HC Deb 25 March 1925 vol 182 cc539-85

I beg to move, That this House calls upon the Government to prosecute measures to prevent excessive charges for coal supplied to household consumers. I could have wished that this Motion had fallen to be moved by someone who could command more influence over the House and, in particular, more influence on the Government. Of all the vexations which have afflicted the people since the War, that caused by the high prices charged for coal is, perhaps, one of the worst. Hon. Members who have paid visits to people who live on the poverty line in their homes know how an addition of threepence to the hundredweight or how, in the case of the middle classes, an addition of a shilling to the ton, causes great irritation and even suffering. Those also who have evidence, as I have, of some of the poorer districts of London, and of the care with which the small supply of coal, a hundredweight, is husbanded in the corner of the kitchen, know that any increase of price is to a large number of people a very serious matter. I believe that my Motion comprehends a trade and industrial use of coal, and indeed the development of the coalfields as well, but I do not intend to deal with that for more than about two minutes, and if I return from it quickly, it is not because I am under any delusion as to the operations and development of the coal industry and the industrial use of coal, but merely because on an evening like this, and myself moving a Motion of this sort, I should not hope for a full Debate.

While he is here, I want to ask the Secretary for Mines on this particular topic, whether he is fully alive to the intensely depressed state of the coal industry as a whole? I have been reading the trade supplement of the "Times," and listening to people who come from the coalfields, both owners and colliers, and indeed consumers. It seems to me that the state of the coal industry is appalling. We are passing from the use of coal as a fuel, and, as it seems to me, while other nations are adjusting their conditions to meet that new phase we are doing absolutely nothing to meet it. What, for instance, is the Government doing to assist or to encourage the new methods of the low and high temperature carbonisation of coal? Until something of the kind is done we are losing headway in the world, and proceeding slowly, not only to a disgraceful condition for the mine-workers, but to unsatisfactory profits for the coalowners, and a general depression of the very life-blood of the industries of this country. I was reading lately a certain journal supposed to be one of the most respectable of Sunday newspapers, and the attitude of the Government was compared to that of the cow watching a passing train and doing nothing. I do not propose to pass that. on. I merely want to say to the Secretary for Mines that if he has any ambition in life at all, here is an opportunity for him to go down to history.

I now come to the principal topic of this evening. I am fully conscious of the responsibility that rests upon a Member of this House when he gets up to make criticisms on any class of the community. Nothing could be more opposed to the traditions of the House of Commons than for one of its Members, without adequate study or preparation, to level indiscriminate charges of profiteering or anything else against any section of the community. I hope I shall be absolved from that charge. At the same time this is a great evil, and it must be faced. Before I came here to-night an hon. Member came to me and said: "I see you are moving your coal prices Motion in the House; I am sorry for you. The Coal Merchants' Federation has had detailed information prepared as to costs, showing how much coal is at the pit-head, how much it costs for distribution, what profit they make, and they have put all this information into the hands of skilful Members on the other side. When you have finished they are going to get up and wipe the floor with you." This is not an occasion for rhetoric; and I hope to gets good deal of support from Members on the opposite side, and indeed from all sides. I desire to dint with hard facts, and I do so both in the interest of the Motion that I am moving and also to save myself from being used as a floor-wiper by hon. Members opposite. I have not mentioned that, when the Coal Merchants' Federation or the Coal Industries Information Department circulated their description of their costs to hon. Members who are supposed to speak for them, they also sent a copy of it to me. I took that as a compliment; and also that they had inadvertently done so without knowing I was going to move this Motion to-night.

It may be for the convenience of the House if I take that document, that Publicity Handbook which has been issued by the Coal Merchants' Federation, together with the leaflet which accompanies it, and base my arguments on the facts given there, or the particulars set out there. The first point on which there is always a great deal of discussion, so far as the coal trade is concerned, is as to whether or not there is a coal combine or a trust which operates against the public interest. I am not at the same time attempting to level an indictment against the trusts as a whole. But this has been a subject of controversy, and before we approach the question in detail we might examine it to see whether or not there is a trust in this industry. It is a charge, by the way, that the coal merchants most vehemently repel. Last year Mr. Shinwell—who is no longer here—sent for the representatives of the coal merchants and subjected them to what, I will admit, was a vary close and searching cross-examination. I pay a ready tribute to the valuable information which Mr. Shinwell got from them. My only regret is that he did not follow it up by action. So far as that question as to whether or not there are trusts is concerned, I may be allowed to quote what one of the most representative of the powerful coal merchants said to Mr. Shinwell last year in reply to questions. It is to be found in Command Paper 2117, page 8—hon. Members have the paper— If any of us round the table here, or any other merchant attending the market, feels that in his selling price the market is against him, or in his favour, whether it is up or down, he may come along and suggest that the public price requires alteration, either up or down. Probably he would mention it to Mr. Charrington, or to me, or we might initiate it ourselves. If the merchants in general agree with that view, the price is put down or up according to the state of the trade. Take again the Board of Trade Parliamentary Inquiry of 1915. I notice that when they quote, without attempting to prove, that there is no trust or combine, they always quote the first sentence of the findings of that inquiry and leave the rest alone. I may be allowed to quote the whole of it as there are only two sentences, and I do not think it will be detaining the House unduly. The findings of that Inquiry were: We have come to the conclusion, on the evidence before us, that the high prices of household coal are not attributable to the existence of definitely constituted rings or close corporations among either the coal merchants or the colliery owners. But, as in some other trades, there are continual opportunities of conference amongst those chiefly concerned, at which, in fact, there is commonly concerted action in regard to prices. A little later the same Inquiry's findings say: A few of the leading firms decide upon the price which, without more ado, become the public prices for the next day, and are advertised next day in the newspapers. That may be a Trust or not, but I think it is good enough—or rather bad enough—for the vast majority of the public who have to consider the question. Another argument which is brought up by the Coal Merchants' Federation, and given in their very clever publicity handbook, is a statement of their position in comparison with the position of co-operative societies. They print in black letters an admission by the Secretary for Mines in regard to the profits made by the co-operative societies. They say: The Secretary for Mines was obliged to admit that so far as the figures go they seem to indicate that the co-operative societies, selling at the same figure as the merchants, make a larger profit than the merchants disclose in their analysis. This is an attempt to show that the cooperative societies are making unduly large profits. On that point we have to bear in mind that in many cases the co-operative societies pay larger wages than the coal merchants—in many cases, I pay that tribute readily.


You have to prove that.


The hon. Member is one of those who believe that nothing can be stated in this House but what has previously been proved, perhaps, in a Court of Law. But all the facts I am quoting are easily open to him, or to anyone who will take the trouble to spent 10 minutes in the Library of this House. In addition to that, the co-operative societies, after they have made their profits, return about half of them to those who subscribe to their funds; and even when they have done these two things, returned some of their profits to their subscribers, that is, their customers, and paid equal or higher wages, they still have larger profits than the coal merchants who are supposed not to be making undue charges for coal. We also sometimes hear it stated that the Coal Advisory Committee in 1922 disposed of the allegation that there was any profiteering. The Coal Advisory Committee was very kind to the Coal Merchants' Federation in many particulars, but when it came to specific findings the Committee was obliged to make very plain statements, and this is one of them: We are bound to remark that those responsible for the distributing trade should take immediate steps to render considerable reductions possible in most of the items. Railway and dock charges stand in need of immediate reductions. That was the most concrete and substantial finding by the Coal Advisory Committee.

Before I go on to deal with the exact figures given by the Coal Merchants' Federation, I would like to remind the House of the more general figures. Coal charges are up by 100 per cent., cost-ofliving and wages charges are up by 78 per cent., railway freights, one of their principal charges, are up by considerably less than 50 per cent., and the price of illuminating gas to the consumer throughout the whole country is up, on an average, by only 50 per cent. All the constituent charges of these coal merchants, with the exception of the pithead price of coal are not up by more than 80 per cent., whereas the coal which they sell is up by over 100 per cent. I do not adduce that as in any sense a detailed argument, but it will serve as a preface to the more detailed points I am putting later.

I think I have approached the core of the problem. The core of the problem is to be found in this pamphlet which purports to show how the charge for a ton of Derby Brights, delivered in Central London, is made up. There are only five items. Pit-head price, after allowing for smalls and deficiencies, 27s. 9d.; railway freights, including wagon hire, 11s. 11d.; wages of loaders and carmen, 4s.; cartage expenses, including sacks, 2s. 7d.; other distributing costs—it gives a list of items—3s. 8d.; present margin for profit and contingencies, 1s. 1d. The first item is the pit-head price, 27s. 9d. I regret to say that when a ton of any specific kind of coal is ordered, the person who orders it is by no means certain of getting the kind of coal ordered.


I think the hon. and gallant Member has made a very serious charge there. Does he definitely say that the merchants deliberately send out a different kind of coal from what has been ordered?


That will be answered in the course of the information I am coming to. With reference to the inquiry just addressed to me by the hon. Member opposite, perhaps I may be allowed to read from an answer made to Mr. Shinwell during the inquiry last year, when one of the largest and most important coal merchants said, in reply to a question—this can be found in the White Paper— There is a coal, bright house coal, which in normal times we supply as Derby coal, which the public like. At times like this we cannot get enough of that. I myself bought second-grade Northumberland coal. We had to sell it as bright house coal.


At what price?


The answer continues: We have to get the next best we can to the normal. In a subsequent answer you will find he stated that, of course, he sold it at the same price as he would have sold the other. I could have quoted innumerable cases of consumers who have made these complaints, but I preferred to give it to the House out of the mouth of one of the largest coal merchants.

In the constituency I have the honour to represent here 50 per cent. of the coal is delivered by wagon from house to house. We never hear about Derby Brights in that trade. In this house-tohouse delivery there are only two grades of coal, best coal 2s. 8d. per cwt. and nuts 2s. 7d. per cwt. I think I have said enough to show that when you buy the best you get the best, or the next best; the only thing that is always best is the price. It reminds me of some hon. Members with whom I have had the pleasure of playing golf, who possess high handicaps and rather light scruples. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I have not named the quarter of the House from which these Members come. When they take a card out they never put down a higher score than 9, satisfying their consciences with the mental reservation that 9 means "9 or over." It is the same with some of these coal merchants, I regret to say—"Best means best or next best."

The second important matter is that this 27s. 9d., which is stated to be the pithead price, is not always the price paid by the coal merchants for it, because they are able to contract forward. I do not complain about that, because it is perfectly legitimate, provided they do not charge too much for that service. They are able to contract forward, and they very often buy the very best Derby Brights at 25s. and 26s. per ton and even when it was cheaper they sold it at 27s. 9d. I think I have said enough to show that the price given in this statement is not a favourable guide as to the amount paid at the pithead compared with the price at, which the coal is sold at the doors of the consumers.

The next item I wish to refer to is "other distributing costs." That amounts to 3s. 8d. I do not hold any brief for the co-operative societies. I am as fully aware of their drawbacks and disadvantages as I am of their merits, but I want to point out that the items which cost the coal merchants 3s. 8d. only cost cooperative societies about 1s. 8d., and that shows a decrease of 2s. As I have already shown, the total cost of a ton of Derby Brights delivered in Central London is 51s., but that same coal is being sold on the outskirts of London at 52s. 6d., although the costs are no more than in the case of Central London. There is an ordinary household coal which is being sold at the present time at 47s. 6d. per ton which could be sold even on the estimate made by the Coal Distributors' Information Department at 41s. 3d. per ton, and show a reasonable profit. It is in regard to this grading of coal that the coal merchants are marking a profit of from 70 to 100 per cent. per annum. On a turnover of just over £2 they made a profit of 1s. 1d. per ton, and that is about 25 to 30 per cent. per annum.


At 51s.?


Get a bit of chalk.


For the years 1923 and 1924 chartered accountants have certified the average net profits of six representative coal merchants supplying 50 per cent. of the London coal to be 1s. 7d. per ton. These chartered accountants do not say in their statements whether that includes industrial coal, because 1s. 7d. per ton profit on industrial coal is a very high rate, and there are many other people who are satisfied with a profit of 9d. per ton upon industrial coal. In working out all these costs no trader has ever been able to agree about the overhead charges, and chartered accountants do not see what goes on in the coal yard. They take the vouchers given to them, and if any particular coal merchant likes to allow himself £2,000 a year as a salary in addition to profits and a high rent for his sidings and his premises, the statement of the chartered accountants under those circumstances is not a very useful one.

So far as the railway charges are concerned, there are one or two serious grievances, but as I hope to be able to say something about railway charges on a subsequent occasion I will satisfy myself by making an appeal to the Secretary for Mines to do what he can in this matter. I have been encouraged to hope, after a study of the OFFICIAL REPORTS of last year, that I shall get a great deal of support for my Motion from a large number of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I know that the Secretary for Mines in the late Government was subjected to a constant fusillade of questions from this side of the House on this question, and the present Secretary for Mines, who is not of a very excitable temperament, became quite angry on several occasions with the Government for not dealing with this question. The present Secretary for Mines, addressing the previous Secretary for Mines, said: Does the hon. Gentleman find it impossible to take immediate action to put an end to what he has described as discreditable profiteering? I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health present. He has had his reward for the great work he has done, and not the least of his activities was his constant criticism of the Secretary for Mines for not dealing with this question. In fact, he got tired of attacking the Secretary for Mines, and one afternoon he turned his attention to the late Prime Minister, and said: Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the Secretary for Mines has been very busy asking questions and is nothing at all going to happen as the result. For these reasons I hope we shall find the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health giving us his support on this occasion. This question cannot be dealt with without treading on somebody's corns, whatever method is adopted. A suggestion has been made that these should be a system of registration of coal merchants. The inauguration of a proper system of grading and a co-operative system have also been suggested. I am not going to recommend any of those suggestions, but I will make one myself. I am not going to ask the Secretary for Mines to be precipitate in this matte!, but I ask him to do something before the winter ends. There is one thing, however, which I implore him not to do, and that is to set up a Royal Commission. Although we shall offend the susceptibilities of somebody whatever course we take, we shall offend public susceptibilities still more by taking no action at all.

My suggestion is that we might legalise municipal trading in certain circumstances in regard to coal. After all, many public authorities have a considerable experience of trading of various kinds. In the Division of South Hackney, which I represent, we have a monumental example of successful municipal trading. The Borough of Hackney electricity scheme supplies electricity at one of the cheapest rates throughout the country, and it pays considerable sums in relief of the rates. They have had a good deal of experience in buying coal and running business affairs. The coal merchants say that one of their greatest difficulties is the question of storage, but I would like to point out that local authorities frequently have ample facilities for storage which the coal merchants may not be able to provide. This has been tried before by local authorities. I am indebted to the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. C. Wilson) for drawing my attention to the case of the Sheffield local fuel and lighting committee. They expended £22,124 in the purchase of coal at a time of shortage, and they sold it for £24,456. They considerably exceeded their costs, even after making allowance for charges, and I am assured, by those who made a close study of that experiment, that, if they did this without having any appliances, such as shoots for dealing with the coal, they could have made a very considerable profit if they had had it properly organised, as it could be if a Measure were introduced by the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

I hope the House will not think I have kept them an unwarrantably long time. I want to be fair to the coal merchants and to the Coal Merchants' Federation. I know that they are human, and I do not believe in making unduly severe attacks upon anyone, least of all from this place of privilege. I do, however, feel that the public interest is challenged by these excessive prices, and I think something ought to be done immediately. The Secretary for Mines has all the facts necessary for action. We, who have only available the contracted scale of private information, cannot know nearly s, much about the matter as the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who has vouchers and complaints from consumers all properly filed. I think this question is ripe for action, and I hope hon. Members in every part of the House will unite to ask the Government to take immediate action to grasp this crying evil and to destroy it.


I beg to second the Motion which has been moved by my hon. and gallant Friend in a speech marked by great ability and obvious sincerity. I regret, for many reasons, that the Motion is more or less confined to the particular question of excessive prices of coal to household consumers. There are other equally important and, from some points of view, more important, aspects of the question with which we should have liked to deal. There is the injury done by the high prim which is charged for coal to industrialists. I have, as every hon. Member has, heard in this House very eloquent speeches from Members who have large commercial interests in this country, complaining of the burden which high taxation entails upon the trade and industry of the country at the present time. I should like to hear them speak with equal eloquence of the burden which is entailed upon industry by the high price of coal, as well as of other commodities. This is as much a form of taxation as any other form, and it is the worst form of taxation, because the product of it goes, not to the Exchequer, but somewhere or other into private pockets. I hope that those gentlemen who are so eloquent about burdens on industry will join us in pressing upon the Government our views on this question. Then there is the element which the coal industry represents in the foreign trade of the country, and this is also a matter on which we, should like to have some support, It is not because we were unaware of these other aspects of the question that we are not dealing with them now, but because we think that this limited question affords ample material for discussion in the limited time that is available.

9.0 P.M.

It is not necessary to enlarge upon the existence of the problem. It is only necessary to mention three sets of figures in order to carry conviction to any impartial person as to the existence of a very serious problem. Coal has been likened to a black diamond, and nowadays it is almost as expensive in this country. Some of these figures have already been referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend. Ire has referred to the figures which have been distributed by the Coal Merchants' Federation and the Coal Distributors' Association, in which they give the pit-head price as 27s. 9d., and the price to the consumer as 51s. I want to give some other figures, affecting; not London, but South Wales, because I think they are equally eloquent of the situation. There are some districts in South Wales where the total cost of production of the coal does not exceed 18s. per ton. There are places in South Wales where the average excess of the price which the household consumer has to pay is over 20s. as compared with the pit-head price. I observe that in the statement which my hon. and gallant Friend has quoted it is suggested that the difference in the price is very largely due to high railway freights, but, in the towns to which I am now referring in South Wales, where that excess of over 20s. per ton exists, railway freights do not exceed 3s. 6d. or 4s. 6d. a ton.


Is that the average pithead price?


I am talking about the average pit-head price of the coal and the average price to the household consumer. We deal with different kinds of collieries there and different kinds of coal, but that is the average price. I know a little about South Wales and about the collieries there, and there is this difference of over 20s. per ton, of which only 3s. 6d. or 4s. 6d. is accounted for by railway freights. There is a third set of figures to which I desire to refer, namely, the average wages in the collieries—the average wage of the men who actually produce the coal. I want to refer to these figures because I think they have relevance in the consideration of this question. I know it is very difficult to dogmatise on these figures, because I do not suppose there has ever been an industry in the history of the world in which it is more difficult to arrive at an accurate figure in regard to this matter. There seem to be so many grades and classes in the coal industry, each with its own particular rate of wages, that is very difficult to form a real estimate; and, despite all the negotiations which have taken place over a long series of years, this large number of grades apparently continues. Agreements have not withered and customs have not staled their infinite variety. I think it is fair to say, however, taking the miners as a whole all over the country, that their wage is about 10s. 5d. a shift; and I think it is also fair to say that the average production per shift is certainly less than a ton. Therefore, in the price of coal to the household consumer, the miner, who is so often blamed for the price of coal as well as for many other things, is only responsible, as regards his wage, for less than 10s.

Let hon. Members note the relevance of these three sets of figures, and let it be remembered that they are figures of facts, and not figures of speech. Another matter to which I want to refer is this: As is apparent from the interviews which the late Secretary for Mines bad last year, as far as London was concerned, it is in the hands of a small body of men—some six, or eight, or ten—to decide whether there shall be an increase in the price of coal to household consumers; and I believe I am right in saying that daring last summer they found it necessary to increase the price of coal no fewer than five times. Actually, as my hon. and gallant Friend has said, the price of coal has gone up 100 per cent., which involves a charge to the industrial users of coal of about 70,000,000, and of about £17,500,000 to the household consumers. As I say, these are figures of facts. They are figures which do not so much speak for themselves as call out for people to speak for them and to speak in their defence and in their justification.


On a point of Order. Is it a fact that the wages in South Wales are 10s.? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"]


I am talking perfectly distinctly, and I was taking the average wage of the miners all over the country. It comes to 10s. 5d. If that is not right, it can be challenged, and if it is challenged there are several Members above the Gangway who can speak with greater knowledge and practical experience than I can. I should be very much surprised indeed if it can be justified that I am overstating the case. These are just a few figures and a few facts which indicate the existence of the problem, and the consumer wants to know why it is that there is this great difference between the pithead price and the price he has to pay. He wants to know; he does not know; he is entitled to know, and what we are asking the Government to-night is to assist us in ensuring that the customer shall find out. There are the documents published by the Coal Distributors' Association. I will say nothing about that except this. In the statements which have been issued they have condescended to a greater amount of detail than they were prepared to furnish the Secretary of Mines with last year, when they were asked to answer a number of specific questions. The only other comment I make is that it is extraordinary in life how often it becomes necessary to form organisations for the defence of the irreproachable. I am reminded of a statement of Benjamin Franklin to this effect: When I see a merchant over-polite to his customers, begging them to take a little brandy and throwing his goods on the counter, thinks I, That man has got an axe to grind.' I cannot help feeling that in the history of coal distribution somebody has got an axe to grind, that that axe is being ground pretty well, and that having been ground it is made to descend pretty heavily on the neck of the consumer. These facts indicate the problem. What the consumer wants to know is what is the cause of this difference. It cannot very well be set against the wage of the miner. I do not suppose that, and should be very surprised if, a single Member of this House would venture to say that, in view of the work they have to perform and the conditions in which they work, the miners are being overpaid. In any case their wages represent but a small part of the price of the coal to the consumer. Then is the owner making too many profits? I have been reading speeches by the coal owners in recent times and I gather that they are making practically no profit at all. Incidentally there is a suspicion in certain parts of the country that certain people are not only coal owners but also people, possibly under different names, who are coal distributors, and what they lose on the swings of ownership they make up for on the roundabouts of distribution, and there must be a good many roundabouts between the coal leaving the pithead and arriving at the house of the consumer. Is it railway freights? In the statement which has been issued it is stated that freights do consume a considerable portion of this difference, but I have already given figures as far as South Wales is concerned, where it is clear that the railway freights are not responsible for more than a small part of this difference. Is it that there are too many middlemen engaged in distribution or is it that there is too much waste in the industry? Or is it a lack of organisation and a lack of initiative on the part of those who are responsible for the conduct of the industry?

These are questions which obviously should be cleared up, because this problem is of vital interest to every home throughout the country and particularly, and perhaps more than we who are comfortably situated in life can appreciate, to the poorer homes of the country—to homes in the slums of the large cities, where the sun of heaven scarcely ever penetrates and the people have to rely upon coal for the only means of warmth available for them and their children. This is a matter which affects every child and every man and woman throughout the country, and has an intimate connection with the life and well-being and health of the population. These are questions to which, in view of the nature of the problem, we are entitled to ask the Government to devote their attention. Unless the Secretary for Mines can get up and assure the House that he and his Department are satisfied that everything is as it should be in connection with the coal industry and that he is satisfied that there is no waste, that there is complete. organisation and plenty of initiative and that there is no profiteering, and profiteering of the meanest form, consisting as it does of trading at the expense of one of the prime necessities of life—[An HON. MEMBER: "Socialism!"] I do not care what you call it. This is a question which does not involve party considerations. It is a question which, as I regard it, is a human question, affecting the well-being of the people at large and it does not matter what we call ourselves, whether it be Liberals, or Socialists, or Conservatives or Tory Democrats. Let us give the best we can in order to try to do something to remove what is a real grievance and something which involves a serious burden, not only upon the industries of this country, but upon the life of the individual man, woman and child throughout the country. Unless the Secretary for Mines can get up and assure the House that he is satisfied—and he will never do it—in regard to each of the questions which I have mentioned, it is obviously his duty to make certain that he ascertains the true facts of the situation, and having ascertained them, deals with them resolutely and effectively.


In rising to oppose this Resolution, I would like at the very outset to remind the hon. and gallant Member for South Hackney (Captain Garro-Jones) of the nature of his Resolution. The assumption underlying that Resolution is that there are excessive coal prices, and that therefore the Government should be called upon to deal with those excessive coal prices by introducing some Measure. I was hoping that in his somewhat lengthy speech he would convince the House that there had been excessive coal prices charged. I have yet to find out from any utterance he has made that he has given any proof of any kind that there are excessive charges being made in the coal-distributing section of this trade.


You go and buy a hundredweight and you will find out.


I have bought many a hundredweight. I know this House is always fair in its treatment of these questions, and I give the hon. and gallant Member the credit for wishing to approach this question in a fair manner. If he did not, I think his conduct would be reprehensible. Any hon. Member who approaches this subject in other than a serious manner would lay himself open to the charge of reprehensible conduct. I hope, in the short time at my disposal, to contribute to this Debate in a real manner, and to remove some misconceptions. Let me start, first, with the misconceptions of the Seconder of the Resolution. He said that the pit-head price was 18s. a ton for coal in Wales. One of my hon. Friends asked, "Is that the average price?" and he replied, "Yes, the average price." Not later than yesterday, we had one hon. Member, I think it was the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Beckett) talking in the same easy, slipshod tones. He quoted prices of 18s. and 20s. for Durham coal, and 50s., 55s. and 60s. for the coal in London, and he said, "I want to know how it is that these coals, sea-borne, show a difference of price between 18s. and 20s., and from 50s. up to 60s. in London." I want to remind the hon. Member that there is scarcely any house coal shipped to London at the present time from Durham. I do not think there is½ per rent. so shipped. 99½ per cent. of the coal that comes into London is rail-borne. Notwithstanding, we have these loose statements made.

I have heard statements made again and again in this House, that 19s. 9d. was the price of house coal at the pit head, and that the same coal was 55s. to 60s. a ton in London. The question asked is, "Why the difference?" I have heard responsible miners' representatives say the same thing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I challenge you.


You profit by it.


It is time that the House and the country knew the actual facts of this matter. I want to deal with the different items. There is a big difference between 19s. 9d. and 27s. 9d. as the pit-head price, quoted by the Mover of the Resolution. I want to show where the difference comes in. As hon. Members opposite know, there is a difference between hard coal and soft coal, and the percentages that you can get in small and round coal. Let me take an assumed case of, say, 35 per cent. of slack at 8s. [Laughter.]


Go on.


Take 8 per cent. of small, 8 per cent. of nuts and 49 per cent. of round. You will not get 49 per cent. of round at most of the collieries in Durham.


I know some duff that is sold as best.


I am speaking of house coal, and it would require the pit to charge 30s. 2d. for round coal—[HON. MEMBERS: "What pit?"] I am not giving the name of the pit. [Interruption.]

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

The Mover and Seconder were listened to very quietly, and I must appeal to hon. Members not to interrupt.


For any hon. Members to make a statement that the average selling price is 19s. 9d. at the pit head, when they definitely know that there is no such price for house coal, is unfair. House coal is not sold at the pit head at that price, and anyone who makes such a statement, deliberately, should not only be contradicted, but it should be made perfectly plain to this House that the statement is inaccurate. At the present time you can buy Derby Brights at the pit head at 27s., but in my own county you pay from 28s. 6d. to 32s. for house coal at the pit head. If you take into consideration these facts, it makes all the difference between the assumption made to-night by the Seconder of the Resolution, that there is from 18s. to 20s. distributive charge, on the basis of an average pit-head price of 18s. for house coal.

Let me take the second point. There are three charges on the pamphlet sent out by the Federation. May I say that the Federation sent their pamphlet to the hon. and gallant Member opposite, to show that they were supplying him as well as anybody else with a fair statement of the case. Let me take the three charges. There is, first, the pit-head price of 27s. which you cannot alter. If the hon. and gallant Member disputes that, I would suggest that he should leave the lucrative profession in which he is now engaged and start as a coal merchant, and see whether he can buy any cheaper than 27s. We have 27s. 9d., with the wastage, as the pit-head price. There is a second charge of 11s. 11d., which makes 39s. 8d. of the 51s. at which the coal is sold to the consumer, representing 78 per cent. of the total charge of 51s. The other items represent 22 per cent., over which the coal merchants have some control. Therefore, the whole controversy ranges round that third item. The coal merchants cannot control the pit-head price, and they cannot control the railway charges, but they have some control over the distributive charges. Therefore the whole controversy ranges round that.

Let me be entirely fair. There is an item of 10s. 3d., plus is. 1d., which means that 11s. 4d. is allowed for the total charge of distribution and profit. That varies, and it varies considerably in the circumstances of distribution. I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to a report of the interview between the Cooperative Societies and the late Secretary for Mines. In the first column, the Co-operative Societies for London return their distributive charge as 11s., compared with 11s. 4d. But I go a good deal further. I hold in my hand a charge for one of the North Eastern districts of 7s. 3d. or, with a railway charge of 2s. 3d., a distributive charge of 9s. 6d. I will tell the hon. Members where the difference comes in. It is not due to the fault of the coal merchant, and not due to the distribution, but due to the conditions under which they have the coal to distribute. It is well known that in most of the North Eastern districts the coal is delivered in ton loads, and you may have distribution going on in the tens of tons a clay. You come into the metropolis and every bit of coal has to be bagged; every bit of coal has to be handled out of the trucks; has to be rehandled into the lorries, and rehandled again into the coal cellars. The result is that in the matter of the charges on that distribution the coal merchants have no control but have to fall in with the conditions. This question was again raised under the late Secretary for Mines and one of the representatives of the Co-operative Societies said: One of the main troubles in large areas is that the tenement houses in London and Glasgow,"— our friends from Glasgow can tell you more than I can and I hope they will— even the new council houses being put up, barely contain enough space to put in half a ton of coal. If I had my way every house which goes up would have at least space for a couple of tons of coal. It is the same in London. You have no accommodation. If you have accommodation in cellars, it has to be delivered in bag lots. I am going to take what I think is a very exceptional course for any Member in this House to take, and I. think an attitude which has not bees taken in the House of Commons. Again, may I say to hon. Members opposite, I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for South Hackney will be as scrupulous even in his own profession and in the other trades with which he is interested, and that he will, under an audited and certified account, disclose all the charges and disclose his profits. I might say to hon. Members above the Gangway that this is one of the difficulties that has arisen over the Political Levy. It is because the Members will not, and dare not, disclose a declared and audited account of exactly the distribution of that money.


I think the hon. Member had better keep to the subject under discussion.


I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I think I was led away. These distributive charges are charges that are audited and ascertained. As has been shown, you have under the first grouping of 39.8, 78 per cent, of the total cost over which the merchants have no control. Secondly, you have in the second set of charges an item of 4s. for wages, on which, in reply to a question raised by an hon. Member opposite, I want to say this. There was a disposition to say that the coal merchants, where possible, pay less wages than the cooperative people. The wages paid by the coal merchants are the wages fixed by the Industrial Court of 1924, and on the fair and reasonable basis of wages. They represent 40 per cent. wages alone in the distributing charges for domestic coal in London. Furthermore, so far as the problem goes, 1s. 1d. corresponds in some direction with the evidence given before the late Secretary for Mines in which the societies there stated that they made practically on an average 3½ per cent. on their turnover. The results certified by the auditors of the coal merchants show 2 per cent., and it is fair to say that the whole of the distributive charges form 2½, per cent. only of the actual cost to the consumer. I think that point wants emphasising. In other words, pit-head and railway rates 78 per cent., distributing charges 20 per cent., and the profit to the distributors 2 per cent. May I just briefly—


Before the hon. Member passes on. He promised he was going to reveal something which has never been revealed before. Will he do it before he passes on?


I will reveal this. I have analysed the whole of the charges in the distributing trade. I challenge any other trade or industry in the country to come forward with an ascertained and audited account similar to that. I think it is a fair challenge. There has been, if not a direct charge, an implication by the hon. and gallant Member of certain rings in the coal trade. I would give that the most emphatic denial, and I believe that for reasons that will appeal to all Members, whether they belong to the party above or below the Gangway. In the first place, it is well known that in many Northern districts prices are not set by the coal merchant at all, but my distributing collieries that may be in the district. Therefore, it is impossible in that case for any merchant to fix prices by rings. The merchants in themselves are in severe competition. There is another implication that there was a discredit—I think it was the hon. Member who seconded the Motion—because coal merchants were in an association. Is there any discredit in being in an association?


I never suggested there was.


But the implication is there. There is no discredit in coal merchants forming a federation or association, so long as it is right for you. I am free to say there is open competition among members of the association. The co-operative societies are sufficient and are a law unto themselves. I might weary the House if I referred again to the interview the co-operative societies had with the late Secretary for Mines, but it is a fact that the co-operative societies are a law unto themselves and are not in attachment with anyone. I see the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander). How can you suggest if you are such a representative body that there is a ring among the coal merchants?


The Speaker has more than once pointed out that hon. Members must see Mr. Speaker or his representative and not one another.


Again I apologise. I was led away by excitement. I think I have said sufficient to show there is no such thing as rings. If there is suggestion that there were rings in the country districts, the fact is that in the country districts coal is distributed largely from railway sidings and managed by the railway companies themselves. They sell the coal at these railway sidings on a percentage basis. For these reasons it is impossible that rings should exist.

I think the evidence I have submitted will convince the House that the charges which have been made by the hon. and gallant Member for South Hackney, in fact, contain no substance, and that the coal merchants as a whole in the distributive community are effectively meeting their obligations, and that, compared with any other agencies in being at present, they are more than efficiently meeting their obligations. I was very much interested in analysing the returns with regard to co-operative societies. I find that the distribution of coal to the cooperative societies extends in all to one-eighth or one-seventh of their members. That is a curious fact, but it is a fact, again, on the evidence submitted to the inquiry by the Secretary for Mines last year, and the reason is not far to seek. It is because, as I believe, the merchants and the distributors give better service than the co-operative societies, and that they deliver the coal in better condition and sell at lower prices.


Perhaps my hon. Friend does not know that it is only comparatively recently that the coal trade has become part of the co-operative movement, and that it is increasing very rapidly.


I can speak from experience in the north, and there are districts, which I know, in which distribution has been going on for the last 35 years, and in these places they have decreased their supplies. I have as much information on that point as my hon. Friend opposite. I hope, therefore, that the House will not be led away by the pretext of hon. Members opposite. It has been said from these benches that what we want is municipalisation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to hear that "Hear, hear" from hon. Members opposite. We on this side will give our greatest resistance to any attempt to municipalise the coal industry, and, for the arguments which I have advanced and many others that might be advanced, if this Motion goes to a Division I shall vote against.


I am sure that the House has been very much interested to hear the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. L. Thompson) explain what a philanthropic lot of people the coal merchants of London are. The fact is, that in their business they have been living fairly well on their losses. I happen to be a London Member and know something about the coal trade. My belief about the whole matter that it was the time of coal control which really spoiled the London merchants, so far as profits are concerned. The prices fixed when they were arranging the amount of profit to be made by a very small man out of his business, to enable him to get a living, enabled the other people in their quite large businesses to get more than they had been in the habit of getting, and, of course, they are net desirous of going back. The ordinary distribution of coal in London is done by a, man at piecework. That is rather unfortunate. I have been a representative of the men before the Coal Merchants' Association in London on many occasions. I have tried to get the men to agitate for a weekly wage and not to do the work by piecework. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] Probably it is, but the men, and the employers as well, do not desire the men to have a regular weekly wage.

They have got reasons for it. Most of their reasons are based on the fact that the trade is not a staple trade. It fluctuates very considerably, and the employers like to have their men just when they want them. If there is no coal to go out the carman gets 1s. 6d. per day. It is termed "driving money," but it is not that at all. It is really stable duty money. The men have to do stable work, clean the horse and get ready, and then, if they do a day's work, it is generally considered to be three two-ton loads, or six tons for a day's work. The employers themselves have always recognised that the wages which they pay the men are based on a 34-ton week, five days at six tons, and on the Saturday four tons, and they do not consider that the men can live decently on doing less than that. There are many who do much less than that, and they can send those men four miles without any extra charge.

This table which has been outlined may be true, but I should want to scrutinise the books very seriously to find out where the extras come in. With regard to the extra journey money I should also want to be convinced as to whether a sack going out six or a dozen times in the day is going to cost 4d. each time. I should also want to find out something about the charges made on the wharf. We get the wharf manager who has generally been one of the workmen, a leading man. We get the chief clerk, and then the weighbridge clerk, in many instances. It is very nice to bring out these administrative charges, but they want a great -deal of scrutinising. Then my hon. Friend tried to compare the work of the men working for coal merchants as compared with those working for co-operative societies. I may inform him that there is no cooperative worker who runs away from his job to get a coal merchant's job in London. They get a full weekly wage, they get a half-day's holiday, with pay, as well as finishing early on Saturday, and they do not have to go round on Sunday to collect the money for the coal, which they have left with the people at their own charge, as they have to do in London.

The whole system of London delivery of coal is a disgrace. The men who take the coal out take it out on their own responsibility. They find their own customers, not the employer or his agent, and deliver the coal at standard price to the people, and go round on Saturday nights and Sundays collecting the money, and the merchants know it and they keep the men at it. No wonder they do not want weekly servants. They like the men to be on piece-work. There are very few coal merchants in London who pay their men sick pay during illness. Unfortunately coal carmen, in going about the streets in all kinds of weather, are subject to illness occasionally. But the co-operative society does pay sick pay. If all that goes into the expense of the coal-distribution charges there must be a difference between the co-operators and the coal merchants. It has been stated that coal when it reaches some of the consumers costs as much as 56s. or 60s. a ton. It happens in this way. In a district like- that which I represent, where the people have not got the convenience for storing much coal—they have worse inconvenience in finding the money to pay for the coal—they buy coal in 7-lb. lots. You cannot go to a coal dealer and get a 7-lb. lot at an average of 27s. or 51s. a ton. They have to pay exorbitant prices for small quantities. Even if they get 14 lbs or 28 lbs. at a time they still have to pay a price in excess of that paid by those who order a ton at a time. Consequently, these people frequently pay 56s. to 60s. on the average per ton for coal.

We are trying to alter that in Poplar. We are trying to dispense with stoves by putting in electricity. I heard the hon. Member for South Hackney (Captain Garro-Jones) say that Hackney had a very good supply of electricity. Hackney cannot come up to Poplar. Bad as we are, we have the finest electricity undertaking in London, and we are supplying electricity cheaper than anyone else in London. What is more, we are paying the best wages to the workmen, and giv ing them the best conditions of any district in London. And we are proud of it. Parliament threw out the Bill which would have given the people who are in poor circumstances an opportunity of getting reasonably cheap coal. During the War and during control you allowed the municipalities to store large quantities of coal, but you did not allow them to distribute it to the consumers. You allowed them to get in 400 tons or 500 tons of coal and to store it in case there was a shortage, so that the retailers of the district could come along and take that coal and distribute it, which they did and which we did in Poplar. But is was not to the benefit of the consumer; it, was more to the benefit of the retailer. What we desire is to see that if there is any advantage to be obtained it should go to the consumers, the people who pay all the time and every time, to relieve them of a lot of payment that they make for keeping other people on their backs. We have advised them on many occasions that what they have to do is to set abort relieving themselves of the chains that have been wound around them.

Probably the Debate to-night will help the Minister to go into the question of these retail prices and to see whether something cannot be done to enable the poor consumers to get coal more cheaply than they are getting it now. I will not say that there are exorbitant profits being made by anybody. I have not said so. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the Motion?"] The Motion says "excessive prices," and I do not think it mentions excessive profits. We are complaining about excessive prices, and all the remarks that I have made have been about excessive prices. The unfortunate part of it is that the poorer a person is, the more he pays for all his commodities, not only coal, but bread, and everything that he requires. If he wants tea he cannot get it at the same price as you or I would pay. He has to buy one ounce or two ounces, and he is charged more in proportion. Things of that kind we want to see altered. They can be altered only when you give the municipalities power to get the commodities and to retail them to the people at a reasonable charge for administration, instead of allowing so many people to make a profit out of the consumers. I am glad that the hon. Member for South Hackney brought this question forward. I hope that the Debate will be of good effect upon the Minister, and that it will enable him to look into the question and see whether something cannot be done to reduce prices.


The proposer of the Motion expressed the opinion that 27s. 9d. was not a fair price for the merchant to pay for coal at the pithead. I rather think that the merchant is understating the case, because within my own knowledge there are collieries, supplying certain classes of house coal for London, which are charging 35s. to 36s. a ton at the pithead. To-day there is one particular colliery doing that, I know, and I believe there are several of them doing so. The fact that the colliery owner gets 35s. is all to the good of the miners, because the higher the price of the coal at the pithead the greater the proceeds, and the miner gets a high percentage of the proceeds.


Are we to take it that the hon. Member is making that statement on behalf of the coal-owners?


I hold no brief for the coal merchants or for the coal-owners. I am simply stating what is a fact at a particular colliery and, I believe, at several other collieries in that district. I am pointing this out, because it is a fallacy to try to get mathematical accuracy in the price put down as chargeable at the pithead. As everyone knows, coal varies and is of different qualities. Sometimes you think you are getting Derby brights and sometimes another particular kind of coal, but I think that, taking it all round, 27s. 9d. is an understatement of the pithead price that the merchant has to pay. The question is asked, if 27s. 9d. is the pithead price, how does it come about that the average is only 18s. or 19s.? It comes about in this way. A colliery that is selling at 35s. a ton for a particular market is selling slack or dust for electricity purposes at 5s. 6d. a ton at the pithead When you average the 5s. 6d. and the 35s., and the prices of other manufacturing coals, including occasionally export coal, you get a certain average which is reflected in the returns given by the Government. I have those returns here.

The Proposer also said that the cost of distribution was very excessive. He said that the merchants put down for this cost 3s. 8d., but that the co-operative societies could do it for 1s. 8d. If they can do for 1s. 8d. what the merchants do for 3s. 8d., why on earth do they not sell coal in London at a price considerably cheaper than the coal merchants? According to that view the co-operative societies, if they wished, could regulate a fair and proper price for household coal in London. The Seconder of the Motion made what to my mind was a somewhat appalling statement, but one which is easy of contradiction. He said the miner got only a small proportion of the proceeds of the sale of Coal. I have before me the Government Returns for the quarter ending in September, 1924. I believe the return for the quarter ending December, 1924, is not yet published—at any rate I have not been able to get it—but I find that in the previous quarter the miner received in wages 13s. 8.19d. per ton and not under 10s. as the Seconder said.


I think the hon. Member is doing me an injustice. He is talking about the wage per ton, but I distinctly said I was referring to the wage per shift.


I understood that afterwards the hon. Member turned his figure into the figure per ton, but if that is not so I withdraw my remark. The fact remains that the wage cost per ton for this particular quarter throughout the whole of England was 13s. 8.19d., and of course in South Wales it was considerably higher. The selling price at the pit-mouth of that coal was 19s. 1.87d.—that was the average price. The total cost of that coal was 19s. 1.58d., and the owners get 0.29 of a penny per ton during that quarter, and the miners got 13s. 8.19d. per ton during that quarter. [Interruption.]


Hon. Members must listen to the other side of the case.


We have hon. Members saying in this House that the miners receive a very small proportion of the proceeds of the sale of coal, and yet we have the actual Government figures that the proceeds of the sale of the coal during that quarter were allocated as I have described, and the figures for other quarters are nearly about the same. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] There may be 1d. or 2d. difference in the selling price at the pit-head, but there is not much in it. Out of the 19s. 1d. the miner got 13s. 8d., and the owner, during those three months at any rate, got practically nothing. I am not saying that during some other months the owners do not get something, but if they did not get something they could not carry on.

10.0 P.M.

What is the remedy suggested for this supposed high price of coal in London I do not admit at all that the prices are high. As I say, I hold no brief for the coal merchants, but taking the average price of household coal at 27s. 9d. and taking the coal merchants' cost or the co-operative societies' cost, I think the fact that the co-operative societies do not sell at a lower price shows that the price is quite reasonable. No case has been made out to show that coal merchants in London are profiteering. No case has been made out to show that the prices charged are excessive, because if they were excessive they could be remedied by the co-operative society. The remedy put forward is municipalisation. Anyone who has had experience of municipalisation knows that it does not reduce costs. Poplar may, as an hon. Member has just said, have a cheaper price for electricity than other parts of London, but the hon. Member ignores all the other relative factors in that matter.


Is it not the fact that the price of municipal electricity over the whole London area, taking the boroughs all together, is one-third cheaper than the price of the companies, taking them all together.


I do not necessarily accept those figures. I am not prepared to challenge the figures given as to the price of electricity in Poplar, but it is not fair to take prices of electricity without taking all the relative factors into consideration. After our experience of nationalised services such as the telephone service one is forced to the conclusion that it will be a poor day for this country when we have nationalisation and municipalisation on an extensive scale, because there is no system in it. There is no service in this country which is run so badly as the telephone system, and there is no one to whom we can make complaints or from whom we can get any remedy in regard to it. That applies to all nationalised services, but if you do not get satisfaction from one coal merchant you can always go to another. I think I have shown that the prices charged by the coal merchants are not excessive, and that if we change our system for a system such as is desired by hon. Members opposite, we may come to that position described in the words of the Bible— My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.


I wish on behalf of my hon. Friends on this side of the House to congratulate the hon. Member for South Hackney on his enterprise in bringing forward this question. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Thompson), who is, I understand, interested in coal, made a speech in which he tried to convince the House that there was no profit in the distributive eon', industry.


I do not think I said that. I said there was a fair profit.


I think the expression used was an "infinitesimal profit." I wish to assure the hon. Member and other hon. Members opposite that we have no desire to make any special attack upon business men engaged in the coal trade as distinct from any other trade. I am not aware that it has been suggested that they are making exorbitant profits but I suggest that it is somewhat difficult to imagine that there are not substantial profits still being made in the coal trade. We have the statement put forward by the trade itself in a leaflet which I have here, intimating that among the six great firms of distributors in London, responsible for the distribution of half the coal in London, there was an average profit of Is. 7d. per ten. The 1s. 7d. a ton may seem somewhat small. I went to the trouble yesterday to try to ascertain what is the amount of coal distributed in London, and I find that, as ascertained by the Mines Department last year, for domestic purposes there is round about 5½ million tons of coal consumed in London each year. [An HON. MEMBER: "The London County Council area?"] Yes. In addition, the 28 municipal authorities in London consume over 2,000,000 tons per annum. In those two directions there are no less than 7,000,000 tons a year consumed. The leaflet issued by the trade in the coal industry in London admits that six firms supply half the coal in London at an average profit of 1s. 7d. per ton. That is to say, on those 7,000,000 tons, there is, as a matter of fact, a net profit of £500,000 a year, and these six firms share £250,000 amongst them. That is not the whole story, because the 7,000,000 tons only include coal for domestic purposes and public authorities. The figure takes no account of all the supplies delivered for industrial purposes. Anyhow, that is sufficient to indicate that, after all is said and done, the coal trade in London is not yet quite on the verge of bankruptcy.

There is an attempt being made to try to demonstrate that there really is no margin to enable coal to be supplied to consumers at a less price, but I notice that even the leaflet put forward by the merchants admits that, on a ton of coal, that is, Derby Brights, which they state are being sold by the ton at 51s., there is a margin of 11s., after payment has been made for the pit-head price and the railway charges and sidings. There is a margin of 11s. on every ton delivered into the consumer's cellar, and I venture to say that Ms., with a margin of lls., is a minimum amount. Of course, as has been pointed out, a great portion of the coal in London is sold at a higher price than 51s. even reaching to 60s., so that it is quite clear there is the substantial margin of from 11s. to 14s. per ton going to the distributors, simply for transferring the coal from the London sidings into the consumers' cellars. We on these benches say that that is an exorbitant margin.

I can go to other parts of the country besides London. I have a copy of an actual invoice of deliveries of good house coal from South Wales collieries to Cardiff and Swansea, free to the railway sidings in Cardiff and Swansea. The price in Cardiff on the sidings vary from 33s. 7d. per ton to 37s. 7d., or an average prices of 34s. 6d. per ton. The same coal is sold in Cardiff and Swansea at 50s. per ton, so that in Cardiff and Swansea—not in London, with the difficulties which have been referred to—there is a margin of 14s. to 15s. per ton for carrying the coal from a railway siding into the con sumer's cellar. I will give my own case. I live within seven miles of a coalfield, and I have never paid, since the year 1919, I think, less than £3 per ton for coal. I had a bill last week for £3 0s. 6d.; two years ago I was paying £3 3s. per ton for Wallsend house coal. I am informed by a friend who comes from that district that at the pithead at Wallsend best coal is being collected to-day at 23s. and 24s. per ton. I am paying £3 a ton for the same coal delivered at my house. It is said that one of the high charges on coal in London is the railway charge from the Midlands, or from wherever the coal comes, of 12s. In the West Riding of Yorkshire we get railway charges of 6s. or 8s. per ton, and, so far as I can make out, the coal I consume cannot cost the merchant who supplies it, when he receives it at the siding, more than 35s. a ton. I am paying £3, or 25s. more. These are facts which cannot be disputed, and there is a margin, which, with good management and organisation, would give a less price to the consumer.

I want to deal with the question of remedies. There have been suggestions as the result of the Inquiry undertaken by Mr. Shinwell last year. May I say we appreciate, I am sure, the reference which the hon. Member for South Hackney made to the work of Mr. Shinwell last year at the Mines Department; but I think the hon. Member overlooked the fact that Mr. Shinwell, as a matter of fact, before he left office, had prepared a Bill on this particular matter. At least, when I spoke to him to-day, I understood that a Bill was either in an advanced stage of preparation, or had been actually prepared. I understand the suggestions fall into three divisions. There was, it is said, a suggestion that a remedy might be found in some form of control of prices. Another method was that of registering dealers, who would be responsible for obeying certain regulations. The third suggestion was the development of municipal distribution. I will not waste time by considering the two first remedies which were mentioned. I agree that neither of them was practicable, but I do want to say a word on the question of a municipal remedy for the grievance of high prices in coal.

Reference has been made to-night—as a matter of fact, by the hon. Member for South Hackney—to what has been done in the City of Sheffield. I have here a copy of the report which was presented by the city surveyor of Sheffield to the Corporation, on 6th July, 1920, and this report deals with the experience of the Sheffield Corporation, acting under War emergency powers, under the Fuel and Lighting Order, during the period of the War. The city surveyor reports that during the period the department of the Corporation concerned handled no less than 12,500 tons of coal. As has already been stated, the cost of it was £22,124, and they received for the 12,500 tons, £24,457, or a net profit of £2,333. The surveyor points out that the prices at which the coal was sold were those officially fixed, which included a certain amount for handling, and he says: My experience of the matter was that, although we had no handling appliances, shoots, etc., like the merchants, we were able to handle the coal for less than the fixed charge. With proper appliances, we should have been able to have handled it for less and so increased our profit. The result of that trading of the Sheffield Corporation was that on the 12,500 tons of coal there was a net profit of 3s. 9d. per ton, or over 10 per cent. return for the Corporation. I mention this because the municipal solution has been derided, and I want to suggest—

The SECRETARY for MINES (Colonel Lane-Fox)

What date was that?


The 6th July, 1920. I want to go one step further. The hon. Member for Belper (Mr. Wragg) also criticised the slackness and the inefficiency of municipal methods of dealing with this matter. May I suggest to the hon. Member that he really is not acquainted with what the municipalities are doing. I have given the experience of Sheffield, working under difficulties, and, in spite of those difficulties, carrying on the undertaking with great success. Let me take the town in which I happen to live. For 20 years the town of Huddersfield has been carrying on a partial municipal distribution of coal, organised by the Corporation and carried out by its officials. I regret that it is only very partial; but the facts are that some 20 years ago the Huddersfield Corporation, acting under powers which they had, arranged to supply to certain textile manufacturers the whole of the coal required for their factories. That has gone on now for 20 years, and the result is that the coal is being supplied, admittedly, under municipal organisation, on the municipal tramways, carried in municipal trucks to the factory yards, at one-half the price at which any private contractor is prepared to do it.

I will give an actual case. I live in the town of Huddersfield, within a stone's throw of a factory which has its coal delivered by the municipal authority on the municipal tramway lines. The price in the street where I happen to live for the delivery of a ton of coal is no less than 8s. 6d. per ton, for delivery 2¼ miles from a railway siding. Our municipal tramway system delivers to the factory across the road at 2s. 10d. per ton, as against the 8s. 6d. We suggest that on these lines something can be done, for it must be remembered that our municipalities already are large buyers of coal. They have great advantages. A city like Glasgow can go into the market and get far better prices than any private trader, for that city purchases a million tons of coal per year. What, might I ask, is the City of London doing, or the Birmingham City Council, or the Manchester City Council? There are the tramways, which means that much capital has been laid down in the tramway organisation. There are the rails on the streets, which are at the disposal of the authorities as an agency not for competition but for the purposes of distribution. I hope that the Minister will look to the municipalities as one of the means to the solution of this problem.

May I in conclusion remind the Minister of what was said by Mr. Justice Sankey's Commission? I would remind our hon. Friends on the other side who have such a small opinion of that Commission, that it consisted, not only of the workmen's representatives, but of representatives of the employers too. That Commission unanimously recommended that the local authorities should be given statutory powers to deal in household coal subject to the provision that any loss sustained in such dealings should not be chargeable on the rates. There is, however, no fear that a municipality will engage in a public service which is likely to be charged on the rates. Tramways, electricity works, gasworks, waterworks, have given proof throughout the country that they are managed better by public enterprise than by private companies.


If the London County Council follows the advice of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down the Minister of Transport is going to have to face even a bigger problem of congestion in the London streets than at present. I see very material difficulty in the distribution of coal along the tramway system of London. On another occasion, when we have more time to discuss it, I think the House will enjoy very much a lecture by the hon. Gentleman on a system of coal distribution by the trams. I think everyone who is desirous that coal should be cheaper must welcome the fact that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who opened this Debate did, in fact, give notice of the Motion which stands in his name. I hold the view that the State can do very little in the way of positive action to influence the course of prices. As a rule, when the State does intervene the permanent effect is to send up prices and not to diminish them. What the State can do is to give publicity to the matter. I believe publicity is an effective remedy in matters of the sort. The hon. and gallant Member, by his Motion, is giving publicity to this subject and is rendering valuable service. I think we ought to thank him for it.


Then vote for the Motion.


I do not agree with the Motion. I do not agree with the form of it. It might have been a different matter if I had been allowed to draft it. I hope, however, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not find him, self in any particular trouble with Members of his own party, because for some peculiar reason Members of the Liberal party are very successful as tea distributors and as coal distributors. Many of them have achieved fame and fortune through the sale of tea and coal. I am afraid their million-pounds fund will suffer a little from his exertions to night. He is a Free Trader, and I happen to be a Protectionist. He believes in the free and unrestrained interplay of economic forces, the thing that hon. Members opposite would call anarchy. I do not quite understand why one who believes in the free interplay of economic forces should desire to municipalise, to hand over, not to competent people, but to people who are doing it in their spare time, the job of running a great business. From time to time, where for any reason private enterprise has not provided a service, there may be justification for the State or the municipality to come in, but normally it is one's experience that the administration of a trading service by a municipality is less efficient than by ()O'er people. It is perfectly easy to give examples of electricity being sold at this price or that price. Those who have had any experience of electrical engineering know that there is nothing more difficult in the world than to effect an exact comparison between electrical prices.

But to come to the immediate issue. Last year Mr. Shinwell, a, gentleman whom I have not had the privilege of meeting, but whose economic views are certainly not mine, had an inquiry. I read that inquiry at the time, two volumes of it, and I refreshed my knowledge to-day. He did not seem to get much further. He expressed himself as a little dissatisfied with what the merchants had told him, but he took no action. It must be that he took no action because he felt he had no justification for taking action. He would have had no lack of backing from public opinion, irrespective of political views, if he had felt he had got a case. He did not take action because there was no effective case.

In the case of coal we are face to face with a grave problem, to which I see no solution at the moment. Leaving out of account the allegations, which may be regarded as partisan, that coal owners are not as efficient as they might be, or that coal miners have declined in efficiency since the War, we have to face the fact that in this country, owing, I presume, to the fact that the average depth of mines is constanty increasing, that the problems of coal-getting are becoming more difficult. The real cost of coal production in this country has been rising for a generation. I do not mean the cost measured in our fluctuating money, but measured in whatever is the basis of measurement—I am not going to say labour—time; but whatever you do take as your effective basis, it is true that the fundamental cost of coal production in this country is rising.

In addition to that, you have the awkward difficulty that coal distribution is of necessity carried out in an inefficient manner. When I say inefficient, I am not blaming anybody, I am blaming circumstances. In London you put your coal into a bag—an inefficient process; you load the bag, generally by hand, on to a wagon—again an inefficient process; you draw that wagon through the streets; you lift the sacks off; you tip the coal through a hole in the pavement. These are a great number of inefficient processes in which there has been no improvement ever since they started doing it that way, as far as I know, and in which I can see no means of improvement.

In other industries, at the same time, great improvements have been taking place. The real cost of electric light—I am talking of light, and not of electricity—is to-day one-quarter of what it was 15 years ago, owing to improvements. There have been improvements in nearly every industry, and as those improvements take place you get a tendency for a rising standard of living in those industries, and the people in the industry hose efficiency is not improving claim the same increase in the standard of living as those do whose industries are improving. An industry which for any reason is unable to improve its position demands for those who work in it, whether employers, managers, or work-people, the same increased standard of living that you get in the industries whose efficiency is improving, and therefore you force up, so far as the consumer will stand it, the price of the commodity concerned. That, I believe, is the real fundamental trouble. You get prices out. of balance compared with other commodities, and this has been going on for the last 30 years.

That is the problem we have to face, and we shall not solve it by abusing one another in this House or outside, but by applying our minds and the minds of those engaged in the industry to finding out the best solution of the problem. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for South Poplar (Mr. March) with considerable interest when he spoke of the difficulties of the poor people in his constituency buying coal in small quantities. I am afraid that he was to some extent exaggerating when he told us that they cannot buy more than 7 lbs. of coal at a time. I do not think that even the hard-hearted Poplar guardians would dole out money in such small quantities as 2½d. a time, and therefore I think his illustration of 7 lbs. of coal at a time need not be taken seriously into account.

The hon. Member who seconded this Motion made a statement which surprised me very much, and I challenged it at the time with regard to the wage cost. He stated that the miners' wage per shift was something in the neighbourhood of 10s. for an output of something over one ton, and consequently the wage per ton was something under 10s. I challenged his statement at the time, and he retorted that he knew more about South Wales than I did.


If I said the cost was 10s. a ton, it was a slip, because it is over 10s. Since the wage per shift is 10s. 5d. and the production per shift is less than a ton I ought to have said that the wage cost per ton is a little over 10s.


The actual figure is only three farthings under 15s.


Does the hon. Member say that the cost per ton is 15s.?




That is not so, and it is quite wrong.


I have been giving the figures for Wales and Monmouth. At the time I challenged the hon. Member who comes from South Wales and I am trying to demonstrate to him the fact that I know more than he does on this subject. If it is true that there is anyone making a very good thing out of selling coal, there is nothing to prevent anyone else from starting in the same business.

Colonel LANE-FOX

I think the House will agree that we have had a very interesting Debate, and I have no fault whatever to find with the tone or temper of the speeches which have been delivered. I congratulate the Mover of this Motion upon his excellent speech, but I would like to remind him that if he moves a Vote of Censure on the Government, he cannot expect us to accept it. As far as the desire to carry out the objects he has advocated are concerned with regard to the retail price of coal, that is a matter with which the whole House has sympathy, although we may not be able to adopt the actual methods which have been suggested in this Debate. The question we are discussing to-night is, of course, a very difficult one, and it is also a very old one and by no means confined to this country. The question of the difficulty of the actual distribution of coal, especially in small quantities to a large number of people in a congested area, has been acute in a great many places, and is a particularly burning one in the United States of America. I should like to point out to the House that a good many factors come into the question. There is, for instance, the great question of transport and the cost of transport, which has been referred to by several speakers, where, since it is a sheltered industry, the wages are high—in fact, higher than those of the miners. There is also the question of the shortage of storage room, which is one of the great difficulties in getting coal distributed to small consumers. In small houses, as everyone knows, the accommodation for the storage of coal is extremely small, while in flats it is difficult even to find any place for it at all. Moreover, the merchants have certain difficulty in regard to storage.

All these points have to be considered. I feel sure that the merchants do their very best. During last summer they tried to persuade all their fellow-countrymen to do their best to buy their coal early, when prices were lower in the summer, in order to avoid a great rush later on and the consequent rise in prices. The ordinary individual, however, and particularly the working man, is certainly not prepared to buy for consumption, some months later on, a considerable stock of coal, even if he has a place in which to put it; and, again, the, merchants themselves have to buy large stocks and make forward contracts, and it must be remembered that, if the winter is a mild one, like that through which we have just passed, there is the possibility that, as I know has actually been the case, these people may have very large stocks of coal left on their hands and may very probably find themselves involved in considerable loss.

So many figures have been thrown about from one side of the House to another, that I am certain the House will not expect me to deal with individual figures and cases, but I will promise that every figure that has been given shall he examined and inquired into, and particularly those which were given in the very interesting speech of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley). With regard to the case of Sheffield, I would rather not go into that in detail now, but I think it must have been an exceptional case. I know that the experience which has been referred to in that case was gained during the control period, and, moreover, there had been a considerable accumulation of coal in various places close by. I will, however, go further into that matter. I can only say now that, as far as I understand, it seems to have been an exceptional experience, which could not be justified on any large number of cases.


It is not at all exceptional.

Colonel LANE-FOX

Reference has been made by several speakers to the household coal which is delivered and sold as household coal in London, and, indeed, the price of household coal in London is the main question that we have been discussing. That particular kind of coal, however, is different from other kinds or coal, and its price is different from the average pit-head price of coal for general purposes. It must be remembered that it is quite impossible for my Department to give the actual prices of each particular class of coal. We can only get these prices -from the trade papers, and, even there, there is a good deal of difficulty in tracing exactly what the price of each sort, of coal is. Questions have been asked on this matter in the House over and over again, not only of myself, but of my predecessors. Hon. Members often take the average pit-head price and quote it as against the retail price for small quantities delivered a very long way away from the colliery, but, obviously, that is not a fair comparison. It must be remembered that the average pit-head price, which is the only figure we can obtain, includes, not, only the price of small coal, slack and so on, but it also includes, especially in the North and in South Wales, a large quantity of coal which is being sold for export. Everybody knows at the present moment that the coal industry is in a very parlous condition. The export trade is becoming more and more difficult. It is common knowledge that coal is being raised and the collieries have to do as best they can, and that in many cases they are accepting prices lower than the actual cost of production in order to be able to get someone to buy at all. Every day, as the competition gets more severe, I regret to say the position is getting worse in that respect and every day that tendency is more marked. Therefore that renders the average pit-head prices very elusive and incorrect prices to quote in comparison with other prices.

Another difficulty has been alluded to, that is, the seasonal nature of the household coal trade. The merchant buys in summer when the demand is less, and the collieries, which have to get rid of the coal which is raised, are prepared to take a lower price. As I said before, if the general public bought more largely in summer, they would certainly get their coal cheaper, but it is only fair to say—and we all want to be fair in this matter—that when the merchant has got his stock in in summer and has to consider the cost of storage and the interest on the outlay, it is inevitable that there should be a certain increase in price when it goes eventually to the consumer in cold weather. I am not wishing to make any special case for either side, but I want to treat both fairly and to give them a fair chance. As I said, this Motion is put down in the form of a censure Motion on the Government. I would like to point out what happened in regard to the action of my predecessor. I may be responsible for a great many things, but I will not be responsible for my predecessor. The action which I took—and this is where the present Government come in—as soon as I came back, knowing there had been a long controversy between Mr. Shinwell and the coalowners, was to invite the representatives of these gentlemen to come and sec me. I knew they had had a long controversy with him and I knew that the most acute part of that controversy had taken place in the early spring, in February and March. There had therefore been the whole of the summer wasted and nothing had been done, therefore I wanted to know what the position was and see if there was anything I could do to improve on my predecessor. That is where the present Government come in. I found on reading the account of the controversy he had been able to prove distinctly that in no sense was there a ring and that he had got to exactly the same position as in previous inquiries—that although there was no actual ring there was a certain amount of concerted action. He could have found that out by reading any of the reports of previous committees. After all, I do not know any trade in which something of that sort does not happen. If there is such an immense amount of profiteering going on, and if there is such an enormous margin between the pithead price and the price at which the consumer gets the coal, how is it, seeing that there is such a vast number of people in this country, that there are not a great many people rushing in to explore this gold mine? I suggest that it is a splendid opportunity for the bright young people of the Liberal party. Why are they missing the opportunity? Here is an opportunity that ought not to be missed. We are told that there is a ring, but even so, is the ring so tight that there cannot be competition from anyone who wishes to come forward? If the position is as bad as it has been represented, how is it that there was not—


If the hon. Member will inquire in his Department., he will find that if anyone attempted to sell at a much lower rate than the rate at which coal is being sold at the present time by the coal merchants, the Coal Merchants' Federation would boycott the collieries which supplied them.

Colonel LANE-FOX

I advise the hon. and gallant Member to try. If he thinks that he and his friends are not smart enough to defeat the coal merchants, if they are really making such exorbitant profits, he rates the ability and capacity of the coal merchants higher than most people. I do not believe that if properly tackled it would be found very difficult for anyone to come in and, by honest trading, to take their stand.

What I found when I came into office was that since the 1st September there had been no rise in the retail price of household coal delivered in London. That was the position when the present Government came into office at the end of the year. I also found that during this winter there have been practically no complaints in the Department, whereas during the previous winter there had been over 100 complaints, both as to price and quality. Therefore, I think I was justified in saying what I have said on several occasions that, for the moment, I was not very anxious to pursue the matter further, more particularly because at this moment the merchants have very large stocks on their hands and, therefore, obviously, profiteering is very difficult. When stocks are short there is an opportunity for profiteering, human nature being what it is, but when everybody has a large stock on hand the coal merchant will find it extremely difficult to profiteer. The coal merchants gave me certain figures and I was able to have them analysed and checked. The point they made was that a previous Committee—the Duncan Committee—had said that the cost of distribution should be reduced. They were certainly able to prove that during recent years they had diminished the cost of distribution, though certain costs had gone up. It is fair to them to say that the wages had been increased by an award of the Industrial Court. They showed that the salaries of their staff had been kept up to the, level of the cost of living. But they had reduced other things. They reduced their siding rents and general establishment charges. The total did not make a very large reduction, considering that one part of the costs was increased by facts over which they had no control.

The time is getting on and the House must reasonably ask what are the Government prepared to do? That is the question I am very anxious to answer. The Government are as anxious to keep down retail prices of coal as anybody else in this House. We may not be considered to have many virtues, but I do think coal can be very useful in vote-catching. The situation does not seem to call for much anxiety, for the reasons I have given. There has been a mild winter and a big stock. When I invited the coal merchants to meet me, I did it with the expressed intention of making quite clear to them that this Government was not going to be any more inclined to be lenient to anything in the way of profiteeering than any previous Government, and that any time when there seemed to be any suggestion or the Government had reason to believe that they were exceeding the limit of reasonable profit, the Government would not shrink from taking strong action. The mistake of my predecessor was that he did not get clown to bed rock. If he had done so he might have found out a great deal more than he did. There is a method by which a great deal more information could be obtained. The Government certainly will not hesitate to take powers to call for the books of merchants if necessary, and if necessary, in specially bad cases, to publish the result. That would be o, very strong power and one which might be abused, and therefore it wants to be carefully considered. But before any definite Action is taken it is only right to look for information, and full inquiry must be made before any action of that sort is taken. The Government are as anxious as anyone else—


Is there, Die necessary staff in the Department?

Colonel LANE-FOX

I said that the Government would naturally make inquiries. After that they will take any action which is necessary to deal drastically with any situation as regards profiteering that may be found to exist.

Captain BENN

When does the right hon. Gentleman propose to ask for these powers? Does he intend to do so this Session?

Colonel LANE-FOX

The hon. and gallant Gentleman most allow me to be the best judge of that. For the moment we have to investigate the matter so that

we may be able to deal with it when necessary. While I have every sympathy with the idea of reducing, as far as we can, the price of coal to the consumer, yet the Motion which has been put down has been put in the form of a Vote of Censure, and as such the Government must oppose it. It must be obvious to everyone that anybody who puts down a Motion in this form must expect that it cannot be allowed to pass without being opposed by the Government. Meantime, all that I need say is that we will watch the situation very carefully and do everything that can be done, and if we acquire further information, pointing to the necessity of further powers, we will take the necessary action.

Captain BENN

In the whole of the genial speech of the right hon. Gentleman there was not a solitary word of comfort to the person who has to pay the exorbitant price. The Government are in the position to take the powers now. They need not use them until they are required. They are doing nothing. Instead we have had a series of jokes, and, at the end, the statement that if the Government find it necessary they will take action. My hon. Friends are entitled, censure or no censure, to vote for this Motion.


May I ask why more has not been done on the lines of the Report of the Advisory Committee presented to us two years ago?

Question put: That this House calls upon the Government to prosecute measures to prevent excessive charges for coal supplied to household consumers.

The House divided: Ayes, 118; Noes, 211.

Division No. 63.] AYES. [11.0 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Bromfield, William Day, Colonel Harry
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Bromley, J. Duncan, C.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Dunnico, H.
Ammon, Charles George Buchanan, G. Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)
Attlee, Clement Richard Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Fenby, T. D.
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Cape, Thomas Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Charleton, H. C. Gillett, George M.
Barnes, A. Clowes, S. Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)
Barr, J. Cluse, W. S. Greenall, T.
Batey, Joseph Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock) Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)
Beckett, John (Gateshead) Connolly, M, Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Dalton, Hugh Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Groves, T.
Broad, F. A. Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Grundy, T. W.
Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Lowth, T. Smillie, Robert
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Mackinder, W. Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) MacLaren, Andrew Snell, Harry
Hardie, George D. Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Stamford, T. W.
Harris, Percy A. March, S. Sutton, J. E.
Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Montague, Frederick Taylor, R. A.
Hayday, Arthur Morris, R. H. Thurtle, E.
Hayes, John Henry Murnin, H. Tinker, John Joseph
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Naylor, T. E. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Palin, John Henry Varley, Frank B.
Hirst, G. H. Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Viant, S. P.
Hirst, W. (Bradford. South) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Warne, G. H.
Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Ponsonby, Arthur Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Potts, John S. Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Welsh, J. C.
John, William (Rhondda, West) Riley, Ben Westwood, J.
Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Ritson, J. Whiteley, W.
Jonas, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W.Bromwich) Williams, David (Swansea, E.)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell) Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland) Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Kelly, W. T. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Kennedy, T. Salter, Dr. Alfred Windsor, Waiter
Kirkwood, D. Scrymgeour, E.
Lansbury, George Scurr, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Lawson, John James Sexton, James Captain Garro-Jones and Mr.
Lee, F. Shiels, Dr. Drummond Ernest Evans.
Livingstone, A. M. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Dawson, Sir Philip Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Drewe, C. Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.
Albery, Irving James Eden, Captain Anthony Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Edmondson, Major A. J. Jacob, A. E.
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby) Ellis, R. G. Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)
Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James Elveden, Viscount Kindersley, Major Guy M.
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Everard, W. Lindsay Knox, Sir Alfred
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Fielden, E. B. Lamb, J. Q.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. Fleming, D. P. Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Col. George R.
Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence Ford, P. J. Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Forrest, W. Little, Dr. E. Graham
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Foster, Sir Harry S. Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Frece, Sir Walter de Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)
Beamish, Captain T. P. H. Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E. Looker, Herbert William
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Ganzoni, Sir John Lougher, L.
Bethell, A. Gates, Percy Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere
Betterton, Henry B. Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Lumley, L. R.
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham MacAndrew, Charles Glen
Blundell, F. N. Glyn, Major R. G. C. McLean, Major A.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft * Goff, Sir Park Macmillan, Captain H.
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Gower, Sir Robert Macquisten, F. A.
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. dace, John MacRobert, Alexander M.
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Grant, J. A. Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-
Briscoe, Richard George Greene, W. P. Crawford Makins, Brigadier-General E.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Gretton, Colonel John Margesson, Captain D.
Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Grotrian, H. Brent Merriman, F. B.
Buckingham, Sir H. Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-
Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan Gunston, Captain D. W. Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)
Burman, J. B. Hacking, Captain Douglas H Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M
Burton, Colonel H. W. Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Hammersley, S. S. Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph
Caine, Gordon Hall Horland, A. Nelson, Sir Frank
Campbell, E. T. Harrison, G. J. C. Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Harlington, Marquess of Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Haslam, Henry C. Nicholson, O. (Westminster)
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Hawke, John Anthony Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Nuttall, Ellis
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Oakley, T.
Christie, J. A. Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur p. Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Pennefather, Sir John
Clayton, G. C. Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K. Herbert, S. (York, N.R. Scar. & Wh'by) Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Perring, William George
Cope, Major William Holland, Sir Arthur Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Courtauld, Major J. S. Holt, Capt. H. P. Pilcher, G.
Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe) Homan, C. W. J. Price, Major C. W. M.
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Radford, E. A.
Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro) Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N. Raine, W.
Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry Howard, Captain Hon. Donald Ramsden, E.
Curzon, Captain Viscount Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Rhys, Hon. C. A. O.
Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton) Hume, Sir G. H. Rice, Sir Frederick
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Huntingfield, Lord Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland) Wheler, Major Granville C. H.
Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford) Steel, Major Samuel Strang Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Ropner, Major L. Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H. Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Salmon, Major I. Stuart, Crichton, Lord C. Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)
Sandeman, A. Stewart Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Sanders, Sir Robert A. Styles, Captain H. Walter Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Sanderson, Sir Frank Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Wise, Sir Fredric
Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.) Wolmer, Viscount
Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby) Tinne, J. A. Womersley, W. J.
Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wills. Westb'y) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W.R., Ripon)
Skelton, A. N. Turton, Edmund Russborough Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.) Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P. Wragg, Herbert
Smith-Carington, Neville W. Waddington, R. Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Smithers, Waldron Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Somerville, A. A. (Windsor) Warrender, Sir Victor TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Sprot, Sir Alexander Waterhouse, Captain Charles Mr. Luke Thompson and Mr.
Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.) Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley) Hannon.
Stanley, Lord (Fylde) Wells, S. R.