HC Deb 18 August 1919 vol 119 cc2001-3

The Government have devoted a good deal of attention to the Report and to the evidence of this Commission, and I propose to give the House the conclusions at which we have arrived, and the proposals we are prepared to make in respect of them to the House of Commons on its reassembling. The Government accepts the policy of State purchase of mineral rights in coal, on which subject all the Reports of the Royal Commission were perfectly unanimous. The Government have been deeply impressed by the evidence tendered to the Commission with respect to the unsatisfactory social conditions under which the miners have been compelled to carry on their industry in some parts of the country. They hold that a reasonable Standard of living should be secured to the miners and their families; that the deplorable housing conditions which prevail in some of the coalfields of the country should be remedied as rapidly as possible, and that every effort should by made to improve the comfort and amenities of the miners and their families. I can assure the hon. Member (Mr. Lunn), who smiles, that this is not merely a statement of sympathy.


I think it is empty.


If the hon. Member will wait, he will see that it is not empty. I hope he will wait before he comes to a conclusion; otherwise he will be like the Commissioners who gave evidence before coming to an official decision. He will see that in the very next point I deal with the matter in a practical way. We propose that a fund should be raised for that particular purpose. If mining royalties continue, we feel that they ought to contribute towards the well-being of those who work the mines, those who risk their lives in working them, and, as the Government propose to purchase mining royalties, they feel that the mineral wealth of the country ought not to shirk its responsibility for the welfare of the people upon whose work its utility depends.

We propose that a deduction should be made out of the purchase value, for the purpose of creating a fund to improve the social conditions and the conditions of life among the miners of the country. That is not an empty proposal. It is a substantial contribution. It is proposed that schemes should be submitted for the social improvement of the mining areas. These schemes can be considered by those who administer the fund, and the fund can be distributed for that purpose. In Scotland the mining royalties are subject to local and county rates. To that extent they have made their contribution. In this country they have not, and an account will be taken of the difference between the conditions in the two countries in that respect.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give the amount?


We will submit the actual amount to the House, and I think the right hon. Gentleman had better wait for the actual figures. I am now dealing with the general scheme, but the actual figures I am not prepared to give at the moment. It will, however, be a substantial fund for the purpose. Now I come to the question of the future working of the mines.