§ Sir J. WALTON
I rise to deal with the question of the policy pursued by the Coal Controller. An Order has recently been issued which, in my judgment, imposes very unnecessary and severe restrictions on coal consumers, and will vitally affect the comfort of people in every household in the country. The grounds upon which this new Coal Order has been issued certainly require some very considerable explanation, which we have not yet had, if it is to be in the slightest degree justified, because the fact is that there is no real shortage of coal. It is true that numbers of patriotic pitmen have recently been called to the Colours, but it is also a fact that many collieries are only working three and four days per week, and if by the Coal Controller's organised power of action they were enabled to work full time there would be no shortage of coal, and there would be no reason to pass the new Order, which will cause people in every household in the next winter to be half starved.
If even in the present working time the Coal Controller had not imposed the most needlessly hampering restrictions and Regulations, the output to-day would be much more than it is. If the Coal Controller would only leave the coal-owners to have the unfettered management of the collieries that result would be achieved. If the Coal Controller's efforts were devoted to increasing the production of coal rather than enforcing compulsorily large reductions in consumption, he would do better, and it would be for the welfare and the comfort of the whole nation. If the new Coal Order is not considerably modified, the outlook for next winter is alarming. It is absolutely certain that unless the people are not living in properly warmed homes certain diseases will prevail next winter to a degree that may create the gravest discontent throughout the whole country. Not only that, but we know—medical men tell us—that if we keep ourselves thoroughly warm our need for food consumption is considerably lessened. 458 The result of this drastic cutting down in the supplies of coal to warm the homes of the people will mean considerable increase in the consumption of food. I believe that this Order, if it is proceeded with in its present form, will cause such an outburst of discontent throughout the country when the next winter arrives as will weaken the spirit of the nation in the prosecution of the War more than any hardships that we have been called upon to submit to so far.
The whole difficulty would be met if the Coal Controller, who has great knowledge of the working and management of railways, would devote that knowledge and experience to the more rapid transit of coal from the collieries to the consumer, the speedier emptying of the coal when it arrives at its destination, and the more rapid return of the trucks to the collieries to be reloaded. That would solve this very serious problem, and would tend much more to the content and comfort of the people than would the new Coal Order, which will accomplish nothing in the direction required. When you travel the country you see railway sidings chock-full of empty wagons, which stand there for days on end unmoved. Is it due to the scarcity of locomotives? Does that scarcity stand in the way of bringing larger coal supplies to the consumers for carrying on industries and supplying household needs? If that is so, there is need for more drastic cutting down of railway travelling on the part of the public who can quite well stay at home, and the issue of tickets ought to be limited to those who have a real necessity to make a journey. The locomotive power so saved could be used to bring what is much more necessary to the comfort of the people, namely, an ample supply of coal. Although very often the number of trains has been cut down, it is a usual thing to run two trains or one train in two sections. Therefore, it is not true to say that the number of trains have been drastically cut down. This question of having ample and proper supplies of coal on the grounds I have indicated is of the greatest possible importance to the people of this country. We know that a great number of men have been taken out of the coal-fields, and we know that those who are left are not equal in point of power to produce coal as those who have been taken. So long as we have many collieries working short time, and so long as we have too little attention paid to organising the transport of coal to keep 459 these collieries working full time, I think the Coal Controller misses the most vital point in connection with this very serious problem.
There is no new Department that has been created in connection with this War that will be so unlikely to last after the War as the Department of the Coal Controller, because of the policy that is being pursued. I will not say the spirit in which it is being pursued, because I believe the intention of the Coal Controller is not to make himself obnoxious to the manufacturers and those engaged in industries and to the whole nation. There is an absolute mistake in his policy, and what I am anxious to press for is a change of policy, so that the hardship that will be felt throughout the whole country next winter under the Coal Order will be averted. The chief mistake was made in passing this Coal Control Bill at all. I supported it, but not in order to bring greater financial means to the colliery owners, because we had the Coal Crisis Limitation Act, which was quite sufficient to prevent an undue rise in the price to the consumers. What is our experience since the Coal Controller took possession of the collieries of this country? The price of coal has been raised to the consumer over and over again. The Coal Limitation of Prices Act allowed an increased charge to be made of 4s. per ton, which did not cover the increased cost, largely caused by the Government not having commandeered the forests of the country in order to supply the collieries with timber at reasonable prices. This fact and the increased cost of everything that is needed in collieries meant that the 4s. increase allowed by the Limitation of Prices Act did not meet the increased cost. Since the Controller came into possession we have had rises of 2s. 6d., 1s. 6d., and a further 2s. 6d. Altogether the increase has been 10s. 6d. per ton.
I understand—I shall be glad to be corrected if I am wrong—that the colliery owners have, in fact, put 10s. 6d. on their pre-war prices for the coal supplied to the poorest of the poor, and out of that 10s. 6d., 4s. 6d. per ton has to be credited to the Coal Control Department, and handed over by the colliery owners to the Coal Controller. Warnings were given in this House that this Coal Control Bill would entail a very serious financial responsibility on the general body of taxpayers 460 throughout the country. We got, as a concession, the undertaking that whatever was necessary to be paid in compensation under the Coal Control Bill should not be taken out of any money included in the Votes of Credit, but that it should be provided for in a financial Resolution of this House. But if the Coal Controller is to be at liberty to impose upon the colliery owners the obligation of paying 4s. per ton to the Coal Control Department, I question whether that is at all properly carrying out the undertaking given to the House when the Coal Control Bill was under consideration. I am not speaking in the financial interests of the coal trade; I am speaking solely in the national interest. I say it really would have been better for the consumers of coal, whether for household or for manufacturing purposes, if the management had been left to the unhampered discretion of the colliery owners who know what business is, and the people of this country to-day would not have been called upon to pay an increase of 10s. 6d. per ton over pre-war prices. I am absolutely certain that any hon. Member of this House if he were a colliery owner would realise the worries involved of all the vexatious restrictions and Regulations and complicated forms issued in multitudes from the Coal Control Office, which are sent to the coal-owner to fill up and answer, containing questions which it passes the wit of man to answer in many cases, and all this has to be done by the depleted staffs of the colliery offices—depleted through men having been patriotically encouraged to fight for their country. Still more we ought to bear in mind, the serious depletion of staffs in the accountants' offices, which renders it absolutely impossible to fill up these elaborate and complicated forms, and to meet demands for information, some of which cannot possibly be given and much of which is quite unnecessary.
I say all this work ought not to be imposed on people working under war conditions or on any industry so vital to the people of the country. I am sure the Coal Controller must often realise this himself. I should like to know to what extent the staffs under the supervision of the Coal Controller have grown in numbers, and what expenditure is involved. Reverting to the question of the 4s. per ton which is added to the price to the consumer, does the Committee realise what 461 it amounts to? If it applies to the whole reduced output of 200,000,000 tons a year, then it produces the gigantic sum of £40,000,000 a year, and this the general body of coal consumers in the country is to be asked for. And for what purpose? I am certain I can speak in the name of the whole body of colliery owners and say that they wished no such tax as 4s. per ton to be imposed on consumers for the purpose of compensating them. We did not ask for compensation. It is true we pay 11 or 15 per cent. over the 80 per cent. Excess Profits Duty paid by every other industry in the community, but that will only provide a fraction of the amount required to compensate collieries which are subjected to huge losses simply because of the maladministration of the Coal Control Department. That is a serious charge to make. But I happen to have been connected in almost every capacity with the coal trade for the last fifty years. I am, therefore, speaking not from hearsay, but from personal knowledge, and I declare unhesitatingly that if the Coal Control Bill had never been passed, the position in the country with regard to coal supplies would have been infinitely better to-day than it is under the administration of the Coal Control Department, and I am certain, too, that unless my right hon. Friend is able to announce a substantial modification in the new Coal Order, he will invoke a storm right throughout the country such as he little dreams of when the winter season arrives.
A more absurd Order was, I believe, never made. I can honestly say that, in the matter of electric lighting, since the commencement of the War no single electric light has been used in my home an hour longer than has been absolutely necessary, and yet with the utmost care my consumption last year amounted to 1,087 units. I am told by the new Order that I am to reduce this consumption to 480 units, and I am to do that although I have subjected myself to great self-sacrifices personally. I had the unfortunate habit of reading in bed with an electric lamp at my side. That habit I have abandoned, and to be told after that great sacrifice that I consumed last year two and a half times too much electric light is perfect nonsense. With regard to coal consumption, so far as I can gather my allowance will be one-fourth of my usual consumption. That is a demand of a most extravagant character, and it is absolutely unjustifiable, There is nothing more vital 462 than that we should have well-warmed, comfortable houses and be free from the hardship and inconvenience which this new Coal Order will entail upon us. It will be in the best interests of the country, and of having a nation absolutely united as one man in the successful prosecution of the War, that this Order should be withdrawn or substantially modified.
My hon. Friend who has just spoken is deeply interested in the coal trade, and speaks with great knowledge of its administration. To what he has said with regard to the finance of coal control I shall add nothing. I wish to direct the attention of the House to-day to the Order to which he was referring towards the end of his speech. The new Order called the Household Fuel and Lighting Order, 1918, strikes at the very root of our domestic comfort and efficiency, and it will have more to do with unrest, discomfort, and ill-health in the coming winter than any change which has been made by the Government since the beginning of the War. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that this House, which is responsible for the comfort of our homes and the health of our constituents, should, before dispersing, discuss and examine the proposals which are now being made by the Government. I am not going to embark on any criticism of the coal control, except to say that, on the whole, I think it is quite apparent, from our experience of the last twelve months, that the control by the State of the ramifications of the coal trade has been something in the nature of a failure. It has failed with regard to the distribution of coal. It has failed with regard to the export of coal. It has failed with regard to the economical production of coal, and now apparently it is going to involve this country in the rigours of a winter without the requisite fuel with which to keep ourselves warm. The troubles that have come through the coal control may be a necessary incident of the War. I am prepared to admit that even in the production of fuel we must interfere with our efficiency, and that will, to a certain extent, involve our industries and our households in inconvenience, but it is the duty of the Government to reduce these shortages and that inconvenience by every means in their power, rather than to adhere to their idea of the best methods of dealing with the coal trade. Many of the complications 463 and evils of the coal control have been known in business circles for some time past. There has been singularly little public complaint, but the Government must not think that because there has been so little complaint there is not good ground for complaint. One remarkable feature of the English nation during the War has been the proof that they will stand almost any discomforts and any misery rather than allow their complaints to interfere with the frame of mind which Ministers and Government Departments should possess for the prosecution of the War.
But a time has arrived when the duty is incumbent on this House to make known some of the troubles and complications which have arisen from the over-centralisation of one of the most difficult and most complicated trades in the world. What has been known in business circles for some time past will shortly be known in every household. Let me, before dealing with the household discomforts, point to some of the effects of the coal control on our great industries. I take, first of all, the export trade. No one is more conscious than my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade of the enormous part which coal must play in obtaining supplies for this country and in maintaining our foreign exchange. It is of far more effect to us to export coal than to export gold for the purpose of maintaining our exchange, and the price at which this coal is exported is, of course, of the first importance in its effect on our foreign exchanges. What happened in the early days of the control in regard to our exports was, roughly, this: The prices at which the coal is exported were so favourable to neutrals that they were obtaining coal far more cheaply in this country than in the nearer country, Germany. We failed to put up our price to anything like the figure which the neutral should have been paying for necessary fuel, and—whether it was owing to representations of the Blockade Department or some other Department, I do not know—the Coal Controller's Department never allowed the price to approximate anything near to that which was the true open world value of the commodity which we were exporting, and to that extent they affected our foreign exchange in every one of the neutral European countries.
464 I noticed in the Press to-day an announcement that coal is being exported from Germany to Holland under an agreement which has just been made at prices varying from £3 10s. to £4 10s. per ton. If that is the price of coal which Germany can obtain in Holland why should the price which we have obtained in Holland rule at a lower level? Moreover we have been embarrassed in this country by the lowness of the price which has been charged. There has been some recent improvement, but it is nothing like as high a figure as it should be. But we have been embarrassed also by an accumulation of small coal. When you mention to the outside public that there is too much small coal in the country, they do not realise how much that may impede our coal production, and the amount of trouble which it gives to everybody connected with the industry. Moreover, if they notice how much small coal there is upon the lines in many of the dump heaps they would wonder why on earth they should be subject to the restrictions of this household regulation. Why should the Coal Controller not have arranged that every neutral who wished to ship large coal from our ports should be compelled to take a certain proportion of small coal with it? To make my suggestion clear, why, for instance, when steam coal is taken from the Tyne, and shipped to the Dutchman, Dane or Norwegian at 75s. a ton, should they not be compelled to take 50 per cent. small coal? That in itself would have relieved the pressure on our lines. It would have meant a much more even distribution of the coal in our own home industries, while at the same time helping our foreign exchanges and also reduced the hardship which our householders will have to face. This all has a bearing on the household supplies, for every obstacle of that kind adds to the difficulty of the householder.
On the question of shipments. Owing to the semi-watertight arrangement under which coal is now distributed, and the prohibition against sending over the purely arbitrary boundaries of our counties, and to certain very severe restrictions, a great deal of the natural buying of our consuming industries has been closed down, and that natural buying has been diverted into purely unnatural economic channels, and these quotas of collieries, which are the counterpart of this semi-watertight arrangement, have meant that large numbers of vessels which 465 ought to be able to obtain their coal supply for export or bunkering purposes with the greatest ease and facility are now compelled, under the quota arrangement, to move about from spout to spout in our various coal ports or from dock to dock, or to wait a considerable time to obtain the necessary coal which in ordinary normal cases would have come freely down the spouts in the ordinary commercial transactions. The sort of thing which was brought to my notice yesterday may be exemplified by two instances which occurred on the Tyne. A vessel requires bunkers from one of the spouts on the Tyne. Coal from only one colliery arrives there, and when the vessel arrives it is discovered that the whole quota that was permitted from that colliery had disappeared down the spout into another vessel immediately before. In normal times there would have been no embargo on the output of other collieries. The bunkers could have been obtained, and the vessel could have proceeded to sea with the least possible delay. Under the present arrangement, the quota having been exhausted the vessel had to move away down the river again to some other open spouts, and she has had to pick up odds and ends of coal as well as she can. During the whole of this time she is urgently required not only for mercantile marine purposes but also to relieve the pressure on small coal areas. I may give another case. A vessel requires her cargo to be made up from a number of collieries. Anybody knows that vessels as a rule do not get their coal entirely from one colliery, but that you may have the coal of half a dozen different mines aboard the vessel. The necessity of drawing from a large area of collieries is of the first importance if you are to have anything like great despatch. So far from that being the custom under the present administration, if the colliery is not the right one there may be hundreds of wagons lying on the sidings immediately behind the spouts whose contents in normal times by an ordinary commercial arrangement would find their way into the hold of the vessel. But the present arrangement means that the ship is kept waiting until the correct quota is obtained, and it is done not according to business and economic laws, but by the central administration for distribution to that vessel.
I could give any number of cases of vessels delayed in our coal ports for days and sometimes for weeks, while that quota 466 was coming forward not through the natural channels, but according to the ideas of those who are centralising the control of this great trade. This means a great loss to the consumer, to the nation, to the colliery, and to the coal control account, and it has also a direct effect upon the supply to our households. Every vessel that you put out of action tends naturally to reduce the amount of coal that can be forthcoming, say, for the Metropolitan consumer. It means that you reduce the amount of coal that can be taken away from our overcrowded railways, and it means that our collieries, instead of working every day in the week or five days in the week, in some districts are only working three or four days in the week. If vessels are kept waiting it has an effect on every range of the trade from top to bottom, and it will have a direct effect this winter upon the householder. I mention one or two of these unfortunate results which come from central control as exemplifying the delay and confusion which must result from centralisation. I do not blame the Coal Controller or his staff, but I do say emphatically that when a task of that great magnitude has been handed over to very able men, however able they were, they could not avoid the incessant confusion and loss that are taking place in all our coal areas. I have no doubt that we shall be told that the reason for all these restrictions and troubles which have come upon us is the great demands which are made on our coal supplies. But they are not entirely due to that. They are due very largely to a purely political arrangement which was made in December, 1916. The control of the South Wales mines was inevitable there owing to labour troubles. There was no serious labour trouble at that moment in any other part of the country, and it was only owing to a political arrangement at that time that the control was made wholesale through the whole of Great Britain.
The demands, in so far as they are greater now, have, of course, added to the difficulties of my right hon. Friend opposite, and of the Controller. Some of these demands the House is quite ready to admit cannot be reduced, and we have no intention of asking that there should be any reduction. Who would think of reducing by a single ton the coal which is going to the Navy, or the coal which must go in the supplying of bunkers, though I must say that I think that somewhat 467 better arrangements might be made for the supplying of bunkers for vessels running in the Atlantic trade, and far more American coal might be taken in the bunkers than is taken at the present time. It is said that there can be no reduction in the use of coal supplied to our munition factories. There has been a slight reduction in the use of coal on the railways, largely owing to the reduction in the number of engines, and the fact that our fast trains now have disappeared, and that we have nothing but medium-paced trains running on the great lines. There are other directions in which coal is used, where pressure has not been brought to anything like the same extent as it is now being brought to bear on the householder. And let us remember what the proportions are. It is estimated that of the total output of our collieries, the proportion which is consumed by householders is about 15 per cent. It is very difficult to arrive at an exact estimate. There are no available statistics, but the estimate is that 15 per cent. is roughly the amount which is used by the domestic consumer. Another 8 per cent. is consumed probably in the production of light and electric power, but the amount of coal which is consumed in some of the great industries is a far greater percentage. I suppose that the Board of Trade realised, and the Coal Controller realised, that they must make a great reduction in some directions, and that they can more easily squeeze the householder than they can any of the other great consumers of coal. Were they right in that?
There are two ways of getting over the difficulty. One is to avoid a reduction in output, and that, I believe, has not been thoroughly considered by the Government. The trouble that has arisen at the present time is due largely to the fact that some 75,000 skilled men are in process of being taken, or during the year will have been taken, from the coal mines and drafted into the Army, and if you take the output on the average of healthy, lusty miners as these men are—I do not take the average of the older men—you must have a reduction in output in the course of the year by 22,500,000 tons at least. A question which I should like to ask my right hon. Friend is this. When the Minister of National Service demanded 75,000 skilled men from the mines, did he or his Department make representations to the Minister of National Service or to the War Cabinet 468 that if these men were taken it would land them in almost insurmountable difficulties with regard to the coal consumers and the coal demands of the coming winter? There has been a general tendency for some time past to regard the transfer of men from industries of various kinds into the Army as being of the greatest necessity. We have now by bitter experience learned that there are some claims prior even to those of the Army. The navy, of course, always comes first, but shipbuilding, the Government have admitted, has a claim on men prior to that of the Army, and if the truth be told, lying at the root of even our essential industries, munitions, shipbuilding, and the real lifeblood of the Allies Is the production of coal. Was sufficient attention paid at the time that a demand for men was made to the enormous importance of keeping our output of coal up to a high level? After the spring offensive, when France lost some of her coalfields which had been recovered in the previous year, it became necessary that a much larger amount of coal must go to France. Then, obviously, was the time for my right hon. Friend to put forward his demand, so that his demand, as well as the demand of the Minister of National Service, should go to the War Cabinet for the preservation of the coal trade, and for the production and distribution of coal, and that the War Cabinet should understand that a larger quota of men was required than was anticipated at the beginning of the year.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman has great influence with the War Cabinet, although he is not a member of it, and I wish to know whether he pressed the point with the War Cabinet as to whether the War Cabinet were prepared to run all the risks of shortage of fuel in order to secure 75,000 skilled men from the collieries? And it is not only a question of men below the ground, but it is also a question of men above the ground. I am told that a very large number of the dumps in the Northumberland and Durham coalfields have not been moved, not because they are not quite good fuel, but because the number of men above ground now has fallen off so enormously. As much as 1,000,000 tons is said to have been accumulated in the county of Northumberland alone. Some good judges think that figure is far below the amount. That coal cannot be removed because of the shortage of men above ground. I think it is of great importance to have proper protection for 469 vital industries on national grounds, because the production of coal is vital to everything which concerns the War. The pressure now, owing to the difficulty of obtaining men in the coal trade, is going to fall upon the domestic consumer, and I scarcely think the House realises how heavily it is going to fall. The hon. Baronet opposite told us a bitter tale about his own midnight lamp. But really that is a mere figure compared with the misery which will be experienced by almost everybody in the coming winter.
Let us, first of all, take the Order as it applies to coal, and say something about lighting later on. There has already been a reduction of the domestic consumption of coal, and I believe most people last year made a genuine effort, when it was known economy was necessary, to cut down its consumption. The consumption of coal in cottage houses cannot be cut down, and it is absurd to expect the occupiers of those houses to respond to the invitation to effect further economy. Certainly in the Metropolis large numbers of householders fitted their houses with gas fires. They were told to be more economical from the national point of view, and to burn gas rather than coal. Many put in electrical appliances, because they were told that it would not only reduce the amount of coal used, but would also reduce the number of servants in the house. Gas fires and electric fires which have been put in by householders now turn out to be practically useless. Take a sample house, of which I understand there are tens of thousands in Kensington. A sample house in Kensington which I know had a consumption last year of moderate amount. It consumed up to the 30th of June, for lighting and for electric heating, 3,300 units. I made inquiries as to the number of fires they had. They had one sitting-room fire, two bedroom fires, and the kitchen range they did away with and went in for a gas cooker. They consumed with the three fires, managing economically, 3,300 units in the course of the year. Under this Order—if I understand it rightly, though I cannot profess that I grasp the whole of its meaning, I do not know whether anybody can—the maximum that this sample, house in Kensington would obtain would be 480 units. I am told that would not be even enough to light the basement, without having regard to any of the other requirements of the house, but the Order says that the maximum of 470 this sample Kensington house shall be 480 units. Therefore, the gas fire goes and the gas cooker goes, as it would be quite impossible to keep them going under the limitations imposed by this Order. The reduced consumption, I dare say, might be managed in London houses by submitting to live entirely in one room in the cold weather, but that is not a practicable proposition; it cannot be done. You can subject people to a great deal of misery, which of course falls a long way short of what is suffered by our men in France and Flanders, but if you carry it too far you are bound to depreciate the force of the national spirit.
I live in a county which is notoriously cold. Northumberland is one of the coldest counties in England on the whole, although some of the high levels in southern counties are by no means warm. Take a sample cottage in Northumberland of four rooms. The largest amount of coal which that cottage can obtain under the Coal Order is to be 4½ tons, in the course of the whole twelve months. That 4½ tons is just about one-third of the normal cottage consumption in Northumberland. What is going to happen in that house? Are they to cut down the number of their fires? In many they have never had more than one, and that is why in Northumberland the parents sometimes sleep in the kitchen. You cannot cut down that fire, or are they to be cut down to one hot meal a day and one hot beverage, and are they the whole of the rest of the day to go about cold? Four tons and a half is a quantity that you regard as quite enough for the ordinary cottager in Northumberland, for the shipyard worker, for the iron worker, the munition worker, the agricultural labourer; but when you come to the miner—against whom I have nothing whatever to say; he is doing his work as well and patriotically as other people—you realise that you could not get his work if he had only 4½ tons of coal per year, and you leave him exactly as he was before the Order, which provides that the miner is not to be interfered with. In Northumberland from 13 tons to 17 tons is the amount which goes into the miner's cottage. My right hon. Friend at Question-time yesterday explained that the reason why this exception was made in the case of miners was that they had to work at all times of the day and night. Yes; but so have the blast-furnace men, and so have a number of munition men and railway 471 men. You will actually have in a good many of the villages and towns of Northumberland and Durham—and I have no doubt it is true of other coal counties—the signalman living under the limitation of 4½ tons of coal as the neighbour of a miner who gets 13, 14, 15, 16, or 17 tons a year. How can that be regarded as a just arrangement? If 13 tons are necessary for the comfort of the miner's house, then that quantity is absolutely necessary for the comfort of these other people.
It is quite apparent that the poor householders of the United Kingdom have not yet wakened up to what the Order means. When are they to wake up? I understand that the leaflet for the information of the people in the North of England has not yet been circulated. In other parts of the country the leaflet is already out. It is very difficult to get hold of a copy, and, from what I know of the industrial population of the North of England, they are not habitual readers of the "London Gazette." They have no means of knowing, except through newspaper paragraphs, what they are in for. Our experience is that the newspapers have not yet given a full account of what the Order means. What is going to happen? These people will be liable to penalties if they consume more than their quota; but what is much more serious is that when they get through the 4½ tons in four or five months, which, according to the Order in the "London Gazette," is the whole quantity for the year, they will waken up to the fact for the first time, in the month of January, that they are to have no more coal for the rest of the twelve months. Unless my right hon. Friend gets over that trouble, I am sure there will be such an upheaval amongst the industrial classes as he has not yet seen in England. I do implore him not to have this restriction of consumption in small houses cut down so low, and administered in such a way that it will come suddenly and unbeknown to immense numbers in that part of the country, and in every part of the country. But it is not only a question affecting houses. There are institutions which will be affected. I had a letter this morning from the Liverpool Orphans' (Seamen's) Institution. As soon as I got it I spent about an hour in going through the Order to see how such an institution will be 472 treated. In the Order there is provision made for public institutions, and in some respects there are provisions made for institutions of this sort to which I am referring; but I am afraid that I have not yet been able to ascertain whether or not this Liverpool Seamen's Orphans' Institution is to be warm or cold in the coming winter. This institution has 350 children in it. Under the Order, if it is treated as a household—I presume it cannot be both, and I am not clear that the Order really provides for the case of an institution of this kind—it will have 20 tons of coal plus anything that may be got out of the local overseers. My correspondent says that the contention is that the allowance must be less than the basic quantity. What was the increase last year? They used about 352 tons of coal and 312 tons of coke, but equivalent under the Order to 492 tons of coal. If that institution is to be treated as a household, there will be some deficiency in their fuel during the next winter, for the quantity allowed would be 20 tons. I cannot read that as the intention of the Order, but there must be an expansion of the term "institution" to something of the nature of institutions which are under public control. This is not a school, it is not a workhouse; it is, I take it, a public institution of a charitable nature, but there is no provision, so far as I can see, for institutions of this kind. Let us take another item in their unfortunate position. As regards lighting, this institution will be allowed 480 units, or 30,000 cubic feet, for the twelve months, whereas in twelve months they have used 7,300 units and 102,000 cubic feet. This is absurd, and my right hon. Friend will have to do something with regard to this Order, in order to deal with a case of this kind, and I strongly urge him to relieve the anxiety of those who control these excellent institutions at the earliest possible moment. I would like to say a word or two about industries which are affected by the limitation of the coal output, and which has as serious an effect upon the prosecution of the War as drafting large numbers of men into the Army. We all wish to see the Army as strong and powerful as possible, but it would be very foolish if we had an Army out in France supported on shaky industrial and munitions foundations in this country. In my Constituency is one of the largest heavy woollen mills in England. They have been engaged for a very long time on 473 the production of cloth for the British and Allied Armies. I believe they have already turned out thousands, of miles of cloth—a most amazing production—and this is what has happened in their case. They are still going on doing this. If their output is cut down it will not be a question of requiring smart people to go short of new clothes, but it will be a question of the Armies going short of the cloth which they must have. The manager of these mills writes:We beg to enclose copy of a letter which we have addressed to the Controller. We have been unable to obtain the coal which we require for our mills in anything like the normal quantity.The manager goes on to give me the information of their consumption, and to state how they are to be treated.We have for a few years been receiving 600 tons per month of washed doubles and washed singles from the Bullcroft Main Collieries, Limited, Doncaster. This forms about one-third of our total consumption of fuel for steam-raising, but as the other two-thirds consists mainly of local and rather dirty slack and nuts, we have found it absolutely necessary to have this proportion of clean fuel from the Bullcroft Colliery to enable us to keep steam up.He goes on to describe the kind of cloth which he produces, and, excepting for 25 per cent. of their output, which is for civil purposes, 75 per cent. is for the British or French Armies. He says:We were advised on the 11th July by the Bullcroft Company that owing to reduced output they could only supply 500 tons per month. We pointed out to them the seriousness of this, but by their letter dated 17th July we are informed that the South Yorkshire Coal Supplies Committee have instructed them to further reduce our quantity by 215 tons per month. This will leave us, instead of 600 tons per month, only 285 tons.That is not an isolated case. I give it because I know the people and believe their word. But in every one of our essential industries the same kind of thing is going on more or less. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) referred to the pottery industry to-day and at Question Time yesterday and the day before, and what is happening in the pottery industry is happening to a large extent in the metal trades and in all the textile industries and in a great number of miscellaneous industries. The reduction of fuel for our industries will strike us in our war supplies. It will certainly affect us in the amount of goods which we have available for export, of which, I presume, pottery is one, and the cotton trade will also be affected, and all this comes from reducing 474 the output of coal below the efficiency level—I mean the national efficiency level. If that could be avoided I think my right hon. Friend would be saved from great trouble personally, but what is of much greater moment is that our national strength would be maintained to the full rather than being endangered. I want to ask a few questions with regard to the operations of this Order which, if not cleared up before the cold weather arrives, will land the consumers, certainly in the North of England, in great difficulties. Has the Coal Controller taken into account local customs? In many parts of the North of England we bake our own bread at home. It is all very well, but you cannot economise on your oven if you are to produce bread. If you do so you will not produce bread. You must make some provision in those households where they bake their own bread. You cannot make up in many of these cases by having bakers, for there are no bakers. The custom of the whole area or town is for the whole of the bread to be baked at home, and you must make some provision for them.
I gather that there is no provision made in the Order, except by way of exception, which is not defined, for climates which are rigorous although they are not in the Northern Counties. I know an excellent village, on the top of the hills in Wiltshire, which is far colder than anything on our lowlands in Northumberland, but people in Northumberland will be allowed more coal than the cold villages on the top of the Wiltshire Hills, and surely there must be some arrangement made providing for a sliding scale according to the temperature of the counties and not according to their geographical position. Then surely there must be some arrangement made which will allow for the breaking down of the county quota system. You must get rid of these arbitrary boundaries. What is the good of saying to a cottager in Northumberland that he may have his fire on for only one quarter of each week when he sees, perhaps within two miles, or five miles, or ten miles of his own door, a great accumulation of coal? Are you going to prevent these men using the coal heaps that are now accumulating, great masses of small coal? If there is any attempt to prevent the cottagers who are near these pitheaps from using the fuel, it will break down. They will have the fuel by hook or by crook. But then there are a great many who live in towns that 475 are not near to these dumps, but they know that within a few miles of them there is an abundance of coal, and surely the Board of Trade and the Coal Controller cannot mean that in these areas they are to be screwed down to this extremely low level in the average industrial house. If they proceed with that they will offend the sense of justice as well as the physical comfort of our fellow citizens. I would like to ask whether no exception can be made in these coal-producing counties. If it is purely a matter of railway traffic, which I understand is one of the grounds on which my right hon. Friend thought it necessary to publish this Order, it cannot apply in these areas, because the carriage of coal is so small—only for a few miles by line or a few miles by road.
Then may I ask what is to be done with regard to lighting? As far as I can gather, the Order does not provide for a differentiation between the North and the South of England in proportion to the number of hours of darkness that we have to endure. Anybody who knows anything about the two extremes of England knows that at all events in the winter months we are bound to put our lights on in Northumberland about an hour and a half earlier than would be necessary for my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall to turn his on in Cornwall. But there is no provision in the Order for that. We are to have just as small a supply of light in Northumberland as they have in Cornwall, as far as I understand the Order. The Order, I understand, does not yet apply to Scotland. At all events, as far as I can gather, Scotland is not in the list of districts to which the limitations are to be applied. But what I have said with regard to Northumberland applies still more to Scotland. Is no provision to be made for our long nights? I have asked one or two of these practical questions in the hope that there may be some answer to them, and not with the idea of putting my right hon. Friend in any difficulty. He has to make the best use of the material he has at his command. He has to make up for the great deficiencies of our Allies, and for the increasing demands of some of our munition industries. But he might have provided for them quite well by putting in as strong a claim for the production of coal as is put in for other essential industries and also by the Minister for National Service in regard to recruiting 476 for the Army. The one is as essential to our national strength as the other, and I think my right hon. Friend should have taken a firm stand on this subject when he foresaw the troubles that were bound to be reached in the coming winter.
Only one word, before I sit down, on the Order as a whole. It is a very long Order, and it is very difficult to understand. I presume I have got an average intelligence, but I must confess that I am left in a state of confusion with regard to many of the points that arise. I have tried, as a test, to apply it to my house in the country, and to apply it to my house in London, and with regard to both of them I must confess that I am left in an atmosphere of obscurity. If that applies to us in this House, it must apply far worse to people outside, and the sooner the Board of Trade make it clear what is actually meant by this Order, and how much of it they are going to impose on the country, the better it will be for everyone concerned. I do ask that we should not run the risk of finding our coal supplies exhausted by Christmas, and then being faced with the horrible alternative of going through a brutal English spring with inadequate supplies of coal, and I think it is incumbent upon the Board of Trade to postpone the operation of this Order, from the due date of the 1st of July, on which it came into operation, to some later date, so that the public can understand what the prospects are. In making that appeal to my right hon. Friend, I am making it really on the larger ground of preserving, not the luxury or the comfort, but the moral and the health of our people. I cannot think that he has fully realised what an enormous difference it will make to British feeling if at the very time when they have stood all sorts of inconvenience with the greatest patience and courage and steadfastness, they now find that they cannot keep themselves warm. It is not only a question affecting their spirits. It will lead to increased mortality amongst our citizens. Old people are bound to have warmth if they are to avoid the ravages of pneumonia and rheumatism, and children must have warmth if they are to be properly nourished and to avoid the dangers of bronchitis and other pulmonary complaints. Any change of this kind which reduces the health of our people will be a real damage to the cause of the Allies, and I implore my right hon. 477 Friend not to press on with this Order in its present form without taking into fuller consideration these much more important subjects.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I am extremely glad that the right hon. Gentleman opposite has had the opportunity of explaining to us what this Coal Order really means. I hope the Government will take his advice and postpone the introduction of this Order to such time as the people of the country as a whole know what is going to be imposed upon them. I shall certainly go home to-day, having now found out what the Order means for the first time, and cut down my warm meals at home to one a day, and I think that if the people in the country knew what this Coal Order meant they too would be taking steps now to get accustomed to using a smaller amount of fuel, because however much we may kick at the idea of having to go in for this personal inconvenience, we know that the gradual breakdown of our old civilisation is bound to drive us into unknown paths so far as the fundamental comforts of human life are concerned. The difficulty is that we have got first of all to see that the curtailment of the coal production of the country is absolutely vital, and, secondly, to induce the people of the country to make the necessary sacrifice. I think that probably my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, if he had realised in April last what this taking of 75,000 men from the collieries of the country was going to mean, not only to the comfort of the people, but to the industries of the country, we should then have had very much more resistance to the taking of those men into the Army. I believe that it is quite possible that the time may come when that policy will have to be reversed and the 75,000 men taken back from the Army and put into the collieries, simply because to cut off our coal supply is like cutting our jugular artery. We cannot carry on the War without money and without cloth, and we cannot carry on the War if there is discontent and starvation at home. Therefore, if necessity drives, the Government may have to reverse their policy and get these men back from the Army. This is far more serious than agriculture. More in this country depends upon coal production than upon food production. We can import food, but coal we cannot import, and upon coal our whole civilised life 478 depends. In any case, there are bound to be great sacrifices demanded of the people of the country, and if you are going to ask them to make sacrifices you must explain the need of them. This is the first time to-day that anybody in this House has explained what the sacrifice is to be. We do not even here know what is the need of this Order—what is the reason of it. Speeches must be made in the country and literature distributed. The Order must be made intelligible to the people of the country, and it might be mentioned that people in America are making certain sacrifices too. I remember when I was over there in January and February last, every Monday in each week was a heat-less day. All the central heating was turned off, and the work of New York was carried on without coal and without heating. It was done to show that America was in the War, and was prepared to make sacrifices for the Allies, just as the Allies were making them.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
It did not go on for more than two months, but coming on in the cold weather it was a great evidence on the part of the people of America that they were prepared to make sacrifices to carry on the War. And the people of this country would make further sacrifices if they felt it was absolutely necessary, but, first of all, you have to persuade them it is; and, secondly, you have to show them that there is absolute justice in the execution of the Coal Order. It is not so much the effect of this Order upon workmen's houses to which I want to draw attention, It is the effect upon the export trade of the country. We know quite well that unless we can keep our export trade going now, the whole possibility of competing with German trade after the War is knocked on the head. Let me take the industry with which I am familiar—the pottery industry. In that industry we have managed to carry on during the War. I am bound to say I am proud of the industry, and the way in which they have carried out their patriotic duty. In the whole of the Staffordshire Potteries you will not find 600 men of military age left. The industry is carried on by old men, women, and girls. The female employés have risen from about 45 to over 75 per cent. of the employés in the trade now. The industry has fallen into line with the Government 479 in making joint recruiting schemes to take the last possible man out of the industry. In my own borough they have subscribed a larger amount per head to War Loans than any other borough in the country. They have carried on their industry with enormous advantage to the whole of the country because, by exporting pottery to the United States of America, they keep up the exchange. The trade to America has grown enormously. Every pottery works now has far more orders on its books than it can possibly deal with in the next year, or even two years. The calls of National Service upon the men have kept the output smaller than before the War, in spite of the large demand from America, due, of course, to the fact that German trade is cut out. We have made our effort and spent our money in order that the country should have its finger in the export trade in those countries where Germany used to control the trade. It has been done at great sacrifice.
Now this serious position has suddenly come upon us. Our coal supplies are cut down, and factories are having to close their doors. The factory with which I am associated has been closed for a fortnight. The bigger export factories are closing down. It is true, we are rationed nominally at 75 per cent. of our 1916 consumption of coal. We thought we could carry on somehow with the 75 per cent., but, although we are nominally rationed at that figure, we do not see one-half of it. In the Potteries you will see roads blocked with carts waiting to get a cartload of coal for their factory. These people wait day after day for the chance of getting an odd load of coal. The consumption, so far from being 75 per cent. of the 1916 level, is under 35. per cent. now, and the amount of wasted time in the acquiring of that coal is appalling. What makes it far more serious is that North Staffordshire is solely dependent on the pottery trade. Unfortunately, for reasons into which I need not enter, there have been no war industries started in the Potteries. There is no opportunity for the people in the potting industry, who are now working two or three days a week, or are out for two or three weeks, to go into any other work, and so you have the risks of a recurrence of those horrible periods of unemployment we used to have all over the country before the War. Every week there are 1,200 girls who go into the war 480 factories at Leek and into Coventry and Birmingham, and come back at the weekend, but, so far as war industries are concerned, we have nothing in the Potteries. Consequently, you are throwing on to the market an enormous amount of labour, and it is the wives and the children of the men who have gone to the front. We have sent a far larger proportion of men to the front from the Potteries, because the Potteries have been held not to be important for carrying on the War. Therefore, all these women and girls work in the Potteries, and they are not well paid either. Then unemployment comes along and there is no alternative of work elsewhere. Their male relatives are either fighting at the front or working in the collieries in North Staffordshire. Therefore, you get this serious position, that the men working in the collieries see the coal they get in the district sent elsewhere. These people find their relatives cut of work and thrown upon their hands, all because of the want of coal, while they themselves are getting the coal in the district and seeing it sent away. I am quite confident there will be labour trouble in North Staffordshire if these people are out of work, because the colliery men will say, "We won't provide coal for other districts, but for our own district." You have to remember the human factor. These men will work harder than ever if they know the coal they get is going to the factories where their people are employed. If they find it is going away, they will naturally not only take a more gloomy view of the whole situation, but they will also be antagonistic to increasing the output if it goes to other people and not their own.
This is solely a question of the men, and not of the masters. The question of closing down the industry does not affect the masters half as much as it does the men. It is always possible to raise our prices. Anyone who knows the Potteries knows that we have raised prices considerably during the War, and we are quite prepared to go on raising them indefinitely to make our profit. The smaller the output the bigger the price. It does not affect us half as much as it does the working classes. The people employed in the factories are the people who are going to be thrown out of work, and that is obvious enough to the trade unions in the Potteries all round. The Potteries trade union has brought this to my notice, that it was a question for the 481 men, and those are the men who are agitating in North Staffordshire now. I am bound to say the Coal Controller the other day received our deputation of masters and men very favourably. He made a proposal to them—or, rather, he accepted their proposal—that they should ration themselves. Just as we arranged for recruiting for military service by a joint commission of masters and men and the National Service representative there, so as to allocate the demands of the Army for men among all the potteries equally and suitably, so we are allowed now to ration ourselves for coal. That will eliminate the feeling of injustice, which otherwise would be a very serious one. But it is not enough to allow us to ration ourselves, or even to say that we shall be rationed at 25 per cent. less than the 1916 standard to enable us to carry on. The important thing is to assure us that we shall have a certain 3upply of coal. The important thing is to allow the potteries to have a call—I should say a first call—upon the production in the pottery area. If we can be assured of our supply, then it will be possible to carry on; but if one month we have 50,000 tons and the next month 10,000 tons, then there will be waste, there will be heart-burning, there will be dissatisfaction, and the whole scheme of rationing will break down. Before 1916 we consumed 1,400,000 tons a year. Give us our 75 per cent. of that, and we will carry on, providing we can be assured of getting that 75 per cent.; but if we cannot, if this coal is going to be jockeyed about the country, allocated to distant areas, and coal coming in to us from Nottingham and Derby and making good that sent there—because that very often is what centralised control means—then you are getting a situation in North Staffordshire that I do not like to contemplate.
Our rates are already 13s. in the £—worse than in any other town I know. The place is solely dependent upon the potteries. Close down the potting industry, which is faced with enormous rates like that, and neither I nor people like the Mayor really know what will happen. If in the middle of the War, with prices like they are at the present time and food and coal difficulties, and on the top of that there is unemployment and the impossibility of getting work anywhere else, then a very serious situation will arise in that district—more serious, I think, than either the Board of Trade or the Local Government 482 Board, up to the present, appreciate. We do not ask to have our demands put in front of those of the Army or Navy. In North Staffordshire we have backed the Government in the War and do not intend to turn our hands back from the plough; but we do ask the Board of Trade to give us a definite allowance of coal, and so put into our hands, not only the power of rationing ourselves with that coal, but of laying our hands on that coal regularly and when we want it.
§ Mr. FINNEY
I wish to associate myself with the hon. and gallant Member who has just resumed his seat. I am very pleased to recognise that from all quarters of the House it is admitted that the people of the Potteries have faced the situation in a patriotic spirit, and from the commencement of the War until this time they have done their best to accommodate themselves to the circumstances of the times and to support the Government all the time in men, in means, and in services for the successful prosecution of the War. That applies to the pottery workers, and it also applies to the miners, whom I have the honour to represent, and to others who work in other trades as well. Our people have volunteered for service in large numbers. As far as the pottery workers are concerned, there has been, as the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken told you, a considerable reduction of the male workers. I think at the commencement of the War the male and female workers in the pottery industry were about equal, but at the present time there is but one male worker to a number of females. The younger women have gone to munition works and the women who were married and rearing families have, to save the industry and help the community, returned to their employment in the factories for the purpose of enabling things to be carried on. I should think seven-sixteenths of the miners of North Staffordshire have joined His Majesty's Forces in one capacity or another. It is, therefore, easy to perceive that all sections of the community in North Staffordshire have done their best in winning this War.
I admit that other things have happened in the North Staffordshire mines in addition to the extraordinary number of miners taken away, which have had the effect of reducing the output of coal. We had a very unfortunate accident at the commencement of this year at an important colliery in North Staffordshire which 483 has never worked since. The output of that colliery is a loss to the district and to the country, and, owing to the very serious depletion of colliery workers through enlistment at other important collieries, one of the shifts of working has had to be discontinued. That applies, I think, to at least three of our very important collieries, and the output of the North Staffordshire mines has suffered considerably in that way. In the cases to which I have referred I think the loss of output would be more than sufficient, if it were still available, to keep the pottery works going to the full satisfaction of the people employed there. We are bound to face the situation as it is. I know that output may be interfered with in other respects and that certain factors may come into operation on the other hand to increase it, but, as a matter of fact, mining is not the very easy thing some people might imagine it to be. I believe that, as a whole, the miners of North Staffordshire, from the commencement of the War until now, have done their level best to keep up the output and to supply the needs of the community and of the nation. Neither the leaders of the union nor the members of the unions would excuse in these times any workman who, being physically fit and capable, neglected his work purposely and deliberately. There may be here and there such a case, but I think I am right in saying that his fellow workers and those who represent them would use their best endeavours to persuade him to keep up his output to the best possible amount.
It is with respect to the pottery workers that I wish to associate myself with the observations of the hon. and gallant Member. There are about 50,000 in the borough of Stoke-on-Trent, and they live more or less in the six or seven towns within that area. There may be between 12,000 and 14,000 miners living within the area of that borough, and, of course, we are bound to admit the justice of the observations made by the last speaker with respect to the fact that these workers, meeting every day more or less both when at leisure or at work, or in coming and going from their work and discussing these things, must see it strange, whatever the cause may be, that coals produced by them in the vicinity of the factory should be taken away to feed fires elsewhere, whilst the people in their 484 particular locality are thrown out of work in consequence, and reduced to partial or total starvation, because this is what it means in the long run. Under these circumstances, we do not wish to impress upon the Board of Trade the importance and absolute necessity of doing whatever is possible to supply these works with sufficient and suitable coal to carry the industry forward and to save the families of the workers from possible starvation. If they were but a handful of people here and there it might be possible for them to be drafted into some other industry, but you must realise that there are 50,000 of them all living within a very short distance of each other and working in the same area, and consider, too, that with the number of dependants you have well over 100,000 people involved in this question who could not be transplanted to any other locality, even if the employment was available. These people have been brought up to an employment which, to a considerable extent, disqualifies them from facing employment out of doors or in any other particular occupation, and, of course, they have arrived at ages when it would be impossible for them to accommodate themselves to strange circumstances and occupations.
That being the case, it seems to us that the Board of Trade would be well advised to consider this question from the point of view of arranging definitely and certainly that these people shall have the chance of the coal supplies that are so near to their doors and to the gates of the factories, so that the factories may be kept going full time. The hon. and gallant Member intimated that they were not over well paid. I believe it to be true to say that the industry, in certain respects, has not had a chance of realising any increase in wages to the extent that the workers of other industries have. There wages have not been increased, I think, more than 20 per cent. as compared with before the War, and their wages then were not very high, so that if the number of days worked are reduced to, say, half or two-thirds, they will be in straitened circumstances very soon—they and their families who are dependant upon them. We therefore hope that this House and the Board of Trade will do the utmost that is possible to save the situation for these people, who are looking to us for assistance.
§ Sir DANIEL GODDARD
I do not propose to follow the line of general shortage of coal. That was very clearly and excellently put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury, and I do not think it needs enlarging upon. The seriousness of it must be fully in the mind of the President of the Board of Trade. We have already had speeches which showed how serious it is in connection with the pottery industry, and there is scarcely any other industry but is also affected by it. Reference has been made to some of the larger industries, like that which was quoted, the woollen factory, but, of course, that kind of large business does not come under the rationing Order as do the small industries. Industries which consume less than 100 tons a year are brought within the Order, as I understand it, and have to comply with its provisions. It is more particularly about the Order that I wish to say a few words. This is the second Order we have had this year. In the spring of the year we had an Order which had for its object the limiting of fuel usage by one-sixth. That was a perfectly simple and understandable Order. In some respects the latter Order is better, because that one cut a distinct line between the North of England and the South of England, so that the North part was unaffected by it. A line cut from the Wash to the Bristol Channel was the line of demarcation. Those to the North of it were outside the Order; those to the South were within it. That had rather a serious effect, too. A manufacturer whom I know very well pointed out to me that this Order reducing his fuel account by one-sixth practically meant that he would only have five days' work a week instead of six. But he had to compete with the same class of manufacturer in the North of England who could work six days. How could he compete with him? That was one of the effects of that Order.
I am glad to see that in the new Order that rigid line is withdrawn, and although there is some difference made as between the consumption in the North of England and in the South, it is not so marked as it was in the previous Order. Still, that was a simple Order, people were getting accustomed to it, and they were making serious efforts to keep within that one-sixth. Now comes this new Order, which completely upsets that Order, is very much more rigid and drastic, as I think I can show, and is one which really will fail to be complied with by the great majority of 486 the people. The first thing I wanted to say is as to the reference has been made to the nature of this Order which occupies, I believe, in full, something over ninety pages, and also to the difficulty of understanding it. There is a third difficulty—it is difficult to get it! I have made application for this Order, and I know public utility companies to whom it is very, very necessary to have the Order have made application: they are still without copies of the Order.
§ Sir D. GODDARD
I believe it is quite true that you cannot get it at the Vote Office, yet the Order, as my right hon. Friend (Mr. McKinnon Wood) reminds me, came into force on 1st July. I have tried to get it, and failed; and on that I am going to rest an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. I understand that there was a very important gathering quite recently in the North of England, that is, within the last few days, and that gathering asked that the operation of this Order should be postponed, at all events, till October. I really hope, in view of the very serious indictment that was made as to the conditions and effects of the Order by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury, and in view of the fact that we cannot get the Order, and therefore cannot interpret it to those who ought to know and who are liable to a penalty if they break it; in view of another fact that we are now in the summer months, and that they are months in which, after all, the greatest economy cannot be effected, for we are not heating our houses in these months, and lighting them as little as possible—we are within the summer-time operations, and all these things reduce the consumption of fuel, and this is not the time when you can effect economy—in view of all this I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is really not worth his while to consider if he cannot really and absolutely drop the Order, or, at all events, put off its operation until it is well within the hands of everybody, and can be read by everybody, and when it can really be efficient in effecting some economy?
There are one or two points of the Order to which I should like to draw attention. I do not want to enter into the question as to the need for some kind of Order. I can quite understand, and fully 487 appreciate, the difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman is under, knowing that he has so much fuel to deal with and the difficulty in knowing how properly to apportion it between the various industries, households, and so forth. I can quite understand the difficulty, and I can understand that there may be a real, downright necessity for some economy. In my judgment, however, that might have been effected in some simpler way than the way suggested. I took the opportunity to mention my view to the right hon. Gentle-man, but he did not think it was quite workable, and therefore that has gone. But the main purpose of the Order is to save coal. If so, I want to ask why was coke included in the Order? Coke is just as much a part of the Order as is coal, in the proportion of 3 tons of coke to 2 tons of coal. Why include coke? Surely if the right hon. Gentleman wanted to save coal, the best way was to encourage the use of coke! One would have thought that was the simplest way that would arise to his mind to get people to use coke. Is there a deficiency of it? There is, I believe, in some parts of the country, but in London there is no deficiency at all. The other day I was down the river and I saw a huge lengthy mountain which looked to me as if it was made of rubbish. I was told that mountain consisted of 50,000 tons of coke. Surely it would be an economical practice to bring as much as possible of that into use! It has lain there for a long time. If coke be not included in this Order a great many people might be induced to use coke instead of coal, and that would be a real saving—so at least it seems to me.
So far as I can read the Order, I think it is desired, at all events I understand it is the intention of the Board of Trade, that more coke shall be used for the larger industrial purposes, and in that way it does not come within the Order. I do not know. I have not seen the whole Order, and therefore I do not know whether it is there or not. I have tried to find out if there is any order in this Order compelling companies to use a certain proportion of coke. Therefore it seems to me, that that argument falls to the ground. I put this question to the House at once: Supposing you go to the ordinary dweller in his home and offer him a ton of coal or a ton and a half of coke—that is the equivalent according to the Order. Which will he take? I venture to say 488 that in nine cases out of ten he will take the ton of coal rather than the ton and a half of coke. What the right hon. Gentleman requires is that he should take the ton and a half of coke, and not the coal, and that would be a real saving. That would mean that you would have more coal disposed of in other ways—the more to send to your gas undertakings, where it would be diverted into gas and residuals. With coke in the Order you are really putting a restriction on that which might be a most useful element in the saving desired. I put that forward. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has considered it, and that he will give us some answer to-day. I hope he will further consider it.
There was another question which arises in this way: This Order is a very wide and complicated one. I think it is in the Order—I am not quite sure—but I think the right hon. Gentleman told me that there was some promise made to various undertakings concerned, public utility companies, electric and gas companies, and so forth, that they should receive something in payment for the trouble they were at in making out the lists giving the information asked for. If I remember aright, there was a sum to be paid for every 100 names supplied. I do not know whether I am quite right, but there was, I think, something of that sort. It is, however, absolutely necessary that something of the kind should be done, and I do not see anything in the Order at present which indicates that it will be done. Look at the real meaning of this! All these companies are depleted of their staffs. Most of their male clerks have gone. Their work is mostly now done by female clerks, and there are too few of them. Now you are going to put on these additional work. They have to render lists to the overseer. First of all the overseer may go to these companies and undertakings, and ask them for the list, and also what is the ratio of fuel used in these places, just as he can ask the coal merchant, and so forth. Having got that information, which will take a long time to get out, after the first period of time has elapsed, the quarter or the half-year, it is incumbent upon these undertakings to make a return to the overseer of everyone who has exceeded the limit set forth in the Order. I really wonder if the President has fully considered what that means! What it really means is that there will be thousands upon thousands of these people, who strictly, 489 according to the letter of the law have brought themselves within the operation of the Order and who are liable to some kind of penalty.
§ Sir D. GODDARD
That is what the effect of it will be. What does the President of the Board of Trade propose to do? Does he propose to hale all these thousands of persons before the magistrates for the purpose of being fined? That will have to be done in every district, every town, and it would be an enormous task. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman does mean that. He probably means that where there is a flagrant case of disobedience, where some consumer braves the law and says, "I will have nothing to do with the Order," and, therefore, exceeds his quota of fuel, such case would be reported to him, and he will probably take fiction. That is the commonsense meaning of the whole thing. But that is not what the Order says. It does not remove from the undertaking the obligation of having to supply these lists of thousands upon thousands of people who will fail to comply with the Order. I suppose all this has been very carefully gone into. As to the number of people effected I can give some rather startling figures in regard to a district which I happen to know, in regard to part of the town which I represent, Ipswich. It is what I suppose you would call an ordinary industrial town. We have something like 15,000 out of 17,000 houses which are users of gas or electricity. I think there are more than that, but there are over 15,000 who use gas through the penny-in-the-slot meter system. These people are to have an allowance of 7,500 ft. per year according to the Order.
I have taken the trouble to see what the consumption of these penny-in-the-slot consumers is in the year. The average for each dwelling over a specified period was 17,000 ft.; the total quantity set forth in the Order is 7,500. These people have two or three jets, a ring burner on which to boil a kettle; some of them have got a cooking stove for cooking purposes, having been induced to put it in on the representation that it was the cheapest and best form to save coal. Clearly they cannot save much gas. What are they to do? These two-room cottages, in the district where the town is situated, are allowed three tons of coal per year. 490 How much can they save out of that? When you come to look into it, it is difficult for them to save anything out of the three tons used in the ordinary working class household. They would have to save one ton at least before they would come within the provisions of this Order, or be liable to have their names sent up as having offended against it. These are serious considerations. It means an enormous amount of work to those concerned. It will create a great amount of annoyance, and you would not have the people with you. Even now I get hundreds of letters asking what is the meaning of this. I cannot answer all these letters. In the circumstances it does seem to me that it would be a very wise thing for the President to put off the operation of the Order for the present. We have not got it. We cannot get it to read. Nobody really knows what is in it. Put it off for a couple of months. I think the right hon. Gentleman would find that there is still room for wise modifications in the Order, which would make the working of it a great deal simpler. I put these considerations before him, because I think it is a serious matter, and I hope he will have some regard to them.
I wish to draw direct attention to the case of Dublin. At the present time there is considerable hardship there amongst the working classes on account of the scarcity of coal, and although the military and other people can be provided with sufficient accommodation for travelling to race meetings the workers cannot get sufficient coal to do their ordinary cooking. At the same time the wash-houses in the city had to close down for the very same reason, and I think it is necessary that some effort should be made to conserve a portion of the coal supply for those with very small incomes who buy their coal almost from day to day, or, at any rate, from week to week. If there is to be a reduction in the consumption of coal, then I think due regard must be paid to the fact that the people with small incomes have already reduced their consumption since the beginning of the War to the lowest possible minimum on account of the expense, and how you are going to reduce the consumption of those who are only consuming two tons of coal a year I do not understand.
I think some effort must be made to get the supply properly regulated or some effort ought to be made to bring into the 491 city of Dublin a large peat supply. There are plenty of bogs of peat if an effort was made to bring it into the city. A couple of railways could be utilised, and all that is required is the construction of a short line of railway from the main lines in order to connect them with the pitheads. These are things which are causing a good deal of discontent in the city of Dublin. I have been receiving letters about the electric supply being cut off through the scarcity of coal. You ought to provide where there is to be a reduction that it should only take place after there has been one fire provided for in every home. This question is going to be a considerable hardship to the children and the aged people, and we ought not to wait until the storm rises, but take steps immediately to meet the difficulty.
§ Sir WILLOUGHBY DICKINSON
I wish to make a few observations on this matter. As I represent a constituency in London I can speak for a community that has already had very severe experience in regard to the shortage of coal, and where, if that experience is repeated to any more alarming extent very detrimental results will, I am sure, ensue. In the years 1915 and 1916 there was a great shortage, and the price also was very high, and the discontent was very real and dangerous. The Board of Trade and the Coal Controller took up the question, and in the course of the following twelve months they were able to arrange a system of rationing for London which was very successful, and it was based upon the definite provision of such a supply of coal as was deemed to be necessary to meet the reasonable requirements of the London consumers, and with the economies which I have no doubt were observed by most people in London, the coal situation was eased, and since then I think it has been perfectly satisfactory.
But now, if this Coal Order goes through, I foresee that in the middle of the winter London will find itself in very much the same position as before, with this exception, that the coal that will be supplied for the use of London will not be more than is required under the provisions of this Order, and there will be no coal to fall back upon in London, even if it is found absolutely essential to provide it. The main difficulty with regard to London arises upon the question of transport, and it was because it was found 492 possible to so arrange transport that enough coal was brought that the difficulties were got over. Now if the amount brought is only sufficient to meet the requirements of this Order, we shall find a very dangerous situation, and so will the Coal Controller, for he will find that the demand in London is so great that the public will have reached a state of great exasperation.
I have not been able to see this Order. I tried to get it. I sent to the local coal controller's office, and I was told only yesterday that there was no paper out, and it was not likely to come out for some time. I want to have the opportunity which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Runciman) had, of reading the Order, which enabled him to give us such a useful exposition of it from the front Opposition Bench. I did see the Order when it came out in the "Times" of the 3rd July, and I have since tried to understand from that fairly full and accurate description of it what the effect would be in my own case. I think it is the best way to judge of a prospective change like this to see how it affects one's individual case, because it must affect others in the same way, and you have all the facts at your disposal. In this statement in the "Times" it was stated thatthe object of the Order is to save not less than a quarter of the coal hitherto available for domestic use in the form of coal or of gas and of electricity produced by it.I find that in my own house I used in the previous twelve months 30 tons of coal, including the coal, gas, and electricity calculated upon the basis of conversion pointed out in this particular Order. I find also that under the arrangement that is now about to be made my supply would have to be cut down, including all these three things, to about 15 tons. Now, that is not one-quarter but one-half reduction, and if that holds good universally the situation will be very serious when the people begin to feel the pinch of this Order, whether the amount is reduced by one-half or one-quarter. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that it is most important that we should know exactly what is going to happen under the provisions of this Order.
Again, take my own case. I understand from this Order that I should be entitled to use 22,500 cubic feet of gas or 360 units of electricity, in addition to about 13 tons 493 of coal. In my house I use coal, electricity, and gas as items of fuel. As I estimate it, I have consumed about 100,000 cubic feet of gas, and I am only entitled to consume 22,500 feet. I know I may use more by taking it out of the coal, but primâ facie I am entitled to use 22,500 feet of gas for lighting purposes, or 360 units of electricity, whereas I used 500 units in the twelve months. What is going to happen? Will the gas inspector come and measure off periodically the amount of gas that I use, or is the electricity inspector to do the same thing? Or will the gas inspector and the electricity inspector put their heads together and settle when my gas or my electricity is to stop? I reckon that if I were to take the course of consuming nothing but electricity my supply would last me until February; gas alone would last me up to December, but if I have to count the two together I shall probably find myself in absolute darkness before the end of the year.
I would like the right hon. Gentleman to explain exactly what is going to happen in order to enable the ordinary consumer to know what he is doing. If he does wrong, I understand he will be punished, but no man could know under these circumstances whether he is doing wrong or not, because he will not know what particular amount of each of these sources he has used, or what is his proper measure of gas and electricity. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the Board of Trade should make it very clear what all of us may use, and secondly that the limit of consumption should be fixed at a much earlier date than the end of twelve months. It is absurd to let people go on consuming the normal amount of gas and coal and then to find that at the worst time of the winter they come to the end of all their light and heat. They should be rationed by the month and they should be informed when they are exceeding their monthly supply, because it is very much easier for one to cut down the amount consumed now than later on in the middle of the winter, and still worse in January, February and March.
I hope some arrangement will be made by the Coal Controller to see that the permissible allocation of warmth and lighting power is brought to the notice of all householders as time goes on; otherwise we shall find ourselves having burned up all our light and heating power long 494 before the winter. I do not know that I can make any other suggestion, but I would like to join with those in this House who ask that we should have a little more time to consider this Order. We have not been able to see it. I dare say much of what we have said will be explained by the President of the Board of Trade when he comes to reply I can assure him that it is very important indeed to see that no unnecessary difficulties and friction arise in the London population, which consists very largely of small people who cannot store coal, or anything. If the coal suddenly comes to an end there will be the very greatest difficulty, and it will be a very serious matter, not only for our own comfort, but for the prosecution of the War. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will give us a little more time to consider how this Order will affect the constituencies which we represent.
§ Mr. SMALLWOOD
As one who has been in the London coal trade for the last forty years, I have had some experience during the last year or so of the difficulty in respect of this coal control, but I desire to say at the outset that I have no fault whatever to find with the Coal Controller. He has had an impossible task put into his hands. He is a man with whom one can deal, and with whom one has always dealt, in a straightforward, businesslike way, but so far as I am able to judge his task under this Order is one that cannot be performed. Hon Members have said that they have not been able to get hold of the Order. The trade itself was not able to get a copy of the Order-till three or four days ago. There are ninety-six pages of it, and I am quite sure that the average merchant does not understand the Order, and never will understand it, and that there are not half a dozen men in the Coal Controller's Department who could help one to understand some parts of it. One may go to the Coal Controller's Department and see there a very huge staff, but again and again I have been struck with the fact that there are very few men on the staff who understand the Coal Order or the coal trade. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir W. Dickinson) has spoken about the difficulties of London in the coming winter, and I can assure him and the House that there are difficulties in front of us that we do not care to contemplate. 495 In many parts of the country at the present time there is only a, three days' supply of coal, and that in the height of the summer when coal is being raised at the pits in the long days and is being brought into the towns and country districts without the hindrance of fog or any such thing. When it is taken into account that it takes three, four, six, and seven days to bring a truck of coal from the pit, it will be understood that even in the summer time, with the long days, the situation is serious enough.
We have more coal in London to-day than we had at this time last year, but we have fewer orders to execute, and, as a matter of fact, we are only balancing our supply and demand at the present time, although we are in the summer, and although the pits are tearing out tonnage as fast as they can in these long days and short nights. The better class people are able to fill in, and they are very wisely doing so. Some of them may not be too much afraid of the six months' imprisonment, because there is a Clause in the Order which says, "If anyone knowingly breaks the Act." If they cannot get the Act, they cannot knowingly break it, and some people who are exceedingly put about because they cannot get the Order need not mind, because if they cannot get the Order they evidently cannot break it. The better class people are filling in, and they are very wise to do so. When the country districts, as the cold weather and long nights come along, begin to call for coal for their winter consumption a large amount of that coal which is now coming to London will have to be sent into those country districts, and, although we have more coal at the present time in London than we had at this time last year, it is the fear of merchants that by October or November that stock of coal will be entirely depleted, and unless there are some means of raising the quantity of coal we shall have to face the winter with hardly any stock in London if we fulfil the orders that are bound to come between now and the end of September.
A quarter of the whole population of Great Britain has to be housed in the London area—from 10,000,000 to 11,000,000—and the majority of those people have no storage whatever. A largo number of them have very small storage, because the modern house, even the modern eight or ten-roomed house, has been built in such a 496 way that there is no cellar room at all. Usually the coal cellar is under the stairs and only holds a ton of coal, but even those people are very much better off than hundreds of thousands of people who have very small storage or no storage at all. The street trolley man will tell you that in the small houses the only storage possible is a basket, a box, or a bin of some sort on the top of the stairs, and as soon as the winter demand sets in from the hundreds of thousands of these small houses, and as soon as the street trade springs up, as it is bound to do as soon as October comes in, the merchant fears that, having executed the orders that they will have in up to the end of September, they will find themselves face to face with a demand which they cannot meet. If you have a mild October the poor people do not order coal, and do not take it off the street, because they do not need it, but as soon as a cold day comes, and we get these snaps of cold weather in almost every month after September, the demand springs up double at once. If a merchant is doing 100 or 200 tons per week, it springs up at once 50 per cent., 75 per cent., and sometimes 100 per cent., especially in some of those congested districts where there is the least wharf storage. The railway companies have not the ground to give to the merchants, and there is the smallest wharf storage. The merchants all over London, and more especially in those congested areas, are fearing to face the winter, knowing that at the present time the balance is only just being kept between the supply and the demand, although it is midsummer.
Hon. Gentlemen this afternoon have advised the President of the Board of Trade to hold up his Order. If he will permit me to say so, he is really between the Devil and the deep sea. If he were to hold up his Order, and there were to be no rationing of coal, it would mean that the well-to-do people would have the coal put into their cellars without any restrictions placed upon them at all, and then these hundreds of thousands of small consumers in London and in other parts would have to face the winter without any opportunity of having their orders fulfilled. Personally, I say that the Order cannot be carried out unless there is such a mild winter as we have not known for a long time. Then possibly it might be carried out. If in the early or late autumn, or any part of the winter, we have a bitter cold fortnight or three weeks, as 497 we had in February, 1917, the demand for coal will spring up in the congested quarters, as it did then, and that is the time that we fear.
I want again to pay a tribute to the Coal Controller, with whom I have had many dealings. He has put his very best into the work, but the difficulty lies in the fact that too many men have been withdrawn from the coal industry. It is an industry that cannot possibly be carried on by women. You cannot put women into the coal mines—we have not got so low as that yet—and if you could I hope that they would not go. You have a class of men trained throughout the whole of their lives. They are born and bred in the coal industry, which is a highly specialised trade. Having taken those men out of the mines and sent them to do other work you cannot replace them by another class of men. What I and others are most anxious about is as to how the output of coal is to be increased. I cannot see how it is to be increased. You may say that you will do away with the Eight Hours Act. I am quite sure that would not raise hardly another ton of coal per man. The miner who puts his back into his work and works eight hours during the day is not fit to do any more work that day, and, if he did, he would not be fit to do his eight hours the next day. You cannot do it by that means. At the present time, so far as the country districts are concerned, their demand is not large, but so far as many of them are concerned, they have not a three days' supply. When the demand springs up and coal has to go out of London—the balance is only just kept even at the present time—the country districts are bound to be short of coal, and how are you going to deal with 10,000,000 or 11,000,000 of people in London when the demand springs up which so often does spring up?
So far as the Order itself is concerned, if one takes the rationing there is no fault to be found with it. The allowance for not more than three rooms is 3 tons 10 cwts.; a five-roomed house, 4 tons 10 cwts.; and up to twelve rooms 12 tons. There is no hardship whatever in that. My experience of the London trade is that the average man with a twelve-roomed house would not burn more than 8 or 10 tons of coal, therefore there is no hardship. But when you get into the country districts it is a different matter altogether. What I am afraid of, and what the trade is afraid of, is that that coal may not be 498 forthcoming. That is what we are up against. We have no assurance that the coal will be forthcoming. If we can be told this evening, what we have not yet been told, that there are some means by which that coal will be forthcoming, I am quite sure that not only the London coal trade, but the country coal trade as well, will be very much heartened. The total output for the year now completed is something like 236,000,000 tons. London takes even at this time of the year 100,000 tons a week for its household purposes. When the winter time comes that doubles straight away. Again, we are face to face with the fact that in these long days we are only just balancing our supply and demand. What is going to be the position when our stocks are depleted? How is the trade going to be met in a large city like London when it suddenly doubles or trebles, as the case may be?
I have one or two words to say in respect to the cost of coal control. I do not know whether hon. Members present realise what that cost is. It is a huge cost. There was no difficulty in the trade at all up to 1916. The trade then met the then President of the Board of Trade—I was one of those who met him—and we had a talk round the table as to the best means of meeting the difficulties so far as that winter was concerned. We came to an honourable arrangement with him that the prices of coal should not be raised throughout the whole of that winter. The Coal Prices Limitation Act was put into force. The merchants knew what they had to pay, and they came to the arrangement with the President of the Board of Trade that a certain margin should be worked upon and that there should be no raising of the prices throughout London. That was carried out at no cost whatever so far as coal control was concerned. What has happened since that time? Coal has gone up altogether 10s. 6d. at the pit's mouth and 15s. a ton to the consumer. During the last three or four weeks it has gone up, so far as London is concerned, by 4s.—2s. 6d. was given in June and 1s. 6d. again in June to the collieries. The collieries only handle that money for the purpose of bookkeeping and do not derive any benefit from it at all. Four shillings per ton on 200,000,000 tons of coal raised and usable coal comes to £40,000,000. Out of that 4s. per ton the Coal Controller pays the increased wages to men and boys—there was 1s. 6d. per day per man and 9d. per day per boy given in June, and 499 there was another increase in July, and the total of that comes to about 2s. 8d. per ton. The rest of the 4s.—this is the arrangement—is handed over at the end of each quarter to the Goal Controller for the purposes of the expenses of his coal control. Even that represents from £13,000,000 to £15,000,000 per annum.
I have consulted the colliery owners in various parts of the country, and I have been given the figures carefully. Of that 4s. I am told that nothing goes to the collieries; 2s. 8d. of it goes to the men and boys, and 1s. 4d. per ton on the 200,000,000 tons of raised and usable coal goes to the Coal Controller for expenses now and in the future, plus, I understand, a part of the 15 per cent. of the excess profits which would also go into the hands of the Board of Trade for the compensation of such collieries as cannot make their collieries pay under the arrangement. Therefore, not only from £12,000,000 to £15,000,000 passes into the hands of the Coal Controller, but something more. This Order is not loved anywhere, so far as I am concerned. For something you do not love and cannot understand, and feel cannot be worked, a sum approaching £15,000,000 per annum is a big price to pay. There is this further feature about it that it is a big indirect taxation upon the ratepayer in respect of something for which he cannot see he is getting value. There is no control over that expenditure except a Departmental control. So far as London is concerned, its share of that expenditure, if my figures are anywhere near right—I have taken a wide margin of £12,000,000 to £15,000,000—would be £340,000 per annum. To an old London County Council member that means something like 3d. in the £ on the rateable value of the whole of London. Whenever we talked about putting the county rate of London up by one penny, county councillors held up their hands in holy horror, but here we are actually putting three-pence on the rateable value of London for the expenses of a control we do not love, which the trade generally do not think is necessary in any shape or form, and in regard to which, so far as I can gather, the whole country holds the same opinion.
I do not say it is not necessary expenditure if there is to be a Coal Controller, but I do say there is no necessity for a Coal Controller's Department such as we 500 have at present. It started very modestly with, perhaps, half a dozen rooms and a dozen clerks and staff. Now at the Holborn Viaduct Hotel there are 600 rooms, how many clerks I do not know, and how many more employés up and down the country I do not know, but it will take a fair number of employés to run away with anything like £10,000,000 to £15,000,000 per annum. I have had various figures given to me showing anything from 4,000, 6,000 to 10,000 employés. I know nothing whatever about that, I only know that 1s. 4d. per ton on the huge amount of usable coal raised will produce such a sum that it would take a tremendous staff to run away with the money. So far as the future prospects are concerned, those members of the trade who have had the interests of the trade at heart I am quite sure would rather go out of business at the present time until the War is over if this business is going to be forced upon them. They do not understand the Order, and never will understand it. There is no one at the Coal Control Department who can lead them to understand it. By the bye, the public share in the Order comes to thirty-three pages. What the Rationing Order application forms are to be, I do not know. I have not seen them myself yet, but I am told by those who have seen them that they are of such a nature that even an educated man will not know where he is when he comes to fill them up. In London you have 11,000,000 of more or less educated people—people who abominate forms always—who will have to fill up these forms. They are such complicated forms that the Income Tax papers are simple compared with them. When this is launched upon them and the Order is put into their hands and they are told to carry it out, you may rest assured they will absolutely refuse to do it in the first place. The local coal overseers will be driven mad in trying to help them to understand it.
I conclude, as I started, by saying that, able as the Coal Controller is, I have only one fault to find with him—he does not understand the coal trade. But that is the system that governs all these offices. If you are in the woollen trade you are put to buying bacon, or something of that sort. If we have a man who understands railways from top to bottom—of course it comes into the coal trade—as the present Coal Controller does, he is put to controlling the coal trade. As his right-hand man he has one of the traffic managers of 501 the London General Omnibus Company. What does he know of the coal trade? Both of them are of the finest type of business men, but they do not understand the business they are asked to manage. They ought to have a very efficient staff to carry out such a complicated Order, but I am quite sure that they have very few men round them who know anything about the Order at all or anything about the coal trade. I am voicing the opinion of the trade to-day when I say that, with all our sympathy with the Coal Controller, his right-hand man and his staff, we simply abominate the Coal Order and we do not think it can be carried out in any shape or form to the satisfaction of either its promoters or the public generally. With the country districts largely denuded of coal, with only three days' supply, with the London district better off for coal than it was this time last year but with very many fewer orders to execute, and all their orders to execute before the end of September, and with a large trade springing up at any time after September, what guarantee is the President of the Board of Trade able to give that the output of coal will be largely increased, so that not only the country districts but London and other large centres, consuming large amounts of coal, can be guaranteed that they are going to have their supplies, the cellars of the rich having been filled during the summer?
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
The hon. Member has said London was not able to understand this Coal Control Order. Certainly the Potteries understand what coal control means, because their staple industry is now in process of closing down through lack of coal. It is fairly clear that we should be addressing ourselves not so much to the President of the Board of Trade as to the Director of National Service, and I hope what I have to say will be transmitted to him, for it seems to me that the Coal Controller has an absolutely impossible task to perform. There is not sufficient coal being produced to go round and someone must go short. There is nothing to show that the Coal Controller is not doing his best with the shortage of coal that exists. There has been no criticism directed to that point. The position really seems to be that we have so reduced the production of coal that there is not sufficient for all, not sufficient for the staple industries of the country, and not sufficient to meet 502 domestic requirements. That is, I think, in the main, due to the fact that the Government allowed itself to be hustled by the miserable stunt raised by the "Daily Mail" and its kindred organs a few months ago, when we were told that large numbers of men in the coal-mining industry were shirkers, dodging military service, and the cry went up that they must be combed out and more men must be taken from the industry. We have 70,000 men who have been taken, or are in process of being taken, and a consequent reduction in the output by some 22,500,000 tons a year. If you withdraw these men in this way from industry, and so reduce output, it is natural that these difficulties should arise, and if we are to maintain our industry the only way is, if possible, to return men, and at the very least to see that no further men are withdrawn from it. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will make that representation to those who control the recruiting policy of this country, because undoubtedly the statements made and the arguments used by my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Wedgwood) were not in the least exaggerated.
To take the particular district with which we are concerned, virtually the whole of the population depends on the pottery industry. It is not a sectional industry; it is not a merely local industry; it is a national industry. The whole British industry of pottery is concentrated in that one district. It may be said it is good war policy, the making of earthenware not being essential to the immediate conduct of the War, to destroy an industry of that kind and to divert more labour to other industries. That is a very narrow view indeed to take. It was not taken at the outset of the War, because I remember when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Runciman) was President of the Board of Trade he organised a great exhibition in the Potteries, and urged the manufacturers to extend their operations and to send their goods to South America to secure the trade which was likely to fall into their hands owing to the exclusion of German competition. The manufacturers were urged in every direction to increase their output. I am not so much concerned with the particular matter of the supplanting of German goods as German goods, but these goods are being and have been sent very largely to South America. We are drawing our 503 food supplies from there, and we are becoming a debtor country to the Americans, and the only way we shall be able to pay that debt is by the output from our manufactories. Here is an industry which is playing a part in the maintenance of our financial fabric. If the War goes on, the main factor in bringing it to an end, and perhaps a disastrous end for this country, will be financial loss, bankruptcy, and insolvency. The strength of this country in war has not been in its man-power. In the last resort it will be in its financial power. Already the financial power of this country has maintained the War. Italy, France, and Russia would have had to give in years ago if it had not been for the financial strength of this country, and it can only be maintained, even during war, by maintaining the output of essential industries, and in particular those which have an export trade and are helping to pay for the imports of food products into this country. So the destruction of this industry, though it might momentarily transfer some girls into other work, would obviously be a weakening of the national strength in the operations of war itself.
A somewhat analogous case arose a year or two ago in France. Owing to the proposal of the Government to withdraw all the men who had been exempted, the silk industry of Lyons was threatened with destruction. That was an absolutely essential industry for the purposes of war, if ever there was one. The manufacturers of Lyons rose in a body, brought pressure to bear on the Government, and showed that it was an export industry and it was consequently helping to maintain the financial strength of France. The Government saw that and met their demands and eased the situation for them, so that they were able in time of war, with all the stress upon France, to carry on the silk industry. Therefore, I think we may urge on the President of the Board of Trade to pay special attention, as far as he possibly can, to the limitation of the coal output and to the upholding of this staple industry. It is already overburdened and under great stress, owing to conditions to which he might also pay attention as a means of ameliorating the hardship which this Coal Order will bring upon us. Already I believe one of his Committees has reported that the railway monopoly, which is destructive of the industries 504 in its district, and the canal monopoly should have special attention. This is a district which has the highest rates in Great Britain. Within the last week they have been raised another 10d., bringing the total up to a little under 13s. in the £. If you withdraw the coal supply from the pottery industry you are going to reduce the rateable value of the borough of Hanley and consequently to raise the rates, to 15s. or 16s. in the £—there will be no limit to the burden—and if you bring about distress and unemployment, at the same time withdrawing their coal supply, you are going to create, a condition of affairs in that district which will not help the successful prosecution of the War.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir A. Stanley)
The hon. Baronet (Sir J. Walton) made rather an attack upon the control of coal generally. He seemed to suggest that the very unpleasant position in which we now find ourselves with respect to coal is entirely attributable to the action of the Government in taking over the control of all the coalfields in the United Kingdom, and that if the administration of this vast and essential industry had been left in the hands of those who are directly engaged in it, it would have been much better and more in the interests of the country. The right hon. Gentleman opposite also suggested that this control was not necessary, and that it was a matter of political expediency at the time that a bigger step was taken in September, 1916, and that that step itself has not resulted to the advantage of the country. I differ from those who take that line. The step that was taken by my right hon. Friend when he was President of the Board of Trade in securing control of the coalfields in South Wales was a step that was taken primarily, if not entirely, in the interests of securing rest in the labour world. I believe it was almost entirely a labour question at that time, and limited almost, if not exclusively, to that particular area. Therefore, if I may be permitted to say so, I think my right hon. Friend acted very wisely in the step he took at that time. Times have changed since that first step was taken. I shall not go so far as to say that the same acute labour situation developed in the other coalfields of the country as existed in South Wales, but at least there were possibilities of labour difficulties arising. Apart from that there was another reason why the 505 control should be extended so as to include all the coalfields in the country. That reason was one of transport, and I may say, with a full knowledge of all the facts—of course the Board of Trade is the Department responsible for transport as well as coal—that the step taken in December, 1916, which secured the control of the coalfields of the United Kingdom, was a step that has been completely justified by what has transpired since. I say without the slightest hesitancy—there may be some who disagree with me—that as a result of this control—I make no claim that it has been done perfectly—there has been a better distribution of coal and a more uniform distribution of coal, and taking the results as a whole the country is to-day in a very much stronger and better position as regards control than would have been the case, not only with regard to the supply of coal, but also with regard to the price of coal. I therefore respectfully suggest to my right hon. Friend that in the first step he took for dealing with the coalfields in South Wales, a step which we have enlarged upon, he was legislating at that time wisely, and we have done no more than follow in his footsteps.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Barnsley (Sir J. Walton) found fault with the number of empty wagons which he had in his travels observed on the railway sidings, and again he seemed to suggest that these empty wagons were due to the control, and that these wagons would be filled if it were not for the control. May I remind him that there has been a considerable falling off in the output of coal during the last few weeks which is not in any way attributable to the withdrawal of men from the mines for military service. The falling off is directly and solely attributable to the very serious epidemic of influenza which has gone through many of the mines, in some instances reducing the number of employés by as much as 60 per cent. I suggest that it would be impossible for us to maintain the flow of coal in a condition of that sort.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
I agree that it was temporary, and I say that the empty wagons upon the railway sidings will also be temporary. Whether there was control or otherwise, this unfortunate epidemic of influenza would have prevailed just the same.
§ Sir J. WALTON
The collieries in several cases are only working three or four days a week. Give us more wagons to load, improve the transport from the collieries to the consumer, and we will produce much more coal. The wagons are standing in the railway sidings.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
The hon. Baronet says that if he can secure wagons he would be able to substantially increase the output of coal.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
I have spoken to the Coal Controller, and he has not had called to his attention the particular instance referred to. Certainly I have not heard that there has been any lack of wagons, broadly speaking, necessary to meet the demands of the collieries. I would here again remind the House that the railway companies have made great sacrifices in the way of railway wagons. We have sent tens of thousands of railway wagons to France, and we are now, as a result of the last offensive, still sending more wagons to France. I believe, however, that that further demand can be met without seriously prejudicing the position in this country. I am sure the House would not suggest that in these circum stances we should refrain from meeting the demands from our military advisers in France. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Runciaman) raised a question about export trade. He suggested that owing to the control our export trade was adversely affected. I cannot ascertain any facts that would bear that out. I should be very happy to go into it further, but I have not been able to ascertain any facts in connection with the administration of the coal mines by the Coal Controller, which would bear out the statement that our export trade had been adversely affected because of the control. It is not necessary for me to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Board of Trade is not responsible for the export of coal. That is a responsibility left with the Committee and more particularly with the Shipping Controller, whose business it is, as far as he can, to provide the shipping necessary for that purpose.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
Certainly. We accept full responsibility for that. My information is that that system and the distribution of coal to the ports has not in any way adversely affected the export of coal from this country. I am sure it is within the knowledge of my right hon. Friend that the export of coal from this country was, a few months ago, a very different thing from what it is to-day. It is not very long ago that the railways were blocked and coal for export had to be stored at the pit-heads, because there was a lack of shipping owing to the submarine campaign. To-day it is a very great pleasure for me to be able to say, although it does impose an additional strain upon us, that the shipping situation is so substantially altered that instead of coal awaiting shipment ships are really waiting for coal. The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question of the proportion of small coal which we were mixing it with other coal for export. I am advised by the Coal Controller that it is the custom to mix 30 per cent. of small coal with the coal that is used for export. So far as I know, that arrangement is carried out.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
I should be very glad to put that suggestion before the Coal Controller; but I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman an answer upon it now. My right hon. Friend and other hon. Members have suggested that we should postpone bringing this Fuel Order into effect until a better opportunity has been given not only to hon. Members, but also to those engaged in the trade and the public generally to understand the Order. They gave us one reason for that suggestion the delay in placing this Order into the hands of the trade and the public. I can only express regret that the copies of the Order have not been secured at an earlier date, but there, again, the delay was unexpected. It was due entirely to sickness. The unfortunate epidemic of influenza amongst the printers made it impossible for them to meet this demand. Hence the delay. I can assure the House that copies of the Order will be provided in abundance in the next two or three days, and not only will copies be available, but a very good precis of the Order has been prepared, and will be circulated. I have a copy here. It is composed of only four pages, and this is the form in which it will go out to the public. It gives a very brief, and, I think clear explanation of what is obviously a 508 very complicated Order, and it will be in the hands of the public within the next two or three days.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
The Order I have is dated on the 28th June, 1918. It could not possibly be printed and circulated by the 1st July. The Order comes into effect on 1st July. The right hon. Gentleman has no occasion to be surprised if he only passed the Order on the 28th June that it was not in the hands of the public on 1st July.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
I accept that. The delay has been unavoidable, but it will not really be to the disadvantage of the public. We are proposing to issue a form to all the householders right throughout the Kingdom, to be filled in by the householder. I have seen the form, and I can assure the House that it is a very simple form, and will require very little explanation. It is a form the public will be able to understand and fill up, and I hope that that form, quite apart from the brief explanation of the Order—which I quite realise very few people read—will go a long way towards meeting the situation. I should like now to come to the question of the coal situation as it exists to-day, and to give some explanation of the Order. It will relieve, I hope, some of the apprehensions which exist in the minds of hon. Members. First of all, let us consider the output of coal just prior to and during the War. In 1913 the output in round figures was 287,500,000 tons. In 1914 it had fallen to 265,600,000 tens. In 1915 it had fallen still further to 253,200,000 tons. In 1916 it had increased to 256,300,000 tons, and in 1917 it had fallen to 248,500,000 tons. In 1918, and, of course, this is an estimated figure, it will be 226,000,000 tons. May I give the House some further figures which indicate the output of coal per man employed in the mines. Here, of course, I am taking the total number employed in the mines prior to the War. It was somewhere between 1,000,000 and 1,100,000. In 1913 the output per man was 255 tons. In 1914 it was 234 tons, and in 1915 265 tons—a very considerable increase over the previous year, attributable, as I understand, to the discontinuance at that time of the enlistment of miners. In 1916 the output per man was 257 tons, and in 1917 it was 246 tons, while for the first twenty-four weeks of this year it was at the rate of 247 tons. I must give this explanation of the figures per man. The figures for the 509 years 1913 to 1917, inclusive, include the output of ironstone, fireclay, and oil shale, whereas the figures for this year refer to the coal mine output only. I have not the information necessary to correct the figures, but whatever they may be I am told that they would not substantially alter the figures I have given.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
I am sorry I have not. In order to understand the position as regards man-power, the House should know that up to date the total number of men who have been withdrawn from the mines for military service is, roughly speaking, 400,000. That does not mean that the whole of these 400,000 men are what might be classed as A 1 men, but the total does include, of course, men who volunteered for service immediately after the outbreak of war, and I think it would be true to say that they really do represent the pick of the men in the mines, and they are men with a very high degree of physical fitness. Therefore, it has to be borne in mind, when you come to consider the output of coal per man to-day, what is the average physical fitness of the men in the mines now as compared with the average physical fitness of those there prior to the outbreak of war. Last winter was the first experience we had in rationing coal for household use, and I would remind those who have during the Debate criticised the complexity and length of the Order, and who have prophesied all sorts of disasters arising out of the operation of this Order that in its essentials the Order is practically the same instrument as we issued last winter when London was rationed. When that Order was first issued, and it was not so complete as this is to-day, it was suggested, as it has been to-day, that it could not be understood, and that all sorts of difficulties would arise out of it. I do again most respectfully suggest that the rationing of household coal in London last winter was a real success, and that it did secure to the Metropolitan area a fair distribution of coal. I do not desire to go too far. I quite realise that the amount of coal that was allowed under that Order was fairly liberal. I do not think it can be suggested that the amount allowed, whatever the size of the house might be, was other than fairly liberal. It did not impose on anyone the need for undue economy, and it was an Order that could be fully observed without much inconvenience.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
But at that time we had gas and electricity without limit. Now the consumption of these is to be reduced.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
I am not pretending to say that there were not certain advantages which the public had and which helped to make the Order work easily. As I said before, I do not make too big a claim in respect of the results arising out of the rationing of the Metropolitan area last winter, but I do suggest that the administration of the Order and the machinery established for that purpose was really a success, and that the work which was done by the Coal Controller and his assistants was, under all the circumstances, a very creditable performance. I desire to take advantage of this opportunity to associate myself with those who have made such complimentary references to the Coal Controller and his assistants, and I say we owe a considerable debt of gratitude to those men and to all others who helped, including the London merchants who were extremely helpful. Their work, taken as a whole, is to be highly commended.
§ Sir J. WALTON
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what the coal allowance was last year under the rationing of London as compared with that now proposed?
§ Sir A. STANLEY
I will make some comparisons later on. The coal situation last winter was very much less a question of coal than it was of transport. That was the chief difficulty and it was the chief reason why the Metropolitan area was rationed. The situation with regard to coal was a very easy one up to March of this year as a matter of fact. My hon. Friend knows there were many, many days when it was difficult to keep the men employed in the mines, when coal was accumulating at the pit-head, and when railways were blocked with wagon loads of coal, because of the inadequate shipping facilities for the export of coal. That generally was the position throughout the United Kingdom, and there was no difficulty in obtaining coal not only for all essential needs, but also in abundance for household purposes. The Metropolitan area was the only part of the United Kingdom which was rationed, and that was more a question of transport than of coal. It was in February of this year that the Board of Trade agreed, after most careful consultation with the Coal 511 Controller, and acting on his advice that 50,000 men should be released from the mines for military service. I suggest, upon the information which we had available at that time and our knowledge of all the facts, that there was an ample supply of coal, and that we could by rationing the United Kingdom upon somewhat similar lines to those we had pursued in London last winter we could, without any real inconvenience, allow 50,000 men to be withdrawn from the mines.
But after the decision had been taken— in the following month, in March of this year, the whole aspect of the problem was substantially altered. This change was due to two causes. One was the German advance. Out of that advance two problems arose, and one was the effect which the advance had upon the output of coal in France. Certain mines in the battle area were affected by the advance and the burden of supplying at least 8,000,000 tons of coal per annum—a burden of great magnitude—was placed on this country because the German advance had deprived France of that amount of coal. That was one factor we had to deal with.
Another factor in the situation was this—the incessant demand for more men. My right hon. Friend, who, of course, knows more than any other Member of this House about the working of the Board of Trade, was quite right in asking whether on this question of the withdrawal of more men from the mines I had adequately placed before the War Cabinet all the facts so that they might be able to come to a proper decision. All that I can say is that I gave them all the facts. I did my best to estimate what the consequences would be of the withdrawal from the mines of an additional number of men placed at 50,000, making 100,000 in all. I was made familiar with the military situation and the man-power position, and with what it would mean if this additional 50,000 men could be secured, and I take the fullest responsibility in agreeing with the decision of the War Cabinet that an additional 25,000 men should be withdrawn from the mines, making 75,000 in all—as the second 50,000 was reduced to 25,000. Then there was a further new fact developed. We have been congratulating ourselves upon the improved food supplies in this country, and we have been congratulating ourselves, quite rightly, upon a shipping situation vastly superior at this 512 moment to what was contemplated a year ago. And it is because to a certain extent the shipping situation has been improved, and because the food situation in this country has been improved, that a further demand is made upon the coal mines of this country. We are securing the use of a number of ships owned by neutral countries. In exchange for the use of those ships, among other things, we secure to those countries a certain supply of coal. That obviously places upon the coal mines of the United Kingdom a substantial burden beyond what was contemplated in the earlier part of the year.
It may be asked, Why, with the knowledge of all these facts, withdraw men from the mines? I can only say that the military situation was such that, with the knowledge that I had at the time, I am satisfied that there was no alternative. Those men had to be taken. A decision was taken in March on this matter. I believe now that it was absolutely correct. What we are faced with is this: Taking last year's figures as a basis for the purpose of comparison, the output of coal will show a diminution of roundly 22,500,000 tons. I believe that that is the exact figure given by the hon. Member for Islington. The demand, which involves an increase on the demands of last year from our Allies and from neutral countries, represent a further 13,000,000 tons, so that we are faced with a reduced output of 22,500,000 and an increased demand of 13,000,000 tons, making a total deficit of 35,500,000 tons as compared with last year. How is it proposed to meet this deficit, which of course is a very big thing? First of all we estimate that, owing to the improved shipping position, we shall be able to secure coal, from those areas which produce export coal, of something approaching 10,000,000 tons more than was produced last year. We had, when this programme was made out, two or three months ago, stored at the pits throughout the country roundly 4,000,000 tons. Reference has been made in the Debate to these huge piles of coal which have been stored in various parts of the country. That is the explanation. We know that the coal is there, and we propose using it. In addition to those 4,000,000 tons there were stocked at the consumers depots roundly 3,000,000 tons. Provision has been made for the return to the mines of a certain number of pre-war miners of low medical category, and it is anticipated that the output from 513 these men, together with the usual influx of young people, boys who come into the mines each year, will secure an additional 3,500,000 tons.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
Yes; who are being released from the Army because they have a low medical category. I think, roundly speaking, that there are 25,000. From these four different sources we expect to get roundly 20,500,000 tons of coal. That still leaves a deficit of 15,000,000 tons to be met, I propose to meet that additional deficit through the results of this Fuel Order, which will secure an estimated saving in household consumption, using the word "household" in the widest sense, of 8,000,000 tons, and we expect to secure a further saving on coal consumption of 7,000,000 tons through a system of rationing, by priority, of industries. That will mean that essential industries, industries which are engaged upon war work, work of national military importance, must be guaranteed an adequate supply of coal. But what might be described as the less essential industries, those not directly engaged upon war work, will come under a priority system which will secure a consumption of coal that will result in a saving roundly of 7,000,000 tons.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
It has been stated in the Press recently, in connection with the late dispute, that the bringing over of American troops to France has thrown a greater demand upon munition works in this country. Has that led to an increased demand for coal in that direction that has not been estimated for?
§ Sir A. STANLEY
I cannot give an answer upon that myself. It does not fall within my province. On this question of rationing industries the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme raised the question in a very acute form, with respect to the pottery industries. It so happens that it is one of the industries which are already engaging the attention of the Coal Controller, with a view to effecting some economy in the consumption of coal. I quite recognise that this is going to impose some hardship upon those who are engaged in this very important industry. The hon. and gallant Member suggested that, by reducing the supply of coal, we should adversely affect our 514 export trade in that particular industry. It is an exceedingly difficult problem. It would be wrong for me to indicate at this time that we can secure a sufficient amount of coal to make it unnecessary to impose any restrictions. The hon. and gallant Member suggested that possibly we could arrange to allow the coal that is produced in the area affected to remain in that area, or to have some priority of use arranged. I could not at this stage undertake to give any such pledge. There are essential industries which must be supplied with coal. I am hopeful—I do not desire to put it too high—that when the miners and the managers of the mines and the mine-owners themselves fully realise the gravity of the position—because it is a grave position. Food to-day seems secure. Coal in its importance almost seems to take priority over food. Therefore hon. Members will agree that it is a very great problem, and one which it will tax all our ingenuity and resources successfully to handle.
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
Who will decide the priority? The Ministry of Munitions, the Board of Trade, or the Coal Controller?
§ Sir A. STANLEY
Priority will be decided by a Committee composed of representatives of all the Departments of the Government who may be affected. That is the proposal, and it stands at the moment.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
I quite agree that we are venturing on a new and very serious matter. Therefore, because it is a serious question, because it is a problem that must be settled, I would suggest respectfully to hon. Members that their criticism should be directed towards helping us to solve this problem. I can assure hon. Members that we shall be only too glad to receive from everyone who may be affected by the situation any suggestion that will have for its object the securing of the least amount of discomfort and of hardship in the administration of this very serious problem. I do not want to be misunderstood in this matter. I realise fully the gravity of the whole of the circumstances, and, as I said before, I am hopeful that when the position is thoroughly understood and realised by everybody engaged in mining, by the managers of the mines, who know all the conditions, and by the mine-owners, there 515 will be an improvement of the output. By laying aside all personal considerations, all questions of personal profits, either now or prospective, I am confident, when all the conditions are realised, that an improved output is possible, and I believe that it will mean that the people will be secured against next winter. That would mean, I believe, that not only would the people of this country be secured against hardship next winter, but that there would be no unemployment arising out of lack of fuel. I hope that this will be realised by everyone, and if it is fully realised, I believe that this extra effort will be forthcoming. I dissociate myself from any finding fault with the work done by miners. They have worked hard, and the output per man of 247 tons in the first twenty-four weeks of this year is a very creditable performance, bearing in mind the physical condition of the men in question. Nevertheless, it does not take very much extra effort all round when you are dealing with some 450,000 men, which will be approximately the number whose efforts will be of value at the present time—it does not take very much extra effort, with the absence of voluntary absenteeism and a recognition of the national necessity, to secure an increased output of coal which will make the position next winter amply secured.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Can the right hon. Gentleman offer an inducement to the miners in Staffordshire to make an increased output by retaining the increased quantity of coal in the district where it is raised?
§ Sir A. STANLEY
I am glad my hon. Friend has raised that particular aspect of the problem, and I take it he has made the suggestion in response to my invitation for suggestions that may be thought helpful and beneficial under the circumstances. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has made that suggestion, and I shall give it my personal attention in order to see whether it is possible for some arrangement of this kind to be made. The suggestion is that if the men have made an extra effort, and everybody engaged in the industry do the same, then the increased quantities resulting from the extra effort shall go towards the benefit of the industries and the people of the locality. That might have a good, a very good, effect, and I will carefully 516 consider the suggestion and consult with my colleagues. Next comes the Fuel Order itself. Complaint has been made of the complexity of the Order and of the difficulty of understanding it. My right hon. Friend and several others who have spoken have made certain criticisms on the ground that the Order itself did not include particular points which would seem to be necessary to make it clear to the public. It is because of the very difficulties of the case, the question of rationing fuel being such a complex one, presenting so many different aspects, that the framing of an Order is so difficult. Large and bulky though it is, as it stands, it is not possible to include everything which might be put into an Order. I am myself responsible for suggesting that some part of the original draft should be thrown overboard so as to afford, at any rate, some opportunity of the public understanding it. If we are to rely upon the Order alone, I quite agree that we shall find great difficulty. But we do not rely on the Order alone. We rely upon the organisation which will be established to deal with the Order, an organisation which extends to every part of the country, representing each of the local authorities, and also depending upon the existence of the staffs employed in various public utility undertakings throughout the country. I am sure that the assistance which these experienced people will be able to give will be a real means of securing not only an understanding by the public of the Order, but also of ensuring that it will be properly administered. I include also those who are engaged in the trade, particularly the merchants, who have been so helpful at the present time.
There is a further point I should like to make in connection with the Order. It is not only an Order, but it is also an administrative measure, and that in itself adds very considerably to the difficulties in an Order of this kind. When we come to the question of rationing household fuel, the first thing we have to determine is the number of households and the kind of households that must be rationed. We turned to the 1911 Census to give us the necessary information. That Census shows that if the dwelling-houses in England and Wales—an Order will be issued in a day or two which will apply to Scotland on the same general terms—48 per cent. of them consist of buildings of under four rooms, and 32 per cent. of buildings of 517 under five and six rooms. So out of the total number, you have 80 per cent. of four to six rooms. Obviously, if we considered only the rationing of the larger houses, we should be dealing with only 20 per cent. of the whole, and it will be impossible to secure from the larger houses the saving of 8,000,000 tons per annum. We therefore think it necessary to ration upon a reduced basis practically all the dwelling houses in the United Kingdom of England and Wales, and the Order is also drafted to deal with all establishments other than those engaged in manufacture. It includes not only households but such institutions as my right hon. Friend referred to, I think the Liverpool Seamen's Orphan Institution. It includes institutions such as that, and it includes establishments other than those directly engaged in manufacture.
As this is rather an important part of the case, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether, even if it does include these institutions, it does not mean that they will come under the 15 cwt. scale, which would reduce some of those institutions, with a consumption equivalent to 500 tons per annum, to 250 tons per annum.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
I quite agree. It would be impossible in an Order to include every kind of establishment, and indicate to what extent they should be rationed. Obviously those larger institutions, schools, asylums, hospitals, nurses' homes, and so on, must be treated specially, and the Order makes provision for that. There is no definite scale established for them. They make an appeal to the local fuel assessor, and he establishes the rations based upon their actual needs. I can safely say, in so far as those particular institutions are concerned, that they will be able to secure a supply of coal which will protect them against any hardship. This is a Fuel Order. Clearly it would be impossible, if it is necessary to ration coal, to simply deal with coal as a fuel for household purposes, whether for lighting or cooking, and leave out of consideration other forms of fuel, such as gas and electricity, which for their production require coal; and this Order differs, and is perhaps a little more complicated on that account, than the Order which applied to the Metropolitan area last winter, inasmuch as it includes besides coal as a rationed fuel, also electricity and gas. The basis of this Order, 518 broadly speaking, is to secure a ton of coal for each room up to a maximum of twenty tons per annum, with certain exceptions which I will deal with later on. The Order also makes provision in respect of electricity and gas for lighting purposes, which I agree is very restrictive. It also makes provision, up to a point, for the substitution of gas, electricity, or coke for coal; but all sorts of fuel are rationed by this Order. First of all, the small households are entitled to a maximum of three tons per annum. These are very small households of two rooms. That works out at about 1 cwt. of coal per week for the summer months, and an additional allowance during the colder months of the year. That is for the southern part of the country. In the northern parts, being colder, they are entitled to a more liberal provision, but here again it might be suggested that in relation to actual needs the word "liberal" is hardly appropriate. For a three-roomed house we allow 3 tons 10 cwts.; for a four-roomed house, 4 tons; and for a five-roomed house, 4 tons 10 cwts. In so far as this particular class of dwelling-house is concerned—dwelling-houses up to five rooms—so far as we have been able to ascertain, the ration which is allowed will not impose any hardship upon the user. As regards the two or three-roomed houses, it imposes no hardship whatever. It is the same amount of coal as they have always been accustomed to buy. It is the amount they secured before the War. As regards dwelling-houses up to five rooms, all that we have done is to reduce their consumption by about 10 per cent., and I do suggest that a reduced consumption of 10 per cent., throughout the year, cannot possibly be considered as inflicting any hardship.
§ Captain CARR-GOMM
How will the Controller deal with short tenancies? Take the case of a man who occupies a flat or a dwelling in a block of buildings, and who exceeds the ration, how would the incoming tenant be met in that case?
§ Sir A. STANLEY
If I may, I will try to deal with that obviously very difficult point a little bit later on. In houses from six up to twenty-one rooms there is an 519 additional 1 ton of coal allowed up to a maximum of 20 tons. There is an exception to this scale which the householder is entitled to claim, and an allowance that will be made, if the fact is stated in the form of application which each householder is required to fill in, and that exception is that where the regular residents of a household exceed six and where the number of rooms does not exceed twelve, one extra ton of coal is allowed. There are other exceptions. The Order makes provision for the establishment in each locality of a local fuel overseer and for the establishment of a representative committee by the local authority. This Regulation applies throughout the Kingdom, with the exception of the Metropolitan area. Provision is made for an appeal on any point from the committee or the local fuel overseer to the Coal Controller. The difference between London and the outside areas is that in London the appeal goes direct to the Coal Controller without passing through the fuel overseer or the local committee. The object of establishing these fuel overseers and these committees is to provide for exceptional cases. Clearly, in a rationing scheme of this kind there must be exceptions which, unless they were dealt with, would really involve serious hardship upon the occupier. I will not attempt to describe all the exceptions that may be raised. For instance, it might be that the location of a house was an exposed location, more exposed to the weather than the average house, in a country district, or in a high altitude, where clearly more coal than this Order provides is necessary. In those cases—and there will be cases of that kind—the occupier has the right of an appeal to the local fuel overseer, and that person is authorised to make an additional allowance of coal so as to avoid any hardship.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
Certainly. There would be instances where a house might have some very large rooms, rooms beyond the average size, and there again the fuel overseer is authorised to allow exceptions and to increase the amount of coal provided for by this scale.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
Is there a definite exception where the rooms are more than 4,000 feet of cubic capacity? It has been stated very often in the Press that where 520 a room has more than 4,000 feet of cubic capacity an extra ton of coal will be allowed. I have read the Order through with great diligence, but I cannot find anything about it there.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
This exception and many others are not included in the Order for the reason that it would be too voluminous, but the fuel overseer has this authority, and the hon. and learned Member is right in saying that where a room is more than 4,000 feet in cubic capacity an additional ton of coal is allowed. I do not want to be understood as giving any absolutely definite rule with respect to these exceptions. The local fuel overseer has wide powers. There is the appeal to the Coal Controller, and the exceptional cases which would involve hardship, unless they were dealt with, are provided for under the Fuel Order. The hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Smallwood) appeared to be very apprehensive, not of the present position, because he quite correctly said that in London the stocks of coal are to-day better than they were a year ago, but throughout the country that is not the case. There are parts of the country where the stocks are less than they were a year ago. But the hon. Member was not so apprehensive of the present position as he was in regard to next winter, when the cold weather comes. The object of this Fuel Order is to secure to everybody affected by it at least the amount of coal that the Order provides. The object of a system of rationing is to secure a fair distribution of coal, and so far as I can possibly foresee there is no reason for assuming that, at least, this amount of coal will not be secured to everybody affected by the Order. I think that we could say this, that if the position does alter so that the output is improved, and we have an additional amount of coal to distribute beyond what is contemplated to-day, I think that we could say that that additional amount of coal will be used in meeting these cases of hardship, because there is a class of house included in this Order where it is going to be very difficult for the people to get on. That I quite recognise, and I think that we can say now that if we can secure additional coal in any way, that coal should go, in the first instance, aside from industrial purposes, towards relieving those instances where the imposition of this Order really does, I will not say impose a hard-ship, but where it certainly cannot be 521 looked upon as being a particularly happy position for those affected by the cold weather.
That is the position we are confronted with. We have so much coal to distribute, and we have no more. It undoubtedly does mean that those affected by the Order cannot hope to have, and will not have, anything like the same degree of comfort that they enjoyed prior to the War. Nevertheless, I cannot agree myself that it is going to impose any real hardship upon anybody. The Order makes provision for dealing with those cases where hardship can be shown, whether from sickness or whatever it might be, and I think we can safely assume that we shall go through the winter successfully, unless something new develops. I think it will be of interest to the hon. Members if they could know something about the conditions existing in the other belligerent countries. I think one could say with safety that no other belligerent country is so well off as this country, certainly in so far as the ordinary comforts of life are concerned. Whatever the correct expression may be, whether you say starving yourself or freezing yourself because you have not sufficient coal, in so far as that is concerned we in this country are better off than anybody else.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
No; including America. The estimated demands for coal in the United States for the next year show an increased demand of 85,000,000 tens. It is within the recollection of all hon. Members that there was a period in the United States last winter, and a very cold time, too, when there was a very serious shortage of coal indeed, and the United States is looking very gravely forward to their coal situation for next winter I have looked into the rationing system for Germany, and it is nothing like so liberal, and in a very much colder country. In France the latest Order makes provision for 1 ton 8 cwts. of coal for a family of five, for the year, for everything—for cooking, and for heating.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
Yes. We have nothing approaching to that, and it must be borne in mind that while we are depriving ourselves here, while we are not securing to ourselves anything like the comfort we had before the War, we are, 522 on the other hand, making some contribution towards the actual existence of our friends in France and Italy. Therefore that must be borne in mind, that the coal that is leaving this country and going to France and Italy is not being used waste-fully, but is being used only in order that those people may maintain an existence., There is only one other point I would like to mention, and that is with respect to wood. Wood is a substituted fuel, and there will be many opportunities, particularly in the country districts, where people can obtain a stock of wood, which they will find very helpful to them during the winter months. I am told by the Timber Controller that, as a result of the activities of the men employed in his Department and the Canadian Forestry Corps, there is a considerable amount of loose wood which can be collected and which will be very helpful in tiding over the next winter. That is the position. I have tried as best I can to give an explanation of the coal situation, also of the Order under discussion, and I have no hesitancy in saying that if this problem, grave as it is, is approached in the right spirit, as I am sure it will be, by everyone, with a desire to assist us in carrying this very heavy burden; if the public, knowing that these restrictions are vitally necessary, I am quite certain, as hon. Members have said during the Debate, the public will accept these restrictions willingly, and will join with us in making them a success.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
There was one very important topic which has escaped the notice of my right hon. Friend, although he promised to deal with it—I am quite prepared to give way if he will deal with it now—and that is a comparison of this year's ration with last year's ration. Of course, I can only deal with it in a very imperfect way, but I think I may base my comparison on facts within my own knowledge. That is, perhaps, the simplest thing to do, and then, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman will, by leave of the House, make any comment he likes upon that after I have finished. Surely it is a very important thing to consider how much the ration of last year has been reduced, and that is a point which my right hon. Friend passed over very lightly. It is also a very important point in relation to the absence of notice to the public, because, as I understand it, the 523 ration as compared with last year's ration is enormously reduced. Let me give my right hon. Friend a case within my own knowledge. About eighteen months ago the Government strongly urged consumers to economise coal by putting in gas and electric stoves. For my own part, I put in three or four gas stoves and three or four electric stoves, and when I was asked how I economised coal, I pointed with pride to these stoves. Now I cannot use any of these stoves. Not one of them can be lighted in the coming winter. I shall have to put in coal stoves again.
Just look at the position. I take my own case. My coal ration is about one-half—that is approximately a fair statement—but my ration of electric light is diminished to something like one-fifth. I am able to get at this figure for this reason, that when last year's ration, which reduced the consumption by one-sixth, came into force, I got an official estimate of what I had consumed in each quarter of the year. The total of electricity which I was allowed to consume for lighting and for heating was about 2,300 units. My total ration of electric light for the coming winter is 480 units, or very little more than one-fifth. That is not all. I was also last year allowed to consume gas, but now the total amount of gas that I can consume is less than the amount of the gas I actually have consumed in the last three summer months, so that the gas allowance, I think it is an understatement to say, is something like one-fifth of my previous gas consumption. But that is not all. I cannot consume both gas and electricity. I must make up my mind which I will have. Consequently, as this calculation shows—my right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—while my consumption of coal is reduced by one-half, my consumption of gas and electicity is reduced to one-tenth of what I was allowed on the reduced rations of last year. That is not a thing to pass over so lightly as my right hon. Friend passed it over; in fact, he hardly mentioned it. He admitted there was a slight hardship, but he did not admit any more. The Government should remember that they exhorted people in London to put in gas and electric stoves, and should consider really whether they are dealing fairly by them in allowing them for the largest size house only 480 units of electricity as an alternative, and not in addition to gas.
524 There is a very much more serious thing than that. The right hon. Gentleman told us he admitted that these Orders were very, very difficult. I found very great difficulty in getting this Order. Here is a matter of very intimate interest-to the public, and you cannot get this Order, so far as I know, in the Vote Office to this day. I made several attempts. I wrote to the Board of Trade, and I received an Order of 39 pages, and thought I had got the complete business, but I found to-day there is another Order of, 96 pages which I have not been able to obtain. But we are told by the right hon. Gentleman that this Order is so difficult-that he is going to set up an organisation that has not yet come into being, but will come into being some day, to enable the public to understand the Order. But the Order came into force on 1st July last. It is admitted by the right hon. Gentleman that he cannot expect the public to understand it. An hon. Member in this House, who has had forty years' experience of the coal trade, said the coal merchants would never understand it. How is a poor woman who has to manage the affairs of a household in London to understand it? Then we are going to have fuel overseers, to be set up by local authorities. They have not been set up-yet, and the unhappy public has been consuming coal, gas, and electricity, in ignorance of the fact that they are liable to six months' imprisonment, and a fine, I think, of £100, if they offend against this Order.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury put a very important point to the President of the Board of Trade which he has not answered. He asked what is to become of those unhappy people who, in complete ignorance, have consumed their fuel and light if by Christmas time they find they have neither light nor fuel. The right hon. Gentleman did not reply to that. Really, to draft an Order on 28th June, to make it come into force on 1st July, and then to tell us it will be explained by organisations which have not begun to come into existence by the end of July, is like a chapter in "Alice in Wonderland." It is not the thing one would expect from any sane Government Department. Then the right hon. Gentleman has been asked the very reasonable question whether, under these circumstances, you should not give some proper-warning to the public, which is to be treated in such a drastic manner? But he 525 does not respond to that invitation, and we are now left in the extraordinary position that we must look for an explanation after we have committed the offence. Really, does my right hon. Friend think that this is a practicable Order, and that he can expect people to put up with this amount of light and heat? A great many people are dependent upon gas as a heating arrangement. If you look at these figures, can you say that the supply is anything like adequate? This is a very serious matter, because it affects the efficiency and the health of the public. Men cannot remain in health, children cannot be brought up in health, unless there is a sufficiency of heat.
I am afraid this is one of the examples of the fact that the Government does not show a sufficient sense of balance and proportion in considering these vital necessities of the nation, and that when military events take place they entirely lose their heads, and, in a panic, withdraw men whose work at home is as necessary to keep up the power of the nation to continue the War as any other force engaged in the War. This is a tragic prospect for London. I do not think my right hon. Friend realises how serious the prospect is. It is a dangerous prospect for London, as some of my hon. Friends have said, and though my right hon. Friend was very conciliatory in his way of putting things, I noticed, behind his conciliatory manner, there was no concession whatever from first to last in his speech. Obviously he is in the wrong with regard to the notice, yet he offered no concession as to the postponement of the date. He, obviously, has a scale drawn up which is too drastic. He made no attempt to defend it. All he said was that in exceptional cases the Fuel Controller, the Fuel Overseer, or the Committee, will be able to put the matter right. My point, however, is that it is not the exceptional cases of hardship, but it is the ordinary cases which will be a case of hardship, and not only hardship, but a case which it is impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to justify, and in regard to which I do not believe he will ever be able, in face of public opinion, to exact the penalties which he proposes.
§ Mr. WING
The value, I take it, of the discussion this afternoon will be the effect it will have on the country in calling its attention to the necessities of meeting what is becoming a very dangerous situation, and I fully agree 526 with the President of the Board of Trade that, in a crisis like this, the House must be helpful, as far as it possibly can be, in sustaining the country in passing through an ordeal which no amount of argument can alter. We may talk in this House for a week, but it will not produce a ton of coal. And really the difficulty with which the country is faced is, What is the best way of distributing such coal as we can produce, and such as we can lay our hands upon? At a time like this everybody is trying to find a scapegoat—somebody ought to have done this or somebody ought to have done the other. The question is that we are really at war, and certain conditions have been brought about which were not foreseen by anyone, and which must be faced in the best possible way we can. There is one thing for which I want to thank the right hon. Gentle-man, and that is that he has to some extent to-night justified the position taken up by those who know the coal-miner. In this House, even as late as last Monday, there were questions to the right hon. Gentleman with a view to showing that the miner was a slacker in a time of great emergency. The inference of those questions was that if he worked harder there would be greater results. I want to thank the right hon. Gentleman for those figures which he has given us showing that the exertion of the miner has not lessened, but that by the action of this House the quality of the miner has been reduced. We have taken the strong, the virile, and the young from the mines. That doctrine of substitution in which some Members of this House put so much faith—the doctrine of "Let somebody else do it"—does not act in the matter of mining no more than in a shipyard or any other place. Coal mining is a technical business requiring experience, knowledge, strength, and youth; and just as we have taken away the young and experienced miners we have correspondingly reduced the output. If I may make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman it would be that some of these men should be brought back and that, if possible, we might increase the number of miners in order that we might increase the output of coal. After all the statement made by the Member for Islington this afternoon, which was based upon large experience, a shortage of coal might lead to disastrous results. Perhaps it would be possible, seeing that the right hon. 527 Gentleman has been able to prevent 25,000 men, being taken, as previously arranged, to have an additional return of another 25,000 men. This would have beneficial results. Just as you took away these men at a time of apparent disaster on the Western front so the increasing advantage which appears to prevail on the Western front might be taken to release some of the men—at least, those who are at home. Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would be possible to increase the number of miners in order that we might increase the amount of output.
I do not wish to place myself by the side of those who want to point out what might have been done and what should have been done, because it is rather late in the day to speak of things when they have been accomplished. Rather I put myself on the side of those whom the right hon. Gentleman has described as being helpful Members of the House in doing their best to enthuse the miner. If there is one thing from what has been said this afternoon which is of advantage, it is that he will leave it largely to the conscience of the miner, the proprietor, and the merchant, and I hope these words—solemn words, I think—will be taken heed of by those interested in the coal trade throughout the country, and that they will begin to think among themselves how best they can increase the output of coal in the coming winter. I believe the confidence reposed in them by the right hon. Gentleman in his remarks will not go unheeded, but will be responded to by those who are anxious to do their best in these times of stress. I would therefore say, in reference to the remarks which have been made, that the miner is not a slacker when he is at work, and in war he is not a shirker. But you cannot have him in two jobs at the same time. You cannot have him as a soldier, and at the same time have him as a miner. He has done well in both positions. You have taken every third pitman that we had, and that must make a difference in the output. I hope the right hon. Gentle-man's optimistic views of the country rising to the situation will be realised, and also his remarks about those interested in coal mining trying to increase the output during this time of danger.
§ Mr. NUTTALL
There is one point which has not been raised in this Debate 528 to which the President of the Board of Trade might give his attention, that is, the amount of gas allowed in comparison with coal. I understand that the figure is 15,000 feet of gas for one ton of coal. I am informed by a managing director of a gas company that the quantity of gas produced from one ton of coal is 14,000 feet, but there is a residue left of fuel which is equal to another 14,000 feet, and therefore the correct quantity of gas that would be allowed to the consumer against one ton of coal is 28,000 feet. This should be considered not only as a matter of equity, but for another reason, and that is, to encourage gas companies to produce various chemical substances for the manufacture of explosives. So it would serve two purposes if the quantity of gas allowed per ton of coal is increased. It would give a more equitable quantity, it would be more just to the consumer, and would also help forward the production of explosives. There is another difficulty which a colleague of mine has mentioned, to which the answer I suppose would be, "You must read your meter." But he says, "You may find yourself in trouble with the meter, and what is to be done about? Is the overseer going to cut you off?"—as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. McKinnon Wood) stated. You may be in trouble before you know what has happened, especially as these arrangements were rushed upon you in five minutes' notice. Another point which has been brought before my notice is that consumption of coal for domestic purposes is relatively small, and therefore on that ground a larger quantity might be allowed than has at present been fixed upon. More especially in regard to the point as regards the relative value of a ton of coal as against the quantity of gas, I think the President might, if it has not been previously brought to his notice, give consideration.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
One of the things I want to say has already been touched upon by the last speaker. Speaking, not as one who complains at all about this Order being too drastic, I am perfectly certain that under this Order we shall be a good deal more comfortable in this country than some of our friends are in France. I do not mind a bit what the Order is if the President thinks it is necessary, and, in my view, it is better to cut it down low and then raise it than make 529 a mistake at the beginning. He must remember that he encouraged some of us last year to make certain alterations in our houses, and if what the last speaker said is right—and that is my opinion, too—we have to resent being looked upon as patriotic citizens one year, and as gas-hogs the next. So far as I am concerned, the people who have large houses and are not prepared to shut down three- fourths in war time do not deserve sympathy at all, but on the relative value of fuels I think we do deserve some consideration. I do not think people in this House deserve any sympathy if they did not promptly regulate their consumption directly they read their Order in the beginning of July. On this question of gas we know you have considerable difficulty. Take my own consumption last year. We were encouraged to use gas instead of coal, and to a great extent I did so. I can only say that my consumption of gas in the year worked out on the basis of 15,000 cubic feet of gas to the ton, and that would mean that I would have consumed last year, on the new basis, twice as much as I should have consumed. I consulted experts, and they told me that this relation of 15,000 cubic feet to a ton of coal was all wrong. The gas arrangement many of us put into our houses, and if he insists on that relation he has at once to cut off. I do not think that would be any advantage. I can do with considerably less tons of coal than those allotted to the room space of my house, if the right hon. Gentleman will be a little more liberal in the allowance of electricity and gas. That will be considerably better for me as one who has reorganised one's house on the basis suggested, and it will be considerably more convenient. As regards the lighting, the right hon. Gentle-man, I suppose, is really going to cut down the consumption of lighting in the households of London by about three-quarters in houses of moderate size, or big houses. I do not complain of that if it is necessary, but I do wish he would tell us whether the information that my hon. Friend who spoke last gave—and I myself have received exactly the same information—is accurate; and whether he could not assist us by putting up the 15,000 or 25,000. That will very largely conduce to the satisfaction of those who patriotically did immediately what we were asked to do a year ago. That is the 530 only thing I complain of about the Order. I hope it may turn out that he can give us a little more gas later.
§ Mr. BRUNNER
There is one question that, I think, ought to be answered. Are wood and peat entirely outside the ration?
§ Sir A. STANLEY was understood to nod affirmatively.
§ Mr. BRUNNER
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentle-man. He did not mention peat at all. There are two points I want to mention. I have been told over and over again that the miners will not work beyond the point at which they are affected by the Income Tax. I should like to know whether that is a fact, and if it is, whether the right hon. Gentleman can see the Chancellor of the Exchequer and get over it, so that the men may feel free to exert themselves to the best of their ability. The other point is: I have been informed that some of the coal-owners—I hope not many—are not working their best coal. They can get as good a price now for any rubbish they turn out as for their beat seams, so that they are putting all their energies at the moment to get out very bad coal, leaving the good coal for a more favourable time. I know perfectly well, in my own experience, that the quality of coal has gone down enormously. As a manufacturer I have had coal which had been no less than 30 per cent. of dirt. That was absolutely unheard of before the War. It means that hewers hew 70 per cent. of coal and 30 per cent. of matter which cannot be burnt. That means the leading up of our railways and causes an extreme amount of traffic. If we could get some system whereby the quality of the coal got out could be improved it would go a very long way to ensure that the coal shortage at home would be diminished. These are the two points to which I should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentle-man. I trust he will deal with them when he replies later.
§ Captain CARR-GOMM
I have sat through the whole of this Debate, and I realise that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade is up against a very serious situation. I can assure him that, as a London Member, I am wishful to do everything I can to assist him to carry out the Order which has been laid down to meet the situation. I would remind the House that London Members last year did meet together, and met the Coal Controller, and did their 531 very best to make the Order as workable as possible. No doubt they will do the same again. There is no doubt, however, that this Order, which deals with light, needs more light upon it. The trouble is due partly, perhaps very largely, to the fact that the people do not really understand what is before them. I think it has before been pointed out that you cannot get copies of the Order so as to read and comprehend it, and when we do get it it is difficult to understand. The printing trade, we are told, is responsible for the shortage of copies. Even if you got out the Order in clearer form, it would really require still further and clearer explanation. Points were raised by my right hon. Friend for one of the divisions of St. Pancras, and also by one of the Members for Islington—the latter in a very able speech—in regard to London consumers. These points do not seem to me to have been met. It appears to me that the local controllers in London will have to deal very carefully with the consumers in London. One question that the hon. Member for Islington raised was in connection with those who buy their weekly coal from the trolleys—how much is to be allowed for them? There is also the very important question of the checking of the meters. Some of these flats are rationed for gas, and some of them have tenants now that have the slot meters. As one of the tenants of a building of this character said to me a short time ago, what is to prevent the present tenants from exhausting pretty well the whole supply of their gas for the year during the summer months?
Those who manage these buildings do not appreciate the situation. I was talking to one of these caretakers who bring up the coal and distribute it amongst the tenants. I asked him what he was doing now that we had had nearly a month under the new Order. He knew nothing at all about the Order. He said he had never seen it, not even in the newspapers, and he had no information about it. The result was that the present tenants in this particular building were going on perfectly cheerfully with not the least regard for the future. Some of these tenants will be leaving their tenancies, because in London people move about very considerably owing to the conditions of their work and other reasons. They may only occupy flats and buildings for a comparatively short time. In London cases like this 532 must be very, very carefully handled. If there is a margin—and it seems to me a problematical margin from what the right hon. Gentleman said—it will have to be dealt with in these cases.
What I want to point out to the right hon. Gentleman is the great misunderstanding and ignorance of the situation which at present exists. For example, people do not know, and it does not seem to have been very clearly stated by those concerned, whether people register as individual consumers or whether the tenement block in which they live is registered. If you are going to register as an individual, of course, that will be much better, because then you will not be able, whether you occupy your tenancy for a long or a short time, to exceed your rightful allowance. If the house, or the tenement, or the number of rooms, is registered, and the coal arranged for the year, in cases there is bound to be difficulty. Therefore, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to see that in London—and, no doubt, in other parts, too—but especially in London more information is given than we have at the present time, and whether or not there are special arrangements to be made to check these various sources of fuel and light so that the people may know how, and in what way, and to what extent they are expending fuel and light. At the present moment they cannot tell whether they are using their proper allowance or exceeding it. If these things are done, I feel sure it will work better. People in London and elsewhere have behaved most patriotically in supporting the Government and in interpreting every one of these Orders in the best possible spirit, and they have co-operated loyally in the work that has been done. We must remember, however, that the moral of the people at home is just as important as it is with our forces in France and elsewhere, but you cannot expect that moral to be good unless the people know exactly what Orders you are giving. It is useless to issue Orders of this kind and expect individual consumers to carry them out at such very short notice, more especially when very few copies are printed and the newspapers give very little information on the subject. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will take special care with regard to London, because London questions want very careful handling.
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
I should like to say a word on the Question before us, which has been so thoroughly well treated by all the previous speakers; and if the President of the Board of Trade will allow me to say so, I think he has given a great deal of consideration to the whole matter. I think the House is quite prepared to accept what he says. I would like, however, to ask, Who is to blame for the serious situation which the right hon. Gentleman has described? It is all very good and interesting, and very desirable, to tell the House that we must now fall back upon a system of rationing coal, although coals and our sources of light are rationed now, and that we must be prepared to assist the Government in every way we can. We are always ready to assist the Government. During the four years of the War this House has never refused to vote money or men or assistance asked for by any Government Department, but to-day we are told that we are going to be short of coal, and that is something quite new.
The reasons the right hon. Gentleman gave are no doubt quite excellent. He spoke of the amount of coal sent abroad, the necessity of calling more men from the mines, and various matters of that kind. I would like to ask a plain question to which I hope the House will demand an answer. I do not mean that we want unnecessarily to press the right hon. Gentleman further than may be desirable, but what have the Government done to avoid this difficulty? I know when I ask that question that there will be no Minister to reply to it. The President of the Board of Trade has done everything he can and we accept what he says, but where is there anyone to speak for the previous action of the Government, and to tell us how it comes about that in the middle of the summer in the fourth year of the War we are short of coal. I am going to give one fact and the House may form its own opinion as to what the Government has done. The Government have controlled and taken over a great number of trades in the country, and I have no hesitation in saying that they have taken over only one trade in a satisfactory manner and that is the railways of the United Kingdom.
Everybody remembers that early in the War one of the first acts of the Government in the matter of controlling or taking over any trade or business in the country was to take over the railways of the United Kingdom. Why has that been a 534 success? Because they took care to take over the managers at the same time as the railways, and the result is that the management of the railways went on in the hands of the very best managers that the United Kingdom could produce. Now I defy anyone to say that the railways have not been magnificently managed through a very difficult period with reduced staffs, increased traffic, and every difficulty to confront them. Now in what other trade which the Government have controlled have they taken over the managers of that trade? None Fortunately, we have many hon. Members who are business men, but I defy any of them to deny that the one secret of success in business is management. I regretted to hear that among many proposals which the right hon. Gentleman made one was the establishment of local committees to look after the consumption of coal and all the difficulties arising in regard to that matter. That may be necessary, but the only thing I see as issuing from that proposal is that a large number of men will be employed on large salaries all over the country, and we have had that kind of thing until we are sick of it. What we want is a little business management put into affairs by the Government themselves in the control of the various trades. When I speak of employing a number of men what is the good of the Government employing anybody if they do not employ the right men. I dare say many hon. Members are acquainted with the maxim of one of the biggest men the world has ever produced, the Emperor Napoleon, and one of his maxims is, and it is as true to-day as it was in his day and perhaps even more so, "Men are nothing; a man is everything." The Government have been at it for four years, and surely by now they ought to have got a masterpiece in every Department. They should have got a man who knows his business in every Department. They did get one. They got the late Lord Rhondda, and we all bitterly regret that he has passed away. Lord Pirrie was employed the other day in the shipyards, and I believe that he is a success in every way. Why cannot the same be done in every other Department?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I think this is too general. At present we are discussing coal only.
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
I am extremely sorry if I have transgressed, and I will 535 confine myself entirely to coal. I earnestly beg the Government, instead of playing with the question and appointing local committees, to employ one or two first-rate men as coal controllers and as managers of the collieries of the United Kingdom. How are you going to deal with the shortage if you do not increase the supply? I do beg the right hon. Gentleman at an early date to show by his action that he intends getting the right man in the right place to control the collieries and to superintend the coal supply. Until he does that, the present state of things will continue. I do hope that he will put an end to a condition of things which one can hardly understand in a free country like this, and that we and the poor may be assured that determined steps are going to be taken to give the subjects of this country that which they absolutely require, and that the coal supply will be attended to on new and improved lines, remembering that it is not only local supplies that have got to be dealt with, but also supplies for the works and industries of the whole country.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
I was reminded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for one of the Divisions of Glasgow (Mr. McKinnon Wood) that I had failed to give answers to one or two important questions which had been raised, and, if I may have the permission of the House, I will reply to those questions now and also to those points of substance which have been raised since I made what I fear was a rather lengthy speech. Two questions were asked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for one of the Divisions of Glasgow. He asked, What is the difference between last year's rations and the proposed rations for this year? I take it that his inquiry referred to the difference between the ration proposed by the Fuel Order and the ration that was in effect in the Metropolitan area last year. First of all, one has to bear in mind that the present Order is distinguished from that of last year in that it brings into the Order not only coal, but also electricity and gas, not merely for heating and cooking, but for lighting as well. Therefore, inasmuch as those resident in the Metropolitan area had the opportunity last winter of an alternative source of fuel, which is to be denied them under this present Order, it is not possible to make an exact comparison. But in so far 536 as it can be estimated it is thought that the present Order will mean, broadly speaking, that the amount of fuel that will be available next winter as compared with that of last winter will be about 25 per cent. less. There will be instances where it will be less and there will be instances where it will be more, but on the average it will be about the figure which I have given. The question about postponing the date of the Order was also raised, and the request was made because of the delay in publishing the Order and getting it into the hands of the public and those engaged in the coal industry.
I regret that it is not possible to give favourable consideration to that request for two reasons. Perhaps it has not been called to the attention of the right hon. Gentle-man, but the date when the Order really takes effect is forty-two days from 1st July, which is 11th August. The Order, therefore, is not retrospective, as is suggested, but it actually takes effect as from 11th August. There is another reason. It would be unfortunate that there should be any delay in putting the Order into effect. It is very necessary that the public should know just the amount of fuel which they are allowed for next winter, so that in purchasing and storing at this time, of which I hope full advantage will be taken, they will know the amount that they are entitled to receive. The hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Manchester and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Hemmerde) raised a question about the gas allowance and the amount of gas allowed in substitution for a ton of coal. It was suggested that we should increase the amount of gas allowed in substitution for coal, and the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk in particular urged that the Government not so very long ago encouraged the installation of gas and electrical equipment and the increased use of gas, so that by-products from gasworks might be obtained. There was an urgent need, an imperative need, at that time for those by-products and the public were encouraged to make those installations. I have no doubt that a number of people took advantage of the suggestion, and now that it has been done they find themselves deprived of the right to make full use of the equipment. I can only express regret that it should be so. It is due entirely to altered conditions. It would be impossible, even if we had the coal, in 537 all instances to allow a considerably increased use of gas beyond that provided in the Order, owing to the withdrawal of so many ships which were transporting coal to London and to other Southern ports for services elsewhere, and to the fact that in a large number of instances the large public futility undertakings are not so situated that they are convenient of access for railway transit, and it is with the greatest difficulty that we are able to provide them with the necessary amount of coal even under the restricted arrangements. As I said before, I exceedingly regret that, having encouraged the public to undertake one thing, we find it necessary, later on, to ask them to make other arrangements. Whatever our wishes might be, it is impossible for us to give full effect to the suggestion which has been made. I think I might perhaps do this: that is, to suggest to the hon. Member that he should wait until we have had a little experience of this Order and accept an assurance from me that, if it is at all possible to be more generous in making provision for the substitution of either gas or electricity for coal, if conditions will at all permit of it, we shall be very glad to meet his suggestion.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he would prefer us in the meanwhile to confine ourselves to coal or to use gas, because apparently it is difficult to provide the gas?
§ Sir A. STANLEY
The Order makes provision for the use of a certain amount of coal, and also provides, within limits, for the substitution of either gas or electricity. I think it will be better, on the whole, if for a time, until we have had more experience of the operation of the Order, the public confine their demands to the provisions of the Order. The hon. Member for the Northwich Division (Mr. Brunner) raised a question about the working of the mines by the mine owners. He said he understood there were instances where the mines were not being worked in the best interests of the State, but rather with a view to securing some ultimate gain to the owners when the control had ceased. I cannot believe that anybody in these circumstances would be guilty of such a practice. It is inconceivable that anybody knowing the extreme gravity of the position would be guilty of any conduct which would have the effect of deliberately reducing the output—
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
—or making the mine inefficient or affecting the quality of the output, with the object of securing some gain later on. I cannot believe that anybody would be guilty of that practice. If they are they are entitled to the most severe punishment. The hon. and gallant Member for the Rotherhithe Division of Southwark (Captain Carr-Gomm) raised one or two rather technical but very important points in connection with the Order. I was particularly impressed with what he said about the operation of the Order in London last winter. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking him and the other hon. Members who have so very kindly expressed their willingness to give every assistance to the Board of Trade in the operation of this new Order. The hon. and gallant Member did say, if I remember rightly, that prior to the operation of the Order last winter in London some of the London Members met the Coal Controller and had a talk with him, and cleared up many outstanding points. I should like to apologise for my remissness in not making reference to the London Members as being among those who had been so very helpful to us last winter in carrying out the Rationing Order. I remember quite well, and I have often had my attention called to it, how very helpful the London Members were during the winter. For the successful working of the Order and the very happy way in which it was accepted by the public, the London Members are very largely responsible. It occurs to me, inasmuch as this new Order is more complicated than the last Order and will probably raise more questions for discussion and understanding than the previous one, that it would be of great advantage if I asked the London Members to meet the Coal Controller at an early date, so that they might have a more free and informal discussion of the points which would be of particular interest to Lon don, being, as it is, an enormous area to be dealt with. I should be delighted to arrange for a meeting with the Coal Controller and his assistants, if necessary, so that any points hon. Members would desire to discuss with him could be put at that time, and all the outstanding points cleared away. Of course, that invitation extends to other hon. Members who would 539 desire to meet with him for a discussion of these points of detail. If the hon. and gallant Member will accept the invitation and excuse me now from giving any detailed reply to these questions, I shall be very much obliged. There is only one other question I recall to which I have not given an answer. That was the question raised by the hon. Member for the Mansfield Division (Sir C. Seely), who, when I was giving figures for the output of coal for several years, asked what percentage of the total output was used for export. I have since been able to obtain that figure, and I find that of the total output of coal, roundly speaking, 20 per cent. is used for export.
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
Would the right hon. Gentleman kindly answer the question which I put to him perfectly clearly: Is the Government going to increase the output, because that is the one solution of the difficulty? I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to be able to answer now, but if he will kindly—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to make another speech. The point of production was dealt with in the first speech of the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. GILBERT
Speaking as a London Member, may I at once, on behalf of the London Members who act with me, say that we shall be very delighted to accept the invitation of the President of the Board of Trade to have a conference with him and the Coal Controller on the particular points in this Order which affect London. I have vivid recollections of our conference with him some months ago, when we discussed the points on the old Coal Order, and I know the generous and open way in which he treated us. I am glad he has been able to testify to-night that London Members of all shades of opinion helped him considerably in carrying out the previous Order. His offer rather stops some of the criticism I was going to make as a London Member on this Order. I would, however, put one point to him in connection with the delay in publishing the Order. It must have a very 540 bad effect as regards the delivery of coal in London. He must know that the effect of delaying the publication of the Order was that the coal consumers and the coal dealers have not been able to know what the Order is. That has produced the effect that a good many of the coal dealers in London have practically done nothing since 1st July. They were afraid to act, because they did not really know what the new Order meant. The effect of that has been in a great many parts of London that practically no coal has been delivered, at any rate in large quantities, since 1st July, because the coal merchants did not know how this new Order affected them, and that is very unfortunate from the London point of view. The right hon. Gentleman admitted, when we had a conference with him, that the London coal merchants have always been most helpful in carrying out any Regulation made by the Board of Trade. Therefore, it is rather unfortunate—I will not put it any higher than that—that the Board of Trade has not got this Order out earlier and allowed the London coal merchants time to understand it so that they might have commenced delivering coal in July.
My criticism of the Order is this. I know the position of my own knowledge, and I quite admit that the difficulty of transport and the shortage of coal is great. In carrying out the right hon. Gentle-man's previous Orders, and I think I might add the Food Control Orders in London, the public has been loyal and helpful all round. I think the Board of Trade and the Coal Controller have made a very great mistake in issuing this very long Order as regards the coal supply in the coming winter. It has thirty nine pages with 130 rules, some of which have sub-sections from (a) to (h). I hare read them very carefully, and it is most awfully difficult for anyone to understand what they mean. Then we are told there is still another document of something like ninety-six pages which has to be read in order to understand this Order properly. I quite admit that this is wartime, and we cannot carry on like we did in normal times, but I believe if you appeal to the public and ask for their help in critical times you will get the help of the great majority, and I do not believe it was necessary to publish an Order with 130 rules which no one can really understand, and the thing might have been done on a very much simpler 541 plan. It seems to me that we are getting Prussianised rules as regards Orders and Regulations in excelsis. Even in this Order there is no finality, because I read in it in Clause 51—In this connection, such additional checks upon the sale or distribution of coal or coke in small quantities, being one cwt. or less at one time, including a system of coupons, may be introduced as the Controller may, at the request of the local fuel and lighting committee, determine.If that is in the mind of the Committee that drew up this Order, in view of the success of coupon rationing with food, it would have been very much simpler, and would have allowed people to know exactly where they were, if we had had a system of coupon rationing of coal right away instead of this complicated system.
If I may criticise one or two other points, on Rule 7a there is a Clause which saysAnthracite shall count as fuel at the same rate as ordinary coal.That seems to me to give a very great advantage to the person who is fortunate enough to have anthracite coal stoves in his house. The quantity of anthracite consumed in order to obtain a certain degree of heating is very much less than ordinary coal. It seems to me that with Orders like this in war-time, when we are requested to save all the labour we can, we are making no end of absolutely useless work in Government Departments. In Clause 24 there is a rule thatMinutes shall be kept of all proceedings of the local fuel and lighting committees and copies shall be sent to the Controller.It seems to me that is quite unnecessary work, and it might have been dealt with on a very much simpler plan. I believe consumers of gas and coal, large or small, in London know that there is this necessity to cut down their consumption, and you have only to appeal to their better nature and they will loyally fall in and do it. I believe that might have been done by posters and by appeals to the consumers themselves, and we should have got very much better results than by issuing this long and complicated set of rules which I do not understand. Coal merchants have told me they do not understand them, and I think a good many Members of the House also admit they do not understand them. I believe if the President of the Board of Trade can do anything to make these Orders 542 simple and plain so that people can understand them they will be willing to help in the matter.
§ Mr. ALDEN
I want to back up what my hon. Friend has said in regard to the necessity of simplifying these rules if possible. I think some of us could make suggestions if we can meet the Coal Controller and point out some things which I believe could very easily be altered and simplified. I am not quite sure whether sufficient emphasis has been laid upon the question of production during the forthcoming autumn and winter. I have been looking at some diagrams of the gas companies, and they show that by October, the very time when they ought to have full supplies of coal, at the rate at which they are using up their present stocks, there will be absolutely none left. In view of the importance of gas for munitions and all sorts of other purposes, something ought to be done immediately to produce more coal at the present moment. We ought to be piling up stocks for the gas companies as fast as possible. Instead of that, they are depleting their stocks the whole time. In Manchester one of the very largest companies has gone down during the last few weeks from 74,000 to something like 20,000 tons. If they are going to deplete their stocks at that rate, what is going to happen in the ordinary way? I do not believe there are any steps too drastic to take in view of the famine in coal next winter. I cannot see any way out but that of getting men back from the front, as we have taken so many A men away from the mines. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give this his most serious consideration and apply pressure if necessary, because it is going to be a calamity if we do not have more coal at the beginning of next winter.
§ Sir WALTER ESSEX
I had intended to launch a most formidable and lengthy speech at the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the question of the railways and transport in this country after the War, but I will not keep him from his well-deserved dinner. In view of the fact that the railways are now under his Department I was hoping that he might have given us a more lengthy statement in regard to the railways and whether or not the Committees under his jurisdiction are sitting to investigate the great importance of the railway and canal system of this country after the War with the view, if 543 possible, of bringing them as a State organisation under control and putting them on a better ordered basis, considered both economically and otherwise. I will leave that subject, and perhaps with the right hon. Gentle-man's leave I will take an opportunity of returning to it at greater length later. I am much obliged to him personally as a Staffordshire Member because he has had a ready ear to appreciate the suggestion thrown out with regard to the question of coal in localities having some relation to local needs should the output be increased. That will mean a saving of transport. No doubt he is alive to that fact. It would be offering a very great incentive to local effort, and as in North Staffordshire potters and miners reside cheek by jowl and door by door in the same street in their towns and little villages, I am sure that he can put his scheme in operation with every hope of success, and there, as elsewhere, our present difficulties will assure to him the full assistance of a public spirited and patriotic community.
§ Sir C. SEELY
It is a little difficult for a coal-owner to speak with regard to the Coal Controller, who not only controls coal, but has control over finance. I raise no objection whatever to the financial arrangements of the Coal Controller, but I would point out that the increased price goes to the public and not to the coal-owner. In regard to the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, the impression produced on my mind clearly and distinctly was that the arrangements that he proposes to make for dealing with the difficulty of the present position are practically impossible. His coal-rationing Order may be all right in London, but I do not think it will meet the case for the greater part of the North. Coal is quite an exceptional commodity. It is impossible for people to diminish their consumption of coal in the same way as they can reduce their consumption of other articles. For instance, people whose grates are regulated for a certain consumption cannot at the present time buy other grates which will enable them to use the same quantity of coal in the northern parts of the country as is used in the southern parts of the country, where coal has always been dear. I could give him many more instances. I think he will find that his intention of saving a large amount of coal by his coal-rationing 544 Order will not practicably be effective. He knows the importance of coal as an essential part of the productive capacity of this country. I do not complain of his having taken a large number of men from the collieries to go into the Army. In fact, I agree with him, and I advocated it myself. It was not reasonable that young men who had come into the collieries during the last four years should remain at home when their fathers and brothers and cousins and other men of the same age and character in other industries were fighting at the front. That was the real reason why it was necessary that these young men should take their equal share, and why—and I am speaking for the part of the world that I know best, and I believe it was the same throughout—these young men went so very willingly to take their share in the present contest.
That having been done it is absolutely necessary that the production of coal should be maintained. The right hon. Gentleman told us this afternoon that the War Office had offered to send back 25,000 men who were of inferior military capacity and who could be easily spared in order that they might return to the collieries. He will have to tell the War Office, that if they wish to receive the same supplies and if they wish this country to continue to be what it is, and what the Germans, above all others, knew it would be, namely, the main financial and material support of the Allies, he must maintain the productive capacity of the collieries of this country. The only way in which he can do that is by sending back a number of men who have done their share, who have fought, I think every officer will tell him, extremely well, who are not asking to come back, and who will not come back if you ask them, but who would come back if they were ordered to do so, not to an easy, comfortable life, but to a life which is the most uncomfortable and the most dangerous of all civilian occupations. It is not a life which is as dangerous as that of the man who is actually engaged in fighting at the front, but it is much more dangerous than that of other men who ore in any Army but not engaged in very serious fighting. There is one other suggestion I would make, and that is that the critical time is the winter. It has been the custom of the collieries in the whole of my life in any part of the country for the younger men to work in the winter in the pits and to do other things in the summer. A good many of 545 them who are cricketers train young men in the South of England and play cricket in the summer and work in the collieries in the winter. Some of them went into the Militia during the summer and worked in the collieries in the winter. I see no reason why the men should not come back to work in the collieries in the winter and to do their share of fighting in the summer. That would require a larger number of men being sent back than would be required if you sent men back permanently to work in the pits. The real importance of the matter is to appreciate the fact that the whole of our position depends upon a proper provision of coal, and that the right hon. Gentleman must see that there are a sufficient number of men available for that purpose.
I do not wish to go into the question of the Coal Controller, but I do not quite agree with him. I think that if what I suggested some months ago had been listened to, and if the Coal Controller had not been so anxious to interfere with all the coal business of the country, and had devoted his mind to saving coal wherever it might be saved, there would have been a great saving. I came down to the House just now in broad daylight, and yet half the lights in London were burning. If the Coal Controller had left the management of the collieries to the people who understand them, if he had left the distribution of coal to the people who understand it, and if he had devoted himself to the saving of coal, I cannot think one could have walked about London in broad daylight and seen half the lights of London blazing away. I mention that as one instance; I know of many more; and I tell the right hon. Gentleman it is a very great mistake indeed for the Coal Controller to devote the amount of time he has done in trying to manage the business of the colliery owner, of the wholesale merchant, and of the retailer throughout the country, instead of devoting himself to the business for which he was appointed, namely, that of saving coal wherever it could be done and increasing the production wherever that was possible.
I have only one other thing to say to the right hon. Gentleman, and it is this: If he wants the colliers to work properly, he must go to the Food Controller and tell him that they must have more meat. There are a great many people in this country who do not customarily eat much 546 meat, but colliers are accustomed to eat a good deal, and from the very nature of their industry it is not possible for them to do a full day's work in winter without a full supply of meat. I suggest that they should be put on the same rations as the troops at home. The men who do this sort of work are in the same position as soldiers on active service; they can only practically get one meal a day; they are down in the pit from five or six in the morning till four or five at night, and unless they get a proper meat meal you cannot expect full production from them. The figures given by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the coal production of colliers were not very satisfactory, taking everything into account. The amount per man does not total so much as I should have expected. I know that 1914 was for a good many reasons a year of bad trade, but the figures for last year were not so high as might have been expected, bearing in mind the way in which the colliers gave up their holidays, and have generally done their best at their work. I therefore suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should speak to the Food Controller on that point. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that if his rationing scheme breaks down as regards any real saving in coal it will break down very suddenly. It is, therefore, necessary that he should say to the military authorities and to the War Cabinet that he cannot get coal without a certain amount of arrangement, and if they put off the arrangements for sending the men back until the difficulty arises in November or December, it may result in its becoming necessary not only to fetch the men home but to take coal away from our industries and from our Allies, coal which is absolutely essential for the continuance of the War. I do not wish to detain the right hon. Gentleman further. I thoroughly appreciate he has done his best in the matter, and I think he has done extremely well under very difficult circumstances. I hope that this Debate will strengthen his hands in dealing with this most difficult question, on the real solution of which I am confident depends whether we can bring this War to a really victorious conclusion.
§ Mr. FLAVIN
I understand that as President of the Board of Trade the right hon. Gentleman has control not only over the distribution of coal but over the price as well. The maximum price for the best quality coal at the pit's mouth in this 547 country is, I am told, 27s. 6d. per ton. If that be the case, I want to know if the consumer is protected in any shape or form. In many parts of Ireland the consumer is called upon to pay from £3 5s. to £3 15s per ton for this coal. That is not of much concern to the wealthy man, but it does seriously affect the working man whose maximum wage in the South of Ireland, in urban districts, is about 30s. per week. That man may be married and have eight or nine children to support, and yet he is called upon to pay 4s. per cwt. for his coal. The right hon. Gentleman knows how food of all description, clothes, boots, and other necessaries of life, have increased in price. They have gone up more than 100 per cent., while the wages of working men have not gone up by so much as 50 per cent. Will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement for the information of the poorer people in Ireland as to what becomes of the difference between the controlled price of coal at the pit's mouth and the price at which it is sold to the consumer. Is it the shipowner or the railway company who is getting the enormous difference? I am not in the coal trade, I have no interest in it, but I know that in the town of Tralee, in the county of Kerry, the population of which is about 10,000, the people have to pay 3s. 9d. to 4s. per cwt. for their coal. Does the profit which is clearly made upon it go to the Coal Controller, or to the railway company, or to the colliery owner; and if so, what proportion? Is there any fixed rate imposed upon the shipping company for carrying the coal, or is the Government making all this profit? We want to know whether it is the wholesale merchant in Ireland who is getting it. Whoever is making it, the fact remains that the poor working man in Ireland, who has to go actually short of food in these days, because of the high prices charged, has to pay this exorbitant charge for coal. I know that food is not controlled in Ireland; there are many reasons why it should not be. Although it is produced in Ireland it is cheaper in England for the consumer than it is for the Irish consumer, and many families are absolutely unable to buy meat for themselves. Coal, I may point out, is absolutely necessary for cooking purposes, especially in the large towns. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me if there is any maximum price fixed which is to be paid by the poor consumer? Everything else is 548 controlled in Ireland—meat, sugar, flour, and other things—but so far as I can ascertain there is no controlled price there for coal, hence I have come to the right hon. Gentleman for information. In the matter of the coal industry, as in other matters, the Government have always neglected our country. We have a fair amount of coal in Ireland, and if the Government only had sufficient common sense to allow us to develop our own industries, if they would only give us proper railway facilities, we should not be asking for coal from this country. We are not allowed to control our own legislation, and the result is that our people are compelled to pay from 200 to 250 per cent. more than the controlled price of coal in England. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has control over the price as well as the distribution of coal, and I ask him to promise that something shall be done to secure relief for the poor people of Ireland in this particular matter.
§ Mr. SCANLAN
I desire to say a few words on one aspect of the matter to which my hon. Friend has referred—that is, the coal supply in Ireland. In common with many of my colleagues, I have interviewed successive Chief Secretaries for Ireland on this subject, and they say that, while they sympathise with us, the position is impossible and they can do nothing. The development of the coal supply in Ireland belongs to the Department over which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade so ably presides. I am not in the least inclined to make any attack either on him or on Sir Guy Calthrop in regard to the administration of the great problem of getting and distributing coal. I know quite well the difficulties under which they labour. But when I introduced a deputation quite recently to the present Chief Secretary for Ireland I was met with the difficulty of getting sea-borne coal for consumption in Ireland owing to the shortage of shipping, and I would suggest that we should have the full power of the Government directed to the development of coal-fields in Ireland. There is one coal-field adjoining my Constituency. I do not wish to speak with special reference to it, but I desire to speak of the development of the coal supply generally in Ireland. But this coal-field was investigated by an expert on behalf of the Department over which my right hon. Friend exercises control, and I am informed that this expert 549 reported to his Department that there is at Arigna a very valuable deposit of coal, and that if arrangements are made for getting this coal it would be possible to relieve the difficulty of the market and supply from Arigna all the coal that is necessary in the West of Ireland. When I approached the Chief Secretary with a deputation on this point I was told, "If you make a proposition with regard to England, you will have no difficulty whatever with the Treasury; but if you come to the Treasury and ask for 6d. for the development of something in Ireland, your account for that 6d. is scrutinised in a way in which a matter of half a million would not be investigated in England." In my investigation of the affairs of the Ministry of Munitions I have found instances of the dumping down of millions without any consideration, and side by side with that I find that if we ask for the extension of a railway in Ireland for a distance of 3 or 4 miles we are always told that it is impossible and that the Treasury would never consent.
You have reports from experts certifying that there is at Arigna and other parts of Ireland abundance of coal available for supplying Ireland, and I would ask you to bring pressure on the Treasury in order to secure the winning of that coal. I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Wardle) what was the effect of the Report with regard to Arigna, and was told that it could not be communicated to me as it was a Government matter. Is it to be kept secret from me and other representatives of the people of Ireland whether there is coal there or is not? I am informed credibly that there is in Arigna coal capable of supplying all the needs of the West of Ireland, and I know that the coal is not being run and no arrangements have yet been made to get it, though the late Chief Secretary for Ireland promised me and a deputation that the Government would construct the necessary railway extension in order to secure the conveyance of the coal to market. I am not an expert on coal, and neither I think is the right hon. Gentle-man, but I have visited this place and I know how easily you can get the coal as compared with other places. It is surface coal, but it has to be carted for 15 or 16 miles in some instances before it reaches a railway station, and that station is on a narrow-gauge railway which does not communicate with many of the centres in the West of Ireland which 550 need the coal. We have asked various Governments to help us in the development of this coal-field, so that we may distribute the coal and satisfy our own local needs, and I would like my right hon. Friend to gave me some assurance that, not only as a matter of helping Ireland, but as a matter of relieving the pressure on shipping and of making Ireland self-supporting so far as coal supply is concerned, he will do all he can to help the development of the coal supplies of Arigna and other coal-fields in Ireland.
§ Mr. FARRELL
I desire to draw attention to a matter that affects an institution with which I have some connection. I am sorry that the Chief Secretary is not in his place, because I have asked questions of him already on this subject. In consequence of the breakdown of the Wolf-hill Colliery, the committee of the Mullin-gar Lunatic Asylum, which I regret to say has a large number of inmates, instructed the resident medical superintendent to go into the open market and buy coal. He did so. The supply required for the institution is 3,000 tons per annum. That is always contracted for in July. He bought 1,100 tons of the 3,000 tons required, and he was getting possession from the contractor, when the Irish Coal Controller, Mr. Burgess, intervened, at whose instigation I do not know, and refused to allow delivery to go on. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is a temperance advocate or not, but the extraordinary part of the Coal Controller's action is this, that of the 1,100 tons bought in the open market he commandeered 300 tons and diverted it to Guinness's brewery, which already has a surplus of 7,000 tons in stock. I do not know what relationship exists between the right hon. Gentleman and Mr. Burgess, but I would ask him to intervent in this matter, and represent to Mr. Burgess that it is more important that unfortunate lunatics, even though they are Irish lunatics, should have some heat through the winter than that Guinness's Brewery should be enabled to make more porter.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
The hon. Member (Mr. Scanlan) and the hon. Member (Ma Flavin) have raised questions which are rather outside the range of questions which have been discussed during the Debate. The points they have raised are those on which, I am sorry to say, I have not at this moment the necessary information upon which I could give an accurate 551 reply. Therefore, I would respectfully suggest that, if the hon. Members will communicate with me, I will go into the points which they have raised.
§ Sir A. STANLEY
If they will do that I hope to have some reply for them. I trust it is understood that at this moment I am not in a position to give a more satisfactory reply on the points raised.
§ Question put, and agreed to.