary for me to argue the point, because I see that the next Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. O. Locker-Lampson) proposes to increase the number of years from three to six.


This is not a party Amendment.


As the hon. Member who moves this Amendment proposes to reduce the period from three years to one year, I think I may take it that the two Amendments cancel one another. At all events, the hon. Gentleman's argument is that we are making—and professedly making—this Bill a temporary measure, but under the provisions of the Bill the District Boards will provide for agreements lasting a year, and I think it would be a very serious thing if the Act only continued in force for that time. If it were found by experience that it had been successful, then it would be within the power of the House of Commons to continue its operation for a further period. I think it is necessary to give a fair opportunity to see if it is successful, and I am quite sure that one year would be too short a period. We have put the lowest possible period in the Bill.


I desire to enter my protest very strongly against the observations of the right hon. Gentleman. So far as I am concerned, and I think all the hon. Members on this side are concerned, we have endeavoured to discuss this Bill with absolute fairness, and have not made a single party point from beginning to end. I think the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, might well have spared us any sneer.


Really, I was not endeavouring in any sense of the term to make a party point. I can asure the noble Lord and the Committee that I am extremely grateful for the way in which they have dealt with this Bill throughout this long sitting. No party question arises. I think there is a most earnest desire on both sides to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. I am sorry my attempt at a little mathematical humour should have given any offence. I endeavoured to deal with the Amendment on its merits, and on merits I really think three years are better than one.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move in Sub-section (2) to leave out the words "unless Parliament shall otherwise determine."

If the Act is good at the end of three years the House will be able to renew it; if bad, it will not renew it. Any attempt to prejudice this House in its decision with regard to the Act would be a great mistake. The words in question are of no value, and I hope the Government will let us send the Act out in an impartial frame of mind.


The object of putting in these words is that if it is thought desirable by Parliament to continue the Act for a further period, it can be put, as many other Acts are, in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, and then the House of Commons has full control from year to year, and can continue the Act without any trouble.


It would be interesting to the Committee to have the opinion of the Attorney-General as to the effect of these words if inserted. According to the President of the Board of Trade if these words were left out, everything could be done just as if they were left in.


I did not understand from the speech of the Prime Minister on the Second Reading that the purpose of these words was to enable the Bill to be renewed at the end of three years. I read the words of the Prime Minister as meaning that this Act shall continue in force for three years and no longer, unless Parliament otherwise determines. That suggests to Parliament that when the matter is dealt with finally and satisfactorily—in a way very different from the way suggested in this Bill that this Bill would then come to an end—that it was to enforce the temporary character of the Act, and not to enforce its renewal, that these words were put in. That is what I understood from the speech of the Prime Minister. Having this in view, I handed in words which would make the intention still more clear. I will not deal with them now, but that was the reason for the words I shall move in a moment, namely, to make it clear that this is meant as merely a temporary settlement, and not as a permanent settlement.


Does it make the smallest difference whether the words are in or not?


The insertion of the words makes no difference. The object of keeping them in is to follow other Acts.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."


The Ayes have it.


Owing to the noise, Mr. Chairman, I did not gather your decision; may we have it again.


I put the Question, and not hearing any opposition I gave my decision that the Ayes have it.


I think this is a matter of very great importance. It is not possible to conduct the proceedings if the Chair does not listen—[interruption.] We all heard hon. Members opposite challenge a division, and I think we are entitled to a division.


I repeatedly put the Question in order to ensure that if hon. Members wanted a division they should have it.


With all respect, Mr. Chairman, I could not do more than I did. Every time you put the Question I shouted "No," and my hon. Friends above me did the same thing.


If that is so, it was a pure mistake on my part. I am quite willing to meet the hon. Gentleman, but I certainly understood the intention of the Committee to be in the opposite direction. I shall therefore put the Question again.

Question again put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 212; Noes, 72.

Division No. 53.] AYES. [12.58 a.m.
Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour) Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc. E.) Cator, John
Addison, Dr. C. Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts, St. George) Cecil, Lord Robert (Herts, Hitchin)
Ainsworth, John Stirling Bennett-Goldney, Francis Chapple, Dr. William Allen
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles Peter (Stroud) Bigland, Alfred Clough, William
Amery, L. C. M. S. Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Clyde, James Avon
Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R. Brady, Patrick Joseph Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham
Armitage, Robert Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)
Baker, H. T. (Accrington) Brocklehurst, William B. Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.
Baldwin, Stanley Brunner, John F. L Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Bryce, J. Annan Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Burke, E. Haviland- Crawshay-Williams, Eliot
Banner, John S. Harmood- Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar) Crumley, Patrick
Barnston, H. Byles, Sir William Pollard Cullinan, John
Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick) Campbell, Capt. Duncan F. (Ayr, N.) Dalrymple, Viscount
Barton, William Carr-Gomm, H. W. Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)
Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Keating, Matthew Raffan, Peter Wilson
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Kelly, Edward Rawson, Colonel Richard H.
Delany, William Kilbride, Denis Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)
Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas King, Joseph Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)
Dillon, John Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton) Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Dixon, Charles Harvey Lardner, James Carrige Rushe Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Doris, William Leach, Charles Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)
Duffy, William Levy, Sir Maurice Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)
Duke, Henry Edward Lewis, John Herbert Rose, Sir Charles Day
Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley) Lewisham, Viscount Rowlands, James
Elverston, Sir Harold Lloyd, G. A. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich) Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.
Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.) Lundon, Thomas Rutherford, John (Lancs., Darwen)
Essex, Richard Walter Lyell, Charles Henry Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Farrell, James Patrick Macmaster, Donald Samuel, J. (Stockton)
Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Sanders, Robert Arthur
Ffrench, Peter MacNeill, John G. S. (Donegal, South) Scanlan, Thomas
Field, William Macpherson, James Ian Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward MacVeagh, Jeremiah Seely, Rt. Hon. Col. J. E. B.
Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert McGhee, Richard Shortt, Edward
Flavin, Michael Joseph M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lines, Spalding) Simon, Sir John Allsebrook
Fleming, Valentine M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe) Smyth, Thomas F.
George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd McNeill, Ronald (Kent, S. Augustine's) Stanier, Beville
Gibbs, George Abraham Masterman, C. F. G. Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Gilmour, Captain J. Meagher, Michael Steel-Maitland, A. D.
Gladstone, W. G. C. Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Stewart, Gershom
Glazebrook, Capt. Philip K. Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.) Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, W.)
Goldman, Charles Sidney Middlebrook, William Sutherland, John E.
Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland) Millar, James Duncan Talbot, Lord Edmund
Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.) Montagu, Hon. E. S. Tennant, Harold John
Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) Morrell, Philip Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)
Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Hackett, John Muldoon, John Thynne, Lord Alexander
Hall, Fred (Dulwich) Munro, Robert Touche, George Alexander
Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C. Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence Nannetti, Joseph P. Tullibardine, Marquess of
Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) Needham, Christopher T. Verney, Sir H.
Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster) Walters, Sir John Tudor
Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.) Nolan, Joseph Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)
Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Nugent, Sir Walter Richard Waring, Walter
Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Nuttall, Harry Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay
Hayward, Evan O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Watt, Henry A.
Helme, Norval Watson O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Webb, H.
Helmsley, Viscount O'Doherty, Philip White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Henry, Sir Charles O'Donnell, Thomas White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Higham, John Sharp O'Dowd, John Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. O'Malley, William Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Holt, Richard Durning O'Shee, James John Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Hughes, Spencer Leigh O'Sullivan, Timothy Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worces., N.)
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus Palmer, Godfrey Mark Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)
John, Edward Thomas Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek) Young, William (Perthshire, E.)
Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham) Younger, Sir George
Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe) Phillips, John (Longford, S.)
Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Pole-Carew, Sir R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.
Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney) Power, Patrick Joseph
Joyce, Michael Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.
Adamson, William Goldstone, Frank Pollard, Sir George H.
Ashley, Wilfrid W. Hall, Frederick (Normanton) Pollock, E. M.
Baird, J. L. Hamersley, Alfred St. George Pringle, William M. R.
Balcarres, Lord Hardie, J. Keir Richards, Thomas
Barnes, G. N. Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.) Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks Haslam, James (Derbyshire) Roch, Walter F.
Booth, Frederick Handel Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Darby)
Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith- Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire) Salter, Arthur Clavell
Bowerman, C. W. Hogge, James Myles Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)
Brace, William Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Smith, Harold (Warrington)
Bridgeman, William Clive Hudson, Walter Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil) Sutton, John E.
Cassel, Felix Jowett, Frederick William Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Cautley, Henry Strother Lansbury, George Thomas, J. H. (Derby)
Cave, George Larmor, Sir J. Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)
Chaloner, Col. R. G. W. Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)
Cory, Sir Clifford John Malcolm, Ian Wardle, George J.
Courthope, George Loyd Markham, Sir Arthur Basil Wilkie, Alexander
Dawes, James Arthur Marshall, Arthur Harold Williams, John (Glamorgan)
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud
Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid) Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton) Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M. Neville, Reginald J. N. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A. O'Grady, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES.— Mr. George Roberts and Mr Pointer.
Gill, Alfred Henry Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Goldsmith, Frank Parker, James (Halifax)

Question proposed, "That the Schedule, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.


We now go on to the new Clauses, and there is one in the name of the Noble Lord the hon. Member for Hitchin which I have some doubt about, but I desire to do him justice and will therefore call upon him.


I beg to move the following new Clause.

(1) Any person who can show to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade that by reason of any adjudication under this Act he has been prevented from fulfilling a contract entered into before the 19th day of March, 1912, without suffering pecuniary loss shall be entitled to compensation.

(2) There shall be deducted from any payment made in respect of a royalty on coal, or in respect of any dividends, profits, salaries, or wages in connection with coal mining, in the manner prescribed by the Board of Trade, such percentage as shall be from time to time prescribed by the Board of Trade, and the sums so deducted shall be paid to the Board of Trade to form a fund out of which the compensation granted under this Section shall be paid.

I know the difficulty which lies in the way of a private Member who desires to do justice. It is exceedingly hard, and I am quite aware that the second Subsection of the new Clause is one which exposes me to some criticism. The main object of my proposal, which I wish to to draw attention to, is contained in the first Sub-section. Owing to the discussion which took place earlier in the evening upon the Amendment of the hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. W. McLaren), I need not really deal with the matter at any length, because a good many of the arguments which were used upon it apply to this proposal. The point is quite simple. This Bill is introduced with a great public object, in order to settle the coal strike. The result may be, and those who know best say that it will be, to increase in certain mines the cost of the production of coal. There is a very large number of districts to which this applies. I am told by those who know that as much as ninety per cent. of the coal produced in many of these collieries is sold under contract, six monthly, yearly, and, it may be, three yearly, and it is quite plain, therefore, that if the cost of producing the coal is greatly increased a very serious loss may be suffered by those who made the contracts. If the contract has been made under severe foreign competition, as may be the case in a foreign contract, and the profit has been cut very low, it may result in an actual loss to the contractor in having to fulfil the contract at the price. I do not pretend to judge these things. It may be true, or it may not, but I do say that if such a loss occurs it ought not to be suffered by the private individual, but it ought to be borne by some other party.

The parties I am forced to suggest in this particular case are those who are generally interested in the coal trade. I do not myself think that that is an ideal solution. The ideal solution would be that it would fall upon the general taxpayer and the Treasury, because I think it is a national purpose which has been carried out for national reasons, and any loss that is suffered by private individuals ought to be compensated for by the State. That is the view I desire to submit to the Committee, and it seems to me to be a view which the Committee will do well to consider even at this late hour. Whilst we are trying to carry through what, I confess, seems to me to be an ill-advised attempt to settle a great national question, I think we ought to take care that we are not in so doing inflicting injustice upon private individuals. The proposal I make is that "any person who can show to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade that by reason of any adjudication under this Act he has been prevented from fulfilling a contract"—the wording is really not very important, but this is the substance of the Amendment, that if he suffers pecuniary loss he shall be entitled to compensation. I suggest to the Government that although they were unable to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Crewe, which would in fact have thrown the burden of the loss upon the wage earner, they may consider this proposal. I propose, of course, to throw it upon the whole body of the coal trade, but I do not exactly mean to do that; I should prefer that it should be thrown upon the taxpayer at large, and if the Government can make this Amendment their own they can easily put it down in some way in which the compensation can be ultimately derived from that source. I do suggest very strongly that it ought not to fall upon a private individual but upon some public authority.

Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."


As the Noble Lord has said, we have discussed the general question raised by the first part of the Clause he is moving in an earlier part of the debate in Committee. Therefore, I do not propose to go into that matter again. The novel character of the new clause moved by the Noble Lord is the way in which it provides for compensation, and it is to that I am going to devote the few observations I shall make. I hope the Noble Lord will pardon me when I say that probably no one is more fully aware of the impossibility of dealing with the matter in the way he has suggested than himself. It would, no doubt, be an ideal state of things always to be able to give compensation to any person who has suffered loss, but here compensation is to be given whenever a person can prove he has not been able to fulfil a contract. Who, I should like to know, is to inquire into the matter, and where are you to find the money?


The Board of Trade is to inquire.


It really would be a very difficult matter to determine. Apart from that, from whom is the compensation to be obtained? The Noble Lord has a proposal which is extremely interesting. It is that the compensation money should come out of the royalty on coal or from dividends resulting from the working of coal mines. The suggestion, in short, is that there should be a kind of compensation fund made up from various levies on the coal trade. There would be no objection to that, I suppose, on the part of persons who are not concerned in any way in the, coal trade. But I cannot see that it would he just to impose on persons who are royalty owners, or those who derive profits or dividends from mines, a burden of this kind. It is, I am sure, an impracticable proposal, and could not be carried out.


The Attorney-General has not done justice to my proposal. I said that this was the best suggestion I could make as a private member. The Attorney General knows that I cannot propose, under the rules of the House, as I should desire, that the burden of this compensation should be thrown on the Imperial Exchequer. That is where I think it ought to lie. I have to take the next best course, and if I cannot throw the burden on the general body of tax payers, then I say it ought to be placed upon the coal trade. But if the Govern- ment approve of the principle of compensation it is perfectly easy for them to deal with it.


If the Noble Lord would delete the word "wages" from the second part of his Clause I would support him. I put down an Amendment, which was ruled out of Order, very nearly to the same effect as that of the Noble Lord. If he would leave out the word "wages" I think hon. Gentlemen sitting on these benches would probably support the new Clause.


As soon as the Clause has been read a second time I shall be very glad to consider any Amendment.

Question, "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and negatived.


With regard to the proposed new Clause ["Restriction on Strikes and Lock-Outs"] standing in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave), I think it is hardly within the scope of the Bill.


I beg to submit this to you in favour of the Clause being in order. This is a Bill to fix a minimum wage, and the new Clause is founded on the view that if you are going to fix a minimum wage in order to prevent a strike, you ought at least to forbid a strike against the minimum wage itself. This is closely connected with the main object of the Bill and it comes within the title which is "to provide a minimum wage in the case of workmen employed underground in coal mines, and for purposes incidental thereto."


I think I am bound to rule that this introduces quite new matter into the Bill.


Where a mine, though situate in one of these districts, has for industrial purposes been customarily dealt with in the same manner as a mine situate in an adjoining district, that mine shall for the purposes of this Act be treated as situate in the latter district, if the Joint District Boards of the two districts so agree.


I have an Amendment on the Paper to leave out the word "South" ["South Yorkshire"], but after consulting with some of my friends, and knowing, or having some idea, that an arrangement may be made, it is not my intention at this juncture to move; but I reserve to myself the right to put down an Amendment on the Report stage if I am not satisfied.


I beg to move after the word "Stafford" ["South Stafford"], to insert the words "(exclusive of Cannock Chase)". I hope I am right in assuming that the Government will accept this, because Cannock Chase has conditions quite peculiar to itself. It has an output far greater than one or two places which form separate districts.


I find that the exclusion of Cannock Chase from Staffordshire would give satisfaction on both sides, and therefore I agree to it.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: After the words "(exclusive of Cannock Chase)" insert the words "Cannock Chase."—[Mr. Lloyd.]

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 103.]

Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.

Adjourned at Twenty minutes after One o'clock a m., Saturday, 23rd March, till Monday next, 25th March.