§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Bridgeman)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
I understand that I am not the object of very general envy in having to take my first plunge into the turbid waters of the coal controversy, but I do claim one qualification, that is, absolute impartiality as between the different disputants in the controversy. I have never worked in a coal mine myself.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I am not so sure about that. I am, told there is a good deal of money to be made at it. Neither have I ever held one penny of investment in any mining company. Therefore I look upon this question from the point of view of a typical consumer. The consumers are the vastly preponderating majority of the people of this country, and have the first claim on the attention of this House. I was brought up in my early youth to believe that,Old King Coal was a merry old soul.I am not quite sure now whether my early instructors were not imposing upon my childish credulity, but I still have some faith that he will resume the bonhomie which used to characterise him, and that for one or two reasons. In the first place, in our Debates here everyone must have noticed the studied moderation and restraint which has characterised almost all the speeches that have been delivered on the question. That betokens a feeling of the great importance and difficulty of the question, and the strong desire not to augment our difficulties by any unwise or provocative language. Nobody has been more conspicuous in that respect than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace), who opened the Debate on Wednesday last with a speech which everyone in the House must have admired. Another reason I have for being hopeful in this matter is that in that Debate, although we had acute differences expressed, those differences 750 were all on questions of method rather than on the objects and aims expressed by the different speakers. Several speakers spoke of the high ideals they had in putting forward their arguments in favour of nationalisation. Nobody doubts that they have those ideals. The position would be almost hopeless if the leaders of these large unions, who are so much trusted and respected, were not actuated by very high motives and ideals. But they are not the only people who have high ideals. Their ideals amount to this, that what they aim at and what according to them can only be attained by nationalisation is a spirit of national service, of duty to other people and consideration for the interests of the public. "A life of service" was a phrase used by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) in the very interesting speech he made in that Debate. After all, that ideal is merely what all who profess to be and call themselves Christians are bound to hold by their faith and the teaching of their respective Churches both in public and in private life. So I say that that ideal is common to everybody. What seemed to me not to be established in that Debate was that it could only be reached by nationalisation. Indeed, it seems to me that a bad time has come upon this country if it were impossible for the British nation to do their duty to their God and to their neighbour without being chained to the stool of official bureaucracy or financed by the Treasury of this country. To come down from the high ideals that were put before us in that Debate nearer to the practical object being aimed at, I find even there that there is an immense amount of ground common to us all. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Abertillery, said in his speech that the miners were not going to work themselves out to the last ounce merely to make profits for the owner. Is there anyone in this House who does not agree with that? There we start on one piece of common ground. I believe that everybody in the House realises that this industry cannot develop itself as it should without enterprise, the encouragement of enterprise, the encouragement of invention and the enlistment of the brains of everybody concerned. I might describe those engaged in the industry as being three forms of capitalists; those who 751 possess the capital of brains, those who possess the capital of muscle and those who possess the capital of money. We are all agreed that we want some system which will enable each section to make all the contribution it can towards the success of the industry, not only for the sake of the industry but for the sake of the whole country, which depends so much upon it. Further, we all wish to see them having a real say in the conduct of the industry. We wish to see them able to judge for themselves what are the financial possibilities of the industry and to have the figures necessary to say what is the actual real cost of production, so that everybody may know and the thing may be plain and have no mystery about it. It will be found that most Members of the House are agreed upon that. They are also agreed, I believe, that each of these three kinds of capital should get its fair share of the profits of the industry. I do not think there is any disagreement on that point. If I am right in that, we start on a very large plateau of common ground, on which we can and ought to work together as long as it is possible. I know that a good many of the speakers opposite have spoken as if the coalowners would never agree to any such proposal. I do not know what authority or right they have for saying that. I have no authority to speak for the coalowners, but I should be very much surprised indeed if a large number of coalowners are not prepared to meet in the most friendly way any of the suggestions made in that programme which I have described as common ground to so many of us. Having said that, I hope we shall proceed to the consideration of this question with the idea that we have been rather magnifying our difficulties and understating our agreement in the past.
This Bill, the Second Reading of which I move to-day, is only the first of two Bills dealing with this question. It is absolutely necessary that it should be moved and carried as soon as possible. I do not know that I need take up much of the time of the House in dwelling upon the history leading up to this Bill. Perhaps I may briefly describe it. Control was established on coal in South Wales at the end of 1916, and in the whole country early in 1917. In 1918 an agreement was reached, between 752 the owners and the miners and the Coal Controller, called the Coal Mines Control Agreement, which was subsequently ratified by an Act called the Coal Mines Control Agreement (Confirmation) Act of 1918. The object of that was to provide in some way for the distribution of the profits. At that time there was very little difference in the price of home and export coal, and if they had remained anywhere near the same there would not have been the necessity for any alteration of that agreement. But as everyone knows, the price of export coal went up enormously last year, and the effect of that on the agreement of 1918 would have been to give enormous advantages to those coalowners who by their geographical situation were able to export, and to do great injustice to those who are obliged to sell their coal inland at low prices. For that reason it was impossible that the agreement should be allowed to remain as it was. I do not think that the coalowners in any way claimed that it should be. That agreement would have also meant a serious loss to the public exchequer.
In 1919 we had the Sankey Commission, and the interim Report which recommended the Sankey wage, and the limitation of profits, and at the end of last year, in order to carry out the pledge that had been given to follow up the interim Sankey Report, the Bill called the Coal Industry (Emergency) Bill was introduced into this House, and the Second Reading came on I think on the 11th December. That Bill was withdrawn because it had not very many friends and because those who represented the miners told the Leader of the House that they did not think the limitation of profits to 1s. 2d. a ton was any part of the pledge that they expected him to keep. Therefore it became necessary to find some other method of dealing with the finances of this financial year up to the end of March, 1920, and also to the time when the Coal Mines Control Agreement must naturally come to an end on the 31st August this year, and this Bill is introduced with that object. To my mind the strongest and most valid objection that was taken to what I may call the 1s. 2d. Bill was that which was put forward by the hon. Member for the Ogmore Division (Mr. Hartshorn) when he said that as things stood control would entirely come to an end on the 31st March, and that no provision 753 had been made for regulating the industry from that time onwards, and the time was so short it was hardly possible to arrange a scheme in that time. That objection we think we are meeting now by this Bill, which gives us to the 31st August, and by the undertaking given by the Prime Minister at the earliest possible moment to introduce another Bill for the regulation of the industry generally. I regret that I am not in a position to anticipate the exact provisions of that Bill, but I think that I shall be safe in saying that whatever its precise form it will be on the lines of the general agreement which I claim exists for the better management of the coal industry, so, though I realise fully the difficulty that any hon. Gentlemen will have in expressing themselves very strongly on this Bill, because they will not have seen the other, yet as I hope and believe that we shall be able to introduce the other Bill very shortly, I would ask them not to turn their backs upon this present Bill merely because the other one is not actually in print at the present moment. It is in course of being drafted.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The outlines have been before the Cabinet; the actual draft has not yet gone before them. Those concerned are working very diligently and it is certainly our desire as much as that of the hon. Member to have it introduced at the earliest possible moment. This Bill has been described as a difficult Bill to understand, and if that is so I am afraid that it is a difficult Bill to explain. The main provisions of the Bill are to continue the Sankey wage, and to treat it as a working expense of the industry and provide for interest on increased capital in order to encourage development in the mines, and to devise a fairer plan for distributing the profits. The important clauses of the Bill are Clauses 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and the First Schedule. Clause 1 taken with this Schedule is the really important feature. The profits arising during the 17 months ending 31st August, 1920, are aggregated, and after deductions of certain expenses incidental to control and other small adjustments are to form the pool. If that pool does not exceed the sum of the pre War standards of the undertaking the profits in the pool will be distributed among the several undertakings in proportion 754 to their respective standards, the standards being the pre-War standard, fixed by the Finance Acts dealing with such profits, on the profits of either the two best out of three or the four best out of six years before the War.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
And the percentage standard, but the hon. Gentleman will not expect me to go into details of the Finance Act. It is essential that we should treat the main features of the Bill in the Second Reading.
§ Mr. HOLMES
It is very important to mention that, because under the Coal Control Agreement percentage standards were not allowed. The percentage standard was not allowed to collieries and is now going to be allowed. It is a material point in this Bill.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I know that. I never said that it was not. The profits in this pool will be distributed among the several undertakings in proportion to their respective standards, and the general aggregate of the profits so distributable is not to be less than nine-tenths of the aggregate of the standard, unless the deficiency is due to causes other than action taken by the Coal Controller after 1st January, 1920. Then if the pool exceeds the aggregate standard they will get that standard and in addition they will get one-tenth of the excess in the pool. Half of that will be distributed among the several undertakings in proportion to their respective output, the other half being allocated to those undertakings whose profits have exceeded their respective standards, the object being to meet the objection put forward to the one and two-penny Bill which was that there was no incentive to economical working in that Bill.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I am coming to that. And in the event of any excess, the remaining nine-tenths will be in the hands of the Controller. Clause 2 provides for creating this pool by a levy on the export collieries, and an award to the non-export, losing collieries. Clause 3 provides for the interest on increased capital. Clause 5 continues the Sankey Wage and Clause 9 repeals the Coal 755 Mines Agreement Confirmation Act as from the 1st April, 1919. The other clauses are mainly machinery, and I think that I have given the gist of the proposal. I will now venture on a few figures. I am aware that there are always people ready to find fault with the figures produced by the Board of Trade and their officials. There may be some reason for it, but at any rate I have come to the conclusion in the course of a rather long life that mathematics is not an exact science.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
You will always find an accountant who will differ from the figures of another accountant, and I should be very much surprised if the hon. Member will agree with anybody's figures in reference to the coal question. He is a great expert himself, and the forecast which he made in the discussion which we had in reference to the imposition of 6s. a ton on the price of coal was nearer the mark than any other. The figures in which there is so much discrepancy are figures which were at that time matters merely of prophecy, and for which there was very little guidance to be found, and if they were wrong, as apparently they were in this forecast, it must be remembered that it is a very different thing to prophesy from being wise after the event. It must also be remembered that if they were wrong all the experts of the Sankey Commission were wrong, for they never disputed the statement that there was going to be a great fall in the receipts from exports. I think it is a great pity to attach very great importance to figures which must depend very largely on opinion and not on figures by which you could calculate. The sort of person to deal with such figures is an experienced bookmaker who is accustomed to calculating his' chances. I am sorry to say I am not one myself, nor have we got one as far as I know amongst our very able officials at the Board of Trade. As regards output, our figures were extraordinarily correct. My right hon. Friend made a forecast about the output of coal for the calendar year 1919, and he gave two methods of calculation. One would lead him to the conclusion that it might be 228,000,000 tons, and the other that it 756 might be 230,000,000 tons. After some reflection he came down on the side of 230,000,000 tons. The actual figure was 229.6 millions. I call that a bull's-eye, for which the Board of Trade have not got the credit they deserve. With the estimates for the financial year 1919–1920 the independent accountant had no fault to find. It was only where it was a matter of prophecy that we turned out to be very far from the mark.
With regard to the, figures of this Bill, an hon. Member asked me to give the amount of the standard. That was £22,000,000, and if the hon. Member for North-east Derbyshire (Mr. Holmes) does not succeed in entirely upsetting the calculation of the independent accountant it would appear that in this particular financial year up to the end of March the probable excess would be somewhere about £1,000,000 in the pool, and £100,000 of that would go to the owners. [HON. MEMBERS: "What does the £22,000,000 include?"] The £22,000,000 docs not include coke.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Will the hon. Gentleman give some reason why it is £22,000,000, having regard to the fact that in the aggregate it was about £18,000,000 for 1912–1913; the profits of the industry for 1912–1913 averaged about £18,000,000 and the hon. Gentleman says that £22,000,000 is now the aggregate
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I think the difference is probably due to the fact that the pre-war standard was a standard upon which the owners were able to make a choice of the best two out of three years or the best four out of six years, or a percentage standard. Therefore, naturally, they chose the best years they could, and that probably accounts for the difference between these figures and those of the hon. Member (Mr. Hartshorn). I should like to call the attention of the House to the very small difference that there is between these figures and the figures which the colliery owners would have received under the 1s. 2d. Bill. As was stated by my right hon. Friend, and commented on by other speakers, there was a large amount of money under that Bill which would have gone to the colliery owners besides the 1s. 2d., which was calculated merely on the number of tons got. That was worked out as far as we were able to tell—these figures are only approximate—that at 1s. 2d. they 757 would have got 13.4 millions, they would have got by amortisation £1,000,000, miscellaneous receipts £3,000,000, refund of excess profits duty £3,000,000, and income tax relief £1,000,000. That is a total of £21,400,000, and that will be seen to differ very slightly from the amount that during this financial year they seem likely to get under this Bill.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
They were explained in the debate on the 1s. 2d. Bill—receipts from wagons and brick works, the rent of houses, and so on. The difference is very little. We may hope that unless there is some great alteration in export prices or in the quantity exported during the remaining five months, the amount in the pool will very considerably exceed the pre-war standard. Whatever is left in the pool will be left in the Coal Controller's hands and it will be for the Government, with the approval of this House, to decide how that money is to be spent. The Prime Minister has made one suggestion, namely, that it might be spent on the purchase of mining royalties. If the Coal Mines Control Agreement had continued, under that, as far as we are able to calculate, the colliery owners would have got a very considerably larger sum, and there would have been something between £10,000,000 and £20,000,000 for the Controller to pay. So we propose this Bill with the object of getting the finances of the period settled and preparing the way for the other Bill which is to be brought forward as soon as possible to provide for the future organisation of the mines.
I should like to say on behalf of those who have to manage the Coal Control Department how very important it is to them that this matter should be settled. I do not think hon. Members realise the extraordinary difficulties under which the Coal Control Department suffers. Members will remember that Sir Guy Calthrop, the first Controller, died in the early part of last year. Then my hon. Friend the Member for Pembrokeshire very reluctantly, and under great pressure and only under a great sense of public duty, undertook to fill his place. There were difficulties which made it impossible then to carry on the work to the satisfaction of anyone at the head of the Department, 758 namely, providing all the figures required by the Sankey Commission. We have now got Mr. Duncan as our new Coal Controller. He has tackled the work with an energy and determination which I cannot too highly praise, and he is supported by a staff which is working overtime perpetually in an attempt to keep pace with the difficulty. His position is concerned not so much with the political part of the coal industry; he is really concerned with the distribution of coal as it affects the convenience of every household in this country, and on that distribution also our great industries depend for the restoration of prewar prosperity. I hope, therefore, that this measure will be passed, first of all in order to settle how the profits are to be distributed, and to give the Coal Control Department a chance of getting on with their work. I hope, too, that when it comes to the other Bill we shall find a way of going as far as we can along a path where we are all of us agreed. If it becomes necessary to differ later on then we must differ, but meanwhile we can keep along a path in which we have all reached agreement, and I hope we shall do so. I am sure that where there is a will there is a way. I am sure every body realises that not only the prosperity of this country and the comfort of the people, but the prosperity, the comfort and the restoration of the people of the whole of Europe depend upon our getting on with our work and getting out of the trouble we have had. I feel sure that Members will turn with good heart to the task of trying to meet these difficulties, and to meet them by agreement, if possible.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
We have had a very interesting statement from the hon. Member, and I would congratulate him upon the manner in which he has taken his first plunge into the turbid waters of the coal mine controversy. I have no intention of following him in the figures that he has given. I will leave that to others who follow me in the Debate, and in the few moments I intend to take up I will confine myself to dealing with the general points in the Bill. The measure, the Second Reading of which has just been moved, deals with a question of very grave importance to the House and the country. As a matter of fact, the present and the future of the coal trade is vital to our future development, and therefore 759 concerns every one of us to a very great extent. The Bill before the House deals with many millions of money, and therefore it is not a matter which only affects miners on the one hand and mine owners on the other. The Prime Minister, in the course of the Debate on Wednesday last, stated, amongst other things, that the real scheme of the Miners' Federation is one that would give control of the whole of the mines of the country to the Miners' Federation. That is a reading of the situation which I want personally to repudiate in the strongest possible way. The miners of the country have never made any such demand, and I think no one knows better than the Prime Minister that no such demand has ever been put forward on behalf of the Miners' Federation.
Let me give the House two instances which, in my opinion, prove that the miners look upon this problem from a very unselfish point of view indeed. Let us take the claim they made for an advance of wages in 1915 when a deputation from the Miners' Federation approached the then Prime Minister. They put forward a claim for an advance on the ground that the cost of living had increased, and that the miners would require to have their wages advanced to enable them to meet that increase which had taken place. But they added that if the Prime Minister could deal effectively with the increased cost of living, and could take such steps as would keep the cost of living down to something like the pre-war level, that they would be willing to withdraw their claim for an advance of wages. They pointed out in the strongest possible terms that they were of the opinion that, in the midst of a struggle such as we were then engaged in, it should not be possible for any section of the community to be able to make any profit out of the necessities of the country.
I will give another instance. Within the last month another deputation has had an interview with the present Prime Minister, and they put before him the opinion that the money being earned in the mining industry at the present time would enable a further reduction in the price of coal, and they suggested to him that the price of industrial coal ought to be reduced, and that he should take such steps as would have such a reduction given effect to in the lowering of the price 760 of the articles produced by those who would benefit by a reduction in the price of industrial coal, and in that way have the reduction reflected in a general decrease in the cost of living. There again you had the miners showing that they are not dealing with this question from their own point of view, but rather from the point of view of the general community, and consequently were looking at the matter in a very unselfish spirit.
It is perfectly true that the miners have a very great interest in the future of their industry, and that is only natural. Not only do they make their living in the industry in which they are employed, but they pay a big price in life and limb for the part they take in winning the coal which is so necessary for the life of the nation. No less than four of their number are killed every day, and one of their number is more or less seriously injured every three minutes. With these facts in front of the country and the House, it is very natural that the miners should take a very close and keen interest in the industries in which they are employed. At the same time, while it may be said that their share in the winning of the coal necessary for our national life and well-being means, so far as they are concerned, the lives of men, they do not look at this question entirely from their own point of view. They know that if the solution of the difficulty, namely, nationalisation of the industry, is to be given effect to, that that is a matter for the consideration of the whole nation and not a part of the nation alone. So strongly do I feel the strength of our case, that I have not the least fear of what the answer of the nation will be if our case was properly put before the country.
The first point I want to deal with in the Bill is that we have reached the stage when we must have a system of pooling in the mining industry. I do not think that under present conditions the mining industry can go along without a system of pooling. My first objection to this Bill is that it only provides for the system of pooling up to the 31st of August next. Our two chief points of objection to the last Bill were, first that the period dealt with was limited to March 31st, 1920. This Bill only extends that period to the 31st August, 1920. Our second point of objection was that the whole system of control ended on the 31st of 761 March, 1920, and this Bill only extends the system of control to the 31st of August, 1920. We have been told by the mover of the Second Reading of this Bill that the Prime Minister has given an undertaking that another Bill will be introduced shortly which will put matters on a sounder footing than they are under existing conditions. We have had undertakings of that sort before which did not materialise. We have had undertakings given with regard to certain measures and when the Government went closely into them they found that the difficulties were so great from their point of view that effect was not given to the undertaking.
What I think ought to have been done before we were asked to consider this Bill was that the Prime Minister should have introduced the Bill which the hon. Gentleman has told us he has given an undertaking to introduce later on. In the last Bill the profits of the owners were limited to 1s. 2d. per ton, and this Bill provides for a very substantial increase in the profits of the coalowners. I was rather interested in one part of the statement of the hon. Gentleman in which he said that while the amount fixed in the last Bill was 1s. 2d. per ton, that there were certain substantial payments made to the coalowners of the country over and above that rate. The House may remember that from these Benches, on the occasion of the last discussion of this subject, the Government were told that the amount fixed in the last Bill was nearer 2s. per ton than 1s. 2d., and that statement was emphatically denied from the Government Benches.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I think the last debate will prove that our statement that the Bill provided for nearer 2s. per ton being made than 1s. 2d. was denied by the Government.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent what was said, and if he will look at the report of the last debate on this subject he will find that the President of the Board of Trade distinctly said that there would be considerable profits besides the 1s. 2d. per ton, and he went on to say what they were, and stated that he could not give the exact figures, but he did not deny that there were substantial profits beyond the 1s. 2d. per ton.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I realise that the statement that has just been quoted by the hon. Gentleman was made by the President of the Board of Trade on the occasion of the last debate, but that docs not touch the point that our statement from this side, that the profit fixed in the last Bill was nearer 2s. per ton than 1s. 2d. was denied on behalf of the Government. This Bill, as I have already pointed out, provides for a very substantial increase in the profits of the coalowners. It would be very interesting if the House and the country could get the real reason from the Government as to this increase, and I think the House and the country are entitled to have the real reason. If the President of the Board of Trade is to reply later on, I think he ought to give us the real reason why such a substantial increase in the profits has been proposed. For the reasons that I have given, on the broad general aspects of the Bill, this Bill is no more acceptable to us on these Benches than the first one was, and so far as we are personally concerned, unless we can get more assurances than have already been given, we will have no alternative but to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I would like in the first place to offer my congratulations to the hon. Gentleman who introduced this measure this afternoon, for the very-genuine attempt he made to explain to us what was meant by this Bill and to answer questions put to him during his speech with equal frankness. I notice he said, among other things, that the strongest objection brought against the 1s. 2d. Bill was that it wiped out of existence all control, that it cleared out of the way the system which now obtains in this industry, without putting anything in its place. That objection is as strong today in face of this Bill as it was when the 1s. 2d. Bill was before the House. The hon. Gentleman says: "We want you to accept the undertaking of the Prime-Minister that there is to be at an early date another Bill embodying the coal policy of the Government," but one is not unmindful of the fact that we have had undertakings over and over again ever since last March as to the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill embodying their coal policy. Just before the House rose for the autumn recess the Prime Minister told us that it was the 763 intention of the Government to introduce a scheme for trustifying the industry. Certain undertakings were to be brought into trusts, their capital concentrated, and the miners to be given representation on the directorates, and those in the main were the broad principles of their coal policy. Is that still the policy of the Government? The Prime Minister told us on that occasion that a Bill to embody that policy would be introduced in the autumn Session. The autumn Session came. We got the 1s. 2d. Bill, which was a mere temporary measure, and were then told, when we pointed out the condition in which that Bill would place the industry, that that was not intended to be the only measure but that another was to follow it. But having regard to the condition in which the industry would be placed by that Bill, and the short time available before the rising of Parliament, it was deemed advisable to withdraw that Bill, so as to give the Government an opportunity to reconsider what its general policy should be.
We come now to the new Session of Parliament, and although the Government have had this matter under consideration during the greater part of last year, we are still told that no Bill has been drafted, and what guarantee have we that when the Bill is drawn it will be of such a character as will command the support either of the Labour party or of this House or any section of the House? We are asked in this Bill to clear out of existence all the power of control, or at any rate to wipe out of existence the agreement which makes control effective. We do not know what is to take its place, but we are told, as we have been told repeatedly in the past, that another Bill is to be produced. I am not going to emphasise or lay any stress at all on the difference between the financial provisions of this Bill and the 1s. 2d. Bill. We did not oppose that Bill either because the 1s. 2d. was too high or because it was too low; we opposed it for an entirely different consideration. We are not opposing this Bill on the ground of it being £22,000,000 plus a tenth of any excess profits. We may have views as to whether that is fair or not, but it is not upon that ground that we are opposing this Bill to-day. We realise that some basis must be established for the closing of the accounts for the present financial 764 year. I understand that some of the coalowners are being asked to make grants on account to the Exchequer out of profits which they have due to the Exchequer. I am told that cheques for very substantial amounts are being paid on account, and I am told that some of the colliery companies have hundreds of thousands of pounds standing in their banking accounts waiting for the accounts to be made up so that they can hand the amounts over to the Exchequer. That, of course, is anything but a satisfactory situation, and legislation that will merely meet that situation and enable the Coal Controller to close the accounts for last year is a desirable thing. I think we shall all agree, in addition to which, whatever are the financial provisions of this Bill, they are merely temporary, and a mere matter of a few millions one way or the other for this year does not interest us at all. It leaves us cold, and we are not concerned with it.
That is a matter for this House and the country, but we are very concerned about the future policy in regard to this industry, and we do not know what it is to be. I explained the last time that the matter was being discussed—and it is the one fact the House will require to grip if the coal problem is to be dealt with successfully—that during the war we have to a very considerable extent nationalised the working conditions and the wage arrangements, and any attempt to apply private enterprise economics to the mining industry in the future is bound to lead to disaster, and we want to know how the Government intend to get over the situation that has been created, I venture to say that had that 1s. 2d. Bill been carried, a few weeks from now we should have had such chaos as we have never seen in any industry in this country. I hope this House will decline to pass this Bill until the Government bring down to the House their coal policy, not merely for this temporary period, but for the future. Let us know what is to be the basis upon which this industry is to proceed. I think every complaint we made about the last Bill is embodied in this Bill, and the only thing that has been done to meet all the objections raised is to extend the period from the 31st March to the 31st August.
I want to deal with two or three of the provisions of this Bill that I regard as of considerable importance. I notice that among other things, in estimating the 765 profits of the industry, no other department than that concerned with the production of coal is to be taken into account. I do not know whether the House is aware that colliery owners in this country are consuming about 20 per cent. of the total industrial coal consumed in the country. Colliery companies owning steel works and other kinds of undertakings consume about one-fifth of the coal that is consumed for industrial purposes, and according to this report which we have received from the independent accountant, and which I shall deal with in a few minutes, the coalowners are supplying to themselves, as manufacturers, coal below cost price. In the estimate of the income, receipts from the sales of coal, 24½ million tons are embodied in this report at 20s. 5d. a ton, and the cost of producing every ton of this coal is a higher figure than that. Are we to have an arrangement and embody in a Bill a provision which will enable colliery owners to sell 20 per cent. of the coal that is consumed in industries to themselves below cost and allow the profits of those departments to go without any consideration at all?
§ Sir J. HARMOOD-BANNER
The House has no copy of those accounts, and so we cannot check your figures.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
If the House has not got a copy of them, it can get it in the same place as I got it, and that is the Vote Office. There are printed copies there, and we have been informed for some time on the pink paper that copies are available. That is one thing I should like to call attention to as one of the provisions of this Bill that, in my opinion, is very unsatisfactory. It is not sufficient merely to say that their profits are to be limited to pre-war standard, plus one-tenth of excess. There is no inducement for them to sell to themselves as manufacturers at a high price, if the profits which they get as coal owners are not to be retained. It is very much better for them to sell below cost price to themselves as manufacturers and what they lose on the round abouts pick up on the swings. That seems to me to be the purpose of this Bill. On the last occasion I pointed out that, although we had four reports from the Coal Commission, each report differing very considerably upon important matters, whatever report was signed, 766 they were all agreed, miners and mine-owners, and independent men of all sections, that one of the essentials to peace in the mining industry is a genuine publication of the facts relating to that industry. This Bill contains the provision again for locking up all the information in the box and sealing it down. Have we not had enough, during the past six or nine months in this House, of the guesswork that has been taking place in relation to the mining industry? It is high time it came to an end. We have had nothing but guess-work up to date, and there is nothing but guess-work pure and simple here.
The Miners' National Executive met the Prime Minister about a fortnight ago. We wanted to know what the Government; proposed to do with the big margin of profit in the mining industry. We wanted to know as to what we considered to be a margin of seventy odd millions on the year's working from July, 1919, to July, 1920. The newspapers bewildered the British public by reporting a statement by Mr. Smillie that there was a margin of £70,000,000 in the industry, and then getting this report showing a margin of £6,800,000. The public do not understand that we made an estimate on the year on which the original six shillings estimate was based, from July to July, and we have been working on that period all along. But when we met the Prime Minister we wanted to know what really the Government intended to do in this matter, and he said, "I have got independent accountants at work. I want their report. You can hardly expect me to accept your statement that there is a margin of £70,000,000. I want, in the first place, to find out if there is a margin, and, if there is a margin, to find out what is the extent of it. When we know that, we shall be able to determine what is to be done with it." We agreed that that was a reasonable position for him to take up, and we said we would wait for the report. We knew at the time that when it came it would contain nothing, and we have not been disappointed. I think in the course of the next few days we shall be meeting the Primo Minister again on the same question. We are going to meet the Prime Minister again on our estimates and on our figures, and I say the Prime Minister has nothing at all with which to reply to us. Mr. Smillie will be telling a 767 conference of miners that there is from £70,000,000 to £80,000,000 margin on the mining industry for the year from July to July, and the miners will believe him. If he is wrong he is not to blame, because it is Mr. Hodges in the main who works out these estimates. We shall make the same statement and say we are correct. If the Prime Minister says it is not correct, if his experts tell him that these are not substantially correct estimates, we may find ourselves up against a very serious situation arising out of the lack of definite ascertained facts. That is the position to which we are driven. Why cannot we have the facts of this industry?
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
You have got embodied in this Bill a provision again that information shall be supplied by the coal-owners to the Board of Trade, that that information shall be locked up and nobody have access to it, or, if they do have access to it, they must be sworn to secrecy. That is no good to us. I hope this House will insist in the interests of the nation, that the facts of the mining industry shall be made public It is not a bit of use for some people to be saying that coalowners are making a fine thing out of the industry, and for the coal-owners to say "We are not getting it," and then we say there is an enormous margin, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer says he is not getting it, and then someone comes along and says, "The miners are cracking a fine old crust," whereas the miners say they are worse off than they were before the War. There are no public facts to contradict any of these things, and we have been guessing all through. Let us look at the report which the accountant has issued. In July last we had a White Paper which was the basis of the ascertained facts for the quarter ending September, 1918, and the facts which have been ascertained were these: that the output for the quarter was at the rate of 228,000,000 tons per annum, that the number of men employed was 961,000 and that the profit was 3s. 7d. a ton. On that ascertained information the Board of Trade made certain guesses, and when the independent accountant was put on he was asked to go back and examine, not the facts to-day, but such data as was available last July, and make 768 a report as to whether he thought the Board of Trade made proper guesses last July. That is what he has been asked to do and that is what he has done. The first thing he did was to take the ascertained facts and see if they were correctly ascertained. He said: "No, instead of 228,000,000 tons being the correct figure, it ought to be 218,000,000: instead of the number of persons employed being 961,000, it was somewhere in the region of 930,000." Naturally all guesses on a wrong estimate are bound to be wrong, and so he started off by providing that the Board of Trade estimate as to wages was £7,000,000 wrong. Then he says: "If I had had this information before me I should have guessed differently in respect of several other things. The President of the Board of Trade guessed that we should have 35,000,000 tons of export bunker coal at 35s. a ton. If I had had the figure before me at the time, and I had been asked to guess"—of course he used the word "estimate," not "guess"—"I should have said that we should have an export volume of 38,000,000 tons at 48s., and instead of guessing the income at £61,000,000, as did the President, I should have guessed it would have been £91,000,000."
That is what he said he would have estimated had he been in possession of the information in July last upon which the Board of Trade made their estimate, but he does not say that is what he would estimate to-day. As a matter of fact, his report contains up-to-date information as to volume and price of export which shows that if he were going to estimate to-day he would not estimate 38,000,000 tons at 48s. a ton, but he would estimate about 48,000,000 tons at nearly 60s. a ton, and instead of estimating £91,000,000 income from that source he would estimate about £130,000,000 odd. That is in this report. Look at it, and study it for yourselves. That is all we are given, and that is what the Prime Minister will be meeting us upon when we meet in a few days' time. Then he goes on to deal with the reduction of 10s. a ton, and there he says he. is taking from March to March. He takes the estimate prepared by the Coal Control Department for that period. I would like the House, without any comment, just to take note of these estimates, and see what it thinks of this way of collecting 769 information upon which to form a sound judgment. They start off by finding out what the income is to be for the year. It is an estimate for the year ending 31st March, 1920. They show the wages for the year to be £220,000,000. How do they find out that figure? They go back to the year before last, the December quarter, and in effect they say this: That quarter's wage bill was £40,000,000, that is, at the rate of £160,000,000 a year. If it were £160,000,000 in 1918, it is sure to be more in 1919. Put £60,000,000 on to the wage bill. It is true they do talk about so many men being in the industry, and there being 100,000 women and boys, and they guess 100,000 women and boys would have as much wages as 50,000 men, and upon that sort of basis they build up and add £60,000,000 to the wage bill of 1918.
Then they take the cost for timber and stores in December, 1918, and they say for that quarter it was £9,377,000, which is approximately £37,000,000 for the year. They say, "We will dump another £6,000,000 on to that, because surely it will cost more in 1919 than 1918," and so they make it £43,000,000. There is not a word or a figure in this document from beginning to end to justify any of these additions. They may be all right; they may be excessive, or they may be below the mark, but there is not a figure or argument to justify or explain the basis upon which these estimates are made. Then there are other costs. In 1918 they were at the rate of £15,000,000. "Put a couple of millions on that and make it £17,000,000." Then we have got one very interesting item in this estimate. I notice there £4,000,000 are put in for capital adjustments under the Finance Act, and this is the note relating to it:—"The Capital in the industry is estimated to have increased by 30 million pounds net, of which 12 per cent. would be £3,600,000. Private firms are entitled to 14 per cent. The total may be taken to the nearest million as 4 million pounds. What about this 30 million pounds increased capital? Who has subscribed it? Where has it been spent? Where is the development resulting from it? Not a word, not a syllable, not the remotest indication is given as to why that figure is in, but they guess that for this financial year there is going to be 30 millions more of capital in the industry, requiring a further 4 millions of interest on it. I do not wonder that they have made 770 the margin down to 17 millions in this estimate. If they had only gone on guessing a little longer they would have made it balance nicely. But this is the estimate of the Board of Trade upon which the 10s. reduction took place! That is the estimate placed before the chartered accountants, and this what they say about it:The estimates "—these are they which I have just been reading—are on the whole fair and reasonable deductions from the data which are available.But mark, although they say what they do about this estimate, they put in an estimate of their own for this very same period—March. You get that in the document if you care to look for it. There you find these differences. In the one estimate the report says it is fair and reasonable to place the output for the year at 224,000,000 tons, but the accountants puts in another showing an estimated output of 230,000,000 tons. Just fancy! Here we are getting a Report six weeks before the end of the financial year. The output comes out week by week, and yet we are getting two estimates published on February 9, seven weeks away from the end of the financial year, with a difference of 6,000,000 in the two estimates! In the one we get a wage bill of £220,000,000; in the other the figure is £225,000,000. In the one we get an export of 518 millions: in the other we get 49 millions. In the one we get 172 million tons for home consumption; in the other 181 millions. In the one we get one million for contingencies; and in the other two millions for contingencies. I could go on in this way. Although they say that the Board of Trade estimates are fair and reasonable, there are no reasons given why they made the estimates, and the accountants do not begin to give a reason why they have put in a revised estimate. They simply put these figures in and do not say a simple, solitary word about them. That is what we are getting under the present system of locking everything up in a box. Although the accountants have not estimated on data available to-day they put data into their report. We can make our own estimate and that data will substantiate to the full the estimates we have been making all along.
The independent accountant says that 217 million tons was a fair estimate. I 771 will undertake to say that there is not a man in Britain to-day, who knows up-to-date output, that would not say that, although we have had more strikes since that estimate of 217 millions than in any year since 1912, and we have had the railway strike, or than ever happened in the history of the country before; although we can have a three weeks' national strike in the mining industry, or if you like to put it so, go on holiday for three weeks and not produce a single ton of coal, we would have more than 217 millions. We have not long to wait before the actual facts are published to see whether what I am saying is or is not correct. We get all this volume of guesswork, and now we have to try and negotiate upon it. Under the control agreement, the coalowners are under an obligation to supply to the Controller all the information about charges, prices of pit wood, prices of stores and other costs. It is all put on forms and has to be sent in 60 days after the end of the quarter. Two months are allowed the owners to send in their quarterly return. With the staff available at the Control Department surely they ought to be able to tabulate that information in a month, and we ought to have published, three months after date, the actual accounts of the undertakings of the industry. If that had been done, instead of the accountants guessing, as they have done, they would be able to say, as to the March, June, or September quarters of 1919, the actual money paid in wages, the actual amounts paid for wood, stores and so on, that they have amounted to so much, and there you have the cost of production! This information ought to be available to the public. It is not. Now we are told that the same old policy is to be pursued not merely from now up to August 31st but that this is the permanent policy of the Government; that it is to continue after the other provisions of the Bill have ceased to have effect.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir A. Geddes)
That is not so; a new Bill will be introduced.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
It does not matter whether a new Bill is introduced or not. This Bill says—and there are plenty of lawyers here who will contradict me if I am incorrect—that this Act shall "be deemed to have had effect as from the 772 1st day of April, 1919, and shall continue in force until 31st day of August, 1920… provided that this limitation on the duration of the Act shall not affect the operation of Sections 7 to 10." You get from 7 to 10 references to the secret Clauses and secret information which is embodied in the Second Schedule (Part II.) of the Act. This is not repealed by the provisions of this Act; when we get to the end of the period this secret thing goes on still. The position of the Labour party is that we are opposed to this Bill because it is a piecemeal policy which carries us nowhere. It is wiping out of existence the only machinery for carrying on the industry. We do not know what is taking place. Whatever is taking place, this Bill provides for a continuance of the secret policy of the Government which we think is bound to be fatal to the best interests of the industry and of the country. I hope when we go into the Lobby to-night we shall have the support of all those who believe in publicity, in getting to know the facts; that we shall have their support and presence in the division Lobbby.
§ Sir EVAN JONES
I hope the hon. Member who has just sat down will not object to me describing him as the mathematical wizard of the Miners' Federation. He has a somewhat remarkable faculty for manipulating figures. He makes considerable play, not so much with the estimates upon which the independent accountants were called to report, but with the estimates made by the independent accountants themselves. The hon. Gentleman will pardon me if I suggest that after he leaves the House tonight he should read carefully through the independent accountants' Report before he definitely makes up his mind as to what it is that they have said. The hon. Gentleman drew attention to certain figures by the independent accountant, which he interpreted to mean that 24,000,000 tons of coal were being used by the colliery proprietors to-day at a cost less than the cost of production; and he quoted from the report the figure of 20s. 5d. It is perfectly true that the figure of 20s. 5d. appears in the Report, but the hon. Gentleman certainly cannot have read the Report itself, because the independent accountant states the point most clearly. The hon. Member's observation that this 20s. 5d. relates to today 773 is not so; the figures appertain to the September quarter of 1918 and not prices at which coal has been sold to-day.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I did not say anything in contradiction to that. What I did say was that the cost of production of the coal to which the period referred was above that price.
§ Sir E. JONES
I think I have properly stated the matter. The hon. Gentleman referred to the accountant's estimate of what the likely surplus would be at the end of March, 1920.
§ Sir E. JONES
In discussing the basis upon which the independent accountants arrived at their figure, he gave us an example of the quality of his arithmetic. He said they estimated that 24 million tons of coal were being disposed of by the colliery proprietors for ancillary purposes to-day at a price of 20s. 5d. a ton. That is quite contrary to what the Report states. I do not know that I am far wrong in suggesting that if that is the quality of the hon. Gentleman's arithmetic, the House had better be wary of accepting the figures he produces.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Does the hon. Gentleman deny that for the period, September, for which these figures relate, that coal was sold at less than the cost of production?
§ Sir E. JONES
The point upon which my hon. Friend was talking was that today coal was being used by the colliery proprietors for ancillary purposes at a price of 20s. 5d. per ton. He charged the independent accountant with stating this, and he is entirely wrong. One other example of the hon. Member's peculiar qualities in respect of arithmetic. He made great sport in comparing the two estimates made by the independent accountant, in one of which it is stated that they take 224,000,000 tons as the output for the year ending March, 1920, and in the other they give 230,000,000 tons. Again, the hon. Member has not properly read the report, and I would suggest that he should read it for the sake of his arithmetic 774 and take it home with him to-night The independent accountants state that the estimate for the year ending March 31st, 1920, might be arrived at in various ways. They say by arriving at it in one manner, which they describe, the output might be 230,000,000 tons, and by arriving at it in another manner, which they describe, the output might be 224,000,000 tons, and they say, as plainly as the English language could say it, that for the purpose of this calculation—
§ Sir E. JONES
The calculation of the estimate that the hon. Member was talking about when he made this charge. They say for the purpose of this calculation "we have taken the figure of 224,000,000 tons."
§ Sir E. JONES
The hon. Member has really been unable to find any particular fault with the Bill now before the House and has gone into by-paths in order to create an impression in the House of a similar character as on two other occasions he has previously done. His objections and his statements throughout were irrelevant to the last degree to the Bill before the House on Second Reading. His arguments were simply directed against the old system. I do not wish to say that everything in this Bill is what it ought to be, but the Bill docs undoubtedly meet a case for which there is urgent need of settlement in the interests of the industry itself and in the interests of the country, and, if I may say so, in the interests of the men. It is only a Bill to deal with the finances of the industry for a certain period. It prejudices nothing with regard to the future. I would like to emphasise what the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill said when he described the lamentable results which the holding of these matters in suspense is having on the administration of the coal control. When owing to the lamentable death of the then Coal Controller I for a time undertook to deal with this matter, one of the first things I was up against was the fact that the whole administration of this control was turned upside down by the Coal Commission. The heads of all the principal sections of the Coal Control 775 Department were engaged in connection with the Coal Commission. The result was that the control, which was of such vital importance at that time, was suffering seriously in its administration owing to the time taken up in dealing with all the demands of the Coal Commission. Although I have not had the experience myself in connection with the work of examination by the firm of independent accountants, I can only surmise that the fact that the administration of the Accountants' Department of the Coal Control was placed at the service of the independent accountants for a period of two months must have had an almost similar effect to what happened in connection with the Coal Commission. I would urge the House for the sake of good administration, and for the sake of giving assistance to men who are trying to do their best in this matter, to pass the Second Reading of this Bill without any further delay, and give those men a chance to wind up and to settle the accounts which it is highly prejudicial to the industry to have kept open so long.
I should like to draw attention to one or two points of detail in connection with this Bill, not in a spirit of criticism but in a spirit which I hope may ease the passage of it very much, if those points are properly cleared up on Second Reading. I would point out first with regard to the method of administering the guarantee making up any deficiency below nine-tenths of the pre-war standard, that I think it would be advantageous to the House if we had before us very clearly what are the actual figures from five years before the war in connection with the relative standards. I believe that the Leader of the Labour party complained that they did not know enough as to what those relative standards really meant to be able to properly digest the true meaning of the proposal. The figures which? am going to mention to the House are derived altogether from the published figures of the Board of Trade. I have assumed that the prewar profit standard might be taken as £23,000,000. The hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill gave the figure as £22,000,000, and for that reason a slight correction in the figures which I give may be necessary. It was put in evidence before the Sankey Commission that in the five pre-war years the aggregate of 776 profit of all the mines in the United Kingdom was £13,000,000 and on an output of 270,000,000 tons, which was equal to 11½d. per ton. But it is generally understood, and I believe it is agreed, that 1½d. of that amount belong to the profits of ancillary undertakings. That is not so in the figure of £22,000,000, but it is so in the figure of £13,000,000 mentioned at the Sankey Commission. That gives the average ton profit for the five prewar years of coal trading companies as 10d. per ton. In the two years 1912–1913 the corresponding figures given at the Sankey Commission were 18.6 million pounds profit on an output of 274,000,000 tons, giving a ton profit of 1s. 4½d., less again 1½d. Taking the pre-war standard as £22,000,000, the figure given by the Parliamentary Secretary, and taking the output as 274,000,000 tons, which would be the output of the best two or four years, that gives an average ton profit of 1s. 7d. on the £22,000,000. This Bill guarantees the coalowners their profits up to nine-tenths on their pre-war standard. Therefore, assuming that the aggregate profits of the coal industry for the period of the operation of this Bill should fall below the pre-war standard the Exchequer undertake, or the Coal Controller, which means the same thing, to be responsible for the making up of the total profits of the industry of that period to £22,000,000 less 10 per cent. So that we have there a certainty of a profit of £20,000,000 for the year 1919–20 on an output not of 274,000,000 tons but an output of 230,000,000 tons, which is equal to a ton profit of 1s. 9d. We have an average during the five pre-war years of a profit of 10d. per ton and during 1912–13 of 1s. 3d., and under the pre-war standards and the guarantee given by the Government of 1s. 9d. per ton. It gives a guarantee equal to 120 per cent. above the five pre-war years, 46 per cent. above the years 1912–13–14, and 10 per cent. above the pre-War standard in the case of the ton profit instead of the reduction of 10 per cent. in the case of the total sum. Those profits are calculated after allowing for interest on the additional capital employed subsequent to the commencement of the War. Therefore it is a clear guarantee, and I do not think that any complaint can be made by the owners. On the other hand, it does represent a 777 fair and just effort for dealing with this problem. There is, however, some cause for exception in the fact that output has not been taken into account in determining this guarantee. We have given the same guarantee for an output of 230,000,000 tons as for an output of 270,000,000. The effect of not making an adjustment for output is considerably more marked when it comes to distributing the guarantee among the individual undertakings. I will give one example how it will operate, because I am going to suggest to the President of the Board of Trade that it would be well for this point to be considered before the Bill goes into Committee. It is a point which will be capable of very considerable argument in Committee, and it might ease the passage of the Bill through Committee if a statement were given to the House on the Second Reading.
I will give a concrete example of the effect of this non-adjustment for difference of output. I will take the case of two undertakings, A and B, each of whose pre-War output was 10,000 tons. Their standard—we will say that they had a profit of 2s. per ton—will be £1,000 in each case. We will assume that for many reasons undertaking A has only produced half its pre-War output and that its output for 1920 is 5,000 tons. We will assume further that undertaking B has doubled its output and that instead of 10,000 tons it is 20,000 tons. Under the system which this Bill provides for distributing the guarantee, each of these undertakings will obtain its pre-War standard of £1,000 less 10 per cent. In other words, colliery A, which was making 2s. per ton profit before the War and which has allowed its output to go down to one-half, is presented with a profit of 3s. 8d. per ton, and colliery B, which by its enterprise or careful working has doubled its output, is penalised by having its profit reduced from 2s. to 11d. per ton. On the surface, it does not appear to be fair that a colliery which by carelessness, let us say, has allowed its output to be reduced by one-half should be made a present of nearly double its pre-War profits, whereas a colliery which has doubled its output is penalised by having its profits reduced by more than 100 per cent. I * would like the right hon. Gentleman to take that point into consideration when he is replying.
778 There is one other point in connection with the operation of this guarantee which the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill mentioned but did not explain. Sub-section 2 of Clause 1 states that the deficiency below the pre-War standard shall be made good if it has been caused by any order, regulation, or direction issued by the Controller or by the Board of Trade after January 1st, 1920. The operation of this Bill extends from April 1st, 1919. According to the wording of that clause, therefore, if the Board of Trade have given any particular order between April 1st, 1919, and January 1st, 1920, which causes a deficiency in the working of the coal industry, it is not a reason which enables the Coal Controller to make the deficiency good by his guarantee. Within this period two very vital orders were given. The order for the Sankey wage was given between April 1st, 1919, and January 1st, 1920, and, according to that clause, it will not be relevant for the Coal Controller to make up the deficiency caused by the payment of the Sankey wage. I am quite sure that is not meant, but from the way in which the clause is drafted it appears to me that such would be its effect. Again, within the same period, the President of the Board of Trade made a present of 10s. per ton to the consumers of domestic coal in this country, and, according to the way in which the clause is drafted, it will not be relevant for the Coal Controller to take that into account in making up the amount of his guarantee.
Those are points which arise on the method of applying this guarantee, and I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman will deal with them in his reply. There is only one other point to which I wish to draw attention. The Independent Accountant estimates that for the year 1919–20 there will be a surplus of £6,000,000 after allowing a profit to the owner of 1s. 2d. per ton. When the accounts come to be made up and the owners have to be paid their guaranteed amount of £20,000,000, this surplus of £6,000,000 will not only be wiped out but it will leave a deficiency of £2,000,000. Under the Bill there is a guarantee of £20,000,000. The very clear inference from the estimate for 1919–20 is that the total profits of the industry have been £19,000,000, because they say that there is £13,000,000 for the owners and a surplus of £6,000,000. Therefore there is a total profit of 779 £19,000,000. The Government, however, undertake to pay £20,000,000. Consequently, in addition to the £6,000,000 surplus being wiped out, there is £1,000,000 which they will have to pay. Those are the points which I desire to bring before the House, not in any spirit of criticism but in the hope of making easier the passage of this Bill, which, in my opinion, it is so important to carry through without delay.
§ Brigadier-General HICKMAN
There are one or two points in connection with this Bill on which I should like to say a few words. Under the Bill the owners are to have what is called the standard profit or a certain percentage of profits. There are some cases, particularly in my own constituency in South Staffordshire, where this percentage standard acts with great hardship. I will give one instance. We have a small pit where a man has bought seven acres of coal which is very shallow. He has opened the pit since the commencement of the War at a capital cost of £3,000. He expects it to yield 42,000 tons per annum for six years. That means that his capital is £3,000, and according to the percentage standard he will get a profit of £360 per year. Under the provisions of this Bill he might get as much as £660 on his capital expenditure. There are many cases of a like character. There are cases where large undertakings which made no profits before the war and which have their capital not in ordinary shares, but in debentures. I know of one large colliery which has been laid out at a cost of £1,000,000. But of the capital £500,000 is in debentures. They only get the 12 per cent. on the £500,000, and 12 per cent. on half the capital is not sufficient; some allowance ought to be made for increased output. Colliery owners ought to have some consideration in that respect. I suggest an Amendment to the effect that in cases where the Controller considers that hardship is inflicted on any particular colliery, he may, after consultation with the owner, fix a standard for that particular colliery according to the particular circumstances. That would not alter the principle of the Bill, but it would simply ensure that there would be no hardship in those particular cases.
I do not wish to answer the criticisms of the speakers from these Benches. I am quite sure my right hon. Friend is quite 780 capable of taking care of himself. The hon. Member who spoke last (Sir E. Jones) complained in regard to this Bill that there is no inducement as regards output. But may I point out that this is practically a retrospective Bill and, speaking as a coalowner, it will not stop anybody getting output. The owner is get ting just as much profit whatever the output may be, because most of the time covered by this Bill has already expired, it has only five or six months to run, and it would not be worth any mineowner's while to upset the working of his seams for such a purpose. Therefore we need not consider this question of output, because it does not materialise under this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke first in this Debate, said he was glad that this pooling of finance was taking place in the industry. I, too, may congratulate the right hon. Gentleman that at last the Government are working on these lines. If we did not have some pooling of this sort the industry could not pay its way at all under the Coal Control agreement, under which we are acting until this Bill has passed. People who make very large profits in the export of coal would, in the ordinary course of events, keep 60 per cent., the other 40 percent, going to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whereas under this Bill the Controller, on behalf of the Government, gets all the excess profits into the pool, and thereby is enabled to pay for the reduction in the price of coal of 10s. which was made last autumn. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that some pool of this sort should exist, so that the profits can be pooled in order that the Board of Trade may pay its way. The right hon. Gentleman said there was a very considerable increase in what is allowed under this Bill, compared with what was allowed under the 1s. 2d. Bill. But if I remember aright, the standard profits amounted to £22,000,000, while the owners received £21,400,000 under the 1s. 2d. Bill. There is, therefore, not much substance in the right hon. Gentleman's contention that we are getting much more, because the amount is, I think, only £600,000 for the whole industry.
My hon. Friend near me, who is a lightning calculator, found fault with the Government because he said the Prime Minister promised them a Trustifying Bill, and he seemed to object because such a Bill had not been brought 781 forward. But as far as my memory serves me the reason why the Government did not carry that proposal through was based upon the expressed opinions of the Miners' Federation which were decidedly against it, and I do not think, therefore, it is fair to attack the Prime Minister for not keeping that particular pledge, because his failure to do so was due entirely to the action of the Miners' Federation. I may candidly admit that the owners likewise were not anxious for it. The hon. Gentleman raised a point with regard to composite undertakings—that is to say cases where mines and steel works are under the same ownership. He complained that the owners in these cases were sending 20 per cent., or one-fifth, of their industrial coal to the steel and iron works, with the result that the profits which should have gone into the pool went to the steel works. As owner of a colliery with steel works I should like to say there is not a word of truth in that statement, and I am sure my right hon. Friend will bear me out, because the prices are fixed by the Controller of the Board of Trade, and any company which was providing coal from a colliery for its steel works under the prices fixed by the Board of Trade would be liable to severe penalties. Therefore, there is nothing in the contention of the hon. Gentleman that such things are happening, and I do not think it is fair in this House to make such a charge against the good faith of the management of the coal mines.
The hon. Member also made a point about secrecy. Everything, he said, is locked up in the books. I should like to remark this that if he had taken the trouble to read the proposals of the mine-owners which were put before the Sankey Commission by Lord Gainford, he would know there is no desire on the part of the mineowners for any secrecy of this sort. The proposals of Lord Gainford, who represented the Mining Association of Great Britain, distinctly laid it down that the Mining Association would advocate that there should be district councils, consisting of men and masters and consumers, and that regular audits should be made, so that everybody might know what was going on. We do not want secrecy. I tell my hon. Friends on these benches, that is the considered opinion of the Mining Association. We are quite willing if hon. Gentlemen will join with us in the future, after the lapse of this Bill, 782 to do our best to run the industries together for the benefit of the country and there need be no secrecy at all. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not put it in the Bill"?] I am simply giving my view. After all, this is not finality, the Government have another Bill under which, I understand, they will provide for combinations of masters and men, so that secrecy will be done away with. You only need have a little bit of patience.
An hon. Member uttered some reflections on the increase of capital and on the large percentage that is going to be allowed to mineowners upon it. He mentioned £30,000,000 as the increase, and said he could not make out where this additional capital had come from. I can only say that it is perfectly clear if you have your wages bill greatly raised, if you have the cost of material necessary for carrying on your business trebled, you want more money in order to finance the concern, and to my certain knowledge, where collieries before the war required £10,000 to finance them, at the present time they require £20,000. That is my personal experience, and, therefore, it is futile to find fault with this arrangement with regard to increased capital. Some of the owners have had to issue more shares; others have found the money out of their reserves; and it was a good thing that they had reserves upon which they could fall back. I do not think the miners' representatives ought to find fault on that score. After all said and done, it is only what every other trade gets. The miners are not being treated as other trades have been. On extra capital introduced since the commencement of the war and employed in any industry other traders get a very large percentage, and I do not see why the coal trade should have been treated differently.
I have been reading the speeches of Mr. Hodges and other miners' leaders in the country where they accuse us of getting enormous profits. All I can say in answer to that is, we are getting our standard rate, and we have been promised that if there is a surplus over and above that rate after all expenses have been paid, we shall receive 10 per cent. of the balance. There is no other trade in the country which has been treated as we have been. Every other trade in the country with a standard like ours, get interest on increased capital together with depreciation and everything else, 783 and then they receive 60 per cent. of the excess profits at the present time. If, as some people in the papers prophesy, the Excess Profits Tax is going to be done away with this year, they will get the whole lot, unless some other tax is invented which will take it away from them. Under the circumstances I think many of the contentions of the hon. Member who is so good at figures cannot be borne out. I am sure my right hon. Friend when he replies will hit the nail on the head much better than I can. The owners of the mines will be only too glad to meet the representatives of the miners at any time in order to work together in devising plans for the future of this industry, and I hope in the future we shall be able to work together harmoniously as well as we did.
§ Mr. HOLMES
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."
The Bill is divided into two parts. The first deals with the profits earned from 1st April, 1919, to 31st August, 1920, and states the methods by which those profits shall be divided. The second part re-enacts a large portion of the Coal Mines Control Agreement (Confirmation) Act of 1918, which is repealed as on 1st April, 1919. With regard to the first part the great objection to the Bill which was introduced and withdrawn last year was that it put a definite limitation on profits. The present Bill removes that objection and, while it gives a certain amount of additional profit to the coalowners, the difference, considering the capital involved, is not of great importance. The second part of the Bill is one of great concern. It continues until 31st August of this year a system of coal control which is neither nationalisation nor private ownership, but imposes upon the community all the disadvantages of both, with few of the advantages of either., It is an impossibility for coal control to cease on 31st August, 1920, and it will be a simple matter, when the Summer Recess comes, to include it in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill and so continue it in operation. To-day, therefore, it is a matter of urgent consideration whether it is to the advantage of the community that this system of coal control should continue for a day longer.
784 It will probably help us in our consideration if we trace the history of the coal industry since the assembling of this Parliament. The dangerous situation twelve months ago was eased by the appointment of the Sankey Commission, and when the Chairman's Interim Report was received it was accepted by the Government in the spirit and in the letter. By this we are told the Government meant that an increase of wages and a reduction of hours would be granted, and that the coalowners' profits would be limited to 1s. 2d. per ton. Unfortunately, the language used by certain Members of the Government was so indefinitive that the Miners' Federation gained the impression that if the Chairman's final Report recommended nationalisation the Government would accept that Report also. How often it happens that a country's troubles arise because clever men are not always' clear. Of the recommendations contained in the Interim Report, those concerning wages and hours were carried out administratively, but the limitation of profits required legislation. Delays are always dangerous, and the fact that the necessary Bill was not introduced until last November, and was then withdrawn, and is now before us to-day in another form, has had a very serious effect upon the coal industry. For nearly a year the coalowners have been under the impression that their profits were to have a fixed limitation, and consequently they have had no incentive to increase output, to keep down expenditure, or to develop the industry Output has been lost because a coal mine is a wasting property, and a coalowner who has only a few million tons left is not in any way desirous that those should be quickly brought to the surface if he is going to gain nothing thereby. There has been no inducement to keep down costs, and therefore money has been spent by colliery companies with a lavish hand and in all sorts of unnecessary ways. There has been no inducement to develop new districts and to sink new shafts, and the absence of this during the past year will be felt by the country at a later period.
But that is not all. Colliery owners who Were doing an export trade, believing that their profits were definitely limited and desiring to secure for themselves a portion of the exceptional profits which were being obtained from exported coal, have formed subsidiary companies, or coal exporting firms, to which the collieries 785 have sold their coal at a less price than they could obtain abroad, and in that way the subsidiary companies and firms have intercepted profits which should have formed part of the aggregate profits of the industry. Proceedings of this kind, having regard to the provisions of this Bill, are unfair both to the other coalowners and to the consumers. If the President of the Board of Trade could secure the profits which are being intercepted in this way he could at once reduce domestic coal by another 5s. a ton. All these things—the loss of output, the wasteful expenditure, the lack of development, and the interception of profits—have resulted from the delay of the Board of Trade in introducing this Bill.
But that is not the only black spot in the record of the Board of Trade. In July last we had the Yorkshire coal strike, when the Board issued, in a panic, orders that export must cease and no one in the Metropolitan area must buy more than 3 cwts. of coal a week, orders which were withdrawn almost as quickly as they were issued. That strike was due to the fact that when the hours were reduced on 16th July the wages of certain workers had to be altered. The Board of Trade had four months to deal with that matter. They failed to deal with it in the time and the strike arose. Then we had the 6s. a ton rise in July, coupled with the promise that the price should be reduced by sixpences as and when possible. According to the independent accountants the Board of Trade was wrong by half-a-crown per ton, and yet this had not been discovered on 27th October, for on that date the President told the House that he could not even then reduce the price by the first sixpence. Then came the dramatic reduction of 10s. per ton on domestic coal, to the confusion of coalowners and consumers alike. It is a sorry history.
Perhaps the President will say, "It is all very well to criticise my Bill and my administration, but what do you suggest?" Perhaps some hon. Members will ask, "If you are so severe on, the actions of this State department, how do you reconcile the vote of yourself and your friends in favour of the nationalisation Motion introduced by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brace) on Wednesday last?" I will try to answer both questions. I am in complete agreement with the Prime Minister when he said in effect that our industrial prosperity has resulted 786 from the efforts of individuals who were stimulated by the incentive of private gain. This basic fact will be equally true in the post-war future as in the pre-war past. The idea that a man will work better for humanity, or out of patriotic zeal, than he will for himself, his wife and his children is a mistaken one. We should, however, bear in mind that it is equally necessary in these days, when production is so important, that employés shall have an incentive as well as the employer and that what acts as an incentive to the employer must not act as a deterrent to the employé. My views are not those of the hon. Member for Rothwell. I have no desire; to see every industry owned and worked by the nation. Only very exceptional facts would convince me that nationalisation was in the interests of the general community, and even then the sort of nationalisation which I should advocate would possibly not be that which others would support.
Let me show how this applies to the coal industry. Coal is the life-blood of all our industries. It enables us to manufacture millions of pounds worth of goods for foreign countries. It supplies our homes with warmth, and that at a cost which, in comparison with other countries, is reasonable, and it is an export which pays for goods which we must obtain from abroad. At present our exports of coal are of vital importance to the economic recovery of Europe. The world's coal production has fallen from 650,000,000 tons before the war to about 450,000,000 tons to-day. It behoves us, therefore, to see that both for ourselves and for the sake of the other countries in whose fortunes we are interested our output is continually increasing. It is our duty, therefore, to examine the general position of the coal industry, to ascertain the amount of coal which is in process of being won, to obtain expert estimates as to the potential resources of the country and to provide means by which an increased output will accrue year by year by means and methods of. working which will yield coal at the lowest possible cost per ton This will never be done if we proceed in the haphazard manner in which we have done in the past, namely, if we leave it to individuals to sink shafts and win coal in any way they think fit according to the capital they possess and the knowledge 787 and experience they acquire. At present there are collieries with adequate capital and expert managers whose work cannot be excelled, but, on the other hand, there are hundreds of collieries, crippled by inadequate capital and hampered by inferior management, where the output is far below that which is possible, and where the cost of production is far more than is necessary. In view of the importance of coal to ourselves in particular and to the world in general, we cannot afford this state of things to continue. In the national interest we must see that a progressive coal policy is in force by which the utmost production by the most up-to-date and ever-improving methods, at the lowest and ever-reducing cost is available.
In pre-war days the coal industry was in private hands. We talk about the coal-owners. Who are they? In a few cases individuals are operating coal mines as a personal business, but in the great majority of cases coal is owned by joint stock companies whose shareholders are spread over the length and breadth of the country. In a certain sense the industry is already nationalised. It is well that we should realise who are responsible for conducting the industry and providing for its future development. We can eliminate the shareholders, for beyond being available to provide fresh capital if it is required, they take no part in the management. The persons who are responsible may be divided into three classes. First, there are those who personally own and work the coal mines. They are few in number. Secondly, there are the directors of the joint stock companies. How many of those have any real knowledge of underground working? Possibly the managing director. We should find on inquiry that the colliery directors, as a rule, depend upon the colliery manager's monthly report for suggestions in regard to the underground working, and that they themselves deal with financial and other matters. Thirdly, you have the colliery managers. Those are the men, experienced probably since boyhood in the industry, upon whom the country really depends for its output of coal. Those are the men who suggest the opening of new districts, the adoption of new methods, and the sinking of new shafts. The position, therefore, of the coal industry is 788 that a limited number of directors with practical knowledge and experience, and a large body of colliery managers, together with the miners and other workers, above and underground, are carrying on the industry for the benefit of the army of shareholders.
Keeping in mind the fact that it is a national necessity to obtain the greatest output at the least possible cost, let us examine whether under the past system of working there have been any other matters that militate against such an achievement. In the first place there are millions of tons of barrier coal—that is, coal which acts as a wall between the properties of two different owners—which are lost to the nation. The roads to it underground are made, the underground rails are laid, and that coal could easily be won at a low cost, but it must not be touched. In the second place, many seams of coal could much more easily be won from a neighbouring colliery than from the colliery to whom the seam belongs. The latter might have to drive through a hard heading at a great waste of time and cost, whereas the neighbouring colliery could go straight through the barrier coal to the seam. In the third place, many a colliery through lack of capital in its initial stages has failed to make adequate plans for winning the coal within its reach, and the result is that that colliery has to spend a great deal of unnecessary capital subsequently in order to get its coal. This means that the cost of production is heavier than it need be. Fourthly, there has been in the coal industry no standardisation of materials and appliances which, if produced by mass production, would be obtained at far less expense, and would reduce the cost of coal production. Fifthly, there is no combined system of drainage. A whole district of coal mines may be hampered in their working by water; yet each colliery has to make its own plans for meeting this difficulty. Cases are known in which water pumped out of one colliery flows into the working of another, and has to be pumped out again. Sixthly, there are all sorts of commissions paid to various persons in various capacities between the hewing of the coal and its delivery to the consumers, which are unnecessary and add to its cost.
I can imagine that hon. Members will say: "We are all in favour of the barrier 789 coal being used, of appliances and materials being standardised, of collieries not being hampered by lack of capital, of expense being saved by a system of combined drainage, of the unnecessary middleman being eliminated, and everything possible being done to reduce the cost of coal and to increase output." Our objection to nationalisation is not that it would open the door to these improvements, but that, if I may quote Mr. Asquith's phrases in his election address, "This policy would enthrone the rule of bureaucracy, tend to stereotype processes, paralyse individual initiative and enterprise, reduce output, and sooner or later impoverish the community." I am equally opposed to these dangers as any hon. Member. I have already said that I realise that the prosperity of the country has resulted from the efforts of individuals, stimulated by the incentive of personal gain, and I should have no hope for the future of the coal industry if that principle was departed from. But I want to make a suggestion which will perhaps help to solve the problem, that we all want to solve, namely, how to obtain peace and smooth working in the coal industry and how to use this national asset to the greatest advantage. I have pointed out that the men who are really responsible for the management of the industry are a very few private owners, a limited number of directors and the colliery managers. These men could not be spared and must be retained in any future scheme. The suggestion made in the Sankey Report is that each colliery should be run by a manager and a local mining council, that each district, say, Northumberland, should be run by a district manager and a district mining council, and that the whole industry should be run by a general manager and a national mining council. Bearing in mind the necessity of providing a personal incentive, a possible solution of the problem might appear to be that each colliery manager and the members of the local mining councils should be remunerated partly by fixed salary and partly by commission, according to the increased output and the decreased cost of production in their respective collieries; that the district managers should be remunerated.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has evidently been listened to with great 790 attention, but I fail to see the relevance of his speech to the object of the Bill.
§ Mr. HOLMES
The Bill is to continue a certain form of coal control, which I have endeavoured to point out is a mixture of private ownership and nationalisation. That form of control is to be continued until the 31st August, 1920. I am suggesting that for that form of control there should be substituted the form I am now proposing. I hope I am in order in doing so.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Bill, as I understand it, is for the purpose of dividing profits which have arisen in the past and which may arise up to the 31st August. The hon. Member has not dealt with that matter at all. He is dealing with an entirely different scheme.
§ Mr. HOLMES
With all respect, the Bill is for the purpose of dividing profits in a certain way, to repeal the old Coal Agreement, and to re-enact certain portions of it which deal with the whole control of the coal industry. There are two separate parts of the Bill. One refers to profits and the other to control. Section 9 repeals the old Act, but seven or eight clauses re-enact the manner in which the industry is to be regulated for the next six months. I hope I am in order in discussing that.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member knows more about the coal industry than I can profess to do, but, so far as I can gather, the whole of his proposal is a general proposal dealing with the coal industry for the future. What we have to do is to finish up the old state of affairs before we can begin to deal with the new. We have to finish up the state of affairs which the War has brought about, and the Bill, as I understand it, is for that purpose. When that has been accomplished the field will still be open.
§ Mr. HOLMES
I do not want to waste the time of the House or to oppose your ruling, but I do respectfully suggest that as this Bill carries the coal control up to the 31st August, 1920, and it is possible for this House to alter the Bill in the form I suggest as from 1st April next to the 31st August, that I am in order in putting these suggestions forward.
§ Mr. HOLMES
There is no guarantee when the next Bill will be brought in. We are told that we are to have a Bill in the House of Lords, but we may not see it this year. If that Bill is not introduced this Bill goes on and can be continued. I will not detain the House more than a few minutes longer. I suggest that each colliery manager and the members of the local mining council should be remunerated partly by salary and partly by a commission based on the reduction in the cost of production and on the increase in output, that similarly the district managers and the district council should be remunerated, and that the general manager for the whole industry and the National Mining Council should be remunerated likewise, and depend for part of their remuneration upon increased output and reduced cost of production throughout the whole country. Such an arrangement would stimulate the local managers and the members of the local mining councils to do their utmost in their own particular sphere. It would stimulate the district manager and the district councils to bring the standard of the worst colliery in the district up to the standard of the best. It would also stimulate the general manager and the National Mining Council to devise new methods which research and science could work out by which costs could be reduced and new coal could be won. The position of the miners would remain unchanged in so far as wages are concerned. They would receive a minimum wage, but might earn more according to output. An additional incentive, therefore, would be given to them if a sliding scale was agreed upon by which the rate of wages was increased as their individual weekly output increased. They would at the same time be able to feel that they were working for the benefit of the community and that no one was obtaining an undue proportion of the fruits of the industry. Such a scheme, call it nationalisation or any other name you like, is not bureaucracy, but business. It would not tend to stereotype processes,ģ but would cause the brains of hundreds of men to endeavour to improve them. It would not paralyse individual initiative, but, on the contrary, would stimulate it It would not reduce output, but would increase it, and would not, either sooner or later, impoverish the community, but would quickly enrich it.
I beg to second the Amendment.
We have had medicine prescribed in the past to deal with this matter which was rejected as distasteful. We have new medicine to-day in a new bottle, and we have a new physician. In regard to the latter fact I think the Government may very well be congratulated. The new physician certainly had an excellent bedside manner, and not a word that he said was calculated to flutter in the least degree the patient under his treatment. I should be doing an injustice to the President of the Board of Trade if I suggested that the difference in the manner in which the House is to-day receiving his proposals is due to the way in which they were brought forward. Hon. Members must have been struck by the great change, in the atmosphere and temper of the House to-day compared with what it was when the measure was last brought before us. It was Disraeli, I think, who once referred to the Front Bench as a row of extinct volcanoes. We might very well apply that description to the whole House now, because the fire has gone out of it. That tense and extraordinary earnestness with which we were imbued on the last occasion when this Bill was introduced is not here to-day. I have been wondering why that is so. My hon. Friend who has just spoken gave us a very interesting history of the proceedings in connection with this coal problem since Parliament rose. It would be interesting if the President of the Board of Trade would tell us something of the history of the proceedings during the recess. I have only been a short time a Member of this House, but so far as I can see, there have been great crises in the history of this Parliament. There was a great commotion on the Transport Bill. There was an actual revolt on the Aliens Bill. Everybody who was present when the Coal Emergency Bill was brought forward last Session will admit that a very critical stage arose for the Government. After each of these great storms there has been a great calm, and things have gone forward without apparently any friction being likely to arise. On the first two occasions something did happen. We heard of visits to Downing Street, and we were given to understand that negotiations had taken place which had brought about a settlement. I do not 793 know whether there have been any such negotiations in the present crisis. If there have been, they have been managed with a great deal more discretion.
I do not suppose that we are likely to hear anything about them to-night, but certainly a great change has been made in the two measures and if there have been no conferences and no negotiations between the Government and the mine-owners, the Government have evidently come to a solution which is extremely acceptable to the mineowners of this country. I think it must be because those terms are so acceptable that our proceedings to-day are so amicable, and after the speech which we were fortunate in having from the late Coal Controller, we can understand a little the sort of affection with which the mineowners must regard this Bill. He told us in a very illuminating speech, which cast a great deal of light on the dark problems of the figures of the coal business, that under this Kill the mineowners of this country are getting a guarantee which puts them in a 10 per cent. better position than under their pre-war standard. That must-be a matter of satisfaction to them. They are not only 10 per cent. above their prewar standard but they are 46 per cent. above the best two years before the War, and 120 per cent. above the average of the five years preceding the War. It is to facts of that kind we must look for the peaceful atmosphere in which we are fortunate enough to be discussing this Bill this afternoon, because though the hon. Member who introduced the Bill attempted to show that there was very little difference between the terms of this Bill and those of the last Bill, I think he said that this Bill gives the mine owners £22,000,000 a year, and under the last Bill it was possible for them to get £21,400,000. That was not the impression of the House when the Bill was last before it, and it was not the impression of those who were interested as owners of collieries.
I, like many other Members, received a great deal of correspondence at that time, and I would like briefly to bring before the House what was the opinion of those who had vested interests in the colliery industry of the Bill which was then brought forward. Here is a letter nom a colliery office, in which the writer says: "there is absolutely no justice in the Government proposal." That is quite 794 calm and cool criticism. In another letter the writer referring to these proposals says: "the absolute dishonesty and injustice to the coalowners of this proposal is an overwhelming blow at our industrial supremacy." Another letter describes the proposal as "unjust and spoliative." Another says: "the proposal of the Government is sheer spoliation," and there is another letter from someone who spoke of "the disgraceful Bolshevik Coal Bill that should not be allowed a Second Beading." It was not allowed a Second Beading. But if the proposals of the last Bill were fair, why have they not been adhered to, and if they were not fair, why-were they introduced? The present Bill has no memorandum. This is rather unfortunate. These Bills that have memoranda are helpful. In the memorandum the Government sot out the object for which the Bill is introduced. That helps you to this extent, that at least you know that the reason given is not the real reason which the Government had in mind.
We learned when the last Bill reached its critical stage in the last Session the real reason why it was introduced. It will be remembered by everybody who was present that when the representatives of the miners on this side said that the Bill was not what they wanted a rather serious situation arose. The Leader of the House was brought in. He told us what we had not known up to that time, that the Bill was not to carry out any recommendation, but that the Government had spent money and if they did not get it out of the Bill they would be placed in a difficulty, and for that reason they would have to introduce the Bill again and get the money which they had expected to get. I object to this Bill oh various grounds, but very largely because it is not going to serve the purpose which the Government expect it to serve. I cannot see how any Member of this House or of the Government can expect, after the speech of the late Coal Controller, that there is any money in this Bill for that. I think that the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, said when speaking on the question that all the money which was expected to be got under this Bill had already been spent. We were certainly given to understand by the Leader of the House during last Session that the money had already been appropriated and would have to be found 795 Yet we are told by the Prime Minister that the money is free to purchase the royalties if we desire to do it.
The Chancellor only this very afternoon, when he put before us the figures of the coal deficiency, suggested that that deficiency, £22,000,000, might be met as far as £20,000,000 is concerned from the proceeds of this Bill. How can an expectation of that kind arise? It has been pointed out by the late Coal Controller that under this Bill, according to the estimate of an independent accountant, not more than £19,084,000 is available and the guarantee of the Government is £20,000,000, so that this Bill cannot produce any money. It can only produce a deficiency. That is anticipated because provision is made in the Bill by which the Treasury shall find money. If that is so an extraordinary state of things arises. Here is the Chancellor expecting to get £20,000,000 under this Bill, yet it has been pointed out by experts in this House that instead of getting £20,000,000 he will have to find at least £1,000,000 to meet the deficiency that will arise. On that ground alone I think the House should reject the Bill. We have already found £1,000,000 to make up the deficiency under the Welsh Church Bill and I see no reason why we should now find another £1,000,000 to make up the deficiency under the Coal Bill.
The Government have shown great judgment in changing the name of the Bill. The Bill is no longer, a Bill for the limitation of profits. The last Bill was so described and naturally aroused a great deal of opposition among the supporters of the Government, because they are very sensitive on the point of limitation of profits. I do not suggest for a moment that they are opposed to it; they joined with other Members of the House in passing the Profiteering Bill, and it would be unfair to suggest they are opposed to the limitation of excessive profits. But they were sensitive on the question of the limitation of profits just as they were sensitive on the question of the limitation of hours. I do not suggest that they are opposed to the limitation of hours but they are sensitive on the point. The Government did wisely in changing the name. It is no longer a Bill for the limitation of profits; it is now a Bill for the distribution of profits, a very much 796 pleasanter thing. The Government have learned from the supporters that they object a great deal more to names than to things, and if you can find another name they will very often accept the thing they rejected in the past, for while they do not object to nationalisation what they object to is the name of it. They have nationalised the coal mines in the Saar Valley. They call it reparation. They do not object to a capital levy: they agree that it is feasible to impose a capital levy on the Germans, not only one capital levy but a capital levy from time to time. But they do not call it a capital levy; they call it indemnity. Under that name they are quite willing to accept it, and the House might be well advised to remember that.
The great charge against this Bill is that not only that it is not going to bring the Government any financial help, but is going further to embarrass them, and that it is putting an end to a system under which the coal mines are being carried on at the present time fairly satisfactorily, and is setting up nothing in its place. It is suggested that something is going to come at once which may or may not be acceptable. The position is, after this Bill is passed, after under this Bill the Coal Control Agreement is repealed, every worker in the mines at the present time will be placed in a position of insecurity in the future. During the period of the war, owing to one cause or another the conditions have been improved in a way which never would have been achieved except under a national system. If this pooling system goes, then there is going to be chaos in the whole of the minefields. This has been pointed out to this House by the hon. Member for the Ogmore Division (Mr. Hartshorn). No one has suggested anything to the contrary. Only yesterday the Chancellor resisted an appeal for inquiry into a capital levy because he said the effect of it would be to arouse a sense of insecurity in investors. But the passage of this Bill is going to arouse an even greater sense of insecurity among nearly 1,000,000 workers in one of the greatest industries of this country. It may be that that is a matter of comparative indifference to the Government. We heard from the Leader of the House yesterday the doctrine—I do not know whether it is the accepted doctrine of the Government—that the future may take care of itself, but I prediet 797 that if this Bill is passed, and if the Coal Control Agreement is brought to an end, the results foretold by the hon. Member for the Ogmore Division will be fully realised, and we shall live to regret it.
§ Mr. BRACE
In rising to support the rejection of this Bill, I confess at once that what has amazed me most is the kind of cavalier fashion which the Government adopt in dealing with this very great foundation industry. If one desires to be flippant, I think I should call this Government a hand-to-mouth Government. They seem to be content to deal with great root economic problems from day to day, whereas if we are to do what we ought to do for the nation's trade and commerce, we ought to be entering upon a carefully devised scheme which would—I was going to say budget, not for months, but for years to come. There is a very serious issue involved here. The issue is what may happen to the industry this year. Why the Government should come down and ask us to give them a Second Reading to a Bill of this character when they know they ought to come down with a measure which would stabilise the industry, create a feeling of security, encourage both employers and workmen to give to the nation and to the world that output which is so greatly needed, I cannot understand. What is the position of the industry? Arising out of a series of commitments during the years of the War, the industry, speaking from the standpoint of economics, has reached a stage when it must have a "pool." Every colliery, whether in Scotland, in England or in Wales, must be part and parcel of a common pool. This Bill will not interfere with that principle, but it does this—it automatically destroys that system without having another system ready to put in its place, and it seems to me that what the Government ought to have done was to establish a permanent system before they attempted to take away this system, which carries us up to next autumn.
Let us forecast what is well within the range of probability. My right hon. Friend or the Prime Minister may come down to this House with a Bill, let me say for nationalisation. I do not think the most sanguine of us would readily conclude that a proposal to nationalise the mines, such as we have been upholding all along, would meet with unanimous 798 assent in this House, and I think I may say that if the Prime Minister came with such a measure that measure would be rejected. Suppose the right hon. Gentleman came down with a measure such as the Prime Minister talked of in the closing days of last Session, a measure based upon the creation of a series of great trusts, which we would be bound to oppose. It might be found that the majority in this House would oppose the proposal, and that Bill might have to be withdrawn. Do the Government realise that there are only a few months between now and August, and it is quite conceivable that that time would not be sufficient to set up the necessary machinery under any system which is to take the place of the system which this Bill automatically abolishes? This Bill abolishes the present system on 31st August, 1920. It repeals the whole system so far as legislative sanction is concerned. I take a very grave view of it. I am founding myself upon the language of the Bill, which says that the Bill, if it becomes law, will automatically terminate the present system, which is founded upon an Act of Parliament—the Coal Control Agreement. Clause 9 does that. My interpretation of that clause is that the old order changes and that the Bill arranges that the old order shall continue only to August 31st, 1920.
If that be so, you may well have this situation. In South Wales, where we have 80 per cent. of exports, we would, at the large majority of the collieries, be entitled to an advance in wages of many shillings a day, but if we attempted to arrange that under a collective agreement through the Joint Board, we should by that agreement, which would do justice to the workmen on the basis of the prices received, shut down every colliery which would be supplying coal for the home market. It would shut down whole coalfields such as the Forest of Dean and Somerset and Bristol, if anything interfered with the making of this pool. It is because my colleagues and myself are afraid of the future, without an assurance to which sanction is given by Act of Parliament as to what is to be the system under which the industry is to be conducted, that we say to the Government: "You ought not to go on with this Bill at all," and say to the House that they ought not to sanction this Bill without first bringing in a 799 measure whereby the whole mining industry is to be conducted.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Ogmore Division (Mr. Hartshorn) has. I think, fairly riddled the figures of the Government again, not only the figures as prepared through the Department, but even the figures given by the chartered accountants. We shall have an opportunity of arguing that much more clearly when we come to meet the Prime Minister later this week on questions of wages. This policy of secrecy in the industry is bound to cease if we are to have peace. I have had in the course of my years' leadership many briefs. The one thing I have been authorised to demand is that the coalowners should disclose to us what the industry can afford to pay. They never tell us. In fact, judged by the declarations of the majority of the colliery owners, they have invariably been living on losses. That kind of policy creates such a suspicion that it is very difficult to keep peace. Among my letters yesterday I had a most threatening anonymous letter from a demobilised soldier, disgruntled because of the wages he received and because of the lethargy on the part of our organisation in general and myself in particular in not making demands for proper wage rates. I have no doubt that the gentleman who wrote to me has suffered privations during the war, and consequently one must not feel too unkindly about it. There is the broad fact that that feeling exists. It is that kind of spirit which is spreading among our people, and unless we can go to these men and show them without any shadow of doubt that the wage rate they are receiving is just and the full rate which the industry can carry, there is no hope of keeping peace in the industry. Therefore I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman that he must abolish this system of secrecy, and we must know if capital will be content with a fair return upon its investment.
I am certain that the large mass of the people will offer no objection to a fair return upon capital, but we do not know what is a fair return. We have a right to know, because while a man or woman may invest capital, as was said in a very picturesque phrase this afternoon, "Labour's capital is its flesh and blood," and labour has as much right to know 800 the whole secrets of the industry as have the people who invest their money. I ask that the two clauses of the Bill which deal with this question of secrecy shall, if the Bill gets a Second Reading, be drastically amended. We must know in the future what the industry can do, and when we go into conferences either with the employers or with the Government, we, speaking on behalf of Labour, must be as well equipped with facts and figures as anybody there negotiating for any other interest. I am compelled to say that without that we cannot do justice either to the people we represent or to the nation, and we are offering our opposition to this Bill, not because we are against fair profits to capital, but because we feel that this is not the way to proceed. Unless my right hon. Friend can give to the House an assurance that within days the Government will come down with a new scheme which is to be the scheme upon which the industry is to be conducted in future, I will ask the House to pause before giving the Bill a Second Reading.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Brigadier-General Hickman) spoke eloquently about the future and about giving an opportunity for capital and labour to have some form of close co-operation upon the respective authorities for managing collieries. My hon. and gallant Friend, large coalowner as he is, must either have a very short memory or he must never have read what the coalowners in the mass through the Mining Association declared upon this point. Lord Gainford was put up officially to declare in the name and on behalf of the Mining Association as follows:—I am authorised to say on behalf of the Mining Association that if the owners are not to be left complete executive control they will decline to accept the responsibility of carrying on the industry, and though they regard nationalisation as disastrous to the country they feel they would in such an event be driven to the only alternative—nationalisation upon fair terms.That is the official declaration of the combined coalowners of Great Britain. That is what the authoritative spokesman was authorised to tell the whole industry—that he would not have it at any price. Whether that was done to stampede the Coal Commission I do not know. At any rate, it did not come off, and I am bound to say that before we would be in a position to accept any programme of joint 801 co-operation we should want to examine it much more carefully than I propose to examine it to-night.
Lastly, let me say that we are opposing this Bill not upon the figures, but upon the main principle that this industry cannot afford to live from hand to mouth, and that you will not have improved output until you give security to the industry. Coalowners and workmen do not know where they are, and in this great key industry one would have thought that the Government would ex haust itself in finding ways and means for bringing peace and confidence to the people employed in producing coal. Speaking on behalf of the Miners' Federation and the Labour party, I say we cannot be parties to the passing of this Bill until we know exactly what the Government are prepared to do upon nationalisation, because, whether you like it or not, you will be driven to it, and we do not want to be placed in the position on the 31st August of being faced with a threat that unless we accept the scheme of the Government we shall be faced with industrial chaos. Those are the grounds on which we oppose this Bill, and unless we can have some more satisfactory explanation of the position on the 31st August, we must go into the Lobby against this Bill.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
E am sure every hon. Member has been struck by the excellent temper and the desire of all sides to come to a reasonable understanding as to the difficulties of the position. I will refer first to the speech of my right hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. Brace). I think he misunderstands the speech which has been made to-day in introducing it, as to the effect of this Bill in regard to control over the coal industry. The right hon. Gentleman believes that the control over the coal industry is exercised by the Government under a special statute, and especially under the Control Agreement Act of 1918. May I point out that control over the whole industry is still exercised under D.O.H.A., and that control would lapse altogether if it were not continued under the Bill which was before the House on the last occasion when this question was dealt with, and it will lapse when the end of the War comes unless it is continued under that Bill when it becomes an Act. What we are doing here is 802 simply bringing these new financial arrangements into force, and giving them a life for just so long as the coal control will exist in its present form. We have to face the fact that between now and August there has to be a complete arrangement made for the immediate future at all events of the coal industry, because I do not think that anyone who knows the facts with regard to that industry will imagine that coal could now be entirely removed from control because there would be utter chaos in the country; This Bill does not terminate control. It is quite clear that this measure brings in certain financial arrangements which will end when the powers of control end. It is intended to clear the ground for the more lasting structure which we hope to introduce within the next few weeks.
There has been a good deal of discussion among ourselves as to whether it was advisable to bring in this Bill before we had the other measure in all its parts. That measure has been before the Cabinet to-day for approval, and under all its heads, and it is now in the hands of the draughtsman. We decided that it, would be better, and our judgment maybe wrong, to bring in this Bill as quickly as possible in order that we might get the Coal Control Department, which, like any other Department, has had a great deal of work thrown upon it, free of part of the burden of parliamentary work which it has to bear, in order that it might get on with its job and its own reorganisation. We also believe that by bringing this Bill before the other we should be able to deal with the issues more clearly both now and afterwards. Had we brought in the two Bills together the whole thing would have got muddled up, and we could not have had the discussions on the two subjects apart. We may have been wrong, but I believe that it will be better to have this Bill got out of the way before we bring in the other Bill, so that we may have a clear field. That is the sole explanation of why this Bill was introduced before the other measure has been laid before the House, and I think there is a good deal to be said for the course which the Government have adopted.
We are told that in this Bill we are re-establishing secrecy. I am altogether against secrecy in these matters because I do not think anything is gained by it, but we must keep guarantees which have been given in good faith. We have to 803 remember that Schedule No. 2 deals with information given to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, amongst other things. I do not think that this House could possibly suggest that information given in the past to the Inland Revenue should be made public. Let us recognise that that is a very big section of the secret information which is dealt with in these clauses. There was a certain relaxation made with regard to the secrecy which attaches to the information in possession of the Treasury and Treasury officials in connection with the Coal Industry Commission. If this information in the possession of the Inland Revenue authorities was secret in the past, you cannot expect to cut off that secrecy on the 31st August, and say that you should now have that information made public to the world. That would not be acting in good faith, and, therefore, we cannot repeal the secrecy clauses under which action has been taken.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
I am glad my right hon. Friend has made that point clear, because I thought he was asking for this information as well as the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn).
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
That is not the information that I have been contending for When this Bill terminates arrangements will still exist by which information will be supplied by the owners to the Board of Trade, and that is to be continued as secret information and we shall not have access to it under this Bill.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
Let us take this question point by point. I understand now that in regard to the information given to the Inland Revenue in confidence, it has to remain secret, and that we have no difference of opinion on that point. Now what is the other information that has been brought from the collieries which the hon. Member for Ogmore suggests should be treated differently? Is it not information of exactly the same kind? Does it not consist of individual returns from individual collieries showing the output, the 804 whole of their financial position, the amount of the advances made and paid back, and information of that kind? That is the kind of information that is contained in those returns, and I do not think that by going back upon the past, and saying that we are going to make all that public, that you are going to do anything but create chaos and add to the difficulties of getting a permanent settlement.
You must build up a new system with recognised machinery for consultation which I have no doubt whatever the colliery owners are fully prepared to agree to. You must have recognised machinery for consultation between the workmen on the one hand and the managerial and technical staffs on the other hand, as well as the owners. Under some definite procedure I have no doubt that such consultation can be arranged, but I do not think it would be anything but disastrous for us to tear up the whole arrangements for secrecy which have been made in the past, and we should not go back on that. Let us go forward and get the new machinery for consultation, and I can assure hon. Members that in the Government Bill which we shall introduce very shortly, they will find such an arrangement sketched out. My right hon. Friend opposite said that in his opinion the hon. Member for Ogmore had riddled the Accountant's figures. I have always admired my hon. Friend's power of dealing with figures and the vigour with which he, I will not say lays down the law about them, but impresses them upon us, but I was disappointed with him this evening, when I found that he was describing figures as having been prepared at the same time, which on the face of the documents are shown as having been prepared at different times and as dealing with perfectly different estimates. I really began to doubt whether he had read the Accountant's report, and finally I came to the conclusion that he could only have read it very hurriedly and that he had not quite understood all that was in it. He took Appendix No. 3, which was prepared by the Accountant in response to the Prime Minister's request for information as to what, in the Accountant's opinion, was the position of the industry on the 31st March, 1920, and he contrasted that with a perfectly different thing, namely, an estimate prepared in October and November by the Board of 805 Trade. He described them both as the Accountant's figures.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I think I ought to say that I did not describe them both as the Accountant's figures. I said one was an estimate prepared by the Department and submitted to the Accountant, and that he said that estimate was fair and reasonable, notwithstanding the fact that he had put in one of his own.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
But there was a difference of months in the time of preparation, and he had not the slightest idea, because he had not read the report properly, of what he was dealing with, or else he was making a point which was hardly fair. I do not think it is quite fair for the hon. Member to come down here and say this report is no good, that it is nothing but guesses, that here we have a guess by the Accountant and here a guess by the Department, and so on. What we want, he says, is not figures up to the 31st March but up to the 31st August, and when anybody gives some figures, unless they happen to agree with what he thinks they ought to be, he calls them a guess and says they are all wrong. With all respect to the hon. Gentleman, at each of these coal debates we have had from him a speech of the same type: "Here are certain Government figures; here are mine; the others are all wrong." In sober fact, have the others always been all wrong? Go back to the Debate of last July, when one of the figures which my hon. Friend had no use for was the estimate that the output for the year 1919 would be 230,000,000 tons. He said the whole basis of that estimated output was utterly wrong, and it was a most impressive speech that he made. He actually said, I think, in so many words, that no one who knew anything about the industry at all would have made such an estimate. Yet I think the actual output of 229.6 million tons shows that the estimate was not so bad.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
No, it is not so bad because you had 8,000,000 tons less through strikes that you did not provide for.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
Yes, we were allowing for the average sort of working year. Nobody expected that the mining industry would suddenly cease to have occasional sporadic strikes, and allowance was made accordingly.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
In the next Debate we had the same sort of thing. Our figures were all wrong, according to the hon. Member, but were his figures any better than anybody else's? Not a bit. I do not see that these figures in advance are very much use except to give you a guide for a time, and if the hon. Member will go back to the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Debate in last July he will see quite clearly stated by the spokesman for the Government that the 217,000,000 tons estimate was only regarded as a guide for the time. I do not think it is going to help us very much to go back on these controversies. The hon. and gallant Member for East Newcastle (Major Barnes), speaking this afternoon, said the fires were getting burnt out, and I hope they are getting burnt out over some of the controversies we have had in this House in the last year on the subject of coal. If we do not go forward to the consideration of the new proposals trying to find a solution, if we do go forward trying to pick up old scores one way or another, then I do not think we shall find a workable solution very easy to achieve, and I would appeal that the spirit which has characterised the Debate this afternoon in the main should be continued into our future Debates on the general subject of the coal industry, and that the House would allow this Bill now to receive its Second Reading.
There are, however, a few points which were raised by my hon. Friend, the Member for the Pembroke Division (Sir E. Jones), which I think I might without boring the House just refer to. The first point he made was that if one colliery has lost in output and another colliery has gained greatly, there would be no benefit to the colliery which had gained in output. As a matter of fact, the hypothetical case which he put was a very extreme one, and it might have terrified us if we had been looking forward to a future, but we are not looking very much forward in connection with this Bill. We are looking back to a past where the results are already broadly known and where, looking over the whole field, we find that, although theoretically this is not a very desirable way of doing things and would not do for future application, 807 as a matter of fact for the past it works out, we think, pretty well. That is really the answer, that it is because we know fairly well what the problems are that we believe that this method of dividing the profits is going to be fair. On the details, of course, of the division of profits there would be no desire on the part of the Government to resist any clearly expressed wish of the colliery owners, because when it comes to a matter like that of the division of profits, whatever is desired by them is clearly a matter over which the Government ought so far as possible to try and agree.
Another point raised by my hon. Friend was why we have, had in Clause 1 in connection with the guarantee the date of the 1st January, 1920. In that case, again, the reason is very much the same as the last one, only it is rather the reverse. We know what the position is up to the end of 1019, but we feel that it would be very unfair if we were to say to the owners, "That is the arrangement we are going to make, and now we will do anything we like." We could not say to the owners, "We will not move the price of coal." We could not say to them, "We are going to have our hands tied with regard to any financial adjustments which it is necessary to make," and therefore it seems to me, and I venture to think it will also appeal to the House as wise, that we should say to them, "You know what we have done up to the end of the year. From now on you do not know what we are going to do, and therefore we say to you that if you are anxious lest we should bring you below the guarantee level, we will make the amount up to that level."
§ Sir E. JONES
The right hon. Gentleman has, I think, somewhat mistaken my point. I drew attention to the fact that the Board of Trade would under this clause be able to make up the deficiency on account of any deficiency arising out of orders given by the Board between the 1st April, 1919, and the 1st January, 1920.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
But I do not want to. I think there is probably some slight misunderstanding here, and it may be that the drafting is not quite clear, but if in Committee it is not quite clear I am sure the point can be met.
§ Mr. SPENCER
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the speech of the hon. Baronet (Sir E. Jones), will he say whether the statement that he has made that the profits under this Bill will reach 1s. 9d. per ton instead of 1s. 2d. is true or not? I would like him to realise the gravity of a statement of that character if it is true.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
I think it is about 1s. 9d. It depends upon the tonnage, of course, but it is about 1s. 9d., but, as I said before the House rose for the Christmas Vacation, the total amount given under this Bill is very much the same as would have been given under the so-called 1s. 2d. Bill. There is a difference of about £700,000 depending upon adjustments which cannot be exactly foreseen. The point that was made just now is, I think, a point that can only be made if one does not fully understand the facts. Certainly, when the hon. Baronet, the Member for East Newcastle, spoke of the deficit which would result from this Bill, he had not got the facts fully before him. We have got in the 1s. 2d. arrangement profit merely on coal raised and nothing else. We had got in the Accountant's figures in this Paper profits on coal raised with certain small additions. There you have got coming in amortisation allowance which amounts to £1,000,000 for the whole industry. Then we have got capital adjustment under the Finance Acts which amount to somewhere about £4,000,000 in the opinion of the Accountant, but when we pass to the standard profit we pass from pure coal profits altogether, and then we begin to add profits upon other activities of the coal mining undertakings. This is where the catch comes in every time. Where we have got a coal undertaking which has, in addition, some profit coming in, it may be from land, farms, house property, brick works, or running a subsidiary wagon company, which, at the present moment, is paying pretty well—all that is lumped in, and when you have all those miscellaneous receipts to which I have just referred, capital adjustment under the Finance Acts, and amortisation, you get the rise in the nominal return per ton.
§ Mr. HOLMES
Surely it is going to be the pre-war standard, plus £4,000,000 809 allowance for increased capital, making £26,000,000 altogether.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
Yes, taking the total amount which would go to the owners on the tonnage basis. We have jumped from the tonnage basis to the standard basis. There is something less than three-quarters of a million, and more than half a, million difference between the return to the coalowners under this Bill and the return they would have got under the 1s. 2d. Bill, if that had become law.
§ Sir A. GEDDES
On the estimated output in the year 1919–20. So that from that point of view there is little difference between the Bills. When I introduced the 1s. 2d. Bill I felt all along that the principle of that Bill was not good, and I said so at the time I was introducing the Bill. It was a Bill introduced as a measure to fulfil a pledge from which,
§ very fortunately, we were released by the members of the Miners' Federation who were present. I would like to say that I think the relaxation which they gave to the Government was very beneficial, because I think under this Bill we have got proposals which, if they become law, will enable us to close one chapter of the coalmining industry orderly and neatly, and whatever the future of the coalmining industry were to be, whatever Government was in power, whatever principles it wished to adopt with regard to the coalmining industry, it would necessarily have to be a transition period, and this Bill we are discussing to-night is designed purely to deal with the transition period which must come to an end on the 31st August. I think I have been over most of the points required to be discussed in connection with this Bill, and I hope the House will allow it to have a Second Heading.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 279; Noes, 61.811
|Division No. 8.]||AYES.||[8.5 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Gange, E. Stanley|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Carew, Charles Robert S.||Gardiner, James|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)||Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (Bas'gst'ke)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Casey, T. W.||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Cautley, Henry S.||Gilbert, James Daniel|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Cayzer, Major Herbert Robin||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Glanville, Harold James|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Goff, Sir R. Park|
|Armitage, Robert||Chadwick, R. Burton||Gould, James C.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A.(Birm., W.)||Grant, James A.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Grayson, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Green, Albert (Derby)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Clough, Robert||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood||Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Greene, Lieut.-Col. W. (Hackney, N.)|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Gregory, Holman|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Greig, Colonel James William|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Griggs, Sir Peter|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hallwood, Augustine|
|Benn, Com. Ian H. (Greenwich)||Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Davies, Major D. (Montgomery)||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Davies, Sir Joseph (Chester, Crewe)||Harris, Sir Henry Percy|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel D. F.||Denison-Pender, John C.||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith.||Dockrell, Sir Maurice||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Donald, Thompson||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Doyle, N. Grattan||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Duncannon, Viscount||Hinds, John|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Edge, Captain William||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Hope, H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn'n, W.)|
|Briggs, Harold||Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Falcon, Captain Michael||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)|
|Britton, G. B.||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Forestier-Walker, L||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Brown, T. W. (Down, North)||Forrest, Walter||Home, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Howard, Major S. G.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)||Shaw, William T, (Forfar)|
|Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Nail, Major Joseph||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Nicholl, Commander Sir Edward||Simm, M. T.|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Jodrell, Neville Paul||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.|
|Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Starkey, Captain John R.|
|Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Oman, Charles William C.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H.||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Ormsby-Gore, Captain Hon. W.||Stevens, Marshall|
|Kidd, James||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark||Stewart, Gershom|
|King, Commander Henry Douglas||Parker, James||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)||Sugden, W. H.|
|Lane-Fox, G. R.||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow. C.)||Peel, Lieut.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)||Sykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Lister, Sir R. Ashton||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Lloyd, George Butler||Perkins, Walter Frank||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Lloyd-Greame, Major P.||Perring, William George||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Turton, E. R.|
|Lorden, John William||Finkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Waddington, R.|
|Lort-Willlams, J.||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||Wallace, J.|
|Loseby, Captain C. E.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Pratt, John William||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Lynn, R. J.||Prescott, Major W. H.||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Waring, Major Walter|
|McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Purchase, H. G.||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Rae, H. Norman||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Macleod, J. Mackintosh||Ramsden, G. T.||Whitla, Sir William|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Rees, Sir John D. (Nottingham, East)||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Maddocks, Henry||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor-(Barnstaple)||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Mallalieu, F. W.||Reid, D. D.||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Remer, J. B.||Wilson, Capt. A. S, (Holderness)|
|Martin, Captain A. E.||Renwick, George||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Mason, Robert||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)||Wilson, Lieut.-Col. M. J, (Richmond)|
|Matthews, David||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Middlebrook, Sir William||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Mitchell, William Lane||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Moles, Thomas||Rodger, A. K.||Woolcock, William James U.|
|Molson, Major John Elsdale||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Morrison, Hugh||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.||Younger, Sir George|
|Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. (Aberdeen)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Murray, Lt.-Col. C. D. (Edinburgh)||Seager, Sir William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Murray, Hon. Gideon (St. Rollox)||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)||Lord E. Talbot and Capt. Guest.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hartshorn, Vernon||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Hayday, Arthur||Sexton, James|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hayward, Major Evan||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Hirst, G. H.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Briant, Frank||Hogge, James Myles||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Bromfield, William||Holmes, J. Stanley||Spencer, George A.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Spoor, B. G.|
|Cairns, John||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cape, Thomas||Kenyon, Barnet||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Lawson, John J.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Lunn, William||Tootill, Robert|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Waterson, A. E.|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Myers, Thomas||Wignall, James|
|Finney, Samuel||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Williams, John (Glamorgan, Gower)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Onions, Alfred||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Hancock, John George||Robertson, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. F. Hall and Mr. Neil M'Lean.|
Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.