Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £117,130, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Mines Department of the Board of Trade."—[NOTE: £73,500 has been voted on account.]
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think I should say, before this Debate begins, that on previous occasions on this Vote the Committee has been willing to allow me, for the sake of greater freedom of Debate, to permit reference to possible legislation in connection with the coal industry. If no objection be taken, I propose to do that on this occasion also.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I move a reduction of the Vote in order to call attention to the present position of the disastrous struggle in the coalfield. This is the beginning of the lath week of this struggle. Even if negotiations were to begin to-morrow, the length of the struggle would be a record one, because my recollection of the 1921 struggle is that, even after we had agreed substantially to the terms of the settlement, there was still an interval of about a fortnight for ballots and for meetings of the executive. So that I think it may be assumed that, even if there be an arrangement in the course of this week, this is the record struggle in the coalfield. It is a very disastrous one. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) last week estimated that the cost up to the 16th July would reach £160,000,000. It is generally assumed from the Government Bench that that was an under-estimate, and I see that Sir Hugh Bell, writing last week, estimates that the cost is something like £250,000,000, which means over £20,000,000 a week, and the loss is a progressive one, as has been pointed out by an hon. Member on the opposite side of the House. I see that the Board of Trade returns, which were issued the other day, show that, whereas at the beginning of this year our export 1721 trade was only 80 per cent. of pre-War, the last three months it is down to 62 per cent. So that, from every point of view, it is a. very disastrous struggle. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in very striking words, which are quoted to-day in the "Times," and which are worth reading, made this estimate:The loss of two or three weeks' stoppage would he recoverable; that of eight or nine weeks would make a deep mark on the livelihood of the whole people. A stoppage of twelve or fourteen weeks would probably mean that it will be two or three years before the country can recover.'Those are the facts which we must face, and it is rather significant that, when he used those words, he regarded 14 weeks as being the maximum. I wish he were quite sure he was right. I propose to call attention to this struggle at this stage for two reasons. The first is, that we shall be separating in a few days. The next is, that there is an opportunity which has come again, I think, for a peaceable and an honourable settlement. I can assure my hon. Friends who represent mining constituencies that there was no desire to take the handling of the question out of their hands, but we thought it was desirable that somebody not intimately associated with the matter should raise it on this occasion. There is another opportunity which, I think, has come providentially in the course of the last few days, and it has come through the intervention of the representatives of the churches in this country. The "Times" to-day, in a very remarkable article, which, I hope, hon. Members have had an opportunity of discussing, makes these observations. Having first of all referred to several proposals which have been put forward, or might be suggested for the settlement of this dispute, it goes on:No other proposals have a comparable basis of knowledge and authority (to the Report of the Commission), and none contain the promise of that permanence which is essential for the well-being, not only of the mining industry itself, but of every other industry which, directly or indirectly, depends upon coal. Parliament to-day will undoubtedly express the opinion of the nation if it affirms that an agreement is to be sought and found on the lines prepared by the Commission.That is a very remarkable statement, coming from the leading supporter of the Government in the Press. I think there is an opportunity which has come within the last few days of carrying out that 1722 suggestion, of making that agreement effective.
That has arisen out of the intervention of certain Bishops and clergy and ministers of religion. There may be two views with regard to interference by the Churches in matters of this kind. I observe that some of the papers charge them with butting in, and let me say at once that the clergy are not equipped by training, or by study, or by temperament to express opinions upon questions of wages and with regard to business arrangements. They generally, very wisely, leave those matters to the laity. They provide the stimulus and the appeal, and the more worldly-minded laity do the rest, and the combination is a very effective one. What wages should be and what business arrangements ought to be—I agree that is not a sphere in which the clergy can be helpful, but surely, when there is strife in the nation and strife which divides their own Churches, they are entitled to intervene, to put in a plea for conciliation and agreement, and they have not gone beyond that on this occasion, not in the least. The actual proposals which they have put forward are proposals which have either been accepted by the Prime Minister at different stages in the controversy or to which he has raised no objection, with one exception, and that is an exception where they have the memorandum of the Chairman of the Commission in their favour. All that they have done is to put forward proposals which others have formulated and to which the Prime Minister from time to time has given sanction. But the question is not whether it is right or wrong for the clergy to intervene; the thing that matters is the reply of the Miners' Federation, and it is to that I propose to draw attention. The Miners' Federation in their reply to the Churches say:The suggested terms of settlement have been submitted to the full executive, and we are instructed to inform you that if a settlement can he arrived at upon the terms set nut in the enclosed document, the committee are prepared to recommend their acceptance by the miners.They go on to use words which I think are full of significance and full of promise:Further, they indicate their readiness to make every endeavour to assist in the 1723 reorganisation of the mining industry to ensure its success.What are the proposals which are referred to there? They are very important, because the Prime Minister has promised, in a letter which he wrote to Wallsend, that the Government will do all that they can to obtain a full discussion of any reasonable proposals. Let us see what they are. The first one is that the Commissioners are to be called back to work out in greater detail the proposals of their Report. No one will claim that the Report has been carried out by the Government at present. Several vital recommendations made by the Commissioners have been left out altogether, or have been deferred, or postponed, or put off by the appointment of other committees; some have been dropped altogether. The very first recommendation dealing with royalties has been abandoned; that with regard to reconstruction has been very inadequately carried out; that with regard to selling has simply been referred to another committee; research, and may other points which I could mention are left out altogether. What is it that this document proposes? It is that you should re-appoint your Commission, and that they should work out in detail their recommendations with regard to reconstruction and to wages. Surely that is a reasonable thing in itself, and I am sure the Prime Minister must see that. In fact, he used words about a fortnight or three weeks ago which indicated that he was in favour of carrying out the Report of the Commission provided he got an acceptance of it. If words mean anything this letter of the Miners' Federation constitutes an acceptance.
The Report is not clear in many respects. There have been disputes among people who start endeavouring to interpret it as to the meaning of the Clause with regard to reconstruction and with regard to wages. Therefore, it is very desirable that the Commission should be called back in order to give an interpretation of their own proposals. The right hon. Gentleman himself said some time ago that the owners and miners were unlikely to agree. That has been obvious to everybody for over a year. It is getting less likely except on the basis of complete defeat and surrender on one side, and that 1724 is a very cruel and crude process of arriving at an agreement. An agreement is a misnomer when it is reached under these circumstances. Therefore, an impartial authority must intervene. This leads to the next proposal, and the most remarkable Proposal, which is contained in this document which is accepted by Mr. Herbert Smith and Mr. Cook on behalf of the Miners' Federation. It is that if anything is left at the end of the three or four months which it will take to work out the details upon which agreement has not been obtained, you should then have a joint committee with an impartial chairman, and that his award should be accepted. This is the first time that we have had that declaration, and I urge the Government not to throw away the opportunity which this involves. These words are so important that I think I will read the actual Clause:At the end of the defined period, if disagreements should still exist, a joint board, consisting of representatives of both parties, shall appoint an independent chairman, whose award in settlement of these disagreements shall be accepted by both parties.That is a very startling concession, and it would be a grave disaster if the opportunity were thrown away. It is the first time that anything of the kind has ever been suggested in the coal field. It is a tremendous step for them to have taken. There have been protests, I believe, from parts of the coal field with regard to it, but the executive have accepted it, and it is certainly not for the Government not to accept it. Let me point out here what the right hon. Gentleman himself said in a speech which he delivered at Norwich a few days ago, because it bears upon this vital issue:Here is the coal industry "—said the Prime Minister—where owners and miners appoint chartered accountants to investigate and report, each on their behalf, where all the facts are available on which judgment could be given by a competent arbitrator. There is no industry where so much data is available, where negotiations would be more easily possible, where the position is less necessary, but it goes on week after week, because .facts are unpalatable and neither side is willing to accept the arbitration and verdict of an outsider. There is presumably in their opinion no one in the whole world sufficiently able or impartial to sit in judgment on the coal industry. I repeat that that is an unreasonable position to take up.1725 At that very moment, the Prime Minister had, I think, in his pocket a proposal accepted by Mr. Herbert Smith and Mr. Cook to take the judgment of an impartial arbitrator upon the very facts. [HON. MEMBERS: "Four months!"] If they can get through the difficulties in less time nobody wants to put it off. I will come to the question of the four months in a minute. Let us confine ourselves to that point to begin with. This is not something which the Prime Minister said three months ago—it is too much to ask him to stand by that—this is something which he has said within the last fortnight, and I ask him to point out what is the difference between the proposal which is contained in the letter of Mr. Cook and Mr. Herbert Smith to the representatives of the churches and the very proposal which he puts in here. It is the very first time that we have had this. I think, as a matter of fact, injustice has been done to some of the speeches made by Mr. Herbert Smith from time to time, and the concessions which he has indicated as clearly as any man could, having regard to the difficulties which he had, and the fact that he had to enter into negotiations on the subject. I will just give one or two of them in order to show. He has never, so far as I can recollect, uttered the slogan, "Not a penny off the wage and not a minute on the hours." He is opposed to the extension of hours, and he has said quite distinctly that if he had to choose between reductions of wages and an extension of hours, he would have no hesitation in recommending reductions. But he has made one or two very remarkable speeches. I called attention to them at the time, but no importance was attached to them by the Government. For instance, there was the occasion when he said:What I did say was that I was prepared to start at page 1 and go to the end of the book"—Which means the Report—which would have meant examining a reduction of wages.He was prepared to examine that proposition. What more can you expect. When starting negotiations, somebody says, "Well, you must accept either an increase of hours or a reduction of wages." He says, in so many words, "I will not assent to an extension of hours, 1726 but I am prepared to examine the question of a reduction of wages." Is not that a perfectly fair position? I agree with the comment of the Trade Union Council on the declarations which he made:—It will be plainly seen by anyone that these two statements"—and there have been many others—were exactly the same, and could only imply an acceptance of all the implications in the Report of the Royal Commission. including the possible readjustment of wages, if the rest of the recommendations of the Report were also to apply.I agree, but what matters now is this: You have got away from the slogan, and you have got now to a definite position, above the signatures of the two officials of the Miners' Executive, that they are prepared to assent to a reference back to the Commission with a view to working out the details of the Report on reconstruction and wages; and, if there is anything left upon which there is disagreement, they are prepared to refer the matter to an impartial chairman and to stand by his decision. [HON. MEMBERS: "And a susbsidy!"] I cannot deal with that question at the same time. The very next point I was coming to was financial assistance, which is also in these recommendations:That financial assistance be granted by the Government during the defined period"—which is four months—under a scheme to be drawn up by the Commissioners.There are objections to a subsidy. I have stated them here. There were only 12 who voted against it. Objections on principle to a subsidy cannot be taken by hon. Members opposite or by the Government, unless they are prepared to say they were absolutely wrong in assisting to give a subsidy previously. What I want to point out is that the Prime Minister has accepted the principle of a subsidy quite recently. Only the question of amount remains. On 1st June the Prime Minister made the following statement—I can read the whole passage if anybody says I am unfairly quoting it, but I will read only the few lines that matter:a temporary subsidy in sonic form or another, whether it be to aid time period while negotiations are proceeding"—1727 which is exactly the proposal here—or whether it be to aid certain districts, after the negotiations have succeeded, I cannot say—but for one of these two purposes, it may be for both, I believe some assistance will be necessary.Therefore, the principle which is embodied in the proposals of the Churches, which have been accepted by the Miners' Federation, is also accepted by the Prime Minister. [Interruption.] No Commission can work out the details of a matter of that kind except, of course, subject to the supreme control of the Treasury. The proposal in the Churches' document is that the subsidy should extend to four months. The Prime Minister himself proposed three months. I quote from the "Times" of 25th March, when he first made his proposal to the Miners' Federation and the mineowners. It ends:After pointing out that he was prepared to give financial assistance, the Prime Minister himself suggested three months.That is the difference, that the Churches suggest four months and that on 25th March the Prime Minister suggested three months.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The £3,000,000 came later. That was one of the afterthoughts which were, I am afraid, introduced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not think that was the Prime Minister's idea at all. [An HON. MEMBER: "The hidden hand!"] Not so very hidden! Let me point this out to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Less will be required now. Money will go further now in the way of a subsidy than it would go at the beginning of the struggle. Why? Because prices have soared very considerably. Export prices are up 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. Of course, they will drop, but they will not drop immediately, and it is quite an open question whether, with wisdom, the export prices would return to the figure they were at when the stoppage took place. At the time of the stoppage the export prices were artificial prices, they were fictitious prices, they were prices caused very largely by the working of the subsidy; and even before that there was competition, which was a pretty wild one, 1728 between one firm and another inside our country, which did not put us in the position which we ought to have been in with regard to the prices which we could have exacted from the foreigner. At the present moment a subsidy would go very much further than it would have gone three or four months ago.
The amount of the subsidy was very largely due to the way in which it was paid. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was like Providence, he rained on the just and the unjust alike. He gave his subsidies to prosperous concerns that did not need it—just the same amount of subsidy as he did to concerns that could only just keep going by means of it. If there were a little wisdom in the way the subsidy were worked out there is no reason why it should be a very high one. I have even heard people say that possibly £3,000,000 might be sufficient. PersoNaily I should not have thought so. I want to be quite frank about that; I do not think it would, and I think it would be a mistake to arrive at an agreement on the assumption that £3,000,000 would be quite adequate. According to a right hon. Friend of mine, we are losing per week about £15,000,000, and it is a progressive loss. According to Sir Hugh Bell we are losing over £20,000,000 a week. At worst the subsidy would not be one-half of one week's loss; and if the Government agree upon the other principles of that document, that is, a reference back to the Commission to work out the details of reconstruction, and an independent chairman to decide fiNaily what the figures should be, I cannot believe they would stand in the way of a settlement of a dispute that is so disastrous to the industry of the country because they are afraid of increasing by just a few millions the subsidy which they have offered.
What are the alternatives? There is only one alternative and the Government know it. The alternative is the extension of hours. The real struggle is between the recommendations of the Commission and something which the Commission turned down—the extension of hours. The leading Government organ says to-day:Parliament to-day will undoubtedly express the opinion of the nation if it affirms that an agreement is to be sought 1729 and found on the lines prepared by the Commission.The lines prepared by the Commission are the lines which are laid down in this document, which has now been accepted by the chiefs of the Miners' Federation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No subsidy!"] The Prime Minister has accepted the principle of a subsidy, as I have pointed out, and so has the Chairman of the Commission—"financial assistance in order to carry the transaction through." If a subsidy is the only thing in the way—well, I shall be surprised if the Prime Minister says no. Do not let us use the subsidy in order to masquerade the demand for an extension of hours. I know that I cannot discuss the merits of a Bill already passed, although you have been good enough, Mr. Hope, to suggest that we have latitude with regard to future legislation, and I do not propose to transgress. But the Eight Hours Act is a voluntary one, and although I cannot discuss the wisdom or otherwise of having carried it, I can discuss the probability and the desirability of its being brought into operation, and I can discuss the question of how long it is likely to take to force its acceptance—[HON. MEMBERS: "Never!"]—and whether it is worth the nation's while to prolong the struggle in order to let the owners have their way in that respect. So far the attempt has been a failure. The fact that a few thousands have gone back only emphasises the unanimity with which the miners have rejected this alternative.
The Government promised not to legislate in the absence of an agreement. On the 15th of May the Prime Minister said:If the parties agree that it is advisable that some temporary modification should be made in the statutory hours of work, the Government will propose the necessary legislation forthwith, and give facilities for its immediate passage.An agreement between the miners and the mineowners was a preliminary condition to any legislation. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer denies it, I will read it again?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am glad that my right hon. Friend voted for that Act under a false appreciation of the promise 1730 given by his chief. These are the Prime Minister's words:If the parties agree that it is advisable that some temporary modification should be made in the statutory hours of work, the Government will propose the necessary legislation forthwith and give facilities for its immediate passage.That is, if there is agreement between the parties with regard to the extension of hours, then the Government would bring in legislation; but there was no agreement between the parties. There is no doubt at all about this, that if we are to wait until the miners surrender on the question of hours it will prolong the straggle for some time.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
It will prolong it for some time. There is no doubt about that. It must be obvious to anyone who is watching what is going on. Mr. Herbert Smith has made quite clear what his view his. I hear men say, "Is it not very much better that the miners should have exactly the same wage, even if they put in an extra half-hour or three-quarters of an hour or hour?" I do not think those who argue like that can have given real thought to the problem. What does it mean? If there is prosperity the reduction of wages disappears, they automatically get back their wages—automatically, more or less; but prosperity will stand in the way of a reduction of the hours of labour once the increase has been accepted. Let us look at the figures given by the Report. The Commissioners point out that if you extend the hours of labour by one hour you increase the output by 30,000,000 tons.
In the alternative, you reduce the number of workers by 130,000. What does that mean? It means that, when the demand is least, the work is longest and you are to produce the most. You produce the most when the demand is least, and the suggestion is that you should gradually diminish the hours of labour, as the mines become more prosperous. This means that, when the demand is most, you must reduce the hours. The miners realise perfectly well that, once you give a concession upon that point, if you make it a reduction of wages that is something you can get back, but if you make it on hours it is a very difficult thing to get back at all. They had to get legislation in order to make it im- 1731 possible for the minority to stand in the way of a general reduction of hours in the mines. That is why the proposals of the Government with regard to amalgamation have been brought in. It is in order to prevent a minority of owners making amalgamation impossible. The Bill brought in by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to shops was in order to prevent a minority of shopkeepers making it impossible to close the shops in a given area. It is the same thing here. I was in the House of Commons when the struggle for the eight hours was going on for a great many years, and I am not sure whether my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not here too. I think he was. The vast majority of the miners were in favour of it. There was a minority against, and it was only by introducing legislation that it was made possible for an eight-hour day to be introduced into the mines. The moment, therefore, you get an Act of Parliament that makes it permissive, if, by exhaustion, you drive the miners back to their old hours, it will be a very slow process before they can get back to their present conditions. What is the result? You will have a permanent lowering of the standard of living in the mines instead of going forward.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
In 1919 what happened? The recommendation in favour of seven hours, my recollection is, was unanimous. It was signed by Mr. Adam Nimmo, and if the owners signed it the Government may depend upon it that it was not too generous a concession under the circumstances. There were very important members of that committee, great industrialists, who were in favour of a gradual reduction to six. Sir Althur Balfour, who was the head of the great inquiry into the industrial conditions; Sir Thomas Roydon, a great shipowner; Sir Richard Duckham, and Mr. Justice Sankey. Three of them were great business men, and they were in favour of a gradual reduction to six. Seven hours does not mean seven hours. Seven hours, according to the Report of the Commission, means sometimes eight, but on an average it means seven hours and 37 minutes, working out of the sunlight, working under conditions of 1732 momentary peril, and I do not think that that is fully realised, and that ought to be taken into account. Take the figures given by the Commission. The average number of deaths from accidents in the mines between 1922 and 1924 was 1,200; seriously injured, 4,900; disabled for more than seven days, 197,000—that is with a million workers. I do not think that seven and a-half hours ought to be converted into eight and a-half unless it is absolutely, demonstrably essential for the very life of industry in this country.
Can the Prime Minister be surprised that the miners and their leaders say, "If we have got to choose between a temporary reduction of wages and an extension of hours, in this dangerous trade, we would rather take a temporary reduction of wages"? I do ask him not to commit the Government, and, by committing the Government, commit the country to a disastrous struggle in order to force an extension of hours upon an unwilling industry, because that is what the struggle is coming to at the present moment. That is really the choice between the Report of this Commission. They, after examining the situation carefully, came definitely to the conclusion that they were against it. They point out that France has the same number of hours. Belgium has the same number of hours. They point out that the output of the French miner per person is only two-thirds of that of the British miner, yet the French miner has his seven-hours day underground, according to this document. They say that it is a definite lowering of the standard, and they point out that one effect of it will be that, if Britain lengthens her hours, the other countries will follow suit. They will be forced to do it, because of the inferiority of their mines, of their difficulty in competing with us at the present moment, and, if we increase the hours of labour, in order merely to exist, they will have to increase their hours, and we shall be in a worse position than ever. I think it is worth while to remember the actual words of the Commission:If Britain lengthens her hours, these other countries will certainly consider whether they should not follow suit. All that would have been achieved would have been a general lowering of the standard of leisure in all mining countries.I ask the Prime Minister not to commit us by a refusal of these terms to driving 1733 the miner, by a process of exhaustion, to a permanent lowering of the standard of living, not merely in this country, but throughout the mines of Europe. He has to choose between two alternatives, and this is the time to choose one of them. One is the owners' policy. They have never swerved from it. They have given lip service to reconstruction, but they have never really been in favour of it; they have done their very best to limit it. They have confined it to the initiative of the owners, and they have come to the conclusion that there is no harm in this Bill from their point of view, nor is there. It is the price they paid to the Government for the agreement to increase the hours. Repeated Commissions have sat upon their industry, but they have never yet said a word that gives them credit for efficiency; on the contrary, every Commission that has investigated has come to the conclusion that there is much to be done to reconstruct the industry and make it more efficient. But I must say this for them, that when they have an idea, they stick to it, and their one idea has been to increase the hours of labour. If they get their way, it will prolong this struggle; it has prolonged it already. It has made negotiations impossible while that Bill was going through the House of Commons, and while an opportunity was given to the miners to make up their minds.
What will happen? If, under the cruel lash of necessity, the miners are driven to accept this alternative, there may be a temporary relief, but there will be temporary embarrassment and permanent mischief. You wilt have an immediate increase in unemployment by 130,000, for you are not going to produce an extra 30,000,000 tons of coal which nobody will buy. So, therefore, you put 130,000 more miners out of work. You will have a general lowering in the standard of living in the mines, and distrust between capital and labour. You will have a removal of the pressure for increased efficiency; you will keep unrest alive in the coalfields. You will begin again an agitation, about hours this time, where you want peace. You will have the same haggling about hours and reduction of wages which you have got now, and you will have a perpetuation of strife, ill-will and bitterness. That is what the acceptance of the owners' tactics and strategy means. On 1734 the other hand, if the Churches' policy is adopted, the Report of the Royal Commission plus an independent Chairman, a reference to the Commission of the details of their proposal, a small subsidy which will not amount to half the weekly loss, you can put the coalfields on a sound business footing; you will procure the hearty co-operation of the miners, and you will restore goodwill in the coalfields for the first time.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
I wish, indeed, it were as simple a matter to get peace and prosperity and co-operation in the coal industry as one might imagine from the concluding words of the right hon. Gentleman. I agree with a good deal of what he has said, and I disagree with some of it, but I agree most strongly with an observation which he made at the beginning of his speech, when he said that there are two points of view about what took place the other day, and about the intervention of the gentlemen who had intervened. There always must be two views—the view of the man in office and the view of the man in opposition. There is nobody in this House who is so well qualified to give the right answer to the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech as he himself would be if he stood where I stand to-day.
I wish to avoid to-day as far as I can controversial matter, and I wish to indulge as little as possible in quotations from past speeches. There is only one quotation which I wish to use. I do not propose to take up the time of the Committee in making any explanation of apparent discrepancies the right hon. Gentleman found in certain observations of mine which I made in March, except to suggest to the Committee that time has passed since then, and that the situation financially is a very different one from what it was then. There is just one observation I would make. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has been quite fair in what he said about certain remarks I made at Norwich. It is quite true that a letter was sent to me, but it was not until a few days afterwards that I saw the deputation, and still think that in view of the letter I received, having had no opportunity of discussion, I was justified in the observation that I made. I would remind the Committee—and this is the only quotation I am going to make 1735 from this source, because it shows the difficulty of the whole situation which we are all up against, and it was made before I went to Norwich possibly—that I received a letter from the Bishop of Lich-field with the signature of the Secretary of the Miners' Federation attached to it. It was only in Monday's "Daily Herald" that I read that the same gentleman said, referring to a reduction of wages, that when reorganisation proposals are put into operation, wages reduction will be unnecessary. [Laughter.] That is a very different thing, and it is not a laughing matter at all. It shows the way in which reorganisation has become almost an obcession with some people in their belief that reorganisation in itself may be able to provide so much more than others think it will. The whole point of reorganisation has yet to be proved, and there is no leader, no economist but knows that you have to wait a long time for the fruits of reorganisation, however energetically it may be put into effect. Whatever reorganisation may be done it cannot put the industry on its legs in a short time.
I think I ought to try and put before the Committee the offer—I do not know whether it is exactly an offer—the question that the deputation of the Churches put before me and discussed with me. It has been said that we turned down the proposal, and we turned down arbitration. The proposals, as the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said, contained in the fore-front a suggestion that there should be an immediate resumption of work on the conditions obtaining last April, and that for a period not exceeding four months the Government should give financial assistance. Proposals of that nature in one form or another cropped up during the discussion preceding this particular dispute, and the views of the Government regarding a subsidy have been stated many times. It is quite true that in March last, when we had no stoppage of any kind, when our anxiety was to avert a stoppage and when the finances of the country had not been hit by a stoppage, we could have gone almost to any length which could have been agreed to between the parties in order to tide over a period; and in spite of the Commission's Report saying that the subsidy ought to be brought to an end at once and never again introduced, we felt that we should have the 1736 House of Commons with us in asking for almost any subsidy within reason to have got a settlement then.
The fact that the representatives of the Churches were putting forward these suggestions had got into the Press on Saturday morning—I do not know how—and that is why I felt it my duty to reply immediately by letter that a subsidy in such a form could not be considered, because there has always been in many men's minds the impression that a subsidy, and a considerable subsidy, would be paid. This rests partly on the wish being father to the thought, and partly on the fact that subsidies have been paid in the past in other circumstances. I thought it was of particular importance to repudiate the suggestion that whatever desire there might be on either of the two sides to come together, or to discuss matters or to negotiate, that desirable process could only be achieved by an increased subsidy being found from any source whatever.
I did not deal with the question of arbitration in my reply, because that part of the proposal, and the form in which it appeared, was bound up with a suggestion which the Government could not see its way to accept. The House will remember that arbitration was the basis of the proposal which I put forward at the beginning. I thought then, and I believe now that the dispute is one that can properly be dealt with by arbitration, but if it be that even under the conditions which were laid before me by the representatives of the Churches that the one side, so far as arbitration is concerned, is willing to regard it as an open question, that I regard as progress and a step forward in the right direction. But, of course, this is bound up with the question of a subsidy for four months, which is far too long a time to keep the industry, after what it has gone through, in a condition of uncertainty, an uncertainty which must be prolonged in a discussion of that kind. When I said that we could not see our way to give a subsidy, the representatives of the Churches then asked about a loan, but they put no definite suggestions forward with regard to that or with regard to the precise meaning of the loan. I explained that the Government could not undertake a loan, as it would be as bad for credit as a subsidy. 1737 It was difficult to see how a loan could be arranged, because the industry itself it not an entity, but consists of a number of various concerns and different societies, each of them an independent financial unit, and it seems to me impossible to find a body which could borrow or give the security unless the Government were brought directly into it.
Supposing the loan was to be repaid by the coal trade in any form you like divided amongst the owners, the men and the royalty owners, you would in fact be carrying out such a process by mortgaging the future of the industry to that extent, by placing a charge upon it, when it is at present manifestly uneconomic over a large area, as was expressly laid down by the Report. It was because of the uneconomic situation in which the coal industry was working that the Report said there was no escape from the situation except by immediate action and the reduction of working costs. The industry has already received a subsidy of £23,000,000 in order that the necessities of the case may be thoroughly examined, and the Report of the Commission has been issued. It may well be that in the case of the subsidy, some people profited by it who ought not to have done so. I think that subsidy shared those difficulties with subsidies which had been given before, and indeed it is very difficult in practice, and I hope it may never arise again that a large subsidy will be given to any industry. I have pointed out over and over again the impossibility of seeing that that does even justice, and it would be impossible for that burden to be borne by the still more unfortunate industries in the country.
There were certain very practical difficulties which were raised among the points brought before me by the representatives of the Churches. It is not as simple a matter as it appears to contemplate the reappointment of the Royal Commission with a view to that body working out the details of the terms of a reorganisation scheme and a reference to wages in their Report, the results to be incorporated by the Commission in a Parliamentary Bill or Bills. The impossibility of such a proposal as this was pointed out with great force and effect by the right hon. Gentleman the Member 1738 for Carnarvon, and this is the only quotation I will make, because it puts the matter in better language than I can use. Speaking in the House of Commons in August, 1919, referring to the Sankey Commission, the right hon. Gentleman, after pointing out that the reference to that Commission included two separate classes of subjects, one an immediate question—the question of the hours of labour, said:The others were great questions of policy relating to the conditions of industry and the best method of working it—its organisation, questions of waste in the present system of working, the social conditions under which the miners live, nationalisation of minerals, State ownership and management of mines, and co-operation of the workers in the control of the industry. Those were gigantic questions of policy. Some of my hon. Friends and many outside seem to assume that when a Government appoints a Commission, it is in honour bound to accept all its recommendations and to put them into operation. I never heard of that doctrine in the whole history of the House of Commons. There have been multitudes of questions referred to Royal Commissions. There have been some whose recommendations have been legislated upon, and there have been many in which this was not done. But even taking those where the Government and Parliament immediately took action, it has never been suggested that the Legislature was bound to take every recommendation exactly in the form in which it was made…. I never uttered a syllable which would commit the Government, and certainly not Parliament—which I had no right to do—to accept any recommendation made by the Royal Commission upon every subject referred to it. I said the Government would give respectful consideration and attach due weight to everything the Commission reported. That I have done. There are certain questions which you can refer to arbitration—questions of wages and of hours of labour—and the Government treated the Sankey Commission as practically the arbitrator in respect of the questions of hours and of wages. But when it comes to a great question of policy, that was a totally different matter…. That would have been an abrogation of the functions of Parliament and of Government." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th August, 1919; cols. 2001-1, Vol. 119.]I think that that was very well and very fairly stated, and I quote it to show what I think must be the view of every Government. I want to remind the House that the present Government, having that Report—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
May I point out that the Prime Minister, after he had read it, undertook to accept that 1739 Report and to legislate upon its recommendations, provided the parties accepted; so I assume the Government had considered the recommendations and were prepared then to put them into operation.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I was just coming to that, and was trying to draw from it the lesson that I had been much more generous than the right hon Gentleman. The present Government offered to give effect to all the recommendations of the Report, distasteful as some of them were to the Government, if they could thereby secure peace. We tailed. In spite of this, the Government have introduced a Bill, which will become law in a few days, giving effect to every one of the Commission's recommendations requiring legislative action except two, which could not conceivably make the slightest difference to the immediate situation. [interruption.] I would point this out to hon. Members. At the time that the offer was made, and during the discussions we had with both the parties, they could, if they had then co-operated with us, have joined with us in helping to frame the action taken upon the recommendations of the Report. But they would not help us, and that is why we had to legislate without help. It is a little hard on the Government if hon. Members opposite, who represent a party that would not co-operate at that time, should blame us for having fallen short in any way from the interpretation they would have placed upon various recommendations in the Report, Having got to the point where we are now, it is a little difficult to understand how it should be necesary to have a new subsidy in order that detailed schemes of re-organisation could be worked out. It is no sign of weakness, even now, to enter into negotiations. A decision to enter into negotiations is really a sign of recognising the rights and the responsibilities of leadership. Even now, as I have said before, the door is open to negotiation. It is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that we said at the beginning of these struggles that, if the two parties, as was said in the Report, agreed, we would legislate on the question of hours. There was no negotiation; there was nothing going on; and it seemed to the 1740 Government, after mature consideration, not that we had any price paid to us, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question!"]—but that, as I have explained to the House over and over again, when the parties did come to negotiate, it would be found in the case of certain districts that no wages reduction could ensure those districts starting, and, by the very hardship of the case, negotiations must take place in certain cases on hours, if not on hours and wages, unless an agreement were come to that certain parts of those districts should be allowed to go entirely derelict.
We have proceeded—in addition to what we have included in the Bill which will be discussed again to-morrow—with the consideration of other steps recommended in the Report, and we have taken action now upon certain recommendations which did not require immediate legislation. Now the right hon. Gentleman, and sometimes Members sitting opposite—and possibly some this afternoon will do the same—seem to think that it is a dilatory proceeding on our part to set up that very admirable and competent Committee which we have set up to examine the question of sales. I really do not now what alternative there is. There has never been anything of the kind covering a whole great industry, or even part of a whole great industry, so that there is very little experience in this country to go upon. For Parliament to attempt to legislate on a subject so closely touching the daily life and business of an industry without the fullest knowledge would be an act of lunacy, and it would only result in disaster later on. The name and character of the chairman and members of that Committee show at least that the subject will be examined right through to the bottom, and I think we may hope that, whatever the results of their deliberations may be, they will, at any rate, be practicable, and will be justified by the evidence that they are able to procure. They are meeting for the first time this afternoon. Then we are asking a number of influential persons to form a Fuel and Power Council, as recommended by the Commission. The Commission recommended a systematic extension of research and experiment bearing on the problems connected with the industry. We are devoting and developing our own work on the utilisation of coal and the 1741 study of fuel as rapidly as the necessary research workers can be got together The present programme involves an expenditure this year more than twice that of four years ago, and, as the programme develops, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer's permission, the expenditure will grow. The Mining Industry Bill gives the Research Department power—[Interruption].
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was heard in perfect silence.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Government has decided to provide additional money to help private initiative if it is seriously anxious to help research. If the coalowners set up a really adequate organisation for co-operative research into coal winning and all that belongs to it, the Government will do their part, and, if really promising methods of producing smokeless fuel and oil on an economic basis are set up, the Government will help to prove out the plant on a commercial scale. There, again, progress is being made, but many people are too apt to jump at what we may hope to see from this research in a few years' time, and imagine that this autumn or winter results which will inevitably come in time can be obtained at once. The purchasing Departments of the Government are prepared to buy from the output of any new plants at the market price. The Government proposals cover the whole ground of the chapter on research. [Interruption.] I venture to suggest that there is a heavy responsibility resting on leaders to-day who are not willing to come into the negotiations—[Inter-teruption.]
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am sure the Committee wishes to hear the Prime Minister to the end, and there will be plenty of opportunity for hon. Members later.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I mentioned a few moments ago the suggestion that the miners were prepared to consider, or, if you like, to have, arbitration. The suggestion was linked up, as I showed, with other matters. I have been told that it stands by itself, but there is no difficulty in proceeding, so far as I know, with arbitration, if the parties think that it is a better and more expeditious method of reaching a settlement than by ordinary negotiation and settling between them- 1742 selves. In this country we have, perhaps, been rather cautious in adopting arbitration. I think that that is a sign of very healthy independence. But there have been many occasions when, for one reason or another, it has not proved possible to reach a settlement, and the good sense of all parties has agreed that it is better to place the facts before an impartial tribunal, whether by way of a committee or a chairman, and to accept its decision as an alternative to the long and costly method of continuing a strike. The right hon. Gentleman spoke as though there were no alternative but to go on until, as he expressed it, the miners were beaten or forced to their knees.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No one on this side of the House wants, or ever has wanted, that. Negotiation can be started. There is nothing to stop it. There is nothing to stop negotiation at all. There have been many forms of arbitration and many forms of tribunal. There has never been ally difficulty in setting up a fair and impartial tribunal on lines that have conformed to the views of those concerned in the dispute. I do not see why there should be any greater difficulty to-day. Such a tribunal, under an independent chairman, has masses of information before it which have been gathered together, partly as the result of the discussions in the last few months, partly as the result of the elaborate system of joint investigation which has been carried on now for some time past.
I know the importance that is attached to reorganisation, although I have to utter some words as a caveat on that subject, but I cannot conceive why such a tribunal should not begin by making up its mind what would be the probable effect upon the economic position of the industry of the various proposals included in the Bill that is now going through Parliament, and of the subjects to be discussed by the various Committees which have been set up. The Committee could then satisfy itself on this point before proceeding to reach conclusions as to the question of wages or hours. A policy of that kind seems to me to be well fitted to bring about a reasonable and equitable settlement. There has been no discussion yet between the two parties 1743 of any kind because the break occurred before they had got down to it, or even got near to it. It seems to me that now both parties are in a much better position to do that. There is only one word that perhaps I might add. Supposing the two parties would come together for negotiation or for arbitration, we would do all in our power to help. We cannot impose legislative settlements—[An HON. MEMBER: "You did with hours!"] That is not a settlement. There has been no negotiation at all as to whether, inside that, with any modification a settlement may be possible to be reached. [An HON. MEMBER: "You have said neither side could settle!"] I felt that three months ago. I cannot see now why they should not. They have both been through a term of bitter experience, and if it is not possible for men to learn by passing through a term of bitter experience, indeed I should lose hope that they might ever learn wisdom.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I think everyone in the House and outside it who has been waiting with considerable expectation for the statement the Prime Minister was to make will have heard it, and will read it, with profound dissatisfaction. My first great difficulty is this. What does it mean? The Prime Minister seems to have forgotten, at least, for four-fifths of his speech, that we are in the middle of a very disastrous trade dispute, and that the purpose of this Debate, if it serves any purpose at all, is to try to make some contribution to the termination as quickly as possible of that dispute. He finishes up by saying—how easy it is for any of us to say it—why cannot the two sides negotiate? Why? Very largely owing to the right hon. Gentleman himself. When he was reminded by my hon. Friend behind me in an interjection about what he himself said, that the two sides could not successfully negotiate, really it is not enough for him to say he said that a week or two ago, and he hopes they are both wiser than they were when he spoke last. He knows as well as I do that the history of this trade, the experience of this trade, is not going to make negotiations possible between those two sides themselves either to-day or tomorrow or the next day. I am certain the Prime Minister knows that. More- 1744 over, when he went on elaborating that point he mixed up negotiation with arbitration. Does he mean to tell this House and the country that he believes that either the owners or the men at the present moment are prepared to accept arbitration? I am sure he does not. Does he mean to say that at the end of a 13 weeks' dispute either side, whether it is the winning side or the losing side, is going to bind itself, not for the termination of this dispute, but beyond the termination of this dispute, for a period of time after this dispute? The suggestion made by the Prime Minister to-day to arbitrate is not the Bishop's suggestion, and no one knows that better than the right hon. Gentleman. I am aware he seems to have taken a prejudice against the Bishops since they ceased to preach piety.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland)
As a personal remark, I say that is an absolutely unwarranted and unwarrantable statement.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the proposal made by the Prime Minister regarding arbitration, dissociated from the other provisions of the Bishops' statement, was not the proposal made by the Bishops. He knows perfectly well that the Bishops never would make such a suggestion. It is absolutely futile. What is the position? What has he done? The right hon. Gentleman has nothing whatever to say on the dispute as it is to-day. He has told us this proposal was made to him through the medium of the Ecclesiastical representatives. What has he done? He has simply rejected it sans phrase—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] —and those who believe that this dispute should be carried out to an abominable finish are the only people who say "Hear, hear." I know one of the great complaints of the Tory party was that there was a certain gentleman about of the name of Mr. Cook. One person who is supposed to think of nothing except to prolong the strike! There are serried ranks in front of me, and no one has led them more successfully than the Government.
We ought to know two things. We ought to have this clear. Does the Government believe in the Royal Commission's Report or does it not? If it 1745 believes in the Royal Commission's Report, when is it going to carry it into effect? The other thing we want to know is this. Does the Government believe in peace? The Government has had offer after offer and opportunity after opportunity given it to make peace—[Interruption]—not the peace the hon. Member below the gangway and his friends would like I admit, but a peace which would have some modicum of justice embodied in it. Again and again they have had their opportunity. Again and again the Prime Minister has said, here and outside, that he wishes for peace, and from the beginning of the struggle to this moment he has never lifted his little finger for peace. It is very hard for me to say that. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I am prepared to repeat it. What is the position to-day, to go back upon this point of negotiation? The Prime Minister says to both sides: "Why do you not begin negotiating?" Why did he not stand out of the negotiations until such time as the owners showed their hand? What is the use of the Prime Minister talking about going to the miners now to negotiate after he has put a bludgeon into the hands of the owners? If the Prime Minister had said to both sides four weeks ago, "Go into negotiations," the owners then were not armed with the eight-hours day to force upon the negotiations. He has, first of all, handed over a weapon to the owners. He has equipped them with knuckle dusters. Then he comes up this afternoon, in the thirteenth week of this deplorable struggle, having armed one side, and says to both sides, "Why not negotiate?" Miners are human, and miners feel things quite as much as I know hon. Members opposite do. They feel the remark I made just now. The miners have been feeling exactly the same way, and it is no use talking in the way the Prime Minister talked during the latter part of his speech, because it is not going to bring peace, and it is not going to help to goodwill in the industry.
The Government really ought to make it clear what its position regarding the 1746 Commission's Report is. First of all, regarding wages, the Commission's Report has been violated by every step the Government took before and since the lock-out has taken place. The Royal Commission has said quite definitely that wages will have to fall. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do you accept that?"] The Royal Commission has said that in its opinion wages must fall. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do you accept that?"] But the Royal Commission at the same time said no sacrifice ought to be asked. The Government violated that condition of the Royal Commission's Report from the very beginning of the negotiations. That is perfectly plain. Whether the miners are going to be prepared to accept a reduction of wages or not remains to be seen; but before they accept any reduction in wages they are perfectly entitled to say to the Government, "You must give us some security that if that reduction is to be accepted by us, all the opportunities to obviate, it must first be explored in the industry." That is the Report of the Royal Commission. I raised this question before, and I took this line; the Government took the other line. The Samuel Memorandum, which was issued after the calling off of the general strike, supports me rather than the Government in that respect.
I am amazed at the Prime Minister's excuse and apology for himself in regard to the question of hours. The Royal Commission's Report says that hours must not be touched until there is agreement between the two sides. The Prime Minister knows that perfectly well. "Ah," says the Prime Minister, "in exploring the ground I came to the conclusion, my colleagues, my Cabinet came to the conclusion, that in a settlement which was to be economic hours had to be dealt with. Therefore, pending their coming together, I thought that I would change the law and allow the negotiators on behalf of the owners to bring an eight-hour day into the negotiations." Is that carrying out the Royal Commission's Report? If the miners had accepted the Royal Commission's Report, and carried it out in that way, there would have been nobody who would have been more righteously indignant than the Prime Minister himself about the miners having broken their word and their bond. The Bill which will be before us again this 1747 week—the Mining Industry Bill—is not the Royal Commission's Report and is not the Royal Commission's recommendations. It as nothing—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am willing to end my sentence there, but I prefer to go on and to say that it is nothing but an encouragement to the owners to suit their own personal interests and amalgamate where there is profit, not for the miners but for themselves, profit not for the nation or their own pockets, and to refuse to amalgamate when that profit does not exist. They can do that now. It is true that the stamp will cost one penny or twopence less under the Bill than it would have done had the Bill never been passed.
The Government have never accepted the Royal Commission's Report, except in words. From the beginning to the end of the negotiations the Government have never carried out the Royal Commission's Report. In their legislation the Government have violated the Royal Commission's Report. In their handling of Mr. Herbert Smith, at the opening of the negotiations, before the lock-out took place, they violated the provisions of the Royal Commission's Report. Yet this Government repeatedly states, with the same sort of uncertainty that characterises the English weather, "We are in favour of the Royal Commission's Report." It is true that they said at first—they have not always given this qualification—that they accepted it providing the other two sides did the same. Of the other two sides the owners never accepted it. The only party that came near to an attempt at acceptance was the miners. [Laughter and HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] Hon. Members are not more amused at me than I am at them. I repeat that the miners are the only party that offered at the beginning a tentative acceptance. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The right hon. Gentleman has made a very specific statement. He has said that the miners accepted the Report, and that owners did not.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
The hon. Member surely does not assume that I had 1748 finished my argument on that point. The only barrier between the hon. Member getting his information from me was the interjections of his own side.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
The hon. Member's side is his own, I admit. The hon. Member seemed to be surprised that I should have used the expression "tentative acceptance." Hon. Members opposite must appreciate the fact that at that time the negotiations were about to be entered upon. Mr. Herbert Smith and his friends were to be the leaders of the negotiations on one side. In these circumstances, does anyone mean to say that before the court was constituted and before the case on either side was stated, either the owners or the miners were going to say exactly what they would accept? Certainly not. What did Mr. Smith say? My right hon. Friend has quoted him. I heard him. Mr. Herbert Smith said: "I am prepared to consider the Report from A to Z"—that was the original form of his statement—"and I am willing to abide by the findings."
§ Mr. MacDONALD
Is the hon. Member having a joke? Is this Debate a sort of country fair or is it the House of Commons Mr. Smith's statement was as I have said. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to say what does that mean? [HON. MEMBERS: "What did he mean?"] What did he mean? Was it not the duty of your Government, 13 weeks ago, to bind him down to it, and to say, "What did you mean?" Instead of that they closed their doors because of some mishappening at the "Daily Mail" office, and they never said a word about the statement and never followed it up. They never took the least step to find out what he meant. They closed the doors, and then said that whilst the general strike lasted no negotiations could take place. Again and again they have had the same opportunity. The other night, on the Third Reading of the Eight Hours Bill, when we still had the matter before us, the Prime Minister wound up by a formula, a rather familiar one, which was taken up next day by the newspapers as though it were an offer for peace. Some of my colleagues round about me also thought 1749 it was an offer for peace. I did not. It was not an offer for peace. Yet, if that Bill, in the interests of the miners and in the interests of peace had been suspended for a couple of days, there was a good chance of something being done. It had to be suspended next day in the House of Lords because their friends, apparently, sold them and were not willing to deliver the goods.
If that Bill had been held up for a couple of days, after it had gone through this House, to allow the expectation that centred round the Prime Minister's statement next morning to be explored, it was possible that something might have been done. When the Bill was introduced it was well known that various attempts were being made and had gone a little way towards providing some way in which the difficulties might have been surmounted; but the moment the Bill was introduced, every door to negotiation was closed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) three times in this House made suggestions for peace. You cannot ignore these things. Those of us who feel that opportunity after opportunity has been missed by this Government cannot ignore these things. Hon. Members opposite apparently think that the only thing that will satisfy them is that one side should surrender absolutely. If you put up a proposal, a very absolute one like a slogan, or one that errs on the other side by being too small, we are told that that is no good. Everybody who has been engaged in negotiations of this kind knows perfectly well that that is always how negotiations start. Either you put up something you are prepared to argue upon, or you put out something which is a feeler. That will be the case until the judgment day. Any such proposal ought to be seized upon at once and made the basis of negotiations. That opportunity has been offered again and again in this House but everything has been rejected.
Here we are again, after 13 weeks. The Eight Hours Bill is an Act of Parliament. You think you are going to have a great victory, I suppose. You think that the Warwickshire men are going back. You think that you are going to have district agreements. The Prime Minister adumbrated that in his speech—district this way, district that way, district the other way. Perhaps he did not mean district agreements. I hope he 1750 meant that that was going to modified on the basis of national agreement.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I am very glad that I have got that. Some of them would like to think that they are going to have district agreements, and to smash the, national agreement. I do not wish them joy of their achievement. I would much rather have an agreement, a settlement, something which will last. My own conviction is that in industrial affairs, as in international affairs, peace is the condition of progress. An agreement come to by methods of peace is something that has a foundation; an agreement, come to, or an acceptance, as the result of the stricken field has no foundation at all, and everybody is watching for an opportunity to upset it at whatever cost to themselves, their trade, or the nation. That is what the Government is facing now. I am sorry that the Prime Minister's speech was not more hopeful. It means nothing; it is no contribution to our immediate difficulties. You can go on appointing committees; they may be good committees or they may be bad committees you can go on making investigations, scientific and otherwise; that is all right, but it is not going to take one hour, not one single second, off this terrible dispute which is oppressing this nation, and threatening its very existence at the present time.
As to the eccleciastical suggestions, I do not agree with every word or with every principle, but I do agree in this—and this is what we should seize upon and build up into some system of peace—that there ought to be an interregnum during which work is being done. I do not see how you can avoid that or get it unless you are going to have some financial assistance from the Government. And the Prime Minister has said that he is willing to do it. After so many losses, he cannot say that he is not going to implement the promise he made three months ago to give at least £3,000,000. The losses every day are getting greater, and, if he can stop a loss of £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 by throwing into the mining industry £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 or £5,000,000, he is a good financier. If he is going to allow £10,000,000, £15,000,000, £20,000,000 1751 or £30,000,000 to be lost not only by the coal trade—some hon. Members. may say they jolly well deserve it—but by the whole industries of our country, if the Prime Minister says he will not on account of his poverty find £3,000,000 in order to save £10,000,000 or £30,000,000, he may get the applause of his many followers, but he will not get the thanks of the industrial sections of the community.
A temporary, provisional period, with some form of public assistance, call it a subsidy or anything else you like—I do not like the word "subsidy," and I do not like the idea of a subsidy—which must be given, and then, at the end of that system, arbitration. I know there are difficulties; I know there are objections. Anyone in a debating society can put forward good objections, but we are not here to debate for debating sake, but to try and get the nation out of the difficulty in which it finds itself. Here we are in this difficulty. How are you going to get out of it? There is no way out so far as I can see except on the lines of what is known as the Bishop's offer, modified if you like; changed words, if you like; changed ideas, if you like. Why not get them together and discuss the whole thing, tell them what the Government is prepared to do, instead of quarrelling with the Church which has given us a much needed demonstration that it is not the organisation of the rich and the comfortable, but a great inspiring faith, whether it is established or non-established, with some application to the lives of the common people and has some contribution to make to the material uplifting as well as to the spiritual inspiration of the people? Why not take that view, thank them for their efforts, and determine to do everything we can to carry those efforts to a successful issue?
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has stated very specifically that the Miners' Federation have accepted the Report of the Commission and that the owners have rejected it. I should like to know on what occasion the Miners' Federation accepted the recommendations of the Report and on what occasion the owners refused.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I must apologise to the hon. Member for not replying to him immediately when I was speaking I was going to refer to what Mr. Herbert Smith said at the Memorial Hall on the Saturday morning before the General Strike was declared. He said that he would accept it; and nobody followed it up.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
What Mr. Herbert Smith said was that he was quite ready to go through the Report, read it carefully, and then abide by the conclusions be reached.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
Perhaps the hon. Member will take my word. I heard what Mr. Smith said, and I read it afterwards. He said much more than that.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I suggest we should refer to the written word when we get outside this House. What Mr. Herbert Smith said on that occasion was this, not in these words, but this is the effect: "I am prepared to go through that Report most carefully and to abide by any conclusions that I reach." [HON. MEMBERS: "You are wrong!"] In confirmation of this it must be realised that 48 hours later Mr. Herbert Smith and Mr. Cook, on behalf of the Miners' Federation, said that in no circumstances would they accept any reduction in wages or any extension of hours. Therefore, I take it that Mr. Smith's examination of the Report would not lead him to the conclusion that an immediate reduction of wages or an extension of hours was absolutely necessary in order to save the industry from disaster. With regard to the contention put forward that the owners did not accept the recommendations of the Commission, I endeavoured to get from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) what he meant by that statement, and I also endeavoured to get some information from the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken as to what he meant. I say that neither of them have any ground whatsoever for making that very serious statement, and I am prepared to give way now if the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will tell me in what particular the owners have refused to accept the recommendations of the Commission.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
The evidence is in innumerable forms, but I was thinking principally of the letter which the owners sent to the Prime Minister and which was communicated to the Miners' Federation on the Friday before the declaration of the general strike. The letter reached the Federation at a quarter-past one on the Friday afternoon.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The Report itself says thatshould the miners prefer some extension of hours the Government, no doubt, will be prepared to authorise it.Does the right hon. Gentleman say that this is going in face of the Report? Does he say that the Government have gone against the Report in passing the Eight Hours Act? I ask the Committee really to consider the matter carefully. The Commission says that the necessary reduction in wages may be so drastic that the miners may prefer an extension of hours instead. Therefore, the passing of the Eight Hours Act is not going against the recommendation of the Commission, but rather is it to help forward their recommendations so that it may be possible in some of the exporting districts to avoid the terribly drastic reduction in wages which would otherwise be necessary. All the world knows what it would mean to South Wales without a subsidy on the basis of a seven-hours' day. It means a wage such as the South Wales owners refused to put forward as long as they possibly could, because it was such a miserable wage, and, therefore, when conditions in a district like South Wales were such that only a miserable wage could be offered, on a seven-hours' basis, surely sheer humanity demanded that some increase of hours should be put forward instead. [Interruption.]
§ The CHAIRMAN
In a Debate of this sort it is not to be expected that there will not be a certain amount of interruption, but, if it be carried to a point where argument is impossible, then the only conclusion is for me to report a state of disorder.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I am doing my best not to be provocative, but facts seem to be provocative to certain hon. Members opposite. I was trying to show that the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in the course of his speech were not correct, that neither of his statements was correct.
§ Mr. SPENCER
Will the hon. Member read out the answers to the questions of the Miners' Federation and tell us whether the owners have accepted them or not?
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I have the answers here, but there are four printed pages, and I think the Committee would prefer that I did not read them all.
§ Mr. SPENCER
Will the hon. Member tell us how many times the owners say they agree and how many times they do not agree? I find that they agree eight time out of fourteen.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
How can the owners say that they can agree to nationalise royalties? What on earth has it to do with the coalowners, or how can they introduce legislation to make it possible? And there are half-a-dozen other suggestions of that kind. The owners are not people so utterly lacking in modesty that they can undertake to introduce legislation in this House. If the hon. Member will look through their replies, he will find that in every case where they are called upon to do anything the owners say they are prepared to do it. What further acceptance than that is wanted I fail to understand.
I have not finished with the right hon. Gentleman yet. His final suggestion was that the people of this country should go on paying the subsidy because it was cheaper—and here, again, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was with him— because it was cheaper to pay blackmail than to face the situation. I dare say that some people think it is cheaper to pay blackmail than to "call the bluff"; but I understand from the Prime Minister's speech that he prefers to "call the bluff" rather than pay the blackmail. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition also referred to the proposals of his right hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn). What were those proposals? Something 1755 that he called "unification of the industry." He was quite unable to say what it meant, but the blessed word "unification" was good enough; it was an excellent catchword; it had the requisite number of syllables. And the right hon. Gentleman suggests that that is a possible basis of negotiation between the parties. [Interruption.] He specifically referred to the suggestions of the right hon. Member for Ogmore, and those suggestions were comprised in the word "unification," and nothing else, on both occasions.
Let us refer for a moment to what this Debate has turned upon mainly, what are called the Bishops' proposals. I notice that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, and, I believe, the Prime Minister, referred to these Bishops and other clerics as the "representatives of the Christian Churches." In what way are they representative? Who put them in that position? Who formed the Industrial Christian Fellowship? Who elected them to represent the Churches? The whole thing arises in its present form from that remarkable document, the Archbishop Committee's Report on the relations of Christianity to industrial problems, when a certain number of people, some cleric and some lay, formed themselves into this body which now attempts to dictate to the people of England and to dictate on very foolish lines indeed. It may he thought that these gentlemen and these clerics have some spiritual ground for interference, but anyone who has read the literature which is published by the Industrial Christian Fellowship must agree, I think, that their claim to any spiritual authority is completely obliterated by what they publish. Take, for instance, the most striking point in the Manifesto of the Industrial Christian Fellowship, which is this:We assert our belief that the moral and spiritual progress of the people demands that the best possible standard of living should everywhere be maintained.I, being a mere pagan, do not deny this. It may be that no one can be good or make spiritual progress unless he is comparatively well-to-do: It may be true; but these ecclesiastical gentlemen are not paid their stipends for preaching that sort 1756 of thing—that no one can be good unless he has gold or silver or brass in his purse; that no one can be good if he has only one coat, or if he has no shoes, and no staff; and, more than all, that no one can be good if he has "nowhere to lay his head." Whether that statement may be sound or not, it is not the sort of statement that we expect to hear from those who call themselves representatives of Christianity in this country. Again, they talk repeatedly of Christian Socialism. In fact, the Fellowship is the lineal descendant of the original Christian Socialists. How can one combine two such things in that way? How can one combine the Socialist belief that it is more blessed to receive than to give, with the Christian belief that "it is more blessed to give than to receive?"
Here we have so-called representatives of the Christian Church interfering with things which do not concern them—and which they certainly cannot understand from the evidence of their own proposals—which they put forward as representatives of Christianity, basing the whole of their appeal on the grossest and most utter materialism that has ever been preached, even from the Labour Benches opposite. Pretty representatives of the Christian Church! I have more to say about these gentlemen. We industrialists, if they had done their duty in times past, if they had given us a Christian country in which to build up our economic, industrial and political system—we would have built up an industrial system suitable for Christians; and the only reason why we have not done so is that they have so utterly failed in their own proper business, perhaps through interfering with other people's business, that we have not got a Christian nation in which to build up a Christian industrial system.
So much for that remarkable body which presumes to come in at this stage, and suggest, first of all, that we should yield to blackmail, and then, at the end of four months of paying blackmail, that we should find ourselves in exactly the same position as we are in now. If .arbitration could possibly be any good at the end of four months of paying blackmail, why on earth cannot arbitration be some good now? If Mr. Cook and Mr. Smith really mean an acceptance of these proposals, why on earth cannot they be asked 1757 whether they will accept arbitration here and now, arbitration in full accord with the recommendations of the Report, which involve a most drastic reduction of wages, a reduction so drastic in some districts that the Commissioners themselves say that, distasteful though it is to have to allow an extension of hours, they feel it possible that some districts may have to accept an extension of hours in order to keep reductions of wages within reasonable limits?
Much has been heard of the recommendations of the Report for the reorganisation of the industry, and too little has been said, certainly by hon. Members opposite, about certain very much more specific and definite recommendations. For example, are we to follow out the recommendations of the Report for reconstruction while completely putting on one side this statement:We think the continuance of the subsidy indefensible. The subsidy should stop at the end of its authorised term, and should never be repeated.That is the sort of recommendation of which we do not hear much from this Committee of Bishops. Another very specific recommendation that we do not hear a great deal about is to be found on the following page.If the present hours are to be retained we think a revision of the minimum percentage addition …. is indispensable. A disaster is impending over the industry, and the immediate reduction of working costs, that can be effected in this way, and in this way alone, is essential to save it.How many hon. Gentlemen in the Labour party or the Liberal party have told us of those recommendations of the Report? How many moves towards a complete acceptance of the Report in these respects have been made by Messrs. Cook and Smith? Not very many. I have completely missed them myself.
Turn for a moment to a much more important thing, and one of more practical importance, and that is the fact, which seems to be fixed in the minds of a lot of non-technical people not Associated with the industry, that one has only to put into effect the proposals of the, Commission's Report, and .then almost instantaneously a state of peace and prosperity will reign in the industry. The Commission most specifically stated that the real trouble in the industry is that the costs of production are too high, with the present hours and wages. Hon. 1758 Members of the Labour party will possibly remember that that is a very specific statement in the Report. The Commissioners say:We are unanimously of opinion that the costs of production, with the present hours and wages, are greater than the industry will bear.That being the case, it seems that the obvious remedy is to reduce the costs of production. Yet we get a series of proposals for reorganisation which, in the course of a generation or two, may possibly, although it is doubtful, have some effect upon the cost of producing coal, but, certainly, can have no effect whatsoever, except in the wrong direction, on the cost of producing coal in the next six months. For instance, take one or two cases. It is urged that holidays should be paid for. Is that going to reduce the cost of producing coal—by paying one week's or a fortnight's wages to the miner who is on holiday? Hon. Members opposite can possibly agree with me that the effect of that recommendation would be rather to raise the cost of production. It may be said that the moral effect will be so great that the men will strive to get much greater production. But everyone knows perfectly well that when holidays are near everyone is working his hardest in the pit to earn as much as possible for the holidays. Therefore, it is absurd to suggest that a man will work harder than he does now, as a preliminary to taking a holiday, if he is paid for the holiday. The actual effect of this proposal would be an average rise in the cost of producing coal of about 5d. per ton. There is another suggestion:The general establishment of pit-head baths is necessary. This should be undertaken by the Miners' Welfare Fund, which should be increased by a substantial contribution from royalties.Why that particular injustice should be perpetrated the Commission does not say. There is the proposal nevertheless. Does anyone suggest that a contribution from royalties and the taking of a .proportion of the welfare money is going to reduce the cost of producing coal? Not likely. Here is another suggestion:For all new collieries, a proper provision of houses for the workers should be a condition of the lease.Every, one knows that when a. new colliery is opened the owners have to build houses for their workmen, or else they do not 1759 get the men. But raising the standard of housing is another matter, and, however desirable it may be on general grounds, if it has to be paid for by the industry it will certainly not reduce the cost of getting coal. On the contrary, it will be a further capital charge on the production of coal, and will have an influence in the opposite direction.
So, if you go through practically every proposal of the Commission you get the same thing—no appreciable reduction of costs in any case, and in several cases a very material increase. Therefore, what hope is there of putting the industry on a better basis, on an economic basis, in the course of the next year or two, simply by carrying out all the recommendations of the Report? That was the attitude adopted by the Mining Association of Great Britain from the start. When the Prime Minister said that if both parties would accept the Report he was willing to accept it and to pass the necessary legislation, the Mining Association of Great Britain took the same view as the Prime Minister.
They did not like the recommendations; they did not think the recommendations were any use, and I venture to say that nobody intimately concerned with the coal industry really does believe that these recommendations can possibly put the industry on an economic basis; but, for the sake of peace, just like the Prime Minister, they were willing to swallow the whole lot and they did so. They did not get any response, although the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition says that Mr. Herbert Smith accepted the recommendations of the Report. No doubt that is the right hon. Gentleman's view, but, despite that, I think myself that the general public and certainly the Prime Minister were under the impression that they refused to accept that Report, and most of us are under that impression still. "Not a cent. off the pay, not a second on the day" does not really represent a definite and heart-whole acceptance of the Report.
I have laboured this point about the recommendations, and I have done so because they have never been dealt with fully in the House of Commons, and the result has been that both Members of the House of Commons and the public outside, and the newspapers in particular, 1760 are still hanging on to the absurd idea that by some miraculous means, if we carry out these recommendations, the coal industry is going to be placed on its feet and restored to an economic basis at once and possibly that the April rates of wages with a seven-hour day can be paid economically. The whole idea is so utterly preposterous to those who know, that it is just as well that somebody—even so humble an individual as myself—should publicly state that there is absolutely nothing in the way of an appreciable reduction in cost to be got by putting into effect every single one of the recommendations of the Commission.
The only one that might benefit the coal industry, but would do so in a very dangerous way, is the recommendation about selling combinations and syndicates. That is a very dangerous proposal indeed. When most of our heavy industries, and steel and iron in particular, are just keeping their heads above water with the utmost difficulty, against foreign competition, are we deliberately to set out by Act of Parliament to create rings and trusts in the coal industry and to put up the cost of fuel against industries which can hardly bear the burden as it is—and to do that, mark you, on behalf of an industry where the workers are very much better paid and have shorter hours than the wretched people employed in the other heavy industries? Surely it is enough that the steel workers, the engineers, the cotton workers and all the others have been paying week by week, almost, I might say, year by year, because of the enormous subsidies granted in times past by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs—subsidies compared with which last year's subsidy looks comparatively small—must be remembered. Surely it is enough that these subsidies should have come out of the pockets of very much worse-paid workers. I say that the great point of the Commission's Report to which the country will hold is, that no subsidy shall be paid by poor men for the benefit of other men who are better off. I venture also to say, because I may criticise the Government in a way in which Members behind me cannot do, that if the Prime Minister had made that fact perfectly clear at an early date this unhappy dispute would have been practically over at the present time.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
Did the hon. Member ever record any protest against this iniquitous procedure last year?
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I was absent from the House, but I may say that members of the Government did consult me about it. They wanted opinions upon it—even the most humble opinion—and I advised them strongly to face the music and not to give a subsidy. I was not in the House when the subsidy was discussed.
I do think that the Government have, from time to time taken steps—perhaps they had reasons of which I am not aware —which have had the effect of unduly prolonging this dispute. The holding up of the Eight Hours Bill in this House and in another place undoubtedly protracted this unhappy dispute. There was no possibility whatever of a settlement of any kind in the South Wales area on the seven-hour day. I think if one could get the opinions of the miners' leaders in South Wales, they would agree that the wages payable on the seven-hour basis in South Wales, under present conditions, were such that they would not have cared, even under the pressure of starvation, to ask their men to accept them. On the contrary, the wages payable, with the extra hour, in South Wales are wages which many workers in this country would be only too glad to earn; they are wages at the rate that was being paid in 1921 when the cost of living was much higher than it is to-day, and there are millions of workers who would be only too glad to get back to the 1921 basis of wages and to enjoy the higher standard of living which the lower cost of living has rendered possible. [Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite have anything to say, and if they rise to say it, I shall be pleased to give way. I am not like the right hon. Gentleman their leader, who will not give way when his assertions are challenged.
§ Mr. SPENCER
A great deal has been said about the owners accepting the recommendations of the Commission. Will the hon. Gentleman explain how the owners' reply to No. 1 Recommendation, taken along with their reply to No. 8 Recommendation, can be said to be an acceptance of the Commission's recommendations generally? I ask the hon. Gentleman how he reconciles those two replies.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
No. 1 Recommendation is:Before any sacrifices are asked from those engaged in the industry, it shall be definitely agreed between them that all practicable means for improving its organisation, and increasing its efficiency should be adopted as speedily as the circumstances in each case allow.The owners' reply is:The owners, for their part, are prepared to do everything in their power to improve the organisation and increase the efficiency of the industry.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The recommendation is:The amalgamation of many of the present small units of production is both desirable and practicable. This may often be effective from within, but in many cases it will only take place if outside assistance is given. Any general measure of compulsory amalgamation on arbitrary lines would he mischievous.The owners' reply is:The owners agree with the views expressed by the Commission that any general measure of compulsory amalgamation would be mischievous"—Is that enough?
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The reply continues:and the best results are to be obtained where the initiative comes from the undertakings concerned. The owners note that the recommendation which the Commission make as to legislation is dealt with in the Government's declaration and, as in the case of the proposal for the nationalisation of minerals, with which it is connected, it does not arise for discussion between owners and workmen but becomes a question for Parliament.
§ Mr. SPENCER
May I ask the hon. Member is it not really a question between workmen and owners; and, in view of that reply, how can it be said that the owners have definitely agreed, as is suggested, to Recommendation No. 1. It is preposterous.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The hon. Gentleman has not quite understood the recommendation. The recommendation is that certain legislation might well be passed by the Government to compel amalgamation in certain cases and the owners naturally reply "We do not pass legislation that is a matter for Parliament."
§ Mr. SPENCER
In the first recommendation you have to deal with the measures that have to be taken before any sacrifices are asked from those engaged in the industry. Those measures include reorganisation, but when you get to reorganisation, and especially to amalgamation, the owners immediately say, "This is a question with which the men have nothing to do." How can you say, in view of that statement, that they have accepted these recommendations?
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
Neither the coal-owners nor the men have anything to do with what legislation the Government will pass. This is a recommendation for legislation and the Government in the first instance said they were prepared to carry it out and they have been carrying it out in the Mining Industry Bill. If the hon. Member thinks it is a rejection of the Report because the Mining Association of Great Birtain refuses to pledge itself to pass legislation, I suggest that this Committee will not be in agreement with him. The point remains that we must disabuse our mind of any idea that one part of the Commission's Report can be taken separate from another, part; that is to say that these proposals for reorganisation, in any way, conflict with that very specific statement which I have already read that the cost of production must be reduced at once and that the only way which the Commission sees of reducing these costs is by a reduction of the wages cost on coal. The Commission gives some very valuable tables in support of that view.
One feature that is very prominent in this Report is that again and again the Commission say one thing on one page and say something diametrically opposed to that, on another page. For instance, on page 293 they said:1925 is probably more nearly typical than any other year since the war.That is in regard to the basis of coal prices.In the immediate future it is difficult to see any outside force that is likely to lift coal prices materially above their present level. They may so rise, but it is unsafe to count on this. The minimum wage cannot safely be fixed with reference to anything more.That is the whole basis of their recommendation on this point, but elsewhere in connection with the reduction of 1764 wages which they contemplate the argument is that the price is going to rise considerably. I merely give the Committee that particular example of what is throughout the Report the very curious phenomenon, that you get on one page a statement specifically on the one side of the argument and on another page you get a statement which is equally specifically on the other side of the argument. The carrying out of a Report of this sort is a very difficult thing for so sorely harassed an industry as the coal industry.
The nation as a whole has come to the conclusion that it is not going to pay blackmail any more. It has had enough of that, particularly if those sums of money are to be given to the better-paid man by the worse-paid man, so that I think we may take it, from the Prime Minister's speech, that the subsidy is knocked on the head once and for all. It is a great pity that it was not knocked on the head as soon as the Report was issued because, in that event, the coalfields of Great Britain would be at work at the present moment and prosperity would be coming back to the other industries of our country. That being the case, we can now get the industry on an economic basis and miners will find that the coalowners of Great Britain are prepared to listen most patiently to any suggestions differing from the suggestions which they themselves have put forward in the various districts.
It may be that their intention in not putting forward their suggestions on a seven-hour basis was in order to avoid drastic cuts in wges, and I think everybody must admit, in their heart of hearts, that such cuts would have been necessary in the exporting districts, and particularly in South Wales. But if the miners concerned, in one district or another, come to the conclusion that they would sooner have it "half and half "—a bit off the wages and a bit on the hours—they will find plenty of owners to negotiate with them on that basis. The whole thing is to make the industry self-supporting so that it does not become a pauper industry taking the pence of the poor in other industries. Once we get upon an economic basis, now that the intolerable, burden upon the industry of the seven-hour day has been removed by legislation, 1765 we can trust those who direct this industry to see that the conditions in it shall be better and happier in the future than they have ever been in the past. Those of us who have been intimately concerned in this industry for many years know that in it, more than in any other trade, there has already grown up that new spirit which we all desire to see—the spirit which makes the directors of a great industrial concern regard it as a trusteeship for the good of the country and the benefit of those employed in it.
Everyone in the mining industry must know case after case where whole districts depend upon the prosperity and the wise conduct of some colliery concern. We all know of cases where there are populations of almost 100,000 persons directly dependent for their whole living on the pits in the neighbourhood, and cases of 25,000 and 30,000 population directly dependent on one colliery are comparatively common. We know of many cases where those who direct the collieries in question direct them far less as commercial concerns than as principalities, in which they are rulers, not for their own benefit, but rather to ensure the happiness and prosperity of their people. It is no easy thing, it is no soft job, if I may put it that way, to be responsible in these days for the very livelihood of scores of thousands of our fellow countrymen and countrywomen. That responsibility has been taken up in the right spirit in many instances, and I cannot help thinking that as time goes on those who have lagged behind in regarding industry from the point of view which I have so briefly indicated will be brought up to the same pace as those who are at present the real leaders in industry—those who regard industry, as I say, as a principality, to be ruled for the good of its inhabitants, and not merely as a constant source of ever-increasing income for themselves.
§ Mr. HARNEY
The first part of the speech of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson), to which we have just listened, formed an elaborate philippic from the hon. Member to the clergy, from the Archbishop of Canterbury downwards, and the last part of it was an equally elaborate censure on the Report. For my part, I regard this question as a very serious one. Not only is its gravity brought home to me by my 1766 sense, in common with that of the rest of the community, of its appalling effects upon our industrial prosperity, but representing, as I do, a mining constituency, I cannot but be deeply affected by the personal touch that I there have in seeing thousands of men, quite as decent, and quite as reputable, and quite as level-headed as the hon. Member for Mossley, who are content to go on, day after day, suffering great misery, and persisting, in spite of all sorts of pressure being put upon them, because they genuinely believe they are right. It is merely beating the air for the hon. Member, following what the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for War said in another Debate the other day, to say that substantially the Report of the Commission is being carried out. That is wholly untrue.
The salient features of that Report I number as five. The first is that all the minerals should be acquired by a Coal Commission, which would then be empowered to deal with the conditions that render the working of the leases most favourable. It was not the sixpenny saving that the Commission were thinking about, but about wages, about the handicap of royalties, about the psychological effect that these things have upon the men, and about the difficulties which stand in the way of a real amalgamation until you have the minerals so handled. That has been thrown absolutely aside. Take the second—amalgamation. They went out of their way to emphasise that you will never have the sort of amalgamation they desired and thought necessary if you leave it to the initiative of the owners. It is left to the initiative of the owners. In the third place, they recommended municipal selling, which has been jeered at by the hon. Member for Mossley. I know nothing about its advantages and disadvantages, but, being more modest than the hon. Member, I am prepared to submit my judgment to that of experts on the subject. Fourthly, they specifically laid it down that the men are not to be asked to suffer less favourable conditions until the work of reorganisation has been set about. What have the Government done? They say: "Suffer the unfavourable conditions now, and we will think about reorganisation." Lastly, in four or five pages of closely reasoned matter, the Commission show 1767 that the eight-hours day would be disastrous. The Government bring forward a special Bill to introduce the eight-hours day. That is the way in which the Government have dealt with the Report.
Now let us see what the owners have always been demanding. Ever since the 1919 Act the owners have been imploring a return to the eight hours' day. They have got their way. The owners have always been saying: "Hands off, Government. Leave the men to us, to economic laws, to 'the dismal science,' and all will go well." That is pretty well the attitude that is now being taken. The owners have said: "We do not think the Report is a solution of the difficulty." I ask earnestly those who do me the favour of listening: Can they wonder that the miners throughout the country are saying: "We have been sold. There is but one voice heard in the Cabinet, and that is the voice of the owners"? Notwithstanding that the Sankey Commission, the Land Acquisition Commission, and the Samuel Commission, one and all, said: "These mines that are unprofitable are so because of the percentage that are badly managed, badly equipped, and badly organised, and if you are to set this industry on its feet, the point to attack is the managers', the capitalists', the owners' side, and not the men's side," what do they find? They find the Government turning a listening ear to every word the owners say, and telling us now that the way to reform that industry and put it on its legs is not by putting any burden on the side that alone is responsible, where the fault lies, but to say: "Men, strain your backs and tighten your belts in order to remedy the difficulty." I make no pretence of having the knowledge that the hon. Member for Mossley pretends to have, but I say, as an ordinary, common-sense person of the world, that when experts are picked for their scientific knowledge by the Government, study the question for months, and then give out a Report, with all due respect to him, I think their views are more worth hearing.
I submit to this Committee that the Government have brought all the disasters, in the midst of which we are now suffering, upon us by really beginning the solution of this thing at the wrong end. I have little doubt myself that had they come forward manfully 1768 and said: "We do not see eye to eye with the Commission, but these gentlemen have been our nominees; the subject is a complex one; they have gone into it and we have not; we asked the country to give us millions of money while they were working out their solution; they have given us their views, and we will accept them"—had they said that, they would then have got a listening ear from the men if they had turned to them and said: "Miners throughout Britain, we are prepared, here and now, to set about really doing what the Commission recommend, but we ask your co-operation, as we ask that of the owners, to put up with some little loss or inconvenience while the readjustment is being made. "I am as convinced, as I am that I hold this paper in my hand, that the pits would now be open with very little assistance from the Government, and ill-feeling would never have been created. And then, if the reorganisation had been carried out and it was found that, in fact, the majority of the pits would not pay under present conditions of labour and wages, I have no doubt the men would bow to the inevitable, because they would then know that they had had a fair deal, and that it was up to them, as during the War, to suffer something for the good of the whole community.
§ Mr. HARNEY
Why does the hon. Member make an interruption so often, when he is answered and shown to be wrong so often? Once more, if he will pardon me saying so, he is totally wrong there. I could give him a document that would take a long time to read, but it is in the recollection of everybody who read the Report that what occurred was this: The Government said: "If you two, mineowners and miners, agree to the recommendations, we will accept them." That was not what the Commission said. They said, on the contrary: "The only way to right this position is for the Government to take it in hand and legislate." They said particularly, for instance, with regard to the grouping of the mines: "It will never be done, and in 20 years it will be just as bad, if you leave it to those 1769 engaged in the industry. The only thing is for you, the Government, to take it in hand yourselves and do it."
§ Mr. HARNEY
The Government did not promise to do it. If you ask me to do a certain thing, and I say: "I will agree to do it, if A and B both ask me to do it," is that the same thing?
§ Mr. HARNEY
Now, that being the position, and to all of us who look at this question earnestly, and not frivolously, and who make speeches not for the purpose of showing their extraneous and irrelevant wisdom about ecclesiastical and other matters, the question is not "What has been done in the past?" but "What can be done to-day?" In my submission, it is not too late to make amends. Every Member on the Government Bench who is true to himself must acknowledge that their plan, so far, has failed. The hope entertained was to run through the Eight Hours Bill and to post up on the pitheads that the men could go back to work on the pre-stoppage terms, if they would work an hour longer, and it was thought that greed would overcome resistance. It did not. The men have not gone back anywhere, except a few thousand in Warwickshire, where practically they have been bribed by higher wages. Every candid member of the Government and of the Opposition must know that the plan about the eight hours has failed. The Church has come along. The hon. Member opposite says, "Oh, do not mind the Church; they are nobody. The Archbishop of Canterbury, compared with the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), is a poor fool." Really, had the country the advantage of making the hon. Member himself Archbishop of Canterbury, he would have so worked out his Christian doctrines that there would have been no industrial strife at all.
§ Mr. HARNEY
The hon. Member said the signatories of this document were following out what the Archbishop of Canterbury said.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I did not say that. It had nothing to do with the Archbishop, who was not on the Committee.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said, that, of course, there is a limit to ecclesiastical activities, the same as there is to secular activities. But when a public dispute reaches the point where bad blood is being created throughout the country, where millions are in destitution, whereby a spirit of abandonment and revolution is being kept alive, then I do not really know what clergymen are for, if that be not a proper case for them to step in to use their conciliatory and pacific influence. But whether they ought or ought not to have stepped in, the fact is that they have. The fact is that the miners, who have resisted, amid gibes and sneers, for about 13 weeks, will resist until physical strength fails them, when they know that, at all events, they have behind them the moral sanction of a great body of ecclesiastics, in thinking that their case is at all justifiable. They will win the public sympathy on the same account.
I mention these things to make an appeal to the Prime Minister. It may need moral courage on his part, but statesmen who go down to history are those who show moral courage. All of us in our youth have read that great speech of Burke on Conciliation, which required great moral courage at the time, and of all the speeches that great orator delivered none will live as long as that, for that reason. And so I say it is a great opportunity for the Prime Minister now to say, "I bow to such a strong and emphatically expressed opinion coming from such a source. I bow to it doubly, because it comes at a time when I have practically to admit that my own scheme has failed. Therefore, not thinking of self-glorification, but thinking only of the good of the country, I am prepared to retrace my steps." The Wallsend Election told a tale. It showed the 1771 strength of the popular breeze. It is true my own party lost their £150, but the party opposite lost 6,000 or 7,000 votes. Wallsend has said, with reference to coal, exactly what Mitcham said three years ago with reference to housing, and, if the Government are wise, they will take the warning in this case as they took it in the other. They retraced their steps with reference to housing, with the result that that very excellent Minister, the Minister of Health, is now able to say that houses are going up all round. So with coal, they would be very wise if they were to retrace their steps, even at the eleventh hour. The terms of the Bishops, putting it shortly, are to refer the matter back to those gentlemen who made the recommendations, and to say to them, "You know what was in your mind. Work it out in detail, and while you are doing it, the mines shall be opened by reason of a subsidy or some form of assistance being given, and if, at the end of four months, everything is not settled, then the miners are prepared to go to arbitration." That is the position.
The Prime Minister said to-day, "I have always been in favour of arbitration. I am in favour of it now. I would agree to that portion of the clergymen's circular, except that it is tied to a subsidy." The right hon. Gentleman is not present to hear me, but, if he were, I would like him to answer these questions. Is the reason that he will not accede to the arbitration point, because it is tied to a subsidy, a reason based upon principle? If it be a reason based upon principle, how does it lie in his mouth, when, contrary to the hopes of a few like myself, he introduced the subsidy last year, and how very unwisely it comes from his mouth to say to the miners throughout the country, "I was willing to accept the principle of a subsidy, and to mulct the community to the tune of over £20,000,000, when I wanted that money to mobilise my forces in order to beat the miners. I had no scruples about it then. But when I am asked for money to help the miners, then I hold up my hands in holy horror." It is a very unwise position to take up. On the 1st June the Prime Minister said:It is obvious that whatever settlement is arrived at, sooner or later—and I hope it may be sooner—some assistance may be needed. Here I am going dead against the 1772 Report, which hon. Members are sometimes so fond of quoting across the Floor of the House, when I say that it will probably be necessary to render some assistance, and we shall be prepared to do it…. I have never hesitated, when adopting to the full the recommendations of the Report, to maintain the view on this point alone, while I agree emphatically that it is impossible to continue the existence of the industry by continued subsidy, that a temporary subsidy in some form or another will be needed, whether it be to aid the period while negotiations are proceeding, or whether it be to aid certain districts…. I believe some assistance will be necessary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st June, 1926; Vol. 196, col. 673.]On principle, to what does the Prime Minister object? Is it to go forth to those men whom we are trying to conciliate, "When the Report recommends things which you like, it is waste paper, but when it recommends things which the owners like, it is sacrosanct. When it recommends no extension of hours, tear it up. When it recommends that there should be no further subsidy, and it suits the owners, it should be accepted. We must obey them." Am I to understand that the right hon. Gentleman really meant what he said to-day, "I am not prepared to give a subsidy or any assistance for so long a period as four months"? Do I understand that to mean that it is not principle which is holding him back, but that the financial situation to-day is very different from what it was a couple of months ago, and therefore he cannot do it?
If that be the position, I want to put two points. The first is, if the principle of the subsidy goes, and if, as a matter of finance, it is shown—as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runchiman) has shown, and no one has questioned it—that the whole of this subsidy or assistance which is asked for to bridge over the period when arbitration would settle everything—the whole of that period, in keeping the mines going on exactly the same basis as the subsidy kept them going before the 1st May—would not involve as much expense as one further week of strike, how can the Prime Minister be genuine, and expect to be believed, when he says: "My real objection to arbitration is that it is tied to a subsidy, and my real objection to the subsidy is that we cannot now afford it"? What does he mean? Think of a man saying, "I cannot afford £1,000 to save me a loss of £10,000." 1773 That is the same thing. If he cannot afford it for four months, can he afford it for one month. Will he say that? Will he agree to any temporary assistance at all for the purpose of carrying out the suggestion of these bishops? If he is prepared to do so, I have no doubt he will be able to get the men to agree. There is nothing sacred about four months. All that is wanted and asked for is that a breathing-time be given, to ascertain in two, three or four months during which the Commission are telling us what they really had in their mind when making the recommendations, and in trying to bring the men together. If at the end of that period they are not brought together, can the men do fairer and say, "As far as we are concerned, appoint an independent tribunal, and we agree to accept its judgment"?
I do hope somebody will convey to the Prime Minister the views, however humble, of Members like myself. I represent a very strong element of the mining community up in Durham, and I know a good deal of the conditions in Northumberland. The men there are miners of the class who live on the export trade, and who now cannot be sent back into the pits without some form of reduction in wages. These men are asked at the present time not merely to do what the Commission said, namely, to suffer a cut of 10 per cent. while reorganisation is going on, but to suffer a cut of 10 per cent. as well as to work an additional hour, and now the manager caps that by posting notices at the pits saying to the men: "You know before the stoppage you were working under a special agreement which gave you 20 per cent. or 25 per cent. more, on the average, in wages than the other districts in Durham were getting. That arrangement was made to suit me, the manager. I now tell you that before I apply the eight hours, and a further drop of 10 per cent., you must agree to give up that 25 per cent. which you enjoyed before the stoppage took place."
Can you expect men with blood in their bodies, and with any'sense of indignation or anger, to put up with a thing like that? That class of men is incensed by such a petty, mean trick as that, but they are still willing, if it be honestly put before them, to say, "Reopen the pits 1774 with some Government assistance for this period of four months, and during the interval let the Coal Commission work out what they think will put the industry on its legs, and then at the end of four months, if it is not settled, let it go to the arbitrator, and, if he says we are to suffer this 10 per cent. and the 25 per cent. and the eight hours, or whatever the decision, we will abide by it." [HON. MEMBERS: Not eight hours!"] Hon. Members are quite right. There should only be a reduction of wages. Perhaps the Committee does not appreciate how it is that these men feel so keenly with reference to hours. There has been a struggle for the shortening of hours going on for generations. Commission after Commission has reported, and it was won in 1919, and even then, in the very Act of Parliament establishing the seven-hours day, so strong was the feeling that there was a section—a most unusual thing in an Act of Parliament—saying that when economic conditions justified it, the seven hours was to be reduced to six. The men say, "Here is this reduced period of straining our backs, which we have won after endless strife, and if we are to go back now to the longer period, it is gone for ever." There is a positive difference, and they know it, between a reduced wage and lengthened hours. If you reduce the wage, economic conditions will soon settle it, and foreign countries cannot cut wages unless economic conditions allow them. But with reference to the hours, that is a matter of political, Parliamentary and legislative action. If you lengthen these hours, then Belgium and America will follow, and all you will have done is, not to benefit your own community, but to lower the conditions and standard of existence. Therefore, they will not have this hour. I am sorry to have detained the Committee so long, but I trust that some advantage will be taken of the action of the Churches to try and bring about a settlement.
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
I am sure every member of the Committee will have listened with great interest to the grave considerations which were put before the Committee by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). There is no question at all as to the terrible effect which the coal strike is having on 1775 the country. Everybody who is connected with any form of industry knows how trade is paralysed, how commerce of any kind is becoming very difficult, and that the uncertainties which are created are daily having the effect of sending many orders, which otherwise would have been placed in our own shops, to other countries.
I think it is impossible for us to contemplate what is happening in this country at the present time without making up our minds that some method must be found by which these deplorable disputes may be settled, and disaster to the nation prevented. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman), the other day, gave a lurid account of the losses which were being suffered by this country every week through this coal stoppage. I think he erred on the side of minimising rather than exaggerating the amount, because from the experience which I myself had in the course of the last strike in 1921, my belief then was that the losses suffered were much greater than the figures which my right hon. Friend gave to the House last week.
Suppose we take a glance back over the series of years since the War. I find it stated in books of statistics that this country has lost during that short period something like 195,000,000 working days, by stoppages in industry, and that the losses caused up to the end of last year, not including those which we are suffering this year, have to be computed at no less than £1,000,000,000. That figure is not a very exaggerated one when we remember the total losses in 1921, and all the additions, caused by other stoppages, that have to be made to that figure. That is a computation which skilled people in these matters have made. The House should realise that it is a figure which exceeds the amount of our debt to America.
I should therefore like to reinforce the suggestion that we must in the immediate future find some method of avoiding these devastating and appalling losses arising out of the troubles in industry, which, one would suppose, we being children of one family, we would desire to settle in the way least injurious to the family as a whole.
1776 One of the interesting parts of this Debate, along with some other Debates which have preceded it, is the new found adhesion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs to the company of bishops. The account which he gave this afternoon of their acumen and their practical capacity was certainly not very flattering, but nevertheless they have seemed on certain recent occasions to have become his bell wethers. On every occasion they have led him astray. They took him down the wrong turning when the general strike began, and they have deflected his proper course on the present occasion.
I am sure there must have occurred to many minds an episode in history which I know my right hon. Friend very well remembers. It was the occasion when Cromwell was invading Scotland, and he was confronted by the Scottish Army under the command of a sturdy old soldier, Sir David Leslie, who was occupying with his army a very formidable position, so formidable that Cromwell thought it was impossible to dislodge him, so he halted. Shortly afterwards, to his great surprise and relief, he saw this army descending into the valley, where he was very easily able to defeat them and break them into a rabble. The explanation was that the clergymen who accompanied the Scottish Army had urged this manœuvre, and, in spite of all Sir David Leslie's protestations, in the condition of the Scottish Army at that time—which was more like a public assembly than a disciplined force—the clergymen succeeded in having their views adopted. The result of that unhappy battle has never been forgotten in Scotland, and the Scottish clergy seem to have learned a lesson and got a warning from it which do not seem in any respect to have yet percolated into the country south of the Tweed.
After all, to the ordinary layman there appears a very wide scope for the clergy of this country in connection with industrial disputes, within their proper sphere, to inculcate a spirit of peace and harmony and to attract to their churches, which unhappily they are not doing now, the masses of the people to listen to doctrines which would serve the State very much better than their interference in more practical matters.
1777 It seemed to me that a part of my right hon. Friend's speech to-day was addressed to a situation which has passed over. He rather complained, as I understood, that the Government had not taken up some suggestions of Mr. Herbert Smith at an earlier stage in this dispute, and he referred in particular to the speech of Mr. Smith in which he described how he was ready to go through the Report of the Coal Commission page by page, although he did not make it very clear as to the conclusion he would come to at the end of it. There is a phase that period which I am afraid my right hon. Friend has forgotten regarding the dealings of the miners with the Trade Unions Committee. The hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Bromley) has given a revelation of what took place within that body. Several days after that speech by Mr. Herbert Smith the Trade Unions Committee came to the conclusion that the miners would not depart from the slogan which they had given forth to the world, and the Trade Unions Committee found the situation so obdurate and the attitude of Mr. Herbert Smith and his Committee so intractable that they entirely gave up the attempt to persuade them to adopt the Report, and in consequence the general strike was called off.
I will not refer to some of the very picturesque language used in the account of these proceedings which speared in the "Locomotive" Journal, but one remembers that the Trade Union Committee not only came to the conclusion that it was a very unwise thing to starve on a slogan and to let 300,000 men go out of work because the highly-paid men in the mining industry were unwilling to forego any of their earnings in order to allow the industry to be carried on through the period of difficulty, but they also made it quite plain that, as far as they were concerned, they believed that the miners should have receded from the obdurate position which they took up and should have been ready to discuss at once the question of wages.
My right hon. Friend has declared in favour of a subsidy being granted at the present time in order to reach a conclusion of these troubles. I recognise the position may now be different, but, like myself, he was very unwilling that a subsidy should be granted at the beginning of August last year. Unfortunately, I have not been able to 1778 change my mind upon the bad principle of granting such subsidies, and I find throughout the country a growing opinion among wage-earners in other industries that no further subsidy should be granted. I read in the newspaper only this morning an interesting document signed by a certain number of co-operators of the West Hartlepool Co-operative Society. They make an illuminating disclosure upon many of the questions which have been agitated in this House for some time. For instance, they tell of their experiences in operating a mine called the Shilbottle Colliery in Northumberland. It produces a very good coal, a household coal which commands a higher price—they put it at 4s. or 5s. a ton more—than ordinary coal, and yet they say they have been conducting this mine for some time at a terrible loss. During the subsidy period the full loss was £22,000. They received £10,000 from the Government, leaving them in the end with a loss of £12,000. Those are startling figures, especially as they enjoy one of the conditions which is supposed to be a panacea for all our ills, that is to say, there is no middleman concerned in the sale of that coal. It goes direct from the colliery to the purchasers. What do these co-operators say with regard to the subsidy?Many co-operative members are unfortunately out of employment and, like some of us, on the dole. Do the Bishops propose that another subsidy should be imposed upon us as taxpayers to provide a second subsidy for men who work shorter hours and receive higher pay than we do? Is it any wonder that Mr. Cook prefers words, and the invention of weekly slogans, rather than facing the facts?I am perfectly certain that what is expressed there by these co-operators of West Hartlepool describes the feeling which prevails among the working people of this country.
§ Sir R. HORNE
Nothing could receive less support from popular opinion than the idea of granting a further subsidy, which is the hinge upon which turn all the proposals put forward by the clergy. Without a subsidy, as I understand it, arbitration is supposed to be impossible, although I do not see why it should be. If arbitration be a good principle to adopt, I do not see why it should not be 1779 adopted now, although a subsidy is not granted.
Let me turn to another subject of complaint. It is said that the Government are not carrying out sufficiently the Report of the Royal Commission. It is perfectly true that the Government gave their adhesion to that Report, but only on the condition that the two other parties concerned were to give equal support to it. There has not been that concurrence of opinion, and accordingly, as I suppose, the Government have taken their own method, as they were entitled to do. What is there sacrosanct about the character of this Report? In my judgment the most valuable thing done by the Commissioners is the compilation of the excellent collection of data about the industry. I decline for my part to let my judgment become a victim of this Report. I do not see why I should be asked to pledge myself to everything that is there said, or to all its proposals. There are certain recommendations to which I am entirely opposed. It is out of the question to say that any of us who do not give adhesion to all parts of this Report are entering into heresy or sinning against the light. One part of it, indeed, I regard as entirely fallacious and as based upon erroneous grounds. I think the Commissioners started the consideration of this question in the wrong way. Instead of considering how this industry could fairly be conducted under present conditions, and making arrangements for alterations of wages in future, according as conditions changed, they seem to have said to themselves, "How must we alter this industry in order that the wage shall be paid which was paid in April?" That is a totally uneconomic and fallacious method of approaching this question, and they have arrived at what I regard as a very impotent conclusion. I am putting it more bluntly than it is put in the Report, but it is one of the main conclusions that the only thing to be done is to cut off pits and to restrict output.
In my view the restriction of output of a commodity in which we are in competition with many of the other nations of the world is the worst possible policy. It can be done with a commodity 1780 like rubber, where we have got what is almost a monopoly, but here we are dealing with a commodity in which we are competing with all the other great countries in the world for export trade. We are compelled by the force of circumstances to bring our prices down to the prices at which competitors sell, which means bringing our costs down to a figure which will enable us to offer the goods at the lowest price. We cannot do that by restricting output. The great thing is to have the utmost possible output in order to be able to spread the costs of working over as large an area as possible. By that means one is enabled not only to sell the goods at a cheaper price but also in a more regular flow. That is what America has proved beyond all doubt, and I should have thought it impossible that any enlightened person, talking about our coal trade, would have adopted that particular fallacy—would have suggested to a great industrial country like this, where coal is vital to our existence, that we should do something to restrict output, thereby undoubtedly raising prices to our own consumers.
What are our industries suffering from to-day? All are suffering from the same malady—that their costs are too high to allow them to compete in foreign markets with other countries' commodities. Are we going to bring down their costs by adding to the price of their coal? One of the reasons why I demur to the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon that the permission to work eight hours a day should either be obrogated or cancelled is that I regard the possibility of working eight hours a day as one of the essential means by which we may get such an output as will enable us again to claim some of the more important coal markets of the world, will enable us to sell in competition with our rivals, and will enable us to give a regular and good wage to the miners of this country. I say this with regret, because, as my right hon. Friend knows, he and I were supporters of the seven-hours day when it was initiated in 1919; but the things we were told at that time have proved to be false. We were told it would not make any difference to output; but everyone knows that, even taking the output of the best year since the Seven Hours Act operated, the since the Seven Hours Act began to 1781 operate, the average output per man per annum has decreased by 25 tons; just as when the eight-hours day was inaugurated, there was a similar reduction in the output per man per annum.
My considered belief, after going into all the figures and data, is that this country cannot afford in normal conditions to carry on more than about 50 per cent. of its mines upon a seven-hours day. I do not believe it possible. It is the effective time at the coal face that counts, because it is only there that the output is being got, and the effective time at the coal face, I am assured, though I am not prepared to enter into controversy about this with my hon. Friends opposite, is less than seven hours; it is put by the Commission as 5¾hours. I do not think it is possible to recompense the capital which it is necessary to sink in a mine by an effective day of only 5¾ hours at the coal face.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
May I say that is largely the fault of the management. Reorganisation would get rid of that.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I have said on previous occasions what I have to say about reorganisation. In my view no reorganisation can possibly bridge the enormous gap between costs and prices to-day, and so I do not go into that aspect of the matter. But when hon. Members say the owners are responsible for this, let me remind them that the pits of this country cannot be so badly conducted seeing that in the last 60 years output has been multiplied by three times, and has all been sold. This country has a very remarkable record in coal mining as compared with other countries, and it is only in this country that we ever hear any criticism of our mining organisation, or the way in which the mineowners do their part. A remark this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs proved what I am saying. He said Continental countries were finding a difficulty even now in competing with us, and that if we adopted the longer day they would have to make their day still longer. If that be true, it means that our mines are run as efficiently as those on the Continent, and every one who has travelled knows that to be true. Some of the aspersions upon the coal mining industry of this country 1782 have been unjustified and cannot be supported by facts.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I pass from that question to say one final word. There was a reference to research in the speech of the Prime Minister. Criticisms are made in this House from time to time of our lack of enterprise in adopting new methods or going in for more research in order to make better use of the coal we have in the country. I am one of those who are eager to see the best possible use made of coal, so that none of the value in it shall be wasted. It has been my duty to take a particular interest in this matter, if the Committee will forgive me a personal reference, because during the War, when so many oil-tankers were being sunk and the supply of oil became difficult, the Admiralty asked me to go into the question of how to get oil out of coal, and from that time onwards I have been closely in touch with the methods being tried. The House can be assured that Great Britain is not behind any other country in the world in the matter of research on this point. Most countries are exchanging the results of their researches. Great Britain is giving a part of the money which it is devoting to research to the development of a process which at the moment is being developed in Germany, because it can be more easily developed there. But it cannot come to fruition at the very best for a certain number of years. There are other methods which are being considered at the present time both in this country and in America, and it is encouraging to note that both the Americans and the Germans are inquiring very anxiously as to our processes. Many people think that these experiments will give good results at once, and people are led to believe that you only have to adopt such and such a device and everything will be right. But it is a very different thing to get good results in the laboratory and success in practice on the commercial scale, and many things that look to be very fruitful in the laboratory prove to be impossible in actual commercial use. People must not be led astray by thinking that these things are not being gone into. In my belief the coal-masters, are in very close touch with these questions, and I am sure that if any 1783 reasonable proposal is put to them which will result in a profit the coal masters of this country will be only too ready to take it up. I am very glad to hear from the Prime Minister that the Government is making such assiduous efforts in this direction, and that they will continue to do so in the future. So far as the Debate is concerned, and with the criticism that has been made of the Government, while I do not agree with all that they have done, I think that nothing has been left undone to bring this dispute to a close and my vote will therefore be with the Government in the Lobby.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
The new development which has occurred since the last Debate took place on this mining question has, undoubtedly, been the intervention of the leaders of the Churches, both of the Anglican Church and of the Free Churches. They have certainly introduced a new atmosphere and new opportunities for settlement which were quite absent before they came on to the field. Therefore, I welcome with all my heart the great work which the Bishops and the Free Church leaders have done in this matter. I have listened this afternoon to attacks upon the Bisohps for their intervention in this dispute, some of them cynical, some of them interesting, and some of them ill-informed. But nobody has suggested, nor could suggest for a moment, that in anything which they have done they have been moved by any desire other than the desire to promote a settlement, to produce a better feeling between the parties, and to see what could be done even now to bring people to reason and to a Christian point of view. I am very much surprised that people should still imagine that modern churchmen still take the view that the function of the Church or of the Free Churches is merely to preach platitudes, or to give a general sentiment without any practical implication, and that they are in the future going to refuse to take an active and useful part in practical social problems of the day.
The right hon. Gentleman who just sat down spoke of some Bishops or some clergy who had misinformed some Scottish soldiers in a battle, and I thought that was an extraordinary revelation of the right hon. Gentleman's mind, 1784 because he does look on this matter as a battle. Throughout his speech to-day, and on many other occasions, I do see essentially what has been referred to before as the class war. The right hon. Gentleman looks upon the coal-masters, as he calls them, and the commercial interest, as a separate interest which has a certain right and a certain point of view quite irrespective of the interests of the people as a whole. But the clergy do not look upon this matter in this way. They do not look upon it as a battle, but as a deplorable tragedy which arises from the want of the application of Christian principles to industry, and the Bishops are not in this matter because they want to side with one party or the other, but because they think that, in all this talk about economic problems and commercial problems, it is really, like so many other problems, a moral problem. Therefore they come forward with suggestions for a settlement of this dispute. Their proposals have not been put forward as final or as definite proposals, but merely as suggestions. As I understand it, they have come to one of the parties in this industry and said, "Will you tell us what will satisfy you?" And I think it is greatly to the credit of the clergy and to the Bishops that the miners who, rightly as I think, thoroughly distrust the coalowners and the Government, think that there is a sufficient amount of common sympathy between themselves and the clergy to make them willing to put their point of view before the clergy, and even to make certain concessions to the clergy which they have absolutely refused to give to the Government or to the coalowners or to anybody else. If there is one class of the community which is able to get the confidence of one of the contestants in this dispute, which neither the other contestant, neither the coalowners nor the Government—because I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that they are really the same parties in this dispute—can command, surely that in itself is a valuable asset to a settlement of this dispute.
We know that the miners have stated to the Bishops and to the leaders of the Free Churches a basis on which a settlement can be reached, which they have declined to discuss with the coalowners or the Government. Does any hon. Member say 1785 that that is a useless thing, a thing to be thrown away? I do not know whether the coalowners are willing to meet the clergy and the Bishops or not. Perhaps their consciences are too bad, and they do not want to be seen in consultation with these accusing gentlemen. But suppose that they were willing to interview the Bishops and the clergy, and to discuss this matter with them. Then you would get both sides stating what accommodation they were willing to agree to. We know that the Government will never settle this matter. Nobody trusts the Government. The miners do not trust the Government, and, as I heard the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) speaking this afternoon, I did not think that the coalowners trusted the Government either. But possibly both sides may trust the Bishops, and therefore I think you may find a sufficient basis on which to begin arbitration. Do hon. Members still suggest that this chance is to be thrown away? It is rather curious to find hon. Members who support the Bishops on purely abstract and academic questions objecting whenever people like the Archbishop of Canterbury or another prelate expresses an opinion of a practical nature upon a great social problem. I remember one hon. Member who, during the general strike, because he did not like something which the Archbishop of Canterbury said, referred to that prelate as an irresponsible body. But the time has come when people will have to make up their minds whether they will say that they will take sides with the hon. Member for Mossley, who preached the purely pagan point of view, or whether they are going to let the Church perform its proper function, which it performed during the centuries and in one case of great dock strike, of laying down Christian principles and of showing how they ought to be applied.
We have also heard an attack on a certain body called the Industrial Christian Fellowship, of the Executive Committtee of which I happen to be a member. That body exists for the purpose of applying Christian principles to industry. That is its sole purpose. It is not a Socialist body. It may be that this application may in certain directions lead to a mitigation of that crude industrialism which some people support. I do not know, but the sole object of the Fellowship, 1786 as the Bishop of Lichfield, who is one of the signatories to this Circular, has said, is to apply Christian principles to industry. Can anybody honourably say that to keep all these mines closed, and to prevent these men working except on conditions which must produce a lower standard of life, is a Christian solution of this problem? Surely, it is necessary for moral reasons that people should have a decent standard of life, whether we call it a subsidy or whether we nationalise the industry, or whatever we do. Surely, we can stand by the declaration of the Archbishops in the Lambeth Report that the first charge on every industry should be a living wage. I did not understand the argument of the right hon Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) when he said that we must keep the costs down. That I understand means lower wages, because he says there is nothing to be saved on administration. I welcome his speech because I think it is speeches like these which produce the result of the Wallsend election, and I hope that hon. Members on the other side will go on making such speeches until they give us a majority in this House.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I think the hon. and learned Member will remember the line of my argument. It was that a greater output would lessen the cost per unit of the output and that therefore there would be more to divide in the industry. But that did not mean lower wages. On the contrary, I said it would mean higher wages.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that there was no real saving to be got by way of administration, that the coalmasters were thoroughly efficient, and that the Report as a whole was worth very little.
§ Sir R. HORNE
The hon. and learned Gentleman must not misrepresent me. I said there was much less in reconstruction than people supposed, and I gave figures during another Debate. I really cannot repeat myself every time, but I did not say that nothing could be done in the way of greater efficiency or of reconstruction.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
The right hon. Gentleman certainly produced the impression on my mind that a substantial saving in the cost of production could only be produced by men working longer hours 1787 or accepting lower wages, and that any saving produced by mere reorganisation was certainly scarcely worth discussing.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I really think that this persistent misinterpretation and misrepresentation is going much too far. I should like my hon. and learned Friend to remember exactly what I said upon this point. I did not at all suggest that decreases must take place in wages, but what I did say was that the increased output which you could get by increased hours would certainly make your costs less, would enable you to get your markets and to sell at prices at which you could compete with your competitors, and at the same time produce higher wages.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
The right hon. Gentleman certainly gave the impression that there was comparatively little to be said for any reduction in costs or any changes in administration.
§ Sir R. HORNE
The phrase I used was that there was not enough in it to bridge the enormous gap between costs and the prices, and I must ask the hon. and learned Gentleman not to misrepresent me.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
The right hon. Gentleman makes the facts clearer and clearer as he goes on. The enormous gap could not be bridged by mere alterations in administration. Therefore the enormous gap has to be bridged in some other way. There are two other ways, as I understand it—partly by increasing hours, and partly by reducing wages.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I really think that the matter is now made abundantly clear. Wherever the burden of bridging this gap has to fall, it has to fall on the workman and not on the coalowner. We know the attitude the coalowners have taken up by their notices at the collieries, and it is idle to suggest that they look for any other solution of this difficulty except that of lowering the standard of life of the workers, because they are lowered just as much if their hours are increased as if their wages are decreased. That is the way you are going to bridge the gap, and against that proposal the Bishops are working. The Bishops have been brought in because they feel that a settlement by starvation 1788 or privation would be an immoral or unchristian way of dealing with the situation. They have come in not for praise, but because their consciences feel that there ought to be some other settlement. It is not for nothing that all these contributions have been made to the miners' funds by other trade unions or that there is a growing feeling against the Government day by day.
From a political point of view there is nothing our party would like better than to see this stoppage go on. None the less we wish to see it concluded, because we think the conditions are immoral, the hardships unbearable and the injury to industry very severe. Not a day passes without the Government by abstaining from bringing about a settlement is allowing starvation and want to continue causing thousands of their supporters to transfer their allegiance to the Labour party. Therefore, from the merely political point of view we have everything to gain by the stoppage continuing, but there is a moral point of view. The bishops and the leaders of the Free Churches are trying to see whether even now the authorities cannot come to some understanding and find a settlement. Whatever hon. Members opposite may say, the Church is going to intervene more and more in these matters than it has done in the past. The intervention of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the general strike and the intervention of the bishops in this strike are the beginning of the reversion to a saner and more logical position in which the Church will interest itself in social problems. We think that mere commercial morality and individualism is powerless to deal with this satuation, and when this dispute is over there will be other disputes for commerce has ceased to have any moral basis and it is to prevent the country being ruined that the bishops are stepping in to recall people to a proper sense of their moral obligations.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
If anything was needed to justify my intervention in this dispute it is that while the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken and myself are loyal members of the Church of England we totally and entirely disagree in regard to this question. Before I come to the Bishop's recom- 1789 mendations I should like to allude to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). That speech reminded me very much of those people who try to prove a particular doctrine, generally a heresy, by quoting certain passages from Scripture just to support what they wish to prove quite regardless of the context, picking out passages here and there. That is what the right hon. Gentleman has done, because he has picked out passages here and there from the speeches of the Prime Minister and pieced them together quite regardless of the context, and in that way he has tried to prove that the Prime Minister must be in favour of the recommendations of the Bishops. That is hardly a fair method of controversy, and the right hon. Gentleman must realise that the situation to-day is very different from what it was three months ago when this dispute started. We have been told by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) that the Bishops are so shocked with the present dispute, as we all must be shocked, that they want to see what he calls a moral settlement, and here I will quote a passage from their own statement:In view of the injury to the spiritual, not less than the economic, life of the community which must be caused by a continuance of the present dispute, and of the general anxiety that it may be terminated at the earliest possible moment on terms compatible with social justice and honourable to all concerned.What is the proposal? It really amounts to this, that there is to be another Commission set up consisting of the Commissioners who issued the last Report, that the parties are to appear before them, that, in default of agreement, the Chairman is to act as arbitrator, and that meanwhile for a period of four months, a subsidy is to be paid which will enable the same wages to be paid throughout the industry as on 30th April. That is said to be a settlement in accordance with the principles of social justice. That is not my idea of social justice when you are asking men who are already working longer hours and getting worse wages than the miners to pay this subsidy, when they have already paid over £20,000,000, in order that the miners may receive the wages which they were receiving on the 30th of 1790 April last. That is not social justice but injustice, and it shows how blind people become when they take sides on a matter of this kind without properly considering the implications of all they suggest.
Further on, having put it first of all on this high moral ground they allow to creep in the economic demon which they so much desire to cast out, and they say that on economic grounds it is more economical to pay the subsidy they ask because it is costing the country considerably more to continue the stoppage. I want to know are they proceeding merely on moral grounds or on merely economic grounds, because they cannot proceed on both. It is quite another thing to appeal to economic principles, and I think they might have a certain amount of respect for those people who do not think they can ride two horses at the same time. On this whole question of the intervention of the churches in these matters, they have already intervened twice during the present national crisis. Of course the whole of this question is one of subsidy, and if the Government had continued the subsidy there would have been no coal strike and no general strike, but the Government and a majority of this House decided that the subsidy should not be continued.
As a result of that the general strike came about and then came the first intervention of the Church through the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he made suggestions which practically meant that this House should yield to force what it had refused to yield to reason. I consider that that is a most dangerous course for the Church as a body to take, and in doing that the Church is interfering in political matters which are not their sphere. This House, in coming to that decision, was acting within its proper sphere, and what was suggested by the Archbishop of Canterbury was that this House should surrender its proper functions. As a matter of fact the Archbishop of Canterbury is not concerned in the particular group who are putting forward the present proposals, which is known as the Industrial Christian Fellowship.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
It is true the Industrial Christian Fellowship are interested but it is quite incorrect to say that they are solely responsible for this intervention.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
I think it will be admitted that that body inspired it and played a considerable part in it. I find that on 4th January last they issued a manifesto signed, amongst others, by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary, the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Purcell), Mr. Ernest Bevin, Mr. Ben Tillett, and Mr. A. J. Cook, and this manifesto ended as follows:In attaching our names to this manifesto we proclaim our belief in the Gospel of Christ as the final truth concerning the relations of men one with another.I am sorry the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley is not here, because he issues a paper in which he preaches class hatred of the most bitter kind.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
I shall not withdraw it. I do not think I do the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean any injustice when I say that I believe he is a member of the Communist party.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
Then I withdraw my statement. At any rate, his sympathies rather lean towards what we call the extreme left. I think that one may look with a certain amount of suspicion upon an organisation which issues a manifesto signed by, amongst others, the gentlemen whom I have mentioned. Anyway, they would appear to take one particular side in politics, for the names have a distinctly Socialist tinge, to put it no higher. Therefore, I think the Bishops made a very great mistake in allying themselves with what appears to me to be little more than a political organisation, and it is not to be wondered at that the views they have put forward happen to coincide so entirely with the views of the party opposite in this matter. As I said before, I deprecate the Church as a body, or even so-called representative churchmen, coming into this dispute, because I am perfectly certain that they will land themselves eventually, if they have not 1792 already done so, in very great difficulties. At the end of their statement published in the "Times" I find these words:It is our considered judgment that the substance of the proposals set out above, although not approved by the Government, holds the field. The standing conference, on whose behalf they were submitted, will continue in existence and will leave no stone unturned to secure the resumption of negotiations for the establishment of a just and lasting peace.It is rather a serious thing, when the Government, acting, as I have said, within their proper sphere, have decided that a certain course of action, namely, to give a subsidy to the coal industry, is inadvisable, and have decided not to follow that course, that the Church whose function is not that of deciding these matters, should come forward and say it considers that the Government are wrong. This may raise in the future a very serious constitutional issue. The Church must remember that it has many members who are of varying shades of political belief, and who hold various economic views, and it has no right to commit its members on matters of this kind, which, as I maintain, are entirely outside its sphere. In doing so, it is doing harm to itself, and am perfectly certain that it is not furthering the cause which it and we have at heart.
§ Major OWEN
I do not propose to say anything with regard to the main subject of the Debate to-day, but I rise to draw attention to a matter which affects my constituency in particular, and I am glad to observe that the Secretary for Mines is in his place. Last week, two fatal accidents occurred in the course of the making of a tunnel between two lakes in Carnarvonshire, where a high explosive, namely, gelignite, was used. One of the charges failed to explode, and attempts were made afterwards to explode it, but, unfortunately, two lives were lost. The coroner's verdict was that it was an accident. I am not for a moment suggesting that it was not an accident, but it is the third of its kind that has occurred in that very place this year, and I appeal to the Secretary for Mines, if there are Regulations already in existence with regard to the use of this explosive and explosives of a similar character, to see that those Regulations are strictly enforced, and, if they do not exist, to take steps to introduce such Regulations, so that the lives of those 1793 engaged in this kind of work may be safeguarded. I am particularly anxious that this should be done because accidents of a similar character are occurring too frequently in the quarries in my county, and it seems to me that there must be, either lack of Regulations with regard to this matter, or insufficient inspection to see that the Regulations are properly carried out. All that I want from the right hon. Gentleman is an assurance that he will see that such accidents occur less frequently, and that the Regulations, if they exist, are strictly enforced, and that, if they do not exist, they are introduced and put into operation immediately.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Like, probably, millions of people in this country, I hail looked forward to hearing something in the speech of the Prime Minister that would be of advantage to the mining industry, and would have appeased the anxiety of millions who are anxious to see a settlement of the present dispute; but I must confess that, of all the speeches I have heard from the Prime Minister during the past year or two, the one to which we have listened to-day was, perhaps, the emptiest. If one were to attempt to sum up the Prime Minister's speech in one brief sentence, I think one might say that, if the Prime Minister had simply told the House that he intended to do nothing at all, the rest of his speech could have been dispensed with, for that really is exactly what it amounted to. The responsibility of the Prime Minister cannot be minimized, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say from the Government Bench, and I think it is fair to assume that, whether we take Hammersmith, or Wallsend, or many of the municipal expressions that have been given recently, we are bound to conclude that the nation is by no means satisfied with the attitude of the Government for several weeks past. Some three weeks ago I sought a reply from the Prime Minister to one or two specific questions. I wanted to know how long it had been since the Prime Minister called a conference between the mineowners and the mineworkers' representatives, and I wanted to know if the Prime Minister would tell the House when the mineowners had really accepted the recommendations of the Royal Commission. In neither case, 1794 nowever, could we secure a definite and specific answer from the right hon. Gentleman. He knew, of course, that from the moment when the general strike was withdrawn the only thing that he did by way of endeavour to provide a solution of this problem was merely to send a memorandum to the Coalowners' Association, and a similar memorandum to the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. That, I believe, was on the 14th May, since which date the Prime Minister—who, after all, stands at the head of the State, and should be safeguarding the interests of its 45 or 46 million people—has done practically nothing towards endeavouring to find a solution of this great problem, and I think my observation at Question Time to-day was strictly in order when I suggested that the Government appeared to have completely abdicated their function as a Government, and I do not think it was an unfair suggestion to make to the right hon. Gentleman that it was high time he and his Government contemplated resignation, so that a Government could take their place which would govern in the interests of the whole nation.
This dispute has been current for almost 13 weeks. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Labour, with the Secretary for Mines as a very good ally, have lectured the House, and the miners through the House, upon not having accepted the Royal Commission's recommendations, but in no single instance that I can recall has the Prime Minister, the Minister of Labour or the Secretary for Mines made any statement with regard to the coalowners having accepted fully and frankly the recommendations of the Royal Commission. I recall the meetings between the Prime Minister, the Miners' Federation officials and the mineowners' officials on the 24th March, where, during two meetings, the miners' representatives sought to secure from the Government a detailed statement of their reorganisation proposals. The coalowners' representatives sat almost dumb through the whole of those two meetings, and, even had we not had the example of the indifference of the coalowners from 1919 to 1926 to guide us, we should have been obliged to be suspicious of the attitude of the coalowners during those meetings, for we were satisfied that, so far as they were concerned, they never intended to 1795 accept fully and frankly the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Therefore, it seems to me to be totally out of place for the Prime Minister to repeat, as he has done to-day, what the mine-workers have not done, while all the time omitting to state what he knows the coalowners never intended to do from the outset.
Just to review the position of the coalowners will, perhaps, not be out of place, although I recognise that it is merely repeating what has been said on the Floor of the House several times previously. The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) said this afternoon that the coalowners had always accepted the recommendations of the Royal Commission. I am sorry the hon. Member is not in his place at the moment. So far as we know, the first definite statement—apart from the vague reply that the coalowners made some time during April—the first tangible set of terms that the coalowners sent to the miners' representatives through the Prime Minister was on the 30th April. They not only did not accept the Royal Commission's recommendations, but they laid down two proposals, namely, an eight-hour day and a reduction in wages of 13⅓ per cent. all round, before they were prepared to open the pits. The next thing they did was on the 21st May, when, in reply to the Memorandum I referred to a moment ago from the Prime Minister, they varied their terms very slightly. They said on that occasion that their terms for the reopening of the pits were an eight-hour day and a reduction in wages which may mean 10 per cent. or less. So that there again they were not willing to accept the recommendations of the Commission.
That is the point from which the mine workers have to draw their conclusions. From that moment henceforth the Government have done absolutely nothing in drawing the two sides to the dispute together. One thing they have done however which compels every one on these benches and the 1,200,000 mine workers outside to believe that the Government have been the allies of the coalowners. The coalowners sought an Eight Hours Act from the commencement. They refused to do anything reasonable during the whole of the period, and fiNaily the Government came to their aid by passing 1796 the Eight Hours Act. That, we claim, was not only putting off a possible settlement, but was handing over to the coalowners such bargaining power as could not be obtained in any other direction, and knowing the power of resistance of the miners, knowing that their day to day practical knowledge in the pits has taught them that the eight hours day is unnecessary, they can only conclude that this action on the part of the Government was to help the coalowners to starve the mineworkers into submission or into accepting their terms. We felt at all events that, whether our suspicions were correct or not, when the Bishops' proposals were forthcoming they provided an opportunity for the Government to retrace their steps and at least take some action which would bring hope to the hearts of the millions of women and children who are dependent on the industry.
The Prime Minister, however, has informed us that he intends to do absolutely nothing. He says: "If the coalowners' and the mine workers' representatives feel disposed to come together and secure a settlement, they can do so, but if they do not, we are going to do nothing, even though industrial paralysis becomes so acute that the whole machinery will have stopped." That seems to me not to be carrying out the duties for which any Government is elected. Here you have something over 100,000 shareholders in the pits. They say to over 1,000,000 workpeople: "You can come to work on our terms. Unless you are prepared to accept our terms, the pits will remain closed. What does it matter to us if the nation is deprived of its coal?" We all know that without coal our industrial machinery is bound to slow down. That does not concern the coalowners very much. We know that the profits they have made in the past will enable them, even though the pits were closed for the next 12 months, not to lose a single meal and not to see their children marching to school short of boots. They will continue to live just as well as they did prior to the stoppage, and it matters not to them whether the pits are working or not. It does matter to the nation, and it ought to matter to the Government, as to whether the pits are going to provide the coal that the other dependent industries need.
1797 But they seem to have made up their mind that the coalowner is going to be permitted for as long as he likes to keep the mines closed, and the weapon they have placed in the hands of the coalowners, the Eight Hours Act, is going to be used to starve the mine workers into submission. I do not think there is a ghost of a chance for a considerable time yet of the mine workers going back on an eight-hours day. The Prime Minister tells us the financial position of the nation is such that he cannot contemplate any further subsidy. He suggests that a subsidy is wrong in principle, and even though he felt disposed to provide some financial assistance, the situation at the moment is such that he cannot contemplate it. It is rather peculiar that the principle is bad so far as the coalmines are concerned but when it is a question affecting land and the landed interests, when it is a question of providing a subsidy, for instance, for the production of sugar beet, it is right. Is a subsidy wrong in principle for housing? If it is, we have been wrong now for a considerable number of years. Housing enthusiasts feel that certain individuals may have taken a bigger share of the subsidy than they ought to have been permitted to take, but the fact has emerged that more houses have been built during the past few years than at any previous period. We are not going to argue that a subsidy can be right in principle for an industry in perpetuity, but last year the Government granted a subsidy of an unlimited sum, without laying down any conditions whatever. They said to the coalowners in effect, "Tell us how much you have lost, and we will meet the bill. We are not going to examine your books and we are not going to insist that the coal should be sold at an economic price. We are simply going to meet the deficit when the deficit has been created." So at the end of the period the Government had to find £23,000,000.
They also found that the subsidy had been used in such a manner as to create a worse set of conditions than those that obtained before. Threepence a ton over the whole six months ending July, 1925, had been lost. After they had received £23,000,000 for the next nine months they had so regulated their prices in selling coal, both for export 1798 and to their friends at home, that instead of losing 3d. on every ton they produced, they were actually losing 1s. 11d. That was the real cause of the position we found ourselves in at the end of April, merely because the Government had granted this unlimited sum of money, without conditions, to the coalminers. But whether that was right or wrong, we feel that the method was entirely wrong, while the intention may have been right. But the present situation is totally different. The miners are not to blame for the present position. The Government, in their action during the last nine months, and the coalowners, in the method they used to dispose of the subsidy, are wholly and solely responsible for the economic position of the industry at the conclusion of the subsidy period. Therefore, the miners ought not to be the first to be asked to make sacrifices either in wages or hours because of the mishandling of the position by the coalowners hitherto. If, as has been stated by the Parliamentary Secretary for Overseas Trade, approximately £150,000,000 has been lost during the first 12 weeks of this dispute — approximately £10,000,000 to £12,000,000 a week—it is not too much for us to ask the Government to come to the assistance of the industry for a short period, laying down definite specific conditions as to how the money shall be used and for what purpose, so that at the end of that period there may be a possibility of a permanent settlement being reached.
On these lines, I think the proposal of the Bishops might very well have been treated with greater respect than has been shown towards them by the Government. We know that the prices for exported coal went down by no less than 3s. a ton, and it did not bring that extra volume of trade that hon. Members constantly tell us will come as the result of reducing prices. They reduced the price of coal to the steel manufacturers by 2s. 10d. a ton. Here we find that the coal industry, the people who produce the raw material, are the only people said to be working on uneconomic lines. The miners are divorced from any sort of control or any voice as to how the coal is to be sold or at what price. In those circumstances they ought not to be charged with occupying an uneconomic position in industry. It is as much the 1799 Government responsibility because of their lack of attention and care during the last nine months as it is the responsibility of the coalowners, that we find ourselves in our present position.
It would be infinitely better finance and better business all round if the Government would provide the small sum which would be required for a period of four months to set the industry on its feet, to reorganise the selling agencies, to sell the coal at a price which would meet all the demands of the producers and others, and at the end of that period, not only would we not have whittled away £20,000,000, but we should have prevented a loss of £12,000,000 or £13,000,000 a week. We should have got 1,000,000 miners back, producing valuable commodities, and other industries as a result would be able to come back into production. The few million pounds that would be required would be infinitesimal compared with the tremendous losses which the nation is now suffering. The Prime Minister said in reply to a question to-day, and this indicates the Government's indifference to the whole business, that if we had not reached a settlement by the time the House adjourned on 5th August, we shall be called back each month until a settlement is reached. Each month the House is to be called back until a settlement is reached. If a sum of £3,000,000, £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 stands between a settlement, and if the Prime Minister and the Government fail to produce that sum of money, they are not fit to occupy their high office and they ought to make way for some body of people who can view these industrial problems with greater impartiality and with greater business sense. That would be better for the nation as a whole.
I regret the very cold, icy response which the proposals of the Bishops have received, and I also regret some of the statements that have been made with regard to the nosy-parkers who have been dealing with business that is said to be entirely outside their province. Many of these people who have been interesting themselves in this dispute, are called upon daily to make visits in their various parishes and dioceses, and they see the poverty and the suffering resulting from the stoppage and are better able than many politicians, who think they 1800 know something about industry, to bring to bear a clear, impartial mind on the problem and its difficulties. I hope that this discussion will compel the Prime Minister to give more consideration than appears to have been given to these proposals, and that the nation by an irresistible force will drive him into doing the thing that he ought to do, to bring the two parties together to find a solution of this problem. From the financial point of view, I hope it will be noted that £12,000,000 or £14,000,000 a week may be lost through a continuation of the stoppage, compared with the few million pounds that would be required to give us a new start for what one hopes would be a new era in the mining industry.
If we are driven to go back by sheer starvation either to eight hours or to large reductions of wages, the Secretary for Mines, from his close association with miners, will know that the miners will not go back in a very happy mood. Ill-will will be engendered, the suspicion that the Government have been on the side of the coalowners from beginning to end will be instilled into the minds and hearts of the miners and their families; there will be a desire for revenge, and they will take the first opportunity that presents itelf to make an attack, when they will hope to win, probably with an impartial Government in office, what they have lost while the present partial Government has been in office. From that point of view, in order to prevent ill-will and suspicion, and in order to prevent the repetition of what we are enduring now, I appeal to the Government to give more consideration to the proposals of the bishops, to be more conciliatory than they have been, to recognise that there are two sides to this dispute, and that whatever advances have been made, the men's representatives have made them, and that the coalowners have made no advances. Eight hours from the first has been their policy, and it is their policy now. They have never deviated from that. They have never intended to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission. It is because of the support which has been given to them by the Government, from the first, that they have held firmly to this object. It is because they are assisted by the Government that they are resisting any sympathetic approach that may be made either by the bishops or the 1801 officials of the Miners' Federation. I hope the Government may be driven to treating these proposals with much more sympathy and tolerance than has been the case up to the present time.
§ Sir SAMUEL CHAPMAN
I am afraid that in the few remarks that I shall make I shall not receive sympathy, perhaps, from my own Party, and perhaps not even sympathy from hon. Members above the Gangway on this side of the House. The City of Edinburgh is not a coal mining district, in one sense, but we have great coal mines in the vicinity, and as I happen to live within a few miles of the constituency of the right hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson), I have made it my duty every week-end for the last ten weeks to get into touch, not with blue books—we have all read them—not with bishops or what they say—we have had too much of the bishops in this Debate—but with the miners and to find out what the miners think and what the miners want. I do not presume to speak with any authority, but I have been in the great mining centres of the County of Fife and I have tried to get at the truth. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing that I have found is the wonderfully good feeling. Perhaps I had better put it the other way, and say that I have been struck by the lack of ill-will against the owners. As far as I have come into close contact with the men, I have never known a body of men so fair, so just, so anxious to do the right thing, if the right thing can be found at this moment, as the miners of the great county of Fife and the Lothians. They would do almost anything to have a just settlement. The wives of the miners and all the miners I have spoken to are of the same opinion. The miners do not want any less wages and, if possible, they do not want any longer hours, while the owners want coal at a less cost. Can it be done? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), more nearly than any other speaker, approached the heart of the question, but he did not make any practical suggestion as to how the on costs could be reduced. I put that question to hundreds of miners in West Fife and the Lothians, and they gave me a simple answer. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) has had this question under his observa- 1802 tion for many years, and whether the miners are right or wrong, I think it is right that the voice of the moderate miner should be heard in this House at this moment. And I presume to give it as I heard it from the miners themselves.
They recognise, no one more fairly and squarely, that there are good and bad parts of a pit, and that the miner who is lucky enough to work in a good part has to subsidise the miner who works in the bad part. There has to be gives and-take. What they say is this, that when the price per ton is settled—it has to be altered from time to time—they should have a chance of getting as much coal as they can if they like to put extraordinary energy into their work. I put it to the miners whether they could get more coal if a set wage per ton was given and they were not always brought back to one dead level wage per day, and they said, Yes. It is not a question of ca' canny. They do a fair day's work, but every man, if he has an incentive to get a few shillings more from day to day, will almost work air life blood out to get it for his wife and family. It is not a question of ca' tanny. I asked a miner friend to put it in black and white so that if necessary I could read his own words to the Committee. This is what he says:This will happen—an increase of output—if the men are left with a rate that allows of an extra shilling being earned, even though it may entail a sacrifice in energy and strength—and cause them to go home readier for rest than recreation, but when the point is reached where the miner, after exercising all his skill and strength to get that extra shilling, finds the effort hopeless, and the result is a bad wage, or one below the standard, then the incentive, the anxiety, the will to get all he can out of a day's work disappears, with the result we know.He sums up the question in these words:This tame day's wage is a drawback where 'hustle' is wanted. The little gamble or speculation, being part of most men's nature, unappealed to, renders a shift or day's work a tedious thing, does not encourage a man to give of his best. What is true of piece work getting coal is true of piece work transporting it; so much per ton will fetch more from face to pit bank if it warrants a good wage to the man than if they were paid day's wages, and often less men will do the work.The proposition to put before the men is this—it is a proposition which is carried out in all trades as far as I know. 1803 The greater the output the more you can pay the men in wages, and the suggestion of which these men have approved, and which I put before them is this: they would not object to the owners saying to them, "We cannot afford to give you so much for the first 20 tons per week as we can for the second 20 tons, and we cannot give you so much for the second 20 tons as we can for the third 20 tons. You may get 40 tons per week at the present, but we can only give you a certain wage. We will give you 6d. more per ton if you will get another 20 tons, and make it 60 tons per week." Then down would come the on-costs. I put it to a working miner. He told me that he got 28 tons one week. He was paid 2s. 11d. He got 35 tons another week, and it was brought down to 2s. 6d. I asked him how much he could have produced in that week, and he said, "I think I could have got between 55 and 60 tons." If the owners would submit a proposition of this kind to the miners: We will give you a higher price for the last 20 tons you can produce in a week, they would produce the amount of coal wanted in this country, not in eight hours, but in seven hours, and perhaps in less. That is what I have found while talking to the miners in Fife and the Lothians.
What has happened is this. Owing to all the amalgamations which have taken place the owners, who ought to have been in daily touch with the miners, are out of touch with them, and the miners themselves have tied themselves into a knot by saying not a penny off the wages and not a minute on the hours. There the matter begins and ends. The coalowners are out of touch with the miners, and the miners have tied themselves into a knot. What is wanted is this. If the coalowners, who have done great things in developing the coalfields, had the pluck to go straight to the miners at this moment and say, "Now what is the matter; we are in a hole. The whole industry is in a hole. What are you going to do?" If I were a coalowner, I would take my bag and settle at the public house at Kelty or Cowdenbeath until I got to the bottom of the question. I would not make speeches. The position is most extraordinary. For two or three generations the coalowners have paid millions of pounds in wages to the men. 1804 They have built institutes, given bowling greens and built houses. I admit that it has all been in the way of business. I am not trying to make any party capital out of the question. It is to me most extraordinary that the coalowners, having done this, have not the slightest influence at this moment in the coalfields which they have developed.
What is the matter? The coalowners are respected, and greatly respected; there is no illwill. But there is the fact. The women and the men are undoubtedly anxious to get back to work, but the deadlock is continuing and no one seems to be getting any nearer a solution. There are no two men more respected in Scotland than the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. James Brown) and the right hon. Member for West Fife. With men of that character, and with men among the coalowners who are respected throughout Scotland, why cannot the two sides get together and look one another in the face? It is a tragedy. It is not pride on the part of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Fife. He is the last man, I should think, to have a bit of pride in him. Why does he not walk up to some of the big owners and say: "Look here! Someone has to settle this question. I do not want to go behind the back of Mr. Smith or Mr. Cook, who were properly elected, but cannot four or five of us get together and do something?" If they cannot do it, cannot some of the ordinary miners, who have not yet taken a part in politics—unfortunately there is politics in this business—make practical suggestions?
There is a great chance for the Government at this moment, and I say that to the Secretary for Mines. There is great good will and good feeling, even after all that has taken place in the coalfields of Scotland. If the right hon. Gentleman will take advantage of it and get a move on and do something, he will earn the gratitude of all concerned. Let him get hold of the right hon. Member for West Fife. If that right hon. Gentleman does not get a move on himself, he will have to lose his job. I do not want to introduce any personal matters into the Debate, but I would say that I made remarks similar to these at a public meeting, and immediately I got letters from all over the coalfield asking me to go and address meetings, one of them from Lochgelly. Fancy an old Tory among the "Bolshies" 1805 of Lochgelly! That shows the good feeling that exists. It exists at this moment. Why should we not try to encourage that good feeling? Do not let any coldness exist on the Conservative Benches. Let us be as warm in sympathy with the miners as possible. By that I mean, let us be deeply anxious to do the right thing at the present time. Let us take advantage of this great opportunity. If we do not take advantage of it greater crises than that through which we are now passing will occur. I appeal to the Secretary for Mines to seize the opportunity and to render one of the greatest services that a Minister can render to the country at the moment.
§ Mr. G. THORNE
I intervene not so much to introduce any opinions of my own as to elicit from the Secretary for Mines something that will clear up the doubts that are in the minds of most members of this Committee. I want to know where we really are. We are representatives here, and we have to report to our constituencies. Those of us who have mining constituents have to report to them. I want to be in a position, without any misapprehension, when I next meet my mining constituents, to tell them what the actual position is and to what they can look forward. The object of my intervention is to invite the Minister to make a clear and direct statement and to give a precise definition as to where we really are and to what the miners can look forward. Last year the Prime Minister tried, and I believe tried very earnestly, to get the mineowners and miners together. He urged that it was a matter for them to settle for themselves. Whoever was to blame, he failed in his effort. Having failed, he appointed a Royal Commission and granted a colossal subsidy. The Commission has sat and has reported, and now we are neither to have the Report put into operation nor are we to have any subsidy. Notwithstanding that, as far as I understood the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon, he goes back to his original proposition and considers it still to be the duty of the mineowners and the miners to meet and agree. If that was impossible last year, how has it been made possible this year, in view of the passing of the Eight Hours Bill? The chances in that direction, instead of being increased, 1806 have been greatly decreased, and the position to-day is worse instead of better.
I should feel that there was an absolute impasse, but for that which, I am sorry to notice, has been derided in many quarters of this House—the intervention of the Bishops and the ministers. I for one hailed that intervention with very great gratitude. I think it was high time that something of the kind was done. It has been fully explained why they have intervened. Now there is a chance given again to the Government to get this matter put on a peaceable basis. I respectfully suggest that in the very interesting speech to which we have just listened we have had perhaps the strongest advocacy that the Government should listen to the Bishops' proposals. It is the one last chance at the present time, apparently, to get the mineowners and the miners together. The Bishops make practical proposals. If those practical proposals are carried out, negotiations will be entered into, all the suggestions of the hon. Member who has just spoken will be taken into consideration, and there will be a chance of getting the mines placed on a better basis. As far as I can learn, while at this juncture it is vital to the welfare of the nation to get this terrible struggle settled, all that stands in the way are a few million pounds, while at the same time we are wasting millions every week to a very much larger extent.
I put it directly to the Secretary of Mines: Do the Government absolutely turn down this last suggestion for securing, through the intervention of the Bishops and ministers, negotiations between the mineowners and the miners to arrive at some direct settlement; and if they turn it down, what do they propose in its place? Are we to understand that they will simply leave the question as it is, during the holidays and during the months that are before us, and that this issue is to be fought out to a finish between the owners and the miners? I meet these poor miners; I have to answer to them as their representative, and there is no man representing miners in Parliament whose heart has not been saddened by what he has seen and heard recently. I want to be able to bring peace to them. I was speaking to them last week, and I was desolate in trying to address them because I knew not what to say. I do 1807 not want to stir up strife; I want to produce peace, but in order to produce peace it is necessary to indicate some practical means to that end. When I meet them again, am I to tell them that the suggestion from the Bishops and ministers has been reasonably and considerately received and that there is some hope; or am I to tell them that it has been turned down absolutely, that there is no other practical proposal to take its place, and that all we have to look for is a fight to a finish? In that case, their hearts will be sad, and my heart will be sad, and what the future will be none of us can tell. This offer gives a chance of peace. Unless that offer is accepted I see no chance of peace. I put it to the Secretary for Mines: What is it to be, peace or war? We have a right to know, and I ask him to tell us.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM
I have listened to this Debate with great interest and considerable disappointment. Scarcely a speech has been made which has carried us any further, and it is especially disappointing that Members of the party opposite should continue to adopt an attitude which is certainly not calculated to bring this dispute to an early close. [HON. MEMBERS: "In what way?"] I will explain. It seems to me it is not fair to suggest that the Government are partial. That statement does not advance matters, and everything that was said by the Leader of the Opposition seemed calculated only to make matters worse. The right hon. Gentleman accused the Prime Minister of making no effort to bring the dispute to an end, whereas the Prime Minister has striven from the beginning to bring the dispute to an end and has done so impartially, acting as trustee of the nation and not as the representative of either miners or mineowners. With what the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman) said I have the greatest sympathy. I know there are hundreds of miners in my own constituency who are as anxious as the miners of Fife to get back to work, and many of them realise what must be the end of this dispute if it is carried to extremes. It is rather amazing, and is a reflection upon our common sense, that we here should be fighting over these questions of hours and wages when the miners in other 1808 parts of the world are working longer hours in order to capture our trade. A continuance of this dispute will do nobody any good. It cannot have any effect in the part of the world from which I come except to close the pits, in some cases for ever, and so long as hon. Members opposite look upon this question from a political and not from an economic point of view we shall get no further. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rot!"] Hon. Members opposite say that this is rot and sheer nonsense and so forth. These are expressions to which I am accustomed and they do not affect me in the least. I know this an economic question, and an economic question only, and the Government's difficulty is to make that fact apparent to the miners' leaders. The leaders of the Miners' Federation have failed miserably—
§ Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM
They have gone over to Europe and have tried to make the miners of Europe play the game which they wished them to play, and they have failed.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM
I do not know if the hon. Member desires to live on Russian help, but, if this is the case, it does not seem to have given the miners of Great Britain much credit in the eyes of the miners of France, Germany and Belgium, If hon. Gentleman opposite would only look upon this matter from a sane point of view they would realise that this strike or lockout, or whatever you term it—in my part of the country we call it a stoppage—must end sooner or later. How are we going to bring it to a speedy end? There is a good deal to be said for the suggestions put forward by the Bishops, but those, suggestions do not bring us much nearer a settlement. Indeed from what the Prime Minister said, it seems to me that they have not carried us any further at all. There is nothing to prove that, supposing the Government were to grant a subvention for the next four months, there would be a settlement at the end of that time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] If hon. Members opposite can assure the 1809 Government that they can bring about a settlement at the end of four months—a permanent settlement or at least a settlement for a certain number of years—as a result of the adoption of these suggestions, then it is a matter which might be considered.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM
No, they have not said it. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) used the expression "may guarantee a settlement." What you have to do is to guarantee that you will carry into effect the Bishops' suggestions; what you have to say on behalf of the Miners' Federation is that their leaders will accept and guarantee a settlement at the end of these four months—that is, if the Government see their way to accept this proposal.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
Do they not accept the principle of arbitration on the balance of unsolved questions at the end of four months?
§ Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM
If what the hon. Member suggests is correct, and if the miners' leaders absolutely agree to accept arbitration as a final solution of the problems that remain unsolved, at the end of four months, then it seems to me that something definite is offered, and I am glad persoNaily to have elicited this for my own information. But nevertheless, it is perfectly fair to say that speakers on the opposite side have never definitely said so. I have carefully listened to their speeches, and the hon. Member for Don Valley, who represents the point of view of the Miners' Federation, said they might guarantee a settlement.
§ Mr. SUTTON
Have not four officials, on behalf of the Miners' Federation, signed a memorandum to that effect?
§ Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM
No, I am prepared to believe that those proposals have been made; if so, it is a great step forward. If you can definitely say that, we know where we are, but I specially want to emphasise that no real settlement can be brought about if there is this perpetual atmosphere of suspicion. Suspicion is the curse of the whole of this mining problem. I have met it ever since I went into the mining area; I know that that is the real trouble which makes the whole coal question so difficult to solve. It is this atmosphere of suspicion, always the miners suspecting the owners, and always the owners wondering how they can best make money out of the mines. Let me put it like that. I am sure that if you can carry out the propositions put forward by the hon. Member for South Edinburgh you will get a man to work his best, and he should get paid for his best; if an owner do not cut prices for piecework, his men will do their best, and the industry will prosper. I am certain that in this way only shall we get to the end of our troubles. It is futile for anyone who speaks on this subject to shut his eyes to the fact that, unless we can very soon get our pits going again, the trade and industry of this country must inevitably go from bad to worse. It seems to me that it is time for those who lead the miners to remember that there are other industries that are suffering, and that workers in other industries came to their assistance in this struggle. The time has come when the miners' leaders must be prepared to come forward and really show that they mean to bring the struggle to an end.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM
If you really are willing to resume negotiations on some such terms as those suggested by the Bishops, it seems to me that those proposals are worthy of consideration.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
From the moment that the Prime Minister of this country violated both the spirit and the letter of the Coal Commission's Report in handing over to the owners the bargaining weapon of the eight-hours day, public opinion in this country has steadily hardened and set itself against the Government. It has been reflected in all the important organs of public opinion, it has been reflected in the recent 1811 Wallsend by-election, and it has been reflected in this very unusual action of the Churches—I do not know how far we should require to go back in history to find a previous example—of the whole of the Churches of this country coming out and making a declaration upon a fundamental matter concerning the economic life of this country. Therefore, from every point of view, there is not a Member in this House, to whatever party he belongs, who does not know, and who did not realise again, as he remembered the things which the Prime Minister did not say as he listened to the very spiritual and moral attitude of the Prime Minister in delivering his speech this afternoon, that the present policy of the Government, in merely handing over weapons to the owners and deliberately neglecting the essential reconstruction of the industry, stands condemned before the whole of this nation in every essential. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We are being asked to leave this matter in the hands of the owners and the men. We are being asked, in other words, to go back to the old methods of the 19th century to settle this problem. We are abandoning, in that very act of the Prime Minister, all the essential advice that this nation has had with regard to the mining industry since 1919, because there has never been any responsible advice given to the nation, since the days of the Sankey Commission, which did not say, in the very first place—not in the last place, nor even in the second place—that the only way in which to begin, from the point of view of the mining industry, was to introduce the principle of public co-operation into the industry, and that the only way to begin was to take Government initiative as the primary condition affecting any kind of either temporary or Permanent settlement of the problem.
It has been said, over and over again, that we must go back to the methods of private enterprise to settle this problem. The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) has been referring in his last three speeches, I think, to the example of America, and he has suggested that we should go back to the American conditions, leave the State out of account, and let the owners and the men fight the problem out for themselves. I suggest that, even if you take the 1812 American example, which, from the mining point of view, does offer the best example of high wages, you will find that we cannot hope, in the American method, to find a solution of our difficulties. Mr. Hoover has spent a great many years as one of the leading advisers of the American nation in regard to industrial problems, and, in analysing the situation over there, he has made it abundantly clear that the real problem in American mines is essentially the wastes that come from badly organised pits. In an analysis of the whole problem there, he has put 75 per cent. of the problem of waste in American industry on the side of bad management. Taking six leading industries in America, the building industry, the boot and shoe trade, the metal trade, the printing industry, the men's clothing trade, and the textile industry, he has found in every case that the wastes due to management average from 60 per cent. to 80 per cent. out of 100 per cent., and the wastes due to bad methods on the part of the men represent 9 per cent., 10 per cent., 11 per cent., 12 per cent., or 13 per cent.
When Mr. Hoover came to apply his objective method of analysis to the American mining industry, he pointed out to the American nation, as well as to this nation; that that industry was the worst organised of the whole of the American industries. Those who have been to America, and particularly to the bituminous coalfields, know very well that, while they have got a very high degree of efficiency in respect of cutters and other machines during the last 10 years, and while the men there have got high wage rates, their average week is not more than 2½, days; they know that last year the men in the coalfields were idle for more than a third of the working days; and they know that for the last 30 years, in the bituminous mines of America, the men have never worked more than two-thirds of a working day. Therefore, the whole analysis which comes from the American side makes it quite clear that, even by having an 8-hours day, including the winding time, and high rates of wages, they are not able to solve the problem of an efficient organisation of the mining industry.
It is admitted that they have got 200,000 men too many in that industry, 1813 and it is admitted that they have got several hundred first-class mines which cannot work because they are able to turn out far too much coal, under an unregulated system of private enterprise, so that an American Commission, reporting in 1923, laid it down as a principle that the mining industry was of the nature of a public industry, and until some element of public control was introduced, there was no likelihood of any permanent or satisfactory solution of the mining problem. I venture to suggest, therefore, that any serious analysis of the American conditions must lead to the conclusion that the introduction of the principle of public regulation, and the introduction of the principle of a lesser working day than is being carried out at the present time, at least in the non-union districts of America, where they are working from 8½ to 11 hours a day, are indispensable to any satisfactory approach to the American system of mining at the present time. Therefore, I want to come back to the original point of view, with which the Labour movement has been busy throughout the whole of this dispute. It is no use saying that this is not a political matter, not an affair of the State. It has been fundamentally and essentially an affair of the State ever since 1919. I have no reasonable ground of complaint against the Prime Minister if he merely says that the nationalisation of the mines is a Socialistic proposal, and, therefore, cannot be touched.
But we do feel that we have the gravest grounds of complaint that where you have an eminent Judge in 1919 examining a number of witnesses, and declaring his final judgment, that until you do away with the unregulated system of conducting the mining industry, you cannot begin to touch satisfactorily the problem of either producing or selling the coal, and saying that private enterprise is a wrong against the nation; when he has said in 1919, and again in 1925 and 1926, that this nation cannot hope to take the first step to deal with this problem,, either in terms of wages, in terms of hours or in terms of the widest interest of the community, without working out this primary principle of public co-operation in the mining industry, then, in those circumstances, in the light of all we have gone through in 13 weeks, in the light of the efforts 1814 of Sir Herbert Samuel, in the light of the effort of the Labour movement, and in the light of the organs of public opinion, the churches and chapels of this country through their leading bishops and ministers of religion, to bring back the Prime Minister, not to a Labour policy, not to the interests in which we as a party have engaged for the past 30 years, but to the essential point of view of Sir Herbert Samuel—in these circumstances, we are on perfectly sound ground when we say that the Prime Minister is deliberately acting against the best advice which has been given to this nation ever since 1919. I have been in the last six weeks in my constituency speaking to my own people, one-third of them being miners. They are living in small villages dotted about the hill sides and valleys of York-shire. I had to stand up and talk to these men, and tell them what I thought about the situation. Part of their pride has been that they belong to the leading mining industry in the world, and they, who have fought for 50 or 60 years to raise their conditions inch by inch, are now asked to go below the worst conditions that can be found in Europe. They know that the Germans and the Poles are going to be better off than themselves in respect to hours of labour, and they, who, with their fathers and grandfathers, have laid the foundations of the industrial situation, are now being invited, by the head of the most powerful Conservative Government of modern times, to go back somewhere into the 19th century in respect to conditions.
I was talking to an old miner at one of my meetings, and he said, "I am 74 years of age, and I have been going into the mine ever since I was nine years old"—that is 65 years. He asked, "What have I got for it all?" and answered "Nowt." He said, "Now I have got to go back again when this trouble is over, and they want me to go down for eight hours a day." I say there is something profoundly and deeply disturbing, not simply for the miners, but for the best men and women in this nation in the open and flagrant manner in which the Prime Minister is acting. I want to raise my protest in the same spirit that the Church of England has done in the past week, on economic and moral grounds, and to ask at the beginning of this 13th 1815 week of the struggle, one of two things, either that the Prime Minister will have the economic wisdom and the moral courage to stand by the essential features of the Royal Commission's Report, or hand in his resignation, and let us have a General Election.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
The Debate to-day, we were told, was to mark one of the stages towards an early solution of the troubles in the coal areas. But I regret to say that, having listened to nearly the whole of it, I do not feel that we are much further forward. That is a matter of very grave concern. The House is on the eve of separating for the August holidays, and we, as Members of Parliament through the House of Commons, will not be able to make any contribution towards the settlement, at any rate, for a month, and it may be longer. We had hoped that this discussion, starting as it did from a new point, would have enabled the Government to make some announcement, or to have shown some alteration in position, or would have told us of a new development in the minds of the mine-owners which would have given us some cause for hope. Up to the present, I regret we have heard nothing that is at all cheerful, and, as we look round the country, we recognise that every economic fact with which we are now faced leads us to the conclusion that this dispute is going to be the most costly through which this country has ever passed. It is not only a matter of the loss in which other industries are involved, but if one may go to the coal trade itself, it means that the longer this dispute continues, the longer we shall be in recovering not only our home but our foreign trade, and much of our foreign trade will, I fear, never be regained.
There is no doubt that every week which passes now brings the agents of the foreign coal exporters to markets which were peculiarly our own, and once they have been established their firms in the markets, and in many cases involved the concerns supplied with the coal in an alteration of their equipment to suit the foreign fuel, they are making an economic alliance which will be gravely to our detriment when we seek to regain our control of those markets. Then, there is very little doubt that disputes such as these, extending as they do for 1816 a considerable time every four or five years, give, I think, a tremendous impetus to the use of other fuel. We are not particularly interested in this country in the production of oil, but we are becoming increasingly large consumers of oil, and, indeed, without that oil fuel in its various forms we should have been in grave difficulties in the last few months. The world is taking to the use of oil with greater and greater rapidity. We are scarcely living in the oil age, but we are, at all events, by interrupting the output of our coal and export of coal, giving an enormous advantage to the rival fuel. Concerns which consume oil are adapting their machinery, furnaces and boilers, or if it is in the form of spirit, their cylinders, and once they have adopted liquid fuel you may be quite sure they are not likely to return rapidly to coal. So that we are actually seeing our foreign markets flitting away from us on two grounds—namely, on commercial grounds and on mechanical grounds.
We have only to look at the industries in this country to see the very large field affected. The textile trade will have very little fuel by the end of next week. There is very little available now. The iron trade is down to such a low level that there are only 10 furnaces in the whole of Great Britain still in blast. The engineering trade is almost entirely at a standstill. The shipbuilding industry also is hampered by lack of fuel. The export of coal by ships, which has been one of the most important sources of mercantile revenue, and which has given us a hold over the carriage of goods in the world which no other natural advantages could have conferred upon us, is now down to such a low ebb that the tide seem to be flowing uphill. Coals are now coming to Newcastle. The fuel which is being used on the Thames now is not North County fuel or from the Midlands, but very poor coal from abroad. [An HON. MEMBER: "And very dear!"] What I am mainly concerned with is that once these new channels are opened you may be quite sure that they will be further and further developed. It is quite true, as an hon. Member says, that it is very deal coal, and the dearness of that coal places a burden on all the other industries of this country which they are very ill-equipped 1817 to bear in these days when profits are very small and markets are only won by small margins.
It is not only a question of trade measured in terms of money and output, but the men who are employed in these industries are being thrown on to the streets by thousands every week, and there will be more and more of them in the near future. The misery and distress that are to be found in the mining industry are almost excelled in some districts which are dependent on coal for the maintenance of their industries. There is a good deal of sympathy being aroused and very rightly aroused—for those who are suffering in the coal areas, and, thank God, the English heart is so warm that, in these times, whatever may be their point, of view in industrial disputes or politics, there are always a good many people who take care that the women and children do not starve. But it so happens that sympathy is not so easily aroused for the industries which are concerned in the dispute only in a secondary degree. Those of us who move about in the industrial areas can see the loss in health, especially among the younger generation. That is far beyond any means of assessment and we shall not be able to repair the harm done during these few weeks for years to come.
In these circumstances, and with such a gloomy tale to tell of the state of England at the present time, is it not natural that we should welcome any efforts, no matter from whom they come, to bring about a settlement? I hear things said to-day in regard to the Bishops which naturally make one smile. I have heard hon. Gentlemen, who in the past have been their best supporters, declaring with a good deal of contempt that the Bishops are not equipped for dealing with practical affairs of everyday life and ought not to plunge into the field of economics. I have the pleasure of knowing a good many of the signatories of the famous document in question, and I can only say that if they know very little about the getting of coal and the selling of coal, they, at all events, may be appealed to on their human side, and that is not to be regarded as a condemnation of them, for this is, after all, a human question. To tell the truth, one of the elements which is most difficult to deal with in the coal trade is the deeply 1818 embedded ill-will which everyone has to face who has had anything whatever to do with coal disputes in the past. Like other hon. Gentlemen in this House, I have had on occasions to act the part of conciliator, and I know nothing more distressing than to find, when one gets the miners and the owners together, that they distrust the statemens made on the opposite side of the table, that they watch each other as though they were not co-operators in a great industry but practically in an economic war. I do not think that ought to be so, but that is the position. They watch each other so carefully that no document passes across the table but it is scrutinised as though there were tricks in it somewhere. I am quite sure that the Prime Minister and the Secretary for Mines will bear me out when I say that this element of ill-will appears to be the insurmountable obstacle in everyone of these transactions.
I believe in the good faith of the Prime Minister, and I believe that on the whole the country places a good deal of trust in it. But, unfortunately, the position has so developed during the lost few weeks that now the Government are regarded as antagonistic to the mining community. That is a most unfortunate position. I have never liked the idea of Governments interfering in industrial disputes. They very seldom do well. From what I have seen of every intervention by Governments, at the end of it you find the seeds of disagreement and ill-will in the future. The truth is that Governments are not well equipped for settling disputes such as this. No matter what steps they adopt, they are bound to be suspected of being on one side or the other. If they take up a line which appears too friendly to the miners, then there are many—not all—owners who will say, "The Government are truckling to the mob." If they take up a line which appears too friendly to the owners, there are a good many gentlemen who say, "Ah, there are you are, your natural allies." It is the same, no matter what Government it is. If right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench were in office, there would always be one section of the community who would suspect them of having some political motive in everything they did.
The truth is that the mixing up of politics and economics is one of the greatest errors. Let me pursue that. I 1819 have no intention whatever of shirking the statement I have made. Can the House or can anybody point to one single case under any Government where they have attempted to take a hand in settling a dispute, without agreement within the industry itself, where they have been successful? Agreement within the industry is an absolutely essential condition. I should like to know what the position of the cotton trade would be if it were passing through the same ordeal as the coal trade is at present. Everyone knows the cotton trade will tell you, trade unionists as well as mill owners, that they understand the cotton trade and that no politician ever does. That is their view. You go into the shipbuilding yards, and they have succeeded during the most difficult period in dealing with their problems with an amount of agreement and co-operation which has never been excelled. One of the most remarkable facts is that the shipbuilding trade unions—and there is a very large group of very nearly 30—have entered into complete co-operation in the mental side of the shipbuilding industry, a position absent, I regret to say, from the coal industry, to such a degree that there is no man who sits round the table at these conferences on either side who has not a fuller understanding of the point of view of the employés or, if he be an employé or trade unionist, who has not a fuller understanding of the conditions of the trade of the world, than he would have if they never met, and always regarded themselves as being antagonistic, and at the end of it called in the Government to settle their disputes.
We come to a situation in which, not the Government, but an entirely outside body of men, with no economic knowledge, knowing nothing about the commercial difficulties of the coal trade, have succeeded in getting the representatives and leaders of the miners to come into conference with them. That is not a thing to be despised or to be jeered at. It is a very remarkable fact, that some of the most prominent of the younger leaders of religion in this country have succeeded in gaining the confidence of the miners to a degree excelling the confidence now reposed in the Government or the mineowners. They have succeeded in gaining that confidence to such an extent that six points, which may not 1820 be the actual solution, but which may be the basis of a settlement, have been produced which have led to the leaders of the miners abandoning the slogan. The slogan has gone. They have committed themselves definitely to six points, one of which is an entirely new fact in the mining industry, namely, arbitration. That is a very considerable achievement. In the past the miners have often been prepared for conciliation, but never for arbitration. Arbitration has been fought most bitterly in South Wales. Conciliator after conciliator has sat there Sir Michael Hicks-Beach was one of the best conciliators South Wales ever had. He was succeeded by one or two gentlemen who commanded general confidence, but they always acted as conciliators, not as arbitrators. Now, in this document, the leaders of the Miners' Federation, the officials and the executive, have committed themselves to a new fact, arbitration. I am not going to discuss any of the other five points, but I say definitely that such an important new fact is of great importance to the country, and that the best contribution the Government can make now to a settlement of this dispute is to allow those who have secured from the miners' leaders what they themselves failed to secure to take a further hand and see whether they cannot bring the two sides together.
At the end of more than one war we have been quite ready to dispense altogether with the formal diplomats. We would settle a war at a wayside inn if we got the chance, and I am prepared to accept a settlement from whatever quarter it comes, whether it be a cathedral or a Wesleyan chapel or a "pub." The cost to the country is so grave, not only in money but in misery, that we ought to take any chance and encourage every activity which will bring the two parties together and enable us to reach a settlement before the autumn is advanced.
§ The SECRETARY for MINES (Colonel Lane Fox)
I am sure the House will agree, after listening to the very interesting speeches we have heard, that it is disappointing, though it may be disappointing for different reasons, that no greater result should arise from this Debate. Also, I think the House will agree with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. 1821 Runciman) said about the misfortune it is that there should be so much suspicion between the two main parties in the mining industry, and that there should be these constant appeals to Government for help. I can fully corroborate what he said about the blighting effect of that terrible atmosphere of suspicion in the mining industry, how hopeless it seems to try to get the parties together, how hopeless it, seems to ask one side to believe what the other side has said, or even to get them to accept the written and signed word of the other party. That is, indeed, a disappointment, and it has been a great factor in all the discussions; and I believe a great deal of what has occurred has been due to the fact that they have not had the courage to try to tackle their difficulties themselves, but have so constantly gone to the Government for assistance, and that Governments have taken far too free a part in trying to bring about settlements.
I should be the last person to scoff in any way at any action taken by Bishops. To begin with, I may claim personal friendship with a certain number of those who have taken the action which is the subject of this Debate, and I respect them. The right hon. Gentleman says it makes him smile to hear some of the things which have been said—I am sorry that I have not heard all of the Debate—by Members on this side with reference to these reverend gentlemen. I am bound to say it also makes some of us smile to realise that at this time of his life—in what I may perhaps, without being offensive say, speaking of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) "in the sere and yellow leaf"—he should be found walking hand-in-hand with some of those whom we have had to defend from his repeated attacks in the past. I think some of those right reverend gentlemen will be seriously alarmed at finding themselves so publicly boomed and loudly praised and being conducted hand-in-hand by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs on one side and by the Secretary of the Miners' Federation on the other. If ever there was a case of the lion, the old, fighting Welsh lion, lying down with the lamb, I think it is here. In 1921, as the House has been reminded, there were similar interventions, and on 1822 that occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs described it asan example of interference by a religious organisation in the task of Government which, if followed, would be replete with mischief to both Church and State.The position is that economic facts will defeat even the best intentions of the Bishops; and though I am sure the House and the country will welcome their well-meaning efforts to try to settle the dispute, it is possible that by encouraging the miners to think—and this is, I am afraid, partly the reason why their intervention has been so welcome on the other side—that by their efforts they can secure again a subsidy, they have possibly done a great deal to prolong the dispute. It is a very curious thing that we should now have so much said about the desire and the readiness of the miners to enter into arbitration if certain conditions are granted. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman for Aberavon (Mr. R. MacDonald) is not now in his place. He said it was unthinkable, monstrous, that the Prime Minister should suggest that his offer that the men should negotiate or arbitrate now should be regarded as an equivalent to the offer contained in the proposal which the Bishops brought to our notice. I would like to know very much why that is. We are told that the miners will be ready to submit to arbitration if for a few months we grant them a subsidy. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) pointed out that it is a very expensive thing to continue this stoppage and that it would be cheaper if we gave a subsidy, but surely it would be much cheaper if they came together to negotiate without a subsidy at all. [Interruption.] I want to press this point. If arbitration or negotiation is really meant, it can start to-morrow; there is nothing to prevent it, and there is no need for this cry that this cannot be done until the country has been bled of many more million pounds. I do not want to use hard words—[An HON. MEMBER: "Rub it in!"]—but I would say that when a gentleman comes and tells you that he will hold you to ransom, that you will be submitted to very heavy expenditure if you do not at once produce money, you certainly do not give him that sum of money, even though it may be more expensive to maintain the more difficult 1823 position with which he is threatening you. You do not give him the money, because you know that if you do he will come again. [Interruption.] I would like to read a statement which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs on this subject. He was speaking then of the situation at that time, and he was referring I believe to the present Leader of the Opposition. He said:It is a very dangerous thing, and my right hon. Friend himself, because he has got a logical mind, will see what a very perilous thing it is to the nation to say that, because it costs more to defend yourselves, it is better that you should always give way.A great deal has been said to-night about the position of Mr. Herbert Smith. Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen will allow me, I will show them that I am not fighting the miners but that I am doing nothing but trying to help them. A great deal has been said about the attitude which Mr. Herbert Smith, the President of the Miners' Federation, took up about accepting the Commissions' Report. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon told us that Mr. Herbert Smith had accepted the Report on behalf of the Miners' Federation, and that he had heard him doing it. I have a full report of what happened at the meeting to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded. Before I read it, I would like to ask, first of all, why the right hon. Gentleman did not tell us that on that occasion Mr. Herbert Smith made two speeches. Has he forgotten the second speech? If he has not, why did he not tell the Committee about it? The first speech was:The Commission had reported, and it was rather difficult to find out what they meant, for different chapters dealt with the same thing in a different way; but he had agreed, on behalf of the Miners' Federation, to take from page 1 to the end of the Report, to go thoroughly into it and accept the evidence.Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not now seem to be so ready to cheer that [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition then made a speech at that meeting in which he said that Mr. Herbert Smith had made a statement about the attitude of the miners to the Commission's Report that would satisfy anyone who knew anything about negotiations, and that there was 1824 no obstacle or impediment, so far as the miners were concerned, to resumption of negotiations on the Report. What was the result of this eloquent speech? Mr. Herbert Smith was so impressed by it that he then proceeded to make a second speech.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
I am in the recollection of the Committee when I say, with all deference to the right hon. Gentleman, that he is mistaken in what am speaking about. This was the second speech, in which Mr. Herbert Smith made this explanation:Somebody was under the impression that he had agreed to accept the full Report. What he had intended to imply was that he was prepared to examine the Report from page 1 to the last page, and stand by the result as fiNaily reached.[Interruption.] Let right hon. Gentlemen opposite consider what that means. Mr. Herbert Smith was drawing a clear contrast between an impression which somebody had got of what he had said and what he had really meant to say, and there was a great difference between the impression which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon had got and the impression that Mr. Smith himself wished to give. I only want to say that it does seem to me that the leadership of the miners has been on this, as on many previous occasions, quite deplorable. [Interruption.] If you go back to the history of the mining industry, you will find, time and time again, that the miners have had the opportunity of doing a comparatively good deal and have failed by trying to get too much. [An HON. MEMBER: "Never"] In 1919, when the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was in office—and here I may say that he is more to blame than anybody else for the suspicion which is holding us up now. I have been told by miners recently,We have known what it is to be sold by a Government before, and we are not going to be had again.That referred to the action of the right hon. Gentleman at the end of the Sankey Commission in promising things that he did not carry out. In 1919 the Government offered to carry out the Duckham Scheme contained in the Sankey Commission Report, but it was turned down by 1825 the miners because they wanted to go the whole hog of nationalisation, and that would have included the nationalisation of royalties, pit committees, district unification, and so on, but they did not get any of those things because they would not accept the scheme. In 1921 the Government offered a subsidy of £10,000,000, and the miners refused it at that time, and it was only afterwards that they received a reduced sum and accepted £7,000,000 instead of £10,000,000, and so they lost £3,000,000 by trying to get too much. In 1920 the miners were offered pit committees with the consent of the owners, but they refused, and later on the time came when they wanted to accept the offer, but the owners refused. Now they have had an offer of £3,000,000 subsidy, but the time has passed, and they are not getting it. Surely it is time that the miners profited by the mistakes of the past, and realised that it is better to make terms while you can, and not wait until they are not able to get anything.
§ The Leader of the Opposition has taken deliberately obstructive action this afternoon, and I never heard a speech which disappointed me more than the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman. He has told this House that there is no chance now of our seeing the men negotiating with them. It seems to me like telling them not to negotiate because he could have encouraged them to come forward and not to wait for a subsidy, but he has refused to take that line and he has refused to accept the proposal which was made by the Prime Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "What proposal?"] The proposal which the Prime Minister has made is to bring these men together in order to negotiate on all the possibilities of hours and wages, but they have again refused that opportunity and by so doing the right hon. Gentleman has made the strike longer and possibly a more bitter one.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £117,030, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 152; Noes, 338.1829
|Division No. 392]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Gibbins, Joseph||Mackinder, W.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Gillett, George M.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Gosling, Harry||March, S.|
|Barker, G (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Montague, Frederick|
|Barnes, A.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm, (Edin., Cent.)||Morris. R. H.|
|Barr, J.||GreeNail, T.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Batey, Joseph||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Bann, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Oliver, George Harold|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Owen, Major G.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Groves, T.||Palin, John Henry|
|Briant, Frank||Grundy, T. W.||Paling, W.|
|Broad, F. A.||Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.)||Parkinson, John Alien (Wigan)|
|Bromfield, William||Halt, F. (York., Normanton)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Bromley, J.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Putts, John S.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hardie, George D.||Purcell, A. A.|
|Buxton. Rt. Hon. Noel||Harris, Percy A.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Cape, Thomas||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Riley, Ben|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hayday, Arthur||Ritson, J.|
|Clowns, S.||Hayes, John Henry||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Cluse, W. S.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hirst, G. H.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Compton, Joseph||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Scurr, John|
|Connolly, M.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie.||Sexton, James|
|Cove, W. G.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shaw, .Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Dalton, Hugh||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Jones, T. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Smillie, Robert|
|Dennison, R.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Duncan, C.||Kennedy, T.||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Dunnico, H.||Lawrence, Susan||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Edwards, C (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lee, F.||Snell, Harry|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Lindley, F. W.||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Livingstone, A. M.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Lowth, T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Gardner, J. P.||Lunn, William||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Sutton, J. E.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Taylor, R. A.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Thurtle, Ernest||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah||Windsor, Walter|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Welsh, J. C.||Wright, W.|
|Townend, A. E.||Westwood, J||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Varley, Frank B.||Whiteley, W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Viant, S. P.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.||Sir Godfrey Collins and Mr.|
|Wallhead, Richard C.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)||Harney.|
|Acland, Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Cooper A. Duff||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Albery, Irving James||Cope, Major William||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Couper, J. B.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootie)|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Atkinson, C.||Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Herbert, Denr. s (Hertford, Watford)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hills, Major John Walter|
|Balniel, Lord||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hilton, Cecil|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Dalziel, Sir Davison||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Davidson, J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Holland, Sir Arthur|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Drewe, C.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Berry, Sir George||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Howard, Captain Hon. Donald|
|Bethel, A.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Elveden, Viscount||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Eills|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Everard, W. Lindsay||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Fermoy, Lord||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Fielden, E. B.||lliffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Braithwaite, A. N.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. F. S.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Fraser, Captain Ian||Jacob, A. E.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Frece, Sir Walter de||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Ganzoni, Sir John||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston).|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Gates, Percy||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Kindersley, Major Guy M.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Burman, J. B.||Goff, Sir Park||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Gower, Sir Robert||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Grace, John||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Grant, Sir J. A.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Campbell, E. T.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Little, Dr. E. Graham|
|Cassels, J. D.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H.(W'th's'w, E.)||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Loder, J. de V.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth.S)||Grotrian, H. Brent||Looker, Herbert William|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.||Lord, Walter Greaves-|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox, Univ.)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A.(Brecon & Rad.)||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Hammersley, S. S.||Macintyre, Ian|
|Christle, J. A.||Hanbury, C.||McLean, Major A.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Macmillan, Captain H.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Harland, A.||Macnaghten, Hon Sir Malcolm|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John|
|Cochrane Commander Hon. A. D.||Harrison, G. J. C.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.||Hartington, Marquess of||MacRobert, Alexander M.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Maltland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Makins, Brigadler-General E.||Ramsden, E.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Malone, Major P. B.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Tasker, Major R. Inigo|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Reid, Capt. A. S. (Warrington)||Templeton, W. P.|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Reid, D. D. (Country Down)||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Mason, Lieut.- Col. Glyn K.||Remer, J. R.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Meller, R. J.||Remnant, Sir James||Thompson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Merriman, F. B.||Rentoul, G. S.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Meyer, Sir Frank||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Rice, Sir Frederick||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Waddington, R.|
|Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Roberts E. H. G. (Flint)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)||Ward, Lt.-Col.A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Moore, Sir Newton J.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Moore-Brabazon Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Rye, F. G.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Salmon, Major I.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wells, S. R.|
|Murchison, C. K.||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple|
|Nelson, Sir Frank||Sandon, Lord||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Neville, R. J.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Williams, Com. C. (Davon, Torquay)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Savery, S. S.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Shaw, Capt. Walter (Wilts, Westb'y)||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Oakley, T.||Shepperson, E. W.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Skelton, A. N.||Withers, John James|
|Pennefather, Sir John||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Penny, Frederick George||Smithers, Waldron||Womersley, W. J.|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Wood, E. (Chest'r.Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Perring, Sir William George||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Wood Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Stanley, Col Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Pilcher, G.||Storry-Deans, R.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Pilditch, Sir Philip||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Pownail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Preston, William||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Styles, Captain H. Walter||Mr. F. C. Thomson and Lord|
|Radford, E. A.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Stanley.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being after Ten of the Clock, the Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote under consideration.
§ The Chairman then proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, to put severally the Questions, That the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the several Classes of the Civil Services Estimates and of the other outstanding Votes, including Supplementary Estimates, and the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the Estimates for the Nary, Army, Air and Revenue Departments, be granted for the Services defined in those Classes and Estimates.