Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £117,617, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Mines Department of the Board of Trade."—[Note: £59,400 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. VARLEY
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I wish the Secretary for Mines had spoken first in introducing the Vote. I should then have been able to direct consideration to the exact functions which come within the ambit of his Department. It is exceedingly difficult on a Supply Day, when it is not in order to speak on subjects involving legislation, to obey the Rules of Order. I am not aware that there is anywhere a code signifying exactly what are the functions of the Mines Department, but perhaps I shall be right if I assume that these functions ought to include a survey of the whole of the industry and the various complaints of the people engaged in it. At any rate, this time last year there was not the least doubt that the Minister had a very paternal solicitude for one of the partners of the industry, for, after continuing the Emergency Regulations and when only the miners were out, the Government proceeded to introduce and carry legislation which, whether it was detrimental or not to one of the partners in the industry, that partner simply thought it was. Therefore, it would be idle for me to represent that the Mines Department are in no sense responsible for the conduct of the industry. If they are not, they ought to be. I hope that I may be able to clear the ground for getting the functions of this Department more clearly defined on some future occasion.
1966 4.0 p.m.
At this time last year we were told by an hon. Member on this side of the House that the action the Government then contemplated taking on the advice of the Department, namely, increasing the hours of labour, would inevitably intensify the competition then existing, and that that of itself would inevitably reduce prices and must result in diminishing the number of shifts worked and generally reducing the standard of life of the miners. But those of us who used those arguments were not then aware that our prophecies would be so speedily fulfilled. It is no pleasure for me to begin to criticise the Department to-day, having regard to the results which have been obtained. I could have wished that the results had been far better than they have been. Therefore, I want to put a series of questions to the Ministry. Have the Department inquired how far the aggregate tonnage has increased as the result of the working of the Act of last year? Have they inquired how far additional employment has been given? Have they inquired, and are they prepared to make any recommendations in the future, with regard to the weekly wages which the men have since enjoyed, or failed to enjoy? At Question Time to-day the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) implied that the position was better than before the stoppage. Some ascertainments are now being taken, and the figures are there to be compared with the results of the ascertainments in pre-stoppage days, and the hon. Member for Mossley, the Secretary for Mines and the miners' Members are free to make what comparison they like of official figures, and not of the statements made either from one bench or the other. There can be no dispute as to the result of the comparison, although there may be contention as to the way in which the figures are compiled. From these comparisons I find that the effect of the increased working time in Scotland—and these figures represent every man employed; if the figures related only to coal hewers, the increased production would be greater than I am going to present—between February, 1926, and April, 1927, the men increased their output by 2.58 cwts. per person employed per shift—a very appreciable advance, such an advance as, we were led to be- 1967 lieve, would, if it could be secured, make all the difference between comparative affluence and extreme poverty.
Instead of that desirable result, we find that, as a reward for their industry, as a reward for working the additional hour, as a reward for supplying, as the result of that additional hour worked a 15 per cent., or whatever it may be, increase in output, or, in terms of tonnage, 2.58 cwts., these men are actually 1.06d. per shift worse off. The comparison is still more startling in the English districts, because in Northumberland the increased output is 2.24 cwts., and the wage reduction 8.57d. In Durham, the increased output is 3.14 cwts., as the result of which they get 7.85d. less than they did for the smaller quantity. In South Wales, where, we were led to believe there might be passive resistance to producing an additional output, they have done better than anywhere, increasing the output by 3.26 cwts. per shift per person employed as between the first quarter of 1926 and April, 1927, and they have lost in terms of wages, in consequence, 2.55d. Someone will say it was the weekly wage we were talking about, but if we analyse the results from that point of view, is the result any better? There is some dubiety as to the time actually being worked, and the figures of the Ministry are nothing like so complete on this aspect as on others. All that I have to go upon are the various coalfields, and the experience I have gathered, in my own particular part of the country, and I am quite sure that the time worked since January of this year is the worst on record for any comparable period, especially as regards the inland districts of Britain, which largely cater for the home coal trade. I feel certain that never in the whole history of the operation of the Unemployment Insurance Act has so much money been paid out in Nottinghamshire as has been paid out since January of this year, and it has to be remembered that Nottinghamshire has the highest proportion of persons employed in any district in England, and our production per person is the highest.
It is fair to assume that, if that be the result in the best district, it is certainly no better in other parts of the country. I have had opportunities of 1968 visiting, even this year, Warwickshire, Lancashire and the Midlands generally, and I am certain that, in addition to the reduced wage per shift, there has been a considerable diminution in the number of shifts worked per week, which means a considerably reduced weekly wage, and it is the weekly wage upon which the man has to live. I will come back to Nottinghamshire again, because there are hon. Members on this side who are simply itching to recite their experience in their own districts, and therefore I need not bother with those districts. In the largest colliery in my county—why I should assume a proprietary right to this county, I do not know—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"]—but I suppose the only claim I have to be in this House is that I am a citizen, and, as such, have some share in the natural resources of the country, and perhaps the slip, therefore, can be pardoned—at any rate, in the largest colliery in Nottinghamshire, where 4,200 men are employed, in the 18 weeks ending at Whitsuntide, the morning shift worked 37½ shifts, and the afternoon shift, 34 shifts.
I shall be told, before this Debate is finished to-day, that we people in Nottinghamshire, who, with Derbyshire to-day are the only districts slightly above the minimum, are in clover, that we have a rate of 60 per cent above the 1911 standard, and that that is within measurable distance of the cost-of-living. It is perfectly true that we have got that percentage, but we get it twice a week, and, therefore, the weekly wage of a man is not to be measured by multiplying that daily rate by 5½ or 6, but by a figure considerably smaller—in the early months of the year only 2½. It has improved there a little, and now may be nearer 4½, but even that gives something like a picture of the position to which either the state of trade internationally, or the extended use of coal substitutes, or, in my opinion, largely the legislation of last year has reduced the mining population. But then, again, are any more men employed? It may be said that if they are getting rather less money per shift, if they are working rather fewer shifts per week, there would be some solatium if we could tell ourselves that a larger number of men were employed in the aggregate. An analysis on these lines, and the only figures avail- 1969 able, tell me that in the Durham ascertainment, the figures of which were published last week—and these are the official figures audited by the accountants on each side—in May, 1924, there were registered and working in and about the mines of Durham 172,024 men. In May, 1927, the number had fallen to 131,324—a reduction of 40,700. If that were the position in one district, it gives some idea of the ghastly tragedy now overshadowing again the coalfields of Britain. It is not many weeks ago that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour had to tell this House that there was at that time signing for unemployment benefit no fewer than 211,000 miners.
What have the Department done? Have they done anything, or are they again going to tell us that this is the best of all possible worlds, that this country was built upon coal, that even now its prosperity must rest on coal, and then supinely sit down and see this state of things from day to day get gradually worse? If the Department have not the powers, they should be given the powers, and I hope that when the Minister explains how the money, which we are to be asked to vote to-day, is to be spent, he will indicate that it is to be spent in some far more vigorous policy than hitherto has characterised his Department. We shall be told that they have got a recruiting scheme to prevent the entry into the industry of men who were previously not miners. There were those of us who thought, when the Act of last year was before the House, that that recruiting scheme, if it were to have any virtue at all, was to be put into operation immediately, and that any man who was thirsting and longing for the life of a miner, if perchance there was such, knowing that this legislation would debar him if he delayed his entry thereto, had his opportunity of slipping into the mines. They are there, particularly in my part of the world, and, perhaps, only in my part of the world, because we have, possibly, the only district which to-day is extending its boundaries, and we are sinking pits in the heart of the agricultural country. Men come first as surface labourers, and gradually are absorbed underground, and since the stoppage of last year the great probability is that we have taken 1970 more than a thousand of this class of men into the mines of Nottinghamshire, at a time when hundreds of thousands are standing idle in other parts.
However, the recruiting scheme, such as it is, if it had any virtue at all, it would be because it was made compulsory. But we have had presented to us now, for our acceptance or otherwise, a scheme prepared by the Ministry of Labour, which says to the colliery owner that he shall not engage a man who, on the 30th April, 1926, was not a miner. There is, however, nothing mandatory about that injunction, and the injunction is to be entered into on the word of the Mining Association of Great Britain, which certainly cannot speak for anything like the whole of the coal-producing people in this country to-day. Moreover, the scheme is of no use because, as I say, it is altogether too late. At the door of every colliery of which I have knowledge today, there are men clamouring for work, men who have been lifelong colliers. Therefore, in his own interest, the employer has no need to take on non-miners, with the solitary exception of those in that circumscribed area where no coal was previously got, and no housing accommodation exists. I hope we are not to be told that the sole contribution of which the Department of Mines or the Ministry of Labour is capable is the production of this scheme for the prevention of the recruiting of nonminers. It is merely a drop in the ocean, even if it were made watertight and compulsory, and if everyone honourably carried it out when it became mandatory.
There is another question on which I should like information to-day—another recommendation of the Commission, one of the things about which we had expected the Department were in earnest, which was to inquire closely into the question of selling. What has been done with regard to the selling agencies? The Department set up a Committee, which reported. That Committee, fortunately or otherwise, was composed of persons interested in the coal industry, of which I was one. That constitutes my right in saying that the persons who composed that Committee were interested in the industry. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) 1971 and I signed the Majority Report of that Committee with a reservation. However the Majority Report included a recommendation that the institution of co-operative seling agencies would be for the benefit of the industry and of the persons engaged in it. They expected that desirable object to be brought about by voluntary methods in face of the fact that three coalowners represented on that Committee signed a Minority Report which damned and doomed co-operative selling, as far as they were concerned. Since sitting on that Committee, I have had the opportunity of visiting parts of the world where co-operative selling agencies have been instituted, and where they are compulsory, and whatever my previous opinions were as to the efficacy of this particular measure, I have come back with these opinions considerably strengthened.
But perhaps the Department will say, "Before we cast round for any remedy we ought to diagnose the disease. Is the disease what you then stated it was?" The disease, as I see it, is this. It is a canker at the heart of the British coal industry which arises from the competition between the coalowners themselves, and every figure that is produced goes to prove that assertion. If you look at the Board of Trade returns for the first five months of this year, you will find an illustration of what I am talking about. Taking exports alone, the efficacy of co-operative selling is far less pronounced for exports in the face of world competition than what it might be with regard to home trade. We exported in January, 4,092,000 tons of coal for which we received £4,290,000. That is about 20s. 11d. per ton. By January this year some of the districts of Great Britain had not come into full production and some of them did not resume work until mid-December, but by their increased hours of work they flooded the markets of this country with coal. There was a slump in prices, and the coal had to be sold at any possible price. In February we sent overseas 80,000 tons more than in January, and we accepted as payment for that larger quantity £308,000 less. Now it is the height of folly to make the foreigner a sheer present of this extra quantity of coal, and if you are to have any consideration for 1972 your home producer at all, and for the men who are engaged in the industry, you ought not to give away in this fashion over a quarter of a million of their money, or money in which they would have largely participated. That process has gone on during the whole of five months of this year, and by March we had come to the conclusion that we could not export more than 4,800,000 tons a month, and prices have now stabilised themselves round about 18s. 6d. a ton.
Coming much nearer home, with regard to the analysis of particular districts—and it may be argued that that reduced price was taken because they were compelled to take it if they were to sell any coal at all—how far has the process of selling all that large quantity, or even an average quantity of coal, been reflected in the wages and conditions of the men employed in the industry? In Northumberland, between January and April of this year, the price had fallen exactly 2s. a ton. It was expected that that considerable diminution in the price would have resulted in increasing the output, but co-terminously with that fall of 2s. a ton production also fell by 94,000 tons. In Durham the price fell in the same period by 1s. 4d. per ton. One would have expected in return for the sacrifices made by the coalowners of Great Britain on behalf of the men we represent—sacrifices which were largely vicarious, one would have thought that we would have had a considerable accretion in April to the amount of coal produced in Durham, but I think we only got an increased production of 25,000 tons, in a county which produces 3,000,000 tons a month. That increase was a mere bagatelle. As far as France is concerned, our exports of coal are stopped by the embargo imposed by the French Government. Our best interests lie in selling as large a quantity of coal as possible at the most advantageous terms, and although we viewed with dismay the action of the French Government, yet when I had the opportunity of reading the letter from M. Tardieu to Lord Derby which was published in the "Times," I had to admit that the imposition of the embargo was purely a measure of self-defence on the part of the French Government, who were compelled to adopt that policy in the interests of their coalmines and their miners. There is no good in whining about that.
1973 In Germany, where selling agencies have been instituted, the figures prove that the work and prices have been more stable, and that there has been less interruption of work through disputes than in this country. From 1872 to 1893 the price of coal in Germany fluctuated between 4s. and 14s. a ton. In 1893 after selling agencies had been introduced, it was found that far from their having the effect of bleeding the consumer, the prices have only varied, since that year, between 8s. and 12s. a ton. Is it possible to devise machinery on some similar lines to this while still insuring that neither one nor the other party is unjustly treated in the transaction? I sincerely hope the Government are not going to sit down and wait for that voluntary action contemplated in this Report to mature. They must, in my opinion, if they are to have any regard at all to the best interests of the whole of the people engaged in the coal trade, go far more deeply into this question. And they must be prepared to put recommendations before the Government and compel the Government to take action in the matter. But some will argue that the result of the institution of selling agencies must be to increase the price of coal. Personally, I have no great objection to that, because I hold in this matter the producer's point of view. I have been connected with the production of coal all my life, and I believe it is an absolutely false conception, that the men whose wages depend on the industry ought not to have some say in the matter.
It is said that co-operative selling agencies will increase the price. In Germany it was having this effect, for on the 1st March British coal was being sold in Berlin at 2s. 5d. a ton cheaper than Silesian coal, because of the price fixed by the Silesian cartel, and there was no power to reduce that price. On 8th March it was 3s. a ton cheaper. On the 15th March British coal was being sold at 25s. 6d. a ton and Silesian coal at 29s. 6d. a ton, and that difference of 4s. a ton has remained ever since. Therefore this giving away of the national resources of this country, and with it a considerable part of the livelihood of our men, is in a large measure not due to the necessities of world competition, but principally to the desire of the British coalowner to beat his neighbour and get 1974 trade at whatever cost. I hope the Minister will have something to tell us on this question of selling agencies.
We want to know whether anything is being done with regard to the recommendations of the Commission on the question of wagons and distribution generally. The Minister has produced figures prepared from time to time by the Coal Merchants' Association, and it, has become increasingly obvious from the various sets of figures that he gave us that he could have given us something more. I was credibly informed that recently the Manchester Corporation invited tenders for 650,000 tons of coal to be supplied over a period of years. I was informed that the local collieries contracted to supply it, but in opposition to them there came a man who was not a pit owner but only a handler of coal and not a pit man at all. He offered coal from collieries in Notts and South Yorks which was of the same ash content, but had a better degree of volatility for the purposes to which the coal was to be devoted, and he offered that coal at prices from 5s. 9d. to 8s. a ton less than the Lancashire prices. We want to know how this is possible, and the country also wants to know. It is the duty of the Department of Mines to probe far more deeply into this question than they have been doing. We on these benches cannot get rid of the feeling that it is through this channel that the large amount of money which could be used to augment the wages of our men, is slowly filtering, and I sincerely hope that the Minister will have some information to give us on this matter.
Then as regards the question of amalgamation. In the Act of last year provision was made, or, rather, some very good advice was given, with regard to the desirability of reducing the number of units of production in this country. There are those of us in this House who, although we adhere to our theories that the remedy lies in bringing the whole of the production into one unit, have come to the conclusion that that provision will have to be achieved through the medium of trustification. I am by no means speaking for the party, but I would be prepared to forgive the Ministry if they could show some investigations and results along those lines. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Car- 1975 marthen is a devotee of this particular theory in connection with the amalgamation of the coal mines in this country—
§ The CHAIRMAN
Last year, on this Vote, I allowed a discussion to take place in which there were some references to legislation. I would be prepared to do the same to-day, if there were no objection taken, but there must be some limits. I would be prepared, if no one object, to allow a general discussion on matters arising out of the Acts of last year and the recommendation of the Commission. I do not think we can have on this occasion on the question of the salary of the Secretary for Mines, a discussion on such a matter as nationalisation.
§ Mr. GREENALL
Is it not understood between all the parties concerned that this is practically a day set aside for the discussion of the whole mining position? Is it not agreed by the Government, the Opposition and the Mines Department that this day is to be taken entirely for debating everything concerned with mining?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think we can debate everything concerned with the mining industry. That would be a very wide order. There are many things directly or indirectly concerned with coal in modern civilisation. I think I have gone as far as I can. The real question before the Committee is the conduct of the Mines Department, and in discussing that conduct I will allow legislation to be mentioned if it arises out of the present situation or last year's situation. But if I were to allow discussion of nationalisation we should be opening the whole question of collectivism and individualism, and the sins of the Mines Department would soon be forgotten.
§ Mr. GREENALL
Is it not a fact that the whole situation affecting the mining industry is such that it demands all that the miners and the Opposition have asked in connection with to-day's Debate?
§ The CHAIRMAN
If that is the view of the hon. Member and his Friends, they must put down some general Motion. We are now in Committee of Supply, and 1976 we must be bound by the Rules of the Committee of Supply. I have stretched the Rules as far as I possibly can.
§ Mr. VARLEY
I am much obliged for your direction, especially as I understood you to say that we should be in order in discussing the administration of the Act passed last year. Inasmuch as that includes reference to amalgamation, it was to that particular part of the Act to which I was proceeding to address myself. On that question, it is true that in the legislation there was nothing to compel amalgamations. There were general directions as to the desirability of amalgamations. There was a sort of veiled threat of what might happen three years from now if those amalgamations do not materialise. I sincerely hope that the Secretary to the Mines Department will be able to tell us that, although we have not seen the recommendations of that legislation fructifying, he has knowledge of amalgamations in process of which at present we have no knowledge. If he is not in a position to say that, I would like to inquire what the attitude of his Department is to be between now and the expiration of the three years trial period because, candidly and honestly, we cannot afford to wait three years for amelioration.
It may well be that the Government are not satisfied with the recommendations of the Commission. It may well be that they have some hesitancy about the success of the operation advised and the legislation they then propounded. Whether that be so or not, having put forward that legislation we have a right to expect that they did it in the hope that it would materialise and that they would be prepared with some alternative if it did riot materialise. We have very little information upon this subject as yet, but I hope the Minister will be able to add to our store of knowledge upon the question. According to the newspapers, I see that there is in this House a group of Conservative Members who are interested in the mining question, and they were honoured the other day by the presence of the Secretary for Mines at one of their meetings. What he told them we do not know except this, that he had been led to believe that this country was losing orders because of the psychological effect which had been created in the minds of foreign 1977 buyers, owing to statements that the British coal industry was facing another crisis. I do not know what foundation there is for that assertion.
I am not one of those who say that there is a crisis in the British coal industry, but I do say that even in the district from which I come, which is certainly one of the best situated in Great Britain, although there is not a crisis, the only reason why there is not is because at the moment the men, economically, are down and out. There is what I regard as something infinitely worse than a crisis; there is deep-down disgruntlement, which some day will burst forth. It is not because the men have settled down with the conditions which have been forced upon them that we are not faced with an immediate crisis; it is not because they think that they have received a square deal at the hands of the Government or the coal-owners; it is not that they believe that what they are now receiving is all of which the British coal industry is capable, but it is simply and solely the fact that as tacticians they are biding their time. It is terrible to have to say these things; it can give no comfort to any man who regards the matter either from the national point of view or from the point of view of the industry, but I believe it to be profoundly true, otherwise I would not say it.
Surely it is the duty of the Mines Department to ensure as far as possible the utmost degree of economic security as well as harmonious working in the coalfields. In the part of the world from which I come there is at this moment more intimidation and more victimisation than ever before. I do not -mind who challenges that statement, it can be demonstrated to a degree. The organisation to which I belong was founded in 1881. During the whole of that time we have been the recognised medium as between master and man in the county. To-day, in pursuit of this policy of co-operation in this industry, we are treated as lepers, as pariahs. We are not even recognised. You cannot get a reply to a letter. The attitude of the coalowners is, "They are our mines, and we shall do as we like. You are nobody. "Ninety-five per cent. of the whole of the men in the coalfields are working under an agreement about which they were 1978 never consulted, and to which they were not parties. There are more than 200 men who have not done a stroke of work since before the last dispute in a coalfield which has rapidly absorbed men from outside.
These things cannot conduce to peace and harmony. One man amongst a thousand can be a thorn in the flesh that can upset everything, and he is doing it. If that were not enough, even last week, on the 5th July, let me tell the Committee what happened in connection with one of our branches. We can only have branches now surreptitiously. We are not allowed to have them on the colliery premises. We have property erected on colliery freeholds into which we cannot enter. At the Welbeck Colliery, which bears its name because of its proximiity to the residence of the father of the hon. Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield), we erected a collecting box, for which we paid £125. It has just been commandeered by the colliery company, and we cannot go near it. That is typical of what is going on all over Nottinghamshire. That is not all. Men employed at the Radford Colliery—some of whom live within the constituency of the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lord H. Cavendish Bentinck), the president, the secretary, the treasurer of my branch, the president of the check-weighman fund, which was instituted by virtue of rights given by Act of Parliament, were all summarily dismissed, their only crime being that they claimed the right as to whom they would employ as their cheek-weighman at that colliery. I could recite instances galore of this intimidation and victimisation.
I want to know whether in connection with the sum of money which we are now asked to vote the Mines Department will take upon itself any responsibility for inquiring as to whether these things are in the best interests of the coalfields, and whether these irritants cannot be removed. Whether we were right or wrong at this time last year, the prosperity of British industry cannot be secured by a continuation of the quarrel in which we then engaged. The Mines Deparment should arbitrate; they should hold the balance even; they should say: "The hatchet as far as this cause of offence is concerned must be buried." 1979 Whatever is wrong, they should endeavour to put it right, and should use their influence in the direction of securing a better feeling in the coal districts than now exists. I have kept the Committee far more than my time, and I thank you, Mr. Hope, for the latitude you have given me. I hope that we shall hear from the Secretary of the Mines Department exactly what the Department contemplates doing, and that he will be able to give full answers to some of the inquiries which I have put.
§ Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS
I do not like to address the Committee upon a subject in which I have personal interest, but it is on very rare occasions that I have addressed the House on matters in connection with the coal trade. All through the mining dispute of last year I held my peace, but I feel to-day that there are things that I can and must say, I hope not in any controversial spirit, which may be of some interest to the Committee, because there is so much misapprehension in the country generally, and in the Press and in the minds of a good many of my hon. Friends on this side with regard to the position of the coal trade at the present time. No one making a reasonable forecast or prophecy last Christmas, after the settlement of the dispute had taken place, could have forecast the position in which we find ourselves to-day. Usually after a stoppage there is a period of good trade, followed by an inevitable reaction.
Some people have said that you can measure the period of good trade by the length of the stoppage. That may have been true up to the stoppage of last year, but the stoppage we had last year was such a long one that it made all past experience unreliable. This country was then beginning, unfortunately, to organise itself upon the importation of foreign coal, and the railway companies, the gas companies, and other large concerns had large amounts of coal on order which was coming into this country. Moreover, our foreign customers had made long contracts with our foreign competitors, which was bound to have the effect of reducing the period of prosperity when it came to us. We had also during the long stoppage educated our own people upon coal economy. We 1980 had been learning to use less coal. Therefore, very shortly after the period of prosperity, which lasted only for a very few months, prices began to fall, and they have fallen pretty steadily up to the present time. I feel, and I think I have some justification for what I say, that prices have now got to the bottom, and that there is not much chance of them going lower. I think we cannot put forward much hope for the next three or four months, but I feel that there is hope when we get to the month of October that things may become considerably better.
What is it now that the coal trade in this country has to strive for? It has to strive to get its coal used again in the markets of the world. It has to do its part in causing a revival of other industries at home. The result is that the coalowners are striving in the export markets in every possible way they can to buy back those markets which have been lost. It is a costly and long business, but I believe that the merit of British coal itself in the long run will make good, and that a great many of those markets which were lost during the stoppage will be regained. Again, we have to do something to get a larger amount of coal consumed in this country. At the present time, industry generally is being given coal at a very cheap price indeed, shillings a ton less than before the strike. Gas companies, electricity companies, and railway companies are all getting cheaper coal. The consequence will be, as one would expect from the economic law, that the cheapness of the coal will have its effect on the commodity which the steel maker produces, and that will increase the demand, and ultimately we shall get back again to a period of prosperity. The coal trade has been in the dumps before and has got out, and I am optimistic enough to think it will get out again. We must remember, also, the particular time of the year when this reaction came. It was in the middle of the summer, when the coal trade is always at its worst, when the house-coal trade is slow, and the gas companies are only taking 40 per cent, of their contracts, whereas they take 60 per cent. in the winter months. That has a particularly bad effect on the output of the summer months.
1981 These are the aims which are being striven for, to increase the amount of coal that our customers consume, so as once more to try to balance supply and demand. If that fails, what are the alternatives? This, of course, must be carefully considered. The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley), in his very eloquent and reasoned speech, to which the whole Committee listened with the greatest interest and respect knowing the very deep interest he has in, and his great knowledge of, this industry, dwelt upon one or two of those recommendations with regard to the coal trade. I am not going to say much about amalgamation. Some of us do not think that amalgamations will produce the wonderful results that are forecast for them. If amalgamations are to be successful, they should be undertaken, like matrimony, without undue haste and not under compulsion. If amalgamations were made in one area, they would be very unsatisfactory and would probably lead to friction and inefficiency. At any rate, it would take a very long time to get amalgamations through. What I want to deal with in a little detail is the question of the selling agencies, on which the hon. Member for Mansfield spoke. He must be aware that there have been a good many attempts at selling agencies. A good many stores have got together and have appointed a common selling agent; and in some cases, whole groups of collieries which were dealing, say, with coal or gas companies, got together in order to try to hold prices. But it is the universal experience that on a falling market none of these selling combines are of the slightest use whatever.
§ Sir S. ROBERTS
On a voluntary basis. I will give one example in regard to coke. The producers of coke in the Midlands desired to have a selling agency for the co-operative selling of their coke to the blast furnace owners. Prices were arranged that lasted from something like from Christmas to April. Then the question of arranging a new contract came up, and there was a distinct difference of opinion as to price, as there naturally would be between the blast furnace owners and the coke makers. The coke makers stood out for a long time by their co-operative selling. The blast furnace 1982 people either purchased, or said they had purchased, coke in Durham, and brought it round by sea, at higher prices admittedly lower than they could have got it in Yorkshire in order to break the ring. They broke it very effectively, and the result was that prices tumbled and a sort of musical chairs took place. Hon. Members will remember that in musical chairs you have a certain number of people and a certain number of chairs, and there is one less chair than people. When the music stops there is a general rush for the chairs and somebody is left out. The fear of being left out resulted in that little attempt at something co-operative, which was almost disastrous to those who joined in and were not lucky enough to get on to the chairs in time. You can put the whole district of Yorkshire in a selling agency, and if you have not a corresponding agreement with Yorkshire and Durham not to bid in its markets these selling agencies will be no use whatever. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am not making party points, but simply trying to talk business. Selling agencies, unless they are all-embracing, are practically useless.
What does an all-embracing selling agency mean? Each individual pit must be told how much it has to produce. You must have an arrangement with the export market. You can say, "We will sell as one on the export market and cut prices there, and put the prices on to the home consumer's coal." That is quite easy and could be done by compulsion. I do not think it could be done voluntarily. You could not get a perfect combine of all producers and arrange for them to sell in the export market, and put the losses which they might make in that market on to the home consumers. The home consumers would soon have something to say, and they would not stand it. They would say, "We must also have a regulation of prices," and so. to get an effective selling agency, you would have to have a regulation of prices and a regulation of output. In fact, you would have the whole industry entirely under the control of one big syndicate, whatever it might be, and the Government would have to come into that in order to protect the consumer. That would naturally happen. The consumers would not stand being exploited.
1983 Therefore, it seems to me that there is no half-way house between the law of supply and demand, trying to get back our markets, and to give cheap coal to the other industries of the country. If that fails, I for one would not like to stop at any half-way house. I would expropriate, on fair terms, of course, the present owners, and let some big syndicate take it. I do beg of the Committee and Parliament to allow this present attempt to get back our markets to have a fair chance. Do not, if I might use perhaps a vulgar expression, crab this attempt. It has not had a fair chance, yet. Remember that there was a seven months' stoppage. That takes a great deal of getting over, and every effort is being made to get over it. Hon. Members opposite think it gives pleasure to coalowners to work at a loss, and that they thrive on losses. They are not quite such asses as that. They do not cut off their noses to spite their faces or to annoy the working men. We maintain, as a whole, that we are able and competent to look after our business, and we ask this Committee and Parliament to allow the trade to have a fair chance, and see if it is not possible to get back that prosperity which it has lost. I believe it must succeed if it is not interfered with. It can be interfered with by stoppages, by Governments, by too much Press notice, and by too much crying down of the possibilities of the future. I believe firmly, however, that it must succeed if it is given a fair chance, because it has behind it the great, inevitable forces of the law of supply and demand.
§ Mr. G. HALL
I was very interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Hereford (Sir S. Roberts). I would strongly advise him to read the details of the scheme which one of the best-known mineowners of his day, Sir George Elliott, published in the "Times," in September, 1893. He there dealt with the question very much more fully than the hon. Member for Hereford has done, and I think that he, himself, nothwithstanding the fact that he was considering the position of the industry at that time, was not afraid to have sales agencies on the lines that have been advocated on so many occasions from hon. Members on this side of the House. I do not know that I am quite as optimistic as the hon. 1984 Member for Hereford with regard to the future of the mining industry. If the industry is to be restored to anything like its pre-stoppage or even its pre-War prosperity then, instead of the Government lengthening hours as it did last year, it should, at least restore the length of the working day that we had prior to the stoppage of last year. What do the Secretary for Mines and his Department think of their handiwork of last year? One would imagine that an eight-hour day and a reduction in wages were really going to solve the mining difficulty in this country. We have had an extension of the working day, and we have British miners, at present, working a longer day than any miners in Europe. Not only that, but it may well be said that the wages paid to the British miner, taking into comparison the cost of living in European countries, are as law as those of any other miners in Europe. For all that, here we are, seven months after work has been resumed, faced with one of the gravest crises with which the mining industry has ever been confronted.
It would be interesting briefly to deal with the question of unemployment in the mining areas, in comparison with the other areas in this country, and taking into consideration some of the residential or agricultural areas, like Bedford and Buckingham, where you have just 2 per cent. of the insured persons unemployed. In Cornwall, you have 5 per cent.; in Kent 4.8 per cent.; while in London, with its 1,582,000 insured persons, just 4.5 per cent. are unemployed. Coming to the mining areas, in Durham, you have 19.6 per cent. of the insured persons unemployed; in Northumberland, 15.9 per cent.; in Yorkshire, 10 per cent.; in Lanarkshire, 11.8 per cent.; and in Glamorganshire, 19.9 per cent. Take some of our districts in Glamorganshire. In the Maesteg area—I am satisfied that this is rather an abnormal period, owing to intermittent work—during June of this year, no less than 78.4 per cent. of the insured persons were unemployed. In Merthyr Tydfil, there were 41.2 per cent.; in Morriston, 38.8 per cent.; in Port Talbot, 34.6 per cent.; in Mountain Ash, 29.8 per cent.; in Tonypandy, 23.6 per cent.; and in Aberdare, 19..8 per cent. That really means that in numbers of 1985 areas in South Wales and in other exporting districts you have a majority of insured persons who are unemployed.
I am very pleased to see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour is present. I trust that he is going to take part in this Debate. I should like him to speak on any schemes which the Ministry of Labour have in mind to deal with the question of unemployment in the mining areas. If he is going to deal with that aspect of it, I should also like to ask if he would be kind enough to refer to the specific cases that a colleague of mine and I put to him, at a meeting we had with him a fortnight ago, over some difficulties that had arisen cut of the depression in the mining areas, especially with regard to young men who are applying for extended benefit during periods in which they are intermittently employed.
I do not propose to follow the lines taken by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley). He dealt generally with the question of the industry, not only with the home market but also partially with the export market. I am going to confine my remarks very largely to the export trade. In the area which I come from, something like 50 or 60 per cent. of the total output of coal is exported to other countries. I should like to put this question to the hon. Member for Hereford and to the Secretary for Mines. We can say that, in 1913, something like a quarter of the total output of coal in this country was exported. We exported in that year something like 100,000,000 tons of coal, coke and patent fuel. I should like to ask the hon. Member for Hereford whether he and his colleagues, the coalowners, are optimistic enough to think that we will ever reach an export trade of 100,000,000 tons again. I do not think we will, and it is as well that we should consider these facts. Reduce your prices to what point you like, and you will not increase it, as has been proved by the attitude of the French, German, Spanish and Brazilian Governments. You will not be able to dump cheap coal to interfere with their own coal production. I feel that our export trade will remain at something between 50,000,000 or 60,000,000 tons a year, and that that will be as much as we can expect. I know that export trade very 1986 largely depends on prices, but we are producing and selling coal in this country, not only for inland purposes, but also for export purposes, at a point very near to what it was pre-war. The Welsh steam coal is the best in the world. In 1913 the best large Welsh coal brought 20s. 3d. a ton, whereas in June of this year we could only get 3d. per ton more than in 1913. That applies to the best Welsh large coal, and the same thing could be said in regard to the best seconds, the ordinary seconds, and the Monmouthshire coal. I think it applies to all coal in this country generally. Reference has been made to the price of coal for steel production. We are selling coal for the purpose of producing steel at the same price as we sold it pre-war, and coal is the only commodity which is sold almost at pre-war price. Yet we find that the price of steel, as compared with pre-war days, according to the Board of Trade returns, is something like 22 per cent. Taking all other commodities, it is about 41 or 42 per cent. If we look at almost every other industry we find that the increas of price varies between 20 to 70 per cent., and yet the price of coal is almost within reach of what it was before the war.
§ Mr. AUSTIN HOPKINSON
The hon. Gentleman has taken the year 1913 for purposes of comparison. If he had taken the five years previous to the war, he would have got different results, because 1913 was a boom year and it was the best year we ever had.
§ Mr. HALL
I am endeavouring to deal with the figures as I have been able to get them. As far as I am concerned, all comparisons are being made between the present time and 1913. Let us deal with the question of the production and price of coal in foreign countries. I find, if we take the coal produced in South Wales—and I think the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) will agree that the cost of production there is about a shilling a ton higher than in any other part of the country—the price at the ascertainment recently obtained was 15s. 3d. a ton at the pithead; the price in Scotland was 11s. 9d.; in Northumberland 12s. 3d.; in Durham 13s. 3d.; in Yorkshire 14s. 4d. If we compare that with the pithead prices on the Continent, there is scarcely a country that can touch 1987 us. In France the pithead price for the latest returns is equivalent to 19s. 2d. a ton.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I think the English figures which the hon. Gentleman has quoted are the pithead wages prices and not the total costs.
§ Mr. HALL
I have taken the figures for the ascertainment, and I find I have the pithead costs, which include wages and all other costs. So far as any question of reduced prices regaining our markets is concerned, I think a complete answer has already been given by the hon. Member for Mansfield as to the attitude of the British mine-owners. They are selling coal in Berlin at something like 2s. 5d., 3s. and 4s. a ton cheaper than the German coal could be sold in the same city. We must look at some other factors than that of price reduction to restore prosperity to the mining industry. I am sure the Secretary for Mines must know that the world is suffering from overproduction of coal. He ought to have known it this time last year, and, if he did know it, then it was madness to introduce a Bill for extending the working day of the miners, which was to mean an addition to the coal production. Not only this country, but France, Germany, Belgium, Holland and almost every European country is endeavouring to produce as much coal as they possibly can to prevent exports leaving our country. That is the position which will have to be faced. In 1913, nearly 90 per cent. of the coal consumed in the Scandinavian countries; over 20 per cent. of that consumed in Holland; 18 per cent. of that consumed in France; nearly 86 per cent. of the Italian coal; and nearly 42 per cent. of the coal in Spain was imported from this country. We find, with regard to Germany, that we sent 746,000 tons of coal every month in 1913. In March this year we sent 227,000 tons. In April France had 2,000,000 tons in stock at the pitheads. One of our best-known coal exporters said that he found that at Genoa there was about 500,000 tons of coal in stock, and the Italians there said to him, "For God's sake, send no more coal; we have too much of it." The argument for reduction of price will not 1988 hold water, seeing that, even if we gave the coal away, we have a Continent that is not prepared to receive it.
It will be interesting if we consider the figures with regard to the increased production of coal on the Continent. In 1925, if we take France, Poland, Belgium, Holland and Germany, the production was 246,000,000 tons, and in 1926 it had increased to 260,000,000 tons. It is estimated, taking the figures for the first quarter of this year, that the output of coal in these countries for the year will be 300,000,000 tons. Each of these countries, notwithstanding that in respect to the quality of our coal we can wipe them off the earth, are doing everything they can to protect their own coal industry at the expense of the British industry. If any area of this country is suffering from the French embargo it is South Wales. We send more coal to France from South Wales than any other coal exporting area in the country. I think it might be said that 50 per cent. of the coal imported to France comes from South Wales, and we have lost more in South Wales, as a result of the loss of the European markets, than any other coal-producing area in the world. I would ask the Secretary for Mines to consider seriously the position with regard to the coal industry. Almost every coal-consuming country in the world is consuming less coal than in 1913. Almost every European country, notwithstanding the increase of production, with the exception of France and Belgium, are consuming less coal per head of the population than they did in 1913. The result is not far to seek, and the cause is not far to seek. Let us take America, and see how far other factors are brought into operation for the purposes of production.
If you take the four years from 1911 to 1915, the power produced from coal in America was 83 per cent.; from oil, 9 per cent; from gas 4 per cent.; and from water, 4 per cent. In 1926, the power produced from coal was 67 per cent.; or a reduction of 16 per cent.; the power from oil had increased from 9 per cent.; to 21 per cent.; and the power produced from gas and water was very much the same as it was before the War. That is the point I would like to emphasise to the Secretary for Mines 1989 and the coal owners. There has been a very large change in power production throughout the whole world. In the three years 1924, 1925 and 1926, we find that there was an increase of thousands of millions of gallons of oil for power production. The South Wales mining industry is affected more than any other industry in the country. The Government is in some way responsible for this. Before the War we sent about 4,000,000 tons of best Welsh steam coal for naval purposes. Last year we did not send 500,000 tons. There is a colliery within my own area, within two miles of the place where I live, whose whole output was sent to Liverpool for a steamship company, but that steamship company is now using oil as fuel. That colliery has closed down, and the result is that 2,000 to 2,500 men are thrown out of work because of this new factor for power production which is now being brought into operation.
I wonder what Members of the present Government think? I know they pride themselves, and rightly so, on the fighting power of the Navy, but do they realise that our Navy is absolutely dependent for its fuelling upon foreign oil imported into this country? In the case of emergency this country would spare no expense to utilise our coal, as it could be utilised, for the purpose of providing all the fuel that is necessary for our Navy, our Mercantile Marine and other forms of transport. I do not propose to develop this subject because there are many hon. Members who want to speak and, therefore, I will turn to other things. But I do ask the Secretary for Mines to make his Department a living Department not a dying Department. One of the reasons of the Prime Minister for discontinuing the Mines Department as a separate Department is because of its inactivity, and I, therefore, ask him to take a real live interest in the questions affecting the mining industry and to take into consideration the factors that are really responsible for the depression in the industry. If he would do so, and bring them to the notice of the present Government, I am satisfied that something effective could be done to remove the difficulties with which we are at present confronted. I know much can be done in connection with the question of taking the old men out of the in 1990 dustry. A number of the miners representatives, nearly all the members of the Miners' Federation, are concerned about a superannuation scheme for old miners, and a number of the mineowners themselves are also interested in this question.
It is really a scandal to think that in an industry so hard and so dangerous we have at least 60,000 men over 60 years of age, many of whom have spent at least 40 years of their life underground. With a good scheme of superannuation these 50,000 or 60,000 men could be taken out of the industry. That would in some way relieve the question of unemployment, we could then start at the other end and prevent boys going underground until they were 15 years of age by agreeing to a proper maintenance grant to their parents. I hope we are going to have some useful information from the Secretary for Mines to-day. There is no doubt that the mining industry in this country has drifted into a worse state of chaos than ever; and in this matter the Government has a special responsibility. They should have constructive schemes to deal with this matter. I appeal to the Government not to let the Ministry of Mines die, and, what is much more important, not to let the mining industry die. It is the basis of the industrial, financial and economic life of this nation, and unless the Government is going to take steps immediately the whole of this structure is going to come tumbling down around their heads.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
Previous speakers in the Debate, with the exception of the hon. Member who spoke from this side, have started with the assumption—and there are certain newspaper proprietors who have endeavoured to inculcate it—that a very severe crisis in the mining industry is inevitable within the next few weeks or months. I want to point out the actual state of the industry as compared with the anticipations which were formed about this time last year. I well remember that when the Government had reached the conclusion that a settlement of the mining dispute of last year was impossible until the Seven Hour Act had been removed, that I was consulted by the head of the Government as to the probable effect of the increase in the hours of work. [HON. MEMBERS: 1991 "Oh!"] It seems to me only reasonable that the Minister responsible should consult every source of information he could when taking so important a step.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
No, because at that time the miners were represented by a man, a parrot, who could say nothing more than, "Not a second on the day, not a penny off the pay."
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
But there were hon. Members in this House whom the Government could have consulted.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
But, unhappily, the miners' representatives in this House had been told quite plainly by this individual that they must keep out of the dispute as he was going to settle it.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
Exactly, because the Miners' Federation treated the miners' representatives in this House with the contempt which, I am sorry to say, they deserved.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
After consideration, I expressed the opinion that if the seven hour bar to the prosperity to the industry was removed there was every hope that we should be able to attain, within six months of the termination of the dispute, to the average pre-War output of coal, and that approximately 950,000 men and boys would be employed in and about the pits. That was the estimate which was given. What has actually occurred? What has actually happened is this; that we are now getting approximately the normal output of coal; that is to say, an output of somewhere between 260,000,000 tons and 280,000,000 tons per annum.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN indicated dissent.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
Does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) object to that statement? If he does perhaps he will give me some figures. I am quite prepared to give 1992 way to him. If the right hon. Gentleman interrupts and says that a misstatement is made, and if the Member speaking is willing to give way, he might have the courage to give the figures. The actual figures at the present time are that the average production per week is over 5,000,000 tons; that is at the height of the summer. I have here the actual figures for the production of coal for the month of March, and they are at the rate of 283,000,000 tons per annum.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
If the hon. Member will consult the official figures he will see that the production of coal for the March quarter was 62,000,000 tons, as against 66,000,000 tons on the last occasion, and he will find that that works out at about 248,000,000 tons a year instead of 280,000,000 tons.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The right hon. Gentleman is referring to the March quarter figures. The figures I gave were for the month of March, and for that month the production was at the rate of 283,000,000 tons per annum, which is nearly equal to the record production of coal for this country. That is the position—we are producing this year something very closely approaching what may be regarded as the normal amount of coal as compared with pre-war figures. We are producing that output with 1,100,000 men and boys, and this is where the tragedy of the whole situation comes in, that it is impossible, or we presume it is impossible, to give a really satisfactory standard of living, with a coal production equal to the normal production before the War, to more than about 950,000 men and boys. The result is that we have tens of thousands of men and boys in the industry in excess of what we can support on a really satisfactory basis. This is no new theory. In the Report of the Royal Commission, the whole thing is laid down at great length and with great pungency. It lays it down there that the main trouble is this, that we are trying to support too many people upon the industry; and that is a most tragic fact to which it is no use shutting our eyes. It is so. Either we are going to support 1,100,000 men and boys on a very poor standard of life, or 950,000 men and boys on a really satisfactory standard of living. Hon. Members opposite must get down to that 1993 fundamental fact. There is no dodging it by any device, and what is taking place in the coalfields at the present time is simply the natural process by which these unfortunate men are being thrown out of the industry owing to the economic situation.
There are various ways in which this process can take place naturally. Pits may shut down and the production may be transferred to other pits. There may be continuous short time worked, as there is at present; and hon. Members opposite will agree that both these forms of this particular process are actually exhibited before our eyes at the present time. What we feel strongly in opposition to hon. Members opposite is this, that it would not be right for any Government or any outside authority to step in during this process and say, "such and such a pit must shut down, such and such a village must be devastated, such and such men must be deprived of their employment and seek some other forms of employment." We must in the long run leave this to the ordinary course of the market so that those pits which can survive and give a reasonable standard of living will survive. Having pointed out to the best of my ability that the present situation was fully anticipated during the crisis of last year and that those who are concerned with the export of coal in this country—
§ Mr. GREENALL
I agree you did, and that is the reason why the Government increased the hours of labour.
§ Mr. GREENALL
This House, by an Act of Parliament, increased the hours of labour, and you say that you anticipated the present state of things.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The Government did not increase the hours of labour by one minute. The people who increased the hours of labour in the pits were the coalowners and the miners' unions in consultation with one another. Do hon. Members deny that?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Many representatives of the miners are waiting to be called, and will be called, but those who are interrupting will not have the opportunity of expressing their views upon their feet.
§ Mr. TINKER
In Lancashire we had to accept the eight hours day; we had no voice in the matter at all.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I have pointed out that in the present situation there is no reason to suppose that a higher standard of living or an appreciably higher standard of living for the miners will be possible until there has been a further reduction of the numbers employed. That is the tragic thing in connection with this industry; but I ask hon. Members opposite to remember that there are other industries in this country which have gone through much worse conditions, and that a reduction from 1,200,000 men and boys to a little under 1,000,000 men in the coal industry is nothing like the reduction which has taken place in some other industries. Even at the present time, on- Tyneside, there is a very large percentage in the shipbuilding industry unemployed, and, possibly, permanently unemployed, and in my own industry of engineering, year after year the percentage of unemployment has been enormous, and it is difficult to see any way out of it. I ask what have the miners done, that they should be favoured in this way above all other workers?
§ Mr. GREENALL
He is asking the question what have the miners done at any time. I ask what did they do during the War.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
My own recollection is that when I was serving in the Army during the War, I came across men who belonged to lots of other trades besides coalmining. What I have described is the unhappy position, and we have to face the facts. Let us now consider what is the origin of all this newspaper talk about a crisis in the coal industry. Here, I am afraid, we must throw blame upon certain popular newspapers of the day. It is also a significant 1995 thing that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has taken a very prominent part in this stunt, if I may use that word. The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley) I think rather deprecated this stunt. He regarded the matter broadly and, if I remember aright, referred to the fact that the coal industry had had many troubles in the past and would come through this one. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has taken every possible opportunity in the country of increasing the panic of the nation and accentuating and exaggerating the difficulties of the coal trade. The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman's career, which is known to Members of this House, supplies the motive for this campaign.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) may be interested to know that I gave the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs notice that I was going to refer to him, so I fancy I am free from blame in that respect. The lines upon which this panic has been developed are shown clearly in the newspaper Press of the country, in addition to what we can gather from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman to whom I refer. The paper controlled by Lord Beaverbrook has been particularly active in emphasising that a most desperate crisis has developed in the coal industry and that there is no hope for the country unless the Government do something, just as the other great newspaper proprietor, Lord Rothermere, says there is a crisis in agriculture and, again, that it is this wretched Government which is to blame. I am sorry to appear suspicious, but I must admit, when I see these great newspapers in alliance with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, I become a little suspicious as to the motives upon which this newspaper stunt is based. Everybody knows that, if it were possible to get up a public panic about the coal industry and to get it up so effectively that public pressure would be brought to bear upon the Government to interfere with that industry by legislative or administrative action, then the life of the Government would not be 1996 worth a moment's purchase. We know that at the present juncture, the one thing that any Government which wishes to remain in office must do, is to keep its fingers out of the coal industry.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
Apparently the hon. Member who interrupts so constantly is also an adherent of Lord Beaverbrook and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. Judging by his interruptions, that is the only conclusion we can reach. We have, therefore, this remarkable feature in our public life to-day, that those who particularly wish for various reasons to turn out the present Government are doing their level best, through newspapers and through public speeches, to produce a panic in the public mind about this industry. I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to show that this scare is without any foundation. The state of the industry is thoroughly unsatisfactory. It is likely to be unsatisfactory for some few months to come, perhaps for 10 or a dozen months.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must seriously ask hon. Members not to interrupt. There are other hon. Members besides the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) who make provocative speeches and who are not interrupted.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
It is difficult under the existing conditions to follow out this argument with the closeness which I should like, and therefore, from time to time, I fear I must repeat myself owing to these interruptions. As I was saying, we have a position in which the bitterest enemies of the present Government, and particularly of the present Prime Minister, are endeavouring to raise a panic for which there is no foundation whatever, inasmuch as the unsatisfactory state of the industry was anticipated beforehand. We knew it was going to go 1997 through a crisis, but we knew that ultimately it would survive, as it had survived equally grave crises in the 19th century. Therefore, I do accuse on the Floor of the House of Commons, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs of deliberately endeavouring, in order to serve the lowest party ends, to reduce this country to a state of misery and chaos such as it went through last year. He has had an able ally in this process—I refer to the Chairman of the Royal Commission on Coal of 1925. Is it not a very significant fact that within a very few weeks of the publication of the Report of that Commission and all that it meant in worry and in misery to this country and to the Government, the Chairman of that Commission became Chairman of the Liberal party under the direction of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. They were not altogether unacquainted with one another, and perhaps those hearts which were knit together in 1912 by the ethereal vibrations of the Marconi Company—
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
I bow to your ruling, Sir. I was endeavouring to point out that this is not the first partnership between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and the Chairman of the late Coal Commission. However, it will suffice to say that if hon. Members take the recommendations of that Commission and compare them carefully, line by line and word by word, with the recommendations in a certain notorious pamphlet in a yellow cover, called "Coal and Power," which appeared some months before the Commission was set up, they will see a remarkable similarity between the proposals. In many instances, the proposals in that pamphlet are, almost word for word, the same as the Royal Commission's Report. Would this Government be wise, would any Government—Labour, Liberal or Conservative—be wise to adopt the advice of Mr. J. L. Garvin—and I am sorry to say, at intervals, of the "Times" newspaper—and regard the words of the Royal Commission as verbally and divinely inspired and to be followed as a sort of guiding star of 1998 Governments in dealing with the coal industry? I should advise hon. Members who believe in that verbal inspiration to renew their acquaintance with that Report and to compare one part of the Report with another and to note the profound discrepancies which mark its findings.
The Commission held that the main trouble in the coal industry was that there were too many men for the output produced, and that it was impossible to give a reasonably good standard of living on the coal production with the number of men employed. Thus the problem merely boiled itself down to this: How are we going to get out of this difficulty and get rid of these men? Are we going to do it by reducing wages to such an extent that we shall persuade the men to go out of the industry or at any rate to cease coming into it, or are we going to do it by allowing the hours of work to be increased so that a reduction of cost may be brought about by that method? That, I think, the whole country agreed was a finding of the Royal Commission from which it was empossible to dissent. Everybody knew that in their heart of hearts, no matter what they said in public or in this House.
The Royal Commission in setting it out in the way they did towards the end of the Report, put their finger upon the sore, and said, "This is the place where the body politic is ailing. This is the cancer that must be cut out." But then, let it be observed, having fulfilled the whole of those functions which were embraced in its terms of reference, the Royal Commission proceeded to go, in my opinion, outside its terms of reference, and to make a heap of suggestions which not only could not have had any effect whatever in getting over the difficulty, which the Commission themselves pointed out, but in most instances would actually have added to the cost of the production of coal. The discrepancy between the main part of the Report, and the suggestions for reorganisation, is so profound that it is a wonder to me it has not struck more observers. Their main finding was that the cost of production was the trouble, and that the excessive number of men in the industry made it impossible to get for those men a reasonable standard of living. Having 1999 come to that perfectly definite finding, they suddenly go off on to questions of pooling wagons and selling syndicates and pit baths and all the rest of it. These things no doubt would be useful, and no doubt in many cases would add to the amenities of the collier's life, but they would not reduce the cost of getting coal.
That is the situation which I ask this Committee to consider. We have here first the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, whose adventures in the coal industry in the last dozen years have been disastrous; we have also as the chairman of his party the gentleman who was Chairman of the Coal Commission. We have these two, in the public Press and in public speeches, with the assistance of Lord Beaverbrook—we have this trio, doing their level best to produce panic, by saying that the coal industry is rapidly declining into the state in which it was before the subsidy. It is not an excess of malice or suspicion which leads me and many others in the country to the conclusion that the whole of this "crisis in the coal industry" stunt is devised for no other end than to get rid of the present Government and above all of the present Prime Minister.
§ Mr. DUNCAN GRAHAM
I am sorry the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) who, I understand, has been speaking for the coalowners to-day, should have had nothing else to offer us than criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). Evidently that was the only reason why he intervened in this Debate. No one in the House will imagine that he has contributed anything to the Debate other than, possibly, some ill feeling. I should have expected that he would attempt to meet some of the points made in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley). That is what ought to be done in this Debate. The hon. Member for Mansfield submitted certain proposals, made certain criticisms and asked certain questions, and so far as the hon. Member for Mossley is concerned the questions remain unanswered and the criticisms have had no effect. The hon. Member for Mossley is as far back to-day as his 2000 grandfather was 100 years ago, and looks at the mining industry from pretty much the same standpoint.
I was, however, interested to hear the hon. Member for Hereford (Sir S. Roberts), who followed the hon. Member for Mansfield, make the confession that he was a bit of an optimist. He, speaking I suppose for the employers, was also pleased to inform the Committee that prices had reached bottom. We on this side did not require to be told that, because there is a point beyond which prices cannot fall, but before prices reached bottom wages had fallen to a like extent, and it is largely because of the low wages prevailing in the industry that we are engaged with this problem to-day. The hon. Member for Hereford believes that selling agencies are quite practicable—an important admission, coming from the other side of the Committee—but they can only be practicable if they are compulsory and national. That is what we have been arguing for a considerable number of years, and I am very pleased to know that the hon. Member for Hereford has got the length of recognising the possibility of the industry being reorganised along lines somewhat similar to those which we have recommended in previous Debates. With regard to the French embargo, I have nothing to add to what was said by the hon. Member for Mansfield. He has put our case as a whole. We believe the French Government were perfectly justified in the action they took, and our only regret is that our Government are not prepared to follow that example, in some respects at least.
The hon. Member for Mossley referred to the Chairman of the Royal Commission. I have a much higher opinion of the Chairman of the Royal Commission than he has. Now that he is speaking for the coalowners—he did so last year, he did so in the Committee that dealt with the Coal Mines Bill, and he also speaks as if he were representing the coal owners to-day—I would like to ask him to tell us what were the motives which animated the National Liberal Club to invite Sir Adam Nimmo, the leading Tory politician in the West of Scotland, to become their guest at a guzzle they had on the 22nd of January, 1925. Like my hon. Friend I am a little bit suspicious of these things, and I am wonder 2001 ing whether Sir Herbert Samuel was present at that meeting, and whether, as a consequence of his being present at that meeting, he was appointed Chairman of the Royal Commission. There have been quite a lot of Commissions dealing with the mining industry during the last 40 or 50 years, to go back no farther, but the only Commission that counts for anything so far as the miners are concerned is the Sankey Commission, and I believe the Royal Commission of 1925 was set up for the purpose of endeavouring to get away from the recommendations made by the Sankey Commission.
I would like to know whether Sir Herbert Samuel had anything to do with the invitation sent to Sir Adam Nimmo to be the guest of the National Liberal Club on that occasion, because on that date, rather curiously, Sir Adam Nimmo made a certain speech, speaking for the coalowners of this country. He is a past president of the Coal Owners' Association, and he certainly speaks for the mineowners in Scotland. In January, 1925, when the miners were working, and had no thought of a crisis arising even in 1926, Sir Adam Nimmo, at that Liberal gathering, made a statement thatThe wages of those engaged in the mining industry cannot permanently rest upon considerations of the cost of living or what the men may call a living wage.Why did Adam Nimmo talk about that question in January, 1925? It was in 1926 that the miners were locked out, not in 1925; yet we were told then by the leading spokesmen of the coalowners—in Scotland, at least—that the question of a living wage was a matter outwith the consideration of those in control of the industry. I am sorry the Government do not see fit occasionally to try to meet those who represent the miners' point of view inside this House and out of it, that is, the Miners' Federation, and endeavour to ascertain just exactly how the men view certain of the proposals which were carried through last year and are having such serious effects in the different districts.
I do not expect very much from the answer of the Secretary for Mines. I think the Department of Mines, as it has been conducted during the last five or six years, is of no value whatever to the country. It is a mere waste. I do 2002 not blame the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who occupies the position of Secretary for Mines; I am not making any personal reference to him at all, because I believe he has done as much as he could in the circumstances. What I object to is that the Department of Mines should be a subsidiary Department of the Board of Trade. The head of the Mines Department ought to be a Secretary of State. He should be entitled to a seat in the Cabinet. Until that happens I do not think the mining industry is likely to get the support from the Government—from any Government, whether the present Government or any future Government—which is essential if the industry is to be conducted in a prosperous way at all.
The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) gave some figures dealing with unemployment in the various districts. Apart from these recurring crises since the War ended, for which the miners have had no responsibility whatever, there has been a very considerable change taking place in the industry itself. In 1913, the peak year of British mining production, the numbers of persons working in the coalfields of Northumberland, Durham, Lancashire and Cheshire, South Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Salop, Somerset, Bristol, South Wales and Monmouthshire, Fife, Lanark, the Lanark Association—which includes Stirling and Dumbarton—and Ayr, Argyll and Dumfries was 714,339. In 1925 the numbers were 641,587. That shows a reduction of 72,752 persons engaged in the particular districts which I have named. I think the hon. Gentleman who is representing the Minister of Labour and who, I understand, will reply on the subject of unemployment, will agree with me that in those particular districts there is an extraordinary amount of unemployment, particularly Northumberland, Durham, Lanark, Lancashire and Cheshire. Even in Durham, which is a growing district, there is a considerable volume of unemployment, mostly confined, I believe, to the mining areas. With regard to the question of migration from one district to another, in present circumstances it is no use talking of that. There is no use in the men leaving Northumberland and going to Durham, or in leaving Durham and going to Derby, nor will they benefit by cross 2003 ing the border. In the districts of Cumberland and Westmoreland, York, Nottingham, Derby, North Stafford, Cannock Chase, Leicester, Warwick, Forest of Dean, Kent, North Wales and the Lothians there is not any room now for more miners because a considerable number are unemployed.
I submit to the Minister of Labour that some more reasonable attitude ought to be adopted towards the payment of un-employment benefit to these men. My experience in Lanarkshire is that men are being turned off and being refused unemployment benefit under conditions that are somewhat scandalous. They are told they can find work, or that they ought to have been working within the last two years; but I submit there is not a mining district in Britain where a man can get work save by some sort of favouritism. If he does get it it is more by chance than anything else, and the treatment of miners in regard to unemployment benefit needs consideration from the Labour Minister. The result of unemployment means low wages. In Scotland when colliery owners find three or four men seeking one man's job they reduce the rates of pay. I suppose that is in accordance with orthodox political economy, the law of supply and demand. They say that a reduction must take place, and if the man is not willing to accept it he must "go on the unemployment"; but when he makes a claim for unemployment benefit he is told that he has left work of his own accord and that there was no justification for him to do so—that, at least, is the opinion of those people who are fairly well satisfied as far as their own stomachs are concerned, and can be quite philosophical as long as their own bellies are full. It is easy for every one of us to be philosophical in these circumstances, but, when the stomach is empty, even the ablest men in the party opposite might be driven very near to Bolshevism. That is equally true of the condition of things obtaining in the mining areas to-day. Some hon. Members complain of the Red danger, but the Government are solely responsible for that danger. If I were still working at the coal face, as I used to do, instead of representing a constituency in which there are a large 2004 number of miners, I should feel just the same as the majority of extremists feel to-day. During the War we turned our guns on the Germans, but since then the Government have turned them on the miners. For nearly 12 months the miners of this country were idle in order that other industries might be subsidised, and in order that a comparatively useless section of the community who were engaged in parasitic occupations should increase and flourish. The mining industry to-day is being absolutely ruined because of the futility of the Mines Department, and I think it is necessary that there should be a change. Of course, I do not make any serious charge against employers as a class. I recognise with my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley) that the possibility of having the coal industry nationalised may be a long way off, and at the present moment I prefer to use that blessed word "rationalise" instead of "nationalise." I am aware that nationalisation means the scrapping of the whole of the plant and the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds. It means a huge expenditure, and nobody but the Government or a great trust scheme could do that. Whether it is nationalisation or rationalisation I do not mind, but something should be done immediately to relieve the position in the mining industry. In my own part of the British coalfield, I find any amount of unemployment which means a reduction of wages, and those who refuse to accept reduced wages are subjected to victimisation, and ultimately eviction follows. There are thousands of men in Scotland to-day who have hanging over their heads the threat of being evicted from their homes in Fife, in Lanark, and, in fact, in every county in Scotland. In those counties not only are the men being refused employment where there is plenty of work to do but the employers are threatening them with eviction. I am told that the same state of things exists in Durham and Northumberland.
I would like to draw the attention of the Secretary for Mines to another matter. The Eight Hours Act is not being observed in any of the counties in Scotland. It makes no difference what replies the Government get from their inspectors and other people in Scotland; it is a fact that the Eight Hours Act is not being carried out, and that is a 2005 thing which the Mines Department is capable of remedying. That Department is capable of seeing that the law is carried out, and if it does not do that, then it is failing in its proper function. I make the statement deliberately, and I believe it to be true not only in Scotland but in every British coalfield, that the Eight Hours Act is a dead letter as far as the employers are concerned, or, at any rate, as far as that portion of them is concerned which is unscrupulous enough to have no regard to that Act being on the Statute Book. I hope that the Minister for Mines will be able to justify his continuance in office, and, if he cannot do that, if there is to be no improvement, if the Mines Department is not going to help to bring about the changes which have been suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield, it would be better out of existence altogether.
I believe that the Ministry of Mines can be made a very useful adjunct in the direction of securing a much more prosperous condition of the industry than has been the experience of any of us in this House. A hundred years ago the mining industry was in a worse position than it is to-day. We were then told that the industry would be completely swamped, and would be of no more service to the country. As a matter of fact, the mining industry was at the beginning of an era of prosperity which was undreamt of by the people at that particular period. I have no fear of the competition of oil or water, or anything else, if the coal industry is properly organised, and it cannot be properly organised by private enterprise, because there is too much jealousy and unscrupulous opposition inside the ranks of the employers, who are responsible to a considerable extent for the evil plight in which the coal industry finds itself to-day. We have now reached a stage at which it is essential that the Government should assist, and we make an appeal from this side of the House that the Government should recognise that it is one of its main functions to aid industries. All industries can be made prosperous if the mining industry is taken into consideration along the lines which have been suggested in various speeches made here to-night.
2006 I am sorry it is necessary that one should take, now and again, the line we are compelled to take to-night as miners' representatives. We have complained over and over again about the failure of the Government to carry out their proper functions in endeavouring to put the coal industry on a sound footing. We are looked upon as continually crying for something that we are not entitled to receive. I do not believe that any industry should be subsidised or should depend on subsidies. I know the mining industry has given more in subsidies than it has ever received. The hon. Member for Hereford (Sir S. Roberts) admitted to-night that one of the causes which brought about the coal stoppage last year was the determination of the employers, most of whom are engaged in the mining industry, not to manage or control that industry for the benefit of the nation but for the interests of a comparatively few members of the community. What does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) know about the mining industry, and for what is he in it? The right hon. Gentleman knows nothing about it. What does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) know about the mining industry? Nothing whatever! Everybody outside the mining industry seems to be looked upon as an expert. Sir Herbert Samuel, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) and the noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor) are all experts in this industry, which has been ruined as a consequence. The reason for this is not because there are not capable men managing the industry, but because the entire industry has got into the grip of a few more or less unimportant parasitical capitalists.
I submit that the time has now come when this Government might rehabilitate themselves in the public esteem by taking a little more advice from the Labour benches, from men who know all about the working of the mining industry. I do not deny that Sir Adam Nimmo and Mr. Evan Williams are experts in the coal industry. Sir Adam Nimmo is the Chairman of the Fife Company, and that company is trying to crush out the small man, and, largely because of that fact, there 2007 is not any hope for the small man. It is because the small men are being crushed out that the industry is not being properly managed. The manager of a colliery is told what the cost of working must be, and he has no control. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead sit here in London and draw up a scheme which the manager has to observe, and it makes no difference what the physical conditions are. All those connected with mining know that the conditions are continually changing from day to day. A manager might be able to manage a colliery one day at the cost of 1d. per ton, and the cost might be 6d. or 8d. a ton the following day. The manager is bound, as a consequence, to endeavour to keep down the cost to the lowest possible point, and that means that the men do not get the wages that the newspapers state they get. I have come across men who have been working at the coal face whose wages do not amount to more then 13s. at the end of the week, and some of them are married men. This is entirely due to the manner in which the industry is being mismanaged.
I believe that the Mines Department could be made useful, but as it has been carried on during the last five or six years, it has been of no value whatever to the mining industry, and it has been more useful to the employers than to the men. I hope that at long last the Secretary for Mines and the Government will realise the need of something being done, otherwise there is no possibility of avoiding another crisis. This is not the will of the men sitting on this side of the House; it is not the will of any trade union, and it is not the will of 90 per cent. of the men, who are being driven to the conclusion that the time is coming when we shall have to be perfectly frank in regard to this matter. We cannot tolerate the conditions which have been imposed upon the mining industry during the last 12 months. The conditions were imposed upon them, and they will never forget the treatment that was meted out to them during the stoppage, nor the fact that, notwithstanding that they made a greater sacrifice during the war than any class in this country, they are the people 2008 upon whom the German and British guns have been turned with fearful effect since the war ended.
I appeal to the Government, not as a politician but as a citizen, as a Briton—not a Russian. There are men on the other side of the House who know more Russians than I do. I know neither Russian nor German; I am British, and, in the interest of this country, which has been built up by our forefathers, I put it to the Government that this condition of affairs cannot last, that it is essential that something should be done, and I hope that common sense will prevail, without regard to all this blither about Cook and Herbert Smith. These men do not count in the matter. These men have to do what our men tell them, and we have to do it. If you would get rid of these silly ideas about individuals having control over the miners in the sense that I have often heard referred to in this House, and would sit down and endeavour to find a way in which this industry can really be reorganised, it would be a source of very much greater prosperity to this country in future years than anything that has ever been done in the past.
§ Mr. KIDD
I know that the hon. Member who has just sat down will not doubt me when I say that I share to the full the anxiety entertained by him and his colleagues at the present position of the mining industry, and I hope there is a feeling on the opposite benches that that anxiety of mind is shared to the full by Members on this side. Indeed, there is no difference between the two sides of the House on this matter. Where we do differ is as to the cause of the depression in the coal trade, and the possible cure. As I understood the speech of the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley), he finds the cause of the present situation very largely in the eight-hour day. I hesitate to differ from anything that is said by my hon. Friend the Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson), but I do not think he quite stated the case when he, on the other hand, tried to attribute the situation to over-manning in the mines. His argument might have served the purpose of explaining the fact that there are unemployed miners, but he did not explain the cause of the men who are employed being in receipt of what are admittedly such very unsatis 2009 factory wages. Whatever may have been the views with regard to the Eight Hours Bill, I hope I am right in saying that the conditions would have been worse to-day but for the possibility that has been afforded to the miners of redeeming the position somewhat by a longer day.
The other cause given by the hon. Member for Mansfield was that we are selling our coal in foreign markets at a lower price than we might get. I can hardly believe that the hon. Member for Mansfield, or any hon. Member on the other side, really believes in his heart that any coal-master in any market in the world is selling his coal at a lower price than he might obtain. That is an obvious absurdity, and to argue that as a cause of the depression in the mining industry is to make no contribution towards improving the position. Again, it is argued on the other side that excessive competition in coal selling might be avoided by the establishment of what is now called a cartel. The hon. Member for Mansfield did not tell us what the wages were in the countries where the cartel is in force. If he had done so, I think that, wretched as are the wages paid to our miners at the present time, he would have had to inform us that the wages in the countries of the cartel are still lower. These are the only causes that are given by hon. Members opposite to explain this situation. We on this side submit that there are other causes which can be accepted as the real causes of the depression. I am not one of those who would say that the stoppages of 1921 and 1926 are responsible for the crisis in the coal trade. That crisis was coming. But I do go the length of saying that the crisis was hastened and rendered more acute by the stoppages of 1921 and 1926. We discover the real cause to be that we are witnessing at the present time something very like a revolution in the mining industry.
I thought, as the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) developed a very formidable and excellent speech on this particular point, that he and I were likely to be in agreement. The hon. Member gave us figures from America. He dealt with the coal supply of America, and with the oil supply of America, and he pointed out to us that, despite the fine supplies of coal that they had in America, the consumption of coal there was in 2010 finitely less than it had been years ago. He might have added that this diminution in the use of coal for the production of power was coincident with an industrial prosperity in America such as that country has never before experienced. One would expect, if coal was to keep pace to-day, as it kept pace in other days, with industrial expansion, that the industrial expansion which has been witnessed in America during the last two or three years would have brought about a correspondingly large expansion in coal production. The hon. Member for Aberdare corrected that mistake. Why has there been that diminution? It is for this reason. In other days coal held a position very like a monopoly. To-day, it has lost that position. To-day, it has its rivals in oil and other sources of power, and the result is that in America, despite their fine supply of coal, despite their industrial expansion, at the very time when we should expect the consumption of coal to expand correspondingly, a diminution is found in the use of coal. Let us face the actual cause of the present situation in the mining industry. We are doing no service to the miners, we are doing wrong to the miners, by this political talk of ours in which we seek to obscure the real basic cause of this extraordinary situation. Any man who is in contact with miners to-day, and who realises what they are suffering, is bound to think out this problem miles away from party interests. If we really search for the basic cause, it is there discovered, not by me merely, but by the hon. Member for Aberdare, in the explanation of the figures which he has given to the Committee.
We might have gone on for some time before that cause became so acute as it is, but for the stoppage of 1921, and the worse stoppage of 1926. We realise what both those stoppages meant in the shipping industry, for instance. It was all very well at a time when coal held a monopoly position, but to-day the shipping industry can obtain its fuel in the form of oil from almost every country in the world. There is no dependence on our country to-day for fuel, and, with claims for demurrage and oncost running on, one can realise the anxiety of the shipping industry to avoid a fuel in regard to the continuity of the supply of which there is no guarantee. Therefore, 2011 I say that the stoppages of 1921 and 1926 were responsible for hastening the crisis. The crisis was coming, but it need not have been rendered so acute. It has been rendered acute by these stoppages. For the reasons I have stated, we regard the complete revolution in the position of coal as the basic cause, distinguishing thus our position from the position of hon. Members opposite, who have given the contradictory causes which I have mentioned. Our view is that the basic cause is that we are witnessing a revolution in the mining industry.
What about the cure? As to the cure for the depression, we again differ from hon. Members opposite. Hon. Members opposite consider that it is to be found in amalgamation. Any man—not merely the man engaged in business, but any man who can imagine the facts that make business prosperous—recognises, of course, that there are conditions in which amalgamation is desirable as a means, not only of effecting great economies, but of increasing and cheapening production. But, when you come to mines, you must be careful. It is one thing to amalgamate two manufacturing concerns; it is another thing to amalgamate mines where the conditions are so uncertain. In a manufacturing industry, you can decree a uniformity of standard, but in the mining industry, you cannot compel uniform conditions. Under the Act of last year, as it seemed to me, the Government went as far as it should go.
§ Mr. KIDD
I am trying to discuss this matter seriously, and am certainly not provocative. What did the Government do? They saw the impossibility of amalgamations by compulsion. They saw that compulsory amalgamation might wreck the good colliery in a futile effort to save the bad. They saw that certain compulsory amalgamations could easily work out to the serious detriment of the industry, and therefore, to the serious loss of the workers; and they encouraged amalgamation—in a sense they compelled amalgamation—where amalgamations were desirable, because they gave to the rich mineowners and to the poor mineowners, without distinction, the right to make application for amalgamation. Is that not the real basis on which amal 2012 gamations should proceed if they are to have any good effect at all? I largely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Mossley when he decries the idea of compelling amalgamation, and protests against the Government interfering unduly with industry.
In their attitude last year, the Government went as far as any Government should go. They made it possible for A. or B. to apply for the amalgamation of A. and B., despite the fact that A. might be a poor mineowner and B. a rich mineowner who, in the absence of that provision of the Government, might have tried to wear down his poorer opponent, and take over his colliery on terms agreeable to himself. That, I think, is the only suggestion made by the other side in the way of a cure. Selling agencies have been suggested. Many hon. Members are closely acquainted with the co-operative movement. Can they conceive of a better position than this? You have competition between the co-operative seller and the private seller, and each is a watchdog on the other. It is suggested that we should have recourse to some system of selling which might be quasi public and which would deny the right to you or to me to raise the competitive business. Under conditions as they are to-day, with the private seller and the co-operative seller, you have the consumers' interest thoroughly secured, but remove all that competition, deny the right to have any competition, and you at once destroy the interest of the consumer. I am much concerned to have the best possible wage we can for the miner, but when discussing wages do not let us forget that the consumer represents the type and in any of our arrangements, however distressing the conditions may be, we dare not sacrifice the consumer in the wholesale way that a denial of competition would mean.
What are our cures? I have talked about the basic cause being a revolution. You want the cure to be one that will exhaust the coalfield, one that will convert the national resources of the country into national wealth under conditions which will give a proper reward to enterprise and a satisfactory wage to the workers. You will never get that except by the extended use of machinery and scientific application. I speak with some acquaintance of Scottish coal. It is 2013 notorious that in the Scottish coalfield machinery has been much more largely employed than in England. Necessity is the mother of invention. Our Scottish coalfield is relatively much poorer than that South of the Border, with the result that we resorted largely to coal-cutting machinery, and if coal-cutting machines were becoming prominent previous to the stoppage they are much more prominent to-day. We shall presently have the automatic conveyors. These together mean the dispersal for the time being of a great many men, but it means, on the other hand, an enormously increased production of coal at a largely diminished cost. It means the recovery of our markets. You will say, I suppose, that means a big revenue. Yes, it means that the coalfield is to remain an attractive investment for capital with larger wages assured for the men who are actually employed. In all revolutions there is that disturbance, but luckily in the case of coal our market is so extensive that if we care to exploit it in the proper way, if we put out of our heads all this idea of saturation point, if we get down to the solid facts, we shall get the market. Let us shed all these silly notions. Let us rely on largely increased production by means of machinery. I see in this cure of mining distress a largely extended trade. I see the capture of the markets that consume the raw coal. I see the discovery of new markets for the new products now coming by the application of science to coal. I see all the time a largely increasing revenue and improved conditions of employment for the men working in and about the mines.
I know, of course, that down below we shall displace men and we shall have electricians and mechanicians and handymen as against the old coal hewers. But if I am right in believing that no man exhibits more adaptibility than the miner, I can hardly believe that any miners except the very old will be largely incommoded by the new conditions. These represent the cure that will be suggested on this side. There is something more wanted, of course, in the action of the miners' leaders if we are to take full advantage of these new conditions We could not exhaust the possibilities of that cure without realising that all the current of progress is in the direction of not less but more individual freedom. More and 2014 more you and I have to be dependent upon the individual genius. That means, if it means anything at all, that from this time forth the tendency ought to be not towards less but towards greater individual freedom. Do the Miners' Federation to-day encourage that? Are they not still preaching the doctrine of mass control in an age which becomes less and less physical? Has the time not come when they must pursue the policy of discovering the control of the worker not at the end of production but at the financial end?
I deplore division in the union ranks, but any union, or section of a union, which will persist in using physical methods in an age which is more and more non-physical, any section of the union which maintains the old methods, is bound to go under. It is fighting against forces against which it cannot prevail. It may very well be that we are discussing the mining industry for the last time in the presence of the Secretary for Mines as Minister. I know my feeling will be shared by Members on both sides, that while we have been indebted to him for his constant courtesy and his ready help where any help is to be rendered we are perhaps most of all indebted to him for the courageous way in which throughout the most difficult period of our times he has faced facts. He has not pretended to be in possession of any quack cure. He has not attempted any quack cure. He has encouraged research and has encouraged every development which would make for the proper redemption of this battered industry, and, while we are indebted to him for much, we are most of all indebted to him for the courageous way in which he has avoided all quack cures.
§ Mr. RITSON
I must congratulate the hon. Member, and I only wish the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) had been here to hear his speech. His imagination would have worked upon him until he had seen the sun rise on the industrial world, and had absolutely blinded us with hope. The other interesting part of the Debate has been the intervention of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). He is always an interesting personality. He came into the discussion 2015 of the Eight Hours Bill last year with a vim and determination that surprised us very much. To-day he jumped into it as usual with that erratic method of his, and caused no end of surprise by telling us that our troubles are due to newspaper owners, imaginative politicians and the Chairman of the Coal Commission, Sir Herbert Samuel. The hon. Member has a sort of zoological effect upon me. He acts like some of the specimens I have seen that eat their fragments with the aid of their nether limbs, and he seems to belong to that species whose usefulness will only be determined after death. I have been seriously struck by his arguments. I have nothing to do with his attack on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs but I have been very seriously interested in his idea of what is going to happen to us in the future. He says we are in for a worse time than we have ever had before, and he says it was contemplated by the Eight Hours Act, of which he was such an enthusiastic supporter. He was not the only one that contemplated that. We always said the results of that Act would work out exactly as they are working out.
I have been asked to speak for Durham. I believe it is best for a man in his own area to give his own domestic account of affairs. We have had a very able speech from the hon. Member who opened the Debate and we have plenty of good material to follow on in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) and others of our colleagues who have practical knowledge of the coal trade. We are most unfortunate in having two Ministers upon that bench who are the most difficult men to tackle. The Minister of Mines, with his kindly way, is a target that we would rather miss than hit when we fire at him. With his genial, happy, always obliging manner the Minister of Labour makes it very difficult for one to criticise him. They are the only saviours of the Tory party in that one sense. Our position then is very difficult, but I would like to say this. In Durham, as we stand to-day, we are in a very hopeless position, and I am, going to appeal to the Secretary for Mines and also to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour to give us what assistance they can to remove some of 2016 our grievances. I am one of those who believe that half the trouble we imagine never comes. I believe that the two Ministers to-night can very considerably allay the disturbing fear there is in the coalfields to-day. I agree, to a certain extent, with the hon. Member for Mossley, that there are many things which are causing evils, and many people who misrepresent us and cause this feeling of despair. Out of despair there always arises that bitterness of feeling which may be very disastrous to us. I will have something to say upon that later on.
According to the figures I have before me, we have in Durham actually 41,000 men idle as compared with what we had in 1924, as was mentioned in the figures given earlier. Our wages have come down until we are owing to the coal-owners no less than £700,000. When it will be paid back I do not know, and I do not think anybody else knows, but we are assured of this, that we shall not get away with the debt. The miners will have to pay their share, anyhow. We have 420,000 persons registered at the Employment Exchanges in Durham—I am not now speaking of miners, but including miners—and we have no less than 82,000 unemployed. We have an average of about 22.9 per cent. in Durham at the present time, and the shipyards, the engine shops and the mining areas are devastated and in a very hopeless position. It is because of that that we are making this appeal generally to the Secretary for Mines and to the Minister of Labour. We have 29 Employment Exchanges in Durham County where the average unemployment in six areas is less than 10 per cent., while the Exchange area at Bishop Auckland, on the other hand, has no less than 41 per cent of unemployment. The Stanley area has, I should think, 38 per cent. of unemployment. The Durham area, for which I myself stand, has about 25 per cent. of unemployment. The position is that with all these figures before us we have on the last month's ascertainment a deficit of £78,544. That is, of course, a very serious position, and we have been asked to try to get the Government to realise the position we are in. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) when he said everybody can have subsidies just now but us. The Government can give 2017 £4,000,000 to the sugar-beet industry and can relieve agriculture of its rates. In our ascertainments we have £72,000 in respect of rates. I think there might be something done in that direction. If agriculture is worth relieving, surely the mining industry is, for it is the spinal cord of the industry of this country.
Have we done our duty? is another question which has often been asked. Since the Eight Hours Act, we have increased the output per man per shift by 3 cwts. I think we have done our duty in that way. Nobody can deny that for a moment. We have made sacrifices which the Press has not yet realised nor the country appreciated. We have made sacrifices of 10 and 20 per cent. on the district rate. I would like to draw the Committee's attention to this fact. Men belonging to one section of the mining industry have suffered a reduction to an extent which nobody has as yet anticipated. I am going to take the piece-rate men in Durham, and the example of a typical colliery. Here is an example of reduction, apart from the 10 and 20 per cent. imposed as a result of the action of the Government. We have a district where the basis price is 12s. per ten tons of coal produced. It is now being reduced to 8s. 6d. This is actually the official document from the colliery, and I go on to give these prices. There is one here reduced from 10s. to 9s. for 10 tons of coal produced; another reduced from 12s. to 9s. 6d., and another from 10s. to 7s. 3d. It should always be remembered that there is 89 per cent. to be added before the miners' earnings can be arrived at. We find that every class of piece-worker in the coalfield of Durham has suffered reductions of from 20 to 30 per cent. on their basis rate.
We have given our best as far as our work is concerned. Any owner will tell you that to-day our men are working harder than they have ever worked before. They are not only working longer but harder. Their hours of recreation are shorter. Their hope of indulging in recreation with their family is absolutely gone because of the three-shift system. Our women are also seriously affected. For every hour you put on to the men you put three hours on to their womenfolk. The tragedy of the whole thing is that our women are suffering even more than the men, not only in the amount of 2018 money they receive for household expenses but because of their lack of opportunity to get away from the drudgery of their homes. We have done our best as far as production is concerned. Let us see what is hindering us now. I suggest to the Minister that he should try to do something to deal with the companies that refuse to carry out the Act. We will take the Consett Coal Company as an instance. They are refusing to allow the local inspectors appointed by the workmen to do the essential work of inspection if they have any trifling objection to the men so selected, which in essence means that they are laying down a procedure only to allow inspections by men whom they regard as suitable. This is taking away the rights of the workmen under the Act. We, on the other hand, say we are entitled to appoint our own inspectors in our own way and as the law allows. I wish the Minister would take cognisance of this, for it is a very serious matter.
There is the general victimisation of our people. I cannot understand any manager, any agent or any company at the present time victimising men. In the old days when they victimised a man for his political or trade union activities they generally got rid of him. He had to go to some other county or to some other country, but he cannot do so now. The result is, he remains in the district cherishing bitterness against his employers and fighting continuously against oppression. I think the instances given by my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. R. Richardson) can be thoroughly substantiated. The only crime they have committed has been that they are active and honest trade unionists, and to-day they are thrown out of employment and cannot get work anywhere. They have to remain in the area. I think they have a perfect right to cause as much trouble as they can because of the punishment they have received, having done nothing hut prove themselves sound trade unionists.
Another matter to which I would like to call the attention of the Minister of Labour relates to the question of the old men of 65. As he will know, we have had instances in Durham—a very serious position it is—of our old men of 65 being dismissed. The trouble in the mining areas is that me do not get any extended 2019 benefit. The miner has never been allowed the same chance as anybody else of obtaining extended benefit. It has been said that Messrs. Joicey and Company decided to dismiss all employés over 65, but there are some left. I should think it would be very inconsistent for his Lordship to dismiss men at 65 when he is 84 himself and managing the whole of that great concern. But the position we have to fight is this. Our men have never been re-started and we have no less than 41 in one particular rural area who were dismissed at the age of 65 and over. The result is that, as far as extended benefit is concerned, they are struck off the list by the Minister of Labour. We feel it very keenly. They have been struck off the list, I understand, because this particular company have laid it down that they will engage nobody, neither official nor man, over 65 years of age. But we find on inquiry that that is not exactly true. This company are employing men over 65, and even up to 70. The father-in-law of an hon. Friend of mine was 85 and they had to burn his pit clothes to keep him from going to work, I wish they would exchange him for the Bishop of Durham. I will deal with the Bishop later, because he says his prayers like the Prime Minister.
I hope my hon. Friend will look into this matter, because it has its effect on industry. In the particular area to which I have referred the Poor Rate in 1914 was 1s. 4d., and to-day it is 8s. 2d. These men who have been dismissed will add £2,000 a year to the cost of the industry, and it means that 4.66 per ton is the cost on the local rates. You are absolutely throwing on an already overburdened area a heavier burden by throwing these men back on to the local rates. We are fighting for fair play in the mining world in regard to our men.
I am very anxious to know what arrangements have been made in regard to selling agencies about which we have heard so much. I was talking to an international seller last night, and he told me that one of the things of which the English merchants were very short was in regard to the language question. He said that they simply send out circulars asking for trade while the Germans and Poles send out agents who 2020 vigorously canvass on behalf of their particular organisations. What is happening now as regards exports as compared with before the stoppage? I am not satisfied that everything is being done that can be done to get markets abroad. I am not satisfied that the owners are making the efforts they ought to make to get trade. The trouble now as compared with the old days is that 30 years ago we used to meet the coalowner as a coalowner, but to-day we meet him as a railway director, an ironmaster, a shipbuilder and ship-owner, and he has such a conglomeration of interests that the difficulty is to pin him down to one at a time.
I should like to ask the Prime Minister, the Minister of Mines and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour to throw themselves into this work and examine the complaints that have been laid before them to-day. One of the great dignitaries in another place the other day gave us a reason for the discontent and the horrors of our conditions to-day. It was the right reverend the Lord Bishop of Durham. I think I am within my rights in discussing this because he was dealing with the conditions of labour. The Bishop said that the reason we were in such straits to-day was because the leaders of to-day were not godly men.
§ Mr. RITSON
Who said, "Hear, hear"? Surely of all people in the world, the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) does not know anything about godliness. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] I am not going to withdraw, because if anyone can take a joke the hon. Member can, for he makes them himself. This right reverend Gentleman said we were in the state we were because of ungodliness. He gave an instance—I think it was a mean thing to do—of the late Dr. John Wilson on his death-bed telling him our trade and conditions were likely to be limited because we were not as godly as we were in the old days. I know my friend John Wilson would never have intended that to be used as it was used by the Bishop. I have only known the Devil to get his own way three times. The first time was when he tempted that woman in the Garden of Eden, the second time was when he tempted Christ to throw himself from the pinnacle of the 2021 Temple and the third time was when he transferred Henson from Westminster to Durham. I am in earnest when I talk of these things, for I claim that my people are the most religious people that I know. They resent this remark, and feel that at this time it is not the way to talk—and particularly on the part of a Lord Bishop. I admired the speech of an hon. Member the other week who said that the people who talked of revolutions were simply trying to create them. There is no fear of revolution if you keep the Bishops out of the way. I want the Prime Minister to listen to this, for I am serious. The Bishops and the people who refuse to answer their own prayers are responsible for a good deal of our trouble to-day. The Prime Minister says, "Give us peace in our time, O Lord." He could help himself. He need not ask God to do that. I used to ask God to help me, but always held on to the quart pot. What is the use of praying to the Deity to help you with a Government behind you like that? The Deity will not recognise you.
My last word is this. In these times of trouble and trial, I do not want anyone to talk about a crisis in the coalfield. You caused the crisis by the Eight Hours' Act. When I see those gallant women and boys between 14 and 20 with nowhere to turn for a job, and, on the other hand, when I see the easiness of some Members opposite and people generally in regard to the mining position, I have some regard for my fellow-men. Those miners between 14 and 20 can be played upon by agitators, both Bishops and otherwise; it does not need a Communist to arouse passion in a man, for a Bishop can do that. I remember in my young days we had a sort of weather gauge. There was Jock and Jinny on a piece of catgut, and when Jock came out it was wet and when Jinny came out it was fine. Now it is Henson and Weldon—whoever comes out the weather is bad. As my last word, I say seriously and honestly that the time has come for the Bishop to get down into his diocese and see the suffering amongst our women. When our men are charged with not being religious I give the lie to him. We have gone to the War and fought for our country, and it is the Bishop's duty, instead of slandering people from his sheltered place, as he is to-day, to come down from the altar, which he would leave at any time to 2022 defend the brewers' dray—that is if he was as interested in his diocese in our conditions as he is in his Prayer Book. He wants to sit beside the Home Secretary. I hope and trust, however crude may be our application, there is one thing this Committee will believe, and that is that we are sincere in saying that we are anxious to get the coal industry established and to build it up, and that our men are willing to put their very best into it. Let the people with capital be as patriotic as we have been, first of all in defending our country when it was attacked and now in defending our homes and we appeal to the Committee and the Government generally to give them that status of life which they ought to have.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. Betterton)
I do not propose to deal with the questions which have been raised this afternoon, except in so far as they directly affect the Ministry with which I am connected. The sort of questions which have been discussed in all parts of the Committee will, of course, receive a reply from my right hon. Friend who is in charge of the Estimates, and who is responsible for the Ministry with which they are connected. But one or two points have been raised on which, I think, the Committee will expect some reply from me. Before I deal with the question which was addressed to me by the hon. Gentleman who initiated this Debate the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley), I will deal with two questions which have been raised, one by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) and one by the hon. Member who has just sat down. The hon. Member for Aberdare referred to what he regarded as a grievance in the administration of the Unemployment Act in so far as extended benefit is concerned, as affecting persons working on short time. I am not quite certain that it is strictly in order on this Estimate, but, as it has been raised, I most certainly will reply to it.
The hon. Member for Aberdare and the hon. Member who sits below him, the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) discussed this matter with me the other day, and, shortly, their point was this. It is a very technical point, but none the less important and interesting to many Members on both sides. The hon. Member said, "You have a rule that if a man is earning half his normal wages, 2023 he is not entitled to unemployment benefit, but if he is earning less than half his normal wages he is, and, in order to ascertain whether he is earning half his normal wages or not, you take a period of four weeks and strike an average, and if on that average you find he is earning less than half, you give him the benefit, and if you find he is earning half or more you do not. Now," said the hon. Member for Aberdare, "this works harshly for two reasons." First, he says that by keeping a man out of work waiting for four weeks before you strike an average, you are inflicting a hardship on him. Consequently, he says, it may be that, in taking the average of four weeks, in perhaps two of these weeks he is earning very much less than the half, whereas the other two weeks he is earning more than half, and he gets nothing, by reason of the practice which we have adopted, for four weeks in two of which he is earning less than half. That, probably, is a fair statement of the point which the hon. Gentleman put to me. I am glad to tell him that I have, since he came to see me, considered this point with my right hon. Friend, and we are prepared to do what he asked us to do, namely, to take each week, if I may say so, and put it on its merits, and if in any one individual week the man is earning less than the half to which I have referred, then for that week he will get benefit. I think that decision will remove both the causes of complaint which the hon. Gentleman put to me.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
The rule used to be the four weeks previous to the week in which benefit was granted, but we are now prepared to take it week by week.
§ Mr. G. HALL
May I express my thanks to the hon. Gentleman? It is going to be a very considerable concession in those districts where a considerable amount of under-employment is taking place.
§ Mr. D. GRENFELL
May I ask another question? Suppose half the wage is earned in four or five days, will that apply?
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I will have to consider that with the hon. Gentleman. I 2024 have only dealt with the point put to me by the hon. Member for Aberdare. This is a very technical question, and I do not wish to commit myself without fully appreciating the repercussion of any answer that I may make. The second point is the point put by the hon. Member who preceded me. I cannot accept for a moment the suggestion that the miners of Durham are treated differently from any other person in Durham County, but the hon. Gentleman asked me if I will consider any information that he cares to bring to me. Of course I will, and I will be very glad to do so, but again I must remind the hon. Gentleman, and I must remind the Committee, that my right hon. Friend is bound in the matter of the administration of the Unemployment Acts by what the Unemployment Acts say. It is not open to him to give benefit there or to disallow it here because he thinks that that would meet justice in this case or in the other, but he is bound by what the Acts themselves say. The Section of the Act on which I have no doubt these decisions—which, incidentally, are the decisions of the local committee—have been based is the Section of the Act of 1924, passed by the Government of the hon. Gentleman opposite, which says, amongst other things, that a man shall not be entitled to extended benefit unless in normal times insurable employment suitable to his capacity would be likely to be available for him. But I repeat to the hon. Gentleman that, if he thinks there is a grievance or some administration of the Act which he would care to bring before me, I would be happy to go into it.
The main criticism that has been directed against the Government, in so far as the Minister of Labour is concerned, is the criticism made by the hon. Member who initiated the Debate. He asked me what is the position with regard to Section [...]8 of the Act of last year, which deals with recruitment, and he says that it ought to be put into operation immediately, and that the Government have been very remiss in not putting it into operation before; and then he asked what are we doing, and what is the present position. May I remind the Committee of what the Coal Commission said on this point? The Report of the Coal Commission (on 2025 page 187) dealt with the question of recruitment and I only refer to it in order to show that the agreement, which is, I think, on the point of being passed, follows, as closely as we can make it, the recommendation of the Coal Commission on which the Section of the Act was founded. The Coal Commission Report says:The amount of movement shown is surprising, and emphasises the importance of taking some steps to direct and organise the movement of labour from one mine to another or one district to another. It is obviously desirable to give to the men who must be displaced by the closing of uneconomic mines the first chance, in preference to men from other industries, of geting employment in new mines and developing districts.That, of course, indicates two things. It indicates, in the first place, that in the view of the Commission it was desirable to take steps, and, in the second place, it was important to take steps, by which they mean it is important that some real benefit should follow from these steps if they were taken. The Coal Report also says, on page 188:It is important that the industry should not unnecessarily recruit labour from outside. No arrangements are in force at present for securing this end.The last paragraph of this part of the Report recognises that the mine owners and miners should confer with the Minister of Labour on this matter. Now I would like to tell the Committee what has happened from the end of the coal stoppage up to the present time. At the very beginning of this year, or the end of last year, my right hon. Friend got into touch with the Mining Association, and he made it perfectly clear that in any scheme which might be drawn up, not merely the Mining Association must be bound, but that the owners who were not associated with the Mining Association must be bound also. In other words, he was not prepared to agree with the ideas of the Commission unless either the whole, or substantially the whole, of the owners were included within the terms of the agreement. A draft was prepared about the middle of March of an agreement which would have carried out the recommendations of the Coal Commission, and would have satisfied the provisions of the Act of last year. This draft was sent to the Miners' Federation on the 18th March, and, of 2026 course, one of the questions which had to be considered very carefully in settling the draft was the Schedule attached to it, which described exactly the classes of workmen which were to be included in the scope of the agreement. This draft was sent to the Miners' Federation on the 18th March, and I am sorry to say that it was not until the 12th May that we got the views of the Miners' Federation upon it. We did what we could to expedite their answer, and a meeting was arranged on the 20th April, but it was put off at the request of the Miners' Federation, and it was not until the 12th May, at an interview which I myself had, and at which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Varley) himself was present, that for the first time we got the views of the Miners' Federation on this draft—which was sent to them as long ago as the 18th March.
At that meeting, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the representatives of the Miners' Federation quite frankly said they would have preferred regulations to an agreement, but, at the same time, they raised certain points of detail. Ten days afterwards my right hon. Friend, having considered these questions raised by the Miners' Federation, wrote to the Federation, and stated that it was his intention to secure observance of the section by agreement, provided that agreement was come to on behalf of the whole industry. On the 11th June the Federation accepted the agreement under protest. On the 23rd June one of the unions directly affected by this agreement wrote to us and suggested certain additions in the Schedule, while, as recently as last Saturday, on the 8th July, we had a letter from the Miners' Federation requesting a very substantial addition to the Schedule and to the classes of persons who are to be contained in the Schedule. So I think the Committee will see that, as far as there has been any delay in this matter, which I regret, and which my right hon. Friend regrets just as much, that delay has not been the fault of my Department or of my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. VARLEY
I want to be fair, but the hon. Gentleman has omitted to say that we would have preferred that there should not be that Schedule and that we would make the recruitment of colliery workers all-embracing; and we suggested 2027 we should like the exclusion of the Schedule rather than a very voluminous inclusion.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
That point is one of the questions which, in consequence of the communication of Saturday last, we are now considering. But my right hon. Friend is quite determined that the decision upon these matters, which, after all, are only matters of detail, shall be come to forthwith, and I have every reason to expect and believe—in fact, my right hon. Friend is determined it shall be so—that this agreement will be finally settled in the course of a very few days. If it is not, he will do what he does not want to do, make regulations. One hon. Member asked me a very fair and obvious question. He asked why, if we have an agreement, do we not make regulations. The answer is, and it is a very obvious answer, that, if you get an agreement which is to be fairly worked by the people who are concerned in it, it is quite certain that it will be more satisfactory than if you have rigid regulations which can only be altered by making more regulations. With regard to this agreement, if it should turn out in practice that it is desirable to alter it in one way or another after it has been in operation for some time, it can very easily be done by consent of the parties, but it is a very difficult thing if you have rigid regulations which can only be altered by making more regulations, which make the business more formidable. I need say nothing more about the agreement except that we have every expectation and determination that it shall be signed and put into force within a very short time of the present moment.
The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) raised a point the other day which he would probably have raised this evening had he preceded me in this Debate. As he will probably speak afterwards, it is only fair that I should say something about it. He asked me whether it was not possible to make much more extensive arrangements for the transfer of miners from one district to another. I have only one or two comments to make on that. It is no use to transfer men from one place where there is a surplus of labour to another place where there is also a surplus of labour. You are not necessarily doing any good 2028 by taking a man from one district and putting him in another if there is a surplus of labour already in that district. The hon. Member said: "Assuming that there is not a surplus in one district and there is in another, what can the Ministry do to bring men from the district where there is a surplus to another district where there is not a surplus but an actual shortage? "He suggested that it would be possible to make grants of money to cover the personal expenses not only of the man but also of his family, and the expenses of his household. All I can say on that point is that as far as the unemployment funds are concerned we have no power to do it, and to take such power would need legislation. If we once embarked upon that line we could not limit it to the miners. The same claim would at once be put forward by other industries which have also suffered from unemployment, such as the shipbuilding and iron and steel trades and others. It is a very difficult question. I do not mean that it is necessarily precluded from consideration, but I am only pointing out that it is a question which, obviously, will raise great difficulties and will require very careful thought.
On this question of transfer I would remind the Committee of the Section of the Act of 1920 which goes some way to meet the point raised by the hon. Member for the Don Valley. It does not go to the extent of providing money for removing the whole household, but it does authorise us in a case where the man makes a journey to a job where actually the job is located, and where the job has been found through the Exchange, to pay half the excess railway fare over 4s. That means that if, say, the fare is 8s., the man pays 6s. He pays 4s. and half the excess between 4s. and 8s. That is a Section which goes some little way towards meeting the point which the hon. Member made.
All these points are incidental to the main question which has been raised this afternoon, and with the main question my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Mines Department will deal. I have only dealt with such points as seem to me specially to affect the Department with which I am connected.
§ Mr. POTTS
With regard to the transference of miners from one district to another, we in Yorkshire are having miners brought in from Durham and other districts and they are being brought through the Exchanges. There is a condition laid down by the employers that the ages of these people shall range from 45 to 47. The Exchange is doing this thing and bringing miners into Yorkshire from other districts, and they are getting work in our county, although in our county we have many thousands of people unemployed.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
I was not aware of that, but I am glad to have been informed of it, and I would like to discuss it with the hon. Member. We always endeavour on this question of bringing men from one district to another to act with the local leaders of the miners, in order to ascertain, first of all, whether there is a vacancy and, secondly whether there is someone in the district who can fill it. If that arrangement for any reason has broken down in the instance to which the hon. Member refers in Yorkshire, I should be glad to discuss it with him. It is purely a matter of administration.
§ Mr. LUNN
We have had the position in the mining industry put as well before us in the opening speech this afternoon as ever we have had it put on any occasion. The speech of the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley) covered most of the difficulties with which we have to contend, and he explained fully the position in nearly every district. He dealt with wages, how they were ascertained and how they are operating at the present time, and showed that nearly every district is below or at the lowest possible minimum. He dealt with short-time unemployment, and selling prices. I think the Committee is not being treated fairly by the Government. After that speech of the hon. Member, which was so comprehensive, it was as little as we could expect that the Secretary for Mines would have followed and have given the Committee an explanation of the position of his Department regarding the conditions in the industry as they are to-day. I would be the last to say a word regarding the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, because 2030 he is always kindness itself to everybody; but I do think that following upon the Secretary for Mines a Cabinet Minister ought to have replied to this Debate to-night. It is important that we should know the attitude of the Government on many things that are suggested in a Debate of this kind. It is too big a question to be treated lightly, or treated as lightly as the Government treat it on occasions like this.
What has been said in regard to other districts I could say in regard to my own county. I asked a question a few days ago as to the number of unemployed miners in Yorkshire, and I was told that there were 32,000 who were registered as unemployed in that county. There are many colliers working short time who are not able to get unemployment pay by reason of the rules as to working 50 per cent. of their time, which I am afraid does not always mean earning 50 per cent. of what they would be earning if they were working full time. The trade union funds are done, and they are contributing and their contributions are taken in order to assist as far as possible the people who are unemployed. The condition in the homes is disastrous. Having lived all my life amongst the miners and having been one of them all my life, it is painful to persons like myself, and every hon. Member who lives in a mining area, to see the condition of the homes; not only the condition of the men but the condition of the women and children who are struggling under adverse circumstances.
I do not know of any suggestion in the mind of the Government to assist in this matter. There is nothing they have done since they became a Government which has helped the position in the mining industry. The passage of the Eight Hours Act last year was certainly a crime against the industry, for which they will never be excused by those who are engaged in the industry. We shall ever keep that before the public and before the miners, because we intend to see that it is repealed at the earliest possible moment, owing to its disastrous effect on the industry. In regard to the Act which was passed last year, regarding the mining industry and amalgamations, questions have been asked, and we ought to have been told before now, what has been done under that Act. After the 2031 speeches that were made and the hopes that were expressed by the Government of what would come from that Act of Parliament, we ought to know what the Mines Department know of the amalgamations that have come about as a result of that Act. We have to wait until the end of the Debate, when the Secretary for Mines will tell us that he has not time to answer our questions, as he always does, unfortunately.
The question of recruiting was dealt with in the Act of Parliament. We acknowledged then that had that proposal been put into operation immediately it would have been of service to the mining industry. It is not a cure. It is a very small matter, but if recruiting had been stopped at that time for three years it would have helped; but instead of putting it into operation in a compulsory manner, we are told that it is to be done on a voluntary basis. That is not likely to carry out what was expected of it when the scheme was put before the House.
§ Mr. BETTERTON
If this voluntary arrangement does not carry out what the agreement says, and which provides fully for carrying out Section 18, my right hon. Friend will not hesitate for a moment to make compulsory Regulations.
§ Mr. LUNN
It is some time since that Act was passed, and it is only to be in operation until 1929, and it seems as if it will be 1929 before the one thing which can benefit the industry from that Act will be put into operation. There was another Section of that Act which was very much resented in most parts of the country, namely Section 22, dealing with certificates of competence, which is restricting the working miners very much in obtaining positions of importance and responsibility in the industry which were given to them before. I do not know of anything which is suggested by the Government which is likely to help to allay the difficulties that we are facing to-day. I have listened to the whole of this Debate, and I think it may be said that there is no one possible cure for the position as it is. There are 211,000 miners unemployed, and I think I may safely say that there is no Member of this House who imagines that it is 2032 possible that the industry will be able for many years to absorb the whole of those who are unemployed to-day.
I would like to turn my attention for a minute or two to another matter and make another suggestion for dealing with these unemployed people. We have over 200,000 miners unemployed. The mining communities are very close to the land. Many of the miners have worked upon the land, and they are closely connected with it in every possible way to-day. We are importing more of the necessaries of life into this country than we ought to do. We are not producing in our own country what we should produce if we used the land as we ought to use it. Being concerned with producing British goods as well as selling British goods, which is the difficulty, and producing food in particular for our people which is grown in this country, I would like to ask if the Government have ever considered an inquiry into this subject. I know the difficulties in the industry. Suggestions have been made for an inquiry into how coal is to be used in the future and statements have been made to-day that we are going to electrify production and are going to have hydraulic conveyers and all sorts of things which are going to reduce labour still further. What has the Government to offer on this matter as to how far it is possible to transfer on a satisfactory basis many men who would like to go and settle on the land in this country? I would suggest that the Government might appoint a committee to go into that question. There are hundreds of thousands of acres in this country which could be used for the production of food and it would be far cheaper and better that the men should be found employment even though it cost something to find the means of transport to the market than that they should be idling their time and costing a large amount, of money through taxation and local rates in the way they are doing at the present time. I think the Government might well consider how far it would be possible to obtain some of those estates in the country which are easily obtainable at the present moment and which might be put to suitable use in order to provide work for the miners.
May I take the matter a little further. I am a member of the Overseas Settlement Committee and that Committee has 2033 been devoting a good deal of time in considering this question of settlement in our Dominions. I do not say that this would be a cure; I do not suggest for a moment that that is a possibility. I know the difficulties of the various Dominions in this matter, but we have been endeavouring to see if it is possible to find some means by which we could help those who do desire to go overseas from the mining industry. I know the difficulty of separating the miners from the rest of the community in regard to this particular matter, but I think that it is certainly a question which the Government might take into more serious consideration than they have done in the past. There is a scheme now for boys between 14 and 17 to go to various parts of the Dominions, and something like 5,000 went last year. There are possibilities if boys wish to go, and if their parents desire that more of them should go. I think that is also a matter upon which the Government and the mining community and the miners' representatives might confer. There is one municipality—Newcastle-on-Tyne—which has taken this matter up seriously, and is doing very good work in the training of boys. We ought to ask the Government what they are doing in regard to training people to work upon the land. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour has not dealt with that question. They are training a thousand men at Brandon and Claydon and all these men have opportunities to go to one or other of the Dominions. I would like to ask the Government whether they cannot extend the training of the young men between 18 and 25 and perhaps 30. There is no doubt they would receive applicants by the thousand and immediately those men were trained, they would have opportunities to go to one or other of the Dominions. I know the danger of this particular suggestion, but I am very much concerned about the mining industry as it is, and the statements which are made as to its possible future, and the fact that we should have hundreds of thousands of men unemployed. I think if something can be done in any way to train our men and give them opportunities of this sort, it, certainly ought to be done.
There is another matter. There are thousands of families in this country who 2034 are applying for opportunities to go overseas and the Labour Government made a scheme with Canada—the 3,000 family scheme—which has been praised by everyone concerned, and I do not think any complaints have been received from those who have taken part in it. I think if the Government could extend that scheme on similar lines, there would be no difficulty in finding 10,000 families who would take advantage of it under conditions of that sort. It is not because I want to shove people out of this country, or because I accept the suggestions which have been discussed in this House to transfer large numbers overseas. I know the difficulties in the Dominions and that they cannot take large numbers; but if some of these schemes can be considered by the Government, and if we can know their attitude upon them, it may help us in this matter. I am concerned that in this Debate we should make whatever contribution we can towards seeing that work is found for those who desire to work. And the miners do desire to work, because they are the best workers in the world, as far as I know, and being good workers I want to see that first of all opportunities are given to them to find work in the mines of this country through the re-organisation of the industry. I have not lost my faith in the cure of public ownership of the mines and minerals, but I know that that is not an immediate possibility, and realising the fact that men are unemployed and are not likely to be absorbed. I wish to see that they are provided with work instead of being allowed to live as they are doing on one another and on the community. I invite the Government to make some suggestion for dealing with these matters which have been put forward in this Debate so that we may know where they stand and whether they intend to do anything or whether they merely intend to have a much worse winter and a much worse time in the future than we have ever seen in the past.
§ Mr. SUTTON
I want to say a few words on this matter. I am sorry that the Secretary for Mines has not been up to give us some idea as to what the Mines Department intend to do on this question. Personally, I am of the opinion that we are in this position to-day so far as the mining industry is concerned on account of the blunders of the Government and 2035 the coalowners last year. I do not know why the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) should have the audacity to get up every time and speak for the coal-owners in this House. I know of course that he provides coal-cutting machines, or rather his workpeople do. The hon. Member told us that the Government had not imposed a different working day on the miners of this country, yet he admitted that the Government had consulted him as to what should be done with reference to the increase in the working hours in the mines. I think it was admitted last year during the discussions on the Bill, that the coalowners had been consulted by the Government before they introduced that Bill, though we were told from this side of the House on that occasion that the coalowners in this country were unable to sell coal or anything like the amount of coal that could be produced in a seven-hour working day.
Sir Herbert Samuel's Commission stated that if longer hours were introduced into the mines of this country it would be the means of throwing at least 120,000 or 130,000 more miners out of work. In spite of that, the Government, in coalition with the coalowners, introduced the Mines Eight Hours Bill. I want it to be understood—and I do not think it is understood by the ordinary man and woman in the street—that when we speak of an eight-hours day it practically means in the big mines of this country a ten-hours working day below ground. It practically means that many of the men are away from home for 11 and 12 hours per day. It does not mean that they are only underground for eight hours a day. Therefore, the Government is responsible for passing this Measure to reintroduce an eight-hours day, and in my opinion they have blundered very much. I remember that after the coal lock-out of 1921 we were told by the coalowners that if the miners would only accept a two-guinea a week reduction in their wages the coal trade ever afterwards would be prosperous. The men were compelled—that is to say, the coal-getters were compelled—to accept a two guineas a week reduction in their wages over the whole of the country, and yet after the 1921 lock-out, and with that big reduction in wages, the coal trade was more depressed than 2036 it was while the wages were high. The same thing has happened after the 1926 lock-out. The men were told by the coalowners, and the Government assisting them, that if they would only work longer hours and accept lower wages it would be the means of selling the coal. Well, the price of coal has been so reduced during the last few months that I am of opinion that if we were to give it away free people could not burn it on account of the depression in trade and in other industries that ought to be consuming coal at the present time. Therefore, the predictions of the coalowners and of the Government last year have proved false. We were right on this side of the House when we told them what would happen.
I just want to say one or two words with reference to the county that I belong to. No doubt my right hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) will go into the matter, as he happens to be chairman. But last Friday we had the matter before the Wages Board, and there we found that, from the first making-up day of July, the men had to suffer a reduction of practically a day. The wages of the coal hewers were reduced from 9s. 6d. to 8s. 11d. a day; the wages of the drawers from 8s. 10d. a day to 7s. 11d.; and of the labourers from 8s. 9d. to 7s. 9d. a day. Those are the minimum rates now in Lancashire, and I believe that practically every county in the mining districts of this country are now on a minimum wage, and will be for years to come. I am not so optimistic as some of our friends on the other side, who think that the coal trade is going to improve. I am of opinion that the European countries are now producing coal for themselves. whereas in the past they used to purchase their coal from us. We have been the workshop of the world for generations, but the French people are going to produce for themselves now, and, instead of looking for foreign markets, we should do much better if we were to look for home markets.
§ Mr. SUTTON
Yes; but even to-day coal is practically being given away so 2037 far as the manufacturers are concerned, and the poorest people in the land, the house consumers, thousands of them who are unemployed and tens of thousands who are receiving low wages, are the very people who have to pay the highest prices for their coal in this country. That has always applied. The poorer the people are the higher the price they have to pay. When you consider that there is so much short time being worked at present—and in Lancashire and Cheshire they are working very short time indeed, at many of the collieries the men are only working two or three days a week—and when you consider the wages to be paid on the minimum rates, you will see that these people will be unable to live. There are some of the men, married men with families, surface hands, ten of thousands of them all over the country, who will only be receiving a wage of 7s. per day. That is the minimum wage, and we say that that is disgraceful in a civilised country. Only a fortnight ago a man came to my house. He was one of the colliery living close to the colliery where I used to work, and he told me that he had worked four days that week, and he had worked hard. It was admitted by one of the officials at the colliery that he was one of the hest workmen there. He happens to have a large family, and he had to take his wage that he received to the board of guardians and they gave him 18s. to add to his wage to carry on for the following week. That applies in thousands of cases, and we of the Labour party say it is disgraceful, and it is about time that the Mines Department and the Government did something.
You may speak of industrial peace in our time, but you will never get industrial peace on that basis, and our men will remember, they are bound to remember, that which took place last year. They will never be able to forget it. They are feeling it very sorely, indeed, not only in Lancashire but in other parts of the country. The miners are practically starving. They have got fed up, as they say in Lancashire, with the position in which they are placed to-day, and I want to appeal to the Secretary to the Mines Department to see if something cannot be done. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will appeal to him on behalf 2038 of the working classes of this country, and I do hope that something will be done. I do not often get up in this House, but, as one who has sat here for some time, I feel disgusted at the way things are carried on. I have had some 50 years' experience of the miners working in the mines and of being an official of the miners. I never saw the miners' position worse than it is at present, and, while we are told from time to time by the coalowners and by the Government of the country that if the men would only work for lower wages and longer hours things would be all right, I say that things are all wrong, and I trust that something will be done to make the Mines Department a lively Department with a view to relieving the poverty of the miners of this country.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
On a point of Order. Would it be in order at this point to move to report Progress for the purpose of seeking the assistance of the Secretary for Mines?
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Member can move to report Progress if he chooses. Whether the Chairman will accept that Motion is another matter.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I should like to make an appeal to you, Sir, for this reason. This Vote, and this mining discussion, is of such vital importance to the whole nation that it seems to me that the present Secretary for Mines might very well have taken the opportunity much earlier in the Debate to have replied to many of the points that were submitted in the original speech, and that he might have indicated the point of view of the Government, which would have been the guiding influence throughout the whole of the Debate. Before you give your decision, might I recall to your mind, Sir, the fact that in the case of almost every other Department dealt with on Supply Days, the Minister in charge of the particular Department, not excluding the President of the Board of Trade, invariably leads off during the Debate. He gives the Committee not only the benefit of his administration but of his anticipations and expectations for the coming year. The Minister of Transport, I well remember, a week or two ago took advantage to intervene in the Debate on three different occasions in reply to 2039 various points, and if you, Sir, with your lengthy knowledge of procedure here, and taking into consideration the vital discussion which is now taking place, would sympathetically consider the contention of Members who sit on these benches, in their desire to have a statement made by the Secretary for Mines which would guide us during the Debate, we should be glad.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
I do so in order to get the view of the Secretary for Mines.
The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Philip Cunlifle-Lister)
I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend, who has sat here throughout the Debate and who has only gone out of the Committee for a very short time to get some necessary food—
§ Mr. J. JONES
On a point of Order. I should like to know if others who have sat here and have had no refreshment, and if the miners, will have an opportunity for refreshment.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The last thing I wish to do is to interfere with the hon. Gentleman getting his dinner if he wishes. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines has only been out of the House for a very few moments, and he will be back almost immediately. If he had thought it the general desire that he should open the Debate he would willingly have done so. [Interruption.] It is true I have been engaged on a Standing Committee, but what I understood was the desire of the Committee was to raise on this Vote both questions affecting the Mines Department, and also questions affecting the Ministry of Labour. I agree that there is a certain administrative inconvenience if we stick strictly to the absolute Rules of Order in a Debate of that kind, because under the Mining Act 2040 the Minister of Labour is charged with the whole question of employment and recruitment and the Regulations in regard to recruitment, and the Secretary for Mines is charged with the other matters under that Act. I understood that it was specially desired to raise both those questions in this Debate. That would not have been strictly in order, because if we had kept strictly to the Order of Supply, it would have been necessary to put down the Ministry of Labour Vote, and discuss those questions, and then to move to report Progress on that Vote and bring en the Mines Vote.
For that reason, I understood that it would be for the general convenience that all those questions about recruitment should be raised, and that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour should reply upon that and then at a later stage the Secretary for Mines should reply on all general questions that were raised. It is not in the least desired that any question should in any way be shirked by the Secretary for the Mines Department, and there is no question that he would take a very little time over his reply, and not deal with every conceivable point raised. It really was in order to meet the convenience of the Opposition in this Debate that the Opposition and I myself approached the Chairman of the Committee in order that both the Ministry of Labour points and the Mines Department points should not be ruled out. We have tried to meet the general convenience of the Committee, and I hope what I have said will meet the objections of the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I rise to support the Motion to report Progress on, I think, very adequate grounds. I have never, during the whole course of my Parliamentary experience, seen a question of this magnitude treated so lightly by the Government of the day. Yesterday, there was a Motion dealing with foreign policy. The lion. Gentleman sitting on the Front Bench put the case for the Opposition and asked for an explanation. Immediately the Foreign Secretary gets up and gives full information to the Committee. He was good enough to say that if I desired to put any further questions he would wait, but he got up immediately and put the Committee in possession of the policy of the 2041 Government with regard to foreign affairs. But here comes the Secretary for Mines, who is just about to depart this life with his Department, and when questions of the greatest moment are put to him upon the second great industry of this country, a basic industry, an industry which is admittedly in a bad way, when questions of the very greatest moment are put to him, and when we are all waiting to, hear what the policy of the Government is in regard to them, the right hon. Gentleman waits until the very last moment so that he can deliver a speech that nobody can criticise. That is really a very feeble Parliamentary manœuvre on the part of the Minister. We are entitled to know, and the country is entitled to know, at first hand what policy the Government adopts. Questions were put with very great clearness by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mansfield (Ms. Varley).
The whole of the issues have been presented to the Committee. We are entitled to know what the policy of the Ministry is. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman reads the newspapers. There have been two articles within the last two or three days in the most important organs of opinion supporting the Government—one the "Daily Telegraph" and the other the "Times"—calling attention to the very serious character of the situation in regard to the mines, and more than implying that the policy of the coalowners is partly responsible for that condition of things. They call attention to two matters of great moment; I am not going to argue them on the Motion to report Progress. The first thing to which they call attention is, what is being done in regard to the Act of Parliament which was carried last year for the amalgamation and re-organisation of the mines? That is a question put by the hon. Member for Mansfield. The second question they ask is, what is being done by the Government to deal with the surplus of nearly a quarter of a million of labour which is unemployed, and which looks as if it will be permanently unemployed. We are entitled to know what is the policy of the Government on these matters. Surely they have a policy. Why does the Secretary for Mines leave his speech until the last moment when nobody can ask any further questions or obtain any elucidation of something which may be obscure even in his speech?
2042 The hon. Member who represents the Ministry of Labour has dealt with his particular matters with that courtesy and complete mastery of detail and sympathy which has characterised every speech he has made in this House, but he himself felt that he was not dealing with the problem with which the Committee were anxious to deal to-night. He was dealing with matters of detail, on which certain hon. Members are concerned, but they are not the real thing which hon. Members wish to discuss at the moment. We want to discuss the policy of the Government in regard to mines. We are heading to something which approximates to disaster unless something is done; and we want to know where we stand and what the Government propose to do. It is the "Times," I think, which points out that the conditions to-day are very much the same as they were before the catastrophe of 1926. The subsidy has gone, the mines are working at a loss and wages are down by tens and scores of millions of pounds per annum. What is the policy of the Government in regard to this? And we are entitled to have it in time for consideration and discussion. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is treating the House courteously or the country with fair play when he simply manœuvres in order to deliver a speech at an hour when it will be poorly reported in the Provincial Press, when it will not reach one-tenth of those who read the newspapers and at a time in the evening when it is impossible for hon. Members in this House to consider the character of his reply.
§ The SECRETARY for MINES (Colonel Lane Fox)
I really do not know what I have done to justify the very unjust speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George). If there is one thing which the Committee would not expect from me, but might certainly expect from the right hon. Gentleman, it is anything which can be characterised as manœuvring. Manœuvring has never been my forte, and I hope it never will be. I understood the arrangement was that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour should deal with certain matters which have been raised in the Debate and that I—
On a point of Order. Is it within the pro 2043 vince of the right hon. Gentleman to make an attack of that kind? He has been appealed to to follow the first or second speech at the beginning of this Debate. I think he should withdraw the imputation because we have not been a party to any arrangement.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
The hon. and gallant Member has misunderstood what I said. I did not mean to imply that there was any regular undertaking between members of the Opposition and the Government, but I understood that it was the desire of the Opposition to raise the question of unemployment in the mining industry, and that later I should reply on behalf of the Government. Hon. Members opposite may not agree, but that was the impression conveyed to me.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
I thought the arrangement was that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary should deal with some of the points that have been raised on the question of unemployment, and that I should then conclude the Debate, but it was clear that some re-arrangement might be necessary because the Committee seemed to be impatient. I am quite prepared to weak at any time. As for the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that I have been a party to a manœuvre and have tried to do this in order that no one shall be able to reply to me, is really absolutely uncalled for and absolutely unworthy of him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with the speech."]
§ Mr. J. JONES
On a point of Order. Is it not a fact that it was understood that the right hon. Gentleman would reply—
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is not rising to a point of Order. That is the second time.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
If the Committee wishes me to reply now to the speeches which have been made in the Debate, I am quite in their hands. I have been prepared to speak all the evening, and it makes no difference to me whether I speak now or later on. I would much rather have done so at the end of the Debate, although it may be inconvenient to the right hon. Gentleman to stay late and would not have given him the opportunity of making his speech in reply. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with the speech!"] If hon. Members are not prepared to listen to me now, perhaps it would be better for me to wait until the end of the Debate. What I object to is being manœuvred by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Burghs for purposes of his own. He is a master of Parliamentary manœuvre. He knows quite well that he wants to get away, but he does not want to go away until he has had the chance of pulling me to pieces. If he had said so openly, we should know where we are. But he comes down to the House, he hangs about, he know s he is going to be attacked, he has been warned that a personal attack would he made upon him by an hon. Gentleman on this side, and he deliberately leaves the House. Then he comes back when he thinks he is out of danger, and raises this question in this way.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
I resent very much being manœuvred in this way, whether I am the victim of a manœuvre by the right hon. Gentleman or by anybody else. However, it will suit me equally well to speak now. Quite frankly, the reason why I wanted to 2045 speak later was that whereas my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour could only deal with one aspect of the questions which were likely to be raised. I would probably be able to deal with the great majority of the other points raised in the course of the Debate. Therefore, it was obviously better that I should speak later when a greater number of points have been raised and that he should speak earlier, and we tried to arrange that the question of unemployment should be raised in the earlier part of the Debate. A great many points which were to have been mentioned have not been raised up to now and the result of my speaking at this stage is that I shall not be able to deal with those points.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot speak except on the Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress." Does the hon. Member who moved that Motion persist in it?
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman intends to take part in the Debate almost immediately, I shall ask leave to withdraw my Motion. I may say that the Motion was in no way intended as an attack on the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. I, with other Members, fully appreciate the efforts of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, who did his best to deal with one aspect—
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
At least, I may be permitted to explain why the Motion was moved. I am only attempting to point out to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that there was no intention to make a personal attack upon him. I observed the length of time he spent in the Committee and I felt, and many other Members felt, that the points which have already been submitted to him might be dealt with in order that subsequent speeches could be made which would further enlighten the position. With that explanation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.2046
§ Question again proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £117,517, be granted for the said Service."
§ Major BRAITHWAITE rose.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
I thank the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) for his reference, and I accept his statement that he did not intend any attack upon me. I hope hon. Members will not think that I am attempting to avoid speaking at this stage, but I thought that later on in the Debate there might be a better opportunity for me to intervene. The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley) made a very interesting and attractive speech, but I do not altogether agree with the description that has been given of that speech that it contained an infinite number of important points which required consideration. The hon. Member seemed to bring us up to a certain point, but he stopped at the very moment when I was hoping that he would go a little further and say in a rather more definite way the actual form of action Which he desired the Government to take, and help the Committee by stating from his great experience what he thought was the line of policy which would be of the greatest service to the mining industry. That feature has been characteristic of this Debate all through. I admit there is a great deal which is more constructive in the speech of the hon. Member for Mansfield, but, throughout this Debate, there has been simply a description of the evils from which the industry is suffering and then a query as to what is the Government going to do. The hon. Member, of course, can say that he is not the Prime Minister and lie is not a Member of the Government of the clay, and, therefore, it is not for him to propound a policy; but I think it is unfortunate that when we have Members of great experience taking part in these Debates they do not go a little further and take us into their confidence as to what they themselves would like to see done.
There are one or two small points which I propose to clear out of the way before I come to the larger question raised by the hon. Member for Mansfield. I should like to deal, first of all, with the question of the French embargo. I have nothing to tell the Committee about the French 2047 embargo beyond what was stated at Question Time by the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department. The Committee knows that the embargo was put on, after due announcement and after a protest had been made by our representative in Paris. So far, I am glad to think that owing to the large number of licences which have been given—representing practically all our normal export to France—for the first three months there will be no serious effect upon our trade. What may happen after three months we do not know, but we have made the necessary protest and we are waiting to see what further action may be taken. I only hope, in view of certain factors which we know are operating against an extension of that policy, that the result may not be so disastrous as we naturally suspected at first they would be.
The question of the continuance of the Mines Department was also raised. I do not suppose any hon. Member very seriously expects me to discuss it. You cannot well ask the condemned man to discuss the method and time of his execution. One or two hon. Members have been kind enought to say generous things about me, and I hope some will be left to drop a silent tear over my departure. I am certain that in any scheme that may have been or will be considered to alter the status and position of the Mines Department, one thing can never be lost sight of, and that is that the safety and health of the miners, and the proper working of the mines, depend upon having some organisation carrying out the Statutes under which the mines work. That obligation is profoundly present in the minds of the Government and, whatever may happen to the Department and its Secretary, I am certain there will be no risk to the proper carrying on of the mines and the proper safeguarding of the health and safety of those who work in them.
The hon. Member for Mansfield raised many other questions which I will deal with as I go along. I should like first to take up the point as to how the present situation arose. There seems to be a great deal of misconception on the part of many hon. Members as to the actual cause of the position as we see it to-day. It is, I think, common know 2048 ledge and commonly agreed that the main cause of our trouble is the overproduction of coal throughout the world. During the War there was a considerable increase in the production of coal in some countries. As transport was more difficult certain countries were producing coal as best they could and the position in that respect became worse from our point of view. Since the War there has been a temporary boom in trade which, to a certain extent, concealed the surplus of coal which the world was producing. Then followed a series of incidents which happened to conceal the surplus which actually existed. There was the occupation of the Ruhr, which, of course, reduced the supply of coal, and there was the American strike at the anthracite pits. It was not until 1925 that we felt the full force of the situation, and then the Samuel Commission was set up. They reported that 73 per cent. of the coal was being sold at a loss and, in addition, they said they had come reluctantly but unhesitatingly to the conclusion that the costs of production, with the present hours and wages, were more than the industry could bear. The point they made was that the costs of production were the principal cause of the trouble.
Though the position at the time of the stoppage was bad, things were intensely aggravated by the stoppage itself. For seven months the supply of British coal was absent from the markets of the world. The natural result was that many people adopted substitutes, other fuels and methods of heating being found, and other countries enjoyed a full opportunity of increasing their production of coal. At the end of the stoppage, obviously, the surplus had become far greater, and the stimulus to foreign production was greater than had ever existed before. Whereas in 1925 world production was 1,187,000,000 metric tons, in 1926, although through the stoppage in the British coalfield it was estimated that 137,000,000 metric tons of British coal were not then available, world production was still 1,181,100,000 metric tons, that is, only 6,000,000 tons short of what it had been in 1925 including the British share. That stows how rapidly other countries speeded up production in order to fill the gap left by the stoppage in the British coalfield.
2049 Contrasting the first three months of this year with the first three months of 1925, we find that Germany has increased her output by 21 per cent., France by 15 per cent., Poland by 39 per cent., Belgium by 22 per cent. I have not got the figures for the first three months for America, but the comparison between 1925 and 1926 in the case of America shows an increase of 70,000,000 metric tons in her production in 1926. These figures show the effect of the stoppage.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
In 1925 there was a stoppage in America which lasted five months. That would account for the 70,000,000 tons increase in 1926.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
I am not quite sure about the five months, though I admit there was a stoppage, but there is no question that there has been an enormous increase in the American output. I am sorry I omitted that point, which does to a certain extent affect the comparison. Everything goes to show how very serious has been the effect of the stoppage, and a very heavy responsibility rests on anybody who at any time did anything to endeavour to prolong that stoppage and to encourage the miners to persist in what was, from the first, a hopeless demand.
In spite of all that, however, it is true to say that we have had a wonderful recovery in our export trade. The figures for the June quarter show a wonderful increase in our exports. Whereas in the June quarter in 1925—I quote 1925 as it was the year before the trouble and the subsidy—we exported 12,746,000 tons, in the June quarter of this year we exported no less than 13,233,000 tons, an increase of 487,000 tons. The figures for the month of June itself show that the increase has been on an even larger scale. There was an increase of 597,000 tons in June this year as compared with June, 1925. That shows that there is a very great demand for British coal, and also that, in spite of all that is said, there is a certain amount of energy in the industry. Whatever hon. Members opposite may say about giving coal away, we have been successful in getting back to a large extent the export trade of previous years. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the value?"] I am sorry, but I do not think I have the figures of the 2050 values with me. I have been dealing with the tonnage.
The hon. Member for Mansfield and others talked about cut-throat competition between coalowners. I believe that is very largely exaggerated. An exceptional case in which a low price is accepted is quoted, far and wide, but it is much less likely that all ordinary transactions will be recorded. In my opinion the reason why coal prices have got so low and are dropping is that there has been this great world competition and that we have not yet recovered from the surplus artificially created by the stoppage. The figures I have given, however, show that we are rapidly regaining our position. The future is anxious, of course, very anxious, but do not let us put the case too high. I do not believe in "crying stinking fish." I do not believe we help ourselves. We do not encourage the industry, and we do ourselves vast harm abroad if we suggest there is going to be a crisis, and that the coal industry is in a bad way.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
It does not do our export trade any good to suggest that a crisis lies ahead of the industry. Hon. Members opposite may mean different things on this point, but I would like to ask what reasons they have for predicting a crisis. When I hear Mr. Cook predicting a crisis on this question, I do not take it very seriously, and, when I hear about the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs going down to the Bosworth Election and saying he is the friend of the miners, that is quite a new role, though I recognise it as a well-established electoral manœuvre. Of course, a more genuine critic like Sir Herbert Samuel deserves a certain amount of attention. Sir Herbert Samuel has stated that the coal industry is in the same position as it was before the issue of the Report of the Royal Commission, the only difference being that the Government have increased the hours of labour. Sir Herbert Samuel has repeated that statement in an article in the newspapers, and he has said that there is no excuse for complacency on the part of the owners or for inaction 2051 on the part of the Government. As a matter of fact, there is not general complacency on the part of the owners. We have tried to impress on the owners that the time is running short. As regards stating that the industry is in the same position as it was, I have already quoted figures showing that the actual position is improving. The hon. Member for Mansfield has stated that the men in his part of the country are working only two days a week, but I think he is wrong.
§ Mr. VARLEY
I gave figures for the period ending Whitsuntide. I confess that the average is much nearer four or five days.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
My information is that 1.51 is the amount of time lost on the average throughout that coalfield, and that means that the men are working on an average four days. The average number of days lost in Scotland is 0.66 for the four weeks ended 20th June this year. The average figure in Yorkshire for the last four weeks is 1.03 days lost. [Interruption.] These are official figures. What happens is that hon. Members obtain figures for individual collieries, whereas I am giving the averages for certain districts. Hon. Members know of individual collieries at which work is stopped, but it is not reasonable to state those figures to the Committee as averages, and there is nothing to be gained by putting the case too high.
§ Mr. PALING
Is it not a fact that the Secretary for Mines admitted a fortnight ago that he was not aware that, if a pit worked a quarter or half a shift on any particular day, the whole shift was counted, and that he could not get the information? Since then we have made inquiries, and we have now reason to believe that every part of a shift is counted as a full shift.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
That was my information. I have inquired since, and I find the position is that only when the men are paid for a shift is it counted as a shift. I want to deal now with the question of unemployment. I find that for the week ended 27th June, 1925, the figures for the wholly unemployed and those systematically on short time were 2052 314,726; and for the week ending 25th June this year the total was 233,291, showing a reduction of 81,435. Those figures show that, bad as the position is, it is not nearly so bad as it was a few years ago.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
It means that there are 81,000 fewer unemployed. [Interruption.] These figures come from absolutely reliable sources, and I am only trying to show that it is a mistake to exaggerate the evil. Let me now come to the point of the wage cost per ton, which shows a very remarkable drop between 1925 and 1927. Up to April the wages were about the same. The hon. Member for Mansfield spoke about men who had worked an extra half-hour not receiving any more wages for it. That is quite true, because the wages are either the same or slightly lower in the figures I have quoted, and I admit that in many districts they have now gone down to the minimum. On the whole, wages have been practically the same, but at the same time the wage cost per ten has dropped very considerably, and the result is that the trade has considerably benefited. There is no doubt that it is far more easy to sell coal when it is produced at a lower cost, and, as the Coal Commission pointed out, the principal cause of want of prosperity in the industry was that the wage cost of production was so high.
§ Mr. VARLEY
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us who has benefited by that process of reduction in wage cost?
§ Colonel LANE FOX
I will tell the hon. Gentleman what, in my opinion, the result has been. There is a very large number of collieries which would not be working now if the high costs of production which preceded the events of last year had beer maintained. It is certain that many collieries would not have been able to stand against foreign competition, would not have been able to regain their export market, and, therefore, would not have been able to work at the present time if there had not been this reduction in the cost of production.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Does not the right lion Gentleman realise that, whatever reduction in cost there has been, an equal reduction has taken place in prices, so that none of the men are any better off, because the reduction is all being given away?
§ Colonel LANE FOX
I quite understand what the hon. Member thinks he has shown. [Interruption.] With this world competition, however, it is impossible, unless the costs of production are as low as possible, to compete to the same extent, and there is no doubt that, with the lower cost of production, our pits have been better able to enter into competition abroad, and, therefore, to keep working.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
The total costs per ton in 1926 were 17s. 5½d. all over the coalfield, and the wage cost for 1927, all over the coalfield is 16s. 4½d. There has, therefore, been a drop of 1s. 1d. At the same time, the average proceeds per ton increased by 1¼d., and the earnings were slightly up on the average. That is a very useful comparison, because it compares with the time when hon. Gentleman were saying that, owing to the subsidy, coal was being absolutely given away. If, in spite of that, we find that the figures now show that the average proceeds are 1¾d. up, that the cost of production is 1s. 1d. down, and that the earnings of the men are on the whole rather up than down—
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
I beg pardon. I have not those figures at the moment, but will give them to the hon. Gentleman. I must say it is curious to me to hear, at any rate, hon. Members of the Liberal party complaining that coal should be so cheap. It is curious that they should attack the Government for having so acted as to cause coal to be cheap. After all, coal is a raw material 2054 of many industries; it may be called a necessary of life; and I am sure that in the old days it would have been a matter of surprise if the Government had been attacked on that account by any member of the Liberal party in the past. I have now the figures for which the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire (Mr. Lee) asked me. The wages per ton in 1926 were 12s. 4¼d., and, in 1927, 11s. 1½d. As regards the only important step which the Government is alleged to have taken, namely, the increase in the hours of labour, I have already pointed out that, by the passing of the Eight Hours Bill, we have saved a great many pits from going out of working, and have maintained the rate of wages. I do not think that that is in dispute. I now come to another point that was raised by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley). It is, of course, the policy of hon. Members opposite, and it is a very natural policy for any Opposition, to belittle the Mining Industry Act of last year. At any rate, Sir Herbert Samuel himself wrote in the "Times" of the 8th December last:The Commission attached importance to the amalgamation of the too numerous collieries into larger units of production, and suggested several measures that would facilitate this. The Act [of 1926] embodies those measures.At any rate, he agrees that that Act embodies those measures, though whether it does so completely is another matter. I propose, however, to reply to Sir Herbert's suggestion that, through this Act, we have done nothing that the Coal Commission suggested. We have, on the contrary, arranged to bring about amalgamations voluntarily. The Commission deliberately disapproved of file idea of compulsory amalgamations. They said that any large measure of compulsory amalgamation on arbitrary lines would be mischievous and they repeat that in another passage. They suggested, however, that voluntary amalgamations should be made, and that, if necessary, Government pressure should be brought to bear. They suggested that that should happen at the end of three years. We have gone further, and have laid down in the Act that the Government are to have a report at the end of the second year on the extent to which amalgamations are proceeding. We have provided 2055 that, not only should amalgamations and absorptions be possible, but that even one man should be able to coerce a number of others and bring them into a scheme which seems, in the opinion of the Court to be desirable. [Interruption.] I do not know why hon. Members object to their being coerced, but that is the fact that, if people are unwilling to come into a scheme, it is possible for one man to take them into Court, and make the scheme compulsory.
In the questions both of amalgamations and of selling agencies, the hon. Member seemed to forget that these things cannot be done all at once. They take a considerable time. Not very long has elapsed and already there have been four cases of amalgamation, and I know of a good deal that is going on. It would be impossible to mention details but I hear that a great deal is in process and a great deal is being considered and discussed. But obviously, if anything came out in public as to the preliminary arrangements, it would very likely have the effect of stopping the whole thing going any further, and the same thing would apply in the case of selling agencies. I know a large number of coal-owners are discussing these questions very seriously. You may say they are slow, but when things are really being seriously discussed, if the Government were to interfere, it would have the most disastrous result, because it would mean that voluntary arrangements, which are, after all, far the most valuable, would not be carried into effect, and we might have some compulsory arrangements which would not work so satisfactorily.
§ Colonel LANE FOX
The remedy suggested by the Coal Commission is the better organisation of the industry. We are accused of having done nothing, but we have given opportunities and facilities to the industry, and there is every reason against our interfering with them under the present conditions. It may be an accusation against the owners that they have not done more with the opportunities that are open to them, but it cannot be an accusation against the Government, because we have taken power to have a 2056 report made on the subject next year, and until that time comes it would be fatal to have any undue interference. It is also suggested that nothing has been done in the acquisition of mining royalties. I know the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has strong feelings about that matter, but we have at any rate been able to do this. We have done even more than the Commission suggested in removing various obstacles which are the main reason for their suggesting the acquisition by the State of mining royalties, because they laid down that they did not wish existing leases to be interfered with. We have shocked some of our old-fashioned Conservative Members by deliberately interfering with existing contracts. We have given the power to get existing leases varied and to remove various forms of restriction. As regards the question of relief of unemployment, a great many schemes have been suggested and a great many are being considered, but it is not easy to deal with this subject in one industry alone when there are other industries which have an even higher scale of unemployment. That is the principal difficulty we are up against.
Various schemes have been suggested to-night and at other times for relieving the industry by stopping the influx of workers from other industries, schemes for pensioning the older men, and so on. All those subjects are being carefully gone into. This is not a very easy subject, and it would be far better fully and carefully to consider it before making any actual announcement. As regards the complacency of the owners, which has been suggested, I hope it is not general. I have taken every opportunity of explaining to them that, though I believe the House and the country will be very ready and willing to help them to work out their own salvation if they will take the opportunities that are offered to them, at the same time the country is watching to see what is happening. By the country I do not mean only hon. Members opposite. I have missed no opportunity of reminding them that that is the case. There are some coalowners who say, "Leave us alone, and all will come well." The country is quite prepared to do that, but at the same time they must remember that they are being expected to put their house in order, and the 2057 country is getting very uneasy about the state of affairs in the coal industry. There are many troubles that they cannot be held responsible for, but there is at this moment no other industry in which in the same way discontent prevails. That is a subject that cannot be dismissed or forgotten. It is not sufficient to say it is all the fault of Mr. Cook, and so on. Mr. Cook can only progress on congenial soil, and I do not believe the miner is wholly a red soil. The country is ready enough, and I am quite sure the whole of this Committee would be more than anxious to see the industry put in order by those who are directly responsible for it. The country is watching, and a report will have to be made before very long on the position. The position is far too serious to make political capital out of it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite laugh at that. If we could keep the situation clear of politics we should be able to make progress.
An hon. Member has complained that Government has not consulted the miners. I do not think anybody can say that I have not on every occasion been ready to discuss matters with any hon. Gentleman opposite. Certainly, a great many hon. Members have availed themselves of my invitations, and I have had heart to heart talks with many of them. I do not think it is reasonable to suggesting that there has been any difficulty about consulting with the miners. Another question which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mansfield asked me—I see he has now gone—was with regard to the wagon situation. It is being examined, as the Committee know, by a committee set up by the Ministry of Transport in consultation with the Mines Department. All I can say about that is that a very able committee has been set up and that they have themselves instituted sub-committees and have been inquiring into the matter. They have not yet made a report to us. That is all at the present moment I can say on that subject.
It is, as I say, a great misfortune that we should not be able to keep this very serious issue clear of politics. I am perfectly certain of this, that the more we talk about this the less we are likely to bring success. We shall cause greater difficulties in the industry and trade 2058 abroad, and we shall cause a greater want of certainty and security in the industry itself. I hope that in all sections of this Committee this idea of a crisis coming will be discontinued. If you try to make a crisis a crisis will come. I believe we can weather the storm. We are going through a bad time during the months to come. It may be difficult to carry on for a time, but I do believe we have about reached the bottom. When contracts come to be arranged at lower prices, the difficulty will continue for some time, but still we know that the revival will come, and that with the undoubted reduction in the number of pits employed and the increase in the days that they can work we shall be able to arrive at a more satisfactory situation. It will be far better if we have a smaller number of pits working and working at full time, because the principal difficulty which exists now is not so much the scale of wages as the number of days in which the men are able to work. When that situation improves, it will make it far more easy for weaker pits to continue and far more easy for prosperous pits to reorganise and to get together in amalgamation schemes. Meanwhile, I entirely disagree with the idea that the Committee have any justification for accusing the Government of inaction. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite have not yet produced definite suggestions as to what they consider the Government should do. Until they do I am not prepared to agree that the Government are worthy of any blame. I am certainly prepared to give the Committee an assurance that to the utmost we shall carry on to try to help the industry and to secure fair play for the miners.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
There is one point on which I am in entire agreement with the Minister, and that is that we shall not help to improve the prospects of the industry by continually having crises. On that point I think we must all be in agreement. If we could give an assurance to foreign customers that there was a certainty of peace in the industry extending over a number of years, that confidence would be one of the factors that would help in the direction of re-establishing this industry. While I agree with that as a point of principle, I think no greater blunder could be made in this 2059 country at the present time than to delude ourselves into the belief that, while we are right on the edge of a precipice, we are slipping and gliding along beautifully. That is really not the position. No one can look at the actual facts of the mining industry to-day without realising that we are approaching another crisis precisely similar, in all its essential elements, to the crises through which we passed in 1925 and in 1926. The same factors which operated to produce those crises in those successive years are the factors which are producing the coming crisis, and they will continue to recreate the conditions which existed in 1925 and in 1926 as long as they continue in the industry. That is a fact of which we have not to lose sight. When we had this matter under discussion last year, in a speech from these benches, we laid it down as our contention that the coal problem was of such a character that it could not be solved either by longer hours or lower wages, and that it could not be fought out. That is what we laid down as a general proposition. We contended that you could enforce what hours and what wages you liked upon the workmen, but it would not touch the essentials of the problem of the coal industry.
Everything that has happened since then has gone to confirm everything we said on that occasion. A crisis is approaching, and when I use the word "crisis"—the Minister says different meanings are attached to the word "crisis"—I want to be clear as to what I mean. I am not talking about a miners' national strike. I am not talking about a district strike. The crises of 1925 and 1926 arose because the coalowners said, "We cannot carry on." That is the sort of thing that is coming again, and it cannot be averted or avoided unless the Government pursue the policy that we indicated during the Debates of last year. There is just this difference between the coming crisis and that which has passed. In 1925 we had a subsidy and everybody talked about the possibility of a solution on those lines, and it was a suggestion which was adopted. Nobody to-day imagines or would dream of thinking that, for the crisis which is approaching, a subsidy will be applied to the mining industry. That has gone. When we got to 1926 the public were told, and led to believe by the coal- 2060 owners, that the solution lay along the lines of longer hours and lower wages. The whole Press of the country concentrated on that. The Government and the coalowners were insistent that if we could only get a longer working day and lower wages, the coal problem would solve itself. Well, that has gone. They cannot put that up this time.
What we have to look at now is, have the longer working day and lower wages either solved the problem or even touched it? The problem to-day is precisely what it was in July, 1925, when the subsidy was put on, and precisely what it was in 1926, when that subsidy was taken off. It must be borne in mind that if the two devices of the eight hours' working day and lower wages have not solved the problem, it is not because the workmen have not done their share because, as we have heard in the Debate to-day, they have excelled themselves. In South Wales, the coal-getter has increased the amount of work performed by 20 per cent. He is doing 20 per cent. more work in the eight hours' day than be did in the seven hours' day. 'In the three months for which we have had the one ascertainment since the stoppage they produced nearly 12,000,000 tons of coal, and for the same quantity of coal in 1925 or 1926 they would have received considerably more than £1,000,000 extra in wages than they actually received for it in 1927. The miners have increased their efforts by 20 per cent. The wages bill has been reduced for the quarter by substantially more than £1,000,000. In that three months there was a loss of nearly £217,000 on that coalfield.
What is true of the Welsh coalfield, is true of every other coalfield in Great Britain. We talked in 1925 of the enormous losses on the different coalfields of the country. We were told by the Coal Commission—and not merely told, for the accountants who investigated the matter ascertained it—that the loss in Scotland in the first half of 1925 amounted to £469,000; in Northumberland the loss amounted to £314,000, in Durham to £512,000, and in South Wales to £498,600. That was the position in 1925 when the crisis was approaching in July. That was the position of the industry when the owners said, "We cannot go on." The position is not one whit better in any of these coalfields at the present time. The 2061 ascertainments for April show that for that one month on one coalfield there was a loss of £44,000. In Durham the loss for the same month was £78,000, in Yorkshire £50,000, while in Scotland, for the two months March and April, there was a loss of £351,000, and in South Wales, for February, March and April, there was a loss of between £216,000 and £217,000. That is precisely the same set of conditions as obtained and led up to the crisis in 1925.
What do we find on the question of employment? The Minister has been saying that we have been placing too high a value on the statements we have made about unemployment, slack time, and so on. Here is a statement from the Ministry of Labour with reference to unemployment in South Wales, which shows that on the 23rd May there were 34,000 unemployed, and on the 20th June, 34,000 also. Men temporarily unemployed and on the live register in May numbered 19,000, and in June, 33,000. Here you have in this one coalfield, under the eight hours day, no fewer than 68,000 men drawing unemployment benefit. What an appalling situation! To talk about more men being in work to-day, and more collieries being in production under the Eight Hours Act than formerly, is to misread the facts. There is no fact or figure in the whole of the situation to justify that contention. Let me give two or three facts relating to unemployment in the industry. In 1924 there were on the books of the coalowners, 1,213,000 employed. In 1925 the number was 1,102,000, that is to say, between 1924 and 1925, 111,000 men had gone out of the industry. In 1926, the figure was practically the same—1,101,000. That was the number of men employed in the industry prior to the stoppage in 1926.
What is the position to-day? We have been creeping up as collieries have been opened and repairs effected, and more and more men have been going in until on the 14th May of this year we reached the high-water mark. The peak figure in employment in the industry since the stoppage was on the 14th May. During that week there were on the books of the coalowner 1,031,000, as against, before the stoppage, 1,101,000, that is to say, 70,000 fewer men in the industry at the peak point under the Eight Hours Act. But since the 14th May we have 2062 had, every week, a succession of reductions in the number of men employed in the industry. On the 21st May 5,000 had gone out, on the 28th May another 1,000, on the 4th June a further 3,000, on the 11th June another 4,000, on the 18th June another 5,000, and on the 25th June another 2,000, and we have to-day, according to the coalowners' own books, 90,000 fewer men employed in the industry than there were under the seven hours' day. Yet the Minister comes down and tells his that but for the eight hours' day there would not be as many collieries employing as many men! When we talk about the number of men on the books of the coalowners that is a very different thing from the number of men who are unemployed in the coalfield, because while we have had this succession of reductions in the number of men on the owners' books, very large numbers of men are still on the books who are not really employed. For instance, last Friday night I saw two notices of stoppages in South Wales. I will read them. The first one says:One thousands miners were rendered idle to-day. when the Cwm pits of the Great Western Colliery Company were closed down for an indefinite period. The village owes its existence to the sinking of the Cwm pits, and there is no other work to which the inhabitants can turn.The other in the same paper of Friday night reads as followsHopes had been entertained that the fortnight's notices to the men at Nixon's Navigation Colliery at Mountain Ash might be withdrawn, hut they have not been justified. The notices expire to-marrow, and about 2,000 men will be thrown out of employment. As the inhabitants of the district are largely dependent for their livelihood upon the colliery, its stoppage means hardship to them. That the management view the future somewhat unfavourably is proved by the fact that horses were brought up to the surface to-day. For several months the Navigation Colliery has been working very irregularly and not a single day has been worked there during the last three weeks.Here are thousands of men, whose names continue to appear on the books of the coal-owners and are regarded as in the employ of the industry, who have not done any work for three weeks, and who have been working very irregularly for months past. That is the actual situation in which we find ourselves in the mining industry to-day. It was suggested by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson) that the result of the eight hours' day has been so to lessen the cost 2063 of production as to give us a competing power in the markets of the world, so that we are enabled to dispose of an output of between 260,000,000 and 280,000,000 tons per annum. I am prepared to say at once that if it can be shown that the eight hours' day has had that effect, then the Government would have been justified in what they have done. Whatever hardships it has involved to the workmen, they could have come forward with some semblance of justification. As a matter of fact, what has happened is that we have got practically a stabilised market. We have got a certain market beyond which we are making no progress at all, and it matters very little what the price charged has been, the market has remained stationary. As a matter of fact, since 1925, in the South Wales coal fields, costs have been reduced, by greater exertions on the part of the men working longer hours for lower wages, by 3s. 9d. per ton. The price has also come down in the same period by 3s. 6d. a ton. There is only 3d. difference after all that has been done by the workmen, and there is not an extra ton of coal in the business by way of extended market. That is the sort of thing that has been going on, and it is producing the same result that we had in 1925 and 1926.
Why is it? The reason is, as we said in the Debates last year, that until two things are done in the mining industry, a recurrence of these situations is inevitable. You have got such disparities in the competing powers of the respective collieries, you have got your markets overstocked with coal, and as long as you have got such conditions prevailing, cutthroat competition will inevitably produce the results that we have. There is not a coalfield in Britain but where you find this. In some collieries they are producing twice as much coal per man-shift worked as in others. There is not a coalfield in Britain but has collieries where the cost of producing coal is 10s. a ton more than it is in other collieries in the same coalfield. And here you have got scores of millions of tons of output separated on the question of cost of production by from 4s. to 8s. per ton; and you have got the whole of this coal coming on to the market. There is competition for such trade as is available. 2064 The low cost collieries cut the price. They determine the price and dominate the market. They determine what prices are to be received, and in the competition that ensues the high cost collieries are left stranded and simply cannot pull through in the contest.
We were told that an eight-hours' day would reduce the cost by 2s. a ton. That applies to the whole coalfields, and if it reduces the cost by 2s. in the high cost colliery, it also reduces the cost by practically the same amount in a low cost colliery, and the relative competing capacity of the two concerns is left unchanged. All that has happened is that you have given to the one which has a low cost a still further opportunity to drive down the price; and you have left the other chap precisely where he was before. That is what is happening today. I have said we have got £217,000 loss on the Welsh coalfields, but there are colliery owners even with that position making 4s. and 5s. a ton profit. You have got £315,000 loss in two months on the Scottish coalfields, and yet you have got colliery owners making substantial profits. How are you, in face of a position such as we find in the mining industry, to avoid a repetition of crises that we got in 1925 and 1926, and have got again in 1927. We have nothing to put up against it this time; no subsidy, no increased hours or reduced wages. I think the position was described by Sir Richard Redmayne in the evidence he gave before the Sankey Commission. Talking about the chaos that existed in the industry, he said:Assuming that each station on a railway was left to evolve its own destination without control from a central authority at headquarters, we should get something akin to the system of separate units which obtains in the mining industry.''It may seem far-fetched, but it is a proper description of the muddle we have in the coalfields at the present time. Reference has been made to the setting up of co-operative selling agencies. Whatever is done, first of all you most introduce into the mining industry the principle of unification. That has got to be done as an essential preliminary to any solution. We have said this year after year, and let there be no mistake about it that as the years go by we come where we were two years ago.
§ Mr. RADFORD
To what does the right hon. Gentleman attribute the greatly varying cost of production in different pits in the same coalfields? Is it the difficulty of working or of plant?
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Variations are due to a number of causes—some to natural causes, some to artificial causes. Of course you have the age of the mine, for one thing. You have certain geological differences in different collieries. There are certain collieries which cannot be redeemed or saved, and the attempt ought not to be made to keep them in production under any system. They are beyond hope of resurrection, and ought to be given a peaceful burial and got rid of. But there is this difference, and this particularly I regard as the vital point in any unification scheme. We have in the industry a large number of very good collieries capable of first-class stuff if they were modernised. You have got two concerns producing a million tons. The one has pursued a conservative financial policy over a series of years, and devoted a certain amount of its revenue to modernising its collieries, introducing up-to-date equipment. The other concern is simply distributing the dividends, in addition to which there has been a bit of financial manipulation in the coal trade.
The result is that some have been impoverished while others have been modernised. Those two concerns subject to the same economic conditions and the same geological conditions are concerns in regard to which there is not a pin to choose between them, but one can make 5s. a ton profit and the other 5s, a ton loss. The losing concern does not' contain within itself the power to redeem itself. Its reserves are gone; it has a big overdraft at the bank; it has neither capital nor credit, and it can never be redeemed save by being brought into contact with something which has credit, capital and efficiency that can be applied to it, as it is being done in the other case. I know what I am talking about, I know collieries where this is actually the case. These things cannot be done by the problem simply being left alone. The thing will have to be altered, and unless it is altered I predict that by the end of this year the country will be faced with at least as serious a situation if not a more serious situation than the situation with which it was con 2066 fronted in July, 1925, or in May, 1926. I am as firmly convinced of that as I am that I am standing at this box. I do not think we are going to gain anything by waiting until the end of the year and not recognising the facts now; simply by burying our heads in the sand and saying that it is no use shouting stinking fish and destroying the confidence of the foreign buyers. I agree as to the evil done in that way.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
That is a subject upon which the hon. Member is much more qualified to speak than I am I have certain ideas on the subject, but I would not attempt to speak with any authority. I give way to my hon. Friend at once on that question. On this subject of the mining industry, we have to remember that we have had a number of Commissioners, and without exception they have laid it down that we cannot have a solution of the coal problem without importing into the industry the principle of unification. It is true that some of them have said, "Do it by a gradual process." Some have said, "Do it under private ownership." Others have said, "Unify tinder the State." Without exception they have all said that we must bring about' the principle of unification if we are to tackle the problem at all.
The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Varley) referred to the Committee dealing with co-operative selling agencies, upon which he and I acted as members. On that Committee were some of the ablest business men in the country. There were three colliery owners and two miners' leaders, and, naturally, we held a different view; but the business men outside the mining industry who were on the Committee laid it down, after carefully considering the matter, that it was of considerable importance to introduce the principle of co-operative selling. But they said: "It can never be done under the muddle you have in the mining industry to-day." They had not gone into the subject at' considerable length before, they told the Committee: "We are satisfied that it is a principle that ought to be applied, but how is it going to be done in the chaotic condition of the industry to-day?" 2067 they came to the conclusion that before anything at all could be done, the principle of unification must be applied to the mining industry. They did not reach that conclusion because I had said anything or because my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield had said anything; we had not actually raised the matter; it was as a result of their study of the facts and figures brought before them and their analysis of the situation.
We have 90,000 fewer men on the books under the eight-hours day than under the seven-hours day. We have collieries losing just as heavily to-day under the Eight Hours Act as they did under the Seven Hours Act. We were told by the Royal Commission that the inevitable consequence of introducing the eight-hours day would be to throw 180,000 men out of work. Already 90,000 men have gone off, and we have only just started on the down grade. We are on the slippery slope, and the numbers of men employed will diminish week by week. The hon. Member for Mossley says: "That is the proper thing. Let them come off. Let plain economic forces have full sway. If there is more coal being produced than there is a market for, let those with the lowest costs, those who have the best competing capacity get the orders, and let the others go to the wall. Let them go out of production. Let economic forces have free play, and ultimately you will get equilibrium between production and demand, and then things will go on all right."
It is a great pity that the hon. Member did not say that in 1925. In 1925 we had a position where threepence on a unified industry was all we had to deal with. Even if we had said in 1925, "Let the weak go to the wall," 15 per cent. of the industry would have gone out of production immediately. We should not have had the £25,000,000 of subsidy and we should not have had the eight-hours day. By leaving it alone in 1925 we should have settled the problem along the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Mossley, but in 1925 it was not "Leave it alone," but it was "Make it possible for these concerns to keep in production."
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
During the whole time that I have been in public life and 2068 connected with the coal trade I have maintained that it is madness, folly, lunacy to fight against economic laws.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I merely referred to the hon. Member as having laid down the philosophy of capitalism, of the employers and generally of the Conservative party.
§ Mr. STORRY DEANS
May I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the right hon. Gentleman who sits next but one to him, the right hon. Member for Caine Valley (Mr. Snowden). That is the Free Trade doctrine.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
If there be an idea that into the operation of economic laws some humane or moral consideration should be brought, and if that be part and parcel of Conservative, philosophy, to that extent I go with them; but I have always found the argument set up that we should leave these things to be settled by economic laws. If we are to get to a state where production and demand are to coincide, there is a very easy and simple way to do it. All you need to do is to get back to 1925, to the 1925 wages and hours, and 15 per cent., and at once you establish your equilibrium. You would put the industry on its basis, but surely that it not a kind of solution that anybody in this House would really advocate. It would, however, produce almost immediately the ultimate result for which the hon. Member for Mossley is contending.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I am sorry to have taken up so much time, but I should very much like if we could, as a result of this Debate, get hold of the central idea that the coal problem cannot in the nature of things be solved, and we cannot even begin to solve it, until we apply to the industry the principle of unification, whether in private or public ownership. Until we do that, there is no hope of anything being done. If this is to go on to the end of this year, we shall have more collieries closing down and more men being thrown out of work. The competition for markets will continue, prices will be driven down, and in the end all the effort and sacrifice of the workers will have been in vain, and the industry will be where it was at the start. As a 2069 matter of fact, during the first, quarter for which we have had the ascertainment, we had 1,000,000 tons less, with the same work, than formerly. Since then we have had a reduction in wages, and, if the men in Wales do the same work during this quarter as they did during the last quarter, they will receive £600,000 less than they got then. As a matter of fact, the Welsh miners have already made up for any increase in the average by reducing the wages bill, by actual reductions in wages or increases in output, to the tune of £6,000,000 a year, and more. I will stake my existence that, although there is only 4½d. a ton loss in the last quarter, there was 1s. a ton reduction in labour costs. That is not going to wipe out the 4½. a ton loss and to give 7½d. a ton profit. That reduction will be thrown away in cut-throat competition, and when the next ascertainment comes out, that coalfield will be in no better financial position after it has had the £600,000 than before. Really, if these are facts—and so far as I am concerned I think they are irrefutable—surely it is about time that we got down to the really radical elements in this problem. Unless we do, so far as I can see, nothing can prevent a very serious situation developing in this country in the near future.
I am sure we shall all agree with the Secretary for Mines when he says that we do not want to make party political capital out of this. I can say, at any rate, that nobody on these benches wishes to do so. All that we are anxious for is to get some sort of solution to this problem. It is because I believe with all my soul that you cannot solve this problem without applying those principles, that I am continually and persistently harping on this string, and I shall continue to do it until some other solution suggested by someone else can be shown to me. In the meantime, I am satisfied that to apply that remedy would enormously reduce the difficulties in the industry, and, what has more bearing on the immediate situation, would lead ultimately to the solution of the problem, because we cannot get away from the fact that the coal problem is of such a character that it cannot be solved and settled in five months. Anything applied to it, to be a permanent cure, must be progressive in character and extend over the whole field. If this 2070 principle were applied and extended, then, after a lapse of time, our trouble would be on the right way to be solved. For these reasons, I hope that the Government will not be content merely to get a bigger vote in the Lobby, but will face the facts of the situation and apply the remedy. Then, so far as we are concerned, we shall be only too delighted to help in bringing that state of things about.
§ Sir WALTER RAINE
In the few minutes at my disposal I should like to speak on the coal situation from the export standpoint. Before doing so, I wish to join with those hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who have expressed their sorrow at the serious position in which the trade is at the present time. On the one hand, you have low wages, and on the other you have lack of orders. Even though the wages were low, they might have been sufficient were the miners assured of a full week's work, but when those wages, low as they are, have to be calculated on four instead of a five and a-half day week, it makes the position more serious for the miners, and we naturally want to sympathise with them in their predicament. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the eight-hours day and the obtaining of a larger output than we at present require. Many of us foresaw that such a paradoxical situation might arise if there were not an extension in the export trade to take away the extra coal. No doubt, had the Eight Hours Act not been introduced last year, very many more collieries would have been closed down than is the case to-day, because, undoubtedly, the costs have been reduced; and it is true that while costs have been reduced, that has gone to help us to get trade against our foreign competitors, because if we had not been able to reduce the price we should not have been able to compete with them.
I wish to put a few facts before the Committee which have come within my own knowledge and experience within recent years to show what is going on in the export trade. The right hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) stated quite fairly that the coal export trade is to a large extent now stabilised. That is unfortunately the case, because we are 2071 losing markets day by day. There are various reasons for that, and I have never given way to the view that there have been three events since 1920 which have caused a far greater competition in this country and reduction in price than we might otherwise have had. I refer, first, to the stoppage in 1921; then to the Ruhr trouble; and then to the events of last year, because, wherever you get an unnatural rise of price such as took place in association with those events, you naturally get things reversed, so that the higher the rise the greater is the fall.
Having said that, let me refer to what I have mentioned on previous occasions. In pre-War days, from the North-East coast of England, the Russian railways used to be supplied almost entirely with Durham and Northumberland steam coal. After the War, that part of Russia was taken and became the Baltic States. There was Latvia, which in those days used to be the chief importing center for the Russian railways. There has hardly been any coal sent from this country for what used to be called the Russian railways; it is all got from Poland. That was done for perfectly sound reasons from their standpoint, and in the very first contract that was given out four-fifths of it was sent by railway and only one-fifth by sea. We used to shift those cargoes from England in steamers of from 4,000 to 5,000 tons in order to get the cheapest freights, which enabled us to give the cheapest prices in comparison with German coal. As the coal was received it was put into trucks and was sent on to the particular railway stations They get train-loads of 700 or 800 tons, and that load would be piled up at certain junctions. It might be divided up into seven or eight separate lots, so that, first of all, the railway administration do not have any breakages except when it takes place in transit at the docks. There is no throwing of coal into the steamers and no dumping of it out again. They have the advantage of not having a large quantity in the yard of any railway station. I have no hesitation in saying that that in itself must have meant a saving to the railway administration of from 1s. 6d. to 2s. a ton for the coal disposed of, as compared with to-day.
With reference to the Swedish State railways, I would like to say a word or 2072 two. A great deal has been made to-day about cut-throat competition. I have no hesitation in saying from the year's experience, that the competition, keen as it has been, has been anticipated to a certain extent, and when the prices of the coal, the orders for which were competed for, have been compared, they have been found to be very close indeed, clearly showing that the various competitors, without any collusion, took a reasonable view of what the market was likely to be. The result of the spring inquiry for 150,000 tons was that hardly any of that order came to this country, but, for the summer contract of 185,000 tons, it was found that about two-thirds, or a little more, did come to this country, for the reason that our prices were slightly cheaper than those of our competitors. Therefore we were able to obtain the trade, and that meant employment in this country. Only yesterday, before I left my office to come to London, I was going through my usual morning letters, and there was a letter from my agent in Oslo, and for the first time we were being asked to tender for the contract. There was Silesian coal, for which they required tenders as well as Durham and Northumberland coal. I am only mentioning these facts to show that the exporting community is fully alive to the necessity of expanding the coal business. We would like to bring it up to the pre-War state, but we cannot expect that with the foreign exchanges standing as they are, and when you have foreign countries, who have so expanded their own coal production that they have had to do what the French have done recently.
The French are recorded to have issued licences, but it is common knowledge on the North-East coast of England, in the exporting centres, that it will be found that the great bulk of those licences will be absolutely useless. A licence is granted to a company for 50,000 tons, but, if you tell the various consumers in that country, including the railways, that they are not to buy British coal until their own coal is used up, you will see that these licences become a dead letter. That is absolutely true of what is going on at the present time. We shall probably find, by the end of the quarter, in spite of the licences, that it will be surprising if more than half of the quantity is shipped, and, if you cannot get the 2073 orders for the coal, you cannot ship the coal. The French are, unfortunately, putting severe restrictions even upon the coal which they are allowing to come in. You have to ship the coal in steamers of a certain size, and there is usually a certain margin allowed in connection with shipments in steamers, because you cannot judge exactly as to their size. Only yesterday, I was told by one of the biggest colliery owners in the North of England that he had a steamer in dock, and that the outside quantity which she could carry was 550 tons, but they have got instructions that if they exceeded 500 tons the cargo would be thrown out. I thought I would put those views forward in order that the House might have some practical knowledge of what is going on in the export trade, and to show what the exporters of the country are trying to do as their contribution to putting the coal trade on a more satisfactory basis.
§ Mr. D. GRENFELL
One would have imagined that a Debate of this kind was not necessary in order to recall the Government to the serious plight in which the coal industry finds itself. After the many questions and answers in this House in the last month or two, which have revealed the extent of unemployment and the enormous loss to the country, one would have imagined that the Government were well acquainted with the difficulties of the industry, The hon. Member who spoke last, when he referred to the French embargo, missed the point entirely in omitting to state that the actual exports to France in June of this year are greater than they were in May and June, 1925. There has been no diminution in the trade due to the supposed restrictions in France and Germany.
§ Sir W. RAINE
The restrictions did not come into force until the 13th of last month, and there was overlapping allowed for.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
The actual exports to France this year are greater than in 1925. I am only referring to that in order to show that the question is a bigger one than the mere restrictions imposed in France or in other countries. The fact is that there is an enormous surplus of coal production which has manifested itself, despite the diminution of the trade, 2074 the cessation of work in America in 1925, in Great Britain in 1926, and in America again in 1927. Despite the enormous artificial restrictions on output owing to trade disputes there are immense stocks of coal in every coal producing country in the world. On the first of April this year in America, after the American coal had found its way to the Continent of Europe last year and had occupied some of the markets which we have supplied in the past, there were no less than 77,000,000 tons of coal in stock which were not disposed of. These stocks have been greatly diminished because of the strike in which hundreds of thousands of American miners have been engaged since the 1st April, but despite this stoppage there is still about 60,000,000 tons of coal in stock which the American coal market is unable to dispose of, although cutting prices to the limit for export to Canada, South America and other places in the world. It is now a drug in the market. The same thing applies to the Continent of Europe. France has enormous stocks of coal, and the reason for the French embargo is this enormous quantity of coal which is lying in stock. The coal produced in the French and German mines cannot be consumed, and because these large stocks are deteriorating the French Government took the action of limiting the importation of coal.
The same thing applies to Italy, and every producing country in Europe has more coal than it can dispose of. It is the same in this country, and yet by increasing the hours of work last year we added to our productive capacity at a time when production was too great. Our productive increase is not so great as the productive increase in some of the countries on the Continent. Our productive increase has gone up by 6 or 7 per cent., Belgian by 14 per cent.; French by 21 per cent.; and German by 17½s per cent. In fact, the productive capacity of every country has gone so far beyond the powers of absorption that stocks are increasing in every country, and despite the interference which accounted for hundreds of millions of tons in America last year—it was about 80,000,000 tons—and by which we suffered a loss of 140,000,000 tons last year, the production of coal goes on increasing. The problem is world wide, and it is 2075 not solved by any formula in the terms used to-night. It is no use saying that, if left, matters will right themselves. In every country in the world there must be a considerable reorganisation of the mining industry, and in this country this is more important because we depend upon coal more than any other country. If America produces less coal it does not affect their economic welfare, but if we in this country lose the trading capacity in coal, if we fail to maintain our exports in coal, if we fail to maintain the value of our annual production in coal to the extent of £40,000,000 or £50,000,000, it is a loss which affects every single individual in the country and every class in the country. That is a matter of great importance to all the citizens of this country.
We must take a new and more serious view of this problem. It is not a problem with which we can tinker and tamper. It calls for new vision and a complete reorganisation of the industry. We must view it, not merely as a problem of recovering our export markets and providing cheap coal for our own industries. We must view it as a problem of transforming the coal industry of this country, having regard to the future uses of coal and the demands that will he made on the industry for the production of liquid fuel and the utilisation of all the valuable by-products of coal. The country which is most ready to effect this transformation is the country which will come through its coal difficulties best of all. That aspect of the problem seems to be lost sight of by the Government. Not a word was said by the Secretary for Mines on that subject. He seems to imagine that, if you can induce foreign countries to buy your coal at an f.o.b. price of 18s. a ton, when you are producing it at 17s. a ton, all is well. He seems to imagine that we should go on throwing away one of the most valuable resources of the country in order to obtain a profit of a few pence a ton. That is not the outlook to which we ought to direct our minds in connection with this problem.
Coal is the most valuable commodity which we possess. Coal is the only chance of salvation for our country in the future. I cannot see this country being saved by agriculture. There is a great 2076 deal of room for improvement in agriculture, and there is a great deal to be done in many other industries, but the natural resource which we command and which we can use most advantageously to rehabilitate our fortunes and restore cur predominance in the world, is coal. Nothing else holds such promise of future wealth. If we take the opportunity of directing this industry into new channels, and if we apply scientific methods to the extraction from coal of the enormous value that is in it—a value almost beyond the power of imagination—we shall more than repay all the capital and interest, all the work and organisation that a Government could put into the task. Reference has been made to the individual coalowner. The individual coalowner has neither the capital nor the knowledge necessary for the reconstruction of the industry. He does not know a thing about the future of the industry. He has been brought up to work by a rule of thumb. He knows where he can sell his coal at a certain price. He knows where he can buy the materials for carrying on his industry, and he knows how to screw down labour to the lowest standard. But he does not know much beyond that. The average coalowner is quite unfitted for the task of reorganising, industry, and we must embark on a system of unification which will enable the industry to be treated as one unit, and enable a single direction to be given to the plans of re-organisation. We must take out of the control of the niggling stupid, small-minded coalowner the power of ruining the industry.
§ Sir JOSEPH NALL
Who is to carry out this reorganisation if those who now control the industry know so little about it?
§ Mr. GRENFELL
Yes there are many men in the industry itself. There are many amongst owners and amongst directors who are capable men; but I do know that there are individual owners and companies, very large numbers of them, who have no knowledge, no interest in the coal industry, no outlook at all, who are the most hopeless people having regard to the requirements of the industry in the years to come. It will require a great deal of capital. A great deal of capital must be sacrificed in the next year or two. The right hon. Member for Ogmore has told us that as time passes 2077 we shall see collieries getting closer and closer to the Bankruptcy Court. I can see them. I know them. In my own district I know their financial position. I know which colliery is going first to bankruptcy and I know which is going to follow. I can tell you, one by one, how many will have gone in the next 12 months unless something turns up which no one can see in sight to-day. A great deal of capital is going to be scrapped, a great many collieries are going to become derelict. Those collieries ought to be judiciously chosen. They ought not to be allowed to go under because of the exigencies of the industry. With a proper organisation we could reduce the number of productive units.
The Secretary for Mines has said a reduction must take place. I agree that the number of mines must be reduced and possibly, for a time, the number of miners must be reduced; but the collieries to be closed down ought to be selected with a regard to the efficiency of the industry as a whole. I could mention pits where the geological conditions are good, where there are seams of coal of good quality but the companies, having exhausted their resources in putting the pits into productive capacity, cannot meet the financial drain. They will have to go into liquidation. Other pits, much less useful, much less efficient having regard to the future, will be able to carry on because they still have a few thousand pounds in reserve. This is a problem requiring the wisest, the deepest, and the most minute examination by the best minds in the mining and scientific world to-day.
I believe the coal industry can be saved. If I did not believe that I should have a very poor opinion of the future of my own country, and because I believe it can be saved I think the Government, the Prime Minister, who has a knowledge of business and who is interested in mines, and the Secretary for Mines, who has now spent some years in very close contact with those interested in mining on both sides, ought to give immediate attention to this question and see whether or not they can save the industry, save the people engaged in the industry, and save the people of this country, who are all more or less indirectly dependent upon that great industry.
There are 300,000 people without work in this industry, 300,000 who will not get 2078 employment in it for the next year or two or five or 10 years unless some change sets in. There are means by which these people may be found employment and some relief given to unemployment funds if we adopt sensible methods. First of all there is the fact that we have 60,000 mine workers over 60 years of age, 60,000 men who have given of the fullness of their strength and are now faced with physical decline, who are worn out. After having spent 40 or 45 years in mining, these men deserve a rest apart from any other consideration. A man who has spent 40 or 45 years in the pits has given an adequate measure of service to the State and ought to be taken out of the pit. Those 60,000 men could be taken out to-morrow if the Government were as generous and as sensible of the rights of those people as they should be. Suppose we gave each of those men £1 a week, say £50 a year. That would be £3,000,000 a year. That is a trifling sum. If the whole expenditure fell upon the Treasury, it would be less than 1d. on the Income Tax, less than 3d. on the output of coal in the mines. The £3,000,000 is a mere bagatelle from a financial point of view, but it would bring comfort and contentment to 60,000 old people and withdraw them from competition with the younger men who by tens of thousands up to the age of 20 and 21 have not done a day's work in the industry up to date.
There are boys who left school six years ago who have not yet started work in the mines, and there are tens of thousands of young men whose strength and moral is being broken down through idleness. My suggestion would take out of the labour market 60,000 old men at a cost of £3,000,000 a year, and it would at the same time give employment to 60,000 younger men and effect a great saving by taking them off the unemployment fund. Having taken those 60,000 old men off the labour market and found employment for 60,000 younger men you could then return to the seven hours' day. It is bad business to overwork your men, and as a matter of fact the miners are working not eight hours but in some instances over nine hours per day. As a matter of fact miners never worked so hard before as they are working at the present time. By my suggestion you could give work to 60,000 young men, re-employ another 100,000 by reducing the hours from eight to seven, and even 2079 then the industry would not suffer. The men employed would benefit by enjoying better health, and in real productive power the country would not lose.
If you strike a balance in regard to the cost of unemployment benefit, and health insurance, you would find that it only required a small expenditure to maintain these people and find employment for the 160,000 men of whom I have spoken. All this would be more than compensated for by savings in other directions. I hope the Government will take this question into their serious consideration. The Secretary for Mines said he hoped that this question would be raised above party politics. I would like to ask who first made it a matter of party politics? Who altered the conditions in the industry and added to the working day? It was the Government, and I hope they will now consider that this is a much they question than the future of the Tory party. It is really a question of the future of the whole nation and the whole of the industry; and if it is regarded in that light, despite our lack of confidence in the Government, and particularly in some members of the Government, I believe that even now the Government can find a way out of the difficulty if it chooses to do so.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I propose for a few moments to deal with one or two points which have been raised in the Debate. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman divided itself into two parts. The first, which was very elaborate in detail and very intricate, said in effect that the situation in which the, coal industry finds itself to-day is as bad as, if not worse than, the situation in which it was in 1925. I agree that that is a comparable period which it is fair to take. I quite agree that this is not a question of scoring in Debate; it is much more important to get down to the real facts. But I am sure the right hon. Gentleman also agrees that, when you are in a difficult situation, you do not want to paint the picture 'blacker than it really is. That does nobody any good. No one is satisfied with the situation in the industry to-day, but I think that unquestionably the position is considerably better than it was at this time in 1925; and that is so whatever test one takes. To-day we are producing and 2080 selling more coal than we were in June, 1925. Taking the four normal weeks, and leaving out Whit-week in each of the two months, we were producing 18,000,000 tons in June, 1925, and we have produced 20,000,000 tons in June of this year. If we take our export trade to-day—
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I do not mind taking the half-year. We were producing more in the half-year, but I think the comparison is a very fair one. June is a pretty typical month, and in each case I have been careful to exclude the Whitsuntide period, which I think is fair. If we take the export of coal, we exported in June of this year 4,313,000 tons, and we exported in June, 1925, 3,730,000 tons. Therefore, at a time when in any case we have had to cut our way into the markets after the loss of markets during a seven months' stoppage, we have already a bigger foreign market this month than we had in June two years ago. Again, unemployment, bad as it is, is undoubtedly not so bad as it was in 1925. I have the official Ministry of Labour figures, and I will take the men who are wholly out of work and the men on systematic short time. They separate them now, but they used to take them together before. In the last week in June of this year the figure was 233,000, and in the corresponding week of June, 1925, it was 315,000.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I have taken the figures from the Ministry of Labour. They are their official figures, and I have had them specially got out for me from the records and checked, so that I think the hon. Gentleman can accept them as correct. That, I think, shows that the position is not as bad as it was in 1925. Then the right hon. Gentleman asked "If you are not satisfied with the position, what are you going to do?" The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), who spoke last, in a very fluent speech, really came back to the old proposition to find, in one way or another, out of the tax 2081 payers' money, something for this industry which would practically be a direct subsidy to every coalowner or coal-miner engaged in the production of coal. The hon. Gentleman suggested that enough should be taken out of the taxes to pay some 60,000 men who are to-day above a certain age—I think he was rather under-estimating the figure—that however many million pounds are necessary should be taken to pay these men off and bribe them to go out of the industry. But observe what that is. That is going straight back to the policy of a subsidy at some time or other to this industry at the expense of the taxpayer. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that, if you once started that policy, you could not confine it to the coal industry alone. Any industry which could claim to have serious unemployment might equally come down upon the State and ask that all its unemployed men should be provided for at the expense of the taxpayer. At a time when we are being pressed to economise in all quarters, I am afraid that that is a proposition—
§ Sir ROBERT HUTCHISON
Would the right hon. Gentleman say what is the retiring age for the Civil Service?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I do not know whether it is the new policy of the Liberal party to convert every miner into a civil servant, but I would remind my hon. and gallant Friend that I think I am right in saying that civil servants, while they get a pension when they retire at 60, have something docked off their salary for 45 years while they are still in the Service in order to provide that pension. I have always understood their salary is so adjusted that they would have received a larger salary but for the pension, and the argument that is always used as to the scale of salaries paid in the Civil Service is that you get complete security of tenure and a pension, and therefore you fix the salary lower. It really makes no difference whether you say you give a man a lower salary, at the expense of the taxpayer, than if he had not got a pension, or whether you put it my way, that something is taken from his salary in order to provide a pension.
2082 I now come to the other argument which we debated at considerable length on a Motion introduced by the same hon. Member who spoke on coal selling agencies. The right hon. Gentleman said there is too much cut-throat competition. That may easily be exaggerated. The Committee will be glad to hear from the hon. Member for Sunderland (Sir W. Raine), who speaks with first-hand knowledge, that large contracts in Sweden have recently been obtained at prices which were so calculated as just to under cut the foreign competitor. That was rather an interesting tribute to the care shown by our exporters. The right hon. Gentleman said we must carry out more amalgamations. What does he mean by that? What is his policy? It is quite easy to talk about unification. I am certainly a believer in amalgamation, and I have often been told from the benches opposite that I carry that belief a good deal too far in the matter of coal, so at least the right hon. Gentleman will pay me the compliment of acknowedging that I practise what I preach. I am sure we want to see more amalgamations in the coal industry. I am also pretty certain that you will see considerably more amalgamations in the coal industry, but I am quite sure that to talk about possible amalgamations is the worst way to bring them off, and, if you know there is a likely amalgamation pending, the less you talk about it the better. We have done what Sir Herbert Samuel in the "Times" said was carrying out the very proposals of the Royal Commission in regard to amalgamation. [Interruption.] I am quite aware of the article in the "Observer." When he was directing his mind to the question of amalgamation, he said, in his article in the "Times," that the Act that we had passed carried out practically the policy of the Commission.
But I am much more concerned with the merits. We have proposed, and enacted, that if any party is anxious to enter into an amalgamation, to amalgamate with others, to absorb others, a scheme can be put forward that any one party can go to the Railway and Canal Commission and ask for a compulsory order upon the other units of amalgamation. That is a very strong thing to do. How much 2083 further does the right hon. Gentleman propose to carry it? There is only one further step he can suggest, and it is that the State should force amalgamation where no party is willing to enter into amalgamation. Is that really a sound business proposition, when no single unit which it is sought to amalgamate thinks it a good enough business proposition to carry that amalgamation out, even though they can get all the other parties to agree to their terms, provided they are fair terms, for the State to coerce, in a highly competitive industry, the various parties into a new amalgamation. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman's party is unanimous about this. They certainly were not when it was discussed.
How are you going to force people into amalgamations against their will without ensuring through a body like the Railway Rates Tribunal that their rates would be kept at a level which would ensure a dividend? You are not, surely, going to propose that with regard to the collieries, because, if so, at whose expense? Ultimately at the expense of the taxpayer. It inevitably comes to that. If you are going to force people, none of whom believes that amalgamation is a practical proposition, to amalgamate against their will, you will be forced to undertake the responsibility, either of carrying on that business or of indemnifying those people against loss. I do not think that is a proposal that the majority of the members of this Committee would be ready to accept for a single moment. On the other hand, I do believe this Committee wish to encourage amalgamations as much as possible where-ever people are willing to engage in them and invite that assistance. The idea of compulsion would cause all reasonable people to stand aloof from amagamation. If that be so, how are we going to help amalgamations? Surely not, either in this Committee or outside, by writing down our assets and writing up our liabilities, but by facing the situation as it is, and by trying to make these amalgamations by good will.
§ Mr. STORRY DEANS
The question of amalgamation is one which, to my mind, stands at the root of the question of 2084 prosperity in the coal industry. I quite agree with the hon. Member for the Gower Division (Mr. D. Grenfell) that sonic day in the future, probably when the inventive genuis of our people and our scientists has been able to discover some other way of utilising coal, the coal industry will find salvation in another way. But we have to deal with facts as they are at present, and the facts are these. You have had for seven months a bad stoppage in the industry, the export market as far as our people are concerned has become entirely demoralised, and our people are finding it difficult to get back into the export market. I believe that the coal exported from the Humber—and that is the coal with which I am most intimately concerned—is only about 25 per cent. of what it was in 1913. The fact that the exports of coal from the Humber have fallen by something like 75 per cent. must cause great disquietude in the South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire coalfield. I do not entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that you cannot possibly have entirely compulsory amalgamation. I think that if we gave the coalowners, some of whom are most recalcitrant in this respect, a warning that unless they agreed quickly they would find that the Government were not committed to any settled policy of voluntary action, but would be quite ready and willing to bring in a Bill to promote compulsory amalgamation if they would not amalgamate voluntarily, they would amalgamate voluntarily in much larger numbers.
There is one other observation I should like to make. I was very glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) was strongly opposed to cut-throat competition in the Industry he represented. When some of us on this side try to protect other industries against cutthroat competition, I should like to have the support of the right hon. Gentleman against his colleague the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden). I protest against the Tory party being held responsible for the utterances of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson) who is not, and does not pretend to be, a member of the Tory party.
§ Mr. DEANS
I understand that the hon. Member for Mossley claims to have been consulted upon, if not actually to have dictated, the policy of the Government. That statement I read in a magazine, and I venture to take the view that the hon. Gentleman was possibly magnifying, quite unconsciously, the influence which he possessed in the councils of the nation. At any rate, I say for every hon. and right hon. Gentleman on these benches that we decline to be held responsible for the tenets and views of the hon. Member for Mossley. We are not in favour of unrestricted cut-throat competition. That is not the policy of the Tory party. The only right hon. Gentleman that I know of in this House who is in favour of unrestricted cut-throat competition, and who has agreed with it in the past, is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley. The right hon. Gentleman is a sincere, if not a fanatical disciple of the same school as the hon. Member for Mossley. The thesis of the hon. Member to-day was only a branch of the doctrine preached so consistently by the right hon. Gentleman. I should like to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore chastise with scorpions the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley. When you have a Front Bench as the Opposition Front Bench is, which when it comes to mining preaches something like unadulterated Protection, and when it comes to protection against foreign competition, as for instance in the case of the steel trade, preaches undiluted free imports and unrestricted competition—the Devil take the hindmost doctrine which I have always thought so inhuman—and when you have a Front Bench of that sort speaking with two voices, how can any right hon. Gentleman reproach this Front Bench? If the right hon. Gentlemen will unite with some of 2086 us on this side, and secure protection against cut-throat competition in the steel trade from the foreigner, many hundreds of thousands of miners will be in work. The blast furnaces will be set going, more steel will be made, more employment will he given in an industry which consumes more coat than any other industry in this country. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why do you not get on with it?"] Because when we get on with it, hon. Members opposite go down to the country and tell people their food will cost them more. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. DEANS
I rather thought this Debate was on a somewhat wide basis, and I was suggesting that one of the remedies for the depression in the coal industry is to allow a protection for the steel trade. This matter, although it seems to make some hon. Gentlemen laugh, is really not by any means a light matter. It is a matter which is causing a great searching of hearts among all who have anything to do with those parts of England, Scotland and Wales where coal is produced, but of this I am quite certain, that if the miners can raise a leader like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas), who will instil the idea that peace is to be had in the industry not necessarily by fighting but by fair negotiations, they will have gone a long way towards restoring prosperity. What they want is not men, as Napoleon said, but a man. We want one man. [HON. MEMBERS: "Come over here!"] Hon. Members invite me to go over. I should be delighted to accept the invitation, provided always they will accept my leadership without question. I am convinced that if the Government were to hold over the coalowners the threat that unless they amalgamated and came to some agreement to amalgamate more readily and speedily than they are doing, they would find it their duty to introduce compulsory measures, amalgamations would be brought about in a very short time, and, for my part, I suggest that until there are more amalgamations, the coal industry cannot possibly claim the prosperity which we all desire.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question put,"2088
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £117,517, be granted for the said service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 140; Noes, 258.2089
|Division No. 260.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson. Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hamilton, Sir R.(Orkney & Shetland)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Alexander, A.V.(Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hardle, George D.||Scurr, John|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Sexton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hayday, Arthur||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hayes. John Henry||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Baker, Walter||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A.(Burnley)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Barnes, A.||Hirst, G. H.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Batey, Joseph||Hudson, J. H.(Huddersfield)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Broad, F. A.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Snell, Harry|
|Bromfield, William||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Stewart, I. (St. Rollox)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Strauss, E. A.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Kelly, W. T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Clowes, S.||Kennedy, T.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kirkwood, D.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lansbury, George||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro., W.)|
|Compton, Joseph||Lawrence, Susan||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Connolly, M.||Lawson, John James||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lee, F.||Townend, A. E.|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lindley, F. W.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lowth. T.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lunn, William||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Mackinder, W.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Day, Colonel Harry||MacLaren, Andrew||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)|
|Dennison, R.||Maxton, James||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Duncan, C.||Montague, Frederick||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Dunnico, H.||Morrison, R, C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Edge, Sir William.||Mosley, Oswald||Welsh, J. C.|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Murnin, H.||Westwood. J.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Naylor, T. E.||Whiteley, W.|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Palin. John. Henry||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Paling, W.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Gillett, George M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, Dr. J. H.(Lianeily)|
|Gosling, Harry||ponsonby, Arthur||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Potts, John S.||Wilson, C. H.(Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Greenall, T||Purcell, A. A.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coine)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Windsor, Walter|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Riley, Ben||Wright, W.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Ritson, J.|
|Groves, T||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks. W. R., Elland)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Grundy, T. W.||Rose, Frank H.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles|
|Hall, F. (York. W. R., Normanton)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Edwards.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut-Colonel||Blundoll, F. N.||Campbell, E. T.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Boothby, R. J. G.||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cautley, Sir Henry S.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool. W. Derby)||Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Brass, Captain W.||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.|
|Apsley, Lord||Briscoe, Richard George||Christie, J. A.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent. Dover)||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Clayton, G. C.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th't'd., Hexham)||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Balniel, Lord||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Bullock, Captain M.||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Burman, J. B.||Cope. Major William|
|Bethel, A.||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn. N.)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Butt, Sir Alfred||Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Remer, J. R.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Con'l)||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Jacob, A. E.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Jephcott, A. R.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Ropner, Major L.|
|Davison. Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Davison, Sir Philip||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Rye, F. G.|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Salmon, Major I.|
|Dixey, A. C.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Drewe, C.||Lamb, J. Q.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|England, Colonel A.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Savery, S. S.|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Long, Major Eric||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Lougher, Lewis||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Skelton, A. N.|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Lumley, L. R.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Forestler-Walker, Sir L.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine,C.)|
|Forrest, W.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Macintyre, Ian||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Gates, Percy||McLean, Major A.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Macmillan, Captain H.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Macquisten, F. A.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Goff, Sir Park||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Grace, John||Manningham-Buller, sir Mervyn||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Margesson, Captain D.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w,E.)||Meiler, R. J.||Thompson, Luke (Sungerland)|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Meyer, Sir Frank||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Tltchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Waddington, R.|
|Hammerstey, S. S.||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Hanbury, C.||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Harland, A.||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Watson, sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Wells, S. R.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Nuttall, Ellis||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxfd, Henley)||Oakley, T.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple-|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Pennefather, Sir John||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Hilton, Cecil||Penny, Frederick George||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Perkins. Colonel E. K.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Perring, Sir William George||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Fosfar)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)||Pilcher, G.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Power, Sir John Cecil||Wood, Sir S. Hill-(High Peak)|
|Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Preston, William||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whlteh'n)||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Radford, E. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Raine, Sir Walter||Major Sir George Hennessy and|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Ramsden, E.||Captain Lord Stanley.|
|Hurst, Gerald B.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"put, and agreed to.—[ Commander Eyres Monsell.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.