HC Deb 27 November 1917 vol 99 cc1966-7

It shall be the duty of the Coal Controller to provide from any funds receivable by him by virtue of his control of mines for the fulfilment of any financial obligations imposed upon him by the said agreement without recourse to moneys to be provided by Parliament.—[Mr. Runciman]


When you deferred discussion on this Clause I was pointing out that the object of it was to make clear in the BTl itself that the interpretation of the financial transaction which will be in operation when this agreement is put into force shall be exactly on the lines prescribed by the Solicitor-General. The Committee will remember that at an earlier stage the hon. and learned Gentleman described to us the skill with which the Coal Controller was going to make ends meet. We gathered from him that so well would the financial transaction be adjusted that there would neither be a surplus for the Controller to dispose of nor a deficit to be met. Indeed, he put it that the chances were a thousand to one against there being anything in the nature of a deficit, and he declared that the intention was to make the 15 per cent. out of the Excess Profits Duty pay for the whole guarantee which is provided for the non-prosperous collieries. If that is really the correct interpretation of this business transaction, it is obvious that my right hon. Friend (Mr. H. Samuel) is justified in having put down this new Clause. The Clause also safeguards us from the form of procedure which has been described more than once in the House, namely, that of using this Bill in order to throw a further charge on the Exchequer and providing for that not by way of legislation, but by way of Supply, and unless some stipulation of this kind is inserted in the Bill many of us fear that there will be a tendency on the part of the Coal Controller or the Board of Trade to come down to the House at a later date and to ask for a large sum of money to make up the deficiency which has arisen in the working of the scheme. After the clear declaration of the learned Solicitor-General I presume he will not object to this Clause, in view of his undertaking that the scheme would be self-supporting.


How could I possibly give such an undertaking?


I take it that when the Solicitor-General tells the Committee that no charge will fall upon the Exchequer, that his word is as good as his bond. I should be sorry to hear that the Committee cannot rely on what the hon. and learned Gentleman said. For my own part I do not believe that we cannot rely on it.

It being Eleven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair, to nake his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.