§ Mr. BRACE
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the wordsbut regrets the absence of any proposal to nationalise the coal mines of the country on the lines recommended by a majority of the members of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry, which was appointed for the purpose of advising the Government on the best methods of reorganising the industry in order to secure economy in management, greater safety in working, and maximum output.
§ This amendment, which stands on the Order paper in the name of the Labour party, and which I have the honour to move, is the result of the deep disappointment which the party feels at the failure on the part of the Government to honour their bond and to appreciate their responsibility to the nation in connection with the coal problem. The Prime Minister yesterday, in a very striking passage at the end of his speech, declared that there was but one way to combat anarchy, and that that way was abundance, and if the Prime Minister and the Government desire successfully to combat industrial upheavals and commercial disruption in this country, then it is necessary for them to act so that the democracy of Britain will not lose faith in this Parliamentary machine as an instrument which will, by constitutional methods, give them a redress of their grievances. The refusal of the Government to be bound by their pledges in connection with mines nationalisation, has had a most disturbing effect upon British organised labour. Surely a Government should be most jealous as to their pledges, particularly when given in the House of Commons.74
I do not know whether the Coalition Government adopt as their method, or as their governing principle—but it used to be a well accepted canon in this House of Commons—that a pledge given by a Minister on behalf of the Government was a pledge binding upon the Government as a whole: and if that be so, as it ought to be, then the Government undoubtedly are pledged up to the hilt to accept the Coal Industry Commission Report, and to initiate legislation to give effect to it. The Home Secretary is not a subordinate Member of the Government. He is not a minor official of the Government. The Home Secretary is the principal Secretary of State, and therefore, surely, this House had the right to think, when he was giving an undertaking on behalf of the Government in connection with mines nationalisation, that he had been authorised by the Cabinet to give that undertaking. Speaking in this House on the 24th of February last year, the Home Secretary said:
It is a purely business proposition and if it turns out on investigation that it is for the good of the country as a whole that the mines should be nationalised, that the people of the country would be better off if the mines were worked under a nationalised system rather than under private ownership, then it is a good business proposition, and we should accept it. The Government desires to go into the matter to see if it is a good business proposition. If it is that, I accept it; if it is proved to be a national detriment rather than a national advantage, then the Government will oppose it. There the position stands. I should have thought myself that for anyone who desired merely to do that which was best for the country, the proposal of the Government was the best, namely, that the whole question should be thrashed out with expert evidence, expert opinion, expert knowledge before a competent and highly efficient tribunal.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ What is the suggestion? Listening to the ironical cheers of right hon. and hon. Members opposite, would I be unfair in assuming that they think there is no pledge? If it is a question of "It does not matter when a Minister of the Crown gives an undertaking to this House," then, indeed, politics in this House has reached a stage lower than ever before in the history of this country. If the suggestion is that it is the Government which is to be the determining tribunal, then I venture to submit that that was not the impression left upon my colleagues and myself and other Members of the House. What was the Commission? 75 The Commission was not of our seeking; we never asked the Government to appoint it. The Commission was created by the Government itself to investigate a very grave problem, and when we had reached a stage after the first Report we were not at all inclined as a Labour party to accept a continuance of the work of the Commission. It was to induce the Labour party in particular, and this House in general, to agree to a continuation of the work of the Commission that the Home Secretary was put up to declare that the proper thing was to have an inquiry by experts and to have a decision by an efficient tribunal. Is there any suggestion that it was not intended to convince this House that the tribunal was not the Government, but the Coal Industry Commission?
We feel very aggrieved about this business. We feel we have been treated pretty badly by the Government. After all, leaders of men have only their reputation to stand upon. Democracy is not easily led. If leaders are to have the confidence of their people then they must make only those statements which they are assured are statements of fact. When we went to our Congresses and argued in favour of the continuation of the work of the Commission we did so because we thought that the Government, through the mouth of the Home Secretary, had given an undertaking that if the Commission recommended nationalisation the Government would accept that as final and would introduce legislation accordingly. My right hon. Friend, the Leader of the House, used much more guarded language. He rather misled us, too. He will not mind my saying so, not that I nor anyone would charge him with an intention to mislead anyone. I would like to bear public testimony to my conviction that he is the very essence of honour. But that does not preclude me from quoting a passage which really did mislead us. When the right hon. Gentleman met us at Downing Street on March 24th, 1919, he said to us as miners:
If this Commission is allowed to continue interim reports will be issued dealing with subject after subject in which you are vitally interested; and not merely will those interim reports be issued which in ordinary circumstances might be put into the waste-paper basket, but it is part of the Government's undertaking to deal with these reports in the spirit as well as in the letter,
and steps will be taken to enable those recommendations to be carried into effect.
§ We took that at its face value, and we thought that if we made our case good before the Commission the Government would accept nationalisation of mines as a principle and introduce legislation to give effect to it. This is no party proposal, it is made in the interests of no party. After all, a number of people make the mistake of thinking that because we happen to be trade unionists, we are not, nationalists or patriots. I put in my protest most strongly. A trade union official surely does not cancel regard for the welfare of his country. I hope the House will take it as a statement of fact that when we make a proposal for nationalising the mines, though we may be all wrong, we do so, not because we hope to get some class advantage, but because we are persuaded it is to the interest of the nation. It is in that spirit that we drafted the Amendment to the King's Speech.
It will be observed that the Amendment starts with a demand for nationalisation, not to give an increase of wages to the workmen, but in order to secure economy in management. [Laughter.] My hon. Friends have responded exactly as I expected they would do. Are they under the impression that the present economic system is a careful and saving system? The way some people talk about nationalisation would lead one to the conclusion that under the present economic system of private ownership and control we had reduced inefficiency to the very minimum. What are the facts? For the distribution of coal there are 28,000 merchants—a small army in themselves. There are 3,000 collieries in the Kingdom, and to manage those 3,000 collieries there are 1,500 Boards of Directors, not all of them in the business for their health. Yet in face of that great army of officials the country is asked to believe that if it agreed to support us in our demand for nationalisation we would create a great bureaucratic system which would make every other man an official of the Mines Department. We know, no one can know better, and whatever may be the economic system under which mines are worked, unless they are made profitable we cannot have good conditions of employment, and when we are making our demands, first to secure economy in management, we believe
we can, under nationalisation, secure great economies by reducing the cost of production very considerably from the managerial standpoint. "Oh! but," we are told, "if you want a bad example look at the telephones-there is an example of officialdom for you." I hope my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General will not mind my saying so, but they are very bad. Really, I know of nothing in this world that causes day after day more vocal or silent profanity than the telephone. I am not defending that system. Why, Sir, if it was proposed to run the mines of this country upon any such system as that under which the telephones are run, I would oppose it. That is bureaucratic control but that is not what we ask for, and when you come to examine the scheme it will be found that the scheme which the miners are supporting and which the Labour party are supporting, is an entirely different proposition for managing the mines of the country from the system of running the telephones. It will be observed that there are two Clauses put in the Report of Mr. Justice Sankey which would prevent the mining industry under a system of nationalisation being brought under any kind of bureaucratic control. May I be allowed to interpolate this one thing which I desire to say publicly. Mr. Justice Sankey has been attacked in many quarters. He is a very distinguished Judge. He is a very distinguished citizen. This nation owes Mr. Justice Sankey much more than it ever will realise. At the time when Mr. Justice Sankey undertook this grave important inquiry this country was in a very bad state, running upon a narrow margin of great upheavals. Whatever may be said of Mr. Justice Sankey and the Report he produced an effect on the minds of organised labour in Britain which did induce them to exercise patience, and to endeavour to have their grievances settled by constitutional means rather than by direct action. Mr. Justice Sankey with that shrewdness which is characteristic of him put in two Clauses to prevent bureaucratic control. On page 21 of the Coal Industry Commission Report, paragraph lxxv, states:
The Treasury shall not he entitled to interfere with or to have any control over the appropriation of moneys derived from the industry. The said moneys shall be kept entirely separate and apart from other
national moneys, until the profit accruing from the industry is periodically ascertained and paid into the Exchequer,
That Clause was drafted to prevent the Government, through the Treasury, in the reducing any system of bureaucratic control, and it is only when the industry has earned a profit that the Government has the right to interfere at all in connection with this matter. The next paragraph of the Coal Commission Report states:
It being of vital importance that the Mines Department should be managed with the freedom of a private business, the present Civil Service system of selection and promotion by length of service, of grades of servants, of minuting opinions and reports from one servant to another and of salaries and pensions, shall not apply to the servants attached to the Mines Department.
§ Therefore, if the House of Commons is under the impression that we are supporting a scheme which will bring into being a system of bureaucratic control for managing the mines I cite those clauses of the Report as evidence that it is not designed by the Commission, and most certainly would not be accepted by us if it was proposed by the Government that this great key industry should be managed and controlled by bureaucrats. We therefore support nationalisation first because we want to have economy in management. We next support nationalisation because we want to have greater safety in the working. Last Monday I was at one of our ordinary district miners' councils where the agent gives detailed reports of the work of the mines and in some of those he had to report a series of inquests in consequence of the deaths of men engaged in the mines. The miners' industry, do what you will, is a dangerous industry. It is a ghastly record. We are so familiar with it that we seem sometimes to get indifferent. The average death rate for the last nine years was 1,407, or four every day.
§ Mr. BRACE
Yes, Sundays and weekdays; and 517 are hurt every day, or one every three minutes, and one miner in every six employed is injured every year. With an old civilisation like ours and with all our scientific resources that is a ghastly record and one that ought to be improved. 79 We are of opinion that so long as we have a system at work where profit is the dominating factor in the industry we shall not be able to have that regard for the sacredness of human life which we ought to have. Therefore we support the nationalisation of the mines from the standpoint of safety. Then we support it so that we may have the maximum output. Whatever differences of opinion there may be in this House as to our proposal based upon economy in management, the House, I am sure, will be in sympathy with me as to maximum output. We think we ought to have that and we think we can get it, but we cannot get it unless we create a better system than we have at present. We cannot have the maximum output which the collieries are capable of unless we create a better spirit altogether. In 1918, which is the latest report I have, there were 158 strikes and lock-outs, with a loss of 1,183,000 working days. I do not say that all the men whom it is my privilege to represent are angelic, but the House will make a mistake if it comes to the conclusion that the whole of the managerial staffs are angels of light. They are most difficult to please. I never forget that the motive power is profit, and where you have no identity of interest between the management and the men, there is bound to be some industrial trouble. We believe that under nationalisation we shall be able to change the motives and to get a better understanding and give to the nation greater output. I understand my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be able to tell us somethig to-day about the Government's scheme. The Prime Minister can delay rationalisation; the Government and himself can delay nationalisation, but the nationalisation of mines is as inevitable as fate. It cannot be stopped, not because of the increasing power of the Labour party in politics, not because of the enormous power of British organised labour, but the nationalisation of mines is inevitable because of the economic necessity to nationalise them. The position is that the old system has been condemned. It is no use hon. and right hon. Gentlemen having a kind of passionate desire to go back to the old order in the mining industry; that is condemned. The Commission spoke out with no uncertainty upon the point. 80Even upon the evidence already given, the present system of ownership and working in the coal industry stands condemned, and some other system must be substituted for it, either nationalisation or a method of unification by national purchase and/or by joint control.You cannot resurrect the old system of private ownership and private control. My right hon. Friend in the last days of last Session enunciated a scheme, a kind of mongrel scheme, I thought it was; it was a bit of everything—a bit of private ownership, a bit of control—but it will not work. There may have been a time in the history of the industry when my right hon. Friend's scheme would have been looked upon as an enormous reform, but it will not work now. If the workmen are not given an effective voice, they will have nothing to do with it; if the workmen are given an effective voice, the coalowners will have nothing to do with it; it will not work. If my right hon. Friend proposes to give the workmen half the directorates, it will not work; the coalowners will go on strike, and Lord Gainford, speaking with the full authority of the Mining Association, as a witness before the Commission, has declared that rather than be a party to any system which did not leave to them, the coalowners, full executive control, they would prefer nationalisation at a fair price. That is the position there, and, therefore, I regret to have to say my right hon. Friend has been labouring in vain, and labouring under the impression that some scheme of private ownership and control can work; it cannot work. The Government will, therefore, sec that, whether they like it or not, they have no alternative but to adopt the Commissioners' report and nationalise the mines by fair purchase.
Let us see how nationalisation will work. People are under the impression that if we had nationalisation we should receive our orders from some kind of central authority in Whitehall, and that we would be without power and without opportunity to do anything we thought wise. The maddest thing of all things in these days is the cancellation of the use of the brains at our disposal. Here you have more than a million men and boys engaged in the mining industry in this country, fairly intelligent too, pretty well educated, with more than a smattering of economic knowledge, but you will not use them. But under this scheme we are 81 going to introduce a system which will utilise the cumulative power of the brains of these million men and enable them to carry to the common stock their knowledge as to how mining ought to be conducted, both from the standpoint of safety, of output, and of profit. I have never subscribed to the doctrine myself that labour with the hands alone is the source of all wealth; it is labour with the hands and with the brains that is the source of wealth. I have known several collieries working on similar strata, one under good management making a profit, one under poor management making a loss, and there plainly brains were vital for the success of the industry. Under this scheme we start at the pit, not at Whitehall, and we create what is known as a local mining council, or pit committee, and for every pit in the United Kingdom one of these pit committees will be created. The particulars are that the manager, the under manager, and the business manager will be members of that pit committee by virtue of their position.—There shall be established at each mine a Local Mining Council who shall meet fortnightly, or oftener if need be, to advise the manager on all questions concerning the direction and safety of the mine.The council would consist of ten members. The manager, the under manager, and the business manager are by virtue of their office members of that pit committee; then the workmen at that pit would elect by ballot vote four to represent them. That is seven, and the district mining council, of which I shall speak in a moment, would elect the other three to represent the public interest.—[An HON MEMBER: "A minority?"] Exactly. Would my hon. Friend pay me the compliment of listening while I explain how nicely this minority is balanced, so as to prevent bureaucratic control or intrigue in the business. The officials have three, the managerial staff have three, the workmen have four; it is a carefully balanced minority for the three interests. It is done with design, and why? It is to prevent any one section having a dominating power. It is arranged so that each section must bring to a common centre their contribution and convince by weight of argument that their proposals ought to be accepted by the majority. I know of nothing more carefully arranged which has appealed to me than this pit com- 82 mittee. There is an undertaking too. I mentioned earlier in my remarks about the loss of one million odd days by strikes. Attached to the regulations of this pit committee there is this undertaking:—The contract of employment of workmen shall embody an undertaking to be framed by the district mining council to the effect that no workman will, in consequence of any dispute affecting a district, join in giving any notice to determine his contract, nor will he combine to cease work, unless and until the question in dispute has been before the district mining council and the national mining council, and those councils have failed to settle the dispute.It will be observed that you have a distinct arrangement here under which you give opportunity to bring the case to the bar of reason and of argument before you strike or lock out. My experience is that when you can get people around a table in a conference room, lots of difficulties which appeared insurmountable before you talked over the matter, disappear. I look upon that proviso as distinctly valuable. If the Government like to say there shall be an independent chairman to determine the point, I am prepared to accept an independent chairman. I am always prepared to allow my case to stand or fall by argument
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
I am not quite certain from what the right hon. Gentleman is quoting, but I followed the words in the Report of the Commission, and, as I read the words, precisely the words he has just quoted about the contracts were refused by the miners' representatives on the Sankey Commission.
§ Mr. BRACE
I think my hon. Friend is right in point of fact. I hope the House will remember that this is not my first day in this House, and I would not make a statement like this unless I was going to make a qualification. But since then there has been a conference called at Keswick by the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, who have accepted this scheme, and it is a scheme which we accept in spirit and in letter. It will be observed that there is an arrangement under which strikes and lock-outs are to be obviated as far as possible, and that arrangement will make it much more easy to settle our disputes by argument rather than by the other methods. The foundation is the pit committee. Then we come to the districts. The United Kingdom is divided into 14 separate districts. 83 Scotland is to have two, Yorkshire one, and South Wales and Monmouthshire one. The chairman and vice-chairman of the separate districts will be appointed by the Minister of Mines. I should like to emphasise this Ministry of Mines. We think that an industry which is a key industry, giving employment to more than a million people, in which millions of capital are invested, ought not to be treated as a kind of annexe of the Board of Trade, and therefore we are putting forward the demand that this great industry shall have its own Ministry—its own department. In each of those 14 districts there will be a district committee. The chairman and vice-chairman will be appointed by the Minister of Mines. Four members will be elected by ballot by the workmen, so that, taking Yorkshire, the colliery workers of Yorkshire would elect four members of the district committee, and the chairman and vice-chairman would be appointed by the Minister of Mines. Then the officials are to elect four members—the managerial side of the industry is to elect four. That makes ten, and then four are to be elected by the consumers of coal.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD OF TRADE (Sir Auckland Geddes)
Two are to represent the technical side of the industry and two the commercial side.
§ Mr. BRACE
Certainly; that is four. I will not make a point of it. The House will realise that in each of these districts there is a district committee composed of fourteen persons—the chairman and the vice-chairman appointed by the Minister of Mines, four elected by the workmen, four by the officials, four by the consumers of coal. There you have again the same principle of each section being in a minority, but most carefully balanced so that neither section can have a dominating influential voice in settling any question other than by convincing the majority that their proposals are right. I can understand the head officials complaining about this scheme; I cannot understand the general public complaining about the scheme.
§ Mr. BRACE
But this House is supposed to represent the general public. I 84 want to put an argument to the House. This scheme is designed to give to the general public a voice in saying whether the price of coal which they have been charged is a fair price. They will have a voice in declaring how the collieries should be worked. This is one of the reforms which I should have thought the general public would have welcomed with open arms. I am certain that when they understand it they will, and therefore I suggest to the Government not to turn this scheme down too rapidly if they want to win bye-elections. What will this committee do? Manage the collieries. Instead of having these Boards of Directors overlapping each other, you have a district committee of 14, representing ail the interests, and they will manage the whole of the collieries in that district. Of course, the general public have been led to believe that, if they agreed to any scheme like this, the end of development of collieries would have come, that it was only a matter of a few months or years before the whole coal industry would come to a standstill. The industry is to be developed on the most modern scientific lines conceivable. This committee is directed tomanage in its district the entire coal extraction the regulation of output, the discontinuance of or the opening out of mines, trial sinkings, the control of prices and the basis of wage assessment, and the distribution of coal.That Committee is to do exactly what the boards of directors are doing now. When I talk about economy in management, I should think it is obvious that this one Committee of 14 will be able to do what is taking now scores of directors to do, and it will be done very much more efficiently. [HON. MEMBERS: Will they be paid?] Oh, yes, they will be paid. We have come to the conclusion as workmen that it is not always cheapest to have workmen for nothing, and we are not only prepared to see them paid, but to see them paid well. We want, indeed, to attract the best brains of the nation to this work, and, unless they are paid well, some people may not come, and they may be wanted. You have got here all the items to be provided for, including a fair and just wage for all workers in the industry, the cost of materials, upkeep and management, and development work, and interest on the Bonds. We are prepared to find the money to pay the interest on 85 the Bonds. We are not out for any scheme of confiscation, and we say the industry must carry its own obligations. We do not propose that the National Exchequer shall pay the interest upon the Bonds. We say to the industry "You must find the money by production and careful management to pay for these Bonds."
An hon. Member asks me, "Suppose it does not?" But it must pay! If the mining industry is to be charged upon the National Exchequer then indeed we are not on the verge, but at the very heart of bankruptcy and ruin. The mining industry must be a self-supporting one. In addition to paying interest on the Bonds it must find money towards a sinking fund to redeem the Bonds. Indeed, it must find profit for national purposes. For the mines are to be worked not to produce profit for a few people but for the whole. The workers of the colliery must enter into an undertaking not to stop work until they have exhausted every opportunity of settling their disputes through argument. That is provided for by Clauses on pages 16 and 19 of the Report. Let me read the first claim:The contracts of employment of workmen shall embody an undertaking, to be framed by the District Mining Council, to the effect that no workman will, in consequence of any dispute, join in giving any notice to determine his contract, nor will he combine to cease work, unless and until the question in dispute has been before the Local Mining Council and the District Mining Council, and those Councils have failed to settle the dispute.Our scheme is based upon a carefully balanced minority report. The arrangements proposed for developing the coalfields will give the nation the coal it requires at the lowest possible price, pay for the Bonds, and provide for a sinking fund. If the House is going to reject this Amendment I hope it will not be rejected under the impression that we are proposing a scheme to reduce the development of the mines: We are supporting mines' nationalisation, because we believe it will give the nation what it requires at a much lower price than the nation is paying to-day.
You have the pit committee and the district council. You must have an authority to supervise the whole of the mines of the United Kingdom. For this purpose every colliery producing 5,000,000 tons of coal shall send one 86 representative to the National Council. But each district, whatever it produces, must have one representative. An executive administrative authority is to be found in a Standing Committee of 18 elected from and by the National Council. Of these the workers will elect six, the consumers six, and the officials of the collieries six. The President will be the Minister of Mines. Will the House observe how carefully this scheme has been worked out? It is carefully balanced. The workmen, the officials, and the consumers are respectively in the minority. And therefore being in the minority must carry to the centre their view and convince the majority of the Tightness of that view before it can be adopted as the finding of the Committee. The Standing Committee of 18 is the Supreme Authority. Here again the workmen of each pit enter into a contract or undertaking not to stop work until they have exhausted every peaceful means of settling any dispute that may arise. Then the workmen of the district, as against the pit, covenant likewise.
§ Sir FORTESCUE FLANNERY
Will the workmen have any share in the profits, varying with the success of the working of the industry?
§ Mr. BRACE
I leave that tit-bit to the last! The National Council also say that the conditions of the employment of the workmen shall embody an undertaking that no workman shall in consequence of any national dispute join in giving any notice to determine his contract, nor will he combine to cease work unless and until the question of the dispute has been before the Council; and so on.
§ Mr. BRACE
It is not a breach of the law of the country for men to withhold their labour. If, unfortunately, it was found impossible to settle a dispute the workmen would have the right to withhold their labour. But it must not be forgotten that we are endeavouring to introduce a scheme to bring in a new motive—a motive that will enable us to produce, not for profit, but for humanity. That may be accounted very idealistic, but workmen are not without their own standard of honour which is equally as high as that of other men. Of course, starving families make men do things they would rather not do; broadly, 87 however, the workmen would much prefer to carry out their obligations honourably if they can, and I myself would infinitely prefer to rely upon the honour of the workers to carry out an undertaking entered into either at the pit, the district, or by the National Standing Committee, even if I had the power to enforce any penalty.
§ Mr. PEMBERTON BILLING
Will the contract contain a provision that the miners at the pit or in the district shall not be called out in the event of any national dispute, or give notice to determine their contract—if the railwaymen came out would, say, the miners join?
§ Mr. BRACE
I confess at once that that is a point on which I have not thought, and I am not authorised to speak on it. But it is a point of substance. It is a point covered by our ordinary trade union constitution. I therefore think it would be found in this connection that any national dispute, whether in our own or any other trade, would be covered. That is the scheme in its working operation: the workmen at the colliery co-operating with the management to make that colliery a success.
Mining is a skilled business. I am reminded of an experience I had when I was about nineteen. I was working in a stall with another young fellow about my own age, robust and full of energy. There was an old man working in the next place. He could not write his own name. He was quite unlettered, and worked with his own small boy. It nearly broke our hearts while we were killing ourselves and beating ourselves with wedges, sledges and picks to see him working very comfortably, and he always had a full tram. This man had found out the secret of how to win coal profitably and easily, and on the pit committee there would be room for such a man, and he would bring to that committee his knowedge. Thus he would be co-operating with the management in making that pit a success, and the same thing that can be said about the pit can be said about the district and the nation. That is the scheme. There is nothing impracticable in that.
§ Mr. BRACE
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, he will see that I cannot enter into a controversy with him upon the 88 subject. I am not interested in denying whether he is right or wrong in his idea, but, after all, the workmen must have their right to elect their own representative, and if a man wins a majority of the votes at the colliery he must have the right to represent them. If my hon. Friend is under the impression that under this scheme provision is made for any man at the pit to get something for nothing, he has made a mistake. If you want a real old-fashioned Tory you must not go to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, but you must go to a British workman. You get these men in a pool at this pit where the interests of one depends upon the efforts of the whole. Under these circumstances you cannot imagine a man trying to get a bit out of the "pool" which he has not worked for. I think the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Stanton) can safely leave them alone. I have been asked whether there was any provision for an output allowance. My reply is, that on page 16, Clause 53, of the Coal Industry Commission Report, there is a distinct undertaking, which is as follows:The workers at each mine shall be entitled to an output allowance to be ascertained in an approved manner and divided among them half-yearly.The House will see that the inducement to a pit or district is to produce, because, according to the degree they produce, they will advance as regards their conditions of employment, on account of the output allowance. There is another clause which I should also like to cite. The export of coal is a tricky, intricate, and difficult question, and we do not propose that our scheme for nationalisation shall be used to destroy our export trade of coal. We pay the compliment to the exporters of coal, that they know a great deal about their business, and it must take us a year or two before we can know as much. Therefore, instead of disconnecting them from the industry, we propose to sell coal to them, and coal will be sold to exporters as freely under nationalisation as it is at the present time. Anybody who wants to supply depots in France, Italy or Argentina, all they need to do is to apply, and coal will be sold to them, but there will be a proviso, which they may not like, but it is a very necessary one, and we make it a condition in Clause 89 that:Any exporter to whom coal is sold for export shall divide all profits over one shilling 89 per ton equally with the District Mining Council.Exporters may not like that, but as they will have the advantage of buying coal quite freely, it is thought that the nation is quite within its rights in saying that they should share their profits with the nation. That is the scheme in a fragmentary form as contained in the Coal Industry Commission's Report. That is the scheme which the Miners' Federation accepted at their conference, and it is the scheme which the Labour party accept, both in this House and in the country. It is also the scheme which the Trade Union Congress have accepted in congress, and that scheme we call upon the Government to put into operation, not to the advantage of the miners, but to the advantage of the State. It is a pity we cannot do without money, and I can understand people saying that the scheme sounds all right, but how are you going to find the money?
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BRACE
No, this is for the coal industry. People may say that the nation has spent £8,000,000,000 in this war, and how are you going to find the money to purchase these mines? In my early days in this House, when I used to hear the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House, and other right hon. Gentlemen talking about purchase and high finance, I used to feel myself in a kind of a maze, and I thought they lived in a sort of mysterious world of which I did not form a part. I have learned something since then. I find that finding millions of money is not at all mysterious. We propose doing for the mining industry what the Government has done in connection with the port of London. We propose to buy the mines, not with money but with paper. On the appointed day you will inform the shareholders of companies that they must send their script up to London and in return you will send them a Government bond. A piece of paper goes up to London and a piece of paper goes back That is how we propose to buy these mines, and I call that high finance. It is an exceedingly interesting operation. It is said that investments in colliery shares are of a speculative character and they ought to have a much higher rate of interest than is paid upon other forms of in- 90 vestments, and I think that is sound. I do not dissent from that point of view at all. I think it is quite true. It is a speculative and a wasting investment. Under the arrangement which we are pro-posing, however, we change the form of the security. Instead of it being risky and speculative, it is a sound investment, and, inasmuch as we give the nation as security for it, the shareholders will have to be satisfied with exactly the same rate of interest as people who invest in the War Loan. What is to be the price? That is the real crux of the matter. Set up an impartial and fair tribunal and let that tribunal fix a fair price to be paid to the shareholders for their collieries. I am not only prepared to see a fair price paid, but I am prepared to see a generous price paid for this property. Whether we like it or not, we shall have to face this issue. Without nationalisation, this nation cannot have the coal that it wants. The war wiped away, either wholly or in part, the old economic view of things, and if you want the miners to welcome the introduction of any labour-saving appliances, if you want them to welcome the introduction of machinery, and if you want them to welcome every invention which would give to the nation a larger output of coal, then you must change, the House of Commons must change, the motive. I assure the House, on my word of honour, that there is a feeling among the mining population that they will not produce to the last ounce of their capacity simply to add to the profits of private individuals. They are prepared, however, to produce to the last ounce of their capacity to give to the nation and to the humanity of the world all the coal which they require.
§ Mr. BRACE
I am not speaking for the shareholders. I am putting the case for the Labour party, and, if my hon. Friend wants to speak for the shareholders, I have no doubt that he will have an opportunity of putting their case. I am putting the case for nationalisation as I understand it, and I hope that I am doing it without offence. If I thought that this scheme of nationalisation were intended to give, or indeed would give, the mining population an advantage at the expense of the State, I would oppose it 91 I know that as a Commonwealth we must advance together, if we are to advance at all. We cannot make progress by advantaging one section of the community at the expense of the others. It is because the Labour party in this House and those they represent outside believe that this scheme contains the promise of opening the pathway to a new and higher economic life of the nation that they ask the Government to honour their bond and their pledge and to give effect by legislation to the Report of the Coal Industry Commission. We believe that we are entitled to ask that, particularly in face of the fact that coal is the key which is going to unlock the whole of the markets of the world to our advantage in the future, and that it will balance the exchanges which are at present against us. Under nationalisation the nation will have all the coal that it requires, and by disposing of the surplus we can re-establish, industrially and commercially, this great nation on the high pinnacle which has been our experience in the past.
§ Mr. LYON
In rising to take part in this Debate, I have to ask the indulgence which this House always extends to those who address it for the first time. I have to ask that indulgence all the more because it happens to be my lot to follow the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and of course I am unable to follow him in all the technical details that he has put before the House. I speak as one of those who were returned to this House to oppose nationalisation. I recollect hearing the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Mr. Thomas) say last Session that he was convinced that greater production was necessary for the future prosperity of the working men of this country. It seems to me, when Members of the Labour party say that they realise that greater production is essential, and at the same time say that they believe in nationalisation, that they cast upon themselves the duty of proving that the latter will lead to the former. I say, and I say with great respect, that that question has always been avoided when hon. and right hon. Members have spoken from the Labour Benches. There is no lack of procedents for nationalisation. I have no intention of wearying the House by citing the instances which have been cited here again and again. It is extraordinary, however, that Members 92 of the Labour party never on any occasion refer to any of these numerous instances of nationalisation. It is a fair inference to say that if those precedents were in their favour we should hear more about them. I am one of those who are opposed to nationalisation, not from any tender or excessive regard for capital, but simply because I am unable to see, and hon. Members opposite make no attempt to prove to mo, that it is for the benefit of the country as a whole. I am bound in all fairness to say that I do not think that the present conditions between capital and labour can prevail. Great employers of labour are to some extent to blame for the present situation. I look forward to a participation in pro fits, and when I am told, as I have been told by great employers of labour, that that system cannot be applied to many businesses, I think the only answer is "So much the worse for employers of labour," and, what is very much more important, "So much the worse for the country."
The Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Adamson) yesterday told the House that the Labour party was united in favour of nationalisation. He did not say that the majority of the electorate was in favour of nationalisation. This Amendment, I take it, is a direct challenge to the Government on that point, and I trust that it is a challenge which the Government will take up, because they have everything to gain and nothing to lose by doing so. If the Government take it up they may possibly regain some of that confidence which they have undoubtedly lost owing to the feeling which is prevalent in the country that they have been weak and vacillating in dealing with this matter. There are three courses open to the Government. They can take their stand upon the ground that the majority in this House were elected to oppose nationalisation. I believe myself that the majority of the Members were elected to oppose nationalisation, and that the majority of us gave pledges to that effect. The Government, therefore, might fairly say that they would be no party to any legislation respecting nationalisation during the lifetime of this Parliament. If the Government do not feel themselves strong enough or do not care to take that course, there is always open to them the alternative of a General Election. I know the reasons given for having a General 93 Election. The Leader of the Opposition (Sir D. Maclean) yesterday said that a new House of Commons was a necessity. I imagine that there has been no House of Commons which has produced so many different opinions as that of which we form a part. I recollect reading three or four weeks ago in a well-known newspaper, the statement, given from an experience of many years, that the present House of Commons contains more men of ability, of education, and of public spirit than any of its predecessors. It was extremely pleasant reading, and I admit that I read that paragraph more than once. Unfortunately, almost on the same day there was published a book by Mr. Keynes, in which he said that friends told him that the present House of Commons was composed largely of hard-faced men who looked as if they had done very well out of the war. Possibly between those two statements there may me ground for a General Election, but I sincerely trust that there will not be a General Election on Nationalisation, because other questions would prevent a clear and definite answer being obtained on that issue.
There remains one further alternative. There remains the possibility of a referendum. I am well aware of the many objections to a referendum. The principal one, probably, is that it weakens the authority of this House. There is a great deal in that contention, but I am sure that a referendum would weaken the authority of this House much less than leaders of the Labour Party dealing with the Government apart from or over the heads of the House. The right hon. Gentlemen opposite would he in favour of a referendum. They are great believers in democracy, and naturally therefore they are in favour of majority government. We on this side of the House are not so frightened of the voice of the people, as hon. Gentlemen opposite express it, but we want to be sure that it is the voice of the people. We want to be sure that it is the voice of Esau. Occasionally, we have the uncomfortable and unpleasant suspicion that we are not hearing the voice of Esau, but that the Labour party are playing the part of Jacob in this affair. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite would welcome a referendum which would put an end to the present system, which must be peculiarly re- 94 pugnant to them as savouring of secret diplomacy. If the Government do not feel themselves able to take an absolutely plain stand on this question of nationalisation, which so many of us were elected to oppose, then we ask for an answer from the country in one form or another on a subject which certainly will be a cause and may be the means of industrial unrest, until it is settled one way of the other.
§ Mr. JOHN JONES
I cannot lay claim as did the mover of this Amendment, to an intimate knowledge of the class of industry which happens to come under its purview. I can only speak as a representative of that section of the community which is hardest hit by high prices and which knows what it is to shun the delights of life and live laborious days. In so far as we are concerned we do not support the miner because we desire he shall have a privileged position as against all other industries, but we are on the broad grounds of national necessity and trade policy supporting the ownership by the community of this essential commodity in the interests of the entire people, because we believe that those things which are essential to the lives of all should not be dominated and con trolled by any one section of the community to the disadvantage of all other sections. In so far as the coal industry is concerned we claim that an unanswerable case has been made out, not in the more statements of members of the Labour party, but in a study of the report presented by a Commission which this House appointed. If any justification for a revolutionary procedure in the organisation of industry was necessary, that justification was given in the Report presented by the Sankey Commission, and consequently since that report has been presented all people who have taken a keen interest from the working-class point of view, and most of the rank and file of the various trade organisations, have had their eyes opened to a greater extent than ever before to the nature of the problem and the necessity for dealing with it.
Suppose that report had been in an opposite direction. Imagine that the Commission had reported that in their investigation they had discovered that this industry was well conducted, that there was no necessity for any alteration, and that everything had been demonstrated to be as it should be; then I 95 venture to suggest that members of the Labour party would have met with a very warm reception from Members of this House had they dared to propose that the report of this Commission should be taken no notice of. What have we got now? We have had a Committee appointed by the Government apart from this Commission dealing with the same problem in another form. That Committee has reported that a very large proportion of our essential industries are to-day organised in the form of trusts, combines and syndicates, and that where trusts, combines and syndicates do not operate we have trade understandings and agreements militating against the interests of the community. We say that the time has gone by when industry should be dominated in the interest of one section as against the great mass of the people, and we claim that the time has arrived when the people must own the trusts or else the trusts will own the people. And when we have the argument of bureaucracy brought up against us, I should like to ask who are the upholders of that system of bureaucracy? Who have established it? Labour has been out in the cold. We have not had much opportunity of controlling or organising industry up to the present. Where we have con-trolled we have destroyed bureaucracy. In our trade unions we have no bureaucracy, and in our co-operative societies we have none. The members of an industry elect their committees of management, who in turn elect the officers, and the system is controlled from beginning to end by the ordinary rank and file of the membership. Bureaucracy is an establishment created in the interests of a particular class of the community, and, so far as we are concerned, there is no more determined and bitter opponent of bureaucracy than the men who sit on these benches. We are anxious not merely to limit its power but also to destroy its opportunity to dominate without the free consent of those whom it happens to control.
In the East-end of London we have had experience of rings and combines. We have seen people who could afford to pay high prices getting preference, while those who cannot afford to pay have to go without, and it is because we believe the public have a right of control of all essentials for our existence that we are supporting the miners' demands for the 96 nationalisation of this essential industry. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Lyon) referred to public opinion and the necessity for taking the voice of the people on a matter of this importance. We are not opposed to taking public opinion. We believe in democracy. We want to see democracy govern, and we object to any form of dictatorship which happens to be dressed in a frock coat or tall hat. May I remind the hon. Member that during the past six months the organised workers of the country have carried on a campaign in all important industrial centres, and at every one of these demonstrations huge audiences have given their unanimous consent to the principle contained in this Amendment. Consequently, in so far as it is possible to get an expression of public opinion there is no question at present before the public on which a greater volume of public opinion has expressed itself so definitely as in this case. We are asked to imagine that brains are given out in compartments. I am very glad, of course, that it has been so in the past because it has given us an opportunity of forming a judgment on the geniuses that have presided over our destinies. But I believe the Almighty has not given any particular class of the community a monopoly of brain power. We want to see equality of opportunity for all sections to demonstrate their capacity and ability, and we believe that amongst the workers in the various industries it has been only a lack of opportunity which has prevented the development of an intelligence which would be to the advantage of the State if properly organised and developed. So we support the claim not merely for national ownership of the industry but also for its democratic control.
I cannot, of course, go into details as other Members of this House may possibly be able to do, but as a matter of fact the trade union movement of Great Britain to-day has become tired of the policy previously adopted of merely trying to increase wages without having any control over the destinies of their lives after their wages have been raised and their conditions have been improved. We have discovered this as the result of bitter experience that however much we may increase wages or improve working conditions, as long as we leave the control of industry 97 in the hands of a comparatively small number of people, what we gain on the swings we generally lose on the roundabouts, and not merely do we lose but the community as a whole loses. Therefore this system stands condemned from the standpoint of our experience. The question has also been raised as to the possibilities of management. I have yet to learn that 1,500 boards of directors are essential for the management of an industry whose total capital is only £135,000,000. According to the Report of the Royal Commission that is the total amount of money invested in coal mines in Great Britain, and yet we have 1,500 different boards of directors to administer that comparatively small amount of capital. We venture to suggest that if you want to discover methods of economy you could easily abolish that system of administration. Have we any guarantee that the people who now dominate the industry necessarily understand it? Are boards of directors elected because they understand the industry they are to direct? I always understood that their principal recommendation has been that they are large shareholders and that, so far as the technical and managerial side is concerned, they know as much about it as the common man in the street knows about astronomy. We claim that the system put forward by the Amendment, or rather by the Miners' Federation, which would bring in technical experts from among the workmen themselves, and which would also bring in representatives of the community, would give a far better hope of effective management than the system which now prevails or any proposed system which has been discussed up to the present time. We are not at all blind to the fact that under any system there may be imperfection. I suppose men will act imperfectly as long as we have not a perfect world, and when we have reached the perfect stage there will be no necessity for the world itself for we shall all have become angels, and will not be able to find fault with each other.
In this House we cannot very often say much about our own imperfections, because we cannot afford to throw bricks at each other; but in this matter of management we claim that the industries of the country to-day are not managed in the interest of the community or in the real interests of the great masses of the people. Consequently, the whole 98 trade union movement has agreed not merely on the nationalisation of the coal mines, but for all essential property necessary for the lives of the people to be put under the control of the community and to be used for the benefit of the community. We say that with all due deference to those who may be opposed to us. What is the system prevailing to-day? Under existing arrangements for the control of industry it is a case of the big fish eating the little fish and the little fish eating mud. Even in the retail trades you read in the newspapers to-day how the great centres of control situated in London are gradually buying up old well-established businesses in the provinces. You will find in every department of industry the larger are swallowing up the smaller, and in the necessary essential development of that system of capitalism the demand for larger and larger capital is practically squeezing out the small independent business man. The control of industry is passing into the hands of financial cliques and sections away from the independent business man and trader. When I hear people talking about the splendid results of private enterprise I say that, whatever those results may have been in the past, we have now abolished it as it was understood in days gone by, and to-day we are living in an age of joint stock enterprise or control by the men who hold the money bags without which their system cannot operate. Therefore, we want control in so far as the nation is concerned of all essential industries in the interests of the entire community. We want to abolish bureaucracy by destroying the power of the bureaucrat and the autocrat, and consequently in every part of the United Kingdom the workers to-day are more and more determined that the old system shall be got rid of, and that a now arrangement shall be entered into.
I happened to be present at the inquiry into the application of the dockers for standard rates. During that inquiry evidence was produced very similar to that which was forthcoming before the Coal Commission, and it has been demonstrated that, while the workers may have improved their position slightly, while they have been enabled to gain an advantage in wages and improved working conditions, the relative difference between them and those who control the industry is greater now than ever before. The 99 people at the top are doing better than ever they did, while those at the bottom are relatively in a worse position compared with the prosperity in the industry. I make that statement without fear of contradiction. Relatively to the amount of wealth produced in Great Britain the worker is poorer than ever he was before. If you are going to argue that as a mere statement of figures, then I will demonstrate that, so far as the worker is concerned, his position to-day is worse economically than it has been in any period of modern society. Consequently we are not asking for this Amendment to be carried merely because we want to give a privilege to the miner or the mine-owner, but because we think the time has arrived when the land we are supposed to honour and love, the land we fought for, shall no longer be the plaything of the few, but shall be the property of the whole people. Surely if there is any justification for the nation owning anything at all, it is absolutely essential that this great industry, which happens to be the very pivot of all industries, shall no longer be subject to individual desires or greed, but shall be organised nationally as a public service in the interests of all people.
From these points of view, as representing a working class constituency in the East-end of London, where when the people have had the matter placed before them, they have enthusiastically adopted a resolution for the nationalisation of the mines, I support the Amendment. I do not hope, of course, that the Amendment will be carried. That is too much to expect. But we know that when the time arrives for the people of the country to give their judgment on the question contained in the Amendment they will say that the land of the nation should be the property of the nation, and we hope that that will usher in a better time for the workers without injuring any of those whose interests are affected.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
I would venture to re-call the House to the precise terms of the Amendment which has been moved. Itregrets the absence of any proposal to nationalise the coal mines of the country on the lines recommended by a majority of the members of the Royal Commission on the Coal industry.I am quite certain that the whole House, without exception, will be exceed- 100 ingly grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) for the tone which he maintained throughout the very interesting speech he delivered. Those of us who have been here for some little time, I am sure, have never heard a serious subject introduced with more characteristic moderation and geniality. I sincerely hope that tone may be maintained throughout the whole of this Debate, for we are discussing a matter of the very gravest national importance. It is a question on which, as I believe, very large issues are going to turn in the immediate future. Therefore I welcome more cordially than I can say the tone which the right hon. Gentleman maintained. It is a very different tone from that which was taken by one of the congresses to which he referred—the congress at Glasgow—when the Miners' Federation of Great Britain induced the congress to resolve, with practical unanimity, to co-operate with the Miners' Federation of Great Britain to the fullest extentwith a view to compelling the Government to adopt the scheme of national ownership and joint control recommended by the majority of the Sankey Commission.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
Yes, from the resolution adopted by the Glasgow Congress last year. Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise the quotation?
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
We may be very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment for the contrast in his tone. What was the first point on which he laid stress? It was that the Government had been absolutely unfaithful to the pledge which it had given to the Labour party. I am not greatly concerned to meet that argument; it is for others from the Government Bench to meet it. But I did notice that the right hon. Gentleman himself conditioned the pledge in the words which he used. 101 I quote them from him, not from my own memory—The Government undertook to carry out the Report of the Sankey Commission if it proved to be a good business proposition.I believe we should all desire to carry out the recommendation of the Sankey Report if it proves to be a good business proposition. That is the whole question which we are here really to discuss. I do not for a moment, especially after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, suggest that this question of nationalisation should be judged by any other standard than that. It is not a question of economic theory, still less is it a question of ethical principle. The right hon. Gentleman made it perfectly clear that he and all those for whom he spoke were not prepared to sanction anything at all in the nature of confiscation. I accept unreservedly the assurances given by the right hon. Gentleman. My point for the moment is this: Accepting all his assurances, is ho prepared to base his claim, as I am prepared to base my case on the words which he himself quoted:If it proved to be a good business proposition.Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to lay great stress upon the fact that the Government was pledged to carry out the report. These are the terms of the Amendment which he has moved:Pledged to carry out the nationalisation of the coal mines on the lines recommended by a majority of the members of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry.We have heard a great deal about that Majority Report, but I put it to the House with all submission that there was no majority report of that Commission at all. There were four minority reports but there was no majority report. There was the Report of Mr. Justice Sankey; there was the Report of Sir Arthur Duckham, and there were other Reports, one by the miners' representatives and certain Fabian Socialists who sat upon the Commission, and the other the Report of the five coalowners and business men. There were four separate Reports and not one of these was a majority report. I hope that someone who speaks on behalf of the Labour party will tell us precisely what they mean in putting forward an Amendment which calls upon the House to adopt the recommendations of the majority of the Sankey Commission. All hon. Members opposite, I am sure, will remember that those whom they 102 describe as the majority—at least I presume they are to be regarded as the majority—the six miners' representatives and the Fabian Socialists who, up to a point, agree with Mr. Justice Sankey, distinctly reserve certain points in Mr. Justice Sankey's Report. In the first place they laid down thatThe contracts of employment of workmen shall embody an undertaking to the effect that no workman will, in consequence of any dispute, join in giving notice to determine his contract, nor will ho combine to cease work.These are the words quoted by the right hon. Gentleman:unless and until the question in dispute has been before the Local Mining Council and the District Mining Council and those Councils have failed to settle the dispute.The second and third paragraphs, which I have here, embody a similar principle but affect larger areas of the organisation. These miners' representatives are those who signed the Report that, while they fully recognised the necessity of working rules and the importance of preventing unnecessary stoppages of the trade, they contended that the provisions laid down by Mr. Justice Sankey may be used—I am quoting their own words—may be used to impose upon the workers by law a particular form of contract, without their consent.I want to know from some hon. Member who will speak from the Benches opposite whether those words which I have quoted from what they call the Majority Report do or do not embody their opinions today? Do they stand by those words, that those provisions of Mr. Justice Sankey may be used to impose on the workers by law a particular form of contract without their consent? It is perfectly obvious what they mean by that. They tell us—I can very well understand their position—that, under what I may call the Sankey scheme, the individual wage earner may enjoy less freedom as the employé of the State than as the employé of a limited company. I think they are perfectly right. It is that lucidity of perception which, in my opinion, gives point and significance to a further suggestion which I quote from their own Report:With a view to securing the cordial cooperation of the workers in the success of the industry, it is necessary to provide for a fuller representation of the workers on the District and National Councils, on the lines 103 indicated in the scheme submitted by Mr. W. Straker.I claim to have demonstrated my first point that when hon. Members refer to the Majority recommendations of the Sankey Report there is no such majority in existence, and to that extent the Amendment proposed by my right hon. Friend falls to the ground. I do not, however, want to argue on what may be regarded as a relatively trivial point. I want, if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will permit me to do so, to come to as close grips as I can on the merits of the very important question which is before the House this afternoon. We are asked to accept the principle of nationalisation, in the first instance nationalisation applied to a particular industry—the coal industry. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last in his very interesting speech made it quite clear, as I shall demonstrate in a moment, that he does not accept—I quite understand that he does not accept it—the limitation implied in the Amendment. In the first place, we have to have some perfectly clear definition of the term which is under discussion. What do you really mean by this nationalisation? I have been a very close student of Trade Union Congresses. I have read their reports, if I have not been able to attend the Congress—which I try to do sometimes—with the closest possible interest. For twenty-five or thirty years Trade Union Congresses have been passing resolutions saying that they are in favour of the nationalisation of this or the nationalisation of that. The question I want to put to my hon. Friends opposite—perhaps they will be good enough to answer it a little later on—is this: Do they mean the same thing by the same word that they have meant during these twenty-five or thirty years? As we have understood nationalisation hitherto what it has meant is that the State should be substituted for the individual in regard first to ownership—the ownership of the land, the minerals, the capital, the machinery, and all the material means of production. That the State in the second place should be substituted for the individual as the director of industry. That the State should be substituted for the individual as the sole employer of labour. That the State should be substituted for the 104 individual as the sole distributor of commodities. That is what we have understood by nationalisation. We have heard this afternoon that this system, or a modified system, is to begin with the coal mines, but the hon. Member (Mr. J. Jones) and many others do not mean to stop at the coal industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear!"] I am very glad to have that approving and endorsing cheer because it enables me to know all the better where we stand in the argument I am pursuing. We are only beginning with the coal mines, as Mr. Smillie said in December. Mr. Tom Mann, also at the Trade Union Special Congress in December, said:It was not the miners alone who required the control of their industry Each industry would come along with its programme until the general principles of socialisation had been effectively applied.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear!"] I am very glad we thoroughly understand one another on that. I am going to take it from my hon. Friends opposite that it is to be nationalisation all round and not for a particular industry. That is one point which I hope with great geniality we have established.
Having established that point, we approach the whole of this question—I am sure here again I shall have the assent of my hon. Friends opposite; I want to keep it as long as I can—with one very great controversial advantage. We are now in a position to appreciate much more clearly than we were able to do five years ago what nationalisation in practice would mean. Then we saw through a glass darkly into the dim recesses of the Post Office. Now I think we have seen face to face mammoth State Departments sprawling over parks and open spaces. We have had a foretaste of what State control of industry will mean—the apotheosis of bureaucracy, multitudes of officials, miles of red tape, tons of card indices and duplicators, cross currents of correspondence, an avalanche of papers, and violent gusts of public indignation. Do hon. Members opposite suggest that these experiments have been tried during the last five years under unfavourable conditions?
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
That is the argument you are going to use. I hope the hon. Member will develop that argument 105 at a later stage. I shall listen to it with the greatest possible interest. I suggest on the contrary that experiments have been tried during the last five years under circumstances of exceptional advantage in order to judge of the result of State control and nationalisation. What are those advantages? In the first place the State was able to command the services of some of the, very ablest men in the country, who gave very often gratuitous and almost always most devoted service to the State. But these were men who have been trained under and were produced by the competitive system of industry. In the second place the State was able to raise capital on most advantageous terms. It was able to pay, out of the money which it raised by taxation and borrowed, in some cases exorbitant wages. Another advantage was that the State was able, owing to the circumstances of the time, to exclude all competition. The State all through this time was producing for a guaranteed market. There is not a business man in the House who does not know what the advantage of producing for a guaranteed market is. Any fool can produce a monopoly for a guaranteed market. The State was, during the years of which I have spoken, enjoying all these advantages. Ordinary commercial risks had no terrors at all for the State during this period. The State was at once seller, purchaser, creditor and debtor. And yet what is the general verdict on the result which was produced? I think that verdict will not be questioned in any portion of the House. But this problem of nationalisation is not going to be decided by appeals to economic theory. I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace). I am perfectly prepared to accept the condition which he quoted as having been laid down by the Government itself, that the report of the Sankey Commission would be carried out if it proved to be a good business proposition.
May I come to consider whether the scheme as outlined there could be a good business proposition. I am going to apply the simplest possible test, no theoretical test at all, but the practical test, "Who is going to benefit"? What are the parties which conceivably could benefit from this organic change, because, if applied as hon. Members opposite want to apply it, it is going to be an organic change in the whole structure of industry. In the first place there is the 106 State. The State is interested in the whole of this question from one or two points of view. In the first place the State is interested from the point of view of the collection of revenue. At present the State derives from the mining industry an enormous revenue which it applies to public purposes. Where is that revenue when your mines have been nationalised? You may pick it up in other forms—in the form of profit or what you will—but in the form of taxes it has gone. Then there is the position of the State as representing the community in their capacity as consumers. Thirdly, there is the position of the person who at present supplies the capital. Speaking as a mere brainless capitalist, a person, that is to say, who supplies capital and no brains to industry, it is a matter of perfect indifference whether I receive my debenture of preference interest from a limited liability company or from the State. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace) made it perfectly clear that, as far as he was concerned and those for whom he was entitled to speak, he was going to have no truck with confiscation. He was going honestly to buy out the present proprietors at a generous price. I am perfectly certain that he intends that the present proprietors shall be equitably treated. As regards those who supply to the industry nothing but capital, they have no cause of complaint at all if the State chooses to effect the operation which has been outlined. It is not from their point of view that I have the slightest objection to the proposal. I mention that to show that I bring to the discussion of this question no capitalist prejudice whatever. I do not think the capitalist question is really involved in the discussion at all, at any rate on the lines on which it was initiated by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace).
What is the other interest to be considered? Clearly it is the interest of those who supply the manual labour—the present wage-earners. I can perfectly understand and to a very large extent sympathise with the demands which have been put forward on behalf of the wage-earning class in the mining industry. The position they have taken up since the war is perfectly intelligible, and for this reason: During the war one or two special classes of wage-earners have been able to obtain very large remuneration for their labour. The miners in particular have 107 been able—I do not want to say a word which will be bitterly controversial, but surely it is a matter of general acknowledgment that the miners have boon able—to obtain from the necessities of the community very exceptional remuneration for their work. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] I do not want to bandy words with hon. Gentlemen. I am dealing with wages as compared with wages at other periods, and surely it is not a matter for controversy that the miners have obtained very high wages. I am simply asking the question whether it is a matter of controversy that during this period very large, and exceptionably large, remuneration has been obtained by the wage-earners from the community at large.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
Not at all, and if my hon. Friend will be good enough to look at another Amendment to the Address which I have put down, with other hon. and right hon. Members, he will see that the question of the cost of living has by no means escaped my attention. My hon. Friend knows very well in other connections that that question has not escaped my attention, and no one in the House knows it better. On the admission of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Debate, the system which we have had for the last five years did not give us either of two things. He laid great stress upon the point. It did not give us industrial peace. These high wages did not secure industrial peace. I am not sure whether I have the figures correctly, but I think he told us that in 1918 the miners lost over one million days. That does not sound like industrial peace. It certainly did not give us a larger output. In 1918 the average output per man was 226 tons, which is about the lowest output on record, and only one-third, or less than one-third, of the output per man in the mining industry of the United States of America. I am asked by my right hon. Friend, and hon. Members opposite, to believe that nationalisation of the mines as proposed by them will confer an unmixed benefit upon the manual worker. I am perfectly ready to admit 108 that it would, but only on two conditions: in the first place, if it led to a large, or even a considerable, increase in the output of the mines; and in the second place—and this is a point on which hon. Gentlemen will perceive why I welcomed their cheers earlier—they would obtain benefit from nationalisation if the mines were nationalised and other industries were not. Let this be quite clearly understood. You have to visualise, if you can, not only the mines nationalised, but all other industries simultaneously, or in a short time, nationalised along with them. I admit frankly that the manual workers in the mines could secure an advantage, but they could secure it only so long as they had a virtual monopoly and a larger output. The cheers which greeted the earlier portion of my speech showed that hon. Members have already surrendered the first of these advantages. They are not going to nationalise the mines and nothing else. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] They surrender that advantage. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Exactly, and I admire their unselfishness much more than I do their perspicacity. A larger output means various things. In the first place, you must have the application of abundant capital. In the second place you must have highly skilled direction, and in the third place, you must have very hard work on the part of the manual worker. I was very pleased to see in the "Daily Herald "— [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members will observe what an attentive student I am. I was very pleased to read in the organ which has evoked those cheers a statement by Sir Leo Chiozza Money in favour of the nationalisation of the mines because, as he said, it was absolutely necessary for the mines that new capital should be lavished upon them. Where is that new capital that is to be lavished upon the mines to come from? [HON. MEMBERS: "The profiteers"; "From White-chapel."] That is a source of supply which did not enter into my calculation. I fully realise that it might be very valuable if it were tacked by the eloquence of hon. Members opposite. In the first place you have to have the application of abundant capital. In the second place, you have to have very highly skilled direction; and in the third place, you have to have highly skilled manual workers. Then you may have 109 the highest product of industry, but the product of industry is not at all the same thing as the product of manual labour. That was clearly admitted by my right hon. Friend who initiated the debate. Ho made it perfectly clear in his moderate and very statesman-like speech that he, and I hope those for whom he spoke, seriously appreciated the contribution to production that is made not only by manual labour but also by skill, by brains and, not least, by capital. I have spoken frankly on this question, because I feel very strongly upon it. I hope I have not put any of my points offensively or too bluntly for the feelings of hon. Members opposite. I have tried not to derogate from the high plane of debate initiated by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Brace). If I have put my points too bluntly, I apologise; but my bluntness has only been due to a desire for relative brevity.
I hope I have not been too dogmatic. At any rate, I claim this, that if I have been dogmatic, my dogmatism is not the result of any recent study of this question. I have been doing my best to understand it for 25 or 30 years or more, and the more closely I have investigated this problem the more definite becomes my conviction that the remedy which is proposed in this Amendment would be hurtful, in the highest degree, to every interest concerned. It would be hurtful to the State as the guardian of the common purse, and I believe it would be hurtful to the community as representing the aggregate of the consumer, and I believe it would be hurtful to those engaged in the great industries of the country. I am careful to speak here in the plural. Above all, it would be hurtful to the great mass of our people who labour with their hands and have to depend upon the product of that labour to earn the broad that they eat.
§ Mr. HOLMES
The hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Lyon) in his interesting maiden speech made two points, one of which was that the Government had added to the unrest in the coal industry owing to its having been weak and vacillating, and the other was that the employers had contributed to it by certain unwise administration. I want to support the hon. Member on those two points, and to try to show to the Government that they are not going to allay but to increase this great demand for 110 nationalisation by certain proceedings at the present time. We have not seen the report, but we have seen a summary this morning of the independent accountants' report upon the coal industry. Those who care to look back at the Official Report of the debate last July and the speeches made by some of us who have had some experience in the industry, and to compare the estimates we made with the estimates made by the Board of Trade, they will see that those of us who were basing our estimates upon our general knowledge were far nearer than the Board of Trade itself. The independent accountant tells us that for the year ending 31st March, 1920, there will be a surplus of £6,000,000. In arriving at his estimate he allows the coalowner 1s. 2d. per ton. Is that the last word with regard to the finance of the coal industry? Are we and the country to understand that that is what is going to be carried out? I ask the President of the Board of Trade to tell us whether he, or the Coal Controller on his behalf, has entered into an understanding with the coalowners not that they shall have 1s. 2d. for the past year but their prewar standards of profit for the past year, provided the industry makes it. In other words, instead of the coalowners having for last year the £12,700,000 which has been allowed to them in the estimate of the independent accountant, they are actually to have £22,000,000, or over £9,000,000 more. Are we to have this subsequently announced to us, and the whole of the figures upset and the whole of the accounts of the coal industry to be in confusion for another twelve months? And has the Coal Controller entered into any further arrangement with the coalowners that the profits of the coal industry are now going to be treated simply upon the Excess Profits Duty basis, and that the coalowners are to retain all further profits, in addition to the standard on the arrangement that those who are making profits out of export are to give up half of those profits and transfer them for the benefit of the collieries not doing an export trade? If what I am saying is true, if an understanding of that sort has been entered into, then the sooner it is made known the better.
There is another point. We read in the "Times" this morning that the exports of coal during January amounted to nearly 4,000,000 tons, and that the 111 average price was £3 10s. per ton. Every Frenchman and Italian who desires our coal would be only too glad to take all our export at an average price of £3 10s., but they cannot get it. Everybody who knows anything about coal knows that the price which is being got for our export coal is far more than £3 10s. a ton. How does it come about that the official figures only show £3 10s. a ton during the last month as the net result of the system of coal control? What has happened during the past few months has been that colliery companies and private owners, seeing their profits limited, have formed subsidiary companies or private partnerships, and have sold their coal, not directly for export, but to these subsidiary companies or private firms, who have intercepted the profit on export which should have come straight into the Coal Controller's Department. That is the reason why the average price of export coal last month was only £3 10s. Can the House not realise that while this is going on the men who are working in the industries see that these—what for want of a better word I may call—subterfuges are being adopted, and when coalowners and colliery companies are doing this sort of thing can you not understand that the indignation of the miners is rising from day to day, and that we have impassioned speeches in which we are told they are no longer going to work for private capitalists. If hon. Gentlemen opposite are so desirous of opposing this nationalisation policy they will insist that the Government should let us know the whole truth at once and make the coal owners give up subterfuges of this sort.
§ Mr. STANTON
I suppose that I may claim the right, as a man who has worked in mines for thirteen or fourteen years, has acted as a mining agent for something like twelve or thirteen years, and has had as much to do with mining in South Wales during that period, which was a troublesome period, as any Member of this House who is connected with mining, or as anyone outside, to recall that I have always been a believer in the principle of the nationalisation of the mines However, we have recently discovered that there is another side to these things and my view has changed somewhat by sad experience of passing events and of 112 things which are likely to come into being shortly. I have advocated nationalisation of the mines, and that the mineral wealth of this country should be held for and controlled in the best interests of the whole community; but I never suggested that it should be done for a class. Now we discover that the nationalisation which our frieuds are asking for is something entirely different, something which is more like syndicalisation and something for which to-day we use the term "Bolshevism." The right hon. Gentle man who moved the Motion to-day was, I always remember, an old colleague of mine, and I have listened to him swaying conferences down in Wales in the sweet old days when sometimes he had difficulty in dissuading me from advocating what he has been advocating to-day when I was advocating nationalisation of the mines and of other things.
I remember quite well when the right hon. Member would take me to task, as no doubt he had a perfect right to do, he did so very ably. Sometimes I was able to get the conference against him, but to-day I ask you to look at what you read in the papers, and I wish to say it is all a sham, it is all a humbug where you read of resolutions being carried stating that the miners are in favour of nationalisation of the mines. Send someone to inquire and you will discover, if you do not already know, that it is all humbug. You have got certain men who control and stage-manage those meetings and every conference, every lodge meeting and every congress. Naturally all the other industrial workers would help the miners in what they believe to be an honest proposition for their betterment, especially when they were persuaded that it meant cheaper coal, better conditions, greater safety for the miner, better conditions of things all round for the people who suffer by the evil capitalists who put their money into mines. That sort of thing has gone. I preached it in the old days, and I have lived long enough to be ashamed of the fact that I have condemned wholesale men who lost their money in mines as well as those who made their millions. I am still out to prevent those people exploiting labour and the nation and making their millions, but I am not out to humbug myself. I say to the people who trust me, who sent me here to speak on their behalf, and not for my own self- 113 aggrandisement, that it provokes one unduly to hear the humbug that is uttered from time to time from the other side by men whose repentance and conversion have been very recent, who say what they are saying so as to fit in with the machinery which is working now. And this all comes about because someone started the humbug some time ago; and the people who were opposed to our winning the war, who objected to recruitment, who declared always for Germany, are the people who are now shouting for nationalisation of the mines. (Interruption.)
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
That has no relevance to the subject which is now before the House.
§ Mr. STANTON
I bow to your ruling, but am glad to know that those on the other side have a conscience left as far as the nationalisation of mines goes. If it really meant greater safety for the miner, greater recompense for the perilous nature of their work, shorter hours, greater safety, and also greater output, those things would be very good, and I should certainly support them; but because I believe it is only a sham scheme, and it is not real nationalisation, it is not something in the best interests of the community, something that is not for the betterment of the community themselves, that I oppose it. It is something put forward by men who have persuaded themselves that under a system something like Bolshevism there would be a chance that they would be the Lenins or the Trotskys in power. They do not understand, some of them are merely converts during the last two or three years to the principle of nationalisation, and they are dictated to to-day from outside by people who are not Members of this House, who may have been Members, who are disappointed because they cannot become Members of this House, and it is unhealthy to have utterances of that kind, and though all the best interests of the miners may not be served by the present system, it may be that they could be served by an honest, straightforward scheme of nationalisation. But that is not here. I have been taken to task already in my district, because I live in a mining district, for saying, "Why should the Government hand over everything to the miners?" but I ask, "Why 114 should they?" Why should not the Government do all that is best for the country as a whole? I say it to-day to my people. They still believe me, and if my majority goes down at the next election, or if I find myself an absentee from this House, I will go down fighting with my colours nailed to the mast; but I have not deserted those who supported me, as some others have done. Surely a man who holds my views is now entitled to speak as freely as they are entitled to do. That is what I am doing.
I do not believe that this is really an honest movement for nationalisation. Mr. Justice Sankey, the Judge appointed by Heaven knows whom, was formerly acting barrister for the Miners' Federation, and he has had briefs through me and through my friends on the Opposition Bench. The right hon, Gentleman in his eloquent speech held up Mr. Justice Sankey as an example. Mr. Justice Sankey always did well for us, and did not do badly for those who employed him in the past. It was mentioned to-day by some hon. Members that the control is to be by so many of those and so many of the others, and so on all round. That was what my right hon. Friend declares to be a fair mixture of miners, coal owners, and so on. Is there anything else behind it? Where is the real power? Is there any triple alliance? Is there any guarantee in reference to anything of that kind? This proposal does not, in my opinion, arise from a healthy desire to improve the conditions of the workers of the country or to prevent their exploitation by profiteering or any other means, but arises from an underhand and underworld desire to do an injury to the future well-being of this country. I ask Members of this House to play the game as Britishers. I say to them, "Forget your party politics; forget the side you may be on if it is opposed to that which your own judgment and honesty tell you is best for the nation." I cannot polish my language and when I sit down I shall remember that there are lots of things I ought to have said but have not said; but I do repeat that this is not a real, earnest, healthy movement for nationalisation, and that if the proposals made from the other side are agreed to a great injury will be done not only to the general community but to the miners themselves. The miners, God bless them! have always played the game with 115 me, barring the Independent Labour Party and the Bolsheviks. This has been a marvellous campaign, subsidised from somewhere—some have said from Germany, and others that Trotsky and Lenin have sent money. Lecturers have been busy week by week, and the Home Office has allowed all sorts of treacherous utterances to be made. If you are a Bolshevik there are always hands to meet you at the station, and the Labour party will stand up for you. I am speaking as one who knows. I would say to the Labour party that as they grow in numbers they must also grow-in consciousness of their responsibilities to this great country. Then the community and those they represent will not suffer. As one who has always stood for nationalisation of the mines, and other things too, I hope that on this occasion we shall not play into the hands of the Bolsheviks, who want to upset what is in the best interests of the country.
§ Mr. LUNN
It is apparent that something should be done by this House to deal with the coal industry. In the King's Speech there is a paragraph devoted to problems which must be settled upon an enduring basis. I do not intend to deal with my hon. Friend who has last spoken. Half of his speech tells us that he has been a great supporter of nationalisation, which we know; the other half tells us that he has changed his opinion, and that he is going to nail his flag to some mast or other some day in the future. I think we had better wait until we know to what mast it is likely to be attached. I do not claim to put the case for nationalisation in anything like the eloquent manner in which it has been placed before the House by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Brace). I would rather that the Prime Minister had followed my right hon. Friend and had given any answer which the Government may have to give on the question of nationalisation. It will be interesting to know what is to be the position of the Government towards the proposal. I have never changed my views upon nationalisation. More than 30 years ago I started to vote for resolutions favouring nationalisation in the mining industry. I vote for them to-day, and the only difference between then and now is this, that for many years they were pious resolutions which did not seem to get much further than 116 the branch meetings where they were passed, but that since the armistice we have seen an awakening of the people, and that to-day we believe the mass of the people in this country is anxious that nationalisation of the coal industry shall be brought about.
Mention has been made of the fact that there has been a campaign throughout the Kingdom. I supposed that that would be minimised in importance, but it has been almost like a general election campaign to those who have taken part in it, judging by the enthusiasm and crowds at the meetings. The campaign has been boycotted by the press of this country, largely because the press is in the hands of opponents of nationalisation and is financed by them. If they agree to boycott in that manner it may be necessary to consider means whereby we may prevent the newspapers being bought by the people. If newspapers are not bought by the people they will soon cease to be published. That will be the position regarding the press. There can be no settlement of this question, let me say that definitely, short of nationalisation. I am sufficiently interested in the idea that it should be settled in a constitutional manner to feel that I would rather this House took advantage of the offer that is made to-day in the Amendment, and that the Government should declare itself favourable to nationalisation. If they do not I think it is their last chance; I think it is this Government's last chance to-day to say whether or not they are prepared to nationalise the mines. I am convinced of this, that the conference that is to be held within a few days will decide very definitely according to the answer given by the Government to-day. It may be that the decision will be for a great national strike. I am not anxious for a strike; I am still a believer in the power of the vote and in the use of the vote at the ballot box. I have had experience of strikes. I know what a strike means in a home where there are a good number of children; and I say this, that I hope the workers will never relinquish the power to strike while we have private ownership in industry. Whatever the decision of the Conference I believe it will be loyally adopted and fought for by the workers throughout the length and breadth of the land. It may be said that the funds will not last long if we go on 117 strike. We do not always fight on funds, unfortunately. We have not always plenty of funds when we are on strike, but a strike is bitterer and keener when starvation is at its greatest point. So you must not imagine that because we do not happen to have any funds it is going to stop the possibility of a strike.
You may prepare for it, as we gather it is being prepared for, in the provision of machine guns and tanks and all such things as that, for the miners and other workers when they come out on strike. That will not affect it at all. The fight will go on, because we intend that the mines shall be nationalised. Take that very definitely in this House. You talk about it as a class resolution and as a sectional interest which we are seeking to defend. In no trade union meeting have I seen such class interest as I have seen from those benches opposite during the last Session of Parliament Never in my life have I seen it displayed as I have seen it displayed here. My contention is that this is a most unselfish proposal on the part of the miners. It is the most unselfish proposal that I know of. After all, if we took the suggestion of the Government and agreed as miners that we would become part of those gigantic trusts that are to be set up in the Kingdom, is that in the interest of the community? Is that not the creation of a wider and more vicious circle than exists to-day? We do not desire that. We are anxious that the community should come into this. We are not only anxious but we mean that the community shall be brought into it, and that nationalisation shall be the only remedy. No suggestion of co-partnership, no suggestion of profit-sharing, will meet the position at all. The miners are not prepared to listen to profit-sharing under private ownership as we have it to-day. With all respect to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Whitley Councils do not meet the position at all. We have had the Whitley Council idea of sitting on the opposite side of the table in the industry for a generation. We have been as near perfect in that matter as it was possible to be, and yet we have always known that the balance was heavily weighted and that after all our position was under the table.
We are not asking in this proposal simply for an increase in wages. We 118 know that in good trade and after wars have taken place, wages are fairly high. We are not asking for that now, nor do we imagine that any increase in wages would satisfy the miners for a moment, whatever the increase was Is there any Member in this House who believes that the railway men's case is finally settled by fixing their wages upon a fictitious cost of living? Is there anybody who imagines that even after the brilliant address by Mr. Bevan before the Industrial Court, that if they obtain the 16s. a day, that that is going to settle the claims of the dockers? No, Sir, we mean more than that. There is a different aspiration in the minds of the workers to-day, and they desire something more even than bread and butter, and the unrest which you saw last year was only as a spark in my opinion as to what we are likely to have in the near future in support of this idea. I think this will be a volcano that will come forward from the industrial movement in order to realise the nationalisation of the mines. We have had the Mines Commission as a result of a miners' ballot, and the miners' ballot that was taken last year, though I suppose it would be repudiated by some people, decided by 609,000 to 100,000, and it was an individual ballot in favour of mines nationalisation. We did not ask for the Commission. We opposed the Commission, but we welcomed the relevations that have come forward as a result of that Commission. We are deeply grateful to the men who sat upon the Commission from our side. Messrs. Smillie, Hodges and Herbert Smith have won the undying gratitude of every miner in this kingdom. Then you may say, we had three others who were looking after the interests of the workers, and again I say, our thanks are due to Messrs. Tawney, Sidney Webb and Money. What of the Chairman? I remember when the Chairman was suggested in this House, his name was welcomed by all parties and it was applauded by everybody. I do not wish to say more upon that than my right hon. Friend said. He was accepted as the one man who could be Chairman of a Commission of that kind. He was applauded to the skies as one of the cleverest and greatest judges we had upon the Bench and as a man who could weigh evidence carefully and accurately, and because he gave the full light of day during that Commission to everything in connection with that 119 industry, and did not cloak it up, as some people would have liked, that is the reason, I suppose, why we have had questions after the Report asking the Government that in future they should not appoint a Judge of the High Court as chairman of an industrial Commission. The Report was clear and understandable, and has been amply dealt with by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Brace).
There is one thing about which much has not been said this afternoon, and which will have to be borne in mind, and which is known by a few Members of this House, and that is the conditions under which the miners earn their livelihood. I come from the county of Yorkshire, where we have all kinds of mines. We have very shallow mines with very thin seams, whore the men have to work in very cramped positions, and we have mines where the travelling is bad. We have some of the deepest mines in the Kingdom, and in some of them, as was shown by witnesses at the Commission, there is bad ventilation and the temperature in which men are trying to live of over 90 degrees. There are poisonous gases in which men are working. We know that the effects of those kind of things cannot be to the advantage or to the better healthy conditions of those men. A mine like that is not a health resort, and what does it mean when you have more than 2,000 men and boys employed in such mines, and that is the case in large numbers of our mines. Then take the accidents which happen, and the number of men that are killed every year, and the 160,000 men who come within the Compensation Act every year. Whatever may be the position of the Government, I feel that the miners have come to the conclusion that they are not going now for the future to leave the safety of life and limb in the hands of private owners of the industry. An hon. Member alluded to the fact that the majority of the Commission had not reported in favour of the nationalisation of the mines. This Amendment distinctly deals with the nationalisation of the mines, not with anything else, and which was left out of the King s Speech. I believe I am correct in saying that in the Report of the Commission the whole six on one side, along with the chairman of the Commission, agreed upon the point that the mines of the nation should be nationalised. That is where I 120 think the correctness of the position comes in in favour of the nationalisation of the mines in the Majority Report. There are other matters around this nationalisation which are of importance. There is the home life of the miner, which has never been taken into consideration by the private employer as it is to-day. Some of our worst housing conditions are in mining districts, and in every county one finds horrible conditions of housing. In south Yorkshire we have had the development of a coalfield, the richest perhaps we are likely to have in the Kingdom during the last ten years, which has not provided housing for the people who have been necessary to work that industry. There is no happiness and no comfort in many of those homes where there are four or five families living in an ordinary cottage house. You have thousands of men living away from their homes and families in lodgings in those districts, and what comfort and home life can they have under conditions like those. The three miners' wives who gave evidence before the Commission, gave to the country an idea of what is the home life of the miner. That is a part of this business which must be remedied from what it has been in the past.
I am not going to go into the question of the royalties as we have had it here this afternoon, except to say this, that from all the evidence that was given before the Commission they were convicted out of their own mouths with regard to the ownership of the royalties. Personally I will say, and I am no hypocrite in this matter, I absolutely agree with the miners that no compensation should be paid to the royalty owners. I could never believe that God placed in the bowels of the earth, the coal for the benefit of less than 4,000 people out of the 45,000,000 in this country. I could never believe that. Having had the advantage of these royalties ever since coal was found, I sincerely hope the miners are determined to fight on that point and that no compensation shall be paid to them. It is a different position with regard to the coal owners. My right hon. Friend has dealt with that, and I agree with everything that he has said. You talk of patriotism, and you talk of love of country. We had the revelation from the mining industry that during the five years of war, when millions of the best of mankind went from this country 121 to fight the nation's battle, and when 850,000 people were killed and 2 millions wounded, the mining industry was yielding far more profits than the estimated value of the mines of this country. That is the sort of patriotism you get from them, and that is the sort of thing which we believe should be changed, and there is no change that can be suggested to-day short of public ownership and democratic control. One hon. Member said, "Are you going to end with this?' Certainly not. I do not suppose there is a workman in this country who thinks we are going to end with the ownership of the mining industry. We desire to see every industry owned by the nation and worked in the interests of the nation. "But," you will say, "that is Socialism," and you will throw out that idea. But to-day that has lost a lot of what it used to mean, and it does not mean the same to-day to say that it is Socialism as it would have twenty years ago. Most people have got to understand it, and not only manual workers, but men and women who earn their living otherwise, are giving their support to the establishment of Socialism in this country. Suppose that this Amendment is not accepted by the Government, and a strike comes about, then we shall be described as anarchists, Bolshevists, and all that sort of thing. But have they not lost their glamour in the minds of the people to-day? I think they have, and instead of such explanations and such epithets, you will have to look further afield in order to condemn us in this matter. I have been a miner and so was my father. I am desirous of seeing the mining question settled on an enduring basis. I desire to see peace in the industry in the interests of the nation. I am as convinced as ever I was of anything in my life that there is no possible solution short of public ownership of the industry. Convinced of that, I feel it is the one thing I should fight for, since my life has been wrapped up in the industry I am proud to know this, that the miners have adopted the words of Shelley, and are rising like lions after their long slumber in unvanquishable number, and moreover they are realising that "we are many and ye are few."
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Lloyd George)
I congratulate the miners, if I may respectfully do so, upon the choice 122 of the advocate (Mr. Brace) who introduced this subject. He presented his case with a moderation and force, and, if I may say so, with a persuasiveness that might really have charmed us into accepting the Motion had it not been that we knew that he was putting before us a very, very serious and dangerous proposition. For the moment, we almost forgot that fact. I wish I could extend the same description to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. Lunn). It filled me with despair, and I say at once that if that is the only kind of advocacy which the hon. Member can give for this proposition, I am not in the least surprised that he has come to the conclusion that the only way he can carry it is by violence.
I propose to examine fairly closely the case put forward by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Brace), which was the real case for the Motion. What is the demand? It is called a demand for nationalisation of mines, but that is exactly what it is not. What is nationalisation? Nationalisation is not merely public ownership, but public management; it is not merely the Army and the Navy. You have examples in the Post Office and in telephones, and on a district scale we have had examples in trams and electricity, in lighting, in water, and in other concerns. It is an advantage which on examination has been abandoned by everybody. The miners' representatives are just as anxious to repudiate nationalisation in its real sense as any of its opponents, and that is the difficulty, because the hon. Member who has just sat down has given the real significance of the movement. Those are the arguments which are used to advance it in the country. That is the real force behind the movement; but when you come to examine the proposition in the House of Commons, where you can see what is to be said for and against it by practical men like my right hon. Friend, it is seen to be absolutely indefensible. He repudiates it, and he says it is the last thing he wants. It is the first thing the hon. Member who has just sat down wants.
My right hon. Friend confined himself to putting forward an alternative. He does not want a bureaucracy, but how 123 can he have nationalisation without bureaucracy? It is absolutely inconsistent. It cannot be achieved without a great bureaucracy. But he has an alternative, and it is an alternative which he and his friends are putting forward now; but, as I shall point out, it is not the alternative of the Miners' Federation. He described the Government proposals as "mongrel proposals." You have got so many consumers, so many miners' representatives, so many Government representatives, so many owners, and he says that is a mongrel scheme. What is his? He has got four miners, two officials, two consumers—one might be a shipowner and the other a textile man—one or two nominated by some other body. What a mongrel body! I can assure my right hon. Friend that that is not thoroughbred nationalisation. He really has only a choice of mongrels, and he prefers what I call Mr. Justice Sankey's mongrel to the Coal Controller's mongrel. But let us take his scheme. I ask him, what would the coal industry gain by it, what would the community, or the consumers, or anybody gain by it? It is not enough to say that this Committee, if you set it up, will work all right. You have got to prove that it will work better than the present system. You have no right to root up a whole industry at this time, which, as I shall prove on the evidence of miners' leaders, worked well before the war, in order to set up another system, unless you can prove that it will work better. I should like to know what system willwork as well where you have management by Committee. Would it work better? Take the test. The test which has been used by my right hon. Friend is the test of output, and it is a good one. You must leave out the abnormal conditions of the war, when hundreds of thousands of the best miners had left the country, and you were left very largely with old men and with unpractised hands, because, as my right hon. Friend pointed out in a very eloquent passage, this is a skilled trade, and there were a good many unskilled men introduced into it. Naturally the output went down under those conditions. But let the House of Commons take the industry before the war, and what is the result? This is what is said in a leaflet in support of nationalisation, by one of 124 the ablest of the miners' leaders, Mr. Hodges, a very thoughtful, able man:Coalmining is un industry which on the whole has been fairly efficiently managed under private ownership. That must be said with some qualification, however, because an industry can never be managed with thorough efficiency under private ownership, but within these limitations it has been to a large extent a success. For example, on the productive side, it has managed to produce 287,000,000 tons per annum, a remarkable achievement in the British coalfield.That is a tribute to private ownership before the war—The industry cannot be said to be a failure when production has reached such a tremendous figure.I agree. Under private ownership in thirty years prior to the war the output was raised from 128,000,000 tons to 288,000,000 tons—a fine achievement. What guarantee has my right hon. Friend that under his hybrid committee—I do not use his word—that achievement will be surpassed? What guarantee has he that it will be equalled? I am trying to find out on what ground he comes to that conclusion. I will examine his grounds. He said men will be serving the public instead of serving private interests, so that they will work harder. As he put it, instead of working for profit they will be working for humanity. There are men who are working in offices, in works, in the Post Office, Civil Service, trams, electricity, and my right hon. Friend is under the impression that they are all consumed with a daily and a nightly desire to increase output in every branch—burning with patriotic zeal. They come to their offices earlier than anybody, and they work longer hours. They are fired with an intensity that surpasses anything which you get in these miserable offices working for private profit. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should one day turn in to one of these offices, and that he should look at the way in which people "work for humanity." I should then like to hear him deliver a speech on nationalisation immediately after that experience. It was a pretty picture, and he used all his Celtic imagination to adorn it, but I am afraid that it docs not altogether conform to the ruthless facts of everyday life. I do not say they work worse, I do not say they give less work, I am not here to condemn them. They have got difficulties, but I do not believe anybody who compares the quantity of work, the fervour of work, the 125 intensity of work, and the output of work under public service "in the cause of humanity" will come to the conclusion that private enterprise suffers from the point of view of production.
It is no use referring to the war. When you have got a great war that imperils the life of a nation, when you have got something that rouses people to a height of intensity, that exalts all their powers, mental and spiritual, then, of course, you get something that is beyond the computation of averages. But any man who would build on that a theory as to what would happen in the humdrum, commonplace, gray monotony of every-day life is a man who does not understand human nature.
Something was said about Bolshevists. Even the Bolshevists have discovered that. They have nationalised everything, and in fact Russia is exactly the country in which the hon. Gentleman opposite would like to live. But I am afraid he would not live long there. Take what happened there. They communalised everything. What is the result? A most remarkable speech came over the wireless the other day—and these speeches I should like to see published in the newspapers which are read by the hon. Gentleman's friends—in which the speaker said that they must have compulsory labour—compulsory labour which not merely registers every workman, but tells him what he has got to do. No trade union regulations interfere with that.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is what you would get. This is the proposal which is put forward by the hon. Gentleman's friends, and he must not condemn it. He must not turn on his friends. Not merely is the work chosen for them by the State, but they are to be told where they are to work—not in what particular factory, but in what particular town or locality. The State is to say to them, "You are no use here; you must go to another village which is 100 miles away."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Certainly, I will read it. It is a speech delivered at the Third Russian Congress of Soviets of National Economy. "Comrade Rikoff" 126 was followed by "Comrade Trotsky"—surely a sufficiently high authority—and this is what the latter said:We shall succeed if qualified and trained workers take part in productive labour. They must all be registered and provided with workbooks. Trade Unions must register qualified workmen in the villages. Only in those localities where trade union methods are inadequate other methods must be introduced, in particular that of compulsion, because labour conscription gives the State the right to toll the qualified workman who is employed on some unimportant work in his village, 'You are obliged to leave your present employment and go to Sormovo or Kolomna because there your work is required.' Labour conscription means that the qualified workmen who leave the army must take their workbooks and proceed to places where they are required, where their presence is necessary to the economic system of the country. Labour conscription gives the Labour State the right to order a workman to leave the village industry in which he is engaged and to work in State enterprises which require his services.He is good enough to end up by saying, "We must feed these workmen "—what a benevolent autocracy!—"and guarantee them the minimum food ration." That is nationalisation in practice. That is the one great experiment in nationalisation which has been made. In less than two years it has to be corrected by labour conscription.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I will examine this incentive to public service further, because just see what is the argument. The argument is, that if you want to increase output and get peace and contentment, you must eliminate the investor. The workman must know that no part of his labour goes to requite capital. That is the "elimination of private profit." Well, we have had a little experience with housing. There is no private profit, but on the contrary, there is a loss which the State has to guarantee. It is an essential public service. We found the same difficulties, the same obstructions, the same troubles in the way of increased output as any private owner in the land. And what is the good, with examples of that kind before our eyes, imagining that the moment you eliminate private profit, instantly regulations will go, obstructions will vanish, output will double? It is contrary, not merely to human nature, but to the experience we have got at this very hour.
127 I will put another difficulty to my right hon. Friend. I will say that a system such as he proposes to set up would discourage development. Development in the mining industry is the most speculative of all. I know that in recent years the margin of speculation has been considerably narrowed. There have been improved methods of ascertaining whether there is a vein or valuable seam, and the speculation is not perhaps quite so risky as it was a generation ago. With all that, there are examples all over the country of men who have spent huge fortunes, of men who have attempted to develop seams which have been regarded as certainties, and of fortunes lost and coalfields derelict. You cannot go across coalfields like those of South Wales, or anywhere else, without seeing numerous examples of that. Does anyone imagine that such a committee will embark on anything but absolutely essential enterprises which has to be done to increase output in this country? I do not believe your committees will do it. Why? They are in charge, they will be responsible, and if there are failures it will affect them, because there will be no private profiteers. The loss will fall indirectly upon the very men who are engaged in conducting these enterprises—officials of collieries. Why should they undertake to develop coalfields somewhere far away from their own areas? There will be no incentive.
You have got now the incentive of private profit, the incentive that a man may have a fortunate venture and his capital be increased considerably. He knows he runs the risk of losing it, but there are men in the country engaged in operations of that kind who are prepared to take the risk. I do not believe you would get that risk taken by committees of this kind. There is not a sufficient incentive. You impede, you retard, you freeze development. That would be a catastrophe in the mining districts of this country. My right hon. Friend eliminates that incentive to which I have referred—the speculative incentive—but he does not eliminate a return to the investor. The hon. Member who followed him did. If you confiscate, of course you eliminate it. That is a dangerous game to begin.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
But the Miners' Federation are not responsible for that. My right hon. Friend himself says you must pay compensation. He said that compensation would be on the basis of the interest now paid by the State for money. It is a pretty high rate. I am not sure, taking the rough with the smooth, taking the good colliery with the bad colliery, taking good times and bad times, taking the element of risk of loss, that they get less under that A steady rate of interest of 5 per cent. or 5½ per cent., or whatever the rate might be for the time being—how does he eliminate private profit by that? It has got to be paid and worked for. My right hon. Friend says they will not work for that. What does he gain by what he calls "eliminating private profit" when he does not eliminate the investor also? He simply changes the character of the paper; in fact, that is what he said. He holds something—what he calls colliery scrip—and he gets Government scrip, but it is all in respect of the same investment.
There is another thing which he overlooked. My right hon. Friend said that as long as profits are made, yon will not get the incentive to work. There has never been an increase of profit, at any rate in recent times, in which the miners have not shared. High profits mean higher wages. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] In the main, taking the industry as a whole, when the prices go up, they mean higher wages. Therefore, when the miner is working for increased output, when there are higher profits, he gets his share—[HON. MEMBERS: "No." "Sliding scale."]—and there is the same incentive. You must eliminate the war charge, because that is an exceptional charge. I am talking of the general working of the industry. I am not referring to the abnormal conditions of the war, when there were bonuses and allowances of all kinds.
I think my right hon. Friend really must have a rather too great belief in these committees if he imagines that profit will never enter into their minds. Does he imagine that the increase of their particular kind of profit will never enter into the minds of the representatives of the miners, the colliery officials and the consumers? And rightly so. He wants to eliminate private profit. If he 129 does, he eliminates one of the great incentives for all classes of the community.
But, as I pointed out, what my right hon. Friend put forward as a scheme does not represent the real scheme of the Federation. He knows perfectly well that if this scheme were carried tomorrow, there would be pressure for the real scheme of the Federation. Ho knows that scheme. It has the sanction of the Miners' Federation. Let the House of Commons and the country realise what that scheme is. The point of the Sankey scheme is this—it requires a very small change in numbers to convert it into the real scheme of the Federation. The real scheme of the Federation is one that would practically give control of the whole of the mines of the country to the Miners' Federation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It is true that at first they are not in a majority, because you have representatives of the officials; but, as Mr. Hodges pointed out in that very pamphlet from which I have quoted, many of the officials have already come into the Federation, and he is looking forward to the time when the whole of the officials will be incorporated in the Miners' Federation. The moment that happens, the Miners' Federation will nominate a majority on the Hoard, and the Miners' Federation will be running the mines of the country. That is not nationalisation. That is federation. That is handing over the property of the nation to one class, an important one, but not by any means the only one that has got an interest in the mines.
Coal is the life-blood of our industries. Engineers, textile workers, electricians, household consumers, all have a vital interest in this trade. This would be a scheme which would hand over this great national asset into the complete control and complete direction of one industry. That would be a disaster to the community, and in the end it would be a misfortune for the miners themselves. My right hon. Friend himself must deal with the position as it is. I am not suggesting that the miners are more unreasonable than other sections of the community. No section of the community showed such real patriotic readiness to sacrifice for common ends. Hut it is too great a temptation to any industry to hand over to it the complete control, without any of the restrictions which 130 come from the conflict of interests such as you have now, where you have the owners, who are themselves also great consumers. It is a body which more than any other body controls the Trade Union Congress, and which will have a more powerful voice in any Labour administration. If there be one in this country, I say to hand over the complete control, the ownership, the control of the proprietary rights of this national asset, the life-blood of the industries of the nation, to one section of the community, would be a grave disaster to the national well-being.
A chord was touched by my right hon. Friend which will elicit the sympathy of every Member of the House when he referred to the gruesome tale of injury, mutilation, and death in the mines. Everything the House of Commons can do for the purpose of diminishing and of limiting that tragedy the miners have a right to demand. There have been measures without number passed by the House of Commons for that purpose. I am glad to be able to boast that the loss per thousand, whether in killed or injured in the mines of this country, is less than it is either in Germany or in the United States, which are our great competitors. In the United States the average death-rate of miners in 1912 was 3.26 per thousand: in Germany it was 2.51; in New Zealand it was 2.39; and in the United Kingdom it was 1.18. That is high enough; I do not say a word about that. It ought to be diminished. If anything can be done, I agree it should be done. But my right hon. Friend must remember that it is lower than in Germany where many of the mines are nationalised,—although in the national mines of Germany the output is lower than in the privately-owned mines. In spite of that fact, taking the whole of Germany the tale of deaths and injuries is much higher. I do not say that more ought not to be done to ensure safety in the mines, and to improve the conditions for the miners. Anyone who knows the mining villages need not argue about that. The argument is to be found in an actual contemplation of the facts. In this rich industry, in the greatest national wealth of this kind in Europe, which enriches the nation, men toiling at the risk of their lives to produce this Wealth, 131 are entitled to better conditions of life [HON. MEMBERS: "Private enterprise?"] No; but at any rate the conditions ought to be improved.
My right hon. Friend—I think it was he—said that there has been a demand for some sort of special department which should have charge of the mining interests of the country. I agree. You have up till now got the supervision of the State scattered and divided amongst several different departments, whereas it ought to be concentrated in one special department. There is no doubt at all that that contributes to the efficiency of supervision. There is a complete agreement in that respect between mineowners and minors. I believe this is the only country in the world where there is a great mining industry, in which there is no department of the kind. I agree with my right hon. Friend that it is desirable. I am not going to anticipate the Bill which will be introduced by my right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, but I think in that respect at any rate the right hon. Gentleman will find it satisfactory.
I also agree with him that it is desirable in the matter of safety, in the matter of conditions and comfort of working, that the miners should have some organised means by which they can contribute their store of experience, counsel, and advice, not merely to the State, but to the management. That is common ground. In that respect we should certainly agree. But that is not a committee of management. Such would be fatal. That is not a committee interfering with management. It is a committee which would be there to give the benefit of its experience and knowledge by way of suggestion and advice. The special department ought to have an advisory council representing miners, mine-owners, and consumers for the purpose of advising the department. When, on behalf of the Government, I stated our proposals last August we were prepared to go further. We were prepared to recommend, more or less on the lines of the Duckham Report—rather a modified form of it—a grouping of mines, where the miners would have direct representation. We did not receive very much encouragement in regard to that suggestion. It has been repudiated by the miners and the mine- 132 owners. I now speak of an advisory committee which would be set up and which must take into account the whole of the conditions of the industry, and make recommendations, and which will give the miners a greater and more effective Voice and direction in the control of the industry upon which their lives depend. We have already committed ourselves in the Gracious Speech from the Throne to the promise of a Bill to be introduced for the nationalising of the coal royalties of the country. That is the result of a perfectly unanimous recommendation by all the members of the Coal Commission. In addition to that, we propose that, out of the compensation fund, a levy should be made for the purpose of creating an amelioration fund to improve the conditions of life in the mining industry.
That, I believe, will be the beginning of great things in the way of an improvement in the actual conditions of life, of comfort, and of the amenities of existence in the mining villages. One hon. Member in the course of his speech referred to the very abnormal profits which have been made during the last two years, most notably in the export trade. That is true. These have been used for the purpose of equalising the profits throughout the whole of the coal pits, with the consent of the whole of the mining industry. Miners and mineowners have realised that it is undesirable that one special branch of the industry should have abnormal profits, whilst other parts have been working at a loss. It would mean very unequal conditions of labour and would inevitably result in inflated demands for wages in one district whilst other miners would be paid at a lower rate. Therefore in the general interest of the mining industry it has been thought desirable to equalise the profits. During the time that these abnormal profits have been made—and no one can foretell when they will come to an end because of the general conditions of trade throughout the world—this equalisation will continue. It will mean that in this year there will be a margin over and above what is paid in wages, and over and above what is paid to the mine-owners by way of profits. I believe there will be a profit on the 31st March. How long those profits will continue depends upon conditions over which we have no control. It depends entirely upon the 133 question of the extent to which high prices prevail of British and American coal in foreign markets. If they continue, there will be very substantial profits from the export trade.
It is proposed that the proportion of those profits which innure to the State should be utilised for the purpose of purchasing the minerals. I do not want to enter into any further details in that respect, because my right hon Friend (Sir A. Geddes) will place the whole scheme before the House; but I want to make it clear that we are not merely proposing to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Brace) and his associates a negative to nationalisation. We are proposing to him a constructive scheme for improved conditions in the mining industry. I agree that you could not go to the miners and the workers of the country with a blank negative. The conditions require improvement, they need improvement, they demand improvement, and I think it is right that we should acknowledge that. We propose to do it, and we propose by the means which I have indicated to take those steps.
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Lunn) indicated that there are men in this country who are so tired of persuasion and argument—and may I say men who have such little confidence in their case—that they will no longer go and present it to the electorate of the country, and that they are going to take other steps. They are going to say "We have argued it." Not very long. I know resolutions have been passed by miners' federations and by trade congresses, but the education of the people of this country on many problems requires more than that. It is only within the last year that the labour movement in this land has undertaken a systematic campaign to present their case. I say frankly I do not believe that they have got a case for their proposal. We shall put the case on the other side, and we are appealing to a fair, an impartial and a perfectly intelligent jury. You are appealing not to profiteers but to 21,000,000 of people who are vitally interested in the coal trade.
What does the hon. Member say? He has only been at it for a few months, but those who have been engaged in great movements know how long it takes to carry conviction to the multitudes in any 134 land, and yet he is impatient with his few months of experience. I ask him and his friends to pause. What does it mean? He practically says "We have come to the conclusion that we cannot convert the majority of the people of this country to our way of thinking "—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and "Give us the opportunity!"]—If he thinks he can convert the majority, why precipitate a revolution of this sort? There is no motive, there is no justification for it—if ho thinks he can convert the people of the land. The whole life of a Parliament, the constitutional life of a Parliament running to the very end. It is not long in the history of any great movement. It is not too long for the hon. Gentleman and his friends to reach the ears of 21,000,000 people. If he decides to use this method, does he really know what he is doing? He is not challenging nationalisation Ho is not challenging the committees, whether they be Sankey Committees or any other, but he is challenging the whole fabric of free government. Does he say that democracy means that the majority must rule? He says "No: if we cannot get a majority, a privileged minority will do." On that issue we will fight him to the last. That is not a strike, that is not the right of combination. That is not a strike for wages and conditions of labour; that is establishing a Soviet in the land, and if ho succeed, there is an end of constitutional government.
Let this House make no mistake. Let the country make no mistake, and let hon. Members make no mistake what it means. If the Government and the people of this country could not resist a demand put forward in that way for a great legislative change, they could resist no demand that came from the same quarter. The hon. Member has indicated what those demands will be, and he has not concealed hip aim. He says, "Nationalise this, and nationalise every thing." If this succeed, and the same demand come from another quarter, it means, if you cannot resist this, you cannot resist anything. Does he really believe that the people who fought the greatest war the world has ever fought, at the cost he has mentioned, are going to bow before a dictation of that kind? He is damaging the movement to which he belongs. He is damaging the cause of labour, he is damaging the cause of free- 135 dom, and, whatever his view may be about nationalisation, I say on this issue he will find that the nation that has done so much for liberty in the world through generations can stand to the death for it again.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
After listening to the Prime Minister I think a few words ought to be said on one or two points. Personally I am very pleased that this subject is being discussed on the basis of broad principles. I consider that the Amendment which is now under discussion raises a principle which will become the dominant issue in British politics in the very near future. The Prime Minister has given to the House, I think, the strongest argument that I have ever heard adduced against private enterprise, because he says that personal gain and self-interest are the only factors that will bring about the best interests of the nation. That is the basis upon which private enterprise is built. I am not going to discuss whether or not that is a sound basis upon which to move, but I" am convinced that if we cannot produce better results than have been produced by activities actuated and promoted by motives of self-interest then we shall certainly never become what I may call a highly civilised community.
What has private enterprise done for our people up to now? Has there ever been a time in the history of this country when we have not had a third at least of the people beneath the poverty line and in a state of semi-starvation. Is not that the position of this country to-day? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Has there ever been a time in this country when there has been more poverty rampant than there is to-day? I know that in making that statement I am going in the teeth of a very popular conception as to the condition of the people to day. If you want to know the facts I ask you to study the estimate which has been submitted by the Inland Revenue authorities as to the incomes of the people of this country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer recently gave a very glowing tribute to the Inland Revenue authorities for the accuracy of their estimates. According to their estimate, we have 5,250,000 people in this country with incomes in excess of £130 a year. Assuming that is correct, then 136 you have about 26,000,000 people with incomes exceeding £2 10s. a week, and you have 20,000,000 people with incomes below £2 10s. per week. In my opinion, when this question comes to be settled by the electorate or by the public, the continuance of private enterprise will have to be justified and defended on the ground of what it has done for humanity. An hon. Member asks me whether children are included in that estimate. I simply give the estimate of the Inland Revenue authorities. They include every person with an income of over £130 per year. They allow for those who do not pay Income Tax on account of children, and so on. They are all included in that 5,250,000. I want to say two or three things about the effect that will be produced if, as the result of the discussion, we do not get a decision in favour of the Amendment. The Prime Minister has said that we have never up till now had any prosperity in the industry without the miners sharing in it. That is true up to a point. For forty years the miners' wages have been governed by the principle of the sliding scale. For every shilling that the price of coal has gone up in the market, the miners have received a certain percentage on their wages. For forty years we have had a joint audit, and every quarter we have received a certificate from the joint auditors as to the price. As soon as the auditors' report has shown that we have become entitled to an advance in wages, we have simply put in an application, and, if the owners have declined our application, we have gone before an independent chairman and have secured the advance under the terms of our general agreement. To-day the position is entirely different, and it is because I know the changed position in which we find ourselves that I am so anxious about the kind of vote that we shall have to-night.
We were told before the Coal Commission that in the South Wales coalfield it cost 23s. 6d. per ton to produce coal. That was the figure put in by the coalowners. For the three months ending 31st December last the coalowners received 53s. 6d. per ton, 30s. per ton more than it cost to produce the coal when their figures were before the Commission. An hon. Member asks where the profits go. That is exactly what we want to know. Out of 137 that 30s. we have had 2s. per day, which is about 2s. 3d. per ton. Those are the auditors' figures taken from the coal-owners' books, and under any agreement that we have ever had in South Wales we could claim over and above the wages that we are receiving to-day and succeed in getting from 7 s. 6d. to 10s. per day on the ascertained audited price of Welsh coal. There is no question at all about those figures. They are certified and declared by the coalowners' auditor and by our auditor jointly. What does all this mean? Why are we not getting demands from the miners? In the past when there has been only an increase of 3d. per ton the miners have claimed the increase in wages to which they have been entitled. To-day they are allowing an increase of 30s. per ton, and I have no hesitation in saying that if the price of coal from the Welsh coalfields, including coal which is sold for household, industrial, and export purposes, is maintained there will be at least £50,000,000 profit on the actual figures ascertained from the books and the coalowners have had that for the last three months. [HON. MEMBER: "No!"] The colliery owners of South Wales have received that and put it into their books. [Hon. MEMBER: "Not their pockets!"] It is from their accounts that the auditors have taken the figures. It is all very well to talk about what has boon done in other coalfields. All that we have had has been a concession of about £12,000,000 in respect of domestic coal, so that we need not talk any more about that.
If self interest is to be the policy of this nation, if we are to go upon the old philosophy that when every man seeks his own with all his might, then the whole world will be prosperous and happy, all I venture to say is that it will suit the miners down to the ground. The miners are sufficiently strong to hold their own and to compete with every other section of the community. Personally, however, I regard that as the policy of despair and as a fatal policy. We are satisfied that there is an immense amount of profit in the industry. It is only six months since we had an estimate for July to July, but that estimate has been so far changed that to-day they have gone back and have estimated from March to March. They now estimate that in eight months we shall receive so much profit that we shall be able to wipe out the deficiency before 138 July, reduce domestic coal, and still leave a margin, notwithstanding the strikes that have characterised the industry and the railways. We know that there is a big margin, but we are anxious to avoid creating a situation in the mining industry which will be impossible to maintain in the future. There have been some jeers at the suggestion that people would work for humanity. Since we have had an advance of wages the cost of living has gone up very considerably. In July last it was 109 per cent and the latest returns show that it is now 136 per cent. We have not asked for an advance in wages, and we are not even now demanding an advance in wages, but we are asking that the vast profit that is being made in the industry shall be utilised to buy out the shareholders and that this great national concern shall be taken over by the nation. It is a purely unselfish demand that is being made by the miners. "Yes," it is said, but what is the difference? You simply take one piece of script and give another." I quite agree. What is our object? We are decidedly anxious having regard to the fact that we have allowed private property to develop in the mining industry, to treat those who have vested interests in it fairly, honourably, and squarely, but we are also anxious to bring it to an end somewhere and some time, and we say that having offered the shareholders a reasonable, fair, and square price for the shares that they hold they ought to be content and allow whatever can be produced from the mining industry to be utilised, not for individual gain or for the private profit of shareholders, but for the benefit of the general community. That at least is the object which the miners have in view in bringing this matter forward.
If we are voted down, as I suppose we shall be—I have no delusions on that score; I expect to see a very substantial majority against us—I want to assure the House that it will no sooner have given that vote than it will have created a situation in the mining industry which will place the miners in a position of having to decide which of two things we shall do: Shall we go in for a big advance in wages and get our share of the swag, or shall we go in for using our power to compel the Government to use that surplus for the purchase of the shares? I am merely putting the alternatives with 139 which the Conference will be faced when it meets. It does not in the least matter which of those two alternatives is adopted; a state of things will have arisen in this country which we ought all of us to be anxious to avoid. If it be a case of everybody seeking his own, we are not going to continue to be the victims of that system; we shall make the best of it that we can, and I venture to say that the miners have the power to do as well for themselves as the coalowners. They have quite as much power, and, if we once get wages commensurate with the profits of the industry, we shall have created a situation within the industry which cannot possibly be maintained in normal times, but we shall have a wage system which I question whether any power on earth will be able to undo once it is done.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House)
This seems to be very serious. The whole argument of the hon. Gentleman is based on the assumption that the colliery masters are making these profits. He knows well that is not the intention of the Government. They are not going to get them. The Prime Minister himself has suggested that we shall use them for buying the coal royalties.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I do not want to create the impression that ultimately these profits are all retained in the coal-owners' pockets. I have not said anything of the kind.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
The coalowners make their contracts on a given price. The people who buy the coal send them cheques or pay them in what way they like, and all the transactions are entered in the coalowners' books. Later on they have to make up their accounts with the Coal Controller, and the surplus, in accordance with the agreement, goes into the Exchequer. But for the three months to which I have referred the coalowners have received that money.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I imagined that every Member of the House understood that there was an Excess Profits Tax in operation and that the mining industry was treated differently from every other industry in the country. The miners do 140 not agree with that system. If we are to have private enterprise, and if we are to go upon the old lines, then for the life of me I cannot see how you can justify placing the mining industry in a different position from every other industry in the land. I do not see why you should say to the cotton operatives and to the manufacturers in the woollen industry, "Go ahead as much as you like, and of your surplus profits we will take 40 per cent., but from the mining industry we will take 85 per cent." If you leave 60 per cent. for the workers and employers in the cotton, woollen, steel and shipping industries, there is no reason why the workers in the mining industry should not insist on being treated in the same way. We are anxious that we shall not have the abnormal profits now being made, because they are not due to the coalowners or to anyone else concerned in the mines. We say there is no reason why, in regard to these enormous profits, the miners should not be treated exactly in the same way as the cotton and woollen industries are treated.
A conference will be held in the immediate future and if this House says we are not going to utilise a certain margin that is in the industry to-day for the purpose of buying up the industry, then the miners will certainly come to a decision of their own. What that decision will be it is not for me to say, but I do think Members of this House should endeavour to appreciate the situation before the vote. Every member of the Miners' National Executive is anxious that there shall not be a demand for an advance in wages. We had the matter under discussion by our executive recently in connection with the Welsh figures, and there was a general feeling that although in the past we have always gone in for an advance in wages, yet now we ought to utilise the margin for getting the mines under State ownership. Whether hon. Members agree with that or not, I submit that we are entitled to be regarded as putting forward what we deem to be a perfectly unselfish proposition. I cannot see what particular advantage the miners have to gain from nationalisation. What power shall we get under nationalisation which we do not possess to-day? The only thing is that as every quarter, half-year or year comes along instead of a Board of Directors examining the balance sheet from the point of view of the shareholders, you 141 will have every man engaged in the coal industry, every miner and every labourer, interested in that balance sheet, because he will know that whatever results have been produced he, in common with the community, will be entitled to share in the benefit. Hon. Members may laugh at that, and I can quite understand that people who have been trained in private enterprise economics would regard this kind of sentiment as nonsense. But I can assure them that if they attended some of our Conferences they would realise there is something much more idealistic in the speeches of the miners than in the speeches delivered in this House. I can only express the hope that in recording their vote hon. Members will realise that whatever happens we cannot very well avoid a decision of great importance being reached in this country, not only by the Miners' Conference, but by the Trade Union Congress. It is, therefore, very desirable that all the possibilities of the situation should be weighed from every standpoint before a decision is reached. My right hon. Friend, the member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace), dealt very exhaustively and very admirably with the general subject, and it would therefore be a waste of time on my part to say more. I only rose to emphasise the fact that this vote which we are taking to-night is of far-reaching importance.
§ Mr. R. McLAREN
The question we are discussing to-night is upon what ground the nationalisation of the mines can be justified. We all remember that when the Sankey Commission was appointed the object first was to see what could be done to prevent a strike by miners, who were trying to enforce their demand for an increase of wages, coupled with a reduction of hours. It was because of that that the Government promised the Commission, and it was accordingly set up. The question we have now to determine is upon what ground does the Miners' Federation ask for nationalisation. I suppose the demand is made upon statements contained in the Sankey Report dealing with the present system of mine working. I should like to analyse those statements. One was made by a gentleman representing the Home Office, Sir Richard Redgrave, who had had no practical knowledge of mines, and, in reply to him, I should like to soy that there is no industry in the country where more de- 142 velopment has taken place. I make bold to assert that no industry has made more rapid strides in the last 50 years than has the mining industry. Fifty years ago the output was only 50 million tons, and what has been done since then to develop the trade? Instead of an output of 100 tons per day from a shaft, we now have shafts raising thousands of tons per day. By the use of electricity and coal cutters and other devices we have mines in England, Scotland and Wales where mechanical appliances are utilised for raising huge outputs, and therefore the suggestion by anyone that during these years nothing has been done in the direction of development stands condemned as going too far.
Much has been said about the safety of the miners, and that it has been suggested that nothing has been done to secure that. I for one, as a mining engineer, repudiate that suggestion with all the power I have. I have in my hand a statement made by Mr. Hodges and Mr. Smillie to the effect that the accidents in mines are due to the profits made by the coal owners. A graver indictment never came from any men. But the facts are that during many years past, every thing possible has been done to make the mines safer. Better systems have been introduced. The safety lamp has been developed. We have tried to make it impossible to have explosions of gas, coal dust and fire damp. We have done all that possibly could be, done to reduce the accidents in mines, and that has been due to the perseverance and industry of the men who have had charge of the mines. It is very unfair to make such statements against that body of men in view of the fact that they have done alt that was possible. May I ask what the Miners' Federation have done to reduce accidents? They have never made any suggestions which would have that effect. The whole improvement has been brought about by the enterprise and perseverance of the colliery managers of the country together with the coal owners.
There are two things which ought to be stated in connection with this matter. Certain assertions have been made to-day by the mover of the Amendment. He told us in connection with this scheme, that he wanted to reduce the 1,500 directors and thereby bring about economy. But he also admitted that it was proposed to establish at various places no fewer than 3,000 bodies of not less than ten men 143 and he frankly admitted that these men must be paid. Thus you would have an army of 30,000 men taking the place of the 1,500 directors. But that is not all. You will have to have a Government Department. At the present moment you have bureaucratic control vested in the Home Office in connection with the mining department. It used to be the case that mines inspectors had an individuality of their own. But now they have no such individuality. They are controlled entirely from the Home Office, which sends out their reports and I can quite endorse what was said by a colleague when he was asked to alter a report some years ago. He replied that the report was his own, and he was very glad he had no report to make to the Home Office.
I presume the industry would come under a Ministry of Mines. We can all appreciate what that would mean. The speech of the mover of the Amendment does not in any sense represent the opinion of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. I have here a book recently published entitled "Further Facts from the Coal Commission." I find here the terms of the new Nationalisation of Mines Bill. We can see what is going to happen if this Bill is passed. They say frankly it means that the Ministry of Mines will have full control of the mines, and that of course means complete bureaucracy. But in the Bill they go on to show clearly what they mean to do. They explain that they intend to set up District Mining Councils to be composed of 21 members. Ten of the members are to be nominated by the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. According to the statement of the Prime Minister this afternoon, it is hoped that the Miners' Federation will try to rope in all the organisations connected with mining. They have tried to rope in the colliery firemen and deputies, and not long ago in Scotland we had a strike by the firemen because they wished to be separated from the Federation. But the Miners' Federation made it so hot for them that they had to submit. I expect they will try in the same way to swallow up the Union of Firemen, and they may also try to capture the Managers' Association. It will mean of course that the Miners' Federation will have the real power. That is not all. In connection with the district committees they take the same 144 power. A curious thing happens which shows where we are. The Mining Council is to have power to look after the management, but the Mining Council cannot do anything unless it first of all goes to the Miners' Federation and consult them. In Clause 19 we find that the Mining Council before making or altering any regulations, or the conditions of employment, must first of all go to the Miners' Federation to get their sanction. They have a clause providing that if the Miners' Federation do not agree they have power to go before a court of arbitration. From that we see that the whole aim and object of the Bill of the Miners' Federation for the nationalisation of mines is to capture the whole of the coal trade, to get full control of the output and of everything connected with mines. Then the industry will be entirely in the hands of those connected with the Miners' Federation. It has also been stated that if we had nationalisation we are bound to have an increased output. How do we stand to-day? What are the facts under the partial control we have now? We find that our output has gone down steadily. In 1917 we had an output of 321 tons per man per annum. The statement recently made in the House was that the output was about 187 tons per man per annum, which means something like 50 per cent. less production than in 1917. If we have a reduction of 50 per cent. with the present partial control by the Board of Trade, what may we expect when the whole industry is controlled by and is under the domination of the Miners' Federation?
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Does the hon. Member mean to convey that we are getting to-day 50 per cent. less output than in 1917?
§ Mr. McLAREN
The figures stated by the President of the Board of Trade two or three months ago was 187 tons, whereas in 1917 it was 321 tons. It is true the aggregate may be higher, because there are more men engaged now than in 1917. Anyone who reads the weekly statement knows well that the output is not increasing as it ought to do. If we believe the Miners' Federation contention that the moment they get control the men would work more intensively than they did in the past, we are relying upon a broken reed. After the statement made by the Prime Minister it is not worth 145 while going into details, but there are many parts of the question which the House ought to consider. First, will it be for the good of the country that the mines should be nationalised? It has been proved conclusively that other countries which have tried it would now be glad to be brought back into the old system. I have here a letter which has been published in the "Enginering Review" which refers to that part of Germany where the mines are nationalised. The letter states that the State collieries are run at a loss at 9,000,000 marks a month, that so heavy is the burden on the German people that members of a Commission appointed to consider the socialisation of industry rejected a proposal to extend State ownership of mines, and that the State continues to lose 100,000,000 marks on the coal mines already owned by it, but which it would gladly give away to any capitalist willing to acquire the mismanaged enterprise. I also hold in my hand another statement by a German which contains a warning to this country from Germany to which we should pay heed. As we say in Scotland the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We find that in Germany the State ownership of mines has been a dismal failure. With such results before us it would be a serious mistake for this country to go in for a nationalisation scheme which would bring disaster to it. This statement says:Addressing a mass meeting of German miners, who had asked for information concerning the probable effects of nationalisation, Count Seckendorff, who is connected with the big coal-mining industry in that country said—' We are beginning again after a desolating war and there is not an industry in the German Empire that is not dependent upon our particular trade. Directly or indirectly, they all turn upon the question of coal. They must have heat and power. It is just possible that our great rival England may suffer shipwreck over her labour troubles and especially over coal-mining troubles. They are a muddle-headed people the British, and they are no longer a hard-working or very conscientious people; but you must not altogether rely on this to ease the situation here, or to shake the belief that you miners must put every ounce of your strength into your work. Germany cannot succeed otherwise, and if we neglect our duty and miserably run after every new and untested panacea such as nationalisation, it will be little consolation to you to know in your ruin that the British miner has followed the same ignis fatuus, and been 146 led into the same hopeless morass as yourselves.'In view of the facts which have been stated in the House to-day, it would be a serious mistake to take the mining industry away from private individuals. It is the key industry of the whole country, While it is true that much has been done in the past, it is equally true that much more can be done in the future, because at the present time men are being trained to take the places of men who have gone before. With private enterprise, and everyone doing his level best, I do not see why this old country of ours should not rise to the occasion, and, as in the past private enterprise has proved to be such a blessing to the country, I trust it will go on, and through that and through the efforts of the miners we shall soon be out of our difficulties and have an increased output of coal.
§ Mr. ANEURIN WILLIAMS
We must all have admired the fine spirit in which this matter has been laid before the House by the leaders of the miners' organisation to-night. It is most encouraging that, speaking with a full sense of their responsibility, they have spoken of putting the national interest before even that of their own constituents. I desire to say a few words upon this matter from a point of view which has not been voiced this afternoon. I certainly do not speak in any sense of hostility to the principle of nationalisation. Although I am fully awake to the fact that there is a very great part of life that must always depend upon private enterprise and initiative, yet experience shows us that there are many things in an advanced State such as ours which can be managed best, not by private enterprise and private responsibility pure and simple, but some of them by great societies for voluntary co-operation, some by municipal enterprise, and some by national enterprise. From my point of view, no amount of abstract arguing will decide in what spheres these great powers of private enterprise, voluntary co-operation, municipal enteprise, and national enterprise are respectively the most appropriate. I have said that I am no enemy to the principle of nationalisation, and what I have just said explains what I mean by that phrase. I am indeed in favour of nationalisation where our experience justifies us in saying that it is 147 sound and that it is successful. Take, for instance, the question of the ownership of land. I desire to be absolutely just to the present owners of land, but in my opinion if the land were owned by the nation, after paying appropriate compensation to the present holders, it would be a great national advantage. I base that upon experience. We find that there are considerable areas in this country where the land is the property of the nation, either of the Crown or of some subsidiary body which is practically a national body. Our experience shows that in those cases, not only does the rent and the unearned increment of the land come into the national coffers, but that it is possible so to administer the land as to make it most useful for the nation. For instance, when it was decided in this House to introduce a much greater number of small holdings and allotments, it was exceedingly difficult and expensive to do that on the ordinary land in the country. The county councils had to make an immense outlay of time and money in getting the land for that purpose, but on the estates of the Crown, under the care of the present Lord Lincolnshire, it was found quite easy to introduce a large number of additional small holdings and allotments without any difficulty at all.
There we have an experience which shows that national ownership of land is of great advantage. What I have said with regard to land covers minerals also In certain parts of the country, even where the land does not belong to the Crown, the minerals do, and in a great many parts of the continent and America the minerals are national property, and we have actual experience to show the advantage of public ownership in those cases. In the case of railways we have not had much in the way of national ownership in this country, but there has been plenty of experience on the continent which justifies us in saying that, on the whole, national ownership of the railways is a better system than private ownership. All these things I base upon experience and not upon abstract theory. These things are far too complex and difficult for any brain, however clever, to reason them out a priori and arrive with absolute certainty at a result. We have no experience of the national ownership of mines certainly in 148 this country, and what experience there is abroad is not over-favourable. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said something about national ownership of mines in Germany. I believe I am right in saying that the British miners' representatives to a great International Miners' Conference some years ago came back and said that the German miners declared that their position was worse in the Government mines than it was in the private mines. We have not sufficient experience of the national ownership of mints to enable us to decide that question at present.
But even if we had experience of the national ownership of mines we have no experience of the system of management which is now proposed. The system of management which has been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace) is most attractive to me personally because I have been for 28 years pleading with my countrymen that Labour ought to have a voice in the control of industry and ought to have a direct interest in the output of that industry, and it seems to me that the scheme which has been put before us certainly contains those two points, whatever else it contains. But it contains a vast deal of new matter, and here again, in my opinion, no man's brain is capable of working out and saying for certain beforehand whether that scheme would or would not work well. It would be extremely rash, to my mind, to apply this new system to the whole of the mining industry of the country, employing directly or indirectly I hesitate to say how many men, making it possible for a great mass of people to live here and earn their living, which they could not possibly do if the mining industry was not carried on. Yet there are tens of thousands of earnest men up and down the country who advocate this system. I represent a great mining constituency, and I know that there are very large numbers of the miners who desire this system of nationalisation. They are not by any means unanimous on the subject. There are very large numbers of them who do not desire it. Some of them even object to it, but many thousands of them desire this system, which we have had put forward to-night in a spirit which must excite our admiration. I therefore hesitate very much, and I think the House should hesitate very much, to give the proposal a mere flat denial. Moreover, 149 it is not only the good spirit in which it is put forward, it is not only the hopes which are attached to it by many thousands of men, but, as practical men, we have to recognise that there is something essentially wrong and rotten in the present organisation of the mining industry. There is a bad spirit between Capital and Labour, and we cannot expect to get the best results out of the industry as long as that remains.
Therefore I come to my conclusion, which is, that this system of nationalisation, if it is found to have great support in the country, as I believe it has, should not be flatly refused but should be tried within a limited area. We have been told to night that if this system were established the country would be divided into 14 districts. If we proceeded to buy out the whole of the collieries in these 14 districts and establish this new system with all its untried possibilities, where should we be if the thing went wrong? The country would be almost ruined. But if you take one of these districts and nationalise the collieries and try this system within it, it seems to me you will be doing a reasonable and a prudent thing. Your present system is admittedly not producing the best results. The new system is put forward in a noble spirit and it offers us great hopes of great advantages. Let us therefore, try it in one of these districts and see how it works? If it gives us these advantages which we are told will result from it, we can easily extend it to the rest of the country. If, on the other hand, it is found to be a failure where it is tried, at any rate the country will not be ruined, and then we must try something better in the country as a whole. In this way we shall be acting as prudent, practical men would act in trying the new proposal within a limited area, where you would get your experience and where, at any rate, you would not ruin yourself I should have good hope that this might be accepted by the leaders of the great Trade Unions in mining as a reasonable solution of this matter for the present, in order that the nation might proceed with safety and get its experience and its knowledge and act according to the results.
§ Mr. J. BROWN
I am not sure whether the last speaker has blessed the Amendment or cursed it. I do not understand arguments such as these, but I am lather sorry that some hon. Members who have 150 spoken have left the Chamber before their arguments were answered. Some statements have been made which could not be substantiated, and many statements have been made which are not worth an answer at all. The Prime Minister made some assumptions. I did not gather from the hon. Member whom he castigated that he was out for direct action. I did not gather that if this Amendment was not carried we should be going into the country preaching revolution. No sane miner and no sane miners' leader wants any such catastrophe, if our case is not a good one it will fall to the ground. But this is not the tribunal which will decide our case. The tribunal which will decide our case is the constituencies of the country, and we could not expect to carry all the other trades with us if we were out for the selfish motives which have been attributed to us by many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to-night. We have to prove our case. I am sure we shall be able to prove it from whatever point of view we approach it. Whether you take safety or economy or output, or whatever you may take, I think the miners and the miners' leaders will be able to prove their case for the nationalisation of the coal mines. Some of the speakers to-night based their arguments on their experience. If I were basing my arguments on practical experience, and if experience counts for anything, they ought to have a great deal of weight. I have worked 29½ years below-ground. I am not boasting of that, but I am not in the least ashamed of it either, and it has given me some reason to know the conditions which obtain in the miners' life. If this Amendment is carried, or if a little later we are able to get nationalisation for the country, more safety will be secured for our men, and there can be no doubt at all that economy will be effected in the working of the mines.
It has got into many people's heads that nationalisation will be a bad thing for the country and for the people as a whole. I do not understand how that idea has got into people's heads. Why should it be bad for the country, because you are not going to change very much by nationalising the mines as we propose to nationalise them. How are the mines worked to-day? They are manned by men who have come through every grade of the coal pits. There are some people 151 who are managing to-day who have not worked at all the grades, but the Government has seen to it that they must serve a certain number of years before they are allowed to manage a mine, and the men who are managing mines to-day have at some time in their lives been ordinary workers in the coal pits. You are afraid of nationalisation because it is going to hurt the people of the country, but who are the people of the country? Not the directors only. Not the owners. Not any of these people. The people of the country are all the classes in the country. I daresay nationalisation as we propose it would ultimately hurt some. It would certainly get rid of a great many of the directors who draw fees to-day without any special knowledge or any special qualifications. I am certain it would hurt the middlemen, who have been the ruination not only of the coal trade but of every other trade. The middlemen today are drawing more on the average per ton than the coal-getter is getting for producing the coal. We would eliminate, him and I am afraid we should not deal too tenderly with many of the shareholders.
It has been said to-night that the shareholders will continue to draw the dividends which accrue from time to time, but do hon. Members know what they are talking about when they say that 5 per cent. or 5½ per cent. would recoup many of the shareholders for the great dividends they are drawing? When we know that colliery concerns are paying 10 per cent., 15 per cent., 20 per cent., 25 per cent., and as high as 30 per cent., it shows that those vast sums of money will be better going into the coffers of the State than going into the pockets of these shareholders, and when we talk about setting up nationalisation we are talking about trying to do something for the benefit of the community as a whole and not only for the miners, although I hope the miners will benefit also. Any scheme which might be set up to benefit the miners alone would stand self-condemned and certainly would not have the support of any of the miners' leaders, because in carrying this fight through successfully we have to depend upon very many more people than the miners of the country. We have to take all the trades along with us. We have to show that nationalisation will not 152 only be good for us, but for them. Good from the standpoint of the producer and good from the standpoint of the consumer. The leaders of the other trade unions and the men in those trade unions are not going to assist us in carrying through any scheme that will be detrimental to the interests of the country as a whole. Therefore, we have to carry these people with us. We have to show-that our scheme is reasonable, and that it is based on figures that are indisputable. We have to prove that it would be economical. We have to show that it will be conducive to safety, and when we have done that we shall have made out a fairly decent case. Development has been mentioned. It has been said that development cannot be carried out in the same way under nationalisation as it has been under private enterprise. I do not see why the nation, however much you subdivide it, cannot develop the industry much more safely and take the risk that any ordinary private individual can take. We know that the nation would develop the industry far better and along stronger lines than the development has been in the past. While there was an element of risk the developers in the past were always fairly sure of a return. It is no use talking about the risks of these great combines and limited companies. Their great concern is the paying of high dividends, and on capital that should have a different denomination than appears in the balance sheet. As to the question of economy I know very well what I am talking about, and, indeed, I think I know what I have been talking about all along, I am not merely alluding to the economies that will be effected by the elimination of the middle man and of the directors and their fees, and many of these combines, whose chief purpose and whose birth was for the earning of great profits: I am talking about the profit to the nation in the saving of the coal of the nation. Every practical man must deplore the fact that a great deal of what the Prime Minister has rightly described as the lifeblood of the nation has been lost every year because of the lack of co-ordination and co-operation, and because the mineral happened to be below the land of different estates. Barriers are erected, and you dare not cross the line. Owners, anxious to secure profits as speedily as possible and then retire as millionaires, are very careless of the 153 smaller scams. A great deal of waste occurs because they leave the small coal in the mines. The poorer quality of coal is not worked, and there are millions of tons of coal to-day under the surface of British soil that will never be recovered for this nation. If we had nationalisation we could easily co-ordinate and co-operate so that very little coal would be left underground. There would be no fear of a barrier. The State would be able to work the seams in a way that a private company could never hope to work them, and thereby secure for the nation a minimum of the loss that accrues from the mad rush for wealth and dividends amongst the companies to-day.
My last point is safety. We know that absolute safety is impossible. Whatever system we devise there will be many accidents in the mines. The hazardous nature of the occupation precludes us from imagining that we shall ever be free from accidents. We shall have accidents, whatever care we take. I was surprised at the hon. Member for North Lanark saying that the Government has done nothing for safety during the last fifty years. Has he heard nothing about a man named Macdonald? Does he know nothing on this subject? Of course, he knows all about it, but it suited his purpose at the moment to say that if it had not been for private enterprise, very few of the safety appliances that we have to-day, and very little of the safety legislation we have on the Statute-book, would have been brought about. It is idle to talk in that way. If it had not been for the strength of the organisations and for the resolution of the miners' organisations that safety must come first, even the Government would not have given us the Acts of Parliament that we enjoy to-day. Hut after all that has been said, we know that there are a great many accidents that could be avoided. What is the use of quoting Germany to us, or our Colonies? If you reduce the accidents to the figures which have been given, what is the use of it when we know that amongst our fellow-workers every working day in Great Britain there are five souls sent into eternity, and every year 170,000 accidents occur which have to be registered. We must do everything in our power to bring about safety in the mines. Those who know anything about mining difficulties know of the dire distress that 154 comes upon the community when some great disaster occurs; but who registers the individual deaths that are occurring all over the country, which are as great a loss to the household as the death of those lost in the great disaster? If the mad rush for profits were curtailed, if managers were allowed to develop along safety lines and not under the pressure of the shareholders when dividends are small, many of these accidents could be prevented. We know that even the man who is working on piecework sometimes gets careless as to what happens in order to be able to produce a sufficient return on his work, and how much more is that the case with regard to managers who are determined to do everything they can so that they may escape the censure of the shareholders?
On every count it would be easy to make out a case for the carrying of this Amendment to-night. I trust that hon. and right hon Gentlemen will take into consideration this fact that we are not seeking to do anything that will bring disaster upon the country. We are trying to do something for the miner that will make his lot a little easier and happier, and we are trying to do something for the rest of the country, so that miner and consumer alike will benefit in the legislation which we hope will be brought about as a result of the by-elections and of the General Election when it comes. Then all will benefit and we shall be able to do our very best for this old country of ours.
Mr. T. THOMSON
This debate has emphasised the eternal clash which takes place between those who favour the interests of the community in the working of industry and those who favour purely private interests, and much as the speech of the Prime Minister has delighted the House, it will be received with consternation in many parts of the country, because of the deaf ear he turned to all forms of State or communal interest and management in connection with mines. He made a heavy onslaught on all forms of State and municipal enterprise. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Amendment said that we did not want to repeat the bureaucracy of the telephone system in regard to mines; but, on the other hand, surely we have in our municipal developments, in the various joint boards dealing with the large waterways and with electric power, and various other instances of municipal activity, we 155 have striking examples of what can be done by management in the interests of the community in public utility services compared with private enterprise. If the returns are carefully scrutinised, it will be found that the result of that public management of the municipal services are not any less efficient, but more efficient, and are run at a less cost than is the case in many private enterprises. This Government must have had a different opinion last Session, because they introduced a Bill to nationalise the electric services of this country. The Bill in its original form provided for the wholesale transfer of the power stations held by private enterprise to the care of joint ownership and control under a system of semi-State management. The Bill changed considerably in Committee; but my point is that this Government which has now turned down so emphatically the consideration of State management of mines introduced a measure last Session for the nationalisation of the electric power of this country, and which, I take it, is as important as the key industry as that of coalmining.
Therefore, in principle, there is no fundamental difference between what the Government itself proposed last Session for dealing with the electric power-stations of the country to foster and develop them, and that which is proposed in the Amendment this evening. The Prime Minister suggested that development and initiative would come better from private enterprise. The argument used when the Government introduced the Electric Bill last Session was "This is a key industry, and must be worked in the interests of the community as a whole; no sectional or private interests must be allowed to dominate, but you must have joint Boards," and these were very much on the lines of what was recommended in the Sankey Report. You have representatives of consumers, of labour, and of producers. It is almost identical with the programme suggested by Mr. Justice Sankey. Therefore, I say, that there is in principle nothing in the proposal made by this Amendment which is contrary to the principle which the Government itself within the last twelve months submitted to this House.
It is deplorable that the Government should turn a deaf ear to these proposals 156 and fall back upon private enterprise alone. The cynical way in which appeals to higher sentiment have been received by this House will strike an inharmonious note in the country. Surely the war has taught us something—that we want to get out of the old ruts of the past. Men have come back—you may belittle it and say that it is contrary to human nature—with higher ideals and higher aspirations than they ever had before. The old profit system of industry with its narrow groove will never satisfy men in future. It is not merely a question of cash payment. It is a question of higher ideals in this question of industry, with which they are concerned. So far as monopolies are concerned, whether it is a question of land or liquor, as the Government itself suggested, or a monopoly such as mines there is a good case made out for control in the interests of the well-being of the whole, and not of any particular class, and I hope that the support which this Amendment will receive in the Lobby will be sufficient to encourage those hopes which have been raised, that the question shall be put on a higher plane, that the old self-interest, mere cash profit system which has ruled in the past shall not prevail in the future, and that we as a whole are willing to allow the workers a larger share in the management, control and development of industry. I support this Amendment not because one agrees with everything that has been said or that I am in favour of the nationalisation of all industries, but I do submit that there is a difference when you come to questions of monopoly value in reference to land, mines and railways, and that when you have a public utility service which is of a monopoly character it should be managed in the interests of the community and not of any one particular section.
I am in full sympathy with this Amendment, and I intend to vote for it. Having said that, I think the Prime Minister was on very safe and strong ground when he intimated—and I think that he carried the bulk of the House with him—his opinion that this was not a proposal that could be carried by threats. That is, I think, a matter of general agreement. Somebody has said that there are men who are refreshed by a threat. I think that that statement is fairly true of this country as a whole. I 157 am quite sure that nothing could be done more effectively to damage the case for nationalisation than to bark it up by threats. It would not only be wrong, but it appears to me that it would be foolish, because I think there is no necessity for it. Nationalisation is bound to come, and to come before very long. Therefore, those who support it, as I do and as the miners do, might very well wait. We shall not have to wait very long. Indeed, I think that it would not be altogether surprising if next year the Prime Minister should be standing at that box and making out a very excellent case for nationalisation. I have only been in the House for a year, but as I listened to him yesterday making out a case for trading with the Bolshevists I could not help thinking of the reception that even he, with those inimitable powers of persuasion which he has, would have had if he made that proposal a year ago. Times change, and we change with them. Events are stronger than opinion, and I think that a current as strong as that which has changed the opinion of this House upon Russia may very well change it upon this question of nationalisation.
But if he was on safe and strong ground with regard to these threats, I do not think he was on such good ground when he dealt with this question of incentive. For the purpose of his case it was necessary for him to disparage the incentive to public service. I cannot help thinking that this was unfortunate, and particularly unfortunate that it should have come from him, because if there is a man who stands before the public eye to-day as the shining example of public service without any incentive of private profit, that man is the Prime Minister himself, and I cannot help thinking that it is something in the nature of a national misfortune that from the lips of such a man in such a position there should have fallen anything disparaging of that labour for humanity which was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman who proposed this Amendment, and one cannot help thinking that it hardly lies in the mouth of the Prime Minister himself to utter such disparagement because great as his position is, and great as is the recognition of his countrymen of that position, yet I think that he would be the first to admit that he owes it very largely indeed to the sacrificing service of public servants in those great depart- 158 ments of which he has been chief. And I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, who is now present, would also admit that he, as the head of a great department, owes a very great deal to the service of those who in that department have no such incentive of private profit as in the opinion of the Prime Minister is evidently the chief urge to great and good work.
It was one of the main points of the Prime Minister's speech that that incentive must be maintained in this great industry, and he said that we must not look to the war period for a parallel to see what may be done by motives which have no pecuniary interests behind them, because he said that in wartime you have a great appeal and there is great common danger, and there is a great national idea to which all respond. Some of us on this side think that one of the great businesses of the future is to get something of the same sort of idea out of war into peace. I cannot help thinking it is quite possible that the motives which led men to serve their country may also be the same kind of motives that might impel them to make that country, when safe, the sort of place we all want to live in. From that point of view I think it is particularly unfortunate than the Prime Minister has found it necessary to defeat this Amendment by the use of such an argument. Having said that it was vital that we should retain the incentive of profit, he gave as another reason against nationalisation that it would stop development. He said that a committee would not be likely to undertake the risk required to open up new coalfields. I am quite sure that the President of the Board of Trade would not have used that argument, and that if he were the Minister in charge of mines he would not be deterred by risk from engaging in now enterprises. He has shown that in the position which he now occupies There is an industry, known as the dye industry, which is regarded as being a key industry. I do not suppose it will be suggested for a moment that it is as vital to the country as the coal industry, but it is very important. What was the position? It was thought necessary to develop the dye industry and to find capital to develop it. It was difficult to get that capital from the ordinary investing public. Those who were 159 concerned went to the Board of Trade, made representations on the matter, and the Government took the risk, acting no doubt on the advice of the President of the Board of Trade. The Government invested something like £2,000,000 in the dye industry, which I think is at least as speculative in character as the coal industry.
Can it be urged that a policy of that kind would not obtain under conditions such as nationalisation would bring about? Take another illustration. At the close of the last Session we passed a Bill granting a loan to the Persian Oil Company for development in Mesopotamia. Can it be believed that under nationalisation the Government, which will risk money in such a highly speculative business as development in Mesopotamia, would be afraid to risk it on coal in this country? It is not a tenable proposition. A very terrible picture was drawn by the Prime Minister of what was happening in Russia under the present Bolshevik administration. I do not know how much longer arguments like that will continue to be used, but I suppose not very much long after a period of successful commercial intercourse has been established with that country What was the illustration used? It was a reading from some speech in which it was laid down that workmen who entered into the service of the Bolshevik State might be directed to leave the village in which they were and to go to some other place. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that that is precisely the condition that obtains in the English Civil Service. When I entered the Civil Service some years ago, one of the conditions was that I must hold myself at the disposal of the authorities to go to any place to which I might be directed to go. The Government, of course, is not really opposed to nationalisation itself. As everybody who studied the Coal Commission knows, there were two proposals for nationalisation which came before that body from different quarters. There was the proposal of the miners, who wanted to nationalise the mines. There was the proposal of the mineowners who wanted to nationalise the royalties. It is really interesting to see how common the language is in which these two proposals were put forward. Listen to what the 160 owners say when they want nationalised minerals. They say:The ownership of the seams of coal is now in the hands of several thousand persons, most of whom have exercised their rights in a reasonable manner but some of whom have not assisted in the development of the national asset.Then they say:If you nationalise the things we want nationalised, under State ownership there would be one owner instead of several thousand owners, and the difficulties existing under the present system will be effectively dealt with.Mr. Justice Sankey when he is advocating nationalisation of mines uses almost identical language. He says:There are in the United Kingdom about 3,000 pits owned by about 1,500 companies. Unification under State ownership makes it possible to apply the principle of standardisation and thereby to effect economy.It is the same argument: the same thing is at the back of both proposals. The Government listen to it when it comes from the mine owners, and refuse to listen to it only when it comes from the miners. I have no doubt that if a royalty owner got up to oppose the nationalisation of royalties he would oppose it on very much the same lines as the Prime Minister adopted to oppose the nationalisation of mines.
Of course nationalisation is inevitable. It is coming because the Government cannot help themselves. They have taken two steps which make it inevitable that they must go further. What is nationalisation? It is one method of treating an industry as a whole: it is not the only method. You could take the coal industry and treat it under a great combine or trust. That is an alternative method. I do not know that the Government propose to adopt that method. What docs treating an industry as a whole make it possible for you to do? It, makes it possible, first, for you to do one thing, and as a result to do two other things. You can pool the profits. That is what the Government have done. Having pooled the profits, it is possible to do two things—the equalisation of wage conditions over the whole field of the industry, and the Government took a long step towards that when they conceded a flat rate increase throughout the mine: and, secondly, to give the consumer some benefit out of the profits. The Government have done that as well. They have given the consumer 161 of coal the advantage of some £12,000,000 of profit made on the overseas trade. It would have been entirely impossible to have done that as long as the trade remained as it was before the war in the hands of individual owners. The Government have got hold of this thing and they dare not let go What is going to happen is, that as long as these abnormal profits continue this pooling of profits is going on. Out of this pooling of profits you are going to get equalisation of wage conditions, and no doubt you will get further reductions of the price of coal to the consumer. Is it to be believed for a moment that this is being done with anything like cordial acquiescence on the part of the mine owners? Not at all. The reason why it is being done is because they know unless it is done nationalisation must come, and the only way in which they can fend it off is by maintaining the pooling system. That cannot go on for ever. If you were to abandon it without nationalisation taking place you would get, as was foreshadowed in speeches on both sides, demands for advances of wages, and you would have a return to the old unequal conditions with all the consequent discontent. If anybody believes that the consumers of this country after having had the benefit of some share in the profits of the oversea trade are going to allow those profits to go as before solely into the pockets of the coal owners, then I think they are taking an altogether shortsighted view of the situation. From all these points of view I would counsel my friends on this side to have patience. As the Prime Minister said even if one had to wait the length of this Parliament it is not a long time, and I believe even before this Parliament comes to an end, and at the hands of this very Government, we shall get a measure of nationalisation of mines.
§ Mr. CHARLES EDWARDS
I must say I am amazed at the effrontery displayed by some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have been speaking in favour of private enterprise as against nationalisation. If we had relied on private enterprise during the war the war would have been lost. Private enterprise failed absolutely, and we had to take over many things, arid yet so close after the war people talk as if private enterprise was the salvation of this country. 162 I do not know how they have the effrontery, and I think that is a very mild word, to do so. We are led to believe at times that the great danger to this country is the extremist, but there is another and a greater danger than the extremist, and that is the employers who simply fight for all the old methods as long as they possibly can, and that is what they are doing now on the question of nationalisation. I listened to a speech from an hon. Member opposite, of which I do not complain, but there were some rather queer things said by that hon. Member. He said that when industries were nationalised during the war the time was advantageous for that sort of thing, but I think the opposite was the case. There were, we must remember, some three or four million men withdrawn from actual production, and industries had to be carried on with that lessened man power. There were also the difficulties of transport, both in our own country and on the seas, and notwithstanding those things we managed to get through and very successfully. Another point that hon. Member made was that we were able to get the best brains at our disposal. But would that not obtain if the mines were nationalised, and should we not have the advantage of the best men engaged in that industry? Surely the mine owners are not going to be like so many school children who, when they fall out in the street and cannot get their own way, say they will not play and go sulking into a corner. Is that what is going to happen to the mine owners if the mines are nationalised? I venture to say that we shall have the best expert experience at our disposal. The colliery managers are the men who have made the collieries the success they have been. When you point to the advantage of private enterprise it is the workers and the colliery managers who are responsible for that. I do not know that the colliery managers have been so very well used by the owners that they will simply sulk and not help the nation if the mines are nationalised. From the report of the Commission I see that of seventeen hundred colliery managers some seventy-three per cent. were getting four hundred per year or less, and some four hundred of them were getting three hundred pounds per year and less, and that in these times. Do you think that those men would not be at the disposal of the Government if the mines 163 were nationalised? I believe that they would. I believe that they have so little to thank the mine owners for that I do not think they would stand by them to the extent of refusing a bit of help to the Government if the mines were taken over.
There is another argument used and that is about the number of officials. It used to be a common saying when I worked in a pit, and I did so for a good many years, that there was a boss to every pair of rails, and I do not know-that you could do worse than that under nationalisation. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment told us that there were fifteen hundred colliery companies and each of them with a board of directors, and I do not know that we could do any worse than that if the nation took the mines over. There was a very queer thing said in the Report of the Commission. There was a Minority Report which said, as far as I recollect, "We are in favour of nationalising the minerals," and I think they went further and said, "We are in favour of the municipalisation of the distribution of coal." So that in effect they said. "Nationalise the minerals and distribution but leave us alone in the middle." I think we ought to take them at their word and nationalise the whole industry. If anyone thinks that we are going to settle down again as we did before under private enterprise they are making a mistake. The hon. Member who has just sat down asked us to have patience. I think I am fairly well blessed with patience and I do not mind a year or two, but we are not going to settle down again to the same old system as before. We have got to have a change in our methods of working, and indeed, the Commission was unanimous m stating as the first thing that the present system stands condemned. That being so we ought to look for another system. We have been offered a system of trusts and we have been told we could have that system which would give the workers the right to one or two men on the board of directors. I do not know whether anybody expects the workers to appoint one or two men on a board of directors and to give their working knowledge and ability to help to make profits for a few individuals. Men who took up such a position would be under 164 condemnation or at least under suspicion from the very beginning, and I think it is unreasonable to ask men to take part in any board of directors under that system. What happened during the war when they tried to set up joint committees at the collieries? I had some experience and they absolutely failed because the owners and managers would not allow those joint committees to deal with the question of men who happened to be sent home or could not work for various reasons. They were only willing to discuss questions such as why men did not come to work if they happened to sleep late, and they would not inquire into any other side of the matter. The joint committees failed because of that. I am strongly in favour of nationalisation; and when we were told from one of those Benches in very strong language to-day that it was simply a fraud that we were trying to perpetrate on the community, that is not so as far as I am concerned. I believe we have gone so far that nationalisation must come, and I believe there will be no peace until it does come. If I were a shareholder, which I am not, I rather feel that if I could get rid of this concern under reasonable terms I would do so, and the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment said he was willing that those terms should be not only reasonable but generous. Therefore I support this Amendment, and I hope it will be carried to-night. From the cheers that came from that side of the House I am not very hopeful on that point. However, we have placed our case before the House, and I venture to say again that this is a thing that must come before we shall have that permanent peace that was mentioned in the King's Speech.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I would like to remind the House that there were two Reports issued by the Coal Commission. The first Report, which was signed by Mr. Justice Sankey and three representatives of the commercial classes, testified to the fact that they had come to the conclusion that the present method of working the industry stood condemned, and that some other system would have to be substituted for it. During the subsequent proceedings in the second half of the sittings of the Commission, Lord Gainford gave evidence, and stated on behalf of the mine owners that they were totally opposed to any system whatever which 165 would mean dual authority, and that if it had to be decided between a system of nationalisation or a new system in which there would be joint ownership between the owners and the workmen, they would prefer to have nationalisation. If that is so, I think I should be right in saying that the scheme which has been adumbrated by the Prime Minister is one which will not receive the consent even of the owners of the mines, and it is quite evident that it will not receive the consent of the men actually engaged in the industry. Therefore, if you are going to continue to press the proposed scheme of the Government, you have a scheme which neither the owners nor the workmen desire, and that does not argue very well for the success of the Government's scheme. On the other hand, if you have nationalisation, you have at least got the workmen who are strongly in favour of the application of that principle to the industry, and furthermore you have undoubtedly a great body of the electorate of this country, who are themselves consumers, in favour of the application of the principle of nationalisation. Therefore, between the two schemes, I think it is fair to come to a conclusion that behind the scheme of nationalisation you have a far greater electoral support than you have behind any scheme such as has been outlined and adumbrated by the Prime Minister. It might be said to us, why do you desire to nationalise the mines? There is a variety of reasons, one or two of which have been given, and I desire to give one or two more. In the first place, we desire to nationalise the mines for the purpose of preventing the waste which has been taking place. Waste has been mentioned from the point of view of the undesirable barriers which have been left in, and waste has also been mentioned in respect of the small coal which has been left in, amounting, it is estimated, to about 2,500,000 tons per annum, of a commodity which is extremely valuable, and which, if it had been treated upon scientific lines, would have been of very great value to the nation.
But I want to deal with it from the point of view of the waste of coal when it is actually got. The miner has a right to protest against the use of his energy and skill, running the risks that he does to get coal, and knowing perfectly well that when he has got it it is not scientifi- 166 cally dealt with. At the present time more than 80 per cent. of the calorific-value of coal is actually going up the chimneys of the houses and the furnaces of this country, and the coal of this country when it has been won from the earth ought to be treated in quite a different and distinct way from that in which it has been treated in the past. It is because we believe that only under a scheme of nationalisation will you get a force directed towards utilising coal to the best possible advantage that we are supporting the principle of nationalisation. Wherever the mines are in the hands of private enterprise and run for private profit, those who are working the mines will simply work them to get the maximum amount of output, irrespective of how it is used and whether it is wasted or not, and if you had got the nation interested in the preservation of coal and in the right use of coal, the nation would interest itself in bringing forth such scientific methods as would derive the maximum of value from the coal when it was actually used, but you cannot say that so long as you adhere to the principle of private enterprise. For these reasons I am in favour of the Amendment, but I want to come now very briefly to another reason. During this Debate the questions of safety and the health of the miner have been brought up. Everybody knows that so far as the calling of the miner is concerned, it is a very dangerous one. I want quite frankly to admit that undoubtedly many accidents cannot be avoided, and never will be avoided, for reasons which are best known to men who have actually worked in the mines, but I am very sorry to have to say that there is what is known as the miners' nystagmus, an awful disease to which the miner is subject, where his eyesight is damaged, and this could be very greatly avoided if the owners themselves had been in favour of the introduction of electric light. Now I never like to say anything unfriendly against the owners. I have had long relationship with them, and, so far as concerns those with whom I have had to deal, the relationship has been very good. But on the point of introducing the electric lamp in place of the old oil lamp with its minimum of light, I have to say that they have not done as much as they could. During the war they even allowed notices to be put in to suspend operations 167 when the coal was actually needed, and the Coal Controller desired us to meet him at his office to see whether he could persuade the owners to introduce the electric lamp which the men were demanding. The owners did not willingly do it, and they tried to keep off the introduction of the lamp as much as possible. The reasons they gave for not being in favour of introducing the electric lamp were, first, that there was no efficient lamp upon the market, and, secondly, that the cost would be increased to a halfpenny per day per head as against a farthing per day in the case of the oil lamp.
These were the arguments they advanced for not introducing an electric lamp, despite medical testimony as to the eyesight of the men. I asked the local committee to take, promiscuously, 30 men actually working in the pit at that time for medical examination, and the medical examination proved that of those 30 men, 20 were actually suffering from nystagmus and the remainder showed the usual symptoms of that disease. Yet the owners would not willingly introduce the electric lamp. That, more or less, has been the experience we have had in relation to that particular question. For that reason I say that, in the interest of safety, in the interest of health, in the interest of the sight of those who are members of our organisation, we are here to support the nationalisation of mines.
There is another reason which, to my mind, is very important to the general community. It has already been touched upon in some degree by an hon. Member, who showed that it would be possible under the nationalisation of mines to reduce the price of coal to the British consumer by the simple process of pooling the whole of the costs and proceeds in one general pool, and that if you do not do that kind of thing you cannot sell coal at the minimum price. It is a general economic law, which applies more or less in normal circumstances, that whatever is the maximum cost of getting a certain coal, that maximum cost will influence the selling price of that coal. That is to say, if coal is got at 24s. a ton and also at 35s. a ton, it will be the 35s. coal which will, more or less, fix the market price, and the coal got at 24s. will have the advantage of the difference between that amount and what- 168 ever the price fixed. That has happened, and cannot be avoided. The evidence submitted to the Commission by Mr. Lowes Dickinson was to the effect that in the September quarter, I think, of 1918 there were certain pits out of a number they had taken—about seventy-eight, I think—where there had been a loss of between 6d. a ton and 21s. a ton, but there were over 350 pits where there had been a gain of from 6d. per ton to 16s. 6d. per ton. Now, if you take away all forms of control and allow private enterprise again to regulate markets as it likes, then the coal which is being got to-day at the highest possible price will affect the market price more or less, whereas the pool would, to a very largo extent, dictate what the price is to be.
You have in mining a set of conditions unequalled in any other industry, except it be agriculture, and, different as the two industries seem, there is undoubtedly one point of agreement between coal mining and agriculture, namely, that the physical condition, so far as the land is concerned, vary in the case of agriculture just as the physical conditions vary-in the case of coal mining. In one instance you have the coal probably not more than eighteen inches thick, and in another case you have got coal which is five, six or seven feet thick, and where all the natural conditions are in favour of getting very cheap coal. The miner, in the interests of the nation, wants the seam, where there is a loss of 21s. a ton, brought into the pool along with the seam making 16s. 6d. a ton, so that you can strike an average price, which the consumers would never get under private enterprise. It follows that if a man has a six-foot scam to work upon, he will get a correspondingly greater amount than the man who is working on a two-foot seam, and he will get a far higher rate of wage. That is what is happening, and what has happened. That is what must inevitably happen if we go back again to private enterprise. Wages in the districts which are least economic will come down, and the others will follow, because the particular districts more or less regulate the market price. We want to bring the two together, and so to see that the workmen get a uniform wage right throughout the coalfield. That is another reason why we believe that the 169 mines at this particular time should be nationalised.
There is one very cogent reason. I did not hear the speech of my right hon. Friend who moved the Amendment, and I may inadvertently repeat what he said. But it has been suggested by Mr. Justice Sankey that you should set up certain machinery for working and controlling, not only the individual mine, but the general district. During the past few years there have been a great many stoppages which have resulted in a great loss of coal. One of the points the Prime Minister this afternoon sought to press home was that we should give some evidence that the nationalisation of the mines would mean an increased output. Give us, he said, a guarantee that you are going to maintain the output. By the nationalisation of the mines, by the working of the suggested committees, you will put an end to strife. Why? Because for the first time the workmen would be given the advantage of knowing the whole financial condition of the mining industry. A great many strikes to-day arise from the fact that the man is in the dark as to the financial position of his particular colliery. He is never in the possession of data, and because of that he often thinks that the colliery company is making huge profits and is in a position to pay what he asks. Inevitably there is a strike because he thinks that he is not getting his rightful share. If the Sankey scheme be accepted and the Government nationalise the mines and set up these committees, you would first have the Pit Committee charged with the responsibility for the safety and health of the workmen; that committee would be charged at the other end with working matters out as suggested. The District Committee would be the most responsible and important of all the committees which Mr. Justice Sankey proposes to set up. Upon that committee you would have representatives of consumers and of the workmen. The function of the latter will be to extract the whole of the coal, and they will have a general oversight of the whole of the conditions of the undertaking.
The workmen upon that committee for the first time will have the financial knowledge upon which they can base a real and definite case for any proposed increase of wages. Being in possession of the financial data in connection with the 170 undertaking and a general knowledge of the undertaking, their minds will be influenced in the direction of avoiding any future strikes. Furthermore, in this regulation of wages and conditions, the general public, along with the workmen, will be brought in. It is not going to be a method of settling disputes like we have had in the past. We are not going to have the masters, on the one hand, with the whole of the financial knowledge in their possession and the men absolutely in the dark, and the men consequently trying, in some instances, to get the last possible penny, while the master, on the other side, endeavours, not so much to protect his own particular industry, or his own particular pit, but the owner. I have always argued before the owners we have met, and do meet, that we as miners had a right to demand that the prices should approximate to the average profit of the undertaking. If you had the nationalisation of the mines, the committee of which I have been speaking would see that all these things go together. The workman would then be in the possession of that knowledge which would help him to fix his wages agreements. For these various reasons I am strongly in favour of the principle of nationalising the mines.
May I just touch upon one further principle which has been stated here by the Prime Minister to the effect that you cannot run an industry upon human sentiment, that you cannot expect any industry to be run upon human goodwill, and that if you have an end to private enterprise, you must have some method of payment by results if you are going to get the best out of an industry. I think the very strongest indictment that can be brought against the capitalist system either in this country, or any other, is this: that no nation, no country, ever sits down scientifically to compute what is required by that nation. There is not a man in the House, and never has been, who could tell us exactly what is required by the nation. There is no scientific method of arriving at it There has been no scientific method of applying labour to your resources to give you what you want. Until we do so, until we act upon scientific lines, we cannot hope to run our industries to give us what human beings actually require. If it is true that the only incentive in life is gold, if we are only animated by motives 171 of that sort, then I am sorry, for the Prime Minister—and I say this most respectfully, and would say it if he were here—is a member of a Christian church, and has been all his life, we are told, preaching the possibility of human regeneration, and believing in the moral and intellectual capacity of the people. Yet he comes here and tells us that the only incentive in human life and effort is gain, greed, and gold. We do not believe it.
We say it is a travesty of human history. Every line of human history declares it to be false. We want nationalised mines because we believe in the intellectual and moral capacity of the people. We believe, and we are scientifically and psychologically supported, that if you create conditions which appeal to the worth of the people you will get development in the world. We believe if you create conditions which appeal to the work of the people you will develop the work. If I chain up my dog and do not let him loose and keep him away from water and other natural conditions and he goes mad, is it the dog that is responsible or am I responsible? Such is human life. If you create conditions which appeal to the baser side of human life they will respond to them; but if you create conditions which appeal to the noblest ideals in life, and if you educate them to respond, you will ultimately find that they will respond. If you deny this in the present case, then you are not fulfilling your promise to your constituencies. Is it gold that animates the Members of this House? I think it would be an insult to say that every man is doing his best only in proportion to the money he is actually receiving. I believe that on all sides of this House men are actuated by far higher motives, and the time will come even in the mining industry when they will respond to the higher call which the nation makes.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of FOOD (Mr. McCurdy)
I am sure that we all agree with a good deal that was said by the hon. Member in the very eloquent and able speech which he has just made. We all agree that if we are considering the question of how mining accidents may be averted or lessened, it may be of great importance that the miners in the future 172 should be given a very much larger share in the control and management of the industry than they have had in the past. I should also assent to the view the hon. Member put forward, that if the miners had fuller knowledge of the financial condition of the industry as a whole, that that knowledge would prove a preventive against strikes and industrial unrest. I am sure I agree that when it comes to matters so vitally affecting the interests of miners as the regulation of the conditions of labour and the settlement of wages and questions of that kind, that the miner should be given a far greater share in the management of the industry, that in dealing with these matters the industry should in future be managed upon more democratic lines than in the past. But while I agree with this view, I fail entirely to follow the conclusion which the hon. Member seeks to draw without in any way showing any logical connection, that it therefore follows that a policy which is somewhat vaguely described as the nationalisation of mines should be forthwith and promptly adopted by the Government. I think all political parties are too apt to use large and general terms, without closely enquiring into the meaning of the words they use. When we use a word like nationalisation, and speak of the nationalisation of mines, surely it is most important that the people of this country should understand beyond any possibility of doubt, what is the precise policy which it is proposed should be adopted in regard to an industry of such great national importance as the coal industry.
I read with much interest a few weeks ago the whole of the evidence taken by the Coal Commission, which was presided over by Mr. Justice Sankey. In reading that evidence I could not help being struck by two facts. When the Commission first sat it was generally understood that it was sitting for the limited purpose of giving the country and the Government an Interim Report confined to the single question of wages and hours, and somewhat to the surprise of the country in addition to reporting upon those matters, the Commission thought fit to make a finding with regard to the necessity of some change in the management of the coal industry either by way of nationalisation or by way of national purchase with or without some system of general control. I was somewhat surprised to find the finding coupled with 173 that demand, because up to that time no details had been laid before the Commission of any scheme either of nationalisation or national purchase with or without joint control to which that finding could be said to apply. Therefore, I turned with some interest to the somewhat voluminous report of the evidence that was taken upon the second stage of the enquiry which resulted in the present demand for what is called the nationalisation of the mines. I turned to it as one frankly desirous of understanding what really was the policy intended by those words.
The nationalisation of mines in the negative sense is, of course, quite easy to understand. It is quite easy to understand that the nationalisation of mines is intended to mean that that industry shall be removed from such capitalist control as has existed in the industry in the past. But when we come to the positive side, as to what is really the economic basis, the industrial structure which it is proposed to substitute for what is an old and well-tried economic structure, that is the management by private owners and private enterprise, then it is that our difficulties begin. The Commission commenced, so far as evidence upon this point is concerned, by witnesses intended to enlighten us as to what is meant by nationalisation, and they took the evidence of two distinguished economists, Mr. Sidney Webb and Sir L. Chiozza Money. Mr. Sidney Webb is an economist of frankly socialistic views, identified with what is known as the Fabian Society in this country, and he gave the Commission an exposition of the principles of Marxian socialism, of nationalisation and the collective ownership of mines and minerals by the community as a whole.
He was followed by Sir Leo Chiozza Money, who further expiated upon the beauties of collectivism and its superiority over individual ownership and private proprietorship. The evidence of those gentlemen took some time, and they were cross-examined at great length.
They were followed by a very brilliant figure in the world both of industry and economics, Mr. Cole, a well-known Oxford man and a great authority upon industrial subjects, and he laid before the Commission his scheme for what he also called the nationalisation of the mines. His scheme is of some interest because it has since been published abroad on behalf of some section of the Labour 174 party, and is described in that propaganda, which has been circulated throughout the land, as a classic exposition of the case for nationalisation. What did Mr. Cole put before the Commission? He laid before them a manner of dealing with the mines which, whatever may be its merits or demerits, is certainly not collectivism or socialism, and is certainly not analogous to anything which Karl Marx ever advocated, or probably ever thought of. He laid before us the brilliant but somewhat obscure doctrine of a comparatively new school of thought called the Guild Socialists. It is so new that some of the Commissioners had to ask Mr. Cole what Guild Socialism meant. I was really surprised to find that it was not until the Royal Commission had been sitting for a whole month upon the second stage of its report that it occurred to anybody that it might be just as well to call a witness on behalf of the miners to see what it was that they wanted. It was not until May 23rd, a month after the Commission had been sitting for the second time and listening with great interest to schemes of Marxism, Socialism and Guild Socialism and expositions of economic doctrines of various kinds and sorts, that it occurred to somebody that it might be just as well to call someone on behalf of the Miners' Federation and learn the details of the scheme which the miners wanted.
The case of the miners was put by Mr. Straker, and he wanted neither Guild Socialism nor Marxian Socialism nor collectivism nor any of the things which the other witnesses had been talking about, but what in the vernacular is known, not as "the mines for the nation," but as "the mines for the miners." If I may use the technical language of economics, it was neither collectivism nor Guild Socialism but syndicalism which was the basis of the proposals which Mr. Straker, on behalf of the Miners' Federation, placed before the Commission, and when the Chairman, Mr. Justice Sankey, who perhaps is not so familiar with economics as with law, or one of the Commissioners, asked Mr. Straker about this or that which Mr. Sidney Webb had been saying—Mr. Sidney Webb had detained the Commission long with a scheme of socialism or collective ownership or ownership by the nation—Mr. Straker said "We are not responsible for what Mr. Sidney Webb 175 has said." What then was the policy put forward on behalf of the miners? It was the policy of syndicalism. In 1911 when we were in the middle of railway troubles there were a considerable number of distinguished socialists in this House, Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, Mr. Philip Snowden, and others, and I well remember the scorn with which they referred to what in this country was then regarded as the new-fangled doctrine of syndicalism—the mines for the miners, the railways for the railwaymen, the textile factories for the textile operatives, and so on—and for those who had not the pleasure of being here to listen to those high priests of socialism it is in their writings and it can still be found what men like Mr. Ramsay Macdonald and Mr. Philip Snowden at the bottom of their hearts think of the economic basis of these syndicalist proposals which are put forward under the vague and misleading appellation of the nationalisation of the mines.
What is the history of this movement? It began with the assassination of President Carnot when the French anarchists were hunted from pillar to post and, finding no roof under which to shelter themselves, conceived the idea—an idea which some people in this country seem to have taken to heart quite recently—of infiltrating themselves into what up to that time had been the perfectly un-revolutionary organisation known as the French Trade Unions, and from 1895 onwards the history of Trade Unionism in France has been the history of men who have entirely lost all conception of trade unionism as it used to be understood, and as I venture to think it is still largely understood in this country, namely, as associations of men bound together for economic purposes and not for political or revolutionary purposes, and who have utilised their position in the trade unions to give them a new and sinister meaning and to convert them into the movement which we now call syndicalism. It is a movement which has two or three aspects which I can mention in a sentence and then pass by. It is a doctrine which, instead of magnifying the functions of the State by placing under its care and keeping the mines, the railways, the industries and all the means of production as proposed by Marx, Engels, and Lassalle, says that the instruments of production, the mines, 176 the railways and all the rest of it, shall not be nationalised at all, shall not be socialised, and shall not be subject to collective ownership, but that in every industry the producers and the producers alone, acting through the organisation of the trade unions, shall take possession of the tools and instruments of their craft and shall be in a position to dictate to the consumers and to the vast majority of the rest of the population the terms upon which they shall be permitted to obtain the necessaries of life.
§ Mr. McCURDY
Those doctrines are utterly repugnant to anything that Karl Marx taught, as my hon. Friend would understand if he had followed closely what I have been saying. That is the first aspect of syndicalism. It is a scheme under which the community as a whole, the State as a whole, is to be set on one side, and under which in every industry the producer, acting through a trade union as a political organisation, is to seize the means of production and hold the community to ransom.
The second feature about syndicalism—the French idea—has been this, that its objects are to be attained by what is known as direct action, by a general strike, by blackmailing the community by the armed forces of the minority. These are the doctrines which lie at the foundation of this so-called policy of nationalisation which is laid before the country at the present time. It is sometimes said that in the Coalition there are men of different parties and of different views. I venture to say that as between the most extreme sections of the Coalition there is really a hardly perceptible difference compared with the gulf that yawns between the discordant elements which make up the so-called Labour party—first the Trade Unionists whom we all know, God-fearing, sober Churchmen and non-Conformists, men who have never had the least sympathy with either Socialism or Revolution in any form and have no sympathy with it to-day. Then the Socialists, men like Mr. Ramsay Macdonald and Mr. Philip Snowden, Marxists and Collectivists, holding strongly for the transfer to the State of functions now exercised individually in the interests of humanity, 177 and then the syndicalists who would make every little industry a state of its own, friends of the Bolsheviks, fomenters of strife.
The really important thing about the issue which is raised before the House to-night is that we as a people and as a House of Commons should venture to look behind the labels and should get at the facts. If we do get at the facts, what are they? They are these, that a claim for nationalisation is put forward by a body of men who are pleased to call themselves a party. They are men with divergent and conflicting principles, tied by one common bond. [An HON. MEMBER: "A Coalition."] Yes, a Coalition. Some of them interpret the word "nationalisation" in the sense of handing over the community as a whole, as, I think, the last speaker did. Others unquestionably use it in the sense in which it was used by Mr. Cole and Mr. Straker. I will not detain the House longer. I will only say this. It is perfectly true that of all the large industries in this country coal is the most important. It was by the discovery and development of the coalfields that this country developed from a poor agricultural country into a rich industrial country. Coal is the sole basis of its industrial wealth and commercial prosperity, and I venture to think that before this House or the country will tolerate any drastic revolutionary changes in the bases of that industry it will be necessary that they should be more accurately defined and much more clearly explained than the advocates are able to define or explain them at the present time.
§ Mr. J. LAWSON
I have been reallysurprised to hear the description of pit committees given by the last speaker. When he begins to call joint control syndicalism, and by various other names, I am really astounded, and I am still more astounded by what other speakers have said on the subject of joint control which they seem to view as some sort of fancy scheme. Every week a deputation of workmen meets the manager of a colliery to discuss wages and other grievances. They may discuss to some extent the question of safety, but although we hear much talk on the question of increased production the deputation in the colliery office have no right to raise the question of production or to make any contribution upon it 178 that is worth while. I know well what I am speaking about. As a man who has worked in the pit for 20 years, who is a representative worker, who has acted as a check-weighman for 9 years, and has done representative work in the colliery office as well as upon District Boards, I have had the experience of seeing the output reduced and of asking an opportunity to deal with that reduction and of being refused that opportunity because it was outside our area of discussion. The suggestions for joint control would give the pit committee a legal standing, it would enlarge its area of discussion, and would secure the ripe experience as well as the judgment of men who have been doing practical work. I want to say this before leaving that subject. There are some of us whose fathers worked in the mines right back to the time of serfdom, and who have been cradled in that atmosphere, and you have to-day a multitude of intelligent men spread all over the great coalfields and though they have been born in the industry they stand on the threshhold of that industry as strangers so far as their contributions of experience and intelligence are concerned.
I was somewhat astounded when I heard the Prime Minister take up the attitude that the coalowners alone supplied the brains and main incentive. I do not want to be offensive to the coal-owners, and I do not think I should be so in saying that only a fraction of the brains and of the incentive in the mining industry is supplied by the coalowners. I know very well that the men who matter would be the men who still would remain if you nationalise the mines. They do not even use the brains they have with any great ability, they limit the opportunity of expression of those brains and they make very little use of the brains of the men who are doing the practical work. I come from a county where there are 200 coal mines. In that district, with 150,000 workers, you have practically no educational facilities for studying the scientific side of the industry. Coalowners, in the main, have been in charge of the education of the county. It has been left to a labour council of the Durham County Council to take the first steps towards laying the foundation of a mining college in that county. I submit to hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House that that does not show that the men have no 179 concern or incentive for using the brain power of their own people.
It has been said that if you nationalise the mines and set up these committees you will have a great bureaucracy and a large number of bureaucrats. I can understand that as a political argument. I can understand it as a sort of dodge, but I do not think it counts very much with the people who are not even miners but who are up against the problem in the constituencies. Take again the county to which I belong. Household coal was reduced by ten shillings a ton. Immediately the people who were living on the very edge of the coal mines ceased to get their coal. Miners' representatives made investigations and discovered that there were 400,000 tons of coal lying stacked at the pit mouth. The owners said they were wrong and that there were only 291,000 tons. There were people within sight of the pit mouth who could see the coal, yet who had no voice upon any committee of any kind to enable them to get that coal. If there had been a pit committee or a district committee there would have been some incentive to the people concerned to get that coal from the right source. With reference to the talk about bureaucracy, it seems to me that a man does not need to be in Government service to become a bureaucrat. If bureaucracy is something that levels life down, we people who live in houses that are all alike, in streets that are all alike,—and every colliery is alike in a great area—we who live the dull and drab lives ought to be good judges of what is called levelling down or bureaucracy. A point mentioned by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Spencer) is one that has been before my mind for a considerable time and one that would not under a system of national ownership continue as it is for very long. He mentioned the disease of nystagmus, or minor's eye. I have not seen the figures for nystagmus, but I should be very much surprised to learn that it was not upon the increase, yet there has been no step taken, so far as I know, for reseach purposes in order to discover the cause of that disease or the means of dealing with it. We know of course that the light has a good deal to do with it. Part of the wealth that is produced in this great industry ought certainly to be used for dealing with diseases like that.
180 There has been a good deal of talk about the method of realising the principle for which we are fighting here to-night. The miners have no reason to fear what will happen if they go to the electors of the country. I fought a seat about two months ago. It was agreed that national ownership of the mines was the central principle of the conflict. Both friendly newspapers and opponents agreed that we made that the central principle of the conflict. Out of 23,000 votes cast I was fortunate enough, championing a proposal of this kind, to get nearly 18,000 votes. I submit that from the consumers' point of view, from the nation's point of view, as well as from the workers' point of view, there is an unanswerable case for national ownership. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Marriott) said that miners had received considerable financial advances during the war. Indeed the Prime Minister said that with the increase of profits there was an increase of wages. I was surprised to hear the Prime Minister make a statement like that, for, as a matter of fact, in the mining industry profits have never been the determining factor—it has always been the increase of prices. Whatever the general public may know, the Members of this House should know that the miners themselves were the first to ask for a limitation of prices and in doing that we asked for a limitation of wages. I remember as far back as 1915, at the Conference at which the Prime Minister was present, Mr. Smillie, speaking for the miners, asked the Government to limit the price of coal on behalf of the consumer. It took some twelve months of insistent demand before that was realised. The export price has doubled and trebled since that time. From the point of view of the public well-being the miners' case will compare well with that of any section of the community. I have not been surprised to hear ignorant people outside saying that the miners are out for themselves, but I am surprised to hear hon. Members of this House, who ought to know the facts, dare to make any such statement in the face of the history of the last five years, and the miners' conduct during that period.
The Government has made the proposition, and the Prime Minister has repeated it to-night, that we should consider a 181 modified form of the Duckham scheme. The Government think it would be very well if we accepted that scheme. There may be some consumers in the country who are foolish enough to think that would be well too. It means that you are going to reorganise the whole of the industry for the advantage of the coal owner. If the miners accepted that proposal, it would mean that you were going to have one of the most formidable tasks which you have ever seen in this or any other country. The owners will be more entrenched. The owners can offer better conditions. They can even deal with housing. They could pay themselves in dividends £2 for £1 that they are paying now. The country would find that, terrible as the picture is that the Prime Minister has drawn of the results of nationalisation, the results of the system that he wants to put upon the country, if the miners agree with the owners in setting up that great monopoly, would be infinitely worse than anything the Prime Minister has pictured. I have been surprised to hear the Prime Minister speak slightingly of the possibility of exploiting the peace-time patriotism of the workers. Have we to assume that it is only during war that you can get that exalted state of feeling which enables men to give the best that there is in the nation? I have spoken to men at the pit mouth—intelligent men. They have said "You can say what you like. As far as I am concerned, I am not going to pull myself to pieces to build more castles for coal owners. That is the position in a nut-shell. As a man who has been up against the very practical facts of life from boyhood, as one who has had some obstacles to fight in order to get education, as one who can speak of the matter-of-fact things of life, I want to say that even that experience has not made me such an unbeliever and such an atheist in the things that matter in human goodwill as some gentlemen on the other side of the House. I know from our own people that there is a great fund of goodwill and the finest patriotism to be exhausted. You will do it under nationalisation and nothing else.
§ Captain FOXCROFT
I am sure every fair-minded Member of the House who desires to see the truth behind often misleading labels will be most grateful to the 182 last speaker from the Treasury Bench. I think if his speech was spoken in every constituency in the country, nationalisation would very soon die. Apart from that I speak neither as a collier nor a coal owner. I have listened with very great interest to speeches of admirable temper and from every kind of point of view. Among all the arguments the one which seems to stand out most to my mind is that nationalisation is first and foremost a consumer's question, and cannot either morally or in any other way be fairly determined either by colliers or coal owners or even by this House. It is a matter which must be presented to the constituencies and thrashed out and decided there. I shall have very great pleasure in voting against the Amendment.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
The Prime Minister in dealing with the Amendment tried to frighten us, and I suppose not only the Members of the House but the country generally, away from nationalisation by referring to it as Bolshevism, and he was very careful to emphasise that Bolshevism meant compulsory labour. Compulsory labour does not frighten my class. Some of us have known compulsory labour from our very fenderest years. The average miner knows it from his first conscious existence when he can observe his parent. He has it almost from the cradle to the grave. If there is any fear of compulsory labour under any system I am afraid it is from a section of the individuals who are supporting the Prime Minister against nationalisation. A little compulsory labour might do some of them good. I would like to have a higher standard amongst the workers; that of compelling everyone to give of their mental and physical abilities for the welfare of the nation. I would like to develop the idea amongst the workers that they would be only prepared to give their labour to those things that are useful and not have to administer to senseless luxury as many of them have to do at the present time. When the miner goes into the coal mine I would like him to ask himself the question whether his labour was going to be used to build houses for the worker or motor-cars to indulge the luxury of the profiteers of the country at the present time. Karl Marx has been quoted, and Cole and many others; but those who have quoted have not taken the 183 trouble to face the case put by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Brace), who moved the Motion. Karl Marx has nothing to do with it. Cole has nothing to do with it. Sidney Webb has nothing to do with it. Everyone who has spoken against this Resolution has been very careful to avoid the case that has been put, and still more careful to avoid the case that was put before the Coal Commission.
I was very sorry to hear the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Stanton) speak slightingly of Mr. Justice Sankey. I am a Socialist and a trade unionist, but if I were to be tried for a crime in any part of the world I would prefer to be tried in Great Britain, because I believe in the honour of our judicial bench. I am not prepared, and I do not think hon. Members ought to be prepared, to welcome statements in this House because Mr. Justice Sankey refused to perjure his soul and gave a decision in consonance with the evidence put before him at the Commission. We have been asked about the history of this question. It is very convenient to run away to the French Revolution for history, but we do not want to go there. Let us come a bit nearer. Let us take the history of the Commission itself. What are the facts? The hon. Member for North Lanark said that the Government were frightened into the Commission because of the condition of the country and the demand of the miners for a six-hours day and a 2s. advance. To say the least of it, that is not true; that is not the history of it. The miners had decided to strike for nationalisation. They had a perfect right to do that. Hon. Members on the other side of the House can refuse to sell their labour and agree to the conditions on which they will sell it, and we claim for the miner and the miner claims exactly the same right, to say under what conditions he will sell his labour. The miners having decided to strike for nationalisation, the representatives of the Government came along to the miners and pointed out that it would be very wrong to strike. They said, "Do not strike. This is a question that can be settled by reason, arid can be settled by examination." The Home Secretary said, "This is a business proposition. If the facts are in favour of nationalisation, then it will be carried out." I want the House to observe that the Commission was not the miners' 184 method. The Commission was the Government's method of settling the difficulty. In the opinion of the representative of a discredited aristocracy, we are not able to govern. We may not be able to govern, but I sincerely hope, whatever our mixture and admixture may be as a labour party, that we are honourable. I would rather live in a nation governed by honourable men than governed by men of ability who are devoid of that honour, if they get men to enter into a certain compact with them and then they do not keep it. Something has been said about Mr. Justice Sankey. Again Mr. Justice Sankey was not our choice. There you have the two main facts. You may try to frighten us about Bolshevism as much as you like, and you may quote Karl Marx until doomsday; but the Commission was your method, the chairman was your selection, not our selection. Relying upon your honour we went into the Commission, and we have a perfect right to ask the Government as honourable men to carry out the decision of that Commission.
Much has been said about the evidence which came before the Commission. If anyone takes the trouble to look at the list of witnesses who were called before the Commission, they will find that the coal-owners brought forward the most outstanding evidence they could in favour of their case. Notwithstanding, Mr. Justice Sankey and those associated with him, came to the conclusion that the present system stands condemned. I am not to attach very much weight to that, but the coalowners themselves admitted that the existing system stands condemned. Arising out of that Commission the House has to face the proposals now being put forward to satisfy the demands of the miners for nationalisation. Call it what you like, syndicalism, nationalisation, socialism, or anything else, but you have to take the proposals as they are put forward. Three proposals are put forward. The coalowners expressed their willingness that the miners should have a voice in the general management of the mines, and they are willing, I suppose, to give the miner a share in the profit. That is their proposal. They do not defend the existing system. They put forward other proposals, and when the coalowners do not defend the existing system I am astonished that hon. Members 185 should get up to defend it. The Government's proposals are that the miners should have a voice in the management of the industry precisely the same proposal so far as management is concerned that the coal-owners make. Then you have the proposals put forward by the Miners' Federation, and these are also that the miners should have a voice in the management. The only essential differences between the three proposals are these, that when the miners have a voice in the joint management of the mines under the coalowners' proposals, they would have a joint voice in the management for the purpose of getting good wages and the employers getting a profit. Under the Government proposals the miners would also have a joint voice in the management, but the profits would go to the trusts. Under the miners' proposals, which are being condemned so eloquently, the only essential difference as between the miners' proposals, the proposals of the coalowners, and the proposals in the Duckham Report as to management, is that when the miners give assistance in the management of the mines, the profits, instead of going into the pockets of the colliery owners and the trusts, should go to the State. I do not see very much to cry out against in that.
You have admitted the miners' case by admitting them into joint management of the mine. You may try to frighten the miners away by talking about what private enterprise has done in the past. There is another side to this. It is very easy to get impatient, but if some of you had been compelled to labour under the conditions which some of our people have had to endure, you would probably speak with as much warmth as I do on this question. For a hundred years our fathers and we have trusted this House and every measure of reform for the safety of the life and limb of the miner has had to be fought out in this House. Every time we make proposals that would be for the advantage of the worker underground they have been misrepresented in the fashion in which our proposal has been misrepresented here this afternoon. No later than 1911 when, after a series of promises we got a Coal Mines Regulation Bill passed through the House of Commons, for the first time in the history of mining legislation at the instigation of the coalowners, the Govern- 186 ment of the day placed on the Statute Book the enactment that the miners were not to get a certain very necessary safeguard unless the employer could make a profit on that seam. In the autumn of 1913 the world was startled by the Sengenhydd disaster: 500 men were swept into eternity. Can you imagine what that is? There was an inquiry—an impartial Government inquiry—and the finding of that inquiry was to the effect that every man would have escaped out of that mine with his life had it not been for the necessary safeguard being taken out of the legislation in 1911 to safeguard the profits of the coalowners. Do you wonder then that it is difficult on this side of the House to listen with patience to the statements made against the case of the miners?
When we make proposals we are continually being reminded that there was a war on. I am not here to belittle what any class did in the war, but the miners did their share both in the mines and on the battlefield, and I was very sorry to hear in this Debate an hon. Member referring to some of us as persons who would prefer to see the Germans conquering rather than our own people-That is very unfair. There are very few of my colleagues who have not empty chairs in their homes. I have just come from the home of one of the heroes. You talk about private enterprise. This is a house of two apartments. There are two beds in one of the compartments. On one of the beds are a father and mother and four children: on the other bed are two adults. There is another compartment. To-night, stretched on the floor, with seven motherless children, is one of the heroes who fought in the great War. We have erected in the country, we have had to erect in every county in the industrial areas, sanatoria and fever hospitals for infectious diseases at the expense of the ratepayers. We have had to do that to save the wreckage that has been made by private enterprise in the mines and other industries. Every time I see a sanatorium or hospital I look upon it as an outstanding monument of the failure of private enterprise. Is it any wonder that we are out for an entirely different method of conducting industry? We have trusted the private owners. We put them on the 187 county councils and on the parish councils, and we even sent them to Parliament.
If there are any hon. Gentlemen here who doubt my statement as to the housing conditions, lot them come with me some afternoon, and I will show them the conditions that hon. Members are standing up here to defend when dealing with the question of private enterprise. Seventy years ago, a great cholera epidemic swept over this country. I can show you houses in the mining district that were condemned in the forties as unfit for human habitation. They are occupied to-day, and are more crowded than they were in the forties. Many years ago there was a recommendation that baths be erected at the mines. There are still no baths at the mines. I do not like to say anything in a way which may seem hard and uncharitable. I know it would take a great deal to disturb the complacency of some individuals in this House. I want just to state, in conclusion, that we have tried private enterprise in the coal industry and it has failed us as human beings. It has housed us, in the words of the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Long), "in houses little better than pig-sties." You speak about revolution and Bolshevism. If you have revolution and Bolshevism, you can attribute it to the class who are opposing nationalisation at the present time. I know how the vote will go. I do not like to refer to the results of elections, but I
§ fought an election on the direct issue of nationalisation, not in an exclusively mining division, and if anyone has a right to speak for nationalisation I have that right. That election was fought with a coalowner, a very honourable gentleman, who was a Coalitionist, and a majority was given in favour of nationalisation of over 7,000. Whatever our fate may be in this discussion the future is with us. Do not imagine that the men in the mining villager, have the same mentality as those of forty or fifty years ago. Do not imagine that for a single second. If you want to stop nationalisation you have got to turn back the hands of the clock, and that cannot be done. I would much prefer when nationalisation is being condemned in this House that instead of quoting Karl Marx and Cole and Sidney Webb and other individuals and talking of Syndicalism and Bolshevism that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen would apply their minds to the proposals that have been put forward by the right hon. Member for Abertillery. I am sure they will give us credit for being honest and determined to carry out and institute better conditions not only for the miner but for the general community.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 64; Noes, 329.191
|Division No. 1.]||AYES.||[10.27 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hartshorn, Vernon||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hayday, Arthur||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Hayward, Major Evan||Robertson, John|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Hirst, G. H.||Sexton, James|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Hogge, James Myles||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Briant, Frank||Holmes, J. Stanley||Smith, Captain A. (Nelson & Colne)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Irving, Dan||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Bromfield, William||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Spencer, George A.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kelly, Edward J. (Donegal, East)||Spoor, B. C.|
|Cairns, John||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Cape, Thomas||Kenyon, Barnet||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Lawson, John J.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Lunn, William||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Dawes, James Arthur||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Tootill, Robert|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Malone, Lieut.-Col. C L. (Leyton, E.)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Finney, Samuel||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Myers, Thomas||Wignall, James|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Williams, John (Glamorgan, Gower)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Onions, Alfred||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Richards, Rt. Hon. Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Tyson Wilson and Mr. T. Griffiths.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||Kiley, James D.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Denison-Pender, John C.||King, Commander Henry Douglas|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Dockrell, Sir Maurice||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Doyle, N. Grattan||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)|
|Armitage, Robert||Edge, Captain William||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)|
|Ashley, Colonel Wilfrid W.||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)|
|Atkey, A. R.||Elveden, Viscount||Lindsay, William Arthur|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Falcon, Captain Michael||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Balfour, Sir R. (Glasgow, Partick)||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Lonsdale, James Rolston|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Lorden, John William|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||Lort-Williams, J.|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Foreman, Henry||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Barrand, A. R.||Forestier-Walker, L.||Lowther, Lt.-Col. Claude (Lancaster)|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Forrest, Walter||Lynn, R. J.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||M'Curdy, Charles Albert|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||France, Gerald Ashburner||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Galbraith, Samuel||M'Lean, Major Charles W. W.|
|Benn, Com. Ian H. (Greenwich)||Gange, E. Stanley||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Bennett, Thomas Jewell||Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (Bas'gst'ke)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||Gilbert, James Daniel||Mallalieu, F. W.|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Glyn, Major Ralph||Manville, Edward|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel D. F.||Goff, Sir R. Park||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Gould, James C.||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Grant, James A.||Martin, Captain A. E.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Matthews, David|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Greene, Lieut-Col. W. (Hackney, N.)||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Greenwood, Colonel Sir Hamar||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Briggs, Harold||Greig, Colonel James William||Mitchell, William Lane|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Gretton, Colonel John||Moles, Thomas|
|Britton, G. B.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Molson, Major John Elsdale|
|Brown, T. W. (Down, North)||Guest, Major O. (Leic., Loughboro')||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.|
|Bruton, Sir James||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Morison, Thomas Brash|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Morris, Richard|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hailwood, Augustine||Morrison, Hugh|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Mosley, Oswald|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel A. H.||Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Mount, William Arthur|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hanna, George Boyle||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Harmsworth, Sir R. L. (Caithness)||Murray, Lt.-Col. C. D. (Edinburgh)|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Murray, Hon. Gideon (St. Rollox)|
|Camplon, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Henderson Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Herbert Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Casey, T. W.||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Neal, Arthur|
|Cautley, Henry S.||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Cayzer, Major Herbert Robin||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Nicholl, Commander Sir Edward|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Hinds, John||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox, Univ.)||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Hood, Joseph||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Hopkins, John W. W.||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Oman, Charles William C.|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H.|
|Clough, Robert||Hurd, Percy A.||Ormsby-Gore, Captain Hon. W.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Hurst, Major Gerald B.||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Parker, James|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Pearce, Sir William|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Jameson, J. Gordon||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Jephcott, A. R.||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)|
|Cope, Major Wm.||Jellett, William Morgan||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Jesson, C.||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Cowan, Sir W. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Perring, William George|
|Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Johnson, L. S.||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)|
|Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)||Johnstone, Joseph||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Curzon, Commander Viscount||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Pratt, John William|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Preston, W. R.|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Davies, Major D. (Montgomery)||James, Hon. Cuthbert||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Kellaway, Frederick George||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Purchase, H. G.|
|Ramsden, G. T.||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Rankin, Captain James S.||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Raper, A. Baldwin||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Ratcliffe, Henry Butler||Stanton, Charles B.||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.||Starkey, Captain John R.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Rees, Sir John D. (Nottingham, East)||Stewart, Gershom||Willey, Lieut.-Colonel F. V.|
|Reid, D. D.||Strauss, Edward Anthony||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Remer, J. R.||Sturrock, J. Leng||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Remnant, Colonel Sir James F.||Sugden, W. H.||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Sutherland, Sir William||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Sykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Rodger, A. K.||Taylor, J.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Rogers, Sir Hallewell||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell-(Maryhill)||Woolcock, William James U.|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.||Tickler, Thomas George||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Seager, Sir William||Turton, E. R.||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Seddon, J. A.||Vickers, Douglas||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Shaw, William T. (Forfar)||Waddington, R.||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)||Wallace, J.||Younger, Sir George|
|Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Smithers, Sir Alfred W.||Waring, Major Walter||Lord E. Talbot and Captain Guest.|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Deviate be now adjourned." put, and agreed to.—[Mr. G. Thorne.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.