- Lancashire and Cheshire.
- South Yorkshire.
- West Yorkshire.
- Derbyshire (exclusive of South Derbyshire).
- South Derbyshire.
- North Staffordshire.
- South Stafford (exclusive of Can-nock Chase) and East Worcestershire.
- Cannock Chase.
- Forest of Dean.
- North Wales.
- South Wales, including Monmouth.
§ 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.
§ Mr. WADSWORTH
I beg to move to leave out the 'word "South" ["South Yorkshire."]
For the life of me I cannot understand why Yorkshire should be divided into two districts. Since the year 1881, when the miners of the two districts amalgamated into one organisation, the whole of the business has been done between the one organisation and the owners' association in the district. Now both those districts are in one conciliation area, and the Joint Board's work, so far as compensation cases are concerned, is the work of one Board for the whole of Yorkshire. If this is allowed to remain in the Bill as two districts we are liable, under an Amendment recently carried, to be split up into four districts. I think the Government ought to reconsider the matter, and place us, at all events for the time being, as one district.
§ Mr. L. HARDY
I hope the Government will not go away from the schedule without very careful consideration. There are a good many reasons which could be given for this division. I think the most important fact we have to face is that, although undoubtedly there has been one district—one Board as it were—for the whole of Yorkshire, there has always been two associations of coal 381 owners, because the coal owners have recognised that, so far as they are concerned, it is impossible to work Yorkshire in one district. It is an interesting fact that at the end of last year these very questions in connection with which this dispute has arisen, were coming up. There was an attempt to deal with these questions locally by a Joint Board sitting with representatives of South and West Yorkshire, and they failed to come to an agreement. Just before this minimum question was raised they sought to discuss it, and, if possible, to settle it in separate districts, namely, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire, so that it is actually the case that, so far as this type of question is concerned, they had already found it was necessary to separate those two districts. Therefore, we come here with a very strong claim when we say that these questions can only be adequately dealt with in this way. On the last two occasions on which this subject was before the House, I think, the hon. Member for Mansfield (Sir A Markham) emphasised the great difference there was in West Yorkshire. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) has also alluded to the matter again and again, and it was brought out in the Conference. In the case of the Midland Federated area and Cannock Chase the necessity for division has been recognised, and that being so, it cannot be said that South and West Yorkshire should not be divided.
I am, afraid I must resist this Amendment. We considered the question of West Yorkshire very carefully. I do not think any one who attended the Conference thought South Yorkshire or West Yorkshire could be dealt with as one area. The whole circumstances of the coal trade in Derbyshire and Staffordshire and the methods of working are quite different.
§ Mr. WADSWORTH
In those districts there are separate organisations. If there were two separate trade organisations in Yorkshire we should have no objection to division.
As regards the miner, it is quite true that of late years there has been one association, but for many years there were two associations. Their interests seem different, and in many respects antagonistic, and, though the endeavour was to treat the district as a whole, it was found impossible, and it was 382 agreed by both sides that they should be treated separately. I am told there is an additional reason in respect of railway rates, and that the alteration of these figures would give rise to many financial difficulties. I hope, therefore, the House will support the proposal in the Bill for the division of Yorkshire, in the circumstances.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I would like to appeal to the Yorkshire Miners' Federation in regard to this matter, and, speaking on behalf of the West Yorkshire mine owners, there is not the least wish that the miners' organisation of Yorkshire should be split, up or divided. The hon. Member knows that many of us in West Yorkshire regard the organisation at Barnsley as our best friends. The enemies we are afraid of are not the Miners' Association, who in Yorkshire give us every consideration, but the rival owners in the South. I want to appeal to the hon. Member to protect us in West Yorkshire against the rival coal owners in the South. The House has had evidence this week that some of them are ready to gobble us up. We shall hive to state the case for our mines before it joint board, including a number of owners. We have heard one in this House. He did not mind if a certain number of mines were closed. On behalf of those who would expire, I claim that we have the right to wriggle, and perhaps groan, before being sacrificed, and I want to appeal to the hon. Member whether he is prepared to hand over a number of mine owners, with whom he has always dealt on fair terms, to the owners of South Yorkshire, who will not show us the consideration which he shows us. I would appeal to him on account of the miners, in whose interest, I think, it is better that we should be kept separate. I sympathise with the efforts of the miners to get as high a minimum rate as possible consistent with the position of the collieries, and I think that the mine owner who wants to keep the rate down should have upon him the burden of proof to show sufficient cause. I am entirely with the hon. Member on that point, but I ask him to consider whether it is in the interest of the Yorkshire miners that the coal mines in West Yorkshire should be grouped with the South, thereby giving the arbitrator an opportunity of making a lower minimum over the whole county. I take this opportunity of saying I know more than one mine which would be closed to-day but for the miners' agents having come down to 383 our local people and appealed to them to give employers full consideration. I make that acknowledgment with gratitude.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I should like to ask the Government as to the definition of a district like South Yorkshire or Cleveland, for example, because, although those districts are no doubt perfectly well-known in the coal trade, and have been worked as districts by the employers' and workmen's organisations, yet, at the same time, does it not require some further definition when you are specifying these districts in a statute? I should like also to ask what would happen supposing there is a mine which is not covered by any one of these districts, as might easily happen. Take Cleveland. There are ironstone mines in other parts of the North Riding not in the district of Cleveland. What would happen there? Surely some other and more close definition is required.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I hope the Government is going to accept this Amendment. Supposing the case put by the hon. Member for Pontefract had been made out, the Clause we were considering a few minutes ago giving a District Board power to group certain mines for a certain rate entirely covers that case. The point of view of the miners is largely that this 'Clause was put in not only against their will, but without their having been consulted. It is now quite clear from the two speeches of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Laurence Hardy), and the hon. Member above the Gangway (Mr. Booth), that this was put in by the Government at the instigation of the employers without the men having been consulted.
§ Mr. L. HARDY
I may say that is not at all the fact. The case was again and again openly stated by the owners in presence of the men's representatives at the conference.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
But the employers claimed it without consulting the men, and the Government accepted it.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
The owners asked for this and they have got it, and the hon. Member is glad to help them. That is one strong reason why this Amendment 384 should be carried, but there is the further point, that if it is found in actual practice that the division of Yorkshire is required, that division can be made. We ask the House to restore Yorkshire as a unit. If it is found in practice that south and west are in danger of playing the part of Kilkenny cats with each other, then a division can be made and the objects arrived at by the schedule can be secured. I hope the House is not going in its very last division in connection with the Bill, to assent to the proposition that the Government should give way to the desires of the mine owners without even having had the courtesy of consulting the miners on the point.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
The miners hold it would injure their position. In what is probably the last division, do not let us send the miners away with this feeling rankling in their minds that this is an Employers' Bill framed to suit the employers—which I believe it to be—to the disadvantage of the miners.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendment agreed to.