§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The SECRETARY for MINES (Colonel Lane Fox)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
We are at any rate on the fringe of very controversial subjects when we deal with anything connected with the mining industry, but I hope that on this occasion, though I know there is another Bill following which may excite stronger party passions, we shall find common ground, if not agreement, on many points and that it will not be a matter of anything like the controversy which we cannot fail to find in connection with the other Bill. This Bill carries out some of the most immediately practicable recommendations of the Royal Commission.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will let me tell the story in my own way, he will have an opportunity of following me later. The Commission, by universal consent, worked very hard, and whether you agree with all its findings or whether you do not, everyone will give them full credit for the splendid work they did and for the immense labour involved in carrying out their task. They produced a great many recommendations, and it is obviously impossible to embody them all, or indeed to embody a great many of them, in any Bill, because there are many things they have recommended which are not the subject of legislation at all. There are some things that are dependent entirely, or very largely, on agreement between the two parties. Let me take a very non-controversial instance, the question of the setting up of a scheme for the payment of family allowances. It is no use suggesting that that ought to be put into a Bill until the whole question has been thoroughly thrashed out and discussed between the two parties. The same thing applies to the question 388 of profit-sharing schemes, the question of payment by results and so on, and there are many other matters which axe matters of administration. There is the question of the setting up of a Committee to deal with research and matters of that kind, and of an Advisory Committee on Fuel and Power. There is the question of wagons, on which the Government have undertaken to set up a Committee. There is the question of the grading of coal. There is the question of a selling agency, and there is the question of housing. What is the use of putting into a Bill of this kind compulsory provisions to deal with these points until they have been thoroughly investigated by those who are primarily concerned. There are a great many things of that character which are not really ripe for legislation, and I do not ask the House to expect to find a comprehensive and complete list of all the Royal Commission's recommendations in the Bill for that reason.
What the Government have done is this. They have put into the Bill those things which are definitely and easily carried into effect, chase things on which the ground is clear, those things which would offer the most immediate assistance with the least opposition and which have an immediate effect in removing at any rate some of the difficulties under which the industry is now carried on. These subjects contained in this Bill are those on which the Government promised legislation in the, proposals they sent to the owners and the miners a short time ago. I say with perfect confidence that every Clause in the Bill has some effect in helping to remove some difficulty, some grievance, some obstacle to progress in the mining industry. The House could not expect to find the whole of the recommendations of the Commission in the Bill. They will most certainly find proposals of very considerable value, and as investigation proceeds, no doubt, if occasion arise, further legislation will be introduced. It would have been easy had we been in normal circumstances to set up Committees to deal with these subjects more quickly, but so long as the present stoppage continues, it is obviously impossible to set up machinery to consider such suggestions when both sides have to be represented, and considerable delay has been caused by the stoppage.
389 Part I of the Bill deals with the amalgamation of colliery undertakings, and I think the House will agree that perhaps the most important of all the recommendations the Commission made was that on the subject of amalgamation. [Interruption.] If hon. Members will let me go on.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
The Commission's Report includes a very interesting table, published on page 54, showing the comparative success of larger as compared with smaller undertakings. They show that in proportion as undertakings grew in size and output, so the output per man increased and the cost of production per ton decreased, and we all know it is desirable, in order to be of service to the mining industry, to encourage the elimination of small old-fashioned undertakings which in these days of big business cannot hope to carry on with complete success, but which in many cases might be improved by amalgamation. We have the contrast of Germany. Germany, in the great Westphalian coalfields, giving an annual output of 100,000,000 tons, produces this' output, with some 70 undertakings. Great Britain, on the other hand, with an output of 220,000,000 tons a year, requires no less than 630 undertakings. I think it must be a matter of common agreement that bigger groups are desirable, but in this case compulsion in such matters is very often very undesirable and mischievous. Amalgamation should be a natural growth and, in the first instance, should be inspired by the fact that someone who is interested in the industry sees some chance of success and thinks it worth while. In this Bill, Clause I, Sub-section (1) gives power to prepare voluntary schemes of amalgamation. Those undertakings that wish to amalgamate are first of all freed from stamp duty, which will save very considerable expenditure, and also they are given a simpler, shorter, cheaper method than exists under the present law of getting their amalgamation put through. They have to submit their prima facie case to the Mines Department who consider it, and if satisfied arrange for its transference to the Railway and Canal Commission, and that Commission deals with it and confirms or rejects or modifies 390 it, guided always by the consideration whether the matter is in the national interest and the necessity of seeing that the scheme is such that equitable provisions are made, for all concerned. That is pushed to the extent of securing that individual objectors are safeguarded to the extent of being paid in cash if necessary.
In Sub-section (2) of Clause I we come to schemes in which these amalgamations take the form of what we call "absorption-schemes"—and this is partly the answer to those who say there is no sort of compulsion in the Bill—where certain undertakings wish to amalgamate with others which are not agreeable. In those circumstances then there is power again to present a case to the Mines Department, who refer it to the Railway and Canal Commission and the case will be heard before them and absorption can he put through, again with full provision for safeguarding the interests of those who are concerned, and with a procedure which is far. cheaper, shorter and better than anything that exists at present. If the House wants to see where the powers actually occur, they will find them in Clause 7, and they will see that the test applied by the Railway and Canal Commission are that the amalgamation or absorption which is to be confirmed must be in the national interest and must secure fair and equitable treatment for all parties concerned. Clause 4 allows partial amalgamation or absorption. That means that in some cases it might be desirable that certain undertakings should get together for a particular purpose. Whether it be draining, pumping, joint ownership of wagons, power schemes or even the setting up of selling agencies, these things can be set up by partial absorption or amalgamation schemes, and these also go through the same procedure of going before the Railway and Canal Commission.
In the Amendment that is to be moved, it is suggested that there is no mention of selling agencies. At any rate as regards this Clause it is clear that under a partial scheme it will certainly be possible, and I think it will be largely taken advantage of, to form selling agencies of that kind. This question of amalgamation is one that must be carefully safeguarded. Great groups have been successfully formed in the past and their success has been the 391 admiration of everyone, but other cases have warned us that the mere fact of amalgamation of a number of units does not mean necessarily a success, and the Commission distinctly reports against any compulsory amalgamation. They say:Any general measure of compulsory amalgamation on arbitrary lines will be mischievous.……To compel parties who object to it to work together in a combined undertaking would be a mistaken policy.But they have their doubts whether voluntary amalgamation will be sufficient by itself or whether further pressure will be required and therefore they recommended that legislation might be passed, not for immediate application but for application if Parliament so decided three years later, and the curious reason they give for this arrangement is that to do it otherwise, to postpone legislation, might lead to Parliamentary difficulties. [Interruption.]
This Bill contains very complicated proposals, and I am sure the House desires to hear the Minister's explanation. Hon. Members who wish to express their views by way of interruption can hardly expect to have the opportunity of expressing them by way of speech.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
Is it not perfectly correct to say that the interruptions were a legitimate form of cheering?
§ Mr. BATEY
Are we to understand from What you have said that some of us from the North of England are not to be allowed to get into this Debate?
That is not a point of order, and it does not follow from anything that I have said.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
The Royal Commission has suggested that some form of future compulsion in this matter of amalgamation may be required. In Clause 9 (2) provision is made to carry out this in a form which we think is reasonable. If there is to be a Report to Parliament and legislation is to depend upon that Report, it is obviously better that that legislation should be passed when the Report has been made, and we 392 know what the need is. It was suggested by the Royal Commission that legislation should be passed but kept in a suspensory form, but we think the other form is better, and it will certainly lead to more efficiency. If when the time comes, three years hence, the Mines Department consider that amalgamations are not going on as they ought to do—which will mean that those who are interested in the mines think that they are not likely to be a paying proposition—a Report will be made to Parliament and Parliament will then have an opportunity of dealing with the situation.
Part, II of the Bill extends the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act, 1923. The original Act, by common consent, has worked very well. I take a certain parental pride in that Act. I cannot claim any credit for having carried it through in the earlier stages of the negotiations, but I did have an opportunity of passing it through this House, and I would remind hon. Members opposite that, although they made most fiery speeches against it, and attributed all sorts of risks to the Department in connection with it, it has been very successful. Under that Act, those who wanted the right to work minerals had to make an application to the Mines Department on the same lines that we are suggesting in this Bill in connection with the bringing about of amalgamations. They had to make an application to the Mines Department to go before the Railway and Canal Commission, but two conditions were imposed, first, the applicants had to have some interest in the minerals which they desired to work, and, secondly, they had to prove that the minerals were in danger of being permanently unworked. Those two conditions were put in the Act to meet the anxieties which some people entertained. It is proposed by this Bill to remove those conditions. This alteration was recommended before the Royal Commission by Sir Lewis Coward. We propose, therefore, in Clause 10 (1) to give the Railway and Canal Commission power to grant the right to work any minerals to any individual who applies, if it is considered by them to be in the national interest.
In Clause 10 (2) we give the right to apply to the Railway and Canal Commission for an alteration of any existing 393 leases for the removal of obstructions or covenants, restrictions, terms or conditions which are impeding the proper working of minerals, and if it is considered by the Railway and Canal Commission to be in the national interest they will have power to deal with those conditions, awarding compensation and seeing that the award is fair and equitable to all concerned. These are undoubtedly drastic powers, and I am sure that there are many hon. Members of this House who will be a little anxious about the breaking of contracts already made and the alteration of leases that are in existence. I agree that these provisions require very carefully safeguarding, and I hope that by this Bill they are amply safeguarded. The proposals will not go through until they have been reviewed by the Mines Department, and they will then be subject to the consideration of the Railway and Canal Commission, presided over by a Judge of the High Court.
An extra advantage that will accrue under the alterations that we are making in this part of the Bill is that we are meeting practically all the difficulties that occur as a result of the existence of private ownership of minerals. We are able to meet all the obstructions and inconveniences which may occur owing to the boundaries of the property on the surface not suiting the convenience of working of minerals underground. We are able to meet those difficulties without the need of the enormously costly process of purchasing the whole amount of mining royalties in this country, and we do it by a cheap and expeditious way. Whatever may be the future of the proposal to purchase milling royalties, at any rate in this Bill that is not done, and for the very good reason that in connection with this method of dealing with these matters, which are the only practical justification for the purchase of mining royalties, we are able to deal with all the difficulties without burdening the national finances by purchasing mining royalties as a whole.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Can the Minister tell us whether these proposals will deal merely with the future, or will they be able to deal with past and existing difficulties?
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
Yes, Sir. The whole reason for them is to be able to 394 deal with existing difficulties. If the hon. Member had listened he would have heard me say that the whole reason of the proposals is to deal with the difficulties that exist and that impede the present working of minerals. The alternative method is to buy up the whole of the royalties. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not buy them."] The Commission suggested that they should be bought out. If the proposal of the Commission were adopted, owing to the fact that they did not intend to deal with existing leases, it would have taken far longer, and the operation could not have been brought to a conclusion, on their own showing, under considerably more than 30 years.
Part III deals with the question of pithead baths, and provides for the setting up of those baths. [Laughter.] I do not know why that should be a matter of laughter. Everyone who is interested in mining knows that this is going to be a real boon to the miner. Provision is made by a 5 per cent. levy on the royalty owners for the setting up of these baths. We propose to work these through the existing Welfare scheme, the levy on royalties to he paid into the Mines Department, and passed on to the Miners' Welfare Committee. A good many baths have been set up already under the Welfare Committee, and that is a far more suitable body to deal with it.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say what that levy represents per ton?
§ Colonel LANE FOX
The average royalty per ton, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is 6d., and this is to be per cent. of the net royalty received. The estimated cost which the Commission said would be expended in equipping the coalfields generally with the necessary baths is £4,000,000. That is of course only a rough estimate. They reckon that in the course of 10 years £250,000 per annum will be provided, and another £150,000 per annum from the Miners' Welfare Fund. Therefore, in 10 years time the necessary provision will be made. [Interruption.] When anyone thinks of the present condition of the miner's cottage, several men coining in at the same time each with dirty wet pit clothes and hoots and wanting a bath 395 it will be seen that this will undoubtedly be of enormous benefit to the miners.
Part IV deals with the question of recruitment of labour. It deals with the inevitable unemployment which must result. We all know a very large number of miners came into the mines since the earlier part of the War, and it is a matter of common agreement, that whatever else happens, there are bound to be a good many men who will no longer continue in the industry. In addition to that, there will be, inevitably, a certain number of pits closing down. The Commission recommended that there should be powers given to the Minister of Labour to make provision to secure preference to those who have been formerly employed in mines. Therefore, the Bill in Part IV proposes that the Minister of Labour shall have power to make regulations to secure that preference shall be given to those over the age of Pi years who were employed in mines before the 30th April, 1526. That will continue until 1929, and I hope we shall secure that a certain proportion of those who are losing employment at the present time will secure it in other places. We all know the great difficulty of moving miners from one district to another.
Part V deals with a very technical matter, and I need not trouble the House very long with th[...]. It deals with the Coal Levy and payments during the Government control, and it runs on all fours with the Excess Profits Duty under the Finance Bill. The process of the Coal Levy was that the excess profits of colliery owners, above their standard profits, were collected from them by the Government, and any deficiency below standard was made up to them. As the Excess Profits Duty is now coming to an end, this is considered to be a propitious moment to close this matter also.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I have read this Bill very carefully, and as this is rather an obscure Clause, may I ask whether it means that there is a considerable amount of money outstanding to which this Clause will be applicable?
§ Colonel LANE FOX
The position is exactly the same as, I understand, the position of the Excess Profits Duty was. There are a certain number of claims which have not been made both ways. 396 This was obviously bound, at some time, to come to a termination, and this is a good moment to do it. Part VI provides that nothing in the memorandum or articles of association of any pit or undertaking shall prevent it from establishing and carrying out a profit-sharing scheme. As I said earlier on, we cannot possibly put into a Bill at this moment any profit-sharing scheme. It is a matter which will have to be considerably discussed among those connected with it, and will need very delicate negotiation. What we can do is to pave the way, and by this Clause we hope to make it easier for all colliery undertakings to be able to set up a profit-sharing scheme wherever they want to do so. We hope at some future time many profit-sharing schemes may be established.
I would like to refer to the Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn). I notice it begins by sayingThat this House, believing that a comprehensive policy of unification in the coal industry under public ownership and control"—and so on. If the right hon. Gentleman asks this House to believe in that, I can only point out that that is our old friend Nationalisation under another name. Nationalisation, as we all know, has been rather under the weather lately. Like many persons who are in that unfortunate position, perhaps it is desirable to change its name, but the mere fact that its name is changed does not alter the essence of the proposition. Not only has that been rejected by this House over and over again, but it has also been rejected by the country repeatedly. [HON. MEMBERS "When?"] Every time hon. Members have brought it forward, and I think it is a little illogical, if I may say so, that the right hon. Gentleman should begin his Amendment by making a proposal which is, perhaps, the one thing most definitely turned down by the Royal Commission, and then, in the second part of the Amendment, find fault with us for not adopting in every particular their Report. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that we have disregarded the Commission by not bringing in such a proposal, and inleaving amalgamation to the voluntary act of the owners without compulsion in case of default at the end of a specified period.397 I have already dealt with that. I maintain that, although perhaps not exactly in the same way, we have made full provision in quite as complete a form for any compulsion which in future may be necessary. The Amendment also says we have omitted any provision for the transfer of minerals to the State. However that proposal may be disposed of in the future, it is common ground that it cannot be dealt with at once, and will take a long time. We have adopted in this Bill a far more easy method, a far quicker and far more sure method of meeting the difficulty than any proposals of that kind. As regards selling agencies, which the right hon. Gentleman also says ought to be included in the Bill, as I say, we have paved the way, and, at the earliest possible moment, the Government are intending to set up a Committee to advance that as soon as possible. I very much hope that this urgent matter will be very materially advanced before long, but, obviously, that is not a thing which can be directly put in the Bill now.
With regard to the municipal sale of coal, which the right hon. Gentleman also mentions in his Amendment as having been left out, there, again, that is a matter—I do not know how it may be dealt with in the future, but, at any rate, it is not going to be of any immediate assistance to the wage question in the industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] That may be a matter of argument and opinion. It is clear that there would not be any very great increase of wages from those proposals. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I hope that when the right hon. Member makes his speech he will develop a little further the very remarkable and interesting speech he made the other day, and which we all welcomed. He then brought out his proposals for unification, and argued them with great force. But just as he was getting supremely interesting, he stopped. [An HON. MEMBER: "Your job"!] He started it; he told us he had got a remedy. Now will he tell us exactly how he applies it? Will he tell us the method by which he proposes to apply finance, control, and so on, of the system he proposes to set up?
In spite of the number of interjections on the other side, perhaps not very -seriously meant, I venture to suggest, again, that this is a practical and a useful 398 Bill. It does not pretend to be in every sense complete. It does not pretend to contain the whole recommendations of the Royal Commission. But that does not in the least mean that the Government are not going to deal in turn with all the recommendations which are going to have any effect in helping the mining industry. The Bill represents the matters which can be dealt with quickly, speedily and, I hope, without too much controversy. Do not let us concentrate too much on difficult points and spectacular things, if by this means we can get what is really a useful help to, perhaps, rather a dull subject. The Government have made this attempt. This is the first instalment, and I shall be very much surprised if, as a result of the working of this Bill, considerable assistance is not provided for the industry.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsthis House, believing that a comprehensive policy of unification in the coal industry under public ownership and control, with progressive development of the scientific treatment of coal, is essential to secure the prosperity of the industry and the interests of the public, declines to assent to the Second Reading of a 13i11 which not only fails to provide for systematic unification but also, by leaving amalgamation to the voluntary act of the owners without compulsion in case of default at the end of a specified period, and by omitting any provision for the transfer of minerals to the State, the establishment of selling agencies, and the municipal sale of coal, disregards the recommendations of the Royal Commission.Before dealing with the Amendment, I should like to say a few words in the reference to the Bill itself. I have listened for 40 minutes hoping to hear the Secretary for Mines say in what way, in the opinion of the Government, this Bill is going to have any effect upon the mining situation as we find it to-day or as it is likely to develop during the weeks ahead. I would gladly have listened for another 40 minutes, and I am sure the House would also, if we could have had some indication that these proposals were going to help us out of our difficulties. But, as far as I was able to gather, the statement left us precisely where we were at the beginning, and I have yet to learn that this Bill will have the least effect upon 399 the industry or upon the difficulties in which it is at present involved. As the Secretary for Mines has said, the Bill consists of six parts, and I want to say how I interpret each of those six parts. The first part of the Bill is the most important; that is to say, it ought to be. But as I understand Part I, it amounts to this, nothing less and nothing more; that if the coalowners care to undertake the work of amalgamation, they may do so. If they prepare any schemes, the Board of Trade in the first place, and subsequently the Railway and Canal Commission may or may not approve of those schemes, and if at the end of three years nothing has been done, then the Board of Trade must report that fact to the House of Commons.
I do not want to be unfair in interpreting the provisions of this Bill, but having read it through very carefully, candidly I fail to see anything in it that carries us further than that. The whole initiative is left to the coalowners who have already declared that they do not propose to proceed along these lines at all. We know perfectly well that the dominant influence in the Mining Association will resist any attempt to bring about amalgamation until their poorer brethren have been driven into the bankruptcy courts, when they can snap the collieries up for a song and utilise the poverty-stricken and unfortunate position of these people to the advantage of the more prosperous coalowners. That is really the position. As far as this Bill is concerned it says to the coalowners, "If you care to do anything, well and good. If you do not, well, at the end of three years we shall let Parliament know."
In Part II an attempt is made to remove some of the limitations and restrictions that are at present imposed on colliery owners in the working of minerals. To the extent that this provision goes, it is good. It is in the right direction, but I do not think it will have any material effect on the coal situation. Personally, I welcome it as far as it goes. Under the welfare levy in Part III we are to have a twentieth part of 6d. per ton to assist in the erection of pithead baths. I think it is a very serious reflection upon the British nation that pithead baths were not provided for the miners many years ago, and this proposal is very inadequate 400 to meet what I regard as a very urgent reform. At the same time as far as that goes I welcome it.
In Part IV provision is made for preference of employment in the mining industry for miners; in other words, colliery owners are not to employ other than unemployed miners as long as there are old miners on the register of the Employment Exchanges. It shows the chaotic condition into which we have got when we have to pass legislation to induce colliery owners to take that attitude.
Under Part V we have, as the Secretary for Mines has said, an attempt to settle a five years' quarrel between the coal-owners and the Exchequer as to whether the one or the other is indebted in the matter of excess payments on the coal levy. The sooner that quarrel is removed out of the industry the better. That again is all right as far as I am concerned. Under Part VI we have a provision that if the coalowners care to establish and carry out a scheme to enable workmen to share in profits, well, the company may do so. That is the actual wording of this Bill, and that is all that is in it from beginning to end.
When I read this Bill I said: "Here is a golden opportunity for any politician to make a reputation." This Bill provides that opportunity. I do not happen to be a politician. I do riot desire to be a politician, and I do not wish to make a reputation. I can assure the House that neither myself nor any Member on this side of the House desires to make either personal or party capital out of the deplorable conditions in which we find ourselves to-day, and unless the result [...]f this Debate is to bring about a settlement in the coal industry, then, in my opinion, it would have been much better if we had not had the Debate at all. Every time the miners and the mineowners meet for discussion and fail to settle, and every time a Debate takes place in this House which ends in a fizzle and a fiasco, the position is worsened and hardened, and it would have been much better if we had not had the Debate or the negotiations.
I am content to leave the Bill with what I have already said, but I should like to add this, that I consider it to be nothing but a mere empty pretence. That is all I can make out of it. It does 401 not touch the problem in the mining industry. The Secretary for Mines has not even attempted to defend the Bill on the ground that it does touch the mining difficulties or that in the remotest degree it provides a solution for them. The Secretary for Mines said that last week I made a, somewhat interesting speech, but that I stopped short at the point of practical politics. He suggested that I should elaborate and expand the idea I propounded last week. We have put this Amendment down in order to give us an opportunity of doing so, and I assure the Secretary for Mines that every word in the Amendment is meant seriously. The proposals embodied in the Amendment are what we regard as the correct lines upon which we should proceed in this matter—that we should have unification in the coal industry under public ownership and control. I have long since believed, and I shall try to prove it later, that a monopoly in the mining industry has become a necessity, and I have always laid it down as a sound economic proposition that whenever a monopoly becomes a necessity, it ought to be in the hands of the State. That is the view taken by the Labour party on this matter, and I believe it to be the correct attitude from the national point of view in relation to the coal industry. The Secretary for Mines said that he would like to hear something more about the ideas I advocated last week. I was rather surprised that he did not attempt to challenge the statements I made then. My ease in every figure and argument and detail has been allowed to pass unchallenged, and that, I assume, is because it is unchallengable.
I do not think there is any answer to the case as I stated it last week, and I propose therefore to confine myself to those portions of the Amendment which relate to unification and control, to selling prices and co-operative selling agencies—which I said last week were two matters vital importance which lay at the beginning of a solution of the coal problem, and I hope to develop that argument rather more than I was able to do last week. In that Debate the Prime Minister said it was no use having theories, we must take note of the facts. He stressed the facts, and so did the Minister of Labour. The Prime Minister said these were the facts—that in the December quarter last year, in the 402 absence of a subsidy, 88 per cent. of the coal produced in Scotland was produced at a loss, in South Wales 90 per cent., in Durham 97 per cent., and in Northumberland the whole output. The Minister of Labour last week said these are the facts—if you take the December quarter and put the men's wages back to the bare standard rate, even then 40 per cent. of the output of Durham and 50 per cent. of the output of Northumberland would still have been produced at a loss. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Labour laid very great emphasis upon those facts, and they said that in dealing with this problem we must always endeavour to keep those facts clearly in mind. I want to assure both those right hon. Gentlemen that neither I nor those associated with me, are either ignorant of, or indifferent to, those facts. We know them to exist, and we know that they are ugly facts and facts which must be faced. But at the same time they are not all the facts.
If we are going to deal with this problem, we must face not a few of the facts but all the facts, and when we come to deal with all the facts, it will be found that some of the statements which I made in. the Debate last week are very material and vital to a consideration of the problem with which we are faced. I repeat that the facts to which the Prime Minister and the Minister of Labour referred last week are not in the least new to any of us on these benches. As a matter of fact, I have watched those facts being manufactured, and during the past year I have been doing all that I can to reverse the process and to get back to a different kind of manufacture. Merely to take those facts, which are, after all, but the result of a process which has been in operation, and to take that result and say, "That is what we have to depend upon," without taking into account the process of the facts which have been operating throughout the year, is not the proper way to approach this problem.
I said, before the Government took this matter in hand at all, that the position in the industry was this—that you had 58 per cent, of the output produced at a loss varying from 3d. to 7s. a ton, and that you had 42 per cent. produced at a profit varying from 3d. 403 to 7s. a ton. When we get back to these facts, we are free from all the artificialities which are associated with the December quarter. The results of the December quarter are not natural results at all; they are the results of purely artificial conditions, produced by the method in which the subsidy was applied to the industry. If we get back to natural conditions, we find that to be the case. The conditions in the industry, at a time when the seven hours' day was in operation, when the minimum 33⅓ per cent. was being paid, when the prices ruling in July or the first half of last year were in operation, constituted profitable business for 42 per cent. of the mining industry, but at the same time those conditions were unprofitable in respect of 58 per cent. It is obvious that prices which were obtaining at that time, which did not provide a profit for 58 per cent. of the industry, were prices which, in the nature of things, ought not to have been reduced. You could not carry on the industry on an economic basis if you reduced prices below the level at which 58 per cent of the industry was still unable to make a profit.
What really happened as a result of the way in which the subsidy was put on in August of last year? I should first say that the coal trade during recent years has undergone a mechanical and electrical revolution which has affected about 40 per cent. of the industry. Before the War we had 300 or 400 coal conveyors in the mines; to-day we have about 1,400. Before the War we had about 2,000 coal cutting machines; to-day we have about 8,000. Before the War we had about 500,000 horse power electric motors: to-day we have 1,500,000 horse power. [HON. MEMBERS: "Efficiency!"] To the extent that it has been introduced, that is a gain. My contention is this, and I challenge a refutation of it, that in respect of 40 per cent, of the industry, it has undergone a revolution, and it is that 40 per cent., producing at a very low cost of output, which is dominating the market and determining the prices. Those who have not been influenced by that mechanical and electrical revolution are left stranded, with very high costs. It is this which prevents them coming into effective competition with their fellows.
404 Before the subsidy what happened was that 40 per cent. of the output had brought prices down to such a point that undercutting had practically come to a standstill. It had put 58 per cent. of them in an unprofitable position. But the moment the subsidy was applied, it operated in this way: Here was a concern making 5s. a ton profit, and there was another making 5s. a ton loss, and they were both treated alike; whatever subsidy was paid was paid to the mine making a profit just as it was to the one which was making a loss. The buyers then said, "We are going to have reduced prices on account of this subsidy." During August and September last we had in the mining industry a struggle such as that industry has not seen for years, and it is true to say that the output of the coalfields in August, 1925, was lower than in any case for 20 years previously, simply because of the struggle that' took place between the buyers and the sellers as to who should have the benefit of the subsidy. Ultimately the buyers won. What happened? Here you had costs up to II a ton. There was a margin between costs and prices which was very narrow. But those costs remained. Prices went down and down and down, and the gap all the time was filled by the subsidy.
Having brought about that widening gap by the operation of the subsidy, you now propose to remove the very thing that has filled the gap, and the Minister comes along and says, "Oh, but if you had not the subsidy there, there is such a gap between prices and costs that it is all unprofitable." Of course, it is unprofitable. What else could we expect? As a. matter of fact I predicted exactly what was to happen almost immediately the subsidy was pot on in the form in which it was put on. On 5th September last, in writing to the "Western Mail," I made this statement:—In this, the first of a series of articles on the problem, I ant going to make a few predictions:
- (1) Unless the coalowners immediately determine to regulate selling prices, the industry next May will see the proceeds so low that, after paying costs other than wages, there will not be sufficient left to pay the nominal wages which the miners received 15 years ago, and that even though the owners make no profits.
- (2) On every ton of coal raised in the Welsh coalfields, the Government will pay 4s. to 5s. a ton.
- (3) Neither the Government nor the nation will allow that to continue without control.
- (4) The miners will not accept wages corresponding to the ridiculous price of coal then prevailing.The above four predictions, I am fully confident, will materialise, and they represent the essentials of the coal trade problem in the next crisis.Those were four predictions which I made within a month of the putting on of the subsidy. What has happened? We have seen the price of coal so low that, after costs other than wages have been deducted from proceeds, there has not been sufficient left to pay even standard wages in the Welsh coalfields, for the coal-owners have had to pay 7 per cent. less than standard wages. You have to go back 18 years, to 1908, to find a time when nominal wages were as low as they were under the operation of the subsidy. At that time the coalowners were not making any profit. I said it would be necessary to pay 4s. or 5s. a ton on every ton of coal raised. Anyone who cares to look at the financial statement of the Mines Department will see that during the last six months, on every ton of coal sold in South Wales, 4s. 6d. per ton has been paid by way of subsidy. I said that the nation and the Government would not allow that to continue. That is now proved. I said that the miners would not accept wages based on the low price, prevailing. That is now clear. Those are the essentials of the coal problem, as I predicted, and they ought to have been foreseen by the Government, and preparation ought to have been made for dealing with them.
I want to look for a few minutes into the question why we have the huge disparities of profits and losses. After all, every business man concerned in the mining industry, like all business men in all trades, is chiefly concerned with the balance sheet. He asks, "What is to be the. effect at the end of the year, profit or loss?" We know what the profit and loss account is. We had figures in the last Debate. But there are two factors which determine those figures. One has reference to the cost of production, and the other has reference to the price. During the last nine months we have had no change in cost of production; it has remained stationary. But prices have gone down and down and clown, until we 406 arrived at the facts which the Prime Minister and the Minister of Labour referred to on the last occasion. But those facts were but the inevitable out-come of the operations which have been taking place in the industry, and which will continue to take place unless control of selling is undertaken by the Government. I know that it is sometimes said, "You cannot control the selling price in relation to the export trade." That is the general contention. I would refer hon. Members to a little dialogue that took place during the proceedings of the Coal Commission between Mr. Evan Williams and the Chairman of the Commission. They were dealing with export prices and what could happen in connection with them. This is the dialogue:Mr. WILLIAMS: Export prices are fixed by the price at which foreign producers are willing to sell in, the export market.The CHAIRMAN: That would be a principle, if it were sound, which would be of general application?Mr. WILLIAMS: Yes.The CHAIRMAN: It would apply to producers in Germany just as much as to those here?Mr. WILLIAMS: Yes.The CHAIRMAN: If there were a Commission similar to this, which was sitting at this moment in Germany to inquire into the present depression in the German coal industry, and if the Chairman of that Commission were examining a. representative of the German coalowners and he were to say to him, How are export prices fixed? ' he would reply, 'Oh, export prices are fixed by the price at which foreign producers of coal are willing to sell in the export markets.'Mr. WILLIAMS: Probably he would.The CHAIRMAN: Taking Western Europe generally the principal competitor whose prices we are concerned with is Germany, and you say in effect that our export prices are fixed at the figure at which the Germans are willing to sell, and Germans correspondingly would say their export prices are fixed at the figure at which the British were willing to sell.Mr. WILLIAMS: I think we should both say that for certain markets, South American markets, our prices would be fixed by the price of American coal.The CHAIRMAN: Similarly, the American producer would say on your principle the principle we are now examining, that his prices in South America were fixed by British prices on the principle that export prices are always fixed by the foreigner, so to speak, whoever may be the foreigner to the person concerned at the moment.That is the principle on which we have been trying to do business all these years.
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
That is how all business is done. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that it is the higgling of the market which fixes prices, whether the competitors belong to the same country or to different countries.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I was just going to say that that process has been going on, and we have been acting upon that principle, and what has been the result? I pointed out, when I spoke on this subject previously, that, compared with pre-subsidy days, we have not received more business from the Continent, notwithstanding the reduction in prices which has taken place. I would like to refer the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) to the figures for the quarter ending March, 1925, and the quarter ending March, 1926. The former period was before the subsidy, and the latter period during the subsidy. In the quarter ending March, 1925, we exported 13,102,000 tons, and in the quarter ending March, 1926, we exported 13,190,000 tons. We exported 88,000 tons more in the 1926 quarter than in the 1925 quarter but we received for it £1,800,000 less. What sort of business is that? What is the use of business of that kind? And meantime what has been happening? We have knocked the bottom out of the German cartels. We have brought stagnation into the German mining industry and only recently we had the spectacle of the German coalowners going to their Government and saying, "We want assistance on account of the position in which we have been placed by the British export trade." They say that is because under the Treaty of Versailles the Germans were under an obligation to supply so much coal at the price at which they supplied their nationals, plus freightage to the frontier, always on the condition that it was not to be more than the pit-head price of British coal. What do they find? They find they have had to sell much lower on their reparation scale, than they have been selling to their own nationals, because our pit-head prices for export purposes were lower than theirs. They had had to go to their Government and get £700,000 to make up the deficiency.
That is the way we have been undercutting the Germans, and it has been 408 done chiefly because we have in this country two groups of collieries, one producing a very low-cost output and the other producing a high-cost. output. The low-cost output has dominated the market, and determined the price, and one of the first things you have to do is to unify the industry. An equally important and necessary thing is to get control of the selling price, and until that is done it does not matter whether you give the coalowners a subsidy, or reduce wages, or have an eight hours' day—everything that applies generally to the low-cost and the high-cost output alike, is going to be given to the consumer. It is going to pass through the industry and you cannot save, by any such such means, that huge mass of unprofitable undertakings which is to be found in the industry at the present time. I do not think that anybody who understands the facts of the mining industry will dispute that proposition.
Let me give one more figure. Special reference has been made to export districts. Let us take South Wales as an example. During the eight months of 1924, from May to December, there were greater losses in the Welsh coalfield than at any other time in its history. The actual losses on that coalfield amounted to £854,000 and yet at that time and under those conditions, 42 per cent. of the output was produced at a profit. I know the Welsh coalfields, and I know that a substantial proportion of the output of the Welsh coalfield is produced at as low a cost and with as great efficiency as any coal in the world and that we are getting an output from concerns there which can hold their own and compete successfully and profitably with all their rivals throughout the world. On the other hand you have in that coalfield big concerns producing 1,000,000 tons a year, which are working on the same methods as those which obtained 100 years ago. You have these two different kinds of collieries. Nothing in the physical conditions differentiates them, or very little. They are on a par as to the age of the collieries and thickness of seams. There is the same distance in each between the coal face and the pit bottom. All the material facts which tell in cost of production are on a par as between them yet you have one producing coal 5s. a ton cheaper than the other. That 409 fact is contained in the records and cannot be disputed. [HON. MEMBERS: "It obtains in Yorkshire!"] If hon. Members look up the figures in Volume 3 of the Report, pages 220–234, they will see the figures for all the coalfields and they will see that what I state is true.
I ask hon. Members to keep this fact in mind. Here are two concerns, one producing coal at 15s. a ton and the other at 21 a ton, and both producing 1,000,000 tons a year. Both go on the market. The demand is short of two have to What chance cost of production against the man with the 15s. cost of production? The man with the 15s. cost gets the trade, and the other is left stranded. I notice the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is smiling. The proposition seems self-evident, but the next question you have to ask is "Why has one a cost of 15s. a ton and the other a cost of £1 a ton?" The answer to that question is the solution of the coal problem, and it is because that question is not begin asked, and is not being investigated, it is because the Government are not seeking an answer to it, that we are in the muddle we are in to-day and floundering about instead of finding a solution. The simple answer is that in the one case they have modernised and equipped and made efficient their undertaking.
Let me give an illustration. We consume in the mines about 6 per cent. of the output raised. While 6 per cent. of the output is consumed at the collieries generally, that is an average figure and the amount varies from 2 per cent. to 12 per cent. in different cases. Thus, you get one concern consuming '2 per cent. of its output at the mine and another consuming 12 per cent. of its output. These two concerns may have everything else in common, but by that one economy, assuming the price to be £1 a ton, one concern has 98 tons to put on the market. while the other has only 88 tons. Thus, there is £10 difference between them in the revenue on 100 tons, which is as good as a reduction in cost of 2s. a ton. We have these things in the industry and these reductions in cost have been brought about by efficient management and modern equipment, and it is no good for the right hon. Gentle- 410 man the Member for Hillhead to talk about the only result of amalgamation being a difference of 3d. or 2d. per ton. If it meant nothing more than a reduction of overhead charges I would agree with him, but when we talk about unification we are thinking about bringing the efficiency which now belongs to a part of the industry into the other part. This would involve the reduction, in cost, of shillings per ton. We demand unification for this simple reason. We say that in respect of that 58 per cent. which is unprofitable business, part of it is beyond redemption, and ought to be knocked off. A colliery, like a human being, has its birth, its youth, its middle age, its old age, its decay and its death, and you can no more save a colliery from death than you can save a human being. When any of our friends die, we do not carry the corpse about, but give it decent burial. In the mining industry we have been carrying the corpses about for a long time. It is time they were given decent burial.
§ Sir HARRY BRITTAIN
What about the inquest. First?
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
While it is true that the fringe of the industry is beyond redemption, it is equally true that a large proportion of the industry is capable of being made as good as the best in the coalfield and is capable of producing low-cost output, but the fact is that it does not contain within itself the power to redeem itself. It must be redeemed from outside. It must come in contact with that portion of the industry which is efficient, and which can bring it into line with new methods of management. This Bill does absolutely nothing to bring about that result. We have said in our Amendment what we think ought to be done in the matter of unification. We think the industry ought to be unified, owned, and controlled by the State. It is quite possible that this Government will not be prepared to go so far as that, but I do hope they will endeavour to view this problem from its essentials. Unless they get down to this question of why we have these huge disparities in cost of production, in output per man employed, in profit and loss—why they exist—unless that question is thoroughly 411 gone into, there is no hope of a settlement in the mining industry. Whatever else happens, unless we start by unifying this industry, nothing else can save half the Industry from destruction. That is what we have to keep in mind. You may get reductions in wages, you may get increased working hours, but, even if those things are applied generally, whilst disparities which exist to-day continue, they will not solve the problem with which we are faced, and for that reason we urge that unification shall be undertaken as a first step.
The Secretary for Mines said: "Why not tell us what is the solution?" I am quite prepared to say exactly what I think ought to be done from now on in order to solve this problem. I am prepared to argue it with anybody, but I do not think this is a question that can be argued and debated and solved across the Table of this House. We have our leaders, in whom we have abundant confidence, and who have a ready command of the services of all of us. You have access to men on your side of the House. Why cannot we get down to this around a table, and see if we cannot hammer out some solution? We are all prepared to consider if it is not possible to find a solution. I am prepared to state either on the Floor of the House or around a table what I think, and I know there are plenty of other people in the same position. I do not want these Debates to go on and this struggle to continue and drag on week after week, and nothing to come of it, until by sheer exhaustion this thing comes to a fizzle, because—do not let us forget this fact—whatever may be our views and whatever may be our desires in this matter, this thing cannot be fought out.
You may allow it to go on for three months, but at the end of it you will have high cost and low cost collieries, you will have losing and profit-making collieries, you will have collieries with an output of 10 cwt. per man shift worked and collieries with an output of 30 cwt., you will have collieries with outputs three times as much as others, and you will have all these disparities to deal with just the same at the end of the stoppage as you have to-day. What is the use of attempting to fight out a thing of that sort? You will not only be confronted with precisely the same difficulties, you will also 412 have a volume of ill-will developed which will certainly be a factor in the situation, and which ought to be taken into account at the present time. It is because I know that every well-wisher of his country will be anxious to see a speedy and rapid termination of this deplorable state of things that I appeal that we shall not treat this as a party business at all, and that we shall not try to make party capital out of it. I do not know whether I have said anything which can be construed as having done that, but I have been trying not to do so. I have made no calculation as to what this thing is costing, but I see that my hon. Friend the Member for the Moseley Division (Mr. Hannon) appears to have been making calculations, and, if correctly reported, he said last week-end that this stoppage is costing the nation at the present time £8,000,000 a day, and that if it continues for a fortnight longer, it will be costing £10,000,000 a day. He also said, I think, that our national resources are being exhausted at a rate without precedent.
That is a very serious state of things for this nation. We are all agreed that this strangle-hold is taking possession of our entire industrial life. Moreover, millions of our people are in dire distress. Surely we do not want to attempt to impose our own petty bias and prejudices into this thing. Cannot we get down to it? As far as I am concerned—and I think I am speaking for every Member on this side of the House—our leaders can rely upon the whole-hearted cooperation and assistance and advice and help that any of us can offer them in a round-table conference in bringing about a settlement. If hon. and right hon. Members on the opposite side are prepared to do the same—and I hone that that will be the result of this Debate—I think the Debate will have been worth having. If it does not result in some effective work being done to bring a settlement nearer, as far as I am concerned, I think it would be very much better if we had not had this Debate at all.
§ Sir LESLIE SCOTT
I think that all hon. Members, to whatever party they belong, will agree, that the speech of the right hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) was the speech of a statesman, with a real desire to solve the terrible problem which is before us, but 413 while we recognise both the profoundly patriotic tone in which he spoke and the truth of a great many of the figures which he gave to the House, I cannot help feeling that the House itself will be disappointed on two grounds—one, that he should have given so chilling a welcome to this Bill, and the other, that he should not have put before the House any effective alternative for the limited proposals contained in the Bill.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Then where is the statesmanship of the speech?
§ Sir L. SCOTT
The statesmanship of the speech was in the desire, so clearly expressed, to arrive by agreement at a solution of the difficulty. I desire to approach the subject from the point of view of the actual proposals contained in this Bill. The right hon. Member for Ogmore, and indeed the whole of the party behind him, judging by the interruptions that fell from them during the speech of the right hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, indicated a cynical disbelief in the usefulness of the proposals contained in it. I appeal to the Members of the Opposition not to approach the proposals of this Bill in that spirit, but to regard them, not as offering a panacea for all the troubles from which we are suffering, but as being a useful contribution of a really practical kind to deal with some of the difficulties with which the coal-mining industry is faced.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
You are waiting for hunger to settle this question.
§ Sir L. SCOTT
Members on this side are as anxious as Members of the Opposition to arrive at a solution which will give to all employed in the mining industry the wages and the amenities of life which the industry can afford, and so to improve that industry as to make it possible for those wages and those amenities to be increased. I venture to say that we have at this very time in this country the prospect of establishing a better relationship between employer and employed. I speak for myself, but I, for one, believe that it is of vital importance to the possibility of the coal-mining industry of this country paying profits which will allow good wages to the miners, that we should achieve such a better spirit in the industry. As the right hon. Member for 414 Ogmore said himself, every act and every word of the House of Commons at the present time should be directed towards trying to establish a better feeling between employer and employed throughout the country, and particularly in the coal-mining industry.
The right hon. Gentleman asked why the leaders of the Labour party and the representatives of the Government on the Treasury Bench could not meet together and try to work out a solution of this problem. I, for one, welcome that proposal. I believe that, if the negotiations passed from those who are directly interested and who have failed to come to an agreement, the chance of an agreement being reached by persons representing the Government and the industries in a disinterested spirit might be greater. But let us not forget that no negotiations of that kind which do not ultimately result in a real agreement in the industry can achieve the object desired. It is as a step towards a final agreement between employers and employed that the suggestion is one that may be worth exploring, but what we want to get is real agreement in the industry, so that the men in the industry should feel sure that the colliery owners are not desirous of making profits at the expense of labour but are content with such reasonable profits as all men would regard as reasonable, and that, in turn, labour in the coal mines will exert itself to its utmost, within its physical capacity, to make the commercial success of the concerns as great as possible. It is not until we reach that attitude of mind on both sides, a desire on the part of the employer to do all he can for labour, a, willingness to take labour into his counsels and give labour a share in the guidance of the concerns. [An HON. MEMBER: "They will not do that."] I hope they will. [An HON. MEMBER: "They will not."] Well, wait and see. It is for us in this House by our action to do everything we possibly can to facilitate that result. I, for one, am not going to admit for a moment that this House is impotent to achieve even that great result. I wanted to preface the remarks I have to make about this Bill with these general observations upon the position in this country, because I myself cannot disguise the fact that the profitable character of the coalmines in this country 415 depends not only, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, upon the provision of more capital, newer machinery, better lay-out, and various accessory rights, but also, and perhaps even fundamentally, on a change in the attitude of employer and employed in the mining industry.
May I tell the House a short tragic story that I heard the other day. A friend of mine purchased four or five collieries. I am not going to say where, because I do not wish to have them identified, but I will tell any hon. Member who desires to know in private. He went down each one of those four or five pits with the managers, and to a large part of the underground workings. It took him four or Eve days to do this. At the end of it he made this remark to one of the chief managers: "How is it that during the whole time of going round none of you officials spoke to the men and none of the men spoke to you?" The answer was, "Because if we had spoken, they would not have answered." My friend, said there was one man who spoke; that was a man who spoke to my friend's small son who had given him a piece of chocolate. That, to my mind, is a tragic story. I apportion no blame. What I do say is that that spirit ought not to exist, and ought not to be possible.
§ Mr. SPENCER
You should hear them swear at each other and then be friendly, and you would not say that!
§ Sir L. SCOTT
In my early days I spent a year in the mines, and got to love the miners. I knew them well. They were real good fellows, those Lancashire miners.
§ Mr. SHEPHERD
Did the hon. and learned Gentleman himself speak to the miners?
§ Sir L. SCOTT
Of course, I did! The reason I have told this story is because that kind of thing ought not to be possible.
The [...]ssence of the first two parts of this Bill lies in the provision, that where it is desirable in the interests of the mining industry that compulsion should be exercised to deal with private rights, if the owner of the private rights will not of his own free will do that which is in the national interest, there shall re an over-riding power to grant a compulsory order to make him do it. 416 That is the principle that is embodied in the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act, 1923. As some hon. 11I,embers of the House may know, that Act was founded upon a Report of the Committee of 1918–19, of which I had the honour to be chairman. On that Committee we had, amongst other members, Sir Adam Nimmo, the late Sir Thomas Ratcliffe-Ellis—who was adviser of the Mining Association—and three leading mining engineers, besides certain others. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh) was a member of the Committee at an early stage, but was not able to continue. We got a unanimous Report. In that Report we stated the principles upon which we were acting. I want the Labour party particularly here to follow the expression of that principle in order to show that there is a much narrower gulf between us on this side and them on that side, and between coal owners and coal-miners than many may think. Here is a passage from the ReportThe main principle on which we proceed is that laid down in our first and second. Reports that wherever it is in the national interest that land (which includes minerals) should ho applied to some use other than that to which existing owners or occupiers are putting it, a case is established for compulsory powers being granted for its acquisition. In the ease of the development of the nation's mineral resources, application of this principle leads us to the conclusion that, as a. general rule"—note that as a general rule!'—whenever it is necessary for such development that any rights of user or working, or even ownership, should be obtained in either surface or minerals … or, indeed, any right in. over, or under land, a compulsory order should be obtainable from the sanctioning authority … always subject to the corollary that just compensation should he paid to the party affected.That is the principle underlying the Act of 1923. That Act has been working extraordinarily well. The sanctioning authority under that Act is the Railway and Canal Commission. When framing the Bill in 1923 the Government proceeded experimentally, applying only the thin end of the wedge, to see how the thing worked. Therefore they only allowed compulsory orders in a very limited number of cases—where there was agreement for the rectification of barriers, or the coal was owned by a number of individual small owners, and so on. These were (mite minor things, but in 417 spite of their being quite minor things, in about eight months the Railway and Canal Commission has liberated 25½ million tons of coal that would never have been worked otherwise—a substantial amount. In the evidence given on behalf of the royalty owners, before the recent Royal Commission, there are two paragraphs which I should like to read:It is a fact, however, that the Railway and Canal Commission, presided over for the purpose of mining cases under the Act of 1923 by Mr. Justice Sankey, has already earned the confidence of the coal industry.Note that 'earned the confidence of the coal industry.' They then go on:An examination of the cases they have dealt with will show that the Court attach great importance to avoiding unnecessary technicalities and achieving economy, and generally to administering Part I of the Act of 1923 according to the spirit as well as the letter.They added the further corollary that "the fact that there is in the background a right to get compulsory orders, that the power of compulsion can be applied, has led in numerous cases to agreement which, but for the existence of the Court and the power of compulsion, would never have been achieved. This Bill applies the procedure of that Act, being to all intents and purposes, an amendment and extension of that Act. Under the provisions of the Bill, subject to one or two exceptions which I think desirable, and which are indicated, we have the procedure of that Act.
The provisions are of two kinds. By Clause 10 orders are to be made, on very much the lines of the proposition laid down by my Committee in 1919, which will enable any arrangement to be obtained, where necessary, in order to make the working of the colliery an economic possibility. At any rate let me say this; that if Clause 10 is carefully perused—and none of us have had sufficient opportunity so far to do that—it appears that the powers are not sufficient, I for one would strongly urge amendment to make them better. In regard to amalgamation there are some very valuable provisions in the Bill, though I do not think they go quite far enough. As I understand the provisions—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman who is going to reply later will say whether he agrees with this or not—they say this in effect—under 418 different names—whether it is amalgamation or absorption it does not matter much—wherever two or more colliery companies agree together that amalgamation is desirable either for production, that is to say for winning the coal and raising it, or for treating it on the surface in any way—and treating is a very wide term, which includes not only washing, but coke-ovens and other processes, or for disposing of it by sale—in any of these cases, if they think that it is desirable that they should be amalgamated with somebody else, they can make application to the Mines Department of the Board of Trade, following the procedure of the Act of 1923; and, if the Mines Department is satisfied, not that there is a good case, but that there is a prima facie case, they will send it en to the Railway and Canal Commission, and the Commission, after hearing everybody affected, will make an order either amending or confirming the scheme without Amendment, or on such conditions as they think right.
That procedure will apply in the great majority of cases and allow an amalgamation to be obtained in nine cases out of ten. I have heard about several cases where amalgamations have been prevented simply and solely because one party has refused to come in, or has asked unreasonable terms. With this power of compulsion behind, my own anticipation is that the necessity of calling the Court into use will very rarely arise.
§ Mr. HARNEY
That is not in this Bill!
§ Sir L. SCOTT
The procedure in this Bill is on those lines. I should have thought it was extraordinarily clear. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) will follow me. He will see to what I refer. Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 says this—I am omitting immaterial words:Where the owners of two or more such undertakings who have agreed to amalgamate consider that in the interests of the more economical and efficient working, treating, or disposing of coal, it is expedient that one or more other such undertakings, the owners of which are unwilling to agree to amalgamate or to agree to the proposed terms of amalgamation, should he absorbed, wholly or partly, by the first-mentioned undertaking, the owner or owners may prepare and submit to the Board of Trade a scheme.419 Pass on for a moment to. Clause 6, and we see there that the Board of Trade—that is the Mines Department "shall"—it is obligatory—consider any scheme submitted to them, and shall, if satisfied that a prima facie case is made out that the proposed scheme will promote more economical and efficient working, treating, or disposing of coal, refer the matter to the Railway and Canal Commission,Clause 7, Sub-section (2), says that the Commission after hearing such case may confirm the scheme either with or without modifications. Sub-section (4) says:A scheme under this part of this Act shall, when confirmed by the Commission, be binding on all persons and have effect as is enacted in this Act.Is that plain? That is the scheme, and, so far as that goes, in my submission, it is entirely satisfactory as regards enabling provisions. The one question is: Is the Railway and Canal Commission a businesslike body; likely to be sensible? Putting it bluntly, that is the question; and the answer to that is that for some considerable time past it has been found in practice that the Railway and Canal Commission is extraordinarily sensible. I know that no case has taken more than three months from the time it has been started to the time it has been disposed of, and I know, because I have talked to a good many people who have had cases in that Court, that it has given universal satisfaction as a thoroughly businesslike and sensible body.
There is a point requiring consideration in regard to amalgamation, and that is the question of the valuation of any concern to be taken over. I agree that there is in the Bill language sufficiently wide to enable the Court to deal with all questions of valuation, and, so far as I am concerned, I have such trust in the Court, from what it has done in the past, that I would be satisfied to leave the Bill as it is. But there is this extremely important point about valuations. Many amalgamations and many combines have in the past failed simply and solely because they have been overloaded with the capital cost of making the amalgamation, largely by reason of the fact that without compulsory powers unreasonable people have been able to dictate unreasonable terms. It is essential that where a concern that is not paying its way and cannot pay its way is taken 420 over, in order that it may be fructified by new capital and developed in connection.with other collieries, as part of an amalgamated scheme, that the price of a worthless thing should be the price that is suitable for a worthless thing, and that no exaggerated valuation should be made to burden the amalgamation. I suggest to the Government the desirability of considering whether, in Committee, words should be inserted dealing with the basis of valuation. I express no opinion at the moment.
There is another point in connection with these amalgamation schemes. On page 61 of their Report—the small volume issued—the Royal Commission say, in effect, that although in the majority of cases the powers in the Bill which I have just been analysing will, where concerns are applying for a local amalgamation, meet the normal case, there may yet arise cases where no application is made locally, although it is quite obvious, as a matter of common sense, that an amalgamation ought to be established. The Bill contains no power to deal with such a contingency as far as I can see—at any rate not unless some colliery outside the district comes forward and asks for an amalgamation or absorption order. The wording is wide enough to cover such an application, but unless words are put into the Act I fear that the Court may say, "No; had it been intended that an enterprising colliery proprietor in South Wales should be allowed to go into Lancashire and ask for an amalgamation of concerns there, we should have seen rather different language in the Act." My own view is that power should be reserved to the Board of Trade to make an application if satisfied that there has been default in local initiative. The Minister who introduced the Bill said that had been considered and turned down by the Royal Commission, but the reasons he gave were not a correct statement of the Royal Commission's reasons. What the Royal Commission said was this:There may possibly remain cases where combinations are desirable but where mine owners directly concerned show themselves incapable of initiative, while there are other owners, whether in the locality or elsewhere, who are willing to work the minerals on progressive lines. On the whole we recommend that the legislation which will be needed to give effect to these proposals in general should include a provision of the character described.421 That is, to deal with a case of this kind. Although they said they would not suggest that it should come into force for three years, they did propose that it should be included in the Bill, and my suggestion is that it should be included in the Bill, but not to come into force, if the Government and the House think it right, for three years, unless an order is made after six months, say, or a year, bringing it into force earlier. My own preference would be to have it in the Bill without any qualification, so as to allow of progress being made at once, and to prevent progress being retarded by the absence of local initiative' in any particular locality. That deals with the question of amalgamation so far as production is concerned.
May I add a word on the question of the selling of coal? We all listened with great interest to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) a week ago, and a great deal of that speech, in spirit, has been re-echoed to-day by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of this Bill in his views about unification. As I followed him, he seemed to give expression to a strong opinion that for selling our export coal there ought to be such combinations as the right hon. Member for Carmarthen suggested. It is quite true that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore and his party would like to see unification run by the State, but if we rule out nationalisation, as not a matter of practical politics to-day, then I think he would agree that unification on the lines indicated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member Carmarthen ought to be a possibility. Secondly, there ought to be power for a compulsory order to start any such organisation where there is failure of local initiative in a particular district. I believe the German Act of 1910 has a Section giving power to make compulsory orders, and that the presence of that compulsory power in the background has resulted in all amalgamations in Germany being carried out voluntarily without resort to compulsion. I believe if we had that power in this Bill the same results would follow in this country. In the Bill there is power, on the initiative of a local concern, to apply for an amalgamation, or a partial amalgamation, for selling purposes—it is clearly stated in the Bill. All I sug- 422 gest is, that in that ease, as in the case of production, where there is default on the part of local initiative the Board of Trade should have power to apply for a compulsory order for somebody to be named to conduct the amalgamated selling organisation.
We have got to take risks. The coal trade of this country is sick to-day, and we must take risks in order to increase its profit-earning capacity and get wages up. It is no answer to the problems of to-day to say, as did the right hon. Member for Ogmore, that some concerns are making a profit and other concerns in the same district are making a loss, and that that is in the nature of things as they are, and to sit down under that without adopting specific remedies for bringing up the efficiency of the bad concerns to the level, as nearly as we can, of the good. The whole essence of this Bill, as I see it, is to enable that process to be carried out to a considerable extent. The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) said the other day, referring to amalgamations for production purposes, that in his opinion they were not worth more than 3d. per ton. That may be so in some cases, though I feel convinced that in other cases it will be more than 3d.. But 3d. a ton is a very large amount. On an annual output of 800,000 tons it is a saving of £10,000 a year. Add to that an amalgamation for selling purposes and the other reforms which are contemplated, and add, further, real good will on both sides, and we shall bring the British mining industry into such a position that a very much larger percentage of concerns will he earning a profit than are earning a profit to-day; and that is what we have got to aim at. Finally, I appeal to the House to look upon this Bill as an instalment, as a step in the right direction, not to refuse half a loaf because it is not a whole loaf, but to make the most of this Bill, because in it are provisions which will enable great progress to be made in certain directions. I warmly support the Second Reading.
§ Mr. TINKER
Before I deal with the Bill itself, I would like to make one or two references to the speech of the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Sir L. Scott). He spoke about certain persons going down a mine where the men would not speak 423 to the management. I am surprised at the number of people who get up in this House to speak on the mining situation who have not a thorough grasp of it. The hon. and learned Member lives near St. Helens, and if he cares to come to the big mining centre of St. Helens, I will take him among the workmen there and he will find—
§ Sir L. SCOTT
I have been down most of those pits.
§ Mr. TINKER
Then I am surprised at the hon. and learned Gentleman giving voice in the House of Commons to the statement which he has made this afternoon. There is no body of men who are freer in conversation than miners.
§ Sir L. SCOTT
In Lancashire that is true.
§ Mr. TINKER
Well, that is typical of the whole of the country, and I wish hon. Members would understand the mining situation a little better. The other week the Noble Lord the Member for West Derbyshire (Marquess of Hartington), in quoting some figures, said 61 per cent. were piece-rate workers in the mines. That is obviously wrong. I put a question to the Secretary for Mines, who stated that piece-rate workers, coal hewers—and those who are classed as contractors—only amounted to 40 per cent, of the whole of the mining industry. On another occasion the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), obviously speaking for the coalowners, referred to the easy conditions of mining and said that he himself had holed 150 tons in one shift. Then when surprise is expressed, he says "By machines." Anybody can go down a mine and watch a man working a coal cutter and then take to himself the credit of holing the coal. If anyone wants to understand working a mine properly, let him go down the pit and work there for a few days. If hon. Members will do that, and go to some pits which I can suggest, I will leave it to them to say afterwards whether the miners should have their present conditions and working hours. I will rely entirely on their views. I am very anxious that the House should thoroughly understand the real position of the miners, because I know there is good will among hon. Members opposite. 424 Now I turn to the Bill itself. I am going to vote against this Measure in its entirety. There are, however, one or two Clauses in the Measure in regard to which I am in agreement. One of them is the recruitment Clause. I am in full sympathy with that Clause because I do not think men ought to go down the pit over 18 years of age. I am speaking now in the interests of the safety of the mines because when men go down over the age of 18 they are often a danger to others who are at work in the mine. If anyone will trace the number of accidents to adult workers who have been taken on by contractors, without any knowledge of mining, they will find that the cause has been due to the fact that the men had not had sufficient training in the working of a mine. Adult workers in many of these cases have been taken on and paid a lower wage with the result that the mining industry suffers because compensation has to be paid, and all this expense falls upon the mining industry. I welcome that particular Clause because of the safety it will afford to the workmen in the mines.
Then there is the question of the provision of pithead baths, and I welcome any provision of that kind. It may be only a small matter, but it will be a great boon to the workmen, and if these two Clauses I have alluded to could have been separated from the rest of the Bill, I am sure they would have received hearty cooperation on the Labour Benches. I have been wondering whether the Secretary for Mines and the men behind him have suggested these two Clauses as a subtle way of getting at our people in order to get them to agree to the other Clauses in the Bill. Had those two Clauses to which I have referred been separated from the rest of the Bill, I should have supported them wholeheartedly. I notice that the word "may" appears about 30 times in the Bill up to Clause 5, and I should like to ask where is there any compulsion in that? First of all, it is provided that the individual colliery owner "may" apply. Then it says, "two or more" may apply. Up to the present we have had no statement in this House from representatives of the coalowners that they are willing to accept the findings of the Commission, but we have been told by the coalowners that no reorganisation can take place that will be effective. Under these circumstances 425 how can there be any attempt on the part of the coalowners in the direction of amalgamation? The word "may" appears all through this Measure. It is provided that in three years' time a report will be given to the House as to what has taken place on behalf of the coalowners, stating whether they have amalgamated or not. They will tell us after three years what they have done, and in my opinion the answer will be, "Nothing at all," and the House of Commons will have to force the coal-owners to amalgamate, not only in small groups of mines, but they will have to amalgamate the whole of the coal industry.
We want something done now, and we ought not to be asked to wait for three years. The coal industry is being ruined and many of our men are starving and are anxious for a settlement on fair lines. I was hopeful, after the speech we have just heard from the Front Labour Bench, somebody on the Government side might have said, "Here is a gesture in the right direction; why cannot we get together and see if some solution cannot be arrived at and withdraw this Measure?" If that had been done we should have responded, and then there would have been a chance of something being done. I want to say that, as the Bill is drawn, we on these benches cannot support it, because it is an obvious attempt to get away from the findings of the Commission, and if we support this Measure it might be taken that we were in agreement with the Government in putting into operation a portion of the findings of the Commission. I suggest that the Government should take their courage in both hands and put the whole of the findings of the Commission into operation. If they do not do this, I can only see a prolonged and protracted struggle, the end of which none of us can foresee.
§ Major Sir GRANVILLE WHELER
In regard to many of the coalfields, my experience shows that there is a spirit of goodwill existing between the managers and the men. A few years ago in the last coal stoppage a colliery company in my district, without any obligation on the part of the men to repay, but simply on their good faith, lent the men sums running into several thousands of pounds, and I am glad to say that all this was 426 repaid by the men more than a year ago. So I can confirm the statement that there is good feeling between masters and men. I also wish to testify to the fact that the miners are always ready to discuss matters and I cannot understand how in the progress through a mine, as has been described by the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Sir L. Scott) this silence occurred, and what has been said on this point is quite contrary to what prevails in the greater parts of the coalfields.
I would like to say a word or two about the Bill and the interesting speech made by the right hon. Gentleman who moved its rejection. I noticed in that speech that there was a certain element of protection for the coal industry, but I do not think what my hon. Friend said about the general trend of trade prices is quite correct, and the interjection by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead is true as regards trade as a whole. The export trade must be governed by foreign prices, and what was said about getting back our foreign markets is nothing new. That is the system of trading which has to be carried on if you wish to export coal to other countries. I am aware that most of the points I wish to make are Committee points. Part I applies almost entirely to what I would call the mineowners, and the mineral owners are not very closely concerned with that part of the Bill. With reference to Part II of the Bill which deals with working facilities, I think it will be agreed that Part I of the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act, 1923, has worked satisfactorily. I do not say that it has remedied all the difficulties, but I think it has met most of the objections raised as regards barriers and so on, and other points which arise in the coal trade. The Bill I have referred to went through after very careful consideration by all -the parties interested and practically with general consent, and I believe that Measure will achieve, and is achieving all the points we are anxious about for the benefit of the trade as a whole and especially for the protection of the coalfields.
The opening words of Clause 10 are very wide, because it is provided that "Any person who is desirous of searching for or working either by himself or through a lessee any minerals may." It should 427 be realised that very often colliery owners with a view of prolonging the life of a colliery keep certain seams which they do not work at the present time, but which they will work in course of time, and which they are not able to work to-day. I hope that under Clause 10 nothing will be done to affect the soundness or security of any colliery undertaking, because that would be doing harm both to the industry and the locality. I hope full consideration will be given to this Bill in Committee, and that Amendments will be put forward to safeguard the arrangements already come to which have generally been made on a sound commercial basis, and they should not be easily upset by any new proposals brought forward in this Bill.
I would like to come now to Part III which deals with the Welfare Fund. This is a question which of course comes under review again at the end of 1930. I would suggest in common fairness and justice that the additional levy of one shilling should be brought into line with that fund and should come under review after a period of years. Those are the organising methods which we hope will be effective. I ask the Government to consider whether in dealing with the royalties welfare levy they should not provide for it coming under review after a period of five or six years' time just as the present welfare levy comes under review. I am speaking quite frankly as a mineral owner, and as one who has, at any rate, tried to do a certain amount with what he has received from the mines. There is an impression that the mineral owners as a whole—there are about 4,000 of them—have not, with the money they have taken from the mines, done anything towards helping the industry as a whole. Speaking as one who has a sincere interest in the industry, I know many mineral owners who have built large numbers of excellent cottages and houses for miners, and I think that that ought to be recognised. I think it is unfair, when the ownership of mineral rights has been recognised by the Royal Commission as being just as much a legal right as any other, to suggest that nothing is being done by the owners of such rights to help the industry as a whole. A great deal is being done, and many hon. Mem- 428 bers opposite know what has been done by mineral owners and colliery proprietors.
Mineral royalties are really deferred payment for the right of working minerals, in place of payment by a lump sum. The reason why this system has grown up is presumably the high cost of sinking a pit, especially a modern pit. It will be within the knowledge of many Members of the House that often, after the expenditure on sinking the shaft and so on has been incurred, it is two or three years or more before anything is got back, and the capital expenditure which has to he incurred is very large. Therefore, it is simple and easy to realise that a man who happens to be the fortunate possessor of coal has to go to a company, which is able, with its greater command of money, to take over the work of sinking and so on, and it pays the owner in this way as and when the coal is got. That system, when one looks at it fairly, is a quite legal and lawful system, although a great many hard things have been said about it which are not justifiable. In 1910 the Mineral Rights Duty, 1s in the £, was imposed. To-day, and I do not think that anyone should grumble very much at it, owing to the need for making sacrifices, it is proposed to add another 1s. In regard to the question of taxation, I would like to point out that first of all, from each £, 4s. is deducted for Income Tax, leaving 16s., and a further 1s for Mineral Rights Duty brings that down to 15s. This proposal will further bring it down to 14s., and, that being so, it is only fair to realise that, if there is to be any further taxation, as by no possible means can the owner get out of that £ more than 14s., the computation for Super-fax should be on 14s.; otherwise, it is a tax on a tax. I would ask the Government, in considering this question, to realise that that is a severe burden of taxation which is without precedent in this country, bearing in mind that when the Mineral Rights Duty was put on the Income Tax was about 1s. in the £.
I support this Bill because I think it will do something, and, as a neighbour and well-wisher of many a miner, I am as anxious as anyone on the other side of the House that something should be done. In regard, however, to amalgamation, I 429 cannot see how it is possible to add unprofitable concerns to going concerns without bringing down the whole standard and means of livelihood in the industry. Any idea of compulsory amalgamation which will bring into a group of pits one out-of-date pit can only tend to depress the whole standard of the undertaking to which that out-of-date pit is attached, and it will react, not only on the general efficiency of the undertaking, but on the men's wages themselves. Therefore, I consider that any scheme of amalgamation should only be carried out where it can be done effectively in the general interest of the trade as a whole. I hope the Government will consider favourably the various points that I have raised. I hope the Bill will have a smooth passage, and that at any rate some good will come from it to the industry to which I wish welfare from the bottom of my heart.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I had intended to offer a few words of criticism—strong criticism—on this Bill, but I think the speech, and especially the concluding passages of the speech, of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) has created a new situation, with which, I hope, the Government will deal, after some reflection, but before the Debate concludes. It was a very impressive speech, and clearly made a considerable impression on the House. It ended with a suggestion and an offer to the Government that I should like to urge them to accept. With regard to the Bill itself, I will compress my criticisms, without elaborating them on the present occasion. I very much regret that the Government have not accepted the Report of the Royal Commission as a whole, because it is no use dealing with the problem in this partial and truncated form. Here were very definite proposals, which fitted in as a whole. There are two very grave omissions from the Government's Bill, viewing it after a perusal of the Commission's Report. The first is the refusal to purchase mineral royalties, and the second is that there is no power of initiation, either on the part of the Government or on the part of the miners, in regard to amalgamation.
I will only say one or two words with regard to the omission of the purchase of royalties. There are two reasons why I think that proposal is of considerable 430 practical importance. The Prime Minister has dealt with it as if the purchase of royalties were something that could not operate immediately. Anyone who has had dealings with mines as a lawyer knows the difference between being in the possession of ownership of the freehold, with the infinite variety of little controls that you have as a freeholder, and merely having to resort to a Court. If the Government were in the position of owning the whole of the mineral rights, they would be able to exercise an amount of pressure upon refractory colliery proprietors which they cannot exercise by means of any machinery that can possibly be set up, especially if, in addition to that, there are certain powers of varying leases. The Government are taking powers of that kind in certain circumstances, and I think it is right that they should do so. It is quite impossible to effect a business amalgamation unless you have some power of that kind. Therefore, from the practical point of view, if the Government owned the whole of the royalties and the wayleaves and the waterleaves connected with the mines, they would be in a much more powerful position to control amalgamations than is the case when there are hundreds of different owners, one owning one little bit, another owning some particular privilege, another owning something else, and so on.
The second point, which always appealed to me as a reason why the royalties should be purchased, is the psychological point, and it is a not unimportant point. After all, there is the question of good will in the working of the mines, and there is no doubt that for a long time that has been absent in the working of the colliery system in this country, for a variety of reasons. There is nothing that does greater harm, when you are asking miners, in order to meet a trade depression, to reduce their wages by 6s. or 7s. a week, or to increase their hours of labour, than for the fact to be known that a royalty owner in a particular valley may be taking tens and scores of thousands of pounds away from that valley, the amount which he receives not being affected in the least by the price on the market. Wages are affected by the price, but the royalty owner receives exactly the same amount whatever 431 the price may be. In those cases the psychological effect is a bad one, and, therefore, I am perfectly certain that, from the point of view of easing the situation, from the point of view of making an agreement which would be a more or less permanent one, it would be very much better if the Government would take their courage in both hands and deal with the question of royalties. I do not see why they should go back upon it. This proposal was accepted in 1919. The Prime Minister was a member of the Government that made the offer, so was the Secretary of State for War, and I am not sure that the Secretary for Mines was not also a member of the Government. The majority of the leading members of this Government were members of the Government which in 1919 put the purchase of royalties in the forefront of their proposals. They were prepared to accept it then. I regret very much that it was not accepted, and I wish very much that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore had seen fit to make the offer to that Government which he has made to-day. I cannot imagine any Government refusing to accept that offer.
Now I come to the next point, and that is as to the power of initiating amalgamations. As I understand the Government's Bill, it is perfectly futile from that point of view; it is an utterly impracticable proposal. My right hon. Friend exposed it so thoroughly that it is not necessary to add many more words to what he said. First of all, you have to get two colliery proprietors in a given area to agree to an amalgamation. If the two agree to an amalgamation, a certain process has to be gone through, and you can go to various Courts in order to bring pressure to bear upon the rest. In the first place, however, I think I am right in saying—no doubt I shall be corrected if I am wrong—that you have to get the initiation of two colliery companies in agreement—
§ Colonel LANE FOX
No; the initiation can come from any undertaking that wishes for amalgamation.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
But it must come from the owner. I think there ought to be a power of initiation on the part either of the Government or of the 432 miners. The suggestion which we put forward was that the miners' representatives on the Area Committees should have the right to apply to the necessary tribunal to initiate an inquiry into the question of amalgamation. After all, if that power is to be given to the mine-owners, why should it not be given to the miners as well? It is a very vital matter to them. It is something which has involved them in a stoppage of two or three months. It is something which may have the effect ultimately, if they are beaten, of reducing their wages by several shillings a week. They have just as vital an interest in the mattes' as the capitalist who puts his money into the mines, and our view was—I think it was the case in the proposals of 1919, and it certainly was the proposal which we put forward at a later date—that the miners' representatives on the Area Committee should have the right to apply for an investigation into the question of amalgamation, and to put their case. It is their interest just as much as the interest of the colliery proprietor, and I do not see why they should not have the same power of initiation as the coalowners have in a matter which is so closely associated with their livelihood. I certainly think, also, that the Government should have powers of initiation. If they have not, this process will take, not three, but 30 years. You will never get amalgamation, and, until you get amalgamation, this trouble will recur time after time in the coalmines. The Government have an opportunity such as no Government has had before of dealing with the situation as a whole.
My hon. and right hon. Friends, in 1919, felt that they could not accept anything short of complete nationalisation of the mines. I do not say that at the present moment they are prepared to abandon their claim to nationalisation, but they know perfectly well that in the present Parliament it is something which is not practical politics. The present Parliament has been elected on the ground of opposition to any schemes of that kind, and, therefore, as long as the present Parliament is in existence, it is idle to press for nationalisation of the mines as a settlement of a dispute which is going on at this very moment. Therefore, I have no doubt at all that my hon. and right hon. Friends realise that the only thing they 433 can hope to achieve is something within the limits of the mandate of the present Parliament. The Report of the Royal Commission is within that mandate. The Prime Minister himself accepted the recommendations of that Report, provided that both parties were willing to accept them. That means that he was of opinion that he was well within his rights, as a Prime Minister representing a Conservative majority, in dealing with the problem upon the lines of the Samuel Report, and my hon. and right hon. Friends therefore say, very wisely, if I may say so, "We cannot get nationalisation of the mines; that is impossible in the present Parliament, and this Parliament may last another two or three years. Therefore, let us get what is possible in the existing Parliament."
I would ask the Prime Minister whether it would not be desirable that he should go back to the position he took up when, three or four months ago, he wrote that letter saying he was prepared to carry out the recommendations of the Samuel Report if the parties accepted it. I am not quoting his actual words, but in substance that was what I understood he said. That brings me to the suggestion which has fallen from my right hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore. He has made an offer to the Government which I cannot conceive their not accepting. I do not know whether the figures which have been quoted by an hon. Member opposite are even approximately accurate, but the estimate of the loss to the nation in 1921 was, I think, £350,000,000, a figure which I have never heard challenged. That is a very great loss, and, if there is a similar loss at the present time, it will be a very staggering blow to British industry and to the financial resources of the country, coming, as it does, at the end of six years of deep depression. I do not know how long this might last if there is no settlement, but, judging by what happened in 1921, it might last another month. The third month always inflicts much greater loss than the second, and the loss in the second is greater than in the first. If it is anything like the loss suggested by my hon. Friend opposite, it is worth the while of the nation to make an effort to avert it, so long as you can get a 434 settlement which will be accepted by all parties.
It seems to me that that is the door which the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore has really opened to the Government. He has suggested, as I understand, that there should be a Parliamentary roundtable conference to discuss the possibilities of an agreement. Everyone knows that an agreement is only possible within the limits of what the Government can do having regard to their mandate as a Conservative Government, but I think that that would enable them to go very far towards a settlement. To carry a Bill like the present Bill does not help. It does not carry you any further. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend opposite—I am sorry I only heard the first part of his speech—that there is a good deal in the Bill which may be of some use, but it is not good enough; it does not settle anything. I am not sure that it advances the matter very far. It just gives powers which I think are illusory powers, which may come into operation, but which might very well not come into operation. It only enables you to do something which in the main you can do at the present moment. There is just a little extra pressure, but not enough, and, from the point of view of contributing to a settlement of the present dispute, I think it is utterly useless.
I would rather not go into further criticism of the Bill, because I feel that the situation has been completely changed by the concluding appeal of my right hon. Friend's impressive speech. I would ask whether it is not desirable in the national interest, in order to close this chapter, in order to put an end to these constant disputes in the mines which go on periodically—in 1911 we had one, at the end of the war, then in 1921, and here we are back again, and until there is a real settlement you will get a repetition of this sort of thing. Therefore the Prime Minister has a chance, which I am sure some of his predecessors would have been only too delighted to get if there had been an invitation of that kind which had come straight from a representative of labour in this House, to discuss the whole situation with a view to seeing whether you cannot arrive at a settlement which will be acceptable not merely to all parties in the House but 435 to the whole industry and trade of the country.
§ Mr. RHYS
In bringing a few points to Me notice of the House, I do not want it to be assumed that I do not support the Bill. I should like to answer one point the right hon. Gentleman has made. He thought the Government ought to compel amalgamation. It seems to me so long as you are not going to nationalise the mines, but to leave them in private hands, you may have all the amalgamation schemes you want but you cannot force the use of capital into schemes which are not remunerative or beneficial do the mines and the workers in them. The Bill purports to deal with the mining industry, but Part II, as I understand it, applies to every mineral in the country. It applies to the whole of England and not necessarily to the coal mining area, to mines where you are quarrying for stone, where you are digging for sand, and where you are pulling out every kind of mineral. Let me explain how that comes about. It is a Bill to amend the 1923 Act, in which minerals are described as being "all mineral substances in or under the land obtainable by underground or surface working." I think the House ought to be quite clear what it is doing, as hasty legislation of this kind may do more harm than good. It is perhaps a point that ought to be more closely considered in Committee, but we ought not to be told this is a Bill dealing with the coal-mining industry when in fact it affects the whole country. It is true the levy on royalties is to be applied to coal alone. That is very right and proper. I should like to say something in support of what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir G. Wheler) said as regards the taxation of these royalties. This is in effect an additional Is. in the £ Income Tax on royalties derived from coal. Will there be any reference to this in the Finance Bill, because if it goes through it must inevitably affect matters dealing with the Inland Revenue—Income Tax, Super-tax and other duties. If there is to be no reference in the Finance Bill now before the House, it is going to be very difficult in the future to criticise the administration or the collection of these duties if it can only be dealt with on the Board of Trade Vote, 436 which is the Department responsible for administering the Welfare Fund. I think the Chairman of Committees will have some difficulty in deciding which shilling is Mineral Rights Duty and which is the Welfare levy shilling, and it will be very convenient for a hard pressed Minister to say "It is not this shilling but the other shilling."
The matter of compensation was referred to by the Secretary for Mines in introducing the Bill. One company can go to the Railway and Canal Commission and put forward their scheme on the ground that it is in the national interest that they shall be allowed to work this coal. The owner may consider in his own mind, having made other arrange. merits, that the best national interests are not served by the scheme produced by the applying company. He has to go to a great deal of expense to prepare his case against it and put forward his alternative method of working the coal. If the application fails, he has been put to a great deal of expense which he would not otherwise have incurred, owing to the action of the State in passing this Bill. Is he to receive any assistance from the State in defraying those costs? I should like to give one instance of what I mean, not in connection with coal, but with the compulsory acquisition of some land by a local authority in conjunction with the Ministry of Health. The owner prepared his case against it. The very night before the inquiry was to come on the Ministry of Health wrote that they thought on the whole he was right, and they would not proceed with applying the powers to acquire the land. The owner was presented by his legal adviser with a bill for £150. It was not in any way his own fault that he had to incur it. It was due to the action of the State, in conjunction with the local authorities, in telling him to prepare his case against their desire to acquire the land. These are smaller points, not so much in connection with the solution of the whole coal industry, but they are contained in the Bill. I hope the House will forgive me for having brought before it some of the points which must arise if it becomes law and which it is far better we should examine closely before we pass the Bill and then have to pass amending legislation. I only hope the Bill will have the desired effect of helping a solution of the present stoppage, and for that reason 437 I support the Second Reading, which I admit it is very necessary to give quickly in order that something may be done. I also think the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) is one that the Government should in some way respond to. It was a most moving appeal, and if only all the leaders of the miners had acted in that spirit, we should be very much nearer a solution than we are to-day.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I want to say nothing to-night which will not be of a most helpful character with regard to the difficulties we are all faced with. I recognise the value of the Bill so far as it goes. I will deal with the question of the facilities for getting coal before I touch upon the main question. I do not think the Bill yet makes all the provisions that are required with regard to to facilities for getting the coal under certain circumstances. Let me give one illustration. Let me suppose that there are A and B, two undertakings contiguous to each other. A sinks a shaft, but B has a long narrow stretch of coal running between the coal that has been purchased by A. When A gets up to that barrier, he may, under certain circumstances, acquire a right of road through it or he may not, but the likelihood is that he has to cut all round it, leave the barrier in, and go to the other side, this causing considerable expense and waste of coal. As far as I can see, this Bill, when it is amended, will not meet a. case of that kind, because the owner of B will be in.a position to get the coal 'himself equally well with A, but the expense and trouble will not be the expense and trouble of B but the expense and trouble of A.
§ The SOLICITOR - GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
§ Mr. SPENCER
I notice that it is to be considered, not in the interests of the owner, nor in the interests of economy, but in the national interest, and B may very well say, "The interests of the nation are not at stake. The coal will be got. It will be got by me, but it will cause a considerable amount of trouble and inconvenience to A, who has to cut round the coal." I think that is a point of some substance which ought to have the attention of those who are advising the Government.
438 I should like to draw attention to some remarks delivered by the Prime Minister to a joint deputation of the coalowners and the miners with regard to the Report. The Prime Minister said:The Government has considered with great care the Report and conclusions of the Royal Commission. The conclusions reached by the Commission do not in all respects accord with the views held by the Government, and some of the recommendations contain proposals to which, taken by themselves, the Government are known to be opposed. Nevertheless, in face of the unanimous Report of the Commission, and for the sake of a general settlement, the Government for their part will be prepared to undertake such measures as may be required of the State to give the recommendations effect, provided those engaged in this industry, with whom the decision primarily rests, agree to accept the Report and carry on the industry on the basis of its recommendations.I should like to ask those in charge of the Bill, is that still the position of the Government? I heard cheers a minute ago from those who occupy the Front Bench. Do they cheer now? We certainly ought to know to-night exactly what the position of the Government is with regard to the whole of the recommendations because there is not anyone who has spoken to-night, even on the Government side, who is fully prepared to accept the Bill as it is. The hon. and learned Gentle-man the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Sir L. Scott), who spoke with very great authority upon some aspects of the Bill, criticised my right hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore because he gave the Bill what he described as a chilling recognition. But the hon. and learned Gentleman's chief contribution was an admission that the Bill would be strengthened by one or two very substantial additions. The substantial additions in my opinion are extremely important in view of the declarations which have been made from time to time by the Prime Minister.
The first proposed addition was compulsory power with regard to re-organisation, and it is quite evident to anyone who is acquainted with the industry that it is most essential, if the industry is going to be made efficient, that someone should have a definite power to force amalgamation where amalgamations are desirable. Let us take for the sake of illustration a group of collieries which 439 are comparatively old. They may be working at different points in the area. It would probably pay five or six companies to unite and sink a new shaft and get the remaining coal they are all working to, and they would get it cheaper and get it better than the six companies can get it at present. It will pay none of them to sink a shaft because the area of coal which has to be got is insufficient, and would not pay for the new capital that had to be put down to get the area of coal that exists for any one of them. But there is a sufficient area of coal to justify them in putting down a new shaft if they were amalgamated and their interests were united. Moreover the old shafts need not be wasted. They could go deeper, and seams which may be commercially valuable and an economically sound proposition might be tapped and worked by the amalgamation which would then take place. Moreover, it is a well-known fact that so far as power and these things are concerned, a far greater saving than has been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) would take place under amalgamations of this kind. One is very guarded in making any suggestions with regard to engineering, but I would say, in the presence of one or two who are here to-night, that as a practical miner I am quite certain that by the installation of conveyers alone, not pence but shillings could be saved in getting the coal out of the pits. What have you in those seams to-day? You can see men in two foot ten and two foot six seams with little tubs, running them about bringing them to the gatehead, tipping them up, and other men filling larger tubs from them. Every engineer knows that if we were to apply a proper method we could get that coal out far cheaper than we are doing now. Why are not these methods adopted? Not always because there is a lack of initiative, not because of inefficient management, but because in many instances they have not the capital to do it, and if you had got organisation, where a colliery company to-day has exhausted its credit and is practically in the pawnshop it would be possible to extend your credit and get as much money as would be required to make these improvements.
440 Re-organisation will have its limitations so far as the industrial side is concerned. The right hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) has pointed out in which way certain improvements can take place, and he has pointed out the great difference that exists between one set of collieries and another with regard to their methods of carrying on the industry. But when all is said and done I admit that there are limitations. My own county and its immediate neighbour are undoubtedly amongst the highly organised and efficient mining areas. Many of them are comparatively new mines, and little that we could do would improve them. They are amongst those who are paying the highest returns. There is no district getting coal cheaper than we are getting it. Whereas in Bristol it is costing 23s. a ton to get the coal, it is costing us 15s. 10d. in the Eastern area, and my county, having great advantages, may be getting it at even a less price than that. Therefore, in so far as the industrial side is concerned, we can push that point too far. There will be limitations as far as savings are concerned, but I think I should be justified in saying that if this question is grappled with, great savings can' be effected on the industrial side. I have never sought to confine my ideas to the industrial side of re-organisation. I am looking away from the pit to get the greatest possible advantage as far as re-organisation is concerned. There are other ways in which we might re-organise the industry. There is not the least doubt that there are great financial possibilities to the industry if we only tackle the question which the right hon. Member for Carmarthen (Sir Alfred Mond) has been trying to put before the House with regard to selling agencies. My suggestion in regard to that is that, as far as the retail trade is concerned, there are great possibilities on lines of scientific re-organisation. Take London as an example. Why should there be five, 10 or, perhaps, 20 different retail merchants running into one street? What need is there for it? Suppose we carried on the postal service on the same lines that the coal trade is carried on, and that it was carried on under private enterprise, and everybody who liked could carry letters. Does anyone think that we could have letters carried as cheaply as to-day?
§ Mr. MACQU1STEN
§ Mr. SPENCER
Or as efficiently as they are carried at the present time?
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
§ Mr. SPENCER
Every person who is not biassed with his own narrow predilections, knows perfectly well that that is nothing of the kind. There is no reason why the present state of affairs should continue in the coal trade. I will give figures relating to the coal trade which will disprove what the hon. Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) has said. There is no reason why we should have distributors of coal, as at the present time, making a fat living out of about 20 tons of coal a week. I am certain that if we proceeded to eliminate, as far as possible, a great number of retail distributors, and confined the sale to those offices which have proved efficient, with a fixed amount for distributing the coal, and we gave the British public a knowledge of what their coal is costing, we should find that there would be a reduction almost immediately among the consumers of from 2s. 6d. to 5s. a ton.
§ Mr. LUKE THOMPSON
I challenge the hon. Member on that point.
§ Mr. SPENCER
That is a challenge upon which I will give the hon. Member some information. If he will go into the mining districts he will find—I can prove it—that the miner gets his coal brought by a carrier and sometimes by the colliery company. There is a fixed price for the coal, and the man who brings the coal cannot say, "My charge is so much, and the coal is so much," and lump them both together and deceive the miner. He can only put so much upon the price of the coal for "leading," and the miner knows what the cost of that will be. The hon. Member could come into my district, and if he were a miner he would get a ton of coal "led" from the pit within a radius of two miles for 2s. 9d. a ton. But if he lived in a private house and he asked the merchant to bring him a ton of coal out of the same pit—[An HON. MEMBER: "Or by a co-operative society!"]—I will deal with the question of co-operative societies later—he will find that in some instances—[Interruption.] I will give one particular instance, where the charge was]7s. 3d. a ton for the cartage alone.
§ Mr. THOMPSON
§ Mr. SPENCER
The hon. Member says "Nonsense."
§ Mr. THOMPSON
§ Mr. SPENCER
I will give to the hon. Member privately the name of a clerk of a great local authority who was dubious about the price of his coal. He got to know where it came from and the price at the pit, and he went to the dealer and asked him if he would give him a reduction. The dealer said, "No." "Then," said the man, "This is the last you will bring to me." The charge was 17s. 3d. a ton. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I will give the name privately; I have not the sanction of the man to make it public, but I can give the name privately, and I will give it to the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. L. Thompson). Along these lines we can effect a saving if we properly organise distribution.
§ Mr. THOMPSON
Does the hon. Member propose making the sale to the consumer a sale at the pithead price?
§ Mr. SPENCER
I am going to point out how we can divide the sale. I will not insult the Opposition by suggesting that they desire that any saving that can be effected should go only in one direction. I want it to go in three directions, part to the consumer, part to the workman, and part to those who put their capital into the industry. That is a. fair distribution. If we were to organise sales, keeping within the industry those retail dealers who have been doing something like a reasonable trade, and we fixed the price for the cartage, we could effect a very great saving.
§ Mr. WRAGG
Will the hon. Member have regard to the fact that household coal which is sold throughout the country does not exceed 15 per cent. of the total amount brought out of the pit?
§ Mr. SPENCER
The hon. Member must know that there are periods of the year when it exceeds 25 per cent.
§ Mr. SPENCER
There are periods of the year when it is nearer 30 per cent., and that is the time when the saving could be effected. In regard to Co-opera- 443 tive Societies, in this return it is stated that they get their coal at 2s. a ton cheaper than the merchant at the pithead. Hon. Members opposite may believe that, but I do not believe it for a moment. It is the Co-operative Societies who have to give the greatest price, and it is the Co-operative Societies who are getting the worst coal. How are the merchants making their money? They know that they can get 3 per cent. of the very best coal, with about 30 per cent. of seconds. They are getting coal £1 at a ton, mixing it with a little bit of coal at 30s. and 35s. a ton, and selling the coal to the people of London as the best coal at 35s. a ton, plus cartage.
§ Mr. THOMPSON
These statements by the hon. Member are so extravagant that one cannot but interrupt.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I am not responsible for certain statements which have been made. I would refer the hon. Member to the "Nottinghamshire Guardian," and he will see that a man named Vardy, who is the leading salesman of the Stanton Iron Company, stated in the Press that there is not more than 1 to 2 per cent. of best coal. I am not making false statements. The point I wish to make is that as far as the coal trade is concerned, and as far as reorganisation is concerned, we can effect economies if we organise properly the retail side of the distribution of coal. If hon. Members opopsite do not wish to do that; if they want the consumers to be fleeced as they are being at the present time, and if they want the coal trade to be carried on under difficulties, let them oppose every form of reorganisation.
Every man in Great Britain knows that two sets of people are suffering in all our industries, and they are the primary manufacturers and the work-people. It is the middlemen in all trades who are getting the fat out of industry, and the sooner all concerned in industry realise that fact the better it will be for all of us. Instead of having, as we have in the coal trade, this anger and bitterness and suspicion between master and man, instead of tearing at each other's 444 heads, and standing at street corners and using extreme and violent language about each other, the sooner we get together and talk about our own industry the better. One of the ways to do that is to seek reorganisation in the retail trade. In regard to the merchant, I say that he should do some service. In so far as he is doing valuable service, I do not want to deprive him of the remuneration that he can get for it. I have never been able to see why some great merchant should step in between a gas company and a colliery company and take 3d. or 6d. a ton for little or no service. We can do without him. He might he useful as a merchant between the company and the small retailer, but if we had proper organisation in regard to retail distribution, his services would become less and less. If we got together with a real disposition and desire to do it, I am certain we could do it. Why do we not do it?
I never make statements unless I can find some foundation for them. I have tried to reason with the people I have met and to play my part in this crisis, honestly, but we are a little suspicious, and we have grounds in the Report for our suspicion, that there are those who form themselves into subsidiary companies, who sell from themselves to themselves and make a second profit out of it, and they make a loss of a is on the one hand, and gain 2s. for the subsidiary company, so that they are better off. That is not playing the game. That is not being fair. Nobody who wants to be straightforward and honest and who desires to cultivate good feeling between man and master could stand up and defend a system of that sort. Therefore, where that state of thing exists it ought to come to an end, and we ought to do all that lies in our power to bring it to an end. As far as reorganisation is concerned, if the merchant and the subsidiary companies are going to do any service at all, their remuneration should be something like commensurate with the service they perform; it should not be a cooked price, and it should not be taken out of the ascertainment so that the men can have no share in it.
Let me come to one other point. I am certain of this, that with regard to transport we could effect very great 445 savings if we got a pooling of wagons. It has been recommended here, as well as a 20-ton truck. It is estimated to-day by those who can speak with some authority that the capital which has been put down for the trucks connected with the coal trade is about £70,000,000. It wants about £3,500,000 to pay reasonable interest on the capital which has been invested. The service which is being performed by one of these trucks to-day is not more than about 15 per cent., at the outside. It comes to London, and is, perhaps, sent back again to the colliery in the North, running a maximum of time, and, perhaps, in some instances short mileage, whereas if we had a grouping in one great pool for the ownership of all these trucks, or if the railway companies themselves would take them over, then by that method alone it has been estimated that we could save as much as 1s. 6d. on every ton of coal transported.
Why do we not do these things? It is simply because, while we may be on this side, and probably are, obstinate un-thoughtful, extreme and selfish in many respects, it is true to say that amongst the colliery owners there are those who are equally obstinate and equally self-willed, and who are seeking their own ends, and have no regard for their neighbours, and if they thought that the pooling of wagons was going to give their neighbour a greater interest than it gave themselves, no matter what the national interest was, they would rather keep the wagons as they are than let them come into a pool to benefit the nation and the community. These things ought not to stand in the way of that standard of reorganisation which is essential to make the industry what it ought to be, and I ask the House to-night, in considering these things, to turn its attention to those things which are most essential, and amongst them those which I have mentioned are perhaps the most important.
If I may detain the House for another five minutes, let me mention the things which are not in the Bill. I would like to call the attention of the House to the proposals by the Government for a settlement of the mining industry on the lines of the Commission's Report. Let me mention one or two things which are not found in this Bill, and which are all the more important because I admit 446 right away—as everybody must admit—that as far as this Bill is concerned, there is to be no immediate relief to the industry. Undoubtedly, as time proceeds, and amalgamations take place, we might get some advantage and relief, but there is no immediate relief provided in this Bill. What we want is something which will give us immediate relief, and I must say that this Bill does not give it. The Prime Minister, in making his proposals—and these, after all, are the important aspects of the question—said that he proposed to set up a national fuel and power council which would contain representatives of labour; and to set up wagon committees. I have been dealing with the question of wagons, and I want to impress on the Prime Minister that this is urgent and important and may bring immediate relief, but this Bill will not bring that immediate relief, and what is w2nted to-day is not relief, which is remote and in the distance, but relief which will be immediate, and on which we can count to contribute to a solution of the problem with which we are faced.
Then he proposed to appoint a Committee to investigate the question of selling syndicates. Here, again, I would point out how important these things are, and how important it is that we should get something which will give immediate relief. It is not I who say it; the Commission say it, and, therefore, I want to impress these points on the Prime Minister. He was further to appoint a Committee to examine profit-sharing proposals and family allowances. These things which have been omitted from the Bill are undoubtedly the most important, and it is because of these omissions that you have got suspicions in the mining community outside. What are they saying? "The Government are not going to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission. If we accept these things which they are offering now, they are going to be of no purpose. What we do want is something substantial." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) has made his contribution to the Debate, and if it were left to me to make my contribution, I should have no hesitation, and never had from the first, in saying that if we could have reorganisation, with all that is implied in it—not something that is a sham or pretence, and that is not going to be carried into 447 effect, but the real thing, with selling agencies, eliminating all wasteful expenditure, getting the coal as cheaply as we possibly can to the consumer, getting the highest possible price for it, getting the coal wagons into a pool and running them as cheaply as possible, and distributing the savings to the industry and the people engaged in it and to the consumer—if we could get these things, I have said to my people, and I say it now, that I would sooner have a temporary reduction with the assistance which the Government would give, with a, real reorganisation, and with something which is going to put the industry on its feet, and something which gives me something to which to look forward, and which will eliminate, these stoppages, strikes and suspicions—I would sooner have that, if you would drop your eight-hours' Bill now, and tell us you would do these things and say to us, "Will you accept the effect upon wages, and we will give the £3,000,000 and we will do the thing properly." Then, I think you would get a response from the miners, who would tell you that they were prepared to work to-morrow, if we could have these things, not in sham, but in reality.
§ Mr. ROBERT HUDSON
I have listened very carefully to the speeches this afternoon attacking this Bill, and it seemed to me that the hon. Members who have attacked it have really contradicted both themselves and each other. When they have been talking about the things that are not in the Bill and are in the Report, their cry has been, "The Report, the whole Report and nothing but the Report." When they come to criticis[...] the actual provisions of the Bill, they have proceeded to attack it on the ground that it does not contain this, that or the other provision, but, after carefully reading the Report, I, personally, cannot find any of those provisions in the recommendations in it. They have been going very much further in nearly every case than anything you can find brought forward in the Report itself. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) said he was sorry that no one had attempted to challenge the speech which he made on the last occasion when this subject wa[...] under discussion. I am sorry he is not in his place now, because, new and inexperienced as I 448 am, I would like to attempt to answer some of the points he made He was invited by the Secretary for Mines to explain what he meant by unification. I listened very carefully to his speech, and I failed at the end of it to understand what he meant by unification, any more than I did at the beginning of his speech. The only points in his speech which seemed to me to have any bearing on unification were, first of all, when he stated to the House that 48 per cent. of the mines at present were working at a profit, and 52 per cent. at a loss. He described this 48 per cent. of mines as being new and well-equipped mines, and efficiently run, and he talked about the amount of machinery that had been installed in them, and the increase in coal cutters, and conveyers, and he certainly left the House under the impression that the reason why these mines were included in this 48 per cent. was the fact that they were new and efficiently run.
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman wished in any way to mislead the House, but I think, undoubtedly, his words did mislead the House, and left it under a wrong impression, because he failed entirely to mention the fact that the great majority of mines in that 48 per cent. were mines whose products were sold on the inland market, and not mines whose products were sold for export, and which are exposed to the cold winds of foreign competition. Furthermore, if he had taken the trouble to read the whole of the figures on that page in the Appendix to the Report which he mentioned in his speech, and from which he got the figures of 48 per cent. and 52 per cent., he would have told the House that, taking the districts which were mentioned in the Report, one found that in Scotland, for example, the percentage of the tonnage raised at a profit was only 20 per cent., and that 80 per cent. was raised at a loss. If he had turned back to a few pages before, and looked at the figures of the amount of coal cut by machinery in the kingdom, he would have found that in Scotland there was 47 per cent. of the total amount actually cut by machinery, or a very much higher percentage than anywhere in the kingdom, and yet it only had 20 per cent. of the tonnage raised at a profit. These are points which cast some doubt on the argument that the reason why these mines were run at a 449 profit was merely because of their being more efficiently run and more up to date. Further, if the right hon. Gentleman goes on to the next two districts mentioned, Northumberland and Durham, particularly the districts affected by foreign competition, he will find only 16 per cent. in the one case and 36 per cent. in the other had tonnage produced at a profit, while in South Wales it was still further reduced to 32 per cent. I think that sufficiently disposes of the idea of the right hon. Gentleman that merely by bringing your mines up to the same level you would naturally make them all run at a. profit.
The right hon. Gentleman, in dealing with the question of the figure at which coal is sold, asked whether anyone supposed that the coal which was at present being sold at a profit was to be brought down in price to the level of the coal being sold by mines which were not working at a profit, and he said no one in their senses could suggest it. He entirely failed, however, to put another question, which is surely implied in the complete unification of the coal-mining industry, and which we are entitled to put to him. Does he propose that the price of coal at present produced at a loss shall be raised to such a point as to enable these mines to produce at a profit, because if he intends to raise—
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but if he will be fair to my colleague who is now absent, he will remember that in that very sentence he quoted a case, where he did not want to raise the price of coal, but lie wanted the mines to be efficient, as in the case of the Powell-Duffryn, where they reduced the cost of production by some 5s. a ton.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I am afraid the hon. Member did not follow what I was trying to explain. It was to show that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore, that the only reason for mines not producing at a profit was because they were not efficiently run, was a false one, and I said that he did not put the question which we are entitled to put to him when talking about unification, namely, does he suggest by unification we could raise the coal, at present produced at a loss, to such a price as would enable production at a 450 profit? That is a perfectly legitimate question.
Lieut. - Colonel WATTS - MORGAN
That is the very point he made. You are missing the point altogether.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I still think the hon. and gallant Member has not seized my point. I think it is perfectly fair to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore whether, under the proposals for unification which he did not elaborate, he proposes to raise the price of coal to enable uneconomic pits to pay?
§ Mr. HUDSON
I am perfectly aware that he said nothing of the kind, and I am complaining that he did not put that question and give us the answer. I am complaining that he did not indicate what unification meant, in his view. That is the whole point of my argument. If, in fact, his proposal does involve the raising of the price of the 58 per cent. of the coal which is now produced at a loss, then it will have a most disastrous effect on the rest of the country, and in no place more than the constituency I represent and the constituency of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Ca[...]e). If the price of coal were substantially raised, it would result in still further difficulties for the steel and iron industries in these, places, and that is no sort of solution for the problem. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech suggested a conference, and urged that it should not be treated on party lines. I am the last person to treat this question on party lines, representing as I do a district where the men are actually starving.
The sooner we can get any kind of conference that will have a result, the better it will please the great majority of hon. Members on this side of the House, but I entirely fail to see the logic of the argument when with one breath the right hon. Gentleman says that he has perfect confidence in his leaders, and in the next breath proceeds to ask that this House should take the matter in hand. I am all in favour of this House taking the matter in hand if there is any possibility that the right hon. Gentleman can implement his promise. If he can, I am certain 451 there is no one who will welcome his intervention and help more than the Prime Minister, and instead of casting accusations against us on this side of the House I think it would be much better if hon. Members opposite refrained from making party speeches, and endeavoured to persuade the miners that the time has really come when some serious attempt should be made to enter into negotiations, as a result of which the additional legislation which is necessary may be usefully introduced into this House.
§ Mr. DUNCAN GRAHAM
I want to be perfectly plain with the House. I think the miners are justified in refusing to accept either the proposals submitted by the coalowners, or the sham and pretence of a settlement which we are discussing to-night. This precious Commission, which was set up in order to find a means by which a settlement could be arrived at which would be satisfactory to the country as a whole, was appointed by the Government of the country—not by this House—by a Tory Government, and it was composed of four men who were members of the Tory party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not one!"] I know the Liberal party claim three of them, but all these four members were believers in the policy of private enterprise, and on that question there is no division between the Liberal party and the Tory party. It is certainly true to say that there was no representative of the miners or the Labour party on that Commission, and when the Government were setting up a Commission which they desired should find some means whereby it is possible to reorganise this industry on lines which are mutually satisfactory, it is not unreasonable to ask, and for the Labour party to claim, that we should have had representation on that Commission. We had not; and whether the members on that Commission were Liberal or Tory, at least they were all believers in everything for which the coalowners stand.
Therefore, as far as I am concerned, I am not accepting the Report of that Commission as being something which is going to end all trouble in the mining industry. Surely the Government which set up the Commission should accept their Report. They have not. They pledged themselves to accept the Report, but they have not done so, and we are 452 discussing to-night something which is not intended to reorganise the industry, but something which has a political motive, which is intended to impress the public outside with the belief that the Government want to do something to end the dispute between the coalowners and the miners. You are going to fail. You tried this game in 1921, and you failed. Evidently there is no intention on the part of the r1overnment or its supporters to depart in any way from the principle which actuated the Stuarts and Bourbons, namely, to learn nothing and forget nothing. In 1919, you appointed the Sankey Commission, and the Government pledged itself to accept its Report. They did not. The stoppage, or lock-out, of three months in 1921, was the result of the betrayal of the leaders by the Government of that day. From 1921 up to now you have had any amount of time and opportunity to reorganise the i[...]dustry on lines which might have been more mutually satisfactory than the proposals contained in this Bill.
From 1921 until 1925 there has been no peace in the mining industry, and everyone in this House knew that there never would be peace, and never can be peace, so long as the industry is in the hands of the present individuals, who represent nobody. The coalowners are as unnecessary for the working of the industry as the royalty owners. Both of them are parasites on the industry. The only person who is entitled to be looked upon as the controlling agent in a colliery is the manager, and by Act of Parliament he is held responsible for the management and control of the mines. I do not want the House to misunderstand where I stand, and where, I believe, the vast majority of the miners of this country stand. There can be no settlement of this question along the lines of continuing the industry as at present. I know the ablest of the Scottish coalowners, the man who is largely responsible for the situation in which we find ourselves to-day. I refer to Sir Adam Nimmo, who is chairman of the Fife Coal Company. He is a Tory in politics, and a believer in private enterprise. He is chairman of the Fife Coal Company and manager of James Nimmo, and a director of three or four other companies.
I want to put it to the advocates of private enterprise, whether they think 453 Sir Adam Nimmo is such a fool as acting chairman of the Fife Coal Company to compete with Sir Adam Nimmo, the managing director of James Nimmo and Company? If they think he is such a fool, I do not; and I know Sir Adam Nimmo. There is no such a thing as competition in the mining industry as generally understood, and the vast majority who are in control of the industry are not private employers. I can remember a time when you could see the roan who owned the colliery. You could see him every day, if you failed to get satisfaction with the manager. You cannot do that to-day. The people who have control of the mining industry are people who are not acquainted with it. There is John Brown, the great engineering and shipbuilding firm, one of the largest colliery owners in Great Britain. Harland and Wolff again; they know the way to get cheap coal—not to work coal for the benefit of the nation at large, but for the purpose that if they fail to get profits on the coal they can get their profits on iron and steel.
§ Sir WILFRID SUGDEN
Put in ships to bring food to this country.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
I suppose the hon. Member means cheap food. One of the arguments used in the Report, and used frequently by hon. Members opposite, is that a large number of the mining districts are uneconomic. This Bill will not change the position of Cumberland or North Wales. It will not make North Wales or Cumberland, or South Wales, economic districts, and if they are uneconomic districts they have to go out of production entirely. I do not see that there will he as many ships as before. If the theories advocated by the supporters of the Government are carried to their logical conclusion, then it means that nearly one-half of the miners will be unemployed. They are working in uneconomic districts, and these districts will have to close down; and if only half of the men are to be employed I do not think we need trouble about the price of coal from Germany. And the price of your food will rise materially as a consequence of the continuance of the policy which is evidently in the mind of the Government.
454 I want to draw attention to the one fact which is of any consequence, and that is that the Prime Minister, in producing this legislation, is acting simply as the tool of the coalowners and of the capitalist section of the country, and is acting in flat contradiction of the recommendations of the Commissioners whom he himself set up. Either he meant that the Commission should make recommendations acceptable to the Government or he did not. As a matter of fact it is credibly stated in one of the principal newspapers of the country that the Chairman of the Commission changed his Report at the instigation of the Prime Minister. If that statement is not true, the Prime Minister must complain to the Editor of the "Sunday Times." The owner of the "Sunday Times" is one of the biggest coalowners in the country. He made the statement, through his political correspondent, that the original decision of the Commission was to recommend a continuance of the subsidy, and that the Commission's recommendation was changed so that the Prime Minister should have an opportunity, should have something to bargain with in negotiations with the miners. Therefore, all the talk about withdrawing the lock-out notices and that sort of thing, before the general strike, was mere tommy-rot. It was well known that it was arranged, and I make the accusation that there are Members on the other side of the House who know perfectly well that the whole thing was man[...]uvred for the purpose, first, of reducing the wages and conditions of the miners, and afterwards those of the general body of working men in this country.
I warn hon. Members opposite that they are in for a bigger fight than any they have imagined. I remember well how in 1921 hon. Members got the railwaymen and transport workers into the position that they were prevented from taking common action with the miners, and how great play was made with the assertion that we were destroying the men's case because we had refused to allow the safety workers to continue. There are safety workers continuing at work to-day, and they are breaking the law. There are many safety men in my own county of Lanarkshire who are being compelled to work eight hours a day. There is no warrant, no authority, for that being done, and it is a breach of the law. 455 Hon. Members opposite speak with horror of a breach of the Constitution, but whenever it suits their purpose they break the law. They ask us to keep the law, but they themselves will not do so. They ask us to accept the decisions of Royal Commissions, but they will not accept those decisions themselves. They establish the Commission, and appoint their own men, on the plea, I suppose, that they are much more honest than we are. They mean that they go oftener to the Kirk than we do, but everybody who goes to the Kirk is not necessarily a Christian. I know a few. Sometimes I have been accused of being an Athiest. I am not. I thank God for the Calvinistic religion, which believes in a hell as well as a heaven. Thank God for it In any case I am still keeping true to the old Presbyterian Calvinistic form of religion that believes in a hereafter of that kind.
I am sorry that I have got off the line to some extent. As I took some part in this House, in the 1921 dispute, I want to remind hon. Members that at that time we had done what they asked. We sent back the safety men. The transport workers and the railwaymen were separated from the miners, and it was generally believed that when the railwaymen and the transport workers were separated from the miners the stoppage would not be of long duration. But it lasted for three months. The present stoppage may well last that length of time yet. I am a miner, a native of this country, with no foreign blood in my veins. In that respect I do not know either Germans or Russians. I was born the son of a miner, and since 1878 I have seen every strike and lock-out that has taken place in Scotland. I do not remember a time when the miners were said to be right. For anything that we have got we have had to fight. It-has meant sacrifice, not merely for the men, but for the women and children. The women are in this thing more than the men. There is no regard whatever being paid to them. Hon. Members seem to think that it is quite a fair and right thing for a miner's wife to be called upon to be up from five o'clock in the morning till twelve and one o'clock the following morning, so that coal can be produced cheaply and a lot of useless parasites live in luxury in consequence. It used to be said at one time 456 that the miners were uneducated. Miners to-day are not uneducated. They do not know everything, but they know a lot. They know that they have been betrayed and deceived, time and time again, by all Governments that have been in power. They are not to be deceived on this occasion.
There is no use anyone here imagining that the miner can be persuaded to go back to work because of this or any other Bill, unless it contains within it something that will give them a square deal. Such a thing is not in this Bill, and it is not intended to be in it. Hon. Members are expecting that by persecuting methods they will compel the miners to go back. They may do so in the long run. But that will not bring peace to the industry. I have again and again drawn attention to the fact that it is peace that is wanted, in the mining industry and in every other industry. But it must be peace with honour, a peace that will give something to us who are natives of this country as much as those who, at present occupy somewhat better social positions—not because of any greater ability or because they have better morals, because they have not—
The hon. Member is now getting rather far away from the subject before the House.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
That is because nobody knows what the provisions of the Bill are. I do not think that the Minister who introduced the Bill is mentioned in it at all. It is the President of the Board of Trade, the Railway and Canal Commission, the Commissioners of Inland Revenue—everybody except the Department that has a right to deal with the industry. I submit that I am entitled to put my point of view. I am not here to try to make anyone believe that I shall advise the miners to accept any terms that may be included in this Bill. I have some influence with the miners. I may not have much influence in this House, but the miners will take my word before they will take the word of a very large proportion of the Members opposite. If there is anyone here willing to stand up and defend the Government in face of the miners, I and my friends are willing to arrange meetings for the purpose. If hon. Members think it is an easy matter to advise the men to resume work, they are mistaken. I am one of the leaders, and I am not prepared to advise the men 457 that they are other than deceived by this Bill. When we do go back to work, if we are compelled, there are other ways. I would be prepared to advise the men, in Scotland at least, to compel a rise in the price of coal, to restrict their output, and to compel the public to pay a price that will enable a reasonable wage to be paid to the miners.
We have asked you to work along with us. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) took a great responsibility upon him himself to-day, and I honour him for it. He made a suggestion to the Government that there might be a round-table conference. He did not mean that that conference was to he a conference before the holding of which the miners were to agree to a reduction of wages or a change in the working conditions. He meant that the time had come when there ought to be some real attempt made to find out how the industry can be organised in a way that will redound to the credit of this House and to the welfare of the whole country. We are all in agreement with my right hon. Friend. Hon. Members opposite may complain as much as they like about the miners' leaders, about Cook, or Smith, or whoever they choose, but it does not alter the fact one bit. When we go back, unless we have some evidence that there is a willingness to play straight, we go back, as on many occasions before, with our minds made up that on the first opportunity that presents itself we will strike again. We have no alternative. Hon. Members are seeking to make the mining population of this country the Ishmaelites of our civilisation. If every man's hand is against us, there can be no harm in our hands being against every man's. But that is the straight road to national destruction. I am proud of the fact that I am a member of the British race, prouder of that than of anything else. I want to see this country grow, to see it rise until it occupies the first position in the whole of civilisation. That end may be reached if, instead of men trying to find out what is meant by unification, if instead of trying to find fault here and there with the suggestions made from this side, there was a real attempt made by representative Members of this House to find out ways and means 458 by which this industry could he reorganised.
I say frankly that there are not 20 per cent. of the pits which are uneconomic, and there is no need for collieries to go out of production. We know what can be done, and the men working at the coal face know what can be done. One of the reasons why we are apparently so obstinate and so determined is that we know that the industry can be organised in a way that will reflect the greatest credit on the country and bring wealth to a greater extent than ever before. I speak quite plainly, and I put it to the Government that there is no purpose served by their attempting to deceive themselves that there will be an end of this difficulty by pursuing the line that they are now taking. They are on the wrong road. The miners are not an unreasonable people and they are not an ungenerous people. We are quite willing to play a straight, fair and an honest game. We want our country to be in a very much better position than it now occupies, but we know it cannot be placed in that better position unless a better system than the present one is adopted in connection with the mines. I appeal to the Prime Minister and the Government to withdraw this legislation, and to meet the miners on more equal terms, and not with their minds made up that the men must accept either reduced wages or longer hours. I appeal to them to try to find whether it is not possible to organise the industry along entirely different lines, with much better economic results than those obtainable to-day.
Lard H. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
I shall not try to imitate the combative and bellicose spirit of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, but, as I represent a constituency entirely of an industrial character, and as a large number of my constituents are miners, I venture in their interest, since they are suffering greatly from the prolongation of this dispute, to make an earnest appeal to the House for a better atmosphere. I ask the Government, the miners, and the mineowners to see if they cannot wipe the slate clean of all their declarations of intention and policy, and return to fresh negotiations on the basis of a frank and prompt adherence to the recommendations of the Samuel Report. I 459 am glad the Government are taking a step in the right direction, but I must confess that by no terms of flattery can this step in the right direction be described as a solution of the difficulty. The step has been so halting and so tentative that it will please nobody and will effect very little. It does not give any settlement of our present difficulties, nor can it give any hope of the future.
What is the problem before us, if we wish to get peace in the coal industry? In the last resort, the problem is to get the co-operation of the miners. How are we to get it? The only way is to assure them that we mean business when we talk of reorganisation, and to assure them of a square deal. The only way to get them to make sacrifices is to bring them into a conference for the purpose of really putting the coal industry on its legs again, effecting a reorganisation, improving equipment and bringing about the maximum amount of efficiency. There are many complaints made up and down the country of the obdurate nature of the miners' resistance. I do not wish to suggest that these complaints are not in some degree justified, but I think we must try to understand the point of view of the miners a little better than we do now. The miners are fighting for the efficiency of the industry. They are fighting to have the industry made efficient by reorganisation in the production of coal, elimination of waste in the selling of coal, and the application of the maximum amount of science to the utilisation of the coal when it has been produced. We may belittle the recommendations of the Samuel Commission as much as we like-, but the miners know that if the industry were organised properly, and if the other recommendations of the Commission were carried out, there would be ample money to pay them adequate wages. We may say what we like about the miners' attitude, but they are fighting, not only for their own standard of life, but for the recommendations of the Commission, which were made in the national interest, and in the interest of the coal industry. If we do not satisfy the miners on these heads, we cannot be surprised to find that they are now of the same opinion as they have always been, namely, that we are 460 attempting to place upon their shoulders the chief burden of the present condition of the mines.
Ever since last Tuesday, when the Prime Minister declared for the prolongation of hours, I have been very pessimistic as to a settlement. I am very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion adopted a policy which, not only was not recommended by the Commission, but was emphatically condemned. I have no doubt his intentions were good. He sincerely believed he was proposing something which followed the line of least resistance, which was best for the industry and would be most likely to be accepted by the miners. As events have turned out, it is now quite clear that any such calculations were entirely wrong. The proposal to lengthen the hours of labour is condemned by public opinion and has aroused the intense hostility of the miners and of the trade union world generally. If I ask the Government to withdraw their proposal for lengthening the hours, I am only asking them to do something which will bring public opinion behind them and, possibly, get them the support of the trade union world—or, at all events, minimise the hostility of the trade union world—and make a stronger appeal to the moderate element among the miners.
Once more, I make an earnest appeal that the Government will make a fresh start and give assurances that they mean business in carrying out the Samuel Report. If they choose to go one step further than that, their policy will be more likely to produce peace. When I say that, I hope I nay venture to remind them that the Trade Union Council did accept the Samuel Memorandum, and I feel it would have a very good influence for peace if the Government could get the co-operation of the miners in setting up a Commission to implement all the recommendations of the Report. Further, if the subsidy of £3,000,000 could be utilised in order to get the miners back to work, it would be well worth while paying it for about two months or so until negotiations had proceeded—as we might hope—to a satisfactory conclusion. We have had a gesture from the other side, and I hope it will be responded to by the Government. The country is suffering great damage and loss, and I hope that if the Government do show a helpful spirit, that spirit will be re- 461 sponded to by hon. Members on the other side. It is in the interest of those hon. Members themselves, and of all the nation, that we should have peace, and it is deplorable that this dispute has been allowed to linger on in this manner. It can only mean the defeat of the miners and a settlement which will be no settlement but merely a sullen cessation of arms, and will not bring to the industry that prosperity for which we all hope.
§ Mr. BATEY
One of the speakers on this side of the House to-day said this Bill would have a chilling reception from hon. Members on these benches. I am not so sure that its reception has been chilling. It seemed to me to be lively, and certainly it was cynical. But if the reception of this Bill has been lively and cynical, it has been generous as compared with the reception which awaits the Government's second Bill next Monday. We look upon this Bill as a joke. We cannot believe that the Government are serious in introducing it. There is nothing it it which will help the miners or help the coal industry either this week or this month or this year or even next year, and we want the Government to do something to help the coal industry now. We see our men and women starving and we have no patience with a Government which can sit still, while miners and their wives and children starve, without doing anything to bring the dispute to a satisfactory end. We regard this Bill as unworthy of consideration. It is particularly difficult to believe that the Government are serious in regard to the amalgamation proposals, and the one good word which has been said for the Bill in this Debate has been in reference to the proposal as to the recruitment in the coal industry of persons over 18 years of age. That is a trifling reform when we have out of work such a large number of men and lads, who have been trained in the mines. No colliery manager would think of engaging anyone who had not been trained in the mines, when he can get any number of those who have been trained in the mines. Even that one proposal, for which the Government are taking so much credit, is quite useless.
The Bill also proposes to legalise profit-sharing. If there were any profits to share, or even the prospect of any profits to share, next year or the year after, I 462 could understand that provision, but since there are no profits in the coal industry that proposal is merely laughable and renders the position of the Government ridiculous. Why was it included in the Bill at all? Last week the Prime Minister, speaking in this House, said:There are other proposals of the Commission for which legislation is not necessary or on which further study is required. before legislation can be introduced."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th June, 1926; col. 2154, Vol. 196.]The right hon. Gentleman then mentioned, among the matters upon which further consideration would be necessary, profit-sharing schemes and selling syndicates. If, only last week, the Prime Minister considered that profit-sharing schemes required further study before legislation could be introduced, how does that subject come to appear in the present Bill? The Prime Minister is getting into the habit of quickly changing his mind, but when he changed his mind on this matter, and included in the Bill profit-sharing schemes—which do not mean anything—why did he not also put in the Bill something which would have mattered, namely, the question of selling syndicates? He left them both out last week and classified them both as something which needed further consideration, and when he has brought in profit-sharing schemes, why has he not also brought in selling syndicates?
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
If the hon. Member would like an answer to that, now, I will give it. I tried to explain in my opening speech why this Clause about profit sharing was put in. We cannot obviously set up in a Bill any profit-sharing scheme that has not been agreed on by the parties concerned. But what we have done is the limit of what can be done now. We have made it legal for any undertaking that may wish to adopt it. If this Clause is passed, it will be possible for any undertaking to have a profit-sharing scheme. The same difficulty in regard to legislation as in the absence of agreement between the parties applies to selling syndicates, and that is why this Bill does not deal with that subject.
§ Mr. BATEY
Is it not the fact that you put it in the Bill because it meant nothing? You would have done far more useful work if you had put the selling 463 syndicates in the Bill to-day, because we have got to get there in order to help us over the trouble. The question has been argued here as if the selling syndicates were something new, but they are not. During the last week-end I have been reading the evidence before a Select Committee that sat in 1873, and it is well worth reading. A coalowner who had interests in Durham, Northumberland, South Wales and Canada, a Sir George Elliott, gave evidence before that Select Committee and said that in the County of Durham there had been what they called a vend, which was a selling syndicate, up to 1844, which had been in existence over 50 years, and that syndicate controlled the whole of the collieries in the County of Durham. The then Lord Londonderry was rather annoyed at the quota he had to sell, and he took exception to that selling syndicate, Sir George Elliott tells us in that evidence, and the syndicate came to an end in 1844 because, he said, the railway system destroyed it by making it easy to open new pits with small capital. In the County of Durham, therefore, they have had the experience of a selling syndicate for 50 years, and they tried to re-establish it afterwards, but failed. We believe that, as it was useful then and had been tried for so many years, a selling syndicate is the one thing, along with amalgamation, that will help us at the present time.
We must remember that we have to face reduced prices for the sale of coal, and competition among the owners is, we believe, one of the chief causes for that reduced price of coal. Coalowners to-day think as coalowners thought 100 years ago. There is very little change in the way that coalowners think to-day and the way that their grandfathers thought 100 years ago. They think they have to compete with each other and undersell each other, and that, having competed with and undersold each other, they can simply come to the miners' wages for what they need. That has been our experience all along the years, and we have got rather used to the coalowners thinking along those lines, but what we do take exception to to-clay is that the Government should think just as the coal-owners think, that the Government should think that the coalowners should go on competing with and underselling each 464 other, and that at last they should come to the miners for all the relief they need. We believe that, having pursued that mad policy, it is not fair to come to the miners and to ask the miners alone for relief. We believe that it is not possible, under present conditions, for the miners alone to give the relief that is really necessary.
In Durham County in the last month that our pits were working there was a Government subsidy of 3s. 8d. per ton, and the total amount of money paid as subsidy was £539,697. If you increased the number of hours worked in Durham County to eight, it would mean that you would get £264,285 towards making up that balance of £539,697, and if you took the profits that the owners had for the month of April, which were £101,862, you would still be left with a deficiency in Durham County of £173,550 for one month. We say, therefore, that the miners cannot make up that deficiency, and—
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
The hon. Member's speech seems to be in anticipation of next week's Debate rather than dealing with the present Bill.
§ Mr. BATEY
I was trying to keep in order, but the Debate to-clay has travelled over such a very wide ground, and over much wider ground than I am covering, that I thought I should be in order. I am arguing that the Government ought to have made provision in this Bill for a selling syndicate, and I believe that it would have been one of the best things that could have been put in, and one of the things that would have helped us to increase the selling price of coal and make it possible to get our pits back to work. Unless the price of coal is increased, the Durham pits cannot get back to work. There must either be an increase in the price of coal or a subsidy, and unless the Government are prepared to give a subsidy, they must take steps to increase the price of coal to a much higher figure than that at which it now stands.
I would like to say a word or two in regard to the amalgamation proposals in the Bill. We believe that voluntary amalgamation is useless, and that what the Government should have done when they were bringing in this Bill and making amalgamation possible was to have made amalgamation compulsory. 465 Here, again, I want to take the Secretary for Mines back to the evidence of Sir George Elliott before the Select Committee in 1873. He then said:In 1845 a prospectus was drawn up and considered at several meetings to amalgamate the whole of the collieries in Durham.Unfortunately, that project was killed by one man, the then Lord Londonderry, who wrote a rather nasty letter scoffing at the idea, but Sir George Elliott, when giving evidence before that Select Committee, was asked if he saw any practical difficulty in amalgamating all the collieries in Durham or Northumberland or South Wales, and he replied that he saw no difficulty in doing it. He said, in regard to that proposal, that the owners were all playing the game of beggar-my-neighbour, and when they were all nearly exhausted they thought they might turn round and see if they could save themselves from ruin. Since then we have had a proposal for amalgamation from other coalowners. In 1921 the present Lord Londonderry wrote a letter to the "Times," dated 10th May, in which he said:I am venturing to approach you, as a coalowner, with a view to your consideration of the question of the amalgamation of the various coal undertakings in the United Kingdom. The present situation is fraught with so much danger to the country, and is so eminently unsatisfactory, that everyone, and certainly every coalowner, cannot afford to stand by without making every effort to place the coal industry on a permanent and satisfactory basis.Things did look rather dangerous for the country in 1921, and one could well understand Lord Londonderry then suggesting an amalgamation of all the collieries. We do not find him suggesting it to-day, but what he said then is equally true to-day. Just as amalgamation was necessary in 1845 and in 1921, it is necessary, and far more necessary, to-day. We always find that owners of good collieries object to amalgamating with owners of poor collieries, and I have heard owners of good collieries say they do not want to carry these poor collieries. That is perhaps natural, and they will stick to that position as long as they possibly can, but it ought to be the duty of the Government, when they are pretending to deal with amalgamation, to put in the Bill compulsory powers sufficient to force the owners of good collieries to amalgamate 466 with poor collieries. During the Debate to-day, and on the two former occasions, I have again and again heard speakers say that all uneconomic pits ought to be closed. I am not there. I believe it is one of the most foolish things that anybody can think about, to close what they term "uneconomic" pits, and only keep working the very cream of the pits in this country. The coal has got to be worked in what are termed uneconomic pits. Besides, the workmen that have been brought together at these uneconomic pits are entitled to some consideration. All that is needed is the amalgamation of the good pits and the poor pits, and then there would not be the need, as some people think, for closing all the uneconomic pits, and throwing the people who depend upon these good pits now into poverty and misery.
I should like to ask the Secretary for Mines one or two questions. This Bill has been brought in to-day as a solution of mining troubles. Why, then, have you not put in a Clause safeguarding the subsistence wage which the Prime Minister has more than once said he favoured? I refer to a subsistence wage the amount not to be reduced below £2 5s. for a full week's work. I notice that in the speech of the Prime Minister last week that that was said, but in the Bill we have got before us to-day there is nothing said as to the maintenance of this subsistence wage. Perhaps the Minister will have no objection to telling us, so far as he knows, whether or not the Prime Minister is going to make that provision, so that the men who have been dependant upon a subsistence wage of 7s. 6½d. per day or £2 5s. per week are riot going to be liable to have their wages decreased? If the Government believe what they have said again and again, when they have tried to impress upon the country that they considered that the men who worked for a subsistence wage should have that wage maintained, if, I say, the Government are still of that opinion, why do they not put it in the Bill, and so safeguard these men? If they have neglected to do so, by some oversight, will the Secretary for Mines tells us whether the Government stands in the same position as before so far as this subsistence wage is concerned. Then I should like to know in the reply why the Government have not put a Clause in the Bill to stop profiteering in coal. We believe that 467 there is a good deal of profiteering going on in coal. I believe that the Secretary for Mines knows it. So far as household coal is concerned.
I am afraid the hon. Member is getting a little wide of the mark. We can discuss what [...]n the Bill, but not what is not in the Bill.
§ Mr. BATEY
Well, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it is difficult perhaps to keep within the mark, because this Bill means so little to some of us. We believe that this Bill in an absolute fraud. It simply pretends that it wants to do something for the miners at the present time, while the real object is to allow the Prime Minister to continue the policy which the Prime Minister has pursued ever since the coal stoppage took place; that in sitting still, doing nothing, and waiting until the miners are starved into submission. That is the policy of this Bill. The Prime Minister does not intend this Bill to be of the least help to the miners, or to the mining industry. He is simply bringing in this Bill to deceive the public, to waste the time of the miners and to starve them into submission. I want to suggest this to the Secretary for Mines. We say that this is no remedy for our present trouble. The object of the Government is to deceive the country. The policy of the Government is a policy of simply doing nothing, of wasting time until the miners are starved. We have no hesitation in asking the Government to submit their proposals to the country. We believe if the Government do that they will get their answer.
§ Mr. ELLIS
Perhaps the House will bear with me with patience when I say that I am one of that much despised class, the coalowners, of which I am an unofficial and unrepentant member. I would like to ask the House now to go back to the Bill, and to treat it in an entirely practical way. I have heard many Coal Debates in this House, and though we seem to get away from the main issue, we ultimately have to come back to it. However much some hon. Members may say that the Government is not doing its duty, we have in front of us a Bill for a practical purpose, and, therefore, it is up to us to consider it from a practical point of view. In the first place, we have before us a Bill 468 which actually proposes considerable alterations in the law as it stands to-day, and it is, therefore, perhaps just as well to look at the position as it would be affected by this Bill. So far then, as the Bill affects the position, we have to consider it from the point of view, if I may so term it, of the quality and quantity of the coal raised secondly the class of management, and then the facilities for mining and the getting of the coal.
In the first place, there is not the least doubt but that there exists to-day a. number of pits so circumstanced, that the seams are in such a way, that the very lay-out of the mine means that inevitably, before long, you arrive at the position described by an hon. Member wherein it is no longer economic to continue working. The cost of the working means that the pit is bound to come to an end. Equally so, it may be uneconomic for the pit on the other side of the take, because its lay-out is in an opposite direction. It is, therefore, essential if the coal is to be worked at a profit—and profitable working is the one thing in which we are all concerned, both owners and men—that some means should be found by combination, or amalgamation, or whatever you like to call it, for that coal to be reached in common by all who are interested in getting it.
This Bill, whatever its shortcomings in the opinion of some hon. Members, does provide an opportunity for bringing about amalgamation, and lessening very materially the cost of getting the coal, and so helping the industry. I am afraid a good many Members do not want to make the Bill a success, and have not endeavoured to understand the technical side of it. It will he found that an application has been made for the purposes that I have mentioned, and in due course it will be considered by the Ministry of Mines, and then passed on to the Railway and Canal Commission. It may be said that that process is a little cumbersome, and that we ought to be able to get it done quicker, but it must he remembered there are a great many interests to be considered when making a change of that kind, especially if it be a compulsory change, and, therefore, we must make full provision for every interest to be properly protected. I have given this one illustration from the geological point of view, and hon. Members who know the 469 coalfields will be able to appreciate many more instances of a similar kind, and will be the first to acknowledge, whether they have got all they want or whether they have not, that the Bill does give considerable help in that direction.
Now let us look at the question of management. To one who is concerned, as a member of the board, in the management of a set of pits in the West Hiding of Yorkshire with a fairly large output, it is interesting to hear the offhand suggestions made in this House as to the way in which pits ought to be managed. I have listened to these offhand suggestions for a good many nights, and at last I have been able to arrive at a definite conclusion, and it is this—it all boils down to the expression of one right hon. Gentleman sitting on the Government side, that the real test is the efficiency of the pit, and the real test of the efficiency of the pit is that one can make that pit pay. That is some little consolation to a coalowner who is really interested in his pit and interested in those who help to produce the wealth of the pit. We have at last come down to this, that any pit which cannot produce profits must be regarded as a very bad member of the group. So far as improving the management is concerned, it is suggested that that can be helped by having pit committees. Every kind of help to he obtained from anyone working in the pit, from the highest to the lowest, should be carefully considered, but pits that are well managed already have that assistance given to them by the men who work in them. I think this ought to be remembered before we run off with the idea that because we are adding a Bill to the Statute Book we have created something which is going to solve all our troubles. Good management of a pit is not possible unless there is thorough good will and thorough understanding between the staff and the men. Therefore, I ask hon. Members, when they are looking at this question from a practical standpoint, and without any political propaganda in view—and Heaven knows how much that has distressed the industry—to consider whether it is not the case that things suggested are very often not any real help towards rehabilitating the industry.
470 On the subject of amalgamation, it has to be borne in mind that when a good pit is asked to amalgamate with a bad pit it is not only the owners who are concerned, but the men in the pits. What we are in effect being asked to do is to agree to a pool of the good and the bad pits in any given district. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Please do not think that I am arguing one way or the other. What I am so anxious to get at to-night is what are the real bed-rock facts of the situation, what we are definitely asked to do, and what is going to be the result? I think hon. Members will admit that, unless we get down to bed rock on this question, all these other things are in the air. Is it quite certain that the men in a district where the good Pits are in a majority will be prepared, any more than will the owners, to sacrifice their hard work, their efficiency and their interests for the sake of a pit which, were it not a. pit, but a unit in any other industry, would be allowed to go the usual way of an uneconomic and ill-managed business? That is a point worth considering. I admit that we as owners—just as I am going to ask the miners to admit it—have got into the habit of looking at our industry from a rather narrow angle, forgetting that it is only one of a large number of industries throughout the country. If we ask to be treated differently from other industries we are subject to the answer that we must show why we should he taken out of the economic world and treated differently from our neighbours, many of whom are not so well off as we are.
Speaking as an owner, I think the Bill does give us a good deal of assistance. It is said the Bill should have been compulsory. I ask hon. Members of the Labour party, many of whom are sound business men, even though they may not like the name—they have the brains—how any compulsory scheme of amalgamation could be carried except by passing an Act which amalgamates the whole of the pits in any given district. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] "Why not?" is another question, but that is the only way in which we can carry out compulsory amalgamation. What would that mean? That to-morrow we must have a Government inspection of the industry, not a small or casual inspection but one in which would be engaged all 471 the mining experts, all the expert accountants, all the experts in merchanting and selling agencies. They would descend on the pits throughout the country, and then come to a conclusion as to how amalgamation could be carried out. 1s that a position to which any sane man, whether owner or miner, can look forward for a single minute? Will anyone in this House get up and ask for that? If that be so, we are thrown back on permissive amalgamation, we must substitute "may" for "shall."
Thank goodness we have something to guide us in that respect. I remember sitting here three Sessions ago when the Mining Facilities Bill was introduced into the House. There was a good deal of talk about it and a good many people were of the opinion that it was a harmless, useless, unnecessary, eyewash Bill, and I believe the right hon. Gentleman in charge of it was told as much by many hon. Members on this side of the House. Some of us did not think so, because in looking at it closely we had realised that there were a good many possibilities in the Bill that were not appreciated when it was passing through the House. I for one was very glad to see it go through without opposition, because had it really been debated, and had that Debate been directed to the merits of the Bill instead of wandering off on to general questions about the condition of the mining industry, I do not believe the Measure ever would have passed this House. But that Bill did pass into law, and it has bad a very material influence for the benefit of the industry. It is possible that, in like manner, hon. Members may be mistaken on this occasion, and that this Bill may contain in it the essence of things which will be of great benefit to the industry. The last thing we ought to say is that because we cannot immediately get all the benefit we want we should reject something which does obviously give us some benefit, small though it may be.
May I point out what, in my humble opinion, will really happen? It is known to hon. Members that what goes on in a coalfield is common talk throughout the district. It is pretty well known in every part of a district who are the managers that.are any good, what pit has the best men, where there is disaffection and where there is not, and, generally why. 472 Therefore, all these things being known it is also known what pits seem to be in financial difficulties and what goes on underground. The existence of this Bill, if passed, will crystalise all those facts and will help very soon to set things in motion and lead to an amalgamation which may have very great beneficial effects upon the industry. Hon. Members know that, if this question is looked at in a practical way, this Measure can be directed in such a fashion as to give us some very considerable benefit. I have in mind the particular pits in the district which I know very well, namely, the West Riding of Yorkshire. I know that there are well-managed and ill-managed pits. I know there are pits in that district in such a position that they had better be amalgamated than left as they are. I know that there are in that district coal-owners and men who, when they realise the value of this Bill, and the benefit that amalgamation is likely to confer upon them, will get pretty busy to bring about amalgamation.
With regard to selling agencies, this point has been put to us continually, more especially with regard to South Wales. As a member of the Royal Commission on Mining Subsidies, I travelled round South Wales, and I very much appreciated the difficulties in regard to many of its problems. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) said definitely that so far as selling agencies were concerned you would have to consider that half the collieries were able to make a profit and the other half were not able to make a profit, and you had so to deal with your selling price that the pits not able to make a profit could be brought up in some way to the level of the others. I am aware that that can be carried out in theory by some form of pool or amalgamation, but the one thing which seems to have been forgotten is that in all these suggestions for amalgamation you need capital, and this often is not forthcoming, because through a long series of years of ill-management and bad treatment the the industry has got into a situation almost verging upon bankruptcy, and if it is to be pulled round the prime consideration is to get more money put into it.
If the present form of political propaganda goes on in the pits what you will not get is that confidence which 473 is necessary if you want capital from the public. I shall be told that in the case of nationalisation the capital would be provided by the State. I think it is agreed that for the present, at any rate, nationalisation must be considered as being outside the subject we are discussing, and we can only deal with a basis that does not include nationalisation. If that is so, then your one great need is more capital when amalgamation takes place, and private capital will be forthcoming only if there is a feeling of confidence that the money put into the industry will get its due return and that the industry will be left alone by the Government, at any rate for a number of years.
It is important to consider exactly what is meant by this term "selling agency." Some of us have been in business for many years. We have also studied economics and tried to understand the laws of general international competition, and I would suggest as an axiom that it is impossible to have an effective selling agency which you can control in the form of a monopoly unless you can also control the market, or, in other words, unless you can make a corner in your commodity the bottom of your price will fall out. Can that be done with regard to coal?
Let us look at it from the point of view which was so amusingly introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore when quoting from the Report the cross-examination of Mr. Evan Williams. The right hon. Gentleman took us from England to Germany, from Germany to America, and from America back to England, and then having committed the illogical fallacy of mixing up all his premises drew a conclusion from all his single instances. And what comes out of the whole thing? If your selling agency is going to be effective you have to make a bargain with all the nations producing coal in any large quantity which can affect the market you are dealing with. Do not let us lose sight of that fact because it is most important. If this is to happen is there not one important thing to remember, that if we are asking other nations to come in with us to control a selling agency, we must tackle the question of wages, hours and conditions of all the nations concerned?
474 Let us follow that point and see where it leads us. Has there been no attempt made to get uniformity of hours, wages and conditions among Continental nations? Has no attempt been made to restrict the export of coal by Continental nations while this coal dispute has been going on? The result has been that it has failed when you have reached the crucial point, which is that when other members of the ring see an opportunity of coming in and doing one of their fellows down rimy do not hesitate about it. All these considerations are as attributable to a nation as they are to the individual. It is only a change of name, but the spirit behind the thing remains the same. Is control possible? It has been attempted. We have been busy in recent years doing our best to get the Governments of foreign nations to attend International Labour meetings at Geneva and other places, and enter into international agreements; all of which is very interesting and very beneficial. Proposals have been drawn up, resolutions have been passed, and then everyone has gone home imagining that everything was properly done; but they have generally failed to examine some of these foreign Acts afterwards passed. If they had looked at them, they would have found that in almost every case, except that of our own unfortunate country, there was power for some administrative Department to except wages, hours and conditions in such a way that the very thing that everyone thought they had managed to do was clean cut out of the whole business.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Does that apply to the Washington Hours Convention?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
We were the nation that held it up.
§ Mr. ELLIS
Let me, if I may, take that point. A resolution, at however many conventions it may be adopted—
§ Mr. ELLIS
I apologise; I was led away. I am afraid we shall have to continue that discussion elsewhere. It will be admitted that, if there is to be a selling agency, all these points must be taken into consideration. It is not sufficient to put into a Bill that is presented to 475 this House a Clause which says there shall be a selling agency, and then go home to tea and think the whole business is done. So much for the general aspect of the matter. There are one or two small points that I should like to mention before I sit down. The first of these is that, if there is any restriction, as there undoubtedly must be, on employment, I hope the Government will have regard to the position of students. There is at present, I believe, a rule that five years must be spent in the pit before a certificate can be obtained. Methods of education, however, have a good deal altered since many of these rules were made. I should like provision to be made in the Bill so that, in the ease of university students with scholarships—and, when I speak of university students, I include students of equal standing at a mining college or mining work at a university—their time should be taken into account, and that in such cases the whole period of five years should not be en forced.
I am glad to see that the mineral royalty owners are to be called upon for a small contribution to the Welfare Fund. I do not think it is realised in many parts of the country what mineral royalty owners have done, so to speak, off their own bat.
§ Mr. PALING
What have they done?
§ Mr. ELLIS
The hon. Member knows as well as I do. At any rate, what is quite certain is that 6d. per ton on the average covers the whole amount of the royalties. That, I think, is generally agreed. It was mentioned a little time ago in the Debate that it was a great pity the Government had not made some provision in this Bill for taking over the royalties. The original argument was that it was wrong that the mineral owners should have these royalties, because they did nothing in respect of the coal that was raised, and I know that during the General Election many hon. Members, coming from neighbouring Divisions into my Division, have contended that these mineral royalty rights belonged to the miners. It was, however, distinctly admitted in evidence before the Royal Commission that the royalties belonged to the nation, and that, therefore, in dealing with this point, as a matter of propaganda. 476 it can no longer be said that, if these rights were abolished, it would be the miners, and they alone who would get the benefit. It would cost the State a considerable amount of money to make that change, unless, indeed, the royalty owners were expropriated. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] If so, there is no reason why you should not put your hand in your neighbour's pocket. [Interruption.] I am not a mineral owner, except in so far as my company happens to have bought land and, at a good deal of expense, discovered some coal there that would not otherwise have been discovered. The reason why my hon. Friends would not put their hands into their neighbours' pockets is because they realise that it is not fair, and I submit that, so long as you have any law of private property at all, so long as you accept the principle of private property, you have no right to differentiate and treat one ease differently to another.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
You are taking 5 per cent.
§ Mr. ELLIS
That is the contribution of the mineral owner to the mining industry in its present difficulty.
§ Mr. PARKINSON
I was thinking while the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Ellis) was speaking that his optimism was not likely to be justified, and his speech would almost lead one to believe that he was living in a kind of fool's paradise. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Mines, in introducing this Bill, stated that amalgamation should he a natural growth, and he went on to say that the Commission suggested some form of amalgamation. That may be the case, but we have felt for many years that amalgamations ought to be a natural growth. Unfortunately, we have never seen any attempt on the part of the owners to amalgamate. or to place the industry in such a condition that it would be able to meet its obligations, from the year 1919. The Bill which has been introduced to-day is supposed to be primarily a Measure of amalgamation, but it is so permissive in its character that it settles nothing whatever, and it 477 invites the coalowners to settle nothing. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) struck the right note when he said that the acquisition of the royalties by the State would have been the best possible thing that could happen, because it would have created the kind of atmosphere which would have helped amalgamation very much indeed. Personally I agree with that, because I believe that, if the mineral royalties were vested in the nation, amalgamation would come about much more easily and with much better feeling. Moreover, not only would that atmosphere be created, but people would come to believe that the Government were intent upon carrying out the Report of the Royal Commission.
I want to put some questions to the Government as to what they have been doing during the last three months. It appears to me that much valuable time has been wasted, and that the Government and the Prime Minister have not taken the stand which they ought to have taken. They appointed a Commission, that Commission has reported, and the Government pledged themselves, in a sense, to accept the Commission's Report. Nevertheless, from the beginning of March they have done nothing; this Bill which is now being brought before the House is the first thing that they have done. It will be said, of course, that the recommendations of the Commission have not been accepted by the coalowners and mine workers. They have not been wholly accepted, and I do not think that the Prime Minister or the Government expected that they would be fully accepted or adopted by both sections of the people concerned. But the Prime Minister, during the whole of the period while the negotiations have been proceeding, has always made it a condition that both coalowners and miners should have accepted the recommendations of the Commission before he was prepared to legislate upon them. That has been a mystery to me, because, as I have said, the Royal Commission was of the Prime Minister's own creation. The Report issued ought to have been accepted by his Government, but, in making this condition, he has, to a certain extent, covered himself and made it an excuse for the incapacity of 478 the Government. I should like to refer to one or two things that were said at the meeting between the Prime Minister and the miners' representatives on the 24th March. The Prime Minister then said:The Government, for their part, will be prepared to undertake such measures as may be required of the State to give the recommendations effect.That was something like three months ago, and nothing has been done. Then Mr. Herbert Smith asked this question:Does that cover them all?and the Prime Minister replied:That is what it means in the long run. … I have set up Committees already to deal with a good many of the more difficult matters in the Report. I have set up an extraordinarily strong Committee which is taking under its view all the questions in the Report that deal with research.Further on he made other statements which are practically just as strong. He went on to say:I think it is clear, if you will look at it again, To undertake such measures as may be required of the State to give the recommendations effect.' I am dealing here with the Report as it affects the Government.That is a direct statement by the Prime Minister of what he is prepared to do. There is no camouflage about it at all; it is printed in the report of the meeting. And that is not all. He made other statements, of which I will read one or two, which really seem to show a desire not to hurry the matter until the coal-owners give him permission to do so. He said:As I said before, I have Committees at work now on that very subject, examining all the questions, both the very complicated ones and the comparatively simple ones, and in plenty of time before the 30th April I shall know quite clearly the amount of Bills that will be necessary to implement our pledge.9.0 P.M.
That indicated that by the 30th April he would know exactly what was required and would be able to do it, but we have gone two months beyond that. Further on he makes other statements, with which I will not weary the House, but there is one statement that I should like to quote which was made by the Minister of Labour in winding up the meeting. I am making these quotations because I think the Government have delayed longer than they ought, and because I think they ought to have dealt with 479 these matters in a more expeditious manner. The Minister of Labour said:You asked me as to what the Government are doing. I have told you about research. The next is the Fuel and Power Committee. We have a Committee going into that question. The same is true of the next recommendation. We are now considering the suggested system of official sampling and analysis. That means consultation. As regards the suggestion that local authorities should be empowered to engage in the retail sale of coal, the system of that is being considered at the same time by another Committee—and so on, right through the whole of these recommendations.Immediately following that we had a list of the suggested measures for legislation and administration issued by the Prime Minister and in a large number of those Measures we find statements as to what they were going to do, but have never yet done, and which I honestly believe they never intend doing. Of course even in this Bill, and even in the latest statement from the Prime Minister in his speech last week, we find the most important measures have been left out entirely and are not mentioned. The Measure may seem all right, but it is permissive, and it is mixed up with one or two things which they know the mineworkers would to a large extent agree with. That is welfare and baths and that kind of thing. There has been so much said about baths and the welfare of the miners that I am led to the conclusion that the people opposite believe that a bath would be more beneficial to the miner than even food to live upon. I do not know why they keep harping on that question, because the miners have been in favour of it ever since it has been suggested, and it ought to have been put into operation compulsorily after the Sankey Commission. There is no mention in this matter of research. There is no mention of the State acquisition of royalties, the municipal sale of coal or wagon pooling, and that is one of the most urgent things to be dealt with in the whole Report, because if the Government go into the question of the use of the wagons they will find there is large scope for material improvement. I believe the wagons to-day are only used for 20 or 25 days in the year, while they ought to be used nine or ten times that amount.
480 As this is supposed to be a Bill to reorganise the industry, I should like to call attention to the fact that the Sankey Commission, the Buckmaster Inquiry and the Macmillan Inquiry all proved to their own satisfaction that the coalowners either cannot or will not reorganise the industry. As a basic industry the reorganisation must he made compulsory in the national interest. The coalowners must be compelled to face reorganisation. That may sound rather strong, but I am satisfied in my mind, as the hon. Member who has just spoken is satisfied in his mind, that the coalowners will not reorganise until they are really compelled to do it, and there is no compulsion that can be brought to bear upon them with the exception of compulsion given by this House. I should like to quote a cutting from the "Daily News," which is neither a Conservative nor a Socialist paper. Discussing the question of reorganisation, they ask this question:If reorganisation is the vital point, why does Mr. Baldwin make it dependent upon agreement between the owners and men, or hours and wages. Is not this irrelevant to the main issue? … We do not hesitate to say that the owners in this critical inquiry have proved themselves incompetent witnesses, incompetent controllers of a great industry, and incapable of understanding either the primitive human needs of their industry or its technical necessities. Their contribution to the task that lies before the Coal Commission and the nation is nil.That is a very strong condemnation taken from a paper which is really part and parcel of the system we are trying to attack, and which' we want to change. Beyond that we might also take the statement made by Sir Arthur Balfour, Mr. R. W. Cooper, Sir Adam Nimmo, Sir Allan Smith, and Mr. Evan Williams in the 1919 Coal Commission Final Report. It concluded:The evidence shows that a considerable saving is possible in the distribution of household coal. By elimination of royalty charges, by means of up-to-date methods, it would lead to efficient mining, and thus result in miners getting a living wage. By associating miners with the conduct of the industry, it would give them self-respect and responsibility: it would give them the best of all reasons—the motive of service—for creating and maintaining an efficient national undertaking.The Commission is very strong on the point of reorganisation. It is very strong on many of its recommendations, but still up to now we have not seen the Govern- 481 those steps which ought to give fruition to the work of the men they have appointed. It has been truly a case of the mountain being in labour and bringing forth a mouse. If this is the only thing they can bring forward in three months, they are not applying themselves in the way they ought to have done. The parrot cry, so far as reorganisation is concerned, has been that the Government say, "When you two bodies of people agree, we will accept the recommendations." If they had been a strong Government, and they saw no likelihood of the two bodies coming together; they would have put the recommendations of the Commission into legislative form, and put them into operation irrespective of either party. That might have been a step forward or a step back, but to keep playing with a vital thing of this kind is reprehensible and is not conducive to the national good or to anything else. On page 60, the Report says:Our conclusion on the third point is—that while in some cases fusions or absorptions which are desirable have taken place, and in other cases fusions and absorptions would be attended with a balance of disadvantage and should not take place, we cannot doubt that between these two classes there are a large number in which such amalgamations are desirable, have not yet been effected, and are not likely to be effected, if the matter is left entirely to the action of the parties directly concerned.On page 61 they conclude:Where one or more undertakings in an area desired to effect an amalgamation, but others, whose co-operation was necessary, refused, or demanded unreasonable terms, there must be power in the public interest to override such opposition the action to be taken in such a ease should rather be in the nature of securing the transfer of leases from the present holders to the new combination, at a valuation such as would be reasonable in the circumstances, than any attempt to make the parties work together against their will.There is a great deal of truth in the last statement. I believe the opposition is not coming about simply because the mineowners know that amalgamation of the mines will be a bad thing in itself, but simply owing to petty differences, and the fears expressed by the last speaker speaking of the good mines and the bad mines—all these things must come together some way or another. If they do not, we are going to have that remorseless competition which has brought the 482 mining industry to its present pass and is not going to help us from the national point of view, but is going to drag the country downward and drag a very large number of people along with it. You may beat the miners down by starvation, but you will never kill the spirit of the mining community, and if they are beaten by sheer starvation, as they have been in the past, they will rise again at the first opportunity to try to get better conditions of life than they have got now. It is better to fight and try to get a settlement of the whole problem, to make it something permanent and give the miners at least a living wage.
§ Sir BEDDOE REES
From what I could gather of the last speech, if the owners carried out the scheme of reorganisation it would be the end of all our difficulties, and the present controversy would very soon come to an end. Reorganisation is a word that is used too largely at the moment. I am not here to say reorganisation is not necessary. I agree that it is, but merely to keep on talking about reorganisation as though it were going to solve all our difficulties is to make a very big mistake. I am confident in my own mind that the boldest scheme of reorganisation carried out to the last point would not meet the present difficulty, and would not reduce the cost of production to the required level. I think it is misleading to reiterate this word reorganisation. It has been talked in the constituencies. It has been repeated in every colliery district, until I think the men have got a false impression, and they are putting a false value upon reorganisation. That it is an important part of the problem, I admit. I have for a long time advocated the necessity of thorough reorganisation, but I think it is a mistake to mislead the miners into thinking that reorganisation is the end all and is the solution of this problem. [Interruption.] I know you do not believe it, but it has been repeated to such an extent that the men outside believe it, and they are now in a frame of mind to say that if we can have reorganisation, there is no need to talk about a reduction in wages or any other scheme to put the coal industry on a sound footing.
The next point the hon. Member empha[...]ised was the value to be attached to, amalgamation. I think amalgamation 483 may be a good thing in many districts, but it is not going to solve the difficulties of the coal industry. Amalgamation within limits is certainly advantageous, but I have yet to be persuaded that any great scheme of amalgamation is going to be effective or is going to improve matters very much. In any case it is no solution now. I was hoping the Debate woud fix upon essentials. The Bill is all right as far as it goes. I am not an enthusiast for it, but I am going to support it as an indication of the intention of the Government to carry out the Royal Commission's Report. If it is intended to be a first instalment, well and good. I have heard no severe criticism of any of its provisions. When it is in Committee I hope it will be criticised in many of its details. The amalgamation part of it is excellent. I think amalgamation within the limits of the Bill is very desirable indeed. It is on the right lines. Amalgamation carried too far would be unification of the whole industry, and to that I will never agree. As far as the amalgamation part of the Bill is concerned, I certainly will support it, but any great scheme of compulsory amalgamation is fundamentally wrong. When the Bill goes to Committee, I hope there will be safeguards to protect the man who is forced into amalgamation under the limited scheme in the Bill. It would be grossly unfair that a company or individual who is forced into an amalgamation scheme should take paper as payment, unless he is satisfied that it is a negotiable share or debenture or other instrument, otherwise he ought to insist upon having a cash payment.
The interesting part of the Bill to my mind is Part II, which deals with working facilities. Those of us who are engaged in coal mining and have to negotiate leases and deal with mineral rights know something about the difficulties. I have a scheme under way at the moment, where we are putting three collieries into a small amalgamation, and it has taken us five months to get the landlords to agree to give us licences to assign those properties. Hindrances to coal mining ought to be wiped away. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get rid of the royalty owners?"] I am not in favour of the nationalisation of mineral rights. I see no advantage to the industry in it. I do not think it 484 makes a bit of difference. I agree that the psychological effect may be good, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said, but practically there is nothing in it. What does it matter whether we pay 6d. to a landlord or 6d. to the State. It goes out of the industry and will still be a charge upon the industry, whether we buy the royalty owners out or not. Nobody will suggest, in this House at any rate, confiscation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not!"] We are dealing with the present position. Anything which restricts the power of the mineral owner is all to the good. There are certain Amendments even there that I would like to suggest when the proper time comes. Every endeavour should he made to facilitate amalgamation. The chief obstructionist at the moment is not the mineowner, but the landlord or the man who owns the minerals. We should have a larger number of small amalgamations, at any rate, if we could do away with the absurd restriction which now hamper developments of that sort.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
On the question of the royalties, surely the hon. Member realises that in so far as the position of undeveloped minerals goes there would be a profit accruing to the State on the royalties on undeveloped minerals.
§ Sir B. REES
That is a statement of fact which no one can deny. I support Part III of the Bill very heartily. The mineral owner will pay 5 per cent. on about £6,500,000, and that will go into the provision of pithead baths and other facilities of that kind. That is a step in the right direction. I am all for improving the amenities of our colliery districts.
This Bill will not solve our difficulites, but I am equally certain that the Amendment will not solve them. The Amendment simply means nationalisation. Unification in the form suggested in the Amendment is merely another way of saying, "Let as nationalise the mining industry." I listened with interest, and with a sincere desire to hear all that was said, to the very admirable speech of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn). He put his subject in a way that met with our appreciation. I agree with his facts, but I differ from his conclusions. I fail to see how any scheme of unification of any scheme of selling agencies is going to solve our difficulties when it comes to the exportation of coal. You 485 may put up the price of coal against the home consumer and make the home consumer pay more, but I defy anyone to draw up a scheme which will compel the foreigner to pay more. We export something like one-third, or certainly over one-fourth, or our total output of coal. The effect of that upon the whole industry is so great that we are not going to compel the foreigner to pay more. We had the nearest approach to national unification in 1915–20. There we had some form of unification. We had the industry governed by a Government Department, and we had the effect which would follow any schemes such as that outlined by the right hon. Member for Ogmore. We had an increase in the number of men employed and a decrease in the amount of coal produced to such an extent that the price of coal was artificially increased, and we are suffering to-day as a result of that experiment. Therefore, I do not think a solution will come along the lines of the Amendment.
What is the real problem we are up against? In some way or other we have to find out how to reduce the cost of production. We pay more in this country than in any other country for production. We pay 12s. 9d as the wages cost in this country—that is the highest cost in any country in the world—as against 8s. 9d. paid by our chief competitor, Germany. That is a difference of 4s. a ton. It would be well if we could follow the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Ogmore and see how far a Committee of Members of the House of Commons could go in finding the solution of that problem. If we could get a Committee of that sort, men who really understand the problem, it might go a very long way towards finding a solution. At the moment. we are in the hands of extremists on both sides. There must be some middle course somewhere that would commend itself to the average mining man. If the Prime Minister would accept that suggestion and call such a Committee together without delay it would be well, for every day that goes the situation is becoming more and more difficult.
On our side we are anxious to approach the position sympathetically and to find out if there is some solution that will be fair to both sides. The sacrifice, I agree, should be equal. There should be some 486 common action to revive the industry and to raise the selling price of coal, because it is a remarkable thing that if you look at the f.o.b. price of coal in April and compare it with the price f.o.b. in 1914 you find there is very little difference. We must all agree that there must come an increase in the selling price of coal. Whether it is going to be by some method of reduction of output, or whatever the solution may be, we must face, and our industries will have to face, some increase in the selling price. If we had a Committee of the House which would go into the whole question, I think we might arrive at some solution agreeable to both sides.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I have considerable reluctance in imposing my views on this question once more upon the House of Commons, but we are to-day provided with a Bill for discussion which certainly opens up new avenues of thought in this matter. The speech made by the hon. Member who has just spoken has confronted the House with what, after all, is the real problem. The question is how to sell our coal. I am afraid a great many people have approached this question from the wrong end and have considered all sorts of means whereby certain compromises might be made between certain sections of the community, but the initial and vital problem is, how we are to maintain in this country an industry which is vital to our interests at a price at which we can compete with our competitors in other countries in the world?
The hon. Member has put the problem quite definitely and accurately. How are we going to maintain our position in the export market? If we cannot sell our coal 'overseas in competition with the other coal-raising countries, it is perfectly obvious that these islands will only be able to sustain a population very meagre in dimensions as compared with that which at present exists in this country. The crucial fact is the difference in the price of raising a ton of coal in this country as compared with what it is in other countries which are competing with us. The margin of difference as between the German price and British price has undoubtedly had a most serious effect in depleting our markets and in producing the conditions in which unfortunately 487 we are to-day. Will this Bill solve the problem? It is obvious that it cannot. The hon. Member, who knows the coal trade very intimately, has said that it will not do more than touch the fringe of this great question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn), who made an important speech early in the afternoon, gave evidence to the same effect. I think it is undoubted that whatever this Bill may be able to achieve and whatever benefits it may bring to the industry, and however much it may alleviate the situation in particular districts, it cannot by any possibility meet the great difference which exists at the present time between our selling prices and those of our competitors.
I turn now, as the hon. Gentleman did, to the Amendment put forward from the Opposition Benches. The proposition is that the House should affirm that the only way to deal with this situation is to have large amalgamations of all the coal mines in this country under public ownership. I need scarcely tell the House that that is a proposition with which I entirely disagree. I am not going to make a speech at length to-night on the question of nationalisation. All I would venture to say in general terms upon it is that various countries have in recent times attempted the operation of some of their large industries under public ownership. I was reading only the other day the report of one of the leaders of the committee which deals with American shipping, to the effect that, while they had upon their board the best shipowners and the greatest skill which they could obtain on the American Continent for the running of their American fleet, they nevertheless had to acknowledge—not by reason of their personal disqualification for the business, but by reason of the conditions under which any system must operate which was run by the State—that it was impossible for them to compete with private ownership. That has been the experience also of one of our great Dominions in a similar attempt. These practical examples are worth very many pages of argument in dealing with the question with which we are now confronted.
I should like to bring this argument more pointedly to the particular ques- 488 tion with which we are dealing. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore stated that one of the first requisites in the coal industry was to get rid of a considerable number of pits which to-day were operated at a loss. I have tried to visualise to myself what the situation would be if the coal trade were in the hands of the Government, when a Government Department proposed to close up a large number of pits. What do you think would be the result? You would have exactly the same outcry as you have as soon as a Government Department proposes to close up a dockyard. I venture to say that scarcely any Government would be found to have the courage as against the great communities engaged in the coal trade, who would feel that they were being dispossessed to proceed with the action which they proposed. [An HON. MEMDER: "The Government did it."] They did close up a particular dockyard, and that raised a certain popular clamour. What I venture to say is this, that with a community composed of over a million voters, any Government which has to tackle such a community, when it is a question of closing up pits, is going to consider very seriously whether such an operation can be carried out. I venture further to say that, although we shall undoubtedly see—I do not say how nearly or remotely—a Labour Government again in control of the destinies of this country, there is no Labour Government which would have the courage in these circumstances to resist the opinion of large bodies of the mining community in this country. The result of any such action would be that if the conditions were such that many mines could not be operated at a profit you would have the very demand which has been persistently made by the Miners' Federation to-day, that a subsidy should be granted in order to enable these men still to enjoy a living at the occupation to which they are accustomed.
What would be the result of such a demand? If the strongest Government of modern times, after resisting all clamour for a subsidy, had to give way last July it is not to be expected that other Governments would resist a claim of that kind, especially as it would be supported by the contention—the very 489 plausible contention—that the granting of a subsidy would cost less than to find sustenance for the people who were dispossessed. I pass from that general branch of the argument to some other contentions which are advanced by the right hon. Gentleman. He rather led the House to understand that where pits in a majority of cases were unable to pay it was due more to inefficient management than to anything else, and he gave an illustration from his own experience to the effect that pits contiguous to each other, but under different management, yielded very different results. Under one management, good and efficient, you had large profits, but under another management, although the conditions were entirely the same, you had nothing but losses. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that all collieries are not managed as well as others. It is equally true that there is a great difference in the way in which different branches of any industry are managed.
Some people.are able to conduct their factories at a profit, and other people, under the same conditions, fail to realise anything but losses. That is common knowledge, but the right hon. Gentleman himself will admit that the conditions in the coal trade are different from those in any other trade, because the raw conditions of the industry differ enormously, not merely in different districts, but actually in collieries in the same district. As.a person having very little experience in this matter, but still having had some experience, may I give an illustration from my own knowledge? I was by fate or fortune for a time in a position in which I had to deal with the conditions of certain mines in the very district of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke—South Wales. One of these collieries, with a hard roof and good floor, requiring very little timber, as compared with many others, was worked at so little cost that, no matter what the vicissitudes of the trade were, it always yielded a profit.
Not far off from that colliery was another in which you had a seam distorted and twisted. The conditions of working were different. The roof was softer, and you required a large amount of timber; you could not work with ease, and your costs were enormously higher. No matter how bad 490 the conditions of the coal trade might be, the first pit was always able to make a profit, but the second pit found it very difficult to make any profit even when times were normal. And yet a third pit in this same group was one in which you had patches which were good enough to excite your enthusiasm to go on. You found yourself interrupted by dykes and faults, but you always hoped that you would progress through this intervening space, and that behind it there was an El Dorado—a seam of coal easily worked. The prospect might be doubtful, but it was good enough to induce you to go where a less enthusiastic man might have been induced to stop. My point is this; that differences in a coal field, even within a narrow circle, are so great that it is impossible to assert the general proposition which you would make- in regard to any other industries. It is not a question of management—the whole of the three pits I have described were under the same management, but showing entirely different results. You cannot say that of three factories producing the same kind of thing—
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
What was the aggregate profit?
§ Sir R. HORNE
The last time I was connected with these pits there was only a loss on the three. If the hon. Gentleman reflects for a moment on the condition in South Wales in recent times, it will not surprise him that there are many more losses than profits. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore knows that very well, and he gave some figures which illustrate what I have said. Nor is this a matter purely of machinery. The right hon. Gentleman said quite truly that some people have profited by the use of machinery, and that other people have suffered losses, because they did not have sufficient incentive to put in machinery or sufficient resources to buy it. But this problem will not be solved merely by machinery. I know Scotland, my native land very well, and it employs more coal-cutting machinery than any part of this island for the amount of coal produced. It uses more electrical power than any part of this island, it uses three times as much as the mines of America per thousand tons produced. What is the condition of 491 Scotland? One knows that the seams in Scotland are not nearly so rich as those of South Yorkshire or the Derby and Nottingham seams. They are worked under immensely more difficult conditions. They have tried to solve their problems by machinery. What is the result in figures? I am not taking the subsidy period, because I agree with some of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman as to the artificiality of that period, although I do not entirely agree with all that he said.
Let me take the last normal month before the subsidy period, the month of June. I omit July, because people were actively buying coal in that month, much more than they wanted, in order to avoid the consequences of a possible strike on the 1st August. I take the month of June. The average loss in Scotland was is, 10d. per ton, in spite of all this machinery, in spite of all the enterprise of the Scottish people, and it was due entirely to the conditions of the trade at the time, to the character of the seams these people had to work, and, of course, to the prices which ruled in the world. I say with great confidence that you cannot treat the coal trade on the same lines as other industries. The character of the raw material upon which you are working, and the way in which it has been laid out, not by man but by Providence, brings about a totally different problem for you to solve. Accordingly, the result that I reach is this That you cannot say that what we are suffering from to-day is due to some incapacity on the part of those who have been working this trade in the past, and that it is only to be put right by some action by which you bring more competency into the industry, or bring new management from one colliery which has been yielding a profit to some other colliery which in the past has been working at a loss. There is no solution upon these lines alone.
I would like to remind the House of a fact which may have been neglected. The coal trade of this country is not exceptional with regard to its condition. It is not because we are incompetent and stupid that we have arrived at this position. The only place in the world where you will hear anyone say that British coal practice has not been efficient is in Britain itself. Go to other countries, and you 492 will hear a totally different account of what they think of our mining practice. Many of the greatest mining companies in the world have copied our equipment and have tried to follow our practice, as the hon. Gentlemen opposite who are engaged in this trade very well know, indeed know far better than I do. May I just tell the House something of what has been happening on the other side of the Atlantic? I have in my hand a statement made by Mr. Secretary Hoover in America as recently as 14th May of this year. In the midst of our own troubles I fancy that we have forgotten that the coal trade causes immense difficulty even in prosperous America. I am not referring to the anthracite strike that finished a few months ago after having lasted a considerable time. There were cynics who said that that strike was largely financed by the bituminous coal producers, who saw their own advantage in the anthracite pits being stopped. However that may be, let me state what Mr. Secretary Hoover said:Taking the past three years as a whole, the great majority of bituminous mine operators have sold their coal at less than cost.That seems not unlike the condition in which we have been living in this country. Mr. Secretary Hoover went on to analyse the conditions which have brought about these particular results, and one of the main conditions to which he refers is that there are 200,000 more men in the bituminous pits in America than would he necessary if the required portions of the mines were [...]ployed to their utmost capacity. Again that seems to repeat our own experience. He attributes that condition to the stimulation of the production of coal during the War, and ascribes many of the evils which are in existence to-day to that particular fact. Then, anticipating difficulty in the bituminous mines, he goes on to indicate what he thinks it would be necessary to do for the protection of the public. With that I will not weary the House. But he says this, which I think will interest those who are listening:The net result of all this is that we have part-time operation of too many mines, and the final consequence that most workers, especially in the commercial mines, are only employed part time, and, while the daily wage is usually very high, it does not, for some fraction of their number, constitute 493 even a decent annual living. The bituminous industry is in long view a losing business in the periods between famines, and no unprofitable industry can give satisfaction either to consumer, worker or operator. From all these causes arises most of our labour friction.He deals with the anticipated trouble from labour in the United States. He then goes en to say what I have said to this House on a previous occasion, that the increasing use of other commodities such as oil is not in his view going to be a deterrent to the larger use of coal. That I firmly believe. We are not suffering to-day from the competition of oil, because if you analyse the returns which are given in the Coal Commission Report you will find that instead of the world consuming less coal, in the past few years it has actually been consuming more. The only difficulty with regard to coal has been that our proportion of the market has been reduced from something like 19 per cent. to about 14 per cent., and that is clue to the fact that our prices—
§ Mr. HARDIE
In a speech before the subsidy, why did the right hon. Gentleman make the statement that oil was a serious competitor with coal?
§ Sir R. HORNE
There is a very great difference between those things—between the statement which the hon. Gentleman has made and the statement I have made. What I was then reflecting upon was the immediate competition of oil with coal in the bunkering of steamers. What I am talking about now is the use of coal throughout the world. I would quote this last sentence in the statement by Mr. Secretary Hoover:There no parallel in a competitive industry such as this, with the railways or public utilities which occupy a semi-monopoly of some area of market. Regulation of prices, profits, the right to produce, or wages would not secure cheaper coal, nor would it solve the major questions of labour relations; it would result in a score of worse ills.There, I suggest, is an illustration of the fact that precisely the same problem which is disturbing us to-day is confronting the people of the United States. It does not arise out of any incompetency on our part or any real inability to deal with such a situation as that in which we are. We are dealing with a trade which is totally different from any other trade, and you cannot apply the same 494 rules or ideas to that trade as you would if you were dealing with something which can produce exactly the same conditions in Newcastle as in Cardiff.
This Bill proposes certain measures for bringing about amalgamation. I am not against amalgamation. I see in various comments made upon certain speeches which I have made in this House, suggestions that I am one of the old Tories who want to see everything remain as it was in the past. Anybody who is in the steel trade knows that when I had something to do with that great industry, one of the first things that I did was to propose a great amalgamation of the steel organisations of the country. I did not succeed in carrying my plan, but it was my view then and it is my view now that the safety of the steel trade consists in much better organisation, and, in particular, in an amalgamation which would embrace the great bulk of the steel organisations of the country. My view about the coal trade is not that amalgamation is bad. I think there are many instances in which it would be good. All I wish to do is to guard the House against the view that you can make amalgamations everywhere to the advantage of the trade, and also against the view that it is going to solve the problem. Even when it operates most efficiently it will go only a short way to meet the enormous gap which exists between your prices and your costs to-day. [HON. MEMBERS: "It will go some way!"] I am in favour of amalgamation wherever it can be shown to be beneficial, and I support the Bill because there will be in the hands of the Railways and Canal Commission the duty and responsibility of deciding whether certain amalgamations will be efficient and beneficial or not. But I would remind the House that you must not expect too much from these amalgamations.
Yesterday a speech was made by the chairman of Guest, keen and Nettlefold's. That firm's board of directors have managed their affairs so well that even in a very difficult time they are able to declare an increased dividend. But what does the chairman of that company say in dealing with the coal branch of their industry? It cannot be said that it is small. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore knows more about this business than I do. He knows the coalfields 495 which they have amalgamated. They have made such a large amalgamation that they are now producing 4,500,000 tons of coal per year. I do not know that there are many other firms which produce more, but the House will see that it is a considerable amalgamation. The chairman's report on the coal trade of last year is that instead of making any profit this great amalgamation made a loss last year. Therefore, I warn the House against the theory that amalgamation is going to solve the problem. Not only is it the case that the best amalgamations will not solve the problem, but we have to bear in mind that some amalgamations—
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House the price at, which the coal was sold to the other branch of that firm, namely the steel manufacturing branch?
§ Sir R. HORNE
I assume that it is quite fairly done, as it has been done in all the cases which I have ever had to consider and, of course, there are the auditors to deal with that matter. These are sinister suggestions and I prefer to believe that such things are properly done. At any rate, this is an example to show that not everything can be effected by amalgamation in such times as these. While much may he achieved in some instances, nothing will be achieved in others and the House should not pin their hopes of solving this problem to this Bill or even to something designed on more grandiose lines. But believing that in certain instances good can come and benefit result from it, and having complete confidence in such a Court as the Railway and Canal Commission, composed of business men and a Judge of the land, coming to just decisions upon cases brought before it, I give my support to the Bill.
§ Mr. WILLIAM GRAHAM
In common with the overwhelming majority of Members, I cannot claim any personal or intimate knowledge of the coal industry, nor, indeed, would a claim of that kind be preferred by the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House. Many of us can only speak from the point of view of people who are interested in a great public problem, 496 who are anxious to avail ourselves of the experience of men familiar with the industry and who are endeavouring to ascertain how far the recommendations of the Royal Commission provide a solution of this problem and how far, from our point of view, more is required. In the brief time at my disposal, I wish, first of all, to notice the kind of amalgamation which is proposed by this Bill as compared with the kind of amalgamation indicated by the Royal Commission, and, in the next place, to relate that great problem to the basic principle of the public ownership of this industry. I am satisfied if we approach the problem along these lines we shall be able to submit it in broad and general perspective to one another to-night.
Let us notice exactly what this Bill proposes. If hon. Members examine the Clauses, excluding those which deal with matters no doubt of great importance to the industry but not fundamental to the problem we are now considering, they will see that this Bill, for all practical purposes, leaves it to the voluntary act of individual owners in the coal industry to promote or offer schemes of amalgamation. It provides that such a scheme is to be submitted to the Board of Trade and passed on to the Railway and Canal Commission if the Board of Trade is satisfied that a prima facie ease has been made out, and such a scheme, if endorsed by that Commission, is, in the long run, to be applied, in the limited form here set out, to the coal industry. The whole basis of the Bill is voluntary and tentative in character. Some hon. Members have tried to suggest that there is an element of compulsion in it, but no one can deny that compulsion only enters in after this very doubtful voluntary element. When one party or more, in the limited scheme in contemplation, holds out unreasonably, upon that party or parties, very late in the day—too late to he of any practical service—some minor form of pressure may be put. Could anyone imagine a more hopeless and ludicrous proposition in connection with a great industry which has its back to the wall, a basic industry in Great Britain, upon which the prosperity and development of ninny other industries depend and the reorganisation of which is regarded as urgently necessary by the overwhelming mass of electors?
497 I pause at this point to notice one very human element in this discussion. Over and over again, in the controversies which have taken place since this Royal Commission was appointed and in the proceedings which followed the publication of the Report between the Government, the mineowners and the miners, this thought has been apparent—that before any sacrifice was called for from the mining population or, for that matter, even from the owners, the reorganisation of the industry was to be definitely understood in its broad lines, and was to be so far upon its way. What is the situation? An immediate sacrifice called for from the miners now; the ranging of the Government behind the owners—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—for all practical purposes in this controversy and a Bill, on a purely voluntary basis, which only at the end of three years enables the Board of Trade to say that this, that or the other thing has been done in the voluntary amalgamation of coal undertakings in Great Britain. There is no defence for that situation. It is idle for any hon. Member on the other side to go to the mining population and say: "Here is something which we offer you effectively and decisively in this matter. Before we ask you for any sacrifice at all, you have this." They have nothing to offer in a Bill of this kind.
The, real issue, the large issue raised by this Bill is the problem of amalgamation, and there I am perfectly content to argue it from two points of view—first of all, from the point of view of what the Royal Commission itself said to a large extent on this issue, and secondly, from the point of view of what the Government themselves and their predecessors in the Coalition were compelled to do in the period between 1918 and 1922 in a corresponding problem. We on this side do not argue that mere amalgamation, even if it amounted to unification of this industry, will solve the problem which confronts us now. That is not our case. What we do argue, and argue very strongly, is this, that this is a vital and essential element in a scheme which, applied to the industry as a whole, and taken together with other important recommendations, will give you a powerful proposition, and not the weak and in many ways contradictory state of affairs that you have now. There is not 498 the least doubt that the great burden of evidence tendered, not only to this Royal Commission but also to its predecessor, by expert witnesses was in favour of the amalgamation of these undertakings and a considerable measure of unification. Reference was made to the fact that you have 1,400 different undertakings in the coal industry, with more than 2,500 collieries at the present time. It was pointed out that undeniable advantages would attend a measure of amalgamation in getting the benefits of large scale production and being better able to dead with obsolete and depreciated mines.
The witnesses who tendered evidence to the Commission which preceded the recent Royal Commission were perhaps more emphatic in their view than some of the witnesses before the recent Commission, but in any case the burden of the argument was distinctly in favour of organisation on the lines of amalgamation for what it was worth, and there were several witnesses who went beyond that and, having regard to the growth of trust development in other countries, in active competition with ours, would have gone a long way towards unification itself. I think the conclusion that the Royal Commission reached in regard to that part of the problem was disappointing because, having summarised the case for what appeared to he drastic organisation, drastic amalgamation, they proceeded to modify that and to leave the problem very largely on a voluntary basis, but the reasons they gave for that attitude were singularly weak. So far as I can make out, they seem to think that more would be accomplished on purely voluntary lines. They refer to certain difficulties in dealing with the capital in existing undertakings and reconciling the views and the rights of the parties interested in those undertakings.
All that is interesting enough in its way, but it misses the heart, the point of this problem, and is not in accordance with the evidence which in large part had been tendered and with what the interests of the situation require. I imagine that the Government excuse themselves to-night on the ground that in substance they have taken that line, but let the House remember that the Royal Commission itself pointed out that for all practical purposes voluntary fusion had come 499 to an end. Moreover, they went on to point out that that was not due to any difficulty at all in raising the necessary capital which sometimes fresh amalgamations would involve. A very great deal of fresh capital had been put into this industry even in the difficult conditions following the War. These things were all made perfectly plain and perfectly clear, but even if they had not been made plain and clear, we should be on very sound ground to-night in relating this industry to the two other great industries in the State in which, within recent years, the element of compulsory amalgamation has been applied.
Let us come to those two industries and deal, very briefly, first, with the compulsory amalgamation which was involved in the Railways Act of 1921, and with the compulsory amalgamation or unification of an industry which the present Government of individualists have themselves recommended in the Electricity Bill now under prolonged discussion in Committee upstairs. Prior to 1921, and certainly in that year, Sir Eric Geddes, an anti-Socialist,.an individualist, told this House again and again in debate that we could not go on with 140 or 150 separate railway undertakings in the State, that we had to get rid of that wasteful competition, as I, myself, heard him describe it, and that those companies had to be amalgamated on a basis which would provide for the greatest possible economy in working, give us cheaper rates, minister to the development of our home industry, and have, of course, an important bearing upon our overseas commerce as well; and, in spite of the opposition of a certain section of hon. Members on the other side of the House, that Bill was passed into law. The 140 or 150 separate railway undertakings disappeared. They were compulsorily replaced by four great amalgamations, and there you were dealing with a problem which covers £1,300 of British capital, and not the £200,000,000 or £300,000,000 which are involved in the proposition before the House to-night.
The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) frowned upon this part of our recommendations because of the wide disparity in many of the coal undertakings as they now exist, but there was a very wide disparity in the circum- 500 stances of many of the railway companies in 1921. In point of fact, some of these companies, at one end of the scale, had paid very substantial dividends, and at the other end they had not been able to meet their debenture interest, but there was not any difficulty, when it came to the test, with the proper will and the proper spirit and an appreciation of the problem—although it was not our remedy; we wanted public ownership of the railways—there was not any difficulty in applying to an industry in which you had three or four times the capital that is engaged in the coal-mining industry this measure of compulsory amalgamation. That is a very important service in this country, but let us come for a moment, by way of comparison, to electricity.
A week or two ago the Government introduced a Bill which was broadly designed to remedy one of the great defects of the Measure of 1919. I remember very well, in the days of the Coalition Parliament, when a Bill was introduced on the lines of certain recommendations of a compulsory nature dealing with electricity, that people pointed out that unless you adopted that basis, you could never make an efficient contribution to British industrial progress. What happened? Powerful opposition was offered by electricity and other interests in this country for many weeks upstairs, and in due course, very near to the Summer Recess, they were obliged to abandon its compulsory basis and turn it into nothing more than an agreeable voluntary proposition. They set out on that basis in their Act of 1919. Since that time there have been six years of experience in electricity. No doubt certain progress has been made, but the overwhelming view is that nothing like the progress which would have been possible on the compulsory basis and which the necessities of the situation demanded, has been made. The result is that in 1926 the present Government have been compelled to bring in a Measure for the compulsory organisation of electricity in Great Britain, providing for a central electricity authority, to which all the electricity produced is transferred, from which it is sold to the consumers. For all practical purposes it has virtual control of the industry. In other words the Government have been driven to put 501 electricity in bondage under a system of almost complete regulation rather than admit that they have yielded one inch to Socialist principle in public ownership.
What an extraordinary situation! These were two important industries like the railways and electricity; and here this evening we are dealing with coal which is fundamental to both of them, and indeed, fundamental to practically all the other industries in the. State. Nevertheless, in this fundamental matter the Government is prepared to leave it to the tentative, voluntary proposals of the present Bill, whereas the whole burden of argument would have been in favour of making this definitely compulsory in character, even if everything else remained on voluntary lines.
Let me turn now to that part of the argument with which I can only deal briefly. Our Amendment raises a definite Socialistic proposition in that it recalls the evidence tendered before the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry by the Labour movement and endorsed by the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. Let me make it perfectly clear that the proposals we submitted to the Royal Commission were in no sense the kind of scheme which has been described by the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home). It is a tribute to those recommendations that they were in part adopted by the Royal Commission. A leading part of the argument was that the coal industry was to be conducted not, as is loosely and vaguely stated, by the State, but by the people who know the coal industry and who are familiar with all the technicalities of the administration and of the working details of it, and who would work that industry as trustees and stewards for the co[...]munity as a whole. That is a vastly different proposition from the "Whitehall Department idea" alleged by the right hon. Gentleman and by many hon. Members opposite when they criticise our scheme. If I were asked to put a plain term to it, I should describe it as something in the nature of a public corporation, and I would remind the House that we are moving towards such public corporations far faster, probably, than hon. Members realise, and that we have to stand up to a proposition 502 of that kind if we wish to see this industry in prosperous condition.
I will take an illustration of what I mean from a widely different scheme. A perfectly impartial committee, on which there was only one Socialist, recently reviewed past experience in broadcasting, and laid down a scheme for the future. The report of that Committee is now public property. I agree that that is a new industry, and I agree that in the nature of things it must be a monopoly; but in the case of coal we have a large element of monopoly, because no one disputes that coal is something which we cannot create, that it is in the bowels of the earth, and that it is for us to employ it as best we can. That committee was forced to the conclusion that if there is a monopoly, if you are dealing with something which does not lend itself to the waste and the overlapping of competition, the system of public corporation is probably the best on which to embark; and that committee, largely composed of Conservatives, with, I think, one Liberal and one Socialist, unanimously recommended that system, and for all that I know it is going to he the proposal of the Government.
Broadly and generally, the evidence tendered by our representatives to the Royal Commission on Coal followed that line. It was made abundantly plain that they were not contemplating an industry, publicly-owned and run in that manner, which was to be the subject of subsidy or help from public funds. The real reply to the right hon. Member for Hillhead lay in a sentence in the Report of the Royal Commission in which they pay tribute to that part of the Labour party's evidence, which was endorsed, as I have said, by the Miners' Federation. No one in his senses would recommend any other course. We on this side of the House believe in what we recommend and in the principle of this resolution, but I would be the first to say, and I believe I should carry every one of my colleagues with me, that if we cannot succeed in making the industry efficient on those lines we will admit our failure. Meanwhile as we go on, year after year, working this industry under private ownership, we have to pour into it every kind of subsidy, and to regulate it and interfere with it and take away from it all those ingredients of freedom in industry in which hon. Mem- 503 bers opposite believe so much. How much longer is that to go on? Hon. Members may say they would like to see this individualistic system, with freedom of competition, preserved; but what do they themselves suggest? I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) crossed the Floor because he was afraid of the growing Socialism of the Radical party. We on this side do not entertain any such feelings, but that was part of the argument which the right hon. Gentleman used, and in recommending a central selling agency he refers to the ruinous competition in this industry! That opinion does not come from a Socialist who is destitute of any economic training, but it is the doctrine of an individualist speaking about the state of things in this industry and its export trade and not only does he refer to this ruinous competition, but he recommends some kind of international agreement in order to get rid of the problem. There you are committed to every kind of interference, and if hon. Members opposite imagine that in turning down an Amendment which is admittedly on Socialist lines, they are going to secure a freely competitive coal industry, I can only say that they are very much mistaken.
Suppose this Bill proceeds with its voluntary and tentative amalgamation? You have at least that form of the elimination of competition in operation. All hon. Members must agree that when this unfortunate dispute is ended the industry must hark back substantially to some form of the state of things that obtained before the subsidy. In other words you will have a regulation of the distribution of the proceeds of the industry, and you will not have a perfectly free coal industry at all. I ask hon. Members who differ from us whether it is not sound business, and in the interests of true cooperation, to face the facts of the situation, and invite the assistance of a million men and their dependants in the only form of partnership in which they can assist. This country is faced to-day with a competition of a very difficult character. It is the competition of a great country like the United States on the one hand and a reviving Continent of Europe on the other. The more we analyse that competition the more we are 504 driven to the conclusion that it is the powerful competition of industry built up on trust lines, in short, with the elimination of much of the competition in which hon. Members opposite profess to believe. Can we meet that competition in Great Britain with the kind of chaos which the Government recommend? I think it is our duty to get rid of all our prejudices and face the simple fact that only by the adoption of some scheme like the one embodied in our Resolution can we achieve social and economic salvation.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
I wish I had the time to follow the right hon. Gentleman when he wandered in his very interesting speech into the analogies which he tried to draw from our action with regard to the railways, electricity, and broadcasting. I venture to think that it would not be difficult to show that these cases are quite different from the coal industry. Let me say in two or three words what the outstanding differences are. Each one of these industries is a monopoly; each one of these industries is a home industry, not subject to foreign competition; and to compare what can be done in those industries with what can be done in the coal industry seems to me to be altogether fallacious. I want to get to the Bill itself and to the Amendment that is before the House. There has been very little criticism of what is in the Bill; it may be because hon. Members opposite have not taken the trouble to read it. Some hon. Friends of mine behind me did make sound criticisms, which are, as they themselves said, mostly Committee points, and which I can say at once will receive consideration when the Bill is in Committee; but hon. Members opposite have exhibited more than once their ignorance of the Bill and of its objects. They have complained that it does not afford a settlement, that it picks and chooses between the Royal Commission's recommendations. They should realise that this Bill contains all the legislative measures that are necessary for carrying the Report of the Royal Commission into effect, with three exceptions, which are referred to in the Amendment which is before the House.
There are other recommendations of the Commission which do not require legislation at all, and with regard to those my right hon. Friend the Secretary 505 for Mines, in his very lucid speech, has already explained to the House that Committees have been set up to prepare the necessary Measures to carry them out. With regard to the three exceptions to which the Amendment refers, let me remind hon. Members that the Government offered two months ago, if the other parties would also accept them, to accept every one of the recommendations; but there was no response, and, in the two months which have passed, the conditions have changed. Take the position as to royalties. Two months ago we offered to follow the Commission's Report with regard to royalties, but during these last two months the financial conditions have changed, the economic conditions have changed. The State has been losing day by day, and before anything can be done there, the conditions, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, will have to be reconsidered. What are the other two exceptions? There is the establishment of selling agencies, and I will deal with that point when I go through the Bill, but I hope to be able to show without difficulty that the Bill does enable selling agencies to be set up. The other item was the municipal sale of coal. That, however, is not a matter of immediate importance. It will not produce a single ton of coal, and what we want to do here is to prepare the way for a settlement. That, at any rate, will not help in that direction.
Now let me deal with the Amendment, because it is an Amendment on which hon. Members are going to be asked to vote, and they really should understand it. It starts with the old proposition of nationalisation. That is a proposition, however, which the Royal Commission turned down. It then goes on to condemn the Government for not having followed the Royal Commission's recommendations in every respect. First it asks us in a most important respect to disregard the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and then it asks the House to condemn the Government for not having followed them. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) could not expect that Amendment to be accepted by a Government returned, as this Government has been, upon the issue of nationalisation.
506 I want to follow the right hon. Gentleman in his comments upon the Bill. He said that it was an empty pretence, and wanted to know what effect it would have in helping us out of our present difficulties. I propose to answer that question in dealing with some of the instances he gave, but first let me note the admissions that he made. This Bill has six parts. He took exception to Part I. He welcomed Part II, and he also welcomed Part III, but said it was inadequate. That is the part which deals with the contribution to the welfare fund, and he said that that was inadequate. It is £240,000 a year, which is not a bad commencement. He is entitled to think, perhaps, that it is inadequate, but. I venture to ask the House to believe that it is adequate. Part IV the right hon. Gentleman accepts. Part V he said was all right. As regards Part VI, the enabling Clause with regard to profit-sharing he was not satisfied. What have we done in that Clause? We have enabled any company, notwithstanding anything ill its Memorandum or Articles of Association, to bring in a profit-sharing scheme and put it into operation. What more could we do? How is it possible to lay down by Act of Parliament any scheme which would be applicable to the hundreds of different conditions that there are in the coalfield. It is absolutely essential that detailed profit-sharing schemes should be negotiated between the owners and the men's representatives; but there is already in the coal-mining industry a profit-sharing scheme. There is the 87 per cent. and the 13 per cent., which is in effect a profit-sharing scheme as soon as there are profits to share.
The right hon. Gentleman had, however, objections to Part I, and I should like to test the utility of the Bill by dealing with the objections he made. He said he wanted unification, and lie gave us an example of two pits, one producing coal at 15s. and the other at 20s. I am going to accept his assurance that those pits were exactly similar, that there was nothing in the pits themselves, but only in the management, which made the difference between the 15s. and the 20s. Quite naturally, he said the pit that is producing at 20s. requires modernisation, wants more machinery and wants efficiency. He said, "I want unification in order that we can get 507 efficiency in those pits." Does the Bill do nothing in such a case as that to help to carry out his desire? It does. It leaves it open to the owners of either of those pits to produce a scheme for amalgamation, and if that scheme, notwithstanding the objection of one of the owners to amalgamation, is fair and equitable in the national interest the Railway and Canal Commission can put it into operation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) said this is a voluntary scheme. There is no compulsion in it. I wonder whether he really has apprehended what a degree of compulsion there is in it. The right hon. Gentleman also said he thought the policy of the owner was to freeze out the man who was not making the colliery pay and pick it up for a song and that he would never come for an amalgamation scheme, but would hold off until he got the other colliery at a very low price. That was his case, but either party can produce a scheme. Either party can come before the Railway and Canal Commission, and if there is a pit which by amalgamation can turn itself from a non-paying into a paying pit it is open to it to apply to the Canal Commission for an amalgamation scheme to be approved, and they can do it compulsorily. It is not, therefore, a fair statement of what is contained in the Bill to say that it is merely a voluntary Bill, that it is solely at the instance of the owners that it can be put into operation, because you have both the paying collieries and the nonpaying collieries, and where the non-paying can be put on a better basis by amalgamation it is open to them to bring in a scheme for that purpose.
The right hon. Gentleman then dealt with the export trade. He pointed out that in the quarter ending March, 1925, compared with the quarter ending March, 1926, 80,000 tons more of coal was exported, but £1,800,000 less was received for the coal that was exported. He pointed to that as if unification was going to make any difference to the price of the export trade. He must know that the export prices are not settled solely by the owners of the coal. Is it suggested that those coalowners wastefully threw away the 508 £1,800,000—that they made a present of it unnecessarily to the foreign buyers? He gives the owners credit for greater generosity than do most hon. Members opposite. Of course, they did not take a penny less than they could obtain. They had to sell in competition with foreign producers. Where will unification come in? If there is to be control of export prices by the Government—is that the suggestion? What the Bill proposes is much better. There can be control. Under the Bill it is possible by agreement to create selling agencies which, so far as it is possible to do so, can control prices.
There is one other question I wish to deal with, and that is the right hon. Gentleman's proposal for a round-table conference, as he put it, which was supported also by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). The Government would gladly meet in conference anyone who is authorised by the miners to negotiate, and surely the Prime Minister has given pledges of willingness to meet in conference anyone who is authorised. He has had many conferences with different negotiators, but all have proved futile for exactly the same reasons. The Trades Union Council negotiated, but it turned out that they had no power to reach a binding agreement. The Leader of the Opposition associated himself with the Trades Union Council, but he had no power to make a binding agreement.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I did nothing of the kind.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
The right hon. Gentleman says that he never did anything of the kind. Surely, he was present with the Trades Union Council and associated with them in the negotiations that went on with the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
The right hon. Gentleman must be misinformed. I was never present at the Trades Union Council when it was negotiating with the Prime Minister.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I thought the right hon. Gentleman was associated with the negotiations. I withdraw what I said. My point is, that all these negotiations broke down 509 because the negotiators had their hands tied, and were never allowed to depart from the position,Not a minute on the day; not a penny off the pay.I want to know whether the position is different now. If the Government can be assured that the right hon. Member for Ogmore is now authorised by the miners to negotiate, we should be delighted to meet him at once. Is he? Is he He hesitated to develop the scheme to which he referred in his speech, across the Floor of the House, because he said he thought it might be better if it were discussed round a table. If he can say that he is authorised, of course, the Government will be delighted to meet him, and to meet him at once. If, on the other hand, he has a scheme which he would like to be considered, the Government will consider it the very moment that he informs us what the scheme is. It is necessary to avoid the false impression which would certainly arise in the country if the country were told that a round-table conference was taking place, unless those who took part in the Conference were, in fact, authorised to come to a conclusion.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
Are you authorised by the owners?
Sir L. WORTH INGTON-EVANS
The Government is going on with its legislation. We are in earnest. We believe that although by legislation a settlement cannot be forced, yet this legislation, and the Measures which the Government have undertaken to put into operation, ought to prepare the way for a settlement. It ought to show that the Royal Commission Report is going to be carried into effect, and it ought to give that confidence to which the right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh referred, that no sacrifices are being asked for until the terms of the Report are being put into operation. The immediate question on which the House has to vote, is whether we are to condemn the Government because they do not adopt. nationalisation, and whether we will reject a Bill which will enable extensive reorganisation of the mining industry to take place in accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission. I have no hesitation in asking that the House should reject the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 336; Noes, 147.513
|Division No. 301.]||AYES.||[10.51 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Cope. Major William|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Couper. J. B.|
|Apsley, Lord||Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Courtauld, Major J. S.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Cot. Rt. Hon. Wilfrld W.||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Bullock, Captain M.||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Is[...]ngton, N.)|
|Astor, Maj. He. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Burgoyne; Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Crai[...], Ernest (Chester, Crewe)|
|Astor, Viscountess||Burman, J. B.||Croft. Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Burney, Lieut.-Corn. Charles D.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)|
|Atkinson, C.||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Crookshank.Cpt.H.(Llndsey, Galnsbro)|
|Balniel, Lord||Butt, Sir Alfred||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Campbell, E. T.||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Cassels, J. D.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Dalziel, Sir Davison|
|B[...]nn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Davidson,J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)|
|Bennett, A. J.||Cayzer,Maj.Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Bethel, A.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Davies. Dr. Vernon|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Cecil. Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Davies, David (Montgomery)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R. Skipton)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Chapman, Sir S.||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Blundell, F. N.||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Dean, Arthur Wellesley|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft.||Chilcott, Sir Warden||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Christie, J. A.||Duckworth, John|
|Bowyer. Capt. G. E. W.||Churchman. Sir Arthur C.||Eden, Captain Anthony|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Clarry, Reginald George||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Braithwalte, A. N||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Elliot, Major Walter E.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Cockerill. Brigadier-General G. K.||Ellis, R. G.|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Elveden, Viscount|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Celfox, Major Wm. Phillips||England, Coronet A.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Erskine. Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Remer, J. R.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Lamb, J. O.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Falls, Sir Charles F.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Lister, Cunllffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Fleiden, E. B.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Rye, F. G.|
|Finburgh, S.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Loder, J. de V.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Forrest, W.||Looker, Herbert William||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Lord, Waller Greaves-||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Lougher, L.||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave O.|
|Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Savery, S. S.|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Luce, MaJ.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Lumley, L. R.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Shaw, Lt.-Col.A.D. Mcl. (Ren[...]ew,W)|
|Gates, Percy||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ.,Bellst)|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Goff, Sir Park||Macintyre, Ian||Smlthers, Waldron|
|Gower, Sir Robert||McLean, Major A.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Grant, J. A.||Macmillan Captain H.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Stanley, Cot. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E)||Macqulsten, F. A.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Makins, Brigadler-General E.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Malone, Major P. B.||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Guinness, At. Hon. Walter E.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Streattend, Captain S. R,|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Margesson, Captain D.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Metter, R. J.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Merriman, F. B.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Meyer, Sir Frank||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Hanbury. C.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Templeton, W. P.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Harland, A.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Tichfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Morden, Colonel Walter Grant||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K, P.|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Waddington, R.|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Sallsbury)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Murchison, C. K.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Herbert,S.(york, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Nelson, Sir Frank||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Hills, Major John Walter||Neville, R. J.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Hogg, Rt.Hon.Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Wells, S. R.|
|Holland, Sir Arthur||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn.W.G. (Firsf'id.)||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Holt, Captain H. P.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Oakley, T.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Penny, Frederick George||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Litchfield)|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)||Perring, Sir William George||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hunter-Weston. Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Wlnterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Philipson, Mabel||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Hurst, Gerald B.||Pilcher, G.||Withers, John James|
|Hutchison,G.A.Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Power, Sir John Cecil||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hiffe, Sir Edward M.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Preston, William||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. F. S.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Can'l)||Radford, E. A.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Jacob, A. E.||Raine, W.||Wragg Herbert|
|Jones, G. W, H. (Stoke Newington)||Ramsden, E.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper|
|Kidd, J (Linlithgow)||Rees, Sir Beddoe||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Coronet Gibbs and Major Sir Harry|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Harris, Percy A.||Scurr, John|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, H1lisbro')||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Sexton, James|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hayday, Arthur||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hayes, John Henry||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertlliery)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Barnes, A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Betey, Joseph||Hirst, G. H.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Smillie, Robert|
|Brlent, Frank||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhlthe)|
|Broad, F. A.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Bromfield, William||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Snell, Harry|
|Bromley, J.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown)||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||stamford, T. w.|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kelly, W. T.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Clowes, S.||Kennedy, T.||Sullivan J.|
|Close, W. S.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lansbury, George||Taylor, R. A.|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Lawrence, Susan||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Connolly. M.||Lawson, John James||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Crawford, H. E.||Lee, F.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lindley. F. W.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lowth, T.||Thurtle, E.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lunn, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dennison, R.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Townend, A. E.|
|Duncan, C.||Mackinder, W.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Dunnico, H||MacLaren. Andrew||Variey, Frank B.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Unlver.)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Vlant, S. P.|
|Fenby, T. D.||March, S.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Garry-Jones, Captain G. M.||Montague, Frederick||Watson. W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Gardner, J. P.||Morris. R. H.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Gibblns, Joseph||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Gillett, George M.||Murnin, H.||Welsh J. C.|
|Gosling, Harry||Naylor, T. E.||Westwood, J.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Oliver, George Harold||Whlteley, W.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Palin, John Henry||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Greenall, T.||Paling, W.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coins)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Greaten, D. R, (Glamorgan)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Potts, John S.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Groves, T.||Purcell, A. A.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghten-le-Spring)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Riley, Ben||Windsor, Walter|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydyll)||Rose, Frank H.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Hardie, George D.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Harney. E. A.||Scrymgeour, E.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.