§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [28th June], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Which Amendment was to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words
this House declines to assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which, aiding and abetting the employers' demand for the extension of the working hours of the coal miner, provides no remedy for but will aggravate the present difficulties of the coal industry, is calculated to embitter and prolong the existing dispute, and is directly contrary to the recommendations of the Royal Commission."—[Mr. Walsh.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The SECRETARY for MINES (Colonel Lane Fox)
The Debate yesterday was disappointing. [Interruption.]
§ Colonel LANE FOX
As I was saying, the Debate yesterday was unreal and lifeless, and the reason was because there was no alternative suggestion put forward to that proposed in the Bill. The Bill does suggest a scheme by which, at any rate, a majority of the pits would be able to open at once—[Interruption]—by which a majority of those working in the pits will he able to get reasonably good wages, and by which no man—[Interruption.]
§ Colonel LANE FOX
—and this without the subsidy, and at once. Not one person in the House was able to 994 suggest any other scheme. Not a single alternative was produced which would lead to any suggestion of better conditions for those working in the coal industry, and, therefore, I am entitled to say that this Bill holds the field. A number of speakers quoted the Commission's Report and it is very curious how any heresy or any opinion can find some justification in all sides of the House by quotations. But when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) took as his main point against the Government Bill the fact that the suggestion which it contained was one only reluctantly admitted by the Royal Commission, he forgot that only a few days before he and all his party were recommending the nationalisation of the industry—one of the suggestions which the Commission turned down wholeheartedly. They did admit the principle of an eight-hour day, though they did so reluctantly, but nationalisation they turned down without any qualification whatever and hon. Gentlemen who support that idea cannot claim that they are carrying out anything which the Commission recommended. The Commission having ruled out any question of a subsidy, which they say must come to an end, and having explained that their reorganisation proposals must take years to come into effect, while, meantime, the situation is one which has to he met, we are left with only two alternatives. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The answer to this statement will be made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley).Let hon. Members wait, and they will hear the reply. Colonel Lane Fox.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
As I was saying. the Commission left only two alternatives for a solution of the coal problem. They left us only the two possibilities, either a reduction of wages or a lengthening of hours, and they said, if the present system of hours was to be maintained, it could only be done by a reduction of wages, and that had to be done at once in order to relieve the situation. The miners at this moment have no chance of availing themselves of the alternative which the Commission say is the only 995 way of meeting the situation. This Bill gives them a chance. Permissive and temporary, it gives them the alternative which they have not now got, so that if any man wishes to earn rather more money at the expense of working rather longer hours, any man who is thinking about his women and children has a chance—
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
Yes, Sir. This is a charge against my own people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"] I am not giving way. He has charged my relatives with being afraid, and I would not take that from any man in this House. [Interruption.] He is a rank coward, a dirty coward. My aged father is locked out at the present time, and the Secretary for Mines says, in effect, that my father does not want to defend my mother. He is a dastardly coward to say so, and I will take off my boot to him.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
On a point of Order. Is the right hon. Gentleman in order in saying that the men who accept longer hours are thinking about, their wives and children, to the exclusion of others who are refusing—manfully refusing—to do so, but who are still thinking of their wives and children?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
We are here to listen to different opinions, and, as I have said, there is to be a reply by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
On a point of Order. The Secretary for Mines must, at the same time, remember that we are sitting here representing the men to whom he refers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I do not care a button. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name!"] You can name me if you like.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member must resume his seat when I rise. I cannot allow him to be on his feet while I am standing. There is no point of order 996 in what the hon. Member has put forward. It is a point of argument, which will be dealt with, no doubt, by subsequent speakers in the Debate. A large number of hon. Members wish to take part in the Debate, and these interruptions simply have the effect of limiting their opportunity of doing so.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
So I will, if you deal with the others—and I say that Mr. Speaker and all as you are.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I will deal with matters of order in the House wherever they arise, but I must insist that speeches should be listened to in a proper manner. There can be no Debate unless different opinions are heard. The hon. Member has already put the point which he said was a point of order. I have ruled that it is a point of argument, which can be replied to, not by interjections, but in the course of the Debate.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I have the greatest respect for your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and I would he the last to attempt in any way to upset the ruling of you, Sir, or of the Chairman. May I submit, however, that I have just as great a respect for my own father who is locked out at the present, time. The charge has been made that, unless my father is prepared to accept an 8-hour clay, he is not thinking of my mother and his other dependants. Unless the Secretary for Mines withdraws I will allow you to suspend me before I take that from anyone. No one is going to make that charge. May Mr. Speaker, draw your attention—
§ Colonel LANE FOX
I need hardly say that if I have said anything which seemed offensive to hon. Members, that I most certainly withdraw it without any qualification whatsoever. It is the last desire in my mind to be offensive to hon. Members opposite, or to anybody else. I really think there must have been some misconception of what I said, but if I used any unfortunate words I am extremely sorry. I have been in the House now for 20 years, and nobody has accused me before of being offensive or has brought such a charge against me, and I hope it will never occur again.
The intention of this Bill is to give an opportunity to the miner which he has not had up to now. Yesterday we were told front the other side of the House that no miner would accept longer hours as a solution of the difficulty. If so, then really I do not quite see why all this trouble has arisen or why there should be all this bother about the Bill, which has been said to be a futile and a meaningless Measure! I am afraid that one of the reasons is that of course hon. Members who are anxious—as indeed many of us know about this matter—know that there is a certain feeling, it may be a considerable feeling, among a certain class of miners that this may be a way out. If that is not the reason, why are hon. Members so disturbed about this Bill? Why has it been necessary to have two full days' Debate over so small a Bill? If it is not the reason, then I can only say that I am surprised that so much objection has been taken to the Bill, which is permissive, and which hon. Members opposite say is futile. The Government have never 998 taken in charge or fathered the various offers made by the owners to the miners, but it is obvious that this is an offer that gives the miners a better chance of earning more wages than they would have under a seven-hours' day. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] At this moment such an offer cannot be legally made nor cat it be legally accepted. This Bill, at any rate, does give the opportunity. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I suggest to hon. Members that questions should be put afterwards, and not in the course of the Minister's speech. There might be fifty questions, and then no other speaker would get a chance.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
Hon. Members below the Gangway yesterday drew a distinction between the lengthening of the hours to eight and a reduction of wages. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) said that as a plain man he did not see any necessity—[Interruption.]
§ Colonel LANE FOX
To many of us it does not seem merely a superficial question as to which of these offers is more acceptable to the men, but I do appeal to the commonsense of the House to realise, I appeal to those who know what these offers may be, whether this may not be the way to gain a settlement—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]—for under present conditions the industry cannot be carried on with seven hours. The Bill does not insist, nor does it force, this solution on anybody. The Bill is permissive and permits of a variation in settlement. Therefore, if the Bill is passed, nothing will be imposed on a single miner, but he will have the opportunity to earn more. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince yesterday said that this Bill would throw the miner on to a lower level than the miners on the Continent. But we sometimes fail to remember that, after all, we are not very certain what are the hours of the miner on the Continent. We do know, however, exactly what are the conditions in this country. At any rate, we know this: that the hours are better and the wages 999 that are paid to the British miner are infinitely higher than those that are paid to the miner abroad. [interruption.] The British mine worker receives 10s. 6d. as compared with miners in the Ruhr 6s. 7d.—including family allowances and overtime; Upper Silesia 5s. 2½d.; and Lower Silesia 4s. 10d. Conditions between the two are very different. Yesterday it was said that if the eight hours did come into force that the 14.2 per cent. which was given as an addition to piece rates, would be lost. I do not believe that any miners will expect that if they are paid for the extra time which they are working they should also receive an allowance in respect of the time they lost when the hours were reduced.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
If the 14.2 were accurately estimated in the first instance there should be, in that respect no reduction in present earnings per shift.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is one of those whom I am anxious to call upon in this Debate, and that will be the opportunity for him to put his question. He ought not to try to put his question now.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
Another argument brought out yesterday, based on the Report of the Royal Commission, was that if there was an increase of hours and only the same output of coal were necessary, owing to the impossibility of selling any larger output at the present time, at least 130,000 men would be thrown out of employment. We all know that, unfortunately, there must be a reduction in the number of those employed in our mines, whatever the conditions may be, on account of the men who have come in since the War and during the War; and there must be reductions in the number of pits under the scheme 1000 of the Royal Commission. The argument put forward does not impress me very much when I compare it with the repeated declarations of the leaders of the Miners' Federation that they were prepared to face far larger unemployment than that, that they were prepared to see whole districts stripped of work, whole areas without a pit working.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
If we were to adopt the suggestion of the Miners' Federation that wages should be continued at their present level without any alterations, it would be inevitable for very large numbers of men to be thrown out of work, and in some cases for large areas, especially in Northumberland and Durham, where the conditions are worst, to be very largely, if not entirely, thrown out of work. That is not the only suggestion that has been made by the Miners' Federation. They have suggested that a general rise in the price of inland coal would save the situation. I do not know whether any hon. Members opposite are anxious to father that suggestion, because they must know what the effect would be on our heavy industries. The coal industry depends upon the heavy industries. Unless the heavy industries are able to take coal, a very large number of pits would not be required. Not only would that solution be disastrous to the heavy industries of the country, but what would be the effect if we lost our export trade, with its corresponding reaction on imports of foods and the other necessaries of life? I am certain that is not an alternative suggestion which would be welcomed or encouraged by hon. Members opposite.
In yesterday's Debate no alternative to the Government's plan was put forward. Under this Bill it will be possible, with the assurances which have been given, for the majority of the men to receive their existing wages, for a great number of the others to suffer only a small reduction, and for no man to suffer a reduction of more than 10 per cent., and also for the majority of pits to remain open without subsidies. That remains the scheme which holds the field, and I invite the right hon. Gentleman who is going to follow me to say what is his alternative. We have had one long day's Debate without any con- 1001 structive alternative being put forward. We have now got the whole day before us, and I invite hon. Members opposite, if they think so badly of the scheme of the Government, to tell us what is their constructive scheme. It has been freely said during the Debate that reorganisation ought to have come first. Hon. Members based that contention on quotations from the Royal Commission's Report in which they state that before any sacrifices are asked for from those engaged in the industry it shall be definitely agreed between them that all practical means of reorganisation and of increasing efficiency shall be adopted as speedily as possible. We contend, and I propose to prove it, that that agreement has been reached. [Interruption.] The Government agreed to do their part; the owners agreed also—rather grudgingly, I admit, but still they agreed—to do their part; and the only agreement on the part of the miners has been on this point. In the resolution sent to the Prime Minister on 20th May by the Miners' Federation, in reply to the terms sent them by the Prime Minister, it is stated:We are largely in agreement with the legislative and administrative proposals set forth, and are prepared to render every assistance possible to ensure their success.Following that they announced their refusal to consider any reduction of wages and their refusal of a National Board, with an independent chairman, to settle district wages. The House will see that the miners have definitely agreed with the Government as to the proposals of an administrative and legislative character.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I hesitate to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but do we understand from him that, according to his interpretation of that letter, the Miners' Federation have accepted what are called the constructive proposals in the Mining Industry Bill?
§ Colonel LANE FOX
Yes, Sir. The proposals which have been put before them are the very proposals which are in the Mining Industry Bill. [HON. MEMRERS: "No!"] If the hon. Gentleman does not agree he can look up the letter which was sent.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is not a point of Order. We cannot constantly have these 1002 points of Order. Hon. Members must realise that there are many hon. Members who wish to speak.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. Williams) cannot put it in that way. If he wishes to say it, he must say it is incorrectly stated. That is a Parliamentary phrase, but not the other.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
If the first statement was incorrect, I readily withdraw it. I was definitely that the whole statement was strictly incorrect.
§ Mr. D. GRAHAM
I would like to have your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether a Minister, at that Box, is entitled to make statements that he must know are untrue. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] Is it to be expected that he can get the ordinarily silent attention of this side of the House when he is making such a statement?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is a charge sometimes made against Members in different parts of the House. It is not permissible to make such a charge. One of the first conditions of our proceedings here is that we give credit to all Members for sincerity in the opinions they put before us. Hon. Members claim sincerity for what they say, and we must have it all round.
§ Mr. D. GRAHAM
I am quite willing to accept the sincerity of the statements made by hon. Members opposite, but it is not unreasonable to ask that a Minister ought to be more careful.
§ Mr. PALING
Is it not usual, when a Minister is referring to an important letter, that he should read from the letter instead of putting his own interpretation upon it?
§ Colonel LANE FOX
It is true that I only read a part of the resolution, because that was the only part which was relevant to my argument. I have no intention of concealing anything. [An HON. MEMBER: "Read the letter."] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ogmore Division (Mr. Hartshorn) gave some interesting figures on this point in the previous Debate, and he quoted the figures supplied by the owners before the Royal Commission as showing that under an eight-hour system there would still be heavy losses to the owners. He did not remind the House that those figures had been the subject of very strong criticism.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Does the right hon. Gentleman question the accuracy of my figures? I gave the figures which would arise under the eight-hours day which were supplied by the coalowners.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
That is what I said. The figures I referred to were put before the Coal Commission. If those figures were exaggerated, it really matters little. At any rate, the real point remains that the loss on an eight-hours day is bound to he less than on a seven-hours day. They show that 3d. a ton is the average loss between January and June, 1921. That is the average over the six months, but in the last of the six months the loss was 1s. 11¼d. The loss was a growing one, and, at the end of another six months, in the December quarter of 1925, there was a loss of from 1s. 3d. to 1s. 5½d., and in the following quarter it was 1s. 4¾d. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ince Division quoted some figures in the Debate, in which he pointed out that £66,000,000 represented the owners' profits from July, 1921, to December, 1925, a period of 4½ years. I am not complaining of his figures, but I wish to point out that the correct figure was £62,000,000. The wages in the same period were £691,000,000, therefore the proportion of £62,000,000 to £691,000,000 is considerably greater in favour of the wages than 87.13. which was the proportionate share agreed upon under the. 1924 agreement. That shows that figures like these, taken by themselves, are very often misleading.
§ Mr. WALSH
I think the right hon. Gentleman will remember that that referred to the figures used during the 1004 course of the Debate, in which it had been stated by the Minister of Labour that no profits had been made in that time, anti I pointed out that the owners had received £66,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman now admits £62,000,000 in a period within which it had been said that no profits had been made. Surely there can be no complaint in regard to an industry in which the right hon. Gentleman admits that the coalowners' profits amounted to £62,000,000.
§ The MINISTER of LABOUR (Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland)
Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly show me the statement which he attributes to me?
§ Colonel LANE FOX
The only reason why I mentioned that figure was to show how very misleading it is when you take a figure by itself. I only want to show what is the real conclusion. The sum of £62,000,000 may sound a very serious and devastating figure which suggests that the industry might be in a much better position than it is, and it is only when you realise the magnitude of the figure as a whole that you realise the actual position.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
No. It is 10 per cent. upon a very precarious undertaking. I want to ask hon. Members on this occasion not to lose the chance we offer of giving their alternative proposals, and, if they cannot give us any better alternatives, then I think the House had better accept the Bill which we propose. If they have alternative suggestions which are better and which will give a chance of a settlement with reasonable and decent wages without any undue cost to the public, then the House will be prepared to consider the acceptance of them, but, in the meantime, I claim that the scheme of the Bill holds the field.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
The House will, I am sure, appreciate the very strong feeling that is displayed by my colleagues during the discussion of this Measure. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because we are to-day determining the living conditions of about 5,000,000 of our population, and possibly of children still unborn; and my colleagues, having firsthand experience of the conditions under which miners work and live to-day, can- 1005 not suppress their natural indignation at any proposal to reduce these men and their dependants to a lower standard of life. I do not think that I would be suspected of affectation if I submitted to the House that very seldom has a responsible Minister put forward such a weak case in support of such an important Measure as that which has just been submitted by the Secretary for Mines. The principal part of his speech—lie reiterated it—was that we on this side of the House had failed yesterday and might be expected to fail again to-day to submit alternative proposals. Does it not come strange from a Member on the Government benches to suggest to the House that hon. Members would sit in their places and be doing their duty 1.)y allowing us to discuss alternative proposals when the present Measure was there for our consideration. Is not the present Bill the only Measure that is before us and that could be before us?
§ Mr. ROY BIRD
It was ruled yesterday by Mr. Speaker that it would he in order to put forward alternatives.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
It certainly would not be in order to discuss in detail these alternative proposals. I submit that, during yesterday and, indeed, all through this industrial trouble and for years before the present industrial troubles began, alternative proposals have been submitted by this party in this House, in the industrial field, and from every political platform in the country. I want to deal at the moment with what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman in support of the Bill which he asks the House to adopt. The best that has been said for it is that by working eight hours, instead of seven, some miners will get their present wages, other miners will get less wages, and 130,000 will get no wages. He has told us that the Bill is a very little Bill. I suppose, therefore, like the erring servant's baby, it is so little that we may be expected not to make a fuss about it. He told us that it is permissive in character and that it is only temporary, and we were assured yesterday that. it was not the signal of a. general attack on the wages of the workers of this country. Has the right 1006 hon. Gentleman submitted one argument in favour of the assertion that the Bill is of a temporary character Can he-assure the House, or can anyone on the opposite side of the House give am assurance, that the extension of hours and the reduction of wages that are proposed and implied in this Bill will be for one year, or two years, or three years, or even for five years?
To talk about the Bill being of a permissive character and to say that the miners may reject it or accept it, is not to flatter the intelligence of this House. It suggests that you have two equally free and independent bodies, who sit on either side of a table, and, by reason, and reason only, arrive at an agreement. We are asked to believe that this is a step towards the brotherhood of man, and that it is to be peace by negotiation and not by pressure. But what are the facts? The hon. Member knows, and so does everyone here, that the workers in the negotiations will be neither free nor independent. They are faced with the alternative of accepting the conditions which are submitted to them by the owners or of accepting the risks of starvation or semi-starvation for themselves and their children. I submit that to compel people to accept such terms through the threatened starvation of their children, is not to arrive at an agreement by negotiation but by force of the most brutal and inhuman character.
We were told yesterday by the Minister of Labour, when introducing the Bill, that there was no intention of making a general attack on the wages of the workers. That is entirely contrary to all the expressions that we have had from representative gentlemen of the party on the opposite side of the House. I have here in the Press of 31st July, a statement of the Prime Minister himself that it was necessary, and it would be necessary, for all workers to submit to a reduction in wages if the industries of this country were to be put on their feet.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
There it is, in the "Daily Herald." I want to ask the-right hon. Gentleman to-day if he has ever publicly denied that statement, or if he is going to submit to the House 1007 that this is the first occasion on which ho has heard of it? Indeed, if I had thought that the statement was likely to be challenged, I think I could have produced in support of it statements made by his colleague, the Home Secretary, of exactly the same character and in the same direction. Before I pass from that let me put this to the Prime Minister if he still asks the House to believe that wages in other industries will not be reduced. Is he prepared to rise in his place to-day and give to the country a public guarantee that before the end of 1927— a period in which he is likely to have political power in this country—the wages of the workers will not be reduced, apart from the proposals in the measure now before the House? I submit that that is a perfectly reasonable request to make to people who ask us to accept this Bill on the assurance that wages in other industries will not be reduced, but who say that, owing to the particular conditions of this industry at this moment, it is necessary, to their intense regret, to reduce the wages of the miners.
Before proceeding 'to examine the proposals further, may I draw the attention of the House to one or two extraordinary features about the introduction of this measure, to which brief reference was made yesterday. This is the first time on which a British Government has openly and definitely taken sides in an industrial dispute. The Labour Government of 1924, when confronted with the stoppage in the transport services of London, never dared to violate tradition to this extent. The present Government has no such scruples. It is prepared to march through precedent and tradition, through custom and even through the Constitution to the attainment of its goal. This is not their policy. No mention was made of this Bill during the General Election. No mention of it was made in any Ministerial speech before the wretched speech that was delivered by the Prime Minister in this House a few days ago. It has been well said in the course of the Debate that no Government, and least of all a Government representing a minority of the electors of this country, has a right to introduce such a revolutionary change as this makes in the industrial history of this country without popular consent. But while this 1008 proposal was never mentioned publicly before last week by a representative of the Government, it has been the principal proposal of the mine-owners. Not merely since the trouble began, but for months and months before the trouble began, the mine-owners were demanding from the miners something that was not legal. There was on the Statute Book of this country, and there is to-day, an Act of Parliament which made it illegal for miners to work, or for mine-owners to permit them to work, the number of hours proposed in the Bill now before the House.
When Members of the working class in this country seek for the violation of the law, advise people to violate the law, and plead for the violation of the law, they come under the notice of the police, and frequently find themselves in prison. But here we have another attitude—"Our class, right or wrong." That is the basis of their policy; that is the unexpressed slogan of the Conservative party. The Prime Minister says in effect to the mineowners, "Gentlemen, do not break the law; we will change it." May I remind the House—and I think this was brought to their notice yesterday also—that this is the first time that a Bill to increase the hours of labour has been introduced in this or any other Parliament? Right down through the industrial age, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) pointed out yesterday, we have had continuous progress towards the emancipation of the toilers of this country from excessive labour Even the Conscazvative party, from the days of Shaftesbury down through the time of Disraeli, have contributed something to our national gains in progress. The present Prime Minister has cut out for himself a particular niche in the political history of this country. He is the most reactionary statesman of the industrial age. Other Conservative leaders have merely put a brake on progress; he has reversed the engine: he is the leader of reaction, and not the leader of progress. School children in the future may be asked, "When did Britain turn back?"—and the answer will be, "In 1926."
This Bill solves no problem, it intensifies existing problems, and is bound in its very nature, as I shall show, to produce a fresh crop of social 1009 problems. If we on this side of the House, who sincerely believe that it is in the interests of Britain to have a new order of society, considered only the destruction of the existing order, we would say to the Government, "Take your Bill; increase the hours of labour; reduce the wages of your workers; and six months from now you will be in a more hopeless industrial position." But we cannot neglect the human suffering that would be involved in the national folly of putting a Measure like this at the disposal of an unscrupulous industrial class, who control the bread, the life, not merely of the miners, but of those for whose welfare the miners are responsible. May I remind the House of the obvious and external features of the industrial problem with which we are faced? It is not a problem of a shortage of coal; it is not a problem of a shortage of anything that human beings require in this country to satisfy their human wants in a. healthy way. We have surplus coal; we have a shortage of customers and we have a. surplus of miners. Is not that the problem that confronts us now? We have more coal than we can sell. I have with me here a report made to.the Trades Union Congress in September, in which it is stated that the Prime Minister himself had informed the reporter that there was more coal in this country than this country can sell. I not think anyone questions that that is the very kernal of the problem that confronts us. If that be the problem, are we not entitled to ask, how is this Bill going to contribute one iota to the solution of it?
Our problem is to get more customers. How will this Bill get more customers for us? Generally, when it is proposed to reduce the conditions of the workers, either by forcing them to work longer for the same wages or to work existing hours for less wages, we have this argument put forward—an argument which, I believe, is frequently fallacious, but it is usually put forward—that the reduction of cost will increase the demand, and the increase of the demand will set the wheels of industry running more smoothly and produce greater employment, greater industrial efficiency and national prosperity. But even that argument cannot be used in support of this Bill. I have not heard anyone say 1010 that it is the intention of the coalowners of this country to reduce the price of coal as a result of this Bill. No one has said, no one will say, that, as a result of the passage of this Bill, of the miners working longer for the same wage, coal will be sold at a penny a ton less than it is being sold for at the present moment; so that the whole idea of an extended market goes to the wall immediately.
If you have more coal than you can sell now, and your Bill is not going to increase the demand for coal by a reduction in price, it follows, as night follows day, that there is bound to be a substantial contribution to unemployment from the ranks of the miners. Members of the Government say they may find an Opening elsewhere, but what industry to-day is short of workers? Where can they hope to find employment to-day? I have no doubt that hon. Gentlemen opposite would be satisfied if the 150,000 or whatever may be the number of men who will be unemployed as a result of this Measure, could find an opening in the wasteful or parasitical industries of this country. They would say, "We have passed our Measure, and there has been no increase in the number of unemployed." But whether you maintain your unemployed through the Employment Exchanges or through parasitical occupations, they are a direct burden on the employed people and the industry of the country. It is perfectly plain what will happen here. At least 150,000 people will be immediately sent to the Employment Exchange, and what happens then?
We were asked yesterday—and I wish to lend my support to the appeal—to consider this Measure from a national point of view as well as from the point of view of the particular industry. What happens, then, from a national point of view? 150,000 men and their dependants have to be fed. It is quite true that their maintenance allowance will be less than if they were working; that is necessary in the interest of competitive capitalism; but they have to be fed somehow. They have to get, let us say, 30s. a week for digging nothing, instead of 45s. a week for digging coal. Is it a sound national policy that will compel men to enter circumstances in which they will have to exist on 30s. a week for doing nothing, rather than to regulate the hours in this 1011 country so as to distribute the amount of labour that requires to be done in the national interest and pay our useful workers for doing useful work?
I submit, however, that the unemployment will not stop there. What is the next step in the course of the policy now being adopted in the interests of capitalism by His Majesty's Government? Might I remind the' House that Germany lost the War? Might I also remind the House of what has frequently been said, that the miners helped to win the War? We have heard a good deal during this Debate about the law of supply and demand. If the miners had insisted on the law of supply and demand during the War, they would have had £2 a day during the War; but, when the law of supply and demand favoured the workers the law was suspended, as the seven-hours law is being suspended now when it favours the workers. Germany having lost the War, we decided that the losers must pay. That is part of our national policy; it is part of the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Government that the losers must pay. It may be that they have not paid much, as has been muttered from the other side of the House, but, it has been laid down that Germany must pay. To compel Germany to pay, the German miners, who are included in the losers, have to work longer hours, because Germany lost the War; there is no other way in which Germany can pay. Equality between victor and vanquished is intolerable. You cannot have reparations if the victor and the vanquished are to be on an equal economic level, and a direct result of this Measure must be to extend the hours of labour in Germany. Otherwise, what becomes of the Versailles Treaty? How is the loser to pay?
Immediately the working hours are extended in Germany, are we not then back exactly at the position that faces us to-day? If the Germans adopt a nine-hours' day, or if the Germans care to work for less wages, will not our coal-owners experience the same difficulty in competing with the German owners after this Bill has been passed as they do at the present moment, before the Bill is passed and before a nine-hours' working day has been introduced in Germany? I think it is a reasonable assumption that 1012 they will. And then, according to the very same philosophy that supports this Bill, what course is left open to the mine-owners of this country but to come to this House and, through their spokesmen on the Government Bench—if they still have spokesmen on the Government Bench—to tell this House that the miners of this country must face the economic facts of the situation; that, Germany working nine hours, we must work nine hours; that the present Bill for eight hours must be suspended, and that a nine-hours' Bill must take its place on the Statute Book of this country? I submit that that is a reasonable assumption of the natural course of the policy on which we are asked to embark to-day. What does that show'? It shows us that to-day the British miners, who won the War in 1914–1918, are the slaves of the German miners who lost the War, and that it is the German miners and the German mineowners who determine the living conditions of the miners of Great Britain. The miners on the industrial field to-day who are fighting against this yoke being placed upon them are at war against the very conditions that they were told they would be fighting against if they went to France in 1914.
May I carry the House with me a little further and ask it to see that, even if the miners did accept these proposals—I do not believe they will, and I ask the House to remember who these miners are—our troubles would not be at an end. The miners are probably the most magnificent million of men in this country. They are men who, if they were displaying the same indomitable determination and loyalty in the military field on your behalf as they are doing to-day on behalf of their wives and dependants, would win the admiration of the world. They are men whose leaders. instead of being denounced as they are being denounced to-day, would be invited to Buckingham Palace and to the greatest mansions in the country in order that they might receive an expression of the admiration of the rich for the people who were carrying on the war in the national interest. Do you think that, that is the stuff of which a servile class is made? Is not the whole idea lying behind this, that you can get in this country a million people sufficiently docile and servile to live in beastly conditions in order that you may, within the competitive system, 1013 carry on your industrial policy? That is the whole idea underlying this Bill—that the miners of this country are prepared to live in worse houses, to live on a less quantity or poorer quality of food, that they are prepared to see their children get less education than they are getting to-day, in order that you may have an opportunity of showing in your ledgers a dividend on the capital that is invested in the mining industry.
I submit, even to the Members opposite, that the day when you could get that class of people in this country has gone for ever. You got a supply of miners of that calibre from the ruined agricultural districts of Ireland and the Highlands and the English counties during the 19th century. That supply has run dry. Your miners in future will be recruited from the mining villages. They will be the sons of miners; they will be the sons of people who are as well educated in political economy and industrial history, taking them in the mass, as are probably any other million of people in any other walk of life in this country. They are composed of men such as those who sit behind me to-day—men who rise in their places and tell you that they are carrying out the dying wishes of their fathers in resisting proposals of this kind. These men will bequeath to their children the same spirit of resistance, the same fighting determination, as is being displayed by the miners at the moment. It is all nonsense to talk about the fighting spirit of trade unionism that is now being displayed as being of alien origin. The spirit of fighting trade unionism, whether it be displayed in this country or in any country in the world, is British or British by extraction. I submit that, even if it were true that it had an alien origin, it is offering insult to some of the best families in this country to suggest that the mere fact of a person or a thing being alien in origin is sufficient justification for condemnation.
I want the party opposite, because they have the power, to face the economic facts, even as thy ask those on this side of the House to face them. It is you, and you only who can save this nation, if it is to be saved from going down the slippery slope to revolutionary destruction; and you are going to save it if you can rise superior to the immediate 1014 economic interest of your class, and realise the economic facts of the present situation. May I state one or two of those economic facts which I think cannot be seriously disputed? The first of them is that you have no outlet in this country now such as you had in the nineteenth century for surplus goods as means of developing the country. You have all the mines, all the railways, all the warehouses, and all the workshops, and you have all the property, apart from housing, that you require. There is no outlet for the surplus product of labour there, as there was during the nineteenth century, when this was an undeveloped country. That is an important economic fact which is governing the social and industrial conditions of this country at the moment. May I point to another which is very simple, but is frequently neglected, and that is that the exchange of goods with a foreign country is not the same as the consumption of goods? You do not get rid of goods merely because you exchange goods with a foreign country; you merely carry out a system of swapping, of barter, and the amount of your goods at home remains the same, except for purposes of convenience, as it was before you entered on the transaction.
I submit the further fact, that you cannot import goods faster than your people can buy. If you could get a million times more trade abroad than you have, you would not purchase a pennyworth more or import a pennyworth more to this country than the people of this country can afford to buy. The purchasing power of the British people in 1926 is the governing factor in the trade conditions of the country. May I remind you that 70 per cent. of the people, who are your market, who detemine what the trade and industry of this country is to be and what its conditions are to be, are wage earners, and that the incomes of those wage earners determine the extent of the home market, which is the governing factor in British trade and industry? Low wages mean low trade. No wages, speaking generally, would mean no trade. If you lower the wages or the purchasing power of the people of this country, as you would by this Bill, to the extent that you reduce wages or put people on the dole, you deal a fresh blow at British trade and 1015 industry, and you increase and intensify every social problem that we have, and, more and more, you make the condition of Britain a heart-breaking consideration for the people who have any responsibility. The only way in which we are going to find an outlet from our present industrial difficulties is by realising that we have in this country, in our mining villages, in our agricultural villages, in our towns and in our cities', millions of people who have unsatisfied human wants, that side by side with these people we have millions of pounds' worth of goods for which we cannot find a market, that if we could get rid of those goods we have again millions of people prepared to replace them with other goods.
Surely it is not necessary, if we have any statesmanship left, that Britain should be compelled to starve in the midst of plenty? A great capitalist on the Clyde spoke to me on the subject only a few weeks ago. He said that he was losing faith in the capitalist system, because when he could find no employment for his men through industry being choked, owing to the unworkable nature of our present order, he was getting no dividends on his capital and he added something which I have frequently quoted. He said: "If I get no dividend on my capital, then it might as well have been sunk in the bottom of the Clyde as on the banks of the Clyde." I submit that we are drifting towards a state of society in which no people will have an interest in preserving the social order at all. I do not think that any responsible people in this country want revolution. I question whether any responsible people in any country ever want a revolution. Conditions breed revolution, and the people who produce the conditions are the real revolutionaries. We who ask the Government to realise the danger of the present situation are the bulwark against revolution in the country, and not the people who denounce us as revolutionaries.
Let me say one or two words in reply to the appeal that has been made to us. We are told that the mines do not pay. We have had conflicting views on that question. I read the other day a speech delivered by the Chairman of Messrs. Guest, Keen and Nettlefold, in which he made an amazing statement. 1016 He said that during the past year his company had raised 4,500,000 tons of coal, but had lost on every ton; but the company had made a profit of £1,000,000 and was paying a dividend of 10 per cent. free of Income Tax. That presented to me a conundrum, and I submitted it to one of my friends amongst the miners. He said, "It is easily explained. Nettlefold. the coalowner, must have sold his coal to Guest, the ironmaster, at a very keen price, and, therefore, Keen and Nettlefold gained a million pounds or more on the swings than they lost on the merry-go-rounds." At any rate, the fact remains that they made £1,000,000 profit and that they paid a dividend of 10 per cent. free of Income. Tax, and put an enormous sum to reserve. Whatever the facts of the situation, we all know that there are more miners than mineoeners receiving relief from the guardians and the parish councils to-day. I confess that all the moving appeals made to me on behalf of the owners leave me very cold as long as I know that the people under consideration are probably enjoying the highest standard of life in this country.
Again, when I am told, the mines do not pay, I am not sure that I am seriously disturbed to prove whether they do or not. The country as a whole pays. The most essential industries in this country do not pay. The Army does not pay, the Navy does not pay, scavenging does not pay, the health services do not pay, our elementary schools do not pay, even the telegraph service of this country usually does not pay, but no one conies forward and asks the policeman to face economic facts, no one even asks the school teacher to face economic facts. What do they say? They say the elementary schools, the police, the Army, the Navy, and the scavenging and health services are all industries essential to the life of this nation, and, therefore, the people engaged in them are, in so far as the country can afford it, entitled to a decent standard of living. Is not coalmining an essential industry, and is not the miner entitled, if the country can pay, to a decent standard of living in order that he may carry on one of its essential industries? I am submitting that the country can pay.
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us the other 1017 day that he had discovered, in the course of his Budget investigations, that £300,000,000 a year are invested in credit betting in this country, so that evidently we have a class of people who at one game can play with twice more in stakes than the entire mining population of this country get for producing its coal. I do not suppose that they lose the £300,000,000. It may be the same money turned over and over again, but even if they only lost half the money—and I do not know if anyone would insure them against that risk—the amount they would lose to the bookmakers would be as much as is being paid to-day to all the miners engaged in the production of coal in this country. How can you say, then, that the country is poor? We are told that Bond Street is busier than it ever was before. I submit that, if there is anything in the brotherhood preached by the Prime Minister, it would be a practical expression of brotherhood to ask the brother with more than £50 a week to contribute a little to the brother who is only getting less than 50s. a week, and a brotherhood which cannot give that material expression is only a brotherhood useful for perorations on political platforms.
I submit that the first step ought to be to got the miners back to their work, that this is not merely a mining problem, not merely a coal problem, but a great national problem, probably the greatest that this country has ever had to face in its history, that the whole future of the nation depends on its intelligent solution, and that the first step ought to be to stop the civil war, to get our miners back to work, in a friendly spirit, on the old conditions, and to apply our brains to the reorganising, first, of the mining industry, and then of the other national industries. I submit to the Prime Minister, whose political honesty, I fear, is greatly exaggerated, that he has not played fair with the miners. He comes to this House and tells the House, and, through this House, tells the country, that he wants peace in our time, and that he is working for peace and only for peace, but he goes to his own friends at their Conference and tells them that he always regarded the strike as inevitable, that he knew it was bound to come, and that he prepared for its coming. We are being asked whether the miners are pre- 1018 pared to accept the Coal Commission's Report. When that question was put, weeks and weeks ago, there were differences in the interpretation of the terms of that Report. Some people said it meant one thing, and other people put another interpretation on it, and in order to elucidate its terms, influence was brought to bear on the man who had presided over the Coal Commission, the man who was considered by the Government to be the most capable man on earth to find the facts and guide us in national policy, even along their lines, on this industrial problem.
He was invited to come and give his interpretation of the Report. He might be expected to understand it quite as well as the Ministers who appointed him, because they did not know what to do. It was to him they went for guidance; he was their "guide, philosopher and friend." He presented his Memorandum in the course of the general strike, and I submit that here again an attempt was made to trick the miners. It is quite true, I believe, that no binding bargain was made in the calling-off of the general strike, but I think it is an undoubted fact that an impression was left on the minds of honest men that if, in the national interests, it were called off, the Samuel Memorandum would be offered to the miners as the basis of settlement of the trouble in the mining industry. Think of what was attempted. We now know what the facts were. Immediately the mineowners met, they unanimously decided that they would not accept this Samuel Memorandum as the basis of settlement. In reply to a question that I put to the Prime Minister 10 days ago, he informed this House that he had never accepted it, and that he was not prepared to accept it. But the question was put to the miners as to whether they would accept it. If they had said that they would accept it, we now know that they would never have got it. We now know that if they had accepted its implied reduction in wages, having got them on the slippery slope, all the anti-trade union forces of this country would have coalesced to bring them down and down and down, on the plea that they had accepted the principle and were now quibbling over a matter of degree.
But the miners' leader, who has been sometimes termed an honest fool, has 1019 proved himself in statesmanship superior to the great majority of his critics, and he refused, and refused rightly, to go into negotiations pledged to accept a reduction in wages before even the discussion had begun. Here, again, I submit to the Prime Minister that honesty, even in dealing with miners, is the best policy. I leave it at that. I hope that if the present policy is pursued, the miners who are standing to-day not merely in the interests of themselves and their families, but of the future of this country, will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder. I hope that they may go on weeks, and weeks, and months, if necessary, rather than submit to degradation, and I take this opportunity of appealing to every real lover of his country who understands the economic implications of the present struggle and the present discussion to risk everything in support of the miners, knowing that if the miners go down, this country will go down from the place which it has occupied during the centuries of the past.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I do not rise to pursue the broad and general economic argument which has been developed in the speech of the right hon. Member for the Shettleston Division (Mr. Wheatley), but because I think that hon. Members on this side, even though they may not be closely connected or, indeed, at all personally connected, with the mining industry should not, give merely a silent vote upon this occasion. So far as I am concerned, I desire, if I may, in a very few words to express the course by which I have arrived at the decision as to the step that I propose to take this evening, namely, to vote, with perfect confidence that it is the right and wise thing to do, in support of the Bill, upon whose introduction I most warmly congratulate the Government. [Interruption.] I arrived at that conclusion many weeks before the Bill itself was introduced, and I so expressed myself in the public Press. [An HON. MEMBER: "You should work under it!"] We must each, in this world, do our own work, and the course—[Interruption].
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The right hon. Member for the Shettleston Division (Mr. Wheatley), who has just finished, was listened to for 55 minutes, and if 1020 hon. Members behind him have any sense of fair play, they will listen to other speakers.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I was about to explain in a very few words the process of reasoning by which I have arrived at the conclusion that this Bill is the best and the only way out of a hard and difficult situation. Do not let us blind ourselves to the fact that in life very often there are hard and difficult situations. I do not, myself, believe that there are any moments more anxious for a statesman, for a Government, and for Parliament than when they have to meet these hard and difficult situations, but I pray the House, and, if I may, hon. Members opposite, not to assume or to suggest or to believe that our motives in dealing with this hard and difficult situation are less honest and less decent than those which they themselves would have if they were called upon to deal with it. As it seems to me, the alternatives, the hard and naked alternatives, are between a greater and a lesser reduction of wages. Nobody says that that is going to be permanent, and nobody believes that it will be.
Let us never forget—and this has not once, so far as I have heard it, been mentioned in this Debate—that alone among the industries of this country the profits of the coal-mining industry are so arranged that the men receive 87 per cent, of the profits and the owners 13 per cent.. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That is so. I do not wish to be diverted and to speak for a longer time than. I informed Mr. Speaker I was about to do, but let me say that, if that division is not now made, there is a totally different question, which requires separate investigation, and I may assure hon. Members opposite that, if investigation be needed, there is no party that will more willingly and anxiously undertake it than the Conservative party, of which I am proud to be a member. [Laughter.] It is easy to laugh, but it does not help the argument. There are times for a. sense of humour, and times for other senses, and I think in a. Debate of this importance there are other senses that are more necessary to apply. I venture to suggest that, hard as are the alternatives, the Government are pursuing the course which enables the 1021 miner to select the least hard alternative. [An HON. MEMBER "Starvation!"] Call it starvation, if you like. It is not better to be only partially "starved"—using your own most inaccurate word—and nobody knows better than hon. Members opposite how inaccurate it is—surely, it is better, if the question is one of the reduction of wages, to open the way to making it possible for that reduction to be as little as it can he. Hon. Members opposite, with great force, with great sincerity, constantly urge that it is of immense importance that the standard of living of the people should not be reduced. Humbly, I agree with them. It is because; so far as I can see, and I make no claim to be an expert, this is the only means whereby you can bring to an absolute minimum such reduction of the standard of living as is necessary that I support this Bill. That is the hard alternative, but, surely, there is no man, no statesman, no party who would not attempt to solve it in the way we are trying to do.
With regard to the standard of living, can there be any hon. Member opposite who does not agree that the standard of living is far more intimately connected with the amount of wages received than with the amount of hours you work? I most fully agree that if any trade or industry were to be burdened by hours of immense length, that would indeed more than compensate for any wage they could receive. But can anyone say, in view of the standard of living and hours of the other wage earners of this country, that by permitting the coal miners to work eight hours a day, you are imposing such a burden of hours as to make it worthless? [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes!"] You say so, but is there any foundation for it? [An HON. MEMBER: "You try it. You go down the pit for eight hours."] If you are faced with the necessity of a reduction of wages or increase of hours and are considering the question of the maintenance of the standard of living, surely the answer to the problem is to reduce the wages as little as possible, even if you have to some extent to increase the hours. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about reducing your own wages?"] The hon. Gentleman who interrupted me has not the slightest idea of what my wages are, and I do not propose to inform him.
1022 The solution of the problem that we have adopted makes it possible to keep up as far as possible in these difficult times the standard of living to which the miners are properly and rightly devoted. Therefore, I say to the Government, "Carry on, do not be frightened. You are taking the right line, the courageous line. Do not be frightened, because the country knows that. Do not be frightened, because the miners' members know that. Do not be frightened, because, when the test comes, the country will back you up; and do not be frightened, because, of all the difficulties which democratic Government has to face to-day, the greatest is the danger of weakness, of going along the line of least resistance." I venture to say to the Government, to the Prime Minister, and to hon. Members opposite that, in carrying out what we believe to be right in these hard and difficult times, we are providing the sound solution, because it is the solution which most maintains the miners' standard of living, and we are taking a decision which once again is showing that democratic government in this country, with a Conservative Government in power, is not too afraid and too weak to face the situation, however hard and difficult it may be. I shall venture to record my vote when the time comes against this Amendment and in support of the Bill, with the full conviction that it is the right way, and not the cowardly and weak courses which are commended to us from the other side.
§ Miss WILKINSON
After the encouragement given by the hon. Member who has just spoken, the Premier of this country will no longer be frightened. But when we are considering the question of an eight-hour day, it is surely not irrelevant to consider the conditions under which the miners have to work. My purpose in rising, although I realise that there are many on these benches much more qualified than I am to speak about the conditions of the miners' work, is to crave the indulgence of the Chair in order to reply to an attack made by the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. G. Peto) upon an article which I wrote in a Labour paper known as "Lansbury's Labour Weekly." I was not able to be present during that Debate, and the Speaker has kindly given me permission to reply to these statements now. I wrote in that article of men working in 1023 Somersetshire mines dragging tubs of coal along narrow roads, which were too narrow for horses or pit ponies to work in, and that these tubs were attached to the men by means of ropes passed round their waists and fastened through their legs by means of a chain which is hitched on to the tub. I also wrote that these men were naked. The point I was insisting upon was not the actual nakedness of the men, or otherwise, but the fact that in many cases, I do not say in all, the rope was rubbing the naked flesh of the men. Since that article appeared, I have received a very large number of letters, both from men who are working under these conditions and from men who deny that these conditions exist. For the information of the House, I have brought with me one of these ropes. I am sorry to intrude into the polite environs of this House a thing of this kind. [The hon. Member produced a rope with chain and attachment.] This is what is worn by the men. This is the rope that goes round the man's waist; this is the chain that passes between his legs, and this is the crook that is hitched on to the tub. This was worn, not 60 years ago, as stated by certain coal-owners, but on 30th April of this year by a miner.
When I went into the district I had no knowledge of the conditions of the work there. The matter came to my knowledge because of a woman whom I interviewed and who asked whether anything could be done because of the conditions under which their boys have to work. One woman told me—I could give the name and address of the woman and the boy—that she wept when her boy came home from the pit because of the way the rope rubbed his flesh. The general secretary of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain was also one of those who wore one of these ropes round his waist, and he told us at a meeting that to-day he bears the marks of these rubbing ropes in his flesh. Perhaps hon. Members might think of that when they accuse Mr. A. J. Cook of being an extremist. I have here a large number of letters and also photographs that have been sent to me. I was told that the photograph which appeared in "Lansbury's Labour Weekly" was a fake. I have now been given the name and address of the person who took that 1024 photograph and the colliery in which it was taken, the Ringwood Colliery in Bristol. I have two others. The point is that they were not photographs specially taken for propaganda purposes, but two photographs which have been on sale to the public, showing the conditions in the mines. They have been on sale merely as matters of interest, and if hon. Members care to examine them, they are here. In one the rope is shown clearly on the naked flesh of the man, and in the other he is wearing a small pair of drawers. I would like to give one or two extracts from letters I have received about this speech. This is one:It is true that not ordinarily is the 'guss' wearer naked except for a bathing slip. Nowadays he wears an old pair of shorts or even trousers and there are some who wear shoes. But the cruel rope still tears the naked flesh.Here is another case:Many a time I've scraggled along on my belly with the 'guss' on, tugging my put more than 20 yards with only 9 inches between floor and roof.Here is another ease:It's worst when you've got the rope wet and you can't hang it anywhere to dry. Next morning yon put it on all wet, and when you begin to tug it takes the flesh off your back.Then I have another in which the man said:We are enclosing real photographs taken by Mr. W. H. Jones at Highbury Coleford of the conditions prevailing at Newbury Colliery. Yon will plainly see that the instruments of torture, the guss, which is being worn, and when he is actually hauling coal he wears it next his skin. There are hundreds of lads that are wearing and have worn it for years, boys from 14 upwards.This is the position. Certain coalowners have said the men need not wear it next their skin. The men may wear clothes if they want to. I am perfectly aware that as far as the coalowners are concerned, if the men chose to go down in fleece-lined leather motor coats or in a diving suit, it would not matter to the man who actually owns the colliery. But the point is this. The collieries in which these men are working under these conditions are very hot. The wearing of either no clothes or the very barest minimum of clothes is an absolute necessity, because the heat is so great. The very fact that these galleries that go right into the coal face are so narrow 1025 that a pony cannot get in, and that they have to be drawn by human beings, makes it still hotter. There is no proper ventilation. The men are working with the perspiration pouring off their bodies. Therefore, as one can imagine when one sees an object like this, so filthy dirty, stiff with coal dust and perspiration, it rubs the skin until the men get callosities on their bodies and the rope presses against them, as we grow a corn on the foot, the flesh is rubbed and septic sores are the result.
The hon. Member who attacked me in this matter said he took his wife down the pit and there were no conditions which any lady might not see. We are all aware that when visitors are taken round factories of any kind or collieries, just as when royalty is taken into the streets of our large towns, they are shown what it is convenient for the owners or the managers or the employers to see, and I have no doubt whatever that when Mrs. Peto, or whatever lady was concerned, went down the pit, she saw just the ordinary main galleries and nothing that was not perfectly fitting was allowed to obtrude itself. I am not talking of the kind of show places or show things that a visitor is allowed to see. What I am talking about is the conditions under which these men have to work every day of their lives. The letters I have received are largely from the hon. Member's own constituency and if he will talk to the miners themselves in the collieries which I am only too willing to supply to him, he will find that these conditions are operating. I understand the Coal Owners' Association, without denying the facts, are denying the numbers. The numbers given to me were that 1,500 men and boys were employed—all tuggers—in this Somersetshire coal pit. I am not prepared to swear to the number one way or the other. The coalowners' figure, I understand, is 600, but if there was only one human being working under conditions like that it is an outrage. A hundred years ago women were working like that and people said that should not he, and it was prohibited by law. The degradation of the human body is the same whether it is a man or a woman. It appeals to peoples' hearts more if it is a woman than if it is a man, but the mothers who have to wash the bodies of their boys when they come 1026 home from the pits.are as hot and indignant about it as if it was their daughters. When you consider that people are working under these conditions surely, in God's name, seven hours is enough. You are adding on another hour in order that more profits may be made, because it will not mean more wages. We know only too well that whatever the wages are, the rates are cut and cut until the minimum only is paid, and I feel that if these conditions are to go on in the name of profit, at least seven hours is enough.
I was also attacked for the wages that I said were being paid. I might have made it clear that what I was speaking about was not the minimum wages of the colliery, but the wages that were actually received by the men for the number of hours worked. The coal-owners have replied stating the actual amount which is the minimum. They have taken the number of shifts and divided by six. That is perfectly all right if the men were getting these wages. If they work that number of hours they get those wages, but what I set out to prove in that article was that the people were in abject poverty before the lock-out commenced and were, therefore, in greater need of help, and I have here a large number of pay checks, which can be examined by anyone, showing that the men were getting the wages that I stated in the article. I have, in addition, a letter received this morning from Mr. Fred Swift, the agent and corresponding secretary of the Somersetshire Miners' Association, in which he says:DEAR MISS WILKINSON,I may say the Somerset Colliery owners refuse to carry out the provisions of the 1924 National Wages Agreement, although the Somerset Colliery Owners' Association is affiliated to the Mining Association of Great Britain. In December of last year I applied for a subsistence wage, pursuant to Clause 7 of the National Agreement, but the owners not only refused the application, but evaded meeting us to discuss the matter.Therefore, it is not oven correct to state that the minimum wages of the national agreement apply, because here I have an official of the Somersetshire Miners' Association pointing out that these colliery owners are evading the national agreement of the association to which they themselves are parties. 1027 Therefore, I stand by that article and I can only say if anything I have done has in any way called public attention to the conditions under which these men are working, I am thankful for what I have written, and I am thankful for the attack the hon. Member made, which has made it possible for me to bring the matter before Parliament. If people realised the conditions under which the miners have worked and the poverty they have suffered previous to this agreement, we should be here discussing how their wages could be raised. Hon. Members see this matter only from the point of view of profit. I am the chairman of the women's relief committee, which is dealing with the other side of the shield, with the wives and families, with the women who have been living on margarine and bread and tea. Whatever meat could be secured has got to be given to the man of the house, because he was working under hard physical conditions. We do not realise how much of the man's wage has got to go in food to keep him in bare efficiency to get the wages you are paying. In this staple industry men are working under conditions which in many cases are fit only for beasts, conditions which no hon. Member opposite would tolerate for half an hour if it was his children, and all you can say is, let them work longer, let them have longer hours and less wages in order that your profits may be safeguarded. It is abominable, and those who vote for these longer hours ought not to sleep in their beds until they themselves have done what these men are doing every day in their work.
§ Sir FRANK MEYER
I will not follow the hon. Lady on the lines on which she has addressed the House, because I think that matter would be more suitably dealt with by the hon. Member to whom the matter is somewhat more personal. The point that has struck me most about this Debate, and about all the Debates on this question we had last week and on previous occasions, is a very remarkable omission in the speeches of hon. Members above the Gangway. I have very carefully read those speeches I have not had the pleasure of listening to. There is one word that occurs very rarely, and that is the word "subsidy." Really, if we want to get to the root of the matter, 1028 it is around the word "subsidy" that the whole of this question revolves. We are in agreement on all sides of the House in one or two aspects of the problem, that is to say, if I may take it that hon. Members above the Gangway.are in agreement, at any rate, with the facts as stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn). He has stated, I think on two occasions, that 58 per cent. of the coal produced in this country before the time the subsidy was first granted was produced at a loss. I do not think anyone would deny that if the miners were to return to work to-day at the rates of wages and hours that were prevalent on 30th April, the greater part of the coal would be produced at a loss. I do not think that is disputed, whatever may be the views of hon. Members as to the cause why it is produced at a loss. That gap has got to be bridged somehow. It is almost invariably the termination of speeches of hon. Members above the Gangway that the miners should be got back to work on the same conditions under which they were working on 30th April. They do not say definitely how that is to be done, but I take it their view is that the miners should be got back, and that any loss that is being suffered by the industry by getting them back on those terms and conditions should be made good by a subsidy.
We have heard a great deal about reorganisation. Let me make my position clear. I am a strong supporter of the conclusions arrived at by the Samuel Commission. I believe in that Report. I do not say there is nothing to criticise in it, but on the whole I believe in its recommendations. I believe there is a good deal that can be done by unification, not on too large a scale, to improve the conditions of the industry. The word "reorganisation," I think, is a little over-used. We all know the man who comes with a request for a job and when we ask him what he is fit for, and what his experience is, we have often had the reply that he is a good organiser. Perhaps he had had a little experience on the Army Service Board during the War, or as an adjutant, and he thinks himself fit to organise big industries and deal with big problems. Just as we have become rather tired of the man who calls himself a good organiser, although he 1029 has no special qualifications for any job, so I think we are bound to become a little tired in time of this vague word "reorganisation," which is to bring such wonderful benefits to the industry. We must get down to concrete facts. I think there will be general agreement that in any reorganisation it must take a very considerable time before the benefits of it can accrue to the industry in terms of pounds, shillings and pence.
The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) referred several times to the question of profit. She said that this or that legislation was introduced or this or that thing was done simply to increase the owners' profits. She knows as well as anybody else that, for the past 18 months, there has been very little profit in the industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am only going to a large extent by what the right hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) said, when he stated that the major portion of the coal was produced at a loss. During the interval, and it must be a long interval, before reorganisation or unification can bring better profits or minimise the losses of the industry, there must be a gap. Hon. Members of the Labour party, although they have not said so in this Debate, are asking for a subsidy to bridge that gap. If they are not asking for a subsidy, I wait to hear from any one of them how the gap is to be bridged.
There is only one other way of bridging the gap, and that is nationalisation. Surely hon. Members must be consistent. They have accused the Prime Minister frequently of not having mandates for this or that. If the Prime Minister brought in any scheme of nationalisation, he would have no mandate for that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Take a referendum!"] I am glad to hear the Labour party endorsing the idea of a referendum. That was not their view when we asked for a referendum on the Irish question, before the War. If they are not to have a subsidy and if they are not to have nationalisation, how is the gap to be bridged? The Government have put forward an attempted solution by this Bill. Hon. Members of the Labour party are fiercely opposed to the Bill. They say that it will not be a success. That remains to be seen. I fail to see how this Bill can be said to be inflicting any hardship on the miners, when it is merely permissive 1030 and gives them an option. If the miners refuse to work eight hours, the Bill will have proved a failure, and will be useless. This is the first time that I have heard that, by giving people an option to do a thing, you are inflicting a hardship upon them.
It is always said that there are three parties to this dispute, the miners, the owners and the Government. That view is incorrect. There are four parties to the dispute, the miners, the owners, the Government and the general public. It may be said that the Government represent the general public. In a sense, the Government have to protect the general public, but he would be a great optimist who said that that in every action which a Government performs from the time it is elected to the time when it goes to the country again it represents the views of the public on every question. As far as I was able to gather, last August the Government did not very strongly represent the views of the public when they gave the subsidy. They would still less represent the views of the public if they were to give a further subsidy at the present time.
I have no intimate connection with the mining industry, therefore, I can speak, as many other hon. Members can speak, from a detached point of view. I believe most profoundly that in what I am going to say I represent the views of a very large number of people in this country, and I know for a fact that I represent the views almost unanimously of my own constituents. My constituency is one that lives largely by the fishing industry. We have heard a great deal during these. Debates of the patriotism and gallantry of the miners during the War. I would be the last to deny their patriotism and gallantry, but hon. Members will admit that men in other industries were equally patriotic and equally gallant, and not least amongst them the fishermen. The fishermen of Yarmouth and of other ports do not work a seven hours' day or a nine hours' day: when they are at work they work a 24 hours' day, and their occupation is in many ways as hazardous as that of the miners. In other respects they are somewhat similarly circumstanced to the miners, in that their earnings are based upon the profits of the vessel or vessels in which they serve. They work on profit-sharing terms, and I 1031 can tell the House that their earnings during the past two or three years have been very considerably less than the wages of the lowest paid miners. [Horn MEMBERS: "It is a disgrace!"]
The reason why these earnings—they are not wages, because they are based on the proceeds of the fish they catch—are less, is because there is not the money in the industry to pay them more. I must not go into the details, but hon. Members who know enough about the subject know that the owners of the fishing vessels have not been making large profits. How can I or any other hon. Member representing a constituency of that kind, with no miners in it, and with no connection with mining, where our constituents are working long hours, with very small earnings, go to those men and say, "You must contribute something to enable the miners to continue working their present hours and to continue earning their present wages"? Could any hon. Member representing a constituency not, connected with mining say that, with a clear conscience? I cannot.
I am still waiting to see how the gap which exists is to be bridged, if it is not to be bridged by nationalisation or by a subsidy. [An HON. MEMBER: "The fishermen are being robbed?"] An hon. Member says that they are being robbed. Let him go and ask the fishermen. They have no complaints against their employers. The: hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) made an eloquent speech, but it was typical of the confusion of mind with which he approaches this subject. Although he pleaded for special treatment for the miners, and did not mention the word "subsidy," he compared the mining industry as a national industry with the Army, the Navy, the teachers and the police. A more illogical and a more unreasonable argument I never heard. Is the Army run for profit? Are the police run for profit? How can you compare a service with an industry? What would be the condition of this country if every industry was run regardless or cost and regardless of whether it was run for profit or not? We should very soon be in bankruptcy. The right hon. Member for Shettleston has a favourite theme, which he hangs on every peg whenever he addresses the House. His theme is, 1032 that we should have control of inflation in this country, and that all we have to do is to increase the purchasing power of the consumer, regardless of our foreign trade and regardless of what the foreigner is purchasing from us, and by that process we can bring back prosperity. I have heard him advance that argument, and I have read about it in a well-known book called "Revolution by Reason." I should be out of order if I pursued that subject here, and I think the right hon. Gentleman was nearly out of order when he pursued it in his speech. The right hon. Gentleman's comparison of a service with an industry was typical of his confusion of thought, and it was typical of the inaccuracy which characterises so many of its statements when he said that the Samuel Memorandum was accepted by the Government as a settlement of the general strike. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] He implied that.
Lieut. - Colonel WATTS-MORGAN
I would ask the hon. Member to be quite clear. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Samuel Memorandum had been discussed, and that the Government refused it from the beginning.
§ Sir F. MEYER
I am within the recollection of the House when I say that he stated that it was understood that that Memorandum mild be the terms for a settlement, of the strike. He also said that the Samuel Memorandum was an interpretation of the Report of the Commission. The Samuel Memorandum never professed to be anything in the nature of an interpretation of the terms of the Report. It was a suggestion by the Chairman of the Commission of means by which it might be possible to call off the general strike, but it was never put forward by him as an interpretation of the Re7iort. To show how clearly that view is accurate, I would point out that in the Report a subsidy was condemned. The words used in the Report were that the subsidy "must never be repeated"; but in the Memorandum it was suggested that the miners should go back for a limited period with a subsidy.
I wish to emphasise the reason why I i am supporting the Bill. I support it because it is optional and gives the miners an opportunity if they want this 1033 unfortunate dispute to be settled on the terms that they are to work an hour longer and in many eases to obtain the same rates of pay which they were earning before 30th April. I am in favour of the Bill for that reason, and because up to the present no alternative solution has been put forward, except a subsidy or nationalisation, to which every hon. Member who represents a constituency not connected with mining is unalterably opposed.
§ Mr. LAWSON
At the outset I would like to refer to the story told by the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) concerning the condition of many people working in the Somerset coalfield. There are some of us on these benches who know a good deal about the conditions that prevail in the various coalfields who had almost thought that we had got beyond the stage of being shocked. At a very early age I was pushing tubs where a pony ought to have been pulling them. Those who know me will recognise that fact from the carriage of my body. I have worked naked for month after month at the coal face, but I confess that before a friend of mine told me about a month ago of the condition prevailing in the Somerset area I should scarcely have believed that such conditions prevailed. I say to those who are responsible for the conditions in Somersetshire that, whatever may be done about the other conditions in Great Britain, bad as they are, they ought to take immediate steps to get rid of such a scandal as prevails in that part of the coalfield.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I will not spend time in debating the point, except to say that when a personal friend of mine, on whose word I can rely, told me, before I had heard about this matter from any other source, what he had seen with his own eyes, I felt that there was room for investigation.
If these are the conditions, what on earth have the Miners' Federation been doing?
§ Mr. LAWSON
That is just what I am dealing with now. The Miners' Federation, given a reasonable opportunity for dealing with conditions which prevail there or anywhere else, would certainly deal with it, but they had not a ready access to all mines and most certainly the Government's inspector is the right person to deal with conditions like that. The hon. Member for Yarmouth (Sir F. Meyer) has said this afternoon what a good many other hon. Members have said for some weeks now—why should not the miner work eight hours like any other worker? That is the regular story. All I have to say to that is just this: let the Government ask the other workers of the country what they think about it. One of the most amazing things to me has been the extent of the sympathy and sacrifice of the great mass of the workers in other industries to,save the miner from an increase of hours. They had arrived by sheer instinct and by a spirit of common humanity at a better understanding of the miners' case than the worldly wise men in Parliament. Over a great part of the coal area in the counties of Durham and Northumberland the hewer at the coal face has worked seven hours and less in the mine for years, and during the whole of that time the owners have never asked for an increase of hours, for this simple reason, that they know it would be impossible to work longer under the conditions.
It would be interesting to know what the Northern coalowners think of this proposal. I made a speech in the early part of the year 1924 when I saw this trouble coming. This trouble was not born yesterday. From the very moment the Seven Hours Act was put on the Statute Book it has been attacked by certain coalowners, and for the last 18 months that attack has been continued. Let me read what the "Colliery Guardian" said at the beginning of 1924:In this direction"—That is the eight hours—alone is it possible to discern any remedy for the trouble that now exists. Indeed, any remedies that evade this sovereign solution may quite easily in the end make the position infinitely worse.The Chairman of Baldwins, Limited, as reported in the "Sunday Times," of the 21st December, 1924, said: 1035There is the question of reverting to the eight-hour shift in the mine, on the necessity for which everyone who has anything to do with colliery management is emphatic.The Chairman of Baldwins, Limited, when he made that statement to his company, saw what was taking place. I made a speech then similar to that which was made yesterday by an hon. Friend of mine from Yorkshire, with plenty of Yorkshire relish in it, and I said that the people who were asking for an increase of hours were asking that more men and boys should be killed in the mines, and that anyone who voted for an increase of hours would be responsible for the deaths of these men.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
I think it would be much better if hon. Members on both sides would not interrupt.
§ Mr. LAWSON
It is all very well saying that when we talk of the number of men and boys who are killed in the mines it is sentiment. We have picked up the bodies of men and boys; we have had to take the news to the wives and mothers of these men and boys, and while this may be sentiment to hon. Members, they are very real facts to us. I tell you that when you ask for an increase of hours you are asking for the deaths of men and boys. I made a speech along these lines in 1924, and I said that it would not be going too far to say that people who were then asking for an eight-hour day would be guilty of the murder of those men and boys—and there were some 1,200 killed that year—who were killed under those conditions. A coalowner in the North told me that they were not asking for an eight-hour day, and that their executive committee had never asked for it. But there have been people on the track of the seven hours ever since it was put on the Statute Book, and now when they see the occasion they use the situation in order to get hack to the eight hours, when they know that it is no remedy at all for the present difficulty.
The miners in Durham at the present moment work less than seven hours. And why? Why did not the owners ask for an 1036 increase? I will tell the House. Is it a very small thing to go down a mine for eight hours? If any hon. Member wants to understand what it means, if he wants to obtain a new appreciation of daylight and sunshine, if he wants to really understand the wonders of God's creation, let him go down a mine for less than eight hours. If hon. Members want to understand the privilege of walking erect and breathing clean fresh air let them walk a hundred yards only to the coal face, in about three feet high, amidst dust and heat, then they will have a good deal more sympathy and religion because they will be able to understand more fully some of the wonders of the creation under which we live. Take the conditions under which miners work. I never worked with more than a loin cloth on and heavy shoes, and when I moved across the face of the coal in a place three or four feet high the sweat used to squirt through the lace-holes of the boots. You were exhausted in an hour or two. We did not take any meals. It was not worth while; we could not eat under such conditions. We did not drink the water we took with us, but poured it on our arms and wrists. The Northern coalowners know that four or five hours under those conditions is the maximum of efficiency, and when we had finished our work it was all we could do to walk out to the shaft. I have known men when they have got home who have been unable to eat their meal. They were sick, used up altogether, they had taken too much out of themselves. There are some very sad as well as humorous stories to tell in this connection.
The Secretary for Mines took the same line to-day as the Minister of Labour took yesterday. He says: "What is your alternative." What insolence! Our alternative! Our alternative is the Seven Hours Act. The Secretary for Mines says: "Will you take the Report of the Commission?" To-day the right hon. Gentleman has said that the Miners' Federation sent a. letter actually endorsing the Government's constructive proposals. An hon. Member on this side said it was untrue. I thought that was putting it much too mildly But what has happened? The Government have given us the Reconstruction Bill, but there is nothing about mining royalties in it.; they are left alone. The Commission in its Report definitely said that it 1037 was necessary to take possession of the royalties in order to have power to effect amalgamations and combinations, and on the question of royalties let me say that if geological opinion is worth anything at all there is as much coal lying unproved in this country as will very likely pay for all the royalties, and no Government in the future will, I hope, allow people to claim coal which may be proved, give a new value to the land and lead the same shameful situation which has taken place during the present generation. The reconstruction proposals do not include pit committees. There is no mention of them. Yet the Commission very definitely considered whether pit committees should be set up voluntary or by Statute. They said it was no use trying to make pit committees effective unless it was by Statute, and I say to the Secretary for Mines and the Minister of Labour that when the Miners' Federation talk about reconstruction and make legislative and administrative proposal they include the whole of the recommendations of the Commission and not this devitalised thing which is called a Coal Mines Bill.
Our alternative proposal is the Seven Hours Act. The coalowners know that this Bill will not be permissive. Is there any hon. Member who really believes that it will be permissive I ask them to be serious. Suppose one district is taken and eight hours is imposed, immediately it forces other districts into the vicious circle. Then it is said that it is only temporary. What happens when you have a change in hours? You have very long negotiations, and in the coal industry very complicated negotiations which require statesmen of the finest order to get this thing going again. It not only gets into the life of the men but into the life of the mining village, and the coalowners know that this Bill is neither permissive nor temporary' in its measure.
They know it includes district arrangements and reductions of wages, and that it means taking us back to the economic basis, and once they get us back to that they will say, "There is no need for reconstruction." From the very first the question of getting markets has resolved itself into this—whether they were going to get markets by efficiency in the mining organisation, 1038 or whether they were going to do so at the expense of the stomachs of our people. Unfortunately, the Government are preferring the latter course. The worst feature of all this legislation, perhaps, is the fact that the Government are not now an independent body. This stoppage has lasted for nine weeks. I know nothing more sad than the condition which prevails in the various coalfields. I was here when the Prime Minister prayed for "peace in our time," and I believe the right hon. Gentleman was then perfectly sincere. I in my own heart echoed that prayer. Who could do otherwise, if during his lifetime, from boyhood to manhood, he had seen nothing but fighting and battle and strife, and stoppage after stoppage, which did not mean merely poverty during the actual period of stoppage, but meant year after year of suffering to the people in the locality concerned? What is the present position? The Government, at one time, might have come in as an arbitrator. Now the Government cannot be described as an independent body. The Government are suspect, and by this Bill the Government are being bound, hand and foot, and delivered to the coalowners. So we have to drift along now without any hope at all.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston used strong language in trying to paint the conditions of the great ma's of the people in the mining areas. He tried to describe I he spirit which is animating the men and women in our coalfields, and coming, as I do, from a coalfield, with the people of which I was in close touch only last week, I tell the Government that if they go through with this Bill they are inviting a continuance of the stoppage not for weeks but for months. No one who knows the situation wants it to continue, but I would say, with an hon. Member who has spoken already, that we know the danger of giving up the seven hours and of being involved in a vicious circle and you can take it from us that, so far as this Bill is concerned, terrible as is the prospect before as, our men and women are going through with this thing to the end. They realise that the Government, in this Bill, are not asking or praying for peace. This is a declaration of war.
§ Mr. WRAGG
It is not my intention, although I am interested in the ownership and working of coal, and although I represent a constituency where there are many miners, to go into all the elaborate details of the hardships which hon. Members opposite allege to exist in the coal trade. But I should like to refer to what I understand the hon. Lady who represents East Midlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) has said with regard to the Somersetshire coalfield. I saw a pamphlet as to what she said and I saw a refutation and a denial by the Mining Association. Personally I believe that denial. I believe that no person could wear a shackle of the sort which the hon. Member has been passing along the benches opposite, without having some abrasions on the body and without the case coming up for compensation. There has not been a single case of injury reported to the mine-owners of Somerset or a claim for compensation that has been due to this cause, and it is well known that the men or youths in the Somersetshire coalfield who do this sort of work have only to convey the coal a matter of 10 or 12 yards from the face to the haulage roads. I have not learned that any protest has been made in the past by the Miners' Federation of Somerset against these so-called inhuman methods. I give the denial absolutely to what has been said with regard to these methods in Somerset-shire, for although I am not thoroughly acquainted with the details of mining in Somersetshire, I have sufficient faith in the humanity of the coalowners, reviled as they have been in this House, to know that they would not allow any methods to be adopted in the mines to-day of the nature described. There are as good men and as humane men among the coal-owners as among the miners, and it is perfectly disgusting to hear hon. Members opposite, time after time, referring to the coalowners as if they were people who had no right to live and whose chief desire was to oppress the miners. Provocative speeches such as have been delivered on the other side will not help towards a settlement of this difficulty.
I live on the fringe of a mining area, and I see as much suffering of the miners as hon. Members opposite. I have helped them and relieved them to the best of my ability. I get 30 or 40 of them every day 1040 coming around asking for assistance, and I give them assistance. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where do you get it?"] Where do hon. Members opposite get their money? I know very well many miners in Derbyshire and Leicestershire would go back to work to-morrow on eight hours, well knowing that eventually it would mean increase of wages under the profit-sharing agreement. They would go back to work were it not for the fact that they do not like the idea of going back except as a body and because they fear some sort of intimidation. Some men have signed on at the collieries in which I am interested. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]
§ Mr. WRAGG
Some men have signed on or presented themselves in the coalfields, but immediately mass meetings of miners have been called in the locality in order, I will not say to intimidate, but to persuade them that they must not go back against the wishes of their leaders. It is quite true as has been said by Mr. Spencer, the treasurer of the Derbyshire Federation, that this strike is polonged entirely for the sake of the vanity of Mr. Cook and Mr. Herbert Smith. I support the Bill, not because the particular colliery in which I am interested needs it—for my particular colliery can get on without it—but because there are districts in this country—
§ Mr. WRAGG
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to develop my argument. I sat here and listened to speeches on the other side which seemed very provocative, and I should like to reply in my own way. I say I support this Bill because I believe in certain districts it is necessary, for a time, to work eight hours. It is not necessary in all districts, and I hope the mineowners will not attempt to insist on it in certain districts. I should further like to say that instead of a seven-hour day, a 42-hour week is recommended by the Commission. Hon. Members opposite have said that this Bill is contrary to the Commission's 1041 Report. It is not so, because you cannot carry out the Commission's Report without this Bill. On page 175 of the Report will be found the following:In the second place, it should be considered whether the definition of working time by the day rather than by the week is everywhere essential. It might be possible and beneficial, at least in certain districts, to allow the daily limit to be eight hours, or even more, so long as the total of 42 hours plus one winding daily was not exceeded in the week as a whole. It was given to us in evidence that in many cases a five-day week of eight hours per day, making 40 in all, would be more productive than a six-day week of seven hours per day, making 42 in all.
§ Mr. GREENALL
If that proposal were adopted, would the coalowners be prepared to pay the whole of the men, both piece-workers and day-wage workers, six days' wages for it?
§ Mr. WRAGG
All I can say is, that colliers throughout the country do not work more than five days, taking an average throughout the year. If they worked five days of eight hours, or if they worked 42 hours, and if on Saturday you could do your shift work and repairs and get the pit into order for Monday, you would save a great deal of expense and get as much, or more, coal, and the saving of expense would go towards providing the miners with a better wage under the profit-sharing arrangement. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) poured scorn on the idea that there is any possibility of the mine-owners reducing the price of coal, but the very thing of which the miners are complaining is that the price has been reduced too low. If the price of the coal is not reduced, it will be a great thing for the miners, because on the 87–13 basis wages will go very much above the minimum at present proposed. It is well known that under the 1921–24 minimum in the Eastern federated area, which produces one-third of the total coal in this country, the profit-sharing agreement operated within limits of 140 per cent, to 46'67 per cent. 1042 above the basis of the minimum. In one month only up to 1924 were the wages cut down to the minimum. Therefore, if you effect economies by this Bill—as you will effect economies—when the trade gets settled the miners' wages will go up very considerably above what they were before the stoppage.
Every argument which has been used by my hon. Friends on the opposite side might with equal logic be used against coal-cutters, conveyers, and against any efforts which have been made by the coal-owners to reduce costs. You might say that if you put in coal-cutters you would do away with men. If you introduce coal-cutting machinery you will make a more efficient property; if you can afford to spend money on coal-getters you will be more able to knock the inefficient out of business. Every argument that has been used against the eight hours can be used against coal-cutters. If you cheapen coal, within limits, you sell more; nothing is as certain as that. At the same time, as I say, I am very much in favour of selling organisations throughout the coalfields. I have spoken in this House before on these matters, and I say there is much coal thrown away at ridiculous prices. If you have eight hours, if you go in for adopting the Commission's Report, you must go in for selling organisations throughout the country so as to prevent what is in many instances coal thrown needlessly into the market at a cheap price which can probably benefit only merchants, while those who win the coal do not reap any benefit.
When I hear hon. Members talk about the eight-hours' clay and this Bill being a retrograde step, and that the time will be half-an-hour or an hour longer than most countries in Europe, with the exception of Silesia, I would ask them to have regard to the fact that in European countries the law is not rigidly enforced or observed. When I was in Silesia last year, although they are supposed to have an eight-and-a-half hours' day, very often, when they were busy, they worked longer hours, and there was no such thing as prosecutions against the mineowners like there are in this country. There is no such thing as that every time a miner works a minute or two longer in the pit his name must be put down, together with the reason why he worked so much longer 1043 than the hours specified. The eight-hours' law on the Continent of Europe, notwithstanding what has been said, is merely loi de principe, and is not carried out in detail; everyone knows it. That is the reason why this House has consistently refused to carry out the compulsory 48-hours' week. Hon. Members know that foreign countries do not carry these hours out.
I myself was in Poland last year together with several hon. Members of this House. We went round the coalmines there, and, knowing something about the subject in this country, I, so far as I could, went fully into the matter. I know, and it is known by hon. Members in this House and by hon. Members opposite too, that these laws are not carried out as rigidly as in this country. Again, we hear talk about conditions, but the miners in this country are receiving more than twice as much as they receive in Silesia.
§ Mr. WRAGG
I am not giving reasons for reducing them. I am simply trying to argue that this industry is efficient, that the mining industry in the past as well as in the present has always afforded a higher rate of wages than any other country in Europe. In Silesia you see that the miners are living on rye bread and potatoes, and under conditions that are not very satisfactory.
§ Mr. WRAGG
I am putting forward the argument in connection with this Bill that the industry of this country is efficient to-day, and I am trying to show that in Silesia, which has been mentioned by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, and where it is said the industry is very efficient, and up to date, they cannot pay their men half the wages we pay in this country, and that the men there live under horrible, conditions. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about America?"] Yes, the coalminers of this country should turn out four tons per day as they do in America. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
These constant interruptions of speakers prevent them developing their arguments, and have a 1044 tendency to prolong the speeches and so prevent other hon. Members getting an opportunity to take part in the Debate.
§ Mr. WRAGG
I was trying to prove—not that it needs any proof, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ogmore Division (Mr. Hartshorn) has already, quite recently, from the bench opposite proved it—the efficiency of the coal trade. He has demonstrated the great increase in the machinery and equipment that has taken place. But what I am saying is that this industry here is one of the most efficient in Europe. I am trying to show that the wages are higher than in any other mining country in Europe, that our industry here works shorter hours at present, and that if the miners decide that the hours shall be extended they will still be working not any longer hours than on the Continent of Europe, having regard to the rigidity with which the hours are enforced in this country. I object to the figures that have been put forward by hon. Members on the other side, and in connection with the suggested increase, and to the suggestion that it means murder for the miners. That is all rubbish. [An HON. MEMBER: "We are not going to have them!"] The statistics will not hear that out at all. I do not think the statistics before 1919, when the eight hours was worked, will show that there were, having regard to the number of men in the industry, more accidents and more deaths than there have been since 1919, except to a limited extent year by year because as the mines get more efficient, there are less accidents. Hon. Members opposite cannot prove, and no mining engineer will agree with them, that the extra hour on the day will make any difference at all in regard to loss of life and limb. This question of accidents in the mining industry is greatly exaggerated. [Interruption.] In the colliery of which I am chairman, since the War we have only had two fatal accidents, and we have produced 3,500,000 tons of coal in seven years. Our output is 500,000 tons per annum, approximately, and, as I say, there have been only two fatal accidents. Although that is below the average of the country, coalmining is not so dangerous as hon. Members opposite would lead this House to believe. It is argued that it is 1045 dangerous, and that is so, just as working on the railway is dangerous, and other occupations. Walking in the London streets to-day is a dangerous occupation.
I would like to make a suggestion. No one desires a settlement more than I do, although I am not over-keen on the eight hours and would prefer that a limit should be put in this Bill on the lines of the Commission's Report—and I should like to appeal to the Government to carry out the Report of the Commission. If the men were to go back to-morrow, or next month, there would be such a demand for coal that the owners generally—speaking throughout the country, would make a profit on pre-stoppage wages and hours. I would suggest that for one month the men should go back, and this matter of fixing conditions, hours, and wages in the different districts should be referred to the Commission which ought to be reconstituted, and sit in each district or visit, the districts, and come to a conclusion within one month as to what the hours and wages should be in the district. In some districts it might be found necessary to work longer hours and in other districts not so long. There is no reason why there should be one uniform basis of hours throughout the country, any more than there is any reason why there should be one minimum wage throughout the country. A district settlement is far and away to the advantage of the miners. It is time to stop the suicidal policy of the leaders, Mr. Cook and Mr. Herbert Smith, who refuse to sit round a table and discuss the Commission's Report, for it could be discussed without prejudice to the question of longer hours or reduction of wages. I do suggest that all these matters should be referred to the Commission, with a request that they should come to a decision in one month: meantime, the miners should go back, and although it may not be possible to get all the owners to agree to them going back for a month on pre-stoppage conditions, possibly the £3,000,000 the Government thought about might do something to ease the situation, until the Commission decided what were the terms for the districts. I suggest that both the miners and the mineowners should agree to accept, what the Commission sitting judicially decides. I have detained the House far too long, but I feel very deeply 1046 on this subject. I feel that the men want to go back, and I hope a solution will be found which will be honourable to the men and economic for the country.
§ Mr. GREENALL
I am sure many hon. Members on this side of the House will be interested in what the last speaker has said in regard to a settlement of this dispute; but, apart from that, I think every hon. Member in the House must be satisfied, from what the hon. Member has said, that the Government will not find a solution of the problem by going forward with this Bill. Before I come to the Bill I want to say a word or two with regard to the remarks made by the Minister of Labour as to the eight hours being provisional. He would lead the House and the country to believe that every miner individually will have the option of deciding whether he works eight hours or less. I take it that was his contention. If it was not, I hope he will say so now. Silence gives consent. What did he intend then? Why use words such as those if you did not intend them to mean what they do mean? What are the facts? The facts are that the coalowners of Great Britain have locked the men out, have closed their pits to every individual unless he be prepared to accept an eight hours working day and the other conditions they have laid down. Where does the option to the worker come in? Why is it necessary for Members of the Government to attempt to deceive this House and the community at large on the great issue we have before us? The Minister also made a statement with regard to the 14.2 per cent., the 13.1 per cent., and the 12.2 per cent.
§ Mr. RADFORD
Is it not a fact that in four of the districts—Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and Can-nock Chase—the owners did not post any notices at all, but the men themselves on the instructions of the Miners' Federation, handed in notices?
§ Mr. GREENALL
That may be a fact. I do not know whether it is a fact or not; but the hon. Member from that district in his remarks has used language which suggests insidiously that we might very soon get to the eight hours if it were adopted in other places. I was referring to what the Minister of Mines mentioned with regard to the percent- 1047 age increase given to the piece workers when hours were reduced. Surely the Minister of Mines must know that since that percentage was given their wages have been reduced by 50 per cent., and, therefore, one cannot now base the standard upon that. What it comes to is that even if the pits were to go to work on the old terms, with no reduction at all, there would be a reduced standard for the workmen. In lose mines where it is admitted that on the new terms there is to be another 10 per cent. reduction it means that the standard of living will have been reduced 24 per cent. I can only think the Minister of Mines is talking in the way he does because the Government have a bad case. They cannot tell us the real facts.
In listening to these discussions I am reminded very forcibly of the first dispute in the mines in which I took part, more that 50 years ago. At that time we heard just the same arguments as are being used now. It was said the Continental miner was working longer hours and for less wages, and that our coal industry would not be able to compete in the markets of Europe. During the whole of the 50 years since then it has been one continual struggle and fight by the miners, their wives and their children to secure a miserable pittance. A living wage has never been paid to the miners of Great Britain. Improvements have been made, hours have been shortened, but these advantages have been gained by fighting and suffering, during which the miners saw their children short of food and of clothing. Now it remains for a Conservative Government to make a start on the downward grade. They are to have the honour of beginning that downward movement, and if it. succeeds it will not stop where it is now.
This increase in hours is only a beginning of what must take place if the Government are successful with this Bill. Hon. and right hon. Members on the other side talk flippantly about the hours of work in mines. They say the miner works less hours and earns more wages than do other workmen in this country. If they know the facts they know that is not true. If they do not know the facts, they ought not to make such statements. What are the real facts with regard to the seven-hours day. We know 1048 there is a Seven Hours' Act on the Statute Book, but there is something else to be considered in connection with that. It is a seven-hours day plus the time for men to go down the shaft and to come up the shaft, and in so far as my own county is concerned that means something like 45 minutes to 70 minutes to go down in the morning and come up in the afternoon—the same time to come up as to go down, 45 minutes to 70 minutes. I believe if one took a census of the whole country it would average an hour each way going down and coming up.
§ Mr. GREENALL
An hour and forty minutes. Look at the Report. Some of us have tried to ascertain where the reports the Royal Commission received came from, and we find that what they got was very largely what the coalowners sent them. It is an average of an hour to go down and an hour to come up, so that instead of seven hours it comes out at nine hours.
§ Mr. GREENALL
A coalowner ought to know the Act of Parliament better than that. The hon. Member will have to look at the Act of Parliament. The position is as I say, that in addition to the seven hours time is allowed for going down and getting to the workings and time allowed for coming out of the workings and coming up again, and so far as Lancashire is concerned that averages somewhere about two hours on a Shift. There you see what a difference a true statement makes—in contrast with a bale statement such as we have had from Ministers. Why cannot Members of the Government tell the truth and the whole truth? If they did, people outside and Members in this House would realise the position in the mining industry better than they do at the present time.
To make the position a little clearer I ought to explain that men may go down in the first cage and come up in the last cage. There is no regulation in 1049 regard to their going down or coming up. There is no clocking on or clocking off. I wish to God they were clocked on and clocked off, and then we should know the real position and the actual number of hours worked. A man may go down in the first cage and come up in the last cage. He may go down with the middle lot if he chooses, and come out with the middle lot or he may go down with the last lot and come out with the first. Hon. Members may take it for granted that any number of men are. working 8½ or 8¾ hours per day. That is not all. The hon. Member for Belper (Mr. Wragg) was quite right, I have no doubt, in his statement that in other countries in Europe the regulations are not carried out as stringently as they ought to be. In Great Britain these laws and these regulations are not followed as strictly as they ought to be. Times out of number we officials have to complain to a colliery management, and many a time men get incensed about the conduct of the management in winding longer than the time allowed by the Act of Parliament. Men are working longer than the time prescribed by law. There is no need for me to say what that would mean.
The suggestion of the Government that the seven-hour day should be increased to eight hours, means that the miners of Great Britain would be compelled by Act of Parliament to work longer than any other men in Great Britain, except the agricultural labourer. Do hon. Members opposite understand that? If they do, then I feel sure they will hesitate on this question. Surely the present Tory party do not want by Act of Parliament to compel the miners to be working underground longer than any other workman has to work in Great Britain in order that the coalowners may receive the same amount of profit which they have been receiving in the past. If they do, then, of course, they will be responsible for their actions. It is well understood that the time the men spend after leaving the top of the mine until they get to the working is the hardest work they have in connection with their duties. In many mines they have to travel between one to three miles underground, and much of that travelling has to be done in an incline of 1 in 3 and on roads along which you are compelled for thousands of yards to go doubled up and 1050 you have to carry the picks you have to work with in addition to your drinking can. I ask whether it is reasonable to expect the miners under those conditions to accept this proposal for an increased hour per day.
§ Mr. GREENALL
Yes, I will come to that point later on. It is often said that the German miners are working longer hours than the British miners. I have no doubt it will be within the recollection of hon. Members opposite that a number of people have been to Germany and have been down the German mines, where they have seen the conditions under which the German miners are working. The "Daily Mail" chose eight practical men, and I understand they paid their expenses to go to Germany in order that they could see and bring first-hand a report of the actual conditions under which the German miners were working. I also understand from what I have heard indirectly from some of these eight men that they made their terms before they went, and the first one was that they should have trade union wages. The main condition was that they should submit their signed report and that it should be published just as they signed it. What do they say? Their report appeared in the "Daily Mail" of 15th April this year, and they say:With regard to the hours worked in Germany, they are no longer than the hours worked in Great Britain. The only difference that the hour; worked in Germany are eight hours from hank to bank, and that means that the eight hours in Germany is equal and no longer than the seven hours in Great Britain, talking, into account the time allowed going up and down the mine.Therefore, I hope the Government and their representatives will cease stating that the German miners are in a worse position than the British miners.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I cannot allow so many interruptions. Already these frequent interruptions have made the speeches much longer than they need have been.
§ Mr. GREENALL
We feel there is little to choose between the German miners' conditions and our's. In terms of money, they appear to have an advantage, but, 1051 when allowance is made for the various emoluments which the German miner receives, such as the family allowance, free provision of tools, and so forth, and when the cost of living is taken into consideration, there is scarcely any real difference. I have compared the Seven Hours Act with the Eight Hours Act in Germany at the present time, and I think it proves to this House and to the country at large that, if this Bill is passed, then the British miner will be called upon to work one hour per shift longer than the German miner. I have been talking to some of the miners in Lancashire who have read this Report during the past few weeks, and they told me that they remembered the time when both Members of Parliament and statesmen came to them and told them that the German enemy was at their gate. They said to us, "The nation wants your help," and we went to the help of the nation. We fought and defeated the Germans, but who has received the benefit? Who is going to receive the benefit if this Conservative Government go on as they are doing with regard to this particular Bill? The miners ask, "Who are our enemies now? It is not the German who is the enemy at our gate; it is the present Conservative Government and the Conservative party who are the enemies at our gate." They say that that this is the commencement of a general attack, not only upon the miners, but upon the whole of the workers in Great Britain. The miners do not believe what the Conservative Members are saying with regard to the intentions of the Government in connection with this Measure.
This eight-hours' day is being proposed, we are told, with a view to producing more coal and producing it more cheaply. I cannot understand how hon. Members opposite, who really understand the position, can reconcile it with what they are doing with regard to hours. For the last two years the British miner, on the average, has been working three and four shifts per week, many of them two shifts. During that time we have stacked hundreds and thousands of tons of coal. We believe that is one of the reasons why the pits are locked up at the present time. If that be the position under a seven-hours' day, what is going to be the position under an eight-hours' day, which we are told will produce an addi- 1052 tional 20,000 tons of coal? I had a conversation on this point with a coalowner, and I asked him what would be done with the increased coal produced at these collieries, and he hummed and hawed before giving me an answer. He agreed with me that the only thing they would be called upon to do, if the output of coal is increased at the present time, would be that for a considerable time to come they would work less shifts per week than they have been doing up to the present. That certainly would be the result.
I just want to deal with one other point in connection with this increase of hours and that is from a humanitarian standpoint. It is a fact that developments are taking place in regard to the mining industry of this country. We are going further and further into the bowels of the earth for the coal we are producing. We are now digging coal at a depth of 3,000 or 4,000 feet, and the conditions there are much worse than the conditions that the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) has been describing. I have a report of an inspection which took place a month or two ago. The Minister of Mines has been supplied with this report. It was an inspection ordered to be made by the Commission when they were sitting. At that inspection the divisional inspector of mines was present and another inspector along with him, representatives of the men—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think this is stretching the matter rather far. It. would be more appropriate to discuss the work of the mining inspectors on the Estimates rather than on this Bill.
§ Mr. GREENALL
I bow to your ruling, but it is not so much a question of the Estimates as a question of the effect these eight hours will have on the working people. The main point I want to make is that this is going to continue in the ruining industry. Year after year we shall have to go deeper and deeper to get the coal, and the question of the number of hours will have a great deal to do with it. This inspection was made in order to assist the Commission with regard to the conditions under which the miners were working, and, I take it, with regard to their decision on this particular question 1053 of increasing the hours of labour. The inspectors found the men working naked except for a piece of calico. They found them working in an atmosphere of from 90 to 100 degrees. When they went into the place where they were working, they could scarcely see each other. The inspectors got out of the working place as soon as ever they possibly could, and the moment they got out, they fell down with exhaustion through simply walking to the place and examining the conditions in which the men had to work. The men were stripped naked and as black, as they say, as the heathens. Wild men would not work under those conditions. It is only trained Christians that you can get to work under those conditions. I ask the Prime Minister whether the miners of this country are going to have a square deal if he compels them by Act of Parliament to work eight hours under such conditions? Their workings are two miles away from the pit bottom, and they have 70 minutes to go down that pit and 70 minutes to come up.
I ask the Prime Minister if seven hours in addition to that time is not sufficient for men to work under those conditions. This is one of the mines which, I understand, according to the suggestion, will not only have to submit to a reduction in piece rates, but in regard to which the colliery owners have come to the conclusion that it ought to have a reduction in wages. They will take the 10 per cent. off them. In addition to that, it will mean, in this particular case, 23½ per cent. reduction in those men's wages, and an hour longer as well. In this particular mine a few years ago they had pit ponies pulling the tubs along the galleries. The conditions in the mines were such that they were continually pulling out dead pit ponies. The ponies could not stand the conditions. This is well known to all my colleagues from Lancashire. The ponies died under the conditions, and men were put in the places of the pit ponies. In addition to that, another mine has been examined recently. The same conditions apply. We say that this addition to the working hours is a disgrace to civilisation, and, depend upon it, if this Government does force the men—I do not believe they will be able to force them—to accept the legislation which they are about to pass through this House, then the time will soon come when not only the miners but all the workers 1054 in Great Britain will realise the true situation, and will deal with them according to their deserts, when they get the opportunity.
§ Sir ROBERT THOMAS
We on the Liberal benches hold a view which is very much akin to that which has been expressed by many Members on the opposite side. I say at once that I cannot vote for this Bill, and I have good reasons for saying so. May I first of all say that, although I am not a colliery owner, I have had the honour of representing a colliery constituency for many years. I take a great interest in the miners. I find them a most loveable lot of men. I have been able to study the conditions under which many of the men live. There are many of them living under deplorable conditions. I cannot, knowing about these things, speak about the mining question without feeling an intense sympathy for the men who work in the mines. The hon. Member for Belper (Mr. Wragg) expressed regret that the miners should he reviled. I agree with him. I think it is a great mistake for Mr. Cook and Mr. Smith to be reviled. They are leading a body of men and doing their best according to their own lights to lead those men. It does no good to those who disagree with the miners to revile them, because it has just the opposite effect. It simply brings the miners more solidly behind their leaders. Therefore, it is a great mistake to revile anybody. It is a mistake to revile the Government. The Government have been in a very great difficulty. Although the Government is not the ideal Government according to the views many hold, at the same time they have had a very difficult task to perform, and they must realise—in fact, we all realise—that while this dispute is going on, this country is suffering very serious loss. The colossal sum of £8,000,000 a day was mentioned. That may he accurate or not. At any rate. it. is a vast sum.
The longer this dispute lasts worse it will be. for everybody. It is the duty of every patriotic citizen to do what he can to bring it to an end. Will this Bill bring it to an end? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] A Royal Commission has been sitting. The colossal sum of £20,000,000 has been spent in connection with that Royal Commission, and what 1055 do the Government do? Instead of putting those recommendations into operation, they simply say, "If both parties agree, we will do so." Really, they must know that the mineowners are not going to amalgamate of their own free will. It is generally recognised that the mine-owners do not want amalgamation. Therefore, it is unreasonable to expect that they will of their own accord agree to that part of the Commission's Report. On the other hand, is it reasonable to expect that the miners' leaders are going to accept, of their own free will, and recommend their members, who employ them to fight their cause, to accept a reduction of wages and longer hours? The obvious duty—and I am sure that is the opinion of the country at large—of the Government was to put the Royal Commission's Report into operation and to do it without waste of time. If that had been done months ago, I venture to say the conditions to-day would have been vastly different. I think there is no doubt whatever about that. They have gone right in the face of the Royal Commission's Report. This is what the Report says in effect, and it cannot be too strongly stressed: "We strongly recommend that there should be no increase of hours, even though the men want it themselves. We sincerely hope they will not want it, because it is so bad for the industry." Really, if the Commission make a statement of that sort, what justification is there for the Government coming forward and making a proposal directly in opposition to that Commission's recommendation?
I maintain that even if this Eight Hours Bill be adopted, it will not have the desired effect in increasing coal production, for this reason. A willing and satisfied worker will produce more in seven hours than an unwilling worker will produce in eight. The mineowners do not enjoy today the confidence of the men. The men think that there is something behind which they do not know of. They think that these big concerns have subsidiary companies besides coal, that the accounts are not correctly stated, that coal is sold to subsidiary companies at less than an economic price, that the mines really are not losing all the money that it is stated they are. All that breeds mistrust and lack of confidence. We want to get rid 1056 of that atmosphere, and to get the goodwill of these worthy men, to get them to co-operate, to get them to work with a will, and when that is done you will get as much in seven hours as you would otherwise get in eight. We want reorganisation. That is strongly recommended; it is stated in the Report in unmistakable terms. This is what the Report says:Before any sacrifices are asked for from those engaged in the industry, it should be definitely agreed between them that all practical means for improving its organisation and increasing its efficiency should be adopted.Why has that been disregarded? Why has this reorganisation not been put in hand? The Commission says it ought to be put in hand. A great amount of money would have been saved if it had been put in hand. Why has that not been done? One of the greatest wastages in connection with the coal industry, to my own knowledge is that the middleman is making too great a profit. One-fifth of the coal produced in this country is exported, and the middleman, the seller of that coal, gets a very big price in the handling of it—many shillings a ton—whereas if this reorganisation programme were put into force, and you had selling agencies with fixed commissions for selling the coal, there would be an enormous saving in that respect alone. Therefore, I do say that the whole responsibility and the blame for the present position of affairs is not with the mineowners, who have a perfect right to stand out for their own point of view, nor with the miners, who have also an equal right, but with the Government for refusing to put the Royal Commission's Report into operation.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I have listened as fully as I could to the Debate which started yesterday afternoon, and nothing has been more astonishing to me in this Debate than the complaint that has been made from time to time by speakers for the Government that the Opposition has brought forward no alternatives. When did the Government abrogate its function of legislating for the country? If the complaint has any foundation at all, it means that, but no one knows better than the Prime Minister that that statement is not accurate. No one knows better than the Prime Minister that, at every point in 1057 the negotiations, at every time when there was a chance of getting the two sides together, alternative proposals were brought forward, and the only reason they were rejected—and not only rejected but scrapped without consideration—was, as we now understand, on account of the attitude the Government had taken up, not that they were unjust, not that they were not discussable, but that the Government knew that they would not suit the owners.
The hon. Member for Belper (Mr. Wragg), towards the end of his speech, which he concluded with a few conciliatory sentences, said that if it were only possible to get Messrs. Smith and Cook together with the owners, to discuss the Report of the Commission without prejudice to hours and wages, how much better the whole thing would be. Does the Prime Minister tell us that that was not tried again and again, and who is responsible that it did not come off? If you are asked to discuss without prejudice wages and hours, but, before you begin to discuss wages without prejudice, you have got to accept a reduction, then I think it is a generosity of phrasing which even the hon. Member's desire to back up his Government will find a little too much to impose either upon himself or upon anyone who knows the conduct of those negotiations.
What I have really risen for at this moment is this: There is still an hour or two of this Debate. The Government apologists have complained that we have brought forward no alternatives. I claim that they have not defended their Bill. The Minister of Labour yesterday started with a miscellaneous speech, wandering all over the subject. The Secretary for Mines to-day again talked about the speech that was delivered about a week ago, if not more, which apparently Ministers cannot get out of their heads at all. It is worrying them; it is a nightmare upon them; the moment they begin to talk about the mining difficulty they go back to that speech, and, instead of the Secretary for Mines directing attention to his job, and explaining to the House why this Bill has been brought in, what it can do, what the Government expect it to do, and what the owners tell the Government it is going to do—instead of doing that, he made various observations about various things that 1058 had nothing to do with his business in addressing the House this afternoon. The owners are invited by the Government to make an eight-hour day general in the coalfields of this country. You cannot get away from that. It is the Government's proposal for, at any rate, a part settlement of the present difficulty; and not a single Member of the Government, from the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate yesterday to the right hon. Gentleman who opened it to-day, has given us one reason why the Government think that this Bill is going to make a contribution to the solution of the mining problem.
There are two things that must be adduced to justify the introduction of any legislation regarding mining now. The first is that it is sound as a business proposition, and the second is that it will conduce to peace. How does this Bill come up to those tests? I am not going through in detail the speech so admirably delivered by my right hon. Friend the late Postmaster-General, but I want again to draw the attention of the Government to the figures published by the Royal Commission, showing where the real problem of the mining industry is. They show the diversity of profitableness in working pits, and that is the problem. How is that going to be solved by an eight-hour day? What is going to be the effect of this Bill upon that peculiar form of industrial problem? I have not heard a word; I have not heard a whisper; I have not heard an interjection from the other side that indicates what process of thought the Government have gone through in regard to that question, and what their conclusion has been. What is to be the economic effect of an eight-hour day now—the economic effect on production, the economic effect on wages, the economic effect on unemployment, and, what is just as important, the economic effect of partial employment? For, if unemployment is a rapid bleeding today, partial employment is a stow and much more cruel method.
What is the nature and what is the analysis of the saving that is going to be produced in costs of production by this Bill? How is it to affect the volume of production, and how is an increased volume of production to affect the relations of the British coal industry in the international market? How is this Bill 1059 going to deal with the problem that every international authority who has written about coal, including one of the very last reports issued by the industrial section of the League of Nations, has drawn attention to—the fact, that whether you go to Poland or to Upper Silesia, to the old Polish coalfield or to the newer Polish coalfield, to Germany or to Belgium, the great problem is a superfluity of production of coal in relation to the consuming capacity of Europe? What has been the application of the experience of the Government in giving a subsidy which enabled them to reduce prices to a certain extent, and thereby enabled them—let us assume part of their argument, at any rate, so far as it is justified, or appears to be justified, by statistics—which has enabled them to keep a market that they otherwise might have lost? What is the relation between that and this eight-hours proposal, in view of the fact that, as soon as the effect of the subsidy was discovered by the German coalowners, they went to their Government in order to get a quid pro quo from German public money?
Have the Government been taught nothing by that? Are they really still under the impression that, when we have passed this Bill, that economies may be effected by lowering the standard of life of our people—are they really under the impression that once that has been done here, and the advantage of these economies temporarily found, the foreign competitor, the Pole, for instance, who uses his workmen in the horrible manner described by an hon. Member behind me, is going to say, "I have been so much of a sinner in the past that I am going to sin no more?" Are they under the impression that the German is not going to increase his hours? Are they under the impression that no reaction at all is going to take place in the extraordinarily delicate mechanism of international exchange? Are they under the impression that the one thing that will happen will be that Great Britain will pass an Eight Hours Bill, will lower its cost of production—I am assuming that they will be lowered—and will, in consequence, invade foreign markets, and that not a single man, not a single foreign competitor, will lift a finger in order to meet the situation?
1060 I do not want to go further than the facts, and all I would say is this; They may have an answer to that. They may have thought it out. They may know how they stand in relation to these questions which I have put. But I say that it is now half-past seven o'clock on the second day of the Debate on this Bill, and they have never indicated that they had any answer. We have heard the speeches, interjections and so on of my hon. Friends behind me. What do they show? They show that my hon. Friends, particularly my mining friends, are not regarding this merely as an economic question. This proposal, the type of mind that makes this proposal, has been raised against them not merely to increase their labour by an hour a shift, but has been raised against them as an enemy of the whole of the conditions that they have got as the result of so many years' effort. My hon. Friends have used the word "murderers" and so on. One hon. Member has objected. I do not know that strong language means strong thought or strong action, but if the hon. Member who objected will look at the statistics of accidents he will find no justification for objecting to the application of that word.
One of the great defects in our industrial statistics is that they are too much lumped together. Until we manage to subdivide them a little more we shall not he in a position to use them in the best way. But this, I think, is clearly proved—that you may lump together so many accidents a year or month and so on, but that does not show much, except that souls have been hurled to destruction while they have been earning their daily bread. So far as the statistics exist and so far as tables have been published recently in one of the mining journals, the "Colliery Guardian." they make one thing clear. The "Colliery Guardian," has published two Tables showing at what point and at what period of the day the accidents happen most I frequently. In the old days I sat as a Member of this House on an Accidents Committee relating to factories, because I was interested in this special point. We found that when the workers were tired the incidence of accidents became greater. You are increasing the hours; seven becomes eight. That eighth hour is appreciably more dangerous to the life 1061 and limb of the miner than the seventh hour was. Therefore if my hon. Friends are hot about it, who is to blame? I praise them for it.
Another point that they have made up their mind about is this: The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill used two quite contradictory expressions and gave the House to imagine one thing at one time and another thing at another time. Others have used the same expression, "Hours or wages." What justification have the Government for saying that? This is not an alternative. The fact is "Hours and Wages." The Prime Minister's statement on Wednesday, when he announced that this legislation was coming, was not "Hours or Wages"; it was not "We have considered Mr. Herbert Smith's statement and case and have come to an opposite conclusion from him." He says, "Wages, if anything, but not hours." Not at all. The Government say, "We are going to increase your hours and we know that the owners are going to decrease your wages." I am quite able to say this: The only reason why wages are not in this Bill is that they do not require to be in it. The owners have a free hand in wages. Then there is the question, is this temporary? I think every side of the House will agree with me that there is nothing that turns out to be more illusory than human calculation and intention unless based on something that runs independently of itself, and gives an independent guarantee of its own.
Is this to be temporary? What is the argument and the position of the Government upon that? They say, "We want cheaper coal in order to do two main things—to enable us to compete abroad, and secondly, to enable us to supply that cheap coal for iron and steel and other industries; and in order to get that cheap coal we must increase the hours of labour." But there is something behind it. Some of us here say, "But you can make savings on reorganisation." "Not at all," say the Government; "Oh, no." We must not forget the Debates that have gone by. Spokesman after spokesman representing the Government got up and said, "Oh, yes, we can save a penny or two on reorganisation, but what does it amount to? Very little." We have said, "Nationalise the royalties." "Oh, yes," 1062 said the Government spokesman, "but when you have done it, how far does it carry you? Not very far." We have said, "Establish municipal agencies for selling coal," and they said, "Yes, yes, but how far does that carry you? A very little way." And so it went on. All through proposals have been made for reorganisation for the purpose of making economies in the trade, and every time the Government have said that they did not meet anything at all. We find now that the Government have done one thing, and one thing only, in order to reduce the cost of production, and that one thing is the introduction of this Bill. Yet they say that the Bill is to be temporary. It is absurd; it cannot fit into the scheme.
Suppose that the Bill runs for only five years. Suppose that 'during the five years you are supplying cheap coal to the consumers of the country, and suppose that during the five years the Government have been proved to be right about economies. Is this Government, or any Government that is in power going to reorganise the industry thoroughly and going to ask this House to allow this Bill to go by default and the eight hours to go by default? Not at all. Every sensible miner who has read the speeches of the Government spokesmen, who remembers his experiences, who thinks, knows that pledges and intentions uttered by the most honest and sincere men mean absolutely nothing in the working of life unless some other guarantee has been created to supplement the guarantee of words. Every honest and sensible miner regards this Bill as not temporary, but prepares himself to fight it as a final suggestion, so far as there can be a final suggestion, for reorganisation of the industry.
That is the business side of the proposition. What is the origin of it all? We have not had that question answered. It is not in the Commission's Report. It is in no Commission's Report. We have had a series of arguments addressed to us by the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. Wragg). Have hon. Members read the evidence given to the Sankey Commission, and to the Macmillan inquiry, to the Report of which I would like to pay a tribute that has never been paid, for it is the ablest document on the mining industry that has ever been issued, 1063 far abler than the Royal Commission Report, if shorter. Those arguments were brought before those inquiries. They were brought before the Royal Commission, even the argument that foreign laws are not administered with the same rigidity as ours. And the answer is there in the Report. Not a single one of those Commissions or inquiries, composed of more or less impartial men, having heard those arguments and having sifted them, having cross-examined the witnesses, has reported in favour of the conclusion asked for. The Royal Commission has reported against this Bill. I was amazed at the ingenuousness of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour in quoting the last sentence of Chapter II of the Report. Referring to a lower standard of living the Report said:The last is a price that may have to be paid, in wages or hours or unemployment.The Minister cooly got up and said that there the Commission had that in its mind. He did not tell hon. Members who have studied the Report that this is laid down by the Commission as a sort of subject for further discussion. In Chapter 12 the Report deals with wages, the first way for reducing cost of production, and in Chapter 13 it proceeds to deal with hours. What are its conclusions about hours? The first conclusion is to be found on page 172, where we find this:The comparison with other countries, so far as it bears on the standard of life that we should seek to establish for miners here, tells against the proposal of the Mining Association rather than in its favour.On the next page of the Report, in the last paragraph on page 173 we read:All that can be said is that the hours in this country do not differ from those in other countries so substantially as to constitute a very serious handicap.That was after considering evidence upon the point raised by the hon. Member for Belper about the slacker administration of foreign laws. Then what is to be the effect on the costs? It says:It is clear that if all miners work an hour longer for practically the same remuneration as at present, and work as hard during each hour of the longer day as during each hour of the shorter one, each ton of coal will be produced at a substantially lower cost than at present. On the figures submitted to us, an average reduction of 2s. per ton is probably under rather than over the mark.1064 Yet it is suggested that the Commission, which has shown that on the owners' figures a large part of the production is at a loss of over 2s. a ton, thinks the industry is going to be cured of its evils by an economy which it calculates does not amount to more than 2s. a ton. It goes on to say that there will be 130,000 men unemployed, and it says it rejects the alternative of unemployment. It says:On this alternative, as on the other, the gain through the lengthening of working hours is not a net gain, either to the country as a whole or to the mining industry, if that be taken to include the miners themselves. There is a heavy loss, in unemployment and distress and expenditure to relieve distress, winch must be set against the apparent gain.It goes on, moreover, to point out that any gain made by an eight-hours day would very soon be absorbed in the industry and that no alteration of an eight hours' day would be possible unless very substantial economies of a new kind happened to be discovered, and, like business people, it goes for the discovery of the economies before it commits itself to a plan that might deteriorate the industry all the time. We were told about a 42-hours week as being recommended by the Commission, but that was an inaccurate quotation. I will make the quotation accurately. After having rejected the Mining Association proposals, after it says that if there is to be a reduction, let there be a reduction in wages and not in hours—the Report says that, because, it says as soon as trade revives itself, it is easy to recover lost wages, but it points out that if trade revives itself on the basis of an eight-hours day, you cannot recover it, because that basis has become settled in the industry. Having done that, it says—and this is the part that the hon. Member left out:While, however, we cannot advise that the State should go hack on the action taken in 1919 and endeavour to force upon the miners the acceptance of longer hours of work, certain suggested changes of practice deserve serious consideration.One of the changes of practice was a lengthening of the hours in the case of a breakdown in the pit, and the other was that it might be advisable in some districts to have a weekly limit instead of a daily limit, and it said that that must not be done without the consent of the miners. The Government have rejected 1065 that proposal that the hon. Member thinks would do so much good to the industry. The final conclusion of the Commission is this:In conclusion, while we do not recommend the State, of its own motion, to make any change of working hours or to endeavour to force upon the miners a. longer working day than at present, this does not mean that, if both employers and workmen were agreed in proposing a change, the State should refuse to accede to their joint request.Has that happened? Only by one party, I think. I do not know if the Government are under the optical delusion that one party, if it is the owners' party, is equal to two. The Report goes on:It is at least possible, though we hope not probable, that the amount of wage reduction or the alternative of unemployment that will be imposed upon the industry, if it is to continue with the present hours, may be such as to lead the miners to consider whether they should not escape from these troubles by some extension of working hours. If the Miners' Federation came forward with such a request, it would be difficult to argue that the State should refuse it.It is upon that foundation, apparently, that this Bill has been introduced. The Report continues:The important objections to an extension of working hours would remain unaffected. Extension of working hours at this time of depression is not a natural but an unnatural way of reducing costs and meeting the immediate difficulty. On the other hand, looking away from the immediate difficulty to the time when the various measures which are proposed for reorganisation of the industry shall have had their effect, we see no reason why the standards of living and leisure already won should not be maintained.It really requires a great deal of effrontery to try to justify the Government's action upon anything that is in the Report of the Royal Commission, but it is familiar to me, this Government programme, I must confess. On that fatal Friday when the first breakdown in negotiations took place, I was handed a letter to see. It was a letter sent by the Prime Minister to Mr. Herbert Smith, in which a reference was made to a letter sent to him by the owners making their proposals. In that letter is the foundation for this Bill. The Government have thrown over the Royal Commission's Report and accepted the mineowners' letter. The only thing is that apparently the Government have got worse as they go along. The last pro- 1066 posal that was made about an extension of the hours of labour to an eight-hours day was that it would only last till 1929. That was the latest proposal, but now this Bill is till 1931. Probably we shall get an explanation of how that came about.
Lest, again, some of these extraordinary false points should be raised, both the Government spokesmen up to now have marvelled that we should refer to the Royal Commission's Report, and this is their argument: "You are in favour of nationalisation. You have never said that you agreed to the Royal Commission's Report. Why are you so anxious about it?" No, but the Government have said that they do believe in the Royal Commission's Report. If we were in the position of the Government, we should have to say whether or not we agreed with the Royal Commission's Report for the purpose of legislation and administration, but I am interested in the Government's position, because, unfortunately—very, very unfortunately for the country and for the trade and industry of the country—it is the Governments position that is the important one, and not the position of the Opposition. The Government say: "We reject nationalisation, we reject this, we reject that, we reject every proposal that has been made to us during the negotiations from the other side." I hold in my hand an extract from the letter which the Prime Minister will remember he received in reply to his of that Friday. I will not read the germane extracts, but it shows that proposals were made. Quite within their rights, the Government said: "No, we do not believe your proposals are right, but we do believe one thing, we do believe in the Report of our Royal Commission." We ask, then, where is their justification for this Bill in the Report of the Royal Commission There is none.
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said the other day that he was authorised to make certain statements to this House from the owners. Well, I am sorry to say that, for some reason or other, he immediately proceeded to act as though that word "authorised" meant something more. This is purely an owners' Bill. There, really, is no use mincing words on this matter. This is an exceedingly serious situation. If I believed that this was temporary, if 1067 I believed that it was of no importance, if I believed that the miners could be honourably and reasonably asked to do this, well, I would take the consequences of my belief. I believe this is a terrible step to take, and my difficulty is this: The Prime Minister once himself stated—and I remember commenting on it—that the great trouble in the coal industry is this, that there is no industry in the country where the friction between the owners and the men is so great as in the coal-mining industry. There is no industry in the country that has got a history like the mining industry. I saw, I think, Mr. Herbert Smith said yesterday that he had seen 47 or 48 strikes or lock-outs in the industry, and is there a living trade unionist in the country who has been working in any other industry, however bad it has been, who can give us that record? There is not.
Instead of feeling resentment at the passionate emotion which some of my hon. Friends feel, it tells its tale, it indicates what you have done, it indicates the blunder that the Government have made in the action that they are now taking. This is not peace; this is a sword. It may be, of course—why need we deceive ourselves—that the statement made by the hon. Member opposite is true, that he knows miners who will go in. It may be, but is that what you want? Is that the ending of the lockout, or the dispute, or the struggle, or whatever you like to call it, that you want? Do you want this ending—not only to continue the friction between capital and labour in the industry, but to create caves and sections within labour itself that will only increase the trouble? That is a fool's game. Go on with this Bill; let the expectation announced in so many Tory papers in the last few days be fulfilled, that men will break away; give the owners power to make the position of labour that they must accept the Eight Hours Act, as it will then be. If I were a miner, I would not trust them beyond my sight. Give them that power. This great fundamental industry of ours, this industry, which it is the ambition of every man in authority in the State and in industry to put on a sound footing, is wrecked more than ever it was wrecked before, is troubled more than it has ever 1068 been troubled before. Every Prime Minister in his day and generation has tried to bring peace to this industry. For that peace we all pray and work, but this proposal can bring no peace.
This Bill has never been defended upon its business consequences. It cannot be. This Bill is not an emanation of the Royal Commission; this Bill is reported against by the Royal Commission. This Bill has never been approved by anybody outside an owners' committee until in these latter days the Government have given it their approval too. This Bill is not a peace Bill. This Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman must have seen, has raised feelings, hot feelings, angry and passionate feelings, feelings that have been shown here, but are only the reflection of the feelings that are all over the coalfield. I shall certainly, when the time comes to-night, vote against this Bill as a friend of the mining industry. I shall vote against this Bill as one who strove to prevent trouble and who, when the trouble was on, has always been willing to give my services in order to smooth difficulties over. Now that this Bill has been produced, the Prime Minister must really clear his mind of any hope of such a. reasonable accommodation as will enable the foundation to be laid for an honourable, lasting and goodwilled peace.
§ Mr. BENNETT
We have just listened to a most interesting speech by the Leader of the Opposition. I am not sure that at the end of it we have got any nearer to a solution of the mining problem. I think it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Antrim (Mr. O'Neill) who said yesterday that he had never taken part in a coal Debate because he had no expert knowledge of the industry. I have not taken part in any coal Debate during the time I have been in the House for quite a different reason. As a matter of fact, for the greater part of my life I have been connected with mining. For over 30 years I have managed, developed, amalgamated and controlled mines. One thing that I learned very early in my experience was that there is nothing more dangerous in mining than to dogmatise, from the experience one may have of mines in a particular district, as to what may be the best method of managing mines—I will not say in another country, for my experience has all been in foreign countries—but even in another district.
1069 This Bill deals more with the economic side of the coal mining industry than with the technical side. On that I will not presume to speak. I mean to speak in no provocative sense. I think that to bring in passion and sentiment into a purely business proposition of this kind, however justifiable it may be, does not really help the solution of the mining problem. We have had a most comprehensive, voluminous and pertinent Report by the Coal Commission. Certainly anyone who has taken the trouble, as I have, to read through all the evidence in the three volumes that were published, should by now have sufficient data on which to form his own opinions. What struck me most, after reading all this evidence, were two main facts, which I am going to state, and I think I am going to carry most hon. Members opposite with me in my conclusion.
The first fact is that the causes which have produced the present crisis have, on the whole, had really nothing to do with either the coalowners or the coalminers. In exactly the same way it is entirely beyond the control of the industry itself to apply a remedy. It is also beyond the control of the Government. The only remedy that has ever been suggested from the Government point of view is the continuants of the subsidy, which, I am quite sure, not a single hon. Member of this House believes can be a permanent solution. The other fact that emerges is the gravity of the crisis. I have been connected with mines all my life, and I cannot ever remember such an unprecedentedly grave situation. It is well illustrated in the Royal Commission's Report, where it is stated that, in the last quarter of 1925, 73 per cent. of the mines of this country were working at a loss. The gravity is still better shown by another figure in the Royal Commission's Report that, during that same quarter, practically every ton of coal that was produced for export was being sold at a loss of about 3s. a ton. Everyone knows that the export of coal is nit only of the greatest importance to the coal industry[...] but is the basis of the whole industrial system of this country. The mines that produce for home consumption were in a slightly better condition due to the fact that, for one reason or another, it was possible to get a higher 1070 price from the domestic consumer than it was possible to get from the foreigner, but, after all, that anomaly cannot last. The Commission seemed to come to the opinion that equilibrium would be reached probably by the price of export coal coming nearer to the parity of the price of domestic coal. Quite frankly, I do not agree with that. If you take a world view of the coal industry to-day, I think it is far more likely that the domestic price will come down to the level of the export price. The problem stripped of all verbiage is that the coal export industry of this country is producing at a loss of 3s. a ton and that 73 per cent. of the whole industry is producing at a loss.
I come now to the question of remedies. I have listened to a great many speeches from hon. Members on the other side of the House, and I have yet to hear any proposals which would provide a real remedy. We have had many suggestions, but I propose only to refer to some of those made by the Royal Commission. I do not mean to weary the House by referring in detail to some of those which would take too long to carry out, and which, even if successful, would not affect the cost of production very much. I mean such matters as the nationalisation of royalties. Whatever opinion we may hold about that, the miners will not, as far as I can see, be any better off if the minerals are nationalised than if they remain in private hands. As I understand the recommendation of the Royal Commission, the conditions of the present leases are not to be altered. After all, they are the basis of coal production in this country, and most of them have 40, 00, or 100 years to run. Then there is the question of allowing municipalities to sell coal. I do not believe in that, but there is ground for difference of opinion. I believe it would take a long time to bring into effect, and, even if it were as successful as hon. Members opposite think, it would not materially reduce the cost of coal.
I come now to the more important recommendation of the Royal Commission, namely, the reconstruction of the industry. We hear much now about amalgamation. It has the same sort of hypnotic effect as the blessed word "coordination" has had since the War, a word which covers a multitude of sins. 1071 I have had something to do with amalgamations. As a matter of fact, I carried out an amalgamation of a large group of mines, including coal mines, with a capital of about £12,000,000. I am not suggesting for a moment that amalgamation would not be useful in the coal mining industry, but I am quite sure that, if Members opposite really look to amalgamation for a big decrease in the cost of production, they are leaning on a broken reed. I shall tell the House exactly what happened to us. We amalgamated for different reasons than would apply to coal amalgamations in this country. It was to avoid competition iii purchasing mines and ore. I do not think similar conditions prevail in this country, as most of the leases are already established. We also wanted to obtain the interchangability of the large amount of hydro-electric power we used. That was a question of safety, because we found that, through a particular power system breaking mines were often flooded. There was also the question of finance; it was easier to raise large sums of money for a big company than for a smaller entity. That, again, does not apply to the coal industry, as when it has been prosperous there has never been any difficulty about raising capital.
From the points of view I have mentioned I do not suggest that our amalgamation was not successful, but I also hoped that by amalgamating we would save a great deal in overhead charges. There I found myself absolutely wrong. The reason was just this, that we overlooked the human element. I think it was the Minister of Labour who, in referring to this question of big amalgamations, said that one of the difficulties was to find the right type of man to manage them. We found it almost impossible. It requires a super-man. I cannot say that we have ever found him, I mean one combining all the necessary qualities, although we had some very good men, and although the salary is £12,000 a year. There is not only the difficulty of getting the right type of man; you have got to pay for their greatness. A super-man is never satisfied to leave well alone. To give a concrete instance of the result of amalgamation. We owned exactly 50 per cent. of a mine and another company owned the other half. You would have 1072 thought if there was ever a typical case which would have been helped by amalgamation, it would have been this. Eventually we did amalgamate. We have never since then produced as cheaply as we did before, and the reason is this: When we were managing the mine and only part owners our manager, a Scotsman, took a special pride in proving to the other owners, who happened to be Americans, that he could manage a mine cheaper and better than they could. They, too, were always watching results, and as a result we had real efficiency. As soon as we amalgamated it was quite different. That friendly rivalry no longer existed [An HON. MEMBER: "Are you putting that forward as a serious argument against amalgamation?"] I am. It is the human side of the problem.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) talked about unification. By that I presume he means the amalgamation of all the mines in the country. If that ever comes about, the cost of production will certainly go up, not down, and, after all, the crux of the whole mining problem is how to reduce costs. I repeat, therefore, that one cannot expect too much from amalgamation or reconstruction. I will not say much about the suggestion of forming selling syndicates, though I have also had experience of that. We have had in the nitrate of soda industry combinations to limit production which have developed into a selling association. Every mine has its export quota and is not allowed to exceed it, and the association does the whole of the selling. It carried on for some years fairly successfully but it has fallen down now. The result was the raising of the price of nitrate to a point at which it cannot compete against Germany and the present situation of the industry is as bad as it ever was. Unfortunately, it is a fact that however good your intentions may be to start with in the way of using these organisations to reduce cost, inevitably they result instead in increasing the selling price, and that is one thing you cannot do with British coal. If you do that, our industry is ruined and the country with it.
Therefore, if 'you consider all these remedies which have been suggested, there is little in them. Even if they were as successful as their advocates 1073 believe, I do not think you would get a reduction of 6d. a ton on the coal produced. That means about £10,000,000 a year. I do not believe any or all of these remedies would produce £10,000,000, and what is 6d. compared with the present difference between the cost of production of coal and its selling price? By a process of elimination therefore we come down, as the Royal Commission had to come down, to the question of wages and hours. You may hate to do it, but there it is. It is a purely business proposition, As between the two I say quite honestly if I thought this was a passing phase and that we could contemplate that in six months or a year that the selling price of coal would have increased enough to bridge the gap between the cost of production and the selling price, or if I thought the reduction in wages necessary to bridge it now would not be greater than 10 per cent., I should, without hesitation, vote for a wage reduction and not for an eight hours' Bill, but it is not so. Hon. Members opposite who know anything about the situation know that 10 per cent. would be too much in certain districts, such as Nottingham, Yorkshire and the better pits, but nothing like enough in the exporting areas—Northumberland, Durham; and South Wales. There if you are to reduce, your cost, as you must, to an economic basis by a reduction of wages, you would have to ask the men to accept a wage which would mean absolute starvation You cannot face that. It is not fair therefore to make the men believe that this question can be settled merely by a reduction of wages.
This eliminates all the remedies anyone has ever suggested, and you come down to the Eight Hour Bill. I am only giving you my opinion and I have given you my reasons why I shall vote for the Bill. This Bill is not an alternative to a. reduction of wages. Let us be frank about that. It means eight hours and a reduction of wages. In some cases it may not be necessary to reduce wages at all. I am told that in the Midlands it is not necessary, but in the exporting districts, even with an Eight Hour Bill, you have to reduce. If any other solution can be found no one would he more delighted than I have represented miners and I like them. They are jolly good sportsmen, even though they did 1074 kick me out. It is no use, however, making party speeches and trying to arouse passion unless hon. Members have a proper alternative to put before the country and before the House, and so far—I have listened very closely to the leader of the Opposition—that alternative has not been vouchsafed. Under these circumstances all of us on this side of the House have no option but to support the Bill, not in the interests of the mineowners, but in the best interests of the miners.
§ Dr. J. H. WILLIAMS
I am glad of this opportunity of saying a few words against the Bill. I am neither a miner nor a mineowner, and until to-day I was under the impression that the Prime Minister was not, but I was surprised to read to-day:In the latest list of shareholders in the huge concern called 13aldwins, Limited (return 1st January, 1926), there is an entry which shows that the right hon. Stanley Baldwin, P.C., M.P., owns no less than 194,526 ordinary shares and 37,591 preference shares. Baldwins, Limited, employs over 2,000 miners.Therefore the Prime Minister himself is pro tanto a mineowner. The leader of our party has called this a Mineowners' Bill. I say it is a criminal Bill. In the first place, it is completely outside the scope of the Royal Commission. This is the testimony of a leaderette in the "Nation." It says:By committing itself to the policy of longer hours the -Government has made a mistake which, unless it is promptly retrieved will, will, we believe, prove disastrous. But what is the use of marshalling the arguments against this policy. The Royal Commission stated them in their Report lucidly, forcibly, and fully. Our Ministers and. our mine owners have studied this Report, and the former profess for it a great respect. Yet it is evident that the Commission's powerful arguments have made no impression on the minds of either.A research committee have been making investigations during the last few years, and they have come to -the conclusion that workers working under ideal conditions, with the maximum amount of sunlight-, the maximum amount of air and the best temperature, reach a maximum output in an eight-hour day. I would ask hon. Members to bear in mind that the miner works under different conditions. He works deep down in the bowels of the earth, sometimes 4,000 to 5,000 feet deep, in utter darkness, 1075 deprived of sunlight and fresh air, and often in a temperature which is quite abnormal, anything from 90 to 100 degrees. I have been down the mines in my area, sometimes to collect the mutilated remains of some poor unfortunate man who has been buried under a fall of earth.
I have seen the conditions under which the miners work, and I can testify that the work is arduous. The hon. Member for Yarmouth (Sir F. Meyer) compared the fisherman's job with that of the miner. You cannot compare them. The fisherman works under ideal conditions, according to the Report of the Research Committee. He gets the maximum amount of sunlight, the maximum amount of open air, and he works in normal temperatures. The miner works under abnormal conditions. The air below ground is often perfectly stagnant; I use the word advisedly. They cannot burn a lamp. The flame of a candle would go out, not because of firedamp, but because of the fact that the air has been used up by the men underground and has been deprived of its oxygen. There is not the slightest doubt that if the maximum number of hours a workman can work and produce his maximum output under ideal conditions of a maximum of sunlight, a maximum of air and the best temperature, is eight hours, the miner ought to work less than eight hours. The movement ought to be in the direction of shortening the present working day, rather than lengthening the working day. That was anticipated in the Report of the Sankey Commission when they suggested a six-hour day.
Not only is the miners' occupation arduous, but it is dangerous. One hon. Member opposite objected to the statement of the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) in regard to the use of halters. Halters are used in my area. The reason why no compensation is claimed is, because the halters produce such a condition that it cannot be proved that it is due to the halter. I have seen boys in my area who have had ruptures for years, due to the wearing of the halter. The miners have to work under conditions which are absolutely unnatural. Some work in seams not more than 18 inches thick, and they have to work lengthwise, in a contorted position, where it is impossible for them 1076 to work longer than seven hours. They are below actually seven hours and 40 minutes, on the average.
There can be no doubt that if we pass this Bill there will be an increased number of accidents. After the Seven Hours Act came into force, it is a significant fact that the number of fatalities were reduced. The number of accidents were also reduced by 55,000. It is equally significant that when wages were afterwards reduced the number of accidents was increased. That was due to the fact that the men were on a reduced standard of living; they had to eat less because of their lower wages, and they became more careless and were more easily fatigued. Their condition was also due to over-anxiety. The effect of the absence of light on the eyesight of the miner is serious. It has been said that the men ought to be examined in regard to their eyesight before they go down the pit. That is nonsense. Their bad eyesight is due to the fact that they work in defective light, and it is also due to fear. Fear as has much to do with it as anything. It is a psychological condition. If this Bill becomes law I have no doubt, judging from my own experience of going down the mines and seeing the men at work, that it will increase the fatalities and the non-fatal accidents, and it will also increase, according to the Report of the Commission itself, the number of nystagmus cases. For these reasons, I oppose the Bill.
§ Sir FRANK SANDERSON
My reason for taking an active part in this Debate is because I regard it essentially as a business proposition to deal with a business difficulty, rather than a political one. I have been surprised at the remarks made by hon. Members opposite to-day, and in the previous Debate, to the effect that the Government are proposing a Bill to insist upon a working day of eight hours. No Government has any power to insist upon an eight hours working day, or to insist upon any man working at all. All that the Government are doing in this Bill is to make it possible for such miners as may deem it expedient to work for eight hours rather than the present seven hours. Although I support the Bill I feel that, as far as is practicable, it would be wise that there should be no real attempt to introduce an eight-hour day for five and a 1077 half days a week. I can speak from certain experience, that there are industries where it is to the advantage of all concerned that eight hours should be worked in one day, but not necessarily for more than five days a week. My point is, that whilst I am in favour of the introduction of an eight-hour working day, I am not wholly in favour of the miners working longer than 42 hours a week.
I am convinced that this Bill in itself cannot possibly remedy the evil' and the difficulty with which the coal industry is confronted, and I am equally convinced that a reduction in wages will not in itself overcome the economic difficulty with which we are faced. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) has suggested that the only means by which this industry can be placed on a sound footing is by amalgamation. The words used in this evening's paper are that we must have one huge combine. I have had some experience of combines, and whilst I am convinced that much good would accrue from the amalgamation of certain mines in given districts I am equally convinced that one large amalgation of this or any other industry would be fatal, because it is possible for an industry to become so large and so gigantic that it is not possible to devise the necessary machinery to run such a concern economically. I am very much interested when I hear hon. Members apposite developing schemes on the basis of these great amalgamations. I remember well, when I was not a Member of this House, reading the Debates that used to take place here in which criticisms were constantly being hurled at the Government of that day because of the general tendency for amalgamations.
The right hon. Member for Ogmore, in a recent speech, referred to unification, and the Secretary for Mines, in reply, said that he was much interested in the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman and regretted that he stopped short just at a time when he became really interesting. The Secretary for Mines suggested that he should have developed his argument and deal with unification. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore spoke on the later occasion he developed that argument on 1078 the basis of nationalisation, I should have thought, after we have seen the results of nationalisation not only abroad, but also in our own country during the period of the War, when so many of our great industries were suffering from the deplorable effects of nationalisation, that no one would have put that forward as a serious proposition at the present time. It has been proposed by hon. Members in all parts of the House that selling syndicates should be formed, and I should like to say a few words on this topic. I am of the opinion that selling syndicates, as such, would be found in practice not to be entirely unworkable, but extremely difficult, and the industry cannot be organised in sufficient time to enable us to derive any benefit from it, in this year or in the immediate future.
I want to put forward a practical scheme, a scheme which in my humble opinion might form a basis upon which to build a prosperous industry. I sent a copy of it to the Prime Minister towards the end of last month, and I should like to give the House a few extracts from it. Its underlying principle is that all mine-owners should agree to be satisfied with their proportion of the trade and be secured either in obtaining this or receiving compensation in a form which I will develop later. The object of the agreement is to distribute the volume of coal required in any one year equitably amongst the members of the trade at present engaged therein.
- (1) A central committee to be set up by the colliery owners who shall be entrusted with the general management of the scheme, and this committee to appoint a firm of chartered accountants to attend to the financial administration of the scheme.
- (2) Each colliery to furnish to these accountants a certified return showing the total tonnage of coal produced during the preceding 12 months, or such other period as may be determined.
- (3) The returns so obtained to be added together and each colliery to be given an index percentage figure, calculated on the proportion of coal produced by each respective colliery to the whole total of coal produced during the above period.
- (4) Each colliery also to furnish a weekly statement giving the quantity of
1079 coal produced, and a statement to be issued by the accountants to each colliery owner showing a summary of the preceding week's work, particularly his own percentage of the total of coal produced during the same week, and the amount by which his index figure has been increased or decreased.
- It should be noted that the tonnage represented by the index figure will not be a fixed one, but being on a percentage basis will vary directly with the total weekly tonnage produced, the percentage only remaining constant.
(5) Each colliery will be required to pay into a central pool an amount equal to 2s. 6d. per ton for every ton of coal produced in excess of its index figure, or will receive payment out of the central pool at the rate of 2s. 6d. per ton for each ton by which its production is less than its index figure. Adjustments in the index figure could be made to meet the circumstances of exceptional cases. (6) Any dispute or question arising out of the operation of this scheme to be settled by the General Committee.Let me say here that I have not pursued this scheme earlier because I was hopeful, when I sent it to the Prime Minister, that it might receive consideration, and I was very anxious to do nothing which would make it difficult for the Government to develop any scheme in order to bring the coal difficulty to a satisfactory conclusion. The recommendations which I made include:
In connection with that I would say that I am thoroughly opposed to any form of subsidy, and I claim that the subsidy which was paid by the Government did not help, but hindered the coal industry, taking the long view of the situation. The advantages of the above suggested agreement are: (1) It would prevent unhealthy competition and make it possible to convert loss into adequate profit. (2) The margin of difference between loss and profit being so small, it is not anticipated that the scheme would restrict trade or materially reduce output, nor would it in any way interfere with the activity and initiative of the individual. (3) It would result in much closer co-operation between mine-owners. (4) It would relieve the coal-mining industry from political interference and finally eliminate the Government subsidy. (5) It entails no sacrifice on the part of the miners and, given a spirit of good will and co-operation between owners and men might bring about an increased output which would in itself be a solution of the problem. (6) It converts an unprofitable industry into a profitable one, taking the coal industry as a whole. (7) Due to the elimination of unhealthy competition already referred to, it is not anticipated that a large amount of money by way of payment and compensation would change hands. If the scheme which I have ventured to outline were developed I am convinced that the serious difficulties confronting the industry to-day would pass away. This scheme is by no means a new idea. It is carried out in other industries and has proved beneficial to those industries. The mineowners should accept favourably any such scheme for two reasons. First, the mineowner who has an uneconomic pit and is losing, let us say, from 2s. to 7s. a ton under the present conditions, would be in the position of reducing his output and of being content, more or less, with the demand for coal in his particular locality and would not compete for the trade in an extended area. Such mineowners would receive from the central pool 2s. 6d. per ton, which would 1081 cover their overhead charges and leave them a profit of approximately ls. a ton, whereas under the present conditions they are facing heavy losses. Secondly, at the other end of the scale the mine-owner who is running a profitable business to-day, would be in the position that he would not have to pay into the central pool until his output was in excess of the index figure of output.
- (1) That pits which are universally acknowledged to be uneconomic shall not be parties to this agreement. If 80 per cent, of the coal-mining industry would give consideration to the scheme it would work satisfactorily.
- (2) That hours of working and rates of pay should remain unaltered until such time as the Report of the Royal Commission has been agreed upon and put into operation in all its recommendations.
- (3) That an appeal be made to the miners, voluntarily, to increase output at existing rates of pay and hours of working by, say, 10 per cent., and that a bonus be paid to the miners on all increased output over and above 10 per cent.
- (4) Assuming that £3,000,000 Government subsidy is to be granted, that this be appropriated for the purpose of aiding the coal export trade by reducing the railway charges upon coal for export to the rates prevailing in 1914.
It should be acceptable to the miners, because if the scheme were carried through it would not necessitate any loss to them or any concession in increased hours or redaction of wages. It should be acceptable to the Government because it would relieve them of any further responsibility in the coal mining industry, should the scheme prove successful, as I have no doubt would be the case. If we look at the figures shown in the Commission's Report we cannot fail to be impressed by the fact that over a long period of 40 years there was, according to these statistics, only one time at which a loss was shown, that being the loss in 1925. I can only come to this conclusion, that the coal mining industry, on the whole, has been very prosperous and I fail to see why one particular industry should be picked out to receive so much sympathetic consideration and financial support at the hands of the Government Other industries, equally important, have suffered and indeed are suffering to-day. They have their difficulties, but the masters have come together and devised ways and means and schemes for overcoming their difficulties. I would like the coalowners to come together and to work out a scheme which would develop on the lines I have indicated. I hope the Government will be able to express their views upon the scheme which I have propounded. It is not new; it has been before them for about a month, and I would like to know if any attempt has been made by the Government to put this scheme or any such scheme before the mineowners.
§ Mr. OLIVER
I have listened with great atention to the hon. Member who has just spoken, and I shall be interested to watch how he votes to-night. If I understood his scheme aright, it lays down two cardinal principles. One is that the seven-hours day should be continued, and the other that the present wages 1082 should be continued. Unless he votes with us, I do not see how he will he able to justify himself or reconcile the scheme which he has proposed, with the action which the Government are taking. That must be left to the hon. Member to explain in a future speech. I want to say that, though I have not the advantage of being a miner, I have the honour to represent a mining constituency. I do not want to give a silent vote to-night on this very, very important question. I, like those who represent mining constituencies, have followed from time to time, the many voluminous Reports which have been issued regarding this very important industry. It must have become obvious to everyone who followed the course of the industry, from 1919, to the Report of the Samuel Commission, that when the Prime Minister on 24th March referred the Report to the two sides to come to an agreement, that a lock-out from that day was inevitable. In the Report there are many suggestions for reorganisation. These were not new, they had been put before the coal owners before. What hope was there that they would be more ready to re-organise when this Report was issued than they were before?
Dealing with the Bill now before us, want to ask whether hon. Members have read the very interesting article in the May number of the "International Labour Review," which is the organ of the International Labour Office, and which deals with coal production and consumption of the countries of the world. The article says:The United States Geological Survey examined the stocks of coal in 1924, and calculated that the world's coal industry had been built up to meet an anticipated demand of one and a-half billion tons by 1924. It now found itself able to utilise only four-fifths of its production.This means, that we are producing coal to-day one-fifth of which the world cannot find a market. The article goes on to explain the causes of this diminution of the use of coal. It shows that in Scandinavia and Switzerland the developments of hydro-electric activity; and in Spain, Italy and France the development of electricity have allowed a great industrial expension without increase of coal imports. The article further draws attention to 1083 the fact that, while in 1914 coal provided 88 per cent. of the power for the worlds fleets, to-day that has fallen to 66 per cent. In addition some startling figures are given about the increased production in various countries. The writer of the article says:That the three continents, Asia, Africa, and Australasia produced 23,000,000 tons more in 1924 than in 1913, a quantity equal to one-fourth of Britain's best export record. Add to this the growth of production in Holland, which was 1,873,000 tons in 1913 and 5,877,000 tons in 1924; in the Saar, from a negligible quantity in 1920 to 14,000,000 tons in 1924; while in France the figure was 38,543,700 tons in 1923 and 48,033,564 tons in 1925, and it is clear that the great exporting nations like Britain and Germany must be encountering unprecedented obstacles.9.0 P.M.
What I want to ask is if these are the conditions, and more coal is actually being produced than is being utilised, how does this Bill propose to meet that difficulty? How does it set out to solve the question? It is not a question of producing more, but cheapening the coal that is already produced. The Coal Commission, I am glad to say, devoted its attention almost exclusively to that point, and in its recommendation of reorganisation stressed reorganisation first and wages next. In the Bill which is now before us the very thing that the Commission did not recommend we are discussing as the policy of the Government. This was turned down by the Coal Commission, and turned down by the miners. The extension of hours has been turned down by the best economic opinion in the country. The only people who support the extension of the hours are the mineowners, and this it is which makes one ask: Is everyone out of step except the mineowners? It is quite evident from the evidence taken at great trouble and expense by the Coal Commission there is not much prospect of the extension of hours meeting the needs of this industry. It is quite true to say had that been so the Commission would have put it in the forefront of their recommendations.
For the constituency that I represent I can say that while the Government may 1084 pass an Eight Hours Bill, it will be a very different matter getting the miners to work it. You may bank on the "knock-out blow" in this industry, but the knock-out blow in the past has been a very costly business for the country. Remember we have had three stoppages of this kind within the last six years. Unless the causes which have produced this result are thoroughly altered these disputes will recur and recur as time goes on. What we are out to establish is not only a formula that will end this dispute, but we want to find a basis of solution that will make these disputes less and less frequent in the future than they have been in the past. This Bill will not do that. This Bill will legislate discontent of the most appalling type. It will demonstrate that the Government have prostituted the powers of this House to the advantage of the mineowners, by lengthening the working day, which alone the mineowners have recommended out of the volume of evidence which has been submitted.
Not only are we legislating now for the miners of this country, we are legislating for the coal-producing countries of the world, because when the eight-hours day is established here the extension of hours will soon apply to our competitors in other coal-producing countries. Let me read a paragraph from the Report of the Coal Commission dealing with this matter.At home it will increase absenteeism, and so cause a loss of output. In the second place, the change could hardly fail to produce reactions in other countries. If Britain lengthened her hours, these other countries would certainly consider whether they should not follow suit. In this way, any gain in power to compete with foreign coal might he swept away, and all that would have been achieved would have been a general lowering of the standard of 1e:sure in all milling countries.It does not look well to see a Prime Minister of this country, upon whose honour so much stress has been laid, and out of whose integrity so much political capital has been made by the party opposite, coming forward with a Bill of this kind in 1926. It is the greatest legislative reaction we have had for some time. It is strange that it should come from a Government—returned to Parliament, it is true, on a 1085 minority of votes—with an unprecedented number of Conservative supporters in this House. We should have to go back a long way in political history to find an exact parallel in the way this Government has dealt with working-class questions. It was this Government which took £1,500,000 from the Unemployment Fund, and made some thousands of unemployed workers destitute. It was this Government which raided the surpluses of the approved Societies, thus violating the sanctity of contract. Now this Government has come forward to extend the hours of work for the miners. When these facts sink into the minds of the great working class democracy of this country, I am quite sure, whether this Bill go through to-night or not, that the people will have something to say on the first opportunity that presents itself.
§ Mr. KIDD
It seems to me that there is a case against this Bill to be stated from this side of the House, and I wish to submit some considerations on it. Before I come to that, however, I would like the House to notice that the only constructive suggestions from the other side are for the nationalisation of the mines, the nationalisation of royalties, and the municipalising of the sale of coal. As regards the first, I submit to hon. Members opposite that, however attractive nationalisation may have been in other days, when coal occupied a supreme position as an agent of lighting and heating, the position is changed to-day. One of our troubles to-day is that coal has lost its supremacy and is threatened with competition from other agents. With regard to the nationalisation of royalties, let us not mislead the miner into thinking he can gain anything from that. It shows a reckless disregard of truth, or a consummate ignorance of royalties, to preach that doctrine. I speak with some knowledge of royalties, though not as a royalty owner. The nationalisation of royalties would only result in the State instead of the individual taking an average of 6d. per ton on coal, and the burden is on the industry again. From the 6d. which the private owner of royalties gets at the present time deductions are made for rates and taxes and Super-tax; he is left with something like a net sum of 2½d. per ton. That 2½d. is not a very serious burden on the industry, but the industry 1086 is not going to escape it. If there ever is to be nationalisation of royalties, Scottish representatives will require to watch it very closely. At the present time the State is not liable in law to pay any local rates, whatever it may do ex gratia, The private royalty owner however, in Scotland is liable to pay those rates. In mining areas our local Government is largely sustained by rates on royalties, and if nationalisation of royalties is to come along, then the mining areas must take care to see that before the State receives the royalty the local area gets an equivalent of what it receives at the present time from the private owner of royalties.
§ Mr. KIDD
I made a special appeal to Scottish Members to watch that point. If my hon. Friend had been listening as he ought to have been listening, he would have heard that. With regard to municipal trading in coal. Who sells coal at the present time? The competition is between the co-operative societies and the private traders. The merit of co-operative trading is that it can occasionally capture trade against the private trader in fair competition, the consumer being thus protected. If we had municipalities selling coal in competition with private traders and co-operative societies, every co-operator knows that the municipalities would be run off their legs in less time than I take to say it. If, to escape competition, the municipality sought a monopoly, and to obscure its losses on sales lay the burden on the rates, who would be the first to object? Who but the co-operator? My surprise is that any co-operator, while objecting to municipalisation in the sale of coal, should advocate nationalisation in the production of coal.
With regard to criticisms against the Bill from this side of the House. Those who heard the Minister of Labour yesterday were struck by the fact that he seemed to regard this Bill as being but a 1087 slight variation, in one particular, from the recommendations of the Royal Commission. It is something very much more. My submission to the Government is that this Bill cuts right across the whole scheme underlying the proposals of the Commission. What are those proposals'? The Commission start with this fact, elaborated By previous speakers, that we are suffering at the present moment because we have reached saturation point in the supply of coal to the world. There may be legitimate doubts as to whether one can ever reach the point of saturation with a primary commodity like coal, but the case of the Commission is that that point has been reached; and for that reason, leaving aside all other reasons, they object to a general extension of the hours of labour.
That is the position at the present time. If you have a general extension of the hours of labour how will it affect a colliery at the present time working seven hours only and able to pay the necessary wage. If you have a general extension of hours you will only increase the handicap in favour of that colliery against the poorer colliery and notably collieries North of the Tweed. While it is true that the Coal Commission objects to a general extension of the hours of labour they say that, there should be some relaxation of the seven hours day when locally this may be necessary to maintain employment. What they have in view is that in particular districts, on the initiative of the management and men of those districts, representations might be made for some relaxation and an opportunity afforded of giving this. By doing that you might assist to make more equal the position of the poorer mines as against the richer mines without adding seriously to the supply of coal to a saturated market, whereas if you give a general extension you crush out the poorer mine by aggravating its conditions inasmuch as you give a larger handicap in favour of the richer mines.
My submission is that the Government ought to have taken the line clearly indicated by the Commission. There is no recommendation in the Coal Commission Report in favour of this general extension of hours, but there is a recommendation in favour of a Measure which would enable the local mines, where the desire 1088 exists, to have an extension of hours. It is a mistake to speak of this as a permissive Bill. You cannot call it permissive in view of the terms of that Report, which opposes this general extension. It is one thing to permit greater elasticity in the matter of hours locally when wanted, and it is quite another thing to leave the richer coal masters with a power which if exhausted will make matters worse as indicated. Speaking from this side of the House, I think it only right that I should put forward that view.
The Royal Commission went on to suggest that some reorganisation of the industry should take place with economies resulting. We have heard a great deal about amalgamation and unification, but what did the Commission mean by amalgamation? A speaker opposite has referred to the speech of Lord Aberconway, who is no novice in this business. He did not have before him the idea that amalgamation should be a synonym for the richer freezing out the poorer mines. Take this position. You may have two collieries; one with great potentialities but lack of capital. Under present conditions it would be impossible to finance that pit with fresh capital. Does amalgamation to-day mean that the richer mine with the larger resources (c)imply has to wait for the moment when the poorer mine may he captured 1 That is not Lord Aberconway's view, and I think he has. correctly understood the recommendations of the Commission. What does amalgamation on the lines of those opposite indicate? If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore means by unification something like nationalisation, then those of us on this side will oppose. We will have no such tinkering with the coal industry by attempts to create a monopoly and an artificial price, because by doing so you will simply exploit the public, and that would finish in the destruction of the employment of thousands of miners.
With regard to the Bill now before the Committee dealing with the reconstruction of the mines I entertain the greatest hope, and before it leaves the Committee I suspect we shall find that it represents a great step in the right direction. Let the Government concentrate on that side of the question. The Commission have indicated in one of their recommendations 1089 the ideal to be aimed at is to discover a unity of outlook in the industry. They recommend that the workers should go into the industry as something more than wage earners. The Bill now before the Committee makes provision for that. The Prime Minister has urged that view time and again, and he did so a fortnight ago in the speech he made at Chippenham in which he said he hoped that the time was coming when we should see a start made with a new industrial system, when employers and unions would co-operate, the latter investing for the worker, and he indicated that the Government were ready to offer facilities in this direction. I submit to the Opposition that instead of going along with no constructive proposals, the time surely is ripe for taking this constructive line. You want to identify the worker with his industry in the fullest sense. The common outlook is the best assurance of increased production and a reconstruction of the industry on a sound basis.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
I suppose the whole of the Members of this House are agreed that there is not another industrial country in the whole world whose economic difficulties are greater than those which confront the British nation to-day. On several occasions I have spent some time in Germany and other European countries, and I had the opportunity last year of going to the United States of America. I am perfectly convinced that the problem of 43,000,000 people in Great Britain, the problem of re-adaptation to new conditions, is greater for the British people than for any other or. the Continent of Europe. We have exhausted one great pioneering effort in the building up of modern industrialism. We are, as no other people, utterly dependent upon the reestablishing and rebuilding of new.relations in the world's trade and commerce. We have had for 25 years very clear indications as to the paramount necessity of changing our attitude in our fundamental industries. I think the Prime Minister and his Government could be forgiven if they gave the stock answer which has been given for 100 years in regard to this problem, if it was the first time it had been given. I have never known since the days of Waterloo a time when we were in difficulties industrially that the owners did not 1090 propound the same solution as at present, that the way to industrial recovery was by longer hours and less wages, and that the way back to prosperity could only be found in that direction.
When we stand, as we do to-day, confronted with the doctrine of higher wages and the fact that we cannot discover markets either in or out of the Empire because of the low purchasing power of the mass of the working population, then it is perfectly clear that a body of employers, or owners, or a Government; which merely repeats the formula of industrial recovery that we have used until it has become hackneyed and tragic, is guilty of the greatest disservice to the British nation in this hour. Whether we like it or not, we arc, as a people, running our heads against a stone wall. The whole future life of our people is imperilled by the reactionary policy which has been established by the present Government in handling this industrial situation. We have had not only warnings, but four distinct Commissions of Inquiry set up by the most powerful Governments of modern times to tell the nation what to do with its basic industries. The Prime Minister could be pardoned if he said that to transform the British coal mining industry from a series of private joint stock companies into a corporation is a Socialist recommendation and must be rejected. Mr. Justice Sankey, in 1919, summoned before the judgment bar of the nation the best men it contains to give the nation, and not a party, solemn advice as to how to get out of its difficulties and readjust itself to the requirements of twentieth century industrialism.
The present Prime Minister and preceding Prime Ministers have had for seven years the solemn advice that there was only one way out; that the British nation must pull itself together and readapt its conditions, if we were to lift ourselves out of the bewilderment, anarchy and declension of our power in the world market. When we are confronted with that solemn fact and that we have had records of recommendations made by Royal Commissions for seven years, and that the advice has been systematically neglected and ignored, then I say this present Prime Minister stands confronted, not only with an act of base 1091 neglect, but with grave imperilment of the power of Great Britain in future years to recover and re-establish her power and prosperity among the industrial nations of the world.
We have heard a great deal about America. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) indicated last week some of the difficulties that confronted Americans from the industrial point of view. I wish he had pursued those inquiries further. The whole analysis of American mining life goes to show that the problems they are confronted with are very largely the problems with which we ourselves have to deal. If he had gone further in his inquiries, he would have found that if the American mining industry is to be put on a sound and prosperous basis the eight-hour day, which they themselves are working, will require to be overhauled. The whole tendency of American life, from the point of view of increasing efficiency and prosperity in the mining industry, lies in the direction of the reduction of the working day. For the last 30 years American miners have played one-third of the working day year by year. In 192–2 they only worked a little more than half the approximate working year. At, this very hour, in the important bituminous industries of America, men are only working two to two and a-half and three clays a week on the average. Take some of the best companies in Indiana, one of which I visited five weeks ago. With 15 first-class mines with between seven and eight feet thick seams, 14 of those 15 mines were shut down. I submit that even America, which is our chief competitor, in handling her problem has had to confess that the long working day is the road to anarchy in their country as in ours. The United States Mining Commission is running exactly in the same direction as the inquiries in our own country. While they are not prepared as a younger nation to admit the full value of the public corporation as the instrument for regulating the life of the American mining industry, they say definitely that coal has a special place in the life of the American nation and therefore must be regarded as having a quasi-public character, and must have attached to it the principle of public regulation if that industry is to be 1092 restored to conditions of harmony and prosperity. Therefore I say we are confronted on all sides with the plain evidence that for seven years we have had advice from our best experts that we are literally at the end of an economic period just as we were in 1760. We have to strike out in new ways.
If we look back on that period, the movement we made from that national system of agriculture and the building up from 1760 onwards of this modern system of industry, we can see a tremendous amount of social and industrial waste in the driving of our people from the country side and the breaking up of the system of common ownership. There was at least this to be said of those who laid the foundations of our modern industrial system, that they did give us a productive industrial system. Here to-day, when we are having to seek a new place for ourselves, we have the leaders of our basic industries and the royalty owners setting up deliberately an anti-social policy. It. is not a policy that leads to production or the service of the nation but a policy which lets the nation go to beggary as far as they care. Therefore, I say that, in the circumstances, we have a right to protest in the name of the Labour party. We who are in this party derive our very life from England. We have no investments in the cotton mills of Bombay; we have no investments in Africa; we have no investments scattered about over the whole world; we cannot sit back if England goes down; we live upon the labour power we can apply here, and only here; and I protest, not only in the name of the Socialist party, which I have the honour to represent, but in the name of the nation, that we have at this hour a Prime Minister who has abdicated, a Prime Minister who has merely become the tool and mouthpiece of a number of owners and royalty owners, whose sole policy is that of class monopoly and class privilege and class gain at the expense of a nation that groans in anguish and cries out for light and leading towards a new period of industrial development.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I cannot enter into the technical details of the working of the coal-mining industry, because I am not qualified to do so, but I think it is not a bad thing that, at some time in 1093 the course of this Debate, some Member who represents primarily the consumer of coal should intervene, just to put the point of view of the consumer. I represent a particular class of consumers of coal, namely, the fishermen. They may not be very important, but I think they are a fair example of the average moderate industry in this country, which has to make its way by buying coal, and, tile cheaper that coal is, the better they are able to carry on their work and the higher profits they will make. That applies to a large number of industries in this country. I simply rise to-night in order to protest against one or two general economic assertions which have been made, notably by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), which have been supported by the Leader of the Opposition, and which I do not think ought to go altogether unchallenged. I have said that I cannot deal with the technical details of the coal industry, and I should like to say in that connection that I have listened, as I am sure every hon. Member on this side of the House has listened, with great respect and deep sympathy to the speeches of those who represent the coal miners, because their sincerity and their trouble is obvious to us all; but, from the point of view of the consumer, I cannot so listen to wild economic assertions such as were made this afternoon, not with regard to the coal industry particularly, but with regard to industry generally, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston.
The right hon. Gentleman divided his speech roughly into two parts. In the first part he dealt with what I may, perhaps, call the price problem. He dealt with the question of the price of the coal which we export from this country, and he maintained that, if we added another hour to the working day of the miners in this country, the Germans would retaliate, and so on, and the standard of living in Germany would be reduced in exact proportion as the standard of living of the miners in this country was reduced. [Interruption.] He left it in doubt, and he proceeded to develop his theme that nationalisation, or something on those lines, would and could be a remedy. It could never be a remedy for that particular problem. It cannot affect it. There is only one thing 1094 that can ever affect that particular problem, and that is, if and when we can come to it, an arrangement and agreement with Germany, Belgium, France and the other coal-producing countries[...] of Europe. If we could do that, we might be able to check the international problem between the countries, and might be able to stabilise the price of coal. That, however, in my judgment, cannot come about for a very long time. Long negotiations will be entailed; we shall have to get some form of selling agency in this country in order to negotiate, say, with the Ruhr, and it will have to cover a very long period. It is not an immediate solution for the problem which confronts us to-day.
The problem which confronts us to-day is the problem of the price which coal is fetching in the general markets, both at home and abroad. If we cannot produce coal at such a price as will command purchases, either in the home or the foreign market at the present time, we shall never be able to pay the miner any wages at all, and what we have got to settle at the present time is bow we can produce coal at such a price that it will command purchases in the world markets or in the internal market at the present time. It is no use saying that we can come to an agreement with Germany, that we can form a coal consortium for Europe, in the immediate future. It is a matter of years. I agree that that is the ultimate solution, but in the meantime we have to direct our whole attention to the immediate problem. The next question to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston directed the attention of the House was the question of what he called increasing the purchasing power of the people of this country, and that was repeated by several hon. Members opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean when he talks in that glib way about increasing the purchasing power of the people of this country? He means a subsidy first of all. That is the obvious thing. He has advocated a subsidy for the coal industry. All I can say is that, if the coal industry is to be subsidised, the agricultural and fishing industries ought to be subsidised—a dozen industries ought to be subsidized—
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I see no reason whatever why the State should subsidise the coal industry particularly, if it does not subsidise other industries. Supposing that we follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston, and agree with him that the only way to increase prosperity is to increase the purchasing power of our people. That can only be done at the present time by a succession of subsidies applied to nearly every industry in the country. Who is to find the money to do that? It can only be found in one way, namely, by inflation. It can only be done by printing pounds sterling until they become worthless paper, and that is the ultimate fallacy of the Labour party at the present time. It is the same scheme which Mr. Oswald Mosley has put forward in what is called the Birmingham proposal. The result of that would be that the pound sterling would be turned into worthless paper inevitably in the end, because, once you start inflating, you can never stop. We all want to increase the purchasing power of the people of this country, and it is going to be increased in exact proportion as production is increased and a market found for the goods produced. Then there is an increase of genuine purchasing power. If you start artificially increasing the purchasing power of the people of this country, you find yourself involved in inflation, and have to go through all the horrors that Germany, Austria, and Poland have gone through in the last three or four years. That is inevitable.
Hon. Members opposite have been very busy this afternoon attacking the Prime Minister. They have called him heartless, they have called him a twister—I do not know what they have called him. They have said that he has betrayed the miners, that be has gone back on his word, and all the rest of it. For the life of me, however, I cannot see what else the Prime Minister could have done at this time. I would ask hon. Members opposite who were the first people to accept the Report of the Coal Commission? The Government. [Interruption]. Who were the first people to reject the Report of the Coal Commission? [HON. MEMBERS: "The owners!"] Not at all. The miners were the first—[Interruption]. I quite agree that the owners proceeded afterwards to reject it also, and they made a very bad mistake. I hold no 1096 brief for the owners. I think that they handled their case extraordinarly badly right through, and in that they have been excelled only by the miners. The Government were confronted on one side by the Miners' Federation and on the other side by the Mining Association. What was the wretched Government to do? They were in an impossible position, with two impossible sets of people to deal with, and of the two the miners have proved themselves to be the more impossible. [Hon. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, because they had the sympathy of a very large percentage of the people of the country behind them, and if they had played their cards well they could have put themselves into an absolutely impregnable position.
The right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) accused the Prime Minister of preparing for a general strike. It is the elementary duty of any Government to ensure that the people are fed and that the essential services are kept going. The Prime Minister would have been grossly lacking in his ordinary duty if he had failed to take the necessary steps to preserve the community as a whole from a hold-up, such as the general strike was. As far as this Bill is concerned, looking at it from the outside and not as a member who has any intimate knowledge of the coal industry, but merely as one whose constituents consume coal for their livelihood, I say that I think it was inevitable and essential that the Government should leave the widest possible field for the conduct of ngotiations. The Government cannot impose a settlement on either side, but it can remove any obstacles that may lie between a settlement and a prolongation of this disastrous quarrel. By this Bill the Government- are merely widening the basis of negotiation. The Coal Commission reported definitely and finally against an extension of hours. That may not be the view of many miners, and it may not be the view ultimately of the Miners' Federation. We do not know. We merely say that no stone should be left unturned which may assist towards a settlement of the dispute.
Hon. Members opposite have made very much too much of the purpose of the Bill. We are not trying to impose an eight-hours day on the miners. We cannot impose anything. No man can force another man to work, and the 1097 miners can continue to withhold their labour. I am convinced that the only object that the Government had in introducing this Bill was to widen the possible basis of negotiations. To the outsider the question of selling seems to be almost fundamental in any reorganisation of the industry. I hope that the spokesman for the Government will be able to give us some indication that the Government intend seriously to tackle this problem of selling. I do not know anything about subsidiary companies. There may be a great deal in that idea. But there is no doubt that, before we can reach any agreement with European Powers with regard to stabilisation of the price of coal, we must form some sort of selling agency here for the purpose of making those negotiations possible, in so far as the export of coal is concerned. I hope that the Government will consider the possibility of inducing the mineowners, in conjunction with the miners, to set up some form of selling agency, in order that ultimately we may be able to reach some agreement with the Continent, which is the only way by which we can keep prices and wages at a decent level on both sides of the water. In the meantime, it is an absolute tragedy to see this country savaging herself in this way, doing no good to anyone, fighting an internecine war while faced with a problem which ought to be solved by the people engaged in the industry. Until employers and men in individual industries realise that their interests are identical and that they must themselves work out these very difficult economic problems in a way that no Government can ever do, I see no hope for the future prosperity of the country.
§ Mr. SMILLIE
I would like at the outset to say to the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken that there is a close affinity between the mine workers of this country and the fishermen of whom he spoke. We miners have a great deal in common with the fishermen. The dangers faced by those who gather the harvest of the seas and the dangers faced by the men who win the coal underground establish that affinity. We do not desire to do anything that would necessarily raise the price of fuel consumed by the fishermen and the agricultural workers or any class of the community. Our people sometimes 1098 are consumers of fish, but they would rather do without fish than feel that the fishermen were receiving starvation wages or working too long a time.
§ Mr. SMILLIE
If it is physically possible the fishermen ought to have reasonable hours and conditions of work. It is the duty of the Government and the nation to do everything within its power for the safety of the fishermen. The hon. Member spoke against a subsidy for the mining industry. He said that no industry should be subsidised. To some extent agriculture has already been subsidised, and to a small extent the fishing industry has been subsidised, in the sense that money has been spent in the building of lighthouses, and so forth. That, of course, is a small thing. I would like to see the fishermen subsidised to the extent that the Government provided them with their ships, so that they might get the whole benefit of the harvest which they gathered. But we have not reached that stage yet. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) spoke especially to Scottish Members. I would like to call attention to the facts with regard to Scotland. The hon. Member said that the owners of the land and minerals paid from the mineral royalties which they received a considerable amount in Imperial and local taxation. I think he said that from each sixpence they paid 3½d., leaving 2½d. It was pointed out that on royalty rents rates were not paid in England. Then the hon. Member called the attention of Scottish Members to the fact that in Scotland mineral owners had to pay rates.
I would like to refresh his memory as to the history of mineral royalties in Scotland. In 1592 an Act was passed conferring all the metals and minerals on the Crown, which meant on the nation. More than that, the King of that day was chiefly responsible for the passing of a law in the interests of the milling community, and in the preamble to that law the statement was made that because of the dangerous, laborious, and uncomfortable nature of the employment of the miners, they were to be freed for all time from taxation, Imperial or local, and they were to be freed from service in the Army. So much did the King think of the miners of that day that he said: "An injury done to any 1099 miner will be taken as an injury done to His Majesty the King." Would to Heaven the mineowners or the nation thought as much of the miners to-day as was thought of them by the King in that day. It may be true, and I think it is true, that a law was passed in England handing back again to private ownership the minerals which were previously State property, and an attempt was made to get a law of the same kind passed to return again to private owners the metals and minerals of Scotland, but this House had not time during that Session to do it. That was some 60 years ago, and it has not been done down to the present time. We may say that the law has fallen into abeyance through disuse, but if you want to prosecute any of the workers of the country, you can go back a long way for a law in order to secure what you want, and down to the present time that is the law of Scotland.
I am not sure that I would have intervened in this debate were it not for the fact that I had some little responsibility for the passing of the Seven Hours Act. I was one of those who had advocated, on behalf of the miners, for many years, shorter hours of labour. The hon. Member who has just spoken said he could not speak from any technical or inner knowledge of the mining industry, but I claim that I can speak from practical, technical, and inner knowledge of the mining question. Like many others on these benches, I spent many years of my life underground. As a lad, I worked for 12 hours per day underground. The work, it may be stated, was not so very laborious, but it was sufficiently laborious for a boy, and I want to say that it was a crime to have any boys underground for 12 hours, and 24 hours continuously at the week-ends, when we were changing our shift, without seeing the face of a living soul during the whole of that time. I have worked at the coal face, I have worked at practically every job underground, and I know the exhausting labour of the mines. Miners to-day work a great deal harder and spend a great deal more physical energy per hour than we did when we were working 10 hours a day, but it would have been absolutely impossible for the miners of 25, 35, or 40 years ago 1100 to have continued for the 10 hours expending the energy per hour that they now put into it.
It has been denied here that an increase in the hours or labour in the mines would increase seriously the death and accident rate, but is this House not aware of the fact that authorities on the matter, having gone into the statistics for years and years of accidents in the mines, find that the largest proportion of accidents take place in the last hour that the employés are employed underground, showing that, as they get exhausted with their labour, they are not sufficiently alert mentally and properly to look after their safety? It is calculated that there will be 25,000 more fatal and non-fatal accidents through the increase of the hours of labour by one hour. The Sankey Commission was composed partly of experts. There were three leading mining representatives, three miners' representatives, practical miners, who knew a great deal about the industry, three experts in economics, and three well-known public business men. That Commission went exhaustively into the whole thing and came to the conclusion that the hours which the men were working, eight hours a day, were too long, considering the nature of their employment, its dangers and its discomforts. They recommended to Parliament immediately to bring in and carry through a seven-hours Bill, and they added to that that if the output could be raised up to its pre-War amount, this House should reduce the hours still further to six hours per day.
The Government of the day told us when we accepted the Commission that they could not legislate on hours and wages, and on mines nationalisation, and important question of that kind, until they had taken evidence from all the interests concerned, and until it was proved that it would be right to carry through such legislation. They had evidence sufficient to justify them in recommending that there should be a. seven-serious matter for this Government, or any other Government, in any country, first to appoint a. Commission to inquire first to appoint a Commission to inquire into certain grievances of the workers in an industry, to tell them that they would carry out the findings of the Com- 1101 mission if they could prove their case—and, as a matter of fact, this House din partly carry out the pledge given and passed the Seven Hours Bill—and thee to be sitting here to-night and to go back on that by lengthening those hours again. Personally, I protest against this House, having established a seven-hours d[...]ay, going back on that seven-hours day until they have consulted the nation on the matter. We are told that this Bill is not compulsory, but permissive. If the Secretary for Mines understood mining, and if he knew the mineowners as well as some of us here know them, he would know how permissive the Bill is. When it is finished, if you carry it through, the Bill will fix certain hours as winding hours, and between those winding hours men will not be allowed to ascend from the pits unless they are ill or are certified to require specially to go home for something. If men under the Eight Hours Bill, if it passes, went down a mine and went to the coal face and stopped at the end of seven hours, they would not get out of the pit until winding time. Is that permissive? No, and before they go down at all, if you pass this Bill, the owners will make it a condition of employment that they must work eight hours.
It is not a permissive Bill. When we are told that it is only those who are desirous of providing for their women and children that need work it and others who do not care about their women and children need not work it, that makes the matter more serious. I venture to say there is no industry known to any of us, unless it is, perhaps, the old style of stoking on board ship, in which the workmen spend so much energy as they do in the coal pit. I feel sure, if hon. Members were passing along one of the main streets in London and found a number of labourers opening up a street to put a pipe underneath or for some other purpose, and those men were working as the miners do at the coal face, every one of them would be certified as insane and sent to an asylum. Every one of these miners working at the coal face is in a bath of sweat from the time he goes down the pit until he returns to the surface.
We are strongly opposed to any alteration of a downward character in the pre- 1102 sent mining legislation. I feel sure it is a case of the old saying that—Evil is wrought for want of thoughtAs well as want of heart.I feel sure if all of you Gentlemen on the Government side went down with us to our mining districts, went down, 10 or 12 or 14 of you, into each pit, and went to the coal face with us, not to swing a pick or to do any work at all, but to watch our men for seven hours, you would come back to this House and no power on earth could get you to vote for the extension of the hours.
I remember some of the early legislation, not from personal observation but from reading, for in addition to paying strict attention to the mining industry I have also studied the early times of British industries, and I have read of the time when the children and the women were in the mines. I have read very closely the discussion which took place when it was proposed to abolish the employment of little children of seven, eight and nine years of ago and when it was proposed to take. women out of the mines. I give all credit to those who initiated that legislation and to those who could feel for the children, whether in the mines or elsewhere—wherever they were being exploited. I worship the memory of those men. They were not of our class; they were, not Socialists, but they were goodhearted, kindly folk, and they brought in that legislation. I almost thought I was reading again some of the statements made in Parliament at that time when I heard sonic of the statements made in this House this week. The colliery owners opposed the Bill to abolish child labour in the mines, and Lord Londonderry rose in his place and said:If you put the children out of the mines you will ruin the English coal industry.Again, he said:Those mines are ours. No Government is entitled to appoint inspectors of mines to go down and inspect the mines, and your inspectors, if you force that legislation on us, may go down the mines, but they may have trouble in getting up again.Happily it proved the nobility of the House at the time that when that statement was made—and the Bill then had only had a Second Reading—it was taken back again and a Clause put in making it an offence against the law for anyone to interfere with inspectors who might go 1103 down the mines. But when I heard some of the arguments put forward to-day it reminded me of that early legislation.
I feel sure that had there been a Federation of British Industries in existence in the year 1846, the mining laws of that day in regard to children would not have been passed. Their influence would have been added to the influence of the owners of the day, and the House would have rejected the proposal to legislate for the prohibition of child labour. I can see the finger of organised capital in the Government's present Bill. Are we entitled to claim equality before the law? Are the mining folk entitled to claim equality with what are called the better classes before the law? I want to claim that equality and that justice here to-night. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Mines stated in this House to-day with regard to the lock-out that it would have been a breach of the Seven Hours Law for the miners and the owners to have opened the mines on an eight-hours day. It would have been a breach of the law if they had done that, yet the miners are locked out because they would not commit a breach of the law. Notices were posted that on the 1st of May the mines would be re-opened on a substantial reduction in wages, and an increase of an hour per day. Had the miners resumed work on the terms laid down by the owners of an eight-hours clay instead of seven hours, not only the mine-owners but the miners also would have been guilty of a breach of the Act, and could have been prosecuted for it.
I ask the Members of this House, are we not entitled to your support and sympathy for upholding a law passed by this House, and for refusing to be guilty of a breach of the law? Are we not entitled to ask you, instead of passing an eight hours Act to please the owners, to initiate a prosecution against the owners who were not only going to break the law themselves but tried to incite the miners to go down and break the law? If you are not prepared to initiate a prosecution against the mineowners for trying to incite the miners to break the law, then you are not dealing out evenhanded justice to the miners of this country. I do not think it is necessary for me to add very much to what has been said by quite 1104 a number of speakers to-night who know all about it as to the necessity of a continuance of the seven-hours day. It is not merely a question of a proposed increase of hours of labour at present, and perhaps a serious reduction in wages. We claim that the wages that were being paid to the mining community prior to the lock-out were not more than sufficient, and in many cases not sufficient, to keep the families in a state of comfort. We claim that the miners are entitled, in view of the fact that any reduction of wages they have suffered would have made it impossible for the children in many cases to get the necessary food or decent clothes, to refuse to work longer hours or to accept a lower rate of wages. It is on that ground that the miners are idle at present. Many people seem to hold quite as high an opinion of the miners now as they did from 1914 up to 1918. Some, I feel sure, do not. Some who sang their praises when they were asking them to obtain more coal or to go to the front have changed very considerably their opinion of the miners from that time down to the present, and many of those who encouraged the men to go abroad, for the purpose, in the first place, of repelling the attack of the Germans, as they were told, and, in the second place, to defend our homes, were told that when that was done our people would have a new heaven and a new earth after the War was finished. The treatment they are receiving at present is not like the treatment they were promised when it was necessary for them to produce coal and to provide men for the Army.
We are not merely fighting against an increase in hours of labour and a reduction in wages. We are aware that an increase in hours and a reduction in wages will not help us much to meet foreign competition. It is not the price of home coal that is used so much for breaking down wages and increasing hours as it is to meet foreign competition. It is pointed out, and statistics seem to prove it, that the mining industry has been in a bad way for a considerable time. I have known the mining industry since 1874 very closely. I have seen, from 1874 to 1879 and 1880, scores almost of colliery owners, small and great, in the Bankruptcy Court during those eight or nine years after the 1105 Franco-German War. I know the mine-owners during the last fifty years have been losing money day by day, week by week and month by month. For some years there was scarcely a day that I was not at some colliery office with a deputation, either protesting against a reduction in wages or asking for an increase on the ground that the men were receiving very low wages, and in every case for years they were losing money. I have known men beginning with nothing and losing money for 30 years dying worth £150,000. I am not prepared to believe there has ever been any serious loss to the mining industry. We have more highly-skilled and willing workers in Great Britain than anywhere in the world. I have seen them at work in Germany and France. Our men are as good as any, and I feel sure that with the industry reorganised as it ought to be we shall be able to take our place and meet foreign competition and supply home consumers for our industries and our home fires at a reasonable price to our people.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Smillie) was listened to, and I must appeal to hon. Members to give a fair hearing to the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It is all very well for Members of Parliament to get fair play, but the miners are not getting fair play.
On a point of Order. Are there any means by which this House can object that on an important Bill like this neither the President of the Board of Trade, the Prime Minister nor any other responsible Minister is dealing with the Bill but only the First Lord of the Admiralty, who is a kind of stone-waller, always put up when the Government have nothing to say?
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
We cannot have respect for the house of Commons when it drives people like this. It has gone back a century, and men are being done in and killed. It is villiany.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am addressing the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). The right hon. Gentleman who has risen to reply is a Member of the Cabinet, and speaks with responsibility for the Cabinet. He has been responsible throughout for the negotiations.—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—and I must ask the House to give him a fair hearing.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. A definite charge was made in the House this evening—and I want your ruling on it—that the Prime Minister has over 200,000 shares in Baldwin's Limited, and that he interfered with the Royal Commission by sending for the Chairman, and dictating exactly what was to be put in their Report. I ask you whether hon. Members on this side of the House are not in order in demanding that there shall be a reply to charges of this kind.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
In so far as any statements have been relevant, the First Lord of the Admiralty is competent to reply.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether on a Division being taken a Member with the financial interest the Prime Minister is stated to have in this matter—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"]—is going to be allowed to vote on a matter in which he is financially interested and which is going to mean a profit to him.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The order of this Debate has been arranged with the full knowledge of right hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite, but I propose to say two or three words in answer to the observations which have just been made, which I have not heard before and which I was not aware had been made in the Debate at all. The answer to the second point raised is that it is an unqualified misrepresentation. There is not a syllable of truth in it. I do not know whether the House will take my word. I do not know exactly what the charge is in the first allegation which the hon. Member has made. As a matter of fact, it has been brought to my notice that the statement has been made in a paper edited by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). In one respect it is absolutely true, and it represents the hulk of what I had, but what it did not tell anyone was this, and I will repeat. it to the House. Had I taken advantage of the War—[Interruption.]
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Had I taken advantage of the War, I might to-day have been a very wealthy man, with my money in Government securities or invested abroad, and the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley would have known nothing about it. All my life I have consistently refused to invest my money abroad. My money, for good or ill, has always been in British industries, and it is for that that I am being attacked to-night. The large block of shares to which the hon. Member has alluded, and for which, as I say, I could have realised a fortune in the War, but declined to do it, would not, I think, be taken off my hands by anyone at the present time. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley forgot to mention that for five years I have received nothing from them, nor do 1108 I expect to receive anything from them for some years to come. Whether hon. Members really believe that because, in this old family business of mine, it happened that portion of its profit contained some coal profit, which is but a small proportion of the whole of that business—whether they think that because of that, I should fall so low in my own estimation as is suggested, I do not know. But whatever the hon. Members who have raised this point may think of me, I do not think the House on either side will think that I have fallen so low in my own estimation or in the estimation of men whose opinions I value.
§ Mr. D. GRAHAM
I made the statement in this House with regard to the first point on which the Prime Minister has replied, and I quoted my authority. My authority is the "Sunday Times," a Tory newspaper owned by one of the biggest colliery owners in South Wales. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who?"] Sir William Berry, and I think the Prime Minister will know that individual. In the issue of the "Sunday Times" of 14th March, 1920, the following appeared:In Ministerial circles the Coal Commission's Report is considered to he a first-class analysis and survey of the situation, but as an aid to a settlement rather like the landlord's claret which did not get the tenants any forrader'.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) is making a personal explanation in regard to a matter which has been suddenly raised in the House.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
The paper goes on to say:Still, the document, is for the instruction of the ignorant who ate many in the House of Commons"—I agree with that Tory observation—as they are outside, and this alone is of value for a problem which, if thoroughly understood, is on tire way to solution. Originally the Commission decided to recommend the continuation of the subsidy, but the Government felt very strongly that if this appeared in the Report, they would lose the last card which they could put on the table to reconcile labour to any reduction of the mini4num wage.That is the statement which appeared in the "Sunday Times" by its political 1109 correspondent. [Laughter.] I do not know the man at all, and I do not know why it should be a laughing matter to hon. Members opposite. It is a statement made on the authority of a newspaper which is run in their interests, and it makes a, charge against the Government that they interfered and influenced the Commission to change its Report. The statement is definite here that the Commission had agreed to recommend the continuation of the subsidy.
§ Colonel GRETTON
Yes, and the point of Order is this: Is an hon. Member entitled to read a statement in this House for which he does not make himself personally responsible? Does the hon. Member who is reading that statement make himself personally responsible about the statement which he makes?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) is making a personal explanation, as I understand it, to show the authority, such as it is, on which he relies in making that statement. He must not go further than that in his personal explanation.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
As I have informed the House, that statement is absolutely unfounded. I have had no communication, direct or indirect, nor had any Member of my Government, with any member of the Commission during the whole of its sittings.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Order, order. The hon. Member was proceeding to say what he had to say, and the House must listen to him.
§ Mr. D. GRAHAM
The right hon. Gentleman says—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"]—In any case the statement is made by the political correspondent of Sir William Berry's newspaper. I stated in the House, Mr. Speaker, when I made the statement, that if it were true, then there. was a reflection upon the Government, and that the Prime Minister should take the first opportunity of clearing the Government from the aspersion. If it was not true, then they ought to deal with the newspaper which spreads reports of this kind. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It will be my duty to stop the hon. Member if he goes beyond the scope of a personal explanation.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
A personal explanation, Mr. Speaker. I understand from the Prime. Minister that the only subject of complaint he has against: myself is that I was not aware of all the private matters connected with the business. I do not understand that the right, hon. Gentleman ehallenges the truth of the statement that I am responsible for publishing. I took it from the returns lodged in Somerset House on 1st: January. The reason I did so is that for 35 years f have been a local administrator, and during all that time I have held the view that a man had no. right to vote public money, or to take part in a discussion of voting public money, if some of that money might come his way. I object to that. Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It must be purely a matter of personal explanation. The hon. Member must not go into matters of argument. The Prime Minister Imo not denied the facts.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The only thing I want to say, and I cannot help but say it—[HON. MEMBERS "Order;"]—is that neither the Prime Minister—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]—nor the Secretary for Mines—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]—nor the President of the Board of Trade, who are intensely interested in the mining industry, have any right to vote.
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. [Interruption..] May I ask you, Sir—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down!"]—whether it is in order for a man who has used his position in the Government to conceal the profits in this industry. [interruption.]
§ [interruption]—for doing nothing except sitting down.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
if it. be the desire of hon. Members to go to a Division, I will proceed to put the Question.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left. out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 355: Noes, 163.1115
|Division No. 303.]||AYES.||[10.46 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Briscoe, Richard George||Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Craik, St. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Broun Lindsay, Major H.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Albery, Irving James||Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Buckingham, Sir H.||Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Bullock, Captain M.||Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Apsley, Lord||Burman, J. B.||Daiziel, Sir Davison|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W||Burney. Lieut.-Com, Charles D.||Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Burton, Colonel H, W.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Astor, Maj. Hon. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Davies, Dr. Vernon|
|Atkinson, C.||Butt, Sir Alfred||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil|
|Baldwin, Rt, Hon. Stanley||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Calne, Gordon Hall||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Campbell, E. T.||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Cassels, J. D.||Dean, Arthur Wellesley|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Dixey, A. C.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Dixon. Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Eden, Captain Anthony|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Edmondson. Major A. J.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Cecil, Rt, Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Elliot, Major Walter E.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carryon W.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Ellis, R. G.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Elveden, Viscount|
|Bennett, A. J.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset Weston-S.-M.)|
|Berry, Sir George||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith|
|Bethel, A.||Chlicott, Sir Warden||Evans. Captain A. (Cardiff, South)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Christle, J. A.||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Birchall, Major J Dearman||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Fairfax, Capain J. G.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Clayton, G. C.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Fermoy. Lord|
|Blundell, F. N.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Fielden, E. B.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Finburgh, S.|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Ford, Sir P. J.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Forrest, W.|
|Braithwaite, A. N.||Cooper, A. Duff||Foxcrott, Captain C. T.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Cope, Major William||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Frece, Sir Walter de|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Fremantle, Lieut.-colonel Francis E.|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Lumley, L. R.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Gates, Percy||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Sandon, Lord|
|Gilmour, LL-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Savery, S. S.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||MacIntyre, Ian||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||McLean, Major A.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew,W)|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Macquisten, F. A.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. H on. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Malone, Major P. B.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Margesson, Captain D.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Meller, R. J.||Spender Clay, Colonel H.|
|Hanbury, C.||Merriman, F. B.||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Meyer, Sir Frank||Stanley, Col. Hon. G.F.(Will'sden, E|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Moore Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Henderson,Capt.R.R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Murchison, C. K.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Tasker, Major R. Inigo|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Neville. R. J.||Tempicton, W. P.|
|Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Hills, Major John Walter||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Hilton, Cecil||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Nuttall, Ellis||Thine, J. A.|
|Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Oakley, T.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Holland, Sir Arthur||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Holt, Captain H. P.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Vaughan-Morgan Col. K. P.|
|Hopkins. J. W. W.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Penny, Frederick George||Ward, Lt.-Col.A.L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Perring, Sir William George||Waterhouse. Captain Charles|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Pielou, D. P.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Pilcher, G.||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Hurst, Gerald B.||Pilditch, Sir Philip||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple|
|Hutchison, G.A.Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Power, Sir John Cecil||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Asshetor||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Iliffne, Sir Edward M.||Preston, William||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Wilson, Sir Charles H. (Leeds, Centrl.)|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Radford, E. A.||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Jacob. A. E.||Raine, W.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Jephcott. A. R.||Ramsden, E.||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Kindersley. Major Guy M.||Remer, J. R.||Withers, John James|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Remnant, Sir James||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Rantoul, G. S.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Lamb, J. O.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Rice, Sir Frederick||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Lloyd. Cyrll E. (Dudley)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs, Stretford)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Loder, J. de V.||Ruggles.Brise, Major E. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Looker, Herbert William||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and|
|Lord. Waiter Greaves||Rye, F. G.||Colonel Gibbs.|
|Lougher, L.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Batey, Joseph|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Beckett, John (Gateshead)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Barnes, A.||Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Barr, J.||Briant, Frank|
|Broad, F. A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Bromfield, William||Hirst, G. H.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Bromley, J.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||S[...]esser, Sir Henry H.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smillie, Robert|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherh[...]the)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, H, B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Clowes, S.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snell, Harry|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kelly, W. T.||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Kennedy, T.||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Compton, Joseph||Kirkwood, D||Stamford, T. W.|
|Connolly, M.||Lansbury, George||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cove, W. G.||Lawrence, Susan||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lawson, John James||Sullivan, J.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lee, F.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lindley, F. W.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Livingstone, A. M.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. Jamas H. (D[...]rby)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lowth, T.||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lunn, William||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Dennison, R.||Mackinder, W.||Thorne. E.|
|Duncan, C.||MacLaren, Andrew||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dunnico, H.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Townend, A. E.|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||March, [...]||Varley, Frank B.|
|Fenby, T. D.||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Viant, S. P.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Montague, Frederick||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Murnin, H.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Gibbins Joseph||Naylor. T. E.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Gillett, George M.||Oliver, George Harold||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Gosling, Harry||Owen, Major G.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon-Josiah|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Palin, John Henry||Welsh, J. C.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Paling, W.||Westwood. J.|
|Greenall, T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Whiteley, W.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Potts, John S.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Purcell, A. A.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Groves, T.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Riley, Ben||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.)||Ritson, J.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Rose, Frank H.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Windsor, Walter|
|Hardie, George D.||Scrymgeour, E.||Wright. W.|
|Harney, E. A.||Scurr John||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Harris, Percy A.||Sexton, James|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hayday, Arthur||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
|Hayes, John Henry||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Charles Edwards.|
|Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Mr. Churchill.]