§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I beg to move,That this House registers its protest that, on the Motion by the Leader of the Opposition on the 16th November on the serious situation in the Coal Industry, which involved a vote of censure on the Government, the Prime Minister should have deliberately evaded giving any defence or explanation of the inaction of the Government for which, as Prime Minister, he has a personal responsibility; and this House declares that the crisis in the industry, transcending all possibilities of mere departmental action, is such as to demand an authoritative statement by the Prime Minister of the intentions of the Government as a whole.The first attempt that we made to have a discussion on the coal question was thwarted by the Prime Minister—[Interruption]—who deliberately overlooked the fact that the silence which was so convenient to him might be interpreted as an insult by the Opposition. To-day, we observe on the Order Paper a most extraordinary series of Amendments. I have never known a party in the House of Commons to be so ready to take the part of Satan rebuking sin as the Tory party in these Amendments. I have sat in this House, with a short break, for 21 years now and for the scenes that I have witnessed, the interruptions of business, the suspensions of sittings that have partaken mostly of an unjustifiable hooligan character, the party opposite has been responsible. What, therefore, they are going to do to-day is this: At eleven o'clock we are going to see the party opposite trooping into the Lobby in favour of one of these Amendments, and in doing so they are going to censure themselves. They are exactly in the position of a party against whom an accusation has been brought and, rather than face the music, they have made up their minds to commit suicide. The Tory party in this House solemnly putting down a Motion of Censure upon some party which has held up the business of the House to such an extent that you, Mr. Speaker, or your predecessors in office have been compelled to suspend the sitting, is one of the most 1402 huge jokes that I have seen or witnessed or taken part in in the whole of my life.
When this Debate was started a few weeks ago, I saw in the newspapers, very much to my amazement, that the Prime Minister proposed to take no part in the Debate. After the incidents, which were copied, perhaps unfortunately, from the Tory party, had taken place, I saw that a statement had been made—I am not going to say it was official, but it had all the appearance of an official statement—that the Prime Minister, as a matter of fact, had an open mind and that, if circumstances arose, well, who can say, he might take part in the Debate. When I saw the first statement, it caused me so much surprise that I made it my business to find out whether the Prime Minister was to take part in the Debate, and it was only when I had twice received an assurance that he was not that I started my speech in the way that I did, so as to give him an hour's consideration as to what might happen. The Prime Minister had no intention whatever of taking part in the Debate.
I understand that a great search has been made along the highways and byways of the OFFICIAL REPORT to find precedents. Has a Prime Minister ever been known not to follow upon the Motion of a Vote of Censure? Does the OFFICIAL REPORT contain a record of a case where ordinary decency would have compelled the Prime Minister to speak, and he has not spoken? I do not know what the results of these explorations have been, and I am bound to say I do not care very much. But there is one thing I hope the Prime Minister's secretary has come across, and that is the Lyttelton case. I hope they have treasured that, and I hope he will explain it. There is one precedent, however, that I am not sure they have supplied him with, because it is not recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT. It is the only precedent for his case of a few weeks ago. It occurred a long time ago. It was on an occasion when Sir Robert Peel was changing his opinions and found it very inconvenient to sit upon the fence. He was being attacked, he sat in the place represented by the Prime Minister's seat, and as the Debate went on, we are told that Sir Robert got more and more uncomfortable, more and more unhappy, more and more nonplussed, until at last, crunching up his notes in his hand, he turned to his Presi- 1403 dent of the Board of Trade and said, "You had better reply because I am not able to do it myself."
§ Mr. MacDONALD
What was the position on the last occasion? We challenged the Government's position; there was no doubt about that. We reminded the right hon. Gentleman, as the head of the Government, that the Government took sides in the dispute. We reminded him that the Government passed legislation, and that that legislation was passed for a specific purpose. We reminded him that the purpose of that legislation had not been fulfilled, and we reminded him that he handed himself and his Government over absolutely to the hands of the mineowners, and that they cheated him. The only parallel is to be found in our old friend the "Vicar of Wakefield." [HON. MEMBERS: "The Vicar of Bray!"] No, on this occasion it is the "Vicar of Wakefield," where Moses, going with a good horse to market, sells the horse and brings back in exchange a dozen or two spectacles. [HON. MEMBERS: "A gross or two!"] Gross, then—I am perfectly willing to give the Prime Minister the benefit of my mistake. A gross or two—and I emphasise the gross. [HON. MEMBEES: "Green spectacles!"] I did not like to be offensive, by reminding hon. Members that they were green—a gross or two of green spectacles with copper frames washed in silver. But whereas Moses was prepared to reply for his sins, the Prime Minister claimed the right in this House to hold his tongue whilst we were exposing the way in which he had betrayed the trust placed in him.
Moreover, the indictment being an indictment of the Government, the only man who could reply was the Prime Minister. That was not all. The indictment was personal to the Prime Minister himself. The points that were raised were exactly those points which would have been raised if we had been able to call for the Prime Minister's salary on Supply. If instead of having to move a Vote of Censure, which we all know is a most inconvenient thing to do, the business of the House had allowed us to put the Prime Minister's salary down on a Thursday afternoon, would the Prime Minister then have thought that it was in 1404 accordance with his responsibility to this House to ask another Minister to reply for him? Of course, he would have done nothing of the kind. The charge against the Prime Minister was this, that during the negotiations he was active enough individually. He did not then sit back in his seat and decline to speak and take part. He himself conducted the negotiations. When, in his absence, the Chancellor of the Exchequer very nearly came to an agreement, he returned hotfoot, and personally terminated the negotiations. When it was over, or about to be over, he pledged himself to the miners to see fair play being done. Later on, when the Government produced and passed legislation, it was he who justified that legislation by making certain prophecies as to its beneficent results in connection with the coal trade. During these times, during the negotiations, during the legislation that followed, he was not backward, he was not silent, and I am perfectly certain that there is no man in the House who understands better than the Prime Minister the sort of feelings we had when we found that he chose to remain silent.
I think perhaps he was wise, worldly wise in a sense, in putting somebody up who knew nothing about the subject at all, one who, whatever the reason may have been, never appeared in a single negotiation of last year, one who never took sides in these negotiations, and one who we know, as a matter of fact, offered to resign on account of his position in this matter. I say all honour to him, but, in the circumstances, again, who could understand better than the right hon. Gentleman Parliamentary etiquette and Parliamentary decency? No one understands better than the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, that however justified that attitude of his was last year, and however much we congratulate him upon taking it, under the conditions of the Debate which was started a week or two ago, he was not the man to respond to the challenge thrown out to the Prime Minister. Not only was it a Government challenge; not only was it a personal challenge, but it was a challenge that covered various Departments, while you, Mr. Speaker, quite truly said, in your most laudable attempts to get things smoothed down on that day, that whatever Minister spoke for the 1405 Cabinet, the Cabinet was a united one, and one voice was sufficient. That is a good, sound doctrine, but that was not the case in point. The case in point was that at least four Departments were indicted, and it is not the custom of this House that one Minister should speak for three of his colleagues. The only man to do that is the Prime Minister. Over and over again in this House, when such things arise as, for instance, the President of the Board of Trade having a supplementary question thrown at him across the Floor affecting not his Department, but, say, the Ministry of Labour, he would be the very first man to find refuge in Parliamentary rectitude, and say, "That question must be addressed to my right hon. Friend."
That was the situation. The indictment was an indictment against the Government as a whole, against the Prime Minister and specifically against four" or five Departments. Now to decline to stand up against it may have been a demonstration of the instinctive disregard for the Parliamentary decencies when they have to be shown to Labour by a Tory class, but it was an act which we were fully justified in resenting. We have made our position clear, and the condemnation with which the Prime Minister's action that day was generally received by the Press of the country fully justified the action which we took. The questions that were then put are still unanswered. The Prime Minister, I am told, or I see by the papers to-day—I have made no inquiries whatever to-day—is just going to say a few words, and hand it over. There will be no misunderstanding in the minds of the people who read about it, that instead of taking up the challenge which is thrown down in the Vote of Censure, he simply asks somebody else to make an explanation. Instead of leading his men into a fight, he is merely, at eleven o'clock, going to lead them into the Division Lobby.
The case was this, and it remains. We brought case after case, and established a general condition of distress and unemployment. We asked the Government what they were going to do. We pointed out the conditions in distressed areas. We asked the Government how they were going to handle them. The President of the Board of Trade cannot answer those questions. We pointed out that the 1406 legislation passed by the Government, which resulted in the increase of hours of labour and in the lowering of wages, produced effects absolutely contrary to those which the Government pledged themselves they were going to produce last year. We asked what they were doing with their Mining Industry Act, which took up so much of our time last Session, and that is still unanswered. We pointed out that combines were being organised to meet the present evil conditions. We asked the Government whether they were indifferent to the question of economical working. We asked about research. We asked about any new use that is being made of coal and, finally, we brought before the Government the fact that hundreds of men in the coalfields to-day are being boycotted, not because they are bad workmen, and not because they are bad citizens, but because they happen not to belong to the Conservative party or to the Liberal party. We reminded him that during the greater part of this year the Government were responsible for bringing legislation before this House which assumed that in a very peculiar way, in a kind of way that my colleagues and myself really cannot share at all, that where an Englishman is boycotted, then the power of the Government comes to his aid, that is, if boycotted by his fellows, not boycotted by his employers. Apparently, the employers have got a pass. Having seen these things with our own eyes, and knowing the men who are victimised, knowing them personally and valuing their personal friendship, we came and asked the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, to give us a reply to those things, to tell us what the Government proposed to do.
We made that request in the way that Parliamentary requests are always made, and we expected a reply in the way that Parliamentary replies are dealt with. We put the Government in the dock on a bill of indictment. The Prime Minister's attitude was this: "It may be true, this bill of indictment you have drafted against me about my past. I am not going to answer that. I have got a certificate about my future, and, instead of answering for what I have done, for the mistakes I have made, the muddle I have made of the whole coal industry, I am going to ask a colleague of mine to tell you what I am going to do in days to come." It is really 1407 not good enough, and I must say that if ever I had painful moments in this House and I have had some—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—Certainly, what is the use of jeering or trying to be rude on those occasions? I do care for this House, whatever hon. Members may say or jeer, and if ever I had unhappy, painful moments, it was when I felt most sincerely, as I did, that the Prime Minister was not observing that relationship which, by its observance, has enabled this House, with all its party fights and all its deep, and, very often, hot divisions of opinion, to maintain itself as a governing unity at the centre of the public life of this country.
I hope to-day we are going to be able to turn over a new leaf. But in the turning over of that new leaf, if hon. Members imagine that the only person who is not to do it is the Prime Minister, then they and I part company. As I said in the very first sentence I have spoken, I repeat that the Debate was interrupted a few weeks ago by the failure of the Prime Minister to do his duty to this House. We put questions to him then. We displayed a condition of things in the coal trade for which the Government are very largely responsible. We asked them to tell us what they were going to do with regard to it. We asked them to explain their position. They declined to do it, and I move this Resolution to-day in the hope that the error they made last time will not be repeated to-day.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
In the indictment which has been laid against me, I have been accused of an instinctive disregard for the decencies of Parliamentary life, and that is, of course, a very serious charge to lay against the Leader of the House of Commons. I wish to make some observations about the duties of Leader of this House as I see them, some observations about Votes of Censure and some particular remarks having regard to the circumstances that led to this particular Vote. The work of a Leader of this House, to whatever party he may belong, is no sinecure, and the more closely the Prime Minister attends to the business of this House, the heavier the burden, because he is often taken away from work that he ought to be doing, and this makes more difficult the per- 1408 formance of his daily duties. There is no one who has occupied this position who will not agree with that. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken was unable to take that duty upon himself when he held double office. The right hon. Gentleman who leads the Liberal party, during all the time that he was Prime Minister, I believe, delegated the Leadership of the House to Mr. Bonar Law. I think he was wise to do it. I do not think it would have been possible for him to do the work; he could not have led the House himself. Circumstances then, of course, were infinitely harder than they had been before the War, and the problems in which he was involved were more continuous and greater than even the problems of to-day, though the problems to-day are infinitely greater than they were before the War and the strain is consequently much more.
I say that at the beginning because I think it quite possible that the day may come, owing to the increase of Parliamentary work—it is increasing year by year—when it may be impossible for the Prime Minister to lead the House of Commons and the actual Leadership will have to be performed by a Minister delegated for that purpose. But then the question arises, in what Debates ought the Leader of the House to participate it—I do not think anyone would expect him to speak—and when a Leader of the House speaks what he says has to be very carefully considered, because a great deal depends on it—I do not think it can be held that every time, a Vote of Censure is put down—and it is a very common method nowadays of asking for time—he should be expected to speak. If he is expected to speak it makes his task almost impossible, and indeed no one would contend for a moment that that expectation has been held always or that the demand that he should speak has always been made.
It will be well within the recollection of the House that on various subjects which have been treated as Votes of Censure—subjects connected with the breaking off of diplomatic relations with Russia, subjects connected with a famous Circular issued by the Board of Education, subjects connected with what, as the right hon. Gentleman said, are equivalent to Votes of Censure, subjects dealt with in the King's Speech—on those 1409 occasions many times other Ministers than the Prime Minister have spoken and no objection has been raised. [Interruption.] You come to many discussions, especially those in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Labour have been interested, on wide financial questions or unemployment, which cover a great many Departments; but I will leave that for the moment and proceed with what I was saying.
Take the Debate that occurred the other day. That in itself, in its inception, was not a Vote of Censure. It became one, I admit. It was not asked for as a Vote of Censure. Time was asked to discuss the question of coal, and, although we had very little time, we readily acceded to the request, and we have as a matter of fact, or had at the beginning of the Session, before the business became so tied up, allotted a very liberal supply of days for the use of the Opposition. It was when the Motion was put down that we saw that it was drawn up in the form with which we have become familiar now, the form that could be interpreted and was interpreted as a Vote of Censure.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I want at this point to pause for a moment to consider the effect of such events as those which took place on that day. The Opposition thought fit to express their dissatisfaction with the conduct of the Leader of the House by preventing any other speaker being heard. There is no novelty in that; it has been done before. I have once taken part in such a demonstration, and, frankly, I was very ashamed of it the next day. I make another observation on that point. When I was a young Member of Parliament I learned that such demonstrations, instead of being, as I expected, regarded as something rather heroic in the country, did nothing to add to our popularity and tended to lose us a great many votes. I might put forward a suggestion here. I think it was the realisation of that fact that led the Leaders of the Opposition to put down this Motion in the hope that it would pull their party together—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
—and would make the country forget that demonstration of bad manners which they copied from other parties in their less wise moments. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) in the middle of all that trouble called out in a voice which I was happily able to interpret, "We are proceeding Parliamentary," and he was quite right up to a point. There was precedent for everything that happened on that occasion. The only novelty adopted by the other side was that as I left the House there was from some quarter the sound of hissing, which has been heard in this House but once before, and which in this country has always been peculiar to a bird that walks over the village green; and all I would say to hon. Members who have used that precedent is this, that I hope they will have a much happier Christmas than those birds will have.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That was a precedent which was never followed. I hope that what I have just alluded to will never be followed. The other thing in which hon. Members opposite have departed from precedent is by putting down a Vote of Censure the next day, as I say, in the hope that their conduct would be forgotten in the House and in the country. Let me say this apropos of disorder in the House. The right hon. Gentleman has sat, as I have sat, in this House for many years. He has seen many disturbances. He was good enough to say that we had been responsible for most of them. If that be so, the reason is that we have been in Opposition more than other people. But such disorder never achieved its end. There is not a single man in any of the three parties who would yield for one instant to clamour. Therefore, not only is it a waste of time, but you are—the side that does it—ihiperilling to a certain extent the prospect of success at the next General Election. Lord Balfour, when he was leading this House at the time when the first demonstration of this nature occurred over 20 years ago, used these words:Never in the whole course of my Parliamentary experience have I known the House refuse to listen to a member of the Government dealing with a subject which concerns the Head of the Government, nor have I 1411 ever known an Opposition who thought it their function to suggest the order in which the Front Bench opposite to them ought to deliver their speeches. I am bound to say that the precedent to-night, if followed, will absolutely ruin the House of Commons.That precedent most regrettably has been followed more than once at rare intervals. But, as I said before, never, never in this House or in any House of our people can it achieve what those who create these disturbances hope to achieve by their action.
Let me take the House into my confidence and tell them how I dealt with the order of this Debate before it took place. It was very important in my view, a day or two before the Debate took place, that whatever Ministers spoke should be in a position to deal, so far as they could, with every question that might be raised. The problem was bound to raise a great many questions on a great many points. I thought that when the Leader of the Opposition sat down the first speech, the general speech, should be made by the President of the Board of Trade. In my view no more competent Minister could make that speech. I do not propose to discuss his merits in this House with any Member.
At this point it was suggested in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, during the Debate which ended so briefly and unhappily, that it was an insult to him that he was not followed by me. But mark this: He is not the only Leader of the Opposition in the House. It is true he is the Leader of the Official Opposition. But we were expecting a speech from the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Liberal party, as this was a matter to which he has given a great deal of consideration, and if I had not insulted the right hon. Gentleman opposite by following him, then I should have insulted the right hon. Member who leads the Liberal party. Hon. Members may think that that was a small point, but surely in the Labour party, as in Napoleon's army, every Member carries a Field Marshal's baton in his knapsack. Any one of you may be standing at this Box, and then, maybe, you will realise the difficulty of making arrangements for debate that will be as fair as possible to all parties. Then, further, I had charged the Minister of Labour to be ready in case points were 1412 raised about unemployment insurance or points dealing specifically with unemployment in certain districts. I had charged him to be ready to speak if necessary.
Then I come to this last point. I had decided, first of all, that I would wind up the Debate. But then I thought this: I do not suppose this will appeal to hon. Members, but I am telling them exactly the process of my own mind. I thought, "There is my friend the Secretary for Mines, a man who for three years has carried one of the most difficult and most troublesome tasks in the Government. He is giving up that post and he has undertaken another most difficult and probably thankless task, which will take him to India." I felt it only fair that he should have one last opportunity of speaking from this Front Bench as Secretary for Mines. It was for that reason, and for that reason alone, that some time before this Debate took place I decided that he should speak instead of myself. I have told the House exactly how the Debate came to be arranged. That did not find favour in the eyes of the Opposition. For that I have been accused of an instinctive disregard of the decencies of Parliament, and for that the Leader of the Opposition seeks to ask this House to censure me. I shall await the result of their verdict with confidence and, more than that, if this were an issue before the country, my confidence would be no less great in the country than in the House.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)
I should not attempt to say anything of a personal nature were it not for the re marks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, but, if I may say so, I appreciate very much both the form in which he made those remarks and what he said. I think, in view of his having said that, on account of my past connection with the cool trade, I was an unsuitable Minister to respond to this Debate, it is only fair that I should say in the House—
§ Mr. MacDONALD
Whatever the heat may be, let us be accurate. I did not say it was on account of the right hon. Gentleman's past connection; I said it was on account of his silence during the negotiations.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I was not in the least complaining of the tone or nature of anything which the right hon. 1413 Gentleman said. I say at once that I appreciate what he said about myself, but he said the mere fact that I had remained in complete silence during a previous coal crisis, after having offered to resign before the crisis made it inappropriate that I should be responding for the Government in this Debate. That having been said, I think it only fair to state—what I thought the right hon. Gentleman knew—namely, the nature of the connection which I thought disabled me from dealing with coal matters or being the Minister concerned with the dispute. I would like to read to the House a letter which I wrote to the Prime Minister a considerable time ago, before I resumed control of the mining situation. I had been (asked by the Prime Minister that, whenever circumstances changed, I should resume the normal duties of the President of the Board of Trade, who has a general control of the Department of Mines, for which the Secretary for Mines is responsible to the President as Cabinet Minister. On 31st January this year, I wrote this letter to the Prime Minister:My dear Prime Minister,You directed me to let you know when my intimate connection with the coal industry had been terminated in order that I might resume general control of the Mines Department. I think this time has now arrived. I had felt bound to ask you to relieve me of the direction of the Department in a time of acute difficulty in the industry because my wife's trustees "—As a matter of fact, they were executors under a will——"were the proprietors of, and entirely responsible for the Ackton Hall Colliery Company. This company has now been sold to the South Kirkby Company. The purchase has been completed, and the South Kirkby Company have taken over the whole of the property. Part of the purchase price was paid in debentures which my wife's trustees hold. They have the right to nominate one director on the board so long as they hold a majority of the debentures. But, apart from this power, they are in no way responsible for the conduct of the company. Neither they, nor my wife, nor I hold any shares in the company. In these circumstances I understand that you regard my connection with the coal industry as sufficiently indirect to dispense me from any difficulty in resuming control of the Department.You will remember that you explained to Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Mr. Lloyd George the circumstances in which I felt compelled to ask you to relieve me of the conduct of the Mines Department. I assume, therefore, that you will inform them 1414 of the change in the circumstances, and of the fact that you have asked me to resume control.I only read that letter to the House because, had circumstances been the same as they were when I tendered my resignation, I should not have accepted the Prime Minister's request to resume control of this Department, and had I felt that there was anything which impeded me in any way, I think the House knows from my past actions in this matter that I should be the last person to thrust myself forward. I am sorry to delay the Debate to make this personal statement, and I do not think hon. Members will say that at any time I have exceeded my proper quota of the time of the House.
What we had assembled to discuss last time, according to the terms of the Motion, was the question of the present position, the prospects and the present policy in relation to the coal industry to-day—whether that position arises in consequence of or in connection with the past or not. In order to form an accurate appreciation of that issue it is surely important that we should get, as far as we can, agreement upon the facts. The right hon. Gentleman last time painted a picture which was gloomy, and I think unnecessarily so. No one in his senses would dream of suggesting that all is well with the industry, but while it is utterly wrong to minimise the difficulties that exist, no useful purpose is served by aggravating those difficulties or making them out to be greater than they are.
I want at the outset to give the House a few facts as to the present position. I take first output. In the first 10 months of 1925, which is the last normal year, we produced 201,000,000 tons. In the corresponding period this year we had produced 210,000,000 tons. You have therefore an increase in output. You have also an increase in exports [Interruption]—not at all at a satisfactory price. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give the figures! "] I do not intend to shirk anything. This matter is far too important for scoring small points. I propose to give what I hope will be a businesslike review, not ignoring a single difficulty or a single fact in the position. We exported in those months of 1925, 41.8. million tons, and in the first 10 months of this year 43.1 million tons. Employ- 1415 ment is bad, but employment is not as bad as it was in October, 1925. At that time, 247,000 men were out of work in the coal trade. In October of this year, 223,000 is the number unemployed. That was a reduction from the July peak figure of 258,000. That includes people who are wholly unemployed as well as those who are on short time. Both the figures I have given include the wholly unemployed and those partially employed according to the Ministry of Labour return.
Let me say one word about the prospects. The prospects, of course, must depend upon trade generally, whether it be world trade or trade at home. In the export trade we are faced with the keenest possible competition. I think there has been a remarkable recovery in view of the fact that during the long stoppage—I am not seeking to attach any blame here—we lost an enormous number of contracts in nearly every market all over the world. Contracts which we could have had if the men had been at work, have been taken up by others and now we have to cut into all these foreign markets. If you have to cut into a market where you have lost your goodwill, it inevitably happens that you have to quote lower prices than you would quote if you had merely a continuation of your contracts. I am not saying for a moment that we are always getting the best prices possible. I think combined selling arrangements will do a great deal to help that, but we must remember that in Germany, which is so often quoted, while the cartel controls the selling price in the home market, it leaves the German coal-owners absolutely free to sell in competition with one another in the foreign and export markets and, indeed, in that part of the home market where international competition is met. I would remark that in criticising prices we should remember that it was, on the whole, good policy to cut in and recover the markets even at a dreadful cost. [HON. MEMBERS: "To the miners!"] To everybody. It meant more work to the miners. Supposing we had refused to take export contracts unless at a certain profit. That surely would have been worse for the miners. It would have meant refusing contracts and refusing to get and to sell coal which is being sold at the present moment, although at a loss, and undoubtedly that 1416 would have meant that fewer men would have been employed because less coal would have been produced. So much for the export side.
In the home trade which, after all, must absorb the bulk of the coal produced I think the prospects, which depend upon British industry generally, are better. The right hon. Gentleman, last time, said it was getting worse. I do not think it is. I think certainly in home industry the prospects are better. Cheap coal has played its part, and I think undoubtedly trade prospects are better. They are actually better on the figures we have. I would like to remind the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that when he is quoting figures he must not quote the sterling figures of a few years ago and compare them with the sterling figures of to-day. It is easy to say that our export trade is down. The right hon. Gentleman has taken the price figures, the sterling figures of, say, two years ago and compared them with the sterling figures of to-day. He has forgotten that in that time prices have fallen by 14 per cent.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am not complaining of the fact that the speech to which the right hon. Gentleman refers was not fully reported, but if he looks at a full report he will find that I did call attention to that point. I said, first, that if you took a comparison of prices they had fallen by so much, but then I took up the question of quantities—the very point which is now made by the right hon. Gentleman. Then, I said that in two or three vital industries there was a reduction even in the actual quantity.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I will give him the correct figure in the aggregate, for it is the aggregate that really matters. The correct figure shows-that in January to October of this year, as compared with January to October, 1925, which is our last normal year, the total exports of British goods and manufactures have not fallen but have increased by i4 per cent. If you take your figures in money to-day and re-write them into the value of 1925, you will find an export this year of £661.000,000 against £580,000,000 in 195JD. [Interruption.] I dare say we have imported, but according to the theories of the hon. and 1417 gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) that means that we should be exporting a great deal more. Therefore, that is an additional argument in support of what I am saying. In addition, we are, undoubtedly, doing more business in the home market. We are always expected, and I think it is a mistake, to deal with the industrial position entirely on figures of unemployment. If we take the figures of employment instead of the figures of unemployment a very different picture is presented.[Interruption.] Undoubtedly, it is true—I have had my figures worked out by the Ministry of Labour—that year by year a very much larger number of people, both men and women, come into industry than go out of it. People live longer at one end and more come in at the other. If you take the net increase of the people employed in industry you will find that in the last three years, between July, 1924, and July, 1927, industry has absorbed 475,000 more people.[Interruption.] Do let me deal—
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
But really, if you are to test whether there is a market for coal you must see whether the prospects of industry generally are going forward or are going backward, because the hon. Gentleman and I know that you sell coal to these industries and that if the industries of the country are employing nearly half a million more people it means more business is being done and that the prospects of selling more coal are better.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I am giving chapter and verse for every figure Slat I am quoting. In addition to that, it is my business to see, month by month, representatives—employers and employed—of all the great industries of the country, and whereas a few months ago progress was seemingly not being made, I am glad to say that in the general opinion of nearly all of them there is, not a boom, but a steady improvement month after month actually in the orders placed and the prospects before them. I say, therefore, that the general prospect for industry, and, consequently, for coal, which depends upon industry in this country, to a large ex- 1418 tent, for what it sells, is not worse but is distinctly better than it was.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I come to the charge which is made both in this and in the previous Motion—the charge of inaction. The Government are charged with having failed to take the necessary steps. I say at once that in this House we have an acute difference between us as to what is the relation of the State to industry. On this side of the House, we do not think all action is necessarily wise. The Leader of the Opposition said at the opening of his speech last time that it is impossible at this time of the day to divorce industry and politics. If I believed that that were true, I should be compelled to say: "God help industry!" That is the fundamental difference between us. He believes that the more you interfere with industry until such time as you can completely control it, the more is it a sound policy. We do not. We believe that the less you interfere with industry the better.[Interruption.] Do let me make my speech. I have a great deal of ground to cover, and I do not want to take up more time than is necessary. If I do not cover all the points, hon. Gentlemen opposite will be the first to say so. We say that all action is not necessarily wise. I do not like to go back on the past—it is rather an idle occupation—but I would remind the House of this, that when the Samuel Commission reported the Government, although they did not, by any means, agree with all the recommendations, were willing to accept every single recommendation made if the other parties would do the same. Whether these proposals were right or wrong, it is not our fault that the whole of them were not put into force at once. In the circumstances, we were free to judge the proposals on their merits, and we were free to judge what we should do and leave undone.
There are two distinct problems, and I think everybody would agree with this. It is important to keep them distinct. There is, first of all, the problem of what is the best policy to adopt in the coal industry as an industry in order to make it efficient and set it on its feet. There is a. separate problem, which is not a coal problem, and that is, what steps can you take to help men in that industry who, whatever happens, 1419 are going to be thrown out of work, to find employment in other industries? Undoubtedly, it is true that, if you pursue a wrong policy in relation to the coal industry as an industry you will increase the magnitude of your second problem, the number of people with whom you have to deal.
We have been challenged. We were challenged last time, and we have been challenged again to-day on the ground that by the Eight Hours Act we have made the position of the coal industry more difficult and increased the number of unemployed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear! "] That, it seems, is a charge that I have to meet. It is quite untrue to say—and I say this as an observer, and I am sure anyone who had anything to do with the negotiations, the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer or anyone else, will bear me out that never was it said on the part of the Government or by anyone on this side of the House—that we guaranteed prosperity. We were not fools enough to do anything like that. What we did say was, that on the whole this was likely to give the industry a better chance.
What has happened? That Act has reduced working costs. There is no doubt that it has reduced them by amounts varying from 10d. to 3s. 8d., and the average for the whole of the coalfields of this country is a reduction of 2s. 8d. a ton. I am comparing the September quarter of 1927 with the September quarter of 1925, and it must be observed that that reduction of 2s. 8d. a ton is not made principally at the expense of wages. The reduction in wages per shift is from 10s. 5d. in 1925 to 9s. 10d. per shift in 1927, a reduction of 7d., but the total reduction in the cost per ton is 2s. 8d. A great many of the collieries I know are carrying on at a loss to-day, but can anyone tell me, that after you have reduced the cost by 2s. 8d. a ton, you are not able to sell more coal in the competing markets of the world. [An HON. MEMBER: "Have you done so?"] We have, undoubtedly. [An HON. MEMBER: "To what extent?"] I will tell the hon. Gentleman, as I told the House at the beginning of my speech. We sold 10,000,000 tons more this year.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
As the right hon. Gentleman told the House that the ex- 1420 ports for 1925 and 1927 for 10 months of each year, were 41,820,000 tons and 43,200,000 tons, will he tell the House that the receipts were some £3,220,000 less in 1927 than in 1925?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Exactly. That is my point. I am not assuming that the coal-owners are making money. I know that they are not. What I am assuming is, that, although they are losing money to-day, they are selling more coal to-day in spite of the fact that they are losing money, and if you had added 2s. 8d. to their costs, they would have sold less coal, and there must have been fewer men employed. Unless, of course, you do the thing which some hon. Members still hanker after, and which is really impossible unless you have a subsidy, there is no other way out. Therefore, I meet the charge which is brought against me that we have reduced employment by the Eight Hours Act by saying that, on the contrary, we have reduced costs by 2s. 8d. per ton, and are selling more coal to-day, and more men are at work by reason of that Act than would otherwise have been employed.
I want to come back to the question of the organisation of the industry, but I come now to the steps towards dealing with the second problem, helping those who are permanently or temporarily out of work, and helping the children to get work who cannot be absorbed into the industry. Here, I admit, we are faced with a problem which is particularly difficult. It is not as if you had an industry situated where there are other industries around which can absorb them as they come out. It so happens, unfortunately, that you are dealing with unemployment in districts where there are no other industries to absorb them, or where the industries which do exist, such as iron and shipbuilding, are hard hit. That makes the problem insuperably more difficult. It makes it all the more necessary to try to solve it, but it does make it a very difficult problem. The right hon. Gentleman spoke to-day as though we have taken no action in this matter. He is quite wrong. The first thing that we have done has been to reserve the mining industry for the miner, and it has made a very substantial difference and has put the industry in a unique position. We have in force, by agreement, an arrangement under which 1421 vacancies are not to be filled except by miners if miners can be found to fill them, and it is working.
Let us consider the figures. This is what has happened in three months. I am dealing with facts, not with theories. It has been at work since the beginning of August, and in the first three months since that date 53,534 miners have been placed into vacancies in that industry and only 133 men have been brought in from outside. That is a very substantial contribution. It is not fair to say that we are doing nothing when as vacancies arise from one pit to another only 133 from outside the industry have come in and 53,000 have been absorbed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Since when? "] In the three months. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was vitally important, and I agree with him, to see that the young lads who come on should be absorbed into industry, or into the coal industry. I agree. Does he assume that we are doing nothing? Why does he not inquire as to the facts? We have established, and are estahblishing, throughout the whole of South Wales, Northumberland and Durham, which are the acute spots, Juvenile Unemployment Centres in a number of towns, and they are so spread out that when the system is complete, and by using omnibus and tram services to bring these boys in from outside districts, there will not be a single boy, so the Minister of Labour has told me, who is out of work and cannot get work in the coal mines in Durham, Northumberland and South Wales who will not be able to go to a Juvenile Unemployment Centre if he wishes to do so and obtain instruction. The instruction that is being given there is practical instruction. It includes metal and wood work and elementary mechanical engineering. The whole of the machinery of the Employment Exchanges is there to place these boys as they emerge from their training. This problem is, I think, a manageable problem; and it will become easier because the low birth rate of War years will mean that there will be more vacancies in industry generally for young men and boys in the years to come.
Then a great effort is being made by the Ministry of Labour to transfer un- 1422 employed miners to other industries.
In the 12 months up to July, 1927, 30,000 of these men have been placed, and we propose to try all we can to facilitate that, and to speed it up.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
All sorts of industries—the gramophone industry for one. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) laughs. Is it a bad thing to take a miner who is out of work and put him in a factory?
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
The point of my remark was in what industries are you putting men? Where are there jobs vacant, and jobs clamouring to be done? Are there these jobs to be found?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I have said that 30,000 men have been placed; if this was so simple we should not be debating it.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
No, others are not put out of work. We are not turning people out of work to find jobs for miners. What we are trying to do is to use the whole machinery of the State in order to place these men into work wherever we can find jobs for them. Training centres have been established at Birmingham and Wallsend, and a third is being established. There are training centres for emigration at Clay-don and Brandon, and the Overseas Settlement Committee is doing what it can. These, surely, are the right lines on which to work. It is the only way we can hope to grapple with this problem, not by perpetual doles, although a great deal of help has been given in that way, but by constructive work; wherever a job is available, to try to get one of these men into it. We have been considering for a long time—the question is always under review, not by one Department only, but by all of us in consultation—as we work out this problem of training centres, juvenile unemployment centres, and placing, whether we can accelerate this absorption, not only by using our existing facilities, and increasing them where practicable, but by in- 1423 troducing a new element into the organisation; and we think that as an experiment we probably can do something further to help.
We propose to set up a small Commission, Committee or Board, of not more than three men, whole sole object will be to stimulate and assist the transfer of workers from distressed areas to openings in other areas and other industries, both at home and overseas. We have got a parallel in Lord St. Davids Committee. That is a very valuable Committee; it did not supersede any Department, but worked outside and with them in order that, in the most efficient way, relief grants to local areas should be given. Here we have got a somewhat analogous problem. We have got a problem, not of giving relief to distressed areas, but of trying to find more jobs for the men outside the distressed areas. We propose that the Minister of Labour should define these black spot areas, they are not confined to mining, though it does happen that the worst of them are in Durham, Northumberland, the North-East Coast, and South Wales. There you have the black spot areas not only in coal but in the iron and steel and the heavy industries. If these areas are scheduled, this Commission, working through and with the machinery of the Ministry of Labour, will devote its attention entirely to seeing what can be done to find jobs, either here or overseas, for men from them. This will be worked largely through the organisation of the Ministry of Labour, and any expenditure—although this is primarily not a matter of new expenditure, but rather of driving force—that is necessary will appear on the Vote of the Ministry of Labour in the ordinary way.
It is important that the activities and the recommendations of this body should not be confined to the Ministry of Labour. It ought to work closely with any other Department it can help, either the Overseas Settlement Committee, or the Ministry of Health where housing schemes need acceleration, or with the Board of Education where education can be brought in to help, or the Board of Trade on the general commercial side. Their problem is to see where they can find jobs for men who are out of work in distressed areas. We have got to be very careful in this scheme that we do not spend money with- 1424 out a plain necessity for it; but where you find, and we are finding it to-day in the ordinary work of the Ministry of Labour, that there is a vacancy, but that it is really impossible to transfer a man to that vacancy without some assistance, then it pays, if you work prudently and carefully, to give a little help to transfer that man into a vacancy rather than to keep him permanently on the dole. That is the line we are working on now, that is, assisting men, where it is really necessary, with railway fares, and assisting them perhaps to move their homes. You want discussion with the Overseas Settlement Committee. I think it is very likely that we shall find in future that, where you get a Dominion like Canada, with a great advancing prosperity, the Committee have a very good chance of getting what may be seasonal, or, it may be, permanent employment, for men in Canada. Such men may get a certainty of six months' work, but they might be a little anxious, and would not want to go out there unless they are sure they are going to remain in their jobs. It is worth while considering in cases like that whether they cannot have an assurance that when the seasonal employment comes to an end they will be helped with a return passage.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Yes, I know it did, because I believe there is no power under the Overseas Settlement Act to give that kind of assurance; and I believe that with a very small expenditure of money, you might be able to give it. The very fact that the hon. Gentleman says that that was in view this summer, and did not materialise, is all the more reason why we should make sure of it in the coming year. Here, of course, as in the case of Lord St. Davids Committee, there would be no question of setting up a new Department. We think it will be a stimulating force, and I think a few men of the kind we propose will have a chance of making an appeal and an approach to employers which the Employment Exchange manager and even a Cabinet Minister, with all his other duties and responsibilities, could not make. Let me take an illustration from business. If you want to concen- 1425 trate on a new selling ground, and you have your existing organisation, you do not hesitate to put two or three special men on to the job to see if you can carry on there and stimulate it. That is exactly the kind of proposal which, after careful consideration, we think it is worth while making.
I come to another charge which the right hon. Gentleman made. He said, "Why are you not doing something to stimulate the more efficient use of coal?" I disagree with him, in the first place, that here there is no room for private enterprise. That ignores the whole of the experience of Germany, and all that has been done in hydrogenation in Germany, which is the product of private enterprise, and not of government activity. But the Government are doing a great deal here. The right hon. Gentleman said, "What about electricity?" One of the most important things in coal is that you should have efficient electrical plant in this country, and efficient development. There I agree with him, but have we not done anything? We spent the greater part of last Session in passing the Electricity Act. That Act was based on the considered experience of the best business men and the best technical men we could get to advise us. The Central Board has been set up, and nobody can say that is not a sound and businesslike Board. No one can say that it has no knowledge upon it of coal. No one has a better knowledge of coal than my old friend Sir Andrew Duncan, who is Chairman of the Board and who was a wise and sympathetic Coal Controller. No one is going to say that Mr. Hodges has not a good knowledge of coal as coal. They are both on the Board.
How insane we should be to sweep away that machinery, that considered scheme of organisation which we have recommended to Parliament, which Parliament has endorsed, and which is now in force in order to take on—well, I really do not know what the right hon. Gentleman suggests. We have done everything that is possible. We are on the right lines, and let us allow the Electricity Board to go on with its work. Then the right hon. Gentleman said, "What are you doing about oil from coal?" He said that here again was a field for Government activity. We are doing a great deal. The Fuel Research 1426 Board has been working on that not only for months, but for years. The Government themselves made their own experiments in low temperature carbonisation, and they have done what is the practical thing to do; they have made business arrangements with the Gas Light and Coke Company for a plant on a commercial scale. Take the other alternative, the process of hydrogenation. The Government have stepped in, and we have experiments going on in the Bergius process in conjunction with the British Syndicate.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Because there were not any. I am always hearing a great deal about internationalism from hon. Gentlemen opposite, and when you get a great process in another country—which might turn out right or it might not, but which, at any rate, is a good gamble—it is vital that the Government should step in and see that experiments are made, for, it may be, without the aid of the Government it would not be worked in this country at all. When we, as a Government, step in and see that the experiments are made, surely, from an international point of view, no one is going to tell me that that is wrong.
§ Mr. HARDIE
On business grounds why have the Government not given the same attention to British processes for extracting oil from coal that they have given to this one? These British processes had been in existence for ten or fifteen years before the Bergius process appeared.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I should be sorry to say anything in this House which reflected upon this or that business, but it is well known that the Fuel Research Board have been in touch with every single system and with every single experiment. The only businesslike thing to do is to see where you have the best chances of success—and there we rely upon our experts—and then to concentrate on those. That is the only businesslike way. Then there is pulverised coal. I think a very considerable hope lies in 1427 that direction. I daresay that hon. Members have seen that five 10,000-ton steamers, turbine vessels, may be laid down which will use pulverised fuel. New machinery has been devised which is able to pulverise the fuel on the ship, in that way reducing the risk which arises from carrying a large store of pulverised coal, which is rather a dangerous fuel for a ship to store. I cite that in passing. I say, therefore, that in every direction in which developments in the use of coal on new lines have been regarded as possible we have not been behindhand in investigations. We are working with the National Fuel and Power Committee, we are working through the British Engineering Standards Association in sampling and analysis; and I could name other lines of action. If the right hon. Gentleman had given to the House this rather large catalogue of our activities, would he have raised cheers so freely from his own supporters by his statement that that Government had done nothing to encourage the coal industry? [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are the cheers from your side now?"] I am concerned to state the facts, which I think are agreeable to people genuinely interested in the industry, if they are not equally agreeable to those who wish to secure some Party advantages. [HON. MEMBERS: "Whip up the cheers!"]
I come now to the question of the organisation of the coal industry itself. The right hon. Gentleman said it was the duty of the Government to take immediate action to secure the efficient organisation of the industry in the sale and the use of its own products. I do not know which horse the Opposition are going to ride. I have been a consistent advocate, in theory and in practice, of amalgamations, and I have over and over again defended amalgamations against attacks from the other side. I believe that amalgamations—large combinations—are necessary for the development of industry. Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. They cannot at Question Time, day after day, attack every amalgamation which is set on foot and then come and charge the Government with neglecting to see that amalgamations take place.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I have no doubt of the value of amalgamation, 1428 though it is very important not to overrate it. It is impossible to generalise on the subject. Anybody who has brought, about an amalgamation, who has worked in a business, knows that you cannot generalise as to what will be the results-produced by this or that amalgamation, but I have no doubt that, broadly speaking, the value is considerable. By amalgamation you get a reduction in administration expenses, you improve your selling organisation, you are large enough, to enter the retail business yourself, if it is good business to do so, and you can ensure that the merchant sells the maximum and not the minimum of your products. You can more easily eliminate excessive competition, you are able to pool railway wagons and thus reduce, to some extent, transport charges, or, at any rate, increase your own transport facilities. You will be in a better position to make district' and national agreements. You will be in a position, also, to do something to improve the technical side of the industry, although I must say that I think the technical development of our mines here is extraordinarily good, as-Professor Moss has testified; but even so amalgamations would enable the best technical men to cover a wider field and you will undoubtedly be in a better position to raise more capital for improvements, for the development of subsidiary processes and for research.
Those are views which I have over and over again expressed in this House, not only in connection with coal but in connection with industry generally. I would only add this, that I am pretty sure that the size of the ideal amalgamation can be proved only by experience. It may very well vary in different industries. I am sure it is wrong to assume that the largest possible amalgamation is necessarily the best. The American experience of trusts is extraordinarily interesting on this point. The original trend of trusts in America was for them to be as large as possible. Then came the Sherman Law. Some of the largest of the American trusts, when they were compelled to disintegrate, found that they increased their actual efficiency. They had originally formed units which were too large for the maximum of efficiency. They found that some of the energy which ought to have gone into efficiency of production and of sales was actually absorbed in the work of turning the machine itself. 1429 It is very important that we should not spread abroad the idea that the bigger the amalgamation is the more there is in it. The Samuel Commission contemplated a number of units, and I think there is no doubt that as amalgamations take place—as they are taking place now—if it be good business for them to become larger and to absorb each other we shall find that is what will come about; if, on the other hand, the limit of efficiency has been reached, they will not amalgamate further.
Again, if you have a cartel, or territorial arrangement, and a number of disconnected units in it find that the relationship of interest between the different parts is not close enough for all to keep to the common policy, you will find that that in itself will lead to closer amalgamation. Having found the advantages of combining into a cartel they will not afterwards split apart; what they will do, in the natural process, is to come to a closer amalgamation in order that their interests may be more closely identified. The right hon. Gentleman talked as though nothing had been done. One has only to read the papers to see what has been done. A number of amalgamations have taken place, and selling syndicates have been formed. I only quote what is public property in the newspapers in saying that proposals are going on in South Wales for a selling combine, and that Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are discussing a cartel.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
For the object for which the right hon. Gentleman is pressing, the stabilising of prices.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Of course, it is so. Is it suggested that the object for which they are coming together is that they shall sell coal less successfully than they are doing at present?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Really the hon. Gentleman must be consistent, at any rate the course of one afternoon. He was criticising me half-an-hour ago because the price at which export coal sold was too low, now he is criticising 1430 those who want to stabilise prices. If he were thinking of the interests of the con sumer and saying, "I want to keep coal prices as low as possible, even below the economic level" I could understand him, but the whole charge in this Debate is that nothing is being done by the Government or the coal owners to get an economic price for the coal, and then when you get people together working out schemes—
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
You had better see these schemes before you criticise them. All I am saying now is that you have been criticising coalowners-because they will not get together in order to try to form common selling syndicates to stabilise prices and to get a greater degree of efficiency in the industry, but when they do come together you at once begin to criticise them on that score. I think we had better wait and see the schemes. Apart from these schemes, I know myself, in confidence, of other negotiations which are going on, negotiations to amalgamate on a very large scale. The last thing in the world which would help those amalgamations would be the discussion of them in public. Anyone who has tried to amalgamate either conflicting branches of a trade union or a series of businesses knows that in delicate negotiations the last thing you want is to have a great light of publicity thrown upon them. If you have a union which is being rather obstructive to your proposal to bring it in, or if you have an owner or a company which is putting too high a price upon its assets, the last thing in the world that is wanted is a public discussion. Up goes the price at once. It may be, also, that one of the parties is showing himself obstinate on personal grounds, because both in businesses and in unions human faults show themselves, as well as human virtues. In any case, the difficulties which may arise are much better overcome with quiet, discreet negotiations, and those are going on.
While all this is happening in the industry itself, how on earth can the right hon. Gentleman say that nothing is being done and that the Government ought to take action? What further action ought we to take? It appears that we ought to compel everybody to join in some 1431 amalgamation, though the right hon. Gentleman is very careful not to specify what amalgamation. What informed authority can he quote in support of his proposal? The Samuel Commission were dead against compulsory amalgamation against the will of a majority of the owners. I can quote their views if I am challenged.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Let us discuss one thing at a time. If they were always right, and if you use them to condemn me because the Government passed the Eight Hours Act, then surely I am entitled to cite them with equal authority—
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
For this purpose I have it this way. Lord Beaver- brook, who has taken a great interest in this matter—
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
—even he is dead against compulsory amalgamation, and says that amalgamation can only come if the parties are willing to get together. The Lewis Committee rejected compulsion in selling arrangements, except in the case of a recalcitrant minority, and even then were very doubtful as to whether it would prove successful. Above all, I would say this, do let us be careful that we do not embark on a policy which is going to force the efficient units in this industry to take in against their will all the most inefficient units. I know of no worse policy than to attempt to force efficient business men to take in inefficient businesses. If you have enforced compulsory amalgamation by which the owners have to take in every single old pit—the old pits which ought to have gone out long ago, which were only kept going by adventitious circumstances—the War, the Ruhr, the subsidy—pits which ought to have amortised their capital and gone out; if you are going to force the efficient pits to take over the inefficient pits, then you are not going to help the men, and you are only going to saddle the new and 1432 efficient combines with inefficient pits. We have followed the Samuel Report upon this question, and we have laid down that if any single unit or any two units consider that the amalgamation or absorption of two, three or four or more units would be good business, they can go to the Court, put forward their scheme, and get compulsory amalgamation or absorption on terms of issuing shares and not necessarily finding any more capital. That goes the whole length of the Samuel Report, in fact it goes rather beyond it.
We have gone further. We have given the Court the right to order the transfer of areas from one company to another, and that is being done. If you are going to go further and give compulsory powers greater than that, you are going to assume the responsibility of forcing people into an accommodation into which none of the parties are willing to enter, which none of them think is good business, and which none of them would formulate upon their own initiative. Surely that is a very great responsibility for the Government to undertake. Would hon. Members put their own money into such an undertaking? Would hon. Members belonging to the Labour party put trade union money into such an undertaking? If you do, of course, you must assume financial responsibility, and you would be bound to underwrite the profits. Would we not then be bound to assume some responsibility for the direction of the industry and for its attitude towards other industries? Where does that lead you? It is nine-tenths of the way to nationalisation. We are giving every reasonable assistance to amalgamation wherever any responsible owner thinks it is good business. In these cases, let us give them all the help we can, but let us be very careful that we do not land ourselves into a policy of nationalisation.
As a Government we are prepared to accept responsibility both for what we have done and for what we have left undone. I agree that the major responsibility rests with us so long as we are the Government, and we accept it. I think we can justify the whole of our policy. I would like to point out, however, that the responsibility for the present situation does not rest with us alone. I think we are entitled to ask the Opposition what has 1433 been their contribution to the solution of this problem. What is the policy of the Opposition for the future? When the Labour party had a short term of office they forced an agreement upon the coal industry which brought it to the verge of bankruptcy, and the present Government had to foot the bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "What was it?"] I am referring to the agreement made while the Labour party was in office in 1S24, by which you placed perfectly impossible wages on the industry with the result that you drove men out of work.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Was not the decision referred to by the right hon. Gentlemen the recommendation of a Government Commission?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I do not care whose recommendation it was, but I know that the party opposite forced it on an unwilling industry by the threat of legislation, and I defy hon. Members opposite to deny it. If that agreement had been in force to-day there would not have been 200,000 but 500,000 men out of work in the mining industry.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
What is the good of wages on paper if you cannot take them home? When you were in opposition you engineered the general strike. You started the coal strike and you could not call it off when you wanted to; you lost every foreign market which we are recovering with such difficulty to-day and which you lost by your action.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
On a point of Order. Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I would like to ask if the President of the Board of Trade is in order when he says that "you" caused the general strike?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
It is the rule that all remarks should be addressed to the Chair, but I have often heard the second person used in a rhetorical way to refer to the opposite party. I hope the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) will inspire all his colleagues with a strict observance of that rule.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I intervened because I thought it was very unfair that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, should have all this responsibility ascribed to you.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Let there be no doubt as to where the responsibility lies. What contribution have hon. Members opposite and the right hon. Gentleman who leads them to make in the future towards a solution of this problem? They put forward simply the policy of nationalisation, which so far from rendering a single pit in any country more efficient, would permanently quarter them upon the taxes of this country. Between those two policies, between the practice of hon. Gentlemen in office or in opposition and our own, the Government are quite willing to take the verdict of the House today and the verdict of the country in due time.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think I can promise that I shall not introduce any further heat into this discussion. We are discussing a matter of national importance, which ought to be examined by the House of Commons quite calmly, and I am not sure that we shall advance matters very much by recriminations. With very great reluctance I join in the personal controversy which has been raised in reference to the Prime Minister, although I wish it had been possible to discuss the mining situation without having to consider evidence of that kind; but, as the question has been raised, I feel bound, by my long experience in the House and in office, to express an opinion upon this question. This is not a Departmental question, and, in point of fact, there could be no better illustration of the necessity for having an authoritative pronouncement upon it than the speech to which we have just listened. There are not merely four Departments involved. I know the Leader of the Opposition said there were four involved, but there are very many more. The Departments involved include the Board of Trade, the Mines Department, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health.
The Ministry of Health has had to face a very serious situation in some of the coalmining areas, where we are experiencing almost bankruptcy in regard to municipal government, and the Government in this connection will have to face a considerable liability. It is far beyond the resources of these mining areas to wipe off this indebtedness, and sooner or later the Minister of Health will have to come to the Government with definite 1435 proposals. At the present moment in those mining areas the authorities are unable to collect the rates. I have here a list of the arrears of rates in the South Wales areas, and those arrears run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. In those areas county government is failing and district government is failing; there is no one there to pay the rates, with the result that the rates are falling more and more heavily upon the good mines. The rateable value of those areas is decreasing year by year in consequence, and this is a question with which the Minister of Health will have to deal before very long. Another question with which the Government will have to deal is the surplus population and the training of the young, and here the Minister of Education is concerned. There is also the question of agriculture, and the Secretary of State for Scotland is involved in this. As a matter of fact, there are seven or eight Ministries directly involved in the solution of this problem, and, consequently, it is a question upon which no one can speak with authority except the head of the Government
The Prime Minister referred to my experience during the three years of the War. It is perfectly true that Mr. Bonar Law and I came to the conclusion that it was quite impossible, in the state of Europe at that time and the condition of things in this country, for the Prime Minister to come down here and lead the House, and we concluded that it was a wise arrangement to hand over the Leadership of the House to Mr. Bonar Law, who spoke with exceptional authority, because he was the leader of the largest party in the House at the time, and he was a man of very great experience. I feel absolutely certain that if there had been at that time a discussion of this kind, Mr. Bonar Law would have said to me, "You must come down and deal with this question, because no one can speak with authority on a subject of this kind except the Prime Minister." I do not wish to imply anything offensive to the President of the Board of Trade, but he does not possess the power to deal with this problem effectively, because he is not the leader of a party. Mr. Bonar Law invariably said to me in regard to important question, "As Prime Minister you must come down and speak."
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I will come to that point in a minute, and I think it is a fair interruption. If the Prime Minister had said in the course of the discussion, "I do not propose to speak immediately, but I intend to intervene in the Debate," I should have said that it was a most unreasonable thing to protest against that course, because you must allow the Government to arrange its own order of speeches. On that occasion. I very nearly got up to suggest to the Prime Minister that he should give a promise to speak in the course of the Debate, and I regret now that I did not do so. I do think that it was quite inexcusable—and I am trying to say so without any personal offence—when we were going to discuss the condition of the second greatest industry in the country, which is in a very bad way, which, according even to the President of the Board of Trade, has over 20 per cent, of those engaged in it out of work, and that does not represent everything, which is in a worse plight in many ways than it has ever been in, in spite even of this Government—it was quite inexcusable that the Prime Minister, the head of the Government, should not intervene in the course of a Debate on a Vote of Censure in reference to that industry. I have said that the speech of the President of the Board of Trade was an illustration of that. He made a purely departmental speech. It was very interesting, and in so far as it stated the facts, I think it stated them quite fairly. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I certainly never criticised him last year because he was unable to take part in the discussions on this subject. On the contrary, I took some steps to indicate that, had he done so, I had every confidence that he would have behaved as an honourable man in those circumstances, and would not have allowed his interests to intervene. After all, however, he only deals with one Department, and he has given a purely departmental reply. I will show now what I mean.
All that he said about what has been done with regard to research and otherwise was very interesting, but, when he came to the thing that mattered most of all, namely, amalgamation, the grouping of the industry in order to save expenses, 1437 and, what is still more important, the marketing arrangements, which are vital when you come to cutting down the costs and reducing the margin, what did he say? Did he give any indication, except a general one, that there were negotiations—what he was pleased to call quiet and discreet negotiations—going on? Everybody knows that the thing has not been grappled with at all by the industry; it is perfectly well known that it has not. There is a good deal of talk going on, but nothing really is being done in order effectively to group the industry to increase its efficiency. The Government gave the industry two years from the 4th August last year in which to set its house in order. That is under the Act of Parliament. A year and four months have elapsed; can the President of the Board of Trade really say that the industry has utilised those 16 months in order to puts its house in order? This House—not merely the Government, not merely the Samuel Commission, but the House of Commons—declared last year solemnly by an Act of Parliament that the industry had to be reorganised. Most of that Measure is taken up with the reorganisation of the industry. There are elaborate provisions for bringing court after court and Ministry after Ministry to compel them to do so if there are any recalcitrant mineowners; but practically nothing has been done. As far as marketing is concerned, there has been a good deal of talk, but, in so far as there has been discussion up to the present, it has been discussion with a view to raising prices and increasing profits, and not really with a view to reorganising the industry, in the sense in which the Germans are doing it, with a view to cutting down expenses and enabling us to face competition in the markets of the world.
You cannot get away from the fact that there is something fundamentally wrong with this industry. We have exceptional advantages in our coal measures as compared with any other country in Europe. In the first place, the quality of the coal is on the whole superior to that of any other country in Europe. Another great and decisive factor, as was pointed out in a very able article in the "Daily Telegraph" the other day, is that all our coal measures are within easy access of the sea. That is a vital factor, and it is more than can be said about Germany, 1438 it is more than can be said about France. The quality of the coal of Belgium puts it out of competition, and, therefore, it does not count seriously. We have exceptional advantages as far as our coal measures are concerned, but what are the facts? All the great producing countries in Europe, with two exceptions to which I am coming shortly, have increased their output since 1913; ours has gone down. As compared with 1913, our coal production—I am assuming that the output will continue at the same level during the month of December as it has during the last few weeks—will this year be down by 31,000,000 tons. That of Germany—I am taking now the post-war figures for comparison—will be up by 25,000,000 tons, and that of France will be up by 13,000,000 tons, while that of Belgium will be up by 4,200,000 tons. In the case of the United States the figures are still more remarkable. I will take the figures for last year, because there has been a great strike there this year, so that it is not fair to take this year's figures. In 1913 they raised 514,000,000 tons, and last year their output was 663,000,000 tons. [Interruption.] Even this year their output was 606,000,000 tons, in spite of the fact that they have had a strike, so that, even taking this figure, their output has gone up by something like 90,000,000 tons.
It may be said that we are suffering from the fact that oil is being used in our ships, that there are coal-saving appliances of every kind, that the water supplies of Europe have been harnessed for the purpose of the production of power: but that is equally true of other countries. The three countries whose coal output has gone down are Poland, Russia and Britain, while the countries that have gone up in production are Germany, France, Belgium and the United States—the well-organised countries, while in the disorganised industries the output has gone down. That is a very significant fact, and it is in spite of all the natural advantages that we enjoy, and of the fact that our hours are longer at the present moment than in any coalfield in Europe. The right hon. Gentleman may say that the wages are better, but they are not better as compared with 1913, which is the real comparison. They were better then, but it will be found that the wages in Germany, France and Belgium are higher 1439 than they were in 1913, taking purchasing power into account. On the other hand, they are much lower here. In those countries conditions have been improved since 1913 in regard to hours and wages. As regards wages, our conditions' have degenerated, and the hours are worse than they were in 1919. The pits are working at a loss; our export trade is down in every market except two; the municipalities are bankrupt, and there is a great reduction in the output of coal.
What is the use of optimistic statements by the President of the Board of Trade in the face of irrefutable facts of that kind? It does not help to solve the problem. The Board of Trade is going to be the Department which will decide what is to be done, because I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Mines is going to be abolished, and that the President of the Board of Trade is going to absorb him. The President of the Board of Trade will have the whole responsibility, and he, apparently, is going to proceed on the assumption that all is going well, that trade is improving, that the mine-owners are doing their best, and are having discreet negotiations which are going to fructify in good time, while in the meantime 227,000 miners have been hanging around for months, and some of them for years. Moreover, a very serious factor which has come to my notice is that there are young people there who have reached almost years of maturity without ever having had a job. Miners have been talking to me, and have been speaking with very great concern about their own children. They are good lads, but still they are very uneasy about the fact that they are idle, because there is- nothing for them to do. We are told that training centres are going to, arrive, but they are not there now; that is all that I know.
I can see no sign of any organisation that will provide training for these thousands of young people who are out of work at the present moment. If there be any such organisation, it would be rather desirable to have more information about it than we have had in the course of the Debates on the Unemployment Insurance Bill. One miner told me that his boys had never had work: that there was no place where 1440 he could get work for them. He said that the condition of things in the coalfields is desperate. People are full of despair, they lack hope, they have been thrown upon the Poor Law with very inadequate allowances to maintain life in decency, or even to maintain it at all. I am not criticising the guardians or local authorities, because they are bankrupt. Merthyr Tydvil has a rate of 30s. in the £, and there are a great many places where the rates are over 20s. in the £. They cannot do any more, and there is a state of gloom and utter despair running throughout the coalfields in South Wales. I have that from men who tell it to me on their honour. It is no use giving this comfortable, cosy account as if things were going well.
That is my criticism of the speech of the President of the Board of Trade as being a Departmental reply. We ought to have an answer from the man who is responsible, as head of the Government, to the House of Commons, to the country, and to these poor miners as well, as to what is going to be done. I am not blaming the President of the Board of Trade, because that is all that he could do. [Interruption.] I mean it. He could only give a Departmental reply. I know perfectly well, from long experience in government, that, when you come to a great question of policy, there is only one man who can really declare it, and that is the head of the Government. A man who is purely a head of a Department can answer for his Department, but, when you come to a question of broad policy, when you have to deal with an industry which is languishing, then the head of the Government alone can answer. What is the fact with regard to the mines? The fact of the matter is, that our natural advantages have been turned to our disadvantage. We had great natural advantages over all our competitors in Europe and in America. The American seams were richer and thicker and were worked by labour-saving appliances, but they were very far from the coast, and transport was prohibitive, and whether we went to South America or any other port, we should find our coal was beating them all round The same thing applied to the Germans. They were unable to compete with us. 1441 What did they do? In order to compete with us they resorted to every expedient to cut down the cost of production, adopted scientific devices and every kind of labour-saving appliance, made full use of by-products and waste, reduced over-bead charges, went in for much more efficient direction of their mines and amalgamation and, above all, better marketing arrangements so as to reduce the margin between the cost at the pithead and the cost to the consumer. The result was that they gained ground upon us, and not only that, but the profits they were making from the mines, instead of being always distributed to shareholders, were reserved for the purpose of development on a very much larger scale than we did. The surplus workers were provided for. I have no doubt there is a surplus there as the result of laboursaving appliances. It involved a reduction of the numbers.
The Germans never made the mistake of allowing that surplus to hang about, for one very good reason. Ca'canny is a very important element in production, as everyone knows who has any knowledge of industry. What is the greatest element in that? The fear that if you finish your job, or increase your output, you either throw your comrade out of a job or you may be out of a job yourself, and the spectacle of 200,000 or 300,000 unemployed as the result of increased production is a detriment and a discouragement to production. The Germans never made that mistake; they took steps to absorb the surplus, and to find work for them. They made arrangements for pensions for those over 60—fairly adequate pensions. At the other end they made arrangements for training the young, raising the school age, and they also made arrangements for transferring those who were not absorbed by those processes on to other tasks, sometimes agricultural, sometimes industrial. You do not get the scenes and the spectacles that are so distressing to anyone who visits our mining villages in places like Durham and South Wales at present, thousands of vigorous men, many of them young, hanging about hopelessly, only asking for work and with not the slightest prospect of getting it. These mineowners with the aid of the Government in Germany have avoided that, and that is what I had hoped to hear from the President of the Board of Trade, not a sort 1442 of detailed little explanation of this and of that, but some sort of hope that the Government were visualising the problem as a whole, that they realised the depth of the distress there, that they had got it in hand and were really contemplating doing something. He gave us not the slightest glimmer of hope that they even realised what the problem was.
We have undoubtedly presumed on our superiority, and slackness has entered into the whole of the industry, and it will take a long time to eliminate it. There was a time when we could say: "You must come to our shop." That is a bad kind of thing for any industry. We could say: "You cannot get the goods anywhere else, you cannot get the quality anywhere else, you cannot get it at the price anywhere else." As long as that lasts it leads to a certain slackness, and it has done it here. Those days have gone. They can get the goods in other shops, and, until the Government compel the industry to face its problems and to reorganise, you will never be able to recapture the markets that are lost and to establish new markets, but if you do, the natural superiority of the coal supplies in this country is so great that there is no country in Europe that can compete with us on equal terms in neutral markets. I very greatly regret that the Government have not indicated their intention of taking some steps. What are they doing about the surplus? Are they making any provision at all about pensions for the aged, or for others whom I should be very sorry to call aged, the training of the young, the transfer to other fields of those—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not think you ought to throw the burden upon the industry. I have always suggested, with the consent of the right hon. Gentlemen who are there, including the Prime Minister, in 1919, that the mining royalties should be purchased and that there should be a very substantial deduction from the purchase money for the purpose of establishing a fund for the well-being of the miners. The President of the Board of Trade said the Government were prepared to accept the whole of the Samuel Report. My recollection is that the first recommendation of the Samuel Report was the purchase of the coal 1443 measures. If that were done, you could establish a fund which would enable you to deal with those who are over 60 years of age with a very slight contribution from the industry itself.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The industry pays the royalties, anyhow. I do not suggest that you should increase the royalties. What the hon. Member does not quite realise is that here you have those who are interested in mining, who have contributed nothing in the way of risk or capital. They do not even contribute to the rates. Take the whole of Wales and the whole of England. You have 30s. in the £ at Merthyr Tydvil. The royalty owners will not have to pay a sixpence of it. When the industry was making money in 1923 and 1924 the royalty owners received so much. Now that it is making a loss, when the miners' wages are down, when the proprietors cannot make a profit and are scoring a loss, there is exactly the same amount of money paid to the royalty owners. As a matter of fact it is more, because you are raising more coal than you were in 1922 and 1923. We cannot leave it in this condition. It is all very well for the Board of Trade to say our business is not to interfere with industry. In the old days, when an industry fell on bad times, the policy of all parties was to say it must work itself through the bad period and find its own salvation. It was a very cruel policy. Ultimately, however, it succeeded, but at that time we had not the fierce competition that we have to-day. You could afford then to wait. You cannot wait today. There are others capturing our market. More than that, it was a very cruel and harsh policy. It involved a good deal of suffering for hundreds of thousands who were involved in the industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "Free Trade policy."] I do not care whether it is Free Trade or not, not the least bit in the world. I am dealing with the facts of the situation and I am prepared to face them. [An HON. MEMBER: "Come over here."] I have not yet seen that determination, that resolve to face realities that I should like to see to begin with.
I should like to say one word of appeal to the House. I think the miners have 1444 a really special claim upon the House. As those who were engaged in the conduct of the War remember, they recruited better than any other class. They recruited so well that we had in 1915 to send a special Commission to France to get them back, and it was not so easy. They preferred to do their share of the fighting. I think when you get 227,000 out of work and in real despair they have a right to come to the House of Commons, they have a right to come to the Leader of the House of Commons and say, "Sea fair play. See us through our trouble."
§ Mr. D. GRAHAM
I hope I shall get the sympathy of the House if only for the reason that I am a member of the Miners' Federation, an organisation which, judging from remarks that are made occasionally on the other side of the House, seems to be one of those that have the same effect on hon. Members on the other side that a red rag has to a bull. Being only a miners' member, or rather a member of the Miners' Federation, I am not an expert. It is only experts who can talk learnedly upon this subject. I have heard quite a number of them during the last nine years. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down seems to be very much intrigued by the failure of Britain to hold its own in foreign markets, but I suggest to him and to the party with which he is associated that they are pursuing a will-o-the-wisp if they imagine that foreign competition is in any real way responsible for the condition of the mining industry to-day. It goes very much deeper than that. I am one of those who believe that the difficulties with which we have been faced for a number of years might have been got over had there been any genuine desire on the part of Members of this House to find a remedy, but they have been more interested in listening to, and retailing to each other, the rival theories of the so-called experts, and I believe that our industry has suffered to a very considerable extent by reason of these experts and newspaper philosophers.
I am not going to suggest to the House what the position of the mining industry will be 50 years hence or 10 years hence, I am not going to indulge in prophecy, but I will try to recall to the minds of Members what has happened in the industry during the last five or six years, or, rather, since the end of the War. I 1445 would like very well to go into the question of the share which the miners contributed to the winning of the War, but I have not the time. I am entitled to take up only a very short space of time, because a large number of Members want to take a share in the Debate. I do not wholly blame the Government. I am pleased, however, that the Prime Minister made the handsome apology that he did to-day. It was handsome, and he has done nothing else but apologise. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) is not in his place to-day. He was one of the experts who rushed us into the struggle of 1921. He is an expert, not merely in coal, but in law, in iron, in steel, in banking and in globe-trotting, and that is the reason why he is not here to-day. Since then we have had some other experts. The right hon. Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond), who is also unfortunately absent, is an expert in agriculture, Free Trade, Protection, the chemical industry and coal, and he knows all about it; he is the man we have to call on now. Then we have the right hon. Gentleman, or, rather, the hon. Gentleman, as he is not right hon. yet, though he probably will be, the Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson), whom I am glad to see in the House. He was the go-between, on his own admission, between the employers and the Government last year. He is an expert in engineering, and he is, besides being an hon. Member of this House, a handsome Member of the House; he seems to believe in himself. Then we had a new expert about a couple of years or 18 months ago in Sir Herbert Samuel, the great white hope of the Liberal party. To use a Scotticism that may not be very well understood on the other side, these chaps have "too many tails to their dragon" to be able to find a solution of the difficulties with which we are faced.
The one thing, apparently, that is agreed on all sides is that the mining industry is a basic industry. That being so, it would be fair to say that it is the mainstay and support of other industries essential to the country's good. Besides being a member of the Miners' Federation, I am also a native of this country, and it is the country in the world for which I have the greatest regard, and all belonging to it, or all on this side. I am an optimist in some respects. I am an optimist in so far that I believe 1446 that, if there were a genuine desire to promote the interests and the well-being of the country, a solution could be found; and, so far as this side of the House is concerned, I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman who leads our party, and who leads it as no other section of this House is led, would have the absolutely unstinted support, not only of Members of the Labour party, but of the people who sent them here, in helping in any way that would really bring back something of the prosperity that I am sure most hon. Members are anxious to see in this country. It is agreed that the mining industry is a basic industry, and it is also agreed that it is an industry which is depressed, and I would like to ask hon. Members fairly, considerately, and free from political prejudice, bias, or passion to ask themselves the reason why the industry is in this depressed condition.
No matter what may be said from any side of the House, I think it is fair to say that the depressed state of the industry is not due to any fault on the part of the men engaged in the industry. It cannot be laid to the charge of last year's stoppage, because that stoppage was due to the same cause; neither is it due to lack of will on the part of the men engaged in the industry. They have done all that was asked of them. They have worked longer hours, they have increased output, and what has been their reward? Not what was promised by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Tory Government. What has happened during the last 12 months is that a whole series of pits has been closed down, there has been an increase in unemployment, men engaged in the industry are up to their neck in debt, and a proportion of those who are idle and unable to find employment are running into arrears with their rent, and are threatened with eviction, while men who were responsible for taking only a minor part in the organisation of the men in the different localities have been victimised—"crucified" is a better word to use. You find to-day, in every one of the areas, the greatest poverty and misery; and the only action that the colliery owners have yet taken is to attempt to smash the organisation of the miners. In addition to all that, we have reduced wages.
I want briefly to deal with the position of Scotland, and, by the way, I noticed 1447 that the President of the Board of Trade made no reference to Scotland. According to official figures, in 1924, when the Labour party was in office, there were 142,735 persons employed in the mining industry in Scotland. In September, 1927, that number was reduced to 104,529, a reduction of 38,206, or 26 per cent., just the proportion that Scotland as a whole sent to the War between August, 1914, and September, 1915, voluntarily. The output per shift worked in March, 1927, was 22.86 cwts. per person employed, and in September of this year it was 23.33 cwts., or an increase of almost half a cwt. per person employed, so that so far as the increase in output is concerned, the miners in Scotland have done what the Government asked them to do a year ago. The average wage per shift in March, 1927, was 10s. 3.21d., and in September, 1927, it was 9s. 3.70d., a reduction of practically one shilling per day. They increase output, they work longer hours, and the net result is a reduction in wages to the extent of about 1s. per day per person employed. The President of the Board of Trade took credit to himself or to the Government for the fact that there has been a reduction in the cost of production, but that is not true so far as Scotland is concerned. There is one shilling off the men's pay, but there is only, according to the official figures of the coalowners themselves, 2.41d. per ton reduction in the cost of production other than wages. I do not think that i3 very much to boast about, but that does not represent the whole of the evil position in which the Scottish miners are placed.
There is a net deficiency in the last month of ascertainment of £1,720,453, and I want the Minister responsible for the Mines Department to tell me how many coalowners in Scotland or anywhere else have gone into the Bankruptcy Court. While he states that they know of some, he will not tell us who or where they are, and I venture to say that it would be difficult for him to find any of the coalowners who are depending on the same sort of supply as the vast majority of the miners are. The net result of the Government's action last year has been to land the mining industry in the position in which it now finds itself, and I hope hon. Members opposite will not be led away by the somewhat glorious colour that the right hon. Gentleman the Presi- 1448 dent of the Board of Trade tried to throw upon the situation as it is likely to develop.
In reply to a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) one day this week, we were informed that there were 170 mines abandoned in Britain since and including 1924. The coal is not worked out. The Commission which sat to inquire into the duration of the coal fields told us that there are thousands of millions of tons of coal still capable of being produced in this country; but if this policy of the Government is to continue that coal will be lost. Curiously enough, I received an answer from the Secretary for Mines on the 10th November in which he told me that there were 145 mines in Scotland that had been abandoned during the same period. That leaves only 35 mines that have been abandoned for the rest of the country. I submit that those figures are not correct. In Lanarkshire alone, according to the answer which was given to me on the 10th November, 85 mines have been abandoned. So that, apparently, half the collieries that have been shut down in Britain during the last year have been shut down in the County of Lanark. I submit that those figures are inaccurate. I do not know whether they are given to us for political purposes or not, but certainly they have no other effect than that of humbugging the country generally.
I wish to draw the attention of the Government and of the House to the fact that the Government appointed a Commission nearly two years ago to inquire into the condition of the coal industry, and they chose to exclude the only persons who were really acquainted with the mining organisations of the country—the owners and the miners. The owners submitted a case to the Commission, and the miners submitted a case, but the Commission chose neither. The Commission condemned the present system, and anyone who reads the Commission's Report must agree that all the evidence that was submitted warranted the decision arrived at, that under the present system it is altogether impossible to satisfy the needs of the miners generally. The same is true of the Sankey Commission, which was the greater Commission. That Commission chose neither the owners' case nor the miners' case, but the Government repudiated the find- 1449 ings of the Commission and chose the coalowners' case. I have shown as far as Scotland is concerned what the working out of the coalowners' case has meant. I do not think it is unfair for us on this side of the House to claim that the Government, having chosen the coalowners' side of the case a year ago, must hold themselves responsible and they are entitled to be held responsible for the evil condition in which the country finds itself as far as the mining industry is concerned.
If the Government will not look upon us as pariahs in the industry, but as men who have some little knowledge regarding it; if there is any real desire to try to find a solution of the difficulty, whether by nationalisation or by unification or any other way, it is a mistake to imagine that we on this side have pinned our faith to nationalisation, and nothing else. We have time and time again said that if we had the power we would nationalise the mines. The present Government have the power, and they admit the need for something being done. They ask us to assist them, but when we offer assistance they repudiate us with the utmost appearance, at least, of contempt. A situation has arisen which makes it essential that not merely the mining industry but the industries dependent upon the mining industry require that political prejudice and political bias should be cast aside, and some attempt should be made to restore the coal industry to its former prosperous position, which would carry in its train a return to prosperous conditions in the country as a whole.
§ Mr. AUSTIN HOPKINSON
The hon. Member who has just spoken made remarks at the beginning of his speech which rather disarmed controversy, and I should like to return the very wholesome compliments that he paid to me. He made quite a moving peroration—I say this in all seriousness—but I doubt whether the end of his speech was quite fair to the Government. I do not think it is the case that the Government have turned down any useful suggestions from the Opposition or from The miners' unions with contempt, in any sense of that word. The difficulty which, I take it, the Government have had has been that no helpful suggestions have been put forward from the other side of the House. In the Debate on the Vote of Censure a 1450 short time ago, and so far in this Debate, we have had no sort of help from the other side as to what the Government are expected to do. It is unfair to accuse the Government—I hold no brief for the Government; I think in many respects they handled the situation extremely badly last year—and to say that they would not welcome any suggestion of any use at all put forward, no matter from what source it came. Experience must have shown the hon. Member himself that when suggestions have come from those who are intimately connected with the welfare of the miners, a peculiar degree of care and sympathy has been given to those suggestions by any Government which has been in power.
There is one further point in the hon. Member's speech to which I should like to draw his attention. He said that in the case of Scotland the reduction in the wages costs per ton was the equivalent of Is. per man per day. I accept his figures, because my own recollection is about the same figure. He also pointed out the reduction in what he called other costs of production, which he said had only been a mere fragment of the other amount. There, again, I accept his figures, but I think the House ought to understand how those other costs of production are made up. They involve, in the main, items which are in no way under the control of the colliery management or of the owner of the colliery. They include rates and taxes, timber and other things which the colliery owners would like to reduce, but they are not susceptible to reduction by the colliery owners. It is only right that one should point out that fact.
The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is a very disappointing debater in this House. On the last occasion when we had a coal Debate, he made some very remarkable statements, and I sent a special message to him saying that I was going to refute some of his statements and that he might like to listen to the discussion; but he did not turn up. Again, to-day, he has been definitely informed that I proposed to draw attention to some of the statements in his speech, but again we find him missing. It is with the greatest regret in these circumstances, that I have to break through a rule of this House and deal with the speech of the 1451 right hon. Gentleman in his unfortunate absence. He attempted to arouse a vast amount of emotion—convertible, I suppose, at par into votes on a subsequent occasion—about the unhappy condition of a vast number of men in the coal industry to-day. Every Member of this House knows that the condition of these men is terrible in the extreme, and the emotional picture which was painted by the right hon. Gentleman could be borne out by everyone who has had any intimate concern with the colliery districts.
In Durham, in parts of Northumberland, and in a great part of South Wales the conditions which he described do undoubtedly prevail. There are tens of thousands of men who are to-day without hope, because they realise, as this House must realise, that never again will there be work for them in the coal pits of this country. But it does not become the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs to take up their case and to arouse the emotion of the House about it, because if there is one man in the world who is responsible for the unhappy condition of the 200,000 or 250,000 miners to-day it is the right hon. Gentleman himself. Who are these men? They are the redundant men in the coal industry. Before the War we could turn out 270,000,000 tons of coal a year, and we could export from 70,000,000 to 90,000,000 tons, and we could do that with approximately 1,000,000 men. What was the condition under the right hon. Gentleman's regime under coal control. We had over 1,200,000 men producing less coal than 1,000,000 men produced before the War, although the appliances in the nits had been vastly improved in the interval. These unhappy 200,000 or 250,000 men, who have lost all hope, and have rightly lost all hope, in the coal industry, because never again will there be a job ready for them, are the redundant men who came into the industry owing to the ridiculous policy of the right hon. Gentleman.
Take another point in his speech. He made a great deal of play about the immense efficiency of the German coalmining industry. I admit that during the last few years the German coalmining industry, from the technical point of view, has been improved out of all knowledge. Before the War, as far 1452 as the actual mining was concerned, apart from the surface plant, the German mines were years, generations behind the coal mines of this country. What has enabled them to improve their conditions so immensely underground from the technical point of view? The constant troubles in our own coal industry, and the constant occasions on which British competition in neutral markets has been taken off the shoulders of the Germans, has enabled them to make the profits which alone can provide the source of better technical conditions and better technical machinery in the pits of Germany.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The hon. Member says "Nonsense." I hope he will explain himself later. It is not nonsense to say that the only source from which the technical improvement of the German mines could be brought about is the profits which have been earned there.
§ Mr. VARLEY
The inference is that the German coal industry has made more profits than the British coal industry in the last few years. To that I say Nonsense.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The hon. Member must fight that out with the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, who pointed out that the German coal industry has had abounding and enormous prosperity owing to a certain policy which they have adopted. I am more inclined to agree with the hon. Member who has just interrupted me than with the right hon. Gentleman, because the present situation of the Westphalian Coal Syndicate is that they are crying out to high Heaven for someone to come and help them to deal with those dreadful English who are capturing their markets. They are absolutely yelling out at the present time against those English people who are recapturing the markets which they lost during the strike. The German coal mines have, however, been marvellously improved during the last two years as compared with before the War, and the improvement has only been possible because of the fact that profits have been made and that there has been something with which to pay for the extra machinery and the improved machinery, whereas in this 1453 country, due to a certain extent to the arrangements made in 1921 and subsequently the supply of fresh capital coming into the industry has been, undoubtedly, considerably reduced, and to that extent the possibilities of reconstruction in a technical sense have been reduced in the coal pits of this country.
Another extraordinary mistake was made by the right hon. Gentleman. He was pointing out that some countries had increased their coal output and some countries had seriously diminished theirs—among the latter countries he put this degraded country of England—and, to my extreme amazement, he said that the output of coal in Poland, of all countries, had been reduced during the last few years The one key factor to the whole world's coal trade at the present time is the Polish Silesian coal, and nothing else. As far as our own industry is concerned, we could take on every other country in the world and beat them in neutral markets, and beat them in Germany, too; but the one bugbear to the whole coal trade of the world is the Polish Silesian coalfield. Here, again, whose fault is it that this has upset the coal trade of the world? Who was it, with that bright spirit, President Wilson, who rearranged the map of Europe which has produced this disaster? The situation of the Polish Silesian coalfield is this: Before the War—I know the coalfield well—it was being rapidly and well developed, largely by Germans, because a great part of the coalfield was in German territory, but even that part of the coalfield in Poland itself was being largely developed by Germans.
When the resettlement of Europe took place, what happened was that the best part of the Upper Silesian coalfield was taken by force from Germany and given to Poland. The Germans promptly retaliated by closing their frontiers to Polish coal. The effect of that was that the Polish Silesian coal lost its natural market, which was Central Europe. Much of the coal is of good quality indeed; not equal to Welsh steam coal, but equal to other steam coal which we produce. It is quite a decent quality of coal, and it is easily mined. Here, again, I differ with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. I do not know where he gets his facts, but he even suggested that this country had specially easy mining condi- 1454 tions. The conditions under which steam coal is raised in this country as compared with the conditions in the Polish Silesian coalfield are much in favour of the latter, and, when it comes to a discussion of wages, we have ascertained recently that the average wage per shift in Poland and Silesia for the men underground and on the surface is 3s. 5d. to 3s. 6d. a day, whereas the average wage in this country is at least 9s. per shift, and, possibly, a few pence more. But that is a digression.
The fact remains that, owing to the settlement of Europe after the War, for which the right hon. Gentleman is again very largely responsible, owing to that ridiculous settlement of the Polish Silesian coalfield, the coal itself was cut off from its natural markets in Central Europe. They formed the Danzig Corridor as a new outlet to the sea, and now Polish coal is flowing into Scandinavian and Baltic markets, and even further afield, subsidised to the extent of 4s. 6d. per ton by the Polish Government through its railway rates. How the right hon. Gentleman with his record can get up and throw blame on any man in this country for contributing to the troubles of the industry is a thing that baffles me. It is an effrontery which is not equalled by any other hon. Member of this House, and I hope never will be.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. SPENCER
This problem presents itself from two points of view, one, the human aspect, and the other, the economic. As regards the human side of the question, I should like to say that I think it ought now to be treated as a special problem, and that the Government should render every assistance possible for the purpose of conveying men from one locality to another. I know perfectly well that this is not an easy matter. I, myself, have made an attempt to get men from the Durham coalfield into the Nottinghamshire coalfield, and one realises the difficulty the men have of adapting themselves to new conditions. The conditions are altogether different. Men who have been used to one coalfield might be expected to adapt themselves readily to another Coalfield, but where the conditions vary so greatly it is not so easy, and I am sorry to say that men who have come from the Durham coalfield have not in 1455 some instances, been able to equip themselves- as other men who are accustomed to the coalfield. Without speaking derogatorily of the Durham miner, this has left a very bad effect, and the Durham miner in the Nottinghamshire coalfield to-day has not got that name which, I think, he would have if he was dealing with his own conditions.
This, undoubtedly, has militated against a rapid and substantial transfer of men from the Durham coalfield to the Nottinghamshire coalfield, which is opening up. I hope it will be overcome, and that the Government will render all the assistance they can to bring men from those localities where mines are closing to the districts where developments are going on. I admit that there is a very great deal of destitution and poverty in coal-mining areas. I have never known it worse since I was a boy. The conditions throughout the coalfields of Great Britain, from the point of view of destitution, poverty and anxiety, have not been exceeded for the last 40 or 45 years. I am not going to attempt to say where the blame lies; I content myself with saying that the Government should treat it as a special problem, give assistance where it is required and, instead of thrusting men on the rates, should make special provisions out of the national unemployment scheme for keeping these men until such time as they can get another job. Later on I will say where I think some of the money might come from for this purpose.
Now let me deal with the economic side of the question. Let me take the causes of our present difficulties and then, as far as I am able, point out the way I think we should go in order to rehabilitate the industry. In the forefront of the troubles of to-day undoubtedly are the series of stoppages that have taken place in the coalfields. Without attempting to allocate the blame for them, we have to-day to review the effects of the stoppages which have taken place not merely during the last four or five years, but over a longer period than that. Every time there is a stoppage in this industry, it has encouraged our competitors to exert themselves to capture the markets which we hitherto held, and the most serious aspect of that question is not merely the mining aspect. If the effects 1456 were confined to the mining industry alone, if no other evil consequences occurred, we might easily have recovered, but everybody who understands the question at all knows that the series of stoppages has greatly affected other industries, who have found an equal difficulty in getting back to normal conditions after their industry has been. seriously crippled for want of the fuel they require. The cumulative effect of this series of stoppages is realised to-day in the awful and sorry plight in which the coal industry finds itself.
The second cause is, undoubtedly, substitutes. In studying the question of substitutes, one has to ask to what extent is it possible now for coal to enter again into successful competition with these substitutes, which tend to oust it? Nothing could be more disastrous to the coal trade, more disastrous to men and masters and to the general public, than to get a kind of fatalistic idea that the coalmining industry is not capable of expansion. The coal industry is capable and susceptible of very great expansion, if we could get certain things. If we could get a guarantee of supplies, a stability of supplies and deal with competitive rates, which, I think, could be arranged, we can still bring back to the mining industry that standard of prosperity which we all hope to attain.
The next cause is this—and I am amazed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has not touched upon it, as it is one of the things he has been saying outside with which I agree—the currencies of Europe. I am not a financier, but I believe the greatest possible injury has been done to the export trade of this country by a policy of too rapid deflation. If we had done in 10 years what we have attempted to do in four, the export trade of this country would not have been hit so seriously. France and Belgium, who are serious competitors, have not stabilised their currency in harmony with the gold standard, but at a point which gives them every possible advantage in their export trade, whereas we have an advantage as far as imports are concerned, but not as far as our export trade is concerned. There is not the least doubt, as far as the coal trade is concerned, 1457 that going back to the gold standard has had a. serious and disastrous effect upon our trade.
As to the question of competitive marketing, it is for us to try to understand the question, endeavour to seek some solution, and to use our minds to find a way of escape, and not to indulge in mere recrimination, which does us no good, serves no purpose and is of no value. What we want is not mere destructive criticism and recrimination, but the constructive mind and thought, endeavouring to find such a solution which will commend itself to all who are engaged in industry. But we cannot ignore the competitive rates and prices of those who are seriously ousting us in the European markets. I would like to reinforce what has already been said by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson), because whatever we may think of him and his doctrines and views, there is this to be said for him, that he has mentioned certain facts regarding the export trade that not a single Member of the House "an refute, and, as far as he has given us facts, it behoves every man who wants to find a solution to give very careful attention to those facts.
Let me come to the position of our serious competitors in the European markets. The hon. Member was not quite right when he said that the rate in Poland was about 3s. 5d. per day, but he was within a reasonable margin. The exact figures are that it costs 3s. 5d. per ton to get the coal, and the wage of the men is 3s. 9d. per shift—that is the average wage in Poland. The output in Poland per man is exceedingly high—25 cwts. In the Ruhr it is 22 cwts. per man, and in this country for the June quarter it was 20.5 cwts. They are bringing coal to the pithead at 6s. 6d. per ton and bringing it to the Danzig port for 3s. 4d. per ton, being subsidised by the Government, which has got some of its money from this country with which it subsidises the railways. Thus at the Danzig port it is 9s. 10d. per ton. We have got to face that serious problem, and it is no use turning to each other and saying, "You are to blame." I do not care who was to blame in the past. We have got now to get together as men in the industry and see how far it is humanly possible to pull ourselves out of the difficulties 1458 which are surrounding us. It is not only with regard to Poland that I want to mention figures. I want to refer to the price paid for coal in other countries, some of which enter into serious competition with us, and others not so seriously. In the Rhur the wage is 8s. per day, in Belgium about 6s. 2d., and in France 5s. 2d. per day. I do not know what would happen to us in the European markets if the output per man in France equalled that of Poland. Certainly the whole of our trade would be gone, but, happily for us, both in Belgium and France the output per man does not attain more than about 14 cwts. to 15 cwts. per day. I believe in France it is 13 cwts., and in Belgium about 11. The cost per ton in France is 9s. 7d. per ton and the average wage of the men is 5s. 2d., while, taking our June quarter, the wage in Great Britain was 10s. 3d. per shift and the cost 10s. 10d. per ton.
Those are facts which no one can dispute, and when we come really to look at the question of how it presents itself from the point of view of the consumption and sale in England, we are maintaining our markets here, but that is not enough. We have only got the 1913 standard market, due in some measure to the very fact that the heavy industries of this country are not burning the coal that they ought to be burning. The second factor is that domestic coal is not being sold in the quantities that we might have been selling it. There has been a substitute in gas. It may be said that if you have gas fires the consumption equals that of coal, but everybody who has anything to do with gas fires knows in certain circumstances that if you have, say, a doctor's surgery now he has the gas fire lighted just before he comes in and puts it out just before he goes out. That applies to many a dining-room to-day where they used to have fires burning the whole of the day. The consequences are that, instead of domestic fuel attaining the standard of the sales in 1913, there has been, comparing the number of houses then with the houses now, a very serious shrinkage in the consumption of coal per house. But bad as this is as far as domestic coal is concerned, domestic coal is the one bright spot in the whole trade. It is the only part of the trade that is paying to-day.
Before I go on to deal with what I consider to be some of the possible ways 1459 of attaining the trade again, I would like to dispel any idea that for the moment there is room for a quarrel between ourselves and the master class. I would like to quote some figures circulated by Mr. Cook, so that it cannot be said that the figures I am using have been presented to me from someone else of a suspicious character or nature. The figures are those of the auditor of the whole of the district, and they are figures over the name of Mr. Cook. He has had to show—as he should show, for there is no disgrace to him in showing it, though it reveals the sorry plight of the industry—that in every district in Great Britain the owners are losing money. We may complain about the owners and say that their neglect of the mines has contributed to this unhappy state of affairs, and that they have not built up the reserves sufficient to find capital when it was required. You can have all that, but then we come back to face the realities of the question which are that they are losing money heavily everywhere. Nowhere is that brought out more effectively than in the comparison which I would like to give the House of the amount of money which is being paid in the industry and the amount we were paying some time ago.
I will quote from a pamphlet which was written by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) many years ago, when he wrote on the nationalisation of the mines. In that pamphlet there are some very interesting figures. I give them in no derogatory sense; but for one purpose only, and that is to show the great comparison between that time and now, and to show that at the present time the men in the pits are getting a far greater share of the money that is going in than they did at that particular period, if these figures are correct. He says that on 1st July, 1917, best Northumberland coal was selling at 14s. 9d., best Durham gas coal at 14s. 6d. and Rhondda No. 3 at from 19s. to 20s. per ton. Then he goes on to say that the cost of labour in bringing a ton of coal to the surface naturally varies very considerably between different districts. He says that the cost of labour at a Welsh steam colliery in raising about 19,000 tons a fortnight from one six feet six inches seam was put at 5s. 4d. per ton. In the County of Durham it was 3s. 3d. Then there is a figure from the 1460 colliery manager's pocket book showing that over 15 years the average was 4s. 7d. per ton. Suppose I take 4s. 6d. as the average for that particular moment. That has been the cost of labour per ton, and they got sales at 14s. 9d. per ton. Compare that with what we have at the present time. In Northumberland alone the pit-head labour costs in September were 7s. 8d. per ton, and the sales in Northumberland were 11s. 3d. per ton.
That brings home to us more forcibly that anything else that if at this moment the situation in the industry is bad, as it is, we are at least getting what there is in the industry, and therefore, it serves no good purpose really to turn round and condemn the owners for the present state of affairs. Everybody will admit, and they know it perfectly well, that at the moment thousands of pounds are being taken out of pockets of the coalowners. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I regret to hear that from the Member for one of the Durham Divisions who knows full well that the treasurer of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain has admitted that the coal-owners of Durham are paying in the region of £184,000 a month in order to maintain the minimum wage. Why deny these facts?
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I have never attempted to deny the fact which my hon. Friend has stated, but he certainly forgets that the coalowners in Durham in the past had as much as 100 per cent. dividend. They cannot have it all ways. Everybody admits that the coal trade is a fluctuating quantity, and they ought to have prepared for it.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I give the hon. Member a present of all that. Whatever the past has been, let us recognise what the fact is now. Everybody will recognise the fact, and whoever will come down to-the real truth has to admit that the losses are serious, taking them right throughout the coalfields. Are not these figures correct? They are not mine, but the figures of Mr. Cook, and were circulated by him. He says that for July the loss in Scotland was 1s. 9d. per ton, in Northumberland Is. 3d., in Durham 1s. 3d., in South Wales about 1s., and it has now risen to 1s. 3d.; in Yorkshire 5d., in Derbyshire 1s. 6d., South Derbyshire 1s., Leicestershire 1.95d., Warwickshire 1.53d., Lancashire and Cheshire 1461 1s. 4.88d., North Stafford Is. 8d., Cannock Chase 27d., and North Wales 5.67d. The figures are worse for the next month.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
Can the hon. Gentleman give us the costs other than wages, or is he only interested in that?
§ Mr. SPENCER
I am interested in bringing back the industry to a standard of prosperity. Surely if we have got an agreement, apart from its local character, to the principles of which we have previously given willing consent how can we complain? Everybody knows that if there is higher prosperity and if the coalowners get a higher return on their investments that prosperity will be reflected in higher wages for the workers. [Interruption.] I have always had the courage to face facts. But that has nothing to do with the point I set out to make. Surely if any body of men ought to be able to get up and give the House the benefit of their experience and of constructive ideas which would lead to improvement, the men who are representing the miners in this House ought to be able to do it. I challenge them to do it in regard to some of the districts and some of the pits. We know perfectly well, when we come down to the truth, that very few of us are able to make suggestions regarding many pits, that is, suggestions which, if adopted, would effect a great improvement. We are baffled by the problem, and the sooner we admit it the better for us, because then we can turn our attention to finding ways and means of getting out of the difficulty.
I hope to make one or two suggestions which will be of a constructive kind. In the forefront I put selling agencies. I am amazed to find that in some quarters amongst the miners' representatives there is an outcry against the adoption of selling agencies. That opposition passes my comprehension. The whole of the advantage—there has been an advantage—of the change of hours and the reduced cost of production has gone to the British consumer for lack of co-ordination and co-operation amongst those who have been selling the coal. If we want to derive, as we ought to derive, some real advantage from our own endeavour, we have to stop the foolish and suicidal competition which is going on in the 1462 selling of coal to-day. I make no apology to the British consumer or anyone else when I say that we have a right to demand for our coal a price which will give to the investments⁁[Interruption.] Am I to take it from that inter ruption that every other investment but ours is to have a return? Hon. Members had better wait until I complete my sentence and they will then be able to judge better. I make no apology for charging for coal a price which will give to investments the average of profits that others get, and give to the worker the average remuneration that other workers in other trades in Great Britain can get. If the owners form selling agencies with that object, to protect themselves against the suicidal competition which is leading to bankruptcy and the destruction of the trade, I, as one individual, will do my utmost to assist them in establishing such agencies, not to exploit and bleed the British public but to obtain a price for the commodity which is commensurate with the legitimate demands that are made upon the industry. To-day we are not getting that price. The Government have been condemned for not doing this thing and not doing the other thing. The Government can whitewash itself, but here on the fourth page of a Miners' Federation document are words which will ever condemn our side for not availing itself of the opportunities of the Samuel Commission Report.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I was at that time one of the miners, and I am to-day, and I have done just as much service to the miners as any man who tries to cry me down. These are the words in a report of a deputation of owners and miners to the Prime Minister, and they stand as an everlasting charge against our own incompetency and inability to seize a. golden opportunity that was presented to us. There attended the meeting to which I refer, the right hon. Stanley Baldwin, the right hon. Sir A. Steel-Maitland, Colonel Lane Fox, Mr. Evan Williams, Sir Adam Nimmo, Mr. Chawshaw, and Mr. Lee, Mr. Herbert Smith, Mr. Richards, Mr. Richardson, and Mr. A. J. Cook; and these are the words:The Government have considered with great care the Report and the conclusions of the Royal Commission. The conclusions 1463 reached by the Commission do not in all respects accord with the views held by the Government, and some of the recommendations contain proposals to which, taken by themselves, the Government are known to be opposed. Nevertheless, in face of the unanimous Report of the Commission, and for the sake of an agreed settlement, the Government for their part will be prepared to undertake such measures as may be required of the State to give the recommendations effect, provided that those engaged in this industry, with whom the decision primarily rests, agree to accept the Report and to carry on the industry on the basis of those recommendations. It is our hope that in that event, by the co-operation of all parties, it may be possible to find in the Report a lasting solution of the problem.When we condemn the Government, we should at least remember those words. At the moment there was presented to us such an opportunity to put the industry upon a sound financial basis as will probably not come to us again for many a day. I pass on from selling agencies to the question of production. I said earlier that I believed much could be done in the direction of expanding the market. But that can be done only if we apply to the mining industry all the achievements of science and of mechanical skill that come our way. In my own county I am watching an experiment with a great deal of interest. For the first time there have been installed at a new pit what are known as electrical picks. I am given to understand by the colliery manager that the output per man at headings where it was very hard work indeed under ordinary circumstances, is at least 50 to 100 per cent, higher than at would have been with hand picks. I am not foolish enough to draw from that the inference that that system can be adopted under every condition, for I know it cannot.
In the coal mining industry, for some inexplicable reason, either God or nature has from time to time played us tricks which are not comprehensible. I have read only this week about a pit the closing of which is threatened. One pit in the same seam and belonging to the same company has been closed. There are pit number 1 here, pit number 2 in the middle, and pit number 3 at the other end of the same seam. All the pits are contiguous; there is no break between them, unless it be of a geological character. The pit in the middle is 1464 making a handsome profit. The one that has had to be closed down was losing 7s. a ton, and the third is losing 2s. to 3s. a ton. Neither the manager nor anyone else can change conditions of that kind. It is not a question of mechanical appliances bringing about an improvement, because the pit in the middle, for some inexplicable reason, yields only 16 per cent, to 18 per cent, of slack, whilst the pit next door yields 35 per cent, of slack, and neither man nor master can reduce that percentage. The experience has had the ill effect of bringing down the average price from 13s. and 14s. to 9s. 8d. a ton. The man who has no knowledge of mining cannot understand conditions like those. It is only the man on the spot who is in a position to give an authoritative opinion as to what improvement, if any, can be made. Notwithstanding such cases as these I do believe, speaking generally, that by the application of such scientific and mechanical means as are available we can increase the output per man and in that way bring down the price. Then I think it would be possible to win back a very great deal of the bunker trade. Twenty-one million tons of coal were consumed for the bunker trade in 1913, and only 13,000,000 tons are required to-day. It is apparent, therefore, to everyone interested in the trade, that there is a possible market there still, if we can only supply the commodity at a reasonable rate to compete successfully with the foreigner.
I wanted to deal with trustification, but I will leave that question and turn to another matter. I have been most reluctantly forced, in an attempt to understand the problem from this particular angle, to a conclusion out of harmony with my preconceived notions. Where are we hit? In the heavy trade, in the iron and steel trade. Iron is coming into this country in ever-increasing quantities. You cannot have iron and steel coming in unless indirectly there come into the country large quantities of coal. The Trade Unions Congress this year realised the gravity of the importation of commodities which did not admit of fair competition, and the Congress framed the following resolution:This Congress recognising that the importation of commodities manufactured in other countries under conditions that are below those obtaining in this country, may 1465 have a detrimental effect upon the conditions established by trade unions at home …The words "may have" were taken out, and the words "is having" were substituted. It will be seen that the Congress acknowledged the fact that there are importations of commodities which are seriously affecting the standard of living of workmen in this country. I wish to touch upon two or three industries which have a serious bearing upon the coal trade. I do not wish to elaborate the point, but I would like to say something about iron and steel and certain other articles. Let me take, first of all, the case of glass. At present 20 per cent, of the men in the glass trade are unemployed, and I am given to understand that every hundredweight of glass imported into this country represents two cwts. to two and a-half cwts. of coal which thus comes in indirectly. That is to say, it takes two tons to two and a-half tons of coal to manufacture one ton of glass. Yet we have all this unemployment in the glass trade at home.
I would also call attention to the fact that there is a progressive increase in the quantities that are coming in, while, on the other hand, there is a decline in the quantities of our coal going to the country which is the most serious competitor we have in the case of iron and steel. In 1925, we find that 938,000 cwts. of plate and sheet glass came into this country. It went up in 1926 to 1,111,000 cwts., and in 1927 it had further increased to 1,240,000 cwts. In the case of glass jars and bottles, we find that, in 1925, 1,079,000 gross came into this country, while in 1926 that figure was increased to 1,219,000 gross, and in 1927 to 1,340,000 gross. In the case of paper I am given to understand that anywhere from four and a-half tons to five tons of coal are required in the manufacture of one ton of paper, according to its particular quality. In 1925, 11,900,000 cwts. of paper came into this country. In 1926, 13,000,000 cwts. were imported, and in 1927, 14,000,000 cwts.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I am going to deal with that point in a moment, and I am going to show that, from the trade union point of view, and from the very expres- 1466 sions of the Labour party itself, it is necessary that we ought to do something more than talk in the House of Commons if we are going to rehabilitate the trade of this country. Let me, however, go on to deal with the imports of iron and steel. The figures here are alarming, whatever anyone may say. In the first nine months of 1925, 2,041,000 tons of manufactured iron and steel came into this country. In 1926, that figure had increased to 2,400,000 tons, and in 1927 it went up to the alarming figure of 3,500,000 tons—an increase in the two years of 1,500,000 tons of iron and steel coming into this country. At the rate of four tons of coal to each ton, that represents an increase of 6,000,000 tons of coal indirectly coming into this country.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must ask hon. Members not to interrupt. They must see for themselves how it lengthens speeches to do so. I hope hon. Members will have some consideration for their colleagues who wish to take part in the Debate.
§ Mr. SPENCER
It is disconcerting to have interruptions when one is dealing with figures in connection with a serious matter of this kind. I wish to ask those who have passed resolutions calling for a higher standard of living for the working people: Has it not been laid down by the Labour party and the trade union movement that if any other country is manufacturing goods under conditions which do not admit of fair competition, then there should be not merely safeguarding, but a prohibition of those goods coming into this country? But it is known perfectly well that you cannot prohibit goods in this way. If the Labour party were in power to-morrow, and if a case were established of goods coming into this country from Belgium or France, which had been manufactured under conditions not admitting of fair competition, hon. Members know perfectly well that they would not prohibit the entry of those good. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because it would mean an end of friendly relations with the country whose goods were prohibited. Therefore we have to adopt some other means. Let us look at the wages of the men working in the blast furnaces. They are paid 38 pence per hour in the United States. In England, they are paid 15 pence per hour, in France 1467 7d. per hour, and in Belgium our most serious competitor, the wages are 6½d. per hour. [Interruption.] It does not matter what the cause may be. The fact remains that iron and steel are coming in from Belgium in ever increasing quantities, and the wages in Belgium are 6½d., as against 15d. in England.
I put it to those who are standing for a higher standard of living for the British working man: How can the British working man be expected to compete under such a handicap? Give equality in efficiency of plant, and equality in management and then give the Belgian worker only half the wages of the British worker, and allow him to work longer hours, in degrading poverty. Can you expect the British working men to maintain a high standard if he has to run an unequal race of that character? I say here that in my opinion you will do more to assist the mining community by safeguarding iron and steel, and glass and these other commodities than by any mere dabbling with regard to the coal situation. The hon. Member for King's Norton Division (Mr. Dennison) has written a series of articles for the "Morning Post." Among other things he said that 100,000 of these men could be given employment if we could only capture the trade, but what is his final solution? He says he does not believe in tinkering with tariffs. He says the League of Nations ought to step in, and if they find goods being manufactured under conditions which do not permit of fair competition, they ought to prohibit those goods. Is not that a more ruthless form of Protection than a tariff? What I am advocating in regard to iron and steel and these other commodities is that they can well be protected, and that, if protected they will give untold employment to men in the glass and paper trades, the men in the furnaces, and the men in the coal pits. In that way, I contend a greater measure of prosperity will come about, and there will be less unemployment, less anxiety, less poverty, less distress, and more of that peace and happiness which we all want to bring to this country.
§ Mr. VARLEY
I do not wish to say a word upon the Protectionist policy of the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Spencer) although I do remember sitting at the 1468 feet of a Gamaliel who taught me that, so far as trade is concerned, your capacity to sell is at all times limited by the amount which you can buy. I do however wish to say a word or two about those other aspects of the subject with which he dealt, namely production and selling agencies. I was disappointed to hear from the President of the Board of Trade nothing more than a passing reference—benevolent as I judged it to be—to what he described as the attempt to set up a selling agency in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, and Derbyshire. Like the hon. Member for Broxtowe, I make no apology for continuing my support of this principle. I believe firmly that we have' just as much right as any other industry in the country to take such steps as will ensure the same standard of living for our men as that enjoyed by other grades of industry. But I do not agree with the last speaker than certain steps are absolutely necessary in order to preserve the coal trade—at any rate, not in the part of the world from which we both come. I want to dispel the illusion, which perhaps the House has gathered, that the coal industry generally is in immediate danger of complete disintegration.
The hon. Member for Broxtowe quoted from a document of the Miners' Federation showing that in recent history every district of the country had been losing money. That is true. It is true even of the district from which we come. But he forgot to mention that with regard to pits where I believe he has recently been negotiating—pits Nos. 1, 2 and 3—that, there, in 1926–27, with six months' stoppage in the accounts, with six months of the working of his agreement, these people have actually made £96,000 profit more than they made in the previous year. This particular firm since 1918 has distributed in bonus shares £846,700—equal to 238 per cent, of their capital. In addition to these bonus shares, they have distributed £780,700 in dividends. No, the condition of the coal industry is not such that we have to approach it from the point of view that it is so desperate that we must do anything to save it. It is not quite as bad as that. If I am to be told that I am quoting an isolated instance, let me take another pit. I have just quoted New Hucknall, and the hon. Member for Broxtowe can check the figures if he likes. Take the 1469 case of Butterley. Since 1923, they have distributed £1,252,000 in bonus shares, and £600,000 during this year, in addition to 15 per cent, free of tax as dividends. Seven firms in our county, embracing more than half the total men employed there, have paid this year £847,000 more in dividends than the previous year.
§ Mr. VARLEY
My trouble is what it always has been in our part of the world. It is not that we cannot wrest enough from the consumer; it is that we have never had the proportion which ought to accrue to the men who work. If they are losing money, I would then say that the very lucrativeness and richness of our part of the world should not accrue to those people only, but should go to the men who are the real producers of the coal. I sincerely hope the Government will not be dismayed by the newspaper announcements that we are going to hold up the public to ransom. If we wanted to do so, we could find sufficient precedents and examples in several other phases of industry. We are not going to do that. It is not our intention. Our intention is, that we are going to have more money for the men. Turning to production—and I will not waste the time of the House for more than a few minutes—I am rather surprised that the hon. Member who preceded me did not call upon this Government as well as upon the Members on these benches to avoid recriminations, to avoid the apportionment of blame. It was very wise counsel, perhaps very useful, but the rest of his speech was an apportionment of blame. In my part of the world he said, "Why cannot we all get together and make our contribution?" The Members on these benches are well able to make a contribution. I am not allowed to do so. In my county there is not much unemployment at the moment. We have plenty of underemployment. The unemployment figure is 1.18, but we have 300 men unemployed, and they are victims.
§ Mr. VARLEY
It is rather singular that the hon. Member should not find that out until this late hour, inasmuch as he has addressed himself to a charge that I 1470 ought to be on his platform, because our opinions were similar until, at all events, late August. He knows. He has explained to the House and to the world that Mr. Varlay was against the dispute. I went back and told him and those sitting with him that the only difference between him and me was that I chose to make my voice heard inside and he chose to go outside. In the month of November no two men were more clearly united than the hon. Member and myself. I frankly admit that. But he says that I am responsible for recrimination and victimisation.
§ Mr. VARLEY
This letter, dated 2nd December, reached me this morning. It is addressed to a certain man at the Lowmain Pit:We are informed that you presented yourself on Tuesday evening "—(a week last night)—" at a meeting of the New Hucknall workmen. Certain representatives of the Spencer Union who work in the Lowmain Pit were also invited to attend this meeting, but it was not intended for workmen from the Lowmain Seam. We are informed that you attempted to refute certain facts and figures presented before the meeting with the intention, no doubt, of disrupting the meeting. This is not sound policy, and you will be wise to change your attitude, or we shall have to consider the advisability of further employing you at these pits.I have 17 similar cases. [An HON. MEMBER: "From whom is it? "] It is from the New Hucknall Colliery Company, Nottinghamshire, and signed "H. B. Stevens." The only difference between this case and the others is, that in the others they are not so candid. Anyone who does not subscribe to the philosophy of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Broxtowe has to submit to this. What is this man's crime as stated by the manager himself He attempted deliberately to refute certain facts and figures." That is all that he did. And this firm which has made a dividend and profit which I have instanced has already taken 6d. a ton out of one pit, and is now attempting to do this sort of thing with respect to another. These are the men who are asked not to indulge in recriminations, and this is how in Nottinghamshire we are going to solve our problem! I sincerely hope that the beautiful sentiments which animated the utterance of the hon. Member will cause him to put them into practice when he gets back 1471 to Nottinghamshire and then perhaps we may, in Nottinghamshire, be able to work out our own salvation.
§ Captain FANSHAWE
I cannot enter into the differences of opinion of the hon. Member for Broxtowe Mr. Spencer) and the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley). They come from the same place; they know each other very well; they were working—as the hon. Member has told us—hand and glove, and I do not really know why they parted, and how they parted.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Captain FANSHAWE
There was one thing which the hon. Member for Mansfield said which attracted my attention very much, and that was, that he seemed to complain about the great profits that were being made at two pits. I cannot, for myself, see how anybody engaged in the coal-mining industry can complain about the profits, because the position in the mining industry is so arranged that where big profits are made the men get larger pay. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] We cannot get away from the fact. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that 85 per cent, of the profits go to the workers in the coal-mining industry. We have not got this state of affairs in any other industry as far as I know, at any rate, not by Statute. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman opposite always interjects the same kind of remarks which do not bear on the case at all, so, perhaps, for once in a way, he will have a. little less to say. I wish to enter upon this question from the human side, if I may. I wish to say, with very great respect, that sometimes when we are having these Debates in the House of Commons we talk so much about figures, and numbers and tons, and so on, that we really rather overlook the fact that at bedrock and at the bottom of the whole thing lies the prosperity of a very large number of our fellow-subjects in this country, their wives and their families.
I myself believe—I may be challenged or laughed at by hon. Gentlemen op- 1472 posite; I do not care about that—that the Miners' Federation, having had a very great chance for many years past to look after the affairs of the miners of the country in a proper industrial way, have failed. I believe hon. Gentlemen opposite are very largely to blame in this matter. I believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have given splendid services in the old days as the leaders of the miners of this country, failed when they allowed the minority movement to capture the Miners' Federation of this country. They allowed it to happen. They would not stand to their guns, and now they are regretting it. I know that the best of them regret it. I know that all hon. Members opposite and the tried leaders of the Miners' Federation bitterly regret it. Every miner in the country bitterly regrets having been sold into the hands and power of Mr. A. J. Cook throughout 1925 and 1926. All the time that these men were being persecuted by this man Cook not a single hon. Gentleman opposite got up to say one word in defence of the men who elected him to his high position.
What is the good now of hon. Gentlemen coming here and throwing Votes of Censure at the Government? They are throwing Votes of Censure which will rebound on themselves, and rebound on themselves in every mining village of the country. There is a great reaction going on among the miners, at any rate among the miners whom I have the honour to represent in this House. [Interruption.] These jeers and sneers of hon. Members cannot do any good. It is a serious point that I am presenting. The men that I represent, at any rate, are looking to some other form of union which will, in the first place, be non-political. [Interruption.] Again, we we have the jeers and sneers of hon. Members on the benches opposite. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will say, how can trade unions possibly be non-political? I go a long way with them in that. The Miners' Union, perhaps, cannot be non-political because the House of Commons for years past has interfered in the mining problems of the country and has placed on the Statute Book many laws governing the mining industry. There is not an hon. Member opposite who does not know better than I do that at every lodge meeting of the Miners' Federation-politics are spoken from beginning to 1473 end, and only politics. No industrial affairs are discussed, and, further than that, the middle-aged men and the older men do not go to these meetings.
What I am striving for in my own constituency is the introduction of this industrial non-political union which will enable the men to go to their lodge meetings and, first and foremost, talk about industrial affairs and the great industry in which they work. After all, their prosperity depends entirely upon that industry. What is the good of throwing the whole of the industrial part to one side and talking politics—how to kick out the Baldwin Government or the nasty Tories, or something like that? It will not help the prosperity of these men and their wives and families by one jot or tittle. If under this new union, which is growing in strength and which will succeed, we have, first of all, these industrial questions discussed at lodge meetings, and then political questions as they come up against the industrial questions of the union—if these lodges and branches can afterwards meet the owners as experts in the industry, and they agree to call upon the Government to repeal the Eight Hours Act, if that is the wish of the industry and is going to be for the betterment of the industry, there is no reason why they should not be so. If the experts on both sides find that anything is going to be the best for the industry they should not stop at anything. Whatever happens, do not let us have any more slogans. Do not let us have nationalisation, passed by the Labour party in annual meeting at Blackpool. It is only a slogan. It has never yet succeeded anywhere in the world where it has been tried. In Bavaria, immediately after the War, a Socialist German Government took the pits away from nationalisation and turned them back again to private ownership. If the miners and the owners can come to the Government of the day agreed on a policy of what is necessary for the industry, what Government is going to say them nay, so long as it does not interfere with the great national questions of the country? There will be strength. There will be the proper sort of co-operation that we must have.
We have a very great man, a very great and tried trade union leader at the head of this industrial, non-political miners' 1474 union. He is Mr. Havelock Wilson. He has far more power to stop the trade of this country than any other trade union leader has or probably will have, because he controls the shipping of the country. All the time hon. Gentlemen opposite were talking about a strike threat and the final realisation of the general strike, this leader, this patriotic man, stood out against them. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have abused him. The Trade Union Congress tried to disaffiliate him and so on. [An HON. MEMBER: "Overloading ships!"] That is another question altogether. If I tried to speak upon the question of overloaded ships sailing from Cardiff to a foreign port I should be ruled out of Order. He knows quite well that this form of union is for the benefit of the workers in the country, as well as for the benefit of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Their record is bad. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite went to the Leeds Conference in 1917 to try to set up a Soviet in this country. Hon. Gentlemen opposite started a small cloud in the sky no bigger than a man's hand—the threat of a general strike. They set up a Council of Action and tried to dictate to the Government. That is their record. This black cloud enlarged until it burst in 1926. They with their temerity would not rescue the miners and the country, but trusted to Mr. Cook; and the depression in the mining industry now is due to the action which the leaders took in 1926. It is no good blinking this fact, and it is no good talking about hours of work or anything else, because the fundamental reason of our trouble is the action that started with hon. Gentlemen opposite and their friends in the summer of 1926, namely, the general strike and the coal stoppage.
There is only one other point which I wish to make That is the point made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Broxtowe with regard to the heavy trades of this country. In this respect I do, as a back bencher, appeal to the Government to reconsider the whole question of the safeguarding of the heavy industries. Do not let us, as a Government, with all our power, be dragged into slogans about Free Trade or anything else. We do not want slogans. Slogans are hateful and always will be. Do let us now, when we are in power, consider the trouble with regard to the coal mining industry. 1475 Let us look upon the whole thing from a new point of view, and let the Government receive the experts in the heavy industries and in any other industry where our men are being put out of employment because of the use of cheap labour and long hours by workmen abroad, particularly in Belgium. We want to keep up our standard both in pay and hours. Therefore, I do ask that the whole thing should receive further consideration. Let us sink all that prejudice about Protection and Free Trade. Let the Liberal party even review the whole question again, and do not let them tie themselves to a Free Trade policy. Let us get back to the human side, and let us consider this question, whether we are safeguarding our heavy industries or any other where there is unfair competition, from the point of view of the prosperity and the happiness of the workers.
We heard from the President of the Board of Trade that many steps are going to be taken and are being taken to ease the load of the unemployed. I want to go further. I want to deal with the expansion of employment. I want to put men in employment; if we did that we should 'have far less talk about Unemployment Insurance Bills and juvenile centres and the rest of it, which really cannot do anything. I appeal earnestly to the Government to consider this question of safeguarding our heavy industries and any other that they know where safeguarding is most needed.
§ Mr. JOHN
The hon. Member who has just sat down has delivered a very long diatribe on the leaders of the trade union movement and upon Members of this House, and in the same breath he asks if there is any cause to justify a Vote of Censure. I think the justification for the Vote is fairly seen in the deplorable conditions of the mining industry, for the existence of which, I think, the Government are largely, if not entirely, responsible. One of the functions of Government is to look after the interests of the community, but in this respect the Government have miserably failed. They have concerned themselves with legislating for the promotion of the welfare of a class only, rather than legislating for the promotion of the welfare of the whole community. Their slavish 1476 adherence to the mineowners, their contempt for the welfare of the miners, their disregard for the future of the mining industry has resulted not only in ruin and desolation to the homes of the miners, and devastation to the mining towns and villages, but in bringing one of the basic industries of the country almost to the verge of ruin. Yet, in order to get a discussion upon the mining problem, it was necessary to move a Vote of Censure upon the Government. The seriousness of the problem has arrested the attention of everyone who has any regard for this country, but, presumably, the seriousness of the problem has failed to arrest the attention of the Government. Indeed, the Prime Minister has shown that he is indifferent to the problem in a very ingenious way—not by justifying his action, but by refusing to face the consequences fully. He took refuge in silence. Evidently, he believes in the proverb that silence is golden on occasions.
It is unfortunate that he did not show equal wisdom in 1926, when the coal-owners were waging an unequal war with the miners. He was very voluble then, and, as the result of the pressure of the coalowners, volume after volume of the OFFICIAL BEPORT was filled with his eloquence. The Prime Minister, when he does not seek refuge in silence, argues, as he has done this evening, that the industry should be left to work out its own salvation, that it should be left to the coalowners, a body which even the Government's Press admits is a body of ineptitudes They argue that this is not a political question, as if economic questions have no political implications. The situation of the mining industry, an industry that has played so important a part in the economic life of the country is unsafe and unsound; and to the extent that the mining industry is uneconomic, unsafe and unsound, as we have already heard in regard to the other heavy industries, the dependent industries are unsafe and. uneconomic too. The Prime Minister and the Government in placing party considerations and sectional advantages before the social and political life of the country are not only deserving of a Vote of Censure, but forfeit the esteem and regard of every honest and intelligent citizen. The Prime Minister asked the miners in 1926 to face realities. The Government and the coalowners have 1477 failed to realise that change in economic conditions brings with it new problems. They have gone on blindly and foolishly assuming that the problems of 20 years ago in the mining industry were the problems of to-day, and applying the old methods of solution, such as increased hours and reduced wages, that failed in the past.
The President of the Board of Trade denies that they ever gave us any guarantee with regard to better conditions in the industry as a result of the Eight Hours Act. All he said was that he informed the House that it would be for the best. Take the unemployment question. Has the increased hours brought any relief at all in the mining industry? He justly argued that the unemployment problem is one that affects the whole of industry, and, when comparisons are made, it is found that unemployment is on a much higher percentage in the counties where mining is predominant than in the other counties. The percentage for Carnarvonshire, Glamorganshire, and Monmouthshire is 27 as against 10 per cent, for the rest of Wales. The unemployment problem in the mining industry is a very tragic one, because of the unique conditions under which the miners live. They are living in mining valleys segregated from all other industries. Mining is their sole means of livelihood, and there are no other avenues available. The result is that there is no opportunity at all for them to be provided with work.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has been describing the conditions of the local authorities in the mining areas. The average increase in rates of the local authorities in South "Wales is over 100 per cent., and they cannot provide anything for the unemployed man. He goes to the board of guardians, and, as a result of the retrogressive policy of this Government in introducing laws to depose guardians, there is restriction in the payment of parish relief, and no able-bodied workman is able to get relief at all. He can go to the Employment Exchange, but he gets no benefit there. The door is closed against him, because he has been too long unemployed. He cannot go to the shopkeeper, because half the shopkeepers are already in the throes of bankruptcy. Every door is 1478 closed against him. Under-employment is another serious factor, so far as the miner is concerned. The general tendency of industry is to get better. Employment is increasing, but so far as the mining industry is concerned, unemployment is rapidly increasing. It has increased from 16.8 per cent, in January to 19.6 per cent. in September. The President of the Board of Trade said that the number of unemployed had been reduced. At the present time, there are in the coalfields of this country 139,345 more miners unemployed than there were in 1926, the year when the Eight Hours Act was introduced. As a result of the Eight Hours Act, the increase in the number of unemployed miners is, in round figures, 130,000. What is to become of these men? Where are they going to get work?
It has been argued that if we can lower the price of coal, possibly coal owners will be in a better position to compete in the markets of the world. As a result of reduced wages and increased hours, costs have come down materially. In addition to the increase in hours, the actual reduction in wages in South Wales has been 2s. 9d. per ton, with 1.17d. reduction in costs other than wages, but, owing to the dissipation of the results of these reductions, the coal owners of South Wales have lost, on an average, Is. per ton. If the reduction in wages had been used to the advantage of the industry, possibly the coal owners would have been able to justify their position, but the reduction in wages has been neutralised in order to sell coal as cheaply as possible to the foreigners, presumably with the object of regaining markets. Have the reduction of wages and the increase of hours increased our sales in foreign markets? They have not. How are we to recover our position so as to regain the export trade which we had in 1913? In that year, we exported 73,000,000 tons of coal, and it is estimated, on the figures at present available, that this year we shall export 52,000,000 tons. The export of bunker coal was 24,000,000 tons in 1913, and the estimated figure for this year is 18,000,000 tons. The home consumption was 194,000,000 tons in 1913, and possibly it will be 194,000,000 tons this year. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said the figures showed that we were 31,000,000 tons 1479 down. We shall be 27,000,000 tons down. Whichever is the figure, are either the Government or the coal owners so optimistic as to believe that we are going to get an increase in the export trade which will make up the leeway?
Speaking at a conference on 23rd November, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said it was in possible for us to increase our export trade because the countries to whom we formerly sold coal are now in a position to do without much of it result of the extended use of oil and electricity. Even the coalowners of South Wales and the coalowners of Yorkshire and the Midland areas begin to realise that they are not able to increase their markets to an extent which will make up the difference between the exports of 1927 and the exports of 1913. They are forming committees in order to try to retain prices. The Yorkshire committee have gone much further than the committee in South Wales, although the effect in South Wales will be precisely the same. In Yorkshire they admit that one of their objects is the restriction of output.
§ Mr. JOHN
Because it has already been reported. If the Miners' Federation passed a resolution to say that they were going to restrict output, there would be a hue and cry about ca canny from the coalowners and the Government. There is a difference between the scheme of South Wales and the scheme of Yorkshire. In South Wales the scheme is to subscribe 3d. a ton to a pool in order to assist collieries that would be idle and unable to sell coal because of the prices fixed. In Yorkshire they propose a levy in order to subsidise the export trade. What is being done is to change the competition from a competition between individual coalowners to competition between districts, and South Wales will be up against Yorkshire and the Midland areas in the struggle for foreign markets. On geographical and geological grounds, South Wales will be placed in a very unequal position in the competition, and the subsidy scheme put forward by the Yorkshire coalowners, in the hope of extending their foreign markets will create greater difficulty for South Wales.
The problem of the mining industry is, in my view, a permanent one and 1480 not a temporary one, and the Government ought to turn their attention to finding a solution for these difficulties. With practically 250,000 persons unemployed in the mining industry, the first step the Government ought to take is to stabilise employment. Already they have adopted a scheme to check recruiting of fresh labour for the mines; but there is another scheme, mentioned by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, and that is the provision of pensions. There ought to be pensions for all those over 60 years of age. Elderly men and men who are crippled are still going to work, although there are young, strong, virile miners standing on the streets begging for an opportunity to earn their daily bread.
Then there is the question of co-operation among selling agencies in place of the unrestricted competition of the present moment. Then the attention of the Government ought to be directed towards the general structure and foundations of the mining industry. Unless the difficulties of the mining industry are quickly and effectually removed, there is going to be social, political and economic chaos in this country. Another point is the scientific treatment of coal and the development of the by-products system. All these are questions to which the Government ought to turn their immediate attention. The fact that the Government in the past have refused to srive sufficient attention to this serious economic problem is sufficient justification for this Vote of Censure. I think the discussion this evening will act as a stimulus to the Government to realise the seriousness of the mining situation, and urge them on to do everything that they can to solve the problem as it exists to-day.
§ Mr. ELLIS
I do not like to hear the word "incompetent" used so much in reference to the coalowners, because I am sure it does not help the discussion. As a Yorkshire coalowner myself to some extent, I was interested to hear from the hon. Member the full details of an agreement which I know has not yet been made. I hope to say a few words about the construction which has been put upon some action by the Yorkshire and other coalowners which has not yet been decided, and which I feel sure will not be decided in the direction which has been 1481 indicated. I think, when we are considering the question of the coal industry, in order to get a true perspective not only from the point of view of the coal industry itself but also of a great many other trades in this country, it is unfortunate that the coal industry has been used as a political football and has suffered very much in consequence.
The coal industry is not the only one that has suffered from low prices in the last three or four years. If one looks down the list of industries, including coal, engineering and textiles, cotton, worsted and woollen, all tell exactly the same tale. When one considers the future of the coal industry, he must come to the conclusion that its prospects of recovery are very strongly bound up with that of other industries. It is only in that way that we can hope to get some return of prosperity for the coal industry. Certain suggestions have been made which would in practice limit the opportunity for the sale of coal. In our foreign markets we have already a limitation owing to foreign competition and the peculiar form of subsidy which is given in railway rates. At any rate our prosperity in the coal industry is so intimately bound up with the general trade of the country that we can only hope for an improvement when we experience some progress in the general trade recovery of the country. I think it has rightly been laid down tonight that the coal industry has certain rights in comparison with other industries. It is entitled to its proper share of interest on capital, and at least to as good conditions and wages for the men employed in the coal industry as those who are employed in other industries where the working is of a similar nature.
In considering prices, I think we are entitled to base our hopes on some considerations of that kind. It has been said that any scheme for dealing with selling arrangements must necessarily be based upon an increase of price and that therefore it will be against the interests of the consumer. A great many hon. Members of this House are apt to forget that the coal industry, owing to new developments, has been undergoing for some time a steady advance in the direction of production which has got far beyond the normal increase in consumption either at home or abroad. What other trade of any kind is there which 1482 when it arrives at the stage that it has put so many goods on the market that more cannot be consumed does not at once realise the situation and limit its output in order to meet the real consumption that is required? The coal industry if it is to continue in existence has to take that course in the future.
Whatever form of agreement is arrived at in a district is essentially a question for the districts themselves because the conditions of production, the markets for the sale of coal, and the general arrangements vary very much with the districts. Whatever arrangements may be made in the districts I hope arrangements will not be confined to South Wales, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottingham. I hope that in view of the efforts which South Wales and other joint districts are making to-day similar feelings will develop in the other districts of the country. We want to get some sort of selling arrangement based on the district. Then you can possibly build on top some fuller arrangement between the districts themselves and agreements should be so arranged that they do not upset other areas. That is not what I should term a national arrangement because one has always to visualise that as coming from above to below. I believe that all the snags and difficulties one will meet can best be overcome as you build, from smaller things, and that would be much better than adopting a cut and dried scheme imposed from above.
There are one or two other considerations in regard to export schemes. So far as the district in which I am interested goes—I am not speaking for the Mining Association or anybody else but I am speaking from my own knowledge—we have suffered very heavily in the last two years through being cut off in regard to our exports. In the case of the Humber Ports this is due to some extent to the competition from other districts but to a large extent owing to the difficulties caused by the increased cost of transport and foreign competition. Here I wish to deal with a point which has not been considered at all to-day. The railway companies working as they do almost as an economic unit are always preaching to coal producers that it is necessary for the railway companies to have as cheap coal as they can possibly 1483 get and on the top of that they say, "The position is such from our point of view that your cost of transport must now go up by 60 per cent." If that be the case, then we who are always accused of being incompetent and not conducting our affairs properly are entitled to say, "We want to know the basis on which you arrive at the figures which you say justify an increase in your railway rates and we are not content that there should exist sheltered industries whose wages are governed from their own point of view and that the coal industry should continue to produce cheap coal for the other people concerned." I want to say a few words about this question of incompetence. No body of men has been so strongly accused of incompetency as the coal-owners.
§ Mr. ELLIS
Nor with less reason, but the future will show who is to blame. It is suggested in some loose sort of way that it is the duty of the Government to take over all research connected, not only with coal, but with oil and kindred materials, and to prosecute it for them selves. I wonder if hon. Members know how much very careful and close research has been going on in private laboratories for many years, and never more intensively than to-day. That research has been well within the knowledge of the Government, and has been closely helped by the Government. We were told in a speech the other day that, if we would only produce properly washed and screened coal, grade it properly, and sell according to calorific value, the change would lead to a very large export, and that we should be able to make much more money thereby. Everyone who knows anything about the industry knows that all these processes have been going on for some time, and that, if people require to know calorific values, or want coal of a particular kind, there are always collieries, at any rate in the West Riding and South Yorkshire, that can supply those particular needs.
We were taken to task the other day by Mr. Frank Hodges for not marketing our coal properly on the Continent. So far as that goes, I can assure Mr. Hodges that the interests of the coalfields, as represented on the Continent of Europe, have some of the best selling agencies 1484 and some of the best travellers that any industry could possibly want. It is not that we have not people to sell our coal on the Continent; it is that we cannot get into the markets at the price at which coal is being produced in those countries. We are told, too, that we ought to do something about wagons and transport. I wonder how many people in this country know that over £10,000,000 of the capital involved in wagons to-day is produced by what are known as wagon finance companies, most of the money coming from quite small people, who in that way are enabled to invest, not only on the security of the part-paid shares of the shareholders of the companies, but also on the security of the wagons which are on hire-purchase throughout the coal industry. It is suggested that we should immediately convert all wagons into 20-ton wagons, and thereby carry much more coal and save a great deal in cost of transport. That is very easy where you have a railway system with facilities at the stations and terminals for dealing with 20-ton wagons, but have critics ever considered what would be the cost to the railway companies concerned of bringing the recommendation into general operation throughout the country?
Then we are told that we ought to amalgamate. There have been a good many examples of amalgamations throughout the country during the past five or six years, and I would like to ask hon. Members who have followed amalgamations generally if they have noted the number which, if I may use a common term, have come unstuck during the last two or three years. That being the case, does it not take us to this really very simple principle, that there is a human limitation to management in every concern? You may get here two collieries, or here three, as in the case of the board with which I happen to have been connected for some time—I am only using it as an illustration. It might be suggested that we ought to amalgamate with one or two more concerns, but the point of view of every man who has been long in the industry, and has looked at it from every angle, is that the moment the general manager or the top technical man ceases to be able to deal personally with the problems at the pits, at that very moment he loses touch, and then inefficiency begins to creep in, because it is not possible for 1485 him fully to follow what is going on. Therefore, the real answer is that, although you may get some kind of loose connection or some federation between a number of pits, or some general arrangement for selling coal and, perhaps, some general arrangement for buying raw materials, such as pit-props and things of that kind, yet, if you are going to manage efficiently and properly, you must have your real business arrangements so made that your chief manager is able to keep in daily touch with what is going on.
I would ask hon. Members who have been so glib in dealing with the agreement in Yorkshire to remember that as yet no agreement has been made. Discussions, certainly, are going on, and, when these discussions have come to a proper conclusion, the agreement, so far as it concerns the outside world, will be announced. I must say that I was considerably surprised to find that, before any details were known anywhere, at the mere hint of an agreement which we have been pressed by everyone all over the country to enter into, up gets Mr. Joseph Jones in Yorkshire, and points out how dangerous these agreements are. That was either done through ignorance, or to create some prejudice in the minds of the men that the employers were out to do something which was not to the benefit of the men or of the industry, and that, therefore, the action was purely and wholly a selfish one. That is not so at all. Those who are connected with the industry in that district have by experience come to certain conclusions, and conclusions are worth much more when they are come to by experience and people want to go in certain directions because they believe these to be right. What we hope will result from this agreement when it comes to be put into force—and we hope it will be put into force as speedily as possible—will be an improvement which will be to the benefit of both capital and labour in the industry. This we do know for certain, that, if at the very outset all our attempts are going to be cramped by prejudice which can in no sense be called economic, then God help the industry.
§ Mr. PARKINSON
Although this Debate has taken rather an interesting direction, we are really getting away from the terms of the Motion before the 1486 House, and dealing more with the productive areas of European countries than with our own. I should like to bring the House back to the question of the position of the industry in this country as compared with what it was in 1925, taking into account the statements made by the Government during the dispute year of 1926. The Government during that year took a leading interest on behalf of the Coalowners' Association, and we were told times without number that, if they could only have an extension of hours, it would work wonders in the trade, that we should be able to raise much more coal, and, consequently, to recover our export trade. It was added that, if the miners would accept a reduction of wages, that would also put things right. After 12 months of that experiment we find that things are not right, that the Government are not doing anything whatever in the direction of trying to put into operation these schemes for reorganising the industry, and are not using any compelling force with the employers. I dare say they may feel themselves not quite strong enough to do that, but they did make certain promises and certain statements during the lock-out period of 1926, which led us to believe that at least they would not let the matter slide, but that they would see, so far as they could, that a thorough reorganisation too place.
After a year we find that the Eight Hours Act has worked wonders in one direction, namely, in finding a larger number of unemployed miners than there ever were before. Not only has it done that, but it has brought production up to such an amount that it is quite easy to increase the output of 1925, while at the same time it has displaced a large number of workmen who are now unemployed. In June, 1927, we had 233,219 miners unemployed, and in October, 1927, there were 233,691. These figures are appalling, because they represent at least one in five of the men employed in the industry. The "Board of Trade Journal" of 18th August, 1927, said:In the last week of April it is estimated that pits employing 41 per cent, of the total number of workpeople on colliery books were idle for want of trade during part of the week, and similarly 56 per cent, and 57 per cent., respectively, at the end of May and June. In the last week of June 35 per cent, of the total number affected were employed at pits which lost two days or more.1487 In Lancashire, we have a large number of collieries working very short time. At present they are not averaging more than 3½ days a week. Consequently, we find that the Eight Hours Act, about which the Government made such fulsome statements and promises, is neither being put into operation nor is anything being done by the Government to compel that line of action to be taken. The figures I have read out refer only to mines actually working. They exclude all mines that are entirely stopped. A large number of mines in my county are stopped but a larger number of people are working short time—practically all are. That is having its direct effect upon the life of the county, and, of course, I can speak better for that county than for other parts of the country. The effect of the Eight Hours Act, owing to the short time that is being worked, has been that the output of coal has been little different in the early months of 1927 from what it was in the early months of 1926. The output has been balanced by the discharge of workmen and by working the collieries a fewer number of days in the week. The only difference between the two years was the longer working day, which proves that the eight hour day has increased the volume of unemployment.
What else has the Eight Hours Act done? I have some figures in respect of Lancashire which cannot be refuted because they are authoritative. The Act has played havoc in the Lancashire area. In June, 1924, which may be taken as nearly a normal year, the unemployed miners in Lancashire and Cheshire were 5,280, and in June, 1927, they had risen to 25,263. At present they must be well in the neighbourhood of 35,000. Besides having this large number of people unemployed we have a large number of people working short time with very low wages. The live register in my area is growing week by week. On November 28th on the live register in the Wigan district there were no fewer than 10,137 people, against 8,473 on 31st October, or an increase of 1,664 persons in one month. That is an alarming increase. I think no one will say Wigan cannot be taken as a kind of coal mining centre. It has been the premier coal mining centre in Lancashire and Cheshire for all time. It may lose its position in the future, but at the moment it is the predominating industry 1488 which governs that part of our county. They are growing at that alarming rate. The rat© cannot keep going along. It must have a stem somewhere. Taking Lancashire and Cheshire as a whole, we had 240,326 people unemployed on 28th November, as against 223,020 on 31st October, or an increase in a month of 17,306, and in September this year there were 21,737 miners in receipt of benefit. These are the numbers on the live register. We do not know what are the numbers who have been taken off the live register, but the live register is the one that is accepted by the Government for statistical purposes and we must accept it. One might make bold to say, one-third of that number might be taken as something like an equivalent of the number of people who have been wiped off through unemployment or through extended benefits being ended.
There are many other things one could go into. The great increase in the Poor Law payments will have to be dealt with in the near future. Our increase of unemployed cases during the last 24 months has been no less than 94 per cent, on the amount of money paid and we have had a great increase in the number of cases. There has been an increase of 1,809 cases from January, 1926, to October, 1927. While we have all these increases, which must have their pivotal source from unemployment in the mining industry, we can only look upon it with alarm. I have it on the authority of the Poor Law authorities that they are at present paying over £100 a week more than they had estimated for, and the amount of poor relief now is 6j times as much as it was in 1914. We have heard many things to-night about the export trade. I do not quite agree with the President of the Board of Trade. I think he was speaking of exports generally. I find that in the export of coal there has been very little difference made during the last year. I believe there was an increase of about 1,000,000 tons, which is only equivalent to about 2 per cent. While we have been speaking about producing and selling cheaper, we cannot get away from the fact that the prices that have been given for the export trade are such as to be alarming in themselves. One might take the Trade and Navigation Returns for January, 1927. The price was 21s. For September it was 16s. 11d., or a reduction of 4s. 1d. per ton. Take the 1489 "Iron and Steel Trades Journal." Their February price was 19s. 5.99d. and their August price was 16s. 11½d., a reduction of 2s. 6½d. So it is borne out that it is impossible to recover those markets, at whatever price you can put your coal on the market. The undercutting has been so severe that it is impossible to continue it without causing chaos and probably further trouble inside the mining industry. In fact, the "Board of Trade Journal" for 18th August, 1927, states:Wages, therefore, in all export districts have had to be maintained at the respective minimum by means of deductions from the miners' agreed percentage share of net proceeds.It will be obvious that there can be neither any further reduction in wages of extension of hours. There is the other point of amalgamations of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke with a certain timidity. He did not want much said about it in one sense. They were going on slowly, but still they were going on surely. Since the passage of the Mining Industry Act there have only been three amalgamations, and two-thirds of the two years have now already gone. The three amalgamations are the Yorkshire Amalgamated Collieries, the Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries, and the Sheffield Coal Company. The amalgamations since the time of the Samuel Report are a very negligible quantity. With regard to recruitment of labour, there is a large number of boys and youths going into the industry every year than there really ought to be. Another point that has been raised is that the aged miners ought to be pensioned with a suitable pension say at 60 years of age, I believe that ought to take place. If any man is entitled to superannuation at the expense of the State it is a man who has worked in the mines for 45 or 50 years, not only because of his service, but because of the hazardous nature of his work and because of the very great importance of the industry in which he has been engaged.
In regard to the recruitment of labour, there are something like 25,000 people transferred annually from other industries, and about 20,000 boys and youths up to 16 years of age enter the industry every year from school. That is something like 4 per cent, of the people at present employed. I suggest that, in order to relieve the great number of people who may 1490 to-day be called surplus to the mining requirements, we ought to hold up the recruitment of young persons into the mines for some time, that these young people ought to be allowed to continue their studies, and that some kind of maintenance grant ought to be made to their parents. At the other end of the scale, I think men of 60 years of age ought to be superannuated with an amount sufficient to live upon. I" shall be told that that will be a further impost on the State, but I think the money could be raised in this way: it could be charged on the tonnage raised for one portion, another portion could be levied on mining royalties, and a third portion, if necessary, could come from the State. I am quite sure that would be one of the best things that could be done, because it would relieve our people, it would give them something on which they could live at 60 years of age, and as a consequence I believe the State, the coalowners, and the workmen would be considerably benefited.
In regard to the closer co-ordination of industries, the Minister of Mines has made some very important declarations. On 27th March, 1925, he made an important declaration in this House, when he said:I have authority to say that the Government intend to spare no money, no energy, and no effort to develop that process and make it a commercial-success."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March, 1925; col. 899 Vol. 182,]He was speaking of the low carbonisation process, but since that time we have had other processes, which, according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman to-day, are being financed by the Government, and I would like to suggest that the Government really ought to develop this side of the industry. There ought to be a closer co-ordination of the mining industry from every point of view, and the Government ought to develop this side of the industry, not from the private enterprise point of view, but it ought to be financed, managed, and built up by the Government, after which I believe it would become a very valuable asset, and we should be able, not only to produce the oils we require, but also to find work for a large number of our people who are unemployed to-day.
We have had many declarations from the Prime Minister that he is all for maintaining the standard of life, 1491 but to the mining community what has he done since 1926? What have the Government done in order to relieve these difficulties and to lift or maintain the standard of the mining community in that period? They have done nothing at all. What they have done cannot be seen. It may be seen from the Government point of view, but from the point of view of a miners' agent, living and working among the men, it cannot be seen. We have the Prime Minister making all these kinds of statements and, of course, with one or two prayers thrown in, but I believe the apathy and callous indifference of the Government in regard to the needs of the mining community call for this Vote of Censure. I do not believe they have risen to the occasion; I do not believe they have any desire to rise to the occasion; and even while they were conducting all the negotiations on behalf of the coalowners, I believe they never once intended to carry out what they were talking about. They acted for the coalowners and then left the coalowners in full possession. They have never brought any compelling force upon the coalowners in order to get a thorough reorganisation of the industry. There is no section of the community which has done more to build up the greatness of the nation, there is no more hazardous employment, and there is no braver set of men. What we can see taking place before our eyes is a human tragedy of very great magnitude, in which our people are literally starving in the midst of plenty; they are crying for work, and cannot get it; they are being cut off unemployment benefit; and, as a consequence, they are beginning to feel great dissatisfaction. We are noticing throughout the country that there is a rumble of discontent which will break forth sooner or later and for which the Government themselves will be responsible, because they have never tried by the methods which they had promised to bring about a better condition of affairs. As a matter of fact, my opinion is that the life of this Government has been characterised by a gradual but sure lowering of the conditions of life of the miners, and that they will pass away with a record of having left the mining industry in chaos, the nation in danger, and the people in poverty.
§ Sir WALTER RAINE
Some months ago, when we had a similar Debate in this House to that which we are having to-day, I attempted to put before the House certain aspects of the export trade. It is not my intention to-night to repeat what I then said, but rather do I desire to give some fresh information, because, in a serious Debate such as this I think we ought to look at the picture from all points of view. It is not my intention to enter into the question of what wages are or ought to be, because that is outside my province, but I will say that, in common with all those who are engaged in the coal trade, I consider that the present wages are too low. In particular, I refer to probably 20 per cent, of these men who are on the minimum wage; and in Durham and Northumberland, in particular, that wage is far too low. Even if the men had a full week's work of five or five and a-half days, the wage would be too low, but, unfortunately, in Durham and Northumberland, until very recently, it has been the experience of many pits to work only three or, possibly, four days a week, so it is quite obvious that no man working on the minimum wage for three or four days a week has enough to support his family.
During the recent vacation I paid a visit to the three Scandinavian countries in order to study this coal question for myself on the spot, and, unfortunately, everything I saw told a tale of woe so far as the British coal trade was concerned. I found that Poland was our chief competitor. The Polish Government are subsidising the trade for economic reasons, to which I do not need to refer here, except to observe that the competition of Poland has been caused largely through the economic war between Poland and Germany which broke out in 1925, and which still continues. But a far more serious point than that is the question of the nature of the Polish coal and its most excellent analysis. Unfortunately, I am bound to say that those coals, both for analysis and condition, when delivered at their destination in foreign countries, beat ours at the present time. I took the trouble on more than one occasion while I was there to inspect some of these Polish cargoes while they were actually being discharged. I also saw some of 1493 these cargoes, after they had been discharged, lying in heaps, and I observed, in examining those heaps, that the quantity of small in any of them did not exceed 7 to 10 per cent; in fact, I believe I should be nearer the truth if I said it did not exceed 5 per cent. Unfortunately, British coal, when it is discharged, owing to its particular nature, has a percentage of smalls equal to 20 per cent., and sometimes nearly 30 per cent.
In this connection, in one of the coal yards which I visited there was a cargo of B.S.Y. Hards, that is, Best South Yorkshire Association hards, lying alongside one cargo which had been discharged and I am sorry to say that that British cargo did not do credit to the particular place whence it came. Alongside the cargo was also a cargo of Scotch screened coal which I examined very carefully, and although it contained a much larger quantity of smalls than did any of the Polish coal, I had to call the attention of the buyer to the fact that it was a most excellent sample of Scottish coal from that particular district, and he had to admit that such was the case. I will not develop that argument any further, but I will proceed to deal with the question of analysis, on which subject I shall only speak very briefly.
Polish small coal, which are almost free from dust, yield most regularly about 7.200 calories, whereas the best smalls we have in Durham, Durham rough smalls, only yield 6.700 calories, and sometimes much less. There is a certain Baltic market, where I have a particular friend, and a few days ago I received a letter from him on the question of small coals. He said that Polish small coals are being delivered at that Baltic port at the present time at 15s., whereas Durham small coal, which is the nearest in comparison to this particular Polish small coal, cannot be delivered, taking the lowest colliery price and the lowest freight, at less than 16s. 6d. a ton. This Polish competition is a very serious matter. I do not want to decry British coal, but we have to face the facts, and if we do face the facts and alter some of our methods I believe we shall get our trade back, because I am convinced that, all things being equal, the foreigner prefers to deal with the Britisher.
I have taken from the Polish books the latest figures as far as exports are con- 1494 cerned. The figures are for October. The total exports from Poland in October amounted to 1,076,000 tons, of which Sweden took 233,000 tons, Denmark 129,000 tons and Norway 20,000 tons. I will not give any further figures except one which relates to a country which used to be a very important consumer of British coal, particularly from Durham, Northumberland and Yorkshire. I refer to Latvia, which took 44,000 tons of these Polish coals. I noticed a very important fact when I was getting out these figures. It is well known to those in the coal trade that there has been trouble in the Polish coalfields on account of the low wages. Early in October an increase of 8 per cent, was given to the miners in Dobrowa and Krakov, but the Government immediately reduced the railway carriage by one-half zloty. The rate now is 7.70 zloty, which works out, according to Monday's exchange, at the rate of carriage for these coals, taken that great distance, to 3s. 7d. per ton.
I have taken a little trouble to get very exact information and I received a few days ago a letter from an agent in Stockholm, a very important coal agent. Before reading one or two extracts from his letter I might say that these agents abroad, for the most part, prefer to deal in British rather than any other coal. The letter is dated the 25th November, so that the House will see it is fairly recent. It says:In regard to your request for information re Silesian and Polish coal, I must say that the position, compared with the trade from the British markets is, not to say the least of it, simply alarming and most serious if some remedy is not found soon to regain this trade.He mentions about a certain contract being given for Polish coal for the first time, and that the contract used to go to Yorkshire for associated B.S.Y. hards. He says:When prices are three shillings to three and sixpence per ton different, consumers cannot go on paying it, especially as they have not corresponding advantage in quality.He then goes on to deal with Scottish steam coal, which is sharing a similar fate, and he proceeds:From the above you will see, at any rate to some extent, how the Swedish markets are more and more being conquered by the Silesian and Polish concerns, and it is really high time everybody on your side 1495 realised seriously what is happening and that something must be done to bring prices and qualities on a more competable level.Another difficulty is confronting the British coal trade, and that is the pin pricks that we are receiving from various foreign countries. Thanks to the intervention of the Secretary for Mines and the President of the Board of Trade a very serious matter in connection with the export of coal to Spain has been nipped in the bud; but the fact remains that a, Spanish licensing system has been introduced and you cannot ship a cargo of coal to Spain unless you have that licence. You can get the licence to import, but thanks to the action of the Spanish coalowners the Spanish Government have given notice of restrictions, and while some companies are not allowed to take any British coal at all and others, if they do take British coal, are only to take a very small proportion. If we are to continue receiving these pin-pricks which are going to interfere with our normal export trade in coal, it is about time that some retaliatory action was taken. I will not refer to what previous speakers have said about the safeguarding of industries, because enough has been said on that subject; but I do say this, that there would be a flutter in the Spanish dove cots if all British people would suddenly say, "We will not use Spanish oranges." We should soon get out of our difficulties as far as Spain is concerned if that were done.
With respect to suggested remedies, there are several which I have had in mind for a long time, and they were impressed more upon my mind as a result of my recent visit to Scandinavia, not only from what I saw, but from what I was told by various importers. I have no hesitation in saying once more that, all things being equal, these various importers would prefer to take British coal. I have addressed by remarks not only privately but publicly to people in the coal trade, both miners and owners, and most of them entirely agree with my observation. We cannot turn our relatively soft coal into Polish hard coal, but there is a great deal that can be done in the preparation and shipment of coal in order to improve the quality and condition of coal so as to reduce the quantity of smalls when the coal is re- 1496 ceived abroad. First of all, there is the question of cleaning. I know that care is taken in this matter at the collieries as the coal passes over the belts, but even far greater care must be taken. With regard to the cargo of B.S.Y. Hards to which I have referred, and which I examined very carefully, I am sorry to say that it had been badly and carelessly cleaned and was not a credit to the Yorkshire coal which we are accustomed to see.
We want more washing of the coal or dry cleaning so as to be able to reduce the percentage of ash. Some time ago a large colliery in the County of Durham had a great deal of smithy coal which produced 17 per cent, of ash, with the result that they could only get into inferior markets. They took in hand the question of washing and dry-cleaning the coal and they have considerably reduced the quantity of ash and the consequence is that that coal is now a most favoured coal on the foreign market. We want also to do something in connection with the grading of coal. I know that a tremendous lot is being done but more might be done because we can realise a higher price for the coal as nuts, peas and duff than for the same coals in their natural condition as rough smalls.
Another question of importance in the shipment of coal, screened coal in particular, is that of anti-breakers. It is perfectly obvious, if you are shipping screened coal, that you will get a large quantity of small coal unless you use the coal breaker, which I believe will reduce the quantity of small coal. That in itself would mean more orders, because it is an economic fact that if you receive a cargo of screened coal with only 10 per cent. of small it is much better value to you as receiver than if you had 20 per cent. small, because in many of the trades where these coals are used you have to take the small out, and that means increasing the costs. The foreigner knows the exact value of these relative coals. I agree with a great deal that Mr. Frank Hodges said on Saturday night in an important speech at Newcastle-on-Tyne. I have always regarded Mr. Hodges as a serious person, and I have always treated him seriously. He asked: Why do not we sell according to calorific power? I think he must have been misinformed on that subject, because for many years certain 1497 classes of coal have been sold according to calorific value. I do not wish to be misunderstood; but the relative calorific power of these various small coals is known to a nicety by the foreign consumer, as it is known in this country, and the foreign consumer is going to buy the particular coal which, having regard to calorific value, is the cheapest at the time of purchase. The relative difference in price between Northumberland small and Yorkshire washed smalls is about 2s. per ton.
Mr. Hodges also asked why the coal-owners do not send young men abroad in order that they may study questions first hand, and in order to learn the language, and be able to be put down in some of the ports abroad. Some of the small ports in Denmark would not keep anybody there for a single week. All business in Denmark is done through Copenhagen, and as a matter of fact for many years past, but more so to-day, the coal exporters and colliery owners—I refer particularly to Durham and Northumberland—are sending not only their principals but their clerks and travellers abroad, and some of the larger firms have their travellers living abroad continuously. Not a week passes but what some exporter or his traveller, or a colliery owner himself, is not in one of the Scandinavian capitals, or one of the other capitals of Europe. Of course, we are always up against the question of the foreign language, and I am not going to say that more could not be done in that respect. I would point out that in all the Scandinavian countries the people speak good English, as good as we do here, and can express themselves just as well. I could go on, but I do not wish to take up any more time because I know other speakers are desirous of intervening in the Debate. Let me say this in conclusion that, bad as the conditions are to-day, I am still an optimist in regard to the coal trade. I believe if we adopt some of these methods we shall bring prosperity to the coal trade. Many of them are being actively done by various collieries, but what we want is to get a greater move on in order to get back our trade and prosperity the sooner.
Mr. WILLIAM ADAMSON
The discussion on this Vote of Censure gives us one more opportunity of focussing 1498 the attention of the House, the Government and the country on the tragic conditions existing in the mining industry. At the beginning of his speech the Prime Minister complained that this Debate on the coal trade had taken the form of a Vote of Censure, but let me remind him that it was the Government themselves who arranged that the Debate should take this form. The Opposition would have been quite pleased if the matter could have been discussed on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House, but the Government willed otherwise, and, therefore, they have nothing to complain of as to the form the discussion has taken. Not within the memory of the oldest person amongst us have we seen so much poverty and destitution in the mining population of the country as exists to-day, and what adds to the gravity and danger of the situation is that there is no immediate prospect of any improvement. The conditions existing to-day certainly call for the earnest consideration of every man, irrespective of party. No matter where hon. Members may sit, the condition is so desperate that we ought to discuss it in all its bearings without party feeling or party spirit being displayed to any extent at all.
In the past our coal has been the mainspring of our industrial power, and notwithstanding its difficulties to-day, notwithstanding the fact that it is facing competitors undreamt of a few years ago in the form of oil and electricity and the greater development of coalfields in other parts of the world, our mines are still the greatest national asset we have. Our coal is potentially a greater source of national wealth than ever it has been in our industrial history, if we only take proper steps to utilise it to its full value. The rapidly changing conditions of the industry within the last few years should have warned us to put our house in order if we are to maintain our position in the coal markets of the world. Indeed, but for the display of partisanship on the part of more Governments than one, and the unbridled individualism of the mine-owners themselves, the application of the steps recommended by successive Royal Commissions would have gone a long way to prevent the industry falling into the desperate condition it occupies to-day. Here let me say something in reply to what the President of the Board of Trade 1499 said. He said that in 1926 the Government were prepared to accept the Report of the Samuel Commission. Let me remind him that they were prepared to accept that Report and put it into operation under certain reservations, one of those reservations being that the miners' representatives would consent to an immediate reduction in wages.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
What I said was that I thought there was agreement that we were prepared at that time to accept the whole of the Samuel Commission's Report, provided both miners and mineowners were prepared to do the same.
Yes, but on conditions. One of the conditions laid down was that the miners should be prepared to accept a reduction of wages. The experience of the last six or seven years should surely convince the House and the Government of the absolute necessity of putting the industry in a position to meet modern conditions before even a greater disaster than has yet befallen us overtakes us. The experience of the last year alone should convince the Government and the House that the coalowners' sovereign remedy of increasing the hours and reducing the wages is no cure for the situation with which we find ourselves face to face. To follow such a course was bound inevitably to result in reducing the number of persons employed and in forcing our competitors to follow our bad example, thus embarking on a vicious circle, which has left us in a worse position than before we began. The idea so strongly held both by the Government and the coalowners during the struggle of last year that, if they could only get the hours of labour increased and the wages reduced, that would enable them to sell our coal cheap enough to recapture the export part of the coal trade, has been exploded by our experience in the Baltic during the last year. There, the Polish coalowners by the payment of still lower wages than we are receiving, and the subsidising of transport, have been able to retain a considerable proportion of the trade which was formerly ours, even after further cuts of wages and prices on our part are virtually impossible.
Bad as the conditions of the coal trade are to-day, they will become worse in the near future unless the policy pursued 1500 up to the present be reversed. Bad as conditions are, however, it is not as yet too late to redeem the position if the problem be approached in the right spirit, and proper remedies be applied. [HON. MEMBERS: "What are they?"] Even if this be done, and the proper remedies be applied, the problem is still so vast and the disease so deep-seated, that it will take time and courage to face it before we are able to straighten out the tangle and undo the errors of the past. But I am convinced that, if the Government with the owners and the men are prepared whole-heartedly to undertake the task, it can be successfully accomplished. I was just asked what are the remedies. Before I begin to point out some of the remedies which suggest themselves to one who has spent a lifetime in the mining industry, and knows some of its difficulties, and has some idea of how to get out of them, may I say that we have never been given the opportunity of assisting so far as the finding of remedies are concerned. The answer of the coalowners and of the Government has been that they know better than we do what are the remedies to apply. We have been denied the opportunity of having any say in the running of the business. If in the future the owners are to give us some say in the running of the business—and it would be a very good thing if they did—it will be the first time in our experience that they have ever admitted that the men's side could make any suggestions for successfully running the business. Their answer in the past has been "It is your business to win the coal; it is ours to run the business."
There are certain points which I would like to put forward for the consideration of the House and of the Government. The first of these considerations is that the Government themselves should immediately take the problem in hand and get into touch with both the owners and the men and endeavour to remove some of the difficulties that stand in the way of closer co-operation. In such a critical time as the industry is facing, it would be a very good thing if the two sides were drawn into as close co-operation as is possible. I know, in making that suggestion, that the President of the Board of Trade, and possibly the whole of his colleagues in the Government, are averse to the Government taking any definite hand in industry. I know that they take 1501 the position that that should he left to the two sides in the particular industry concerned. Unless steps are taken to put the industry on a safer and sounder footing than it occupies at present, however, the time will rapidly come when it will not matter which Government is in office, it will be compelled to get into touch with the problem and endeavour, in common with those in the industry, to overcome the difficulties.
The second suggestion that I would make is that the unbridled individualism of the coalowners which has well-nigh ruined the industry—for there is no doubt as to the critical condition in which the industry finds itself to-day—should be stopped. Experience, particularly in the past two years, should have taught them the futility of that unbridled individualism and the consequences that are likely to follow if it be continued.
The third suggestion I would make is that we should have unification of the industry in considerable areas at once. During the course of our discussion this afternoon, the question of unification has been suggested by several speakers, and there have been various ideas regarding it. The right hon. Gentleman himself pointed out that he "had been an advocate of unification, and he thought that there were limits even to unification. Up till now, we have had very little unification in the industry. We have had a few notable examples. The right hon. Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) is one of a few examples by whom unification has been applied to the industry within the past two years. If we had unification all over the coalfields, and the industry unified into suitable areas, areas which lie close to each other and are practically engaged in the same part of the coal trade, it would go a long way towards improving matters.
The next suggestion I put forward is that the setting up of coal-selling agencies ought to be made compulsory. Some of those who have taken part in the Debate to-day seem to have the idea that we on the Labour Benches are not in favour of the proposal. There is not one of us who is not in favour of setting up agencies, not for the purpose of being able more effectively to fleece the public, as some have suggested that we wanted to do, but for the purpose of keeping the whole of the money earned in the 1502 industry in the fund from which both wages and profits are paid. There is no doubt that in the past far too large a share of the money made in the mining industry has gone into other pockets, into the pockets of the coal merchants and the coal exporters. That should end and the setting up of co-operative selling agencies should be made compulsory.
The next suggestion I make is that the whole problem of mining royalties should be taken into consideration. These royalties place heavy burdens both on the areas that are being worked and on the areas that are being reserved for future working. I know that in making that suggestion I may be told that mining royalties are not such a heavy charge on the industry as we on these benches are in the habit of trying to make the public believe they are. But royalties mean at least an average of 6d. a ton on the coal that is being worked. They mean even more than that. They mean that in many areas that are not being worked but are reserved for work in the future, there is a standing fixed rent which has to be paid and which imposes a burden additional to the average of 6d. per ton on the coal that is being worked. At a time like this, when the industry is fighting for its very life, we cannot afford to pay even an extra 6d. per ton, and the question of mining royalties should be considered in the very near future.
My next point for the consideration of the Government is the possibility of the better utilisation of our coal, whether it be by the pulverising of coal or the extraction of oil and other by-products That question should be dealt with speedily by the Government. I know that the President of the Board of Trade told us to-day that for some time the Government have been spending money on this work. So desperate is the condition of the industry that we cannot afford to go about the matter in so leisurely a way as the Government has been doing up to the present, and would suggest that the Government speed up the process as much as possible. Another suggestion is that the marketing of our coal, both at home and abroad, should be thoroughly overhauled and efficiently organised. Another point, on which there may be some disagreement, relates to the development of new areas. 1503 Within recent times some new areas have been developed, and I think developed before their time. These new areas are producing coal at a time when the older areas could produce all the coal that is needed to supply the demand.
What we shall do, if we are not careful, will be to make derelict some of the mining villages where there is still a considerable amount of coal to be worked at a profit. In making such areas derelict we are wasting the wealth of the country, because if these areas are not worked out while the shafts are open there is a great danger that we shall never recover that part of our mineral wealth. The development of new areas is one of the things that ought to receive our careful attention. There are some mining men of eminence who are already beginning to talk about the tragedy of the development of some of these new areas, and they agree that the areas have been developed before their time if the interests of the country are to be looked after properly.
The reorganisation of our methods of producing coal is another of the things that have been mentioned by more than one speaker, and I content myself with referring to it. I would suggest, in conclusion, that the Government should at once set up a Committee of mining men of experience for the purpose of examining the whole mining problem and its difficulties, with a view of making suggestions, for putting the industry on a proper footing. I have not in mind the appointment of another Royal Commission; I am speaking of a committee of men of experience in the mining industry, men who know the trade and its difficulties, and are therefore the better qualified to deal with it. A further suggestion is that the Government take immediate steps for dealing with the destitution in our mining areas, providing for the miners who have been thrown out of employment and for their dependants, either by the provision of employment or reasonable maintenance. To attempt to deal with this great problem, affecting 250,000 men who have been thrown out of work, on the basis of the suggestion of the President of the Board of Trade, is simply to deal with it in a way that will touch only the fringe of the problem. I hope that the Government as a result of 1504 to-day's discussion will go into the whole of these matters at a very early date, and signify to the country and to those engaged in the industry that they intend to do more for setting the industry on a proper footing than they have done hitherto.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
I do not intend at this late hour to attempt to cover the whole ground which has been covered already in the Debate, but I would like to go back to one or two basic facts. It always seems to me that in these unfortunate Debates on the coal industry we get lost in a wilderness of detail, of entirely contradictory policies and entirely contradictory ideas, instead of realising a few fundamental propositions. As I have pointed out on more than one occasion, the difficulty of the coal industry in this country is not a national but an international question. It is not Great Britain alone which has difficulties in its coal industry; the whole coal industry of Europe has very much the same difficulties as we have. When you come to analyse the position, the reason is fairly simple. It is that since the year 1913 the coal industry of Europe has remained practically stagnant. Consumption has remained almost where it was, and the production is continually going up. Although I do not wish to weary the House with many figures, I think the following are rather significant. In 1913, we produced 292,000,000 tons of coal; in 1900, 228,000,000; and in 1925, 248,000,000. Germany in 1913 produced 140,000,000 tons of coal, and in 1926 145,000,000 tons; France produced 44,000,000 tons in 1913 and 52,000,000 tons in 1926; Poland, of which we have heard so much, produced 41,000,000 tons in 1913 and only 35,000,000 tons in 1926, a diminution of 6,000,000 tons in a small output. Belgium, on the other hand, went from 22,000,000 tons to 25,000,000; and Holland, a country that nobody talks about, went from 2,000,000 tons in 1913 to 8,500,000 tons in 1926. The result is that while in 1913 Europe produced 542,000,000 tons, in 1926 it produced 515,000,000 tons.
That is an extraordinary state of things, and it is that position to which we ought to address our minds. The fact is that substitutes for coal in the production of energy and power have taken the markets of the coal trade not 1505 of England alone but of Europe. Oil fuel for steamers and hydro-electricity have taken market after market to which we used to export coal. Anybody who did not stand blindly by, anybody who watched what was happening in the world could see the growing peril to the English export coal trade for years. If it be asked how did we meet that situation, I would say that we met it by continuous strikes and lock-outs and disputes in the industry, every one of which was robbing us of part of the export coal trade, which we will never get back. One of the chief difficulties encountered in selling Britsh coal abroad was that people would say: "We do not want your coal, because we cannot rely on delivery." I am not going back on the disputes. I am merely stating the facts. Unless we can get the assurance of some kind of peace in this industry for a number of years to enable our Continental customers once more to feel confident that they will be able to obtain our coal as they require it, we shall find it very difficult to get back even part of the export coal trade which we have lost.
Hon. Members opposite have remarked, and I do not disagree with them, that the policy which was adopted last year of relaxing hours and lowering wages, has not achieved the results expected. I was one who did not expect that policy to achieve those results. I could not see how, when you had over-production, the relaxing of hours was going to help. The contention which was made to me very frequently was that a reduction in the price would help to regain markets as long as our competitors were not able to reduce prices also. I then said, and I think a number of those who were formerly opposed to me are now coming to my point of view, that if you could get a rationalisation of the British coal industry, if the British coal industry's selling policy were arranged in such a manner that you would be able to deal with the situation not merely nationally but internationally, instead of having a game of beggar-my-neighbour, and a continued depression of wages and conditions in the coal mines of the world and a continued attempt to extend hours, then you might arrive at some basic figure. But do not imagine that you would be able to achieve the same position in tonnage which was achieved in the past in the coal export trade.
1506 A great deal of controversy has taken place in the Debate to-day, and we have heard very interesting speeches, but it seemed to me that these speeches did not face up to one or two of the facts. How can you continue to employ the same number of people in an industry which is obviously diminishing and has a surplus of labour. The more you unify, the more you improve your output, the more you carry out improvements in the industry the more you tend to displace labour. Therefore, the problem is how to deal with this very difficult and important question of what I may call the surplus population in the mines. It is obviously bad policy to condemn large bodies of men in the mining industry to a state of semi-starvation for an indefinite period. I do not think it is doing a kindness to those engaged in the industry to employ them for such a email number of hours in the week that practically none of them can make a living wage.
Several suggestions have been made. I myself am a partisan of one of them and that is the idea of advancing pensions. After all, we are agreed in this country, by common consent, that we will not allow people to die of starvation. We go a little further and endeavour to keep them in some form, I will not say of comfort, but of reasonable maintenance. Therefore, if you have a large number of people in this country unemployed, you are paying for them in one form or other, either by unemployment benefit or by the local rates. In one form or other, they are being supported, and it seems to me that, that idea being once admitted, the question of pensions becomes merely a question of readjustment of money which is already being spent. It is not a question of an additional impost, but a change in the nature of the impost from unemployment benefit to a pension fund. Some of the money which mineowners and workmen are paying towards unemployment benefit could be worked out and used for a contributory old age pension fund. It may be said that these are impossible ideas, but I think a little co-operation on the part of the different Departments of the Government and their advisers would very soon work out a scheme by which you could co-ordinate such a proposal with the old age pensions scheme, and supplement it to the point where you could 1507 reasonably demand that a man should leave his employment. You cannot ask a man who is making money in the colliery to go out of employment on a pension of 10s. a week. Then, I think, an hon. Member suggested that the mining royalty owners, who are, I am afraid, bady off enough as it is, ought to help in this crisis. They should also come into such a scheme. I think a scheme of that kind would do a great deal to ease the situation.
No really serious effort has ever been made to deal on a "biggish" scale with the position of those who must, in time, if opportunity occurs, transfer to other industries. It cannot be said that this country is so devoid of capital or of ideas that a scheme could not be worked out whereby men in the worst districts could be put on to work of a useful character in order to keep them going. Some time ago in Germany they were faced with a similar position, but in Germany there was co-ordination between the mine-owners and the Government. Pits had to be shut down there, but schemes had been prepared beforehand to get the men to work again, and they were not put into the streets. That is also a. thing which should not be beyond the competence of the Government.
We hear a great deal about amalgamation and unification. I am the responsible criminal for one of them. Hon. Members opposite seem to think that the blessed word amalgamation is going to solve all our difficulties. Amalgamations will have certain financial advantages, but many of those advantages will take a very long time to work out, and in some cases two or three years. On the other hand, the industry to-day is in a position where its extreme difficulty is to find finance from any quarter whatsoever. Without finance you cannot make these improvements. You cannot find that capital expenditure by which alone you can reduce the cost of production.
I want to make this suggestion to the Government. The coal industry to-day is notoriously in a bad way, and probably this Debate will make it appear only worse in the public eye than it actually is. At any rate, the average investor to-day is not very anxious to put money into collieries, and the banks to-day have quite as much in the collieries 1508 as they want to put there, if not more. Hon. Members come and say, "Let us unify into so many collieries, sink new shafts and put in new washing machines and other things to improve the industry." But from whence is the finance to come? One of the greatest mistakes recently has been the abolition of the Trade Facilities Act. I was the parent of it and was rather proud of it, and believed that it formed very good finance. Why should it not be re-instituted for the purpose of enabling those who wish for and are contemplating amalgamations and improvements of collieries under proper supervision to obtain the necessary credit to do so? Why should not the same be extended to the steel factories of this country? A very great deal has been said about the condition of the coal industry being acute and difficult, but the position of the iron and steel trade is very much the same. There you have an analogous position. People find it almost impossible to obtain, on reasonable terms, that finance which is the central foundation of the reorganisation of industry. In that direction also the Government can really render a service which would cost them nothing. It would cost the nation nothing if you could give a chance to the industry of having once more, at any rate, an advance.
I have heard a great deal to-day about research in coal. This is a subject in which I have a certain amount of interest. Hon. Members opposite seem to imagine that Governments can demand research like they can demand a ton of coal or a ton of pig iron, but after a long experience I can say that I consider researchers are difficult people to find. You may pay people a great deal for research, but you cannot always pay them to get results. It is a very striking fact that the biggest progress that has been made with regard to the production of oil from coal has not been made by any Government researcher or even by any researcher of any great company but by a Professor of a University, Professor Bergius, who was not employed by any party at all. He happened to be a genius working on a substance quite different and he finally evolved a process to a certain point at which he could produce, at a certain cost, oil from coal. Do not let everybody run away with the idea that this marks the beginning of the end of our troubles. It does not. No doubt all these processes 1509 in time will become useful. If they can be brought, not to-day, to a state of economic production, there is very good reason for stating that they will absorb a certain quantity of coal. But they will not deal with our coal question.
The question of the development of pulverised coal would be of much more interest; even now, pulverised coal has taken the place of oil in the boilers of some steamships. When I was in Germany recently matters had progressed so far that they were beginning to replace oil by the explosive elements from powdered coal. Instead of converting coal into oil and using it, let us try to use coal direct. This is one of the best ways to use coal. There are many things in this country which are all hopeful for the future. As a matter of fact, the whole coal industry may change in its aspect. I think that probably one of our difficulties to-day is that it has already changed so much. We all know that in the past we depended very much upon selling large coal to our customers, and we had to get rid of the small coal as best we could. At the present time, the use of gas fires, electric fires, and central heating has done away with an enormous amount of the demand for household coal. It has changed the whole economic system of collieries who may give up the idea of producing large coal and introduce a new technique into the mines to bring up coal of a smaller size and in that way to produce cheaper.
There are all kinds of new questions arising. I can visualize the pulverisation of coal and the distribution of power by means of pipe lines. That is a vision of the future, but not an impossible one. All these things are not going to affect the coal industry in the next few years. You have to deal with 250,000 unemployed who ask for something more than future progress. Therefore, it seems to me that what the coal industry has to do is to get itself on to a sound financial and economic basis. There is no reason why the basic industries of this country should not operate to the last. I heard hon. Members opposite say: "We do not wish to be greedy and to fleece the public." Have the public any right to sweat the coal industry or the miners? Neither can it be claimed in the country that the big industries should be carried on at a loss and give neither a return on capital nor 1510 a decent wage to those engaged in it. That is due after all, if you look at the figures, to over-production and insensate competition, the desire of everybody to work, at the maximum, as far as he can, and to what I call a kind of brutal surgery of olden times. In the old days you performed surgical operations without anæsthetics. That is what is happening in the coal industry to-day. The weaker and smaller and less efficient pits are being killed by operations of a brutal character. We have passed from that surgery and are now operating with anæsthetics—methods of amalgamation, methods of sale cartels to produce the same result, the elimination of the weaker pit without the same kind of brutal suffering for all concerned.
I would like to make one observation on that because the point ought to be emphasised. It seems to me that there are two schools of thought which fit more closely than they imagine. One school shouts for amalgamation, and many to whom that is anathema press for co-operation. There are others to whom amalgamation is anathema, and the only thing they want is a selling organisation. As a matter of fact, you want both. The German experience of 30 years is this. They started with selling organisations. It is well known that the result was that the more efficient pits by degrees absorbed the energies of the less efficient pits, and the less efficient pits ceased to work gradually, so that in a comparatively short time they achieved unification. That same process can very well take place here. An hon. Member rightly remarked that there is a limit to which industrial unification can usefully be brought. Some people advocate trustification of all the collieries. Personally, I think such an idea is impracticable. I think you would arrive at a position in which there would be stagnation, bureaucracy, want of initiative, and a point where the machine would begin to work so slowly and badly that the whole country would object to it continuing to exist. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last said some very wise words on this subject, and I agree with him. I do think that the movement is in the right direction.
I do not wish to say anything controversial, but I do think that the conservatism in the Miners' Federation ought not to prevent improvement in methods. It would be a good thing if 1511 they could have a discussion, and if all their old rules and all their cherished traditions could be changed to meet the conditions of modern industry. I think they have something to look into there, just as we have something to look into. I believe that a discussion of these problems might lead to good results. The right hon. Gentleman is still a great believer in the Government intervening. I am not quite so sure. At any rate, these discussions ought to take place. The right hon. Gentleman said, and I agree with him, that the coal industry should not be a political plaything or a political war cry of any party. Its prosperity is vital to the future industry of this country. It employs a million hard-working men under difficult conditions, and, whatever we may think of their failings—and it is human to have failings—they are on the whole as hardworking and as honourable as any other set of men in the country, but they do desire their fellow-citizens to recognise more the conditions and difficulties under which they work. I think the Government has a role to play in the larger problems of finance, co-ordination, dealing with the surplus population, and in assisting those who want to have an organised industry either by putting into force the powers they have and the Acts that have been passed, or by declaring their willingness to make it possible that, if 70 per cent. or 80 per cent. of the owners want to form a reasonable arrangement, a small minority shall not be able to stand in the way—a recommendation that was made by the Samuel Commission and by the Committee of which Sir Frederick Lewis was Chairman. If they are prepared to move in these directions, there will be some prospect of prosperity being restored to the industry.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
The President of the Board of Trade to-day said that the Government were prepared to leave the policy of the Government in relation to the coal question to a decision of the House to-night, and to a decision of the country when the matter is submitted to it. I have not the slightest doubt that they are safe in leaving the decision to the House to-night, but I doubt whether it is very much use challenging them to submit it to the decision of the country. As far as we are concerned, we are quite 1512 prepared to accept the decision of the country on the policy pursued by the Government during the last two years. It is very important that we should come at once to an understanding of the points raised by the President of the Board of Trade in his opening remarks. He said that the real problem is two-fold in character. First of all, he said we have to face an unemployed army which can never again be absorbed in the mining industry; and, secondly, we have to deal with the question of the reorganisation and the reconstruction of the mining industry. In relation to the problem as they have pursued it up to now, he said that events have justified the Government in the action they have taken. I want to submit that the whole basis upon which the President of the Board of Trade founded his case, and the basis upon which the whole policy of the Government, and, for that matter, of the coal owners, has proceeded, is a policy that has to be destroyed unless we are going to have absolute ruin in the industry.
What is the basis upon which we have been proceeding. The Government and the coalowners have been proceeding on the same assumption that, if we can only reduce prices, if we can only get down to lower competitive prices, we can once again dispose of an output of the mines equal to that of 1913, and in deciding the policy of the Government on that basis, the President of the Board of Trade said: "Let us see what has happened." He said that in the 10 months of this year we have had 210,000,000 tons output as compared with 201,000,000 tons in the corresponding 10 months of 1925. Therefore, he said, that fact in itself proved that the eight hours' day, having reduced cost, has enabled us to sell at a lower price, and that has enabled us to get back markets we should not otherwise have had; and in doing that, we have found employment for more men. I think that is fairly stating the position submitted by the President of the Board of Trade.
The first thing I want to say is that this 9,000,000 tons increase this year followed on the top of the struggle last year in which 140,000,000 tons of output was lost to this country, and when you put up against that all coal that came into-this country from outside, and the coal produced with what we call "black-leg" labour during the miners' strike, there 1513 could not have been less than 50,000,000 tons stocked in this country which had to be replaced. If after the seven months' exhaustion of all the stocks in this country we had not had an increased output and an increased market this year, as compared with 1925, then we really should have been in a pretty bad state. I have here the Board of Trade Journal. It is to be found in the Library, and any hon. Members can inspect it. Let them follow the weekly returns showing the output from the mines of Great Britain, and they will see that in the first half of the year we had outputs of 5,000,000 tons, 5,100,000 tons, 5,200,000 tons, 5,300,000 tons and 5,500,000 tons a week. That rate went on consistently week after week until stocks had been replenished, but for the last 20 weeks we have not had more than one week in which there has been 5,000,000 tons. We have got back to the 1925 output, and all the increase in consumption we have had this year is due not to an extension of markets for British coal but merely to the replenishment of the stocks which were exhausted during that great struggle.
It is of vital importance if we are to have anything like a decent coal policy that we shall get down to this cardinal fact. I know I shall be called a defeatist, or, as I think it was expressed to-day, a fatalist, because I do not believe in an expansion of the British coal trade. I say we have to accept this cardinal fact, that markets for British coal are contracting, they will continue to contract, and never again in the history of this country shall we have markets for our British coal equal to those we had in 1913. That is the first fact we have to keep in mind.
Hon. Members may say, "What is the evidence for it?" We are told there is as much coal consumed in the world to-day as before the War. That is true, but that does not at all conflict with the statement I have made that we shall not again see markets for our coal as large as the markets in 1913. It is true that the world is consuming as much coal, but not our world, not the world in which we operate. Take the markets for British coal either before the War or since. Even to-day our markets are confined within certain areas in this world. We have Europe and the Mediterranean Ports on the African coast; we had little business outside there even in pre-war days, with 1514 the exception of the South American market. It is true that since then we have made a bit of a market in Canada, but outside Europe and the Mediterranean we have got only one per cent, of our business, excepting, again, South America. In Asia, Africa, America, and Australia, the world in which we do not operate, and in which we never have operated, there has been an increase in consumption and in production amounting to 50,000,000 tons a year or more, but in Europe and in the countries in which we do operate—in our world—there has been a reduction in consumption of, roughly, 50,000,000 tons. Our market has contracted.
Let us see the reason why. In South America, where there are countries which are non-producing, some of our trade has gone. To-day, they are consuming 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 a year less than in pre-war days. It is not that the United States of America, or Germany, or Poland have taken the market, but that the market has dried up to the extent of 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 tons a year. Russia has gone out of the market to the extent of 6,000,000 tons. As a result of the conversion to oil of 8,000,000 tons of shipping—the conversion of the great liners to oil burning, and a similar conversion of ships among the navies of the world—we have lost nearly 5,000,000 tons of trade in bunker coals. If you go to France, you will find there the biggest market that we have ever had and the biggest that we have to-day. They are consuming 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 tons more than under pre-war conditions, and they are producing 12,000,000 tons more. Whereas in pre-war days they had to go outside their own country for 17,000,000 or 18,000,000 tons of coal, now they only go outside their own country for about 11,000,000. Therefore, the French market has dried up to the tune of 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 tons. When you go to the Netherlands, you find exactly the same tale. Consumption there has increased by about 2,000,000 tons, but production has gone up by 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 tons. Consequently, that market has dried up to the tune of 4,000,000 tons.
When you get to Germany you have another proposition, because there they have increased their output of lignite by 54,000,000 tons a year, and that is equal to about 12,000,000 tons of black 1515 coal. In Germany, that has released coal for competition in the markets of Europe. You have to take these facts into account, and couple with them the fact that eight countries have already utilised their water power reserves. They are to-day producing by water power electrical energy which in the past would have required the consumption of 28,000,000 tons of coal per annum. We have been told that those eight countries have other electrical schemes in contemplation which will do the work of 190,000,000 tons of coal when they are completed. Those are the facts which lead me to the conclusion that our market is contracting, and they are facts every one of which are contained in the Memorandum supplied to the International Economic Conference which was held at Geneva in May, 1927. Consequently, we have lost 23,000,000 tons of exports.
Are we going to get them back? Where are they to come from? Our market has dried up, and we have lost nearly 5,000,000 tons of bunkers, and nobody expects to get them back again. Our home consumption between 1913 and 1925 went down by 17,000,000 tons, and we are not consuming or producing more coal than we were in 1925 when we were replenishing our exhausted stocks. We have been told that our exports have increased by 1,300,000 tons. If you look at our exports and take them month by month you will find that in 1925—we got the subsidy in August—a tussle began between the coal owners and the foreigners as to who should have the benefit of that subsidy. During those two months, we had the lowest exports that we have had for many years. Take the year 1927, and take every month with the exception of August and September, and you will find that we have not exported a ton more of coal out of this country in the other eight months; we have simply got 1,300,000 tons over the 10 months, and that is about the amount that we lost in August and September, 1925, because of the struggle that took place after the introduction of the subsidy.
If what I am saying is correct, that there is this contraction of our markets, could a more senseless, a more imbecile policy be pursued by a Government than to put another 20 per cent. of output on to the market by increasing the working day under conditions such as that? The 1516 right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said that he did not agree with that policy, and he said so at the time—he denounced it at the time. But his Government put it into operation, and I shall not be a bit surprised if he goes into the Lobby and supports the Government in what they have done. I hope, however, having regard to the views he has expressed here to-night, that he will make a point of coming into the Division Lobby with us, and showing that, at any rate, he is prepared to back by his vote the convictions which he has expressed. We were told, at the time when we were getting a longer working day and lower wages, that we must have district agreements. Well, we have had it all, and what is the position? We have got, for the June quarter, the results of every district. In Scotland, they lost £498,000; in Northumberland, £176,000; in Durham, £291,000; in South Wales, £573,000; in Yorkshire, £161,000; in Notts and Derbyshire, £495,000; in Lancashire and North Staffordshire, £346,000; and, in a group of small collieries, £118,000. We have, therefore, a loss during those three months of £2,800,000, or at the rate of over £11,000,000 a year.
That is a worse position than we had in the corresponding quarter of 1925, out of which the great crisis of that year arose. At that time, it was said that we must put £25,000,000 of public money into the industry in order to save it, but the position is worse at the corresponding quarter to-day than it was then. In 1925, during that quarter, we lost £2,400,000, and in the same quarter of this year we have lost £2,800,000. When we get the results for the September quarter—I cannot understand why the Mines Department have not published that document, because I noticed that the President of the Board of Trade quoted figures relating to the September quarter—when those figures are published, I venture the prediction that they will show a further increase in the losses of another £400,000, and that we shall find that the losses in this industry are now at the rate of about £12,000,000 a year.
What did we point out during the Debates last year? We pointed out that this was exactly what would happen. We said that, if we were given a bigger output and the results of a longer work- 1517 ing day, it would intensify competition, and prices would be reduced. It was true, we said, that there would be a reduction in costs, but the intensified competition resulting from the increased output would more than counteract all the benefit that would accrue from the longer working day. The President of the Board of Trade said to-day that costs had been reduced in the September quarter of this year, as compared with the September quarter of 1925, by about 2s. 8d. a ton. I cannot compare that figure, but I have compared the figure for the June quarter, and that shows that the costs are down 2s. 4d. per ton, and prices are down 2s. 4¾d. per ton. Everything the miners have given by way of- greater exertion, greater effort, bigger output, reduced wages, a degradation of their standard of existence such as they have not tolerated for the last 50 years, has all been thrown away by the cut-throat competition which has been the inevitable result of the policy pursued by the Government. We said then as we have said to-day, take notice of the industry and face the facts. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last does not believe in 100 per cent, trustification. He does not believe in nationalisation and he does not believe in trustification. He believes in rationalisation and a gradual, steady process of bringing the industry under the principles of unification. I do not care how the thing is done. You can nationalise it or rationalise it, or do what you like. The one thing we have to face is the incontrovertible fact that old-time individualism in the mining industry has collapsed. It is a system that is smashed beyond repair.
I have never supported the Samuel Report. I was the one man in the country who broke through all the undertakings that had been given by the Labour party politically and industrially that nothing was to be said about it until there had been conferences between the Government and the coalowners and the miners. I had been laid up and did not know anything about these things. I did not know about the undertakings that had been given, but I expressed my view of that Report after giving five hours' study to it, and I said, "There is no settlement in this Report," and there never has been a settlement. I have 1518 never said a word in favour of it, and I am not blaming the Government or the coalowners or anyone for not putting it into operation. What I have said is that we have, not in the Report but in the minutes of evidence, all the statistics contained in those volumes, every fact and figure that was put before the Commission, and we can now study it for ourselves. We can form our own conclusions. We were able to prove last year that if this industry had been unified in 1925 all that was necessary to make a successful industry of it was to get it all under one common control, one common ownership, and unify it, and if that had been done in 1925, according to the accountants appointed by the Samuel Commission, all that would have been necessary would have been for that one undertaking, whether the State or a private trust, to say, "We shall not reduce coal below what it has been on an average during the last six months, and the men shall have a reduction of 10 per cent."
Had that been done we should have been placed in this position. The accountants made out their estimate by taking all collieries into account, those making profits and those making losses, old and new collieries, collieries producing for the home market and for export, collieries all working on the basis of the seven hours day and keeping all the men in employment, and they said, "If you only give a 10 per cent. reduction in wages and unify the industry there will be £12,000,000 a year profit on it, the average annual profit for 10 years before the War." There never has been any answer to that case yet. There is no answer possible to it, and there will be no solution of the coal problem until we apply that principle of unification and control of selling prices in the mining industry. Had this industry been under common ownership, and had we applied the principles to which I have referred, the industry would immediately have been a prosperous undertaking, and the whole of the collieries would have been kept in profitable production, all the miners would have been retained in employment, the seven hours day would have been kept, every shareholder would have been paid dividends, there would have been no need for a subsidy, the seven months' stoppage would have been avoided, and the eight hours day would have been 1519 unnecessary, and 100,000 men who have been turned out of the industry would still have been kept in it and in employment.
We have suffered all this just for the want of applying this principle of unification to the industry and accepting the chartered accountants' figures as submitted to that Commission. Those figures are there and available for anybody, and I have no hesitation at all in saying that, bad as the industry is to-day, it will go from bad to worse. For largo numbers of miners to be out of work means something more than does unemployment in lots of other industries, because in the mining villages the whole organisation of the churches, of the social institutions, of the hospitals, of local government—everything—depends upon continuity of employment in the mines. We are getting valley after valley, district after district, rendered derelict. Our people are getting despondent. You only want to see the faces of the coal-owners to know that gloom is spreading over the whole of them, and more than half the coalowners in this country would revel in the prospect of something of the kind which we propose being done, but nothing is being done. The policy of the coalowners last year, adopted by the Government, has been tried, and it has made the position worse.
I would like to know whether the time has not yet arrived when the Government will make up their mind to depart from their old Conservatism and to see whether or not they can go all the way, whether or not they can accept nationalisation, if it is not possible for them at least to come to the conclusion, which is as inevitable as the grave later on, that individual, private enterprise has failed and must be replaced and supplanted by some other system. If that is done, I see no reason at all why we should not have a very prosperous, profitable industry in this country, within limits. I do not think we are ever going to have as big an industry as formerly, but in the absence of the application of those principles to which I have referred, as far as I see nothing that the Government have to offer or have suggested to-day will even tend in the direction of solving the problem, while I am perfectly satisfied that the policy that has been pursued hitherto has not only not helped to solve the 1520 problem but has added enormously to the difficulties in the industry and has made the position very much worse. I can assure the President of the Board of Trade and the Prime Minister that, if they are prepared to submit this case to the conviction and the decision of the British electorate, at any rate as far as those communities which are dependent more or less directly upon the mining industry are concerned, there are no two opinions as to the result. Once the opportunity is afforded the electors, I can assure the Government that their expression of opinion will be very emphatic and that it will be in unmistakeable condemnation of the policy that has been pursued.
§ The SECRETARY for MINES (Colonel Lane Fox)
The House was reminded at an earlier stage by the Prime Minister that this is probably the last occasion on which I shall have an opportunity of delivering a speech on the rather threadbare subject of coal. We have had an interesting discussion, and, whatever further there may be to say, I should like to reply to some of the points that have been raised in the Debate. The right hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) always makes a most interesting speech. He has taken a very gloomy view of the future; but I venture to think that this is not the time when we can very safely prophesy what the future is going to be. In this country we have only recently come out of a disastrous stoppage, and we have only recently, at great sacrifice, recaptured a considerable portion of our world markets.
The right hon. Gentleman says that had there been a scheme of unification in operation, under some process that he had not time to explain, and under some process which would require a good deal of explanation, everything would have gone right. We should have sold so many million more tons of coal, and we should have made £12,000,000 profit. I would ask him whether the position is not somewhat improved by the fact that under what has been done, the cost of production has gone down by 2s. 8d. a ton. We have thereby been able to regain a certain proportion of our world markets. Does he really say that we should have been certain to regain that portion of our world markets had the price been 2s. 8d. 1521 or 3s. per ton higher? It is perfectly obvious that that difference must be taken into account.
The whole argument has been put very well by the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) in a very interesting speech. What did his argument amount to? It amounted to this, that as a result of what the Government have done, we are now in the present unfortunate position. He complained that at this moment more coal was being produced by fewer men at less cost. Surely in any other industry that would be held to be a very great test of increased efficiency, but as in this industry there is a great amount of unemployment, it is not held to be a test of efficiency. We are faced with the question of organising, improving, and reducing the cost of production in those pits which can pay and those pits that can be worked, and also of providing for the surplus labour which the industry can no longer carry. These are objects which the Government are preparing to do their best to meet.
First of all, let me deal with the question of organisation. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is not in his place. He has an engagement and cannot be here. I remember the right hon. Gentleman very well when I was a humble and perhaps uneasy follower of his. One interesting thing during the War period was that the right hon. Gentleman was a profound optimist. When everybody was down in the dumps, he was- always on the bright side; he always had courage. So long as he was in office he maintained that position, but ever since the right hon. Gentleman has left office, this old country has gone steadily to the dogs. The right hon. Gentleman took a most gloomy view of the future, as indeed he always does, whether it be on occasions of a semi-private character, or whether it be in articles to the Hearst Press, which certainly do not tend to increase the confidence of our foreign clients in us. They do not add to their confidence that any orders given to this country will be fulfilled. In these various articles the right hon. Gentleman always took a gloomy view of the future of this country.
He has no right to say that nothing is being done in the way of amalgamations in this country, that nothing is being 1522 done to organise the coal industry, or that these amalgamations were not being seriously pressed. A great deal is being done, and a certain number of amalgamations have already gone through. I agree nothing like the number that I hope will shortly go through. It has been well said by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that the one thing which would stop what hon. Members opposite really desire is a premature interference by the Government and premature publicity, before these amalgamations have gone through. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said that court after court and Ministry after Ministry had been set up under the Mining Industry Act, and that the Government had taken no advantage of them. That is a picturesque exaggeration, as the Mines Department, if it thinks there is a prima facie case for amalgamation, can bring the proposal into Court, and if the Court so decides amalgamation takes place. The process is an extremely simple one, and it is the contribution which the Government made to the problem. Surely if a proposition is not sufficiently good for any single individual to think it worth while to take it up then it is rather a risky thing for the State itself to take it up. However, it is a splendid opportunity and I think advantage will be taken of it.
Every day in every coalfield proposed amalgamations and combinations are being discussed. When the Act was being discussed an Amendment was moved by an hon. Member for one of the Liverpool Divisions giving power to the Mines Department to initiate schemes and bring them before the court itself without any individual or firm taking action. The suggestion was that this power behind the scenes would form a kind of pressure which would induce schemes for amalgamation to be brought forward. The Government did not agree to the suggestion, as they thought it was far better that amalgamations, if they were to be successful, should be the result of the initiative of the individuals who saw a real advantage in the proposal. That is a process which can be brought into effect afterwards, if the schemes materialise. I believe there are a large number of people in this country who are really working hard to try to effect a better organisation of the industry; who realise the value of 1523 big undertakings, and realise that the small old fashioned ideas can no longer stand under present conditions. But time is going on, and next summer the report which was ordered under the Act will have to be made. The House will remember that the Samuel Report suggested that, as a form of pressure, there should be a report made every three years. We reduced it to two; we went further than the Commission. The Commission very strongly reported against any kind of direct compulsion. I do not think I need quote the passages. I expect that hon. Members know the quotations sufficiently well by now and, as the right hon. Gentleman just said, there is not much to be gained by bandying passages from the Report of the Commission.
There is absolutely nothing that can be thrown against the Government in the matter of neglecting to take their opportunities to the full. The policy in the Report of the Commission has been carried out by us even further than the Commission suggested. As regards the matter of dealing with surplus labour, it is perfectly obvious that any better scheme of organisation or amalgamation of this kind that will bring the more profitable pits together must leave the less profitable pits outside. That would cause a decrease of employment. It is clear that we are faced with a considerable amount of unemployment which is likely to be permanent. Therefore, provision must be made to deal with that. The House has been told by my right hon. Friend of the various measures which the Government are taking to deal with that problem. It is a very grave and a very serious matter and a very difficult one. The House must not forget the various things which were announced by the Government.
There are one or two points which have been raised in the Debate and with which I would like to deal. Pensions for old miners have been suggested as one remedy There is no doubt that, if we could have a scheme sufficiently attractive and with sufficient money in it to take the older men, men of 60 and over, out of the industry, it would relieve the situation. It is well, however, that the House should know the figures. The subject has often been talked about very loosely without people realising what the figures involved are. It is obvious that such a proposal 1524 as this must have been gone into by the Government, and therefore the figures have been worked out by our Actuary. A pension of only 10s. a week—and no one would suggest that that would be enough as an inducement to many men of that age to leave their employment—in this industry in the following 15 years would mean an average of £3,000,000 a year. No one would suggest that 10s. a week is enough, and, if you make it much larger, the figure would be very considerable indeed. There must obviously be a very great difficulty in any large sum of that kind being provided by the State for any one industry, however peculiar the circumstances. Hon. Members talk loosely about unemployment benefit. Unemployment benefit is paid out of an insurance scheme; contributions are paid for unemployment benefit. Are you going to increase those contributions? Obviously, these things have not really been seriously considered.
At the present moment a scheme is being considered in connection with the Miners' Welfare Fund. All I can say about that is that the undertaking has already been given—and I am prepared to repeat it—that, should any form of pension scheme be found possible, within the Welfare Fund, any difficulties arising out of the wording of the Act will be removed so as to include in the objects available for the Miners' Welfare Fund some scheme of that kind. At the present moment we are debarred by the words of the Statute.
One or two other points have been raised in the Debate. The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley) spoke of victimisation at the collieries, and suggested that at some of the pits owners were refusing to employ men unless they joined a certain union. It is, a new thing to hear that complaint coming from that quarter. I would like to know how many eloquent speeches hon. Members opposite have made in telling men that they ought never to work alongside those who are not prepared to belong to their union. While I do not defend the practice, I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that it is from them that the lesson has been learned. Something has been said about the possibility of helping the mining industry by improving the position of the heavy trades, particularly the iron and steel trade. There is no 1525 doubt that, if the importation of foreign steel were checked, and if there were a greater activity in the steel trade of this country, it would make an enormous difference. Questions on that subject have been asked many times in the House. The Government are debarred from taking action by the pledge given at the last General Election. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That is our view. I am sure hon. Gentlemen will realise that the view of the party to which I belong, and I am certain the view of all parties, is that a pledge definitely given at an election is a pledge which must be kept absolutely.
There are many other points with which I have not time to deal. This is a Vote of Censure. It is an attempt on the part of hon. Members opposite to remove from themselves blame which they fully earned—to remove blame which was due to the fact that they encouraged and prolonged the coal stoppage—[Interruption]—and wrongly advised the men, with the result that the whole of British production was
§ stopped for seven months. I say, and say with confidence, that the blame for what has occurred since rests far more on them than on the Government. They have moved a Vote of Censure on the Prime Minister, whom we all respect. [Interruption.] I call upon the House to give to the Prime Minister a vote of confidence.
That this House registers its protest that, on the Motion by the Leader of the Opposition on the 16th November on the serious situation in the Coal Industry, which involved a vote of censure on the Government, the Prime Minister should have deliberately evaded giving any defence or explanation of the inaction of the Government, for which, as Prime Minister, he has a personal responsibility; and this House declares that the crisis in the industry, transcending all possibilities of mere departmental action, is such as to demand an authoritative statement by the Prime Minister of the intentions of the Government as a whole.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 142; Noes, 347.1529
|Division No. 451.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Groves, T.||Potts, John S.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Riley, Ben|
|Amnion, Charles George||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Ritson, J.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hardie, George D.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Robinson. W. c. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Barnes, A.||Hayday, Arthur||Rose, Frank H.|
|Barr, J.||Hayes, John Henry||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Batey, Joseph||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Hirst, G. H.||Scurr, John|
|Bromfield, William||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie||Sexton, James|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Buchanan, G.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Cape, Thomas||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Clowes, S.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kennedy, T.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Snell, Harry|
|Compton, Joseph||Kirkwood, D.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Connolly, M.||Lansbury, George||Stamford, T. W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lawson, John James||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lindley, F. W.||Stewart J. (St. Rollox)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lowth, T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lunn, William||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.I|
|Dennison, R.||Mackinder, W.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Duncan, C.||MacLaren, Andrew||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Dunnico, H.||Maclean Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Edge, Sir William||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||March, S.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Viant, S. P.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Montague, Frederick||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Morris. R. H.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Glliett, George M.||Murnin, H.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Gosling, Harry||Naylor, T. E.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Oliver, George Harold||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Owen, Major G.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Greenall, T.||Palin, John Henry||Welsh, J. C.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Paling, W.||Westwood, J.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Whiteley, W.|
|Wiggins, William Martin||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles|
|Williams, David (Swansea, East)||Windsor, Walter||Edwards|
|Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)||Wright, W.|
|Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cooper, A. Duff||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Cope, Major William||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Albery, Irving James||Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hilton, Cecil|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G|
|Astor, Viscountess||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)|
|Atkinson, C.||Davidson, J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Holt, Captain H. P.|
|Balniel, Lord||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Dawson, Sir Philip||Herlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Dixey, A. C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Drewe, C.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)|
|Bennett, A. J.||Duckworth, John||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Berry, Sir George||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Bethel, A.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Ellis R. G.||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||England, Colonel A.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Sklpton)||Erskine Lord (Somerset Weston-s.-M.)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H|
|Blundell, F. N.||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Iveagh, Countess of|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Fermoy, Lord||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Fielden, E. B.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston).|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Finburgh, S.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Ford, sir P. J.||Kindersley, Major Guy M.|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Forestler-Walker, Sir L.||King, Commodore Henry Douglas|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Forrest, W.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Lamb, J. Q|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Frece, sir Walter de||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Little, Dr. E. Graham|
|Buchan, John||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Gates, Percy||Loder, J. de V.|
|Burman, J. B.||Gault Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Long, Major Eric|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Looker, Herbert William|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Goff, Sir Park||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Gower, Sir Robert||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman>|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Grace, John||Lumley, L. R.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Lynn, Sir R. J.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Grant, Sir J. A.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen|
|Cassels, J. D.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Greenwood. Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w. E)||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Macintyre, Ian|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||McLean, Major A.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Grotrian, H. Brent||Macmillan, Captain H.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Hacking, Douglas H.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Christle, J. A.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||MacRobert, Alexander M.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Malone, Major P. B.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Clayton, G. C.||Harland, A.||Margesson, Caption D.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Harrison, G. J. C.||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Hartington, Marquess of||Meller, R. J.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Merriman, F. B.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Templeton, W. P.|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Thorm, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Moore, Sir Newton J.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Mcore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Rye, F. G.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Moreing, Captain A. H.||Salmon, Major I.||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. p.|
|Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Waddington, R.|
|Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Sandeman, N. Stewart||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Nelson, Sir Frank||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Sandon, Lord||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G.(Ptrsf'ld.)||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Shaw, R. G. (Yorke, W. R., Sowerby)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Oakley, T.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Wells, S. R.|
|O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Skelton, A. N.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Penny, Frederick George||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Perring, Sir William George||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Withers, John James|
|Pilcher, G.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Womersley, W. J|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Preston, William||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Storry-Deans, R.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Radford, E. A.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Raine, Sir Walter||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Ramsden, E.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Styles, Captain H. Walter||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)|
|Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Rentoul, G. S.||Sugden. Sir Wilfrid||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and|
|Rice, Sir Frederick||Tasker, R. Inigo.||Colonel Gibbs.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ The remaining Government Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House, of 8th November, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn.