Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £116,319, 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, 1929, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Mines Department of the Board of Trade."—[Note.—£60,100 has been voted on account.]
§ The SECRETARY for MINES (Commodore Douglas King)
I have had the opportunity of addressing you, Sir, in your unofficial capacity before. May I say with what great pleasure I find that I am the first to address you in your new official position. In introducing the Estimates for my Department this year, I feel that I must not miss the only opportunity given to a Minister during the year of saying something of the work of the Department for which this money is required. In most of the Debates which we have on the mining industry, not unnaturally the discussion turns on the economic problems with which we are faced, and, therefore, I think I need not apologise to the Committee for giving a few details of the administrative work and the statutory duties that are carried out by my Department. They are of great importance to the mining industry, and, I realise, are of great interest to all those Members who are interested in that great industry.
The net total of the Vote amounts to £176,419, or just about £600 less than the Estimate for last year. Approximately, two-thirds of this money goes in the expenses of the staff of the Mines Inspectorate and the administrative division of the Department which 1796 deals with health and safety questions. Of the £176,000, about £115,000 is accounted for by the work of the health and safety sections of the office. Under this heading, the principal duties are the regulation and inspection of mines and quarry working, including administration of the Coal Mines Act, 1911, the Metalliferous Mines -Regulation Acts, 1872 and 1875, the Quarries Act, 1894, and several other important Acts which affect the mining and quarrying industry. In general the duties of the Inspectors of Mines are to secure the maintenance of the maximum health and safety of the workers in and about mines and quarries by means of inspection and to promote and enforce the uniform observance by owners, agents and managers, and all persons employed of the Acts of Parliament which I have mentioned. Among other means to this end, it is the duty of the inspectors to investigate the causes of accidents and dangerous occurrences, notice of which is required by law to he given to them.
During the last five months there has been a very pleasant reduction in the number of both fatal and non-fatal accidents as compared with last year. The death-rate for the last year per 1,000 persons employed was 1.09, and for the first five months of this year it had been reduced to 1.03. The death-rate per 100,000 shifts worked, another form in which the statistics are worked out, for 1927 was 45. For the first five months of this year, it was 42. The injury rate has also decreased. [Interruption.] The total numbers are in the Report. I will supply them to the hon. Member if he would like them. [An HON. MEMBER: "It. is the most understandable way."] I think giving the rate per 1,000 and by the number of shifts worked is really the true test of the rate of accidents when we compare different periods. That was the only way, in fact, in which we could compare with 1926, when there were very few men employed. It is the usual, and I think the hon. Member will agree, the best way of calculating the rate of accidents by giving it both by the numbers of men employed and by the number of shifts worked. Those two together really give you the incidence of the accidents. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why keep them secret?"] They are not secret. They are published. I thought it would be 1797 more illuminating to give them in the usual form rather than to give the total. The injury rate per 1,000 persons employed was 4.48 in 1927 and 4.28 in the first five months of 1928. Per 100,000 shifts worked, the figures are 1.86 for 1927 and 1.76 for the first five months of this year. I am not laying special stress on the reduction, because last year, I think, my predecessor put it quite fairly that, although there was a slight increase over the previous year, the figures were not a test of the actual conditions. In the same way, I want to be quite fair and not claim any special credit for the reduction of the death-rate and the injury-rate, but I think it is an indication of a movement in the right direction when the accident rates are actually decreasing.
I should like to say a word with regard to the way in which accidents occur. It appals me to see what a large proportion of accidents could really be preventable if the men themselves used due and proper care. A great many of these accidents occur from the carelessness and, in some cases, the wilful acts, of the men themselves. [Interruption.] It is not a charge against them at all. I am simply urging this point in the interest of the miners themselves, because I think hon. Members opposite will realise the importance of a safety-first policy. What appals me with regard to these returns of accidents is the number of accidents which occur in the case of men who, in some cases, will actually climb over the protective machinery, although strict orders have been given against such accidents, and this protective machinery is put there on purpose to prevent their becoming entangled. [An HON. MEMBER: "Does it prevent it?"] I am speaking of actual cases where men have climbed over protective machinery, in many cases in order, as they think, to save time, in exactly the same way as many of us risk our lives from day to day dodging motor-cars in the streets to get across the road, or jumping off moving vehicles in order, as we think, to save time. It is exactly the same with some of the miners who meet with these accidents. They, as we do, become callous of the dangers which surround them, and do not take the necessary precaution. They are keen on carrying through their work, and therefore are inclined to take 1798 quite unnecessary risks to save a few minutes, or a few small fractions of time. I am putting it in this way only because I want Hon. Members opposite, who think it is an insult, to help the Mines Department in the Safety First propaganda which we are carrying through. We have a campaign not only against that kind of carelessness, whereby men wilfully place themselves in dangerous positions, but there are many cases where men are so used to trucks coming along the lines, that instead of getting into an emergency safety recess, they will stand against the wall and so be caught by a truck.
There are other types of accidents which, I think, hon. Members opposite might help the Department in trying to prevent, and that is with regard to care after accidents have taken place. I am impressed by the number of cases in these accident returns where, perhaps, some slight scratch on the hand or arm has, through neglect on the part of the man himself, in a short while actually resulted in death, and that is recorded as a fatal accident, whereas had the man shown proper care in having that small injury attended so, his life would have been in no jeopardy. It is really appalling to realise that a small scratch may cause a fatal accident, whereas in many cases you will find that in a serious accident, where a man has been crushed or badly injured, he recovers his full strength again. I only mention these things in passing, because I do ask hon. Members who are interested in the mining industry and the miners themselves, to assist my Department in the campaign of Safety First which we are carrying on throughout the mining areas. I mention that in regard to some of the duties of the inspectors of mines. It is also the duty of the inspectors to attend inquests on the victims of fatal accidents, and assist the coroner and the jury in the elucidation of the causes, and it is their duty, subject to my approval, to institute legal proceedings, or take other appropriate action against persons who contravene the law.
The total number of inspectors of mines and quarries is 107. Of these, eight devote all their time to the inspection of quarries, and eight others devote all their time to the inspection of horses. One is an electrical inspector and one is 1799 a medical inspector. The total number of inspections made during 1927 was, in round figures, 31,000, which, I think, is no mean figure when one realises the total number of the inspectors. Of these, nearly 23,000 were made at coal mines, and, on the average, each coal mine was inspected rather more than six times underground, and rather more than once on the surface during the year. Some coal mines were inspected only once, and some 15, 20 or more times during the year, the inspectors knowing very well which mines need most inspection; but it is a definite rule that every mine must be inspected at least once during the year. There were about 1,000 inspections at the 330 metalliferous mines, and over 7,000 inspections at the quarries, of which there are 5,000 odd on the inspection register. The number of inspections by the specially appointed inspectors of horses who devote their whole time to this work was about 2,500, the number of mines at which horses are employed being about 1,500. In addition, of course, other inspectors pay attention to the care and treatment of horses in the course of their ordinary inspections, so that in the aggregate a very large volume of inspection of horses is provided. The standard of horse-keeping which the inspectors seek to maintain is a high one, and it is their constant endeavour to raise it, so that naturally they find fairly frequent cause for suggesting improvements, if not for actual complaint of unsatisfactory conditions. But their reports show that, on the whole, the conditions as regards pit ponies reach a high standard.
I would also like to mention the institution last year of a permanent post of Medical Inspector of Mines. This gentleman is at present devoting particular attention to the question of first aid organisation, and also to the very complex problems of possible injury to health from breathing the dust of highly siliceous rocks such as quartzite and sandstone. Another important aspect of the health and safety work is the conduct and encouragement of research. This work is done in collaboration with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and the Medical Research Council, through the Safety of Mines Research Board, which 1800 is charged with the duty of giving general advice as to the research that should be undertaken into the causes and prevention of mining dangers and with the supervision of approved research work.
Largely through the assistance of the Miners' Welfare Fund the Mines Department has been able to increase very substantially the amount of research work in connection with the special dangers which attach to the coal mining industry. Not only is more work being carried out, but the facilities for research work have been enormously improved. A new large scale experimental station has been esfablished at Buxton in a central position, where it is possible for those engaged in the coal mining industry to go and see what is being done to lessen the dangers of the mines. New small scale laboratories are nearly completed at Sheffield, a University centre, which is not far distant from Buxton, and when these are completed it will be possible to bring into closer association the small scale and the large scale work. Roughly, a sum of £50,000 a year is being spent on research work quite apart from the capital cost of the new stations; all but about £2,000 of this comes from the Miners' Welfare Fund. Steps are being taken to make an underground roadway at the Buxton station, in which it will be possible to carry out work as nearly as practicable under conditions similar to those which prevail in the mines. The Research Board has also fulfilled an important function in co-ordinating safety research carried on by investigators in receipt of grants at several Universities.
The Board's Sixth Annual Report which has just been published is a record of steady progress. The problems requiring solution nowadays are not to be elucidated by dramatic discoveries as in the days of Sir Humphry Davy: they demand prolonged and patient study. But valuable practical results have already emerged from several branches of the work. For example, the Board have shown how by attention to certain small details the lighting power of the present miner's safety lamps can be increased, and in some cases doubled. Falls of ground, the cause of half the accidents in mines, have received attention. Reports have already been published on 1801 three of the largest groups of coalfields, and another will be out soon. These reports are in the nature of text-books of instruction in the best methods of supporting the underground workings. Methods have been devised for ensuring the safety of electrical machinery and switch-gear for use in gassy mines. That is a small indication of the work which is being carried on by the Board.
The prevention of mining dangers is the subject more or less of research in other countries also, amongst which the United States of America is most prominent. Our Research Board has accordingly arranged a scheme of cooperative research with the Government research organisation of that country by means of an interchange of experts, and by mutual arrangements for carrying out programmes of research with the object of expediting the work and reducing the cost. This scheme, which has now been in operation for two or three years, is giving every satisfaction and steps are being taken to extend it to European coal-mining countries. Another section of the health and safety work is concerned with the testing and approval of standard types of safety appliances, such as safety lamps, rescue apparatus, magneto exploders, and kindred electrical apparatus and mining explosives. All this is very important work and tends to make for safer working in the mines.
Finally, on the health and safety side there is the important work which the Board for Mining Examinations undertakes in conducting examinations for certificates of qualification responsible mine officials, with the object of insuring that those who are responsible for the safe conduct of the working of the mine are possessed of adequate qualifications. During the past few years several important questions have arisen relating more or less directly to the training and qualifcations of colliery officials and to the relative examinations. I have accordingly decided, with the support of the Board for Mining Examinations, to set up a Committee of Inquiry whose terms of reference will be as follow:—to inquire whether the examinations and the qualifications prescribed for the Officials of Mines under the Coal Mines Act are effectively adapted to the needs of the Min- 1802 ing Industry and the progress of education, and to facilitate the promotion and recruitment of persons suitable for such posts; and to make recommendations.The Committee will consist of ten persons of general qualifications, nine of whom have accepted the invitation to serve.
§ Commodore KING
I was just about to give the names. They are as follow:—Sir Thomas Holland, Director of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, Past President of the Institution of Mining Engineers (Chairman).Sir Richard Redmayne, Chairman of the Board for Mining Examinations and Mining Engineer; formerly H.M. Chief Inspector of Mines.Mr. Douglas Hay, Mining Engineer and Colliery Agent; formerly Professor of Mining at Sheffield University, and before that, one of H.M. Inspectors of Mines.Mr. W D. Woolley, Mining Engineer, General Manager of the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, Limited, South Wales.The right hon. Member for the Ince Division (Mr. S. Walsh), a Member of the Board for Mining Examinations.Mr. Joseph Jones, Secretary of the Yorkshire Miners' Association.Mr. H. J Stone. President of the South Wales Colliery Examiners' Association.Mr. W. R. Davies, of the Board of Education.Mr. A. E. Faulkner, Under-Secretary for Mines.I have sent an invitation to one other mining engineer, whose reply I have not yet received, but I think the Committee will agree with me that this is a very strong committee, and I should like to express my appreciation of the way in which these gentlemen have consented to undertake such an important and onerous work on behalf of the industry.
§ Commodore KING
I have not actually gone into that. I have been going into the question of trying to get as representative a body as possible. I should really want information from the hon. Member to say whether a mining engineer was in his category of employer or not. I think it will be generally agreed that that is a very well qualified committee composed of men well fitted to deal with the questions which they are asked to examine. [An HON. MEMBER: "It depends on the terms of reference."] It is not a question really as between employers and employed. I should have thought hon. Members opposite would have fully agreed that it is for the general benefit of the coal mining industry, and more especially for the miners themselves, that we should have the very best qualified and the most skilled people possible to undertake this Inquiry.
§ Commodore KING
If the hon. Member had listened to the names I read out, he would have realised that there are certainly one or two of those gentlemen whom he must know well and with whose judgment I am sure he will agree. I would like to say, seeing that the question has been raised, how much I appreciate the way in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) devotes his time to serving on the Board for Mining Examinations. He and other representatives of the party opposite devote their time and do very useful work in regard to this question of mining examinations. I feel sure that they and the other gentlemen whose names I have mentioned will work for the good of the industry and will provide a Report which in their judgment will be of assistance to that industry.
The next important section of the work of the Mines Department to which I should like to make reference is the collection and publication of statistical and other information relating to the mining and quarrying industry. This duty is specially laid on the Department by the Mining Industry Act, 1920, and every endeavour is made by the Department to produce the information which it is considered desirable to obtain and to publish it as promptly as possible. I think 1804 it is fair to say that there is no other industry about which so much information is made available. The cost of the Statistical and Intelligence Branch of the Department amounts to about 8 per cent. of the total. Another 8 per cent. of the expenditure is accounted for by the Liquidation Finance Division which is still engaged in clearing up the finances of Coal Control. The position of this work has been carefully reviewed during the last year, and special arrangements have been made to expedite the clearing up process. The cost of the staff engaged on this work has not exceeded £17,500 in any year for the past four years, and this expenditure has been saved to the Exchequer many times over by reductions effected in the claims submitted.
Another small but important division of the Department is the Production and Labour Division. This Division deals with all matters affecting production, including the administration of the Mines Working Facilities Act, the provisions of the Mining Industry Act, 1920, in regard to drainage schemes and the amalgamation provisions of the Mining Industry Act, 1926. This Division is also responsible for carrying out the functions of the Secretary for Mines in connection with the very important work done by the Miners' Welfare Fund. In connection with this work, I should like to acknowledge the great assistance which is rendered by the Miners' Welfare Committee, under the very able Chairmanship of Lord Chelmsford.
One striking feature of the work of the Welfare Committee is the Miners' Welfare Scholarship Scheme. The number of applications considered in 1927 was 2,179–1,192 from miners and 987 from children of miners. This number must be regarded as exceptional as it was the first year of the scheme and many persons applied who did not have sufficient realisation of what it meant and who could never have satisfied the entrance requirements of a University. But even so no less than 111 working miner candidates proved already to have qualified for University matriculation, and 199 more to have gained such a degree of education as would probably enable them to qualify at once. The Selection Committee were deeply impressed with the high standard of knowledge and culture acquired by many of the adult candidates, 1805 sometimes in the face of considerable difficulties. The majority of the children had qualified for university matriculation, most of them having had a secondary school education, and here again the Committee were much impressed by the sacrifices which many parents had made in order to enable their children to get a good education. The standard among the children was high and some appeared to have exceptional ability. Eleven scholarships were awarded, eight to miners and three to children of miners.
The Health and Safety Services, the Statistical and Intelligence Branch, and the Liquidation Finance Division account for, roughly, four-fifths of the Department's expenditure. The rest of the services, including the Production and Labour Division, the Trade Branch, the establishment services, and the salaries of the Minister, Permanent Secretary and Advisers, account for the other fifth.
I have been dealing with the pure question of administration, for, as I said in my opening remarks, the trend of discussions on the mining industry that we have in this House is entirely on the economic side, with regard to which hon. Members know full well I have obviously no control and no power. I realise full well that during the course of this Debate the economic side is bound to be developed, and I hope to have an opportunity later on in the Debate of dealing with questions on that aspect. But I did feel—and I hope that hon. Members will not think that I have kept them too long with details—that it was up to the Committee and also to the country to know something of the actual work which is done by the Department for the money which is being provided under this Vote. We are apt to forget that the main function of the Department of Mines is in connection with safety and health, a very necessary work, on behalf of the mining industry. As I say, I hope during the Debate to have a further opportunity of dealing with any questions on the economic side which may arise. I have now only tried to deal with the administrative and statutory duties of my Department.
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
At the outset, may I join the Secretary for Mines in extending to you, Mr. Herbert, on behalf of myself and of my 1806 colleagues on this side of the Committee, our congratulations upon your election to the position of Deputy Chairman of Committees of this House. I want, first of all, to deal with the latter portion of the statement of the Secretary for Mines. I thought, when listening to him, that on no occasion had we been more justified in moving this reduction than we are to-day. However, I am very pleased to think that later on in the Debate the Secretary proposes to deal with what we consider to be the most important position, namely, the economic side of the industry. We were very pleased to hear his review of the administrative side, or at least to hear that the accident rates, both fatal and non-fatal, are lower than they were for the first five months of last year. Of course, the Secretary for Mines must keep in mind the fact that the number of persons employed is very much less than was the case for the first five months of last year. That fact, probably, will account for some of the reductions in the accident rates given by the Secretary. There is one matter with which we would like him to deal more fully when he speaks on the next occasion, and that is to give us the number of accidents which he mentioned which were brought about by the carelessness of those persons who were injured, and especially those accidents which he described as being due to some wilful neglect. [Interruption.] Oh yes, there was a reference to the number of accidents which were brought about as a result of the wilful neglect of miners. I would like the Secretary for Mines to deal with that aspect of the question and to give us the actual numbers.
When the Debate took place on this Vote last year, the Mines Department., as such, was a dying Department. It had been sentenced to death by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but fortunately the Prime Minister—and I am sure that all my colleagues interested in the mining industry were very pleased—announced that the Department had been reprieved. I regret to say, however, that it has not shown very much more vitality in its state of resurrection than it showed during the period when it was a dying Department. It is a Department that should be made very much more useful than it has hitherto been made in dealing with this great mining industry. I am afraid that the Secretary for Mines does not 1807 realise the importance of this industry, a basic industry, and, one might say, the industry upon which the whole of our financial, industrial and economic structure depends. It is an industry that has done more to make this nation the great industrial nation that it is than any other industry. For the last five years, we might describe it as being a sick industry, as an industry that has been depressed to a greater degree than any other industry in the country. That fact can best be demonstrated, I think, by the statement in the returns given for the 2nd June, that there are something like 290,000 fewer men employed in the industry than there were during the year 1924. In my own district, that of South Wales, we have fewer men employed in the mining industry to-day than we have had for the last 25 years.
The return given by the Secretary for Mines, in answer to a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for the Gower division (Mr. D. Grenfell), on Tuesday, indicates very clearly what the position of the industry really is. In 1925, we were told that there were some 3,000 coal mines in this country. The reply given by the Secretary for Mines to the question put by my hon. Friend showed that since January, 1925, there have been no fewer than 1,112 mines closed in this country. To take some of the districts: In Northumberland there have been 44 mines closed and 11,324 fewer men are employed, in Durham 94 mines closed; in Lancashire and Cheshire, 81 mines closed; and in my own district, that of South Wales, there have been 269 mines closed and 51,123 fewer men are employed. Therefore, one might describe the conditions in the minefields at the present time as a result of the depression as nothing less than deplorable. Can you imagine the position in the exporting areas of this country? In Northumberland, the latest return from the Secretary for Mines indicates that no less than 19.3 per cent. of the male insured persons are unemployed; in Durham, the figure is 22.9 per cent., and in Glamorganshire, in South Wales, there is not less than 26 per cent. of the male insured persons unemployed, most of whom are miners. In some of our areas we have 68 per cent, of the miners unemployed. In Merthyr, the percentage is 68, in Blaina 50 per cent., in Blaenavon 1808 40 per cent., Maesteg 51 per cent., and Aberdare 30 per cent. The same might be said with regard to other mining areas, such as Durham, Northumberland, Scotland, and even Yorkshire. The position is most serious. We must remember that when we are speaking of the mining areas we mean very extensive localities as in South Wales, an area of from 50 to 55 miles long and 20 to 25 miles wide, with one industry, and something like 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 people resident in those areas and 99 per cent. of the male population employed in the mining industry. One can well imagine at a period such as this what are the actual conditions which prevail.
I have never known during the whole of my life the conditions in the mining areas to be so bad as they are at the present time, and not only with regard to the workmen and their wives and families. We have seen business and professional men and local authorities, bankrupt, and colliery owners and shareholders in such a deplorable condition that one wonders how long such a condition of things as exists at the present time can continue. When I and my colleagues visit the mining areas we are surprised at the patient manner in which our people are tolerating the conditions under which they are existing to-day. I would that the Secretary for Mines and some Members of the Government, the Prime Minister in particular, would come down into the mining areas and see the wan, haggard faces of the miners, the wives of the miners and the children of the miners. If that were done, greater consideration would be given to the economic side of this industry than has been given by the present Government for the last three or four years. I would that Members of this House would adopt the attitude of the old writer who went into a district such as I might describe in any mining area of this country, and see the suffering and anxiety that is prevailing at the present time. That writer went home to his room and wrote these words:Thank God! I am glad that other's sorrows made me sad.That is the position of every person who knows the conditions in the mining areas at the present time, and yet when we come to debate the Vote of the Mines Department we find that in his opening 1809 statement the Secretary for Mines is simply concerned with the administrative part of his Department, and not getting down to the root causes with which the mining industry is confronted. One would imagine from his statement that all was well with the industry. The truest prophets that we have had in connection with the difficulties of the mining industries during the last four or five years have come from this side of the House. The right hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) four years ago, two years ago, last year and in the early part of this year prophesied what the conditions were likely to be in the mining industry. The Secretary for Mines and the officials of his Department have not yet shown that they have a grasp of the causes of the difficulties with which the mining industry is confronted. Take the position at the present time. In the Rhondda Valley in South Wales there are 8,000 miners permanently unemployed, and a similar condition of things prevails in every mining valley in South Wales. In my own area there are 6,000 miners unemployed. We have not yet; reached the end of the growth of unemployment in the mining areas. In my own district there are 2,000 men on notice at one colliery and 600 men on notice at other collieries.
One important matter which I should like to impress upon the Secretary for Mines and his Department is that of the inspectorate. Whilst we may talk of collieries closing down, there are numbers of other collieries where men have been taken out, chiefly day wage workers. The condition of some of the collieries as a result of the withdrawal of the day wage workers—the on-cost men, as some of my hon. Friends from the North of England would call them—must be deplorable. If ever there was a time for the mines inspectorate to be alert it is the present time. Collieries are getting out of repair and on-cost or day wage men are withdrawn, almost irrespective of whether conditions are as safe as they might be, by the colliery owners and the managers in the mad race to reduce costs. Not only are the conditions such as I have described them to be in South Wales, but a correspondent writing in the "Times" this morning in regard to the coal industry of Warwickshire says: 1810The coal industry of Warwickshire is in a more deplorable condition than ever before in its history, and the future is apparently anything but hopeful. Officials who have spent the whole of their lives in the trade declare the present position to be the worst they have experienced. For months past the bulk of the coal raised has been stocked on the colliery premises.If those conditions prevail in an area which provides about 95 per cent. of its output for inland purposes, what must be the condition in the exporting areas? I do not want to trouble the Committee with the question of wages, but in every colliery in addition to the general reductions in wages which have taken place as a result of the national agreement we find that local agreements have been insisted upon by the officials, the working conditions have been interfered with, and many of the men employed in the coalfield are taking home such miserable wages that it is almost impossible for them to maintain themselves and their wives and families. All this has been done with the intention of reducing costs and costs nave been reduced. Can the Secretary for Mines tell us of any country in Europe where the pithead price of coal is as low as it is in this country? Take the position that is shown in the latest return from the Mines Department. In Scotland the net costs are 12s. 11d. Sir Adam Nimmo, speaking recently, said:The average cost for Scotland was down as low as 11s. 9d. a ton.In Northumberland, the net costs are 12s. 5d., Durham 13s. 4d., South Wales and Monmouthshire 15s. 6d., and Yorkshire 13s. 7d. One might go right through with these reduction of costs and we should see that not only has there been that reduction but there has been an increased output per man employed in the industry. Taking the average throughout the whole country we find that at the present time the output per man is 21.26 cwts. There is no country in Europe that can show a result of costs and production per man such as we can show in this country.
The Secretary for Mines referred to the statistical side of his Department. He gave a reply to a question the other day dealing with costs in other countries. We were told that in connection with the Ruhr Syndicate the pithead costs—these are figures for 1928—were 14s. 6d. 1811 and in Belgium 20s. 7d. and in Upper Silesia, for 1927, 15s. We find from the point of view of the inland and export trade of this country that the position is more serious than it has ever been before. In South Wales the losses of the owners have gradually increased. In the first quarter of 1927 the loss amounted to 4d. per ton, while in April, 1928, the loss was something like 1s. 3.99d. per ton, whereas the realised proceeds per ton of coal were reduced from 15s. 3d. per ton to 12s. 9d. Therefore looking at the industry from the point of view of the owners, to whose side the Mines' Department generally give a great deal of consideration, we find that the deficiencies which have accumulated since the commencement of the present agreement have amounted to £24,712,000. We have seen amalgamations going on in the coalfields, or absorptions, or amalgamations. I have seen and some of my colleagues have seen in South Wales during the last three or four months several old family concerns going out of existence and huge combines coming in, and some of the combines that are taking over some of the older undertakings are not financed by British money but by foreign bankers, who are getting what one might call a strangle-hold upon the industry in some parts of the country. It may be argued that that is well for international trade. It may be well for international trade but it is not all that it might be in the interests of the men who are employed in these particular collieries.
Dealing with the question of prices, I should like to ask the Secretary for Mines what his Department is doing in connection with the question of stabilisation schemes. We have heard much about some of the stabilisation of prices schemes, and we have heard a great deal about the five counties scheme. I will not deal at length with that question, because some of my colleagues who hail from Yorkshire and the other counties will be able to deal with it, but there is a feature about the five counties scheme to which those of us who come from the exporting areas would ask the 'Secretary for Mines to pay some attention. I noticed in the "Times" of to-day that as a result of the five counties scheme, in the Midland counties the owners have 1812 been able to increase the price of coal for inland purposes, and as a result of that increased price they have been able to subsidise the coal sent for export purposes by a sum amounting to four shillings per ton. When one realises the fact that we are exporting coal from this country at the present time at something like 15s. 9d. a ton, free on board, one can well imagine what the position will be if that coal is to be subsidised to the amount of 4s. a ton as a result of increasing the price to the inland consumers. It may be all right, and I dare say the Secretary for Mines and the President of the Board of Trade will argue that that is quite a good thing to do and that we are thereby able to take a certain amount of the trade from Poland, Germany and our other competitors in the export market; but have they considered what the effect of that subsidy is likely to be upon the other exporting areas of this country?
How can Northumberland, where a very large percentage of their coal is for export purposes, Durham and South Wales hope to compete with coal that is being subsidised to the extent of 4s. a ton which is being sent from Yorkshire? It is almost impossible. One might rightly say that whilst you may have a successful scheme for the stabilisation of prices and restricting output in the Midlands, where 90 per cent. or so of the coal raised is used for inland purposes, it is almost impossible under present conditions to have stabilisation schemes in districts where the major portion of the coal produced is for export purposes. How can South Wales, where 64 to 70 per cent. of the output is sent abroad or used for bunker purposes and only 30 per cent. used for inland purposes, increase the price of coal for inland purposes in order to subsidise their export trade? It is almost impossible. While it may be said that so far as Yorkshire is concerned there is prospect of some improvement, that improvement in trade is going to be very largely as a result of further depressing the conditions in the other export areas.
It may rightly be said, as the hon. Member for Hereford (Sir S. Roberts) said during the discussion on the Mines Vote last year, that selling agencies, unless they are all-embracing, are practically useless. What steps has the Secretary 1813 for Mines taken to get an all-embracing stabilisation scheme for this country? In Scotland the position of the coal trade is not at all promising. Only a moderate measure of success has followed the efforts of the Coal Masters Committee to make the accepted scheme for fixing prices and reducing output effective. The demand has fallen, and it is now proposed that the reduction of 100,000 tons of coal per week, which was originally agreed to, should be increased to 150,000 tons per week. Tale export trade continues to show a distinct shrinkage, and we are told that in Scotland heavy stocks are accumulating at the pits. The result is that the scheme is not going to be effective in Scotland, and it is not going to be effective in South Wales, where we have established a stabilisation scheme upon a voluntary basis. A number of the colliery owners in South Wales cannot afford, so they tell us, to pay the levy of 3d. per ton they were asked to pay, and the result is that a good deal of business has been lost to them. Unless a definite scheme can be established in South Wales by the 2nd July there will be no stabilisation scheme at all. These are matters which should concern the hon. and gallant Gentleman and his Department. I wish he would concern himself with them.
He referred to the statistical side of his Department. May I inform him that we get complaints that the information provided to the coal trade in this country is not as good as the information given to the American coal industry, to the German coal industry, or to the French coal industry. Anyone connected with the mining industry in this country who wants information with regard to the world position of coal, both as regards output and prices, does not look to the right hon. Gentleman and his Department, or to the Board of Trade Journal or the Ministry of Trade Gazette, both excellent journals, but goes to Washington, to Essen or to Paris for their information. We suggest that the hon. and gallant Member should consider the establishment of a mining bureau, a research bureau, similar to that which is established in the countries I have mentioned. It would mean a store-house for the work of the researchers, which could be drawn upon when required, and there is an enormous 1814 amount of accumulated knowledge in this country much of which is lying dormant and untapped. This might be usefully applied for the benefit of the coal industry. With such a bureau in existence, the information could be collected, systematised, and formulated for the benefit of the industry as a whole. We should also like to see departmental committees set up, employing technical staffs, aid established at once. It should be the function of the Department to deal with the question of production, the preparation, utilisation and marketing of coal, and with the other great questions, carbonisation, power production and transmission, and also with safety legislation and the revision of the existing mining Regulations, if necessary It should deal also with the question of development and research. We want the Department to be made a real live Department instead of what it has been in the past.
I am sure the hon. and gallant Member, and also the President of the Board of Trade, must recognise the serious position of the export trade of coal in this country. No country in the world is so dependent on maintaining its export trade of coal, no country has had such a high export trade, yet we see this branch of our coal industry gradually diminishing under our very eyes without any attempt at all by the Department or the Government to prevent it. In 1913 we exported, with bunker coal and coke, 100,000,000 tons of coal, but in 1927 it had diminished to 67,000,000 tons. The first five months of this year shows that the position is getting worse. As compared with the first five months of 1927, the export trade of coal has gone down by 1,800,000 tons. Let me briefly refer to the position of other countries. In the three principal Scandinavian countries where we have Polish competition, our export of coal for the first five months of 1928 is down by 951,000 tons as compared with a similar period of 1927. Italy, where we are in competition with reparation coal from Germany, has taken 400,000 tons less, and France, Belgium and the Netherlands have together taken 532,000 tons less. Germany is the one bright spot as that they have increased their imports by 500,000 tons. Not only is there a reduction in the quantity of coal exported from this country but there is also a serious 1815 reduction in the price. The reduction in quantity is 1,800,000 tons, but the reduction in price is £5,038,000 for the first five months of this year. Do what we can with regard to reduction in prices, we cannot recover the markets which the hon. and gallant Member and the Government anticipated would be recovered during the year 1927.
I should like to refer to the position in Italy, which is the only country in Europe where there is an expanding market for coal. What is happening in Italy? Late last year the Italian Government made a fundamental change in the transfer of reparation coal with the view to improving internal economic conditions. The Italian authorities applied to the Reparations Commission for the payment of reparations in the form of greatly increased deliveries of coal, and they asked for the delivery in January of this year of 600,000 tons of coal on account of reparations. That would have meant a loss of two-thirds of our export trade to Italy, but fortunately it was modified, but even now Germany has supplied to Italy during the five months of this year 624,000 tons more coal than during the same five months of last year. What is the Secretary for Mines doing about it? Here is reparation coal damaging the export trade of this country. Italy, one of our best markets for export coal, is gradually being lost to us as the result of this reparation coal. I hope something will be done to prevent this market being lost to this country. I should like to ask whether the hon. and gallant Member can furnish any information with regard to world consumption of coal from 1913 until the present time. From 1900 to 1913 power production demanded an increase of 100 per cent., but from 1913 there has been very little increase in the world production of coal. I think it only amounts to about 5 per cent., and even then we are producing much more coal than the world requires.
I have a statement here supplied from America showing that in Europe the overproduction of coal amounts to something like 107,000,000 tons per year. In this country we have a capacity for output of 50,000,000 to 60,000,000 more tons of coal than we require and in America they have a capacity for increasing their 1816 output by 200,000,000 to 250,000,000 tons more than they require.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)
I do not quite follow the hon. Member's figures. The figures which have been supplied to me show that the world production of coal, including lignite, was 1,123,000,000 metric tons before the War and 1,326,000,000 tons last year, an increase of 18 per cent.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
They have been supplied by my Department and they are taken from official statistics.
§ Mr. HALL
The reduction in coal consumption affects this country more than any other coal-producing country in the world. With the development of hydroelectricity there has been a falling off in the amount of coal required for power production. Roughly speaking, water power utilised in Europe in 1925 represented the equivalent of about 28,000,000 tons of coal, but not only has there been a falling off in the demand for coal as the result of the utilisation of water for power production but we must also bear in mind the fact that there is a great deal more economy now in the use of coal for power production than at any time during the past generation. Twenty years ago it required 181 lbs. of coal to generate a unit of electricity, but in 1925 the average over the whole of the country was 2.53 lbs. for one unit of electricity. The present electrical output demands from 7.000,000 to 8,000,000 tons of coal, whereas 20 years ago the same output of electricty would require from 45,000,000 to 50,000,000 tons of coal. There is great economy in the use of coal 1817 for the production of electricity, which one is bound to recognise, as the result of the development of science.
What we are concerned about in this country—not that we are not going to give any concern to the matter that I have mentioned—is as to what part the Mines Department and the Government are playing in connection with other factors of power production, which are playing such havoc with the coal industry of this country. I have here figures, which have been supplied, again by America, showing that the production of power from oil in America has increased from 9 per cent. in 1915 to 21 per cent. in 1926. It might be expressed in equivalents to tons of coal in this way; Oil is at present being used in America equivalent to no fewer than 182,000,000 tons of coal; if this oil was not used for power production, America would have required 182,000,000 tons of coal more than she is using now. It has been impossible to get the amount of coal equivalent to oil used for power production in this country, but am satisfied that the hon. and gallant Member and the President of the Board of Trade must be alarmed about the growing imports of oil into this country for power production. We are told that in 1910 the total imports of oil into this country were 345,000,000 gallons, and in 1927, 2,051,000,000 gallons; in other words, last year it cost this country nearly £44,000,000 for the importation into this country of a commodity which is competing with coal. Last year was not the peak year either. According to the information that one has been able to get, there has been an increase in the importation of oil into this country from 429,000,000 gallons for the first five months of 1926 to 646,000,000 gallons for the first five months of 1928.
Do the Government realise how dependent this nation is upon this importation of oil? We have a Navy which is dependent to the extent of 90 per cent. on the importation of its fuel, and our Air Service is dependent on the importation of 95 per cent. of its fuel for it to be kept going, while we find that 95 per cent. of our road transport is also dependent upon this imported fuel. I would that the Secretary for Mines and his Department would take up very much 1818 more earnestly than they are doing now, if I might say so, this question of the scientific treatment of coal. I am sure we must all agree with the statement which was made by the President of the Institution of Mining Engineers at a meeting of Civil Engineers on 5th May of this year, when he emphasised the point that:We have all made an error in referring to coal s one substance whereas it is nothing of the kind. It is not an entity in the sense that other fuels such as benzine and so on are entities, and until we have made up our minds to utilise in the correct way the various constituents of coal we shall never oaks any real, sound advance in the application of that coal. Because we have obtained coal so cheaply, we have never troubled to use it scientifically.That is a statement from a gentleman whose reputation is unquestioned. I have seen the Prime Minister standing at that box three years ago and announcing that the country was almost on the eve of great developments with regard to the question of oil extraction from coal. He said that when that day was come there would be a revolution such as we had in this country when steam was introduced. I am not tying myself to any single method with regard to this question of the scientific treatment of coal. Low temperature carbonisation is probably the best known in this country, and experiments have been going on at the fuel research station for some time and by private individuals. Science has proved conclusively that oil can be extracted from coal, whatever method is applied. I saw in one of the mining journals the other day a report of 12 different processes of oil extraction, and by those 12 processes, we were informed, from one ton of coal an average of from 15 to 25 gallons of oil could be extracted, a certain amount of motor spirit, from 3,000 to 5,000 cubic feet of gas, and from 12 to 14 cwt. of smokeless fuel. Ought not a process of that kind to he encouraged more than it is encouraged at the present time by the Government or by the Mines Department?
We have the Bergius system, about which I may have something to say later on, and then there is the question of pulverised fuel. I have seen, with some of my colleagues, some of the works where pulverised fuel has been tried, and 1819 to us as laymen it appeared to be working quite satisfactorily, but we know that there is very little encouragement in this country for the development of the scientific use of coal—nothing like as much encouragement as is given to this work in Germany or even in America. We are told by some of the experts in America that the report of the Giant Power Survey of Pennsylvania stated that out of 50,000,000 tons of a typical bituminous coal they could extract by low temperature methods from 38,000,000 to 40,000,000 tons of smokeless fuel, 250,000,000 gallons of fuel oil, 250,000,000 gallons of creosoting and disinfectant oils, and 500,000,000 gallons of tar oils suitable for fuel oil and as a base for the chemical industry. Let us see how the Mines Department is dealing with this question. The Director at the Fuel Research Station, Dr. Lander, on the 5th May, dealing with this question of low temperature carbonisation, used these words:Some people achieved greatness, whilst others had greatness thrust upon them. The Fuel Research Board had had low temperature carbonisation thrust upon thorn to their great regret, and in spite of the publicity given to it, it did not account for 25 per cent. of the Board's expenditure up to date.High-temperature carbonisation, which is well established in this country, and is doing remarkably well, accounts for 50 per cent. of the expenditure of the Fuel Research Board. You can go to Germany and get the Bergius system, but I am not complaining about that. Any system which is going in any way to assist in establishing the mining industry in this country will receive the support of my colleagues and myself.
§ Commodore KING
I hope the hon. Member realises that the Fuel Research Board does not come under the Mines Department, but is under the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
§ Commodore KING
Only that the Minister of Mines should answer questions for that Department in the House in 1820 regard to whatever form of research might be mentioned, out not that he should be responsible for the work of the Department.
§ Mr. HALL
If that is so, that is another anomaly, and I trust that the hon. and gallant Member and the President of the Board of Trade will take it up with the Government, because if there is any Department that should be brought into the Mines Department, it is the Fuel Research Board. My colleagues and I were very pleased to see that in South ' Wales, where we are supposed to be producing a very dry kind of coal, a company has been formed for the purpose of oil extraction. We are told that that company has already placed an order for 4,000,000 tons of Welsh coal to be delivered over 15 years. They assert that every year they can produce, as a result of their efforts, some millions of gallons of oil that will be utilised for various purposes.
May I ask the Secretary for Mines and hon. Members opposite if they realise the position of power production generally in this country? We know that 30 years ago "King Coal" was "King Coal." There was no other commodity that was nearly as valuable as coal, because all power produced in this country was produced from coal. We saw the gas industry introduced and developed, in the first instance, for the purpose of artificial illumination. The gas industry is now developing and taking over some of the functions which were formerly done by coal, and it is dependent on the mining industry, using between 17,000,000 and 18,000,000 tons of coal. The more the gas industry develops, the more coal is being used. Then we saw the electrical industry developing, again mainly for the purpose of artificial illumination. That is a third industry which, one might say, is now developing into a great power-producing industry—three industries, namely, coal, gas, and electricity. Of these, the two latter industries are absolutely dependent upon the other industry, and yet the two industries hive been allowed to develop quite separate and apart from the coal mining industry. Now there is another new industry developing in this country, and the more quickly it develops the more pleased we shall all be. That is the scientific treatment of coal, or oil 1821 extraction from coal, but from what we can see this new industry is going also to be quite separate and apart from the mining industry.
When are we going to settle down and co-ordinate power production? We argue that if the mining industry was properly worked and organised, we could so co-ordinate power production in this country that we could bring these four great industries into one industry, reduce a considerable amount of wastage that is going on at the present time, and produce power sufficient to keep this country the great industrial nation that it has been. Those are some of the things with which we should like the Secretary for Mines and a real Mines Department to deal. It might be argued, of course, that it is going to take some time before this can be done. A great deal of suffering is going on in the coalfields of this country, but the miners are asking the Secretary for Mines and his Department to get down to the difficulties. It would make the suffering of our people very much easier if they thought the Government recognised the cause of their difficulties, and if there was any prospect of a remedy for those difficulties. Unfortunately, the Government are quite indifferent to the whole of this matter. I would like to deal with other aspects of it, but you have been so very tolerant with me, Mr. Herbert, that I do not want to trespass too much upon your generosity, or I would deal with the question of pensions for miners and with the question of hours. Thanking you, Sir, and the Committee for being so generous to me, I will ask the Secretary for Mines to take into consideration some of the things that I have outlined and to make his Department, which I think he is quite capable of doing, not the dying Department that it was last year, but a real Department that will reflect credit both upon himself and upon this great industry.
May I join with the rest of the Committee in congratulating you, Mr. Herbert, on your appearance in the Chair this afternoon? We have just listened to two speeches, one exceptionally well-informed from the Departmental point of view, and another admirable speech from the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), who has just resumed his seat, giving a com- 1822 plete survey of the condition of the coal trade in this country and offering some suggestions for the alleviation of the troubles which have come to all cur coalfields. A more depressing account of a great industry it would be impossible to listen to. At the present time there are nearly 300,000 miners out of work. Take two counties alone, Northumberland and Durham! There are 40 mines closed down in Northumberland and 94 in Durham, a state of things absolutely unprecedented in the history of the north country. The chance of recovery there is not only postponed; it is almost defeated, not only by what is happening abroad, but by what has happened in our own country. It is clear, from the result, published this morning, of the operation of the five-counties scheme, that its success has been at the expense of Northumberland and Durham. I shall have a word to say later on the subject of the controlling of prices at home and abroad, and I now just want to mention that fact in passing as showing how far artificial and incomplete organisation of the coal trade, while it may redound to the advantage of one coalfield or two, has a reflex action of the most damaging character on many of the others.
The general depression is not to be traced to purely local or national causes. There is no doubt that the effect of the War upon the coal trade has been of a very grave character in every one of the coal-producing countries of the world. The power of the world to absorb coal is, I believe, as great as ever it was. But coal has some very grave competitors. We are responsible for the establishment of one or two of them on the Continent of Europe. Do not let us forget too rapidly what happened under the coal control during and at the close of the War By extracting the last shilling oat of the foreign consumer, especially in the Mediterranean, we actually drove the manufacturers and the producers of those countries into the most costly erection of water power plant that has ever been known. I have no doubt that the great water power establishments of Italy are not now working on a profitable basis. But that is not the point. They are there as permanent competitors with British and German coal. Then, again, we are to some extent responsible in this country for the terms of the Versailles Peace and the 1823 reparation arrangements made there, which in almost every instance have been far more damaging to this country than to Germany. It is really a tragic story. At the present time the operation of the payment of reparation in kind is actually keeping scores of thousands of British miners out of work. We cannot put that down to purely natural causes. It is owing to an incomplete, a selfish, and very greedy view of international relationships. It was the overpowering instinct of greed in the coal control department which really defeated our own ends in Italy, and it was the estimation of what could be got in reparation that has had a great deal to do with the depression in the trade. It is very similar to what happened with regard to the reparation ships after the War. We took 300 ships from Germany and threw our own shipyards out of work. Those are matters of history, and we cannot repair the damage now.
There is another influence, which is of a permanent nature and will go on increasing as long as the supplies of oil hold out. We are bound to take these things into account at home and abroad. The use of oil as a fuel is natural, and it will continue. Oil has some advantages greater than those which coal possesses. You can handle it more promptly in the bunkering of ships, for instance. The bunkering of a great Atlantic liner with coal, which used to occupy three days, it is now possible to complete in five or six hours. Oil is very much cleaner than coal. In great passenger vessels oil can produce its power with a very small stokehold staff, and it is possible to provide for its bunkering and use so neatly and cleanly, that whereas the great passenger vessels had to be painted every trip, they can now run for 12 months.
Oil has also great advantages ashore. The internal combustion engine is permanently established in some industries, particularly the smaller industries, and it has taken the place of the steam engine. But we have learned a great deal from the use of oil, and one of the things that we have learned is that we ought not to depend on the old clumsy method of human stokers, that the automatic machine is the best way of handling the fuel. We have also learned 1824 that putting the coal into furnaces in lumps is out of date, and that the best way is to spray it in the furnaces. So it comes about that there are people already making experiments afloat and ashore in the use of pulverised fuel. Recently my own firm had the privilege, owing to the courtesy of the United States Board, of sending one of its engineers on a voyage in a vessel which had been equipped for pulverised coal. We learned from them the advance that had been made in dealing with fuel. In the past there was the choking of the tubes of boilers and the damage to furnace crowns with all sorts of sediments. A great many of these difficulties have been overcome. Already the success with which powdered fuel is being blown into the furnaces of these American vessels is so great that there is ground to believe that the same kind of thing can be done with similar coal on this side of the Atlantic.
I therefore balance some of the grave disadvantages under which we are suffering against some of the lessons that we are learning from the present depression. I believe that we can learn a great deal not only from the use of oil, which has shown us how we can most economically add heat to our boilers, but that we can also learn much in the mechanical handling of coal on board ship, in the wagons, at the pithead and elsewhere. These things all come within the organisation of the industry, and I trust and believe that the Secretary for Mines is very much alive to the enormous advantages of these mechanical, scientific and commercial changes in the industry. Unless we proceed with as much rapidity in the coal industry as in electricity, it will be impossible for the coal trade to recover.
How far can we depend on purely private experiments for this kind of work? The natural tendency in all privately controlled concerns is to work on the basis of profit. Up to the present we have found no better way of increasing the efficiency of industry. Competition is indeed a great stimulus. It has led in the past to discoveries and economies which have been of inestimable value in the development of our coalfields. But there are some things which could be done better on a national basis than on an individual basis. Undoubtedly research can be far better and more efficiently conducted by 1825 means of national effort than it can be in private concerns. I have no doubt that whatever discoveries are made by private individuals in the better use of coal, will sooner or later be made generally known. In these days everyone is so interested in the recovery of the coal trade that they will make their contribution towards a better use of the fuel. What is wanted is that the knowledge that is accumulated is made of general application and is devoted to the general service. The Secretary for Mines has drawn attention to what has already been done in the Research Department with regard to low temperature carbonisation. It has been a disappointment to all of us that, whereas low temperature carbonisation has proved itself beyond all doubt on a laboratory basis, it has not yet proved itself on a commercial basis.
I do not know of a single instance where low temperature carbonisation can be worked now and show a margin of profit. If a profit cannot be shown, the thing will not increase. That does not mean that we should abandon the attempt. It means only that we should devote greater efforts and more money to solving the difficulties that have arisen. Take a single one. It has been discovered that with large retorts there are problems to be solved that did not exist on a laboratory basis. We shall reach a solution of these problems only by devoting a great deal of money, as well as the best brains we have, to their solution. That is not the only thing. I have said something about pulverised fuel. We have to learn a great deal about fuel, not only about the pulverisation of coal, but about the different kinds of coal. It is true, as Professor Henry Louis said, that we cannot treat all coal as if alike, for coal is not all alike. There is an enormous difference in quality. Coal varies also in the most remarkable degree in its effect on boilers and furnaces. We have a great deal to learn as to what can be best done with each one of our coalfields, which vary so largely in quality. That cannot be done, in the present state of the coal trade, entirely at the expense of those who are now working at a loss. There are some who are well enough off to conduct experiments on their own 1826 account. We wish them every success. But if this work is to be done for the benefit of every one of our coalfields, it ought to be on a national basis.
The Government have decided, in regard to agriculture, which is also a depressed industry, that it is not extravagant to devote £5,000,000 as a subsidy this year to the establishment of the beet sugar industry. If that is justifiable—I have opposed it because I do not think the money produces value—how much more justifiable would be the devotion of £5,000,000 a year to solving the problem of the coalfields! Let us note what the advantages would be. Not only would you bring into work men who are now idle and open some of the 40 mines that are closed in Northumberland and some of the 94 closed in Durham, and some of the 200 closed in South Wales, but that in turn would have an immense economic and social effect on the workers concerned and upon the hundreds and thousands of people who are dependent upon the miners—the shopkeepers, the subsidiary trades and all that great accumulation which you find in and around every mining town. That again would have a further effect on national industries of every kind. We naturally want to see fuel cheap for the sake of oar internal trade. Our manufacturers require cheap fuel as much now as in any year since the War. The tendency o f the five counties scheme has been to put up the price of fuel to internal consumers—householders and manufacturers in the home trade—in order that it may be sold more cheaply abroad. Obviously that is working in the wrong direction from the point of view of internal trade. It also has a deleterious effect on those trades which are manufacturing for the foreign market.
The depression in the coal trade and the lack of command of the export markets not only affect the coal trade but are having a direct effect upon shipping. More and more vessels are being laid up every day in the ports of this country, because the rate of freight which can be earned by the carriage of coal is actually on a lower level at the present time than at any time in the last 14 years,. Therefore, it is affecting the shipping trade and, as shipping is depressed, fewer orders are being placed in the shipyards. So you find this circle 1827 going round and round. With fewer orders in the shipyards there is a smaller demand for angles and bars and other material of that kind and the ironworks, because they have fewer orders for steel, are making a less demand on our collieries for coal and coke.
It has a further reaction. The Committee will remember that when we have discussed international trade here, we have always counted it as one of the immense advantages of this country that the best and most convenient cargo to send out from any country is coal. The main source for the employment of our cargo vessels has been that we have carried coal out from this country to markets abroad and we have been able, in those same ships, to bring back cheaply from abroad, supplies of raw material and food to this country. We have done so at a much lower freight than if we had to send the ships out empty to bring those cargoes back home. The larger the employment given in the export coal trade to the ships of this country, the lower will be the rate of freight chargeable from the foreign countries to this country. In years past Great Britain, on the whole, has been the best and freest market in the world largely owing to that obvious fact of full employment outwards in order that there might be economical employment homewards.
Thus we see that the depression in the coal trade is having its direct effect on all the other heavy trades, on the shipping trade and on the general consumers of this country of every class, whether they are individuals or the manufacturing concerns which are dependent on foreign raw material. Does not that great ring of industries and interests justify the Government in taking a broader and more generous view of the problem of the coal trade than even that which they have taken of the problem of agriculture? I do not wish to pit the one against the other, but if you can justify the expenditure of £5,000,000 for the promotion of the growth of sugar beet in this country and the transformation of beet into sugar, surely you can justify an expenditure of £5,000,000 in order to deal with the question of fuel—the most precious possession we have in normal times—and 1828 the problem of turning it to the benefit of every trade and industry and class concern. My principal plea, therefore, is that the Government should not be mean in the expenditure of money on research work in regard to coal, but that they should take the widest view of the question.
I hope that what has been disclosed to us this afternoon is not all that can be said by the Secretary of Mines on the subject of research. I hope it will not continue to be the case that he can merely answer questions on the subject but has no responsibility for the experiments. I hope the Government will rearrange their duties in such a way that he will be able to spend a very much larger amount of money, under his own control, with the sole object of solving the problems of the coal trade and that he will be able to do that without interference from any other Department. We want him not only to answer question on the subject but to make himself personally responsible for the research. I do not think we need be hopeless about the future of the British coal trade or the British coalfields. I do not believe there will be an immediate recovery. Recovery I fear will be slow, but if we are to have any hope whatever of the ultimate prosperity of the coalfields of this country, we shall have to deal with this subject not on a narrow but on the broadest possible basis. Here I return to the example that we have just had in the five counties scheme of what happens as the result of a narrow treatment of this problem. There you had a scheme restricted to one section of the British coalfields, and the result is that having restricted it to that one section, you are actually injuring the others. There is only one way through this problem. If you are going to have regulated selling, if there is to be anything in the nature of an effort by the industry as a whole for the recapture of our export markets, there is only one way in which to do it and that is not on the partial county basis but on the national basis. The only way in which you can deal with it is as a matter of all or none.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
There is always a difficulty in these Debates in answering a case which is being made from the other side and at the same 1829 time keeping strictly within the rules of Debate. I am sure that, on this occasion particularly, it would ill become any of us to transgress those rules. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) has made a most interesting speech and I only regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was not present to hear his very interesting denuciation of the Peace Treaty and of the coal control for which that right hon. Gentleman was responsible. At any rate, it is no reason for reducing the Vote of the Mines Department if the right hon. Gentleman's present Leader put the Reparation Clauses into the Peace Treaty—
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I hope the hon. Member will not think that it is cheap to reply to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman his colleague.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
It is serious. If the hon. Member is under the impression that his leader does not regard the Peace Treaty as a serious matter and does not treat his responsibility for it and for the Reparation Clauses as a serious matter, I must leave him to settle it with his leader.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
It is idle to pretend that, having established for better or worse the Peace Treaty and the Reparation Clauses in the Peace Treaty—
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I shall be called to order by the Chairman if I am out of order. At present I am replying to a speech which I think merits a reply.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I shall test the matter by raising a point of Order. I think it is about time. I wish to ask, Sir, whether the Peace Treaty and the question of reparations come within the terns of the present Debate?
I think it is quite clear that the question of the effect of reparation coal upon the industry, which has already been the subject of certain speeches, is one which can, within limits, be dealt with in the present Debate.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I am answering two specific speeches—the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea and the very interesting speech made from the Labour Benches in which this question was raised. Surely it is an impossible criticism of the administration of the Mines Department or the Government to refer to certain effects flowing from the Reparation Clauses of the Peace Treaty and to say that but for the Reparation Clauses of the Peace Treaty, or something that has happened in connection with the coal control, we should have been selling more coal abroad. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, as everybody in the Committee knows, that it is impossible by administrative action, or even by legislative attic n, to alter in any way the Clauses of Peace Treaty. It may be that, with the knowledge which we have to-day, if we had to make the Peace Treaty over again, we might vary it in some respects but it is no good attributing blame to the present administration for something which is entirely outside their control.
The question was raised of whether the Government had taken any action when the new arrangement was entered into between the Italian and German Governments, within the ambit of the Peace Treaty, for securing a larger delivery of coal. Long before this Debate and, as soon as it was known that there was a possibility of that arrangement, we did make our representations. I am bound to point out that both Governments are entirely within their rights under the Peace Treaty, but, both on the Reparations Commission and by diplomatic representation,, we did all we could do. We suggested that there were alternative methods like the Reparations Recovery Act in this country under which levies were made on all imports going into the country. Hon. Member s may be assured that everything that could he done, was done in that respect and I am glad to say that 1831 the indications at present are that we are selling rather more coal in Italy.
We have asked for no favour. We have only asked to be allowed a fair chance to sell our coal in fair competition. When in the Geneva spirit the nations assemble in economic conference and pass resolutions in favour of the freest possible opportunities of trade, then we venture to put it to all these countries that we, who are the freest country in the world and who offer every possible facility to them, should have opportunities given to us in regard to this industry which is not only a basic industry but an industry in which our whole nation takes a deep interest. I think we are justified in asking them to give us a fair chance in order to sell our coal and such representations were fully made as soon as this question arose.
So much for reparations. The right hon. Gentleman also said that he trusted that we should be generous in the assistance accorded to this industry. He said that when Parliament had voted £5,000,000 to agriculture we ought not to hesitate about giving a corresponding sum to the coal industry. I hope that in any assistance given to the mining industry we shall be more successful in getting the right hon. Gentleman's, support in the Lobby than we were in the matter of assistance for the sugar beet industry. The right hon. Gentleman will have ample opportunity to assist us in that matter. It would not be in order to discuss the subject at great length in this Debate, but I suggest you can hardly give greater encouragement to the development, either of low temperature carbonisation or the hydrogenation process or any of the other processes for the extraction of oil from coal, than when you impose a considerable duty on all these light hydrocarbon oils which come in from other sources while leaving entirely free of duty the hydrocarbon oils produced from our own coal seams. I hope we shall have the right hon. Gentleman's assistance in giving that help which I think is the most practical and encouraging form of help that could be given to that branch of the industry. I am sure the State can give no greater encouragement than 1832 that because it is an encouragement to any process of value which may turn up, and you cannot tell which process is going to work out right.
I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman in this—I do not believe that the low-temperature carbonisation process has been completely proved commercially. Over and over again we thought we were getting to that point but when you got to the larger retorts some new problem would develop and you got results which vitiated all your conclusions based on purely experimental data. Other opportunities will be given to continue experimenting. I am inclined to think that, while the Government should certainly take a hand in this, we must not under-rate the value of the research done by the industry itself, either individually or collectively, because it is very often as a result of developments in some other process that a new discovery is made. That is true, not only of discoveries that have been made in the coal industry, but of almost all the new chemical discoveries which come crowding upon us. I think I am right in saying that the whole of the Bergius experiments were conducted by private enterprise in Germany; I do not think that the Government had any hand at all in that process, and private enterprise can claim the full benefit. We are certainly not lacking in private enterprise.
I spoke to Members of this House last December about what was being done by the Department of Scientific Research, and I mentioned the experiment which was being conducted jointly with the Gas Light and Coke Company for the combined benefit of the whole industry. Nobody supposes that, because the Government has gone into partnership with this vast corporation for the purpose of a large scale experiment of this kind, it is not going to give opportunity to everybody who wishes to use it. All the results of that experiment in all its stages will be made available to the industry as a whole. The erection of the plant is being proceeded with. One or two new tests are being carried out at the present time in order to make quite sure that we have the most effective plant possible, and we shall go on without delay with that. At the same time, 1833 we give encouragement to other processes, and any plant, can now be tested. Until quite recently, five or six tests of alternative plants have been carried out by the Fuel Research Station, and that seems to me again just that form of encouragement by Government assistance that is most valuable. Reference has also been made to the importance of the sampling and analysis of coal. Again I agree. Of course, all the experiments to be made with low-temperature or other distillation processes will, in themselves, help to show what coals are most suitable for each process.
At the same time, the work which is going on in the development of marine engineering and general engineering in the use of pulverised coal is also working to the same end. I venture to repeat, what I said a week ago, that, so far as pulverised fuel goes, I am certain that no country in the world has a more up-to-date and keener industry of marine engineering than this country has, and that pulverised fuel on ships stands as good a chance of rapid development in this country through the ingenuity of our great marine engineering firms, as it does in any other country. We have gone even further than the experimental stage. I think that there has been launched, if not actually at sea in commercial use at the present moment, one cargo liner, which is doing long voyages with a new complete installation of pulverising plant to burn pulverised coal under its boilers. It is dangerous to prophesy, but at present I am inclined to think that the best advance for the extended use of coal will come from the increased use of pulverised coal, rather than from the distillation into oil. We have had many disappointments over the distillation processes, but we seem to be going straight ahead with pulverised fuel, and I hope that hon. Members will not concentrate too much on one line of development in the coal industry, and will not lose sight of pulverised fuel.
Further work has been done in grading and classification. Here we have brought in to help us the British Engineering Standardisation Association, which is as competent a standardising body as you can find. They have two committees at present at work, one on the grading and the other on the analysis of coal. Something considerable, as far as I know, is 1834 being done in the industry itself. As I unders1;and it, one of the proposals, indeed the key of the South Wales scheme, which they hope to introduce on the 1st July, is to get on to a true basis the grading of all the coal which South Wales produces. That seems to be a very convenient and useful contribution which the industry itself is making. I hope that it will be successful. Some criticism was advanced of one of the three schemes which at present is being forced in the mining industry. It was said of the Six Counties Scheme that, while it IA as apparently likely to benefit the area which it operated, it might operate, and very likely would operate, to the disadvantage of one or more other areas, and what was the Government going to do about it? It would be quite out of order for me to discuss plans which would involve long and complicated legislation, but I think I am in order in saying this: No one would under-rate the importance of the coal industry, the one is often a little struck in these Debates by the different attitude which is adopted towards the coal industry from that adopted towards other great and important industries in this country. We were debating in this House a few weeks ago the cotton industry, a very important, one indeed. What was the general conclusion of the House on the cotton industry? It was that, the best thing we could possibly do was to encourage sections of the industry to get back and work out their own schemes, both their schemes of amalgamation and their schemes for co-ordinating the different sections of the trade—the producing section, the finishing section, and the selling section.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I am not going to be drawn out of order into discussing the alternative of nationalisation.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I do not think that that commended itself to the House. What commended itself to the House was that this independent, virile industry should get down to business on its own, and work out its own problems.
If the right hon. Gentleman is going to draw an analogy 1835 between the coal and cotton trades, may I point out that the British Cotton Growing Association received a gift of £1,000,000 for a great experiment. All that we plead for is equal generosity to the coal industry.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The right hon. Gentleman must not forget the money which the Government have put into the coal industry in the past. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was wasted!"] I am not arguing whether it was wasted or not, but certainly everybody in the coal trade got some of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Surely, it is not going to be seriously argued that, if £22,000,000 was paid out in subsidy, a great deal was not paid in wages. [HON. MEMBERS: Certainly not!"] I am not concerned in this Debate to go back upon that matter and discuss whether it was right or wrong. We propose to give relief in the form of a remission of rates and lower railway freights for the coal industry. [Interruption.] Perhaps I may be allowed to answer one Member at a time. I am quite ready to take them all on, but I must be allowed to answer one at a time. The right hon. Gentleman is complaining because the cotton industry once received £1,000,000 in a lump sum; but they made a very generous contribution in response to it: the cotton trade put on their own levy. Once our scheme is in operation, the coal industry will get not £1,000,000, but, through the remission of rates and of railway freights, £3,000,000 a year, and that compares very favourably with what was done for the cotton trade.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
If an industry secures £3,000,000, it can spend it in what way it feels to its best advantage. The hon. Members cannot have it both ways. They cannot make long and interesting speeches in which they say, "Why do you not do something for the industry and find some money for the industry?" when there is £3,000,000 a year—
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
If the hon. Gentleman says that it is no use, there are a great many other industries which 1836 will be glad to have it if the coal industry does not want it. If the coal industry does not want it, why do the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I receive deputations almost every day saying, "For God's sake, give it to us a year earlier."
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Certainly, we had the North-East Coast this morning, and South Wales last week.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
You do not deserve it. [Interruption.] It is about time someone told him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name!"] Why does the right hon. Gentleman not get on with the subject? If I get a chance to follow, I will tell him what I think of him.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
If the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) had been on the deputation, he would have heard that the whole of the arguments advanced were as to the importance of having this help for the coal industry earlier.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Yes, and a very strong argument was put forward on behalf of the coal industry.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The hon. Member will remember how it was said that even the assessments on coal had had to be reduced, and that it was more important to give that assistance.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
It is not worth arguing, but I do not think the hon. Member is quite accurate. The Min- 1837 ister of Health and I received a deputation consisting of the coal owners and the coal miners from South Wales — the Miners' Federation and the Coal Owners' Association of South Wales—at which the demand was specifically put forward that something should be done to relieve local rates and railway freights on coal, two specific requests.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I really cited the cotton industry as an example of what should be done in this other industry. It was said of the cotton industry that the best thing was to allow it an opportunity to work out its own scheme, and I am perfectly certain that that is also true of the mining industry. While I hold no particular brief for any one of the county schemes which have been started, as against another, I am perfectly certain that it is an enormous advance on what has gone before to have six counties in one scheme, Scotland in another, and that Wales should be on the point of bringing a scheme into operation. If it be true that these schemes—that the six counties scheme, for example—operate to the disadvantage of some pits in Northumberland and Durham—
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Surely the answer is that Northumberland and Durham would be well advised to combine into a unit.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
The right hon. Gentleman has forgotten one very important fact, that we have not a large trade in inland coal, and therefore cannot afford to subsidise export.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I assure the hon. Member I am not forgetting that, but if a county with a number of different pits feels it is suffering by reason of the scheme in another county, the reasonable thing to do is for the coal owners there to get together and deal as a unit.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
No. The reasonable thing is to combine the whole lot in the country and act together through one firm.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I shall be entirely out of Order if I am drawn into a Debate on nationalisation, but I am extremely doubtful whether one syndicate for the whole of this country would be a practical proposition. [An HON. MEMBER: "Chemicals!"] That is a very different proposition, because there are relatively few firms in the chemical industry, and nothing like the same variety of selling difficulties. I think the wise thing is for area schemes to be started. They have been started, and I think time, and time alone, will show what are the most convenient schemes; but I have no doubt whatever that the formation of those schemes is a very considerable advance upon the time when we could not get any cartels at all. Of course, the figures of the last quarter—the March quarter—are not affected by the work nig of those schemes at all, as they were barely in operation during that period. Let me add one word on the general position.
§ Mr. VARLEY
Before the right hon. Gentleman passes away from the question of selling agencies: Charges are being made from these benches, and generalisations are being made, about the effect of the so-called Six Counties Scheme. When the right hon. Gentleman's colleague made the initial speech in this Debate, he referred to the statistical branch of the Mines Department. Have not this statistical branch any figures showing the effect of the first two months of the working of the Six Counties Scheme and how far it has reacted, because I want to say in regard to what the hon. Member said, that we in the six counties are doing Durham harm, God help us if we are not!
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I do not think such statistical data can be produced. I believe it is impossible to show whether a contract has been lost by reason of the Six Counties Scheme and to prove that a Durham colliery would otherwise have got that contract. I am sure those transactions could not be reduced to any sort of statistical data. The contracts obtained lately, of which we know in the Mines Department, have 1839 been obtained, not at the expense of Durham or Northumberland, but by cutting out foreign competitors. Let me take a few examples. This first contract happens to be a Durham contract. Durham has obtained a large contract from the Hamburg-America Line. It has not taken that contract at the expense of Yorkshire, but at the expense of Germany.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
When you have to compete against somebody in a foreign country who is willing to sell at a particular price, unless you can sell below that price, you will not get the contract at all. I am sure the hon. Member must admit that if that contract had not been taken at a competitive price we should not have obtained it. The Hamburg-America Line is a foreign line, with no sort of inducement to buy British coal apart from the price; other considerations apart, the inducement to it would be to buy German coal.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
I entirely agree, but I ask whether it is not the fact that the miners of Northumberland and Durham have to pay the whole cost of the reduced price? It all comes from wages, in every shape and form. Nobody except the miner has done anything to, bring down prices.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I hope the hon. Member will let me answer. I am profoundly dissatisfied with the wages in the whole coalfield; nobody would suggest that the wages are anything but bad, but what suggestion has the hon. Member to make? If that contract had not been taken at that price, 500,000 tons less of coal would have been sold by this country, and there would not have been that amount of work. And, as a matter of fact, the whole of the loss is not borne by the miners. The hon. Member has only to look at the enormous deficiency for the county of Durham and the losses which have been incurred, as shown in the quarterly statement, to see that both the mineowners and the miners have been suffering loss.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
But, again, my right hon. Friend is forgetting that all losses are piled upon the miner to pay in the future.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
At the present moment, there is a loss in both cases, and, after all, one has known of deficiencies in the past which have not been carried forward in future settlements, but that is a matter of negotiation. It is not for me to make the wages' settlement as between the miners and the mineowners.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The hon. Member is talking with characteristic ignorance. He knows that we have nothing to do with those settlements.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I think it is true to say that, if we ever arrive at a situation in which real profits are being made under these county schemes, probably those deficiencies will not be as material as they appear upon paper. The real point is that unless you can sell at a world competitive price, you will have to be content with a very much smaller coal industry, in which the only coal sold will be coal for use in this country, for which you can get whatever price you like to ask, because people must have it. That is what hon. Members have got to face. It is quite possible to have relatively few people employed at considerably higher wages, but that would mean that hundreds of thousands of men were thrown out of work—if you give up the whole of your export trade. The only way of getting into the export market is by fighting your way in at the prices at which your competitors are willing to sell. But I have allowed myself to be drawn away from the point I was trying to argue, which was whether these contracts which we have obtained were obtained at the expense of Northumberland and Durham.
§ Mr. RITSON
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there was an output of 278,000 tons less in April than in March 1841 in Durham alone, and is not that accounted for by the Six Counties Scheme?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
No, it is not in the least accounted for by that. I will give the hon. Member one figure which explains it. I accept his figure, but I cannot accept his conclusion. The total export coal trade of the world is some 30,000,000 tons less than before the War. The hon. Member who opened the Debate for the Opposition, and who made, I thought, an extraordinarily interesting speech, gave some figures about total production, and I think we finally agreed, roughly, about the figures—that they show that there was a considerable increase in the total production of the world now as compared with the period before the War, and that in all countries the aggregate production has gone up; but, side by side with that, the total export coal trade of the world is down by 30,000,000 tons. That means that we are all losing export trade; because there is a more intensive national production of coal in the different countries. Therefore there is less aggregate export trade to be got, and there is keener competition to meet.
Let me take one or two other examples to show that I do not think contracts are being taken by the six counties necessarily at the expense of Durham. I have already quoted a very big Durham contract. The P.L.M. Railways have lately bought a great deal of coal from us. That contract was previously held by the Westphalian Syndicate. The Lithuanian State Railways have bought their requirements from South Yorkshire; but last year they bought their coal partly from Poland and partly from Westphalia. The same is true of the contract with the Swedish State Railways. I think that did go to the six counties and not to Durham—I think it was Yorkshire. [Interruption.] A part of it went to Durham, and a part of it went to York-shire. But last year the whole of the Swedish Railway contract was placed with Poland. Therefore, all these rather spectacular contracts, which I have seen referred to in the Press, have not, as a matter of fact, been taken at the expense of Northumberland and Durham but at the expense of the foreigner. If the Yorkshire offer had not been there, the foreigner would have had those contracts, 1842 and Northumberland and Durham would not. I am bound to say that, whereas a year or two ago there was considerable evidence that prices were being quoted by British firms abroad which were unnecessarily low, I think it is clear that one of the results of the Six Counties Scheme is that a much closer watch is being kept upon foreign prices to ensure that the offer which is made to the foreign customer is not unnecessarily low, but only just such a figure as will get the contract away from our foreign competitor. On the data which I have seen, I think it would be very rash to argue that the Six Counties Scheme was getting these contracts chiefly at the expense of Northumberland and Durham, and you must keep in mind all the time the fact that the total export trade of the world is 30,000,000 tons down, and naturally our share is down as well. So far from any effort being made to destroy cartels, I look forward to district cartels being formed in every district and to those districts dealing one with another. It is said that we want to deal with Germany and Poland, but we can only do that through a single syndicate acting for that special purpose.
If this system is sound between one country and another, then it must be sound between one district and another, and surely it is a sound policy for each of those districts to form their own associations. I am aware that there is very serious unemployment, and I am sure, for the reasons I have given, that unless we can cut into the export market and reduce prices in a way which will enable us to do that; unless we can reduce the costs in a way which will enable us to cut into the export market, we cannot succeed. I would like to point out that costs have come down on the average by somethink like 3s. per ton, and in South Wales by 4s. 3d. per ton, although the wages per man shift have only gone down by 1s. 2d. per shift. Unless that reduction in costs had been made it would have been perfectly impossible, looking at the deficiencies which exist, to have got the foreign contracts we have now, and if we had not secured that reduction the position would have been far worse than it is to-day.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Will the right hon. Gentleman say what years he has taken in the comparison he has just made?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I have taken the first quarters of 1926 and 1928, and the average reduction in costs per ton is 3s. for the whole country and 4s. 3d. for South Wales. I do not think that there will be a less consumption of coal. On the contrary, I think that probably the consumption of coal will steadily increase with the increase of the population, the development of pulverised coal, and the advantages to be derived from low temperature carbonisation. Probably the tendency through amalgamation under this cartel scheme will be to concentrate output in the most efficient pits, and I think that is a sound policy. Hon. Members opposite are quite right when they say that there are fewer miners at work than there were some months ago, but the number of shifts worked by the miners who are at work has gone up, and I am sure that that is a sound line of development in the coal industry, and one which we ought not to discourage.
The sound line of development is to get the production as much as possible in the most efficient pits, because there you will get the coal most cheaply, and by a reduction of the costs you will he able to secure better wages for the men and better organisation. That is the position which we have to face, and it would be profoundly unwise to try to keep going those pits which really ought to shut down. We want to keep the most efficient pits working. I think we are on perfectly sound lines in encouraging and assisting that policy. We can do something by encouraging trade generally, but we want also to encourage the efficient pits to carry on in order that these pits which can work most cheaply may the more effectively recover a larger share of the export trade. We should be ill-advised to adopt any policy that would delay the closing down of those uneconomic pits which, but for a series of adventitious or artificial circumstances—the war, the control period, the Ruhr—would in the ordinary course have long since passed out of production.
§ Mr. SUTTON
Up to the present nothing has been said by those who have spoken on behalf of the Government to show that they have done anything substantial in the direction of solving the problem of the coal industry. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) 1844 made a great speech on the national as well as the international side of this question, and one would have thought that at least the Secretary for Mines and the President of the Board of Trade would have replied to that speech. Instead of doing that, the President of the Board of Trade has done nothing but attempt to make debating points in reference to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman). I begin to wonder what is going to be done in regard to this question. I think it is recognised by everyone that the coal industry is in a very hopeless position. One would have thought that the Secretary for Mines at least would have touched upon the economic side, and would have suggested some proposals to assist the industry to solve the problem of finding work for the miners of this country.
The Secretary for Mines ought to have touched upon the economic side of this problem, but he did not do so; he simply went into the question of Safety First. I am sorry to say that the Secretary for Mines put a great deal of blame on to the men for wilful neglect in the case of fatal accidents, but, on behalf of the miners, I wish to resent that statement. Personally, I have attended many inquests in Lancashire upon some of the men who have met with fatal accidents, and, while it is a fact that sometimes the coroners have made comments as to the cause of the accident, in most cases they have said that the men in their occupation have been so daring that they have not been fully alive to the dangers to which they have been exposed, and that is the reason why some of the accidents have happened. Some of the coroners have also qualified their remarks by saying that it would not do for a miner to realise that he was in danger at certain times.
When the Secretary for Mines talks about the miners doing certain things that they ought not to do, and when he says that the men have refused to do certain things that they ought to have done and have been sent out of the mine by the fireman for not obeying his orders, I say unhesitatingly that in many cases the responsibility for fatal accidents and for non-fatal accidents lies with the management, and not with the 1845 men working in the mines. We have had two very important speeches from this side of the Committee, although there have been no suggestions in the direction of solving this problem in the speeches which have been delivered from the Treasury Bench. Everyone realises that the mining industry is very depressed. In the year 1924 we had 1,200,000 men and women employed in connection with the mines of this country. I gather from a Return that at the present time there are 900,000 men and women employed in connection with the mines of this country. Therefore, in three years you have practically a reduction of 300,000 persons in the number of those employed in the mines of this country. What is the cause of that? I am going to put the responsibility upon the present Government or, at any rate, a great part of that responsibility.
§ Mr. SUTTON
Yes, I will put the whole of the responsibility upon the Government. In 1926 the Government allied themselves with the coalowners of the country, and helped to defeat the miners. Since then the Government have passed legislation for longer hours for the miners and for a reduction in their wages. I was a Member of this House in 1912 when the miners went on strike for a minimum wage, which was at that time very much desired, and I remember the Government of the day brushing aside the coalowners' and the miners' representatives and introducing legislation for a minimum wage. Had the present Government brushed aside the miners and the representatives of the coalowners of this country, and put into operation the important recommendations of the Commission that they themselves appointed, I believe there would have been no lock-out in 1926; but the persistence of the Government in assisting the coalowners, and helping them to get longer hours and reductions in wages, has, in my opinion, made the position far more hopeless than it was at that time.
I have been told by coalowners in Lancashire that the increase in hours has made the position worse. We prophesied at the time that it would do so, and our prophecy has come true. The Government—because the coalowners were 1846 unable to do it themselves until legislation had been passed—thought that by increasing the working hours of the miners they were going to solve the problems of the coal industry. As I have said, I have been in the House of Commons for a few years, and I have read about politics for many years, but, during all the years that I can remember, I never knew any Government that ever introduced legislation for the purpose of increasing the working hours of the miners, or of any other workers. I have read and heard of Governments passing legislation for the purpose of reducing the hours of miners, and also of other workers, and in this country or any of the continental countries the tendency has always been in the direction of reductions in hours and increases of wages, and not in the opposite direction, as has been the case under the present Government. One would think that, as they have had two years in which to find out the mistaken and blunders that they made at that time, at least the Secretary for Mines should be able to tell us something of what the Government propose to do for the purpose of abolishing the poverty that exists in the coalfields at the present time.
§ Mr. SUTTON
Perhaps they do not care. I remember when the miners of this country commenced what were termed international conferences 28 years ago, the purpose of which was to try to get the how s of miners reduced internationally and their wages increased. At that time the foreign miners were working three and four hours a day longer than the British miners, and their wages were much lower than those of the British miners. The British miners took the initiative in arranging those conferences. What is the position to-day? You have the British miner working longer now than the Continental miner, owing to the action of this present Government. We talk about trying to raise the standard of the foreigner, and the miners have been doing that for the past 28 years so far as hours are concerned, but now the present Government comes along and makes the hours of the British worker longer than those that the foreigner is working at the present time.
1847 Let me deal with the position so far as Lancashire is concerned; I take it that hon. Gentlemen will speak for their own districts. I have been connected with collieries, or, at least, with a colliery, for over 50 years, and I have never known the coal trade in Lancashire to be in such an awful position as that in which it is to-day. Some of our collieries in Lancashire are only working one and two days a week, and we were told, in reply to a question the other day, that in Lancashire and Cheshire 81 mines have gone out. of operation since 1925, and we have 21,880 miners unemployed at the present time. It is not only a question of their being unemployed, but of the way in which these unemployed people are treated when go to the Employment Exchange. They are constantly making complaints of the way in which they have been treated. Therefore, I hope that the Secretary for Mines, when he replies at the end of this Debate, will at least suggest something on behalf of the Government that will help us to solve this problem. As I said before, we have nearly 300,000 miners out of work, and the Government seem to have no remedy at all. I hope that we on this side of the House will get some satisfaction from the Government to-day. One feels inclined almost to swear at their action, but one knows that it will not do any good. When, however, one lives among the people who are suffering and who are in such dire poverty, it makes one wonder, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare has said, how they are standing it. I hope that the Government will do something, although up to the present they have been adamant in their refusal to do anything.
§ Lord HENRY CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I cannot claim to have the intimate knowledge of the coal industry which is possessed by the speakers who have preceded me in this Debate, but I happen to represent a division of Nottingham in which a great number of miners are resident, and I therefore feel that I have the right to rise in my place and draw the attention of the Government to the serious condition of the industry. The policy of the Government is, I believe, with regard to industry generally, that the problems of art industry should be worked out by the 1848 industry itself. That, in ordinary tunes, may be a very sound axiom, but times are not ordinary in the coal industry, and there are so many thousands of honest, sober, hard-working people on the very verge of starvation at the present moment, that I should feel that I was less than human if I did not ask the Government to pay much more serious attention to this problem than they are paying at the present moment.
We have heard this afternoon of the sad condition of the miners in the County of Durham. I am told that there are at least 40,000 miners in that county who have not had any work for a very long time, and have not any prospect of getting any work. I read in the "Manchester Guardian" of Tuesday last a report of a meeting called in Manchester to discuss the serious condition of affairs in the Durham coalfield, and the Dean of Manchester, who took the chair, said that he was satisfied that there were thousands of miners in the County of Durham who were on the verge of starvation and suffering privations of many and grievious kinds. I read also the remarks of a lady named Mrs. Fenn, who appears to speak with some authority on the subject, because she has been engaged for some time in relief work in Durham. She said:An industrious, generous, sober people were suffering privation and hunger of a kind that really baffled description;and, if the Committee will allow me, I should like to read a few further senences from her speech:She explained that in any family it was quite frequent that the men, still out of work, had exhausted unemployment benefit, but that, being able-bodied, they were not eligible for out-relief from the boards of guardians. They therefore had to live on the amount of relief given to their wives and children. Thus a man, his wife, and eight children in the Bishop Auckland district had to live on 35s. a week. A man, his wife and four children got 26s., and had to pay 6s. 3d. a week rent.She went on to say:There had been many other things suggested for a final cure, but the state of the people was so bad, so near the starvation line, that she begged them to do what they could. As a final picture of the poverty of this industrious community she told how its inhabitants sat during the winter nights with no light to read or work by, and how fathers went down the pit with nothing but dry bread to eat.1849 I consider this to be a state, of affairs which is a disgrace to our civilisation, and, as a supporter of the Government, I say that it is up to them to adopt some ameliorative remedy for it. It is not possible for them, of course, by the waving of a wand to solve the very difficult problem of the depression in the coal industry, but they can at all events adopt some ameliorative policy, and it ought not to be beyond the wit of the Government Departments—the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Health and the Board of Trade—to devise some scheme for mitigating the hardships, the poverty and the starvation which are now afflicting this honest, sober and hardworking population who are suffering through no fault of their own.
So much for the individuals engaged in the coal trade; let me now say a word about the trade generally. As to whether the industry is on the right, road to further prosperity, I feel that there is ground for considerable scepticism. We are told that we should admire the policy of the Government, that we should rejoice in the fact that the coalowners have abandoned their old attitude of rigid individualism and have shown some disposition to combine one with another; but, as regards the adoption of the policy of rationalisation. which always means the concentration of the work in the more efficient districts, the coalowners, so far as I can understand, have only got as far as the policy of exploiting the public and selling abroad at a loss. I know perfectly well that any criticism by a private individual like myself is resented by my hon. Friend the Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson), who, I am sorry to see, is not in his place this afternoon, and by his colleagues, as a piece of impertinence, and anyone who uses the word "rationalisation" is anathema to him and his friends, anyone who recommends that policy being put down as an ignoramus. There is one Member of the House of Commons who is qualified and entitled to give an opinion, and that is the Prime Minister himself.
The Prime Minister, when he went to Welbeck, told the people there that the only thing for the coal trade was a policy of rationalisation. He said the trade would be all the better for judicious 1850 amalgamation, which by leading to increased efficiency would in turn enable them to work full time. The President of the Board of Trade seems to think the policy adopted by the coalowners is a policy of rationalisation, but it has not yet led to any concentration of work in the more efficient districts, because I read in a Nottingham paper that the Bolsover Company, which is the most modern, up-to-date and efficient colliery company in England, is working only three days a week and that there are no fewer than 3,000 miners drawing unemployment pay at Mansfield, which is the very heart and centre of the colliery districts in Nottinghamshire. At all events, there seems to be a very great gulf between a proper system of rationalisation and the policy adopted by the coalowners. If the Prime Minister really believes that rationalisation will be of very great benefit to the industry, would it not be possible for him to call the coalowners together and ask them if they cannot adopt a scheme of more thorough amalgamation which would lead to concentration of work in the better-equipped districts? I speak very feelingly, because I come from a district which can claim to be the newest and the best of the coalfields in which we are not getting any benefit from this scheme of so-called rationalisation.
Another suggestion I would make is that the Government should come as quickly as possible to the relief of the industry by bringing that portion of their scheme of rating relief into operation. I am a strong supporter of the Government's policy with regard to rating relief and in spite of the criticisms which have been levelled at it from the other side, I feel that at last something is going to be done for the benefit of industry. But I am so much in love with it that I should like to come into closer contact with it at once, and I should like to see the Government accelerate that portion of the scheme which deals with the transport industry. They would then kill two birds with one stone. They would benefit agriculture and they would benefit the coal industry, they would enable us farmers to bring our produce much more easily to market and they would enable the coal industry to get into much closer touch with the consumer. Although it would cost £4,000,000, 1851 the consumers and the taxpayers would gain on the swings what they would lose on the round-a-bouts, because the coal-owners would not possibly have the effrontery to put up the price of coal to the consumer and at the same time get relief in their railway rates. I would appeal to all parties in the House, and to the Government generally, to combine on some ameliorative policy to help the miners to tide over the very serious trouble from which they are suffering. We ought all to be able to combine to suggest something to help people who are, with no exaggeration, really suffering from something very near to starvation. It may be very difficult for us to combine on a policy which would be of benefit to the industry, but at all events we can combine to do something to relieve people who are suffering, through no fault of their own, the hardships of starvation and distress.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
We have heard a terrible indictment against the Government because of their neglect of the mining industry. We have heard of the hundreds of thousands of miners who are Unemployed, of the many who are earning starvation wages, of the intense suffering in the mining areas, of the closing down of pits, some efficient, some alleged to be inefficient, and moreover we have heard something about the huge financial losses alleged to have been sustained by the mine owners. We have heard also of the diminution in our export trade, and after these statements have been made, statements which can be documented and fortified by substantial evidence, all we get from the Front Bench is cheap debating points which have no relation to the realities of the situation. We have the statement from the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself, who is no doubt doing his best in depressing circumstances, that what we usually propose involves legislation and that he cannot accept responsibility for promoting legislation as his office is an administrative one, and he must take refuge in that fact, if it be a fact. I think we are entitled to say to the Government, in existing circumstances, "What are you going to do about it?"
Speaking as a non-miner, though with some understanding of the needs of the 1852 situation, we are not going to be fobbed off with the kind of dialectics we are getting from the other side. Hon. Members on this side are much more tolerant than I can be when they hear statements such as were made by the President of the Board of Trade. I am sorry he is not now in his place. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to express to his face my aversion to him, and express it freely. I think it is desirable that one should say what others think. I should like to tell him—perhaps it will be conveyed through the usual channels—it is not surprising that British trade stands where it does, having regard to the fact that he is supposed to be the custodian of British trading interests. Standing at that Box, speaking with a complacent self-satisfied air of assurance, is not good enough. It is a reflection on the more intelligent Members of the Government. At all events, I am satisfied of one thing, if I cannot derive satisfaction in respect of any other, and that is that we cannot expect any relief from the right hon. Gentleman or his Department. I am not going to be side-tracked by talk on reparations. I am not going to be drawn, as the right hon. Gentleman was, much to his relief, for he likes to be drawn in order to evade inconvenient questions and arguments, upon the maladministration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). We were told that what he did in his day of power was like taking coal to Newcastle. We are satisfied that he is no more a friend of the miner or the mining industry than the President of the Board of Trade. So much for that.
Let us come to the question of the administration of the Mines Department. I can speak of this with some measure of knowledge, since I. was at the Mines Department for a brief period, but however brief, as long as the hon. and gallant Gentleman has been there. Therefore, we need not make an issue of that.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
That is not obvious in the case of the present occupant. What did he tell us? He said it was not his job to speak of research, because the 1853 Vote for research was not included in the Mines Vote. Then why did he speak of the Miners' Welfare Fund, which also is not included in the Mines Vote?
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The hon. and gallant Gentleman will, perhaps, use a different argument on the next occasion. That is what he said, that he could not reply in respect of research.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Precisely; we are talking about fuel research. We are not talking about research into any other matter.
§ Commodore KING
I am sorry the hon. Member has so little knowledge of the Department of which he was once at the head. He is confusing two different kinds of research. The Fuel Research Board comes under the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and is not under the control of the Mines Department. The other research of which I was speaking, that is, Safety in Mines research, comes under my control as being under the Miners' Welfare Fund.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The hon. and gallant Gentleman might have saved his breath to cool his porridge to-morrow morning. I understand that point quite well. I knew he referred to two kinds of research, and that he dwelt at some length on safety in mines. In respect of that matter, I entirely agree that the work done is very useful, and I should like to pay a tribute to those associated with him, the technicians and others, including the officials in his own Department. But about fuel research, the hon. and gallant Gentleman said, "Although I reply to questions, I am not responsible. That forms part of the functions of the Scientific and Industrial Research Board." Why, then, does he reply to questions in respect of the Miners' Welfare Fund, and why did he refer to it to-day, despite the fact that the Miners' Welfare Fund is not included in the Mines Vote? When at the Mines Department in 1924 we dealt with the question of fuel research. We succeeded in stimulating fuel research when that Department was being starved because of 1854 the neglect of the Coalition and the Tory Governments, and the stimulus we provided in 1924 enabled the Fuel Research Board and the Department to proceed with its activities and its experiments. If that had been followed up by the Mines Department since 1924, if more money had been devoted to fuel research, it might have been possible to co-ordinate all the experiments that have been undertaken in this country, and by this time we might have been within reasonable approach to a commercial solution of the problem of the scientific treatment of coal. The Government have neglected that side of the problem.
I am far from believing that, if a solution of that problem is discovered, a solution for the mining problem will then be found. You may produce oil from coal or you may resort to gasification processes, a more likely expedient in the future, but you will still have the problem of the reorganisation of the mining industry to deal with. It is not merely a question of scientific treatment; it is a question of organising the industry itself, technically, commercially, in a trading sense and in a national sense. That is the problem. It may be said that on this Vote we cannot discuss any of the issues involved in that problem. I differ from that view. Take the question of prices about which much has been said to-day. I preface what I want to say on that head by the observation that, within the limits of the existing system—outside all reorganisation of the mining industry of outside of nationalisation—for the purpose of obtaining a partial solution of the problem, prices have got to be raised. I mean by that internal and external prices. The loss now sustained in the mining industry is, on the average, one shilling a ton, although, of course, it A cries. A rise in price of one shilling on the average, although the mining industry is far from being on its feet, would effect a measure of stabilisation on that side.
What the Mines Department should aim at, as an administrative effect, is the stabilisation of the mining industry, even in its present form. They do not attempt to do that; they do not attempt to do anything. It will no doubt be argued that the Mines Department cannot touch that; that it is not their job. Is it not 1855 within the purview of the right hon. Gentleman and his Department to approach the coalowners of the country, to use their influence with them, and to bring pressure to bear, if necessary, to compel them to recognise what is essential in the existing situation? It has to be emphasised that we are subsidising the foreign coal consumer, at the expense of the industry, and, what is even worse, at the expense of the miner here at home.
There is another thing even worse. We send coal abroad and sell it cheaply. Those who produce steel there use it and send the steel into this country to compete with the home-made article. This Government of all the talents allows that sort of thing to go on and does not try to stop it. A Government of that sort ought to be cleared out, and, if it is not cleared out, it will not be the fault of the miners of this country who have suffered so much at its hands. It will be argued that to increase prices for export will lead to a further diminution of our export trade. Nothing of the kind. There has been for some time a tendency abroad to increase prices. The Germans are very near the bone. They have had to pay higher wages recently. It is an extraordinary thing that in Germany wages are going up, while here at home wages are going down. Have you any explanation of that? None at all!
§ Mr. SHINWELL
That is the alleged explanation. They have gone up, in spite of the fact that you have told us that every coal-producing country in the world is menaced by competition. It is strange that, if they are menaced by competition, wages are going up there, while ours are going down. If that is all you can say in explanation, it is not sufficient. The plain fact is that wages have gone up. The German coalowners are complaining. Coalowners are always complaining. If conditions are good or bad they complain; if wages go up, they complain; if they go down, they complain they do not go down enough. The German coalowners would welcome an increased export price so far as this country is concerned. You may argue that your export trade would diminish because you are placed in an unfavourable position. Is that true?
1856 Something was said by the President of the Board of Trade about Polish competition. I doubt if he understands the subject at all. Let me give you the opinion of an expert. It is contained in a letter, which appeared two weeks ago in the "Colliery Guardian," one of the coalowners' journals, from a Scandinavian manufacturer of repute, who gave the reason why Polish coal was preferred to British coal. He said it was not a question of price, but a question of clean coal. That was his opinion. The Poles saw to it that the coal was properly graded and sent to the market in a fit state to use. The British coalowner, as usual, is complacent and regards himself as being by tradition the only coal producer in the world. It is not good enough. We all know that one of the reasons why British coal will always find a market in some parts of the Continent is because of its superior quality, but even that superior quality will not be able to battle much longer with the coal that is picked and cleaned and graded by our foreign competitors. That is what we are up against. It is a question of organisation and proper treatment. It is not always, as some people argue, a question of scientific treatment of coal for the purpose of producing oil or gas at high or low temperature.
There is something more than that. Something was said by the President of the Board of Trade about a contract for the Hamburg-America Line. He tried to make something out of that. Here is a very simple explanation why we find a market in Hamburg more often than the German coal producer. It is because it is cheaper to send coal from this country to Hamburg than it is to send it from Westphalia to Hamburg. That is another fact that is operating. My point is that, even if the price of British coal for export is increased by a shilling or 1s. 6d. per ton on the average, we can still maintain our Continental export market of about 50,000,000 tons. I know what the coalowners are aiming at. They think that, by reducing the price of coal, by lowering the miners' wages and standard of living, they can recapture their former trade of 70,000,000 or 80,000,000 tons. Let me tell them quite frankly that it cannot be done. They have got to look to the stabilisation of an export trade of about 50,000,000 tons at a higher price and an 1857 increase in the trade internally at a higher price. There are miners, and possibly mineowners, who are afraid to speak of a higher price internally. I am not. I object to the coal industry and the producer in the coal industry, the worker, being exploited by the coal consumers of this country. It would not be tolerated in any other industry, in housebuilding, in agriculture, in clothes or in boots. Why should the coal consumer always be asking for lower prices and making the miner pay for it and the coal industry as well?
Let us be clear what we mean when we speak about prices. I refer to pit head prices and not the price paid by the consumer, an entirely different proposition. Indeed, when you say that, you confront what might be described as the key to the position. You open up the whole situation for review in order to try and reach a solution. The pit head price could be increased, without loss of external or internal trade, if you could reduce the difference between the pit head price and the price now paid by the consumer. That is what we should aim at, and, therefore, we come to the question of the organisation for the purpose of selling coal in this country. What have the Government done in respect to that? This is a purely administrative matter. Some time ago a Committee was established for the purpose of considering and reporting on the whole subject of co-operative selling of coal. The coalowners on that Committee were opposed to it, but have now accepted it, which is a very strange thing. They have put it into operation in part. Have the Government applied all the proposals contained in that majority report? I invite the hon. and gallant Member to tell us whether the Government have done all that they might have done in that connection. What about the question of reducing prices for the domestic consumer? In 1924, although we were only supposed to be an administrative Department, as the hon. Member now describes his Department, we did bring pressure to bear upon the coal merchants of this country, particularly in London. We said to them: "If you increase your prices, we will have something to say about it." The price was kept at a lower level. What is the hon. Member doing about that? 1858 It is idle for him to pretend that he cannot do anything, he can do a great deal. If he feels disposed to do the right thing, he should not be deterred by any consideration the Government may bring to bear. Let him do it and risk the consequences. If he is not prepared to do that, he had better resign and let somebody else do the job.
We come to another question of administration. The hon. Member says, mistakenly, I think, though I do not want to attach too much importance to his observations, that many of the accidents were due in large measure to the wilful neglect of the miner himself. There may be something in that, but let the hon. and gallant Member probe a little more deeply, and he will discover that more than half the accidents are due to falls of roof. He said so himself. Why is that? It is because of the hustle that takes place in the pits and because the miners have to earn a wage. That is why the miner neglects to put up a prop. That is why he neglects sometimes to see that the place is properly timbered. He has to get his wages, and, as wages show a tendency to be depressed, the hustle becomes more intense, and the accidents more frequent. I am prepared to concede, the point made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman that accidents show a slight reduction, but they would show a greater reduction, a more desirable reduction, if it were not for the compulsion exercised upon the men to earn a living in existing economic circumstances.
That brings me to the question of inspection. In 1924, we appointed additional inspectors. Have any more inspectors been appointed since? The hon. and gallant Gentleman told the Committee—and I am surprised that the point has not been taken up before—that some pits were only visited for inspection purposes once a year. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman defend that? I invite him to tell us to-night whether he defends the inspection of a pit once a year? Surely, the accidents in the pits in this country justify more frequent inspections than one inspection every 12 months? That is one point. There is another point. Are the inspectors carrying out their duties? Let me say at once that I pay tribute to the inspectors. We have a splendid staff 1859 at the Mining Department, but I am afraid that sometimes the inspectors are loath to exercise their full functions, because it is not the policy of His Majesty's Government to bring pressure to bear on the coalowners of this country. There is a great deal in policy, and the inspector who is working under a Government who have the right policy will do his work much more thoroughly and, in my judgment, much more to the advantage of those intimately concerned.
I want to come to what I regard as the only possible constructive proposals that can be made now. We cannot discuss nationalisation. We cannot discuss the reorganisation of the industry, except in the modified sense which I ventured to suggest in my remarks. But we can discuss administrative measures that might be adopted by the hon. and gallant Member. In respect of unemployment in the mining industry, we cannot do a great deal. The problem of unemployment in mining industry has become, not a mining proposition but a national problem. We could, of course, have absorbed more men by reducing the hours, but I cannot suggest that to-night. If the hon. and gallant Member, and I hope he will take note of this, will sec to it that the Minimum Wage Act, 1912, is not infringed and at the same time that the Eight Hours Act is not infringed; if he will see to it that the men get what they are entitled to receive under the Minimum Wage Act and are not compelled to work longer hours to suit certain people who happen to be officials in particular mining undertakings through fear of being dismissed; and, if he will see to it that men are not allowed to violate, and the owners likewise, the spirit and intention of the Eight Hours Act, more men may be absorbed into the mining industry. We all know—there is not a miners' Member on this side of the Committee who does not know—that there are many miners working longer than an eight-hour day. The hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot deny that. Many complaints have been made to him. Every time I go to my constituency I hear of men who are compelled to remain in the pit longer than the stipulated number of hours. What can they do? The men do not want to remain there longer hours, but, if they come up and 1860 they protest, they get what they call "the road," and the road means the dole, the board of guardians, and sometimes starvation. Therefore, the men are prepared to submit to this treatment rather than run the risk of getting something which might be very much worse. I invite the hon. and gallant Gentleman to pay some attention to that question.
§ Commodore KING
Will the hon. Member send me details of some of those cases which he says are so frequent in his constituency?
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I shall be delighted to do so, and I hope that, when the hon. and gallant Gentleman gets them, he will attend to them much more expeditiously than he has done to some cases.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Let me come to the question of the employment of boys. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has spoken about accidents. Before I came into this Committee this afternoon, I read a report in a northern newspaper of two accidents which had taken place in Durham, one relating to a boy of 14 and the other to a boy of 16, both of whom were sent to Newcastle Infirmary. Why is a boy of 14 allowed to work in the pit? The hon. and gallant Gentleman may say that he has no power in the matter. I advise him to seek powers, and possibly in that way more adult labour might be absorbed into the mining industry. I do not profess that it is a solution but every little thing counts, and I adjure the hon. and gallant Gentleman to take advantage of the opportunity.
I come to the question of the scientific treatment of coal. I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to pay more attention to the Fuel Research Department than apparently he has done. There are great potentialities in the work of the Fuel Research Department, not so much on the lines of the distillation of oil from coal but on the lines of the gasification process. I venture this prediction, though I do not profess to be an expert in this matter, that 25 years hence we shall not trouble so much about the production of oil from coal, as we shall about the production of gas from coal which can immediately be converted into power. I am satisfied that if the Fuel Research Department had an opportunity of develop- 1861 ing on the lines it desires much more progress would be made. I think the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade told the Committee that he hoped for a great deal from the Gas Light and Coke Company's operations, that the experiment should be witnessed by those who were interested, and that the advantage to be derived from the experiment would be gained by the whole community. He forgot to tell the Committee that at the end of three years the Gas Light and Coke Company have an option on the plant, and that after the Government have done all they possibly can in the direction of stimulating this concern it is to pass into the hands of private enterprise. Notice what would happen. Because there is no profit in the scientific treatment of coal the private interests will not develop it. When there is a profit in it they will develop it, and the Government are expected to do the jab for them. I want the Government to do the job, but not for them. I want them to do the job for the benefit of the whole community and to spend money accordingly.
I must forbear. The terms that I have used may seem somewhat harsh, perhaps they have been harsh, but what I have said is not because I dislike the hon. and gallant Member—far from it—whatever I may feel towards the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. I have spoken in this way, because I feel keenly about the conditions of the miners in this country. Lastly, I would say to the Committee that this mining problem is not a miners' problem only. It is not a problem of the hours and wages or conditions in the mines of this country. It is an economic problem of a national character, and it requires to be tackled by the Government in a national manner.
§ Mr. ELLIS
I rise for a short time to take part in this Debate because the Six Counties Scheme in which I am interested has had many aspersions cast upon it during this Debate. I am not going into the question in detail, because I do not think it would interest the Committee, but I am going to treat it, if I may, for a short time in its broad general aspect and in relation to that blessed word of which we have heard so much in this House, "rationalisation." This is a word which is used over and over again, but which is never explained in any detail. 1862 It appears to me to have become now a stick with which to beat the "stupid" coalowner when every other kind of argument has failed. We are accused in our Six Counties Scheme of having taken away a large amount of the trade previously done on the north-east coast. I know perfectly well that all that the promoters of the Six Counties Scheme desire is to get back the export trade that they previously had through the Humber ports. We realise, and I think Northumberland and Durham possibly realise too—the reason for which has been given to-night, and I need not go into again—that a certain amount of our export trade, like that of the rest of the world, is lost for ever. We only desire to get back as soon as possible as much of that export trade as we can. We do not desire, any of us, to get back that trade at the expense of any other portion of the coalfields in this country.
We are told, and we have been told over and over again, that the first thing that is necessary to the coal trade is efficiency, and that the second thing that is necessary is to get together by selling arrangements, amalgamations, and schemes of that kind and to deal with the trade as a whole. Let us observe quite calmly what efficiency really means. As applied to the export coal trade, it means that we have to produce coal at those pits, which are so circumstanced that they must produce at the lowest possible price. I say advisedly at the lowest possible price. All Members, including ale mining Members, know that if you have to face international competition it is no use talking about rates of wages which govern only one country. You have to deal with international markets and international rates. [Interruption.] I should be the last person to desire to see low rates of wages as far as the miners are concerned. If you have international competition, there is only one way of regulating wages as between the subjects of different nations, and that is by international treaties. It cannot be done in any other way. I do not want to go into that question just now, but I want hon. Members thoroughly to appreciate this, for I understand that point of view just as much as they do. Whether that can be arranged in this House is quite another matter. Immediately, we have to consider the com- 1863 petition which we have to meet under existing circumstances, and when it is said that the coalowners of this country, stupid as we are called, have been deliberately selling abroad at prices which are less than international prices, then I fail to understand entirely what the words mean in a commercial sense. What we have had to do was to get back our export trade by every possible means we could in reason.
Let me ask the Committee to consider what we were really up against on the Continent of Europe. It was not a question of Geneva Conventions, of getting rid of the barriers to trade, and fighting in the open market on fair terms. Our greatest difficulty has been with the Polish coalfields, which are heavily subsidised by their Government. I say, quite advisedly, that what the coal-owners in England have set out to do is to prove to the Polish Government that so long as uneconomic subsidies are going to be granted by that Government we are going to take every possible means to make them see the sense of restoring conditions to a fair basis of competition. We believe that we have gone a very considerable way in that direction, and we hope that before very long all our competitors on the Continent will see that it is far better and far more reasonable to base their production for sale purposes on reasonable agreements in the different markets than to endeavour to cut prices all round for ever and to expect in the end to get the whole trade.
That was the position with which we were faced. When we are called stupid and it is said that we do not understand what we are doing. It seems to me that Eon. Members are rather apt to see only one side of the question, and, quite naturally, to see their own side of the question; but it does a little obscure their perspective when they come to deal with the foreign aspect of the matter. It is said by some sections of people in this country that it would be wrong to consider any arrangement in any particular coalfield which is based on a rise in the price of coal. I was glad to hear one hon. Member—who complained about other people leaving the House and has now disappeared himself—take up a very different line. I agree with him in 1864 respect to conditions of life as I have always agreed with my hon. Friends who come from the coalfields. If other trades which have suffered—and almost every big producing trade has suffered almost as much as the coalfields have suffered—had been as well represented in this House as the coalfields are represented from the miners' point of view, we should have had just the same sort of Debate repeated in just the same sort of way in regard to iron and steel, the cotton textile and woollen textile trades and every other trade which has suffered from the War, as we have suffered. Those trades have not been as well organised and they have not been able to pull the same political weight in the House, but it should not be forgotten that the coal trade is not the only trade that has suffered under recent conditions.
The coal trade is making its way, if slowly, towards some recovery, and in that process I think it should be said to the rest of the industrial world in this country, including the home consumer, that we have a right to consider two things. I have said this before in the House and I want to say it again, because sometimes it is a little forgotten—that if you set up a standard of life in a country, quite rightly, to which you desire the people to work, then, if you are one unit in the chain of production your unit is entitled to as much consideration as the other units. Therefore we are entitled in the coal trade to expect as miners as good a wage as other people in similar circumstances, and we are entitled as owners to the same amount of reasonable profit on our capital that we would expect to get in any other trade. That being the basis upon which I think most people would be agreed, the coal trade has to consider how that can be worked out. There is rather a hurry nowadays to amalgamate things before you are quite certain whether all the proposed units in amalgamation are going to pull their weight. There is, I think, rather a disposition to look to the end, to the object which one wishes to achieve, without considering the means carefully enough or realising that very often in trade if you go too fast you spoil the very object for which you started out. So it is I think in all these proposals which are now being made in regard to the coal trade.
1865 We were told to get together. We have got together. We have got together in various parts of the country. It was difficult enough in the first instance to get the units in the districts to talk together, but that difficulty has been got over. You have them now meeting and working together in units and talking together now and again in districts, and although the agreements may appear to the public to relate only to one or two matters, in truth the owners are now discussing among themselves, unofficially very often but yet thoroughly, the difficulties which face the trade to-day. That appears to me to have gone a very long way. Surely from that there is a natural jumping off ground to the other things that we desire to have, but if eventually you are going to get the coalowners together throughout the country to discuss with one another the difficulties in the different coalfields, you must give us a little time first in these particular districts to meet our own difficulties, and when those difficulties have been met and we have got on to a common basis in regard to our difficulties there, we can turn round and say: "Is it not possible, having agreed among ourselves individually in the districts, for the districts themselves ail to come together and to consider the basis of that blessed word 'rationalisation'?"
The House will see that although this is a question on which we may desire to get our end immediately, and I sympathise with that view to a certain extent, yet if we are to re-establish the trade in a lasting way and build it up on a basis which is to be permanent and bring back to it some measure of prosperity, we must be content to go moderately, not to rush things too quickly and thereby end in creating distrust, where a little time, consideration and forethought will give us a better result than ever we can get by hurrying.
§ Mr. RITSON
This discussion affects the most important trade in the country, and although last week when we had the Prayer Book discussion the House was packed, yet to-day, when we are dealing with a subject that prayer can deal with, the human factor, we have empty benches. We had an example on the Liberal side earlier in the Debate, when the battlefield of the Liberal party was held by the right hon. Member for 1866 Swansea, West (Mr. Runciman) and an hon. Member associated with him, the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mrs. Runciman). One household holding the battlefield of the Liberal party, a party which has promised a new outlook through the Yellow Book! I sit for Durham City. Durham has been mentioned again and again. I know that this matter has been repeated so often that it has been considered as no issue at all, but I cannot attempt to deal with any district other than my own. There is one thing that we need to recognise in this House, and that is the value of practical experience from the district in which things happen, and try to give our information from the basis of experience. Taking Durham we find that in 1924 we had 176,000 men employed, and to-day we have 126,000 men employed, a drop of 50,000 men. We warned the Government when they embarked upon an increase of hours in the coal mines that it would mean men being thrown out of work in increasing volume. That has happened in Durham alone to the extent of 31,000 men since the beginning of that struggle. What of the subsidiary trades? What about Durham, with its 50,000 unemployed miners, with all the families dependent on them. When we consider also the effect on the subsidiary trades, we find that there are nearly 300,000 people, out of a population of 1,500,000 people, who hardly know which way to turn, many of whom will never get another day's work.
The selling price in Durham on the last ascertainment for June, on which the June wages were to be fixed, is 11s. 4.97d. The, trading account loss is £97,622 and the loss per ton 8.51d., while the deficit per month is £230,000. The President of the Board of Trade mentioned the deputation which went to the Chancellor of the Exchequer this morning. Had he not done so I would not have broken confidence. Some reference was made this morning, in connection with the deputation, to the help that we are going to get from the Government in regard to rates.
§ Mr. RITSON
I withdraw, although I always feel that when I am going before 1867 a great man like the Chancellor of the Exchequer that everything will be pretty confidential. It was mentioned that the relief in the rates will assist us. We do not deny that there will be a certain benefit, but it will not affect the figures that I am going to give in regard to our ascertainment for June. When there is a deficit for the month of £230,781—this is from an official document—and the whole of the rates for that month are only £50,000, one sees that if we were relieved of the whole of the rates we should have a great deficit for the month. [An HON. MEMBER: "It would be a gift of £50,000!"] I agree that it would be a gift of £50,000, but it would not go to the working men. My point is that if an owner is losing money he is no better off because someone gives him something which prevents him getting deeper into debt.
We want to recover our trade. The hon. Members for Wakefield (Mr. Ellis) said that so far as the owners were concerned they were anxious that the men should get good wages; that the owners were the last people in the world who wanted the miners to suffer in the matter of wages. We accept that, but, on the other hand, it must be recognised that the miners have never given more per man than they are giving now. The President of the Board of Trade agrees with me; and the output for the county of Durham proves it. We have increased our output per man per shift from 21.52 cwts. in 1927 to 22.22 cwts. in 1928, which is the highest output, I think, in the world. The men have done this under very discouraging circumstances, because every time they have increased their production they have suffered a reduction in wages. That is very hard indeed. The hon. Member for Wakefield will agree, I am sure, that the men are putting their last ounce into their work. Still they are sliding down the scale. It does not matter how hard they work, they only go lower and lower.
It has been said that there is a lot of sentiment in our discussions on the mining situation, but the hon. Member for Wakefield has said that it is only natural we should complain. Indeed the position is becoming so bad in Durham that even if trade revives the future of the workers as far as I can gather, is 1868 much endangered. The medical officer of health for my own division of Durham, in reporting on the lower birth rate and higher death rate for that district, says that the lack of nutrition in the case of children is becoming very alarming. He puts the cause to low wages. I cannot see to read the Report itself, but that is the short explanation, and it only confirms what the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) mentioned the other day, which the Minister of Health refuted with all the power at his command. I do not want to dwell on this sad side of things, although there is very much more to be said, but I think this House should give credit to the people of Northumberland and Durham for their conduct in circumstances which can only be understood by those people who live on the spot. They have obeyed the law in every respect and should be credited with behaviour of the highest order under very adverse conditions. We blame the Government for the whole position. The hon. and gallant Member for Barnard Castle (Lieut.-Colonel Headlam) smiles; he expected me to say that and nothing else. He lives next door to me politically and I will give him a guarantee that he will have a very unruly neighbour at the next General Election.
We told the Government what would happen during the passing of the Eight Hours Bill. Every word we said has come true. Men have been thrown out of employment in increasing numbers, and the coalowners have been allowed to commit commercial suicide, with this difference, that in this case they can cut their own throats but it is the other fellow who does the bleeding. The men have to pay for whatever contracts the coalowners choose to make. With reference to the Six Counties Scheme, I should like the President of the Board of Trade to look at this matter somewhat differently. He says "Well, if the orders are going to these counties, what does it matter; it is a healthy competition." The right hon. Gentleman agrees; it is wonderful to get him to agree.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I am very sorry to interrupt, but I must not be misrepresented. What I said was that I was in favour of this county scheme, but I was not satisfied that an increase of orders to the six counties would be at the expense of Northumberland and 1869 Durham, and I gave a number of examples to prove my case. I also said that Northumberland and Durham would be well advised to form an association of their own.
§ Mr. RITSON
The right hon. Gentleman said that it would be a very healthy competition; that, after all, trade had to go somewhere, and if it did not go to Northumberland and Durham it would go to districts under the Six Counties Scheme. Many of the coalowners of Northumberland and Durham are also coalowners in the Six Counties Scheme, where they can work on virgin seams—a very important consideration. Northumberland and Durham have to compete against this. They cannot; because in the six counties they are working on virgin seams to which they can apply the highest and latest machinery.
§ Mr. RITSON
You have married a virgin in Yorkshire who is a good deal younger in years than the lady in Durham.
§ Mr. RITSON
The lady to whom we are married in Durham had a century a long time ago, but she is still virile in the sense that her calorific values are as good now as anything you can get anywhere else. What I want to ask you is whether these owners are to be allowed to go and pick the best out of the national pantry? That is why we are asking for a national scheme. If you are going to have a national scheme, let it be national. When we went into the "pool" everybody ridiculed it. This is not a pool, it is a mud pond. If you are going to give us a national selling agency, you will find in the future that you are making a sad mistake in allowing these owners to leave their older collieries in the North of England in order to go into these new coalfields. Some time ago I was talking to two Conservative friends of the right hon. Gentleman, and I asked whether they agreed with the Six Counties Scheme. Of course they did, they are coal exporters in Durham, but I am hoping that we shall get a sufficient 1870 number of coal exporters opposed to the policy of the Government, and that in some way we shall prevent this policy ruining the North-East of England, as it is now. I cannot understand why the Government should support this policy, and why they should not go in for a national scheme. In the North-East of England you have already your railway facilities, your depots, your harbours, and you are near your ironfields. In addition, there are still great values of coal there. We have gas coal and steam coal, yet you are going to allow all this expenditure in these new areas at the expense of the older coalfields of the country for the benefit of dividend-hunting people who want to make money quickly.
Let us have a word about the Industrial Transference Board. I do not know where that Board has gone, but I do know that if the Labour party had been in office, there would have been nobody more active than the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in asking where that Board had got lost. Look at the thousands that we have, spent in getting this Board from one part of the country to another. It has been one day in Fife, another day in Durham, another in Northumberland. It is a sheer commercial circus, with sufficient clowns about it, and we cannot get to know what it is doing. The only thing that has been suggested has been migration, and that is a very dangerous proposition. Every move that the Government have made since 1925 has thrown us down, in prices, in wages, in hours, in status, in our national conditions, in our domestic conditions, and in our health. The Government were instrumental, it is true, in opening up a sort of national fund, and we praise the people who gave towards that fund, which was only originated by the action of a London newspaper telling of the horrors of the condition of our people—and they did not in any way exaggerate them. What was the result of that magnificent appeal? A sum of £90,000 for over a million people starving in this country to-day! There was a picture mentioned in the papers last night as being bought for £134,000, which was about £40,000 more than a great country could give to its starving miners.
1871 We are not asking for charity, but we want justice. The last act that the Government did was to send the Minister of Education up to Durham to see about the condition of the children there, and after the whole of the thing had been heralded—[Interruption]—I am not blaming the President himself. I do not blame any single Member on the Treasury Bench. [An HON. MEMBER "But you should!"] My hon. Friend misunderstands me. It is their collective mischief of which I am afraid, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer may have had some hold on the Minister of Education, but what was the result of that Minister's visit? He found that there were thousands of children in the County of Durham without boots and the majority of the boys were underfed, and all that the Minister of Education says is that they ought to have a greater milk diet a day. There is only one solution of this question. I believe that science sometime will relieve us of our great difficulties, but meanwhile there is a transition stage in which the people are suffering. There is sufficient work and land drainage and that sort of thing to engage some of our people instead of hounding them out into other counties, from which they are sending the most pathetic letters home. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is going to give us a new scheme, but we distrust it as much as we distrust that of the Government. We have had some of the right hon. Gentleman before, and it is no use his coming to us with Yellow Books.
Our people are feeling the strain, and I wish the country would look as it ought to look upon this great and vital industry. You cannot live without your coal trade, whether in Durham and Northumberland, in the Midlands, or in Wales. Without it, your cost of living becomes dearer, and your whole machinery falls to pieces. Why not, therefore, spend your millions upon research work and trying to develop this great industry through science? There is a function this week at Ascot that will have cost thousands of pounds. It is a horrible waste, and if we had only had as much in the distressed areas as you have had at Ascot this week, we should have done well. I feel confident that, had it not been that our people love constitutional 1872 government and are determined that constitutionalism should live in this country, it would not have been a question of Ascot and great revelry and joy, but a question of disaster and despair. The Lord Mayor of Newcastle, addressing a great meeting the other day, said that, after all, in that great distressed area, things were nearly beyond the bearing of public men. He said the miners, the workers, had done their work—he is not a politician of my persuasion—and he mentioned a thing that had happened in a train. He said there were strange meetings in first class railway carriages, and as an example he said that he was going by train the other day, and a man was telling about having made £200,000 from coal, and in the next second the same man was complaining of the niggardliness of the miners in refusing to accept lower wages. That sort of thing was mentioned by a Lord Mayor, not as a politician, but as a man.
I should like to tell the Government that all the things from which we are suffering we have suffered because of their keenness to back up their industrial friends, the coalowners of this country. We are suffering to-day as we have never suffered before, As soon as they got into the saddle, their first promise was ail eight hours day. The promise was made long before it could be enacted, and the eight hours day has brought us disaster. Get hack to the seven hours day, is my advice, and until the transition stage and science come to your aid, give work outside as far as you can. If you fail us, believe me, we feel that these despairing people will rise in their might and, whether constitutional or not, they will demand that they should be fed and that they should be able to lead respectable lives. They are anxious for their children to be brought up in their own country. We are determined to tell this Government that they are responsible for the misery from which we are suffering to-day; it is upon them that the responsibility will rest, and Durham will do its duty in that direction.
§ Mr. PALING
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Ellis) has left his place, because there are several things that he said to which I want to reply. He stated, in what was a very reasonable speech for a coalowner, that 1873 we must not be in a hurry, or we may make things worse than they are. I wonder what the 900 people who only last week received notice to leave work at one of the pits, of which the hon. Member is a director, would say if he were to go down and tell them that they must not be in a hurry. This has come about because of the six counties scheme, which he applauded so much. In addition to the 14,000 who in Yorkshire have received notice and lost their jobs since this scheme came into operation, 900 men at one of his pits alone received notice last week, and it would not be much consolation to them to say they must not rush things. They are wanting to know where they are going to find another job, and if the six counties scheme is going to operate as it has done in the last few months, the possibility of their finding another job is very remote. When the hon. Member talks about not being in a hurry, I would like to remind him of the fact that the coalowners have had about 17 or 18 months since the lock-out finished in which to rectify things, and they have done it so well that matters are worse to-day than when they started.
There never was a struggle in history in which the owners got their own road and the opportunity to put into operation everything for which they stood to the extent that the coalowners did after the last big struggle. They have had 17 months in which to do it, and they have had the economic power behind them to put into operation everything for which they stood. Nothing could stop them, and 17 months later they have to confess in this House that they are bankrupt of ideas. When we were in the midst of the struggle, I remember that one of the fine phrases of the coalowners was that one of the greatest contributory factors to the difficulties in which the coal trade found itself was the fact that we had lost a big proportion of our export trade and that in order to get back our prosperity we must get back that export trade. The hon. Member for Wakefield has been claiming that they are on the road to getting it back, but that is rather curious in face of the figures.
I took the trouble to get the latest returns from the "Board of Trade Journal" to-day, and I find that in spite of the terrific efforts made by the coal- 1874 owners to get back the export trade, this is the extent of their success. For the first five months of 1927, the total amount of coal exported from this country was 22,005,000 tons. In the same five months of 1928, after all these terrific efforts to get back the export trade, we sent abroad 20,232,000 tons, or nearly 2,000,000 tons less this year than last year. That is what the hon. Member calls getting back the export trade, but that is net the worst of it. I find that when you come to values, we have sold coal infinitely more cheaply to the Continent in the first five months of this year than in the same period of last year. I find that in 1927 the amount of coal sold, the 22,000,000 tons, brought in a return of £20,949,000. We have sold nearly 2,000,000 tons less and we have received for it £15,900,000, or nearly £5,000,000 less for 2,000,000 tons of coal less.
That is the boasted success of the Five Counties Scheme. I am not criticising the scheme in so far as it is an amalgamation of pits for selling purposes, but I do say that it is not operating in the direction in which the hon. Member for Wakefield would have us believe that it operates. It has thrown tens of thousands of men out of work and is "cutting the throat" of Northumberland and Durham and South Wales. I remember how we were told in this House that if only the miner would work longer hours for lower wages and reduce the cost of production, we would get back our export trade. What has been the result? We had cut-throat competition, particularly in South Wales. Prices went down with a slump. In a few months we were pouring coal into France at a rate per ton lower than the pre-War rate. But we did not get back to the pre-War quantities. The coalowners of France became alarmed and said, in effect, to the French Government, "We cannot compete with the coal sent into this country from Great Britain at such a low price. We will have to do one of two things: In order to cheapen coal in this country and keep our trade we will either have to do as they have done in Britain and ask the men to work more hours at reduced wages, or, alternatively, there must be an embargo put on this cheap coal prom Great Britain." Faced by these two alternatives the French 1875 Government chose the embargo and decided that coal imports had to be licensed.
Let me illustrate the effect of this by an incident that came within my own experience. I was staying on the South Coast last August or September. In one of the little harbours I noticed two big ships lying idle. I was told that they had been there two or three months, that they were French coal boats which had been tied up since about a fortnight after the French embargo was put on. I was informed, further, that they were boats used exclusively for the carrying of British coal to France and that since the French embargo there was no work for them to do. It was stated that there were six or seven of these ships, of similar capacity, in harbours on the South Coast. That experience does not suggest that we have recovered our lost export trade. Yet the hon. Member for Wakefield claimed this afternoon that, because of the operation of the Five Counties Scheme, the coalowners were succeeding in getting back their export trade. All the facts are against any such contention. I recall that in the struggle last year the coalowners said, "You must increase production we must have more coal and the men must work harder." Those were the owners' remedies. We did what they wanted. We have increased production in Yorkshire from 18 cwt. or 19 cwt. per man to nearly 23 cwt. per man. The owners said, "We must have a reduction in wages." They had an opportunity of putting that proposal into operation, and they have done it.
Here is the irony of the situation. The Prime Minister, who had promised us a square deal, got up in this House, and with tears in his voice said that he had been driven to the necessity of asking the Government to pass the Eight Hours Bill because he thought it was better to give the miner an opportunity of working a longer day than to ask him to suffer a reduction in wages which were already too low. The Government supporters believed the Prime Minister. We discounted what he said and argued against it. Again the facts have proved that we were right and the Prime Minister wrong. Within four months of the resumption of work wages went down. 1876 They went as low as they could go, that is to the minimum, and in Yorkshire we went even below that, for a new minimum was set up. We have been at that level ever since and we look like stopping there for another generation unless something more is done by the. Mines Department or the owners can find a solution different from that for which they are looking now. A question was asked yesterday by one of my hon. Friends as to the amount of deficiency. In addition to receiving low wages, which have all gone down to the minimum, the deficiencies in all the districts in Great Britain have accumulated until they amount to the huge total of £24,600,000. Thus we are below the minimum and we owe to the coalowners nearly £5,000,000.
The Secretary for Mines, in making his statement to-day, was clever enough to avoid all reference to this phase of the industry which, after all, is the only one that matters. I have nothing to say against the administrative matters that the hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned in his speech, but those do not affect the 250,000 to 300,000 miners who are out of work or the 750,000 who are on short time and are receiving wages that are not sufficient to keep body and soul together. The hon. and gallant Gentleman would have been better employed if he had had something to say about these things and some remedy to propose. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had not a word to say on the subject and his silence is an admittance of the Government's failure.
Like the coalowners, the Government have not an idea in their heads. We put forward our solution. We were described as dreamers and idealists and told that we had our heads in the clouds. Our opponents were practical men with their feet on the ground who knew how to deal with a practical situation. In view of the events which have happened since, and the effects which we see at the present time, one is driven to wonder, when hon. Members opposite claim, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer did some time ago, that Labour is not fit to govern, what claim can be made for the Tories in that respect? The coalowners said to us, "We will allow you to do this and that and the other thing if you will allow us to have these additional hours." The Prime Minister, again with 1877 tears in his voice, told the House of Commons that it was a permissive Bill and that the miners need not work the eight hours unless they liked. Questions have been asked as to how many miners have had the option of getting the seven hours, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not been able to rind a single miner, let alone a single pit. There was no question of permission about it. This was part of the scheme of the coalowners plus the Government.
§ Commodore KING
Does the hon. Member suggest that there are no mining areas working less than eight hours?
§ Mr. PALING
I did not say anything of the kind. What I was pointing out was that the Prime Minister Indicated that it was to be a permissive Bill and that it would be a matter of negotiation with the owners. He went further and indicated that there were districts where the trade was doing so well that they could retain the seven hours; that there were other districts in an intermediate position where they might have 7½ hours, and others in a bad position where they might for a short time have the eight hours. My point is that there is not a single colliery getting the seven hours. Only a quarter of them have succeeded in getting 7½ hours, and 750,000 miners out of 1,000,000 miners have had the eight hours forced upon them. That was another proposal of the Government plus the coalowners—of the people with the brains, the entrepreneurs of industry, the practical people. The hon. and gallant member claimed that the number of accidents was decreasing, but he did not give all the figures. I frankly admit that, on the figures which he gave, it appears there has been a tendency in the right direction since 1927. The figures for the first five months of this year, as compared with 1927, have improved. But I take a better comparison than that. In the years 1924 and 1925, which were two normal years, one miner per thousand was killed. In the first five months of this year, which the hon. Member has quoted as being even better than 1927, the number killed per thousand is 1.03. Calculating on a figure of roughly one million miners working to-day, it will be found that, as compared with the years 1924 and 1925, over 30 more miners have been killed under the extended hours in 1878 the first five months of this year. The hon. and gallant Member went on to give the figures in reference to non-fatal accidents of a serious character. Again, he pointed out that as compared with 1927, the first five months of this year showed a reduction in this respect. But if he compares the first five months of this year, under the longer hours, with the two normal years 1924 and 1925, he will find that the number of such accidents has increased and that the number of men seriously injured will be nearly 400 more in 1928—per 1,000,000 employed—than in 1924 and 1925.
My argument is that the figures up to 1925 show a tendency for the number of accidents to decrease but that the figures in 1927 and, so far, in 1928, show an upward tendency because of the imposition of the additional hours. In addition to imposing a longer working day on the miners, we are increasing the rate of fatal accidents and of non-fatal accidents of a serious character. If the hon. and gallant Member does not agree with my figures. I challenge him to work them out fair himself and to prove that I am wrong and if he does so I shall willingly apologise. Let him make me a comparison with the normal years, in which seven hours were being worked, and I think he will find that I am correct. We were asked to do certain things. We made proposals and the owners had the opportunity of putting them into operation but they turned them down. Everything they have done has resulted in reduced wages, longer hours and less of life and limb, and the end of it all is that the men find themselves infinitely worse off than they were previously. The Government are responsible for that state of things and they must take the responsibility.
The Secretary for Mines must bear his share of that responsibility. It is true he was not Secretry for Mines when the Eight Flours Act was passed, but he voted for it and supported it as a member of the Government in another capacity. In face of the disastrous failure of the Government and the coal owners, it is time, for the sake of the men concerned, that some other remedy was found nod some other steps taken to meet situation. The hon. and gallant Member discoursed upon research and upon the administrative 1879 measures that had been taken in his Department. He left alone—I suppose because he was ashamed of it—the really serious state of things in the coal industry to-day. The hon. Member for Wakefield talked about the necessity for an international agreement. I read with great interest an account of the meeting at which the five counties scheme was brought into operation and I remember the gentleman who was mainly responsible for it talking in this strain, "If we have to fight with our Continental neighbours, we shall fight and fight until we win." Of course it would be all at the expense of the miners but he did not mention that fact. He went on to say in effect, "But, surely every sane man must see that if we have to fight our Continental neighbours, the result, in the long run, will be bad for the lot of us and it would be better to come to an agreement."
We are fighting and prices have gone down lower than anybody anticipated, and the only result is that our Continental neighbours are just as keen as we are. They can reduce prices, too, and I suppose their miners will suffer in the same way as our miners are suffering. "We will fight and fight," he said, "until we win." What about our people? We will be the losers, and I want to ask the Secretary for Mines if, in face of that, and the statement of the hon. Member for Wakefield, it is not time that he set up some organisation which will get together the international people. It has to be done sooner or later. But, as the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) said the other week, there is nobody in this country who can function in that direction. There is nobody with whom to make an agreement. That being so, it is the duty of the Secretary for Mines to try and get an international agreement, so that we can get rid of the cut-throat competition in which we are engaged. In face of the difficulties the men are in and the serious problem which faces us to-day, I ask the Secretary for Mines, in all faith, whether he has not something in addition to tell us before this Debate closes, same little ray of hope to give us in face of the disaster that we have to meet, and whether he cannot do something more than he has indicated? It is not our fault; none of the things which we stood for have 1880 ever been tried. We have had to do as the coalowners wished. The Government have had their own way; they have failed, and therefore, in justice to the people who have had to suffer, it is time they altered their tactics, and tried to find a remedy which might ultimately succeed.
Mr. WILLIAM ADAMSON
We have had some interesting speeches from the Government Benches this afternoon. That of the Secretary of Mines dealt entirely with the work of his Department, and he gave us some interesting information concerning it. All I want to say regarding it is that, when next he deals with accidents and analyses the various classes of accidents, he will do a little more justice to the men than he did in his analysis this afternoon. He said that a considerable number of accidents resulted from carelessness, but if he will remember the conditions under which a considerable sect-ion of the miners work, he will appreciate to a far greater extent the cause of accidents. If he will realise that a considerable number of miners are working on a contract system, and are paid by results, and that if they do not produce the work they do not get the wages, he will see that it is not so much a question of carelessness, as of the compulsion behind the men to try and do their best to earn a living. I hope that if, when he analyses the figures of accidents again, there is any proportion due to the carelessness of the owners, he will bring in the owners as well as the workmen, and not leave the impression that the workmen alone are responsible. As has already been pointed out by a number of my colleagues, the Secretary for Mines has never said a single word about an important part of this problem in which the mining community are interested. He said before he closed that, in all probability, he would have something to say about the economic side. We look forward with interest to what he will have to say before this Debate closes.
We also had one of his self-satisfied speeches from the President of the Board of Trade. As he usually does, the President of the Board of Trade satisfied himself, at least, that the Government were doing everything that possibly could be done in order to improve conditions in the mining industry. Notwithstanding all that he said, the mining problem becomes worse as the days go by. Whether one 1881 looks at it from the point of view of the whole of the British coalfields, or of the respective districts which we represent in this House, the number of men who cannot find employment in the industry steadily advances. I have no intention of going over the ground that has been covered by my colleagues, and any particulars which I give in regard to the decrease in the number of men and in the trade done will apply wholly to Scotland. If we take the present year, there has been a fall in Scotland since January until the second week in June from 102,485 men to 93,000 men. That is the decrease in the number of men employed in the Scottish coalfields during the present year. Taking the figures since 1924, I find that almost one third of the total number of miners employed in Scotland in that year are unemployed to-day. I will give one figure to show the effect of this upon our export trade; a considerable proportion of our trade is export. In 1913 we exported 13,352,000 tons of coal; in 1927 we exported only 8,590,000 tons, a decrease of 4,762,000 tons. These figures show the appalling conditions in every part of the Scottish coalfields. They speak for themselves.
One of the interesting things about the coal trade of the world is that since 1913 the world's consumption of coal shows no decided movement, up or down. This is a complete reversal of the position between 1886 and 1913. Between those years the world's output of coal increased by nearly 4 per cent. annually. The rapid development of industry and the large increase in the population of the world should have resulted in a large increase in the consumption of coal but for certain factors operating. The cause of the world's consumption of coal remaining stationary in spite of the rapid industrial development and the increase in population throughout the world, has been, first, the development of water power for the generation of electricity. This applies particularly to America and a number of Continental countries. This development has meant a decrease of something like 28,000,000 tons in the amount of coal used in Europe alone. The second factor is the more scientific use of coal, whereby an increased efficiency of something like 25 per cent. for the same amount of coal used is obtained. The third factor is the use of oil. 1882 For every 10,000-ton ship which changes from coal to oil we have a displacement of some hundred miners.
Where the mining industry has failed, in our opinion, is in not keeping pace with the scientific development going on in other industries. If the coal industry had developed on the same lines, we should long before now have made the extraction of oil from coal a commercial success. Tie President of the Board of Trade gave us interesting information about the research now going on, but if we had paid attention to the scientific development of the mining industry we should by now have been long past the experimental stage. Further, we should have accomplished greater things in the use of pulverised coal for power generating purposes. Other parts of the world have already developed the use of pulverised coal to a far greater extent than we have dune. I am informed that in America 20,000,000 tons of coal are used annually in this form, whereas our annual consumption is only 450,000 tons. Further, if we had been watching more closely the trend of events, we should have developed a more businesslike method of disposing of our coal. We should have developed the idea that was strongly advocated by many colleagues on these benches during the tragic struggle of 1926, namely, the setting up of selling agencies. At that time neither the Government nor the coal owners would listen to a single suggestion on those lines. Since then economic conditions have driven them to make an attempt to set up some form of selling agency. The form they have adopted does not commend itself to us a little bit. In the Welsh coalfields we have a certain form of selling agency, we have the Five Counties Scheme, and we have a scheme for Scotland also, but what we find is that these separate districts are competing as keenly with each other as they did under the old system. Unless there is some co-ordination in the method of selling coal, we shall simply be kept in the position outlined by my hon. Friend who spoke last—all that these schemes will do will be steadily to lower the value of coal and lower the wages and worsen the conditions of the men.
If our mining industry had been developed on businesslike lines we would have had some method of organisation as between the respective coal companies themselves, and from our practical 1883 experience of the mining industry we know this would have reduced the amount of insane competition which has been going on and has brought the mining industry and the miners to the deplorable conditions in which things are to-day. We should not then have had this huge army of unemployed in the mining districts. What this failure has meant in the loss of wealth and in suffering it is impossible to estimate. There is an army of nearly 300,000 unemployed men, making with their dependants, more than 1,000,000 persons on the verge of starvation, with homes broken up, and men, women and children underfed, underclothed and, in many cases, without boots or shoes.
The tragedy of the coalfield is still misunderstood both in this House and in the country. If it were understood, both the House and the nation would compel the Government to do something to alleviate the deplorable condition existing in the coal trade to-day. The Committee may remember Carlyle's story of the widow stricken with fever who lived in the main street and was neglected by her more fortunately placed neighbours until they themselves were smitten by the same disease with which she was afflicted. We know what the answer of the Government will be when they reply to the appeals made from these benches this afternoon. Already we have had a taste of it from the President of the Board of Trade himself. He has given us one of those speeches which seem to satisfy at least himself. They will say the country has not the money to do more than is being done. That is one of the statements which has again and again been made from the Government benches. Do the Government or the Committee think that the mining population are deceived by that story? Do they not read, as we all read, in the newspapers week after week accounts of the great amount of wealth spent on sport and pleasure?
The last time we brought the tragedy of the coalfields before this House a suggestion was made that at least a national subscription might be inaugurated with a view of reducing the amount of starvation and misery. That appeal has been given effect to by the Lord Mayor of London and the Lord Mayors of New- 1884 castle and Cardiff, and the sum of £83,000 has been subscribed for the relief of the mining population of this country. A sum like that will not touch the fringe of the problem. At the present time, we are all aware that millions of money are being spent upon sport and pleasure, and we have been told that on Derby Day millions of money changed hands; and, when we come to deal with the terrible poverty and destitution of the coalfields, we are only able to gather £83,000. If hon. Members think that a contrast of this kind is not disturbing the souls of the mining population in the hour of their sufferings, then they are only deceiving themselves. These contrasts are eating in the very souls of our working men and women, and thousands of decent law-abiding men and women are sinking to the depths of despair because of the conditions surrounding them, conditions for which they have no responsibility whatever. These people are demanding justice at our hands. Hon. Members know that I should be the last person in the world to treat a subject from an alarmist point of view, but, living and moving as I do from point to point in the coalfields, and seeing the misery and suffering that exists there, I say frankly to the Committee that they are sitting on a volcano that will become active unless the problem is grappled with speedily by the Government, on whose shoulders the responsibility rests.
I know that the answer we shall receive from the representative of the Government will be: "Leave it to the trade; leave it to the miners on the one hand and the mineowners on the other." This is too big a problem to be dealt with in that way. The mineowners and the miners are not able to deal with the problem because it is the nation's responsibility, and it is a problem which ought to be shouldered by the nation. You cannot leave this question any longer to an insurance scheme. The miners have been idle so long that they have been disallowed benefits, and in many cases they are being relieved at the present time by boards of guardians in England and Wales and by parish councils in Scotland. You cannot leave this problem even to the boards of guardians or the parish councils because in Wales, Durham, Northumberland and in some parts of Scotland the local 1885 authorities are practicaly bankrupt. What are we going to do with the problem? What are we going to compel the Government to do? Are we going to continue to allow these unfortunate people to go down to ruin and despair? Such a course is unworthy of this House and of this professedly Christian and civilised nation. This House should compel the Government to act and to act quickly. This problem cannot be left to the trade, and it cannot be left to the mineowners and the miners. I have in my possession a document which gives a list of the deficiencies which have been accumulating, and they amount to millions of pounds. That fact alone shows that it is impossible for the trade to deal with this problem even if you had the closest co-operation between the coal-owners and the men. It is too big a problem to be dealt with in that way, and it is a national responsibility which ought to be shouldered by the Government.
I hope when the Secretary for Mines comes to reply he will be able to offer some ray of hope to the mining population whose condition has become quite desperate. Those of us who represent mining areas find it heart-breaking to go back week after week to our constituents when we see the men and women we have lived and worked among all our lives steadily going from bad to worse. I hope the Government will speedily take this problem in hand. Whatever scientific developments are required to redeem the trade I trust the Government will at once adopt and at least shoulder the responsibility for ameliorating the present sad condition of the men, women and children in the coalfields.
§ Mr. VARLEY
I am not going to deal with the economic side of this question for the reason that I have assured myself that if oratory, indignation, or exhortation could have moved the Government it would have been moved long ago. I feel sure that neither death nor dynamite will move the Government on this question, and for that reason I am going to leave the question there. The Government are not their own masters, and they will not move. When we get through this day's Debate, I think we ought to leave this question alone, and make up our minds 1886 to find out what the people think about the coal problem generally. The President of the Board of Trade said he hoped that I would have something to say about the operation of the Six Counties Scheme. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have known that although I was a member who sat on the Selling Agencies Committee appointed by the Government, and although the principle of selling agencies arose out of an agitation n which I took quite a large share, I am the one individual whom the coalowners are now ostracising because of a resolution passed by their association, although I had nothing whatever to do with the matter.
When I asked a question this afternoon, I did so in all good faith, in the hope and expectation that the Secretary for Mines, who said that his job was to deal with administration, had a statistical department, and that that statistical department was concerning itself with the gathering of statistics which would be of some use. It is no use having a statistical department merely to reiterate the figures compiled by the coalowners themselves, which are available to its all. Although the recommendations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) and myself in the Report of that Committee were not accepted by the Government—and our colleagues on that Committee, the late Member for Carmarthen, Sir Hugo Hirst, Sir Harry Peat, and Sir Thomas Catto, men eminent in commercial and financial circles, were in the majority, while the coalowners themselves were in the minority—I had thought that, inasmuch as two of those coalowners have recanted, and have adopted the very principle that they then refused even to consider, the Government would perhaps have taken the earliest opportunity of collecting some sort of data, upon which an opinion could be expressed.
When we reported, the matter was largely experimental, but I had hoped that the Government would be fitting themselves to pronounce to the House of Commons an opinion as to whether there is or it not, in the principle of selling agencies, the germ of the resuscitation of the British coal-mining industry. I believe that there is. I believed it then. I differ from some of my colleagues who have spoken in this 1887 Debate. I would support that principle whole-heartedly, if I were allowed to do so; in my own county and in the neighbouring counties I would continue to espouse the Six Counties Scheme. I thoroughly agree with the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Shinwell) that the sooner we get, in the House of Commons, a recognition of the basic fact that, boiled down to its lowest terms, if there is to be any amelioration or alleviation of the lot of the miners of Britain, the primary question is the question of getting more money for the commodity that we produce. I make no apology to the rest of the industries in the country for saying that, and, if they tell me that I am saying to them, "It is your money that we want," I admit the soft impeachment: it is. Too long has this industry been the milch cow for many other industries in this country. There is no reason why it should be, and, therefore, if by the introduction of selling agencies, or by any other method, more money can come to the men who are engaged in what is admitted to be one of the most arduous, one of the most hazardous undertakings in the country, I am all for the introduction of that principle.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore and myself, in our Report in July, 1926, said what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) this afternoon. I admit that, when one of the Members from Durham said that we may be doing injury, he was, perhaps, speaking with a great deal of truth. If selling agencies are to be beneficial at all, they must be universally adopted. Even we in the Six Counties will be compelled to do that which we do not want to do because of the free competition of the districts with which we are surrounded. The Liberals, the Manchester School, would say, I suppose, that that is all to the good of industry in this country. That is a philosophy which I really cannot see at all, and I long for the day when the Government, seeing the plight in which we are, will come to the conclusion that we have got to move somehow. With me this is purely a question of expediency. I am prepared to give up any principle if anything can be done to remove the cloud of depression that is hanging over every mining district in this country.
1888 In previous Debates since the conclusion of the stoppage in 1926, we have been met from the Government Benches with some little criticism, a great deal of cynicism, and, perhaps, a light valuation, but this afternoon we have been met with nothing at all. There have been simply empty benches and want of interest, and it would appear as though the Government have come to the conclusion that it is no use their talking to us, that it is no use their attempting to do anything. They cannot talk about the principles in which we believe, and, therefore, will return no reply at all. That may suffice to get the Government through this very inconvenient day in Parliamentary history, which comes once a year, when the Board of Trade has to give an account of the work of the Mines Department during the past 12 months. Their attitude this afternoon may get them through the day, but it will not get past the torrent of indignation which is growing throughout the whole country. I sometimes move among people other than miners, and, whereas it may be difficult to get the general population of this country to believe in the Labour policy, I can tell the Government this, that the people are sick of their policy, especially with regard to the coal industry.
Therefore, I hope that, when the Secretary for Mines replies, he will have something to add to the information supplied by the President of the Board of Trade as to the effect of the Six-Counties Scheme upon the trade of that area, and its interplay with regard to the trade of the other areas. It is true that he gave us an instance or two with regard to the flow of orders and the distribution of trade, but I should have thought that, after three months' operation of the scheme, we should have had some knowledge with regard to prices, and the effect of the scheme on prices. While the hon. Member for Linlithgow was speaking, the Secretary for Mines interposed to say that the price war was started by our foreign competitors. He did not put it in exactly those words, but he did say that the price on the Continent was lower than the British price before we began to run prices down. I do not know what justification he has for that statement. Rather more than a year ago, on the 28th March, 1927, I was in Berlin, and I found there that 1889 at that time coals of comparable quality from the Ruhr and from Grangemouth in Scotland were on offer, and the Scottish coal was 3s. 11d. per ton lower than the Ruhr quotation. When I made that statement here a year ago, the "Colliery Guardian" said that it could find no proof of it. I have since verified the accuracy of what I then stated. Moreover, immediately on coming back, while the Government were sitting quiescent, I sat down and wrote and published this:A new crisis of over-production and cut-throat competition in the whole of the European coal industry is rapidly approaching. The Ruhr industry, by reason of its big-scale organisation and scientific and power developments, appears to be in the strongest position. In. face of this organisation the British policy of reliance on longer hours and lower wages cannot restore prosperity or bring peace to the industry. Before long there will be a ruthless and complicated price war between the industries of Great Britain, Germany, Polish Silesia, Belgium and France.At that time the pit-head price of coal in my county was in the neighbourhood of 14s. 10d. a ton; to-day it is 11s. 11d. In the most lucrative district in Britain, where the productivity is highest, where we are farthest from any port and farthest from our largest market, namely, London—it is 84 miles from the Nottingham coalfield to any of the Humber ports, and 132 miles to London—we are handicapped to that extent, and, because of that, and in spite of the appeal of our Durham friends, I am compelled, in the interests of the men that. I represent, while the industry is constituted as it is, to say that the employers in my district can have recourse to no other policy than the one which they have adopted. It ought to have been foreseen and provided against, and therefore, while I hope nothing will be done by my colleagues to dissuade the people who are prepared to make experiments, I sincerely hope the Government will not sit quiescent and let the industry go out of production altogether.
In the last coal discussion we had, the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Smillie) said we were going to have a difficulty to find reasonable work and wages for 900,000 men. I said I could not foresee the possibility of finding reasonable work and wages for anything like that number. In the minds of the Govern- 1890 ment, or rather out of their mouths, there is he fatal philosophy that through the general strike, which thank God we have heard nothing about to-night, or Mr. Cook or something else, we lost a lot of Foreign orders which somehow, somewhere, at some time we are going to get back again. They know we did nothing of the kind. We temporarily lost a few, but we have got them back, and the great probability is that our supply to the coal production of the world is just now, in proportion, as great as ever it was and indeed, if it is not, it is as great as it ever will be again, and if we got a recognition of that fact there might be a possibility of something being done.
I hope the Minister will have something to tell us with regard to selling agencies. He says he is concerned with administration, which, of course, is true, and I was wondering whether he was going to tell us that what he had to administer includes part of the Trade Unions Act of last year. I suppose he would say that is the function of the Home Secretary, but even he and his Department cannot rid themselves of this responsibility, that the alleged and assumed necessity for the passing that Act arose out of the dispute in the coal industry. As far as the provisions of that Act are concerned, in the again I have no complaint, especially those which deal with intimidation. I do not think any man should be intimidated, and, if he is, he should be given the protection of the law. But if protection is to be given, it should be reciprocal protection. Therefore, I wonder whether the Minister is going to say anything with regard to the strictures which on two occasions I have brought to bear about, the laxity of the administration of this Act in the county front which I come. Intimidation is fine art in Nottinghamshire. I believe it is one of the most difficult things to prove in a Court, at any rate, we are finding it is so. Nevertheless, it exists, and up till now we have not been able to induce the Department to take a solitary step in the direction of ascertaining whether it exists. I hope if in the next 12 months I have to approach the Department, the hon. and gallant Gentleman will take a little more interest than he has done in the past. The Prime Minister came to Nottinghamshire on 1891 Whit Monday and made a speech at Welbeck—the Abbey, not the colliery—and it was one of the speeches to which we are becoming accustomed, and which I am prepared to allow are made in all sincerity. I could have wished I had an invitation to go to Welbeck Abbey and could have escorted the Prime Minister to Welbeck Colliery, only a mile and a-half away, where on Tuesday of this week 20 men, whose only crime is that they will not subscribe to a particular political philosophy, have been denied the right to work. They cannot get wages and they cannot pay their rent, and an order was obtained to evict them, although 150 houses are already vacant in the mining village.
§ Commodore KING
Does the hon. Member blame my Department for this? Has it anything to do with the Department?
§ Mr. VARLEY
I did seriously wonder, when I listened to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech, what his Department had to do with it. I heard something about health and safety. Health, at any rate, has been interpreted to mean, since you took welfare work under your wing, the general well-being of the men. That is something more than merely physical. It may be mental. I should think anything that is conducive to the creation of bitterness, strife, and lack of cooperation in the district ought to interest the Department.
§ Commodore KING
I only interrupted because the hon. Member commenced his remarks by saying it was the business of the Home Office, and therefore it can obviously not come under nay Department.
§ Mr. VARLEY
I did not say that. I said I expect the Minister will tell me it is the business of the Home Office.
§ Mr. VARLEY
At any rate, we agree on that, and because of that I leave it there. I certainly have no wish to trespass. If we had all rigidly adhered to the Rules of Debate, and had accepted the hon. and gallant Gentleman's definition of his functions, we should have been cleared out of the Chamber many hours ago, because there would be 1892 nothing to talk about. We will leave that, and I will talk for a moment about something with which the hon. and gallant Gentleman is concerned—administration. In August, 1927, on behalf of 16,284 men in Nottinghamshire, under the rules of the Minimum Wage Act, 1912, I applied for a revision of the minimum wage. I was told by the coalowners, the other partners to the Board, that seven of their members had either left the district or died. I was reminded that, so far as three members of our side were concerned, like St. Peter, they were now following me but afar off and that, therefore, a meeting of the Board was not possible. I pointed out that under the rules of procedure of the Board itself, which became a part of the Act, provision was made for the filling of vacancies on either side. Again, they refused to meet me. I brought this to the notice of the Department. For five long months I strove to get a meeting, strictly in conformity with the provisions of the Act, and at long last I got the Department to set up, under another Section of the Act, a single man as the Minimum Wage Board for the county. As far as the administration of the Mines Department during the last year is concerned, I have a grouse. It is that when I applied for a revision of that minimum wage the floating percentage in Nottinghamshire stood at 60. Before I got anyone to act in the capacity of the Minimum Wage Board it had come down to 38, and, because of the dilatoriness of the Department, I was considerably prejudiced in my application and the Nottinghamshire men consequently will be short of wages. I hope that is something the hon. and gallant. Gentleman can reply to, and I am glad if at the end of ten minutes I have found something that is strictly in accordance with the Rules of the House.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
We are complaining that we have 300,000 miners who cannot get work. So far as I can make out, the Government have no reply, and the Committee itself seems to take no interest whatever in that condition of things. I do not want to argue economics to any great extent, but only to point this moral. If we have 300,000 men fewer employed to-day as compared with 1924, is it not the duty of the Committee and the Government to try to suggest some 1893 remedy? Is it good for this country and for these people that they should be left there without any hope whatever? I believe that in time to come probably fewer men are likely to be employed. What are the Government going to do about it? Talk in this House is no good unless the Government are prepared to do something. In the mining areas you are bringing up a generation who cannot find any work, and the probability is that if they are left long enough without work they will become members of the leisured class, and think they are above work, and we come here to complain that you have nothing to say. We refuse to accept any statement that the Government have no responsibility. In the long run, the Government must accept responsibility, and I would like to know what they intend to do.
In the Scottish coalfields we have 40,000 fewer men employed than in 1924. In the constituency which I represent one miner out of every two is idle at the present time. What am I to tell them when I go back? Am I to tell them that the Government think there is an improvement taking place, and that if they increase the output per man everything in the garden will be lovely? They did put up the output per man by four cwt. When they have done that, what do they get? I have been listening to the descriptions of your schemes here and I know something about foreign trade and competition, because in my spare time I make it my business to learn. There are markets where there is no foreign competition at all, and we still sell coal at ridiculously low prices. I do not think the Minister requires to ask where those markets are. On the other side of the sea, whatever coal the Irish people require they have got to buy, and British coal is offered at from 14s. to 18s. per ton free on board. There is no German competition or Polish competition there. There is not even European competition there, but simply internal competition of one employer against another, or one district against another. That sort of thing has got to stop some time. It costs more per ton to unload the coal at the docks in Dublin Harbour than the miners get for producing it. It costs 2s. 1½. per ton to unload the coal in the docks there, and the men so employed have 16s. a day for an eight hours 1894 day. We who are producing the coal have difficulty in getting a so-called wage of 8s. 4d. per day.
We have to deal with Minister after Minister, for it is only in politics that a man does not require to learn a trade. Once a man gets into the House of Commons he can fill any office in the Government. When we have one Minister thoroughly educated we get another one. There is the present occupier of this office, against whom I have nothing whatever to say and I hope he will not take it as being personal. I venture to contradict one statement he made in connection with the wages in the Ruhr. I hope he will reply to this and that he will quote from the Government's own Consular Report. That Report, issued by the Government, on the financial and economic relations between this country and Germany, says that the wage in the Ruhr is higher than it is in this country. On the Continent in some countries there is an extra allowance for each child, and, adding that allowance to the wage of the miner, the wage is higher than in this country. In the same Report there is verification of that statement and even of the statemen that British coal is sold in Germany at 5s. per ton below the price of German coal. We can only quote the Government's information and try to use it as best we can, and the astonishing thing is that so few people seem to care to read this Report. It is quite true that the Germans get a certain price for selling the coal—27s. per ton. Why should they not? They want to fix a price which will allow the men to live and the industry to get profits, but we put in coal at 22s. per ton and not only try to starve our own people, but bring down the living conditions of the people of another country. You have your eyes fixed on Poland, and probably Czechoslovakia, and you have it in your mind that you will be able to compete with Polish coal in the markets of Europe. In other words, you have the notion that all the trade in the world should come to us, and that other people should have no share in it. I heard a statement to-night in connection with subsidised Polish coal. I do not know much about the subject of Polish coal, but I know that the wage of the Polish miner is 17s. 9d. per day.
1895 The Government have no solution whatever. I put this problem to them. I know something of the districts arrangement. I think the Committee is entitled to know something about this scheme. Instead of having individual colliery owners competing one against the other, there are districts competing against each other. That is the only difference that has been made so far. But in Scotland we have another scheme, for, apparently, our employers are much superior to those elsewhere. The Committee will scarcely believe this, but it is not an economic scheme at all. What they do is to come to an agreement and have a pool. In 1921, when we wanted a pool, how many people supported it and how many were opposed to it? These employers say they will form a pool, and that for every ton of coal that they put in they pay 6d. into the pool and they form a fund. Then they semi the invitations to their members asking them this question, "How much per ton will you take to stop your coal and put your pits idle for six months?"
As a result of that policy, mining villages are left derelict. The colliery owners who are stopping the collieries are getting, on an average. 1s. 6d. per ton for keeping those collieries idle. I remember that when the miners' leaders suggested a restriction of output there was at once an outcry. Here you have restriction in practice, and it is restriction in such a way as to ruin whole areas. Yet the Government say they can do nothing, and that they have no right to interfere. If we could persuade the men—and I wish we could—to work on one day per week, would the Government interfere then? Did the Government interfere in 1926? I can tell them that the Government would be only too ready if such an action were taken on our part. The result is this. They keep the men idle for six months but the men do not know that they are to he kept idle by agreement and that it is intended to keep the colliery idle for six months. The men say that the manager tells them they may get work next week or maybe the week after, and yet the colliery owners know that they have agreed to keep the men idle for six months. That was not enough. They did not get enough for it, and they re- 1896 duced the period to three months, and they ask the owners, "How much will you take to stop your coal for three months?" They never seem to care what becomes of the men. All they seem to care about is the money. With an 8s. 4d wage we have difficulty in getting a living. We are carrying a debt of nearly £3,500,000 and it may be in the minds of the colliery owners that by a restriction of output they will be able to put up prices in order to try and wipe off that debt. I do not know whether that is the idea or not, but, at any rate, one of the results of their attitude has been to create a hopeless feeling in these mining areas. The general community are also beginning to feel the pinch, because the restriction of output can be carried too far. I believe that in this ease the coal-owners are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. In conclusion, I want to say a word to the Minister in charge. I noticed that you challenged the facts—
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
The Minister in charge challenged the statement of one of my colleagues that the Eight Hours Act was not being observed. I want to suggest to him that, when he learns more of the operations of that Act, he will not make challenges of that kind. If he will go to the inspectors they will tell him. The Eight Hours Act is not being operated and the inspectors know that it is not being operated. The breaking of the Act is becoming almost general, and, as far as we are concerned, there is no redress. I wish that this could be no mere party question. I wish all Members would take an interest in it. Is it not a tragedy? If this sort of thing were happening in any other country but this, we should be raising subscriptions for those who were starving, but because they are our own people, our own flesh and blood, they have to suffer until something turns up. The present Government have no imagination and do not appear able to do anything to ease the situation.
§ Mr. WELLOCK
I desire to intervene for a short time this evening in order to deal, particularly, with the international side of this question. Although my constituency is not a mining constituency, there are some 1,200 miners in it. The conditions that obtain in our district are much the same as those which obtain in various parts of the country. The particular matter with which I want to deal, in the first place, is the magnitude of the problem. In straining after the Continental markets for coal, we have actually destroyed very important markets at home for other commodities. Let us look at the matter from the point of view of the wage-earning power of the mining community and the change that has been made in that direction during the last two or three years. The miners' wages of the country had suffered reductions to the extent of £40,000,000 to the end of last year. Taking into consideration reductions that have taken place during the first three months of the present year, they are down by a further £7,000,000, taking it on the yearly basis. Present wages are at the rate of £110,000,000 a year, as against £117,000,000 last year. Even if we make allowances for a drop of a few points in the price level of wages, we can see that there has been a drop of £40,000,000 per year at the very lowest, since 1925. That means that in striving after Continental coal markets we have destroyed an important home market worth £40,000,000 a year. We have a mining community of something like 5,000,000 of people who are consuming £40,000,000 worth less of goods to-day than they were even two or three years ago.
That is the situation with which we are faced just now, and we have to ask ourselves how are we going to bring about a solution? It is nothing short of disgraceful that the present Government have no solution whatever for the problem. I have been amazed during the course of this Debate, which has been proceeding for nearly six hours, to find that at no moment during the whole of this time have there been many more than 15 hon. Members on the benches opposite. What do the Government really propose to do? Has the Secretary for Mines a single suggestion to make in regard to an improvement of the situation? I want to make one or two 1898 suggestions. It seems to me that anyone placed the position of the Secretary for Mines at the present moment should endeavour to see if he could not bring back the seven-hours day. Ho should explore the field with that object in view. I am quite well aware that this matter cannot be tackled purely from the national standpoint. While there are thousands of miners unemployed in this country, there are 20,000 unemployed miners in Poland, a rather less number in Germany, and a rather less number still in Belgium. Every country is suffering in one way or another either with regard to its unemployed or else with regard to the low wages problem. These conditions mean the destruction of their markets, and I believe they would all be glad to come to an agreement on this question. Will the Secretary for Mines really consider the possibilities of bringing about a European conference of people interested in the coal industry, of the representatives of the Governments concerned, of the mine-owners and the millers, with the idea of bringing about a seven-hours day throughout the whole of the European coalfields? That could be done without taking into consideration other changes which might he effected. The position which exists at the moment with regard to the competitive powers of the nations could remain.
§ Commodore KING
May I remind the hon. Member that this House has already decided this year against the repeal or withdraw al of the Eight House Act. Therefore, his suggestion would be impossible.
§ Mr. WELLOCK
I do not think that would really matter. It does not require any Act of Parliament to deal with it.
§ Mr. WELLOCK
Legislation is not necessary to enable the Seven hours' week to come into operation again. If that were done and we could bring into employment only half of the 300,000 men who are row unemployed in the industry it would save the nation in unemployment benefit something like £10,000,000 a year. With that £10,000,000, or a portion of it, something could be done by way of developing the by-product processes that are being experimented upon 1899 at the present time. In regard to the international aspect of the question, I suppose the Secretary for Mines is aware of the fact that the Economic Consultative Committee, who have been discussing this question have decided unanimously—therefore, the representatives of the employers and the representatives of the miners have decided unanimously—that they think it would be a good thing for the Economic Consultative Committee to make a complete investigation of the question of coal and coal mining. I would ask the Secretary for Mines if he will press upon the Government that when the Council of the League of Nations meet in September they will consider this question very favourably and permit of that matter being taken up by the Economic Consultative Committee.
On the question of the operations of the Industrial Transference Board, I should like to refer to the question of afforestation. Without doubt, work could be provided in this way for a considerable number of miners. It has been stated by the Forestry Commissioners that there are 5,000,000 acres of afforest-able land in this country. Working that out on a 20-year programme we could have in the course of a year or two a programme of 200,000 acres of timber per year being planted.
I am afraid the hon. Member cannot discuss that question on this Vote. The question of forestry would arise on the Ministry of Labour Vote.
§ Mr. WELLOCK
All that I want to do is to suggest that here is a splendid opening for finding work for unemployed miners and I mentioned it with the idea that the Secretary of Mines would press upon the Government the importance of taking up this matter. We have been pressing time after time to get the Government to make a pronouncement in regard to its programme upon this question, and I do urge upon the Secretary for Mines that something should be done. The programme of the Forestry Commissioners could be so developed that in three or four years' time, when they have had an opportunity to purchase land, seeds and seedlings, they could plant 200,000 acres per year, and that would provide employment for 28,000 men. I 1900 hope that in pressing upon the Government the importance of afforestation in this respect, the taking up of the international question of hours of labour and the advisability of allowing the Economic Consultative Committee to go into the whole question of mining in the European coalfields, the Secretary for Mines will be able to make a sympathetic pronouncement.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
I would like to refer to a matter which was commented upon by the Secretary for Mines in his opening statement. He said that among the activities for which he had been responsible during the past year was the appointment of a medical officer who had certain special medical functions to perform on behalf of the Mines Department. In that connection he referred to the special investigations made into the prevention and incidence of the disease which is now know to be very prevalent in the mining industry, namely, silicosis or fibro-phthisis. I would ask the Secretary for Mines to tell us a little more with regard to the results of those investigations. Two or three years ago I gave a list of over 20 cases of men, whom I had known personally, who had worked in two pits in my own district. I gave the medical and industrial history of these 20 men, showing their ages, their years of employment underground, and their physical condition at various periods in their lives. It is perhaps not known to the House how this disease has brought depredations into the mining industry, and it may surprise the House to know that these 20 men, whose ages varied from 23 to 46, following upon their special kind of occupation underground, died from an industrial disease for which there is no workmen's compensation and no recognition of any kind.
I would like to know from the Secretary of Mines whether he has paid attention to the incidence of these cases, to the conditions under which these cases occur from time to time, the conditions under which the men are employed in increasing numbers and the conditions by which the men may be rendered immune from the effects of this complaint. It is a disease which is due entirely to the use of machinery underground in driving through hard rocks. When the old-fashioned methods were in 1901 operation and men bored by hand drills there was no danger from the small amount of dust that was made by that method, but since the advent of high pressure, rapid-boring drills there is a constant stream of minute dust which pervades the whole area, fills the nostrils and from which there is no escape. Every man who is engaged upon rock-chilling operations with these machines finds, in the course of time, that the tissues of his lungs are affected, and in almost every case where the occupation is continued for a sufficient length of time there is disablement, which becomes total disablement as time goes on, and results in inevitable death. I have not known of a single case where a man has worked two or three years with these rock-boring machines that he has not become disabled in consequence, and I do not know of a single case of recovery. Death may be delayed for a year or two or perhaps for three years, very seldom for a longer period.
I am afraid that the Mines Department, even after the partial investigations made and the reports made by their inspectors, have not yet realised the great danger from this kind of disease and the great industrial loss that is occasioned by the deaths of the finest men in the industry. Men are not put on to operating these machines until they have been specially selected. It is the strongest men, the fittest men who are chosen for this kind of job. It is a heavy job, an arduous job in every way, and it is the cream of the coal-mining industry who are put to operate these machines. The men die at an extraordinary rapid rate after following this kind of employment. I would like to know from the Secretary for Mines whether he has completed his investigations or to what extent he has made his investigations in order to trace the conditions, to determine the exact conditions under which this disease is being contracted, and whether he has given or is giving encouragement to all possible means of rendering the men immune from the effects of this disease. Men have devised appliances for spraying the nozzle of the machine, for providing respirators, and a variety of other preventive appliances have been designed, some of which have been submitted to the Department. I should like to know whether encouragement has been 1902 given to the use of these appliances or whether it is the intention to make compulsory the use of preventive measures to save the lives of these men. I should like to say something about the hardship and injustice on the men themselves when disabled, and on their families when they pass away, on account of their exclusion from all benefit under the Workmen's Compensation Act, although they have contracted their disablement from an occupational disease, but I will not say anything more at the moment.
Let me refer to what has been described as the economic trouble in the industry. Having listened to the speeches of the secretary for Mines and the President of the Board of Trade, I feel sure that they do not yet realise the extent of the trouble and have not yet applied themselves to the arithmetic of the situation. In answer to a question last Tuesday, the Secretary for Mines told me that the deficit in the industry since 1927 was about £25,000,000. That is an enormous amount. The industry is now losing at the rate of nearly£20,000,000 per year. How long can that go on? How long can the industry afford to lose a tenth of its capital each year? How long can the coalowners bear the loss of £20,000,000 a year? If it were temporary and lasted for a year or two only, we might be able to estimate the possibilities of revival and recovery, but those who have lived in the industry and have followed it minutely know that we need not go very far back. In 1925–26, Treasury money to the extent of £23,000,000 was paid to the industry. Since that time there has been a deficit of £25,000,000 at the owners' expense, to which must be added the £23,000,000 which the State paid, and which was lost, and also the wage losses of the men, to the extent of well over £25,000,000.
If you add these three together you find that the industry has been subsidised to the extent of £60,000,000 or £70,000,000, and yet the condition of the industry in 1928 is worse than it has ever been since 1920. It is steadily going down hill. Pits are closing every day. More than 1,000 men were thrown out of employment every day in the last three months. The prospects of survival get more and more remote. The coal-owners get more discouraged; and are 1903 throwing their hands in. They are losing all hope of support and encouragement and are giving up their collieries. I view the next six months with terrible apprehension. Knowing the conditions in my own district, I think the rate of closing pits and the rate of unemployment will increase much more rapidly in the next six months than it has at any time during the last 18 months or two years. The prospect fills me with dismay; yet the Secretary for Mines and the President of the Board of Trade can contemplate the situation with equanimity! They are not disturbed; things appear to be going on all right. If they look at this as we do, they cannot face the prospect of another 18 months of losses averaging at the rate of 1s. 6d. per ton, which the industry is losing at the present time.
It cannot go on. There may be a few combines which will survive the stress of competition, but before that period of elimination has been reached they will find that at least one-third of the existing collieries will have gone out of action and that at least one-third of the existing capital in the industry will have been cancelled. And when a colliery closes down the whole area in the neighbourhood is affected. I reported to the Secretary of Mines the instance of one small pit, very insignificant in itself, closing down two years ago. There was a pumping arrangement at this pit, very simple and very convenient, which drained the water from pits for miles away. This small colliery managed to keep this pumping plant in operation and drained an area of four or five square miles of old workings. That tin-pot firm closed down two years ago. The pumping plant was dismantled, and now in the old workings connected with these other pits there are tens of millions of gallons of water threatening the existence of collieries four and five miles away. The water has gravitated three miles away from the seat of pumping, four or five miles further west, and threatens the existence of other collieries. Simply because one small pumping arrangement, costing only £2,000 a year, has been stopped, nearly £2,000,000 of working capital is placed in jeopardy.
One fine pit in my own district has been stopped. I was down the pit fre- 1904 quently some time ago because the men feared the presence of this body of water in the old workings. I accompanied the mines inspector and went to see the workings which were threatened. The water came in, though not in quantities immediately dangerous to the men, but ultimately such a volume percolated through that the pit had to be abandoned because the pumping costs were too heavy. Over 800 men were thrown out of employment simply because a small company could not hold ground against the competition. It is not a matter of single pits closing down. The whole industry is being damaged, the whole prospects of the industry are being jeopardised. The productive capacity of this great industry is being weakened and damaged by the lack of system and method in the process of selecting which pits are to work and which shall be closed. I am very glad to have had the opportunity of putting these points to the Government, and if the hon. and gallant Member cannot reply to them to-night, I hope he will give much more serious attention to the last and the first questions I have raised.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
It is with some considerable reluctance that I take part in this Debate to-night, there has been such a display of indifference in the proceedings on the Tory and Liberal Benches—there is one Liberal and about five Tories present. And that has characterised the Committee from the commencement of this Debate until the present time. It reveals a lack of interest on the part of hon. Members in what is undoubtedly the greatest national problem of the moment. I listened with interest from beginning to end to the speeches of both the Secretary for Mines and the President of the Board of Trade, in the hope of hearing something that would enable us on these benches to convey some message of hope to the men in the mining valleys who are living under a gloom and have been so living for a very long time. It seems to me that it is almost useless to make any suggestions in this House. The Government appear to have made up their minds as to their policy, and are going to pursue it to the bitter end.
I do not propose to deal to-night with the administrative matters referred to by the Secretary for Mines, because that 1905 ground has been well covered by my colleagues who have already spoken; I propose only to deal with the closing remarks of the President of the Board of Trade. He revealed in those remarks what was the Government's policy in relation to coal, and it is precisely the same policy as that which the Prime Minister enunciated a few days ago when the Welsh Members of Parliament met him and put before him the position in the Welsh coalfields. The Prime Minister on that occasion summed up in some such sentences as these: "There is common agreement that there are more men in the industry than can be profitably employed, and there must be a squeezing out. It has not been generally realised how painful will be the squeezing out process, but it must be continued, and the Government do not propose to interfere with that natural operation." That, in a few words, was the Government's proposal as enunciated by the Prime Minister, and it is exactly the same policy that was put in almost similar words by the President of the Board of Trade to-day. He said, in effect: "The sound line of development is to get the production from the best pits. That is the process which we have to face, and no ameliorative action should be taken which will in any way temporarily interfere with that process." I think I am fairly quoting the general statement which was made by the right hon. Gentleman and which represents the policy of the Government.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I agree, but the right hon. Gentleman will remember that I added that in that way we think you will get the maximum production of coal, both for home consumption and for export, and that it will in the long run pay considerably better those who are employed. Apart from that, I accept all the right hon. Gentleman's premises.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I agree that the right hon. Gentleman went on to say what he has added, but I am pleased that we are in agreement as to what the Government's policy is. It is because I think that that policy reveals, on the part of the Government, a lack of appreciation of the nature of the problem that we are up against, that I want to talk a bit here to-night. I think that that 1906 whole policy is based upon a failure to appreciate what the real situation is in the mining industry. We, are reaching a stage not when the good pits will be the only ones left; the good pits are going out now in large numbers. As a matter of fact, the whole industry is collapsing. It is not a matter of a mere steady process of clearing out uneconomic, old mines which are inefficient, but some of the best stuff that is in the mining industry in this country is going out.
I have here a list of the collieries which have gone out in South Wales during 1927 acid 1928, and I have the names of the companies, the names of the collieries, the average weekly output lost by the stoppage of those collieries, the number of men thrown out of employment, and the dates on which the collieries stopped. I do not propose to give all that information, but I would like just to show how this thing is going on day after day, and all I will do will be to read out the dates upon which the collieries stopped and the number of men thrown out in each case. I will not deal with 1927, but simply with the few months which have already gone by this year. On 3rd January, 460 men were thrown out; on 11th January, 480; on 18th January, 870; on 21st January, 820—
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Each of these figures giving the number of persons thrown out of work represent one colliery stopped. On 25th January, 200 men were thrown out of work; 26th January, 120; 28th January, 160; 1st February, 430; 3rd February, 120; 14th February, 60; 18th February, 110; 31st March, 2,450, and in another colliery, 600; 3rd April, 430; 7th April, 60, and in another colliery, 680; 21st April, 120, and in another colliery, 90; 28th April, 100; 30th April, 370; 12th May, 1,470; 26th May, 30. That is one coalfield; that is a fifth of the industry. That is a process which reveals, not the stopping of a colliery once in a while, but a process going on daily before our eyes. In addition to that, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) said to-day that in one colliery in his district 2,000 men were working their notices, and in other collieries a further 600 men were on notice. In my own con- 1907 stituency, a very large colliery went into liquidation the week before last. The receiver is in, and the men were given notice on Saturday last to terminate their contracts in a fortnight's time. At an adjoining colliery in the same valley, another 900 men are on notice. I know a valley in Wales where the miners' agent has been informed by the colliery company that at four large collieries, employing 6,000 men, the directors have decided that they must all close down, and when that takes place there will not be a day's work for 10,000—all the others are out now—and the whole of that valley will be derelict.
That process is going on, and has been going on, month after month. It is a daily process; it has not stopped, and it is not going to stop. The whole thing is going on until we get a complete collapse of the whole system. That is what we are up against. It is not merely that collieries are going out, and have gone out, and that the men are on notice. Thousands of men in the Welsh coalfields—and what applies there applies equally to every other coalfield in Britain—have worked their 14 days' notice and are being kept on on day-to-day contracts. I wonder if the Government realise, if they ever think, if they ever try to imagine what it means to thousands of men to be going out to work in the morning, not knowing whether they will receive 24 hours' notice, whether it is the last day's work they will do, whether they will have to go home and face families with only one day's security, only one day between them and the anxiety associated with unemployment.
We are getting now to the stage of exhaustion. The employers have been living on their capital. They have been exhausting their reserves and their credit at the banks is gone. We find large masses of them who have been hanging on until now, using up their capital, exhausting their credit, getting overdrafts to as great an extent as possible; and they are all coming now to the verge of actual exhaustion. Some of the collieries of which I have mentioned particulars have, in days gone by, year after year, paid dividends of 10, 15, 20 and 25 per cent. They are not derelict concerns; they are simply involved in the overwhelming disaster that is overtaking this 1908 great industry. Miners are being thrown out and with their families are being put on the dole. The moment you get a family who realise that they are in distress they go to the board of guardians. They find that the Minister of Health has been there before them, and they are told that as long as they are on the dole they cannot be given any Poor Law assistance. A state of things is growing up in the mining valleys which is really a disgrace to civilisation. I have no hesitation in saying that no tyrannical despot has ever treated people with more callous indifference than this Government has adopted towards the miners of this country.
What I want the Government to realise is this: that the mining industry has got beyond the stage of saving itself, that it does not contain within itself the power to redeem itself. What has been taking place for the last year or two has been a crumbling away of the foundations of the industry, and the day is not far distant when we shall have a terrific crash. We have been pointing this out year after year for the last three or four years. Anyone who is following it, as we are, must realise that the crash cannot be delayed much longer. Yet we have the Government treating the thing just as though it was a matter of no importance and a thing that has only to be left to itself and it will right itself. Some of my colleagues have said to-day that the Government may get this Vote through and may use their majority to get rid of the bit of criticism that is levelled against the Department, but the Government will not get rid of the antagonism that is growing up as a result of their policy. Another of my colleagues suggested that it may be advisable for the miners themselves to take a hand in this business and limit the output generally by working one or two days a week all round. If the miners undertook any policy that they could adopt, we should have a situation created which would face the Government with a national crisis of the first magnitude.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I agree. And the miners to-day are developing such a volume of revolt and that only those who go and talk to them in the 1909 spirit of revolt are listened to to-day. I want to say a word of warning to the Government at this stage. There seems to be an impression abroad that the miners are down and out. Well, they have been down and out before, but the miners, all through my experience, have resisted such treatment of their fellows in the past, when there was infinitely less justification for action on their part than there would be for any action which they cared to undertake at the present time. The miners have done everything they can to meet this situation. They have worked longer hours they have increased their output until it has reached a greater amount than has been produced for very many years. By a gradual process during the last seven years they have given up from £130,000,000 to £140,000,000 a year in wages. In the South Wales coalfield alone, the wage bill has been reduced in the last seven years from £65,000,000 to £21,000,000—no less than £44,000,000 out of £65,000,000 has been taken off the wages of the men in that area. The same process has been going on with the coalowners. Taking the country as a whole during the last four quarters, we find that in the June quarter of 1927 the losses amounted to £2,855,000; in the September quarter, to £3,150,000; in the December quarter to £2,808,000, and in the March quarter of 1928 to £2,212,000. In those four quarters, after all the sacrifices of the workmen, there has been a loss on the mining industry of £11,000,000.
That kind of thing has been going on for a long time. How long do the Government think it is going to continue without the smash to which I have referred? We hear a lot of talk about the necessity for cutting prices in order to regain markets. When the Government took the industry in hand in 1925, the average pit-head price of all coal raised in this country in the March quarter was 18s. 6d. per ton. In the March quarter of 1928 it was 13s. 5d. per ton. Prices have gone down, since 1925, by 5s. 1d. per ton. Prices have declined to a much greater extent than economies in the cost of production have increased, and you have, to-day, a situation where the miners are in a state of semi-starvation, while the mineowners are "on their beam ends." The President of the Board of Trade said to-day that the 1910 average daily earnings of the men had gone down by only 1s. 2d. a day as compared, I think, with 1926, but the coal-owners drafted a statement a few weeks ago which was submitted to the Prime Minister in which they said that, notwithstanding the fact that the daily wage had only gone down by 1s. 2d., the men were working so irregularly that the weekly wage was less than it was before the War. In the days before the War the average wage in South Wales was 6s. 9d. per day. Make what you like of a weekly wage at that rate, and the coalowners tell us that the wage to-day for a week is less than before the War.
My complaint, and the complaint of the Labour party, is that the Government have definitely decided upon a policy of "do nothing." Their policy is, "Leave it alone, let it right itself," while the industry is going headlong over the precipice. This industry will not right itself; it will have to be dealt with from outside, for it does not contain within itself the power to redeem itself. The inevitable result of pursuing the policy which the Government have adopted until now is to bring the industry to a state of irretrievable disaster. The President of the Board of Trade said to-day that the Government were doing something for the industry, for when they reached the stage when their scheme was fully operative, £3,000,000 a year will be given to the industry. That works out at about 4d. per ton of coal. The Government and the coalowners jointly have pursued a policy which has driven all the coal-producing countries in Europe into a state of competition, which has landed them in precisely the same financial condition as the coal industry in this country finds itself.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
That was a lockout. Does the hon. Member not know that the coalowners of Wales locked out their men and would not employ them except on terms that no self-respecting—
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I am sorry that I have been drawn from what I was saying. I was going to point out that 1911 we on these Benches told the Government, when they introduced the Eight Hours Act and pursued the policy of reducing wages, that all it would result in would be a similar policy being pursued in all the coal-producing countries with which we are in competition. That is exactly what has taken place, but in all the coal-producing countries in Europe with which we compete the Governments have come to the rescue of the industry, and they have in a number of ways given assistance. The Governments in Germany, France, and Poland know that the industry cannot live on its own, and so they have entered into arrangements by which over the whole of their railways they get a general reduction; they get a special reduction in respect of their export coal, their Governments have entered into arrangement with continental companies for through passages from one country to another, and they have relieved the industry from taxation. All this has been done with a view, not only of competing successfully against British coal, but of ousting us from our markets. Then we are told that the coalowners and coal miners of this country, without any assistance at all from the Government, must wait until this thing rights itself.
There is no doubt at all in the minds of any member on this side of the Committee as to what will be the result in the very near future of a continuance of the Government's "do nothing" policy. It will be an overwhelming disaster, and one which, when it overtakes us, will not be easy to cope with, because, not only have the colliery companies been living on their capital, exhausting their reserves, swelling their credit at the bank, but they have also been drawing out their day wage men, allowing their collieries to get into disrepair and cutting down costs in every possible direction; and when the disaster does overtake the industry—and we are approaching the brink—what we shall find is that the Government have allowed things to go on until a most serious national situation has been created. We have done our best in these debates to impress not only upon the House but upon the nation the serious national crisis looming in the near future; but if the Government will 1912 do nothing, and if the nation will not bring the necessary pressure on the Government to do something, then in the very near future economic forces will compel the nation against its will to force the Government against its will to take this matter in hand.
§ Commodore KING
Before I come to the main economic point which, as I expected, has been the mainstay of the Debate, there are one or two small points which have arisen with which I would like to deal. When dealing with accidents in my opening remarks I made an appeal to hon. Members opposite, in the interests of the miners themselves, to assist my Department in its safety first campaign by inducing the men to take more care of themselves and thus avoid a number of the accidents which take place. Certain hon. Members have, rather unfairly I think, picked on the phrase I used of "wilful neglect." I made it perfectly clear that what I meant was that men knowingly take risks; knowing that a certain action they take is so risky that it is forbidden, yet they take it, really in part because of their contempt for danger. They get so used to the conditions under which they live that they become callous regarding the dangers.
§ Commodore KING
Almost the same words were used by the Chairman of the Nottinghamshire Miners' Association only a few months ago. I read in the "Daily Telegraph" an account of his remarks, and he used almost the same words as I have used; and I only wish to impress upon hon. Members that it is in the interests of all of us that these men should be protected in every possible way from the dangers among which they live. With the assistance of hon. Members opposite who hold the positions they do in the trade unions of the industry, I believe a good deal can be clone to help the safety first campaign being organised by the Mines Department to reduce the accidents in the industry. With regard to what I said about inspectors, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Shinwell) suggested, apparently, that owners and others responsible for pits could only be forced t o observe the law if the pits were frequently inspected. He seemed to suggest that one inspection was not enough.
§ Commodore KING
If the hon. Member will turn to the report of what I said, he will see I said the average was more than six a year for every coal mine in the country and in some cases 15 or 20.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The hon. and gallant Member said quite definitely that there were some pits which were only inspected once every 12 months.
§ Commodore KING
Certainly. I repeated it just now. I said in some cases, certainly, they are only inspected once, but I stated the average for all pits to be over six. The hon. Member also claims that when he was Secretary for Mines he increased the number of inspectors, I presume to the proportion he thought adequate to give the proper inspection which he considered the owners required to bring them up to the mark. I assume that is so because the hon. Member claimed credit for it. Although it is true that an increased number of inspectors were appointed during the time the hon. Member was Secretary for Mines, unfortunately since that time no less than 1,100 pits have been closed, and, therefore, if the number of inspectors which he appointed was considered to be adequate, the present number must be more than sufficient, when there are 1,100 less pits working.
I have been challenged in regard to wages in this country as compared with the Ruhr. I think it was the hon. Member for Linlithgow who challenged the figures given as between this country and the German coal miner working in the Ruhr. The average for all classes of workers in this country was 9s. 3d. per shift in the month of April this year. In the Ruhr in the month of May—I take that month because on the 1st of May the miners in the Ruhr had an increase in wages, and it is fairer to take that month which gives the latest figures which are available—the figure was 8s. 9d. per shift for all classes of workers. The Ruhr figure includes overtime and family allowances, and, even taking all allowances, the figures, at home, 9s. 8¼d. per shift; and in the Ruhr, 8s. 10¼d. per shift.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
In reply to a question which I put to the Secretary for Mines the other day, he said: 1914The average earnings per shift of adult coal getters in Great Britain in June, 1914, were 8s. 8d., and for all classes of workers 6s. 6d.; in March, 1928—the latest period for which information is available—the average earnings for all classes of workers were about 9s. 4d. a shift. In the Ruhr coalfield the average earnings per shift of adult coal getters were 6s. 7d. in 1913 and 9s. 4d. in the last quarter of 1927."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th June, 1928; col. 343, Vol. 218.]
§ Commodore KING
The hon. Member is quoting the figures for adult coal getters. I gave the average for all classes of workers, not only adults, but juniors and so forth.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
The White Paper issued by the Ministry of Mines, which is available in the Vote Office, gives the wage at 9s. 3d.
§ Commodore KING
That is for this country, and I have already quoted 9s. 3d. for this country. I want to come to what I consider the main question for not dealing with which many speakers have blamed me.
§ Mr. D. GRENFELL
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman make a comparison between the weekly wage paid in the Ruhr and the weekly wage paid in this country?
§ Commodore KING
I was actually challenged on the rate of wages, and I wish to reply to that challenge. If the hon. Member for the Gower Division (Mr. D. Grenfell) will put down a question, I shall he glad to give him such information as I have. Coming to the economic side of the question, I should like to say, as I have said before, that there is a general realisation among all classes in this country of the disastrous position of the coal-mining industry at the present time. There is no dispute about that. I realise it just as much as hon. Members from mining constituencies.
§ Commodore KING
Surely, the hon. Member cannot take objection to the fact that I say that I agree with him and his colleagues in most of the description that they have given of the present disastrous state of the coal industry. I want to deal with the matter quite fairly, as I hope I always try to do, but I have to deal with it in the short time that re- 1915 mains at my disposal. There is no dispute as to the seriousness of the position, but I want to put it to the Committee that there is no action which any Government could take that would bring immediate relief to the present situation. It is a situation which, as has been pointed out by many speakers, has arisen from various causes, all of which have tended to a smaller demand for coal. From both the parties opposite, and also from this side, it has been pointed out that there is a less demand for coal now than there was, we will say, in pre-War days, due partly to the use of oil, partly to waterpower, and partly to other causes. There was the economic depression after the War, and then, of course, there is no doubt that our markets have decreased in certain directions. We are, I hope, getting some of them back, but there is no doubt whatever, and no one can dispute the fact, that when in 1926 we suddenly ceased to export coal to our usual markets, that was the opportunity for which our foreign rivals were looking to come into those markets and supply the customers whose trade up to that time we had enjoyed. That, I think, is a perfectly fair statement of the position, and it is very hard, when you have once lost a customer, to get that customer back again. Efforts are being made by the trade at the present time to regain those markets.
When we come to the question, which has been put several times to-night, as to what is the Government's view of the present situation, it is, if I may put it quite shortly, a question of over-production. At the present time, we have a capacity far in excess of the amount of coal that we can dispose of. As I pointed out just before Whitsuntide, it has been calculated in the Mines Department that, taking the actual capacity for last year as 330,000,000 tons, we have an excess capacity of something like 25 per cent. above our saleable capacity, that is to say, the amount that we can dispose of. [Interruption.] I really cannot understand how the hon. Member who, I know, gives a considerable amount of thought to these matters, can lay blame on the Government in any way whatever for the fact that our capacity is greater than the quantity we can dis- 1916 pose of. [Interruption.] The actual capacity, which I speak of as being 330,000,000 tons for last year, must not for a moment be confused with potential capacity, because the actual capacity was nothing like what we could produce by working longer hours at some of the pits, and certainly much less than could be obtained if developments were carried out in the various pits. The actual capacity was taken on the highest production for any week for every pit in the country for the last year, which is a fair way of finding out the actual capacity, and the actual capacity exceeded our requirements practically by one-fourth.
The question comes as to how one is going to deal with over-production. The President of the Board of Trade quite rightly pointed out that the most economic way to do it was to concentrate on the best pits. I think that will really be agreed by hon. Members opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] They will realise it when I point out that, so far as the present situation is concerned, in every coalfield in the country there is an average loss on every ton of coal raised, and there are at least some pits which even in these depressed conditions and at these low prices are actually making profits. They are making profits while others are making very considerable losses. When we consider that the actual loss per ton of coal raised on the average over the whole country is somewhere about 9½d. or 10d., it will be realised that, when some pits in every area are making profits, in many other pits the losses must be very much above the 1s. or 1s. 6d. which has been quoted to-night. I have heard even hon. Members opposite quote some pits in South Wales where the loss might be as high as 4s. or 5s. for every ton raised. That is what I mean, and what I think my right hon. Friend means, when he points out the necessity for concentrating on the best pits, the best meaning those which can produce coal at the lowest price. That is what we have to concentrate on. We have to try to produce coal in as economical a way as possible, because that is not only to the advantage of the coalowner but it is also to the advantage of the miners themselves.
In the first place, concentrating on the best pits means that we are getting our 1917 coal cheaper and we can sell more of it, and there is no doubt whatever that by reducing the price we shall sell more. [Interruption.] I will not be drawn away to argue small points like this. It is anyhow my view that if we can concentrate on the best pits and produce coal more cheaply, and sell without a loss, it will be possible to regain markets. As to the advantage to the miner, in the first place miners working in those pits, instead of all pits, many of them working part time, would be working full time. They would work the full number of shifts and would be earning full money. Another point is that the wages ascertainment in the different districts is taken over the area. It is the costly pits, those that are losing roost money, that bring the ascertainments down. If the work was concentrated on the best pits the ascertainments would go up, to the benefit of the miners' wages. [Interruption.] The increase surely is for the benefit of both. I have said it is to the advantage of the coal-owner. I am trying to prove that it is not only for his benefit but to the advantage of the miners themselves. Surely the hon. Member will not object to that. [Interruption.] There are limits. You work up to an average. It is not merely to the advantage of the owner, but to the miner himself if the work is concentrated on the best pits, because he gets fuller employment and is in a more favourable position as regards wages, because the ascertainment should go up and his wages rise.
With regard to some of the districts, I should like to say that, as far as can see, the main difference between hon. Members opposite and the Government in their view of dealing with this matter is that hon. Members opposite think that none of these pits should be closed and that we should spread all our requirements over the whole of the coal-mining industry, and, as one hon. Member suggested, that the miners might even work only one day a week so as to spread the work. I do not think that that would be put forward by any really responsible thinker in the coal industry. It would mean that every miner in this country would be working at starvation rates and working one shift. The hon. Member knows that by spreading the work like that it would increase the overhead charges, and consequently send prices up 1918 to such an extent that we should not be able to sell any coal at all. It is only by reducing the costs and the selling price that we are able to retain markets at all in this country or outside.
With regard to the various district schemes which are in existence, hon. Members have talked about them as Government schemes. I want to point out that they are voluntary schemes worked up by the owners themselves in the different districts. They are interesting because they work from different points of view, and, in a way, for different objects. Two of them, the Scottish and the Yorkshire schemes, both work towards reducing production, but they apps oath it from different directions. The Scottish scheme does it by seeking to concentrate on the best pits, and they have closed down certain others. What does that mean? It means that certain men who were partly employed and partly unemployed before have gone out of employment altogether, and that men who were partly employed before have now become fully employed. With regard to the Yorkshire scheme, it sets about obtaining the lowering of production by setting a quota, and thereby reducing for each pit the amount of coal it may raise. Both schemes are worked with the one idea of reducing production. Into the South Wales scheme I cannot go in detail, because it is not yet in operation, and will not be before July. I am not going to criticise these schemes in any way. One hon. Member asked me why, at the Ministry of Mines, we had not got statistics and details of the working to show what had been the result of these schemes so far? With regard to the Yorkshire scheme, the Six Counties or Midlands Scheme, that has only been in operation since the beginning of April, and it is obvious that a scheme of this magnitude has got to have several months' working before you can come to any definite idea as to what its chances of success are going to be.
Our last Quarterly Report, which is just in print, deals with the period before any of these schemes could be judged. The Scottish Scheme had only come in for the last few weeks of the March quarter, and it is impossible to judge at the present time. The main point is that these schemes, whatever their effect may be are a great advance on anything 1919 we have had before. We have always found the greatest difficulty before in getting owners in the different parts of the country, even working in the same area, to come together and form any agreement at all. It is certainly a great advance when you get them coming together in whole areas. Certainly, it is obvious that it is going to be much easier for larger operations to take place when you have them centralised even in three or four groups. It is much easier to get large groups of owners together than it would be, as some hon. Members suggested, for the Prime Minister or some other Minister to call together every mineowner throughout the country. It would be quite hopeless, of course, to have large numbers sitting round a table trying to discuss the best way of dealing with the coal industry. You have a far better opportunity of dealing successfully with the coal industry when you have the owners concentrated and organised into groups.
I should have liked to have dealt with various other aspects of the question which have been brought up this afternoon. With regard to the scientific use of coal, I should only like to say in further explanation of the criticisms which have been raised with regard to myself and the Fuel Research Board, that I want to make it perfectly clear that the Fuel Research Board are not under the control of my Department in any way whatever, although my Department take the greatest interest in their work. Obviously, it is for the benefit of the coal industry. Everything that affects the interest of the coal industry is seen to
§ very carefully indeed by myself and the officers of my Department, but I am not responsible and have no control whatever over the Fuel Research Board. The work of that Board is very useful, because, as hon. Members suggested, it is necessary to go not only into different processes, but into how those different processes are going to work on different classes of coal. That is already clone by the Fuel Research Board, and they carry out identical experiments on different classes of coal so that they may advise the different coalfields as to what is the best process for their purpose.
§ With regard to what the Government have done, I should like to point out that the first step that they took with regard to closer working together was by bringing in the permissive amalgamations under the Mining Industry Act, 1926. Under that Act, I have to make a report to this House after the 1st August on the working of these amalgamations. That is only one step. You may say: Why do not the Government do something now? It is no good lifting the plant to see how the roots are growing until the proper time comes. Therefore, I have merely to report after the 1st August, and when that report is made there is no doubt whatever that we shall have to consider these various amalgamations. I should have liked to have dealt with other points, but I must now conclude.
§ Question put, "That a sum not exceeding £116,219 be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 112; Noes, 190.1921
|Division No. 176].||AYES.||[11.0 a.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Day, Harry||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Duncan, C.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield).|
|Ammon, Charles George||Dunnico, H.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Edge, Sir William||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Gillett, George M.||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Barnes, A.||Gosling, Harry||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)|
|Barr, J.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Batey, Joseph||Greenall, T.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Kennedy, T.|
|Broad, F. A.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Kirkwood, D.|
|Bromfield, William||Griffith, F. Kingsley||Lansbury, George|
|Bromley, J.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Lawrence, Susan|
|Buchanan, G.||Grundy, T. W.||Lawson, John James|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Lee, F.|
|Cape, Thomas||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Llndley, F. W.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hardle, George D.||Lowth, T.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Lunn, William|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hayday, Arthur||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)|
|Connolly, M.||Hayes, John Henry||MacLaren, Andrew|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Montague, Frederick|
|Dalton, Hugh||Hirst, G. H.||Murnin, H.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Varley, Frank B.|
|Oliver, George Harold||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Vlant, S. P.|
|Palin, John Henry||Shlels, Dr. Drummond||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Paling, W.||Shinwell, E.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Sltch, Charles H.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Ponsonby, Arthur||Smlille, Robert||Westwood, J.|
|Potts, John S.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Snell, Harry||Whiteley, W.|
|Riley, Ben||Stamford, T. W.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Ritson, J.||Stephen, Campbell||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Rose, Frank H.||Strauss, E. A.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Saklatvala, Shapurji||Sullivan, Joseph||Wright, W.|
|Salter, Dr. Alfred||Sutton, J. E.|
|Scrymgeour, E.||Thurtle, Ernest||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Scurr, John||Tinker, John Joseph||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles|
|Sexton, James||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Edwards.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Gower, Sir Robert||Oakley, T.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N )||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Apsley, Lord||Grotrian, H. Brent||Penny, Frederick George|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid w.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Perring, Sir William George|
|Balnlel, Lord||Hamilton, Sir George||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Hammersley, S. S.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hanbury, C.||Phillpson, Mabel|
|Berry, Sir George||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pilcher, G.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Harland, A.||Preston, William|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Harrison, G. J. C.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnos)||Ramsden, E.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vanslttart||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Rye, F. G.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hills, Major John Waller||Salmon, Major I.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hilton, Cecil||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Sandon, Lord|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney.N.)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Burman, J. B.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Smith. R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen Sir Aylmsr||Smlthers Waldron|
|Campbell, E. T.||Iveagh, Countess of||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Jephcott, A. R.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Jones, Sir G.W.H. (Stoke New'gton)||Storry-Deans, H.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Kind, Commodore Henry Douglas||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Land Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Sugden, Sir Wiltrid|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Leigh, Sir Jonn (Clapham)||Templeton, W. P.|
|Cope, Major Sir William||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Couper, J. B.||Loder, J. de V.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Lougher, Lewis||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Lumley, L. R.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Crockshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Galnsbro)||Lynn, Sir R. I.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Macintyre, Ian||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Davison, Sir W. H (Kensington, S.)||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Dawson, Sir Phillp||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Malone, Major P. B.||Wells, S. R.|
|Dixey, A. C.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Datrymph|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Margesson, Captain D.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Ellis, R. G.||Meyer, Sir Frank||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Withers, John James|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T, C. R. (Ayr)||Wood, E. (Chost'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Forrest, W.||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C|
|Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Captain Viscount Curzon and|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Captain Bowyer.|
|Goft, Sir Park||Nuttall, Ellis|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Mr. BATEY rose—
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, and, objection being taken to further Proceeding, THE CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.