HC Deb 17 July 1919 vol 118 cc758-87

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

This Bill seeks to give effect to the promise of the Government with regard to the Report of the Sankey Commission. May I remind the House of the terms in which that promise was given? On 20th March the Leader of the House made this statement: I say now on behalf of the Government that we are prepared to adopt the Report in the spirit as well as in the letter, and to Lake all the necessary steps to carry out its recommendations without delay."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1919. col 2346, V0l. 113.] A certain amount of delay has arisen because the Report left some points to be settled locally, and the Government attempted to settle those points with representatives of the miners and representatives of the owners, and, unfortunatey, they failed. It will be noticed that the Bill provides that, "as from the 16th day of July"—that is, yesterday—"this Act shall have effect," and so on, the gist of it being that "seven hours" is substituted for "eight hours" in the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1908, the Act which limits the hours of working below ground. The Report of the Com- mission, to which this Bill seeks to give effect, recommended that the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1908, should be amended by the substitution of the word "seven" for "eight" as from 16th July, 1919. Owing to reasons which I have given, it has not been possible to get legislative sanction to that decision, with regard to which I dare say there is no difference of opinion in any part of the House. Everybody is agreed that the pledge of the Government must be adhered to in the letter and in the spirit. Steps have been taken by the Coal Controller to ensure that the new maximum shall come into force as from 16th July, 1919. The Coal Controller still possesses authority under the Defence of the Realm Regulations to carry out that step, and that has been done, so that from the point of view of giving effect to the promise of the Government, the failure to bring in this measure earlier has not had any untoward results.

The first part of the Bill is quite straightforward—the substitution of seven hours for eight hours in the working day of the great majority of the men employed underground in the mines. There is another class of men—the firemen, onsetters, fan men, and pump minders, and a few others — who, under the Act of 1908, work nine and a half hours. In the Report of the Commission it will be seen. at the end of the first Section, that there is a recommendation to this effect: Certain adjustments must be made in the hours of the class of underground workers specifically mentioned in the Act. Paragraphs (a) and (b) of Sub-section (7) of Section 1 of the Act of 1908. It is in regard to these men that the Government has attempted to come to some arrangement, and has failed. We have, therefore, decided to put into the Bill eight hours in substitution for nine and a half. I say quite frankly that the representatives of the miners desired that these men should have a seven hours' working day like the rest of the men working underground. The representatives of the coal-owners, on the other hand, wanted longer hours for these men. whose work is of a different character, of a more responsible and difficult character than the work of the underground miner. In the view of the mine-owners it would not be possible to carry on with safety and good management the work of the mines if these hours were reduced to the hour we have put in for the others. Under the circumstances, all we could do was to be guided by our expert advisers, and the Chief Inspector of Mines is of opinion that the eight hours affords every necessary facility for the Regulations regarding safety and good management to be adhered to, and at the same time it is unnecessary to point out that a reduction from nine and a half to eight is a still greater reduction than from eight to seven, which is the reduction given to the ordinary miner. We have, therefore, endeavoured to reach a settlement which we hope will be accepted by the House, and which appears to us to be fair and workable. There is, however, one exception. These special class of men comprise firemen, examiner, or deputy, onsetter, pump minder, fan man or furnace man, and we have excluded the onsetter. He is the man who regulates the loading of the cage, who is responsible for the signals, and without whom it is impossible to carry on the working of the shaft. It has been felt that if the onsetter goes down with the first cage and comes up with the last cage in a shift it would be possible for him to discharge his duties, and therefore the onsetter has been excluded from the category of men for whom a special proviso is necessary, and he is included among those to whom the reduced seven hours apply.

We now come to paragraph (b), with regard to which I would ask hon. Members to refer to the latter part of the first section of Mr. Justice Sankey's recommendations. Subject to the economic position of the industry at the end of 1920, it is recommended that there should be the substitution of the word "six" for the word "eight" as and from 13th July, 1921. That, obviously, is a very grave step to take, and, in view of the Government's undertaking to carry out the recommendations of this Report in the letter and in the spirit, I do not think that any hon. Member would consider that we had been as good as our word if we had omitted any reference to that important part of the recommendation. At the same time, it is clearly impossible to say now, in 1919, whether the conditions in 1921 will be such as to justify the considerable alteration foreshadowed in this Report, or whether the economic and general conditions of the country will warrant so momentous a change. It is accordingly provided in paragraph (b) that the decision in this grave matter shall rest with what should be the greatest and most competent authority to deal with matters of overwhelming importance, namely, Parliament. Therefore, it is left in this paragraph to Parliament to decide by a Resolution of both Houses whether or not the economic conditions in 1921 do, in fact, justify the change foreshadowed as possible in the Report of Mr. Justice Sankey. There is a proviso at the end of Sub-section (1) to deal with the exceptional conditions which are provided for in Sub-section 7 (b) of Section 1 of the Coal Mines Act, 1908, dealing with occasions when it may be necessary fur the purposes of safety that there should be continuous working in the mines. As there has been some misunderstanding with regard to the effect of the new proviso, perhaps the House will allow me to deal rather fully with the point. If hon. Members will refer to the Act of 1908 they will see that Sub-section 7 (b) of Clause 1 is in the following terms: Where the work of sinking a pit or driving s cross-measure drift is being carried on continuously, no contravention of the provisions of this Act shall be deemed to take place as respects any workman engaged on that work if the number of hours spent by him at his working place does not exceed six at any one time, and the interval between the time of leaving the working place and returning thereto is in no case less than twelve hours. Without the proviso working under these conditions would have contravened the terms of the Act, which everybody knew meant working more than one shift of eight hours in the course of twenty-four hours. This enables the men to work two shifts of six hours in the course of the twenty-four hours. It is an enabling and permissive Clause destined to meet the emergency—not the rule, but the exception, and framed for the purpose mainly of meeting exceptionable cases where the safety of the miners would be at stake.

The proviso does not contravene the continuance of the system provided for in the Sub-section which I have just read, but it says that if conditions appear to render it necessary in exceptional circumstances that work should be carried on continuously by day or by night, men may be employed below ground for more than eight hours during any consecutive twenty-four hours. May I draw attention to the effect of this? It is as follows: it enables a man, in cases where sinking or diving work is being conducted on a system of six-hour shifts, to do more than one shift (and so exceed the eight hours' limit) in any twenty-four hours, and the result is exactly the same as if eight-hour shifts were being worked. Suppose work is going on seven days a week, seven days will contain twenty-eight six-hour shifts. These, divided between three sets of men, will give each set nine and a half shifts, equal to fifty-six hours, which is the same as if they worked eight hours on each of the seven days.

The House will forgive me for going fully into that point, because it is a new feature in the Bill, which has been inserted for the purpose of providing for the safety of the men in exceptional circumstances and without it there would have been a grave gap. The rest of the Bill needs no further explanation. This measure merely gives effect to a clear and definite promise given by the Government in circumstances of great gravity, endorsed by the country and this House as a whole, and I express the hope that the House will pass the measure and enable the Government thereby to deal with the subject as quickly as possible.

11.0 p.m.


I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to insert instead thereof the words this House, while deeply sympathetic towards the provisions of this Bill, declines to proceed further with the Bill until trade unionist leaders abstain from advocating restriction of output in collieries. In the "Times" yesterday, this passage appeared from their Parliamentary Correspondent: It is said the Government do not anticipate any difficulty in getting this stage of the Bill, more particularly as they hope the news from the Miners' Conference at Keswick will make it unnecessary for Mr. Remer to proceed with the Motion for rejection which he has placed on the Paper. I am not aware there is any news of a favourable nature which has come from Keswick; indeed, the rumour which has reached me is that the news is unfavourable. I should have thought the first thing the Under-Secretary for the Home Office would have done would have been to give us some information as to what is taking place there. I would remind the House that coupled with the promise given by the Government there "was a very distinct pledge by Mr. Robert Smillie to Mr. Justice Sankey, in which he said, in exchange for the reduction of hours to seven, and ultimately to six, he would promise an increased output from the mines. I think we have sufficient evidence that there is no such increased output. The fact of the matter is that there are two very distinct parties on the Labour Benches opposite. There is, first, the party which openly advocates direct action, and restriction of output. The two things are almost identical. I am sorry to say there are hon. Members in this House who have publicly advocated restriction of output in the coal mines. I have a passage from the hon. Member for Hamilton speaking six weeks ago, in which he said: My advice is that miners should restrict output of coal; it is only by that policy we can secure the nationalisationof the mines." It is unnecessary for me to quote from the speeches of Mr. Robert Smillie. They have been extensively reported, and in one speech he made only this week at Keswick this passage occurred: They believed that the output could be enormously increased under nationalisation. Then he goes on: They do not believe that the miners were likely to strain every nerve merely to build up private fortunes. Hon. Members cheer that statement. May I point out that no private fortunes are being made at the present moment out of the collieries, because the profits are distinctly restricted? I would point out, in any case, that the question of nationalisation is not the issue at the present time. It has not been decided on by the country. Under these circumstances I do not think we ought to proceed with this Bill if, as we may assume by their cheers, hon. Members are supporting the view of Mr. Smillie, which means nothing else than a restriction of output. The second section of the party are those like the hon. Member for Abertillery, whose speech won admiration from everybody for its moderation and straightforwardness last Monday. He said, Restriction of output does not exist. He prefers to put the blind eye to the telescope, for he says We do not believe there is. I would like to follow that speech a little closely. In 1915 he says you came to us and appealed to us, and we secured an increased output. In 1917 the same thing occurred. It was a case of appeal and trust. You secured our co-operation. I think that is a fair summary of the words he used. But what were they doing in 1913 and 1914, and what are they doing at the present moment? Is it necessary for Ministers to go to Labour leaders now to ask for an increase of output? Obviously, it should be forthcoming without such an. appeal when the leaders knew it was not forthcoming as promised. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the suspicion existing between employers and workmen. He could not have heard of Mr. Robert Smillie and all the mischief he has done in order to cause the grave suspicion that exists. There can be no doubt in the minds of hon. Members that restriction of output is going on seriously in the collieries at the present moment. Hon. Members who disagree with me will say that they require proof of that. The proof of that is like the proof of most other things. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. When we find that more men are employed in collieries at the present time and that less coal is being secured, that proves my point. I know that all kinds of excuses are made for the lessened output. Some of them, I have no doubt whatever, are very real. I am quite prepared to admit the railway delays and all that kind of thing. But there are some which are not real. There are some which have been mentioned in this House, and by Mr. Smillie and Mr. Hodges, that are not correct. They say the shortage is caused by the shortage of pit-props. I happen to be in that business and I know that at the present moment there is no shortage whatever of pit-props. [Hon. Members: "Oh, oh!"] I have at this moment pit-props which I cannot sell and for which I cannot get a market. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not worth having"] Yes, they are That story is eighteen months' old. There was a shortage of pit-props eighteen months ago, but I am quite satisfied that it is quite cleared away now.

I was discussing this question within the last few days with an American—since my Amendment appeared on the Order Paper. He said that my Amendment was like the Constitution of the United States —it was founded on a lie. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad hon. Members assent to that. He said that because the Constitution of the United States started with the words All men are equal therefore it was founded on a lie. I say that my Amendment is founded on a lie because it states that trade union officials are trade union leaders. That is the biggest lie ever stated in this House. To call trade union officials to-day leaders of Labour is a grotesque statement. They are nothing but a miserable flock of sheep. They wait to watch which way the flock is going to run before they move. There never was such a miserable case of the tail wagging the dog as is the case of the so-called Labour leaders of the present day. In dealing with the coal mines they do not consider what is in the national interest; they think of the popular clamour which is going to secure the greatest cheers.

In moving this Amendment I have a claim to sympathy. All my life I have been an advocate of shorter hours and higher wages. I am not only an advocate of them; I put them into operation in my own works. I am quite sure that shorter hours and higher wages are the one way, not only to secure greater efficiency, whether in a works or a coal mine, but as a means to secure increased output. If there is this deliberate method of restricting output, that is the greatest way to defeat the very object I have at heart. It will be said the employers are to blame. I have no doubt there are some employers who are to blame, but two blacks do not make a white. I believe it is the secret of our industrial success that our workpeople should have plenty of money to spend and plenty of time to spend it in; but this policy of restriction of output, which has gone very deep into the minds of some workpeople, is a most pernicious policy and means nothing else but our industrial doom. I have never yet seen a report of a speech by any trade union official which has condemned this policy. I have never seen any report of them going to their constituencies or down into their mines or amongst their people and telling them the truth about this question. Not only the steel trade, but also other trades in which my own Constituency is very deeply interested—the pottery trade, for instance-rely upon coal not only for the purpose of power, but for heating, and the pottery trade will be killed unless it gets coal at a reasonable price and in adequate quantity. This restriction of output must increase the cost of production. It means increased unemployment, distress, and poverty. I agree very heartily with the Leader of the House, who believed we should come through all right. I believe people only have to be appealed to, and they will get over this pernicious doctrine. The British soldier is a civilian soldier. He is the same man as the British working man. I believe the people only want to be told the truth. We want to tell them we are not a rich but a poor nation, and instead of having foreign investments we have foreign debts. If we are to recover our position we must all work hard—workmen in every sphere of life, and especially in collieries. The capitalist, too, must employ his capital to the best advantage, and particularly in collieries. If this policy of restriction of output goes on, it means a very considerable emigration of capital and of the life-blood of our people. Capital can disappear from the country by a mere stroke of the pen. The hon. Member (Mr. Sexton) has probably stood on the Liverpool landing-stage and has seen the people emigrating, and he will agree that there is no more distressing scene. If our country is to be the real country of the future, she must be industrious, and must produce the maximum output in every sphere of life.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I listened with a considerable degree of interest to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Home Office, and I want to ascertain the reasons for bringing forward this Bill at the present moment. As far as I can understand his speech, his reasons were that the Government had given an undertaking, either to Mr. Justice Sankey or to Mr. Smillie—I do not know—that the Report of the Commission would be carried out both in the spirit and in the letter. The Government can give a pledge that they will recommend a certain course to the House of Commons, but they cannot bind the House. It is for the House of Commons to decide whether or not they think the reasons which have been advanced by the Government are sufficiently good to induce them to follow the course recommended by the Government. Everyone will admit that when two people make a bargain, if one of those persons breaks his share of the contract, the bargain is at an end. That is a principle which docs not need any defence. What has happened? The Report of Mr. Justice Sankey's Commission recommended that the hours of labour should be reduced to seven, on the understanding that the output would be maintained. What are the facts? The output has not only not been maintained, but it has been diminished at the rate of 25,000,000 tons a year. Therefore, the argument of my hon. and gallant Friend that the Government are bound to carry out the bargain entered into falls to the ground, because one of the parties has broken his share of the contract. What is the argument brought forward in favour of the Bill? Is it a good Bill? Is it going to advance production in the country? Is it going to ease the situation with regard to the production of coal? I could not gather from the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he had any argument to adduce in support of the Second Reading from the point of view that it was a good Bill, except that in certain circumstances more than one shift could be worked in the pit. What did the President of the Board of Trade say last Monday? There are many reasons operating to strangle the flow from the collieries, and one of there reasons is this: the coal, after it has been loaded on the wagons is longer on them than it used to be, because they cannot be cleared at their destination. Why cannot they be cleared at their destination? The reason for the difficulty of clearing these wagons, of emptying them at their destination, arises in. this way: we have now got an eight hours' day in force on the railways."—[Official Report, 14th July, 1919, col. 79.] Therefore the reduction of the labour on the railways to eight hours, according to the President of the Board of Trade, has diminished the output because the railway wagons cannot be cleared. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the reduction of hours in one industry reacted on all the industries of the country, with the result that the production of the most vital industries was reduced. But now the Government propose to reduce the hours still further. Therefore, according to the President of the Board of Trade, they are going still further to reduce the production of the country. That is not a statement of mine, but a statement of the Government made only three days ago. I was glad that on that occasion the Government did not introduce this Bill, though they had suspended the Eleven o'clock Rule to do so. I presume that the reason was that they had made a proposal to the miners that they should agree not to strike during the next three months, and they would carry out the undertaking given by Mr. Justice Sankey's Commission, and the output should not be reduced, and that they would not do certain things. Did the miners agree? I read in the "Times" that 150,000 miners in Yorkshire are on strike at present.


They were out before Monday.


Then they ought to have gone back if they were going to carry out the proposal made by Mr. Justice Sankey's Commission, and going to meet the proposal made by the Government. But in addition to those on strike in Yorkshire there is also a considerable number out in some parts of South Wales, and if rumour is correct—-and I notice that my hon. and gallant Friend carefully avoided the subject—the miners have refused the terms offered by the Government last Monday. Silence gives consent, and if my statement was not correct I should have been interrupted at once not only from the Front Bench, but by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Therefore I may assume that my statement is correct.


You must not take for granted, because you are not interrupted, that what you say is correct.


Suppose, for the sake of argument, that it is incorrect, suppose that the miners have not yet given the reply—and my recollection is that they were to give it to-day—why have they been such a long time in giving their reply, and if they have not given their reply up to the present moment, why does not the Government put this off until they have done so? I think it is evident that an indication of the nature of the reply has already been given to the Government. Let us consider what we are doing. We have had two very weighty speeches from leading Members of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade and the right hon. Gentleman who leads the House, two of the most weighty speeches I have heard for a long time. What was the subject of those speeches? That it was absolutely essential, if this country was to be saved from bankruptcy, that every man should work his utmost. In the face of that the Government come down and say that for the future the output of the mines, the most vital of all our industries, is to be reduced from eight hours to seven, with a further reduction in two years' time, supposing there is a Resolution of both Houses—not a Bill, but merely a Resolution, which may be brought in after eleven o'clock, with the Eleven o'Clock Rule suspended, in order that there may not be too many Members in the House to contest the wishes of the Government. This is really a most important question. If we are to retain our supremacy as a commercial nation we must not play the fool with this sort of thing.

The miners already—there can be no question about the cost of living—have more money than they know what to do with, and the proof of that—I have provided myself with the OFFICIAL REPORT, in order that I might not make any mistakes—the proof of that is the statement made in the White Paper, and confirmed by the President of the Board of Trade and the Coal Controller—namely, that the miners can earn sufficient for their needs by working only a certain number of days per week. I say that shows they have more money than they know what to do with. Under those circumstances, to come down to this House and to say that the hours are to be reduced from eight to seven, and still further to six, is to set an example which will not encourage output in this country, but will do much to encourage all workers in a belief which is leading to the destruction of the commerce of this country—that the less they work the better and happier they will be. I do hope that the Government will move the adjournment of this Debate. Let the country know what the answer of the miners has been to their proposal, and then let them decide whether or not it is advisable to go on with this Bill.


My excuse for intervening again in a Debate so early in my career is that probably of all the Members in the House, including the miners' Members themselves, I have had not so long, but a much more varied experience of the coal industry. My duty and business for fifteen years have called me to work at pits up and down the country. My experience has been that on the whole the relations between capital and labour, or, rather, between the management and the workmen in the pits are better in this than in any other trade. Throughout the whole of England, or at all events, right down from Northumberland to Staffordshire, again and again I have been struck, for years past, with the very healthy relations that exist between the owners of collieries and their men.

We have got cases again and again where there has been a local strike, and that strike has been carried on with thorough determination on both sides. I have been there on the spot, and, in spite of the fact that they were fighting one another tooth and nail, there has been thoroughly good feeling between management and men. That occurs in my own county of Lancashire, Staffordshire, and in the Midland counties. There are, of course, many strikes and stoppages which we do not hear of, and those are the cases in which the feeling on both sides is determined. I do not wish any remarks i make to be taken as criticising the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), because, with his age and experience, it would not be becoming of me to treat anything that ha has said except with the greatest respect. I wish particularly to ask hon. Members to consider the form in which the Mover of this Amendment put it. To my mind, it is the form in which that Amendment is brought forward that ought to convince hon. Members to vote against it, whether they like the Bill or not. I may say, for myself, I do not like this Bill. 1 have always been opposed to, and fought against, State interference with business, but I wish to protest most thoroughly against the apparently underlying spirit of the Amendment. I may be mistaken, but there appears to be a deliberate intention to have angry passions aroused by putting it in that form. Everybody knows that this country is passing through a very critical time in all industries, and particularly in the mining industry. Whatever our opinions are about the wisdom of this Bill and about the wisdom of the Report on which it is founded, and I know there are very varied and strong opinions—I am not going to give mine, though I think it is pretty obvious what I think of the whole thing—at a moment like this to introduce an Amendment—apparently, I say, as it is not for me to lay down what the motives of hon. Members are— drawn in such a form that even if the intention is not there the effect will be there of rousing passion at this time, is thoroughly bad for the country and everyone in it. I do appeal to the miners' Members to endeavour if they possibly can to let me take the burden off them or resenting that, and that they will not attempt to reply in the same spirit that is apparent in the Amendment, and I make that appeal to them not only on grounds of proper feeling but of policy so far as their own aims are concerned. I ask them if they are speaking on this Amendment to endea- vour to control their feelings. I must apologise for offering any advice to Members very much older and more experienced than myself. I think, in spite of my lack of oratory, I have made my meaning pretty clear. The whole point is that at a time like this, no matter what our views may be, we need not surrender them on principle, but we must treat one another with patience and forbearance because there is no other possible way of getting this, at the moment, unfortunate country out of industrial trouble. I do hope whatever has been said by the opposite side that those responsible in this House for the representation of the miners will do their level best, at any rate for their part, to maintain that spirit of forbearance until we have got normal conditions, and then we can fight one another on fair terms and without raising those issues.


I am only going to say a very few words indeed, but they will be words of appeal to the House to help the Government to pass this Bill and to give the miners a real chance of carrying out whatever promises have been made. After all, the Government is pledged to this Bill in good faith. The Government pledged themselves to this Bill three months ago. I am speaking within a few weeks. It must be between three and four months ago since the Government stated that whatever were the results of the Commission that was set up with the authority of this House they would put the findings of that Commission into effect. Those findings were reached very many weeks ago, and long before any question of an increase of 6s. in the price of coal came up. The two things were entirely independent of each other, and it is surely a very unwise thing for any Government to break promises so lately made. I have not the slightest idea that the Government will break that promise. After all, the conference that is meeting this week in Keswick, while it is very important, has not, in my opinion, done anything that would destroy the confidence of this House or the nation in the mining industry. It is almost impossible for leaders of trade unions to bind large bodies of workmen. I am not quite sure that it would be a good thing even if they could. While, on the one hand, we pride ourselves upon the possession of a decent independence, on the other hand constant appeals are being made to the leaders of trade unions to tie their men down. The two things are inconsistent. I am convinced, however, that every responsible miners' leader can and will go to their men week by week and month by month, and will urge upon them to carry production to the highest point in the interests of the nation and so that the nation may feel entire confidence in the motives of the miners. That has been done repeatedly. I myself on scores of occasions have done it, and hon. Gentlemen who are here know perfectly well that meetings of thousands upon thousands of the most responsible people that any country could produce have been held under our auspices, and that the finest results have been brought about. We are all suffering, as my hon. Friend for one of the Divisions of Manchester said, from the aftermath of war. The old relations which were often kindly have been very largely embittered, but it is not by acrimony that any good results will be achieved. If any words of mine can be of force in this House, they will be used to appeal to this great representative Assembly to set aside bitterness as far as possible and to try and lift our Debates and our points of view from the rather narrow lines that have recently existed, and really believe in the country for which we profess responsibility.

After all, the country depends a great deal upon this Assembly. The temper, the tone, the attitude, the points of view of the public outside, are largely coloured by, and dependent upon, the temper and tone of this Assembly, and it is because of that that I am rather sorry to see the Motion on the Paper set down by my hon. Friend opposite. I have no doubt at all that if this goes to a Division the House, by a very great majority, will support the Government. The House, after all, is a. House which is faithful, which, when it once gives its word, I believe it does its very best to carry that word into effect, and I have not the slightest doubt at all that if we have to go into the Division Lobby the Second Heading of the Bill will be carried by a tremendous majority. There are some small points which I think we will have to raise in Committee, but I do not anticipate any serious opposition of any kind. We will do our very best, of course, to carry our points, but they are not points of principle. They are only points of detail, and only Committee points. Short of that, I do myself most sincerely hope that the policy of the Government to which statutory effect is being given in this Bill, will be a policy conceived, as I believe, in the highest interests of the country, and I do most earnestly hope, when the policy is developed, the country's prosperity will be found to be in no way inconsistent with it.


I rise to address the House upon this occasion as one who has had a life-long experience of mines. Beginning as a miner, going through all the various grades, managing a colliery, and managing a colliery still, and for thirty-two years an inspector of mines, down a mine five days a week, I think I can speak with some knowledge on the points raised to-night. I am not at all in sympathy with the Amendment as proposed. I think it is perfectly evident to the House, and must be, that the Government pledged themselves upon this point, and I think the Government are bound to carry it out. I am not at all against tile principle of the seven hours for this reason. When the Government, to begin with, gave forty-eight hours a week to railwaymen and other grades of employment in other industries, it was only right that the miners should receive seven hours a day. As to that, I am in perfect agreement, but I do not agree with the Bill in certain respects. To begin with, in the Bill we find that one class of men, the firemen, are to have an hour and a half taken off instead of one hour. I do not think there is any reason at all for that. We have been told to-night 'by the right hon. Gentleman, who introduced the Bill, that that was done because they had seen their expert adviser. May I remind the House that the same expect adviser for the Government upon this occasion was the same expert adviser who, in 1908, advised the Government that the firemen should work an hour and a half longer in the interests of safety. I cannot understand why he has changed his mind so rapidly. One thing, of course, is this. I believe it is the case that a deputation of firemen went to see the Home Secretary and put forward the case, and it was due to that more than the expert advice that this question has been raised. I entirely object to the Home Secretary, or any other Minister of the Crown, receiving a deputation from one side, and not hearing both sides. Why was it that the men who are to carry out this Act and the Mines Act of 1911— the managers of the mines—were not asked to discuss the question when the firemen alone saw the Secretary of state? It is the most unfair thing I have seen since I came here. The House of Commons is losing very fast its control over finance, and now over the Ministers of the Crown. No Minister of the Crown has any right to make a bargain with any man or body of men and then conic here and ask us quietly to acquiesce in what he has done. The system is wrong, and on that account I do not care for this Bill. The question of the firemen is a most important one. I trust the House will take the view that I venture to put forward in respect to Regulation 50 of the Coal Mines Act. The fireman, or the deputy, is a most important person in connection with the mines. Upon him rests a great responsibility. First of all, two hours before the start of the shift, he must go down the mine. He must examine the roof, the sides, and examine for fire-damp, and see that everything is correct before the men come in and commence their shift. He has to go round the face, the various roadways, and so on, and see that the Act is carried out so that the men are working in complete safety.

What I object to is this. It has always been a principle in connection with mine inspection and the safety of the mine, that the fireman should begin the shift in the morning and should remain through the whole shift till it comes to a close. That has been the principle all along, and that is the reason why the expert adviser of the Government, acting upon the advice of myself and other practical men, advised the Government in those days that the fireman, in the interests of safety, should work an hour and a half longer, so that he could be there at the start and remain to the end of the shift. What will hap pen now? If the fireman begins two hours before he must of necessity come up before the shift ends. In the mines where there are three continuous shifts extra men must be employed to carry out—


Is the hon. Member aware that these men are working seven and a half hours and the firemen eight now, and not nine and a half?


My experience does not extend to the district mentioned by my hon. Friend. I am speaking of Scotland and of the Scottish miners. What will be the result? It is this, that four men must be employed at six hours each. Men who are there at the beginning of the shift will not be there at the close. That will be to the detriment of the mine and will not be in the interests of safety. Four men will be required where there arc three consecutive shifts. That means more money. We heard a good deal last Monday that the cost was to be very considerably raised. We want it reduced, yet by this Bill we are further adding to the cost. Take a single-shift mine where the single shift is worked. It means there must be two men for the eight hours working, four hours each, adding again to the cost of the industry, greatly to the detriment of the trade in general. I myself have heard from these benches the Leader of the House tell us about the Sankey Report. I understand that this Bill is destined to carry out the pledge given by the Leader of the House; but I do not think that the Leader of the House made the statement that any section of the community should have one and a half hours taken off the regular day. On the contrary, it was distinctly stated here that there was to be a seven-hours day, and that the 1908 Act would be changed because of that. I see no reason why this matter should be dealt with in such a way. The hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill spoke about Section 7, and of a certain proviso as to men who worked under curtain conditions longer than eight hours. The Bill provides that the Home Secretary's sanction muse be obtained before the longer hours can be worked. Those, acquainted with mines know that to obtain the sanction of the Home Secretary to the working of longer hours on any shift will take some time, and the mine cannot stand it. Several things might occur to necessitate working extra hours, and if you have to wait until the Home Secretary sends word that he permits it, the thing will never be done. It is a great mistake to put in this proviso.

While I am not prepared to vote against the Second Reading, I trust that in Committee the matters I have mentioned, with a few others, will be rectified. This is a time when we require to use our best endeavours not to raise issue6 that would bring about a state of affairs worse than we have to-day. I trust that the leaders of the party opposite and the trade union leaders will devise a means of inducing the hot heads in the party to bring about n better state of affairs. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman opposite spoke as he did to-night. I am sure that he and owners like him will do all they can to that end. I can assure the House as a practical man knowing all the details and as a mining engineer, that, in regard to last Monday's Debate, with the present output the total of 217,000,000 tons will not be reached. It will scarcely reach 200,000,000 tons. It is a very serious matter. I was glad to hear the President of the Board of Trade, who gave us such a gloomy picture, say that on the question of 10 per cent. he was rather sanguine. The miners, after all, are a respectable body of men—the majority of them—and they desire encouragement. If the leaders will do their beet to advise the men, in a short time the output, which has gone down considerably more than it ought to have done, will be considerably increased and the country, which is now in a serious state, will begin again to prosper and we shall have reason to thank the miners for the efforts they have put forward to save the country from disaster.


I should like, as I have been a mine-worker all my life until recently, to offer a few observations on this Bill. It would be good policy if we took very little notice of the Amendment moved1 by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer). I happen to be a trade union leader. I have lived among the miners all my life. I know all the miners representatives in this House and there is not one of them who would advocate what he has said to-night. While I support the Bill, there is one particular matter is regard to pump men and fan men which is very unfair. It is quite true that the Act of 1908 specified that they should work nine and a half hours, but it must, be understood that there are very few pump men working that number of hours. So far as Yorkshire is concerned, we have not a single underground pump man working more than eight hours. We have obtained that by negotiation with the employers. While the Act says the men may work nine and a half hours, we have been enabled to obtain a reduction of their hours to eight per shift. Now, why should there be any differentiation between the miners' hours and those of the underground pump and fan men? On the one hand, you give a haulage man—a mechanic who works underground—a seven hours' shift. If the haulage man is in charge of a small machine—no matter how small, it may be a 10 horse-power machine—the fact that he is on haulage entitles him to the seven hours' shift under this Bill; but if he is in charge of a pump or a fan machine—which may be 100 horse-power, with more responsibility and requiring greater attention than the winch of a small haulage machine—yet, because he is in charge of a pump or a fan, he is not entitled to the seven hours' shift; and I say that the men in charge of some of these pumps and fans underground have much greater responsibility than some of the haulage men have. Then why should the man who has the less responsibility be conceded seven hours' shifts and the man who has the greater responsibility be compelled to work eight hours for his shift? You have that differentiation, and while you want a settlement of the industrial workers in the collieries you are simply perpetuating a miserable principle which is calculated to increase the unrest that is found right through the British coalfields.

12.0 M.

You have the 12½ per cent. given in the engineering industry. What did that do? Any man who understood the conditions of the workers in the engineering industry, and the temper of the men, never would have conceded the 12½ per cent. under the circumstances and in the way in which it was conceded. As soon as ever it was conceded to one section, other men in the same industry immediately claimed that they should have the 12½ per cent. as well. You had hundreds of applications from all over the country to be paid the 12½ per cent., and it kept the tribunals continually at work at a time when otherwise they would have had practically nothing to do. The same thing will happen here. You concede seven hours to various sections of men employed underground, but you are going to compel other sections underground to work eight hours. The result will be discontent and dissatisfaction. As a matter of fact, I know that if this Bill becomes law in its present form the whole of the pump men, so far as Yorkshire is concerned, will not work at all; you will have another strike. The right hon. Baronet referred to Yorkshire to-day in his speech. The whole of the Yorkshire collieries are out to-day; there is not a single colliery working, and why is it? In the Bill we have no prospective legislation so far as colliery surface men are concerned, and we are told that their hours and conditions of labour must be fixed through local negotiations and arrangements. They have simply broken down, and as a result of not having in this Bill provisions applicable to surface colliery workers we have the whole of the Yorkshire collieries stopped to-day, and others in other counties as well. You will have the same thing going on unless and until you treat every man in the colliery industry exactly alike. You have the winder. I have been a winder for twenty-five years at one of the largest collieries in England, and there, in local negotiations, you have the owners telling us, "You are not going to get any advantage and not going to have any hours reduction. You simply have to work the same time as you always had to work." These men will now claim, as they have been deliberately and intentionally left out of the Bill, the same consideration and rights as the other colliery workers. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, when he considers the point in Committee, will agree that the pump men and fan men—and there are only a handful of them—shall be brought in the same category and be entitled to the same claims and be allowed to work the same number of hours per shift as the other classes. Some employers say, "It cannot be done. You can only divide twenty-four by four sixes or three eights, and if these men have a seven hour shift that means twenty-one. What are you going to do with the other three hours?" The employers can always find a way of reducing the cost of management if they like. We have had some advances in Yorkshire for the pump men. They have been working three shifts right through the week end. We find they can cut off a shift at the week end and close the shaft, and the pumps can remain standing for a number of hours without anyone attending to them at all. That will be done in this case. But if it cannot be done the men have to remain the eight hours. We do not want overtime. They would finish at the end of the shift proper if the men had to work the eight hours. We say they should be paid extra for the time they have worked. We shall insist, undoubtedly, that there shall be no differentiation between men who work underground whatever their rate of labour, whatever their responsibility, and I hope in Committee the Government will see their way to put the pump men and fanmen on the same footing as the winders themselves.


I should not have intervened if it had not been for what I consider the calumny which was thrown at the miner by the hon. Member (Mr. Remer). I am a miner. I want to say to my hon. Friend that it is a dangerous thing to have a little knowledge in this matter. I know that my right hon. Friend who occupies the Front Bench does know something of the Durham mines and he would not belittle himself to say such things as the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) has said. Some of us know only too well that the miner will do anything to earn money to give greater comfort to himself and his wife and family. Has my hon. Friend any real knowledge of a miner and his work. Evidently he is not aware of the bad conditions under which these men work and which are still going on. There may be a diminution in the output of coal, and I may probably have to accept the figures of the President of the Board, but I think the Government should seek information from the miners as well as the owners with regard to the output, and then I feel sure a different story might have to be told to hon. Members. I am sure that the check-weighers could tell a story that would be worth listening to. In Durham we have been working not more than seven hours a day for a long time. It is a very strange fact that on the Coal Commission Inquiry it was proved that despite working shorter hours we produce more coal. Hon. Members should recollect that working in a mine is not like working on the surface, and the physical power of a man is exhausted sooner working underground than it is in God's broad daylight. These men work in a vitiated atmosphere always, and you cannot do as you probably want to do. We have heard something about shirkers. Ask your commanding officer in France if the miners were shirkers? I ask the Government whether the miners who were left behind here did not put their backs into it to save this country? I hope we have heard the last of this calumny upon the miners. We can increase the output. Unfortunately there has been a war which has brought down the output. Pits have to be reopened and this causes great difficulty in producing coal and in getting the output that otherwise could be got, and there are many such difficulties as these that have got to be overcome. These things in my judgment have largely been the cause of a reduction in output. I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend say he was in the timber trade, because there is no doubt timber has been the cause of a serious decreasing output. Does the hon. Member (Mr. Remer) think the manager is going to supply timber in the same quantity as he did before when pit-props that cost 6d. before the War cost 5s. 6d. now? The men must keep themselves safe, and when they are short of timber must leave the face till some is brought to them. That is occurring every day. Then, again, the class of timber that is being supplied to them is not the same as in pre-war days. The prop must be of such a length that it can easily be put in in the least time, but to-day it has to be wedged up, which takes probably five or six times the time it took before the War. All these things are tending and will tend for some time to reduce the output. The responsibility for the decreased output does not lie with the miner, but with either the management or the Government. Tubs are a serious matter. There was in one of our Northern papers recently an interview with one of our local agents who declared that the men in the pit at which he was employed were getting only 50 per cent. of what they could do if there had been tubs for them to get the coal away. All these things are causes of reduction. While I admit miners are not angels and, like other classes, we probably have wrong men amongst them, take the miner all round he is as honest a workman as you can find in-this country. I trust the Government will persevere with the Bill. Some Amendments will have to be moved on matters of detail, and I hope we may come to an agreement. In Durham I have not worked more than seven and a half hours in my whole experience, and I believe Durham holds its own with any other county with regard to output. These things ought to be carefully inquired into. I wish to thank my hon. Friend below the Gangway who, though not a miner, is man enough to say that in his opinion the miner was not what the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) and the hon. Member (Mr. Remer) would try to make the House believe. I trust the Gonvernmcnt will pass the Bill. I feel the House is with them.


We must all associate ourselves with the remarks of the hon. Member (Mr. Walsh) that this matter should be dealt with without bitterness. It is, in my opinion, a matter of business entirely, and I hope hon. Members opposite will give credit to those of us on this side who think this should not be rushed into, but should be postponed and taken time over. It is not with any idea of belittling what the miners have done, or their patriotism, that we take this action, but because we believe there is something greater than the interests of the miners or of any section of the community, and that is the interests of the country as a whole. The Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil) on Monday uttered a sentence which received applause from every part of the House. He said this House, in dealing with expenditure, must see not only that it is desirable, but that we can afford it. This is not directly a matter of expenditure, but indirectly it is. Debates on the coal question generally have, in my opinion, been too much conducted by people who arc directly concerned with the industry—by miners on the one side and coal-owners on the other. It seems to be assumed that this is a matter which only affects the coal-mining industry, and that if the interests of the coal-owners on the one hand and the miner on the other are considered, that is all that need be said. When the Coal Mines Bill was before Parliament, after hearing a series of speeches by the coal-miners' representatives and by representatives of the coal-owners, I said that though a new Member I intervened with the more assurance as I had no connection cither with coal-miners or coal-owners. I represent a Constituency of consumers, and a large number of these consumers—clerks, Civil servants, professional men, and pensioners—who are not in trade, and cannot add to the prices which they charge for their goods, neither are they in receipt of a war bonus—these men are vitally affected by the price of coal, and not only by the price of coal which they burn in their grates, but by the indirect effect of the increased price of coal on food and all other commodities. Therefore, I invite the House to consider carefully the words used by the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil), and ask ourselves whether we can afford this, before we pass the Bill. This is not a question whether we would like to shorten the hours of the miners—I am sure they are entitled to that, if it can be done—but at this crisis in the history of the country we must, as representatives of the community as a whole, ask whether we can afford it. In that connection let me read the words that were addressed to the Coal Miners' Conference sitting at Keswick by the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace), who, all honour to him, carried out the pledges which he gave to this House, in these words: We have to deal with a most serious situation. Unless the nation can get more coal than it is getting at present this nation must perish as a first-class commercial and industrial Power, because coal is the key to the prosperity of every industry; the spindle upon which the whole commercial world runs. This is the day of days when we must, even at some sacrifice to nationalisation, have some regard to the claims of humanity as a whole. No words could more fitly or better put the point which I am endeavouring to make. In dealing with this matter, we must put forward the claims of humanity as a whole, and the claims of the people of this country in particular. We must consider at this time that it is vital not only for the protection of our families from disease, by having warmth in our homes, but it is vital in connection with the setting going once more of our industries, to have coal at a reasonable price. Can we afford to give a Second Reading to this Bill until we have seen that the output can be increased? I regret very much the last phrase in the Motion, because I do not think the aspersion which it throws upon the trade union leaders of the miners is justified. I do not know whether I should be in order, but I would like to suggest that instead of saying "until trade union leaders abstain from restricting the output of coal" we should insert "until the pre-war output of the mines has been restored or secured." That, I believe, is the meaning of the Motion, and that is what I mean.


If the Amendment go to a Division, the Question will toe, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," and after that Question has been decided it will be open to the hon. Member to put in other words.


That may be a way out of the difficulty. I am very glad that there is a way, because I agree fully with the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) that this matter should be conducted without bitterness. It is not right in these days for one class of the community to feel that they are trying to steal a march on another. It is not wise in these days, when it is essential to restore industry, of which, as the right hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) has said, coal is the key to do anything to restrict the output of coal. Therefore, I support the proposal that the Bill should not now be read a second time.


We have had a very interesting Debate upon this Bill. We have had valuable expert opinion upon both sides, which I am sure will be not only interesting but also instructive. But it is getting late. Therefore, I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Heading as soon as possible. There have been some objections made to this Bill which are not so much Second Reading objections as Committee objections, and, so far as those are concerned, I do not think it advisable to take up the time of the House with them, because they will be discussed in Committee. But, dealing with the general principle of the Bill and its object, may I remind the House that this Bill is brought in in accordance with a pledge given by the Leader of the House not to Mr. Robert Smillie, not to any individual, but to the House itself? Nor were any of its provisions the result of any private negotiations with any individual. It was suggested by one hon. Member that in some way or other we had a Bill making a bargain behind the back of the House of Commons with some private individuals. No such thing ever took place. I cannot say that the deputation to which he alludes did not see me, because I do not know to what deputation he is alluding. Either I or my Department have seen deputations of owners and of workers, and I do not know whether he is alluding to any of those; but we have made no bargain with any individual at all. We made a bargain with the House that we would bring in a Bill to carry out the recommendations of Mr. Justice Sankey's Commission, and that we have done. I have no doubt, speaking for myself, and from the experience which my hon. Friend has reminded me I have had in the coal fields of Durham and Northumberland, that, whatever else may lead to a shortage of output, reduction of hours certainly will not.

As he says, it was proved, and I have known it for long, that in the county of Durham, where they work fewer hours than in any other coalfield, they have the best output per man of any coalfield in the country. We must recollect many things. In the first place, we are, all of us, tired; we are living in a tired world; and you cannot expect men as yet to be quite the men they were before the War. That will come, I hope, in a very short time. That they are doing their best I have no doubt whatever. I am equally satisfied that, as one of the causes of reduced output, there is to be reckoned the shortage of tubs, of railway wagons, and undoubtedly a shortage of pit-props. You may have plenty of wood that will cut into the shape of a pit-prop, but if it is not the proper kind of wood the men cannot manipulate it. In the course of a shift a man may have to spend five or six times as much labour in keeping his place safe as he did before the War.


Can the right hon. Gentleman name a single colliery that is short of pit-props u have plenty, and cannot sell them.


I am sure there are plenty of collieries that want pit-props, but not timber of any sort and description. It stands to reason that a man cannot get as much coal in his shift if he is obliged to spend so much time in keeping the place safe instead of winning coal. All these matters have been carefully taken into consideration by Mr. Justice Sankey's Commission. The Report is not only the Report of Mr. Justice Sankey; it is a Report in which he is joined by three well-known business men of high experience in all industrial matters. It is that Report which we are seeking to carry out. I feel convinced that the House will be of the opinion that this matter has been thoroughly thrashed out. Therefore, I ask the House to give this Bill a Second Reading. There arc, no doubt, matters that will have to be dealt with in Committee. I realise some of the points that will be brought up by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh). To suggest that we should not pass this Bill because somebody has made a remark that was perhaps ill-advised—I do not know whether he did or did not—and to urge that on that account we are to break our word with the whole of the miners of this country would be grossly unfair. I know that, as a whole, they always loyally carry out any pledge they give, and the last thing their worst enemy can accuse them of is that they are shirkers. Pass this Bill and I feel confident that time will show that the result of reducing the hours will be to have men more vigorous during the whole time they are at work, and an increased, instead of a decreased, output.


Before this Bill goes through I think my Constituency has a right to foe heard on this great question which is now before the country. I represent the town of Middles-borough which, as hon. Member's will know, is dependent on the iron trade for its very existence. It is situated midway between the Durham coalfield on the north and the Cleveland iron-stone mines on the south. Both the coal and the iron-stone mines are affected by this Bill, and we shall be doubly hit by its operation if it becomes an Act. We are also dependent for our existence on our export trade, and with the present increase in the cost of fuel and of raw material we are in great jeopardy of losing that trade. At the outbreak of War the price of coke delivered to the furnaces was 17s. 6d. a ton. With this new advance it is now 62s. a ton, and the cost of making pig-iron, which, at the outbreak of the War, was £3, is now over £10. That cannot go on; there is only one end to it and that is commercial disaster. I am perfectly certain that a halt must be called to this increase in the cost. There is a more serious matter still which, I think, is due directly to Government control. I ask the Coal Controller to give his attention to it. At the outbreak of War it took 21 cwt. of coke to make a ton of pig iron; to-day it takes 27 cwt. This increase is due to the deterioration of the quality of the coke sent down from the pits, it containing now as much as five-tenths or seven-tenths of moisture. You can complain until you are tired of doing so and no one appears to take any notice. Besides, the same price has been and is being paid for good coke, bad coke, and indifferent coke and, like Government bacon or Government beer, it has all a toad name.

There is a further matter (which I believe to be due to the coal control. The Coal Controller has been in the habit of making advances retrospective. This new advance, made under Mr. Justice Sankey's award, is ante-dated, I believe, to 1st January—that is the 2s. The coal-owner protects himself against these ante-dated advances. The result is that he will not sell to the pig-iron producer on a clean contract, but takes care to stipulate that the buyer shall make good to him any advances which he is ordered to pay by the Coal Controller on any coke supplied—not even on coke which is to be delivered at some future time, but on coke which ha3 already been delivered. With the decrease in our export trade, it is quite impossible to cover the purchase price of fuel by the sale of pig-iron.


May I remind the hon Member that the Prime Minister gave an answer before the Commission reported that any increase in wages arising out of the Report of the Commission would be made retrospective.


I am aware of that, and it is the system against which I am protesting, and protesting very strongly. If that state of things goes on, the coke producer will naturally not sell to the pig-iron maker at a fixed price, but must protect himself. That will have the effect of making business impossible. This system of retrospective advance is falling like a blight on the whole trade. I do not want at this hour to go at all fully into the question of nationalisation, but I should like to say this one word. Let the Government make up its mind once and for all what it is going to do; let it formulate its policy. If it is going to nationalise the mining industry, let it say so; let it lay its policy before the country, and go to the country upon it. Certainly the Government have no mandate on this question at present. They have a number of other mandates, and one of them was to hang the Kaiser, which they have now solemnly undertaken not to do. But I declare that they have no authority from the country to proceed to the nationalisation of mines. Meanwhile, this uncertainty about the future of Government control is surely strangling our trade. It has fallen like a blight upon this country, and no greater blight has fallen on any country since the blight fell on the land of Egypt.


I did not intend to speak, and I will not even now take up the time of the House except in order to deal with the point mentioned by the hon. Member who has just sat down. He said that the price of coal had gone up to 52s. a ton. I want to say that that is no fault of the miner. Nor do I think it is due to control. We realise that the claims now put forward on behalf of the miner are only reasonable, and are long overdue. When hon. Members know that the miner is simply being paid one and one-sixth per ton they will at once recognise that the fault for such a high price of coal cannot be attributed to the mine-workers. The speech which has been made by the Home Secretary to-night ought itself to convince the House, as I am sure it will, that the shortening of the hours of labour, instead of hampering the industry of this country, ought to accelerate it. 1 am convinced by experience that whenever the hours have been shortened the output has been increased. I do not want to introduce anything acrimonious into the discussion which has been marked up to now by good temper, but as the Home Secretary has said, decreased hours do not mean decreased output. I want to refer to the statement made by the hon. Member for Hamilton that the miners would not increase their output. That statement was taken away from the context, and the reason for its having been made at all was that when the output was being increased, efforts were made to reduce the wages. That was what militated against the output. Remove such hindrances to increased output and take the human element always into account, and I am sure that this Bill, instead of hampering the coal and other industries in the way hon. Members have feared, will actually tend to accelerate output. We can, and do, appreciate the difficulties that are in the way, but they can be overcome if calm reasoning prevails. Above everything else we must recognise the considerations of security and safety for the miners themselves. That point has already been referred to in the Debate. Undoubtedly it is the fact that the shorter the hours worked the fewer the accidents. In the warfare which goes on in the mines of this country, over 1,370 persons lose their lives every year, and altogether 160,000 accidents of a more or less serious nature occur. Fewer hours will reduce the number of accidents, and I ask hon. Members to recognise frankly the conditions under which the miners have to work. In some cases they have only 2 ft. of head in the mines. Can it be reasonably expected that they should work more than the number of hours for which this Bill makes pro vision? In the interests of humanity we expect that this Bill will go through and that the Government will fulfil their pledges.

Amendment negatived.

Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.