§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I realise the importance of asking for the Second Reading of an important Bill such as this. I should much have preferred that someone with greater knowledge of the subject and with more experience in the House should have undertaken this task. It will be impossible to deal with the subject as one would like to deal with it here to-day as I am informed that a number of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are very anxious to participate in the Debate. I can, therefore, only deal with the main heads of this very important question. The nationalisation of mines has long been demanded by the miners. For a generation at their annual conference resolutions have been unanimously passed asking for a Measure upon these lines. Not only have the Miners' Federation themselves demanded it but the Trade Union Congress, representative of almost all the trade unionists in the country, have passed a similar resolution. The Labour party also have conducted a very active propaganda throughout the country in respect of this Measure, and every Member of the party returned to this House is pledged to support it. This is not the first time this matter has been discussed in the House. The Secretary of State for War in 1913 introduced a Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule, and it was given leave to be introduced, and a discussion took place upon the presenting of the Sankey Report in 1919. Judged merely by the magnitude of its operations, the number of workers employed in the coal mining industry—they are nearly 1,200,000, and they and their dependants represent 4,500,000 to 5,000,000 persons who are dependent upon the coal mining industry—the value of the output, which last year amounted to 279,000,000 tons, and the amount of capital invested, the coal mining industry has been the most important industry in the country with, perhaps, the exception of agriculture.
1716 Under the industrial system which has grown up in the last century and a half coal is quite literally the foundation of British wealth. It is the magnet which draws raw materials from the ends of the earth. It is the life blood of industry. Last year some 200,000,000 tons of coal were used for industrial and domestic purposes. Coal has brought Great Britain to be the first-class commercial power she now is. Not only is coal the chief source of power and of heat but it provides also the materials for innumerable manufactures, including tars, fuel oil, motor spirit, alcohol, fertilisers, dyes, explosives, and many other things which can be produced as the result of the car bonisation of coal by-products. Some 79,000,000 tons of coal were exported last year and that amount, we are told, pays for the food of the people of the country for not less than 70 days. One-fifth of the total population of the country was dependent upon its foodstuffs as the result of the coal that was exported. Not merely our prosperity but our existence as a great nation depends upon coal. The whole State is interested in coal—the general consuming public, because of its industrial and domestic value, the workers in the industry, manual, technical and administrative, the owners of the mines, and the royalty owners. The causes which led to the setting up of the Royal Commission in 1919 are well within the memory of the House. The consumers complained about high prices, and the miners and their dependants complained that the product of their labour did not give them a wage commensurate with the nature of their employment. All the interests were represented upon the Royal Commission, and a learned Judge was selected, because of his impartiality, to act as the Chairman of that Commission. The Commission had not been sitting very long before the country was amazed at the evidence that was submitted to the Commission. May I read a portion of the evidence of that eminent engineer, Sir Richard Redmayne. He said:In my opinion the present system of individual ownership of collieries is extravagant and wasteful. That is a somewhat daring statement, but I am prepared to stand by it. Whether viewed from the point of view of the coal-mining industry as a whole, or from the natioal point of view, and I think by thoughtful persons on both sides, both the owners and the workmen, that is pretty generally understood.1717 Further evidence was submitted to prove that there were no fewer than 4,000 royalty owners in the country, and that these 4,000 royalty owners lease their minerals to something like 1,400 colliery companies, who work the coal industry by their 3,000 collieries. These companies carry on their work quite independently and without combination or co-ordinate plan and, in the main, by such methods as the particular company deem best for the production of such quantities of coal and at such cost as will give them the greatest return upon capital. This process of separately releasing the minerals to several colliery companies has been one of the most prolific sources of waste in the industry. We remember the evidence bearing on the question of boundary barriers. Again referring to the evidence, Sir Richard Redmayne said:The loss from barrier coal in this country amounts to between 3,500,000,000 and 4,000,000,000 tons of coal. Much of the latter would be recoverable under a system of collective working of the collieries.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member in order in reading his speech? [HON. MEMBERS: "Quotations."]
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
May I ask whether the hon. Member is in order in reading his speech? He is reading it.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I understood the hon. Member to be reading a quotation from the Report of the Royal Commission. He is not entitled to read the whole of his speech. I do not think he was doing that.
§ Mr. HALL
I was referring to the question of barrier coal and to the evidence given by Sir Richard Redmayne, who said:The loss from barrier coal in this country amounts to between 3,500,000,000 and 4,000,000,000 tons. Much of the latter would be recoverable under a system of collective working of the collieries.He further said:A consolidation of royalties doing away with the necessity for boundaries for anything but engineering purposes would bring a great part of the coal now so left into the market.1718 Another very eminent engineer, 30 years ago, Sir George Elliott, dealt with the question of royalties. In 1893 he said:The solution of the barrier and boundary problem would directly and indirectly, add 10 per cent. to the annual output.Those of us who have been employed in the mining industry can substantiate very largely this and further evidence that was given at the Royal Commission. We know that there is considerable waste as the result of leaving behind either the top or bottom coal of certain seams. We know of the pillars that are left behind. We know of the considerable amount of small coal which could be brought to the surface, but is now left behind. If we could only have some system of co-ordination, whereby there could be washeries established at the pitheads dealing with the washing of coal, also bye-product plants or carbonisation plants dealing with gas production and bye-product production from small coal, a considerable amount of waste in the coal industry could be obviated. It is estimated that in South Wales and the Midlands 2,325,000 tons of small coal is left annually in the gobs. For the whole of the country it is estimated to be not less than 8,000,000 tons.
Another very eminent engineer, Professor Knox, who is now in charge of the Mining School at Treforest, stated in his evidence to the Royal Commission in regard to the loss on the amount of coal in 1913:If we went on working the scams with the same loss that we had up till 1913, the amount we would not get that ought to be got would be 19,000,000,000 tons, equal to 30 years' output. There is another point I was going to refer to with regard to waste. The waste of the material which we ought to derive from coal is enormous. Take one of the best equipped collieries in South Wales. They are producing power to-day at one farthing per unit, chiefly from the waste heap as the result of coking their coal at the collieries.Mr. Evan Williams, a member of the Royal Commission, corroborated that statement, and said:Before the War that same company were producing electricity at one-tenth of a penny per unit and I think that includes everything in the charges.I will not take up the time of the House dealing with the coal position. Certain hon. Members say that as far as the coal industry in this country is concerned, the question of fuel oil is largely going 1719 to do away with the need for a good deal of coal. I have here a cutting which I took from one of the London newspapers only last week. It is an article written by Lieut.-Colonel N. Graham Thwaites, C.B.E., in "The Empire Illustrated." He refers toThe action of President Coolidge who has appointed a Commission to study the problem of fuel oil for the American Navy. In his message the President of the United States referred to oil supply as national insurance, and drew attention to the fad that American supplies for her consumption alone would not last for more than twenty years. Her supplies, however, will be depleted long before that time if she continues to export oil to Great Britain and other countries at the present rate of consumption increase.In his argument, the writer referred to the tremendous possibilities of oil production in this country and said that as a result of low temperature carbonisation it would be possible to produce large quantities of fuel oil and motor spirit out of coal waste in this country.
It would take too long to go through the evidence of the Royal Commission, but I would like to refer to a portion of the first Report that was submitted by the learned judge and other members of the Commission. The learned Judge said:Even upon the evidence already given the present system of ownership and working in the coal industry stands condemned and some other system must be substituted for it, either nationalisation or a method of provision by national purchase and (or) by joint control.This preliminary report was signed not only by the learned judge but by Mr. Arthur Balfour, who was a steel manufacturer, Sir Arthur Duckham, who was an engineer, and Sir Thomas Royden who was a shipowner. When the Report was presented to the House the late Mr. Bonar Law, then Leader of the House, in discussing the interim report of the Commission said:This is not the final Report of Mr. Justice Sankey and those of his colleagues who signed it, but it is a very ambitious report and I think a very statesmanlike Report.He then went on to deal with housing and other matters in connection with the question of collieries. Then he indicated the findings of the Commission proper, 1720 and quoted from Mr. Justice Sankey's Report:I recommend on the evidence before me that the principle of ownership of State coalmines be accepted.That was not the only Report which was presented as the deliberations of this Commission. There was the Majority Report signed by Members representing the Miners' Federation, and certain Members who were regarded as economic Members. There was the Report submitted by Mr. Balfour, Mr. Cooper, Sir Adam Nimmo, Sir Alan Smith and Mr. Evan Williams. The Fourth Report was submitted by Sir Arthur Duckham. The Bill for which I ask a Second Reading is not one which has been brought to the notice of the country during the last week or two. This is the same Bill that was presented to the Commission as the considered opinion of the Miners' Federation as to how the mining industry should be dealt with. Certain members of the Executive Committee of the Miners' Federation, Mr. Straker and no less a person than the present Solicitor-General, both gave evidence and were cross-examined upon this Bill. This Bill is not fundamentally different from the findings of the Chairman of the Commission. In the first Clause we ask for nationalisation of the coalmining industry in this country. The Clause defines the method of setting up the bodies dealing with the coal industry after the coal industry has been nationalised.
We in this Bill ask that the Mining Council, consisting of a Chairman and 20 Members, shall be appointed. The Chairman shall be appointed by His Majesty, and also ten members of the Mining Council. The other ten members shall be appointed by the organisation known as the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. We also ask the same proportion of re presentation upon the district Mining Council and the Pit Committee. Each of them will be parties to the working of the great scheme of control of the coal industry of this country. In addition to setting up the Mining Council, the district Mining Council and the Pit Committee, we also suggest that there shall be set up what is known as a Mines Purchase Commission, and the Mines Purchase Commission shall have upon it three representatives of the Miners' 1721 Federation and also three representatives of the Mining Association. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will suggest in the course of Debate that this scheme of joint control is something to which they are strongly opposed. But they should read what was said by Mr. Justice Sankey and those of the business men, who supported him, in his first report. They said:We are prepared, however, to report now that it is in the interests of the country that the colliery workers shall in the future have an effective voice in the management of the mines. For a generation the colliery worker has been educated socially and technically. The result is a great national asset. Why not use it?In Mr. Justice Sankey's scheme he provides that one-third of the representation upon the Mining Council and the District Council and the local Pit Committee shall be representatives of the workers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), dealing with this matter in 1919, said that the workers in and about the mines should have directors representing them on the body controlling the policy of the area groups to which they belong. Sir Arthur Duckham, one of the business men upon the Commission, said:Labour has a special claim for representation on the directory as wages form the predominant item in the cost of production, and the condition of the mining industry is necessarily hazardous, and the other directors would benefit greatly by having other directors on the Board with a close knowledge of conditions and the workers would have a definite voice in the control of the industry.Our case does not rest only on that. We say that this industry calls so much upon the physical endurance of the men, and so much sacrifice is made by the men employed in the industry that they should have an effective voice in its control. During the past fifty years no fewer than 60,000 of our men have been killed while following their employment underground. No fewer than 3,500,000 of our men have been so injured that they have been kept from their work for a period longer than seven days. In 1923 no fewer than 1,297 fatal accidents took place in the mining industry. If you only combine 1922 and 1923 no fewer than 2,402 fatal accidents took place, while no fewer than 397,753 serious accidents occurred in the mining industry. If we could only visualise this, and if we could only get the great numbers of men killed and maimed 1722 during the last few years in a procession, four in a rank, with the ranks 1½ yards apart we should have a procession 84 miles long and every fifteen yards an ambulance with a man severely injured, and every sixty-two yards a hearse with the body of a dead man. We base our demand for a voice in the effective control in the mining industry not only on the reasons given by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, and not only on what was said by Mr. Justice Sankey and by Sir Arthur Duckham, but we also say in this Bill that the casualties in this industry are so great that the miners employed in it should have an effective voice in the control of the industry.
Hon. Members will talk about the capital invested. We have invested something more important than capital; we have invested our lives. Then we provide for the purchase of the mining industry. I cannot say the same about royalties. This Bill does not provide for the purchase of royalties. The Report signed by some members of the Commission was against compensation for royalties. I do not want to mislead the House in any way. There is no provision for the compensation of royalty owners. There is compensation for the owners of the colleries. We base the compensation very largely upon evidence that was given by one of the great economists who gave evidence before the Coal Commission. We have been guided not only by the evidence that he gave, because we find that Professor Merivale, who was a Professor of Mining at Armstrong College, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and Agent and General Manager for the Broomhill Colliery, one of the ablest authorities on mining in Northumberland, published "The Colliery Managers' Pocket Book" in 1908, and he suggested that the capital value of collieries with an output per annum of 80,000 tons or less was 12s. per ton; that where the output was 150,000 tons it should be 10s. a ton; where it was 400, 000 tons it should be 8s. per ton; and where it was 750,000 tons it should be 7s. per ton. We are even more generous in dealing with this matter than was that mining engineer. There is no doubt as to the need for reorganisation of the industry. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said in 1919:We have accepted the principle of unification and reorganisation. We think, and I think, that the mine owners realise that there is a very great deal of waste, which is 1723 due to the fact that you have got a large number of different enterprises running in the same area under different managements. There is a waste of power, of management, and waste in distribution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th August, 1919; col. 206; Vol. 119.]We all agreed with that. What are the alternatives to the scheme which we put forward? They are a continuation of the present system or trustification of the coal industry in local areas. That is gradually going on. I find that in South Wales five colliery companies control more than half of the output of South Wales. A recent amalgamation that took place, combining the Consolidated Cambrian, David Davies & Sons, and Guest, Keen and Nettlefold, controls not fewer than 70 collieries and 15 levels and slants, making a total of 85 concerns under the control of that one company. The output is 12½ million tons, and it controls nearly one quarter of the output in South Wales. It has 32,000 workmen under its control. What is happening in South Wales is happening throughout the country. From figures that have been supplied to me, I find that 34 companies, each employing over 5,000 men and boys, control no fewer than 255,000 workmen. That is trustification. We say that we ought not to allow this very important industry to be trustified in this way. If it is to be a trust, it should be a trust that is owned and controlled by the people of the country. In 1919 we were told by the then Home Secretary, Mr. Shortt:Nationalisation was not a religion; it was a pure business proposition, and if it turned out on investigation that it was good for the country as a whole, then it was good business.The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, in reply to a question by the present Secretary for the Colonies, said:My view is that Nationalisation must be considered as a business proposition. If it is better for the State, better for the community and better for other industries, we ought to commit ourselves to Nationalisation.We accept that challenge, and we are prepared to prove that it is a good business proposition. The present Postmaster-General, speaking on the Miners (Minimum Wage) Bill last year, said in this House:If you take the average profits of coal owners for 25 years prior to the War they average £9,250,000. If you take the average 1724 for 15 years they are increased from £9,250,000 to £12,500,000. If you take five years' average, the increase is from £12,500,000 to £13,000,000.It is well within the memory of all of us that last year, which was recognised as one of the years of depression in the coal industry, a profit of not less than £26,500,000 was made in the coal industry. The present Secretary for Mines early this year informed me that not less than £960,000,000 profit had been made in the industry during the past 12 years. If we take the estimated capital value of the collieries as it has been given by the officers of Inland Revenue, by Sir Josiah Stamp, and that expert from the North of England, we find that the industry has paid in profits in 12 years twice as much as the capital of the industry. This is an industry which stands condemned because of its inefficiency, its wastefulness and its extravagance. If an industry which has been found wanting, as this industry has been, can make profits to the extent of £260,000,000 in 12 years, what could it do if it were well organised, as we ask that it should be? There is another tale, apart from profits. The right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the Opposition—I was very pleased to hear the words from him—speaking on 19th March last at, I think, the Carlton Club, said in a reference to the miners:Many of the audience probably thought the miners were a disgruntled lot of men always striking and complaining and considering no one's business but their own. Let him put before them another point of view. Rather more than two years age, after much trouble in the industry the whole industry, masters and men, willingly after due consideration, made greater sacrifices for the general good of the community than any industry in the country has done.Sacrifice has been made, and it has been made by the workmen and their dependents. The conditions in the coalfield have wrung the hearts of many strong men and brave women. The homes of the British miners are the homes of poverty, and this poverty brings in its train suffering. Our men, women and children are daily, in thousands, becoming more wretchedly clad and badly fed, robbing them of their self-respect.
If we accept the present offer of the coal owners to the miners, there will be hundreds of thousands of men occupied in this arduous calling who will not get more than £2 8s. a week if they work a 1725 full week. How many of our men can work a full week? People may go to Wembley and see the mine there. That mine does not give a true description of actual mining conditions. I wish that one could take hon. Members down a pit to see the mining conditions as they are. I have worked for 20 years under those conditions and I could take hon. Members to places where, owing to the atmosphere, men are working with swimming drawers and a pair of boots on, and otherwise absolutely naked. There is nothing of that kind to be seen at Wembley. All these men get as a result of work of that kind is £2 8s. per week if they work a full week. Let us analyse that sum. Take 16s. for rent and other necessities and in the case of a family consisting of husband, wife and two children, there will be only 1s. per day to provide necessary foodstuffs. No wonder it was said by the "Manchester Guardian" in a leading article last weekThat executive (the Miners') has to face two facts. The first is that without some reorganisation in the industry is seems almost impossible to put it on a basis on which it can pay adequate wages. That was the conclusion of the Sankey Commission and nothing has happened to shake it.Because nothing has happened to shake it, we ask the House to give a Second Heading to this Bill. The men who are employed under the conditions I have described realise that they are employed not for the purpose of the product of the commodity which is so necessary for this country but for the purposes of profit. Last year we find that upon every man employed in the industry in South Wales alone no less than 8s. 7d. per week profit was made, and in addition to the 8s. 7d. per week profit made upon every workman and boy employed in the industry 2s. 11d. was taken as royalties out of the product of each man's labour by the royalty owner. That is to say, 11s. 6d per week was taken out of the product of each man's labour for profit and for rent to the royalty owners. The miner realises that in this country at the present time there are six persons drawing in royalties alone over £500,000 per annum and these six persons are receiving more out of the industry than the workmen who are sacrificing everything in the industry. Because of these things we ask the House to say it is time the State took over this vast industry. The right hon.
1726 Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, speaking of the miners in 1915, said:It is an inspiration for a tired Minister to meet such a fine body of men … I have seen the miner in may capacities I have seen him as a worker and there is none better. I have often seen him as a politician and there is none sounder.As a result of the miners soundness in politics he has returned 44 Members to this House asking for this Measure and almost every mining constituency throughout the country asks the Members of this House to support the Second Reading of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman on the occasion to which I refer went on to say:I have heard him as a singer, I have seen him as a soldier and in all capacities he is always in deadly earnest, always courageous, always loyal—a steadfast friend and a dangerous foe.The right hon. Gentleman may yet realise that fact. I would remind him that his record is not too good with the miners recently as a result of the treatment of the miners in 1921. Posterity will justify the findings of the learned Chairman of the Commission. You can appoint your courts of inquiry but they can only come to the same conclusion. Not only will posterity justify the Report of the learned Chairman but posterity will also condemn those people who are responsible for the continuance of the waste in this great industry. I know there are some hon. Members who want to speak against this Bill and they are connected with the coal industry. I remind the House of what was said here some 80 years ago when Mr. Gladstone asked for the Second Reading of the Railway Bill which bestowed upon the State the power to buy out the railways—a power which the State still possesses. He was interrupted by Mr. Russell, the Chairman of the Great Western Railway Company, who said:Trust to the companies,Mr. Gladstone quickly replied:I would no more trust to railway proprietors in railway matters than I would to a Gracchus speaking of sedition.We say we will no more trust to colliery directors and colliery owners on this subject than we would to a Gracchus on sedition. I thank the House for listening so patiently to what I have had to say, and I beg leave to ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. VARLEY
I beg to second the Motion.
The Mover said a moment ago that he had worked 20 years in the coal pits. I have worked 19. The hon. Member also said something about the atmosphere of the coal pit. At this moment, having regard to the fact that this is the first occasion on which I have attempted to address this honourable House, I have to say that I prefer that atmosphere to this. I desire to address myself to some specific points connected with this question, and the first of these relates to wages. I have not the least doubt that many hon. Members here assembled, in common with the country, are breathing much more freely this morning than, perhaps, they did a month ago, as a result of the announcement in the newspapers that the probability of a stoppage in the coal industry has been momentarily removed. As a member of the Miners' Federation Executive Committee, one who has played some little part in the negotiations which have been proceeding during the last month, and for that matter from 1921 onwards, I wish to say on behalf of that Committee that our acceptance of these terms is not to be taken as an indication of our satisfaction with them. It is not to be taken as an indication of any prolonged period of peace in the coal mining industry. I shall be perfectly candid and say that it is merely our recognition of our weakened powers of resistance at this moment—that and that alone.
We have had it trumpeted in the papers this morning that we have received 13½ per cent. advance to certain districts. All the country knew of the inquiry which was held last week and the preceding week, and as a result of that inquiry the Miners' Federation Executive Committee is now placed in the humiliating position of having to tell its members that this inquiry, which came to certain conclusions, but had no power to make recommendations, has so far impressed the coal owners of this country that we are going back to offer the men .83 of 1 per cent. advance. I should correct myself and say it is not .83 of 1 per cent. We previously had an offer up to 32½ per cent., so that what we are now offered is .83 of 132½, and that is what we have to take back to our men. Why have we to go back in that humiliating 1728 position? Simply because of the chaos which exists in the industry; simply because of the difference as to physical conditions between various districts in the country. The Mover said thousands of men would be working for 48s. per week. Thousands of men will be working for considerably less on the offer now made, even in the eastern area which is described as the E1 Dorado of the British coalmining industry, but which embraces poor districts like Leicestershire, Cannock Chase, Warwickshire, South Derbyshire—the poorer as well as the richer. In those districts the men will receive a wage in Leicestershire of 6s. 6½d. per day, if only they come to the minimum, in Cannock, 6s. 3¾d., and in Warwickshire, 6s. 2¼d. I want to submit that these are not wages which any self-respecting body of men could go back and offer without regret.
When you turn to the other side of the picture, you cannot find any necessity for this except the necessity which exists because of having to recognise the differing physical conditions as between the districts. When you turn to the profits, the hon Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) told us that last year a profit was made, covering the whole country, of £26,500,000. I have no idea what that means except for purposes of comparison. It sounds a huge sum of money, and if it were distributed in wages amongst the men it would possibly make 10s. a week difference. To thousands of our men 10s. a week would have been the difference between comparative affluence and poverty, but this £26,500,000—and this is the salient point—was arrived at only by reason of profits made varying in degree from as much as 2s. 4d. in Scotland to a loss of 1s. 2.96d. in Cumberland, the average of the whole being 1s. 11d., and a loss being shown of nearly 1s. 3d. a ton in a district which is by no means negligible, namely, Cumberland, which has 11,000 miners within its borders.
Last year was supposed to be, and actually was, the best year since the introduction of the 1921 Agreement, and those employers show that they lost 1s. 3d. a ton. Whether they did or did not remains to be proved, but never will be proved, but on the arithmetic of the Agreement it is shown that these men lost 1s. 3d. per ton. In Scotland they made a profit of 2s. 4d. per ton. In my district, the Eastern 1729 Division, a profit was made of 2s. 1½d., and that in a district where the average output was 20.47 cwt. That means this, that whereas in the district which made a very decent profit, but which had a low output, their profit, in proportion to the shift, in proportion to the day's work, in proportion per £ of capital employed, is nothing like so great as in the Eastern Division, where the output was considerably larger. We say that the national interest is paramount. The hon. Member for Aberdare addressed himself in the major part of his speech to the national interest, but I want to say that even if we were approaching this question from the most selfish of motives, that of the miners' interests alone, 1,100,000 men, with their families, in the indigence and poverty which have characterised them since 1921, cannot be ignored by this House.
On the wages question alone we are justified in coming to this House and saying that this, being national wealth, should be national wealth. In the exploitation of it, there is the possibility of a decent living for everybody, and it is only a matter of organisation. I shall be told, perhaps, that that in itself is not sufficient justification for taking from any member of this realm his private property. I suppose it is his private property only because of the fact that at some time or other the laws of this land made it his private property, and, therefore, there is vested in this House the same right to take it from him as there was to give it to him, and we should not be accused of spoliation. We should not be accused of robbery.
§ Mr. VARLEY
That simply turns upon an analysis of whether it is, as the hon. Member says, "my money" It would mean an analysis of how he acquired "my money," and probably he would have the utmost difficulty, even with the aid of the law, in proving that what he now has is indeed his money. I want, however, to turn to another aspect of this question, which was touched upon, but hardly more than touched upon, by the hon. Member for Aberdare, namely, that of royalties. Whatever may be said as to nationalisation of coal mines generally, we had 1730 thought that the battle for the nationalisation of mining royalties was won years ago. The coal owners themselves, seeing that they are not involved in this matter, through their representatives on the Sankey Commission, recommended the nationalisation of mining royalties. There is, in the county from which I come, a system known as the butty system. We have had for many years much heartburning as to whether or not that system should persist. It is a system of subcontracting whereby two men, say, in the years gone by, have employed 10 or more men working for them, and have shared between the two of thorn the result of the aggregate earnings. Amongst the 10 there are men who are quite as good workmen as either the one or the other of the two who employ them. We have sought to abolish this, but what passes my comprehension is this, that all the time that we were wrestling with one another, man against man, to abolish the sub-contractor, the butty, we were powerless to interfere with the biggest butty of the lot, the royalty owner.
In one of the collieries where the men who are in my Association work, we wind approximately 3,600 tons of coal per shift, and we have the lowest royalties anywhere in the country, averaging about 4d. a ton. Therefore, the royalty owner, whose son sits in this House, and whom I should like to have seen opposite this morning, though it is to be doubted whether he has over seen the pit, walks away with £60 every day that that pit wins coal. I am not going to run over the manner in which the Marquess of Bute, his Grace of Hamilton, and others fleece this industry. That is too widely and too well known, but whatever may be said about the property rights which the present mine operators, the mine owners, have acquired, I think it cannot be defended that any longer the royalty owners should be left in undisputed possession of that which the industry, especially at the present moment, can so ill afford. This system of mining royalties brings many evils in its train. The report of the Acquisition and Valuation of Land Committee stated that this iniquitous system resulted in:and that is rather interesting, because I lather imagine that if we had to prove who were the actual owners the large majority of them would be unknown—
- "(1) Owners unwilling to sell or lease.
- (2) Owners demanding exorbitant terms.
- (3) Minerals under copyhold or enfranchised land.
- (4) Minerals in small separate ownerships.
- (5) Legal disability of owners.
- (6) Cases of unknown owners"—It may be pointed out that many of these hindrances to good coal mining have been removed by the operation of the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act of last year. I have to admit that. That was a very beneficial Act, and long overdue, but it has not removed, by any means, the whole of these anomalies, especially that one connected with the proper lay-out of any mineral held. The last colliery at which I worked was a colliery which, if it was to be successful, entailed our taking leases from three property owners. The proper place to sink the shaft was on the land of the owner who had the smaller part of the lease, but the man who held the larger portion of the lease said "No, you must sink your shaft here," and, perforce, they had to sink their shaft there, and the sinking of the shaft in that spot, selected, not by the mining engineer, but by the royalty-owner, necessitated the construction of nearly two miles of railway line at a cost, I believe, of nearly £34,000. While for the future, perhaps, the Working Facilities Act will protect us, we are still carrying the disabilities entailed in the years that have gone. Whatever the House may think about the question of the nationalisation of mines, I hope we shall get a clear expression of opinion from subsequent speakers that they are whole-heartedly in favour of the nationalisation of mining royalties.
- "(7) Difficulties in working arising out of surface support.
- (8) Coal unnecessarily left unworked as barriers.
- (9) Refusal of owners to grant way leaves on reasonable terms.
- (10) Difficulty in obtaining surface powers for working or carrying minerals.
- (11) Restrictive conditions impeding development of minerals.
- (12) Onerous conditions of leases.
- (13) Absence of power to regulate the layout of a mineral field.
- (14) Loss of minerals in working."
May I say one word with regard to oil? I believe that this House is not unacquainted with the value of oil in the 1732 life of the body politic to-day. I believe I have read, before becoming a member of this House, about oil figuring largely in all discussions upon Mesopotamia. Whether we like it or not, we people in the coal trade have to recognise oil as having come to stay. It is a serious menace to the prosperity of our trade, but, inasmuch as it is more economical, we do not do anything to retard scientific advancement along those lines. In the extract from the newspaper which was read by the Mover, the writer of the article seemed to imply that the supplies of oil were not unlimited, that the rate of consumption to-day is exceedingly high, and that there is more, perhaps, than a remote possibility that the supply will be exhausted sooner than the world has accustomed itself to that exhaustion. We ought not to be alarmed about that, because we have in this country almost unlimited supplies of coal, that is, for all practical purposes, because in 200 years not many of us will be alive, so that at any rate, for our lifetime, and that of our immediate successors, we are safe so far as coal is concerned. Low temperature carbonisation, by means of which oil can be distilled from coal, has passed the experimental stage. Whether it is an economic proposition I cannot at this moment say; but whether it is, or is not, there is every reason to suppose that oil distilled from coal will have to be the motive power of the future Are we going to allow that to pass into private hands, with all the evil private ownership has brought in connection with coal-mining? I do not think we ought to do it. I think this House should give a clear expression of opinion so far as that particular industry is concerned, because that industry should be safeguarded in the national interest.
§ Mr. SAMUEL ROBERTS
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."
May I first take the opportunity of congratulating both the Mover and Seconder of the Bill on the very able and very moderate speeches with which they have put forward their case? I want to say, at the outset, so that there can be no possibility of a charge of deception, that I personally, have interests in the coal trade. But I want to say this also, that if it can be proved to the satisfaction of this House and the country that it is in the 1733 interests of the miner, the consumer an I the taxpayer that the coal mines should be nationalised and run by the State, then no coalowner has any right to say nay. I maintain, Tory as I am, that no individual or interest has a right to say that it should retain property it possesses, if it be in the national interest that that property should be taken away, provided proper and reasonable compensation be paid.
I want to deal with what I may call two other admissions before I come to the end of the admissions I desire to make. I think no one will deny that there are, in the organisation of the coal industry, many things that could be improved. I do not think you can find any industry where things could not be improved. Great improvements have been made in the past, and greater improvements will be made in the future. Then, with regard to the much discussed question of wages with which the hon. Members have dealt, I would remind the House that they only tell one side of the story. I am not going into figures to counter that. They know perfectly well they could be produced, but there are such things as pits paying good wages, and the men attending the Cup Tie, or the Lincolnshire Handicap. I am glad that is so, and do not grudge it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Then why mention it?"] I do just point out that there is another side, and that there are men in the industry who are receiving good wages, and there are pits in the industry that are continually and right through paying decent wages.
I am prepared to go much further, and maintain that private enterprise in this industry, instead of standing condemned, has a wonderful record of achievement. The output of coal in the last 40 years has increased from 128,000,000 tons to 287,000,000 tons, and although the figures for 1923 do not show an increase over 1913, there are many reasons, perhaps, including the question of the War, coal control, the Sankey Commission and the reduction of hours. I also maintain that, with regard to modern collieries and appliances, they are second to none in any part of the world, and their lay-out and working are also second to none in the world. Even with regard to the much debated question of housing, I think you can say that the coal trade in recent years has done more than any other trade towards housing its own people, and housing 1734 them in decent houses. I do not know any other industry that in the last three years has taken more advantage of the Act of Parliament in that respect than the coal trade.
Before coming to the details with regard to nationalisation, I want to deal with one factor which, to my mind, is very much indeed at the bottom of the low wages trouble, and that is that in working coal you have one slow, continual process of geographical change. You must be continually changing your field of operations. The coal crop, once it is harvested and consumed, is gone, and where it was there is nothing left. You must move on, and be continually moving on to new fields and new development. In the same way as the horizontal, you get the vertical change as well. In the first place, the best seams are worked, and those probably pay good wages and good profits. Then there come the other quite inferior seams, which cannot in many cases be worked at a profit, and it is the attempt to keep alive that which ought to die that is the cause of a great deal of trouble in the coal trade. What applies to individual pits applies to individual districts, and parts of districts, and I think nothing is more fatal than an attempt to continue working an unprofitable pit, seam or district. It means no profit, low wages, and adds to the general cost to the consumer. We had a great deal of this policy under coal control during the War. I suppose that it was necessary, but the policy of the Coal Controller seemed to be, as a friend of mine stated the other day when speaking on the matter, to keep lame ducks waddling at a tremendous cost to the country, and not to a great advantage of the miners themselves. Under any system of nationalisation, under any system of pooling, this process, instead of being stopped, will be increased; the lame ducks will quack and quack very loudly, with the result that under any system of nationalisation the bad would be pooled in with the rest, and pits kept alive that ought to die, thus increasing the general cost to the consumer. What should be encouraged is new developments on new lines, and the slow and gradual migration of the mining population to newer and better places. You cannot find under nationalisation any specific remedy, such as a thyroid gland, by which you can take an old pit and make if into a new one. I 1735 do not think that we can find, in this question of the nationalisation of the mines, many examples or facts of what would happen in regard to nationalisation. There are some nationalised coal mines in Australia and New Zealand, but the output is infinitesimal. The Prussian State mines do not compare favourably, either as to increase of output, increase of machinery or of speeding up of development with privately-owned mines. One coalfield which was State-worked has cost the Prussian Treasury vast sums of money, and operations have been carried out at a heavy loss, whereas the privately-owned Westphalian coal mines have given a profit. Yet the conditions of employment were better in the privately-owned mines and the price of coal to the general public actually lower.
In regard to shipping we have a great deal more evidence to go upon. There have been many large experiments in respect of nationalisation of ships. France lost over 2,500,000,000 francs Canada's losses on the ships and the railways consumes the whole yield of the Income Tax. In Australia they lost £2,500,000 in revenue and the capital value of their ships has been written down from about £13,000,000 to about £5,000,000. These losses are entirely dwarfed. When you come to the losses from the American nationalised ships. There they bought 1,300 ships at a cost of about £600,000,000 to put dollars into sterling. They have now had to write that figure down to about £50,000,000. Out of those 1,300 ships, I believe there are only about 400 working, or able to work, and 882 are lying at their moorings, rotting. There seems to be no hope for them whatever.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HODGE
Will the hon. Gentleman kindly say when this nationalisation of ships took place, and what was the state of the same industry at home?
§ Mr. S. ROBERTS
The nationalisation of shipping took place here towards the end of the War; the figures in regard to the number rotting at the present moment are accurate.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
In regard to the losses on State railways these have been made 1736 in Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Australia, Canada, Rumania and Poland. Loss, loss, loss! Take one example of a State monopoly with which some hon. Members may be familiar if they had the pleasure and advantage of travelling in France. They will have had some experience in relation to the State matches and tobacco. In the one case they may have tried to strike the matches and burned their fingers, and in the other to smoke the tobacco, or they may have tried to smoke petit caporal cigarettes.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
That is a matter of taste. At any rate, it is a very unprofitable enterprise to the French Government, and only in February of this year has the French Chamber of Deputies decided to give up the State monopoly of matches and arrange for their manufacture by this much condemned private enterprise. If there is any chance of a publicly-owned and a nationalised industry being successful it is where the State—or municipality if you like—can obtain an absolute monopoly. A public enterprise can only exist in a glass house of a total monopoly. Under the hot breath of competition it withers and decays. We have definite experience here as to the Post Office, tramways, gas, electricity, water, and other things. A very strong case could be made out in regard to the inefficiency and lack of experimental development in regard to these services. But I pass them over. "These monopolies or quasi-monopolies are not exposed to free and open competition.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
That is what I say: If there is any chance of a public enterprise of the sort succeeding it is only when it is a monopoly, and a Post Office is a monopoly. I think the interruption of the hon. and gallant Member is entirely irrelevant.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
Nationalisation of mines is not the simple process of only getting the coal from the bottom of the mine and delivering it into the coal cellar of the consumer at home. A great part of the prosperity of the trade 1737 depends upon its export trade. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution. He said at the beginning something as to the value and importance of the coal trade to this nation, to this country as a whole. He said that it had been the foundation of our national prosperity. All under condemned private enterprise! The foundation of our national prosperity, according to the hon. Member, rests upon a basis of private enterprise! The export trade has increased, under this condemned system of private enterprise, in forty years from 16,000,000 to 97,000,000. Another very interesting fact is that the value of the export of coal last year from this country paid for all the grain imported, and left the coal trade with a credit balance of over £10,000,000. Hare we risk this traffic? Dare we risk keeping steady and improving the rates of exchange in our favour? Dare we risk this enormous and valuable trade by taking what the hon. Gentleman opposite quoted as the remark of Sir Richard Redmayne, that this was "a leap in the dark"? Then, again, the carbonisation of coal has become a very important national interest at the present time. There you have free and open competition with regard to sulphate of ammonia and benzine. I cannot believe that you could get State officials efficiently to compete in the markets of the world with Belgium or Germany, or the Standard Oil Company of America. There is a great danger to our export trade. There are also thousands of other trades linked up with the coal trade in such a way that you can hardly cut one part from the other. It affects shipping and very often iron and steel works as well. I maintain that in the interests of the export trade and the great risk of interfering with other trades this House should hesitate for a long time before it thinks of making this a rash and what may prove to be a disastrous experiment.
In a Debate of this sort I do not wish and indeed I should be foolish as a controversialist to attempt to do so, to shirk the strong points which have been made by the other side, and I propose now to deal with their strongest points, namely, the judgment of Mr. Justice Sankey and the recommendations of the Royal Commission. I ask hon. Members to throw their minds back to the atmosphere of the country at the time the Sankey Commission was set up. Early in 1919 when 1738 the great wave of national unity, and thankfulness inspired by the Armistice had worn off, and millions of men were clamouring for demobilisation, and thousands of them demanding work, at a time when the cost of living was steadily rising and dissatisfaction and discontent were rife, there was at that time a fear in many minds of revolution and physical violence.
That was the atmosphere in which the miners of this country made this big demand. It was the policy of the Government then, and I think it was the right policy for the Government to adopt, to do anything it can to avoid strikes or violence until we had got over the fever period. I am stating the facts as they appear to me. That Commission was set up and it was pressed to present a Report at the earliest possible date, dealing in particular with wages and conditions. The Interim Report was presented under which the miners obtained a reduction in hours and a 2s. rise in wages, but they also got a statement from the Chairman of the Commission and the three representatives of the traders. The Commission consisted of three traders, three coal owners, three miners' representatives, and three Fabians. The Interim Report was signed by Mr. Justice Sankey and the three representatives of the trade. The statement made by the Chairman in that Report has already been quoted, but I will read it again:Even upon the evidence already given, the present system of ownership and working in the coal industry stands condemned, and some other system must be substituted for it, either nationalisation or a method of unification by national purchase and/or by joint control.Then in paragraph XIII it says:No sufficient evidence has as yet been tendered, and no sufficient criticism has, as yet been made, to show whether nationalisation or a method of unification by national purchase and/or by joint control is best in the interests, of the country and its export trade, the workers, and the owners.Surely these paragraphs are not quite consistent. To my mind this Interim Report, brought up in an atmosphere when the country was in the state it was at that time, was like a sop to Cerebus. Apparently, however, this was considered quite sufficient evidence to condemn private enterprise and to recommend nationalisation, although as a matter of fact private enterprise had not received a fair hearing at all. From the first the 1739 coal owners understood that the inquiry to be held by the Commission was a matter of wages and conditions, but out of the 13 days on which the Commission sat only two-and-a-half were left to deal with their case after they had dealt with the question of wages and conditions. How was it possible in so short a time as that to deal impartially with such a vast subject. It must also be noted that from 1915 to 1919 the coal industry had been under rigid Government control and the evidence, if it proved anything, showed the inefficiency and the incompetence of the Coal Controller's Department and the unsatisfactory state of shipping and the Timber Control Department. It was the official interference with private enterprise that stood condemned and not private enterprise.
Then we come to the second series of sittings which were a blot upon our whole experience of justice tribunal committee and commission work which on the whole have been so valuable to our country. Many of the Commissioners were not seeking for information, but were either trying to emphasise their own pre-conceived points of view, or to bully and attempt to brow-beat, from their privileged position as Royal Commissioners, those whom they looked upon as their hereditary enemies, and I am glad of the opportunity of making this statement in Parliament in the presence of the hon. Member for Morpeth. As a result of this Star Chamber Inquiry the members of the Committee were divided in the manner that everyone would have expected, but I want the House to notice that whereas in the Interim Report the case had not been put fully or fairly for the owners the three traders signed the Report together with Mr. Justice Sankey, and on the second Report two of the traders were practically of the same opinion as the coal owners' representative, and one of them, Mr. Arthur Duckham, presented a rather ingenious scheme. The result was that it was practically left to Mr. Justice Sankey, and he plumped for nationalisation, and he was hailed by the miners as a Daniel come to judgment. It comes to this, that by the verdict of one Judge private enterprise is to be condemned and nationalisation set up, and.The great leap in the dark,1740 as Sir Richard Redmayne called it, is to be taken, I want to deal with the learned Judge's line of thought. He is evidently impressed with the argument that State management usually fails, but he endeavours to get over this difficulty by blaming the State for this and for the neglect to train a new type of man, the super-official, and he bases his decision on his opinion that the miners have become so hostile to the coal owners that there is a certainty of continuous strife These are his exact words:I think the danger to be apprehended from the certainty of the continuance of this strife in the coal mining industry outweighs the danger from the problematical fear of the risk of less of incentive.I cannot help feeling some surprise at the learned Judge having framed this sentence which is in effect a submission to blackmail, and a public invitation to the workers in every other industry to try to obtain nationalisation by means of strife and strike. He puts his judicial seal of commendation on the. practical and effective value of such policy and action as is advocated in that notorious little pamphlet called, "The Miners' Next Step," and no wonder that the hon. Member for Hamilton and the hon. Member for Morpeth and the hon. Member for Coatbridge proclaimed by poster to those whom they lead, "Miners, organise and the industry will be yours." I ask hon. Members to notice very carefully the words, "The industry will be yours."
Again, let me examine the statement of the learned Judge when he comes to the realms of prophecy. The continuance of strife is a certainty, the loss of incentive is problematical. Apparently he thinks that strife will cease if mines are nationalised. Have we never heard of strikes in the industries where the municipality is the employer? Have we never heard of such things as tram strikes? I remember a case which gave me a great deal of anxiety with regard to a long strike amongst builders' masons upon corporation work. I do not remember that co-operative societies have always been free from strikes. I am not sure that I am not right in saying, with regard to the Prussian State mines, that at the present moment there is a strike in progress. If we look back a few years, some of my hon. Friends from Yorkshire may possibly remember that there was a little experiment near Alfreton where the miners con- 1741 sidered that they would invest their awn money and run a pit for themselves. Within a very short time they were striking against themselves. I believe that other experiences can be quoted from South Wales. I do not think you will say, because you introduce public ownership, that you are going to get rid of strikes. If you do, it comes to one of two things. Either you are going to assume that the demands of the workers will always be kept within the bounds of possibility and reason, or else that their demands will always be met.
How does Mr. Justice Sankey propose to get rid of this evidence of the failure of State ownership in the past? How is he going to defeat the laws of nature and to counter the defects of human character? Put quite simply, we are to utilise that new type of men who came to the fore and did so much during the War in controlling our national factories, Government Departments, and every other walk of our daily life. You will realise that Mr. Justice Sankey does not turn to the professional civil servant, who, after all, is recruited from the very best products of the universities and schools of this country. He seems to realise that this type of men will not make efficient traders. He looks to the new type, the business man turned bureaucrat. We, as a nation, have much to be grateful for the way in which many of the best business men came forward and put their ability freely and unstintingly at the service of the State during the War. Is anyone going to suggest that the State is going to get the best men out of business to serve it in managing a nationalised industry? You will not get the best brains or even the second best brains. You will get either the failures or the financially timid, who would prefer to rest in the calm harbours of the public service rather than adventure on to the high seas of enterprise where fortune or shipwreck may await them. If you do not get that type, well, possibly, you will have to go and catch them young and train new men to carry on this trading industry. I am not talking so much about the engineers. I do not think that would be a great difficulty with regard to nationalised coal mines. Probably you would be able to get highly-skilled engineers, but you could not get 1742 the proper men to market and sell your goods and compete successfully in the markets of the world.
If you tried to get new men, you would have to recruit them from the same ground. They would have to be trained, and they would grow up in the efficient groove and get the official stamp. It is not the men who are wrong. You get the best men in the Civil Service at the present time. It is the inevitable conditions of their service, because under no service of that kind can you provide a reward commensurate with the blame that comes from failure. That is really the trouble. I will take one instance. A little time ago coke was in demand for export at 30s. per ton and more. The makers of cake continued to sell it and entered into new contracts to supply the blast furnaces in this country at 23s. per ton. They were, therefore, accepting a lower price—quite rightly—in order to keep their customers going. They were refusing the larger price from the Continent. They felt that they must keep their customers going, because, if you injure your customer, yon damage your trade. That is a perfectly sound business proposition. What would an official have done? He would have been blamed for not getting the best price and probably would have been accused of favouring business friends in this country and of corruption if he had done what was actually done; and if he had done the other thing and had accepted the higher price from abroad he would have damaged the trade and industry of this country inevitably. You therefore put an official in a dilemma which it is not fair to put upon him, because, whichever course he takes, he is subject to blame; and if he is successful, he does not get the reward commensurate with the risk which he takes. There is another case put forward by Lord Gainford before the Sankey Commission. The case of the Horden Collieries with 17,000 acres of coal under the sea. In 1900 a proposal was put forward to raise, I think, £250,000 of capital in order to develop this colliery. The money was not forthcoming. People did not think that the risk was worth taking. Was that a case in which the State would have considered it was worth while risking the taxpayers' money? No, they would have said, "This is a doubtful proposition," as it was; "it 1743 is not one in which to put the taxpayers' money." The directors of that concern went on with it.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
The risk was taken, and it became a tremendous success. Take another concern in which, 15 years ago, large sums of money were subscribed. Everything was considered likely to be prosperous and to do well. It was a good coalfield in a new district. Everything was ready for development and prosperity, but up to this day not one 1d. of dividend has been paid. What would have happened to an official who had advised us to take that risk? In the first case, he would not have taken the good thing; and, in the second case, when he took the bad thing and it was unsuccessful, he would have been blamed. Consequently, he would not take these risks lit all. Certain things have happened since the Sankey Commission Report which I think might have made even Mr. Justice Sankey change his mind. Coal control went on until 1921. When it ceased a loss was being made at the rate of £5,000,000 a month. The industry had to be handed back to private enterprise. When control first came in, I do not think that anybody thought that the industry would be handed back to private enterprise, but, such a mess was made of it by control and so huge was the loss, that it was handed back to the owners. A great deal of the difficulty since has been duet to the fact that the owners have been struggling to get the thing back on a proper financial basis from the conditions left by coal control. Since then we have heard a good deal about the efforts of super-officials at Slough. We have heard about Chepstow, and we remember the railway locomotives made at Woolwich.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I am afraid that I have dealt with this matter for an unconscionable time, and I apologise to the House, but it is one of infinite importance, so much so that it is impossible in the course of one speech to attempt to deal with more than one or two aspects of it. Looked at from the broad point of view of general principle—and I have tried to look at it from that point of view—we are here up against one clean-cut issue; for the first time during this Session we are absolutely up against the clean-cut issue of the principles of private enterprise versus collectivism, or socialism, or whatever you like to call it. Here there will be the opportunity for every Member of the House, when we come to the Division of 4 o'clock to-day, to give his verdict and let it be publicly known whether he is in favour of Socialism or whether he is not. I realise to the full that hon. Members opposite are inspired by high ideals. I am not one who would scoff at or scorn ideals. I appreciate their ideas, but I do say at the same time that what we claim with regard to private enterprise is that, on appeal to history, on appeal to precedent, on appeal to biology, on appeal to economic laws, private enterprise does not stand condemned, but has achieved great things for the civilisation of mankind, and will achieve more. Progress can only be maintained towards better things by encouraging that spirit of enterprise which has done so much in the past.
Sir BEDDOE REES
I beg to second the Amendment. May I first compliment the hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of this Bill? I think he made an extraordinarily able speech. It had not much to do with nationalisation, but it was a very eloquent and, I think, a very effective statement. Towards the end of his speech he referred to some persons who were going to speak against the Second Reading of this Bill, and he said that we were biased in some way or other Surely, however, members of the Miners' Federation would, on the same basis, also have no right to come here and speak for the miners. If they have that right, we claim also an equal right to speak in the same way for the owners of the coal mines, Summing up the hon. Gentleman's speech, 1745 it seemed to me that he based his claim upon the statement that private enterprise had failed to develop the coal resources of the country, that private enterprise had failed in providing methods for the proper use of the coal that was raised, and that private enterprise had not provided the proper standard of living for the men engaged in the industry. Those are the grounds that are generally used for the support of nationalisation.
I want first to deal with the point that private enterprise has not fully developed the coal resources of this country, and in doing that one must go back to see what was the state of the coal industry many years ago. I find that in 1820 the production of coal in this country was approximately 10,000,000 tons a year. Under private enterprise, by 1850, it had increased to 54,000,000 tons. By 1873 it had increased to 127,000,000 tons, and in 1913 it reached its highest point, being 237,000,000 tons. I am not going beyond 1913, because I think that, in dealing with the question of nationalisation, one's arguments must more or less be taken up to that point, as the years since are more or less abnormal. There we have an increase of 123 per cent. in the 40 years from 1873 to 1913. Surely, that is a remarkable development under this much despised system of private enterprise, and I fail to sue how under any State scheme the progress could have been any better. In 1880, in the South Wales coalfield, which is the one that I know best, there were only two pits producing 200,000 tons a year. In 1919 there were 86 pits in the same area each producing over 200,000 tons per annum, and seven of these produced over 500,000 tons a year each. Private owners, therefore, have taken advantage of new ideas and new inventions in seeking to increase and develop the industry.
Again, take the number of men employed. In 1851 there were 200,000 miners or people engaged in and around the pits. In 1873 the number was 285,000, but by 1913 the number employed was 1,118,000. There you have an increase of over 200 per cent. in the number of people employed in this industry in the 40 years from 1873 to 1913. But I think that, if one wants to understand the development of the industry, possibly the export, trade is the 'best standpoint. Prior to 1850, the whole of the coal produced was used in 1746 this country. From 1850 onwards, private enterprise had to find new markets if the coal resources of the country were to be developed to their fullest extent, and so we began exporting coal to foreign countries. In 1850 we only exported 3,000,000 tons. In 1873 the quantity exported had gone up to 16,000,000 tons, in 1913, which here again was the peak year, we exported 98,000,000 tons. That, I think, shows how private enterprise has developed the coal trade, not only in this country, but also as far as our export trade is concerned. All these figures justify me in saying that the advance in mining, from the crude and primitive methods of 100 years ago to the latest equipped and highly-organised collieries has certainly been enormous.
It would be of great interest if hon. Gentlemen who speak from the Labour Benches would tell us how it is possible to develop the trade or increase our export trade by the revolution which is proposed in this Bill. We claim, on behalf of the colliery owners of the country, that they have done everything possible to improve the conditions and to develop the coal resources of the country. We are not without some experience in dealing with this matter, and I always think that an ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory, from whatever bench it may come. Surely, hon. Gentlemen forget that we had nationalisation in fact from 1915 to 1921. [Interruption.] I say that to all intents and purposes we had nationalisation in actual being. In 1915 the output, of coal in the United Kingdom was 253,000,000 tons. That was at the beginning of national control in the coal industry. Anybody who had anything to do with the management of collieries from 1915 to 1921 would say quite frankly that it was nationalisation. They were taken almost completely out of the hands of the coalowners. In 1920 the output had fallen to 229,000,000 tons, whereas the number of men employed in the industry had increased from 950,000 in 1915 to 1,250,000 in 1921. So that under State control, which is nationalisation under another name, you have a reduction in output of 24,000,000 tons and an increase of 300,000 in the number of people employed. In 1915, the output per man per year, which is probably a better standard, was 258 tons. In 1920 the output per year fell to 183 tons. Therefore, 1747 fore, the result of control was to reduce production and increase cost. In my judgment, the one certain result of a scheme of nationalisation would be to increase the cost to the consumer. That is surely proved in the figures I have given. If the miner is to get more wages—and nobody would be more pleased than I if that were possible—the extra cost must be added to the cost of coal. If the steel worker is to get more wages, the increase must go on the cost of steel. There is only one source from which it can come.
Sir B. REES
I am discussing the industry apart altogether from profit. If you are going to improve conditions in the way suggested if you are going to have shorter hours, and these vast increases in wages, you must increase the cost of coal. What effect is that going to have upon our export trade? It will be readily agreed by all the economists on the Labour bencbes that we pay for our imports by our exports. Is it suggested that any system of Government control, whether nationalisation or not, can set up a system to sell coal to the foreigner which will be bettor than the existing one? I assure you every coalowner gets from the foreigner the last penny he can, before he sells. I have seen the foreigner refuse to give us an order in this country, because we would not reduce the price by 3d. a ton, and the order has gone to America or elsewhere. Is it conceivable that some persons seated in a London office, with no direct interest in the matter at all, are going to deal with this highly complicated system of exchange better than the experienced managers who are at present in charge of the industry? That has not been argued, and it has not been suggested.
If you are going to pay higher wages and to have better conditions, it can only be done by adding to the price of coal. You will add to the price of coal, and you will kill your export trade. We send our ships out full of coal. They go very largely from South Wales ports to the Argentine and to the Colonies: they take coal out and they bring grain back. Therefore the freight on the ships is one half what it would be if we had to send them out light, and bring bank grain to this 1748 country. By that very process of interfering with your export trade, you are going to increase the cost of food, you are going to increase the cost of raw materials, even if you find some other method of paying for them than by exporting the coal as we do now. These are some of the practical difficulties of nationalisation. If it were possible, and if it were proved, that any scheme of State ownership would produce the paradise for the miner which has been suggested, I would not oppose it. I am opposing the Second Reading of the Bill because I believe it would make the lot of the miner infinitely worse that it is at present, apart from the position of the owners. Supposing however you can eliminate the capitalist, and the wage-earner is to have higher wages and shorter hours, I would like very much to be told how it is going to be done. If you nationalise the industry, you merely change one set of capitalists for another. You make the State the capitalist instead of the private owner. But the interest must be paid on the Government Stock that you issue, and, therefore, you are merely going to pay in interest what you now pay in dividend. You are going to pay on Government Stork a sum which I suggest will be larger than you now pay to the shareholders in all these colliery companies.
Sir B. REES
I object to it because of the risk. The coal owner is quite willing to carry this risk. I am not discussing the details of the Bill, because I do not think the Government themselves propose going any further with it as it stands. I should be very much surprised if they were to go any further with it. What we are discussing. I understand, to-day, is the principle of nationalisation, and whether you give 12s. a ton or 10s. a ton is a detail for the Committee. But if you work it out, I think you will find it will cost this country approximately £180,000,000, as far as I can follow the figures contained in the Bill. You will pay, I suppose, about 5 per cent. interest on that. If you add the necessary sum for depreciation, you will find that you will be paying more in interest on Government stock than the coal owners are now taking in profit In that case, 1749 how will the miner benefit? How will the State benefit? You do not go in for revolution unless somebody is going to derive benefit from it. You do not scrap a system, which has developed the industry to a very fine point, without being certain that what you are going to put in its place will be better. I want the miners, therefore, to realise that unless they are prepared to work longer hours—which I do not ask them to do—unless they are prepared to have worse conditions, and to produce more coal during the hours they are working, I fail to see where any money is to come from to give them higher wages than they are now getting, unless it is by adding to the cost of coal. What are the other workers of the country going to say about it? If it increases the price of coal by 5s. a ton—and that will only give the miners an extra 10d. a day—what are the steel workers going to say about it? It means that you are going to add to the cost of steel £1 a ton. because it takes four tons of coal to produce a ton of steel If you increase, steel by £1 a ton, you are going to throw large numbers of men cut of a job in the shipbuilding industry and every industry that uses steel. So you could go on with the vicious system to the last point. Increase the price of coal, and you increase the price of every other commodity, including food. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I want to suggest that these interruptions greatly lengthen the speeches, and spoil the debate.
Sir B. REES
I am trying to show that the miner cannot have any improved conditions, he cannot have any increased wages, unless you add to the price of coal. If you add to the price of coal you strike a blow at every other industry, you ruin your export trade, and increase the cost of living. Let us see if he will be better in any other way. There is a rather interesting extract in one of the Fabian tracts. It says:If any man wants freedom to work or not to work just as lie likes, he had better emigrate to Robinson Crusoe's island or else become a millionaire. To suppose that the industrial affairs of a complicated industrial State can be run without strict subordination and discipline, without obedience to orders, and without definite allowance for maintenance is to dream not of Socialism but of Anarchism.That is written by the President of the Board of Trade. The hon. Member may 1750 like it. The workers may like it. To me it sounds like industrial slavery. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Duncan Graham), if I may read a quotation—[An HON. MHOTEK: "He is not, here!"] I am sure, he will not mind. Speaking at a meeting of the Scottish Miners' Federation, he said:If the mines become the property of the nation, the miners would have need to be more determined than ever in their policy and more vigorous in the trade union organisation, because instead of fighting local employers they would be fighting the Government.I think I am entitled to ask in all seriousness who is going to benefit by this revolution in our industrial system. It is a totally different matter to formulate a scheme of nationalisation and to translate it into the actualities of any particular industry. As far as I can see, you have started with the very worst industry for nationalisation. One can understand nationalisation for an industry which has not to compete with foreign countries. I agree with the Mover of the Bill. He said quite rightly that coal was the very basis of our industrial life. It is more highly technical, it is more highly organised than any other industry in the country, and to interfere with its delicate working would be to ruin it. Mr. Gladstone, at the close of his long and unexampled life, who certainly took a sympathetic interest, laid down what I think is a very sound principle. He said the business of the last half century has been in the main a process of setting free the individual man that he may work out his own vocation without hindrance. If instead of this the Government is to work out his vocation for him, Air. Gladstone said, he was not sanguine as to the result. I think it is a presumption in favour of any settled scheme of industry against any revolutionary suggestions that if the industry has succeeded and grown and flourished under it, we should think twice before we interfered with it. This Bill strikes at the very root of the freedom and the liberty we enjoy to-day. It is contrary to the spirit of the nation, it is against the best interests of the miner. Even a coal owner can sometimes think of the men who are working for him. I oppose the Second Reading on the broad ground of its being against not only the best interests of the industry itself, but against the best interests of the nation as a whole.
§ The SECRETARY for MINES (Mr. Shinwell)
It may serve the convenience of the House if at this stage I offer a few observations as to the views of the Government on this matter. This is a private Member's Bill, for the introduction of which the Government, in the nature of things, cannot accept responsibility. Nevertheless, while recognising that no mandate has been secured from the electors to pursue a policy of nationalisation, we whole-heartedly accept the vital principle embodied in the Measure. In our judgment there is no solution of the problems confronting the mining industry, whether as regards production, distribution or utilisation of the commodity, other than is to be found in national ownership. There have been some interesting speeches delivered in the course of the Debate. If I have any criticism to make it is that the speeches against the Bill have been slightly tinged with partisanship—not that I make any serious complaint of that. That is to be expected under the circumstances. I approach the subject of this Bill without regard, at all events primarily, to the needs either of the mine owners or of the miners. It is for this House to decide, not the question of what is best for the miner or the mine owner, but what is best for the community. As I understand it, this is not a Bill primarily designed to protect the mining community. It is a Measure which seeks to secure for the nation whatever advantages may be derived from co-ordinating the activities associated with the production, distribution and utilisation of coal.
I confess to some amazement at the speech delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr S. Roberts). I cannot compliment him on the presentation of his case again nationalisation, but he did convey a point of some interest, namely, that the sole motive and purpose of the Sankey Commission was to allay public fear, if possible, to allay revolution. That is a most interesting revelation. May I venture to inquire whether, in the event of the Sankey Commission having reported against nationalisation, the hon. Member for Hereford would have maintained that position? The significance of his observation lies in its relationship to the attitude of my hon. Friends below the Gangway. The right 1752 hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), whose sympathy with the miners is well known, addressed him-self to this subject in the Debate in this House in February, 1919, on the Coal Industry Commission Bill, the purpose of which was to establish the Sankey Commission. As showing the right hon. Gentleman's attitude on this question I will make a quotation from his speech, which is well worth quoting in full. He said:If the miners—and I feel certain they will—act in a spirit of toleration towards other industries which Lire vitally affected, of consideration for the special difficulties of this country, with its gigantic burden—a country for which hundreds of thousands of their men fought so valiantly and so well—they will find as the result of this Inquiry, in my judgment, they will get a Miners' Charter which will be the beginning of greater and better things for them, and if they do so, and throw themselves into this Inquiry and present their case—in some respects, as I know, irresistible, in others requiring undoubtedly some greater proof than I have seen up to the present, but I am not prejudiced—they will achieve great things for their industry and for the men whom they so ably lead, and will have the satisfaction, when they have got these things, of knowing that they have obtained them without inflicting any hurt upon hundreds of thousands of other men and women engaged in honest toil like themselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th February, 1919; col. 1451, Vol. 112.]Very wise, very eloquent, and very desirable observations to make! May I ask whether, when the right hon. Gentleman made this eloquent speech, he had in view a proposal designed, as we have been told from the opposite benches, to prevent the possibility of revolution. I would rather assume that the right hon. Gentleman was prompted by his usual sincerity and earnestness. That speech was made in this House prior to the establishment of the Sankey Commission. Let us see what the right hon. Gentleman said some time later, when the recommendations of the Sankey Commission, so eloquently made known this morning by the Mover of the Second Reading of this Bill, were ignored by the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was the head. When this House was considering the Measure, which, at least, had this effect, that I occupy my present position, namely, the proposal to establish a Mines Department, the right hon. Gentleman then said—I want to make it clear that 1753 he was speaking on the subject of nationalisation:We are not merely proposing to my hon. Friend"—He meant Mr. Brace—and his associates a negative to nationalisation; we are proposing to him a constructive scheme for improved conditions in the mining industry. I agree that you could not go to the miners and the workers of the country with a blank negative. The conditions require improvement; they need improvement, they demand improvement, and I think it is right that we should acknowledge that. We propose to do it, and we propose by the means which I have indicated to take those steps."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th February, 1920; col. 133, Vol. 125.]What were those steps? To establish a Mines Department, to establish a miners' welfare scheme, and one or two minor matters which, having regard to the immensity of this problem, have little or no effect on the industry, or on the workers in the industry. The men engaged in the industry were asked to pledge themselves to the results of the Sankey Inquiry. They did so. The right hon. Gentleman promised many things in consequence. His promises have never been redeemed. Subsequently, the Coalition Government introduced a Measure which is regarded as an alternative to nationalisation—not a blank negative, as the right hon. Gentleman said, but a solid, substantial alternative to the proposals made from these benches in this day's Debate.
There is one further observation I wish to make in connection with the proposals adumbrated by the right hon. Gentleman and his associates, and that is with regard to the proposition to nationalise mining royalties. I observed this morning that when reference to the nationalisation of mining royalties was made, hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway vigorously nodded their heads in approval. [HON. MEMRKRS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to have that assurance. If I required any further assurance, I have it in a pamphlet issued by, I think, the Liberal Publication Department, or by the "Daily News," which is not very far removed from the Liberal Publication Department and the Liberal party. I find that one of their principal proposals is said to be the State acquisition of mining royalties. I did not hear in the speech of the hon. Member for 1754 Hereford any reference to the nationalisation of mining royalties, though he must have known, with his accurate knowledge of the Sankey Commission Report, that even his colliery-owning friends were prepared to throw the royalty owners to the wolves. But a right hon. Gentleman opposite who, I may say with great respect, is much more prominent than the hon. Member, and is one who is regarded as the possible leader on the Opposition Benches, the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home), speaking in 1920 in this House on the Ministry of Mines Bill, said:They mean"—that was to say the Coalition, the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway and the others—to carry out their pledge to nationalise the minerals of the country, and the only reason why provisions to that effect do not appear in this Bill is that, as I have explained to the House, the legislation which we now require is a matter of urgency, and must be got before the 31st of August. If this Bill wore complicated with provisions as to the nationalisation of minerals, and all the intricate matters which follow upon that, it would be impossible, in our view, to get the Bill through in time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1920; col. 480, Vol. 131.]Therefore the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, the representatives of the colliery owners on the Sankey Commission and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead agree as to the propriety, the advisability and the practicability of the nationalisation of royalties.
§ Captain Viscount EDNAM
There is a great deal of difference between compensation at a fair valuation and pure confiscation.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I suggest to the Noble Lord that we are considering not the financial details of the matter but the vital principle.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I take it that the Noble Lord and his friends are agreed that, subject to compensation being paid, national ownership of mineral royalties is very desirable? [HON. MEWRERS: "No!"]
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Such differences as exist on the opposite benches are being revealed. The principle of nationalisation of mineral royalties is, at all events, accepted by many hon. Gentleman in this House. In other words, minerals, whether they are one inch down or four miles down, as far down as you get and as far upwards as you can get, should be nationally owned Some hon. Member below the Gangway go so far as to say that the surface should be nationally owned. I leave that aside for the moment. There are hon. Gentlemen on both sides of this House who are agreed that distribution should be in the hands of local authorities. That was one of the recommendations of the Sankey Commission. The colliery owners accepted that point of view. So we find that hon. Members, and the coal owners themselves, accept the principle that minerals should be nationally owned, that the distribution of the coal should in a sense be a form of national ownership. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Public ownership. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Municipal ownership. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I observe that the negative is gradually diminishing. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] For my purpose I can leave the question of distribution, and I shall confine myself to the principle of royalties.
Are we to understand that we are to stop short at the machinery for conveying minerals from beneath the ground to the surface? That is the precise point of difference between hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Benches and hon. Gentlemen behind me. Is there any fundamental difference between the two principles? If it is equitable, wise and judicious in the interests of the nation, to own the minerals why is it not equally wise and equitable to own the machinery without which the minerals beneath the ground cannot be brought to the surface? I am not at all surprised that those Noble Members who are more intimately acquainted with those who derive the greater part of their income from mining royalties ridicule any such proposals, but ridicule will not help them. They must face the facts. The principle cannot be ignored. Sooner or later it will be accepted by the nation as a whole. There is a fundamental difference between hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway and those on these benches. As has been stated very well by the right hon. Member for 1756 Carnarvon Boroughs in a speech the other day:The Tories would use the weapon of Protection to enrich some interests at the expense of others. The Socialists would use the weapon of nationalisation for the same purpose, but with a different redistribution.The right hon. Gentleman said:They are both wrong in their diagnosis. It is not a better distribution of wealth that is required.Then we are to understand, as the hon. Member for South Bristol (Sir B. Bees) has said, that what is required is intensified production, and it matters not into whose pockets the profits go. I do not wish to misjudge hon. Gentlemen; I listened very carefully to the speech delivered by the hon. Member for South Bristol when he elaborated a historical review of the coal industry. He was careful to point out that there had been greater production year by year up to 1913. He argued that that was a proof in itself of the capacity and the wisdom of private enterprise. Are we to understand from that, that what is wanted by hon. Gentlemen who are opposed to nationalisation is increased production? You may go on increasing production in gold or in any other commodity, but unless and until there is a more equitable distribution of the product and the value derived from the product, intensified production will be of no value whatever. Let hon. Gentlemen who oppose this Motion table their proposals for a more equitable distribution. Their policy is a peculiarly negative one, as, indeed, is the policy of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. A number of arguments have been produced this morning against this Bill, and I confess to some difficulty in selecting for discussion those which, in my judgment, offer some enlightenment on this subject. The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. S. Roberts) began his speech with the observation that if it could be proved that the industry could be managed by the Stale he would wholeheartedly agree.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
If it can be proved that, in the interests of the consumer and the taxpayer and the others associated with the industry, the industry can 1757 be more efficienly and wisely managed, the hon. Member would accept it wholeheartedly. What is the nature of proof that the hon. Member demands? You set up a Commission; you make exhaustive inquiries; you get your conclusion.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I suggest that he was the only man who did not go into the Commission with pre-conceived ideas.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
That is quite sufficient for my purpose. If Mr. Justice Sankey entered the Commission without pre-conceived notions, his observations are worth listening to. I submit, therefore, that when a Commission of this sort is established, and, having conducted its deliberation, it issues judgment, that in itself is sufficient proof that we are not entitled to ask fir more. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that in order to reach a conclusion on this matter we should set up a Commission of coalowners?
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I suggest that you should to-day bring evidence that is more substantial than any we have heard.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The hon. Member will have his evidence before I sit down; I shall not delay it any longer than I can help. It is very wise to expose the deficiencies of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who pledge themselves to rehabilitate the mining industry. We have been told that private enterprise has a wonderful record. In what respect? An hon. Member told us, "We have increased output." Is that the wonderful record? Has it been accompanied by nothing else? Has it not been accompanied by interminable disputes? Has it nor been accompanied by the loss of millions of tons of coal in barriers, a subject which has received the earnest consideration, not of politicians, but of eminent mining engineers and scientists? Has it not been accompanied by the flooding of areas as a result of which an abundance of coal has been lost to the nation for all time? Has it not been accompanied by innumerable accidents, many of which might have been avoided? Has it not been accompanied by a notoriously low wage for many years? We have heard something about wages 1758 this morning. What was the actual position over this long period of time? In the years from 1909 to 1912 the wage in the industry was an average of 5s. 10d. per shift. Some received as little as 4s., some less, and some pieceworkers more, but the average wage was 5s. 10d. Yet we are told of the glories of this wonderful industry, its accomplishments, its records, but not a single word about the miserable wages and the appalling conditions suffered by the men in the industry—men without whom the industry could not continue for a single day. Then we are told, as an argument against nationalisation, that pooling is a bad system. My hon. Friends below the Gangway are agreed that some process of unification is desirable. No doubt they will table their proposals in due, course, and no doubt the owners will reject them.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
We have been told by the coalowners that they would much prefer nationalisation, with fair compensation, to any such process of unification as might emerge from the ingenious brains of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. May I direct attention to what has occurred in the Scottish shale and oil industry? That industry is only coming into its own to-day because of the phenomenal demand for oil products, but it, is an industry which could not have continued, which could not have main tained its position, which would have gone down had it not been for the system of pooling enabling the stronger mine to protect the weaker mine and the more efficient oil works to protect the less efficient oil works and for the oil works to protect the shale mines—a system of co-ordination, a system of collectivist capitalism or capitalist collectivism. Without it, the Scottish shale oil industry would never have emerged as it has from the depression of the last 10 or 15 years. Moreover has the hon. Gentleman not heard of the amalgamations which have taken place in the coal industry?
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I cannot accommodate, myself to the hon. Gentleman's style of oratory; I must do what I can with my 1759 own very modest accomplishments. The hon. Gentleman has ventured to put his case to this House and to address questions to hon. Members on this side. We have been asked to prove that nationalisation would mean more efficiency and better management in the industry. I am submitting that we have, in the first instance, the example of an industry where as a result of pooling the industry has managed to survive. I am further pointing out to the hon. Gentleman that pooling arrangements do exist in certain areas and between certain pits, that amalgamation has been effected, and, wherever effected, it has resulted in economies and increased production. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is the analogy?"] If hon. Members restrain themselves for a moment I will produce the analogy. Wherever amalgamation has taken place, beneficial results have accrued. I submit, therefore, that as regards production, as regards efficiency, and, moreover, as regards the selling of coal in the internal and foreign markets, the existence of a single unit is more efficacious than the existence of 1,500 or more units. The hon. Gentleman will surely not seek to refute my view that co-ordinated effort in the mining industry would be beneficial.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
As far as I can understand, the only remaining argument which is worthy of consideration is that of experience of nationalisation. We have been told that our experience of State control during the War makes it impossible that we should accept nationalisation at any future stage. May I ask hon. Members opposite to try to understand this subject of nationalisation? Do they seriously believe that the proposals embodied in this Bill, which presumably they have read, provide for the existence of a great State Department running the industry? There is no such proposal. Our nationalisation proposals involve the establishment of a body scientific, technical, able, efficient, a body not of amateurs, not of those who have never been associated with the industry, but of those people who, because of their knowledge of the industry, are capable of administering it. There is no suggestion of bureaucracy in these pro- 1760 posals. There is a world of difference between the grotesque and fantastic conception of nationalisation which emerges from the benches below the Gangway and from those on the other side and the proposals which emanate from this quarter of the House. One has no possible relationship with the other. Reference has been made to experience of State shipping enterprises. I had expected more knowledge on the part of hon. Members opposite than has been conveyed in their observations. We all know that the experience of America was not only abnormal—
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I entirely agree, it was disastrous, but does the hon. Gentleman suggest that there was really nationalisation of shipping in America? Does he not know of what occurred in the early days of the War there in connection with shipping—that large numbers of wooden vessels were built for which they had no use whatever? These vessels were built in the days of panic and very largely because of a request which came from this side of the Atlantic. They were of no value then and are of no value now. If the hon. Gentleman desires to have proved to him and to have demonstrated to him some of the advantages of national control, if not of nationalisation, in relation to shipping, let me remind him that if we had not set up the Ministry of Shipping during the War—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs knows something about this—if we had not controlled, in some measure, the shipowners of this country, we would have suffered much more than we did actually suffer in connection with the shipping industry and the ramifications associated with shipping in this country during the War. But such experiences as there have been of State control during the War and after the War have no relationship whatever to this subject of nationalisation as we understand it.
We have been asked to prove that benefits would accrue to this industry. As regards wages I cannot of course speak for the miners in this House. For the moment I am not concerned as to whether the miners of this country derive higher wages under nationalisation or not, but I do expect that they will obtain from the industry, when nationalised, all 1761 the wages the industry can give. They are not satisfied at the moment that they are obtaining all the wages which the industry can give. There is a difference of opinion which does not appear to be capable of settlement, but at all events under nationalisation there is some possibility of a settlement of the wages issue. If you prove to the miner that he is getting all he possibly can out of the industry, I think it will satisfy him and that his desire to serve will prove equal to the occasion. On the question of distribution, I have had some experience recently. Thousands of complaints have been hurled at the Mines Department and have been received by hon. Members of this House in relation to the high cost of domestic coal. I have not completed my investigations, but I dare say that one of the reasons why coal is dear in London and the provinces, is that the establishment charges which arise from so much competition are too heavy a burden to be borne by the trade. So prices rose. Hon. Members must know, as I do, that there are streets in the suburbs where there are as many as half a dozen coal dealers, all with their own establishments, their own staffs, their own books, and all the paraphernalia associated with the business. Competition of that kind is bound to result in high prices. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO!"] I thought hon. Members would all agree that the prices of domestic coal were much too high.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I am not suggesting that competition pulls down prices. What I said was that the absence of competition, the establishment of a single unit instead of hundreds, would enormously bring down prices. So much for the domestic side. What about foreign trade in coal? What is the existing practice? Your foreign trade coal factor arranges a contract for a foreign railway company for the supply of a large quantity of coal, which he, in turn, purchases from a colliery company, and arrangements are made for the conveyance of the coal from the collieries to the seaboard, and then to the other side, wherever that is. Are we to understand that our foreign trade in coal could not be carried on just as efficiently in the absence of these coal factors, and are we to understand, further, that there are no coal factors in this country who 1762 would willingly give their services to the State for a consideration? Surely they are not immune from the desire to render whatever service they can to the State. I venture to say that under nationalisation the State would be able to obtain the requisite capacity from its citizens in respect to this industry to enable it to carry on this trade in a much better fashion than that in which it has been carried on in the past.
I want those who oppose this Measure to consider what are regarded as the three main principles underlying this proposal. The first is that an industry vital to our national life, which forms the basis of our export trade, and without which our international trade would in all probability vanish, should not remain in the possession of private hands. I ask subsequent speakers who oppose this Measure to deal with that principle, and I ask them, moreover, to consider this, further, that the fullest use of our national resources is essential and, as regards the mining industry, cannot be secured without such co-ordination of ability and energy as the whole community, operating in a collective capacity, can provide. Lastly, the workers' maximum efficiency cannot be expressed without the incentive which is based on true partnership in industry. In connection with the last-named, I would remind the House of what the right hon. Member for Hillhead said in this connection. Speaking on the Ministry of Mines Bill in 1920, he said:For my part, I am perfectly certain that the only advance that can be achieved in the industrial life of this country must be along the lines of improving the status of the worker, of giving him added knowledge, because ignorance always breeds suspicion, and of increasing the responsibility under which he carries on his lobour."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1920; col. 482–3, Vol. 131.]These are very wise words. Do they imply that the joiner is to be admitted into a partnership which supplies him with information about wages, about cost of production, about the management of the pit—that, and that alone—or is he to be admitted into a true and lasting partnership, which will enable him to express whatever knowledge he has at his disposal as regards the management and administration of the industry? I invite hon. Members to deal with that question. I submit to this House that on the ground 1763 of national need, in the interests of those engaged in the industry, with a view to the more intensified exploitation of our coal resources, this House should regard this Measure, not in any spirit of partizanship, not from the standpoint of what is best for the mine owners or those associated with the mining industry, but from the standpoint of what, in the end, will redound to the advantage of the whole community. Because of the cardinal principles that I have submitted, I commend this Bill to the House, and I ask the House to make its choice, either to accept this Measure or to suffer the distractions in the coal industry to continue, to permit the consumers to suffer, and to imperil the national resources. Hon. Members who, in the past, have declared their sympathy with the miners of this country, who have declared it to be their desire to benefit the miners, to grant them higher wages and better conditions of work and of life, must now deliver the goods, and they will not be content with a mere blank negative, in the words of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs Proposals which will be acceptable to the industry, proposals which can be made operative, proposals which will provide the miners with a proper status in the industry, these, and no others, can be accepted by the hon. Members behind me if the industry is to be regarded as worth continuing, as far as their particular interests are concerned.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Mines, who has just sat down, has given us quotations from the literature issued by the "Daily News," and copious quotations from speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne); he has done me the honour of referring, at very considerable length, to my views, but the one thing he did not seem to have any time for was the Bill before the House. I would not have known, until he came to the last sentence, whether he was going to vote for it, whether he approved of it. He commended it, in his peroration, to the acceptance of the House of Commons, but the Bill itself he never examined, he never explained, and he never stated what his views were with regard to any of its principles or its out- 1764 lines. I am very glad that we know by that concluding sentence what the attitude of the Government is.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I am sorry to interrupt, but the right hon. Gentleman was not present when I commenced my speech.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I missed about four or five sentences. A note was given to me of what was said, and all I understood from that was that the hon. Gentleman accepted the principle of the Bill, but there was no dealing with the Measure and with what it means. It is a Measure which affects one of the most vital industries in the Kingdom, a basic industry, and, therefore, we are entitled to have from the Minister of Mines an explanation of the proposals, and the opinion of the Government, not merely with regard to the principle, but with regard to the proposals themselves. With the indulgence of the House, I propose to deal with the Bill. The hon. Gentleman has invited consideration of alternatives. I shall say a word with regard to that matter later, but, first of all, this is a proposal to give a Second Reading to a specific Measure. Now what is the Measure? It has been commended to this House in two speeches which, if I may respectfully say so, were able, very clear, and very effective in their presentation of the miners' case, and they contained a very candid explanation of the conditions. Two or three of them, were naturally glossed over, but that shows the skill of the hon. Gentlemen as advocates. But, in the main, they were a very fair presentation of the proposals.
The proposals are very important to the House, not merely for themselves, but because they are the first concrete example of the new Socialism which is to be put into operation as soon as hon. Gentlemen have a majority. I want to state it quite fairly. Up to the present we have had general phrases. Now we have had them worked out. May I point out another fact? This Bill, which is a very able Bill, and uncommonly well drafted—I have paid a good deal of attention to it—was drafted by one of the ablest Members of the Government, the Solicitor General. So that there is more significance attaching, not to the principle, but to the actual working out of the principle than if it were purely a private Bill tabled by an ordinary Member. We, therefore, know 1765 how these principles are to be worked out. The first thing of which the House has got to rid its mind is that this has nothing whatever to do with the Sankey Report. [HON. MEMBEES: "Oh!"] I am not going to make a statement of that kind without giving my reasons. The Sankey Report was a scheme of nationalisation. This is not. The Sankey Report was purchase by the State, control by the State, and the principles of valuation were a fair valuation, which is very vital. The hon. Gentleman who sat down, when there was an interruption from the benches opposite said, "Ah, that is purely a financial detail." It is absolutely vital. It is not a detail; it is a question of principle In the Sankey Report there was a fair valuation. What is much more important is the difference in administration. I say at once, I am not going to pretend I was in favour of the Sankey Report. I was not. I said so at the time, and I say so now.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am here representing a British constituency, and I claim the right to speak on its behalf.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is not a point of Order. Hon. Members must listen. They cannot expect the House to decide on a question which they bring before it unless they are prepared to listen to criticism.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
To say that I, or any Minister of the Crown, gave a pledge beforehand that any recommendation made by a Royal Commission would be accepted, without any examination and without any reserve, is to say something which is not correct. I now come to the examination of the differences between the Sankey recommendations and the recommendations of this Bill. They are vital. Under the Sankey recommendations, the National Council was 1766 purely an Advisory Committee. What is proposed by this Bill? There is a council of 20, 10 to be appointed by the Miners' Federation, 10 by the Government, and a president appointed by the Government. The Miners' Federation, I think, represent 800,000 members out of a total of 1,200,000, who are employed in every capacity in coal production. How are the other 400,000 to be represented? [An HON. MEMBER: "There are not 400,000."] Well, 200,000 or 300,000. I will take any figure which is given by my hon. Friend. Are these not to be represented at all? Are they to be compelled to join the Miners' Federation? If not, they must be represented. [An HON. MEMBER: "Government nominees."] That is the answer I expected. The Government, therefore, would nominate representatives of the other 300,000 or 400,000 out of their 10 members. What does that mean? The council would be dominated by the men who are engaged in coal production. That is the point I want to make. Let us see what the powers are. They are to fix wages. They are to fix the price of coal. They are to determine upon coal distribution and coal exports. They are to have control over the railways to the extent of distributing coal throughout the country. They are to have certain control over municipalities. That is a body representing, not the State—which is the purchaser—not the consumer, but representing by a majority merely those who are engaged in the industry. They have the whole control, the fixation of prices, the fixing of their own wages in an industry which is the basic industry for the whole of this country—that is not the Sankey Report!
May I just point out—because I am on the Bill—these men are to be nominated for five years by the Miners' Federation, and the Government of the day. They have to fix wages; the community are bound to accept the amount, and they have no means of complaining of the wages. Are the miners bound to accept the wages fixed by this body? On the contrary, there is a provision here that the miner shall have the usual rights of striking. Not only that, but that the officials of the council may take part in the strike. That is in the Bill: they shall have full rights to take part in a strike against the decision of the council of 1767 which they are members. That is the new Socialism! In order to make it clear that the 10 men nominated by the Miners' Federation or by the Government of the day shall not be altogether independent, there is power for the Miners' Federation to remove any one of them at any moment. In the words of the Bill—and they are very significant words—and I think it is worth the while of the House of Commons to realise what the new principles are—Clause?, the very first Clause, the basic Clause, says:The members of the Mining Council, other than the president, shall be appointed for five years, … provided that His Majesty's Government or the association known as the Miners' Federation of Great Britain respectively shall have power to remove any person appointed by them …The Clause goes on to say:On a casual vacancy … His Majesty's Government or the Miners' Federation, as the case may be, shall appoint some other person ….That is the proposal, with full powers of purchase, of taking the coal, the by-products, control over fuel, control over marketing, control over wages, control over prices—all these—control over railways and certain control over municipalities—that is the way the Council is to be appointed. But there is another very significant Clause. All this is to be done, but suppose there is a loss on the working, how does that come in? That is provided for. This is a very well-drafted Bill. As I say, nothing has been forgotten. The gentleman who prepared this knew very well what was coming. He is a very able man. He would not look out for profits, but he has thought it very desirable to deal with losses. It is very significant there are two Clauses—let us be quite fair—one dealing with the profits and one with losses, but this very able draftsman put the losses first! How are the losses to be provided for? Not by any reduction in wages, but out of moneys provided by Parliament. That is the scheme. This is a scheme by which the whole of the industry is to be run in the name of nationalisation by those who are engaged in it. If there are profits they go back into the industry. There is a provision that they shall not go into trade. If there is a loss—fixing their own wages, their own prices, their own hours of labour, their own conditions—the losses are to be paid by moneys pro- 1768 vided by Parliament. This is only a blank cheque to be paid by the taxpayer. I saw a statement the other day, in a document which was put into my hands published by the "Daily Herald" and circulated by the Labour Party. It was entitled "The Mines of the Nation." Here we have in this Bill a great trust. This is not nationalisation. It is a gigantic trust by which you can consolidate the whole mines of the Kingdom in the hands of one interest with complete control of wages, prices, distribution, including exports. I was therefore, interested to read this exposition of it. "The Mines for the Nation," reprinted by the "Daily Herald." [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it!"] I am going to. It is really worth reading, and I hope it will be circulated. I am glad to see, too, that there is an article by the President of the Board of Trade. It is called "The Black Tiger." What is a black tiger?A black tiger is, I believe, yet unknown to naturalists, just as a black swan was unknown 150 years ago. But some people now want to introduce such an animal into this country. By a black tiger I mean …What is it?By a black tiger I mean in this connection a capitalist coal trust monopolising the production and sale of coal either throughout the whole of Great Britain or in particular districts.Here it is in the Bill—except that it is a red tiger!
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The writer goes on to point out the dangers. He says:They could eliminate the present rivalry in export sales and so get more out of the foreigner,"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"]and they could also put up the price to the home consumer.The home consumer only coming second.
He says that even 1s. per ton rise would mean £10,000,000, and how easy it would be to put the price up by 1s. Why is it that the right hon. Gentleman is not here to protect us against this fierce animal? Has he been swallowed by the Board of Trade? I was very anxious to hear the opinion of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, because I would like to know his views upon this subject. I know he holds some strong opinions upon it. After all, if it is to be applied all round, what does it mean?
1769 If it is good enough for the mines, why is it not good enough for the Post Office? That means that the Post Office will be run, not as at present by a State Official, but by a Committee,10 of whom would be chosen by the Postmen's Union and two or three more by other officials. They would fix the price of stamps, they would fix the charges for telegrams, telephones and their own wages, and there would be a clause to say that the loss is to be paid by moneys provided by Parliament. The Secretary for Mines complained the other day that he was not allowed to carry out the great idea he had about nationalisation, and what he called "the old orange box formula." I am afraid that by this time the oranges have got rather dry. But what is that proposal? It is the nationalisation of the means of production and distribution, and the hon. Member said:Would to Heaven that he could carry it.He is going to get his majority, because he said so, and I am much obliged to hon. Members for informing us what is in store for us when they do come into power. It is to be a proposal for a gigantic trust for the purpose of working what is, after all, a national asset, in the interests of one section of the community and not the whole. That is the Bill, and I defy any hon. Gentleman who speaks after me to point out any particulars in which I have given an inaccurate description of that Bill.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. Member says it is grotesque. Will he get up and point out one particular in which it is grotesque?
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Unfortunately, I shall not have the opportunity of following the right hon. Gentleman. I say it is grotesque, because the right hon. Gentleman does not attack the principle of the Bill. Since the right hon. Gentleman has attacked nationalisation, perhaps he will express his view as to the desirability of finding some alternative.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think the House will realise my wisdom in giving way. I challenged the hon. Gentleman to point to any particular in which my account of the provisions of this Bill were grotesque or inaccurate, and as usual he 1770 just goes absolutely outside that point, and talks about something else. I ask any hon. Member who follows me to point out any particular in which my description of this Bill is in the slightest degree inaccurate. This is the first concrete example of the new Socialism which is awaiting us. It has been pointed out, and perfectly fairly that I was responsible for an inquiry and for making certain proposals. It is easy in regard to any proposals brought before the House of Commons to point out their defects, and hon. Members are perfectly entitled to say to me, "What do you say on this point? Do you say the mining conditions are satisfactory?" I say that they are most unsatisfactory. The conditions under which the industry is carried on are unsatisfactory. I accepted that position in 1919, and I put forward concrete proposals. What are the conditions which are unsatisfactory? First of all, undoubtedly the fact that you have a variety of interests in the minerals in the surface, in the way-leaves, and in the water-leaves, which increase the burdens and the difficulties and make work ineffective and force you to put shafts at the wrong point.
Often you have to work three shifts where one would do. Sometimes you have to neglect the top seam and work the next seam or the other way about, and this is thoroughly wasteful. My second point is that at present you have an infinite variety of small pits which barely pay, but which worked in connection with a bigger enterprise would make a success. Unfortunately this would determine the wages paid which would be based upon whether they were profitable and remunerative pits; but this arrangement would prevent a certain number of pits in certain districts going out of working altogether.
I am summarising for the moment my points. There is no doubt, if you could concentrate upon the seams that are remunerative, if you could concentrate your labour and capital, and what is very important the production of power—many of these pits are too small to produce and generate the necessary power in order to work their own concerns—if you could do that, you save waste and it would pay better, and it would certainly put up the wages. The next point is 1771 that the mining industry and even the miners have not the voice in the direction and control of the industry that they ought to have. I have accepted one striking dictum by my hon. Friend. It is perfectly true that colliery owners put capital into the concern, and I am asked what about life and limb and the health and toil put into the work by the miners. That ought to be taken into account. That is a principle which certainly I should be prepared to accept.
What is the fourth point? The fourth is the squalid condition in many of the mining villages in this country which, to use the words of one of the Reports—I forget which; I think it is the first Report, signed by not merely Mr. Justice Sankey but by Mr. Arthur Balfour, Sir Arthur Duckham and Sir Thomas Royden—was a disgrace to civilisation. We were prepared to act upon those four recommendations in 1919, and, in so far as I am concerned, I will support any Government that will legislate upon the basis of putting those things right to-day. What did we propose then? The hon. Gentleman talked as if nothing had been proposed. I will tell him later on why nothing was done, and he and the Government to which he belongs ought to be the first to acknowledge that those reasons are sound ones now that they have come up against practical difficulties. What did we propose then? We proposed, in the first instance, upon the recommendation, not of Mr. Justice Sankey merely, but of practically the whole of the Commission, including the coal-owners, the purchase of royalties. What is not thoroughly understood is that, whereas Mr. Justice Sankey by his casting vote practically determined the recommendation of nationalisation, the whole of the Commission recommended the purchase of the royalties.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I accept that correction. What I mean is that it was signed by the coal-owners, Sir Thomas Royden and, I think, Sir Arthur Duckham. At any rate, it was signed by the vast majority of the Commission, and not merely by the miners or what are called the Fabian Members. Those who represented other industries agreed in the 1772 main, as well as Sir Thomas Royden, Mr. Arthur Balfour, and the three coal-owners. There was a recommendation in favour of the purchase of the royalties, not as a criticism upon royalty owners, but as a criticism of the system. My hon Friend who seconded gave us the 14 reasons which were given by them as to why the present system of ownership of minerals interferes with the effective businesslike development of the industry. Well, the "14 points' have not a very happy past, and they are very difficult to carry out, whether in the sphere of international politics or elsewhere. At any rate, they were sound reasons. They were reasons adopted by the Acquisition of Land Committee in 1919, signed by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool; and it was a unanimous recommendation signed by all members of all parties. That was a recommendation that in 1919 the country was prepared to deal with. The House of Commons was prepared to deal with it. The Government were prepared to deal with it.
What was the scheme that we put forward? I proposed here in the House, standing at that Box, that we should purchase the mining royalties upon a fair valuation. It is no use saying that some of these owners have acquired their properties in ways which are open to criticism. I have no doubt at all about the matter myself, but there are very many of them who have acquired them, I will say, honestly, for full and valuable consideration, and if you begin to go into these questions you will find it very difficult to draw the line. There is only one basis upon which you can deal with acquisition of property by the State, and that is the payment of a fair but not an artificial valuation, and that was the proposal which was put forward by the Government.
What other proposals did we put forward? We proposed that there should be a deduction from the purchase money in order to create a welfare fund for the improvement of the amenities of the mining villages. Why did we do that? Well, quite frankly, because the royalty owners in the past had undoubtedly neglected their duty of contributing out of the wealth which they were drawing from the industry and of seeing that those people were fairly housed, that they lived under decent conditions, and that 1773 the amenities of life were such as to make the villages fit for decent people to live in. They had, in the main, completely neglected that duty Which they owed to those people, and we felt that when the State was coming to a final transaction with them we should compel them to recognise now what they ought to have recognised before as part of their duty. The proposal was that you should deduct 10 per cent. of the purchase price and put it into a separate fund for the purpose of improving the amenities of the villages. Everybody knows what they are like. I know the South Wales villages; some of them the most beautiful valleys, naturally, on earth. One knows what they are actually like. The hideous finger prints of greed have disfigured them. There has been no attempt to preserve their natural beauty, and it is right, therefore, when the State is purchasing these royalties and terminating the connection of the royalty owners with the property, that there should be a contribution.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
It is right that there should be a contribution. That was the proposal which we put before the House in 1919. Now what was the next? I am going to tell you everything that happened.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The next proposal was that there should be an attempt to amalgamate the industry in order to prevent waste and in order to make the industry more efficient. What was the third proposal? The third proposal—it was quoted by an hon. Gentleman to-day—was that the miners should have a direct voice—a direct representation—in the declaration of the policy of the industry in these great areas. What happened? Hon. Gentlemen know it perfectly well. The Miners' Federation thought that this would interfere with the agitation for the complete nationalisation of the industry.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Certainly, it applies to the whole proposal. This is 1774 the speech made by the present Prime Minister immediately after the speech in which I declared it. He said that,There must be no compromise in their programme which meant that the substance was to be weaned away by conciliating their enemies.What did that mean? The grievance of royalties is a very great one. It is one which is liable to be put in a way which makes the whole system very indefensible. It is utilised for the purpose of condemning, not merely the royalty owners, but the whole ownership of mines by colliery proprietors, and there is a good deal to be said for getting rid of it, even from that point of view. But the Miners' Federation knew that once that grievance was out of the way, the moment you got rid of the small pits and concentrated upon the development of the remunerative pits, and by that means raised the whole level of wages, and the moment you had a great fund for the purpose of improving the conditions of the mining villages and got rid of that undoubted grievance, it would weaken the general agitation for nationalisation. What was the position of the Government then? We naturally had no support from the royalty owners; they were not going to press us to put the proposal through. The colliery owners were not particularly anxious. They did not want to be forced into amalgamation, though they were quite willing to accept it as a price of getting peace. But when you had opposition from the royalty owners, the colliery owners lukewarm, and the Miners' Federation saying they would resist it out and out, it was quite impossible for the Government of the day, in the circumstances, to carry it out. The proposal was made in September, and we could not have brought it forward till 1920. An hon. Member on the other side, quite rightly, called attention to the special conditions in 1919. There was great unrest; there was great trouble in Europe; there was great trouble here. No one quite knew what was going to happen. The whole atmosphere would have been propitious for the carrying through of a great scheme of that kind, which would now have been in operation for five years, with £10,000,000 voted five years ago for improving the amenities of life in the villages, and an amalgamation in which the miners had a full voice in the matter. 1775 What a difference it would have made! No one here says that the miners conditions are satisfactory.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I proposed it as Prime Minister here, standing at the Table, and I was told that the Miners' Federation would not have it. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the present Government are constantly saying: "We cannot carry out our full programme, because we have not got the necessary report. Some day we will do it." That is equally true of any Government; and if you get the whole industry—miners, royalty owners and mine owners—all combining to say they will have nothing to do with the scheme, any Government that goes on with it would be mad. I do not, however, want it to be said to the miners that this House is simply throwing out a proposal which has been made on their behalf, without suggesting anything, without being willing to do anything. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side are just as committed as I am to these proposals. An hon. Member has quoted what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead said in that respect. We are all committed to it, and, knowing what the miners have done, knowing the conditions of their lives—anxious, dangerous, risky—knowing how invaluable their industry and their courage is to the community, knowing what they did for us at a critical hour in the life of this country, I venture to say that this House of Commons would examine, not in a niggardly or partisan spirit, any broad-minded proposal.
§ Lieut.-Colonel LANE-FOX
This Debate has been extraordinarily interesting, but there has been the drawback that, on a Friday afternoon, the time is rather limited for a subject of this magnitude. Interesting though the speeches have been, they have occupied a very considerable time, and, therefore, I shall not myself detain the House for more than a very few minutes. I know that a great many other Members may want to speak, and I will try to compress my remarks as much as possible. It is the more easy for me to do that because the right hon. Gentleman who 1776 has just spoken has, in his brilliant attack upon this Bill, certainly taken the line that I myself should have been anxious to take had I happened to precede him. I should like to know why it was that the Secretary for Mines, whose intelligence no one disputes, and who is an acute controversialist, as he showed all through his speech, did not mention this Bill at all. It is not to be supposed that the hon. Gentleman forgot the Bill. No one who knows him would imagine that he would make a speech of the length that he did, and leave out the main object of discussion, without some deliberate purpose. I think the real reason, and it was a very good one, why he said so little about the Bill, was that, although it is very easy to put forward the ideal of what would result from nationalisation, and it is even easier to point to the evils that exist in the present situation, it is extraordinarily difficult to put into definite terms in a Bill any practical and useful form of proposal for nationalisation which will not do infinite harm to the industry and to the country.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has said, and very truly, that the effect of this Bill will be to give complete control over this industry to the Miners' Federation. It is called a Bill for nationalisation, and that, of course, assumes that the nation is going to be the first element that is going to benefit, and the principal control is going to rest in the nation; but may I just go into the form of the Mining Councils? The right hon. Gentleman has already pointed out how different the scheme of the Bill is from the scheme proposed by Lord Justice Sankey. First of all, one-half of the members of the Mining Council are to be appointed by the Miners' Federation, the other half being appointed by the Government; but a Bill of this sort can only go through when there is a Labour Government in office—a Labour Government which is largely supported by this very Federation. It is obvious that such a Government would attract to itself a considerable number of members of that Federation, or that, at any rate, it would be very closely connected with the Federation. It is perfectly clear that on that Council the Miners' Federation can never be in a minority, and it is bodies that are constituted on those 1777 lines that are to have the power to fix prices and wages. The same thing applies in the lower councils—the local mining councils and the pit committees. They are appointed partly from the Miners' Federation and partly by the superior body, which is already mainly composed of members of the Miners' Federation, and on which the Federation can never be in a minority. Those are the bodies in whose hands the whole future of the industry and of the country is going to be placed.
I venture to say that this country is not going to accept a scheme of that sort unless it is first satisfied that the nation will derive the benefit, that the nation will be saved from any great financial loss, that there will be a real improvement in efficiency of management and in the conditions of the men working in the industry, and, finally, that there will also be fair treatment to those whose property it is necessary for the nation to take. Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House will fully agree with the principle that, where it is necessary for the benefit of the nation, property must, of course, give way. It can only be done by a system of fair compensation. Those are the conditions which the nation will require. In his very able speech the hon. Member who moved this Bill tried to frighten the House by a description of the tremendous profits which had been made in the past twelve years. They were twelve abnormal years. If the collieries he mentioned have been able to make profits equal to their total capital in that period, it represents only eight per cent. per annum. During the war abnormal profits were made in almost every industry. To quote instances from such abnormal years is not convincing. We are asked to believe that the conditions in which the men work in the pits will be considerably improved.
There is great sympathy among all classes for the miner in his dangerous, difficult and hard work. No one would deny the unpleasant nature of the work, carried out as it often is in darkness, and with the risk of explosions and fall of roofs, and the miners deserve the fullest sympathy. But it is a great mistake to exaggerate these things. The figures show that whatever the conditions in other countries may be, the mines in this country under private enterprise are undoubtedly the safest and most healthy 1778 in the world. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Mines is a very acute controversialist. If he wanted successfully to reinforce his proposals he should have quoted instances of countries where some such scheme as that proposed has been adopted. Not a single hon. Gentleman has attempted to show, or could show, any system of this sort operating successfully. If there were such an instance it would make it very much easier for some of us to believe in the proposals of the Bill.
Before accepting any principle of the kind embodied in the Bill, this country would require to be assured that there would be peace in the industry Mr. Justice Sankey, in his Report, definitely laid it down that it should be a condition of contract with every miner working under the scheme proposed for nationalisation, that he should not enter into any industrial dispute until the cause of the dispute had been adjudicated on by the various Councils suggested. In this Bill there is a definite proposal that not only those employed under these Councils but the members of the Councils themselves may foster industrial disputes against the interests possibly of the whole country and against the authority of their own Council.
Finally, the consumer is never considered in this Bill till you get to Clause 21. In Clause 13 there is the question of the view of the consumers being represented on the Fuel Advisory Council. It is purely advisory. It has no executive power whatever. It is not till you get to Clause 21—and the Bill contains 23 Clauses in all—that the consumers' interests are in any way considered. Clause 21 deals with the duty of the Mining Council to supply fuel to the consumers in this country. This Bill will require a great deal more argument in its support than it has so far received. You are not going to persuade the country to accept a fundamental change like this unless you give very strong reasons for it. You are not going to persuade them to accept it merely by pointing out the evils of our present conditions, unless you prove that the new system will considerably diminish those evils. Up to now, this has not been done. I am perfectly certain that when the nation realises that this Bill merely hands over an industry to one 1779 section—ignoring the real interest of the whole of the consumers—and that section composed of those who work in that industry, it will not agree to its passage into law.
§ The CIVIL LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. F. Hodges)
In rising to speak, I am under an obligation not to exceed more than 14 minutes of the time of the House. Therefore the House will forgive me if I deal with some points that have been raised in Debate, particularly with the points put forward by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I had a good deal to do with the mining industry at the time to which he made reference. It was the time of control, a period which has been very much criticised this morning by the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. S. Roberts), who declared that the period of control represented a period of downright inefficiency—a time, so to speak, when the dead hand of bureaucracy rested on it. He urged that this was an indication of what would take place if the industry were properly unified or nationalised. As a matter of fact, during the period in question the Coal Controller did not actively interest himself at all in the real productive control of the industry. He was interested in the fixation of quantities for export, in determining the amount of coal that could be used for inland consumption, and in fixing the price of that coal; but the technical development of the industry was left absolutely untouched in the hands of the then colliery companies. The result is a very interesting one. It is quite within the recollection of Members of this House that the actual management of the undertakings was left undisturbed; so much so, indeed, that the several managements during that period of control operated the industry in a manner which was calculated to destroy Government influence in the industry. The industry was operating under an Act of Parliament. It was the Act of Parliament which determined the amount of profit that colliery companies could take. If they had a pre-War basis of profit they were awarded that profit. There were levies collected from the industry as a whole which were paid over as profit to those who at that time were not making any. That is what was known as the 1780 period of award and the period of levy. But during this time, the colliery companies being assured under that scheme that their pre-War standard of profit would be guaranteed them, they worked, in many proved instances, the inferior seams, they worked seams which were represented by the highest cost of production, they left in many cases whole districts of good seams untouched, they withdrew the men from those districts and put them in bad districts, and a thousand and one operations exclusively under the control of the colliery companies were done during that period, all with the motive of discrediting control. That could not be the case under any general scheme of nationalisation. It was a half-hearted control limited only to certain external operations and leaving the actual control of the industry practically undisturbed.
§ Mr. HODGES
I am speaking from an absolute knowledge of the facts. The then Controller of Mines and the late Secretary for Mines will be able to bear testimony to the fact that certain inspectors had to be specially appointed, in order to see that the colliery companies did their duty.
§ Mr. HODGES
I should be indeed sorry to appear to take advantage of the time to prevent any hon. Member from trying to contradict what I say. As a matter of fact, I am in a position to state that on the points I have mentioned, I welcome contradiction. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) pointedly criticised the Bill. His whole case was based upon the assumption—and it is an assumption—that the Miners' Federation, as a corporate body, would actually control, in the exclusive interests of its members, the whole operation of mining under this Bill if it becomes law. He says half the members are to be appointed by His Majesty and the other half by the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. As he says, not all the miners are represented in the Miners' Federation, there being, according to the figures, some 350,000 or 400,000 1781 in other organisations, or non-unionists, and that these two would claim a share in the representation of the other ten, and in consequence there would be a majority of the representatives upon that Central Council who would be clearly and definitely interested in promoting the miners' welfare, pure and simple, to the general disadvantage of the community. As a matter of fact the provision is drafted so as to get complete equity in representation. There is no provision in the Bill for any other nominees, except the nominees of His Majesty, other than the ten, and as there is to be an independent Chairman the balance is perfectly well held and, what is more, the right hon. Gentleman did not tell the House that there is a provision in the Bill that when these two groups of State representatives and the organisation representatives cannot come to an agreement, they will mutually refer the matter in dispute to arbitration. That is one of the features of the Bill which marks rather a new departure in the traditions of the organisation known as the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. It has never hitherto been content to submit to arbitration any proposal that happened to be in dispute between them and the coalowners—at any rate, not readily prepared to do that. In these matters of dispute between the coal-owners and the miners for many years it was always a question of industrial battle. That is the movement that has characterised the industry hitherto, but in this Bill, if the Central Council cannot agree, or cannot arrive at a settlement on a wages claim or an hours claim, or any particular industrial matter which arises between the parties, then the parties are ready to submit it to arbitration.
If that be in the Bill, and it is in the Bill, for any hon. Member can find it for himself, what becomes of all these goblin arguments about the Miners' Federation, syndically inspired, and anti-social in all its aspects, dominating a great industry exclusively in the interests of its own people? As a matter of fact, the House will now value or revalue that kind of argument in the light of the certain know ledge that provision is made against that thing in the Bill. How can it be assumed that "His Majesty," a term which, in other words, means His Majesty's Government—
§ Mr. HODGES
Let us hope it is, and probably it will be by the time this Bill comes into operation. In a Socialist Government—and it is this that my hon. Friends opposite do not understand—there will be a balance of forces operating as between one section of the community, as is the case now. You will have workmen who will be represented in the Government who will be assuredly just as antagonistic to one particular group of workmen exploiting them as they are now antagonistic to any group of capitalists exploiting them. The balance will be held just as evenly then as now. One has only to project one's mind sufficiently forward to see that carpenters, railway-men, clerks and professional people will be represented in a Socialist Government. One has only to imagine that circumstance, and, knowing human nature as we do, to realise that they would not agree to the Government of the day giving such tremendous power into the hands of one particular group or side. The State would hold the balance evenly as between all parties, and their nominees would see that equity and justice was done.
§ Mr. HODGES
They would be the nominees of the Government, but the Government would represent the whole people. Having dealt with that point, which formed the basis of the whole of the attack upon this Bill by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, I do ask the House now to give consideration to the prescience of the people who drafted the Measure, based upon a fine adjustment of the relationship of industry to our national life. That is at the bottom of the Bill, and the residual argument that followed from a misinterpretation, deliberate or otherwise, must be treated by this House for what it was worth.
§ Sir DOUGLAS HOGG
I shall not take long, because I know that an hon. Gentleman opposite desires to present in conclusion his summing up on behalf of the promoters of the Bill. But I am relieved from pleading any want of time for this reason, that in a great many Bills which come before the House there are provisions which strike one as desirable, and 1783 others to which one objects, and there is great difficulty in deciding whether or not a Second Reading ought to be given to the Measure. There is no such difficulty in the case of this Bill because, in my submission to the House, whether one has regard to its professed object, or to the end which it really seeks to achieve, which is quite a different thing, the Bill is an absolutely bad Bill, and one which no reasonable and honourable body of men ought to accept for a moment.
The professed object of the Bill is contained of course in the Preamble, which recites that it is expedient that mines and minerals should be taken into the possession of the State. And so we have listened during a very interesting morning to a discussion on each side of the pros and cons of the nationalisation of the mines and, to a lesser degree, of the minerals of Great Britain. With regard to the nationalisation of the mines, by which I mean not the mineral rights, but the operative collieries and other mines which this Bill proposes to take over, the promoters of the Bill base their argument on two or three grounds. They say first of all that under the existing system there is waste, and that that waste should be eliminated, such matters as boundary barriers, areas unworked, etc. But the hon. Member who seconded the Motion for Second Reading, in a very fair speech, admitted that to a great extent at any rate those objections, which existed no doubt when the Sankey Report was issued, have since been done away with by the Measure which the Conservative Government passed into law last year.
The second argument was based upon the so-called lack of efficiency of the mines under private control. It is easy to allege lack of efficiency, but hon. Members opposite find it much more difficult to prove it, and I may remind them that the very authority on whom they place so much reliance, Sir Richard Redmayne, when he was asked about this matter by the Sankey Commission, admitted the great efficiency of the mining engineers of Great Britain and of the mining industry as it then existed. In truth, the answer to the suggestion that by concentrating into fewer hands you increase efficiency is given by the fact that, as was stated by hon. Members opposite, concentration has very largely taken place, and if it 1784 be true, as it often is true, that you get economy and saving of expense and greater efficiency by centralising your management, up to a point you have got that centralisation already in operation.
Then the next point, and a very serious point if it be a good one, was the point which was urged with feeling by the Mover of the Second Reading, that the miner's business is necessarily a very hazardous one. I do not think anybody on this side of the House would hesitate for a moment to deny that it could be proved that by nationalisation you reduce the risk of the mining industry, you would have adduced a very powerful argument in favour of nationalisation. But the fact is that there is no evidence that under nationalisation the miners' industry would be one whit less hazardous than it is to-day. Indeed, the House will remember that in the very recent Committee of Inquiry presided over by Lord Buckmaster, Lord Buckmaster himself interrogated some witnesses who came on behalf of the Miners' Federation, and at the end of his examination he was bound to confess that they could give him no evidence to support that suggestion. So that in fact to-day in Great Britain probably the safeguards against accidents, and the care taken for the safety of miners, are, as great as, if not greater than, the provisions in any other mining country. So much for the nationalisation of mines.
I would remind the House of what has not been mentioned by any other speaker, namely, that this is not a Bill to nationalise the coal mines only; it is a Bill which proposes to nationalise every mine in Great Britain—the iron mines, just as much as the coal mines, and not only the mines, but also all the industries and properties associated therewith. You are taking over not merely the collieries, but all the iron mines, all the great works used for the refining of the iron ore, all the rolling stock, the vessels, and works for the manufacture of by-products, if, in the opinion of the Mining Council, they are reasonably ancillary to a particular undertaking. It is ridiculous to suggest that any Commission or any body of men has inquired into the desirability of taking over all these different enterprises, which are swept into the capacious maw of this one Bill. It is said by the Secretary for Mines that the vital principle of the Bill is acknowledged by Members on all sides 1785 of the House, because there have been speeches made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) and by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and others belonging to different parties, in favour of the nationalisation of royalties. The Secretary for Mines referred to the vital principle of the Bill. What we object to in these provisions is its vital lack of principle. What the Bill proposes to do is not to nationalise the royalties, as was proposed in the various speeches cited by the Secretary for Mines, but to confiscate them. It may be a very desirable thing for a nation or an individual to purchase certain things which he desires to possess, but that is no argument in favour of his stealing them.
I have listened, and listened in vain, for any speech which even suggests an argument to justify the confiscation of these royalties. The only hon. Member who even referred to it was the Seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill. He said that, inasmuch as the property in royalties was protected by law, the law had the right to take it away. You may say the same of the liberties or, indeed, of the lives of any of His Majesty's subjects. But that is no justification for this House to deprive the individual either of liberty or of life. It would be just as reasonable to say that this House would be justified in making the miners work without wages, because their wages are given to them as their own by Act of Parliament. The hon. Member who moved the Motion for the Second Reading of the. Bill pointed out the great generosity of the Bill, because, he said, a professor in Newcastle-on-Tyne had estimated that the fair value of the collieries worked out to something like 7s. per ton, whereas the Bill gave 10s. per ton. But it does nothing of the kind. What the Hill does is to lay down a standard on which the purchase of mines is to take place. If it works out at more than a certain figure, the mine owner is not to get the amount so assessed, but only a lower figure working to a maximum of 10s. or 12s. per ton, as the case may be. When we remember that, according to the evidence given within the last few days, the average cost of opening a mine to its full development is 20s. per ton the generosity of the proposal which gives as a maximum compensation 10s. or 12s. per ton will be readily appreciated.
1786 I pass from the professed object of the Bill to its real purpose. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs so well pointed out, this is not a Bill for nationalising mines and minerals. This Bill does not provide, even if it be expedient, that mines and minerals shall be taken into the possession of the State. It provides that they shall be taken into the possession of the Miners' Federation at the expense of the State. Any hon. Member who reads the Bill must admit that it provides, not that the State shall administer the mines or that the State shall possess the mines, but that the Mining Council shall control everything, and as has been pointed out, the Mining Council is to be appointed as to half by His Majesty's Government and as to the other half by the Miners' Federation who, quite rightly, are put on a parity in this Bill. As was admitted in the course of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, the intention is that some of the representatives appointed by the Government should represent the other miners who do not form part of the Miners' Federation—some 300,000 it is suggested—and we have to remember there are all the people who are employed in the iron mines and in the iron and steel works and in the other industries which are to be annexed by this Bill. They will want some representation and that can only be found in the ten nominees of the State. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was quite right when he said that the Mining Council would merely be the Miners' Federation acting under another name. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty cavilled at the suggestion that there was anything unfair in this proposal because, said he, whenever a difficulty arises between the Mining Council and the Miners' Federation as to what wages are to be paid or what hours are to be worked the matter is to go to arbitration. But since the Mining Council is to be the Miners' Federation under another name it is not likely there will be very much difference.
§ Mr. HODGES
I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to indicate to the House where is that provision in the Bill.
§ Sir D. HOGG
I have already called attention to the provision as to the Mining Council in Sub-section (1) of Clause 1—that it is to consist of ten members appointed by the Miners' Federation and ten appointed by the State, and I have pointed out that the latter are intended to represent other miners and so on. The Sub-section also provides that there is to be one President. The provision as to arbitration is in Clause 19 of the Bill.
§ Mr. HODGES
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman read the paragraph on which he is basing his argument?
§ Sir D. HOGG
I am basing my argument on the provisions to which I have just referred. I should be delighted to read the Bill to the hon. Gentleman if I thought the effect would be that he would take a more impartial view of its effects, but my time is limited. The hon. Gentleman says: "It is all right; you have got arbitration;" but you only get the arbitration if the Mining Council and the Miners' Federation do not agree among themselves, and, of course, they always will agree. The hon. Gentleman made a great parade of the wonderful concession the Miners' Federation have granted in consenting, for the first time, to arbitration, but he forgot to add that the Bill is careful to provide that they shall not be bound by the results. I will read that Clause. It is Sub-section (3) of Clause 19, which, after providing for arbitration on matters as to wages, hours and so on, says:Provided that nothing in this Section shall be deemed to interfere with the right of any employed person, subject to his contractual obligations, to dispose of his labour as he wills.That is to say, that if the Miners' Federation and the Mining Council differ as to the wages to be paid to the miners, and if they then arbitrate, and the Miners' Federation lose, the Miners' Federation can then organise a strike until they get the figures which they originally demanded. I am not surprised if the Miners' Federation did not think they were giving very much away. There is another very serious fault in this Bill. The Secretary for Mines jeered at the suggestion that there was in this Bill anything like bureaucracy, because, he said, you can see endless devolution. You can. The country is to be divided up into districts, 1788 and each district is to have a council with 10 members; the districts are to be divided up into pits, and each pit is to have a council with 10 members; and they are all to be paid "out of money provided by Parliament"
§ Mr. SHINWELL
In the Mining Industry Bill, brought in by the Coantion Government, these proposals were included.
§ Sir D. HOGG
In the first place, I do not remember the proposal; in the second place, I was not a member of the Coalition Government; and, in the third place, if they provided for such a horde of officials as this, they must have done a very foolish thing. All these multitudinous officials, mainly composed, be it observed, of members of the Miners' Federation, are all to be paid "out of money provided by Parliament." That is the proposal to which we are asked to give our assent by giving this Bill a Second Reading, and these provisions as to wages, hours of labour, and so on show-very well that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Mines was right when he said that he was quite certain that the miners would get all the wages that the industry could give. I am not quite so sure that he was right when he went on to say that he was satisfied that they would not ask for more, because they have only to ask for more, as I have shown, in order to get it. No wonder the right hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs pointed out that the losses have to be provided for, but that it really was not worth troubling about any question of profits.
I would like to summarise what this Bill does, which, I submit, is absolutely wrong. First of all, it allows the Miners' Federation, which means, of course, the miners, to fix their own wages and their own hours at the expense of the State; secondly, it enables them, when they have done that, to fix the prices which the unfortunate consumer is to be obliged to pay at home; thirdly, it enables them, without any compensation, to destroy the whole retail distributing trade, and to run in competition at the expense of the State; fourthly, it enables them to deal with the export trade in any way they like; fifthly, it enables them to interfere with all the other allied trades. They can interfere with the railways. The 1789 railways have to do whatever the Mining Council deem necessary. They can interfere with the shipping trade. All the ships used in all the mining industries can be taken over by the Mining Council. They can interfere with all the other industries which are allied to coal mines, iron mines, or any other form of mining, because the Mining Council can collar the lot, if only they choose to say they regard them as reasonably ancillary, or belonging to one or the other undertakings. When they have done all these things, they are doing them not at their own risk and expense, but at the risk and expense of the taxpayers. Whatever inefficiency there may be in the management of mines in the future, whatever waste and extravagance there may be in their administration, whatever political pressure may induce the Mining Council to do, in the way of keeping open uneconomical and expensive mines, whatever loss may be sustained by ruinous experiments in retail trade or in export trade, by people who have no experience of it—all these matters are borne, not by the Miners' Federation, who only take all the wages that the industry can give, Taut they are thrown upon the taxpayers of this country, who are asked to foot the bill, without gaining any advantage.
I ask this House of Commons unhesitatingly to reject the Second Reading of this Bill, because it is a Bill which is unjust to the mineowner, which is dishonourable to the State, which is wholly neglectful of the interests of the consumer. The consumer is only mentioned once in the Bill, and then he is given power to have an Advisory Council, which has no powers at all. Finally, it is a Bill which is deliberately designed, not to carry on the class warfare which hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side are so fond of preaching, but to carry class warfare a step further, and, instead of a war of class against class, to inaugurate a war of one class against the community as a whole. It is a Bill which is designed to exploit the nation as a whole, in the interests of one section alone
§ Mr. SMILLIE
I would like to appeal to this House, if I may, at the outset, to endeavour to give an unprejudiced mind to this matter. I know how difficult it is to many hon. Gentlemen sitting in this House to give an unprejudiced mind, or to view this matter fairly. I believe that, 1790 to some extent, their feelings will be guided by the names—my own amongst the number—on the back of the Bill. I believe that prejudiced feeling against men like myself may prevent hon. Members from taking a fair view of this case. I noticed an indication of that in the speech of the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. S. Roberts) in which he said that the Coal Commission witnesses were brow-beaten. He said: "I wish to say-that especially in front of the hon. Member for Morpeth." I venture to say that no member of the Coal Commission will say, nor will the Chairman of the Coal Commission who is still alive I am glad to say—say that I or any of my colleagues attempted to brow-beat the witnesses before the Commission. We endeavoured to get at the truth, and it was because we were fairly successful in getting at the truth that it was not liked. There were witnesses from the noble gentlemen who own this country down to the technical and scientific men, and I do not think that one of them would will say that I or any of my colleagues brow-beat any witness.
I want hon. Members to believe me when I say that I am backing this Bill because I am desirous that the consumers of coal, both in the domestic hearth and in industry, should get the best possible out of the coal mines of this country. I plead not only for the miners, but I plead for a cheaper and more regular supply of coal for the industries of this country and for the health of the community. It would not have helped if I foolishly attempted to brow-beat certain witnesses. Let me say that in my early days as a young married man producing coal it was impossible for my wife and my children to get the necessary supplies, and my comrades round about me and their families could not get sufficient food for their children. At that time the royalty owners, one royalty owner of this country, was receiving as much income per ton in the shape of royalty rents as we were getting per ton for risking our lives in production of it. Under these circumstances it would not be astonishing at all if a person attempted to brow-beat hon. Members of that class when they came before the Commission. I did not do so. I treated these gentlemen as my equals—and in doing so paid them a compliment! I regret the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon 1791 Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is not here. When the Government, of which he was Prime Minister at the time, invited us to accept the Coal Commission, hon. Members of this House knew that we had balloted the members of the Miners' Federation on a question of striking on three points—hours of labour, wages and nationalisation of the mines. I want the House to remember that the miner is not the kind of person that he is usually painted in and out of this House by our opponents. It ought to be remembered that in 1915 out of 999,474 mine-workers, of ages ranging from 14 to 17, 191,000 joined the Colours as volunteers. I want to give a fair hearing to the miners of this country and their families.
The miners could not keep up the cut-put of coal and the price was going up. A Committee was appointed, consisting of three miners and three employers. We were quite aware that the price was against the consumer, and therefore we advised that the price should be fixed in order to prevent profiteering. The price was fixed, but the joint committee of mine-owners and miners who made that proposition laid down that in order to keep down the cost of living, if this House legislates in order to fix the price of coal, that every material in which coal enters as a raw material should also have the price fixed in order to keep down the cost of living. At that time Mr. Runciman promptly brought in a Bill to regulate the price of coal, but his Bill did not deal with the price of everything else into which coal entered as a raw material.
But for this Measure the wages of miners would have gone up by £1 to-day if they had not consented to fix the price of coal. It is a fact that other trades made millions of money out of our concession, and I think that fact alone justifies us in asking that the miners and their families should now have some consideration shown to them. When you sneer at 10 being fixed as the number to represent the miners I say that they are perfectly entitled to that representation considering the risk they run to their lives, and they ought to have an equal number on the Committee that has to look after the management of the mines.
I plead for this Measure on the ground that fair conditions are not being given to the miners. I plead for it in order 1792 that the homes of the miners may have a better opportunity and that the women and children may be looked after better than is the case at the present time. Now I come back to the point that we were led to believe by the Prime Minister of this country that if we accepted that Commission its findings would be carried into effect by this House. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs approached the representatives of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain and urged them, to accept this Commission he pointed out to us that he was going to appoint Mr. Justice Sankey as the Chairman and he said this Judge was an extraordinarily fair-minded man, that he was very capable in taking and weighing evidence and that he would be able to sift all the evidence and he begged us to accept him. We only accepted that offer because we believed that the findings of the Commission would be carried out.
The right hon. Gentleman describes Mr. Justice Sankey as a very able and a fair-minded man and we believe that he was a fair-minded and an able Judge. We accepted him, and I believe he gave the fullest attention and skill he could to the case when he came to a fair finding. I believe he intended that the coal mines of the country should be taken over by the State. Under the Bill we propose that the mines should be taken over. I draw a distinction between the mines themselves and the minerals underneath the ground. The one is there with the capital which was the product of human skill. The other has not been produced and cannot be produced by human skill. I draw a line between the mineral wealth of this country which the Creator intended for the common use of man and the coal mines. We are willing to give full compensation to the mine owners when we take the mines over at the full valuation. We do not want to rob the mine owners: we want to pay them a fair price. But I plead in this matter for the the homes of the miners. I plead that the miners are entitled to have a say in the management of the concern in which they invest their lives. I plead on far higher lines. I plead on the ground of greater safety for the mine workers in this country. One in every five of the million mine workers of this country is either killed or injured or rendered 1793 incapable of work through disease contracted in his employment every 12 months.
I am a student of mining history. I have sat on Commissions dealing with mining safety for three years. I have sat on a Coal Commission. I know that for the last 70 or 80 years, since Lord Shaftesbury, of sacred memory to the mining community, first raised his voice for the protection of the women and children in the cotton factories and in the mines down to the present time—at that time the mineowners stood in this House and did every thing in their power to prevent that Bill passing—it has only been when the Opposition of the mineowners has been beaten down that we have got a Mines Act or a Factory Act or anything else. I am speaking from history, and I have all the facts. We are told by Members in various parts of this House that mining is comparatively safe in this country as compared with elsewhere. I realise that probably we have in this country the most highly-skilled engineering staff at the mines that we have in any part of the world. I believe that we have a staff of mining engineers and mining officials as anxious and as earnest as any men could be to keep down accidents, but I go to this length and say that the engineering staff, the technical staff, and the managerial staff of our mines, who are responsible under the Mines Act, are not always free agents in looking after the safety of the miners. I say, and I now it to be true, that very often safety is sacrified to profit-making. We plead for this Bill, because we believe that under nationalisation we can produce coal at least as cheaply as it is produced at the present time. We can improve the earning ability of our people, and we can, to a very great extent reduce the death and accident rates in our mines. It is for those reasons, chiefly, that we plead—
§ Viscount EDNAM
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the death rate per thousand persons employed last year in the industry was 1.1, which is lower than in any other industry?
§ Mr. SMILLIE
The death rate is one in every six hours of the clock. The death rate is, on the average, about 1,200 out of over a million persons employed.
§ Mr. SMILLIE
Certainly. My point, if I may re-state it, was that one person in every five in the mining industry is either killed or injured or rendered incapable of working through diseases contracted in the mines. That is the figure. I believe we can make the mining industry considerably safer than it is at the present time by nationalisation. I was pointing out that every attempt that miners have made during 70 years to introduce measures of safety through legislation in this House has been bitterly opposed by the mineowners. When they boast that the death and accident rate has fallen during the last 40 or 50 years, it is in spite of them, and not because of them. We want the mines nationalised in order that the lives of our people may be made as safe as possible. If you can agree with the principle, we are prepared to negotiate with you on details1 in Committee. We believe it is in the interests of the nation, but we have this to buoy us up, that, if you defeat us on the Second Reading, or if you finally defeat us in making this law, we know that it will ultimately become the law of this land.
We plead with every fair-minded man on those benches, who wants to help to save the lives of the miners, to vote in favour of this Bill. We plead with everyone, who desires for the mining community better conditions than they have at the present time, to vote in favour of this Bill; and we feel convinced of this, that the nationalisation of the mines would be in the interests of the nation as a whole, that it would lead to a reduced death-rate, and that it is the duty of this House to carry out the promises made by its predecessors—that it is the duty of this House to carry this Bill, and the duty of the Government to give us facilities for getting it passed into law. It is not merely that the miners were pledged to this. The whole trade union movement of the country is pledged to it, and I appeal to the House to carry the Second Reading.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 168; Noes, 264.1795
|Division No. 75.]||AYES.||[4.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hirst, G. H.||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Alden, Percy||Hodges, Frank||Romeril, H. G.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hogge, James Myles||Rose, Frank H.|
|Attlee, Major Clement R.||Isaacs, G. A.||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Scurr, John|
|Baker, Walter||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Sexton, James|
|Banton, G.||Jewson, Dorothea||Sherwood, George Henry|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Barnes, A.||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smillie, Robert|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Broad, F. A.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E.)||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Buchanan, G.||Kennedy, T.||Snell, Harry|
|Burton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Spence, R.|
|Cape, Thomas||Kirkwood, D.||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lansbury, George||Spoor, B. G.|
|Clarke, A.||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Climie, R.||Lawson, John James||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cluse, W. S.||Leach, W.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lee, F.||Sullivan, J.|
|Compton, Joseph||Lindley, F. W.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lowth, T.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Crittall, V. G.||Lunn, William||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Thurtle, E.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||McEntee, V. L.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dickson, T.||Mackinder, W.||Toole, J.|
|Dukes, C.||Maden, H.||Tout, W. J.|
|Duncan, C.||March, S.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Dunnico, H.||Marley, James||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)||Viant, S. P.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Maxton, James||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Middleton, G.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Mills, J. E.||Warne, G. H.|
|Gillett, George M.||Mond, H.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Gosling, Harry||Montague, Frederick||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Morel, E. D.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah, C.|
|Greenall, T.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Weir, L. M.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Muir, John W.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Murray, Robert||Westwood, J.|
|Groves, T.||Naylor, T. E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Nichol, Robert||Whiteley, W.|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Nixon, H.||Wignall, James|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||O'Grady, Captain James||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Hardie, George D.||Oliver, George Harold||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Paling, W.||Williams, Lt.-Col. T. S. B. (Kenningtn.)|
|Hastings, Sir Patrick||Palmer, E. T.||Williams, Maj. A. S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)|
|Hastings, Somerville (Reading)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Haycock, A. W.||Perry, S. F.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffs)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Healy, Cahir||Ponsonby, Arthur||Windsor, Walter|
|Hemmerde, E. G.||Potts, John S.||Wright, W.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Raynes, W. R.||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Richards, R.|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfield)||Ritson, J.||Mr. George Hall and Mr. Varley.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Berry, Sir George||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)|
|Alexander, Brg.-Gen. Sir W. (Glas. C.)||Betterton, Henry B.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)|
|Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)|
|Alstead, R.||Black, J. W.||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Blades, Sir George Rowland||Clayton, G. C.|
|Apsley, Lord||Bonwick, A.||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Astor, Viscountess||Brass, Captain W.||Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Brassey, Sir Leonard||Comyns-Carr, A. S.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Briscoe, Captain Richard George||Cope, Major William|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Brittain, Sir Harry||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Brown A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Brunner, Sir J.||Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Buckingham, Sir H.||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Bullock, Captain M.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Becker, Harry||Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Darbishire, C. W.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase||Caine, Gordon Hall||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cassels, J. D.||Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Davies, David (Montgomery)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Deans, Richard Storry||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Dickie, Captain J. P.||Kedward, R. M.||Robertson, T. A.|
|Dodds, S. R.||Keens, T.||Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Robinson, W. E. (Burslem)|
|Dunn, J. Freeman||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Ropner, Major L.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lamb, J. Q.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Ednam, Viscount||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Lane-Fox, George R.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Elveden, Viscount||Laverack, F. J.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Lessing, E.||Savery, S. S.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt, Hon. B. M.||Linfield, F. C.||Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)|
|Falconer, J.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Seely, Rt. Hn. Maj. -Gen. J. E. B. (I. of W.)|
|Ferguson, H.||Locker- Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Finney, V. H.||Lorimer, H. D.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Loverseed, J. F.||Simon, E. D. (Manchester, Withingtn.)|
|Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H.||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Foot, Isaac||Lumley, L. R.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||McCrae, Sir George||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst.)|
|Franklin, L. B.||MacDonald, R.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Macfadyen, E.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Spender-Clay, Lieut. Colonel H. H.|
|George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Spero, Dr. G. E.|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Stanley, Lord|
|Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Gorman, William||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Stranger, Innes Harold|
|Gould, James C. (Cardiff, Central)||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Meyler, Lieut. Colonel H. M.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Waiden)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Guinness, Lieut-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Sutcliffe, T.|
|Hall, Lieut. Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Morden, Colonel Walter Grant||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Morris, R. H.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Harland, A.||Moulton, Major Fletcher||Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)|
|Harney, E. A.||Muir, Ramsay (Rochdale)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Harris, John (Hackney, North)||Nesbitt, Robert C.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Croydon, S.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Harvey, C. M. B. (Aberd'n & Kincardne)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Norton-Griffiths, Sir John||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Herbert, Capt. Sidney (Scarborough)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Owen, Major G.||Webb, Lieut.-Col. Sir H. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Hobhouse, A. L.||Parry, Thomas Henry||Wells, S. R.|
|Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)||Weston, John Wakefield|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Pease, William Edwin||Wheler, Lieut.-Col. Granville C. H.|
|Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Penny, Frederick George||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Hood, Sir Joseph||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Hope, Rt. Hon. J. F. (Sheffield, C.)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Perring, William George||Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George|
|Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie||Philipson, Mabel||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Howard, Hn. D. (Cumberland, Northrn.)||Phillipps, Vivian||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Pielou, D. P.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Hughes, Collingwood||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Pilkington, R. R.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Hunter-Weston. Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Raine, W.||Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Rankin, James S.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Hiffe, Sir Edward M.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel||Wragg, Herbert|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Rawson, Alfred Cooper||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Rea, W. Russell||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (Williesden, East)||Remer, J. R.||Mr. Samuel Roberts and Sir|
|Jones, C. Sydney (Liverpool, W. Derby)||Rentoul, G. S.||Beddoe Rees.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Words added.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.1798
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at Ten Minutes after Four o'Clock until Monday next (19th May).