§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I wish to ask the Minister one or two questions regarding this Clause, and the granting of mineral leases. For instance, when Crown lands are leased to mining owners, valuable seams may be found below those they have leased. Therefore, I ask what they are doing in that respect. Do they charge, where it is on a quantity basis the same royalty as upon coal? It may seem strange to hon. Members that miners should be talking about royalty rent charges on minerals belonging to the Crown, but, as long as we have a system which allows other people to take from the mines sixpence or eightpence or a shilling in the pound, the nation has a right to take exactly the same amount in the ease of Crown lands. I think this is not being done, but I want to find out the whole truth of the situation.
This Clause is taken from the Settled Land Acts. It does not vary the provisions of that Act in any way and the provisions applying to the Crown Lands Commission are parallel to the conditions which apply to Settled Land. We think those provisions should be given to the Commissioners for Crown Land just as they are to the Trustees of Settled Land.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
I am not satisfied that due precaution is taken to get for the State the return for the minerals leased which it ought to have. I am not satisfied in my own mind, knowing as I do some of the things which have transpired, and I should like further information on the subject. Take the Northeast coast, where nearly all the foreshore belongs to the Crown. What are you charging there and how are you leasing your coal royalties there to the coal producers?
§ Mr. BATEY
I hope the Minister for Agriculture is going to try to make the matter more clear than he has up to the present, I must confess that I am not much the wiser after the Minister's speech than I was before it. What I want to know is, does the Clause alter the present system? It may be said that we are interested at the moment in 1338 increasing mining royalties, but we do want to know what is the policy in regard to these royalties It seems to us that there are such wide powers in the Clause, that the first paragraph in Clause 7 appears to say that the rent may vary according to price, or according to the acreage bought, or according to the quantity of coal gotten. It is difficult to understand whether the royalty rent is to be paid on a sliding-scale basis. Paragraph 2 seems to suggest that it may be on such a basis or it may be on the saleable value of the coal. If the royalty rent is to be on the saleable value of the coal, then that means putting it in the power of the coalowner to reduce his price, if he is selling to himself, to an extreme figure, so that the royalty benefit is extremely low. Subsection (2) of Clause 7 rather seems to say that no royalty rent need be paid at all if the landlord agrees to erect certain buildings which the Commissioners may ask for, in which case he may be relieved of any royalty rent at all. We want to know what is the practice of the Commissioners at the moment in fixing this royalty rent and whether it is on a sliding-scale basis, and, further, what is the average amount of royalty rents.
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
I should like also to put a question to the appropriate Department on this Clause dealing with the leasing of minerals. I regret the absence of the Secretary for Mines from this Debate to-night. He ought to have known from the tenour of the criticism on the Second Reading of the Bill that a number of mining Members, at any rate, would wish to take part in the Debate and seek to get information from him direct. We may be putting the Ministers who are here at sonic disadvantage, and, if that be so, I regret it, because certainly it is his Department, and he ought to be able to tell us more or less off-hand what we want to know with regard to this Clause.
I want to ask a few questions upon Sub-section one, which reads as follows:the rent may be made to be ascertainable by or to vary according to the acreage worked, or by or according to the quantities of any mineral or substance gotten, made merchantable, converted, carried away, or disposed of, etc.1339 I should like the term "merchantable" to be made perfectly clear. Of course, I know it means "saleable," but I would like to draw the attention of the Committee to the practice in the mining industry. I desire to know what is the practice of the Government with regard to the Crown properties that are leased for mineral getting and so on. The practice varies in every coalfield of which I have knowledge, and I take it for granted that the Crown Lands Department would act more or less in accordance with local custom in regard to this matter. In some coalfields the rent is levied according to the acreage worked and not on the actual minerals that are got out of the mines, and in other districts it is on the actual minerals gotten.
This practice obtains very generally with regard to coal, and coal is involved in this Clause. The colliery companies get from the Royalty owners—and in this case the Crown will be the Royalty owner—a certain concession on the total output. In some cases, I believe, they are allowed 2½ per cent. of the total output, and in others, two, four, five, six, seven and even 10 per cent., as was disclosed in the Sankey Commission and the Samuel Commission. This coal is used by the colliery company for colliery purposes without their having to pay Royalty upon it at all. Five per cent. of the total output of the coal of the country is a big proportion to be free from the payment of Royalty. An allowance of five per cent. in respect of minerals gotten from Crown lands would also be excessive. I wish to know what is the policy and practice of the Crown Lands Department in dealing with this particular point of "made merchantable, converted, carried away, etc." Does it mean that in a large district, where minerals are being worked on Crown lands, they simply conform to the local custom, whatever it may be, existing between private owners and colliery companies? I wish to know further, whether they check carefully the quantities of coal that are consumed by the colliery, not for legitimate colliery purposes, such as raising steam to work the machinery above and below ground, but in connection with by-product works and coke ovens. A large number of colliery companies have these by-product Indus- 1340 tries attached to the colliery. We had remarkable evidence given before one of the Coal Commissions that as far as coal obtained from land leased by private owners was concerned, there was a great deal of dissatisfaction as to whether colliery companies were giving correct returns of the total output of coal that was merchantable. There is reason to believe—and I want to know whether it applies to these Crown lands—that they do not pay on the true merchantable output. Those are a few of the points upon which I want to obtain further information. I have been through the Select Committee reports in the hope that I would get the information, but I found nothing to throw light on this Clause, and that is why I stress the importance of having the Secretary for Mines here tonight to tell us what is the practice of his Department in that particular direction.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
If this particular Clause be taken word for word, it is, in fact, Clause 45, if hon. Members want the reference. The existing practice of the Crown Lands Commissioners is to act on the advice of their mineral agents. The custom pursued varies, and there is the usual form of fixing royalties. As far as possible, the leases conform to what is the custom in the particular district in which the minerals are found. As long as the system prevails, we can hardly expect the Crown Lands Commissioners to lease minerals for less than they can command.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
If the hon. Member has any cases to which to draw attention where the full value is not obtained that is a matter of administration, but this particular Clause gives the Commissioners precise powers. I think it is preferable to the old practice.
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
There is a further point. I am anxious not to take up unnecessary time, bet I do not find any provision in the mining leases to prevent any subsidence or destruction of property on the surface. I am well aware that 1341 there is a Royal Commission now sitting on the question of subsidence in mining, and, if the recommendations of the Commission are awaited, there may be something in it. But the Solicitor-General could use his legal knowledge to provide a Sub-section which would be a guide to everybody and lay down regulations to see that mining is carried out in the most scientific manner.
§ Mr. BATEY
There is a matter in this Bill which interests members of mining constituencies. The Solicitor-General merely said what was in the Clause and said what is already in the Clause is the practice. We want to take this opportunity of getting to know just what the Commissioners are doing. The Government in asking us to pass this Bill ought to be in a position to tell us just what the present practice is.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
It is not a question of "might be." It is according to the district in which the coal is being worked. If it is in the hon. Member's district, the lease will probably,
§ and almost certainly, under the existing practice, conform to the customs of his people.
§ Mr. BATEY
We are not much wiser now; that does not lead us very much further. Is the Solicitor-General able to tell us just what does apply in certain districts where you have got royalties? In Durham, say, on the Crown lands near the sea, how much royalty are you getting there, and on what basis do you fix the price? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman tell us the same thing in regard to other inland lands? We feel that here is an opportunity, when the Government are asking for this Clause, and are trying to push this Bill through, to get to know just what they are doing in regard to these royalties. I hope, before the Clause is passed, that either the Solicitor-General or the Minister of Agriculture will give us some more information on the matter.
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 119; Noes, 25.1343
|Division No. 187.]||AYES.||[12.8 a. m.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Ashley, Lt. -Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hanbury, C.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Harland, A.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Hartington, Marquess of||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Headlam, Lieut. -Colonel C. M.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Heneage, Lieut. -Colonel Arthur P.||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Remer, J. R.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hills, Major John Waller||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hilton, Cecil||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Christie, J. A.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Cockerill, Brig. -General Sir George||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Cope, Major William||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Lamb, J. Q.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Loder, J. de V.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Lumley, L. R.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Macintyre, Ian||Ward, Lt. -Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||McLean, Major A.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Ellis, R. G.||Margesson, Captain D.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wells, S. R.|
|Fielden, E. B.||Mason, Lieut. -Col. Glyn K.||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Finburgh, S.||Merriman, F. B.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Gault, Lieut. -Col. Andrew Hamilton||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Gilmour, Lt. -Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||TELLERS FOR THF AYES.—|
|Grace, John||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Mr. Frederick Thomson and Captain|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Oakley, T.||Bowyer.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Ritson, J.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kelly, W. T.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kennedy, T.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lawson, John James||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Dunnico, H.||Lunn, William||Sutton, J. E.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Maxton, James||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Whiteley, W.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Potts, John S.|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Tinker and Mr. Batey.|