HC Deb 27 March 1925 vol 182 cc848-912

Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

I was pointing out, when interrupted, that the total profits for the industry for 1924 were £165,500,000, and that the amount paid in wages was £152,200,000. The balance left for profits for the whole of 1924 was thus £13,300,000, a sum equal to less than 1 per cent. of the amount paid in wages I am quite prepared to say—

Where does the hon. Gentleman get that calculation? The figures that he gives show a profit of 8½ per cent., not 1 per cent.

I was going on to say that if we took the £13,000,000 as the total amount paid in profits that that would certainly be misleading unless one also went into a further calculation to discover what that represented on the total amount of capital in the industry. The amount of capital in the industry is difficult to calculate.

Surely not!

I think we had better leave it at that for the moment.

Surely, Mr. Speaker, it is of the greatest importance that a statement like that—that the profits only represent 1 per cent.—should not be made without some proof. The wages amounted to £152,000,000, and the profits to £13,000,000. £13,000,000 to £152,000,000 is 8½ per cent. and not 1 per cent.

Probably a following speaker will take up that point, and deal with it.

I want now to put the total amount that the owners had in 1924 which was not sufficient to anything like meet the charges which would fall under this Bill. Since the Agreement of 1924 came into operation the amount allowed in profits has been less. In the September quarter, the amount paid in profits represented 2.9d. per ton, and the amount in the December quarter was 7½d. per ton. The amount of wages paid in those two quarters averaged about £37,000,000 in each of the three months. The total profit, therefore, in the September quarter was 264,000, as against £37,000,000 paid in wages. In the December quarter the total profit was £1,800,000. So that the whole of the proceeds at present are paid in wages and since the coming into operation of the 1924 Agreement. There is nothing left to pay for other wages so far as the industry is concerned, and the owners at the moment are not receiving any return on their capital, taking the country as a whole. I agree that in isolated instances, in certain parts of the coalfield there are profits being made, but to compensate for that there are a large number of other districts where the pits are making no profits for the owners. Under the National Agreement when you take any of the figures you must take the whole country through, and I say that at the moment there is nothing in the industry out of which this minimum wage could be paid. Where, then, is it to come from? It must come from somewhere. You can get it by increasing the price of coal at the pit-head by 2s. per ton, or you can do it by a Government subsidy. Those are the only two methods possible. Is the country going to stand an increase of 2s. per ton on the total output of the coal of this country?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give us some indication as to the facts upon which he bases that calculation?

It is my own calculation with the help of my own accountant. I will supply the hon. Member with a copy of the figures if he desire.

Or anyone else?

I will to the best of my ability, supply anybody who wants these calculations. Let me add that the steel industry is also in a bad way just now. It takes four tons of coal to make one ton of steel, and 2s. per ton at the pit-head on coal would mean 2s. 6d. by the time it reached the consumer. You will raise the price of steel 10s. per ton. I wonder what the steel-workers will say about that, at a tame too, when the industry can barely compete with other countries? We have beard a lot lately about orders for ships going to Germany. The amount of coal used in the building of a ship is very considerable. On an 8,000-ton ship it takes something like 2,500 tons of steel in plates and girders, besides the steel used in the engines and the boilers. There will be an increase of price on an 8,000-ton ship by 10s. per ton for the steel and iron if this Bill is passed, and I think the steel workers and the shipyard workers ought to know it. It will effect also the gas and electricity works and workers, for they also will have to pay the increase. There is not a single person in the country who will not be affected. Certainly the coalowners will not be affected by the Bill; somebody will have to pay the money. It is not, I say, in the industry now, and you can only get it by passing the extra cost on to the consumer.

Suppose you can get the people of this country to pay the 2s. extra? Suppose you artificially force up the price of coal? We export one-third of the total output of coal each year. In 1913 we exported 98,000,000 tons out of a total of 287,000,000 tons, so that if you are going artificially to raise the price of coal you are going to kill your export trade. One-third of the mines to-day are employed in producing coal for competition in foreign markets. You will never get the foreigner to pay the increase of cost involved in the passing of this Minimum Wage Bill. I can tell hon. Members from experience that when it comes to the question of selling coals to the foreigner, the coalowners in this country extract the last penny. The output already has gone clown enormously. What is the alternative? A Government subsidy! It will be at the cost of the taxpayer. I do not, however, think there is going to be much chance with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in asking for a £25,000,000 subsidy for the coal trade just now.

There is no other way of doing what is required except by agreement between the two sides of the industry. This thing can only be done by getting the men and the owners together, and by some method of combination to increase the output and to reduce the cost to the consumer. There is no other way whereby an increase of wages can be obtained. You cannot get more out of an industry than is in it. The miners are getting it all now. When trade improves the present machinery will provide for an increase, for it provides that the workers shall have a. fair share of the profits for their labour. I have tried to show that the industry cannot bear the suggested increase, that the Government will certainly not provide a subsidy—and nobody knows that better than hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the front Opposition Bench. That being so, I think we are entitled to ask: "Why this Bill?" I submit that the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer supplies us with the reasons. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) wrote a -very interesting article a few weeks ago, and this is a paragraph from it: The present wages movements in the mining and engineering industries, in the railway and other transport services, are being exploited by the Communists for revolutionary purposes. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who was that?"]

That was your own Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer. He continues: A determined effort is being made to induce all these bodies to join together in a general strife which will hold up the community. The revolutionary aim is being kept in the background, and the workers are being appealed to on behalf of the solidarity of labour. That is a serious statement. He knows what is going on behind the scenes, and I think the country ought to be grateful to the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer for having the courage to tell us. The mining industry is fair game for every agitator who cares to come along. The miner is entitled to a square deal, and the owner is also entitled to a square deal. I think the object of the conferences going on now is to find agreement as to what that square deal is, and to arrange accordingly. I say no economist or politician worthy of the name will come here and tell the House that it has any right to guarantee to any body of men a wage which at the same time does not carry with it a guaranteed obligation that the services which a man will render will be at least worth the amount that he is paid as a minimum. I say the collieries cannot pay it, therefore the only thing left to the coalowners will be to close down, and you are going to add infinitely to the already swollen ranks of the unemployed. I remember that this Bill was deprecated by Lord Oxford and Asquith (Mr. Asquith as he then was), who was loud in his denunciation of the principle of it. Many men who represented the miners in those days were equally definite against the principle. The Bill is inopportune, and I sincerely hope the House will refuse to give it a Second Reading.

My last word is an appeal to hon. Gentlemen on the benches above the Gangway. There never was a time in this history of this country when the owners were so desirous of securing the basis of an agreement that will lift the trade out of these constant agitations. There has never been a time like it. The Prime Minister the other day endeavoured to infuse into the atmosphere of our industrial life a new point of view. What finer thing could there be than that the supporters of this Bill should say, "We agree with this new spirit we will withdraw the Bill: we will rely on that public opinion which says that the miners must have a square deal and, on the, other hand, that the owners must also have a square deal." I think that sentiment would be created, if you had the courage to say that this Bill should be withdrawn, for it has no chance of a Second Beading, and the men up and down the country would then see that the House of Commons is not opposed to them and is prepared to see fair play on both sides. Therefore, I do hope the Bill will be withdrawn, but if it is not, I shall support the Amendment.

I rise to support the original Motion that a Second Reading be given to this Bill. I have heard on all sides of this House that the men who come here from the mining constituencies have no concern with other than mining questions. I am not prepared to admit or deny any truth there may be in that statement, but almost one of the last inquiries of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down was, "Why this Bill?" There never was a time in the history of political institutions when the men in the mining constituencies were less concerned about general political questions than they are to-day. They are not concerned particularly whether we have a Pact or a Protocol. They are not enthusiastic as, to whether we retain a paper currency or go back to the gold standard. They are not concerned particularly whether Government money paid to the Church of Scotland shall be capitalised. The question that interests them and the questions they put are, "Why cannot I get a job?" and, "Why has not the wage I receive the same value it had in pre-War days?" That is the answer to the question, "Why this Bill?"

1.0 P.M.

I should like to refer to a few of the, other remarks with which the last speaker terminated his speech, namely, as to the revolutionary attitude of the people for whom he said the mining industry was fair game. If the House accepts the advice and turns down this Bill, I want to suggest that that would be the most direct incentive to revolutionary activity. The man who went out to fight from the mining districts or alternatively stayed in the mining districts must have this much remembered to his credit, that in the days of the War he improved the shining hour as little as anyone as far as wage demands and wage concessions were concerned. But he is not to be gulled nowadays by specious talk about coal being the life blood of the country and about his being a hero at work and at play and on the field of battle. The two hon. Gentlemen who have opposed this Bill have said what is frequently said everywhere in the train and in the street that there is the utmost sympathy for the miners. We can understand opposition; we can understand argument against our case, but we do not want this gratuitous sympathy given with sanctimonious unction. We do not mind opposition. If the Bill is not right, attack it on its merits, but for goodness' sake do not tell us that the men are the best in the world, that we have the best coal in the world, and so on, and then tell us there is no more money and we are not to have any. I have heard since I came into this House the oft-repeated phrase that it is the duty of a Government to govern. I suppose everybody more or less agrees with that. But there is a difference in the interpretation of the words "to govern."

Now we allege, and we re-state it as fact, that in 1912 this House had, as one of its functions, the duty of providing the underground workers, at any rate, with a minimum wage. The hon. Member for South Bristol (Sir B. Rees) may say it was not the intention. He may say that that Bill which became an Act was intended to deal with the abnormal place question. In the inception of the agitation which led up to that Act, possibly it is true, but the fact remains that the Act began by reciting the fact that It shall be an implied term of the employment of every workman underground, that he is to receive wages not less than the rate laid down in the Schedule of the Act. That means that everyone except those excluded by the rules should have a minimum wage. It is intended by this Bill to perpetuate the principle which was conceded by this House 13 years ago. All that it does alter is this, it lays the onus on this House of saying what the starting wage shall be. In 1912 this House went halfway with its task, and then feared the job to which it had put its hand. It is true that it provided a minimum wage, but a minimum wage arrived at by Boards set up under the Act, and in every case that in practice meant on the arbitrament of the independent chairman of the said Board. Moreover, the Bill excluded surface workers from its provisions, presumably on the assumption that the surface worker had not to live and was of worth a minimum wage.

Again, it overlooked this important fact, that it costs a miner and his family as much to live on the days when he is not working as on the days when he is at work. It provided a daily wage, and a daily wage in mining areas is not necessarily an exact reflection of the weekly income. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh), who moved the Bill, made his calculations on the basis of 5½ shifts per week. On Saturday last, I took a census of 47 pits in my county, and I was astonished to find things as good as they are. Some six had worked 5½ shifts, the great majority had worked 5 shifts, some had worked 4 and three had worked 2¼ shifts, the average being just under 5 shifts per week. Having regard to accidents, to illness, to absence through inadvertence and to a thousand and one things, the general working week of the miner cannot exceed 5 shifts per week. Therefore, the daily minimum wage provided by the 1912 Act must be multiplied by not more than five to give an indication of what the miner gets. There is today no relationship whatever between the legal minimum in any district and the circumstances which that Act was intended to meet. The hon. Member for South Bristol said the average minimum wage, by which I assume he meant the legal minimum, was 7s. 6d. As a matter of fact, that is the highest payable in Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire, the average is somewhat less than that. But assuming that it is the case that 7s. 6d. is the present minimum wage provided by the Act, in my county of Nottinghamshire we have by agreement secured for coal getters, to whom the 7s. 6d. applies, a minimum wage of 8s. 3d. plus 57.47 per cent. Therefore, the legal minimum wage as provided by the 1912 Act is in Nottinghamshire as 13s. is to about 7s. 6d., and the same comparison could be drawn between the legal minimum wage as provided by the 1912 Act and the actual wage payable in every district.

If our plea stood on no higher ground, it could rest upon the fact that national agreements between coal owners and men have no legal sanction. As a matter of fact, following the dispute of 1924 there were whole districts, Bristol among them, which refused to pay the wages then agreed to, and we have no reason to suppose that the whole-hearted co-operation which coal owners now desire will be any more beneficent than it was this time last year; and if we got a repetition of what happened then there is no legal compulsion on any coal owner in this country to pay the wage arrived at by agreement, if he does not so desire. On that ground alone, therefore, we ask that the Bill should be brought up to date.

The hon. Member who has just resumed his seat (Sir B. Rees) left the impression that the coal industry is decadent, if it is not within measurable distance of being dead. I do not know where he gets his figures. He instanced profits for the last two quarters of last year only. To the best of my knowledge, the profits for the last quarter are not yet available, except to those directly inside the industry, but he knows, as every one in the industry knows, that the industry cannot live upon the results of any one quarter or any two quarters, or, indeed, of a year. From such figures as are available to me, and I have the audited accounts for the whole of 1924, agreed to by the joint accountants for both sides, with the exception of a few small districts—Cumberland, Preston and Somerset—and I find that last year, bad as it was, the average of profit throughout the whole kingdom was one shilling and.84 of a penny per ton. In the district from which I come, not a negligible district, embracing as it does Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Cannock Chase and Warwickshire, representing in terms of output one-third of the whole of the coal won in the kingdom, the average profit for the whole of the year was 1s. 11.29d. per ton. In pre-War days the goal aimed at by the coalowners was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1s.; they considered themselves extremely fortunate if they realised 1s.; so that even in 1924 there were considerable areas in this country which made a profit which by no stretch of the imagination can be said to be negligible.

The hon. Gentleman asked what the provisions of this Bill were going to cost the coal industry. I, too, have made a calculation, but I did not approach it in quite the same way as he did. I do not know whether he will agree with me that the average wage per person employed during 1924 was 10s. 6.79d. He said the average output was 17.6 cwts., and I make it 17.95 cwts., so the margin of difference between us is not very great. He has ignored this fact, that throughout the whole of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, with the exception of South Derbyshire, the provisions of this Bill would not cost one penny in their operation. He has ignored that entirely. The percentage of pieceworkers to the rest of the workers in the industry is, as nearly as possible, 40 per cent.; of day wage workers the percentage underground is 40 per cent., and the surface staff are, roughly, 20 per cent. If the average wage per person employed per shift worked is 10s. 6d., that must mean that if we are to raise the wage of the piecework coal getters to 12s., then 40 per cent of the total will require an increase of 1s. 6d. per shift. If the average of day wage workers is 10s. 6d., and their pay is increased to 11s., that will be an increase of 6d. If the average wage is 10s. 6d., the wages of the 20 per cent. of surface workers will not require to be increased at all. That is, when you are dealing with the law of averages, as the hon. Gentleman will understand.

These calculations bring me to the result that to meet this incubus on the industry will require 9d. per shift spread over the whole of the persons in the industry. We propose an increase for boys and youths that will cost another 3d., and so I put down the whole increase as being equal to 1s. per person employed per shift. If the output is 17.9 cwts. per person, that increase represents not 2s. per ton but, as nearly as I can arrive at it. 14d. per ton. The hon. Member asks can the country afford it?

The industry.

Well, can the industry afford it? I should imagine, perhaps, that the industry could afford it if he will agree with me, that the industry should embrace the by-product plants, the selling machinery, the agencies, the wagon ownership, the depôts in all the large towns and cities. Is the money there? Yes, the money is there. With every respect to the hon. Member for Sutherland (Mr. Luke Thompson) when, in putting his figures before us the other day, he told us that the clerical costs of getting rid of one ton of coal in London are 1s. 11d. per ton, we refuse to believe it, and when he tells us that each time a coal bag goes out of a London merchant's yard and the coal is shot out of it, there is fourpennyworth of wear and tear on the bag, we refuse to believe it. We would like to see the audited accounts to which the hon. Member called our attention the other night, but which we did not see. If we could eliminate the factor, who performs no useful service at all, if the ownership of wagons was not in the hands it now is in, and if the colliery companies would, as we have urged them to do, do their own merchanting, there would be at once sufficient money in the industry to meet the provisions of this Bill.

I can imagine the question being addressed to us as to where the money is to come from, but might I be allowed to say that the word "subsidy" was mentioned with a certain amount of horror by the hon. Member for South Bristol. Why, I do not know. He told us that the ailment from which the coal industry was suffering is clue to German competition. It may be due to the fact that quite recently £4,000,000 was sent into Germany by the Allies to enable them to resuscitate their coal industry, and, according to his statement., many of the ills from which the coal industry is now suffering are due to that resuscitation.

There are people in this House who think we are going to get reparations from Germany some time, of some amount from somewhere, but if ever we do would it be unjust to suggest that some of the money received as reparations should be used to rehabilitate the fallen fortunes of the coal industry in this country? Objection may be raised to the increased wages we suggest for boys. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite have any knowledge of the wages paid to boys engaged in British coalmining to-day. In the county from which I come, which, along with South Yorkshire, pays the highest wages of any district in the kingdom, a boy starts work in the mines at 2s. 4d. per shift, which, with the percentages added, works out at 3s. 6d. per shift. In other districts it is not so much. That is the result which has now been arrived at by those engaged in the coal industry.

The desire which used to exist in coal-mining districts for members of a miner's family to increase the family income by working in the pit does not now exist. Pits are being sunk miles away from any town. In my country, perhaps the largest coalfield in Britain, we are having extreme difficulty in getting young boys to work in the mines at all, and that is particularly the case in South Derbyshire, and the reason is that this is now largely a dead-end employment, and you have nothing to offer the boy when he arrives at a state of efficiency and full strength.

With the introduction of machinery in coal mining the men are losing their knowledge of the craft which they formerly had and they are becoming more and more like automatic machines. All these things are not sufficient to attract the boy to mining, more especially when they are coupled with the low wage now being paid. A fortnight ago we were discussing the Air Estimates, and the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.- Commander Kenworthy) called attention to the fact that there figured in the Estimates an item relating to writers' assistants, who received a wage of 17s. per week. The Secretary for State for Air, in replying to that criticism, pointed out that those writers' assistants were girls of 16 years of age, and that they were in receipt of a bonus which actually doubled that 17s. a week, and the House breathed freely.

If the House was shocked at the thought of employing a girl of 16 at 34s. a week. I would like to ask what have hon. Members to say about employing a boy 700 yards underground, in a temperature. of 84 degrees, for seven hours a day, doing an arduous, dangerous and dirty job for less than 3s. per shift. Thousands of these boys under the age of 16 years are working for about, £1 per week, with the exception of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottingham. Therefore we make no apology for doing at long last what we consider is an act of justice to the boys in the coal industry. Something has been said with regard to the famous speech made by the Prime Minister and we have been asked to reciprocate the sentiment of that speech. I think, however, it would be folly to lead the Prime Minister or anybody else to believe that if there is an interregnum between now and the time the miners take action it is in response to his appeal for peace. The reason they are not engaged in industrial strife to-day is because they cannot afford it.

I never made an inflammatory speech in my life, and I hope I never shall, but I can assure hon. Members that it is not necessary to do so in the mining districts. The time, however, is coming, unless something is done in this matter, when action will have to be taken. If something is not done to relieve the situation those engaged in the mining industry will sit down, and then it will be up to this House and those interested in mining to relieve the position. What has been called a reasoned Amendment says that. the time is not opportune for the passage of this Bill when negotiations are proceeding. I have taken part in all the negotiations in this industry from 1921 onwards with the exception of this occasion, and what is now proceeding is simply a sub-committee from either side, and they are engaged collecting the facts relevant to the industry. They are not, however, negotiating. The terms of reference to the miners' representatives precludes those negotiations unless and until the facts surrounding the industry have been considered by the men engaged in it.

It does not require very great imagination to see what is going to happen. The alacrity with which the owners enter into these inquiries is an indication that they are going to prove that the miners are getting too much already out of the industry. I have not the least doubt, inasmuch as we are dependent upon them for all the facts we obtain, that they will be able to show that the industry cannot pay the wages now being asked for. Supposing these are the conclusions arrived at. The miners' representatives will meet and formulate their policy in accordance with their interpretation of the facts, and the employers will do the same. Therefore, this House must not console itself with the fact that it is likely that an agreement is going to be arrived at as a result of the negotiations now proceeding.

If the spirit referred to by the Prime Minister is to permeate the coal industry, there must be some surrender of some value attached to it, and that will be the measure of sacrifice which those who support the Prime Minister will place behind that adjustment. We hope the House will give this Bill a Second Reading, and in the spirit of the Prime Minister's speech, they will say to the masters, "negotiate with your workmen by all means, but when you go into those negotiations it must be on the understanding that the irreducible minimum to be paid to the miners shall be that which is provided for in this Bill."

Personally, I very much regret that this Bill has been introduced at the present moment. I know that hon. Members sitting opposite will say that they are always met with the same statement, that the time is inopportune, but there can be no question that the present time is inopportune, in view of the negotiations that are being carried on, and the fact that, as this discussion, I think, has proved conclusively, the mining industry cannot pay any such figure as this Bill would demand. You cannot get out of the industry the demands that this Bill would inflict upon it. I want, however, to approach the subject from an angle different from any from which, I think, it has been approached in this Debate. I represent a constituency where we have, an abnormal amount of unemployment, covering possibly some 10,300 men, and I want to say to Members opposite that that very fact gives me very many anxious thoughts, and it is scarcely ever out of my mind as to how we can overcome that great and severe distress and difficulty. I think we shall be compelled to face this fact, that in the future the question of wages will depend upon the question of production, whether it he in the mining industry or in the shipbuilding industry, and I hope at some other time to have an opportunity of stating my views on the shipbuilding industry.

I want to come to a point relative to production in the mining industry, and I want to get to the inwardness of the problem by reading a communication which I have in my hand and which has been received from one of the chief engineers of the biggest group of collieries in the Durham district. I want to say quite freely, that I have discussed the inwardness of this question time and time again from the standpoint of the owners and from the standpoint also of the men, and, if we can get a reply to what I am saying, it may at least cast some light on the difficulty of the problem. This letter was: The great need of the moment in the coal trade of Durham is to reduce the working costs, because we cannot get orders for shipment from our customers aboard except at prices far below the present cost of production. The question naturally arises as to how best to reduce the working costs … either by increasing the output per person employed at the pits or by reducing the wages of the persons employed. The, former method is by far the better one. I Will discuss that, and it is his definite opinion that an output can be got commercially with a higher rate of wages— In my opinion, one of the chief drawbacks to improving the output per person is the reluctance of the Miners' Trade Unions in Durham to alter their methods of working so as to get the best results from the working of the seams by machine methods. Particularly, this applies to the working of the thin seams, and in Durham, where many of the pits have been worked for ever 100 years, the future of such pits depends upon the working of thin tennis by machinery. There have been various negotiations with the Miners' Unions with the object of getting altered methods introduced in connection with the working of coal-getting machinery, but so far such negotiations have been mostly futile. The requests of the owners for such altered methods do not involve increasing the hours of work nor the reduction of wages. They merely mean an alteration in the system or sequence of working so that coal-cutting machinery can be kept more fully employed than is possible with the present system, which was designed for a system of 'hand' labour. At the present time, I have in mind the case of a colliery which has been recently stopped, and on which large sums of money have been spent with the object of developing a thin seam because the thicker seams are rapidly approaching exhaustion. The result of working the thin seam by machinery has been disappointing, not because the machine has not done its work, but be-cause the arrangement of the labour for following out the various operations of mining the seam after the machine had cut the coal were not such as would produce the best results. The Miners' Union has been repeatedly asked to alter the system, … in fact, the Miners' Association, which represents the general body of miners in the county, refuse to agree to any altered methods, and after repeated attempts to work and warnings to the men at this pit that it must close if the working of the thin seam was not successful, the pit has been closed, and 909 men deprived of work.

There must be another side to the matter.

It is not fair to read that letter.

It is fair, and I think it should provoke a fair expression of opinion.

Who is the author? Is it an anonymous letter?

It is not an anonymous letter. I can give the name of the writer. As a matter of fact, I made it quite clear that I might use any information sent on to me.

Give us the name of the writer.

It is the chief engineer of the Lambton group.

On a point of Order. The hon. Member is reading a letter to which we have no chance of replying. We have been given no warning that this statement was going to be made, and we are not in a position to reply to it. It may be true, or it may not be true.

No point of Order can arise on this matter. If the hon. Member makes a statement of this kind, he makes it on his own responsibility. I have no doubt that an opportunity for a reply will arise before the end of the Debate

Would the hon. Gentleman tell us the name?

The hon. Member has made the statement on his responsibility. He is not out of order.

I think the time has come, not only in the mining industry, but in every industry, when we should get down to the facts. I sat here yesterday for as long a time as I could spare, but at the end of the Debate on unemployment I felt that we had been left at a loose end. We seem to be talking for ever about this subject. If it is a question of output, if it is a question of getting down to the facts, this House should face it, and that is the reason why I have read this letter. This pit, I am informed, is an old pit, 150 years old. Hon. Members on the Labour Benches know it quite well. The main seams are exhausted, but the thin seams can be worked by machinery At present this pit is losing 2s. ed. on every ton that is raised. I want, in fairness, to say that the owners have offered to produce their books and give every facility to the Minors' Association to see whether that figure is not correct. The output of the pit was 800 tons per day, and the owners always told the men that they did not ask that their wages should be reduced or their hours increased; they only asked that greater facilities might be given for the production of coal. They said that, if the output were raised from 800 tons to 900 tons daily, it would reduce the costs by 1s. 6d. per ton, and in that event they were prepared to keep the pit going for another year at a loss to themselves of 1s. per ton.

If it is a question of improved methods or new methods whereby that pit can be kept going, I think it is up to this House, and up to everyone who is interested in industry, to lay prejudice and party feeling on one side and see if a spirit of cooperation and real effort can be introduced into our machinery. What is the use of talking about competition? In America they have readapted themselves to new machinery in the mining industry, and also in the shipbuilding industry, and production has increased. I know that I am liable to be ruled out of order, but I want to say that I think we have to get down to the actual facts, and stop talking about simply bolstering up this industry by subsidies and all the rest of it. Let us get down to the real productive basis. To get on to that basis is the only salvation of the country. I felt that it was imperative and incumbent upon me to speak as I have done to-day, and that is the reason why I am supporting this Amendment.

I desire for a few moments to raise my voice in support of the principles of this Bill. I now represent a constituency in which there are no miners whatever, but in my old constituency of Kirkcaldy I had the great privilege of being in personal touch with a very large number of miners. I have lived all my life in a countryside where there have been miners, and I can speak, not from technical knowledge, although I am, naturally, interested in coal, but from personal knowledge of the lives of a great many of these men. I realise quite well that the production of coal is really a necessity for this country It is the life-blood of the country; it is the one means in export whereby we pay for a large amount of the food that comes into this country. But I am one of those who believe that a fair living wage for the lower sections of the coal industry will not in the least interfere with the production or the selling price of coal.

We have heard a great deal about the causes of the present situation in the mining industry. We have been told that it is due to lack of output. All I can say is that there is undoubtedly a section of the mining community that is underfed, and possibly that is a reason why we have a smaller output. It is undoubtedly the case in agriculture, certainly on the poorer lands in the South of England, that the workers there have for generations been underfed, and, therefore, are not able to undertake the hard manual work which can be undertaken by better-fed workers. If we can give that section of the mining community a living wage, they will in return give a bigger output and a bigger return for their labour. Only the other day, in the Debate on the Army Estimates, reference was made to the deplorable state of the recruiting figures, where five out of every eight have been rejected as unfit for military service. I cannot help thinking that underfeeding has a good deal to do with that state of affairs. I, for one, can testify to the splendid work which the mining recruits did in the late War. We had them in our Highland regiments and in our Durham regiments, which I know from personal contact with them, and certainly they faced the enemy in a way that was second to none. Therefore, I do think that we should do everything that is possible to prevent such a splendid body of our population from falling into decay and not being able to support themselves.

Further, we have to consider the coming generation, because, undoubtedly, many of these people are not able, on the money that they are earning in the pits, to give their children the nourishment and general care that they ought to have. Again and again I have been struck by the disparity between what is laid down as the average amount of money which these men are said to get per shift and what their wives tell you when you go to their homes. Many women to whom I have spoken in the mining villages have told me that they get very small sums from their husbands at the end of the week, and when I say to them that that is quite different from the sums that are said to be earned by the various men, they point out that there are many reductions, owing to faults which they have to drive through, and unproductive work which they have to do down below, so that their wages are curtailed to the extent that they say. Surely, the minimum wage for which this Bill asks is, after all, only a token, and I hope that, if the Bill goes to a Committee, this token, which represents real value at the present moment, will vary from year to year as the real value of money varies. It is quite conceivable that, if our industry goes on on the downward path, our money may go the same way, and, therefore, any actual figure which is at present laid down in the Schedule to this Bill is, after all, only a token in relation to the conditions of to-day, and it will vary according to the cost of living and the real value of the wage.

There is another point to which I should like to refer, and that is that this Bill only carries out the real principle of the Liberal Bill of 1912. It goes a little further, and, in the case of a dispute, takes it out of the hands of the Chairman of the Board that settles the wage, saying that he shall not go below a certain minimum. I think that this is almost necessary nowadays, because, in the mining industry, you are getting very much larger groups than you ever had in earlier days. The tendency of modern industry is to get together into larger groups, and it is undoubtedly true, as was pointed out by the late Secretary of State for War, that the personal touch between the real employer and his men is being lost. Therefore, it is necessary for the House of Commons to step in and see that the men who, formerly, could always negotiate with the man whom they knew and with whom they had lived all their lives, shall, when they have to negotiate with large groups, have at least some protection by means of some minimum. In Belgium and in Germany, where I lived for three and a-half years, I took a great interest in the mining industry, and I found that conditions were, in some cases, preferable to the conditions in this country. I found there that they had a type of minimum wage and that that wage varied according to the cost of living. I think they had that in Belgium, certainly they had it in Germany when I was there. Further than that, there were conditions in many of the pits, especially of Upper Silesia, which were in front of anything I have seen in this country.

I am not at all satisfied that my friend and colleague the hon. Member for South Bristol (Sir B. Rees) was right when he said that our mechanical arrangements in the mining industry are second to none in the world. I am satisfied that if he goes in some of the mines I have seen in the districts to which I am referring he would wonder where the mine is. The whole thing is done by electricity. You have electrical haulage and various other mechanical means underground, and you have a type of production of coal which is an advance on that in many pits in this country. I believe that by reconstruction and by the application of engineering brains to the coal industry that we can undoubtedly produce coal at a less price than we are producing it to-day.

It is not altogether fair to say that the wage of the miner is the chief cause for the rise or the decrease in the price of coal. If any industry is to exist in this country it ought, as a fight charge, to pay a decent wage to the people working in it. If this Minimum Wage Bill produces the effect of closing down some of the less efficient pits, that may be deplorable from the fact that it will turn out of employment a certain number of men, but I believe that the time has come when the inefficient must go, and when we must concentrate upon efficient pits and upon opening up new pits and arrange for the mobility of the miners, so that they can move into districts' where they can work under efficient arrangements, and be paid a living wage. A great many of us who have any knowledge of the coal trade know perfectly well that a great many pits in this country ought to be closed, simply because they are not working under efficient conditions and cannot produce coal to pay a living wage. The position demands the closest investigation from the Government as to how far fresh areas can be opened up and how far you can get the population now working in these poor areas transferred into areas where their labour can be better remunerated.

I am not at all sure that the time has not come when we shall have to tackle the coal industry from the point of view of reorganisation, and whether we do not want an investigation now by the Government into the efficiency of the industry as a whole. In our own district in Fife—the right hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) will confirm me—we have efficient management. They are going ahead there and spending money on improving their ways of production. I do not say that the pits are up to the standard of some of the mines that I have seen abroad, but they are working in that direction, but a great many other mines owing to lack of capital or lack of energy or enterprise are not moving in that direction. I believe that that type of mine must ultimately disappear and fresh mines take their place. In this country we have large fields of coal still undeveloped and untouched, and it is those fields that we shall have to approach in future if we are to hold our pre-eminent position in the coal trade.

Our coal is second to none in the world. During the Ruhr troubles anyone who was over in Germany at that time must have been told by industrialists that they get 15 per cent. better steam out of our coal, taken from the east coast of Scotland or from England when it is used in the very area where they have been using Ruhr coal. Therefore I have no great fear of the ultimate effect of German competition with our own coal. What we want to do, more than anything else, is to increase output and at the same time to reduce the expense of the overhead charges. It is undoubtedly true that in many colliery enterprises large charges for development work are put against revenue. In the old days those charges used to be put against capital. This new practice may be perfectly sound finance—I am not saying that it is not—but it is not fair to compare profits from past years with those of the present period, when possibly you have not taken into consideration the fact that the charges now put against revenue did not exist in pre-War years. Whichever account it is put up against, it ought to be considered from the point of view of the industry as a whole.

A statement has been made that if this Rill is carried through it will cut right across the 1921 agreement. I cannot see that, and I do not see why an agreement which has a basis of profit-sharing should not be continued and improved. The coal-mining industry was the first to adopt the very splendid arrangement under which you got a definite charge, first of all for labour, secondly for capital, and then the proceeds are divided between the two on a fair ratio. I do not see why this Bill should interfere with the working of the 1921 arrangement. I hope it will not. I know that there are many other hon. Members who know much more about the technical working of the trade who wish to speak and I will say little more. I stand for the principle raid down in the 1912 Act, that every man and boy who, as a miner, is unable to earn a living wage, because of conditions for which they are not responsible, should be guaranteed a living wage. That means the guaranteeing of the efficient worker and not the inefficient, and the guaranteeing of the time-keeper as against the man who is an absentee. I am sure that the men in the trade will see to it that the inefficient worker is thrown out and that the absentee is dealt with. Nobody realises the serious position of the trade more than the miner, and he is prepared to see that his fellow-workers do their share of the work. The miners do want to have as a basis a living wage. It is in the best interest of the community and in the best interest of the mining industry for the future that we should give the principles of this Bill a hacking, which I am very glad to do.

I am sure the House will agree that, after the very exhaustive review which was given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) of the incidents which have taken place in the mining industry during the days of control and since, it will be unnecessary for me to traverse that ground except to a very trifling extent. The present position in the mining industry was entirely due to what took place in 1921. The present position is naturally and inevitably the outcome of what took place at that time. In 1921 the coalowners and the Government decided that wage agreements were to be entered into on the capacity of each district to pay wages, and the capacity was ascertained by reference to the three months ending in March, 1921. The capacity of the different districts was different in each case. In some cases the capacity of the industry to pay wages was equal to only 20 per cent. above pre-War rates, and from the moment that that agreement was entered into some of the coalowners had no responsibility for wages in excess of 20 per cent. above pre-War wages. Other coalfields whose capacity for paying wages was higher had a much bigger responsibility.

Now see what happened. The South Wales coalowners had only to provide wages on the basis of 20 per cent. above pre-War wages. They made their contracts on a price which would enable them to pay that wage. They went into Europe. In France they actually under cut the Frenchman in his own market at his own door. That agreement had not been put into operation for three months before America was driven completely out of Europe, and the coalowners of South Wales, long after driving out American competition, brought the prices down shilling after shilling per ton, due entirely to competition among themselves in this country, until we had complaints from France and Belgium. French coal-owners were telling us that the price at which we were selling coal was creating consternation in the French mining industry. French and Belgian miners were appealing against this cut-throat competition which was forcing down their wages. The result has been to bring down the wages not merely in South Wales but in every other coalfield in Britain, a rid in every other coalfield throughout Europe.

2.0 P.M.

The result has been to demoralise the standard of living of the whole mining community throughout the whole of Britain. In South Wales from 1921 to 1924 we had a minimum of 20 per cent. wages above pre-War wages. For a very long part of that period we have had tens of thousands of men in the Welsh coalfields, many of them married men with families, whose daily income has been 6s. 5d. a clay, without one cent allowance in any shape to augment that amount. It is true, as my right hon. Friend explained this morning, that as a result of negotiation and the application of the subsistence wage provision in the agreement we succeeded ultimately in getting established the minimum of 8s. ¾d. There are to-day in the South Wales coalfields scores of thousands of men, married men with families whose daily income does not exceed 8s. ¾d., and whose average week is not in excess of five days. It is impossible for families to-day to maintain themselves in anything like efficiency, or have anything like a decent existence, on such wages as are paid. I have heard a lot in this discussion about the necessity for a greater output. Not only can we not have a bigger output on the present wages but the men employed in the mining industry to-day are not obtaining a sufficient amount of nourishment to enable them to resist the forces of nature with which they have to contend, and the mines to-day are rapidly ceasing to be commercial undertakings and are degenerating rapidly into slaughter houses.

Never in the whole history of industry has there been such slaughter going on in the mines as there is to-day, and chat is in the main because the workers have not the necessary nourishment to enable them to be alert and to resist the dangers to which they are exposed. The mining industry are supplied by official returns which are accepted by both sides, and any figures which I give are taken from the accepted authorities. In 1920 the average wage enjoyed by the mining areas of Great Britain was £4 a week. That is a rough figure, leaving out the decimals. In 1922–23 the average was £2 10s. per week. Of course, there is a very large mass of men in both periods below that average and a lot of others above it, but I would like the House to take note of the accidents in those periods.

In 1919–20 the number of non-fatal accidents was 117,000, everyone of which incapacitated the person injured for not less than seven days. That was when they were getting a. week. When they got down to £2 10s. a week it is not 117,000 injured but 200,000. Such a slaughter has never been known in the mines of this country before. Out of 1,200,000 workpeople in the industry they have 200,000, one out of every six of the men, women and boys employed in the industry, underground and on the surface, incapacitated for at least seven days by accident in the course of the year. I have no hesitation in saying that very large numbers of those accidents, which are peculiar to and associated with the period of low wages, are due to the unnourished condition of the workers employed in that industry. To talk about increasing the output until you give them a decent livelihood is simply to mock men who, during the last four years have been living in that way.

Analysing the provisions of the Bill I may say a few words. There need be no question as to the figures, as they are very complete and contained in Government returns. The average working week of the miners works out at a five-days' week. Take any number of years or quarters or any period, for all practical purposes they work out at a five-days' week. In this Bill we are asking for certain workers that there shall be a minimum established of 10s. per day; for day wage workers underground 11s., and for piece workers 12s. Look at what those figures mean from the standpoint of a weekly wage. They mean 50s., 55s. and 60s. Let us see what we can do with 50s. a week. As has been already explained to the House a wage of 50s. does not mean that that is the amount to be taken home, because substantial deductions are made from that wage on account of unemployment insurance, health insurance, doctor, hospital and a number of other things. [HON. MEMBERS: "The levy!"] In my own district the weekly deduction apart altogether from the levy or anything like it is 2s. 9d.

We are asking that the surface workers shall have 10s. per day on what is known to be an average week of five days a week. That is 50s. There is 2s. 9d. to come out for stoppages. That reduces the total to 47s. 3d. I would like to take a typical case of a man with a wife and three children, a family of five persons, which is a very moderate family. What can they do on that sum? The woman has 47s. 3d. to begin with. It is no exaggeration to say that she will have to find 10s. a week for rent. That reduces the sum to 37s. 3d. If she provides four meals a day at 2d. per meal per head—you cannot get much nourishment for that—she spends 23s. 4d. per week, and would have left about 13s. per week for all the other purposes of life. That is 2s. per day, with which to provide light and coal, all household necessaries, clothing, beer, tobacco, holidays and everything that is required. That is what we are asking for. We have heard a lot of talk lately about "Cook, that extremist, that irresponsible agitator." What has he been asking for? What are we asking for? That a standard living should be provided for the mine workers on a basis of 2d. meals and 2s. a day for all the other purposes of life of a family. That is the extremism for which our people have been denounced all over the country. I can only say that if the industry cannot give to us something better than that which we are now getting, for my part, I have no further interest in maintaining the mining industry.

I listened with very great interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill. It was a very interesting survey of the coalfield during the past 35 years. But I was amazed to find how he refused to face the facts as we find them now. I spent a considerable time during the last Recess in seeing miners and coalfields and in going down the collieries, and I did not find in personal contact with a large number of men that great eagerness of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. Certainly there are hardships, and exceptional hardships, not only in the coal industry, but in any industry that could be named—for instance, in shipbuilding and in engineer- ing, where there are greater hardships. There are also the hardships being borne by people who depend on cheap coal. My sympathies are very greatly with the miners in the hardships that exist. But we must face the facts as we find them to-day. I have a great deal of sympathy for the miners, inasmuch as in the past some of them have been a ready prey to unofficial local agitators in the coalfields, who are continually agitating for their own particular ends. I am also very sympathetic towards the people in my own constituency and in other towns of South Wales who depend so largely on cheap coal for export and manufacturing purposes. I listened very patiently to the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading to learn his idea of the effect of this Bill on the price of coal. My information, and it is confirmed by such calculations as I have been able to make, is that the Bill would have the effect of increasing the price of coal about 3s. per ton.

Nonsense !

We will take it as 2s. 6d.

It will be down to 1s. directly.

Do hon. Members believe that the country is prepared to pay another 2s. 6d. per ton for coal? The coalowners could not stand that additional 25. 6d. I give an instance from South Wales. A statement was made quite recently that during the seven months' working from May to December the owners there lost a sum of £897,000. This increase in price cannot come from the coalowners, and, therefore, the public must bear it, and I think the public ought to know that this Bill is asking them to pay another 2s. 6d. per ton for coal. The effect of that, in turn, would be a reduced consumption of coal. There is already a very big reduction in consumption both for export and industrial purposes, and a further reduction would throw men out of work and ultimately would not be in the interests of the miners themselves quite apart from the interests of the country as a whole. Another important omission in the Bill is that there is no quid pro quo for this increased minimum. Is there any suggestion that the output will be increased? After all, output and the cost of production lie at the heart of the coal industry, and with an increased output and a lower cost of production, increased wages would come naturally, but there is no use in trying to flog a dead horse. The total production of the country between 1913 and 1924 shows a reduction of 20,000,000 tons from 287,000,000 tons in 1913 to 267,000,000 tons in 1924, and that in spite of the fact that there are 100,000 more men employed in the coal industry. At the same time, there are 120,000 men in the coal industry receiving unemployment benefit, and, in addition, 400 pits are being rendered idle all because the price of coal to-day is already too dear, not only for consumers in this country, but for consumers abroad.

I referred just now to the sympathy which I have with the miners in that they have been a ready prey to local agitators. I do not in any way refer to the estimable gentlemen opposite. I wish these agitators were all like them, but, unfortunately, hon. Gentlemen opposite do not appear to exercise control in the coal field. There is not that control which should exist, and there is constant agitation. We have only to look back to history to find that in the great strike of 1st April, 1921—[HON. MEMBERS: "Lock-out!"] Whatever you may call it, it paralysed British industry in every direction and lost us markets abroad which we shall probably never recover That strike—[HON. MEMBERS: "Lock-out!"]—was not desired by the representative leaders of the miners, but was brought about by local agitation.

Notices were given to the men by the employers and the men were shut out of the pits by the employers. What is the use of talking about agitation?

We will call it a labour dispute. The point is this, and I am bringing it forward in the interests of the country, that Mr. Frank Hodges, who was Civil Lord of the Admiralty in the last Government, said, at the conclusion of that dispute, that there could have been a good settlement on the following day—2nd April—had it not been for men of the Ablett type.

When did he say that?

In an article in the "Western Mail" of 5th July, 1921, he writes as follows: Who stood in the way? The Ablett type. We could have had a splendid wage settlement the next claw but we lost the tide. Why Because of the Ablett type of mind already charged with stories of the great betrayal. Speaking for myself, I would visit Chequers or York House or Buckingham Palace if by doing so I thought I could help our people out of the terrible straits into which the Ablett mentality has plunged them.

That does not refer to 2nd April.

I mention that as an encouragement to hon. Gentlemen opposite to try to control the local agitators who are poisoning the minds of the miners. My impression of the miner is that he is a jolly good chap and if he can only have the full facts placed before him he will be able to judge of the true position. I wish to draw attention to the position which has arisen in North Wales. The Ruabon pit was about to close down because it could not be carried on. The men and the masters came together, small concessions were made, and I see in to-day's paper a report of the manager that the arrangement come to is going to prove entirely successful and it is hoped to continue it. I mention this because I think the key to the situation is co-operation. In that respect politics often play a larger part than we or the people of the country know. There is a certain leader, not in this House, who is evidently more concerned with politics than with the industry or the miners. He deprecates co-operation because he says it will put the capitalist system back on its feet in the coal industry, and he is more concerned about that than he is to see the industry restored and a great step forward taken for the prosperity of the country. I maintain that if this Bill is passed into law it will be a help to those agitators who, by means of the irritation strike and every other method, are endeavouring to bring the mines to oa standstill and to prevent them paying, in the hope that the owners may be glad to get rid of them. I therefore take the opportunity of opposing this Bill because it is an unreal Bill, and is brought forward as dope to the miners. It is propaganda for the next General Election in 1931. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sooner than that!"] We shall get in unopposed next time. Further, I contend that the present is not an opportune time for bringing forward a Minimum Wages Bill. Negotiations are in progress. [HON. MEMBERS: "No "] I presume hon. Members do not know of the fact officially. I will put it this way. Something is happening, and if this Bill became law it would prejudice efforts which are being made in a proper and reasonable frame of mind to set the industry on its feet, and that will be of advantage both to the miners and to the country. For these reasons I oppose the Bill.

I do not intend to take up a great deal of the time of the House in dealing with the Bill now before us, as the Mover and Seconder of the Bill have put fairly fully the facts before the House. Members on this side are sometimes blamed for their conduct during Debates in troubling the House with interruptions, but is it not very difficult for mining Members, for those who have spent their lives in mining districts, for those who still live in mining homes, for those who know that there is practically starvation in the miners' homes to-day and that there are families where the breadwinner is working who cannot get sufficient food for the children or boots for the children, is it not very provocative to be told that those people are engaged in a conspiracy of dope for the miners? Is that not a hint that we are not in earnest in bringing forward this Bill? I want to assure the House that we are in earnest in this matter.

There are two points of principle in this Bill. The first is, whether the workers in the mines, and, indeed, in any other industry, are not entitled, having given an honest day's work or an honest week's work to the industry, in their turn to receive sufficient income to enable them and their families to live. That is a question which should be easily answered. I understood that the very name "Conservative" meant the conserving of all good things in the State and, if possible, the wiping out of all bad things in the State, but while I do not agree with the Conservative principles or programme, I feel sure that Conservatives, merely because they are Conservatives, do not enjoy privation if they see it amongst the children of the workers anywhere, that they do not desire that honest workmen and their wives and children should suffer and not be able to get sufficient food. All that we claim is that the return for an honest day's work, not for shirking, should provide for the homes of the workers. If I put that question on a public platform to any hon. Member sitting on the Front Bench or on the Back Benches opposite, their answer would be perfectly clear, and it would be: "We do believe that there ought to be sufficient wages given to a workman who gives an honest day's service to enable that workman's family to live." I have not the slightest doubt of it. There is no good man or woman in the country, whatever his or her politics or views may be, who would not give a similar answer.

I want to call in support of that two witnesses. The first is a gentleman who has since passed away, but who was an honoured, an able, and a respected Member of this House, the late Lord Rhondda, when he was Mr. D. A. Thomas. I do not think anyone in the country knew more about the coal trade than did D. A. Thomas. I do not think anyone in the country knew more about the miners than did D. A. Thomas. He knew the mining industry from beginning to end. Some years ago, during a dispute in South Wales, which affected his own colliery, he wrote to the London "Times," to such a respectable organ as the London "Times," and said that the miners were right in their claim for a living wage in return for their labour. He went further. and said: I do not think any industry, the mining industry or any other industry, should continue to exist if it cannot provide a living wage for the workmen employed in it. I think the late Lord Rhondda should be taken as an authority on a matter of this kind. He fought the miners from time to time, and as a good employer fought them fairly, and he never desired to see the children or the womenfolk in the industry afflicted. I will quote another example: It is intolerable that any part of our industry should be organised upon the foundation of the misery and want of the labourers in it. The fundamental principle of the remuneration of labour is that the first charge upon any industry must be the proper maintenance of the labourer, and that idea has been sought to be expressed in the phrase 'the living wage'. This must not be interpreted as a bare subsistence wage There must be sufficient to live a de- cent, a complete, a cleanly, and a noble life. I suppose that if you felt that that was a Socialist leaflet for propaganda purposes, you would say it was all Bolshevism and that it was not worth listening to, but it is not a Socialist leaflet, it is not Socialist propaganda, it is the finding of a Conference of the Bishops and Archbishops of the Anglican Church of this country. That is their Resolution, and I want to ask whether this House is prepared to take them as an authority on Christianity, because the vast majority of the Members of this House profess to be Christians, and a large number of them are followers of the delegates who passed that Resolution. I agree absolutely with that Resolution. Any professed Christian country in which this is not carried out has not reached civilisation or Christianity yet, and I take this as an authority for claiming that there ought to be a minimum wage provided by the industry for the persons employed in that industry.

The question then comes up: Supposing you admit, the principle that it is right that there should be a guaranteed minimum wage for persons who do a full day's work, should it be by legislation? That, I think, is the second point. We are asking this House to legislate in order to provide that there should be a minimum wage for the workers in the mining industry. I prefer the authority of the miners' representatives who have spoken here, who live in the mining districts, and who have spent their lives there, to that of the gentlemen opposite who have spoken, as to the need for a minimum wage being given. This is not a new idea. We fought it out in 1912. It was said, prior to the 1912 Minimum Wage Act, that this Parliament never had and never would bring in legislation to fix the wages of the employés in an industry. Those who moved the Amendment and spoke to it to-day say they want to get these questions settled by joint arrangement between the employers and the workers, but they tell us in the same speech that it is quite impossible that the industry can provide a minimum wage for the workers. Do they really hope that it can or will be settled between the employers and workers if they believe that there is not sufficient in the industry to provide a living wage for the workers? Some 35 years ago a prominent leader in the mining movement at that time, when the employers said "It is not in the industry; we would like to give you a decent wage, but it is not in the industry," replied: "Well, you must put it into the industry," and that is how it must be here.

This House has legislated on minimum wages for other persons besides the miners. You have passed other Measures, and you have laid it down by law that minimum rates of wages should be provided in the sweated industries of this country. Mining it at present a sweated industry. You have legislated for a minimum wage for another trade and industry. This House passed into law a Measure providing a minimum wage for Members of Parliament of £400 a year, and there is no talk as to whether they are efficient Members of Parliament; nor has it been laid down that they must attend regularly seven hours a day. They get their salary whether they are here or not. I want to assure the House that I have spent as much physical energy and mental energy M a mine in one week as I have spent in 18 months in this House, and I get £400 a year here. We do not propose that there should be £400 a year provided for men who are engaged in a far more useful employment to the nation, but we do propose that there should be, at least, sufficient paid to the miner for a day's work to enable him and his family to live.

During my 40 years' experience of the mining industry, I have known the mining industry absolutely ruined at least eight times. An appeal has been made by the hon. and gallant Member for Barnard Castle (Lieut.-Colonel Head-lam) that this Bill should not be accepted by this House. That comes from Durham. It carries my mind back in the history or the mining industry to some 80 years ago, when from the same county a Member rose and protested against legislation which proposed to put the children and the women out of the coal mines of Great Britain. His voice was raised from Durham to protest against this interference by law. He said it was not the duty of the House of Commons to interfere in private industry. He protested against the children and women being put out of the mines, and history records that he said: "If you put the children out of the mines, it will ruin the coal trade of this country; it will be impossible to carry on the coal trade unless the children are in the mines." I am glad to say, that in a Parliament in which Labour was not directly represented, they did not listen to talk of that kind. They thought more of the protection of child life and women-hood than they did even of the profits of the mineowners, and they passed legislation that children should be taken out of the mines, and that it should be made illegal for women to work in the mines. But the mining industry was not ruined because of that. It went on by leaps and bounds, and provision was made by the mineowners to do what they ought to have done long before, and that was to make the roadways large enough for grown men and ponies to do the work in which children were previously engaged.

I am not afraid that the mining industry is going to be ruined because of an increase of 1s. a ton in the price of coal in the event of this Measure becoming law. One hon. Member put the question, "Do you want a subsidy?" It is not our business to say how this is to be secured. I want to remind this House that we have no voice in the mining industry. I want to remind this House also that Lord Gain-ford, on behalf of the mineowners of Great Britain, said before the Royal Commission that if any part of the management of their mines was to be taken out of their hands, they would rather that the industry should be nationalised. We lay down the principle that the industry should give, at any rate, wages to enable the mine workers and their families to live a decent life—not what is provided for in the agreement between the mine-owners and the miners at the present time. It is a shameful thing to put in an agreement a rate of wage down to the lowest point. Lord Gainford was instructed to say, on behalf of the Mining Association of Great Britain, that if there were to be any interference with the management of their mines in Great Britain, he would rather the mines were taken over. Lord Gainford at another period made another statement. Some three years ago, before the railway managers of Great Britain, as a deputation for the purpose of endeavouring to get lower freights for coal and other commodities on the railway, he said, "We have reduced our wages down to the lowest possible point." He did not mean Lord Gainford's wages, by the by, but the wages of Lord Gainford's "hands," as they are pleased to call the miners. "We cannot," he said, "reduce wages further, or our people will not be able to live." There have been reductions in wages more than once since then, which has brought our people down to the starvation point. But my point is, that it is not the business of the promoters of this Bill to tell you how it is to be carried out.

Some persons hold up their hands with almost holy horror at the idea of a subsidy. Might I remind this House of something that took place in 1916—the right hon. Member for Ince will remember it very well—when 200,000 miners had joined the Army, and the output of coal was going down very rapidly, when the nation urgently required it for the Navy. At that time it dawned on the Miners' Federation that the price of coal would soar to an enormous height. The wages of miners were fixed according to the selling price and the profits. The Miners' Federation told their representatives on the Joint Committee to ask the Government to fix the price of coal in order that it might not soar too high. The right hon. Member for Ince, myself and another colleague on these benches were on that Committee We put before the mine-owners the suggestion of the Miners' Federation that the price of coal should be fixed. The mineowners—to their credit be it said—agreed that we should approach Parliament, and ask Parliament to fix the price of coal. It was proposed that 4s. per ton above pre-War prices should be the limit. Coal would undoubtedly have gone up £3 per ton, the miners' wages would have increased with it, and the nation would have suffered. The price of coal was fixed. We asked that it should be made a condition, in fixing the price, that the coal for the production of commodities into which coal entered, into which coal was the raw material, should also be fixed. Efforts were made in the direction of fixing prices for the shipyards and other industries, and with a similar aim in view to that of Parlament in fixing the price of coal. But this was not proceeded with.

The miners of Great Britain lost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds in wages which they otherwise would have had. The nation benefited by the arrangement. The nation got cheap coal for the Navy during the whole period of the War, and for the munition works, and our Allies, Italy and France got cheap coal during the whole of that time. Subsequently coal was bought at a cheaper rate here, and sold for two or three pounds per ton higher to the French people than it ought to have been. What the miners ask for now is that an industry which in war time could act in the manner in which it did should have some of its own back again. They are only asking now in this minimum wage for some of their own back, for that which they gave to the nation when the nation was in need.

While we are not bound to tell the House how this minimum wage is to be secured, we might tell hon. Members something about the coal industry, and how, perhaps, the coal might -be of more value than it is at the present time—coal which in many cases, when brought to the surface, represents the blood of the wounded and the killed miner. That coal ought to be treasured. We have treated it very lightly up to the present. It is well known to scientists and to mining engineers that we only secure from 7 to 14 per cent. of the real value of the coal, the coal produced at the risk of the miner's life, and by his toil. On one ton of domestic coal we get from 7 per cent. to 9 per cent. of its real efficiency in the grate, and we pollute the atmosphere of our large cities with the smoke from the rest of it. In other cases we only get from 14 per cent. to 15 per cent. of the real efficiency from the coal at present.

Is that, I should like to ask, all that we can expect from coal which is got at the risk of the miners' lives? We are being threatened that oil is likely to take the place of fuel, that that oil will be produced abroad, and that we shall have to purchase it. There is no necessity for us to buy oil that is produced abroad. Our miners are producing it every day. They are producing 20, 25 and 30 gallons of oil per ton of coal that might well be used and ought to be used at the present time. Are we going to wait until the Germans come over and do this thing for us? If the miners had any real control of the industry in which they pass their lives, they would endeavour to get more out of the coal by low temperature distillation, by getting hold of the byproducts, and so on. That, at present, is not our business, but we do want to make sure that we get a minimum living wage, and, if possible, we want by-products to be got at for the benefit of other industries. For these various reasons I should have thought that hon. Members on the Government side would have supported this Measure. It may require amendment, but that can be done in Committee. Hon. Members will have to vote solely on the principle as to whether or not there should be a minimum living wage provided for the miners. I am convinced of this, that the mining community are going to arrive at it. Many of us who are supposed to be very moderate will be prepared to go out and advocate that, under all circumstances, our people must have a living minimum wage. If this cannot be secured by negotiation, if it cannot be secured by legislation, then it must be secured by the power of organised labour in this country. I would prefer taking the more reasonable course if the Members of this House agree that there should be a living minimum wage not only for this, but other industries: if they agree that legislation may, perhaps, be the best method to arrive at that result. I sincerely hope that they will give this Bill a Second Reading.

The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made, as he always does on this topic, a very interesting speech. He has for a very long period been deservedly a great figure in the mining world of this country, and particularly in the country to which he and I belong. I am sure the mining community will never forget the debt which they owe to him for the great endeavours he has made on their behalf. I entirely agree with him in the concluding passages of his speech when he spoke about the waste of coal. This is a matter about which, I know, he took a vital interest in connection with the Commission which sat for a long time. One can only hope that in our time there will be discovered some method by which coal can be used to its highest advantage in this country.

It can be.

As far as my investigations go, there is a large amount of oil in coal, if only you can extract it—

It can be extracted!

There are also many other by-products, and at the present time some of the best scientific brains of this country are considering every method by which they may be extracted. Many people have lost fortunes in the low temperature distillation to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, and still people are giving consideration to a solution of the question, which I think they must reach. When it is reached it may well prove to be one of the greatest benefits that this country has ever obtained. I also entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman as to what he says in regard to the problem of child labour and women labour in the mines. I am sure that hon. Members on this side of the House have shown that they are as anxious as anyone in that respect. Everyone will remember the great efforts in order to get rid of that blot and scandal upon our mining practice which were made by great Conservative statesmen years ago. For my part I unite wholeheartedly with him in desiring to see the conditions of life made as good as they possibly can be, and as little embarrassing and uncomfortable as possible to those who work in the mines, as human ingenuity can devise.

We have also had a very eloquent and fervid speech from the Mover of the Bill, and I recognise the great part which he has played in the advancement of the conditions in which the mining community live to-day. For my part, I am all for as good a wage as can be paid in this industry. I believe that one of the secrets of success in this country would be such high wages as, upon a proper basis, would bring about greater contentment, increased production and greater regularity and continuity in industry, and I know of no enlightened employer who really would not subscribe to that sentiment. I recognise also that, at a time of extreme depression, the mining community, of all the great industries, has suffered the worst. There has been a greater reduction in the mining wage, Ishould say, than there has been in any other large industry in the course of the last few years. Accordingly, what all speakers have said awakens a very ready response in my heart so far as concerns the desire which we all have to see their present wages improved. I am not going back on the old tale with regard to the agreement of which I was a sponsor. It came at an unhappy time. If that agreement had started its career in good times rather than in bad, I believe the merits of the scheme would have been seen. But, unfortunately, they have been obscured by the appalling conditions of depression in which this industry has been ever since that agreement came into force.

3.0 P.M.

With regard to this particular Bill, I am forced to take objection to it for two reasons; in the first place, because I think it is wrong in principle that Parliament should fix a particular schedule of wages for any trade; and, in the second place, because I think there could be no more unfortunate time at which such a proposal should have been made in the coal trade as now. It may be said, "You have already recognised this principle." It was, indeed, so put by the Mover of the Bill. But I should like the House to consider for a moment the difference between what has been done in the past and what it is proposed to do now. In 1912 the Minimum Wage Act was passed. It set up a series of district boards to decide in each district what should be the minimum wage. That matter really arose out of a controversy with regard to the difficulties of men, first of all, in abnormal places, and, secondly, of men who were not supplied with sufficient equipment and facilities to earn what was called a living wage. Accordingly, it was arranged that there should be set up throughout the country these district boards, who should deal with the matter of what- a living, wage should be in each particular district. It was never suggested that they should apply the same wage over the whole country. Indeed, to-day, as the right hon. Gentleman himself showed, these minimum wages differ by shillings throughout the length and breadth of this country. As everyone knows, the cost of living in different districts is very dissimilar and local conditions are taken into account, and the chairman of the local tribunal, if his aid is called in, has to decide according to local conditions what would be the appropriate minimum wage.

But the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Bill will remember that Mr. Asquith, as he then was, resisted most rigidly the idea that Parliament should make a schedule of wages. He was willing to set up these district committees to decide what the proper minimum wage should be in each district, but although it was pressed on him with great urgency by the mining community at that time that he should make a schedule, he replied that Parliament was incapable of deciding what the wage should be throughout any industry, and accordingly the principle that is invoked by the right hon. Gentleman is one which does not apply at all to the particular proposals now made.

I now come to the subsequent development of this matter, in the agreement of 1921. It is true that that agreement provided for a subsistence wage being paid, but again, as my right hon. Friend very well knows, that subsistence wage differs from district to district and is decided upon by district boards specially set up for the purpose, and no countenance is given under that agreement to the suggestion that you can fix a wage for the various classes of miners which shall apply throughout the country.

What is happening to-day—and this opens up the second ground of my objection. At the present time the export of coal in this country has very grievously gone down. The coal trade is in a more depressed condition, certainly, than I have ever known it; older Members may recollect periods when the conditions were equally depressing, but I certainly cannot go back to any period when there was anxiety, apprehension and trouble equal to that which faces us to-day. Compare our exports of 1924 with our exports of 1923, and, in comparing them, recollect that the export of coal from this country is one of the greatest factors in our prosperity; indeed, I will put it higher than prosperity, it is one of the factors vital to our existence. Imagine the number of things that hang on it. If our ships go out without coal they go out in ballast, and shipping is affected, and the cost of living to every consumer in this country is affected, because the freight home of the goods which they require is increased by so much on account of the ships having had to go out in ballast, and every article brought from overseas to this country is raised in pries. If we lose our export trade in coal it is going to be a disastrous thing for this country. What is happening to-day? If you compare 1924 with 1923, you will find that the export of coal has gone down by 17,000,000 tons.

I know the right hon. Gentleman wishes to be fair, and surely he ought not to make that comparison having regard to the fact that 1923 was an abnormal year. Will he please compare 1924 with 1913?

Even if you make that comparison you will find there is a considerable reduction; I do not know that it is quite the same amount, but the export in 1924 was not as high as it was in 1913, as I am sure the hon. Member will agree. But let us look at the position that arises. I would like to point. out, in the first place, that our exports to Germany, and no doubt that will come under the ban of my hon. Friend's interruption, went down by over 7,000,000 tons; our exports to France went down by over 4,000,000 tons; and our exports to Belgium by over 3,000,000 tons; and one of the most significant things of all is that the export to South America, compared with that before the War is down by 2,000,000 tons. I ask you to consider the effect upon our trade of losing the South American coal market. One of the reasons for it is that our price does not compete with the German price. I was talking the other day to a Dutch shipowner, who said to me, "I always used to buy British coal, but I cannot buy it to-day." I said, "Why?' He said, "Because the German price is 6s. a. ton cheaper than the British price.' I said, "flow does that occur?" and he gave me an answer which is entirely borne out by the figures that I have since seen. The German output of coal has gone up by 41,000,000 tons in the course of the year, and the significant thing is—

Are you counting the Saar pits?

It does not include the Saar. The significant thing is that their brown coal, for which previously they did not seem to be able to find so many uses, has now been turned to account by new devices and new processes, so that they are able to use that at home and to export their ordinary coal in competition with ours. Accordingly, you are faced to-day, as the Mover of the Amendment said, with conditions such as we have never known before.

What would the change be which would be created if this Bill were put into operation? I have gone into the question of wages, and I do not at all cavil at what the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Bill gave in the way of statistics. But may I give my own statistics, in order to show a little more clearly what is the situation? I find that in the coalfield of this country the average wage of those who are working at the face was at the end of the last year 12s. 11¾d.—just a farthing less than 13s. per shift, and of those who work underground, but not at the coal face, 9s. 11½d. on the average. The wage of the surface worker was 8s. 3d. per shift, and the average wage for the whole coalfield of everybody employed is 10s. 8d. per shift. I admit at once that these wages are egregiously less than have been paid in more prosperous times, and I should like to see them raised to a much higher point, but in face of the depressed condition of the coal trade I ask the House to consider the result of applying the schedule which has been moved to-day by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince.

Take a coalfield which I know very well, the South Wales coalfield. During the last six months of last year there was a loss of £896,000 in that district. May I point out that if you had paid the wage which is scheduled in this Bill it would have increased the loss by over £1,250,000 in those six months. If you take the country as a whole the coal trade does not at the present time do better than meet its costs. Under the Schedule which is proposed you would add £20,000,000 a year to the cost of working the coal trade.

When I put these figures before the House I think I am justified in saying that whatever merits there may be in this Bill, and however much we may desire to see wages in the coal trade increase, this is not the time to adopt such a proposal. I myself believe that this country at the present time is confronted with a condition of greater anxiety in its industry and commerce than we have ever been faced with before, and it will require the utmost patience and endurance to come through these troubles. For these reasons I hope that all sections of society and all classes of industry will unite in a serious attempt to meet the difficulties of the situation.

In discussing a subject like the coal industry there must necessarily be some divergence of opinion, but it is always well to dwell on one aspect upon which we can all agree. At the risk of incurring suspicion on the part of the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley) that I have no sympathy with the objects of this Bill and that those who oppose it are in a similar position, I wish to say on behalf of the whole House that there is a real and genuine desire that if it were possible now, without doing a greater injury to the industry, we on this side of the House would be only too glad to seize any chance of adopting any proposals which would increase the present low rate of wages paid to miners which everybody desires to see increased. You have, however, to connect the provisions of this Bill with the actual facts of the industry. We have been told in a very interesting and eloquent speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) that a very good case has been made out, but he did not connect the case with the Bill. The whole gist of his case was that this was an urgent matter. If the matter be so urgent, was it not equally urgent last year when the right hon. Gentleman and his party were in office? Last year, I looked forward with some interest to see what would happen when this Bill, which was put down, was brought before the House of Commons. Very shortly before the Bill was to be debated, the Government took the whole of the time of the House. It was understood that a pledge had been given that they were going to bring in a Bill, but they did nothing of the kind. If therefore, because we say that this Bill is not good for the industry at the present time, we are accused of being unsympathetic towards the industry, did not that also apply to the Labour Government last year?

You have the power to put into practice your constant professions; we had not.

Why?

I do not quite know what the hon. Member means by asking why.

Was it not made clear then to the Government, which was in a minority in this House, that, if a figure were put in, they would not be able to get the Bill?

I thought the hon. Member was going to say that, but it is quite wrong. The Bill as drafted did not include a figure. Later on, the hon. Gentleman, I think, and some of his Friends, tried to get a figure put in, but the Government adhered to their original proposal.

May I correct the hon. and gallant Gentleman by saying that the first draft of the Bill did contain a figure for a minimum wage, and that it was only after consultation with him and his Friends that the figure had to be taken out, for fear of losing the Bill altogether.

All I can say is that this House of Commons has never sanctioned the principle before, and the Labour Government, whatever may have been the internal negotiations—as to which the hon. Gentleman, apparently, knows more than I do—the Government did not bring in the Bill in that form, and this principle has never been admitted by the House of Commons.

I must not allow myself to be drawn aside. The hon Member for Morpeth (Mr. Smillie) has alluded to sweated industries. I should like him to point out a single sweated industry where a minimum wage is laid down without the operation of a district board. in every case there is machinery set up to settle the minimum wage, but in no ease has Parliament laid down a definite figure. In this connection I should like to quote what was said by the present Lord Oxford, who was then Mr. Asquith, and who was Prime Minister at the time when the 1912 Bill was being brought in. He expressed it in very much better language than I can, and I would recommend it to the consideration of the House. At that moment this very same proposal was being urged, that a certain figure should be put into the Bill, and Mr. Asquith said: In my opinion, and in the opinion of the Government, it is undesirable to name a figure in the Bill, and I say that in the interests of all parties concerned. In the first place, as we have become more and more conscious in the course of these recent discussions, the conditions of our coal-mining industry are so complex and so various that it is quite impossible for any central authority to name, even as regards any particular area, still less as regards the country in general, a particular rate of wages for a particular class of work. I do not believe Parliament is equipped with the information or the materials which would enable it to come to anything more than a highly conjectural speculative conclusion upon a point such as that. I myself, in the course of the last three or four weeks, have been immersed more or less in the details of this matter, and very soon came to the conclusion that as regards wages in general the only possible way of dealing with them was by referring them to a local body armed with local knowledge and dealing specifically with the special conditions of the area. I say that on general grounds; but I say, further, that I am not disposed to set the precedent of fixing a figure of wages in an Act of Parliament … I want to point out to my hon. Friends who represent the miners the peculiar dangers which the adoption of this proposal might lead to."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1912; col. 2242, Vol. 35.] Then he went on to deal with the danger that if a figure were put into the Bill it might become the subject of bidding at elections and lead to political corruption. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Those are the words of the Prime Minister of the day, and I think everyone must realise that there is a real difficulty in that connection. We are just as anxious to avoid political corruption as he was. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] I do not know what the methods of the hon. Gentleman may be.

Have there not been proposals to reduce the price of penny stamps at election times?

That is a question that ought, perhaps, to be put to the Postmaster-General. The principle proposed to be introduced in this Bill is an entirely new one. It is a particularly unfortunate moment to be introducing a Bill of this kind because, as the House knows, this industry is working under an agreement. I am not going to defend or to discuss the details of that agreement or the various forms that the agreement has taken in connection with the industry, but I assert without hesitation that, whatever may be the details of the agreement or whatever revision may be desirable in the agreement, generally the principle of the agreement is one that is thoroughly sound. The principle of the agreement is that both parties can come together and discuss things among themselves and decide the definite form under which the surplus proceeds can be paid to the two parties in the industry. That is an absolutely sound principle. As to the details, that is a matter for the parties to arrange among themselves.

The principle is sound, and, in view of the fact that the whole country is hoping, and nobody more than hon. Members opposite, that the two parties will at some time or other be sitting down to consider those details and trying to see whether they cannot come to some agreement, it does seem to me to be a fatal procedure for this House to butt in and to impose an over-riding figure of the kind laid down in this Bill, which may prejudice the whole matter. I am certain that if there is a chance of any agreement being arrived at between the two parties, hon. Members opposite are the last to wish to interfere with it. I am sure that they would not want to make a peaceful path towards settlement impossible. The passing of this Bill would have a very bad effect upon any chance of peaceful settlement by agreement.

The time for bringing in this Bill is also particularly unfortunate, having regard to the critical position of the coal-mining industry at the present time. It is not a question of taking any party or sectional view, because everybody who reads and thinks and goes about knows the position in which the mining industry stands to-day. On other occasions when Bills of this sort have been brought forward there have been certain representatives of the owners who have said that if such a thing was introduced pits would close, because the industry could not afford it. That has been said on previous occasions and it is said now. I remember a speech which was made in 1923 by the President of the Board of Trade in the last Government, who made a great point that on previous occasions these gloomy prophecies had been made and had proved unreliable. But there never was an occasion when those prophecies were being more fulfilled than now. There never was a time when pits were closing up and down the country more than is the case to-day. I am constantly receiving reports saying that pit after pit is closing, and I would ask hon. Members opposite this definite question, "What are you going to do if you get this Bill passed and pits begin to close in a still greater proportion all over the country?"

This Bill must mean a considerable addition to the burdens of industry. If it does not, then it is no use from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite. If it is to have no such effect on the industry then what is the use of bringing it in? Hon. Members honestly think that they are going to produce a very large increase for those who are employed in the industry, but in doing so they are going to put on the industry a considerable burden. I am not going into the details. It is mainly the principle to which I object, but I do want, to point cut how undesirable it is to increase the burdens in view of the peculiarly difficult position of the industry, and of the country generally, at the present moment. I am neither a coalowner nor a miner; I am merely one whose job at present is to try to hold an impartial view in this extraordinarily difficult, position. Reference has hen made to what this Bill is going to add to the cost of the industry. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion for the rejection of the Bill put the figure at about 2s. a ton. That was challenged by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley), who said 13d. I am sorry that the figures worked out by my Department come to considerable more than 13d. They give the increase in the cost of production per ton at from 2s. to 3s., taking an average of all over the country.

The hon. Member for South Bristol (Sir B. Rees) put the cost of production at 21s. per ton; the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) said 20s.; mine was somewhat lower than 12s., so that there is room for difference of opinion.

I am perfectly certain that the hon. Member is not deliberately giving inaccurate information. He would be the last person to do so, but I aril merely giving to the House the opinion to which my Department has come. It is reckoned that in the particular district of Lancashire, where wage rates are low, the increased cost of production per ton will be more like 4s. or 4s. 6d. Consider the effect on the constituents of the right hon. Gentleman—

Such a result should be based on some definite ideas. The mere fact that the Department of the right hon. Gentleman has thrown certain figures at him has no weight. Has he the slightest idea of how they have reached a total of 4s. or 5s. or anything like that?

I have no idea of the figures myself. That is the figure which they give me. If the right hon. Gentleman will come round to discuss the matter at my office, I shall be very glad to go into the matter. These are the figures which have been calculated and have been checked as far as it is possible to do so. The constituents of the righthon. Gentleman in Lancashire suffer already very much from the competition of Yorkshire coal owing to the fact that we can produce coal under different conditions and at a cheaper rate per ton in Yorkshire. It is admitted that these figures will mean that the cost of production in Lancashire, which is already considerably higher than that of Yorkshire, may be considerably increased. As regards the general question of increased production of coal we know already the figures for the United States. The figures for the other countries of Europe show how enormously and steadily the production of coal in the world is increasing.

That increased production means that more coal is to be sold in the markets of the world and is to compete with us. Holland, which in 1913 produced 1,872,000 tons, in 1923 produced 5,281,000, and in 1924 5,882,000 tons. Belgium in 1923 produced 22,922,000 tons, and in 1924 23,360,000 tons. She has also succeeded in finding a new coking coal, which will make a great difference to our exports to that country. France in 1923 produced 40,875,000 tons, and in 1924 58,043,000 tons. Germany, we know, has had low production in recent years, but in 1923 she produced 62,225,000 tons, and that total has been already increased to 118,829,000 tons. This year she will increase production on a much larger scale. In adidtion she has lignite, of which she produced 118,249,000 tons in 1923 and 124,360,000 tons in 1924. She is using it on a large scale now for the development of electricity schemes, thereby releasing black coal for export. In addition to that, I am informed on very good authority that there are something like 9,000,000 tons awaiting export from the Ruhr, and that that will come on the markets of the world. That is made up of 5,000,000 tons of coal and 4,000,000 tons of coke. These figures demonstrate the problem that we have to face. All these countries, or practically all of them, are working much longer hours than ourselves, with lower wages and with less cost. I do not say that in order to make an attack against anyone, but it is high time that the House and the country realised what terribly severe competition is coming and the parlous condition of danger of the industry.

Mr. HARDIE rose

I am sorry I cannot give way, as I want to leave time for another speaker. Every day fresh information is coming that the pits are closing. It is not suggested by anyone that pits are being closed merely to amuse the owners. It would be an expensive amusement. The House will agree that the vast majority of owners have suffered terrible financial losses before pits are closed, and they must be deeply affected by the hateful closing of a colliery, because they know that it means that there are hundreds, and possibly thousands, of people thrown out of work, that women and children suffer privation, that the rates of a district are burdened and people in that district impoverished. The present situation of the industry is a new situation, and I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite how they are going to meet it? It is no use talking about nationalisation. They will not get that to meet this immediate emergency. It is no use talking about other ways of reorganising the industry. That would take time. I hope very much for great possibilities in one thug. I hope that from the low temperature carbonisation process which is being developed very rapidly now we shall get better results than in previous years and that something may before very long emerge. I have authority to say that the Government intend to spare no money, no energy and no effort to develop that process and make it a commercial success.

That is one ray of hope, but beyond that I see very little indeed. There is no use suggesting various other remedies. There is no use talking about rasing the price of coal or about subsidies. How are you going to deal with the situation if pits are closing all over the country? [HON. MEMBERS: Give them to us!] I am not going to allow the pits to close if it can be avoided, and the result of this Bill would be the closing of pits all over the country. In North Wales and South Wales, in Scotland, in Durham, and elsewhere, you would find this tendency going on and increasing and thousands of men and women being thrown out of work, and I say that is the responsibility which we should have to face if we passed this Bill. I appeal to the House to refuse to run that risk, and not to do this injury to an industry the interests of which we have all at heart. I appeal to hon. Members to think very deeply before they support a scheme which obviously has not been thought out by the hon. Gentlemen who bring it forward. It merely represents a demonstration which they feel bound to make to their supporters. When they were in power themselves they would not do it, but now they are in Opposition they think they can safely bring forward this proposal. It is not for the House to support a scheme put forward on those lines, and I ask the House to reject it.

It is not my intention to travel over the ground already covered by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading and the subsequent speakers. I wish to confine my attention to some of the criticisms made against the Bill by hon. Members opposite. The Secretary for Mines has twitted us with the suggestion that when the Labour Government were in office they refused to allow a Bill of this kind to be debated. Last year the Government was a minority Government, and it had to give up the Friday which had been set apart for the discussion of a Minimum Wage Bill. I think there was also another Friday which should have been allotted to a Private Member's Bill on the subject, but it was absolutely necessary that the Government should get through Supplementary Estimates, and they were compelled to take these two Fridays for essential financial business. I think that course was taken by arrangement with hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite, and, therefore, it is unfair to say that the Labour Government turned down the discussion of a Minimum Wage Bill in this House. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman asked what we were going to do about the pits that are dosing down. Pits have been closing down ever since I started to be a miner 25 years ago, and the pits which the right hon. And gallant Gentleman mentions have not been closed owing to this Bill. If we take his own figures as correct, and adopt the pessimistic view which he has expressed, it is evident that, whether there is a Bill or not, more pits are going to close down. I cannot see that the passing of the Bill will make any difference in that respect. One of the chief objections to the Bill is that the time is inopportune. That expression has been used from time immemorial against every proposal for social reform. As one who attended conferences in London during the passing of the 1912 Act, I remember sitting in the Strangers' Gallery of this House and listening to Members on both sides speaking for and against that. Bill, and there was frequently the cry then that it was an inopportune time. Therefore, the argument of inopportunity is one to which one need not pay much attention.

The second point is that the industry cannot afford to meet any liabilities that might be imposed upon it by the passing of this Bill. The same argument has been used over and over again in this place on every Bill that has come up with any view to social reform for the people. In the 1912 Debate, if my hon. Friend had read that Debate extensively, which I hope he has, he would have found that the opponents of that Bill said exactly the same as every opponent of this Bill has said to-day. What was the fact then? From 1909 to 1911 the profits of the owners were 9.9d. per ton on every ton raised, and I want to draw the attention of the House to this fact, that the worst year they have had from 1913 to 1924 was 1924, when they had a profit of 1s. 1d. for every ton raised. Nevertheless, they said at 'hat particular time that the industry was going to be down and out. As a matter of fact, right down all the years since the passing of that Act up to the present moment, the profit per ton raised which has gone to the coalowners has been vastly in excess of that which was going to, them prior to the passing of the Act of 1912. Therefore I want hon. Members to realise that in every social reform that has been made it was said that the particular industry to which that reform was to apply was going to be down and out in the course of a few months' time.

The Secretary for Mines took another argument and said that the principle laid down in this Bill in regard to the schedule of prices was an absolutely and entirely new principle, but I think I am right in saying that in the Corn Production Act, 1917, there was laid down a definite minimum wage for the agricultural labourer. Every innovation has been a new principle determined by this House. I re-member, when I first came here as a Member, there was no Secretary for Mines, and the first time that question was brought forward everybody said, You cannot have a Secretary for Mines, because you have never had one. I remember, when I first came to this House, there was no Minister of Health, and when the question came up, everybody said: You do not want one, because you have never had one. Yet these two posts have become an institution since then and I venture to say that no Member, in whatever quarter of the House he may sit, is prepared to remove them. Therefore, I suggest to the Secretary for Mines that, so far as his arguments are concerned, they have not been much addition to the Debate.

I will now deal with the arguments of other right hon. Members. I cannot deal with them all, but there was one rather Peculiar argument used by the hon. and gallant Member for Barnard Castle (Lieut.-Colonel Headlam) and the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry). The latter hon. Member emphasised the fact that the millers were the prey of agitators. It. seems to me that the hon. Member for Newport and several of his friends think you can persuade the miners to do anything, and I suggest that the best way to prevent these agitators preying on the miners is to give the miners a living wage, so that they will be content. If you can make the miner content, he will not be a prey to agitators.

One of the two hon. Gentlemen who spoke against this Bill was, I understand, a coalowner. If I had not known it before, I should have known it after his first few sentences. He used the same arguments that were used 50 years ago. The other hon. Gentleman who supported the Amendment was an eminent member of a coal distributors' association. When I listened to those two hon. Gentlemen, I was a bit confused, because I found out from what the hon. Member for South Bristol (Sir B. Rees) said, that the coalowners were not getting any money out of the coal trade, and, as a matter of fact, were losing money. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. L. Thompson), in the debate the other night, made it pretty plain that with the coal distributors it was a labour of love. As for the royalty owners, they are paying all they get in royalties to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in taxation. Indeed, one would like to know whether the coal industry is a trade or a charity organisation. If it is thought that the miners will believe anything that is said, let me tell the House that you cannot kid them by things like that. The miner is educated now, and understands thoroughly the economics of his own industry. It is, therefore, no use trying to tell him that all these people are so benevolent in their desire to benefit the miners.

The hon. and gallant Member for Barnard Castle said that the 1912 Act was passed because of an emergency. What was the emergency? It was a strike. Surely my hon. and gallant Friend does not want us to have another emergency like that? We do not want it. We are trying to find a pathway of peace. The Prime Minister, three weeks ago, gave expression to an appeal, to which I listened with attention and appreciation. We are trying to find a way to peace in the coal trade. Let this House state definitely what wages the miners ought to have. What does the Bill state? There has been a lot said about it, and a lot by people who understand little about it. The Bill asks this House to say to what they think the minimum value of the miner is. If the House thinks the value in the Bill is too high for the miners, they will vote against it; but I would point out that the wage asked for is not a living wage.

In conclusion, I can assure my hon. Friends on the opposite side of the House that this Bill is not put forward for political propaganda. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I mean to say I have been in it, and hon. Members opposite have not. I was one of the sub-committee that had to formulate some proposals. I have gone through the Executive Committee of the Miners' Federation with this Bill. I have gone through a conference, and I have gone before the miners themselves. We have got the view of the miners. They have said that this Bill falls far short of meeting their demands. If we were out for real political purposes, there was no reason why we might not have put forward a higher minimum than is in this Bill. But we have set what we have in the Bill, believing there was a reasonable chance of this House realising the importance of the miners so far as our national wealth is concerned, and of being prepared to give the miners a fairly reasonable standard of life.

Talk about the miners being discontented! Can it be wondered at? Hon. Members in this Debate have been talking about five and five-and-a-half days per week. There are a large number of miners in this country to-day who are not averaging four days per week. When these men take home their four days' wages at 7s. 6d. or 7s. 7d. per shift, one can well understand how it is that they and their wives should be discontented. They are discontented, and they will remain discontented until this House does something to remove that discontent. When we take industrial action we are told that we are trying to strangle the nation. When we take Parliamentary action we are told that Parliament has no right to interfere with the wages of the miners. Will hon. Members tell us what action we ought to take '? No, Mr. Speaker, this House has got to face its responsibility. If hon. Members vote down this Bill to-day we shall, inside and outside this House, agitate—if you like to call it so—all the time until we have made it possible for our people to have a full chance to live a fair standard of life. I want to suggest that every Member to-day who votes against this Bill is expressing by his vote that he thinks that the miners are of much less value than the figures we have given. [HON. MEMBERS: "No" and "Yes"] Therefore, the miners will be justified in saying: "We came to the House of Commons and asked for bread. Instead of bread they gave us a stone."

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 143; Noes, 208.

 Division No. 65.] AYES. [4.0 p.m. Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Sexton, James Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hastings, Sir Patrick Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston) Alexander, A. v. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hay day, Arthur Short, Alfred (Wednesbury) Ammon, Charles George Hayes, John Henry Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Attlee, Clement Richard Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Sitch, Charles H. Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Slesser, Sir Henry H. Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hirst, G. H. Smillie, Robert Barnes, A. Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe) Barr, J. Hudson, J, H. Huddersfield Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley) Batey, Joseph Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Smith, Rennie (Penistone) Beckett, John (Gateshead) Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Snell, Harry Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) John, William (Rhondda, West) Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe) Broad, F. A. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles Bromfield, William Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Stamford, T. W. Bromley, J. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Stephen, Campbell Buchanan, G. Kelly, W. T. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox) Cape, Thomas Kennedy, T. Sutton, J. E. Charleton, H. C. Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Taylor, R, A. Clowes, S. Kirkwood, D. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby) Cluse, W. S. Lansbury, George Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.) Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Lawson, John James Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow) Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock) Lee, F. Thurtle, E. Compton, Joseph Lindley, F. W. Tinker, John Joseph Connolly, M. Livingstone, A. M. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P. Cove, W. G. Lowth, T. Varley, Frank B. Dalton, Hugh MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J.R.(Aberavon) Viant, S. P. Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Mackinder, W. Wallhead, Richard C. Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) March, S. Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen Day, Colonel Harry Montague, Frederick Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline) Dennison, R. Morris, R. H. Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda) Duncan, C. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney Dunnico, H. Murnin, H. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah Edwards, John H. (Accrington) Naylor, T. E. Welsh, J. C. Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Oliver, George Harold Westwood, J. Gibbins, Joseph Paling, W. Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J. Gillett, George M. Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Whiteley, W. Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Wig nail, James Greenall, T. Ponsonby, Arthur Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly) Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coins) Potts, John S. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley) Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffs) Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Ritson, J. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow) Groves, T. Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell) Windsor, Walter Grundy, T. W. Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland) Wright, W. Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Rose, Frank H. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton) Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.) Saklatvala, Shapurji Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Salter, Dr. Alfred TELLERS FOB THE AYES.— Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Scrymgeour, E. Mr. Warne and Mr. Charles Hardie, George D. Scurr, John Edwards.
 NOES. Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Ford, P. J. Ainsworth, Major Charles Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Forrest, W. Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Foster, Sir Harry S. Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Fraser, Captain Ian Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Frace, Sir Walter de Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Atholl, Duchess of Clarry, Reginald George Ganzoni, Sir John Atkinson, C. Cobb, Sir Cyril Gates, Percy Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L. Gee, Captain R. Balniel, Lord Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim) Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe) Glyn, Major R. G. C. Barnston, Major Sir Harry Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Gower, Sir Robert Beamish, Captain T. P. H. Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H.(Wth's'w, E) Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Berry, Sir George Curzon, Captain Viscount Gretton, Colonel John Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Daiziel, Sir Davison Grotrian, H. Brent Blades, Sir George Rowland Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd) Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H. Gunston, Captain D. W. Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton) Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Brassey, Sir Leonard Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Briscoe, Richard George Dawson, Sir Philip Hanbury, C. Brittain, Sir Harry Doyle, Sir N. Grattan Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Brocklebank, C. E. R. Drewe, C. Harland, A. Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Eden, Captain Anthony Hartington, Marquess of Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Elveden, Viscount Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Buckingham, Sir H. Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Haslam, Henry C. Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith Hawke, John Anthony Burton, Colonel H. W. Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South) Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Campbell, E. T. Everard, W. Lindsay Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Cautley, Sir Henry S. Fanshawe, Commander G. D. Heniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A.
 Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Malone, Major P. B. Shepperson, E. W. Hohier, Sir Gerald Fitzroy Margesson, Captain D. Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down) Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst.) Holland, Sir Arthur Meller, R. J. Skelton, A. N. Holt, Captain H. P. Meyer, Sir Frank Slaney, Major P. Kenyon Homan, C. W, J. Milne, J. S. Wardlaw- Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.) Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Smith-Carington, Neville W. Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Smithers, Waldron Hopkins, J. W. W. Morden, Colonel Walter Grant Sprot, Sir Alexander Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S. Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.) Hume, Sir G. H. Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Stanley, Lord (Fylde) Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G.(Westm'eland) Hurd, Percy A. Nicholson, O. (Westminster) Steel, Major Samuel Strang Hurst, Gerald B. Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H. Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Oakley, T. Thompson, Luke (Sunderland) Jacob, A. E. O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton) Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South) James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Penny, Frederick George Thomson, Sir W. Mitchel (Croydon, S.) Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Turton, Edmund Russborough Kennedy, A. R. (Preston). Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P. Kindersley, Major Guy M. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome) Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull) King, Captain Henry Douglas Pilcher, G. Warner, Brigadier-General W. W. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Pilditch, Sir Philip Warrender, Sir Victor Knox, Sir Alfred Power, Sir John Cecil Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle) Lamb, J. Q. Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton Wells, S. R. Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Col. George R. Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel Wheler, Major Granville C. H. Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Remer, J. R. White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Rentoul, G. S. Williams, Herbert G. (Reading) Loder, J. de V. Rhys, Hon. C. A. U. Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central) Looker, Herbert William Rice, Sir Frederick Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield) Lord, Walter Greaves- Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y) Winby, Colonel L. P. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Ropner, Major L. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl Lumley, L. R. Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A. Wise, Sir Fredric MacAndrew, Charles Glen Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L. Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Salmon, Major I. Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T. McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) MacIntyre, Ian Sandeman, A. Stewart TELLERS FOR THE NOES.— McLean, Major A. Sanderson, Sir Frank Lieut.-Colonel Headlam and Sir Macmillan, Captain H. Savery, S. S. Beddoe Rees. McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mel. (Renfrew, W.)

Motion made, and Question put, That, this House, taxing regard to the advisability of settling the conditions and wages of an industry by agreement between those concerned in the industry, declines to consider a Bill which, whilst establishing a

rigid minimum, withdraws from those directly concerned the power to settle their own affairs in consultation and conference on condition; prevailing at any given time."

The House divided; Ayes, 197; Noes, 121.